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Ships bells

This issue is being discussed on the Force Z Survivors Forum, click here to visit the forum (opens a new window)


Events reported so far:

3rd July 2002

1. A sub-aqua diver named Gavin Heyward, accompanied by Lieutenant Commander Gerard Punch R.N. (HMS Splendid) accompanied by four other divers surveyed the war graves of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales between 21 and 30 June 2002.

2. On a dive made on Monday 24th June they descended to HMS Prince of Wales and were surprised to see the ships bell in an obvious position alongside the war grave.

3. During the period 21 - 30 June Gavin Heyward received information that a Malaysian diving team had located the ships bell of HMS Repulse and, in an attempt to haul it to the diving craft above, lost it in an identifiable area when the haulage rope broke.

Whilst on the recent visit to Singapore Mr Heyward received information that within the next month two diving teams (one from Singapore and one from Kuala Lumpur) were to visit the protected sites of HMS repulse and HMS Prince of Wales in order to retrieve the ships bell from the two warships. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the venture has been financed by a Japanese businessman. There is a 'Bounty' on the ships bell for both these sunken warships and that their eventual 'resting place' will be in a Tokyo boardroom.

If Mr Heyward were to be accompanied by Lieutenant Commander Punch (or another member of the armed forces) in an effort to retrieve the ships bell of both sunken warships there would be no objection from the Survivors Association of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, specially as the bells would be taken to the British High Commission Singapore for onward transmission to this country in 'the diplomatic bag' or flown home by the diving team and presented to the Receiver of Wreck.

To coin a phrase, this is somewhat of a 'race against time' and Mr Heyward believes that he can raise a qualified diving team at very short notice. In the light of the statements enclosed in and expressions felt by Her Majesty's Government in the Report Paper on the Protection of Military Remains Act 1984 the Ministry of Defence may feel inclined to financially support the efforts made by the volunteer divers in their aim to protect, to retrieve, the property of Her Majesty's Royal Navy (an estimate of costings could be supplied by Gavin Heyward).

On Behalf of the Survivors Association, Dependants, Friends of War Memorials, and all parties interested in the sacrosanct nature of war graves, I would like to express gratitude to the divers Gavin Heyward and Lieutenant Commander Punch and those divers of similar principles, for identifying the whereabouts of these valuable Naval artefacts and alerting those in authority as to the intention of certain parties to steal the property belonging to another nation.



Update 7th August 2002 from the Force Z Survivors Association website forum:

The ships bell from the Prince of Wales was reported to have been raised by a diving team on behalf of the MOD, the posting also states that the ships bell from Repulse was also going to being retrieved, although this is not confirmed as yet. (A link to the forum is at the top of this page).


News item and pictures of the dive operations:

The dive operation was sponsored by the Royal Navy, Ministry of Defence, Brown Shipley and Singapore Airlines, the team found the 50kg bell at a depth or around 73 metres in international waters.
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all those concerned for the rescue operation and subsequent saving of the bell.
Story and pictures from the Brown Shipley website here


Update 17th September 2002

The Survivors Association have recommended Liverpool Maritime Museum as a resting place for the HMS Prince of Wales Bell. The MoD have yet to decide where it's going.


Update 28th April 2003

On Saturday, 3 May 2003 at 10am the First Sea Lord will present the bell, for safekeeping and display purposes to the Trustees of the National Museums. This short ceremony is open for all to attend.


The ceremony will take place at Merseyside Maritime Museum, Pier Head, Liverpool, and will begin the Battle of the Atlantic Week.
Map of Liverpool showing where the museum is located here


(These 2 links open a new window)

Update 4th May 2003

The ceremony took place in the Dockside Gallery, 4th floor of the museum.

The presentation was made by First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Alan West, KCB DSC ADC.

It was accepted by Mr David McDonnell, the Chairman of the Trustees of National Museums Liverpool.

Click here to view an account and pictures of the event