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HMS Belfast marks 75th year of its launch on St Patrick’s Day

PUBLISHED: 16:34 12 March 2013 | UPDATED: 17:04 12 March 2013

HMS Belfast, Pool of London by Tower Bridge

HMS Belfast, Pool of London by Tower Bridge

Imperial War Museum

The veteran battle cruiser HMS Belfast moored in the Pool of London since 1971 celebrates the 75th anniversary of its launch on St Patrick’s Day with a touch of the ‘Irish’.

HMS Belfast's launch, St Patrick's Day, 1938HMS Belfast's launch, St Patrick's Day, 1938

The vessel which slipped the keel in 1938 at Harland & Wolff’s shipyard in Belfast is being swathed in green floodlighting each evening and is staging family fun days on Saturday and St Patrick’s Day itself on Sunday.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast presents a specially-commissioned plate on behalf of ship-builders to the Deputy Mayor of London on Saturday, followed by a traditional launch ceremony on the decks with HMS Belfast veterans who served aboard during her 24 years’ naval operations and current Royal Navy personnel.

The Belfast was ordered by the Admiralty in 1936 as the clouds of war began to loom over Europe and was launched by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s wife on March 17, 1938.

It is the Royal Navy’s last surviving Second World War fighting ship of its type, which saw action on the Arctic convoys and the D-Day landings. More action followed in the Korean conflict in 1950-52.

HMS Belfast fires salvo off Korean coast, during Korean warHMS Belfast fires salvo off Korean coast, during Korean war

The vessel is now a permanent floating museum on the Thames opposite the Tower of London, between Tower Bridge and London Bridge.

The weekend celebrations include a sea battle experience in the gun turret with simulated firing of its four-inch guns, live radio demonstrations in the wireless office and Sea cadets demonstrating semaphore messages.

Young visitors can even find out what it’s like to be the captain in the Ops Room, directing a convoy mission, and meeting real veterans to learn first-hand stories of the ship’s history.

They can explore all nine decks of the ship that was once home to 950 sailors, using free audio guides narrated by Time Team’s Tony Robinson on what it was like to live on board.

The Belfast at War

1939

HMS Belfast commissioned four weeks before outbreak of war

On patrol between Iceland and Faroe Islands, part of maritime blockade of Hitler’s Germany

Two months at sea, hits German mine, breaking her back. Towed into Devonport for major repairs

1942

Rejoins Home Fleet as Royal Navy’s largest, most powerful cruiser

Protects Arctic convoys to Russia, facing danger from German battleship Tirpitz and packs of U-boats

1943

Detects German battle-cruiser Scharnhorst on Boxing Day, which begin Battle of North Cape. Scharnhorst sinks at 7.48pm

1944

Joins Allied landings on Normandy coast bombarding German coastal defences along Juno and Gold beaches on D-Day, June 6, as liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe begins

Visitors will be making history themselves taking part in HMS Belfast’s 75th anniversary of her launch in the city that bears her name.

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