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HMS Belfast

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Building & Launch
Building and Launch of HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast on her launch day,17 March 1938 (IWM neg HU43755)
HMS Belfast on her launch day, 17 March 1938 (IWM neg HU43755)

In 1936, the Admiralty decided to order two enlarged and improved versions of the large light cruisers of the 'Southampton' class with sixteen 6-inch guns in four quadruple turrets, on a displacement of 10,000 tons, the maximum permitted under the terms of the Washington Treaty. In keeping with the policy of naming the 'Southamptons' after British cities, it was decided to call the two ships 'Edinburgh' and 'Belfast'.

In the event, it proved impossible to manufacture effective quadruple 6-inch mountings and the final design specified an improved version of the successful triple mounts used in the 'Southampton' class. The weight saved was used to improve armour protection and to increase the ships' anti-aircraft armament by 50%.

Construction of the second ship of the 'Edinburgh' class was assigned by tender to Messrs Harland and Wolff of Belfast on 21 September 1936 and the vessel was launched by Mrs Neville Chamberlain on St Patrick's Day, 17 March 1938.

The Navy Estimates for that year show that her planned cost was £2,141,514 including £75,000 for the guns and £66,500 for aircraft.

After fitting out and builder's trails, HMS Belfast was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 5 August 1939 under the command of Captain G A Scott DSO RN.

HMS Belfast at full speed on the measured mile range off Greenock, 23 May 1939. (IWM Neg HU 43767)
HMS Belfast at full speed on the measured mile range off Greenock, 23 May 1939. (IWM Neg HU 43767)