Group locked in the belfry ring out SOS for a rescue

IT WAS campanology's finest hour.

A group who found themselves accidentally locked inside their own church hit on a highly appropriate way of freeing themselves - by ringing out SOS on the church bells.

The 10-strong church group had been discussing local charity work long into the night at St James's, at Badsey, Evesham in Worcestershire, when they realised that they were the only ones left. Sadly, none of them had the keys and a winter night in God's house did not appeal. It was then that they realised the church had a bell tower and with a bit of effort they rang out the Morse code for SOS. A passing Good Samaritan heard their cry for help, and after they signalled with a torch, finally secured their release.

Yvonne Haynes, one of the trapped, said yesterday: "It was really embarrassing. The bell ringers finished their practice and went home, the choir finished its practice and went home too. The duty church locker didn't see us - and just turned the key and went home.

"When I realised what had happened I thought we would be saved by my mobile phone.

"But when I switched it on, it told me that the batteries were too low to work."

The group rang the bell for three short rings, three long rings and a further three short rings - to imitate the SOS dots and dashes signal.

The Vicar of Badsey, Aldington, Offenham and Bretforton, The Rev Dr Adrian Hough, said he heard the bells ringing but was not alarmed.

He said: "It was bell ringing practice that night anyway so when the villagers heard the bells nobody paid any attention to them. This sort of thing doesn't happen very often thank goodness - the last time somebody got locked in the church was 120 years ago."

Mrs Haynes added: "It was very appropriate to use SOS in church - it expands to "Save Our Souls!"