IT may have taken more than half a century but the original bell that hung in the clock tower at HMAS Creswell has returned to its home alongside Jervis Bay.
The bell, which disappeared when the college was decommissioned between 1930 and 1958, has been returned and placed on permanent display at the college’s historical collection.
The bell was returned to the navy earlier this year by the Hoskins family from Sydney.
It had been a feature in the family’s home for many years.
After it was built in 1913-14, a feature of the college was the administration building and the clock 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.
How it ended up in Sydney, at the engineering works of a chap named Hoskins in Chatswood, is a mystery.
The large bronze bell simply arrived one day on the back of a lorry and, luckily, rather than selling it off to scrap merchants, he kept it.
He had the bell mounted on a stand 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 Comm-
ander David Jones, wondering if the navy would like the bell back.
In a significant piece of the base’s history, the bell carries graffiti from the college’s second intake back in 1914.
In 1914 four cadets managed to get into the bell tower 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.”
The quintet that left their initials on the bell has been identified by going back through the navy’s records of officers.
It is believed LJT was Lovel J. Towers, who served from 1914–1922; PFD was Percy F. Dash; OFM was Otto F. McMahon, 1914–1946; AHS was Arthur H. Spurgeon, 1914–1942.
The name Read appears on the bell in Morse code and it is assumed this refers to a 1917 entry cadet, Neven Robinson Read, who served from 1917 to 1948.
But there is also another theory – the word Read also has an arrow pointing to the cadets’ names – perhaps it was just a notification to anyone who found the graffiti to read the other side of the bell.
HMAS Creswell executive officer Commander Letitia van Stralen said the base was delighted to have a significant part of the college’s history back.
“It is certainly nice to have the original Creswell bell returned to its home,” she said.
“And it is a fantastic story how Mr Hoskins’ family came to own the bell and then eventually donate an important part of our history back.”