Navy returns bell recovered from WW1 shipwreck returned to US

Topic: PeopleSenior leaders Storyline: Second Sea Lord

The bell of one of the most notable US Navy shipwrecks in history has been returned to our closest allies.

Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Martin Connell formally handed back the iconic object, recovered from the wreck of the USS Jacob Jones – the first American destroyer to be lost to enemy action.

She was sunk by U-boat in December 1917 after completing a convoy escort with the loss of 64 lives.

The wreck was discovered some 375ft down, three-dozen miles south of the Scilly Isles in August 2021.

Despite the remoteness and depth of the destroyer, US authorities were concerned that unscrupulous salvage hunters might try to steal the bell and asked the UK government to recover it.

Defence Equipment & Support’s Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) team used the commissioning trials of a state-of-the-art, remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to bring the bell up from the seabed – placing the US flag on the wreck before coming back to the surface.

The First Sea Lord’s annual seapower conference at London’s Lancaster House was the venue for the formal return of the bell, with Admiral Connell’s American counterpart, Admiral James W. Kilby, Vice Chief of Naval Operations.

The Second Sea Lord said the bell “serves as a vivid symbol of our mutual cooperation, enduring friendship and shared sacrifices”.

Admiral Kilby added: “As the first US destroyer lost in combat, her crew’s legacy will live on, their stories will be told and their loss will be remembered as we preserve this piece of our nation’s story. Our Navy expresses our sincerest gratitude to those who made it possible to take this incredible artefact of sombre history back home.”