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.
- Forward 381mm Double Turrets
- Conning Tower & Range Finder
- Control Top & Range Finder
- Anti-Aircraft Guns
- Vice Admiral's Flag
- The White Ensign: 'The Battle Flag'
- Aft Director Tower
- Anti-Aircraft Guns
- Secondary Armaments
- 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...