The Hulett Bell Tower

Shortly before he passed away, one of Kearsney’s foundation scholars, William Holland “Willie” Hulett, the youngest son of Albert Saxe Liege Hulett and a grandson of Sir Liege, donated a bell to the College.

The bell, which had originally been on the HMS Suffolk, had been given to Willie Hulett by Rear Admiral Harold Hickling DSO.

The HMS Suffolk

[Photograph courtesy]

Rear Admiral Hickling

[Photograph courtesy Imperial War Museum]

Willie Hulett – foundation scholar (bottom right)

During May 1941, the British long cruiser was involved in the Battle of the Denmark Strait, one of the greatest sea battles of the North Sea and North Atlantic.

Nazi Germany’s most powerful battleship, the Bismarck, and a cruiser, the Prinz Eugen, had slipped out of a Norwegian fjord with the intention of disrupting convoys which were supplying essential goods to Britain from the USA.

The sinking of the Bismarck

[Photograph courtesy]

The Suffolk was the first to sight the Bismarck on 23 May and engaged her twice before she was engulfed in a fog. Using her radar equipment the Suffolk shadowed the battleship long enough for reinforcements to arrive in the form of the Hood and the Prince of Wales. The Hood was sunk but eventually the pride of the German Navy joined her at the bottom of the sea after a joint naval and aerial onslaught.

The Suffolk continued to serve with the Home Fleet in Arctic Waters until the end of 1942. She then underwent a refit which included the installation of additional anti-aircraft guns before being deployed to the Eastern Fleet and serving in the Indian Ocean until the end of the war.

At the conclusion of hostilities the Suffolk was eventually assigned to the reserve fleet. Economic circumstances in Britain led to this fleet being sold off. The cruiser was decommissioned and towed to Newport in Wales where scrapping began soon after her arrival on 24 June 1948.

The Hulett Bell Tower December 2014

After Willie Hulett’s donation of the Suffolk’s bell to Kearsney, a handsome bell tower was built on the lawn between the Henderson Hall and the Oppenheimer Science Wing with funds generously provided by his nephew, John Albert Hulett.

There it was traditionally rung, first of all by swimming teams after returning from the A team gala in Durban and subsequently by each sixth form student as he completed his final matriculation examination.

In December 2014, shortly before the construction of the new classroom block, the tower had to be demolished and the bell securely stored away until the completion of a suitable new home for the historic relic.

Each sixth form student rings the bell after completion of his final matriculation examination

Demolition of the bell tower, December 2014