History in the making

The bell casting ready for the mould - pictured with left to right; Petty officer Chris Pye with the ship's captain Peter Sparkes and petty officer Neil Wilson.
The bell casting ready for the mould - pictured with left to right; Petty officer Chris Pye with the ship's captain Peter Sparkes and petty officer Neil Wilson.

BACK in the early 1900s they famously created the windows and ship bells for the Titanic.

And now St Helens firm T M Utley Offshore has completed another important maritime mission.

Tom Utley reflects on a job well done

Tom Utley reflects on a job well done

Staff at the age old company’s Sutton Leach base painstakingly casted a bell for the Royal Navy’s new ice patrol ship HMS Protector last week - under the watchful eyes of the ship’s captain and two officers.

HMS Protector is set to enter service in the next couple of months to patrol Antarctica, as a replacement for HMS Endurance.

Before being kitted out with naval communications equipment, survey gear and self defence machine guns, it operated for a Norwegian shipping company as a scientific research vessel under the name MV Polarbjorn.

Captain Peter Sparkes said: “HMS Protector will be used as an ice breaker and to maintain the UK’s sovereign presence in the British Antarctic area, the Falklands and South Georgia.

“The casting of the ship’s bell is an important, unique process - so it’s great to be here to see it taking shape. The bell will take pride of place on the ship’s gangway.”

HMS Protector, complete with it’s ship’s bell, is then set to be formally commissioned on June 23 - the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the historic Antarctic Treaty.

Prior to the bell casting, petty officer and chief bosun’s mate Chris Pye, who hails from St Helens, also spent 15 man-hours meticulously creating his very own Saints-inspired bell pull.

He said: “Seeing the bell being cast will make us treasure it that bit more when we’re away. Life at sea is not bad at all. Typically, I will work from 8am-4pm and we all keep ourselves entertained with mess games and watch DVDs in our spare time.

“It’s hard being away from my wife - sometimes for seven or eight months at a time. But my last two trips have been to the Caribbean, so I can’t complain!”

T M Utley boss Tom Utley added: “We’ve worked on parts for the QE11 and HMS Ark Royal in the past but we’re very pleased to be asked to cast a bell for HMS Protector. I’m just glad they wanted the bell in bronze and not nickel silver - they’re less of a swine to make!”

* Business - page 22