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British Battlecruiser HMS Hood circa 1932.jpg
Career (United Kingdom) RN Ensign
Name: HMS Hood
Ordered: 7 April 1916
Builder: John Brown & Company
Laid down: 1 September 1916
Launched: 22 August 1918
Commissioned: 15 May 1920
In service: 1920–1941
Fate: Sunk in combat with Bismarck during the Battle of the Denmark Strait on 24 May 1941 at 63°22′N 32°00′W / 63.367°N 32°W / 63.367; -32[1]
General characteristics
Class and type: Admiral-class battlecruiser
Displacement: 46,680 long tons (47,430 t) full load
Length: 860 ft 7 in (262.31 m)
Beam: 104 ft 2 in (31.75 m)
Draught: 32 ft 0 in (9.75 m)
Installed power: 144,000 shp (107,381 kW)
Propulsion: 4 shafts, Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines
24 Yarrow water-tube boilers
Speed: 1920: 31 knots (57 km/h);
1941: 29 knots (54 km/h)
Range: 1931: 5,332 nmi (10,000 km)
  at 20 knots (37 km/h)
Complement: 1921: 1,169;
1941: 1,418
Armament:

(As built):
4 × 2 - BL 15-inch (381 mm) Mk I guns
12 × 1 - BL 5.5-inch (140 mm) Mk I guns
4 × 1 - QF 4-inch (102 mm) Mark V anti-aircraft guns
6 × 21-inch (533 mm) Mark IV torpedo tubes
1941, as sunk:
4 × 2 - 15-inch (381 mm)
7 × 2 - QF 4-inch (102 mm) Mk XVI AA guns
3 × 8 - QF 2-pdr "pom pom" (40 mm) AA guns
5 × 4 - 0.5-inch (12.7 mm) Vickers machine guns
5 × 20 barrel "Unrotated Projectile" mounts

4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes, above water
Armour: Belt: 12–6 in (305–152 mm)
Deck: .75–3 in (19–76 mm)
Barbettes: 12–5 in (305–127 mm)
Turrets: 15–11 in (381–279 mm)
Conning tower: 11–9 in (279–229 mm)
Bulkheads: 4–5 in (102–127 mm)
Aircraft carried: 1 fitted from 1931–1932,
1 catapult
Notes: Badge: A crow bearing an anchor facing left over the date 1859
Motto:Ventis Secundis (Latin: "With Favourable Winds")
Pennant number: 51

HMS Hood (pennant number 51) was a battlecruiser of the Royal Navy, and considered the pride of the Royal Navy in the interwar period and during the early period of World War II. Hood had served in the Royal Navy for over two decades before her sinking in combat with the German battleship Bismarck at the Battle of Denmark Strait on 24 May 1941.[2][3][4]

She was one of four Admiral class battlecruisers ordered in mid-1916 under the Emergency War Programme. After being laid down, her design was drastically revised after the Battle of Jutland, however the revised design still had serious limitations. For this reason, and because of evidence that the German battlecruisers that they were designed to counter were unlikely to be completed, work on her sister ships was suspended in 1917, leaving Hood as Britain's last completed battlecruiser. She was named after the 18th-century Admiral Samuel Hood.

Contents

History

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Construction

Construction of Hood began at the John Brown & Company shipyards in Clydebank, Scotland, on 1 September 1916. Following the loss of three British battlecruisers at the Battle of Jutland, 5,000 tons of extra armour and bracing was added to Hood's design.[citation needed] The intention behind this change was to give her protection against 15 inch (381 mm) guns, such as her own—in theory moving her to the status of a true fast battleship (see below).[5]

However, the reworking was hurried and incomplete and hence flawed.[citation needed] Only the forward cordite magazines were moved below the shell rooms—cordite explosions had destroyed the Royal Navy battlecruisers lost at Jutland. The combination of the deck and side-armour did not provide continuous protection against shells arriving at all angles.[citation needed] Most seriously, the deck protection was flawed—spread over three decks, it was designed to detonate an incoming shell on impact with the top deck, with much of the energy being absorbed as the exploding shell had to penetrate the armour of the next two decks. The development of effective time delay shells at the end of World War I made this scheme much less effective, as the intact shell would penetrate layers of weak armour and explode deep inside the ship. In addition, she was grossly overweight compared to her original design, making her a wet ship with a highly stressed structure.[5] It was seriously suggested that she should be scrapped before she was launched; however, the post-war economy drive made replacing her impossible.

Construction on her sister ships Anson, Howe, and Rodney was stopped in March 1917, although work continued on Hood. Two factors were at work regarding this decision. Firstly, the German battlecruisers to which the Admiral-class were a response were never completed. Secondly, the flaws in her protection and design were apparent: the repeated redesigns of the sister ships did not solve them. Instead, a series of studies leading to the N3 battleship and G3 battlecruiser designs was started.

She was launched on 22 August 1918 by the widow of Rear-Admiral Sir Horace Hood, a great-great-grandson of the famous Lord Hood for whom the ship was named and who was killed while commanding the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron and flying his flag in HMS Invincible—one of the three battlecruisers which blew-up at the Battle of Jutland. After fitting out and trials, she was commissioned on 15 May 1920, under Captain Wilfred Tomkinson, C.B. and became flagship of the British Atlantic Fleet's Battle Cruiser Squadron. She had cost £6,025,000 to build.[6] With her conspicuous twin funnels and lean profile, Hood was widely considered a very graceful warship.

