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by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2004

HMS BELFAST  -  Edinburgh-class Light Cruiser
including Convoy Escort MovementsE

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Belfast (Navy Photos, click to enlarge) return to Contents List 

Improved SOUTHAMPTON-Class heavy cruiser ordered on 15th August 1936 from Harland and Wolff at Belfast under the 1936 Estimates on with sister ship HMS EDINBURGH from Swan Hunter in Newcastle. The ship was laid down on 30th December 1936 and launched on 31st March 1938 as the 1st RN ship to carry this name. Build was completed on 3rd August 1939 and she joined the Home Fleet for working-up before outbreak  of war. This cruiser was not adopted by a civil community as a result of a WARSHIP WEEK National Savings campaign during 1941 and 1942 as she was out of commission and undergoing extensive repair (See below).


B a t t l e  H o n o u r s


ARCTIC 1943 - NORTH CAPE   1943 - NORMANDY 1944


H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge:  On a Field Blue, upon waves in base White and Blue,

a sea horse gorged with a mural crown proper.


M o t t o

Pro tanto quid retribuamus  :    'We give as good as we get'




D e t a i l s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e.


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



1 9 3 9


July                         Contractors trials



                3rd          Build completion and commenced Acceptance Trials.

                5th          Commissioned for service in Home Fleet.

                                On completion of trials and storing worked-up for service in Home waters.


September             Joined HM Cruisers AURORA, EDINBURGH and SHEFFIELD in 18th Cruiser

                                Squadron, Home Fleet for interception of German warships and blockade runners

                                in NW Approaches.


October                  Deployed for patrol in NW Approaches to intercept blockade runners.

                5th          Intercepted Swedish whaling ship which was allowed to proceed.

                7th          Intercepted Swedish mercantile LILJEVATCH which was also allowed to proceed.

                9th          Intercepted and boarded Norwegian mercantile TAI YIN.

                                (Note: Mercantile taken to Kirkwall for examination.).

                                Intercepted and captured German Liner CAP NORTE (13,000 CRT).

                                (Note: This was the largest enemy mercantile captured during WW2).

                                Escorted CAP NORTE to Shetlands and on relief by HM Cruiser DEHLI resumed patrol

                                and surveillance in NW Approaches.

                                For details of naval activities in Home waters in 1939 see Naval Staff History).


November              Squadron deployment in continuation.

                21st         Sailed with HM Cruisers AURORA, EDINBURGH and SHEFFIELD to carry out a search for

                                German warships reported on passage to attack convoy traffic in Atlantic.

                                On departure from Rosyth detonated magnetic mine in Firth of Forth and sustained major damage.

                                (Note: The explosion caused major 'whipping' of ships structure and as a result equipment was

                                damaged throughout her length and her back was broken.

                                For details see ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY by C Barnett and

                                A CENTURY OF NAVAL CONSTRUCTION by David Brown).

                                Returned to Rosyth.

                23rd        Under temporary repair by HM Dockyard to allow passage for permanent repair


December              Under repair at Rosyth


1 9 4 0


January                  Under repair at Rosyth.




May                        Prepared for passage to Devonport for permanent repair.


June                        Passage to Devonport.

                                Paid off into Dockyard Control.


July                         Under Dockyard control and placed in dry dock.


August                  Under repair

to                            (Note: Work including fitting of external bulge around centre armour.

December              This added 2ft 6 inches to beam and increased displacement

                                Although stability was improved speed was reduced by 2 knots.)


1 9 4 1


January                  Under repair.

to                            (Note: Radar equipment was installed for the first time to provide warning of

December              approach of aircraft (Type 281) and for detection of surface targets and

                                land (Type 273).Fire control Radar for main (Type 284) and secondary

                                AA armament was also fitted (Types 283 and 285).


1 9 4 2


January                  Under repair

to                            (Note: Radar equipment was progressively installed with latest modification.)

September             Ship undocked during this period.


October                  Commissioned for service in Home Fleet and carried out post refit trials.


November              Post refit trials in continuation and took passage to Scapa Flow to work-up for

                                service in 10th Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet.

                                Deployed with Squadron in NW Approaches for cover of Russian convoys and for the

                                interception of German warships and commerce raiders during their passage to Atlantic

                                for attacks on convoys.


December              Work-up with Home Fleet in continuation prior to joined 10th Cruiser Squadron.

                                (Note: Squadron comprised HM Cruisers BELFAST, SHEFFIELD and CUMBERLAND).


1 9 4 3


January                  Deployed with Squadron in NW Approaches and North Sea in continuation.

                                (Note: An early production model of Radar Type 273 had been fitted by this date.

                                See RADAR AT SEA by D Howse.)


February                Passage to Loch Ewe to join Force R covering passage of Russian Convoy JW53-

                                Flagship of Force R commanded by Rear Admiral R Burnett.

                14th        Departure from Loch Ewe with HM Cruiser SHEFFIELD and CUMBERLAND delayed

                                due to a defective capstan (See CONVOY ! by P Kemp).

                16th        Sailed to join Force R.

                18th        Arrived at Seidisfjord but unable to enter to refuel.

                                Passage to Akureyi

                                (Note: The extreme weather conditions during the passage to Iceland caused major

                                structural damage to HMS SHEFFIELD which was withdrawn from Force 'R’

                                for repair in UK.

                                HM Cruiser NORFOLK replaced HMS SHEFFIELD.)

                21st         Sailed with Force R to join JW53.

                23rd        Detached from Convoy with Force R to investigate report of surface threat.

                                No contact made and rejoined JW53-

                26th        Left convoy on arrival near Kola Inlet.

                                (Note: Air attacks were limited and only one mercantile was damaged).

                                For details of all Russian Convoy operations see CONVOYS TO RUSSIA by

                                R A Ruegg, THE RUSSIAN CONVOYS by B Schoefield, CONVOY ! by

                                P Kemp and ARCTIC CONVOYS by R. Woodman).



                2nd         Deployed with Force R to cover passage of returning Convoy RA53-

                9th          Detached from RA53 and returned to Scapa Flow.


April                       Squadron interception and patrol duty in continuation.



                26th        Provided Ocean Escort for HM Auxiliary Minelayers AGAMEMNON, MENESTHEUS and

                                PORT QUEBEC of 1st Minelaying Squadron during passage for minelay in Northern Barrage.

                                (Operation SN123B - See Naval Staff History (Mining).).



                11th        Escorted HMS AGAMEMNON, HMS MENESTHEUS and HMS PORT QUEBEC during

                                minelay in the Northern Barrage (Operation SN123C).


July                         Deployed with Squadron in NW Approaches and North Sea.

                                Took part in demonstration sweep by Home Fleet off Norway as diversion during the

                                HUSKY allied assault landings in Sicily (Operation CAMERA).

                                (Note: HM King George VI visited Home Fleet at Scapa Flow after this operation).


August                  Home Fleet interception and patrol duties with Squadron in continuation.





                4th          Deployed as escort for HM Battleships DUKE OF YORK and ANSON with US cruiser USS

                                TUSCALOOSA to cover US Aircraft Carrier USS RANGER during air attacks on coastal

                                convoys and shipping in harbour at Bodo, Norway (Operation LEADER).

                                (Note: USS TUSCALOOSA had been loaned to Home Fleet - See ENGAGE THE ENEMY

                                MORE CLOSELY.)



                2nd         Provided cruiser cover with HMS KENT and HMS NORFOLK for passage of the returning

                                Russian Convoy RA54A.

                                (Note: This was first west bound convoy of winter season.)

                8th          Detached from RA54A which had an undetected passage

                28th        Deployed with HMS ANSON, screened by HM Destroyers ASHANTI, MATCHLESS,

                                MUSKETEER and OBDURATE to provide Distant Cover during passage of Russian Convoy

                                JW54B and also returning Convoy RA54B.

                                (Note: Replaced USS TUSCALOOSA).



                2nd         Resumed Squadron duties after release from convoy cover.

                                Returned to Scapa Flow.

                15th        Provided Cruiser Cover for the passage of Russian Convoys JW55A with HM Cruisers

                                NORFOLK and SHEFFIELD.

                19th        Detached from JW55A to join HMS DUKE OF YORK and Home Fleet ships at Kola Inlet.

                22nd       Sailed with HMS NORFOLK and HMS SHEFFIELD to provide cover for passage of Convoy

                                JW55B and returning Convoy RA55A

                26th        Made radar contact with German SCHARNHORST and engaged with HMS NORFOLK and

                                HMS SHEFFIELD as Force 1.

                                Took part in Battle of North Cape.

                                (For details see KOLA RUN by I Campbell and D MacIntyre, 73 NORTH BY Dudley Pope

                                and above references).

                                Fired torpedoes at the stricken German warship.

                                (Note: SCHARNHORST was almost certainly sunk after torpedo hits. Her armour had

                                protected her from fatal damage and she had withstood a total of 2, 195 rounds of

                                various calibres of shell. In all 35 torpedoes were fired and 11 hits were claimed.

                                See BRITISH BATTLESHIPS OF WW2 by A Raven and J Roberts).

                                After the sinking of SCHARNHORST took passage to Kola Inlet with HMS NORFOLK and

                                HMS SHEFFIELD.

                27th        Arrived at Kola Inlet.



Kola Inlet (NP/Alan for Mr S Vallely)


1 9 4 4



                                Passage to Scapa Flow.

                                (Note: Rear Admiral Burnett was awarded a KBE on January 4th).

                                Resumed Squadron duties in Home Fleet.


February                Home Fleet interception and patrol duties at Scapa Flow.

to                            (Note: Russian Convoys JW56A&B and return Convoy RA56 were on passage during

March                    the period but cruiser cover recorded in above references does not include this ship.

                                It is however recorded in HITLER’S U-BOAT WAR by C Blair.)



                3rd          Joined HM Battleships ANSON and DUKE OF YORK with HM Cruisers ROYALIST,

                                SHEFFIELD and JAMAICA as covering force during air attacks by HM Aircraft

                                Carrier VICTORIOUS on German battleship TIRPITZ in Altenfjord, the passage of

                                Russian Convoy JW58 and returning Convoy RA58 (Operation TUNGSTEN).

                10th        On return to Scapa Flow prepared for refit.


May                        Under refit

                                Nominated for support of allied landings in Normandy (Operation NEPTUNE).

                                On completion joined HM Cruiser DIADEM in Bombarding Force E as Flagship of Rear

                                Admiral Dalrymple-Hamilton.

                                (Note: Target allocated in Pre-Arranged Fire Plan - Gun Battery at Ver-sur-Mere.and to

                                provide naval gunfire support for landings on JUNO Beach.

                                Took part in bombardment exercises with Home Fleet ships prior to gunfire support and

                                Eastern Task Force deployment in Force J

                                Passage to Clyde to join Bombardment Force E.


June                        Joined HMS DIADEM in Clyde estuary.

                3rd          Sailed with HMS DIADEM escorted by HM Destroyers ULSTER and URCHIN as Convoy


                4th          Operation delayed for 24 hours. Remained at sea in SW Approaches.

                5th          Sailed through swept channel from Solent to JUNO beachhead with Convoy G11.

                6th          Provided naval gunfire support for assault on LOVE Beach.

                to            Deployed in Eastern Task Force Area for gunfire support.

                28th        Provided naval gunfire support during military attacks on Caen with HM Battleship

                                RODNEY, HM Monitor ROBERTS, HM Cruisers ARGONAUT and DIADEM.


July                         Remained in Channel area for naval gunfire support on completion of NEPTUNE.

                                Provided naval gunfire support to military operations on eastern flank of assault area.

                                Nominated for service with British Pacific Fleet after refit.


August                  Taken in hand for refit.


September             Under refit.

to                            (Note: During this refit extensive modernisation of fighter direction and Anti-Aircraft

December              protection took place for service in the Far East

                                Radar Type 281B using single mast replaced Type 281 for air cover.

                                Radar Type 293 replaced Radar Type 273Q for surface warning.

                                Radar Type 274 replaced Radar Type 284 for main armament fire-control.

