1. Education

World War II: HMS Hood

By

World War II: HMS Hood

HMS Hood

Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

HMS Hood - Overview:

  • Nation: Great Britain
  • Type: Battlecruiser
  • Shipyard: John Brown & Company
  • Laid Down: September 1, 1916
  • Launched: August 22, 1918
  • Commissioned: May 15, 1920
  • Fate: Sunk on May 24, 1940

HMS Hood - Specifications:

  • Displacement: 47,430 tons
  • Length: 860 ft., 7 in.
  • Beam: 104 ft. 2 in.
  • Draft: 32 ft.
  • Propulsion: 4 shafts, Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines, 24 Yarrow water-tube boilers
  • Speed: 31 knots (1920), 28 knots (1940)
  • Range: 5,332 miles at 20 knots
  • Complement: 1,169-1,418 men

HMS Hood - Armament (1941):

Guns

  • 8 x BL 15-inch Mk I guns (4 turrets with 2 guns each)
  • 14 x QF 4-inch Mk XVI anti-aircraft guns
  • 24 x QF 2-pdr anti-aircraft guns
  • 20 x 0.5-inch Vickers machine guns
  • 5 x 20-barrel Unrotated Projectile mounts
  • 2 x 21-inch torpedo tubes

Aircraft (after 1931)

  • 1 aircraft using 1 catapult (1929-1932)

HMS Hood - Design & Construction:

Laid down at John Brown & Company of Clydebank on September 1, 1916, HMS Hood was an Admiral-class battlecruiser. This design originated as an improved version of the Queen Elizabeth-class battleships but was converted early on to a battlecruiser to replace losses sustained at the Battle of Jutland and to counter new German battlecruiser construction. Originally intended as a four-ship class, work on three was halted due to other priorities during World War I. As a result, Hood was the only Admiral-class battlecruiser to be completed.

The new ship entered the water on August 22, 1918, and was named for Admiral Samuel Hood. Work continued over the next two years and the ship entered commission on May 15, 1920. A sleek, attractive ship, Hood's design was centered on a battery of eight 15" guns mounted in four twin turrets. These were initially supplemented by twelve 5.5" guns and four 1" guns. Over the course of its career, Hood's secondary armament was enlarged and altered to meet the needs of the day. Capable of 31 knots in 1920, some considered Hood to be a fast battleship rather than a battlecruiser.

HMS Hood - Armor:

For protection, Hood originally possessed a similar armor scheme to its predecessors except that its armor was angled outward to increase its relative thickness against shells fired on a low trajectory. In the wake of Jutland, the new ship's armor design was thickened though this enhancement added 5,100 tons and reduced the ship's top speed. More troublesome, its deck armor remained thin making it vulnerable to plunging fire. In this area, the armor was spread over three decks with the thought that an exploding shell might breach the first deck but would not have the energy to pierce the next two.

Though this scheme seemed workable, advances in effective time-delay shells negated this approach as they would penetrate all three decks before exploding. In 1919, testing showed the Hood's armor configuration was flawed and plans were made to thicken the deck protection over key areas of the vessel. After further trials, this additional armor was not added. Protection against torpedoes was provided by a 7.5' deep anti-torpedo bulge which ran nearly the length of the ship. Though not fitted with a catapult, Hood did possess fly off platforms for aircraft atop its B and X turrets.

HMS Hood - Operational History:

Entering service, Hood was made flagship of Rear Admiral Sir Roger Keyes' Battlecruiser Squadron based at Scapa Flow. Later that year, the ship steamed to the Baltic as a deterrent against the Bolsheviks. Returning, Hood spent the next two years in home waters and training in the Mediterranean. In 1923, it accompanied HMS Repulse and several light cruisers on a world cruise. Returning in late 1924, Hood continued in a peacetime role until entering the yard in on May 1, 1929 for a major overhaul. Emerging on March 10, 1931, the ship rejoined the fleet and now possessed an aircraft catapult.

In September of that year, Hood's crew was one of many which took part in the Invergordon Mutiny over the reduction of seaman's wages. This ended peacefully and the next year saw the battlecruiser travel to the Caribbean. During this voyage the new catapult proved troublesome and it was later removed. Over the next seven years, Hood saw extensive service in European waters as the Royal Navy's premier fast capital ship. As the decade neared an end, the ship was due for a major overhaul and modernization similar to those given other World War I-era warships in the Royal Navy.

HMS Hood - World War II:

Though its machinery was deteriorating, Hood's overhaul was postponed due to the beginning of World War II in September 1939. Hit that month by an aerial bomb, the ship sustained minor damage and soon was employed in the North Atlantic on patrol duties. With the fall of France in mid-1940, Hood was ordered to the Mediterranean and became flagship of Force H. Concerned that the French fleet would fall into German hands, the Admiralty demanded that the French Navy either join with them or stand down. When this ultimatum was refused, Force H attacked the French squadron at Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria on July 8. In the attack, the bulk of the French squadron was put out of action.

HMS Hood - Denmark Strait

Returning to the Home Fleet in August, Hood sortied that fall in operations intended to intercept the "pocket battleship" Admiral Scheer and heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. In January 1941, Hood entered the yard for a minor refit, but the naval situation prevented the major overhaul that was needed. Emerging, Hood remained in increasingly poor condition. After patrolling the Bay of Biscay, the battlecruiser was ordered north in late April after the Admiralty learned that the new German battleship Bismarck had sailed.

Putting into Scapa Flow on May 6, Hood departed later that month with the new battleship HMS Prince of Wales to pursue Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. Commanded by Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland, this force located the two German ships on May 23. Attacking the next morning, Hood and Prince of Wales opened the Battle of the Denmark Strait. Engaging the enemy, Hood quickly came under fire and took hits. Approximately eight minutes after the action began, the battlecruiser was hit around the boat deck. Witnesses saw a jet of flame emerge near the mainmast before the ship exploded.

Most likely the result of a plunging shot which penetrated the thin deck armor and struck a magazine, the explosion broke Hood in two. Sinking in around three minutes, only three of the ship's 1,418-man crew were rescued. Outnumbered, Prince of Wales withdrew from the fight. In the wake of the sinking, many explanations were put forward for the explosion. Recent surveys of the wreck confirm that Hood's after magazines did explode.

Selected Sources

  • HMS Hood Association
  • PBS: Hunt for the Hood
  • U-boat.net: HMS Hood

    1. About.com
    2. Education
    3. Military History
    4. Naval Warfare
    5. Ship Profiles
    6. World War II
    7. HMS Hood - World War II HMS Hood

    ©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.