Battlecruiser or Fast Battleship

Although the Royal Navy always designated Hood as a battlecruiser, some modern writers such as Anthony Preston have characterised her as a fast battleship, since the Hood appeared to have improvements over the revolutionary Queen Elizabeth-class battleships. On paper, the Hood retained the same armament and level of protection, while being significantly faster.[5][7] Around 1918, the US naval staff in Great Britain became extremely impressed by the Hood which was described as a "fast battleship", so they advocated that the USN should develop a fast battleship of its own. Ending up, the US continued with their existing designs, the well-protected slow battleship South Dakota-class and the fast, lightly armoured Lexington class battlecruisers.[8] However, influences from Hood showed on the Lexingtons with the reducing of the main armour belt, the change to "sloped armour", and the addition of four abovewater torpedo tubes that were added to the four underwater tubes that had been included in the original design.[9]

To add to the confusion, Royal Navy documents of the period often describe any battleship with a speed of over about 24 knots (44 km/h) as a battlecruiser, regardless of the amount of protective armour. For instance, the never-built G3 battlecruiser was classified as such though it would have been more of a fast battleship than the Hood.[10][11]

On the other hand, the scale of Hood's protection, though adequate for the Jutland era, was at best marginal against the new generation of 16-inch (406 mm) gunned capital ships that emerged soon after her completion in 1920, typified by the US Colorado and the Japanese Nagato battleship classes. The Royal Navy were fully aware that the Hood's protection flaws still remained, even in her revised design, so Hood was intended for the duties of a battlecruiser and she served in the battlecruiser squadrons throughout most of her career.[5]

Late in her career, the Hood was clearly outclassed by the armour/protective arrangement of WWII-era true fast battleships. However, in sending the Hood against the modern German battleship Bismarck in 1941, the Admiralty did so because of their few "big gun" vessels available, and likely also because of the reputation and legend of the "Mighty Hood".[5]

Classification as a battlecruiser notwithstanding, Hood was the largest warship of any kind in the world at her commissioning and held the title until the German Bismarck entered service in 1940. Hood was the largest vessel ever to serve in the Royal Navy until the battleship HMS Vanguard, which was not commissioned until 1946. Hood was the longest warship until the commissioning of the Japanese battleship Yamato in 1941; Hood is currently the longest warship that ever served in the Royal Navy, which would finally be surpassed by the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers which are expected to enter service in 2014 at the earliest.

Principal characteristics

Protection

Hood's protection accounted for 33% of her displacement; a high proportion by British standards, although less than was usual in contemporary German designs (for example, 36% for the battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg).[12]

The armoured belt consisted of face-hardened armour (Krupp cemented or KC), arranged as follows:

  • Main belt: 12 in (305 mm) between A and Y barbettes; forward extension 5 to 6 in (127 to 152 mm); aft extension 6 in (152 mm);
  • Middle belt: 7 in (178 mm) between A and Y barbettes; forward extension 5 in (127 mm);
  • Upper belt: 5 in (127 mm) amidships, extending forward to A barbette, with a short 4 in (102 mm) extension aft.

All sections of the belt were angled outwards by 10  degrees, increasing the effective armour thickness by causing incoming shells to strike at a less favourable angle for penetration.

The deck protection was constructed from high tensile (HT) steel, arranged as follows:

  • Forecastle deck: 1.75 to 2 in (44 to 51 mm);
  • Upper deck: 2 in (51 mm) over magazines; 0.75 in (19 mm) elsewhere;
  • Main deck: 3 in (76 mm) over magazines; 1 in (25 mm) elsewhere; plus 2 in (51 mm) slope meeting bottom of main belt;
  • Lower deck (forward and aft): 3 in (76 mm) over propeller shafts; 2 in (51 mm) magazine crowns; 1 in (25 mm) elsewhere.

The 3 in (76 mm) plating on the main deck was added at a very late stage of construction, after live firing trials with the new 15 in APC (armour-piercing, capped) shell in the autumn of 1919 showed that this shell could penetrate the ship's vitals via the 7 in (178 mm) middle belt and the 2 in (51 mm) slope of the main deck. Further trials showed that the additional plating was just adequate to defeat this threat.[13] It was apparently proposed to extend the new plating to the whole of the upper deck, removing the conning tower, torpedo tubes and four 5.5 in guns as weight compensation; in the event, only the areas above the magazines were reinforced. As completed, Hood remained susceptible to plunging (high-trajectory) fire and bombs, and had no margin of protection against the next generation of heavy guns.

The main armament turrets had a frontal armour thickness of 15 in (381 mm), side-armour of 11 to 12 in (280 to 305 mm) and a roof of 5 in (127 mm). For protection against torpedoes she was given an "anti-torpedo bulge", an air-filled space backed by an inner reinforced wall. It was a new and effective solution for World War I ships and a common solution to counteract the weight increases that would be otherwise needed for ships built between the two World Wars.

Weapons

Profile drawing of Hood as she was in 1921, in Atlantic Fleet dark grey.

Main armament

Hood was fitted with the BL 15 inch Mark I (381 mm) /42 gun of 1912. This was the then standard weapon of British capital ships and was already mounted on the Queen Elizabeth-class, Revenge-class, Renown-class and other ships. Hood was the first, and in the event the only ship to carry these guns in the Mark II twin mounting.[14] The gunhouse for this mounting was larger than the previous mounting, with a flatter roof (less vulnerable to incoming fire) and allowing an extra 10 degrees of positive elevation (−5 to +30 degrees) over the original Mark I mounting.[citation needed]

As completed, Hood's provision of 15 inch (381 mm) ammunition, nominally 120 rounds per gun, was made up as follows:

  • 289 Common Pointed Capped shells (CPC), weight 1,920 lb (871 kg)
  • 672 Armour-Piercing Capped (APC), weight 1,920 lb (871 kg)
  • 30 shrapnel (forward turrets only), weight 1,920 lb (871 kg)
  • 82 practice rounds.

