Presented to the Club by Gerry O'Shaughnessy.
In 1970 at a society meeting, I was presented with a gavel by the secretary and good friend George York. After the meeting I asked George if he had made it. He then went on to tell me his brother-in-law John, a cabinet maker, had made it after serving on the HMS Prince of Wales during the second world war. I later met up with John to thank him for the gavel. The provenance for this ‘one-of-a-kind’ item as narrated by George York is as follows:-
In the battle, the sailors called the Greenland Straight, four British battleships and the HMS Hood were ordered to stop the Bismarck - Germany's biggest and unsinkable battleship, armed with 1-ton shells with 38 guns.
The four British battleships chased the Bismarck through the Greenland Straight, whilst the Hood waited in an attempt to stop or at least slow down the Bismarck. The British ships were a distance of 5 miles away from the Bismarck, the Hood being 2 miles away. In a fateful move, the Hood decided to open fire on the Bismarck, but to no avail.
When the Bismark returned fire, just a single shell hit the Hood’s magazine - causing it to sink in less than 3 minutes. A total of 1,417 men died as a result - just 3 men survived the ordeal. The Bismarck escaped without a scratch.
My ship, the HMS Prince of Wales was ordered to look for any survivors, launching 5 rowing boats. After 3 hours of searching we found nothing - it was as if the Hood was never there!! Everything went down with the ship. We were ordered to return to our ship.
Then I spotted something shining on the top of the water about 100 yards away. It was a piece of wood approximately 6ft x 3ft long with a piece of brass sticking out of it like a shark’s fin, so I pulled it out of the water and took it aboard. The captain was waiting and asked if that was all we found. When we said ‘Yes’ he ordered us to toss it back into the water. I asked him if I could have it to make something with it - as he knew I was a cabinet maker - to which the captain agreed.
I wrote to my sister, telling her I would make a small table for our mum as it was stamped with the words for the captain’s table and a signature.
Winston Churchill then ordered every ship and plane available to find and destroy the Bismarck.
A torpedo dropped from a British plane hit one of its rudders. The Bismarck could then only steer in circles giving time for the fleet to catch up. The HMS Prince of Wales was at the front of the battle when the Bismarck was sunk. That day 2,000 men died and 117 survived.
HMS Prince of Wales was then ordered back to Portsmouth - where three quarters of the crew were given 14 days leave. I managed to get a lift on a supply lorry going to Nottingham. They dropped me and the wood off at Derby.
The HMS Prince of Wales was then ordered to the Far East when the crew arrived back from leave. In a strange twist of fate, I didn`t return to the ship as I was diagnosed with appendicitis in my time off - and spent the rest of my time in the war on a minesweeper.
The HMS Prince of Wales was sunk by the Japanese in Nov. 1941 and 350 men died; just 7 men survived.
What has the gavel got in common with Rykneld Bowling Club?
This club was founded in Feb,1918. The HMS Hood was built in Feb 1918.
This piece of wood (the Gavel) holds huge historic value.....and George’s mum had a lovely table!