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Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK


War veteran battles weather

HMS Belfast at its Thames home

Veteran World War II ship HMS Belfast has finally arrived in Portsmouth for a refit.

The cruiser was a day late after battling through strong winds on its journey from London.

The 12,000 ton warship was originally due to dock at the Navy base on Sunday, exactly 55 years after the D-Day landings in Normandy she helped to support.

[ image: HMS Belfast will spend a month in Portsmouth]
HMS Belfast will spend a month in Portsmouth
Six Belfast veterans greeted the ship on its arrival. Robert Mattock from Bournemouth, who served on Belfast from 1945 to 1947 as a radar operator, said: "What is lovely for us is that while so many ships went to the scrapyard this is a memorial for everyone."

It was her first voyage since becoming a tourist attraction on the Thames in London in 1971. The Imperial War Museum's ship is expected to return and re-open in early July.

HMS Belfast was launched in March 1938 and served throughout World War II. She played a leading part in the destruction of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst at the Battle of North Cape.

After the war, she supported United Nations forces in Korea and remained in service with the Royal Navy until 1965.

She is the only surviving example of the great fleets of big gun armoured warships built for the Royal Navy in the first half of the 20th Century, and the first ship to be preserved for the nation since Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory.

The Belfast will be sandblasted and refitted by Fleet Support Limited. The company also won the contract for HMS Endurance, signalling the return of warship refits to Portsmouth.

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