Inner Workings

Discover how HMS Belfast works, from the Engine Room deep in the bowels of the ship to the Operations Room and Compass Platform, the nerve centre where the captain controlled the ship at sea.

The horsepower of HMS Belfast’s engines at top speed is equivalent to 1,000 family cars – visit the Engine Room to see the scale and intricate workings of the engineering needed to drive the ship. Also hiding deep beneath the ship’s waterline are the Shell Rooms, the most heavily protected of all the compartments on board from both shell fire and aerial bombs. From here, you can look through hatches into the Magazines and Handling Rooms and find out what would have happened if the ship received a hit that put the Magazines and their explosive cargo at risk.

On the upper decks, as well as enjoying the elevated vantage points for fabulous views up the Thames, you can see the places where intelligence was gathered and decisions about enemy engagement were made. All radio signals, often coded, passed through the soundproofed Bridge Wireless Office (BWO), which was manned by up to 14 signallers. The BWO is still used today by the Royal Naval Amateur Radio Society, using the special international call sign GB2RN. Any operators on duty will be happy to answer your questions about the BWO. Also on this deck are the Admiral’s Bridge and sea cabins for the senior officers to use when the ship was in action.

You can now imagine what it would have been like to participate in a real-life naval operation in our interactive Operations Room. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of an exercise to salvage parts of a plane drowned in the sea, based on Pony Express, the code name given to a major exercise off North Borneo in 1961. Use touchscreen plotting tables to take control of a fleet of ships, while all around you the original radar screens and equipment lights flare into life, providing an authentic backdrop.

Collections in Context

HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast was launched in March 1938, at a time when navies were competing to build powerful cruisers to protect shipping routes.

Arctic Convoys
After Germany invaded the Soviet Union (Russia) on 22 June 1941, the Soviet leader...

The Battle of the Atlantic
Britain depended on vital supplies from North America and the Empire. These had to be transported in merchant...

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