The commissioning of H.M.S. Sussex

The Ship's badge for HMS SUSSEX - this is the sane design as issued to the WW2 Cruiser of that name but with the letters RNVR added to indicate the establishments reserve function.
Artwork by Tony Drury
The Ship's bell from H.M.S. Sussex in Chichester Cathedral where it is currently on display.
From a private collection

The Sussex Division of the RNVR (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) established its headquarters at Hove in November 1903; it was to remain operational for 91 years.  For the first 48 years of its existence the unit had no ships name, it was simply titled the ‘Headquarters Sussex RNVR Division’. At noon on Saturday, 28th April 1951 this situation was changed when the Division was commissioned with the very apt ship’s name ‘H.M.S. Sussex’.

A New Ship’s Name
Prior to this time the name was in use by a veteran World War Two Cruiser which was withdrawn from active service to be sold for scrap in 1950. The commissioning warrant was read at a ceremony held at the RNR Battery attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Brighton, and Mr. William Teeling, M.P. for Brighton, and his wife; the Mayor inspected the guard of honour at the commencement of the ceremony. Also present was Commodore Earl Howe O.B.E., V.R.D., R.N.V.R., who had been the Commanding Officer of the Division from 1907 – 1939 and Commodore Fred May of the Sussex Motor Yacht Club.

An Old Ship’s Bell
When the former Cruiser was scrapped, the Sussex Motor Yacht Club was successful in obtaining its Ship’s Bell from the Admiralty and .Commodore May, on behalf of the Yacht Club, handed over the bell to Captain T. D. Manning, O.B.E., V.R.D., R.N.V.R., the Division’s current commanding officer. On handing over the bell Commodore May said “It is no ordinary bell. It is a bell with a wonderful record. It was through the good offices of one of our members, Mr. W. T. Curtis – Wilson, that this bell was acquired from the Admiralty. Whenever this bell rings it should bring to your minds memories of a great ship.”

A new home
The Divisions headquarters at the RNR Battery, Hove, closed, and transferred to a £140,000 new HQ at MaxwellWharf, Shoreham which was formally opened by Princess Alexandra on 12 July 1968. H.M.S. Sussex was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Hove in 1977 as part of the Queens Silver Jubilee celebrations, and the unit was to remain open until March 1994 when the Division was disbanded under defence cuts. The Ship’s bell was presented to Chichester Cathedral where it is currently on display.

The WAVE; Magazine of the R.N.V.R Officer’s Association, summer 1951 edition.

Middleton, J. (2002, 2003) ‘Encyclopaedia of Hove & Portslade’ Vol.8, (I to L) & Vol.11, (Q to R), Brighton & Hove Libraries

Comments about this page

  • I seem to remember a ship called HMS Curzon at the RNVR. What happened to that one or am I dreaming?

    By David Smart (14/03/2009)
  • No, you are not dreaming. All sea tenders to the Sussex RNR were re-named CURZON when attached to the Division. One was lost after a collision during a period of sea-training.

    By Doug Valeriani (04/09/2009)
  • HMS Curzon, (M1136) was a Coastal Minesweeper (later reverted to her original name HMS Fittleton in 1976), was berthed at HMS Sussex. She was one of the “Ton” class Minesweepers and not a sea tender, as stated. She enabled the RNR crews to participate in a number of fleet exercises over the years as part of one of the RN Mine Counter Measures squadrons. (10th MCM IIRC) HMS Fittleton was lost in 1976 when she was in collision with HMS Mermaid during replenishment at sea. A small number of her London Division RNR crew died, including a member of Sussex Division RNR. She was re-floated and salvaged and later was sold for breaking at Sittingbourne.

    By Michael Hearn (05/08/2011)
  • Thank You for detailing the final days of HMS CURZON. Both my father (Lt COM Douglas Davis RNR RTD) and myself spent many a happy day at sea during the late 60s and early 70s. We are both now living in Australia. I’m sure my father would enjoy hearing from anyone who remembers him. He also served at KING ALFRED.

    By Adrian Davis (07/08/2011)
  • I think the bell presented by the Yacht Club was the one fitted to the cruiser as ‘the ship’s bell’ when she was commissioned. I have photographs of it under the flagstaff in the old HQ and on the parade ground at Maxwell’s Wharf (where it still is). The silver bell went first to the Trophy Store and then directly to Chichester. The fact that there were two bells is confusing but I was an Officer in the Division at the time and remember the circumstances. The remarks made during the hand-over referred to the brass bell. Given its history it seems a pity that it still remains hidden at Maxwell Wharf when it should be somewhere in the public domain.

