|Constructed:||August 22nd, 1918|
|Sunk:||May 24th, 1941|
|Length:||860 ft 7 (262.3 m)|
|Sister Ship:||HMS New Hood|
HMS Hood (pennant number 51) was the last battlecruiser built for the Royal Navy. Commissioned in 1920, she was named after the 18th century Admiral Samuel Hood. Hood operated in World War II and was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck in 1941.
The Admiral-class battlecruisers were designed in response to the German Mackensen-class battlecruisers which were reported to be more heavily armed and armoured than the latest British battlecruisers of the Renown and the Courageous classes. The design was revised after the Battle of Jutland to incorporate heavier armour and all four ships were laid down. Only Hood was completed, however, because the ships were very expensive and required labour and material that could be put to better use building merchant ships needed to replace those lost to the German U-boat campaign. Hood was significantly larger than her predecessors of the Renown class. As completed she had an overall length of 860 feet 7 inches (262.3 m), a maximum beam of 104 feet 2 inches (31.8 m), and a draught of 32 feet (9.8 m) at deep load. This was 110 feet (33.5 m) longer and 14 feet (4.3 m) wider than the older ships. She displaced 42,670 long tons (43,350 t) at load and 46,680 long tons (47,430 t) at deep load, over 13,000 long tons (13,210 t) more than the older ships. The ship had a complete double bottom. Hood had a metacentric height of 4.2 feet (1.3 m) at deep load, which minimised her roll and made her a steady gun platform. The additional armour added during construction increased her draught by about 4 feet (1.2 m) at deep load, which reduced her freeboard and made her very wet. At full speed, or in heavy seas, water would flow over the ship's quarterdeck and often entered her messdecks and living quarters through ventilation shafts. This characteristic earned her the nickname of "the largest submarine in the Navy".
The persistent dampness, coupled with the ship's poor ventilation, was blamed for the high incidence of tuberculosis aboard. The ship's complement varied widely over her career, in 1919 she was authorized 1433 men as a squadron flagship. In 1934, she actually had 81 officers and 1244 men aboard.
The propulsion system consisted of 24 Yarrow water-tube boilers, connected to Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines driving four propellers. The battlecruiser's turbines were designed to produce 144,000 shaft horsepower (107,000 kW), which would propel the ship at 31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph). However, during sea trials in 1920, Hood's turbines provided 151,280 shp (112,810 kW), which allowed her to reach 32.07 knots (59.39 km/h; 36.91 mph). She carried approximately 3,895 long tons (3,958 t) of fuel oil, which gave her an estimated range of 7,500 nautical miles (13,900 km; 8,600 mi) at 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Hood carried eight 42-calibre BL 15-inch Mk I guns in hydraulically powered twin gun turrets. The guns could depress to −5° and elevate to +30°. At maximum elevation they fired a 1,920-pound (870 kg) shell to a maximum range of 30,180 yards (27,600 m). The turrets were designated 'A', 'B', 'X' and 'Y' from front to rear. 120 shells were carried for each gun.
Hood's secondary armament was a dozen 50-calibre BL 5.5-inch Mk I guns, each with 200 rounds. They were shipped on shielded single pivot mounts fitted along the upper deck and the forward shelter deck. This high position allowed them to be worked during heavy weather as they were less affected by waves and spray compared with the casemate mounts of earlier British capital ships. Two of these guns on the shelter deck were temporarily replaced by QF 4-inch Mk V anti-aircraft (AA) guns between 1938 and 1939. All the 5.5-inch guns were removed during another refit in 1940. The gun fired a 82-pound (37 kg) shell to a maximum range of 17,770 yards (16,250 m).
The original anti-aircraft armament consisted of four QF 4-inch Mk V guns on single mounts. These were joined in early 1939 by four twin mounts for the 45-calibre QF 4-inch Mark XVI dual purpose gun. The single guns were removed in mid-1939 and a further three twin Mark XIX mounts were added in early 1940. This mounting could elevate from −10 to +80°. The Mk XVI gun fired about 12 35-pound (16 kg) high-explosive shells per minute at a muzzle velocity of 2,660 ft/s (810 m/s). Against surface targets it had a range of 19,850 yards (18,150 m) and a maximum ceiling of 39,000 ft (12,000 m), but an effective anti-aircraft range of much less.
