THE bell from a US Navy ship, sunk off the Isle of Wight the night before Operation Overlord was launched, is to be returned to the American authorities.

The USS Osprey was lost on June 5, 1944, when she hit a mine at around 5pm and sank with the loss of six men.

Now, more than 70 years on, the ship’s bell ­— which has been handed over to Heloise Warner, the acting receiver of wreck at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Southampton ­— is going home.

"We need to remember that while this bell is an important artefact and historically significant in terms of Operation Overlord, it also represents the tragedy of loss," said Heloise.

"It will be a symbolic moment when the bell is returned to US soil."

Families and friends would have grieved the loss of the six service men believed to have perished ­— Lt Van Hamilton, John Medvic, Walter O’Bryan, Emery Parichy, Joseph Vanasky Jr and motor machinist’s mate Whitschell.

The USS Osprey was a Raven-class minesweeper. Commissioned on December 16, 1940, she saw service in North Africa as part of Operation Torch, the Anglo-American invasion of French North Africa, in November 1942.

On April 3, 1944, she travelled to England to be part of Operation Overlord, successfully taking part in sweeping operations off the south west coast.

She is thought to have been the first casualty of D-Day operations when she hit a mine which blew a large hole in the engine room.

A fire broke out and just 45 minutes later, the ship had to be abandoned.

There are thousands of wrecked vessels and aircraft around the UK coast and many are protected sites.

Any recovered wreck material must be reported to the receiver of wreck.

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