APC shells were designed for maximum armour penetration, with a relatively small bursting charge; CPC was a general-purpose round for use against cruisers and destroyers. The APC round had an extreme range of 29,000 yards (26,500 m) at 30 degrees elevation, and its armour penetration at 19,700 yards (18,000 m) was equivalent to 11 inches (279 mm) at normal (90-degree) impact.

After her 1929–1931 refit, Hood carried 160 CPC (TNT burster), 640 APC (Shellite burster), 48 shrapnel and 96 practice rounds. A new 15 inch (381 mm) APC round, with improved ballistic shape, was introduced in 1938, but Hood was lost before she could receive the necessary modifications to embark this round.[15]

Secondary armament

The secondary (low angle) guns were BL 5.5 inch Mark I (140 mm) guns which were 50 calibres long. These weapons were designed in 1913 for two modified Town-class cruisers being built for the Greek Navy. This gun was 13 cwt (660 kg) lighter than the standard BL 6 inch Mark XII gun and fired a projectile 15 lb (6.8 kg) lighter and therefore easier to handle, allowing for a higher rate of fire. The Greek ships were completed for the Royal Navy as HMS Birkenhead and Chester, introducing this weapon into British service. They were shipped on shielded CP Mark II single mounts capable of elevating from −5 to +30 degrees, and fired 82 lb (37 kg) shells at a rate of 6 to 10 rounds per minute. The muzzle velocity was 2,725 ft/s (830 m/s), giving an effective range of 17,770 yards (16.2 km). The high position of the mountings along the upper deck and the forward shelter deck allowed them to be worked in a seaway, less obstructed by waves and spray compared with casemate mounts of earlier British battleships and battlecruisers.

These guns were removed during the Hood's refit in 1940, after which their magazines were used for 4 inch (102 mm) anti-aircraft ammunition.[citation needed]

Two of these 5.5 inchs guns, removed in the 1940 refit, where remounted as coastal defense guns on the hill overlooking Georgetown, Ascension Island (circa 7°55'43.88"S 14°24'19.53"W).[citation needed]

Anti-aircraft armament

Hood's original anti-aircraft armament consisted of four QF 4 inch (102 mm) Mark V guns on mountings HA Mark III. These were joined in 1937 by four twin mountings HA/LA Mark XIX for the 1934 model QF 4 inch L/45 Mark XVI gun and the single guns were replaced with a further three Mark XIX mountings in 1940. The mounting could elevate from −10 to +80 degrees able to engage both aircraft and vessels. This gun fired a 31 lb (15 kg) shell at 2,660 ft/s (811 m/s) for an effective range of 18,150 yd (16.6 km). In 1931 a pair of octuple mountings Mark VIII for the QF 2 pounder Mark VIII (40 mm) gun were added, a third mount being added in 1937. Two quadruple mountings Mark I for the 0.5 inch Vickers Mark III (12.7 mm) machine gun were added in 1933 with a further two mountings added in 1937. To these were added 5 Unrotated Projectile (UP) launchers&mdash each launcher carrying 20 3 inch (76 mm) rockets. When they detonated the rockets shot out lengths of cables that were kept aloft by parachutes - the cable was intended to snag aircraft.

Torpedo armament

Two 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes were mounted amidships on either side, augmented with 4 more in 1940, reminders of shorter range engagements expected during the Great War.[citation needed]

Aircraft and boats

Hood carried aircraft for part of her service life. She embarked a flight of seaplanes, initially Fairey Flycatchers, then Fairey F3 Fs from 1929 to 1933. At first there were flying-off platforms fitted to "B" and "X" turrets so that wheeled aircraft could be launched from the ship, but these were soon removed as floatplanes became more reliable. A rotatable catapult was installed at the very rear (quarterdeck) of the ship along with a crane for recovery of the plane in 1929, but it was frequently awash when under way and was removed in 1932.

As befitted a vessel her size, Hood carried a large number of small boats, both sailing boats (a 42 ft (12.8 m) launch, 36 ft (11 m) sailing pinnace, 32 ft (9.8 m) cutter, 30 ft (9.1 m) gig, 27 ft (8.2 m) whaler and a 16 ft (4.9 m) dinghy) and powered boats (50 ft (15.2 m) steam pinnace, 45 ft (13.7 m) steam pinnace, 45 ft (13.7 m) and 35 ft (10.7 m) Admiral's barges, 45 ft (13.7 m) motor launch, 35 ft (10.7 m) and 25 ft (7.6 m) motor- and "fast" motor- boats of hard chine construction and a 16 ft (4.9 m) motor dinghy)

Inter-war service

In the inter-war years she was the largest warship in the world at a time when the British public felt a close affinity with the Royal Navy. Her name and general characteristics were familiar to most of the public, and she was popularly known as the Mighty Hood. Because of her fame, she spent a great deal of time on cruises and "flying the flag" visits to other countries. In particular she took part in a world-wide cruise between November 1923 and September 1924 in company with HMS Repulse and several smaller ships. This was known as the Cruise of the Special Service Squadron, and it was estimated that 750,000 people visited Hood during that cruise. The future First Sea Lord John H. D. Cunningham served aboard her as navigator for a period in 1920. In 1931 her crew took part in the Invergordon Mutiny.

