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Apprentices mark war centenary by restoring historic HMS Liverpool bell

CAMMELL Laird has drawn on its long and illustrious shipbuilding history to take part in a special community project to mark the centenary of World War One.

The project saw a group of Cammell Laird apprentices renovate the famous HMS Liverpool Bell for the Church of Our Lady & St Nicholas in Liverpool. It will again be used for baptisms following a special presentation service. The team of eight apprentices were charged with finding a community project to tackle as part of the Centenary Apprentice Programme (CAP). The programme was specially established by the Prime Minister to help mark the centenary of the First World War. It involves 100 British companies that were trading during World War One, undertaking community work.

 Cammell Laird was one of the chosen companies – a fact the shipyard was immensely proud of given its significant contribution to the war effort in building and repairing many ships. During World War One, Cammell Laird completed work on nine battleships, 60 cruisers, 100 British and 95 United States destroyers, eight submarines, 123 armed merchant vessels and 107 merchant ships.  The Cunard passenger liner Campania and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co steamer Ben-My-Chee were also converted at Cammell Laird into the first seaplane carriers for the Royal Navy

Cammell Laird HR manager Danny Hart said the team has put huge effort into the bell restoration project.  For 30 years, the HMS Liverpool bell was upturned and used as a font to christen children of serving sailors. The practice ran during the destroyer’s life and an estimated 30 children were baptised that way.

He said: “This was a demanding task. The group had to design and create a stand for the bell so it could be used as both a font and a bell. It was also very important that the stand was in keeping with the church’s interior.

“As a team they really had to get their heads together to work out how to design and build the structure from steel and wood. It involved a lot of team work with pipe fitters, mechanical fitters, as well as welders and fabricators working together. They also brought in apprentice from our partner- firm MPE Interiors, to help with the cabinet work for the bell.”

Birkenhead-based MPE Interiors works on land and sea-based sectors, fitting out offices, retail and domestic properties as well as a range of ships including passenger ferries. Its specialisms include cabinet and furniture making.

Mr Hart added: “This kind of team working is vital to the apprentices’ learning and was a very worthwhile exercise. The team has also delivered a presentation on the project to a group of pupils from St John Plessington College.”

HMS Liverpool, a Type 2 destroyer, was in service from 1982 to 2012. The vessel made her final visit to Liverpool on February 29, 2012 to say goodbye and sailed past Cammell Laird.

The Church of Our Lady & St Nicholas serves as Liverpool Parish Church and is known as the seafarers’ church. The current building dates from just after the Second World War although there has been a church on the site for more than 700 years. Its parish covers most of Liverpool city centre including the docks, business and shopping areas. Over 16,000 people live in the parish.