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Bid to recover bell of HMS Hood

An operation is to take place to recover the bell of the battle cruiser HMS Hood, which was sunk in 1941, it has been announced.

If recovered successfully, the bell will be used as a memorial to the ship and the 1,415 men who were lost when it was sunk by the battleship Bismarck in the North Atlantic.

Hood is the largest Royal Navy vessel to have been sunk, causing the biggest loss of life suffered by any single British warship. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said US philanthropist Paul G Allen had offered to recover the bell at no cost to it.

The Microsoft co-founder's yacht Octopus, equipped with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will be used for the operation, which will be supported by Blue Water Recoveries Ltd, which specialises in the search and investigation of shipwrecks.

In a previous expedition, which did not disturb the wreck, the company discovered and photographed the bell, an MoD spokesman said.

It is lying on the seabed well away from the parts of the ship's hull, which will not be disturbed by the recovery operation, he added.

If the recovery mission is successful, the bell will be put on display by the National Museums of the Royal Navy (NMRN), and form a major feature of a new exhibition hall due to open at the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in 2014. HMS Hood was based in Portsmouth.

Rear Admiral Philip Wilcocks, president of the HMS Hood Association, whose members include veterans who served on the ship before its final mission, and relatives of those who were lost, said: "There is no headstone among the flowers for those who perish at sea. For those who lost their lives in HMS Hood, the recovery of her bell and its subsequent place of honour in the museum will mean that, well after the remains of Hood have gone, 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."

Professor Dominic Tweddle, director general NMRN, said: "It will be an honour and privilege to display the bell from HMS Hood. Our new galleries, opening in April 2014, will recall and commemorate the heroism, duty and sacrifice of the people of the Royal Navy in the 20th and 21st centuries. Hood's bell encapsulates the whole of that story as no other single object could."

The wreck of HMS Hood, which was discovered in 2001, 2,800 metres under the waves, is designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

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