                                Interrogation equipment (IFF) and modern plan position radar displays (PPI)

                                were fitted together with improved radio telephone equipment for control of aircraft.


1 9 4 5


January                  Under refit




April                       Post refit trials and passage to join Home Fleet.


May                        Deployed at Scapa Flow for work-up prior to service with British Pacific Fleet.,




July                         Passage to join British Pacific Fleet


August                  After end of hostilities diverted to join British Task Force 111 in South China Sea.

                                (Note: TF111 was formed after British ships ware released from US Navy control).

                                Joined HM Light Fleet Aircraft Carrier COLOSSUS, HM Cruisers ARGONAUT and

                                BERMUDA, HM Destroyers TYRIAN, TUMULT, TUSCAN and QUIBERON as

                                Task Group 111.3

                                Deployed for support of rehabilitation of allied nationals held in China.

                                Arrived at Shanghai with HMS ARGONAUT for re-occupation duty and repatriation of

                                British subjects


P o s t   W a r   N o t e s


HMS BELFAST remained in the Far East after completion of her rehabilitation work and took part in UN operations off Korea in 1950. She was relieved by HM Cruiser CEYLON and returned to re-commission in UK for further service in the Far East as Flagship of the 5th Cruiser Squadron. She was deployed again with the UN off the west coast of Korea. In 1955 the ship paid off and was taken in hand by HM Dockyard, Devonport for modernisation to suit current naval doctrines. On completion in 1959 she re-commissioned for another  period of service in the Far East where she was deployed until 1962. In June of that year she joined the Home Fleet as Flagship of Flag Officer Flotillas for a few months before being placed in Reserve. She was briefly re-commissioned in 1963 to take part in RNR exercises after which the ship returned to the Reserve Fleet. Her future was placed in doubt by the Defence cuts announced in 1968 and she was removed from Reserve status but retained for use as an Accommodation Ship at Portsmouth. A proposal by the National Maritime Museum and the Imperial War Museum for this cruiser to be preserved and used as an example of a major WW2 warship was eventually agreed. On completion of the necessary work she was placed on display in the Pool of London and is open to visitors. RN and foreign warships frequently berth alongside when visiting London and the ship is also in demand by the media for use during presentations and for other publicity purposes.








by Don Kindell


These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








JW 053





RA 053





RA 054A





JW 054B





RA 054B





JW 055A





JW 055B





RA 055A








(Note on Convoys)




external link




with thanks to his son, John Gresson (13 Mar 2011)




November 29 to December 18 - At Shanghai, as flagship of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, flying the flag of Rear Admiral R M Servaes, under command of Capt R M Dick. The other ships of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron were HM cruisers BERMUDA, EURYALUS, and BLACK PRINCE and HM New Zealand cruisers GAMBIA and ACHILLES. Also at Shanghai at this time was HM frigate WIDEMOUTH BAY.


December 20 - In Formosa Straits, on passage to Hong Kong. Night exercises (torpedo attacks) with HM destroyer TERPSICHORE.


December 21 to 28 - At Hong Kong, HM minesweeper COURIER alongside.


December 29 to 31 - On passage to Shanghai, exercising with HM destroyers TERPSICHORE and TERMAGENT


December 31 - Arrived at the mouth of the Yangtse Kiang, for transfer of personnel and mail to HM destroyer TYRIAN, then upstream to mooring in the Whang-Poo River together with TERPSICHORE, TERMAGENT, and BLACK PRINCE, HM sloop HIND and US amphibious force command ship ESTES, US cruiser BREMERTON and two US destroyers.




January 1 to 16 - At Shanghai. HM fast cruiser/minelayer MANXMAN alongside.


January 17 to February 1 - On passage to Sydney, Australia


March 4 to 12 - On passage up the east coast of New Zealand, calling at Port Chalmers (Dunedin), Wellington, and Napier, NZ. The ship was opened to the public at Napier, and over two successive afternoons some 15,000 locals came aboard.


March 13 to 20 - On passage to Suva, Fiji, and at Suva.


