Built by the Messrs. Harland & Wolff in the city after which she is named, H.M.S. Belfast of 10,000 tons, with main armament of twelve 6-inch guns and speed of 32 knots, was the most modern cruiser afloat when completed in August 1939. Quite early in the war she had the misfortune to be heavily damaged by a magnetic mine. Only the soundness of her construction saved her from sinking, and she had to be practically rebuilt.
In 1943 she hoisted the flag of Vice-Admiral (now Sir Robert) Burnett for duty in escorting convoys bound to North Russia. On the morning of Dec. 26, 1943, the Belfast, together with the cruisers Norfolk and Sheffield, was stationed on the starboard bow of a large convoy about 150 miles northward of North Cape when the German battleship Scharnhorst (flagship of Rear-Admiral Bey) was sighted. Without hesitation Vice-Admiral Burnett steered a course towards the enemy, which so disconcerted the German Admiral that the Scharnhorst turned away and disappeared in the semi-darkness. Later, the enemy battleship approached the convoy from another direction, only to find the British cruisers again between the attacker and his prey.
Contriving to keep touch with the elusive enemy, Vice-Admiral Burnett must have felt highly satisfied when at 4.30 that afternoon the battleship Duke of York (flagship of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser), accompanied by the cruiser Jamaica, arrived and engaged the Scharnhorst. It then became the Belfast's duty to illuminate the German ship by star-shell for the benefit of the Duke of York's gunners. After temporarily drawing away, the enemy was re-engaged and sunk. At the close of the war the Belfast was again operating under Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, this time in the Pacific Fleet against Japan.