Future enemies at peace. HMS Hood (background) HMS Resolution (centre) and the German Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee (foreground), anchored at Portsmouth for King George VI's birthday, May 1937.

She was given a major refit from 17 May 1929 to 16 June 1930, and was due to be modernised in 1941 to bring her up to a standard similar to that of other modernised World War I-era capital ships.

Her near-constant active service, resulting from her status as the Royal Navy's most battleworthy fast capital ship, meant that her material condition gradually deteriorated, and by the end of the 1930s she was in poor condition and in need of refitting. The outbreak of World War II made it impossible to remove her from service, and as a consequence she never received the scheduled reconstruction afforded to other RN capital ships such as Renown and several of the Queen Elizabeth-class battleships. Her condition meant, among other things, that she was unable to attain her top designed speed.

World War II

Hood was transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet in July 1936. In June 1939, she joined the Home Fleet’s Battle Cruiser Squadron at Scapa Flow; when war broke out later that year, she was employed principally in patrolling the vicinity of Iceland and the Faroe Islands to protect convoys and intercept German raiders attempting to break out into the Atlantic. In September 1939, she was hit by a 250 kg (550 lb) aircraft bomb with minor damage.

Operation Catapult

As the flagship of Force H, she took part in the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir in July 1940. On 2 July, just seven days after the French surrender, the British Admiralty issued instructions to the French Fleet at Oran to ensure they would not fall into German or Italian hands. The terms were rejected and the Royal Navy began an operation to destroy the French naval forces.

At 17:55 Hood opened fire for the first time in a hostile act. As the French were exiting the harbour, Hood's second salvo struck the French battleship Bretagne. The ship later exploded after receiving nine 15-inch shell hits in eleven minutes. Hood was straddled during the engagement and shell splinters wounded two men. Hood fired 56 rounds of 15 inch shells during the thirty minute action.[16]

Hood, then under the command of Captain C.S Holland, gave chase to the fleeing French battleship Strasbourg. Holland gave up the chase after ninety minutes because he perceived that a night pursuit would be dangerous as other French forces might come to assist Strasbourg, Hood was low on fuel and Holland was concerned about Italian submarine threats.[17] Hood withdrew from the Mediterranean on 8 July, and as she did so, came under attack from Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 bombers. Hood was not hit and its anti-aircraft batteries claimed to have shot down one of the SM.79s.[18]

Return to home waters

In August Hood returned to Scapa Flow as the Battle of Britain was now at its height and Britain was in danger of invasion. On 13 September, she was sent to Rosyth along with Nelson and Rodney, to be in a better position to intercept an invasion fleet[19]. Thereafter, Hood rejoined the Battle Cruiser Squadron and resumed patrolling against German raiders. Twice Hood was dispatched against enemy warships. On 28 October she sailed to intercept the "pocket battleship" Admiral Scheer and heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper on 24 December, Hood failed to find either ship. From 13 January to 18 March 1941 she underwent a refit at Rosyth; even after the refit she was still in poor condition, but the threat from the German capital ships was such that she could not be taken into dock for a major overhaul until more of the King George V-class battleships came into service.

Battle of the Denmark Strait

When the German battleship Bismarck sailed for the Atlantic in May 1941, Hood was sent out in pursuit commanded by Flag Captain Ralph Kerr, C.B.E. and flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Lancelot Holland, together with the newly-commissioned Prince of Wales, to intercept the German ships before they could break into the Atlantic and attack Allied convoys. Holland’s ships caught up with Bismarck and her consort, the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, in the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland on 24 May.

Last picture of Hood as a fighting unit, sailing toward her rendezvous with the Bismarck. In the foreground Prince of Wales has her 'A' and 'B' turrets turned away from the fore-and-aft line in order to prevent water ingress.
Prince of Wales turning to avoid the sinking Hood.
The death of HMS Hood; a smoke cloud fills the sky above Hood's position, just after the ship exploded

During the subsequent Battle of the Denmark Strait on 24 May 1941, Hood suffered a series of events which culminated in her destruction. Vice-Admiral Holland, flying his flag in Hood, had intended to approach Bismarck and Prinz Eugen from a converging, head-on course. This plan carried several crucial advantages. Above all others it would have allowed Hood with Prince of Wales to close the range to the Germans at a combined speed of roughly 50 knots. This would have greatly reduced the time that Hood's poorly armoured decks would have been exposed to plunging shell fire from Bismarck's main armament, exposing her broadside only (Hood's side-armour gave sufficient protection). The Admiralty was well aware of the frailties of Hood's deck-armour.[20] It also meant that Hood would have met the German squadron just after sunset (roughly 02:00 so far north in May) and benefit from approaching from darkness catching the Germans silhouetted against the afterglow of sunset. A further advantage was that this would not only catch the Germans by surprise, as Holland's squadron would be approaching from the south, but also would allow a night-time clash. The Royal Navy of that time was highly skilled in night-actions, it having been a training obsession of the inter-war years following the escape of the German High Seas Fleet during the night of the Battle of Jutland. It would also seem that Holland intended Frederic Wake-Walker (flying his flag in Norfolk) to engage the German squadron separately, in addition to Holland's attending destroyers, thus allowing a possibly vital distraction. As it was Holland never signalled this intent, fearing that any such communication might betray his presence.

However the two radar-equipped heavy cruisers HMS Suffolk and Norfolk that had been tracking Bismarck and Prinz Eugen since 19:15 on the 23 May, lost contact with Bismarck at around midnight until 02:47 on 24 May.[21] During this period, at no more than 10 miles range, the German squadron passed the British and Holland's plan was undone. This was to have dire consequences.

