In memory - HMS HoodI make no apologies for the length of this posting.
The amount written is due to the ship (Hood), her opponent (Bismark) and the circumstances of the sinking of HMS Hood.
24th May 1941.
On the 24th May 1941, the following members of the Royal Marines Band Service gave their lives while serving onboard HMS Hood.
Bandmaster: M.H.E. Herod
Band Corporal: S. Worsfold
Band Boy: A. Guest
Musicians: N.L. Deal, W.A. Pike, A.A.j. Discombe, J. Coulson, R.M. Fowler, G.H. Long, D.R. Tawney, S.B. Groves,
F.P. Adams, R.J. Porter, R.L. Taylor, L.A. Emery, D.L. Russell and A.E.J. Crawte.
I have posted below, the circumstances of that day.
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.
She was one of four Admiral class battlecruisers ordered in mid-1916 under the Emergency War Programme. Although the design was drastically revised after the Battle of Jutland, it was realised that there were serious limitations even to the revised design; 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. As a result, Hood was Britain's last completed battlecruiser. She was named after the 18th-century Admiral Samuel Hood.
Below is a picture from HMS Hood near to the time of the sinking.
It shows members of Hood's Royal Marines Band, who duties were also to crew one of her whalers.
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.
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.
However, the reworking was hurried and incomplete and hence flawed.
Only the forward cordite magazines were moved below the shell rooms — cordite explosions 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.
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.
It was seriously suggested that she should be scrapped before she was launched; the post-war economy drive made replacing her impossible however.
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 ships to which the 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. 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.
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.
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.
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 class and the Japanese Nagato class.
The Royal Navy were fully aware that 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 her career.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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 classes of ships.
Hood was the first, and in the event the only ship to carry these guns in the Mark II twin mounting.
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.
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.
The secondary (low angle) guns were BL 5.5 inch Mark I (140 mm) /50 guns.
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.
Hood's original anti-aircraft armament consisted of four QF 4 inch (102—mm) L/45 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— 20-barrelled launchers for 3 inch (76 mm) rockets that shot their warheads out on three parachutes on lengths of cable that could snag aircraft.
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.
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)
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.
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
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 receiveing 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.
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.
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.
Return to home waters
In August Hood returned to British waters as the Battle of Britain was now at its height and Britain was in danger of invasion.
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 Admiral Scheer and 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 (high-trajectory) 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.
Admiral Holland ordered his force to open fire at 05:49.
Initially Hood engaged Prinz Eugen instead of Bismarck, 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.
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.
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.
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).
Almost immediately, a huge jet of flame burst out of Hood from the vicinity of the mainmast.
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.
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 survived (Ted Briggs (1923–2008), Robert Ernest Tilburn (1921–1995) and William John Dundas (1921–1965)); they were rescued about two and a half hours after the sinking by the destroyer HMS Electra.
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.
To those named above and membrs of the ships company who also lost their lives......R.I.P.
Well done again Bob, excellent piece,
I would like to add -
Davies, Kenneth J, Boy Bugler, RM to the list that perished that day.
Thanks for that one Bob. A fine early morning read.
Yes bob well done.Have been told alot about the Mighty Hood my uncle was on her and he was drafted off a couple of weeks before she met her fate.He used to tell me not strories (i was too old for them )about her and how lucky he was to be drafted off .But he used to have a lot of disturbing memories and sometimes guilt of him leaving her .He used to talk as old matlots did as if the ships were there mums (i know sometimes i did )and i am a lot younger .I know other uncle used to talk of the Warspite in the same way
Thanks for the addition of the Boy Bugler also lost on this ship.
I am unable to access Bugler losses from the times covered in this section, so I do rely on others to help, which has been the case in the past.
It is 'our' (RMBS) history and reflects 'our' losses over the years.
It is helpful if anyone can add to any of the 'In Memory' posts.
Stories or memories from fathers, mothers, uncles, family or just 'old soldiers' (and matelots) about any of these events and posted on the relevant thread, can only add to it.
(Any addition is welcome, even an acknowlegement of the event and their passing.)
So, here's mine.....
Davies, Kenneth J, Boy Bugler, RM on HMS Hood............R.I.P.