Paul Allen recovers bell from HMS Hood

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The bell of HMS Hood recovered after 74 years(Credit: Paul G Allen)

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One of the great tragedies of the Second World War has been remembered with Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G Allen recovering the bell from the British battlecruiser HMS Hood, which was sunk in battle 74 years ago by Hitler’s flagship Bismarck. The brass ship's bell was recovered from a mile and a half (2.4 km) down in the Denmark Straits by a remote operated submersible (ROV) controlled from Allen's private yacht M/Y Octopus.

The recovery operation, which successfully concluded on August 7, marks 13 years since the bell of the Hood was discovered. The salvage effort was spearheaded by the Paul G Allen Family Foundation using a ROV built by Blue Water Recoveries, which made the initial discovery. Allen led a previous attempt to retrieve the bell in 2009, which was abandoned due to poor weather.

As a warship, the Hood remains the property of the Crown and is officially designated a war grave. Salvage is therefore prohibited and Allen was given extraordinary permission by the British government to recover the bell.

HMS Hood was commissioned in 1920 and, as the flagship of the British Battlecruiser Squadron, it was one of the most advanced (and generally regarded as the most beautiful) of the Royal Navy's interwar capital ships. She was sunk on May 24, 1941 while engaging the pocket battleship Bismarck, which was attempting to break out into the Atlantic Ocean to prey on Allied shipping.

Ultimately, the Bismark was cornered and sunk, but not before landing a shell on the under-armored deck of the Hood. The shell pierced the deck and detonated the cruiser's magazine. The resulting explosion killed 1,415 officers and men with only three survivors. The Hood was the largest Royal Navy ship ever sunk and the greatest single loss of life.

The inscribed bell is made of brass and is 18 in (46 cm) high. It was cast for the previous HMS Hood, which was a Victorian battleship that served until 1914. The recovery effort was aided by the fact that when the later ship broke apart in 1941, the bell landed well away from the main wreckage.

The ROV used to recover the bell of HMS Hood(Credit: Paul G Allen)

According to the Royal Navy, the bell will undergo a year of restoration and will then go on display at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

The video below shows the recovery of HMS Hood's bell.

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