EDINBURGH class gallery 2

(HMS Belfast image). At 09:00 a.m., HMS Belfast detected the lone Scharnhorst on radar and Force One launched the attack. At 12,000 meters away the British cruisers opened fire and Scharnhorst responded. The German ship received two hits, one of which destroyed the forward radar and left the ship virtually blind, and she had to respond to British fire by aiming for muzzle flashes. The Scharnhorst broke contact and decided to attack the convoy that she believed to be unprotected. But the British cruisers again positioned themselves to protect the convoy even against the advice of some British officers.
(HMS Belfast image). Shortly after noon the British cruisers picked up Scharnhorst on radar again and another exchange of fire began. On this occasion the German battleship hit the cruiser HMS Norfolk with two 280mm shells that damaged a turret and the radar, and after this encounter she headed to port, ordering its destroyers to attack the convoy in the position reported by a U-boat that same morning. Logically, the convoy was not in that position and the destroyers found nothing.
(HMS Belfast image). Scharnhorst was sailing at full speed due south, being pursued only by HMS Belfast, as the other two cruisers had engine problems. Force Two was heading towards the German ship with the battleship HMS Duke of York in the lead, informed via radio of the German position by HMS Belfast, which had it on its radar at all times, but could not approach the Scharnhorst due to their artillery inferiority. Admiral Fraser sent his four escort destroyers towards the German ship so that they could get close enough to launch a torpedo attack. At 16:15 the German ship was located by Fraser’s radars and he began to maneuver his ships in order to fire.
(HMS Belfast‘s B turret image). Scharnhorst did not know what was coming and at 16:48 HMS Belfast began firing star shells to illuminate the German ship. At less than 11,000 meters the HMS Duke of York opened fire and with its first salvo disabled the two forward turrets of the German ship. Scharnhorst then headed north, to meet fire from HMS Belfast and HMS Norfolk head-on. At 17:24, the German battleship was surrounded by the British who were harshly punishing her, and at 18:20 a shell from HMS Duke of York pierced her belt armor, destroying a boiler room, stopping her flight dead.
(HMS Belfast‘s operations room image). Although Scharnhorst managed to pick up speed, her end was near. At 18:50 she received 5 torpedoes from the British destroyers, 2 on the starboard side and 3 on her port side, slowing her down to 10 knots. This allowed the British battleship and cruisers to approach, which launched a rain of shells against the helpless German ship. Finally, at 19:45 on December 26, Scharnhorst received a devastating attack from 4 British destroyers that fired 19 torpedoes at her and sent her to the bottom of the sea. Of Scharnhorst‘s 1,968 crew, only 36 were rescued from the icy waters by the British destroyers HMS Scorpion and HMS Matchless.
(HMS Belfast‘s 102mm dual turret image). After the Battle of the North Cape, HMS Belfast headed for Scapa Flow to resupply and her crew enjoyed a period of rest. In February 1944 he continued his Arctic convoy escorts and on March 30 he left Scapa Flow together with a powerful force of battleships and aircraft carriers with the mission of destroying the German battleship Tirpitz, the only heavy surface unit of the Kriegsmarine at that time. This action was baptized as Operation Tungsten.
(HMS Belfast image). Tirpitz was moored in Altafjord in northern Norway awaiting departure having been repaired following a 2 tonne mine attack by several British X-Craft midget submarines. On April 3, some sea trials were scheduled, and the British attack that was scheduled for April 4, was advanced to prevent the great German ship from going to sea. At 05:29 on 3 April the first wave of 40 Barracuda dive-bombers, armed with 230, 270 and 730 kg armour-piercing bombs, launched the attack while the tugboats were preparing assistance to Tirpitz. British aircraft scored 15 direct hits and 2 near misses which failed to destroy the battleship but delayed her return to service.
