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HMS Belfast's Korean Prisoners of War

HMS Belfast  played a key role in several significant moments during the Second World War, joining the Arctic Convoys and supporting Operation Overlord on D-Day. But it was in the Korean War that she gained a reputation as a 'straight-shooting ship'.

Korea had been divided into two parts at the end of the war - the North fell under the influence of the Soviet Union and the South was supported by the Americans. The Korean People's Army (KPA) was established in North Korea in February 1948, from Korean communist guerrillas who had previously served with the Chinese People's Liberation Army, but were 'advised' by Soviet personnel. By mid-1950 the KPA was composed of ten infantry divisions plus other units totalling some 223,000 men.

The KPA invaded South Korea on June 25 1950 and the United Nations called on its members to support the South - and Great Britain was was of many nations that responded.

HMS Belfast had spent much of her time after the end of the Second World War in the Far East and when the Korean War broke out, she was one of the first  British ships to go into action.

She was part of the West Coast Support Group and worked closely with allied forces, supporting ground troops who had been deployed to support South Korea by providing bombardment support and helping to protect other ships. Together, the group also acted as a blockade to prevent arms and people from entering North Korea illegally.

In September 1951, prisoners of war from the Chinese Peoples Volunteer Army and North Korean Peoples Army  were captured following a raid on shore by the Royal Marines. In a photo taken on the quarter-deck of the ship, they stand under guard after being brought back to the ship for interrogation.  

HMS Belfast spent 404 days on active service during the Korean War and left in September 1952. She would spent her final years performing peace-keeping duties before being retired from service in 1963.

The image of the prisoners of war is one of more than 11 million photographs in IWM's collection, which covers all aspects of modern conflict. IWM is the national custodian for photographs taken by the Armed Forces as well as other government departments such as the former Ministry of Information.

The archive continues to grow 100 years after IWM was established in 1917.