History

How HMS Belfast Bombarded German Positions During D-Day

The light cruiser also treated the wounded in its support of the allied invasion.

HMS Belfast played a crucial role on D-Day.

Commissioned in August 1939, the light cruiser was designed with battle in mind.

However, an encounter with a German magnetic mine nearly destroyed her, and it was not until 1942 when she emerged from refit, ready to fight again.

Eight days before D-Day, she set sail from Rosyth, Scotland, and set course for Normandy, taking up position just nine miles from the coast.

Robert Rumble from the Imperial War Museum said: "There was a lot of excitement, nervousness and anticipation.

"They all knew it was going to be a very big day, and the crew, the accounts that we hold in the museum by the crew on that day, the ferocity of the gunfire struck all of them, the noise, the vibrations through the ship.

"A lot of these crew, very young, no older than 20 or 21 years old, and never experienced anything quite like this before."

The ship's success on the day was largely down to the Mark XXIII six-inch guns.

At the height of the D-Day bombardments, the 12 guns were firing at a rate of 96 rounds per minute.

HMS Belfast's initial targets were four heavy howitzers used by the German army, which could have carried out untold damage against British forces landing on Gold beach.

The German artillery positions were reduced to rubble in two hours.

The ship was docked close to shore, with landing craft sweeping past.

Without her firepower, and devastating effect on the German defensive positions, victory on the beaches might not have been possible.