On Thursday 10 June, a unique reminder of the cost of war was returned to the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth. The bronze ship's bell (MAS-D100253) engraved with 'RATTLER', '1942' and 'broad arrow' from HMS Loyalty, was recovered by a diver in the 1970s; before the Protection of Military Remains Act (1986) existed.

It was given over to Wessex Archaeology through the Marine Antiquities Scheme by the late finder’s family to return to the Royal Navy. The clapper has been lost at some point, and there is a section missing from the shoulder of the 18.8 kg bell, potentially from the explosion that sunk the ship.

HMS Loyalty Bell HMS Loyalty Bell

HMS Loyalty was an Algerine-class minesweeper of the Royal Navy. Originally laid down as HMS Rattler on 14 April 1941 at Harland and Wolff, Belfast, the ship was launched on 9 December 1942 and commissioned on 22 April 1943. The ship was renamed HMS Loyalty in June 1943. The ship carried out operations initially along the English south coast before moving to the east coast, Dover, and then Orkney, Shetland, and Iceland. In March 1944, the ship returned to the UK and in April underwent a refit at Portsmouth, after which the ship joined Force G to give minesweeping support to the Allied landings in Normandy.

HMS Loyalty took part in the assault operations of 6 June, clearing Channel 6, and then remained deployed off Gold Beach to cover operations throughout July and into August 1944. Whilst carrying out sweeping operations returning to Portsmouth, on the 22 August 1944, the sweep wires parted. HMS Loyalty and the minesweeping trawler HMT Doon were dispatched to recover the lost sweep. During this operation, an explosion occurred on the starboard aft side of the ship. The ship immediately developed a rapidly increasing list to starboard and settled by the stern. The ship capsized shortly afterwards but remained afloat for a short time before completely sinking. The ship had been attacked by the German U-boat U-480 using a passive acoustic torpedo. The ship's captain and 18 crew were lost, with 30 survivors rescued.

The wreck site is designated as a protected place under the Protection of Military Remains Act (1986).

By Alistair Byford-Bates, Senior Marine Archaeologist