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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 08:34 GMT
Sea surrenders ring 89 years on
By Alex Moss
BBC News, Leeds

Stanley Cubiss and Florence Cubiss nee Foster
Stanley and Florence married in June 1917
When Stanley Cubiss perished on board a naval warship the sea swallowed up hope of a future together with his sweetheart Florence.

But 89 years later, a symbol of their love has been found buried at the bottom of the sea.

The engraved engagement ring was very nearly lost forever but it has now been returned to the sailor's family in North Yorkshire in almost perfect condition.

The gold band was found by amateur diver Peter Brady, 51, who spotted the ring during a routine dive around the wreck of HMS Opal, off the coast of the Orkney Islands.

At first he thought it was a piece of the ship's machinery, but on closer inspection a loving inscription was revealed with the words "To Stanley from Flo, 6 March 1916".

Mr Cubiss, 25, worked in the engine room when he drowned as HMS Opal, along with HMS Narborough, ran aground in a snowstorm on 12 January, 1918. He was one of 188 men who perished in the disaster. He had married his sweetheart Florence in June 1917.

The engagement ring found at the bottom of the sea
The gold band was found in almost perfect condition

Keen to hand the ring over to either Stanley or Florence's descendants, Mr Brady and his diving partner Bob Hamilton began a bid to trace surviving family.

Mr Hamilton, 61, said: "We've dived the site several times but have never found any significant wreckage.

"When we realised Peter had found something of such a personal nature we knew we had to try and return it to the family."

'Touching' phone call

Having found the ship's casualty list on the internet and with information from the 1901 census, the divers, with the help of Mr Hamilton's wife Sue, placed Mr Cubiss' parents in Yorkshire.

They also discovered that following her husband's death, Florence had remarried.

From there, a trawl of the telephone directory revealed a listing for a JM Cubiss in York.

Mr Hamilton said it was with "a degree of trepidation" that he decided to call and see if he had any connection with Stanley's family.

HMS OPAL
HMS Opal pic courtesy of Imperial War Museum
Constructed at Sunderland in 1915
An Admiralty M class destroyer
Ran aground 12 January, 1918, while on patrol hunting German warships suspected to be laying mines off the Scottish coast
The ship was found two days later battered and broken on the Clett of Crura, in Orkney

"My first words were 'Please listen, this is not a funny phone call, but I'm part of a group of divers who dive around the Orkney Islands and we've recently been diving on the site of British destroyers'.

"As I soon as I had said those words, he interrupted and said, 'The Opal'."

The man turned out to be Mr Cubiss' nephew Malcolm, a retired brigadier.

"It was a very touching phone call and my eyes filled up. I had a lump in my throat and I had to take a minute to collect myself," Mr Hamilton said.

"I remember thinking how unbelievable it was that we had managed to trace this man's family."

'More than coincidence'

The divers, who live in Liverpool, visited Mr Cubiss at his home where he expressed the wish that the ring, and some items of his uncle's which were already in his possession, be donated to a naval museum in Orkney.

Mr Cubiss said: "Buried in the sea and then found after all these years, it's amazing. It's fitting that the ring is kept in a museum so people can remember the events of that night."

The divers are now hoping to arrange a handing over ceremony of the ring to the museum to ensure its safekeeping.

Mr Hamilton said: "The million-to-one chance of finding the ring and the ease with which we were able to trace the family has seemed at times to be a little eerie - more than just coincidence.

"We now want to make sure the ring is given its rightful place in history."



SEE ALSO
Clean-up for historic shipwreck
04 Sep 06 |  North East/N Isles
Dive bids to solve wreck mystery
26 Jun 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Divers flock to scuttled warship
22 Jun 04 |  Cornwall
Wartime shipwrecks are surveyed
23 Nov 07 |  Scotland

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