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A Visit to The Museum Ship HMS Belfast

Updated on January 8, 2016

HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast moored just below London's iconic Tower Bridge which can be seen in the background
HMS Belfast moored just below London's iconic Tower Bridge which can be seen in the background | Source

HMS Belfast - an excellent addition to your sight-seeing itinerary.

If you are a visitor in London and want an interesting and enjoyable day out then the Belfast is an excellent addition to your sight-seeing itinerary.

Named after the capital city of Northern Ireland HMS Belfast was launched on the 17th of March 1938 which appropriately was St Patrick’s day.

The Belfast is a Town class cruiser and as one of Britain’s most powerful cruisers at that time unfortunately in the November of 1939 the Belfast struck a German mine which put her out of action for more than two years.

Part of the Arctic Convoy Exhibit

The Belfast In Action

After being repaired the Belfast finally returned to active service in November 1942.

In 1943 she played her part in escorting the Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union and in the December of that year as part of that Atlantic campaign, she was involved in the Battle of North Cape on the 26th December.

During this battle HMS Duke of York along with other British battle cruisers including the Belfast sunk the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst.

In June 1944 the Belfast was part of Operation Overlord playing her part in the Normandy Landings.

In the June of 1945 the Belfast was then sent out to the Far East to be a part of the British Pacific Fleet in the Far East. She arrived there shortly before the Second World War ended.

Although the Second World War was over this was not the last action that the Belfast was to see.

The Belfast was once again saw action as she played her part in the Korean War during 1952 – 53.

This ship has had an illustrious past and the this floating museum has done a really good job with its many exhibits of giving an insight into life on-board this great warship.

HMS Belfast Being Towed to Moorings

This is the Belfast in 1971 being towed to its moorings on the Thames
This is the Belfast in 1971 being towed to its moorings on the Thames | Source

Turned into a Museum Ship

When it came time to scrap the Belfast in 1971 the Belfast was transferred to the private HMS Belfast Trust.

The Trust then brought Belfast to the River Thames and turned her into a museum ship.

As a museum ship, the Belfast has around a quarter of a million visitors a year and is now a branch of Imperial War Museum.

The Belfast is moored on the River Thames close by London’s iconic Tower Bridge and from her decks, you can also see the Tower of London.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London with the stern of the Belfast in the foreground
The Tower of London with the stern of the Belfast in the foreground | Source

Hatchways and Ladders

One of the many hatchways
One of the many hatchways | Source
The hatchway ladder
The hatchway ladder | Source

Lots to see but you need to be fit to get around

There is a lot to see on-board HMS Belfast and if you want to see it all, you will need at least four hours to do it justice.

The Belfast is open seven days a week throughout the year, the only days that they are closed are the 24th, 25th and 26th of December.

From the 1 st of March to the end of October it is open from 10 am till 6 pm the last admission being at 5 pm.

From the 1st of November until the 28th of February it is open from 10 am till 5 pm with the last admission of the day being 4 pm.

It is important to note that children aged 15 or under must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

There are nine decks in all for you to explore but I warn you the Trust has restored the Belfast to reflect life on-board when it was in service.

Access to the different decks is via hatchways and steel ladders some of which are very steep.

My husband who was a Sailor had no trouble at all getting up and down the ladders but then he has had lots of practice.

Unfortunately if you have any sort of mobility problems, then this excellent museum ship is not for you because of all the hatchways and steep ladders.

There was a lot of ladder climbing involved as we toured the ship to give a realistic experience of life on-board a Royal Navy ship.

Hatchways and ladders are the way that the sailors got around and visitors to the ship have to do the same.

I am in my mid sixties and reasonably fit and I found that if I took my time that getting around was no problem.

However, I am sure that if the ship had been at sea and was being tossed about by rough seas then it would have been a completely different story.

Schematic of the nine different decks

This is a schematic of the Belfast and gives some idea of the size of the ship
This is a schematic of the Belfast and gives some idea of the size of the ship | Source

Life at sea

Even a ship's cat needs its own hammock
Even a ship's cat needs its own hammock | Source
Men in the hammocks
Men in the hammocks | Source
men relaxing
men relaxing | Source

Life at Sea

The Life at Sea exhibit was fascinating, and for me personally I found it even more interesting because my husband was in the Royal Navy when I married him, and had been to sea in ships that were similar to the Belfast.

My husband arranged to meet three old shipmates by the Belfast’s gangway so that we could tour the ship and share the experience together.

These shipmates had joined the Navy as boy seamen at the same time as my husband and they had been in training together over fifty years ago.

