Midhurst marine scientist leads raising of the bell from HMS Hood

David Mearns pictured with the bell aboard The Octopus
David Mearns pictured with the bell aboard The Octopus
  • Midhurst based David Mearns led the operation to raise the bell from the Hood which sat 9000 feet down on the seabed
  • It will spend a year undergoing restoration
  • It was the wish of survivor Ted Briggs that the bell should be raised as a memorial to those who died

THE MIDHURST marine scientist David Mearns has spoken of his delight at finally recovering the historic bell from HMS Hood which he discovered with the shipwreck 14 years ago.

The director of Rumbolds Hill based Blue Water Recoveries, which specialises in the search and recovery of shipwrecks, led the operation to recover the bell backed by history enthusiast Paul Allen who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates.

This was clearly a special bell for a special ship and it will forever serve as a fitting memorial to the mighty Hood and a reminder of the service and sacrifice of her men

Speaking from Mr Allen’s yacht Octopus, equipped with a state-of-the-art remotely operated submarine, David said: “I am extremely pleased to have been able to fulfil one of the last wishes of Ted Briggs, one of only three survivors of Hood’s crew of 1,418 men, to recover the ship’s bell as a memorial to his shipmates.”

He added: “The bell is a beauty, full of history and it will be a very special addition to the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth.”

The inscriptions decorating its surface, he said, showed it was preserved for use on the Battle cruiser HMS Hood after first being used as the bell of the Battleship Hood from 1891 to 1914.

“So this bell has seen action in two ships of the Royal Navy spanning 50 years.”

An engraving on the bell also recorded the wishes of Lady Hood who launched the ship in memory of her late husband Rear Admiral Sir Horace Hood who was killed in the battle of Jutland.

“This was clearly a special bell for a special ship and it will forever serve as a fitting memorial to the mighty Hood and a reminder of the service and sacrifice of her men,” said David.

HMS Hood was the largest Royal Navy vessel to be sunk and marked the biggest loss of life when a shell from the Bismarck exploded on the deck and detonated ammunition, sinking her in the North Atlantic in May 1941.

Before he died seven years ago Ted Briggs, had often expressed the wish the ship’s bell could be salvaged from the seabed as a fitting memorial to those killed in the Royal Navy’s worst loss of life from a single ship during the second world war.

It was brought up on Friday, from the shattered wreck lying in the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland at a depth of more than 9,000 feet. The bell will now spend a year undergoing restoration.

An expedition led by David Mearns in 2012 to recover the bell was hampered by poor weather and technical difficulties.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage at www.midhurstandpetworth.co.uk/

2) Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MidhurstandPetworthObserver

3) Follow us on Twitter @mid_pet_obs

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

The Midhurst and Petworth Observer - always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.