Presented is a WWII U.S. Navy ceremonial bell that was reportedly
removed from the USS Bataan – CVL 29, by the officer in charge of her scrapping in 1961. The bell is engraved:
The bell is made from bronze. It hangs
from a 90 degree cast bronze sea serpent bracket mounted on a varnished wood stand, with a handmade bellrope attached
to its clapper. It likely was used in the ship’s wardroom on “dinning in” or mess nights to announce guests and toasts.
Expect to find minor casting imperfections, dents and abrasions for having served for years at sea under combat conditions.
PROVENANCE: It was purchased 30 years ago with a ship’s flare
gun and belaying pin from the company who handled the disposition of some of the assets of the estate, by the immediate
past owner had them polished. It has been in his private collection until our purchase.
BRIEF HISTORY OF MESS NIGHTS: The compartment in which the officer’s
eat is commonly called the “wardroom”. However, there is a tradition in the U.S. Naval Service called “dinning in” which follows
the British custom for mess nights, and dates back to our Revolutionary days. Formal dinners in wardrooms afloat and messes
are among the finest traditions of military institutions. The purpose of which was to gather “for an evening of good food,
drinking, fellowship, and honoring the feats of individuals and organizations.” In all instances of on-board entertaining,
toasting with wine was very much a part of the formal dinner. Dr. John T. Bonner [Jr.] in an article [“Sober Reflections on
a Mess Night,”] for [US Naval Institute] Proceedings [vol. 99, no.11 (Nov. 1973): 51-55], states that “toasting,
which forms an integral part of mess nights, traces its antecedents back for probably half a millennium.” After Navy
Secretary “Joe” Daniels ended the “wine mess” which had only been permitted since 1893 aboard ship in 1914,
the center of Naval social life shifted from the wardroom to the officers’ club. Ships had otherwise been dry since
the spirit ration was abolished in 1862.
Despite the obstacles of the twentieth century, the tradition of dining-in has not died out.
Veterans of old days remember and revive the tradition at every opportunity. They recognize the important role these occasions
play in preserving the traditions of Naval service.
Bell: Mouth 7 1/4″ diameter Crown diameter
Height to top of neck 7 1/4″
Stand: 8 1/4″ W x 11 1/2″ D x 1 1/2″ D Height:
Total weight: 18 lbs
Bell weight 9 1/2 lbs
The Bataan was busy in the Pacific Theater of Operation throughout WW II and earned six battle stars and served again during the Korean War earning seven more. In 1954 she was sent to the Reserve Fleet, and in 1961 ordered to be scrapped. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Bataan_(CVL-29