Ceremony blesses Hood's bell 75 years after battle-cruiser's terrible demise

Seventy-five-years to the day it ended up on the bottom of the Denmark Strait with the tortured remains of HMS Hood and 1,400 souls, the battle-cruiser’s bell was rededicated in Portsmouth.

Recovered from nearly three kilometres beneath the surface of the down last summer, the icon of the ship now takes pride of place as the last of 350 artefacts in new exhibition to the Battle of Jutland.

At mid-day precisely eight peels echoed around Victory Arena as Princess Anne rang the bell for the first time since May 24 1941 when Hood sailed to intercept Hitler’s flagship Bismarck and prevent it from breaking out into the Atlantic to maul British shipping.

Instead, the battle-cruiser – pride of the RN between the wars – blew up after just a few minutes in the duel between the British and German ships; 1,415 men were killed, just three survived.

It was the last wish of one of those survivors, telegraphist Ted Briggs, that the bell be recovered if possible as a memorial to his shipmates.

Last summer, an expedition led by Microsoft co-founder Paul G Allen succeeded in raising the bell, since when its undergone conservation and assessment in the hands of experts from BAE and the Mary Rose Museum to ensure it could be displayed safely without deteriorating.

HMS Hood’s bell provides an extraordinary and moving link between the sacrifice of the Royal Navy in 1916 at Jutland and those made by a new generation of sailors in World War 2

Prof Dominic Tweddle

A 30-minute memorial service attended by members of the Hood Association, descendants of men who fought at Jutland – not least, three of the four senior admirals that day: Jellicoe, Beatty and Scheer – preceded the ringing, before the bell was escorted by a Guard of Honour through the historic dockyard to Boathouse No.5, home of the new exhibition 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War.

The bell is the last link in the Jutland story; Hood was the final battle-cruiser – as fast as a cruiser, as powerful as a battleship – built for the Royal Navy.

She incorporated some of the lessons of Jutland and was launched by Lady Hood, widow of Rear Admiral Sir Horace Hood who was killed when his battle-cruiser Invincible blew up in the battle.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The National Museum of the Royal Navy received the bell formally from Navy Secretary, Rear Admiral Simon Williams and said:

“HMS Hood’s bell provides an extraordinary and moving link between the sacrifice of the Royal Navy in 1916 at Jutland and those made by a new generation of sailors in World War 2,” said Prof Dominic Tweddle, Director General of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, who formally received the bell from Navy Secretary, Rear Admiral Simon Williams.

“HMS Hood was destroyed in very similar circumstances to HMS Invincible so the bell is a memorial to two battles, separated by 25 years but joined by centuries of tradition and sacrifice.”

With the bell in place, the Jutland exhibition was officially opened by the Princess Royal, who remained in the historic dockyard for the afternoon to spend a couple of hours discussing plans for next year’s centenary of women serving in the RN, Wrens 100; HRH is the Chief Commandant for Women in the Navy.

Photographs by Christoper Ison, www.christopherison.com​.