In 1931, a pair of octuple mountings for the 40-millimetre (1.6 in) QF 2-pounder Mk VIII gun were added on the shelter deck, abreast the funnels, while a third mount was added in 1937. These gun mounts could depress to −10° and elevate to a maximum of +80°. The Mk VIII 2-pounder gun fired a 40-millimetre (1.6 in) 0.91-pound (0.41 kg) shell at a muzzle velocity of 1,920 ft/s (590 m/s) to a distance of 3,800 yards (3,500 m). The gun's rate of fire was approximately 96–98 rounds per minute.
Two quadruple mountings for the 0.5-inch Vickers Mk III machine gun were added in 1933 with two more mountings added in 1937. These mounts could depress to −10° and elevate to a maximum of +70°. The machine guns fired a 1.326-ounce (37.6 g) bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,520 ft/s (770 m/s). This gave the gun a maximum range of about 5,000 yd (4,600 m), although its effective range was only 800 yd (730 m). To these were added five Unrotated Projectile (UP) launchers in 1940, each launcher carrying twenty 7-inch (180 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 and draw up the small aerial mine which would destroy the aircraft.
Six fixed 21-inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes were mounted on Hood, three on each broadside. Two of these were submerged forward of 'A' turret's magazine and the other four were above water, abaft the rear funnel. The Mk IV torpedoes had a warhead of 515 pounds (234 kg) of TNT. They had two speed and range settings: 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) with a maximum range of 13,500 yards (12,300 m) or 40 knots (74 km/h; 46 mph) to 5,000 yards (4,600 m). Approximately 28 torpedoes were carried.
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 were added to Hood's design.
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.
She was launched on 22 August 1918 by the widow of Rear Admiral Sir Horace Hood, a great-great-grandson of Admiral Samuel Hood, for whom the ship was named. Sir Horace Hood had been killed while commanding the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron and flying his flag in Invincible—one of the three battlecruisers which blew up at the Battle of Jutland. In order to make room in John Brown's shipyard for merchant construction, Hood sailed for Rosyth to complete her fitting-out on 9 January 1920.
After sea trials, she was commissioned on 15 May 1920, under Captain Wilfred Tompkinson. She had cost £6,025,000 to build (roughly equivalent to £179 million today). With her conspicuous twin funnels and lean profile, Hood was widely regarded one of the finest-looking warships ever built. She was also the largest warship afloat when she was commissioned and retained that distinction for the next 20 years. Her size and powerful armament earned her the nickname of "Mighty Hood" and she came to symbolize the might of the British Empire itself.
World War IIEdit
Captain Irvine Glennie assumed command in May 1939 and Hood was assigned to the Home Fleet's Battlecruiser Squadron while still refitting; 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 merchant raiders and blockade runners attempting to break out into the Atlantic. On 25 September 1939, the Home Fleet sortied into the central North Sea to cover the return of the damaged submarine Spearfish. The fleet was spotted by the Germans and attacked by aircraft from the KG 26 and KG 30 bomber wings.
Hood was hit by a 250 kg (550 lb) bomb from a Junkers Ju 88 bomber that damaged her port torpedo bulge and her condensers. By early 1940, Hood's machinery was in dire shape and limited her best speed to 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h; 30.5 mph); she was refitted between 4 April and 12 June. Hood and the aircraft carrier Ark Royal were ordered to Gibraltar to join Force H on 18 June where Hood became the flagship. Force H took part in the destruction of the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir in July 1940.
Just eight days after the French surrender, the British Admiralty issued an ultimatum that the French fleet at Oran intern its ships in a British or neutral port to ensure they would not fall into Axis hands. The terms were rejected and the Royal Navy opened fire on the French ships berthed there. The results of Hood's fire are not known exactly, but she damaged the French battleship Dunkerque, which was hit by four fifteen-inch shells and was forced to beach herself.
Hood was straddled during the engagement by Dunkerque; shell splinters wounded two men. Dunkerque's sister ship, Strasbourg, managed to escape from the harbour. Hood and several light cruisers gave chase, but gave up after two hours: Hood had dodged a salvo of torpedoes from a French sloop and had stripped a turbine reaching 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph).
