HMS Hood

HMS Hood

“With Favourable Winds”

One of four Admiral class battlecruisers ordered by the Royal Navy in 1916. Her design was altered and improved due to lessons learnt after the naval battle at Jutland and these were easily built into Hood as she was in the early stages of being built.

Hood under construction 1918

Other limitations with the Admiral class were found and the rest of the class were never built and later cancelled. Once Hood was completed and commissioned into the fleet in 1920 she impressed all that saw her, although classed as a battlecruiser by the Admiralty many including an Admiral from the United States Navy were heard to call her a “fast battleship” as she carried the same armament and belt armour as a battleship but could achieve a speed of 31 knots. The latter would later be picked up as a point that needed to

After commissioning and final sea trials in 1920 Hood became the flagship of the battlecruiser squadron of the Atlantic Fleet.HMS_Hood_(51)_-_March_17,_1924

In 1923-1924 Hood joined the battlecruiser HMS Repulse and the 1st light cruiser squadron which included HMS Delhi, Danae, Dragon, Dauntless & Adelaide. The Squadron undertook a circumnavigation of the world which was called “The Empire Cruise”. The ship’s covered 38,158 miles visiting ports throughout the Empire, over a million people visited the ships in the fleet and Hood alone had 752,000 visit her throughout the cruise. The purpose of the this circumnavigation of the Empire was to remind the dominions and the rest of the world that Britain still ruled the waves after the Great War.

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Late in 1931 members of her crew as well as crews on board 10 other capital ships staged industrial action over pay and conditions which became known as the Invergordon Mutiny. This was was one of a few strikes in British military history, Crews refused to put to sea but carried on routine shipboard tasks and remained peaceful and respectful toward the chain of command. After 2 days and the reason for the mutiny being discussed in Parliament their terms were met and the fleet returned to active service. Sailors who were identified as main ring leaders were imprisoned and 200 from the Atlantic fleet were discharged from the service.

Early 1932 saw Hood and the rest of the battlecruiser squadron in the Caribbean and upon returning to the UK she went in for a brief refit between March and May. Following her refit she spent the rest of year exercising in the Mediterranean.120814020554-hood-port-story-top

While en route to Gibraltar, Hood was sailing with HMS Renown while undergoing fleet manoeuvres when Hood was struck by Renown. This left Hood damaged and she limped the rest of the way to Gibraltar for temporary repairs, she then sailed for Portsmouth to undergo permanent repairs. Captains of both ships were court martial but both were acquitted but Renown’s Captain was relieved. Later he would be reinstated through after a review of the case.

Hood participated in the Silver Jubilee for King George V and took part in the fleet review that was held in Spithead, Portsmouth. Following the fleet review she was attached to the Mediterranean Fleet stationed out of Gibraltar at the outbreak of the second Atalo-Abyssinian War. 1936 saw Hood return to Portsmouth for a brief refit; she was then officially transferred to join the Mediterranean Fleet shortly before the beginning of the Spanish Civil war. On the 23rd April 1937 Hood along with 3 merchantmen entered Bilbao Harbour in northern Spain despite the attempts at Nationalist warships attempting to blockade the port. Late 1937 Hood was in Malta to have her submerged torpedo tubes removed.

HMS Hood during the fleet review, In the for ground the German Pocket battleship “Graf Spee”

January 1939 saw Hood back in Portsmouth undergoing an overhaul that lasted until August 1939. When Hood came out of her overhaul she undertook escort duties with convoys between Iceland and the Faroe Islands to intercept any German merchant raiders attempting to enter the North Atlantic.

On the 25th September 1939 Hood along with the rest of the Home fleet sailed into the North sea to offer cover to a damaged British submarine HMS Spearfish. The Fleet was attacked by German aircraft, Hood was hit by a 250kg bomb and damaged the port torpedo bulge and condensers but no further damage was received.

By early 1940 the ship was starting to show her age, with all the goodwill patrols she hadn’t received a lot of the upgrades and overhauls a lot of the WW1 era ships that were in service with the fleet had such as HMS Renown . Plans had been drawn up to modernise the Hood but the constant deployments meant this never took place.

HMS Renown 1916 pre-modernisation
HMS Renown 1939 post modernisation

1940 her machinery was starting to show its age and her best speed was reduced to 26.5 knots. After undergoing repairs to patch up her damaged machinery she was dispatched back to Gibraltar along with the carrier HMS Ark Royal to join a newly formation. This formation was called “Force H” with Hood as its flagship. Force H then carried out “Operation Catapult” which saw the Royal Navy being ordered to fire on the French naval units in the port of Oran following the fall of France.

