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Her 30 years of active service began with the outbreak of the Second World War, when she formed part of the 18th Cruiser Squadron based at Scarpa Flow, North of Scotland. In the November of that year she struck a magnetic mine in the Firth of Forth and was laid up for for over two years undergoing repairs, before rejoining the fleet in 1942 as flagship of the 10th Cruiser Squadron.
Her most famous action came while escorting merchant convoy ships, when she engaged and assisted in the sinking of the German Battlecruiser Scharnhorst aided by the Sheffield, Norfolk, Jamaica and Duke of York, on Boxing Day 1943. Of the Scharnhorst's total crew of 1968 men only 35 survived.
HMS Belfast's long service record also included action in the D-Day landings in Normandy, the transportation of the many Japanese POW's between Shanghai and Hong Kong, the protection of British Interests in the Far East during Mao Tse Tung's uprising in China and also saw action in the Korean War in 1950. After a second Major refit at Devonport she undertook further tours of duty in the Far East until 1962.
After nearly 30 thirty years of active service for the Navy she was decommissioned in 1965 and became the first ship since Nelson's Victory to be preserved for the nation and now offers a unique experience of what life was like on the big gun armoured warships in World War II.