For centuries ship's bells have played both a practical and symbolic role in the life of Navy vessels and their crews. They are routinely used to signal the hour on board a ship and to regulate sailors’ watches but one of the most memorable traditions for sailors and their families involves the use of ship’s bell as a baptismal font for christenings.
Children of the ship’s company baptised according to this custom can also have their names inscribed inside the bell and, since the bell is considered a significant part of the ship's inventory and history, this is considered both an honour and a privilege providing those children and their families with a very personal connection with maritime history.
For nearly 60 years the bell from HMAS Albatross (I) has been used as a christening font at the Fleet Air Arm chapel at HMAS Albatross, near Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales. The bell is now inscribed with over 100 names.
As there is no longer space to inscribe new names, the bell will now be displayed with other items from Albatross (I) and the HMAS Albatross quarterdeck bell will double as a christening font.
One of the names inscribed in the bell is that of Albatross Executive Officer Commander (CMDR) Mat Bradley’s daughter, Lilian Bradley, who was christened in the Albatross chapel in 2007.
“The Albatross (I) bell is a special historical artefact - it is amazing to consider what that bell has been part of and it is an honour for Lilian's name to become part of that history”, CMDR Bradley said.
“I also think that it is important to observe the old Navy traditions - they provide a link to our past and the Naval traditions that the RAN draws upon."
HMAS Albatross (I) was a seaplane tender built by Cockatoo Island Dockyard during the mid-1920s, commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy in 1929 and decommissioned in 1933. The full story of HMAS Albatross (I) can be found at http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-albatross-i.
Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20140196.