After they fell silent: The nature and fate of the ship bells associated with the vessels scrapped for thewashington arms limitation treaty of 1922

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Murray Parker

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Abstract

The Washington Arms Limitation Treaty 1922 was arguably one the most significant disarmament treaties of the first half of the 20th century. It can be shown that the heritage items associated with this treaty are still extant. Ship’s bells are one of the few moveable objects that are specific to the operational life of a ship and are therefore highly symbolic in representing a vessel. This paper surveys which bells of the ships scrapped under conditions of the Washington Arms Limitation Treaty are known to exist. A typology of ship’s bells has been developed to understand the nature of bell provisioning to vessels newly commissioned into the U.S. Navy. Each of the countries associated with theWashington Treaty have divergent disposal practices with respect to navy property, and this is reflected in both the prevalence and nature of custodianship of ship’s bells from this period. Such procedures range from the U.S. requirement commanding all surplus Navy property to be deemed government property upon ship deactivation, to the British practice of vending ship’s bells to private parties at public sales. However, ship’s bells, like many obsolete functional items, can be regarded as iconic in terms of heritage and therefore warrant attention for future preservation and presentation in the public domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-75
Number of pages44
JournalHeritage
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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