One of London’s most iconic landmarks, HMS Belfast, has announced the date of its reopening following conservation work.
The museum ship, which is moored permanently on the Thames, will reopen on 8 July, 16 months after its closure in March 2020. Maintained by the Imperial War Museum (IWM), several new features have been introduced, including new exhibition space, crew member stories, and a quay-side bar.
The nine-deck Town-class light cruiser was built in the Northern Irish capital in 1936 and launched two years later. Belfast played a major role in the Second World War, initially as part of the British naval blockade against Germany. She later escorted the Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union and was present during the Normandy Landings.
After further action in the Korean War in the 1950s, Belfast was due to be scrapped in 1967, until a campaign by the National Maritime Museum, the Ministry of Defence, and the IWM, led to her preservation. This summer marks 50 years since Belfast was moored near Tower Bridge and opened as a museum. In 2019, the last full year of the ship’s opening, she attracted some 327,000 visitors.
New features include a revamped 2 Deck featuring stories about key members of the ship’s historic crew, such as Surgeon Lieutenant Robert Anthony Rowan, who saved many lives while serving on Belfast during the Korean War; as well as Lau Sau, a Leading Steward from Hong Kong and the only member of Belfast’s crew ever to be killed onboard when he was fatally wounded by a North Korean shell.
Many of the ship’s interactive features have also been refreshed, while the quay-side pavilion has been redesigned to accommodate the opening of The Bar @ HMS Belfast, a roof terrace offering a striking view of the London skyline.
Although primarily closed because of the pandemic, Belfast has undergone significant restoration in that time. Work has included repairs to the ship’s deck, preservation against corrosion, painting the hull, and maintenance on her four-inch guns.
Diane Lees, Director-General of the IWM, said: ‘Over the past year and a half we have gone to great lengths to ensure the necessary conservation and restoration works have taken place in order to preserve this veteran of war, as well as enhanced the onboard visitor experience and exhibition spaces to bring the history of this Royal Navy warship to life.’
‘We are thrilled to reopen this summer, allowing visitors back on board to discover and explore this magnificent survivor of the British navy,’ she added.
IWM members can book tickets from 20 May, with booking open to the general public from 27 May, via the IWM’s website.