HMAS Creswell’s old bell returns home

A SIGNIFICANT piece of Shoalhaven naval history has been returned to the region.

The original bell that hung in the clock tower at HMAS Creswell, which disappeared when the college was decommissioned between 1930 and 1958, has been returned to HMAS Albatross.

For almost 50 years it has been a feature in the Hoskins family’s homes in Sydney.

Fleet Air Arm Museum manager Terry Hetherington said it was wonderful to have such a significant piece of local history returned.

“During the construction of Creswell in 1913-14 a feature was the administration building and the clock tower,” he said.

“In the tower, the bell chimed in nautical chimes every half hour.

“The naval college was decommissioned between 1930 and 1958 and it was used as a commercial hotel site, before returning to its current use in 1958.

“Somewhere along the line the old bell was removed and replaced with another when the college reopened.”

In the mid 1960s a truck turned up at the engineering works of a chap named Hoskins in Chatswood. On the back was the large bronze bell.

“Luckily, rather than selling it off to scrap merchants he kept it,” Mr Hetherington said.

“He took it home and had it mounted on a stand and used to have in the foyer of his home.

“Upon his death it was passed to his son David who continued the tradition of having it in the foyer of his home.”

Mr Hoskins contacted the then historical officer at HMAS Creswell Lieutenant Commander David Jones, wondering if the navy would like the bell back.

The bell carries graffiti from the college’s second intake back in 1914.

“It became a tradition for the cadets at Creswell to try to get into the clock tower,” Mr Hetherington said.

“But back in 1914 four managed it and even got to the bell and put their initials on it and they are still on the bell today.

“LJT, PFD, OF McM and AHS left their initials while a further name Read was left in Morse code (possibly from 1917 but there is also another theory). There was also an inscription underneath the four names: “And the rest of us, Royal Australian Naval College Jervis Bay 1914 entry.”

“We don’t know what they used but it’s not a paint, perhaps a wax crayon that has etched itself into the bronze.

“We are going to try to get the forensic police to maybe examine it and let us know what they think it may be.”

Although not yet weighed, Mr Hetherington estimated the bell would be between 200-300kg and it’s not known if it is complete with a clapper.

“We aren’t sure yet, we haven’t been able to get in underneath it to see,” he said.

The plan is for the bell to be returned to HMAS Creswell and displayed in the foyer of the base’s historical collection.

“We won’t be restoring it, we will leave it as it is there is too much history involved,” Mr Hetherington said.

HISTORY MYSTERY: Fleet Air Arm Museum manager Terry Hetherington with the historic HMAS Creswell bell.

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