The bell from a United States Navy ship, which sunk off the Isle of Wight the night before D-Day as it took part in Operation Overlord, is to be returned to the American Naval authorities.
USS Osprey was a Raven-class minesweeper which entered service in 1940. On April 3, 1944, her crew brought her to England to take part in Operation Overlord undertaking mine-sweeping operations. She hit a mine on June 5, 1944 at around 5pm which blew a large hole in the engine room and she sank with the loss of six men. Those who died are believed to be the first casualties of the D-Day operations.
Now, 75 years on, it was announced at a press conference in Southampton that Osprey’s bell is going home. Earlier this year pictures of the bell appeared online, prompting US officials to ask the UK Coastguard to investigate. After an enquiry was started the bell was handed in anonymously to Heloise Warner, the acting Receiver of Wreck based at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency in Southampton.
Heloise said: “We need to remember that whilst this bell is an important artefact and historically significant in terms of Operation Overlord, it also represents the tragedy of loss. It will be a symbolic moment when the bell is returned to US soil.”
The bell was checked and confirmed as genuine by Historic England and is now set to become part of the US Navy’s national collection.
There are thousands of wrecked vessels and aircraft around the UK coast, those that are considered dangerous or of historical, archaeological or artistic importance are covered by the 1973 Protection of Wrecks or the 1983 Protections of Military Remains Acts. Even though the wreck of USS Osprey is not covered by either piece of legislation, any material recovered from any wreck site must be reported to the Receiver of Wreck. Failure to do so can lead to fines of up to £2,500, plus twice the value of the find or up to five years in prison.