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- Two year family-oriented exhibition reveals Britain’s shipbuilding heritage -
- Interactive displays, film footage and computer generated exhibits –
- Exhibition in association with HISTORY™ -

21 January 2009 - HMS Belfast, the last remaining European big-gun warship is staging an exciting new interactive exhibition charting the history of shipbuilding in the UK. ‘LAUNCH! Shipbuilding through the ages’ opens on 29 January and runs for two years.

For 50 years, between 1870 and 1920, Britain’s ship building industry was the largest in the world – with a workforce of hundreds of thousands producing up to eighty per cent of the world’s ships at the industry’s peak following the First World War.

HMS Belfast’s family-oriented exhibition will bring to life the science, engineering and social history of the shipbuilding industry in Great Britain using hands-on and computerised interactive displays and engaging film footage. Visitors can see how the art of shipbuilding has evolved, from the wooden vessels built during the 17th century, to the iron ships of the 19th century, through to today’s hi-tech ships.

Through interactive displays, they can relive the sights and sounds of the very shipyard where HMS Belfast was built. They can chart the rapid growth of naval technology through the industrial revolution and find out what role shipping still plays in our global economy, transporting 95% of our food and consumer goods.

The highlights of the exhibition include an interactive computer game supplied by the History Channel. This lets visitors build their own warship, complete with guns and crew, and then launch it at sea. They will also get the chance to lift and move genuine pneumatic tools and machinery used to make the wartime ships that helped bring victory to the Allies. Another highlight is a fully functional drag test tank, generously supported by Shell, allowing visitors to evaluate the hydrodynamic capabilities of different hull forms.

In addition, there is an evocative display focusing on the social impact of increased ship building production during the Second World War and in particular, the central role that women played during this period.

Brad King, Director of HMS Belfast, said: “Britain’s heritage as a nation of shipbuilders shaped our recent history as a leading Global power. We hope to educate and inspire visitors from all around the world with a reminder of its proud shipbuilding past and Britain’s maritime industry, still vital today.”

The exhibition is being run in association with sponsor The History Channel. Other sponsors include Shell and The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.

HMS Belfast is one of the world’s most famous ships. With a crew of almost a thousand, she served in World War II and Korea during her 32 year career at sea and is the first ship to be preserved for the nation since the days of Nelson’s Victory.

Moored on the Thames between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, HMS Belfast is a unique historical attraction which provides visitors with special access to the 613ft ship’s nine decks.

HMS Belfast is moored on the Thames between London Bridge and Tooley Street

Nearest Tube:
London Bridge or Tower Hill

Opening Times:
1st March – 31st October: 10.00am - 6.00pm – last admission 5.15pm
1st November – 28th February: 10.00am – 5.00pm (last admission 4.15pm

Admission prices:
Children (under 16) free – must be accompanied by an adult
Adult £10.30
Discounted rates available for senior citizens, concessions, students, groups, carers.

About HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast is a cruiser, the last remaining big-gun armoured warship from the Second World War left in Europe. She was built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, and was launched on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March 1938.

On 21 November 1939, whilst leaving the Firth of Forth, HMS Belfast was severely damaged by a German magnetic mine. Although casualties were mercifully light, the ship's back was broken and the damage was so severe that it was almost three years before she was fit for action again.

She rejoined the Home Fleet in November 1942, as part of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, providing cover for the Arctic convoys transporting supplies to the Soviet Union. On Boxing Day, 1943, she played a leading part in the destruction of the German battle cruiser Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape.

In June 1944 HMS Belfast took part in the D-Day landings as the flagship of Bombardment Force ‘E’ of the Eastern Naval Task Force, providing gunfire support to troops landing on Gold and Juno beaches. After the war, she supported United Nations forces in Korea and remained in service with the Royal Navy until 1965, after which she became a Harbour Accommodation Ship.

In May 1971, after 32 years service, HMS Belfast was 'Reduced to Disposal', in preparation for her sale and destruction by the ship's breakers. With the encouragement of the Imperial War Museum, an independent trust was formed, led by one of HMS Belfast's former captains, Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles. The trust succeeded in bringing her to London where she opened to visitors on Trafalgar Day, 21 October 1971. HMS Belfast has been part of the Imperial War Museum since 1978 and is the first ship to be preserved for the nation since Nelson's Victory.


The History Channel is a joint venture between BSkyB and A&E Television Networks. It is broadcast on both Sky and cable services and is available to over 9m homes in the UK and Ireland.


“Shell is delighted to sponsor the exhibition as part of our commitment to supporting education in science, technology and engineering in the UK. We believe these will play an important role in the UK’s ability to meet many of the pressing challenges facing society."

For more information, please contact:

Kathryn Hughes
0203 249 1072/07801 823 839

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