(HMS Belfast image). After Operation Tungsten HMS Belfast returned to Rosyth where she stayed for 2 weeks and received an additional six single 20mm guns in exchange for removing one of her twin 20mm mountings. Her next task would be to participate in Operation Neptune, that is, the naval actions of the Normandy landings (Operation Overlord). HMS Belfast was designated the flagship of Bombardment Force E, which was part of the Eastern Naval Task Force, with the mission of supporting the British and Canadian landings on “Gold” and “Juno” beaches. On June 2 she left the River Clyde for her bombardment position.
(HMS Belfast‘s shell room image). Although the invasion was scheduled for June 5, the prevailing bad weather forced delaying operations for 24 hours. Finally, at 05:30 on June 6, HMS Belfast began a fierce bombardment against the German artillery positions at Ver-sur-Mer. She remained in Normandy until the 16th, when she returned to Portsmouth to revitalize and replenish ammunition. She returned a couple of days later and there she remained supporting the Allied advance until July 8, when she fired the last of her shells at the Germans as the Allied advance was beyond the range of her guns. During the nearly 5 weeks she was in Normandy, HMS Belfast fired 1,996 152mm shells and several thousand more 102mm shells in support of the Allies.
(HMS Belfast image). Once again, HMS Belfast received another modernization between August 1944 and May 1945 with a view to her deployment to the Far East. In these works the catapult for the seaplanes was removed and the hangars were transformed into crew accommodation. In addition 2 twin 102mm and 8 single 20mm guns were removed and 4 quadruple and 4 single 40mm guns were added. The radar systems were also modified and Types 268 (navigation), 274 (fire control), 277 (surface warning), 281B (air warning) and 293Q (surface warning) were added, replacing Types 273 (surface warning) and 281 (air warning) among others.
(HMS Belfast‘s Bofors guns image). Although the war in Europe had ended, in mid-June 1945 HMS Belfast was sent to the Far East via Australia, arriving on 7 August. In Sydney she replaced two twin 20mm guns with three single 40mm Bofors Mk.III and two 40mm Boffins guns. The ship had been made flagship of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron of the British Pacific Fleet and was to join the scheduled Operation Downfall for the invasion of the Japanese home islands, but the surrender of Japan on August 15 after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended these plans and WWII combat operations for HMS Belfast.
(HMS Belfast image). After the end of WWII HMS Belfast was very busy evacuating released prisoners of war and surviving civilians from internment camps in China and other Japanese-occupied countries until the summer of 1947. She then spent a year in Portsmouth where her turbines were revised and two single 40mm guns were replaced by two more single 40mm Bofors guns. She rejoined service in September 1948 and before leaving for the Far East she visited the city of Belfast, where she received a silver ship’s bell as a gift. In late December she arrived in Hong Kong, where she remained as flagship of the 5th Cruiser Squadron throughout 1949.
(HMS Belfast‘s A turret image). On June 25, 1950, the drums of war sounded again and HMS Belfast had to prepare for combat once more. On this date the North Korean People’s Army attacked South Korea starting a conflict that would last for 3 years. On July 19, it carried out a bombardment in support of the Southern troops against objectives on the coast, sending 350 152mm shells with a precision praised even by some American Admiral.
(HMS Belfast‘s 102mm dual guns image). HMS Belfast saw active duty in the Korean War for 404 days, and by all accounts this effort was as arduous as it was during WWII. During 1951 and 1952 she mainly carried out coastal patrols and bombardments of different targets. On July 29, 1952, she was hit by a 75mm shell from a coastal battery off Wolsa-ri Island, killing one crew member and wounding four others, all of Chinese origin. On September 27, 1952 she was relieved by other British cruisers having fired her guns in anger for the last time.
(HMS Belfast image). During her deployment in the Korean War she sailed some 80,000 nautical miles (130,000 km) and fired more than 8,000 152mm shells, so many that all 12 barrels had to be replaced. She was subsequently placed in reserve at Devonport on 1 December 1952. In reserve she would spend the next 27 months, until it was decided to extensively modernize her in order to serve a few more years in good condition.