When contact was regained, Holland had little choice but to chase after the German squadron. Furthermore, Holland had disengaged his destroyers during the loss of contact so as to allow a search for the Germans; the destroyers did not subsequently arrive at the battle until too late to do anything but render assistance to survivors. When the two rivals met shortly before 06:00 the Hood was now approaching Bismarck sailing in the same direction on a more or less parallel course, greatly increasing the period in which her weak decks would be exposed to the plunging shellfire of Bismarck. Holland was reluctant to "aim his bow" directly at the German ships to reduce range, as it would allow the Bismarck and her consort to fire a full broadside, whilst Holland would only be able to use Hood's forward turrets.[22] Controversially, Holland chose to lead his squadron with Hood in the van rather than allowing Prince of Wales to be lead ship and therefore take the brunt of the Germans plunging gunfire on her much more substantially armoured decks.

Due to the loss of contact the previous night Hood and Prince of Wales were now approaching from such an angle that only their two forward gun turrets could engage the enemy, as their own superstructure masked their aft-turrets. Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were able to bring all of their guns to bear when the engagement began.

By 05.45 the opposing battle groups had sighted each other. Admiral Lütjens was faced with a dilemma aboard Bismarck. His orders were to engage enemy commerce, not enemy warships let alone capital ships. Bismarck could outrun the British heavy units, but with the ice edge close by and enemy cruisers on his starboard quarter, he had little alternative but to engage in battle.[23]

Admiral Holland ordered his force to open fire at 05:49. Initially Hood engaged Prinz Eugen instead of Bismarck (the ships having similar silhouettes), a mistake not realised until Hood fired the first salvo of the engagement at 05:52:30 at a range of approximately 12.5 miles (25,330 yards or 23,150 m). Hood's shells landed very close to Prinz Eugen causing minor shell splinter damage.[24] Hood continued to race toward the German ships in an attempt to close the range and reduce the time Hood's decks were exposed to plunging fire. The German ships quickly found the range to Hood and she was hit first by an 8 inch (203mm) shell from Prinz Eugen on the boat deck which ignited 4 inch (102 mm) ammunition and UP rockets, causing a fire to burn out of control endangering the ship. Shortly afterwards Prinz Eugen shifted her aim to Prince of Wales following a semaphore order from Bismarck.[25] At 05:55 Holland ordered "2 blue", a 20 degree turn to port, to enable Hood to bring her aft turrets to bear on Bismarck.[26]

At about 06:00 (06:01 in German reckoning), as Hood was turning, she was struck by one or more shells from Bismarck's fifth salvo, fired from a range of 15 to 18 km (about 8 to 9.5 nautical miles).[27] Almost immediately, a huge jet of flame burst out of Hood from the vicinity of the mainmast.[28] This was followed by a devastating explosion that destroyed the after part of the ship. Hood's stern rose and sank rapidly, then her bow section reared up in the sea and sank. Its forward turret fired one last salvo, possibly from the doomed gun crew, just before the bow section sank.[29] Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, had sunk in 3 minutes. From Hood's first salvo to her disappearance beneath the waves, only eleven minutes had passed.

Of the 1,418 crew, only three men (Ted Briggs (1923–2008), Robert Ernest Tilburn (1921–1995) and William John Dundas (1921–1965) survived;[30] they were rescued about two and a half hours after the sinking by the destroyer HMS Electra. Memorials to the those who died are spread widely around the UK, and some of the crew are memorialised in different locations. One such casualty, George David Spinner,[31] is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval memorial[32], the Hood Chapel at the Church of St John the Baptist, in Boldre in Hampshire, and also upon the gravestone of his brother, who died whilst serving in the RAF in 1942, in the Hamilton Road Cemetery, Deal, Kent.

The dramatic loss of such a well-known symbol of British naval power had a great effect on many people; some later remembered the news as the most shocking of World War II. Following the loss of Hood, the Royal Navy concentrated all available resources in pursuit of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen; although Prinz Eugen escaped, Bismarck was sunk under disputed circumstances after being brought to battle again on the morning of 27 May 1941.

Aftermath of the sinking: The Boards of Enquiry

The official Admiralty communiqué on the loss, broadcast on the day of the sinking, reported that: "during the … action, HMS Hood … received an unlucky hit in a magazine and blew up."[33]

The first formal Board of Enquiry into the loss, presided over by Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake, reported on 2 June (less than a fortnight after the loss). It endorsed this opinion, stating that:

(c) (The) probable cause of the loss of HMS Hood was direct penetration of the protection by one or more 15 inch shells at a range of 16,500 yards [15 km], resulting in the explosion of one or more of the after magazines.[34]

However, the conduct of the enquiry became subject to criticism, primarily because no verbatim record of witness' testimony had been kept. Moreover, Sir Stanley Goodall, the Director of Naval Construction (DNC), had come forward with an alternative theory, that the Hood had been destroyed by the explosion of her own torpedoes. As a result, a second Board was convened (under Rear-Admiral Sir Harold Walker), reporting in September 1941.[35] This investigation was “much more thorough than was the first, taking evidence from a total of 176 eyewitnesses to the disaster”,[36] and examined both Goodall’s theory and others (see below). The Board came to a conclusion almost identical to that of the first board, expressed as follows.

That the sinking of Hood was due to a hit from Bismarck's 15 inch shell in or adjacent to Hood's 4 inch or 15 inch magazines, causing them all to explode and wreck the after part of the ship. The probability is that the 4 inch magazines exploded first.