    By prnoel (25/08/2011)
  • Interesting information. I joined HMS Sussex Division in August 1969 and left in 1974 when I emigrated to New Zealand. Another Ex RNR London Divn. rating who left the UK in 1992 advised me of the fate of HMS Curzon (then HMS Fittleton) so on a return to the UK in 2008 I placed in the church at Fittleton a couple of photos, one of HMS Curzon and the other as shown here.. plus my old cap tallies. The is a visitors book there with many entries from Curzon and Sussex members. An interesting website is here.. Best regards to all old Curzon and Sussex members – Martin Cook

    By Martin Cook (04/11/2011)
  • There is also another “Sussex” brass bell in existence, it is hanging at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, so it would appear that three bells co exist. Next time I’m at the club I will photograph the one there and post it

    By L.V.Wardle (24/08/2012)
  • My father Dave Hopping was on Curzon in the late 60s, early 70s and apparently I was the ship’s mascot when I was 3!

    By Claire Wilkins (04/10/2013)
  • I was in the RNV(W)R, H.M.S. 1951/53 Chief Tel Jefferies and Ldg. Tel Nobby Clarke in W/T Office. Anyone about remember those days?

    By Brian Payne (06/01/2016)
  • My father, CPO Bill Russell, served on the Curzon. Am happy to say he is still well at 96. Would love to find out if there are any surviving members of the crew which I could pass on to my father. Thank you.

    By Mick Russell (13/01/2016)
  • My Dad Peter Allwright was a Petty Officer on HMS Curzon in the late 60s/early 70s. I would love to get him back in touch with anyone who was on the minesweeper at the same time.

    By Jayne Allwright (12/07/2017)
  • Dear Tony Dury, do you remember my dad Eric Camps who was an Able Seaman at the Sussex division in Hove? He served from 1962-1967. He went on exercise to Gilbraltar during 1962-1967. I think he may of been on HMS Curzon the minesweeper which went back to its name later HMS Fittleton, which sank on 20th Sepetember 1976 of Texel the Netherlands during exercise with HMS Mermaid. 

    By John Camps (26/02/2018)
  • My father was a member of the RNVR. He joined in the late 50’s with the same rank as he left the Navy. He was CPO Ray (Tom) Walls and “retired” in, I believe, in the mid 70’s. He then worked behind the bar. When I was born he was attached to HMS Bossington (?) so I was always called “Little Miss Bossington”. Unfortunately Dad passed away quite young at 66 in 1983.

    By Jacqui Flood (Walls) (19/04/2019)
  • My brother and I, whilst pupils at the Prebendal School,Chichester, I think in 1951 or early 1952, were asked by the then Rear Admiral Harry Sawbridge,OBE, who lived at Thrigby Hall, near Great Yarmouth, whose Priest -in-Charge, was our father, Samuel Leslie Purches, Rector of the then combined Parishes of Runham,with Mautby, to represent him at the handing over to the Cathedral the bell of the HMS Sussex to the Cathedral, where it was duly hung in the north aisle of the Nave,at the West End. There seems to be some confusion here about various bells, and it would seem that two of them ended up in the Cathedral. The one we were associated with was a ship that was Admiral Sawbridge’s first command, and almost certainly dated from the first War, or before. There was a photo taken, and published in the local press of my brother and I, along with various notables and Cathedral staff, published in the local press at the time, but where that might be is anyone’s guess, maybe the Sussex Records Office. I was about 11, and my brother Michael was 9 at the time.

    By Andrew Purches (21/07/2019)
  • My father Eric Camps able seaman served on HMS Curzon 1962-1968. Took part in exercises in Gibraltar, Hamburg, Tangier, and the Channel Islands. Said he did night
    watches and worked in the engine room.
    Does anyone remember him? Or work along side him on Curzon?

    By John Camps (15/11/2020)
  • My Father, Tony Green was CPO at HMS Sussex, and I have fond memories of open days down at the RNR base as well as Christmas Parties, he sailed in the HMS Curzon (later returning to its original name HMS Fittleton). It was Ton series minesweeper and I remember the sad time when the collision with the HMS Mermaid occurred. After this there was the HMS Kellington (again ‘Ton series minesweeper). I know he had many friends there. He sadly passed away on Thursday 3 June 2021.

    By Caitlin Tobin (05/06/2021)

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