HMS Tamar Ship's Bell (Stonecutters Island) | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong
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HMS Tamar Ship's Bell (Stonecutters Island)

HMS Tamar Ship's Bell (Stonecutters Island)
Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Saturday, November 23, 1996


What happened to HMS Tamar's bell? Where is it located now?

That is a good question about the bell.  Pieces of HMS Tamar seem to turn up all over Hong Kong.  If my memory is correct (and it may not be--others can weigh in on this), her mast is standing outside Murray House in Stanley, her anchor is at the Museum of Coastal Defense, her timbers are in the doors for St. John's Cathedral, and, of course, we now know that her keel lies in the mud of the seabed just off the location of the old Wanchai Star Ferry terminal.


Noted that there is alot of interest lately of the possible location of HMS Tamar off Wanchai. Out of curiosity, I did search the newspaper archives some years ago and had found this from 1947. What is actually left of the receiving ship, will be interesting to view.

According to the Antiquities and Monuments ordinance, only stuff that can be dated prior to 1800 and after 1976 is HK Govt property. So I guess the Tamar is still Crown property unless the Govt can prove the British had relinquished ownership?

It's just the stern section that remains - the explosion found by moddsey supoposedly cut the vessel in two and the front section as raised.

I also recently found out the circumstances behind the sinking - apparently when the plugs were pulled at the bottom of the ship to sink it, the roof prevented the internal air from escaping - so artillary was fired through the roof to create some holes to allow the air to escape and the vessel to flood.

No news about the bell's location yet. My guess is that the Royal Navy would have taken it with them when they left Hong Kong. 

Regards, David

The HKMM web brief on the present Tamar issue says it is believed to be at the Govt. Dockyard - though since it has a number of facts wrong about the Tamar, maybe that should be taken with a pinch of salt.

I can recall an auction advertising a 13.5" diameter HMS Tamar bell a few years back (a trace is here: - though it no longer finds anything unless you go to cache)  but whether that was the real thing I have no idea.

In any case, the bell is quite unlikely to be the bell of the old ship, which I suspect went the way of all flesh with the occupation and scuttling. The bell that will have been used in the stone frigate will almost certainly have been a post-war replacement and I wouldn't be surprised to discover that it actually dated from the post-1959 closure of the dockyard.


There were in fact a number of newspaper stories about the salvage, all of which I have copies of, not to mention the emrgency chart that has the wreck neatly marked (in exactly the orientation of the present remains) with "HMS Tamar" beside it in case there was any doubt. That symbol remains on the charts until 1949, then a 'Wk' symbol appears in the same place from 1952 until c.1963, with a swept wire depth of 4 fathoms 3 feet and a least sounded depth of 5 fathoms 5 feet. I am fairly sure the clearance requirement was for 4 fathoms of clear water over all cleared (i.e. made safe for navigation) wartime wreckage. That was one only way, given the extreme shortage of personnel (good story in the papers about that too), that the 'everything cleared by early 1948' deadline could be met.

The 'Wk' symbol disappears after 1963 because with the North Wanchai reclamation the outflow from the Bowrington Canal was rerouted, so the scour channel where the wreck lay disappeared. In under 20 years 3m of silt was deposited on top of what had been there - so nothing on the 1983 chart. Once the HKCEC was completed, within the next 20 years another 3m of silt was deposited, which is why the present remains were 'invisible' 6m under the seabed. The contractor's brief for the Central to Wanchai by-pass was to dredge the seabed BACK to its pre-1960s depth or close thereto - c.14m below PD (Principal Datum) - and that's how they found what had been missed. Missed because no one in the cultural heritage impact assessment exercises seemed to understand charts and charting history. (The particular chart went through 99 variantions in 120 years - roughly something new every 14 months!)

The newspapers note that the Tamar wreck was sold by the RN to the contractor who had the job of clearing it. The law is very clear. The wreck and therefore its present remains belong to the heirs and assigns of that contractor who, if it is Mr Leung Man Kwong, died in 1966. However the company he founded in the 1950s, UDL, (United Dockyards Limited (based in Yau Tong) - first entry in the companies register c.1957 although it traces its origins back to 1947 according to the family) would presumably have first dibs.

The quid-pro-quo for the government is to recognize that ownership and then ask UDL to clear their property from cluttering the seabed (normal practice). So UDL, faced with rather a steep bill, could then waive their claim, give the remains to goverment, and leave government to work out what to do with it.

Whether government has yet worked this all out is another question.

By the by, Lt Kilbee's diary for 11th Dec notes that he was careering round in MTB 8 that evening following instructions to torpedo the Tamar. He fired one but missed and because of the dark (it was c.2100) he gave up and went back to base, only to discover the Commander Ops going spare because he had been trying to cancel the torpedoing order. And the reason for that is that a party had been sent aboard to lay demolition charges to blow holes in the bottom which, apparently, was what happened. That would also explain why she wasn't salvaged by the Japanese, and why she was broken up in situ by the salvage contractor - she couldn't be refloated.


Thanks Stephen, it's good to see the sequence of events laid out clearly like this.

Regards, David

I have come across this forum while researching HMS Tamar's ship's bell.   I have an antique shop in Somerset and I have just received the very item for sale on behalf of a retired RN gentleman.   He acquired the bell a few years ago from a dealer in Cornwall who bought RN surplus items.   It is a standard RN ship's bell (although I am ex-RAF I run the local Sea Cadets and I regularly handle items of militaria in my shop) and has HMS TAMAR clearly marked on it.   Unless sold earlier the bell will be entered into a specialist auction early in the new year.   If you would like details please contact me at .

Baz Hamblin

George House Antiques, Axbridge, Somerset

Does the bell have any markings (probably on the inside or on the clapper) indicating where it was cast (maker) or, perhaps, anything like a store's number? My hunch is that this is not from the 1863 ship (that would almost certainly have been larger) but a post-1946 bell made for the new stone frigate.


Baz, thanks for writing, and I'm glad to hear the bell has survived.

It'll be good to see its current condition. Please could you upload a photo to show how it looks? (Here's how to upload a photo:

Regards, David

The bell I have is not the Victorian brass one and if it was it would be in an expensive London sale room by now.   It is a mid 20th century white metal bell with 10A moulded into the mount at the top and the "crow's foot" in black on the inside.   Unfortunately the clapper is missing.   As stated in my previous posting it has been used as a garden ornament.   The outside was, when in use at Tamar, highly polished with "HMS TAMAR" in black.   I have washed off the mud and birds mess but the highly polished look has gone after years of neglect.   I will not try to re-polish the bell because most serious collectors like this sort of item in their "as found" condition.   It will probably go to auction unless I receive an acceptable offer; the next suitable auction is in a couple of months.   I will get the bell photgraphed and put a copy here.

Baz Hamblin

George House Antiques

A photo of the bell can be seen  here

Hi  I have been researching for many years now the possible whereabouts of the HMS Tamar Bell that was housed in a Binnacle and used in 1957+ for Christenings.  I was Christened in HMS Tamar and as such my name would have been engraved on or in the bell.  I would love to know where this bell ended up.  If anyone can help that would be great.  Many thanks.Cathy