HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast and the Gunnery Challenge activity

HMS Belfast is an amazing World War II Battleship (Edinburgh class Light Cruiser). She entered service in August 1939 at the beginning of the war and was involved in a very famous battle with the German Battleship Scharnhorst.


HMS Belfast is now a floating museum on the River Thames and she is open to visit by the public. For more details follow this link...



We can learn lots about science and engineering by looking at the features of HMS Belfast eg. The engines; The streamlined hull shape; The Communications systems. My favourite feature is the Gunnery system which includes an amazing mechanical Gunnery computer which helped make HMS Belfast a formidable fighting ship which could hit targets from many miles away.

HMS Belfast, HMS Calliope
and TS Flamingo sea cadet group

With the help of Naval staff at HMS Calliope and TS Flamingo sea cadet group on the River Tyne I have developed a team challenge activity called the ‘Gunnery Challenge’.
The team play the role of a gun crew on HMS Belfast. Their job is to work together to fire their guns (air powered rockets) with pin point accuracy and score hits on the target (Scharnhorst). The photographs below show the cadets in action.

TS Flamingo 9a

The gun crew had to experiment with the launchers to find out about range and elevation. They also had to organize themselves into a team which could fire as accurately and rapidly as possible.
On top of the grey box you can see an ipad with a compass app which is used to determine the bearing of the enemy vessel. Next to it is a ‘look up table’ (which represents the information from the gunnery computer or ‘fire control table’) with the data needed to set the elevation of the launchers to obtain the correct range.
One member of the team is in command and sounds a siren for action stations.

TS Flamingo 3a

With the bearing and elevation set and the guns loaded it’s nearly ready to fire!

TS Flamingo 8a

There were three different targets to engage at distances varying between 8 and 20 metres during the activity and the group did a fantastic job in scoring many direct hits. They even managed to hit the hardest target of all - a moving target!

In the debrief session afterwards the group commented on how difficult it was to hit the targets at first but the more they practiced and concentrated on their specific jobs the more accurate they became.

They also had a greater appreciation of how difficult it must have been during a real battle and how much pressure was on the gun crew to do their job to a very high standard because they were being fired on by the enemy at the same time.

The actual battle with Scharnhorst must have been very tough for everyone concerned. Here is a short extract from an interview with Captain Parham of HMS Belfast many years after the battle....

" The best way of remembering that day would be to read the despatches whilst being rocked in a fridge, lit by a single candle, with someone banging on the outside with a hammer".

Well done TS Flamingo sea cadet group and many thanks to the staff at HMS Calliope.

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