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HMS Belfast

 

HMS Belfast is a Town-class light cruiser that was built for the Royal Navy. She is now permanently moored as a museum ship on the River Thames in London and is operated by the Imperial War Museum.

Belfast's aviation capability was provided by two catapult-launched Supermarine Walrus amphibious biplanes. These could be launched from a D1H catapult mounted aft of the forward superstructure, and recovered from the water by two cranes mounted on either side of the forward funnel. The aircraft, operated by the Fleet Air Arm's HMS Belfast Flight of 700 Naval Air Squadron, were stowed in two hangars in the forward superstructure.

On 10 November Belfast was taken off the northern patrol and reassigned to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. This squadron was to form an independent striking force based at Rosyth. On 21 November, Belfast was to take part in the force's first sortie, a gunnery exercise. At 10:58 am she struck a magnetic mine while leaving the Firth of Forth. The mine broke Belfast's keel, and wrecked one of her engine and boiler rooms. Twenty officers and men required hospital treatment for injuries caused by the explosion, and a further 26 suffered minor injuries. One man, Painter 2nd Class Henry Stanton, was hospitalised but later died of a head injury, having been thrown against the deckhead by the blast. The tugboat Krooman, towing gunnery targets for the exercise, released her targets and instead towed Belfast to Rosyth for initial repairs.

For the invasion of Normandy Belfast was made headquarters ship of Bombardment Force E flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Frederick Dalrymple-Hamilton, and was to support landings by British and Canadian forces in the Gold and Juno Beach sectors. On 2 June Belfast left the River Clyde for her bombardment areas. That morning Prime Minister Winston Churchill had announced his intention to go to sea with the fleet and witness the invasion from HMS Belfast. This was opposed by the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the First Sea Lord, Sir Andrew Cunningham. An intervention by the King eventually prevented Churchill from going.

With the outbreak of the Korean War, Belfast became part of the United Nations naval forces. Originally part of the US Navy's Task Force 77, Belfast was detached in order to operate independently on 5 July 1950. During July and early August 1950, Belfast undertook coastal patrols and was based at Sasebo in Japan's Nagasaki Prefecture. From 19 July Belfast supported troops fighting around Yongdok, accompanied by USS Juneau. That day Belfast fired an accurate 350-round bombardment from her 6-inch guns, and was praised by an American admiral as a "straight-shooting ship". On 6 August she sailed for the UK for a short (but needed) refit, after which she again set sail for the far east and arrived back at Sasebo on 31 January 1951.

Belfast arrived in Singapore on 16 December 1959, and spent most of 1960 at sea on exercise, calling at ports in Hong Kong, Borneo, India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Australia, the Philippines and Japan. On 31 January 1961, Belfast recommissioned, under the command of Captain Morgan Morgan-Giles. On her final foreign commission Belfast joined a number of exercises in the Far East, and in December 1961 she provided the British guard of honour at Tanganyika's independence ceremony in Dar-es-Salaam.

On 29 November 2011, two workmen suffered minor injuries after a section of gangway, connected to the ship, collapsed during renovation works. The ship was closed to visitors following the accident. An investigation later established that the collapse of the gangway had been caused by a subcontractor cutting through the gangway's structure during refurbishment work. Belfast re-opened on 18 May 2012.

Missouri Civil War Museum


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