Nancie Smith, a member of Campbeltown Community Council, was asked to represent it at the 200th anniversary of Founders Day in Campbelltown Pennsylvania.
The original HMS Campbeltown – whose heroic ramming of the dock gates at St Nazaire in World War 11 while disguised as a German ship (story linked below) had first been the USS Buchanan, renamed when the ship was transferred to British command.
To commemorate this cultural link, this famous ship’s bell was given to Campbelltown Pennsylvania in 1950, where it had sat outside their fire station, a key part of their heritage and embossed on stationery, banners, posters and postcards.
In 1989 – when today’s HMS Campbeltown was being launched, the people of Campbelltown PA took a vote on whether or not the original bell should go to the new ship. By five votes they consented and the bell was taken to Scotland by Steve Alger, the President of the Lions Club.
On the return visit for the bell – just for the duration of the Founders’ day celebrations – Nancie and her husband accompanied two officers from the current HMS Campbeltown - Lieutenant Commander Rob Welford and Chief Petty Officer Tommy Cooper – and the bell.
There was a ceremony to celebrate their Founders Day, with politicians and representatives from their local government.Then there were the officers from the ship and Nancie Smith, all delivering celebratory proclamations.
Nancie says about the day: ‘We received great hospitality and we from Campbeltown Scotland felt especially welcomed by the whole community. We made many friends and some are visiting us here this year. They are very interested in our ceremony today although it is a sad occasion’.
The sad occasion Nancie refers to is of course the reason for this visit – that the Current HMS Campbeltown is being decommissioned in June 2011 and that this is her farewell visit to her namesake town.
Campbelltown in Pennsylvania is a small town next to the town of Hershey where they make the Hershey chocolate bars. There are no fewer than four chocolate factories in the town.
Nearby is the Amish village of Intercourse (really) and Nancie and her husband went there – they say ‘to see the beautiful quilts they sell’. (Hmmm. We think they’ll have wanted to have a photo taken beside the town sign.)
For Campbelltown Pennsylvania, the decommissioning of this HMS Campbeltown means that they will now get their historic bell back to resume its position outside the fire station.
The Smiths intend to return to the other Campbelltown when the bell is taken back there – which will complete the story of the bell.
In exchange, the bell made for the current ship is to be gifted to Campbeltown in Kintyre. It will go on display to the public in the town’s museum and kept safe should any future HMS Campbeltown take to the seas.
For the duration of this last visit of the ship to Campbeltown in Kintyre, this Ships’s Bell from the first HMS Campbeltown, handed over by Commander Keri Harris to Provost William Petrie in the Grand Parade yesterday (9th March 2011), is on show at Aqualibrium.
The photographs above show:
- HMS Campbeltown ship’s bell.
- Chief Petty Officer Tommy Cooper, Nancie Smith, Lt Cdr Rob Welford with the bell.
- Don Rhoads, Campbelltown PA historian, Chief Petty Officer Tommy Cooper, HMS Campbeltown, Nancie Smith, Campbeltown Community Council, Lt Cdr Rob Welford, HMS Campbeltown, Rugh Henderson, Supervisor (Councillor) with the Founders Day banner.
- Nancie Smith (fourth from left) with members of the Founders Day committee in Campbelltown Pennsylvania.
Here is our earlier article on the story of the original HMS Campbeltown whose Ship’s Bell is treasured by the two continents she bridged.