HMS Belfast: 75 Years

This weekend, HMS Belfast, the famous ship which has inhabited the Thames since 1971 as a museum, will celebrate the 75th anniversary of her launch. The Royal Navy cruiser was launched on 17th March 1938 at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland. British Pathé has footage of the occasion in its archive, which can be viewed here. The launch can be found mid-way through the clip, which begins as an item about Mrs Chamberlain opening a new airport (though due to the fact that some footage has gone missing, the clip doesn’t feature Mrs Chamberlain at all!)

HMS Belfast is launched on 17th March 1938. Click the still to watch the British Pathé footage.

As well as the launch, there are some additional films in which HMS Belfast makes an appearance. The most substantial is an item about Royal Navy cadets taking the ship to Gibraltar. The 1963 newsreel, “Cadets Try Sea Life“, features some nice shots of HMS Belfast and the cadets lined up on her deck for her departure from Portsmouth.

There are two other films of note: “Tanganyika Independent“, about the celebrations for the independence of Tanganyika (later Tanzania) in 1961, shows HMS Belfast lit up at night in the harbour. “Royal Navy Ships“, filmed some time in the 1940s, shows some crew members messing around with an HMS Belfast lifebuoy.

HMS Belfast sets off for Gibraltar in a 1963 film. Click the still to view.

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There are also four items from the 1970s which show HMS Belfast on the Thames. You can find the films in this collection. British Pathé stopped releasing newsreels in February 1970 (see our History of British Pathé), and so much of the material in the archive from that decade is silent, unedited, and never released. This HMS Belfast footage is a good example, but the films are an enjoyable watch due to some beautiful aerial views of London and the River Thames.

HMS Belfast on the Thames during the 1970s. View our collection of clips for the famous ship by clicking on the still.

HMS Belfast saw action in the Second World War, beginning with the arctic convoys. She also took part in the Battle of North Cape and the Normandy landings. Later, she was used in the Korean War. In the 1970s she became a museum ship and has been visited by scores of tourists and history-lovers ever since. It’s worth a visit if you’ve never been.

View British Pathé’s HMS Belfast collection here.

View additional HMS Belfast stills on our Pinterest page.

The Launch of the QE2

There’s been some sad news that the famous liner Queen Elizabeth 2 (or “QE2”) has been sold as scrap. [UPDATE: It appears that these headlines have been exaggerated. Although the QE2 has indeed been sold to the Chinese, there is no evidence that she will be scrapped.] She follows a great many other luxury vessels, such as Titanic’s nearly-identical sister ship Olympic, in this and it would come as little surprise had the announcement not been made in July that she was to become a hotel. The news is a great shame for ship-lovers. In tribute, then, to that great ocean voyager, we thought we’d share two newsreels about the QE2 from our collection (you can search the website for more).

The first is coverage from the launch of the QE2 in 1967. In the clip, the Queen examines the new liner, officially names it (seemingly after herself, though accounts differ as to whether the ship is intended as Queen Elizabeth the Second or the second Queen Elizabeth) and watches as the QE2 rolls down into the water. “May God bless her and all who sail in her.” It’s an impressive sight, as this image reveals:

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The newsreel commentator ends with, “Like her great predecessors, the new liner will write a further chapter in the history of ocean travel.” Watch the film here.

The second we’d like to share is coverage of the QE2’s maiden voyage in 1969. The cameras take a brief tour and see the crew on the bridge of what is described as “the greatest ship of her type afloat”. She leaves Southampton and starts ploughing the sea as the passengers drink champagne and enjoy the journey below. Watch the film here.

The QE2 is waved off from Southampton on her maiden voyage.
The QE2 is waved off from Southampton on her maiden voyage.

After this maiden voyage, the QE2 went on to have a long and illustrious career. She left service in 2008 having carried 2.5 million passengers across nearly 6 million miles of water and had even taken part in the Falklands War. Plans to turn her into a floating hotel following her retirement failed, it is believed, due to the economic downturn.

www.britishpathe.com