German WWI battleship bell discovered in a Bristol garden

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German WWI battleship bell discovered in a Bristol garden

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 11:29
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The ship was the a Konig class battleship called SMS Grosser Kurfurst. She was involved in the Battle of Jutland off Denmark in 1916, where she was struck a number of times. When the Germans surrendered in 1918, the German fleet sailed to Scapa Flow in the Outer Hebrides.

Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter ordered the mass skuttling / suicide of the German Navy's High Seas Fleet on 21st June 1919 to prevent his ships being handed to the victorious Allies. Following a pre-arrange signal all 74 ships began a sinking procedure. Within five hours, 10 battleships, five battlecruisers, four light cruisers, and 32 torpedo boats sank in Scapa Flow. The battleship SMS Baden, the four light cruisers SMS Emden, SMS Nürnberg, SMS Frankfurt and SMS Bremse and 14 torpedo boats were beached when British watch personnel were able to intervene in time and tow them to shallow water. Only four destroyers remained afloat.


The wrecks were subsequently recovered and scrapped. The Grosser Kurfurst was raised in April 1938 and towed to Rosyth, in Fife, and was scrapped. it is believed that a Bristol man bought the ships 22-inch high bell sometime in the 1930's. The bell has remained within the family since then, and was used as an ornament in his back garden.

It is now being sold by specialist auctioneer Atlantic Crossing Auctions in Southampton. The auction will be held at the Avenue St Andrew’s United Reformed Church Hall, in Southampton, at 2pm on March 22.

Auctioneer Stephen Booth said: "These bells are very hard to find. I know of only one other in a church in Scotland."As soon as I saw the name on the side of the bell, I knew it was special. I am extremely confident it's going to sell for at least £5,000". Mr Booth added that a lot of interest has already been shown in the bell from naval enthusiasts, museums and from Germany.

The up-coming anniversary of the start of The First World War, on July 28, 1914, has added to its appeal, he said.