'The Belfast was the first big event in my life'
Ron Yardley: The Belfast was the first big event in my life. When we went on board, the Marine band marched us all away from the parade ground until the Belfast came in view. And of course, that is where our new life was gonna start. It was a complete and utter mystery because nobody but nobody knew where to go.
I think we might have gone up the same ladder ten times or down a ladder ten times trying to find out where your place of work was going to be. Being a wireless operator, we had two radio rooms, one was down below deck and, of course, you had the bridge wireless office. I started in the main radio room. And you would be put on a wireless receiver and maybe you would be taking down shipping forecasts and it was quite a challenging thing to be able to sit at the radio receiver and write down a message in longhand, which you had to do in pencil and so forth; without missing anything out, because if you miss something out, it could change the whole shape of that message. So you had to be on your mettle to be in that place.
One of the main functions of the Belfast during the Korean War was carrying out heavy bombardment of enemy targets, and when you have got six six-inch guns immediately above your mess deck which are firing literally every few minutes, getting sleep was almost like a thing of the past and that, you know. If you were in your hammock, the blast used to lift you up and drop you down again. When you experience that for the first time, it was very, very scary, very scary indeed. But after a time, you kept on thinking, ‘well, come on, you know, isn't it time you fired the guns?’ And so it went on and on.
Memories. Memories. I saw the Belfast when she was being towed into the Pool of London. I thought at that time a very big part of my life has come back again. My son just absent-mindedly said to me, ‘We've got to get Jake and Indy christened.” I thought, wouldn't it be absolutely lovely if I could get them christened in the ship's Chapel. It's a part of the Yardley family history that has got another connection to the Belfast and that's how it goes on when I go on board I never, ever, ever stop talking about it.”
Ron Yardley joined HMS Belfast as she prepared to head to Korea - he recalls how difficult it was to get his bearings in those early days but he remembers the ship fondly.
Years after he served on board, Ron was there when the ship arrived in the Pool of London in 1971. A new generation of his family also have their own special stories about this historic ship to tell.
Learn more about HMS Belfast's life of service in our special interactive telling the story of the ship and the men who called her home.