HMS Monmouth's bell to the town of Monmouth

Topic: Community Storyline: HMS Monmouth

The life of one of the Royal Navy’s stalwart warships symbolically ended as the bell from HMS Monmouth was donated to the people of her namesake town.

Lieutenant Commander Steve Reah, the last Senior Naval Officer of the ‘Black Duke’ handed over the prized artefact to Councillor Terry Christopher, Mayor of Monmouth, as a token of appreciation for the Welsh town’s support for the frigate.

Monmouth was decommissioned last summer and is currently awaiting her fate in Portsmouth Harbour.

Key equipment was removed, as well as some of the more treasured symbols and objects which are unique to a warship – badges, tampions, honours board and the ship’s bell.

The brass bell was cast before the warship was commissioned in September 1993 and, although its role on board is largely traditional/symbolic – unlike in days of old they are no longer sounded to announce the change of watch aboard – they remain a much-loved feature.

In keeping with Naval tradition, the names of children who have been baptised on board are engraved on the inside of the bell, which served as a baptismal font. 
It has stayed with the ship throughout her time as a commissioned warship – 28 years, during which the Plymouth-based warship sailed in excess of half a million miles and visited over 200 ports. 

Her last deployment was to accompany the Royal Navy’s first fifth-generation aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, in 2018 when she sailed to the East coast of the United States on trials. 

“It gives me great pleasure to present the ship’s bell from HMS Monmouth to the beautiful town of Monmouth,” Lt Cdr Reah told Cllr Christopher.

“The Royal Navy and the thousands of Sailors that have served in HMS Monmouth thank the Town and associated affiliations for the extremely close bond that has existed, including being awarded the Freedom of the Town in 2004. The presentation of the Bell serves as a fitting memory of this 28-year relationship, and we hope Monmouth enjoys displaying it for many years into the future.”

Lt Cdr Reah, who served in the frigate between 2002 and 2004, then returned for her final days said he “felt very much like the Grim Reaper” in preparing the ship for disposal and was determined the people of Monmouth had something to show for their long-standing support for the Type 23 and all who served in her. 

“The freedom of Monmouth marches would have been a great highlight for anybody who served on board, the last was held in Mar 2019,” he continued.

 The Navy follows strict gifting rules, including ship’s bells, but we wanted to ensure this gift happened for Monmouth. 

“I see it very much as a ‘thank you’ from the Royal Navy and more specifically her 2,000 former crew to a close-knit community which took The Black Duke into their hearts.”

It gives me great pleasure to present the ship’s bell from HMS Monmouth to the beautiful town of Monmouth.

Lt Cdr Reah