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HMS Belfast
Modified Southhampton Class
Light Cruiser

Photographed by Alberto Rada
Text by Rob Mackie

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View 21 photos of the HMS Belfast

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Imperial War Museum site


Want to model the Belfast?  We've got reviews of both currently available kits:
Airfix 1/600 full hull
B Resina 1/700 waterline


The WW2 cruiser HMS Belfast is a must see for any ship modeler visiting London. You will have no trouble locating the 613’ long cruiser. She is moored in the Thames opposite the Tower of London. Make a day of it. Visit the Tower, then cross the Thames via the Tower Bridge and head for the Belfast.

The Imperial War Museum administers the HMS Belfast and they do a superb job of bringing her to life. The ship is in its 1963 fit, so the WW2 tripod masts have been replaced by lattice masts, and there have been bridge alterations .  Otherwise she appears as she would have in 1943. And take time to admire her beautiful 4-color camouflage scheme before boarding the Belfast.

HMS Belfast Gun from A turret.jpg (83754 bytes)The visitor has full access to most of the ship’s compartments. Start topside by entering one of the four 6" triple turrets. I was surprised by their spaciousness. Video presentations explain the operation of the ship’s guns and many other aspects of cruiser life. The presentations are informative and include sound effects where appropriate. Strap yourself into a twin 40mm Bofors mount and live out your fantasy of defending the ship against enemy fighters – or hordes of London tourists. And don’t miss the bridge. The view over the forward 6" guns is breathtaking, and the audio effects simulate the exchange of orders as the Belfast stalked the Scharnhorst during the Battle of the North Cape.

dentist.jpg (59895 bytes)The most impressive part of the HMS Belfast exhibit is in the below deck area. The IWM staff has done an outstanding job of depicting the humdrum details of daily warship routine. All accessible areas are clean, freshly painted and well lit. Life size mannequins inhabit some of the compartments. As you pass the ship’s dental office listen to the whirring dental drill and the groans of a rating experiencing anesthesia-free dentistry. The ship’s cat howls as you peer into the pantry. Look down on the floor and he has a rat in his mouth. The cook prepares food for the 900-man crew. The ship's surgeon operates on a patient.

6in shell hoist.jpg (73209 bytes)Explore the ships many below-deck spaces. The shell handling and engine rooms were particularly interesting. Contemplate being locked in the claustrophobic punishment cell for insubordination. And note that there are no stacked bunks as on American ships. The ratings slept in hammocks suspended from ubiquitous overhead hooks. My wife has no interest in warships and merely tolerates my obsession. But she very much enjoyed the Belfast. The human details made the ship come alive for her in a way that my ranting about British cruiser design never could. So bring the family and allow at least 2 hours for your visit, unless your are an obsessive modeler, in which case 4 hours should suffice.