As we explored the ship, many tales of their lives on-board ships like these were told.

My husband had told me about many of his experiences at sea but to walk round an actual vessel and see the crews quarters up close brought all those tales vividly to life.

My husband had often said that the British navy built their ships first and then fitted the crew in where they could.

As I looked at the crews living quarters I could see what he meant, it made for some unusual sleeping arrangements.

Navy ships at sea are manned 24 hours a day so in the mess there will be sailors sleeping and relaxing in the same space, while others will be at their post on watch.

Interactive Operations Room

In the interactive operations room, you get some idea of how much work is involved in controlling a fleet of ships.

Many of the pieces of equipment have been set up to give the appearance that they are in operation.

Each piece of equipment not only looks like it is working but also you can hear the appropriate sounds seemingly emanating from the equipment.


Nearly all that you need is here onboard

Nearly everything that the sailor needs is catered for on the ship there is a

  • Laundry
  • mail room
  • galley where all meals are prepared
  • a butchers store
  • a sick bay
  • an operating theatre
  • a dentist
  • a dispensary
  • a NAAFI where the sailors can buy little luxuries such as bars of chocolate etc.,
  • ship’s radio that plays records and entertains
  • even spiritual needs are met there is a chapel and a Chaplin

There are photographs of all the above in the following video slide show.

Video slide show of HMS Belfast

I have created this video slideshow out of photographs I took of these places on my visit to the Belfast; of course, this is only a small selection of the photographs that I took.

There is much more to see on-board the Belfast, this hub has shown only a small part of what you can see if you visit this fascinating ship.

If you are visiting London then I can recommend a visit to this branch of the Imperial War Museum.

HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast

5 stars for The Imperial War Museum HMS Belfast

Excellent Guided tour

I was on Youtube and came across this video which is an excellent guided tour by Kevin Kirkpatrick.

I think that you will enjoy this I know that I did

HMS Belfast

I hope that you have enjoyed your virtual visit to HMS Belfast, this hub has only scratched the surface of what there is to see on-board this impressive British Battle Cruiser.

At just under £14 admission for an adult, this Museum ship is in my opinion well worth the time and money that I spent on it.

The only down side to this floating museum is that it is not suitable for people who have mobility problems.

For this great ship to maintain the authentic feel of a British Warship of that period I believe that it is vital that as much of the ship as is possible be kept just as it was when the ship was on active service.

The Imperial War Museum and the private HMS Belfast Trust have done a wonderful job in giving the visitor a real taste of life on-board one of Her Majesty's great Battle Cruisers.

Do yourself a favour and come and see for yourself.


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    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Sunny Spain

      I am sure that your cats would love hammocks of their own Dale, especially if they live aboard your boat with you. My Son lived on his boat for a couple of years though it was moored up in a marina, but he went out on it when ever he could. He was in the RAF until they made him redundant, which meant he lost his living quarters. He continued to do the same work at the camp but as a civilian and the boat was a great answer to his housing problems.

      I am sure you would enjoy a trip around the Belfast, there was much more to see than I was able to include here. Thank you for commenting

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 

      5 years ago from The High Seas

      Would like to see this for myself someday. Also I guess I'm going to have to buy my cats hammocks now too!

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Thank you Michael your comments I am glad that you enjoyed your virtual tour , we certainly enjoyed climbing all over the ship. My husband did go on this ship when it was in service, it was when it was out in the Med and he went onboard to pick up the mail for his ship, but he never served on it.

      Even so it was similar enough to many that he did serve on for him and his shipmates to to see something that would spark off a torrent of reminiscences.

      We were joined at one point by a couple of other old tars who actually served on the Belfast, and it wasn't long before they found that they had served together with my husband and his friends on a couple of ships.

      Thank you for for sharing this I really appreciate it Michael :D

    • molometer profile image


      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I must say this is a first rate hub on a fantastic ship.

      Loved the photos and video and I've subscribed to your YouTube channel too. (I didn't know you were on there)

      My maternal uncle was in the Royal Navy during the Arctic convoys. Sadly his ship was sunk and he was lost.

      This hub shows how those men lived on-board these capital ships in this desperate time.

      Your husband was right. The ship was built to fight and the men had to 'fit in' where they could.

      Excellent hub sharing it all over.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Thank you so much Martin for your comments, I am so glad that you liked the photos :D

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for the great and information packed tour, the pictures were awesome.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Thank you for the visit Eddy I am glad that you like it I appreciate you leaving a comment :D

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant share so well presented and informed. I hope you are well maggs and thanks for this share.



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