1944 The Anniversary of D-Day
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The Allied troop landings on the Normandy beaches would not have been possible without the special landing craft designed and built by Harland & Wolff.
Belfast played a major part in the construction of these rugged vessels, capable of carrying large numbers of troops, their equipment, including tanks, lorries and Jeeps. The army tank carriers, known as Landing Ship Tanks, were the first purpose-built bow-loading vessels and after the war a number were converted for commercial use by the Transport Ferry Service and formed the genesis of the concept of the roll-on, roll-off ferry.
The man that pioneered this business was Major Frank Bustard; formally a passenger services manager with the White Star Line, Major Bustard was the last apprentice signed to the Company under J. Bruce Ismay of Titanic fame.
1944 HMS Belfast (Yard No. 1000) and D-Day
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Before the troop landings took place, HMS Belfast, part of the huge Allied fleet off the Normandy beaches, targeted and destroyed the Ver-sur-Mer battery near Juno - the Canadian landing area.
Belfast, as the flagship of Bombardment Force E, was the second ship to open fire at 0527 hours with a full broadside to port.
The light cruiser spent five weeks supporting the landings her main armament of 6-inch guns key in suppressing and eventually overwhelming German inland batteries targeting the beaches. She fired an estimated 5,000 shells, including the last shot of the Normandy action.
This historic warship is preserved by the Imperial War Museum on the River Thames, one of only three surviving bombardment vessels from the Normandy campaign. During today
(6 June, 2014) a series of events and commemorations take place onboard, but HMS Belfast belongs to the people and City of Belfast where she was designed and built.
The 'Town' class light cruiser was launched on St. Patrick's Day, 17 March 1938, from the Musgrave Yard at the end of Queen's Island. Her godmother was Anne Chamberlain, wife of the British Prime Minister and thousands of spectators witnessed the launch of Yard No. 1000, the number specially reserved for this, the largest and most important warship built by Harland & Wolff.
Click here to discover more about HMS Belfast (Yard No. 1000)
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The 5,656-ton steel passenger and cargo ship Cheshire (Yard No. 240) was launched this morning shortly after 9am from the north end of Queen’s Island for the Bibby Steamship Co., Liverpool.
Arthur H. Bibby, senior member of the firm, represented the owners at the launch. The vessel’s dimensions were: Length, 445 feet; Breadth of beam, 49 feet; Depth in hold 34 feet. Following the launch Cheshire was towed around to the Abercorn Basin where she received her boilers and machinery. Her two sets of triple-expansion engines were designed and built by Harland & Wolff and claimed to have been of ‘the most modern type’.
Rigged as a four masted schooner, the vessel was equipped with powerful steam windless and winches, patent steering gear and many other ‘novel contrivances for the efficient working, one special feature being the application of Blackman’s steam fans for ventilating all the cargo holds, and thus preserving the cargo from damage by heat.’ Cheshire carried a small number of passengers, between sixty and seventy, accommodated on the upper deck.
A sistership, Shropshire (Yard No. 241) was in an advanced state and being made ready for launching on 27 July.