The same two board of Inquiry exonerated Vice-Admiral Holland from any blame regarding the loss of Hood.[37]

Modern theories on the sinking

The exact cause of the loss of HMS Hood remains a subject of debate. The principal theories include the following causes:

A sketch prepared by Captain JC Leach (commanding HMS Prince of Wales) for the 2nd Board of Enquiry, 1941. The sketch represents the column of smoke or flame that erupted from the vicinity of the mainmast immediately before a huge detonation which obliterated from view the after part of the ship. This phenomenon is believed to have been the result of a cordite fire venting through the engine-room ventilators (see article).
  • A direct hit from a shell penetrated to a magazine aft. Such a shell could only have come from the Bismarck, since the Prinz Eugen was no longer firing at the Hood at the time of the explosion. As noted above, this version of events was almost taken for granted at the time of the sinking. Doubt first arose as a result of eyewitness testimony that the explosion that destroyed Hood originated near the mainmast, well forward of the aft magazines (for example the sketch, reproduced here, prepared for the second board of enquiry by Captain Leach of Prince of Wales). At the second Board, expert witnesses suggested that what was observed was the venting, through the engine-room ventilators, of a violent—but not instantaneous—explosion or deflagration in the 4 inch (102 mm) magazines. The same deflagration would have collapsed the bulkhead separating the 4 inch and 15 inch (102 and 381 mm) magazines, resulting very quickly in a catastrophic explosion similar to those previously witnessed at Jutland.[38] This theory was ultimately adopted by the Board.
  • A shell, falling short and travelling underwater, struck below the armoured belt and penetrated to a magazine. During the same action, the Prince of Wales received a hit of this type from a 38 cm (c.15 in) shell, which travelled underwater for about 80 feet (25 m), struck about 28 feet (8 m) below the waterline, penetrated several light bulkheads and fetched up, without exploding, against the torpedo bulkhead. The second Board considered this theory improbable, arguing that the fuse, had it worked at all, would have detonated the shell before it reached the ship.
  • The ship was destroyed by the explosion of her own torpedoes. According to Goodall’s theory, the ship's torpedoes could have been detonated either by the fire raging on the boat deck or, more probably, by a direct hit from Bismarck. This would have blown out the side of the ship, destroying the girder strength of the hull; the force of water entering the hole, at a speed of nearly 30 knots, would then shear the stern section from the rest of the hull.
  • The fire on the boat deck penetrated to a magazine. Evidence given to the second Board indicated that the doors for the 4 inch (102 mm) ammunition supply trucks were closed throughout the action. It remains possible that a door or trunk could have been opened up by an enemy shell, admitting flames to the magazine. Alternative routes for admission of flame could have been the ventilation or venting arrangements of the magazines or, as Ted Briggs suggested, through the floor of a 15 inch (381 mm) gunhouse.
  • The explosion was initiated by 4 inch (102 mm) ammunition stored outside the magazines. Writing in 1979, the naval historian Antony Preston claimed that the after magazines of Hood were "surrounded by additional 4 in (102 mm) anti-aircraft outside the armoured barbettes (sic)".[39] Such unprotected stowage could have been detonated either by the boat-deck fire or by a shell from Bismarck.
  • The ship was blown up by her own guns. At the second board, eyewitnesses reported unusual types of discharge from the 15 inch (381 mm) guns of Hood, suggesting that a shell could have detonated within the gun, causing an explosion within the gunhouse. It is possible that, under the stress of combat, the safety measures, introduced after the disasters at Jutland to prevent such an explosion reaching the magazines, could have failed.

An extensive review of each of these theories (except that of Preston) is given in Jurens.[38] Its main conclusion is that the loss was almost certainly precipitated by the explosion of a 4 inch (102 mm) magazine, but that there are a number of ways in which this could have been initiated. In Jurens' opinion, the popular image of "plunging fire" penetrating deck-armour of Hood is inaccurate, as by his estimation the angle of fall of Bismarck's 38 cm shells at the moment of the loss would not have exceeded about 14 degrees, an angle so unfavourable to penetration of horizontal armour that it is actually off the scale of contemporary German penetration charts. Moreover, computer-generated profiles of the Hood show that a shell falling at this angle could not have reached an aft magazine without first passing through some part of the belt-armour. On the other hand, the 12 inch (305 mm) belt could have been penetrated, if the Hood had progressed sufficiently far into her final turn.

A more recent development is the discovery of the Hood's wreck (see below). Inspection of the wreck has confirmed that the aft magazines did indeed explode. The stern of the Hood was located, with the rudders still in place, and it was found that these were set to port at the time of the explosion. Furthermore, a section of the bow immediately forward of A turret is missing, which has led historian and former Dartmouth lecturer Eric J. Grove and expedition leader David Mearns to believe that "either just before or just after leaving the surface, the bow suffered massive internal damage from an internal explosion",[40] possibly a partial detonation of the forward 15 inch magazines. It has been suggested that the fatal fire spread from the aft end of the ship through the starboard fuel tanks, since the starboard side of Hood "appears to be missing most, if not all of its torpedo bulge plating".[40]

To summarise: the evidence of the wreck refutes Goodall's theory, while the eyewitness evidence of venting from the 4 inch (102 mm) magazine prior to the main explosion conflicts with the theory that the Hood was blown up by her own guns. The other theories listed above remain valid possibilities; Preston's theory would be particularly attractive if it could be shown exactly where the "additional 4 inch (102 mm) stowage" was located.