March 20 to April 2 - On passage to Japan


April 2 - Arrived Tokyo Bay, thence to Yokohama. Also present were HMS depot ship TYNE (flying the flag of Rear Admiral Archer - Rear Admiral, Destroyers); HM cruiser NEWFOUNDLAND; HM Australian destroyer WARRAMUNGA; and US destroyer HANSON.


April 4 - At Yokohama, joined by HM destroyer COSSACK (Captain Š 8th Destroyer Flotilla).


April 8 and 9 - At Yokohama. Chief Petty Officer Telegraphist Long died of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident ashore two days previously, and part of ship's company attended funeral service at the United States Air Force Cemetery in Yokohama.


April 10 - At Yokohama. Joined by HM destroyer CONTEST (6th Destroyer Flotilla), then to sea for passage to Kure (headquarters of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force) with HMAS WARRAMUNGA.


April 11 and 12 - On passage to Kure, via Inland Sea, and arrival Kure.


April 12 to 17 - At Kure. Joined by HM Australian destroyer QUIBERON, HM Indian sloop SUTLEJ and HM fast cruiser/minelayer APOLLO.


April 18 to 23 - On passage to Kobe, and at Kobe.


April 23 to May 2 - On passage to Yokohama, and at Yokohama. Also present were HMS COSSACK, HM destroyer TRAFALGAR and HM battleship ANSON. Rear Admiral Servaes transferred his flag from HMS BELFAST to HMS ANSON, pending completion of dockyard repairs in Hong Kong to HMS BERMUDA.


May 3 to 7 - Passage to Hong Kong, and entered Hong Kong passing HMS MANXMAN outbound . Moored up harbour, in the company of HMS EURYALUS, HMS TYNE, HMS BERMUDA and several other destroyers of the 8th and 19th Destroyer Flotillas. Lt Cdr Elder, captured at St Valery-en-Caux (part of the St Nazaire raid) and held as a POW for five years, joins the ship to replace existing First Lieutenant, Lt Cdr Lowndes.

May 8 to 11 - At Hong Kong. Joined by ships of US Task Force 74, comprising US cruiser LOS ANGELES, and US destroyers NORRIS, PARKS, RABY and one other. Departure of HM fleet carrier VENERABLE, bound for Singapore and Columbo.


May 11 to 16 - On passage to Singapore, and arrival Singapore. In the swept channel leading into Singapore passed HM destroyer CAVENDISH flying paying-off pennant, and on arrival moored in the company of HM frigate DERBY HAVEN, flying the flag of Rear Admiral Egerton, Flag Officer Š Malayan Forward Areas.


May 17 to July 25 - At Singapore. For part of this period (May 29 to July 1) the ship was dry docked as part of a refit.

During this visit ship's company attended parades ashore: one a Victory Parade on June 8 at Jahore (4 platoons of sailors and the Royal Marines band) with elements from the Reconnaissance Regt, the Buffs, the Cameronians (with pipe band), the Sikhs, the Sappers, the Royal Scots (with pipe band), and the RAF Regt. The salute was taken by Lt Gen Sir Montague Stopford, then Supreme Allied Commander, SE Asia; another HM King George VI's Birthday Parade on June 10 at Singapore with detachments from HM cruiser SWIFTSURE and HM shore establishments TERROR and SIMBANG.

Also on June 11 Vice Admiral Sir Dennis Boyd KCB, CBE, DSC took over command of the British Pacific Fleet from Admiral Lord Frazer.

On July 6 Capt H B Ellison DSO arrived on board to take over command of the ship from Capt R M Dick.

On July 22 the 10th Minesweeper Flotilla departed for return to the United Kingdom (except HM minesweeper HARE), leaving the 11th MSF as the only fleet minesweepers on the Far East Station

Other ships encountered during the visit included HMS APOLLO, HM landing ship (dock) OCEAN WAVE, two Insect-class river gunboats, HM depot ship ARUANIA, and HM cruiser SUSSEX.

July25 to 29 - On passage to Hong Kong, exercises with HMS HIND at sea, and arrival at Hong Kong.


July 30 to August 6 - At Hong Kong. Other ships present were HM cruisers BERMUDA (by then flagship, 2nd Cruiser Squadron) and NEWFOUNDLAND, HM escort carrier RANEE, HM depot ship TYNE, HM destroyers ARMADA, BARFLEUR and TRAFALGAR, HM frigates WIDEMOUTH BAY, and AIRE, HMS HIND, and HM Indian sloop NARBADA.

