Tags: 'For so much how shall we repay?', 11 mile range, 38th parallel, 4-inch gun, 40mm gun, 6-inch gun, Admiral Frobisher, Admiral Nelson, Admiralty Disruptive Camouflage Type 25, August 1939, Barracuda, battleship, British Army, Canadian Army, Chance-Vought, Communist, Corsair, cruiser, D-Day, dazzle camouflage, Fairey, Fleet Air Arm, floating museum, German Navy, Gold Beach, Grumman, Hellcat, HMS Belfast, Imperial War Museum, June Beach, Korean War, London, magnetic mine, Normandy, North Korea, Norwegian coast, Operation Tungsten, Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamas, River Thames, Royal Navy, Tirpitz, Tower Bridge, triple 6-inch mounts
An 11,000 ton, 6-inch gun cruiser is an impressive ship; in this case HMS Belfast is made even more impressive by being anchored in the centre of London, close to Tower Bridge. Cared for by the Imperial War Museum, this veteran of both World War Two and the Korean War, serves as a living reminder of the ‘big gun navy’, when the art of naval gunnery was practised aboard battleships and cruisers by the direct ‘descendents’ of admirals such as Nelson and Frobisher. Twelve 6-inch guns are carried in four triple mounts and there is also a secondary armament of 4 -inch and 40mm guns. Commissioned just prior to the outbreak of WW2 (5th August 1939), the ship was almost lost when she hit a magnetic mine in November of that year, and repairs took nearly three years. Here you can see her wearing a particularly fetching ‘dazzle camouflage’ – Admiralty Disruptive Camouflage Type 25 – of the middle of the Second World War. Perhaps her most notable role was bombarding targets in France during the D-Day landings in Normandy, on 6th June, 1944, when she used both her 6 inch and 4 inch guns to great effect (she could reach targets more than 11 miles inland); her main role was supporting British and Canadian landings on Gold and Juno beaches.
Operation Tungsten – an aerial attack on the German battleship ‘Tirpitz’ , by Fairey Barracuda, Grumman Hellcat and Chance-Vought Corsair aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm – saw her providing cover for the aircraft carriers stationed off the Norwegian coast.
HMS Belfast’ s last taste of action was during the Korean War when she regularly bombarded Communist targets ashore on both sides of the 38th parallel. HMS Belfast was hit by a North Korean shell, but survived without major damage. She was in almost continuous action from July 1950 to September 1952, when she finally sailed for her home port.
Saved for the nation by a vigorous campaign lead by ex-officers of the ship, she entered retirement and after being towed by tugs under Tower Bridge was moored in the Thames, in a specially deepened section of the Pool of London, as a floating museum. She is, technically, a branch of the Imperial War Museum, and visitors are most welcome. I have visited HMS Belfast on a number of occasions, and am always struck by a sense of history, when onboard her, the largest preserved warship in Europe.
Truly, as the ship’s motto says, Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamas (For so much, how shall we repay?)