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Anders Isaksson

Sunday, 25-Aug-2019 16:11 GMT

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HMS Belfast

Europe's last big gun armoured warship of World War II

[HMS Belfast, side view]
Photo by Anders Isaksson
Click on the photo for a larger version.


HMS Belfast is a light cruiser, launched on St. Patrick's Day in March 1938, served in World War II and in the Korean War and remained in active service until 1963. Since October 21 (Trafalgar Day) 1971 she is open to the public, and since 1978 as part of The Imperial War Museum.

You will find her in London on the River Thames, upstream from Tower Bridge next to Butler's Wharf. Underground station: London Bridge.

Opening hours
Summer: 11.00 - 17.30
Winter: 11.00 - 16.30
Admission fee
Adults: 4 pounds (in my view very cheap for visiting a "time machine" that takes you 50 years back in time.)

(Please note that as this page is not an official home page for HMS Belfast, the information about opening hours and admission fee is from my visit in March 1997.)

On board the ship you are guided by directional signs through eight "visit zones" where information for each area is provided by video monitors, signs and audiovisual displays that simulate the daily life and battle conditions.


Children playing with a 40mm Bofors Anti Aircraft gun

[A 40mm Bofors AA]
Photo by Anders Isaksson
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HMS Belfast Specifications

Standard
displacement:

11,553 tons

Length overall:

187 m (613 ft 6 ins)

Beam:

21 m (69 ft)

Draught:

6.1 m (19 ft 9 ins)

Armament:

Twelve (4 x 3) 6-inch

Eight (4 x 2) 4-inch HA/LA

Twelve (6 x 2) 40mm Bofors AA

Max Speed:

32 knots (58km/h  36 mph)

Armour:

side: 114mm (4.5 inches)

deck: 76mm ( 3 inches)

Complement:

750 - 850 (as flagship)



The Operations Room

[The Operations Room]
Photo by Anders Isaksson
Click on the photo for a larger version.

[The Operations Room]
Photo by Anders Isaksson
Click on the photo for a larger version.



The sinking of Scharnhorst, December 26 1943

By the end of 1942, the German Navy had moved the main part of what was left of its forces to Norway to cut off the Allied convoys to Murmansk in northern Russia.  The German ships in the Norwegian fjords was: Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen, Tirpitz, Lützow, Scheer, Hipper, Köln and Nürnberg.

To protect the convoys, the Allied used forces from the Royal Navy, and it was during the December convoy 1943 that Belfast played her role in capturing and sinking the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst.
The escort from the Royal Navy was Force One:  three cruisers (Belfast, Sheffield and Norfolk) and 14 destroyers as close cover.
On long distance south of the convoy followed Force Two: The battleship Duke of York, the light cruiser Jamaica and four destroyers. The role of Force Two was to be a "trap" for any Germans trying to attack the convoy.

German agents contacted Kiel to report that the convoy was on it way and on Christmas Day 1943 Admiral Dönitz ordered Scharnhorst and four destroyers to leave Altenfjord (in Norway) to attack the convoy. Scharnhorst was a 26,000 tons cruiser armed with 11-inch guns and with a speed of 29 knots she would have no problems with any British ship.
Belfast and Scharnhorst tracked each other 240 km north of North Cape at 08.40 on the 26th. Belfast opened fire with star shells to light up the German cruiser and then the rest of the British cruisers opened fire and managed to hit Scharnhorst's radar. Scharnhorst tried to escape to attack the convoy from another side but only to find that Force One was now between the German cruiser and the convoy. After another battle where the British cruiser Norfolk lost one of her turrets Scharnhorst turned to the south to steam back to Norway and Vice Admiral Robert Burnett, the commander of Force One on board Belfast, decided to follow her.

At 16.17 on a distance of 32 km, Duke of York found Scharnhorst on her radar and opened fire on 11,000 m distance. Scharnhorst turned east to get away from the British cruisers but there was no hope for her. By 19.00 she started to lose speed and Admiral Bey, commander of Scharnhorst sent out the message "We will fight to the last shell". None of Scharnhorst's turrets was working and one of her boilers was destroyed, the British destroyers finally fired 20 torpedoes and 19.50 the German cruiser sank.

Of Scharnhorst crew of 1970 men, only 36 survived.

If you visit the Operations Room you can see a plot and listen to an "animated" version of the battle.


The Forward Steering Position

[Forward Steering Position]
Photo by Anders Isaksson
Click on the photo for a larger version.

Located below the water line and protected by massive armour.

Next to The Forward Steering Position is the Transmitting Station where you can find the mechanical computers which controlled the 6-inch guns in the four turrets.
A and B turret forward, X and Y turret astern.



X and Y turret

[X and Y turret]
Photo by Anders Isaksson
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Shell hoist for one of the 6-inch gun turrets.

[One of the shell hoist for 6 inch guns]
Photo by Anders Isaksson
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Just a red line
Last update: 22-Mar-2004 11:10 by Anders Isaksson, anders@isazone.com
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