This expression has been in use since the early 19th century and variously means at great speed as in to go like hell’s bells or sometimes used as a mild oath to express surprise. At various times, appendages were added like hell’s bells and buckets of blood (which is thought to be a naval variation) and hell’s bells and cockleshells, which are both from later during the 19th century. In America, hell’s bells and Liberty horses used to be a popular mild oath during the 19th century. The 1940s British expression go like the clappers (of hell) is a more modern development from clappers meaning bell clappers i.e. the bells of hell.