Wreck

The wreck of Hood was discovered in 3,000 metres (appr. 10,000 ft) of water in July 2001 by an expedition funded by UK-based Channel Four Television and ITN and led by shipwreck hunter David Mearns. In 2002 the site was officially designated a war grave by the British government. As such, it remains a protected place under the Protection of Military Remains Act.

Hood's wreck lies on the seabed in pieces among two debris fields. The eastern field includes the tiny amount of the stern which survived the magazine explosion as well as the surviving section of the bow and some smaller remains such as the screws. The 4 inch (102 mm) fire director lies in the western debris field. The heavily armoured conning tower is located by itself a distance from the main wreck. The amidships section, the biggest part of the wreck to survive the explosions, lies inverted south of the eastern debris field in a large impact crater. The starboard side of the amidships section is missing down to the inner wall of the fuel tanks and the plates of the hull are curling outward; this has been interpreted as indicating the path of the explosion through the starboard fuel tanks. It is further supposed that the small debris fields are the fragments from the after hull where the magazines and turrets were located, since that section of the hull was totally destroyed in the explosion. The fact that the bow section separated just forward of A turret provoked the suggestion that a secondary explosion might have occurred in this area. Other researchers have claimed that the final salvo fired by Hood was not a salvo at all, but flame from the forward magazine explosion, which gave the illusion of Hood opening fire for the last time.[41] This damage being ahead of the armoured bulkhead, could easily have been implosion damage suffered while Hood sank, as a torpedo room that had been removed at one of her recent refits approximates the site of the break. However it was the opinion of the team that investigated the wreck that this was unlikly as the damage was far too limited in scal, nor could it account for the outward splayed plates also observed in that area. A forward magazine explosion would likely have severed Hood at "B" barbette, rather than forward of it.

The forward section lies on its port side, with the amidship section keel up. Of interest is the stern section which actually rises from the seabed at an angle. This position clearly shows the rudder locked into a 20 degree port turn, confirming that orders had been given (just prior to the aft magazines detonating) to change the ship's heading and bring the aft turrets 'X' and 'Y' to bear on the German ships.[42]

Surviving relics

5.5-inch guns

Two of Hood's 5.5-inch (140 mm) guns, which were removed and replaced during a refit in 1935, were subsequently shipped to Ascension Island where they were installed as a shore battery in 1941, sited on a hill above the port and main settlement, Georgetown.[43] The Ascension Island guns saw action only once, on 9 December 1941, when they fired on the German U-boat, U-124[44] as it approached Georgetown on the surface, with the intention of shelling the cable station or sinking any ships at anchor. No hits were scored, but the submarine crash-dived.[45]

Because of the island's remoteness and arid climate, the battery still exists today in a largely intact condition. These guns are the only large surviving relics of Hood.

Fragments of propeller, from collision with HMS Renown

Privately owned propeller nugget.

As a result of a collision off the coast of Spain on 23 January 1935, one of Hood's propellers struck the bow of the battlecruiser HMS Renown. While dry-docked for repairs, Renown had fragments of this propeller removed from her bilge section. The pieces of the propeller were kept by dockyard workers, and stamped "HOOD"v"RENOWN" JAN.23RD.1935 on one surviving example, and "HOOD V RENOWN OFF AROSA 23-1-35" on the other. Of the two known surviving pieces, one is with CG's Shipyard, the other in the keeping of the Hood Association.[46]

Notes

  1. ^ Chesenau 2002, p. 176.
  2. ^ Ballard 1990, p. 80.
  3. ^ Jackson 2002, p. 43.
  4. ^ Chesenau 2002, p 159.
  5. ^ a b c d e [1]
  6. ^ Parkes (p644) quotes the cost of Hood as £6,025,000. Brassey's Naval and Shipping Annual 1924 (p422) quotes the cost of Hood as £5,843,039 as the "total estimated cost of ship including guns."
  7. ^ Preston, p 96
  8. ^ Gardiner, Gray and Budzbon, 118–119.
  9. ^ Morison and Polmar, The American Battleship, 71–72.
  10. ^ ""Origins and Development of the Battlecruiser"". Great War Primary Documents Archive. http://www.gwpda.org/naval/bcs001.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-25. 
  11. ^ ""Battleships, Battlecruisers & Monitors"". Naval-History.net. http://www.naval-history.net/WW2RN24-BritishShipsBattleships.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-25. 
  12. ^ Friedman, pp. 168–9, 171–72.
  13. '^ William J. Jurens, The Loss of HMS Hood: A Re-Examination (originally published in Warship International No. 2, 1987). A modern technical analysis of Hoods loss.
  14. ^ John Roberts Battlecruisers. Caxton Editions 2003. ISBN 1-84067-530-6
  15. ^ www.navweaps.com British 15in–42 (38.1 cm) Mark I.
  16. ^ Chesneau 2002, p. 120.
  17. ^ Chesenau 2002, pp. 120–121
  18. ^ Chesneau 2002, p. 126.
  19. ^ http://www.naval-history.net/xDKWW2-4009-22SEP01.htm
  20. ^ Chesneau 2002, p. 151.
  21. ^ Chesenau 2002, p. 152.
  22. ^ Chesneau 2002, pp. 155–156.
  23. ^ Chesneau 2002, p. 155.
  24. ^ Chesenau 2002, p. 156.
  25. ^ Helmut Brinkmann, et al., “Kriegstagebuch des Kreuzers Prinz EugenWar Diary of the cruiser ‘‘Prinz Eugen’’.
  26. ^ Chesenau 2002, p. 157.
  27. ^ Jurens (op cit) quotes estimates of the range at this point as varying from 13.2 km to 18 km; Bonomi's estimate is 15.7 km.
  28. ^ According to the testimony of Captain Leach, "…between one and two seconds after I formed that impression [of a hit on Hood] an explosion took place in the Hood " (Quoted in Jurens, op cit
  29. ^ Dogfights, YouTube 7 May 2007. Retrieved on 7 December 2007.
  30. ^ http://www.hmshood.com/admin/faq.htm#faq8 HMS Hood Association Website: Frequently Asked Questions. The HMS Hood Association has established that the often-quoted complement of 1,419 is incorrect (as are occasional claims of there being a fourth survivor). It has also compiled a definitive list of casualties
  31. ^ http://www.hmshood.com/crew/memorial/s/SpinnerGD.htm
  32. ^ http://www.memorials.inportsmouth.co.uk/southsea/naval.htm
  33. ^ kbismarck.com
  34. ^ (Admiralty record ADM116-4351, London, 1941)
  35. ^ Report on the Loss of H.M.S. Hood (Admiralty record ADM116-4351, London, 1941)
  36. ^ Jurens, op cit
  37. ^ Chesenau 2002, p. 173.
  38. ^ a b Jurens, op cit
  39. ^ Preston 2002, p. 109.
  40. ^ a b HMS Hoos Association: The July 2001 Channel 4 Expedition to Locate and Film the Wrecks of Hood andBismarck
  41. ^ Chesenau 2002, p. 179.
  42. ^ Chesenau 2002, p. 180.
  43. ^ According to the HMS Hood Association website, all but one of the guns were replaced with others in 1935; two guns were removed in 1938 but were subsequently remounted, the ship's outfit then remaining at 12 guns until all were removed in the 1940 refit.
  44. ^ "U-124". uboat.net. http://www.uboat.net/boats/u124.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  45. ^ Graham Avis (2002-02-09). "And So Back To Conflict". History of Ascension. Ascension Island Heritage Society. http://www.heritage.org.ac/avis10.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  46. ^ Ibid