(HMS Belfast‘s compass platform image). The works of this great modernization extended from January 6, 1956 to May 12, 1959, when it was recommissioned at Devonport. The bridge superstructure was completely changed from being open to becoming an enclosed Compass Platform with a large Operations Room adjacent to it. Accommodation was improved and command facilities were installed for an Admiral and his staff. Two new 40mm Twin Bofors Mk.5 mountings were also installed and the 102mm guns training and elevation speed were improved and fitted with individual MRS8 directors. Several parts of the ship were also upgraded to accommodate a smaller crew to post-war standards. The mast tripods were replaced with lattice masts in order to support the weight of new radar systems.
(HMS Belfast image). After the modernization, HMS Belfast was allowed to carry on board a medical team consisting of 2 officers and up to 5 sick-berth attendants, including a radiographer and a physiotherapist. A well-equipped laundry was also installed to make life on board for the crew a little easier and in general, all the rooms on the ship were improved as much as possible. You can see the interior of the ship in detail by clicking on this link, HMS Belfast museum ship.
(HMS Belfast image). The main and secondary artillery were not modified, however the anti-aircraft defense was established in six 40mm twin Bofors guns directed by two Close Range Blind Fire Directors (CRBFD) attached to a Type 262 radar. The 2 triple torpedo tubes were removed to save weight. Finally, the radars on board after the modernization were a Type 277Q and 293Q for height-finding and surface warning, a Type 974 for surface warning, a Type 960M for air warning, two Type 274 radar directors for main armament and the aforementioned Type 262 radar director for the 40mm Bofors guns. The electronic equipment was completed with two passive sonar Types 174 and 176.
(HMS Belfast image). In August 1959 HMS Belfast set sail again for the Far East, where she spent her last three years of active service. During this period, the ship was limited to carrying out exercises and visiting different countries and ports such as Hong Kong, Ceylon, Australia, India, the Philippines and Japan, among others. On March 26, 1962, she began the last of its great voyages back to the UK. At the end of November, she visited Belfast for the last time and went to the reserve on February 25, 1963. Finally, in July she was recommissioned one last time to set sail together with 14 minesweepers for Gibraltar to carry out some maneuvers in the Mediterranean, and after this exercise, returned to Devonport at the end of August to be placed in reserve in December 1963.
(HMS Belfast image). From May 1966 to 1970 the ship served as an accommodation ship moored in Fareham Creek, for the Reserve Division at Portsmouth. It was around this time that the Imperial War Museum showed interest in preserving one of the 152mm gun turrets and paid a visit to the cruiser HMS Gambia with the idea of preserving it entirety. But the deteriorated state of this ship turn that possibility fall to HMS Belfast. In June 1968, a committee composed by the National Maritime Museum, the Imperial War Museum, and the Ministry of Defense issued a report stating that preservation of HMS Belfast was “practical and economical”.
(HMS Belfast image). Despite the fact that in 1971, the ship was awaiting scrapping, a private Trust headed by Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles, former Captain of HMS Belfast between 1961 and 1962, and Member of Parliament for Winchester, presented before the House of Commons in March the excellent state of conservation of the ship and that preserving it would be a “case of grasping the last opportunity”. Despite garnering some support, the Under-secretary for the Navy argued that the disassembly work was well advanced and could not be stopped, but that a final decision would be postponed until the Trust came up with a firm proposal.
(HMS Belfast image). Fortunately, in July 1971 the government agreed to transfer HMS Belfast to the Trust for preservation and “Operation Seahorse” was launched. This operation involved towing the ship from Portsmouth to London, where it was going to rest permanently as a museum. The ship reached its final destination next to Tower Bridge on October 15, 1971. There she was fixed by means of pylons over a huge hole made in the bed of the River Thames. HMS Belfast museum opened its doors to the public on Trafalgar Day, 21 October 1971, and in 1978 it was transferred to the Imperial War Museum which maintains it and allows it to be visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year, having become one of London’s great tourist attractions.

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