Last June the bell was left in a bag on Swanage Pier in Dorset for a BBC reporter to collect, following an anonymous call.
As reported at the time on Divernet, it appeared that a senior diver’s conscience had been pricked on the centenary of the Mendi sinking.
A note left in a bag with the bell read: “If I handed it in myself it might not go to the rightful place. This needs to be sorted out before I pass away as it could get lost.”
The wreck was rediscovered in 1974 but it was another 35 years before it was given official protection as a war grave.
Many artefacts were removed in that time by divers in what is described as “a common and largely uncontroversial practice” in the recent book about the Mendi “We Die Like Brothers”.
The story of the sinking is still commemorated as a symbol of racial injustice in South Africa, so the handover of the bell has significance. Until now it has been on display in a museum in Southampton.