Tuesday, August 21, 2007

HMS Cardiff's bell welcomed home

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Elizabeth Anderson-Reed, receptionist at City Hall, who also happens to be one of Llandaff Cathedral's Church Wardens. The ship's bell of HMS Cardiff had turned up following de-commissioning at City Hall. Nobody was sure what to do with it and where to install it for safe keeping. Elizabeth was asked if the Cathedral might take it. "But the Cathedral already has the bell of HMS Llandaff." she said; "So why not ask St John's, the Parish Church of Cardiff, if they'd like to have it." "OK" said the keeper of City Hall's historical artifacts. Hence the phone call. An offer impossible to refuse, especially as St John's is a place many veterans' organisations regard as special to them. We have a couple of dozen voluntary organisation flags laid up in the north aisle. The bell of a ship bearning the City's name, laid up in this war memorial chapel would be an added distinction, and honour.

So, last Friday, I collected the bell from City Hall, and this morning it was installed by a team of no fewer than three council workmen, up above the door in the north aisle, just below one of the ranks of flags. One man to drill the holes, one to manage the tools and one to hold the ladder. Twenty minutes, no hassles, all done safely with huge six inch long screws and plugs, enough to take the bell and mounting, weighing around twenty pounds. I went straight over to the Market after the men had left, to buy a locking cable, such as you'd use to secure your bike, to wind around the neck of the bell and attach to its mounting, in case any thief had mean ambitions.

The Sunday after next Cardiff's United Services Mess will hold its annual service at St John's, a perfect occasion on which to conduct the formalities of a bell handover. The Mess chairman Tony Lewis (RN retired) was delighted with the news and has organised for Cardiff's last ship's captain, Mike Beardall, to make the hand-over in person. Members of HMS Cardiff Association and HMS Cambria are also invited to swell the numbers on this special occasion.

Inscribed on the exterior of the bell is HMS Cardiff, 1979 (when she was commissioned). Around the interior of the rim are inscribed the names of children baptized on board ship. Naval custom is for the ship's bell to be used, upturned and filled with water, as a baptismal font. We can only be proud to have custody of such an unusual sacred object. It's so much more meaningful than putting it in a museum.

No comments: