Most Londoner’s and visitors to London will be aware of the HMS Belfast moored just off the Southbank between Tower Bridge & London Bridge – but today of all days, it is worth acknowledging and appreciating the massive and crucial part this grand old ship played in the D-Day Landing operation – 75 years ago this very day.
The HMS Belfast was launched on St. Patrick’s Day 1938, and commissioned to service in 1939, just before the outbreak of WW2.
She is one of only 3 remaining vessels that were involved in the D-Day Normandy Landings 75 years ago today on 6th June 1944.
HMS Belfast was one of the largest warships involved in the operation – and is believed to be the first ship to open fire on that historic day.
The Belfast’s guns fired over 5000 shells in total at the enemy throughout the entire operation.
The power and vibration of her guns on D-Day were so strong on that day that they ended up completely cracking the crew’s khazi’s (e.g. toilets).
HMS Belfast was fully equipped with a mini hospital sick-bay that was manned by military surgeons, and so it was used to treat the many hundreds of casualties.
She spent a total of 33 days off the Normandy coast-line supporting the entire D-Day Landings operation.
Following WW2 the HMS Belfast went on to see military action in the Korean War of 1950-1952.
By 1967 this great ship had been decommissioned and was heading for the scrapyard – however, following concerted efforts by the National Maritime Museum, the Imperial War Museum and the Ministry of Defence – the decision was made to retain the ship as a floating museum – and in October 1971 she was brought to London and moored on the River Thames between Tower Bridge & London Bridge – and has been open to the public ever since.
So today, being the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landing, “London Shoes” took a trip up to the ‘Smoke’ for the specific purpose of witnessing and experiencing a ‘3 Gun’ salute by this historic ship HMS Belfast, in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings – and event in which it played such an important part.
Although it was typical London weather – grey, miserable and wet – it was certainly an experience enjoyed by the hundreds of people lining the Southbank and London Bridge – I’m just pleased that London Shoes was there to witness it.
Having watched (and certainly ‘heard’) HMS Belfast’s 3 Gun Salute – ‘Shoes’ ventured along to London Bridge Station to take a look at another display that has been situated there, in commemoration of the D-Day Landing 75th Anniversary.
Since the 31st May, there has been the spectacular sight of a WW2 ‘Spitfire’ plane in the stations main concourse.
This ‘Spitfire’ on display is actually a replica from the Imperial War Museum.
The ‘Spitfire’ aircraft is remembered as the iconic plane that won the ‘Battle of Britain’ in 1940 – but it also played a crucial role in the D-Day Normandy invasion of 1944.
It is fitting that the ‘Spitfire’ is on display close to the HMS Belfast – as both played a massive part in the airborne & sea-borne activities of the invasion to liberate Europe – giving us the freedom we experience today.
It is also fitting that the ‘Spitfire’ is on display at a main-line rail station – as the railways themselves played a vital role during WW2 – transporting troops and equipment to the front-lines in preparation for the D-Day operations.
A total of 4,414 men gave their lives during the Normandy Landings and although that was 75 years ago – let’s just hope that future generations will never forget the fact they gave their today for our tomorrow.
More photos from the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings – and the role of the ‘HMS Belfast’ & the ‘Spitfire’