Bibliography

  • Bradford, Ernle (1959). The Mighty Hood. Cleveland: World.  An overall history, including her peace-time career.
  • Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battlecruisers 1905–1970. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company.  (originally published in German as Schlachtschiffe und Schlachtkreuzer 1905–1970, J.F. Lehmanns, Verlag, Munchen, 1970). Contains various line drawings of the ship as designed, as built, in her final (as sunk) configuration, and the proposed 1941 refit.
  • Cain, Lt Cdr. Timothy J. (1959). HMS Electra. London: Frederick Muller, LTD.. ISBN 0-86007-330-0.  Includes accounts of the survivor rescue effort.
  • Campbell, N. J. M. (1978). Battle Cruisers. Warship Special. 1. Greenwich: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-130-0. 
  • Chesneau, Roger (2002). Hood — Life and Death of a Battlecruiser. London: Cassell Publishing. ISBN 0-304-35980-7.  An overall history, including her peace-time career.
  • Coles, Alan; Briggs, Ted (1985). Flagship Hood: The Fate of Britain's Mightiest Warship. London: Robert Hale. ISBN 0-7090-2024-4.  Ted Briggs was one of the three survivors of Hood's loss.
  • Kemp, Paul J. (1991). Bismarck and Hood: Great Naval Adversaries. London: Arms and Armour Press.  Includes pictures of the Hood, and description of the Battle off Iceland.
  • Mearns, David; White, Rob (2001). Hood and Bismarck: The Deep Sea Discovery of an Epic Battle. London: Channel 4.  Describes the expedition to find the wreck of the Hood, as well as its current state.
  • Northcott, Maurice P. (1975). Hood: Design and Construction. London: Bivouac Books Ltd. ISBN 0-85680-009-0.  A shorter work giving technical details of her construction.
  • Preston, Antony (1979). Sea Power: A Modern Illustrated Military History. London: Phoebus Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89673-011-5.. 
  • Preston, Antony (2002). The World's Worst Warships. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-754-6. 
  • Roberts, John (1989). Anatomy of the Ship: The Battlecruiser Hood. London: Conway Maritime. ISBN 0851772501.  A lengthy work giving great detail on her construction.
  • Roberts, John (1997). Battlecruisers. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-068-1. 
  • Taylor, Bruce (2008). The Battlecruiser HMS Hood: An Illustrated Biography, 1916–1941. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-786176-216-0.  The complete history of her career, functioning and people based on in-depth research from original sources.

Further reading

  • Bonomi, Antonio. Stretto di Danimarca, 24 maggio 1941, printed on "Storia Militare" magazine, December 2005.
  • Friedman, Norman. Battleship Design and Development 1905–1945, Conway Maritime Press 1978; ISBN 0-85177-135-1.
  • Parkes, Oscar. British Battleships, first published Seeley Service & Co, 1957, published United States Naval Institute Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55750-075-4
  • Richardson, Sir Alexander and Hurd, Archibald (ed) Brassey's Naval and Shipping Annual 1924
  • Tarrant, VE. King George V Class Battleships, Arms and Armour Press, 1991. ISBN 1-85409-524-2.
  • Wiper, Steve. Warship Pictorial #20: H.M.S. Hood (Classic Warships Publishing, Tucson, Arizona, 2003), Contains pictures of the Hood during construction, including pictures of the launching.

External links

Coordinates: 63°20′N 31°50′W / 63.333°N 31.833°W / 63.333; -31.833


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