HMS Belfast is a
museum ship, originally a Royal Navy light cruiser,
permanently moored in London on the River Thames and
operated by the Imperial War Museum.
Construction of Belfast, the first Royal Navy ship to be
named after the capital city of Northern Ireland, and one of
ten Town-class cruisers, began in December 1936. She was
launched on St Patrick's Day, 17 March 1938. Commissioned in
early August 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Second
World War, Belfast was initially part of the British naval
blockade against Germany. In November 1939 Belfast struck a
German mine and spent more than two years undergoing
extensive repairs. Belfast returned to action in November
1942 with improved firepower, radar equipment and armour.
Belfast saw action escorting Arctic convoys to the Soviet
Union during 1943, and in December 1943 played an important
role in the Battle of North Cape, assisting in the
destruction of the German warship Scharnhorst. In June 1944
Belfast took part in Operation Overlord supporting the
Normandy landings. In June 1945 Belfast was redeployed to
the Far East to join the British Pacific Fleet, arriving
shortly before the end of the Second World War. Belfast saw
further combat action in 1950–52 during the Korean War and
underwent an extensive modernisation between 1956 and 1959.
A number of further overseas commissions followed before
Belfast entered reserve in 1963.
In 1967, efforts were initiated to avert Belfast 's
expected scrapping and preserve her as a museum ship. A
joint committee of the Imperial War Museum, the National
Maritime Museum and the Ministry of Defence was established,
and reported in June 1968 that preservation was practical.
In 1971 the government decided against preservation,
prompting the formation of the private HMS Belfast Trust to
campaign for her preservation. The efforts of the Trust were
successful, and the government transferred the ship to the
Trust in July 1971. Brought to London, she was moored on the
River Thames near Tower Bridge in the Pool of London. Opened
to the public in October 1971, Belfast became a branch of
the Imperial War Museum in 1978. A popular tourist
attraction, Belfast receives around a quarter of a million
visitors per year. As a branch of a national museum and part
of the National Historic Fleet, Belfast is supported by the
Department for Culture, Media and Sport, by admissions
income, and by the museum's commercial activities. The ship
was closed to visitors following an accident in November
2011, and re-opened on 18 May 2012.