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Thread: HMS Hood and The Bismark

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    HMS Hood and The Bismark

    For more than 20 years the 'Mighty Hood' upheld the pride and traditions of the Royal Navy. Launched in 1918, she was a symbol of British sea power. and in the intermediate war years she became a firm favourite of the British public. The Hood's near constant active service around the world meant that by the outbreak of WWII she was showing her age and due for a major overhaul. In particular, the Hood's magazine was vulnerable to a direct hit. especially an attack from long range, where shells would strike the relatively thin decks at more acute angles. Sadly, the refit never came as the Hood was pressed into immediate WWII action, which arguably led to her final demise against the Bismarck. The exact reason for the explosion that ripped the Hood apart will never be known, but most experts lay the blame at either a shell penetrating her vulnerable deck, or raging fires from an early salvo that quickly spread to her magazines.


    The pride of the Royal Navy, and renowned throughout the world thanks to a ten-month 'tour' she had taken in 1923/4, HMS Hood was considered to be a powerful warship. But she suffered from one major flaw; she did not have enough armour. What had been considered sufficient in 1918 when she was built, was to prove inadequate in May 1941 when she fought the German warship Bismarck in the Denmark Strait to the west of Iceland...


    The world's largest warship

    HMS Hood was launched on 22 August 1918 but spent the next two years being fitted out. She was finally commissioned into the Royal Navy on 15 May 1920. Popularly known as the 'Mighty Hood', she was launched as the largest warship in the world, a symbol of British imperial power. Although classified as a battle cruiser, Hood was actually a fast battleship built to the highest specifications, a massively armed warship with armour considered to be equal to her armaments. And she was fast, her extremely long and distinctive hull a result of the need for speed.


    1. Forward 381mm Double Turrets
    2. Conning Tower & Range Finder
    3. Bridge
    4. Control Top & Range Finder
    5. Anti-Aircraft Guns
    6. Vice Admiral's Flag
    7. The White Ensign: 'The Battle Flag'
    8. Aft Director Tower
    9. Anti-Aircraft Guns
    10. Secondary Armaments
    11. Aft 381mm Double Turrets





    HMS Hood: on tour

    In the inter-war years, Hood was part of a famous world cruise with fellow battle cruiser HMS Repulse, which took them to the Far East, the Pacific and the USA. On her return, she was modernized twice, and in the Spanish Civil War, she took part in an international force that intervened to deliver food to the besieged population of Bilbao. At the outbreak of WWII, Hood took part in the chase of German warships Scharnhorst and Gneiseau and then helped escort convoys across the Atlantic. In 1940, after the collapse of France, she became part of Force H at Gibraltar, helping defend the western Mediterranean.


    The final battle

    After seeing action in the Mediterranean, Hood, along with HMS Prince of Wales, was ordered to intercept the German battleship Bismarck which was attempting to break out into the North Atlantic, it was imperative she was stopped.

    Hood, faster than the Bismarck, caught up with the German ship to the west of Iceland in the Denmark Strait on the morning of 24 May 1941. Shortly before 8am, both sides opened fire.

    Hood's main armament was the BL 15 inch, 381 mm Mk 1 gun of 1912. This was the then standard weapon of British capital ships. Hood carried a total of 8 guns (2 per turret) in 4 turrets.


    HMS Hood was quickly hit, setting her alight which quickly spread to her magazines. The resultant explosion tore the ship apart and she sank with only three of her 1418 crew surviving.

    Of the 1418 men on board in May 1941 were 1157 ratings, 89 officers, 165 Royal Marines and 7 civilians. All but 3 were to perish in the battle with the Bismarck.


    The loss of the 'Mighty Hood' in such dramatic circumstances, and the appalling loss of life, were greeted with profound shock back in Britain. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was furious and famously signalled to the Royal Navy fleet that 'the Bismarck must be sunk at all costs.' Thus began one of the most dramatic chases in naval history...

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    The Bismarck was initially conceived to be the jewel in the crown of Hitler's 'Plan Z', the creation of a German fleet powerful enough to compete with the Royal Navy. However, soon after the outbreak of war, this ambitious plan had to be scrapped due to an increased demand on German factories and resources. As a result, the Bismarck was redeployed instead as a 'commerce raider', to harass and destroy the North Atlantic convoys vital to Britain's war effort. Designed for the rough Atlantic seas and with a large fuel capacity, this was a role in which she would have excelled. Churchill was well aware of this threat, and that letting the Bismarck into the open seas of the Atlantic would be disastrous. She had to be stopped at all costs, but with her impressive firepower and massive armour protection, not to mention a top speed faster than most British warships, halting her would be no mean task ...


    At the time of her launch, the Bismarck was considered the most powerful warship afloat and therefore "much feared by the Royal Navy. Churchill's command to 'sink the Bismarck at all costs' was an indication of how much damage she could have caused had she been allowed to 'escape' after sinking HMS Hood. The story of her final hours after a pursuit of more than 1,750 miles is legendary ...

    The launching of the Bismarck was celebrated by a jubilant crowd. She was christened by Dorothea von Loewenfeld, granddaughter of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck.


    1. Aft 380mm Double Turrets
    2. Forward 380mm Double Turrets
    3. 150mm Secondary Armament
    4. Arado Ar 196 Aircraft & Hangers
    5. Bridge & Conning Tower
    6. Aft Rangefinder & Radar
    7. Control Tower
    8. Flak Fire-Control Systems
    9. Forward Rangefinder & Radar



    Construction & Launch

    A contract for the building of the Bismarck was placed on 16 November 1936, a year after naval construction restrictions were finally lifted as a result of the Treaty of Versailles following Germany's defeat in WWI. Construction of this magnificent warship took over two years and the Bismarck was launched on 14 February 1939. She was finally commissioned sometime after the outbreak of WWII, on 24 August 1940. The Bismarck was intended primarily to be a 'commerce raider', to attack Allied convoys in the Atlantic. Ironically, her first mission was also to be her last.


    Fatal Atlantic Employment

    On 18 May 1941, the Bismarck set sail on 'Operation Hheinubunq' accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. The Bismarck was under the command of Admiral l.utjens who, aided by foggy weather, was hopeful of a break-out into the Atlantic. On 23 May, however, both ships were detected on the radar of HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk who requested the support of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Hood. A short, ferocious, battle ensued and HMS Hood was hit by a single shell from the Bismarck that caused a massive explosion, tearing her in half. She sank within minutes, leaving only 3 survivors.

    This photograph, taken on 21 May 1941, is of the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen anchored in Korsfjord near Bergen, Norway, by a British reconnaissance Spitfire.


    Determined to avenge her sinking, Winston Churchill ordered the British fleet to 'sink the Bismarck at all costs'. At dusk on 26 May, in atrocious weather conditions, the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal spotted the Bismarck and launched her Swordfish biplanes in attack - one of their torpedoes successfully hitting the Bismarck's rudder, jamming the steering.


    Severely disabled, the Bismarck was soon cornered by the Royal Navy ships chasing her. On the morning of 25 May, HMS Rodney and HMS King George V opened fire, damaging the Bismarck's forward gun turrets. By 10am all her main guns had been silenced and her mast destroyed. At 10.15am, HMS Dorsetshire was ordered to sink her with torpedoes. Out of her crew of 2,200, there were only 115 survivors. The loss marked the end of German warship incursions into the Atlantic, a significant move that helped to allow convoys to continue to supply Great Britain from North America.


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