In time for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, US superyacht owner, philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft Paul Allen has announced that he has successfully recovered the bell of the HMS Hood, a battlecruiser sunk in 1941.

Hood’s bell was first found and photographed in 2001 and Allen’s original attempt to recover this significant and poignant piece of history with his yacht, M/Y Octopus, was in 2012 but the operation was impeded by bad weather and technical difficulties. Using Octopus’ top-of-the-range ROV, nicknamed OctoROV, Allen and his team managed to complete the recovery on 7 August 2015 with the help of Blue Water Recoveries Ltd, the shipwreck search and investigation organisation that has worked with Allen on both recovery missions.

The bell's inscriptions, which show that the bell was used on two Royal Navy ships between 1891 and 1941, are clear on the rim.

"This year marks the 70th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II, and this effort commemorates the hundreds of brave sailors who were lost at sea," said Allen in a statement. “It is a true honour to undertake the expedition to recover the bell from ‘The Mighty Hood’.”

The recovery of HMS Hood's bell follows Octopus' discovery of the wreck of Japanese warship Mushashi. While the Hood's bell is in good condition, its length time in hidden in deep seawater has left it in need of a year-long conservation and restoration effort. Allen has donated the bell to the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) in Portsmouth and according to the museum, it will form part of a key new exhibition dedicated to the 20th and 21st century Navy, which opened last year. Allen wishes the bell to serve as a memorial for the 1415 lives lost when the Bismarck sunk the ship in the North Atlantic.

“I am extremely pleased that we have been able to fulfil one of the last wishes of Ted Briggs, one of only three survivors of Hood’s crew of 1418 men, to recover the ship’s bell as a memorial to his shipmates,” commented director of Blue Water Recoveries, David Mearns. “Despite 74 years of immersion in the hostile depths of Denmark Strait the bell is in very good condition.”

The bell had to be secured away from the wreck before being lifted
the 3000m to the surface

The bell has inscriptions across its surface showing that the bell was used on two Royal Navy ships between 1891 and 1941, the Battleship Hood until 1914 and the battlecruiser Hood. An additional engraving is from Lady Hood who launched the ship in memory of her late husband Rear Admiral Sir Horace Hood KCB DSO MVO who was killed in the battle of Jutland. “The bell we recovered is a unique historical artefact, which shows just how important Hood was as flagship of the British Battlecruiser Squadron,” said Mearns. “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.”

The largest Royal Navy vessel to have been lost, the sinking of the HMS Hood resulted in the largest loss of life from any British warship. “The HMS Hood Association is extremely grateful to Paul Allen, David Mearns and the crew of Octopus for their tremendous efforts and professionalism in recovering the bell of HMS Hood from the dark depths of the Denmark Strait,” said Rear Admiral Philip Wilcocks, president of the HMS Hood Association, whose uncle was among those who died on board HMS Hood. “In particular, Paul Allen's support has been outstanding and we applaud his personal commitment to the recovery operation.

There is no headstone among the flowers for those who perish at sea. For the 1,415 officers and men who lost their lives in HMS Hood on 24 May 1941, the recovery of her bell and its subsequent place of honour in the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth will mean that future generations will be able to gaze upon her bell and remember with gratitude and thanks the heroism, courage and personal sacrifice of Hood’s ship’s company who died in the service of their country.”

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