August 6 to 15 - Exercises at sea off Hong Kong, variously with HMS HIND, HMS ARMADA (by now flying the flag of Rear Admiral, Destroyers), and HMS EURYALUS. Return to Hong Kong. Also present HM destroyer COCKADE, HM sloop AMETHYST and US destroyer SAMUEL N MOORE.


August 16 to 20. - Vice Admiral Sir Denis Boyd embarked (together with his barge, Jeep and Rolls Royce car...). Departure from Hong Kong, and passage to Yokohama.


August 20 to 26 - At Yokohama. Encountered US heavy cruiser CHICAGO entering port; HMS NEWFOUNDLAND (now flying the flag of Rear Admiral Servaes) and HM destroyer CAMPERDOWN already in port; and subsequently HMS BARFLEUR. Rear Admiral Servaes boards to visit Vice Admiral Sir Denis Boyd. RNZN midshipmen on board attend dinner ashore with Mr Justice Erima Northcroft, the New Zealand judge on the Japanese War Crimes Commission, followed by the first ever public performance in Japan of Gilbert & SullivanÕs The Mikado, followed by a visit to the headquarters of the BCOF.


August 26 to 28 - On passage from Yokohama to Otaru.


August 29 to September 1 - At Otaru. Personnel of the US 11th Airborne Division, stationed at Sapporo were entertained on board.


September 1 to 4 - On passage to Kure.


September 4 to 10 - At Kure. Other ships in the harbour included HMS NEWFOUNDLAND, flying the flag of Rear Admiral Woodhouse, who had just relieved Rear Admiral Servaes as Commander, 5th Cruiser Squadron; HM submarine depot ship ADAMANT, under the command of Capt Bryant DSO**, DSC*, Captain, 4th Submarine Flotilla; HM submarines TIRELESS, TRUNCHEON, TALENT and TALLY HO; HM destroyers COCKADE, COSSACK, CONTEST and CONSTANCE; HM frigate HART; HMIS NABARDA; and HM Australian destroyer QUADRANT. Successive calls on the Commander-in-Chief on board the ship by Admiral Woodhouse, and by Major General Robertson, GOC, BCOF.

September 10 to 15 - On passage to Kobe, and at Kobe.


September 16 to 18 -  On passage to Woosung, and at Woosung. Joined for the duration of the shipÕs tour of the Chinese coast by HMS TRAFALGAR, flotilla leader of the 19th Destroyer Flotilla under the command of Capt Pugsley, CB, DSO**.


September 19 - Passage up the Yangtse Kiang river to Silver Island.


September 20 to 24 - Passage up river to Nanking, and at Nanking. Visits on board ship by Admiral Chow, Chinese Navy; General Kwei, Chinese Army; and the British Ambassador, Sir Ralph Stevenson.


September 25 - Passage down river to Woosung, then up the Whang Poo river, passing US heavy cruiser HELENA en route.


September 26 to October 1 - At Shanghai


October 1 to 4 - On passage to Tsingtao, and at Tsingtao.


October 4 to 10 - On passage to Chinwangtao, and at Chinwangtao.


October 10 to 14 - On passage to Hong Kong. Planned exercises with HM aircraft carriers GLORY and VENERABLE, and HM destroyers COMET and CONTEST cancelled due to severity of weather.


October 14 to November 10 - At Hong Kong. Other ships in harbour on arrival included HMS BERMUDA, VENERABLE, ADAMANT, TALLY HO, TIRELESS, TRUNCHEON, HOGUE, ARMADA, COMET, CONTEST, COSSACK, HMAS QUADRANT, HM destroyer PENN, and HM sloop OPOSSUM. Joined at various dates by HM Australian light cruiser HOBART, HM sloop HART, and HM submarine depot ship BONAVENTURE. Exercises at sea on October 22 with aircraft; and again during the period from October 28 to November 1, including shoots with the ship's 6in guns and with aircraft from HMS GLORY.


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