Hood was relieved by Renown in mid 1940 and she returned back to Scapa Flow. She undertook duties around the defence against a possible invasion along with other units of the fleet, as the likelihood of invasion had passed Hood returned to her patrols again German raiders. After this she undertook operations to intercept the German surface battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst. She then carried out other operations around the bay of Biscay, North Sea and Norwegian Sea.

In May 1941 the German battleship Bismarck along with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen sailed for the Atlantic. Hood along with the newly commissioned King George V battleship HMS Prince Of Wales (so new she still had civilian contractors on board) were dispatched to cover the area called the Denmark Strait to possibly intercept the two German ships before they got out into the Atlantic. At this point the Admiralty were unsure as to where the German ships would attempt to enter the North Atlantic and had other Royal Navy capital ships covering the other possible routes.

German Battleship “Bismark”
German heavy cruiser “Prinz Eugen”

As Flagship to Vice Admiral Holland he was aware of the Hood’s condition and she was in much need of a overhaul which would have included strengthening her stern deck armour which was lacking (due to her initial design) and her worn out machinery. His plan was to close the distance quickly to within 8 miles and turn broadside to allow all of Hoods 15 inch turrets to engage. This was to maximise fire power as well as protecting her weaker deck armour from shell and instead incoming shells would hit her 12 inch armour belt and not her weak deck armour.

German ships were spotted by the two British heavy cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk on the 23rd May and they were tracking her on radar until the the heavier british units could close and engage them.

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At 05:37 on May 24th Hood and Prince of Wales spotted the two German ships, at 05:52 Hood opened fire at the lead ship in the German formation thinking it was Bismark but after several salvos they spotted it was actually Prinz Eugen. The first hit suffered by Hood came from Prinz Eugen 8 inch guns which started a large fire on Hoods boat deck among the ammunition in the ready use lockers for the ship’s anti-aircraft guns.

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In line with the Admiral’s plan at 06:00 Hood began her 20 degree turn to port to bring her rear turrets into the action, but she was hit again on the boat deck by a salvo from Bismarck. Witnesses reported seeing a jet of flame bursting out of the deck around the mainmast followed by a large explosion around the area of the rear magazine. This explosion broke the back of the ship and reports say she sank in around 3 minutes, the last sight of the ship was her bows standing vertical out of the water which then sank below the waves. Prince of Wales was forced to disengage due to mechanical issues with the new ship and damaged suffered. Bismark was later sunk by other British warships on the 27th May.

Out of 1418 on board only 3 survived, Ordinary Signalman Ted Briggs, Able Seaman Robert Tilburn and Midshipman William John Dundas. These 3 were picked up by the destroyer Electra.

The formal board of enquiry which took place in late 1941 came to the official opinion on the sinking after speaking to 170 witnesses:HMS-Hood-explosion

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 aft part of the ship. The probability is that the 4-inch magazines exploded first”  “ADM 116/4351: Report on the Loss of HMS Hood

The board of enquiry exonerated Vice Admiral Holland of any blame that was connected to the loss of the ship.

No bodies were seen or recovered and parts of the Hood washed up including a wooden transom from one of the ship’s boats as well as a metal holder containing administrative papers were discovered in 1942, these were later lost but the lid of the container was handed over to HMS Centurion in 1981.

In 2001 efforts were undertaken to try and find the wreck of the Hood, the search began with a 600 square nautical miles box. This should have taken around 6 days to complete the search but they detected the wreck using side scan sonar on the second day, the wreck lay at a depth of 9,200 ft. There was some talk after the ship had been lost that she had never began her turn to port to maximise her protection but upon diving on the wreck and filming it they discovered her stern still intact along with her rudder set to 20 degrees to port.

The Ensign placed on the Wreck of Hood.

2002, the wreck was designated a war grave by the British Government and is protected under the Protection of Military Remains act 1986. In 2012 the British Government gave permission for the same team who found the Hood’s final resting place to mount an expedition to attempt to raise the ship’s bell as a last memorial to her and her crew. The first attempt was abandoned due to bad weather, then in 2015 a second attempt was successful and the bell was recovered on the 7 August 2015 and handed over to the National Museum of the Royal Navy to be conserved.
The Ship’s bell is currently on display as part of the 36 hours; Battle Of Jutland exhibition.

Photos sourced from Pinfest and my own

Ships details and service history research from HMS Hood Association website IWM and

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