Hood was relieved as flagship of Force H by Renown on 10 August, after returning to Scapa Flow. On 13 September, after a short refit, she was sent to Rosyth along with the battleships Nelson and Rodney and other ships, to be in a better position to intercept a German invasion fleet. When the threat of an invasion diminished, the ship resumed her previous roles in convoy escort and patrolling against German commerce raiders. Twice, Hood was dispatched against enemy warships. On 28 October she sailed to intercept the "pocket battleship" Admiral Scheer, and again on 24 December to locate the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, but Hood failed to find either ship. In January 1941, the ship began a refit that lasted until March; 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. Captain Ralph Kerr assumed command during the refit and Hood was ordered to sea in an attempt to intercept the German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst upon the refit's completion in mid-March. Unsuccessful, she was ordered to patrol the Bay of Biscay against any breakout attempt by the German ships from Brest. Hood was ordered to the Norwegian Sea on 19 April when the Admiralty received a false report that the German battleship Bismarck had sailed from Germany. Afterwards she patrolled the North Atlantic before putting in to Scapa Flow on 6 May.
Battle of Denmark Strait & SinkingEdit
When Bismarck sailed for the Atlantic in May 1941, Hood, together with the newly commissioned battleship Prince of Wales, was sent out in pursuit along with several other groups of British capital ships to intercept the German ships before they could break into the Atlantic and attack Allied convoys.
Hood was commanded by Captain Ralph Kerr and was flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Lancelot Holland. The German ships were spotted by two British heavy cruisers on 23 May, and Holland's ships intercepted Bismarck and her consort, the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, in the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland on 24 May.
The British squadron spotted the Germans at 05:37 (ship's clocks were set four hours ahead of local time – the engagement commenced shortly after dawn), but the Germans were already aware of their presence, Prinz Eugen's hydrophones having previously detected the sounds of high-speed propellers to their south-east. The British opened fire at 05:52 with Hood engaging Prinz Eugen, the lead ship in the German formation, and the Germans returned fire at 05:55, both ships concentrating on Hood. Prinz Eugen was probably the first ship to score when a shell hit Hood's boat deck, between her funnels, and started a large fire among the ready-use ammunition for the anti-aircraft guns and rockets of the UP mounts.
Right before 06:00, while Hood was turning 20° to port to unmask her rear turrets, she was hit again on the boat deck by one or more shells from Bismarck's fifth salvo, fired from a range of approximately 16,650 metres (18,210 yd). A shell from this salvo appears to have hit the spotting top as the boat deck was showered with body parts and debris. A huge jet of flame burst out of Hood from the vicinity of the mainmast,[Note 1] followed by a devastating magazine explosion that destroyed the aft part of the ship. This explosion broke the back of Hood and the last sight of the ship, which sank in only three minutes, was her bow, nearly vertical in the water.
A note on a survivor's sketch in the British RN Historical Branch Archives gives 63°20′N 31°50′W as the position of the sinking. Of the 1,418 crew, only three men, Ordinary Signalman Ted Briggs, Able Seaman Robert Tilburn and Midshipman William John Dundas, survived; they were rescued about two hours after the sinking by the destroyer Electra. Electra spotted substantial debris, but no bodies.
Prince of Wales was forced to disengage by a combination of damage from German hits and mechanical failures in her guns and turrets after Hood was sunk. Despite these problems, she had hit Bismarck three times. One of these hits contaminated a good portion of the ship's fuel supply and subsequently caused her to steer for safety in occupied France where she could be repaired. Bismarck was temporarily able to evade detection, but was later spotted and sunk by the British on 27 May.
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."
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 (15,100 m), resulting in the explosion of one or more of the after magazines.
The conduct of the enquiry became subject to criticism, largely due to the fact that no verbatim record of witnesses' testimony had been kept. Moreover, Sir Stanley V. Goodall, Director of Naval Construction came 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 and reported in September 1941. This investigation was "much more thorough than was the first, taking evidence from a total of 176 eyewitnesses to the disaster", 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.
Both boards of enquiry exonerated Vice-Admiral Holland from any blame regarding the loss of Hood.
Memorials to those who died are spread widely around the UK, and some of the crew are memorialised in different locations. One casualty, George David Spinner, is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval memorial, the Hood Chapel at the Church of St John the Baptist, in Boldre, Hampshire, and also on the gravestone of his brother, who died while serving in the Royal Air Force in 1942, in the Hamilton Road Cemetery, Deal, Kent
Replica Constructed Edit
- Main article: HMS New Hood