The Meaning of Ringing a Ships Bell

Ship's Bell Sound Meanings

It has been over 70 years since the sinking of the infamous World War II battlecruiser, HMS Hood, at the hands of German battleship Bismark in 1941.

The event was a huge blow for the British during the war as it was the largest Royal Navy vessel ever sank, as well as the biggest loss of life suffered in a single warship attack with 1,415 people onboard losing their lives. The wreckage was found in 2001 at the bottom of the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland, 9,200 feet underwater. In August the government agreed to an expedition to retrieve the bell of the HMS Hood from the wreckage. The mission was led by American Paul G. Allen, who offered to recover the bell for no personal gain, but in tribute to the personnel whose lives were lost and their families.

The bell of a ship has long been recognised as one of the most important pieces of equipment onboard, and as such has now gained symbolic significance. Shipâ??s bells were used primarily from 1500 onwards to mark the passing of time on a shipâ??s watch. Watches were organized into four hour shifts, and the bell was rang every 30 minutes. The number of rings would increase each time, enabling sailors to be able to tell how far along the shift they were â?? for example, one ring signified 30 minutes had passed, two rings signified 60 minutes and so on up until the eight rings which signaled the end of one watch. There were seven watches in total over a 24 hour period, with the two â??Dog Watchesâ?? between the hours of 16:00 and 20:00 being one shift split into two to allow all of the crew time for an evening meal. The uneven number of watches also ensured that both crews had to take responsibility for the undesirable â??Middle Watchâ?? which was between the hours of midnight and 04:00.

Shipâ??s bells alsoserved several other purposes. They were used during foggy conditions where visibility was poor as a warning to nearby vessels, and also served as an alarm for crew members onboard in the case of a fire or other emergency. They also served a ceremonial purpose. On New Yearâ??s Eve the bell would ring sixteen times in celebration of the coming year, while at a sailorâ??s death eight tolls on the bell euphemistically implies that the passed sailor has reached the end of his â??watchâ??.  The bell from the HMS Hood was scheduled to be displayed at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth in honour of the ship and crew. However the task proved more difficult than was first thought, and unfortunately the mission had to be abandoned ten days after it started on September 3rd 2012.

Written By Adam Barley

Adam has been wring articles for a number of years concentrating on informative news realted articles


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