Belfast Telegraph

Back on HMS Belfast after 70 years... the last of the men who helped to build her

By Lauren Turner

A journey of maritime nostalgia has come to an end for one 90-year-old former shipbuilder, after he set foot on HMS Belfast for the first time in seven decades.

Cec George believes he is the last surviving man who worked on the warship, constructed in his home city of Belfast by Harland and Wolff.

Mr George visited London, where the Thames-moored HMS Belfast is one of the city's landmarks, with his family as part of a trip to mark his birthday.

He said the ship had changed beyond recognition since he spent four months working on it in 1938 as a teenage apprentice engineer, carrying out a variety of jobs including running cables from the engine room to the bridge, and screwing on name plates.

Mr George, whose son Gary and late father also worked for Harland and Wolff, said on board the ship at the weekend: "It was nostalgia that made me want to come back. It was actually my granddaughter who arranged the trip.

"The things I remember the most is playing deck quoits, on the wooden deck, and having my photograph taken astride the central gun. The ship's seen a lot of action since then. It's also a lot more cramped than I remember.

"I think I must be the last man standing - everyone else who worked on it has gone now, as far as I know."

He worked at Harland and Wolff for more than 12 years before moving to Stockport. He moved back to Belfast in the 1970s, and worked as a project engineer until his retirement.

During the Second World War, Harland and Wolff built more than 150 Royal Navy ships, including aircraft carriers HMS Formidable and HMS Unicorn, as well as cruisers HMS Belfast and HMS Penelope.

Belfast shipyards also built or converted at least 3,000 naval vessels, repaired more than 22,000 and launched 140 merchant ships.

That, and the fact that the city's linen mills were producing millions of military uniforms, made Belfast a prime target due to its wartime contribution.

The city was subsequently bombed by the Luftwaffe in 1941, resulting in the single biggest loss of life in any UK city outside of London during the war.

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