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HMS Belfast, London

HMS Belfast was a light cruiser that once served the Royal Navy and now a museum ship moored on the River Thames in London. Launched in 1938, the Royal Navy cruiser saw service during World War II and continued to serve after the war. The naval cruiser entered into reserve in 1963 and then opened as a naval museum in 1971.

Today, HM Belfast is one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museums located across England and one of the three in London that include the Imperial War Museum London and the Churchill War Rooms. HMS Belfast is Europe's only surviving naval cruiser from World War II, offering visitors an opportunity to explore a naval ship and a naval sailor’s life. Today, the museum ship is a popular tourist attraction in London attracting over a quarter million visitors each year.

  HMS Belfast by Alvesgaspar

About

HMS Belfast initially participated in the British naval blockade of Germany in World War II. The naval cruiser then escorted Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union in 1943 and took part in the Normandy landings in June 1944. HMS Belfast saw deployment in the Far East as part of the British Pacific Fleet just before the end of World War II and participated in the Korean War from 1950 to 1952. It entered into reserve in 1963 and then planned for decommissioning and scrapping. However, the British government decided against scrapping and transferred the ship to the HMS Belfast Trust in 1971 for preservation as a museum ship.

The upper deck of HMS Belfast by Tony Hisgett

Tour of HMS Belfast

It is a fantastic experience touring this historical warship! A visit to HMS Belfast is not just about the Royal Navy warship but also about the sailors who once worked and lived on board the ship. The museum ship comprises of three broad sections including Action Station situated on the upper deck where the command facilities and armament are located. Life on Board the Ship displays the sailors’ living conditions including the sleeping quarters. The Inner Workings shows the mechanical, electrical and communication systems including engine and boiler rooms.

An audio guide offering interesting information about HMS Belfast is available. However, if you prefer not to use one there are plenty of information placards placed throughout the ship. The visit provides fascinating insights into the workings of the warship and life onboard the former Royal Navy cruiser. Visitors will get to learn about the ship’s seafaring history during World War II (including the Arctic convoy, Battle of North Cape and Operation Overload supporting the Normandy landings) and participation in the Korean War. Visitors will also learn about the experiences, morale and unyielding determination of the crew.

Many sections of HMS Belfast are accessible to visitors from the bowel to the superstructure situated above the upper deck. However, you will encounter many steep ladders and stairs as you tour the naval cruiser. On the ship’s superstructure, visitors get to see the operations room (the tactical centre of the ship), captain’s bridge, the boat deck and the turrets. Tour of the upper deck includes the sickbay, kitchen, provision issue room, mess rooms and laundry room.

The captain's bridge by Kjetil Bjørnsrud

Going down to the lower deck from the upper deck are the common machine shop, bathroom and washroom used by the sailors. Walking down further to the platform deck are the conversion machinery room and the forward steering position, a protected interior from where the ship is actually steered. Go even lower to the holding deck you can see the forward engine room, forward boiler room and the two shell rooms where shells used by the turrets are stored.

The shell room by Jordiferrer

Visiting HMS Belfast

HM Belfast opens daily except 24th, 25th, and 26th December. The museum ship opens from 10 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. during the summer months and earlier at 5 p.m. during the winter months - the last admission is an hour before closing. You can purchase tickets from the admission desk at HMS Belfast or online from the official Imperial War Museum website.

The nearest London Underground station is London Bridge Station (serving the Northern and Jubilee Lines), which is about five minutes walking distance from HMS Belfast. Slightly further is Tower Hill Station (serving the District and Circle Lines) and is about 15 minutes walk. Riverboats under the London River Services stop at London Bridge City Pier on the south bank.

HMS Belfast on the Map

The Queen's Walk, London SE1 2JH, UK

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