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HMS Belfast RNARS Activity Week

Chris Colclough
Chris Colclough

This week sees the "Easter Activity Week" of the HMS Belfast Royal Naval Amateur Radio HMS BelfastSociety. The group are on air daily from this magnificent floating museum moored in the pool of London, under the shadow of Tower Bridge.

This year also sees the 75th anniversary of the ships launch and OFCOM (the UK radio regulatory authority) have allowed the use of a special call just for this event, so listen out for GB75HMSB being on air from the Bridge Wireless office.

Each day members of the group meet and air the call on all modes, and Chris (G1VDP) will be amongst the on air team on Friday 8th April. This is also the day of the groups AGM so there will be a good few members to log. Full details can beBWO found on the GB2RN website.

HMS Belfast was launched in March 1938, at a time when navies were competing to build powerful cruisers to protect shipping routes. Belfast was designed to be fast, well armoured, and able to smother an enemy ship with an overwhelming barrage of 6-inch shells.

On her first wartime patrol Belfast captured a German liner. Soon after, however, she struck a mine that broke her keel; repairs took more than two years. While under repair Belfast was fitted with thicker armour, new anti-aircraft guns, and advanced radars. She returned to the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet in November 1942 a modern and powerful warship.

DSC 3524 cs6At North Cape in December 1943 Belfast was escorting a convoy to Russia when it was attacked by German battlecruiser Scharnhorst. Belfast played a key role in sinking Scharnhorst, using her radar to track the enemy despite a snowstorm, and illuminating her at close range with flares.

In 1944 Belfast saw further action on D-Day, where her guns supported the advance of British troops. From 1950 to 1952 Belfast served in the Korean War. Decommissioned in 1963 Belfast might have ended her days as scrap metal, but for the work of a private trust which succeeded in preserving her for posterity. She opened to the public in 1971 and became a branch of the Imperial War Museum in 1978.

HMS Belfast is a unique ship. She is the Royal Navy’s last surviving cruiser, the largest preserved warship in Europe, and the only surviving cruiser built in the 1930s. (thanks to IWM website for the information)