Royal Navy visit to Bleik in 1972

In June 1972 a Royal Navy Minesweeper, HMS Laleston commanded by Lt-Commander Alan Padwick, visited Andenes on the island of Andoya in order to attend the dedication of a new Bell Tower in which would be hung the bell from the Vandyck.  It is believed that the bell was recovered by local fishermen in the days following the abandonment of the Van Dyck (the ship had remained afloat but burning for several days).

This page contains articles and photographs of the event.  Click on each image for a larger one.

As reported in the Andennes Congregation newsletter.
A translation provided by Alan Padwick, Commanding Officer of HMS Laleston

"British Navy visit casts a festival air over a church day full of rich memories in Bleik.

The planned bell tower in Bleik should be raised and dedicated Sunday  11 June (1972). The ships bell from the British troop transport "Van Dyck" will be used as the church bell. This was saved from the ship during its sinking off Andoya on 10 June 1940. The 160 soldiers who were onboard reached land at Stave, Bleik and Andenes - the greatest number arrived onshore at Bleik. It was here that 5 of the dead were buried in the churchyard until after the war in 1945 they were disinterred and reburied in the British war cemetery in Narvik. The survivors were cared for by the civil population for several days before the Germans came and conducted them to captivity in Germany. At the invitation of two men in Bleik the British Navy decided that a visit could be made in connection with the dedication of the bell tower. This led to the minesweeper HMS Laleston with a crew of about 50 onboard berthing in Andenes in order to visit Bleik and give honour and thanks for the help given in the June days of 1940.

On Saturday the ship's captain presented a memorial brass plaque on which was engraved a recollection of the help efforts in 1940. The British Navy offered thanks and acknowledgment to those who, in danger to their own lives and their own safety, opened their homes and took part in the effort to offer aid.  The memorial plaque was received by Ole Vestfjord on behalf of the many fishermen from Bleik who took part in 1940.

On Sunday a number of the visitors took part in the church service which was conducted in both Norwegian and English. The ship's captain read one of the days texts from his English bible and the whole service was translated into English by the people. Erling Norheim opened the celebrations on Sunday with a short speech to the several hundred people who had gathered at the tower on Sunday morning. He emphasised the bond that has been created between the Norwegians and the British and passed to the youngest member of Laleston's crew the duty of ringing the bell for the first time. Norheim also emphasised that the tower with its cross on the top, can be a good ....."  
Andennes Congregation newsletter

To the Right:

 Erling Norheim opens the solemnities with a speech directed to the ship’s captain and the people of Bleik.  The British Navy sailor rings the bell for the first time.

 - then the bell chimes for the church service and calls for a solemn and holy gathering for God’s word.


Continued from page 16

…focal point.  After that, the bell rang while the people gathered for a church service in the interim chapel in the Health Centre, as far as places allowed.  About 150 people found seats inside and many were gathered outside, where they followed the service over loud speakers.

The Parish Priest, in his sermon, directed thanks to the British Navy, the company, which owned the ship in 1940 and the men of Bleik, who had saved the bell and looked after it.  It had become the church bell and found a fine new function.  He accepted that it will be a memorial bell three times over:  It will recall memories of dark years in the history of the west – when it demanded sacrifice and the lives of people to win through to freedom.  It will also serve as a reminder that no freedom or happiness in people’s lives can be preserved without effort and struggle for the good.  Finally, it can remind of eternity; our life’s clock will strike its last stroke one day and no-one knows the departure time.  But a pilot will be found for the coasts of eternity and a lighthouse, which is Jesus and his word.

After the service, church coffee was served in the school.  Community singing and the coffee brought everyone together and underlined brotherhood in spite of differences in language.

Photo: S Pettersen

                          Tower Ceremony

HMS Laleston presentation.jpg

Navy News
The bell tower eventually fell down, and the bell was relocated to the side of the church meeting house.  The photo opposite was taken in 2013 by Alan Padwick on his return visit.

Bell detail here


In the heat of the fire on Vandyck some coins on the deck were welded together.  Click image opposite for more pictures.
Welded coins

More information can be found here on the website of the Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers' Assciation Archive.
Thanks to Alan Padwick for photos and information.

Page updated 22nd August 2017.