I figure that since nearly all my buddies served in either Ark Royal IV or Ark Royal V, that it is possible that most of your did also, so this story must be well known to most of you. I myself, before joining boats, was an Eagle man!
For those that don't know, here is the snippet.
HMS Ark Royal III, sunk with just the loss of one life in November 1941 [known as the navy's blackest war year] just off Gibraltar by a German U-Boat, was the third Ark Royal. Her first Captain, Arthur Power, became Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Power GCB, GBE, CVO. He is of special interest to me because he became the Captain of HMS Excellent, the naval Gunnery School [October 1935-September 1937], and whilst there led the gun carriage at the State funeral of King George V on the 28th January 1936. Captain Power stood-by Ark Royal as she was being built and in July 1938 took Command of her leaving her in May 1949. He died in RNH Haslar on the 28th January 1960 aged 71. She had been built and paid for with the generous assistance of the people of Leeds in West Yorkshire, saving their money in a special type of war bond. Everywhere in the UK did the same with their money and many of these communities likewise, helped to sponsor and pay for a ship. You can see some of that story here WARSHIP ADOPTIONS IN WW2. Leeds therefore became her spiritual home and she gave the ship the Freedom of its City. The ships bell went down with the ship. The Lord Mayor of Leeds eventually accepted a replica of the Ark's bell for display it its magnificent Town Hall [city hall really].
This was that ship, sailing out of Portsmouth Harbour in April 1939.
What didn't sink with the ship was the ship's fund run by the Canteen Committee, and they decided to spend that money on making a new bell named Ark Royal, ready to pass on to the next ship so named.
What they had made was a solid silver [that's English silver, as regularly stressed on the TV Programme 'Antiques Road Show', so none of your foreign rubbish] ships bell weighing 2 cwt [hundredweight] - that's 101.2 kG - so pretty heavy by any measure - which was hall-marked of course. It was cast during 1944 and then put into storage in the Royal Naval Barrack at Lee-on-Solent [see http://www.godfreydykes.info/PORTSMOUTH_AND_THE_ROYAL_NAVY_WHEN_STYLE_WAS_FASHIONABLE.htm for details] in the hope that a new Ark Royal would be named. To everybody's delight, especially to the folks of Leeds, a new HMS Ark Royal came on the scene.
She was Ark Royal No IV and was launched in 1950 and after five more years, commissioned in 1955. The bell was taken from Lee-on-the-Solent and given to the new ship by an ex chief cook from Ark Royal III.
HMS Ark Royal No V was launched in 1981 and commissioned in 1985 and the bell was passed on to her.
We all know what the lousy Government did to the Ark Royal by cutting her useful life by six years and possibly more, but what we don't know is what has happened to this magnificent solid silver bell which was paid for out of a ship's company cash fund? It would be nice were it to be back in Leeds City Hall its true 'terra firma' 'alma mater'.