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Even the crew of the mighty Hood refused to sail.

Battlecruiser HMS Hood in the early 1930s. Pride of the Royal Navy, symbol of the power of the British Empire and largest warship in the world.

HMS Hood (British Battlecruiser, 1920-1941) in British waters, possibly when she first went to sea in early 1920. The main topgallant mast, which is seen in this view, was removed in March 1920 and not replaced until 1923.

Admiral Tomkinson, Admiral Commanding Battlecruiser of the Atlantic Fleet (not battleships), upon whom command of the fleet had devolved in the absence of the C-in-C, had his flag on battlecruiser HMS Hood. The crew of this famous ship proved difficult to control. Ironically, Admiral Wilkinson had been the first captain of HMS Hood.

So sensitive is the British Government to the mutiny of the Royal Navy at Invergordon that only a portion of the official records of the mutiny, such as the report of Rear Admiral Tomkinson which I am citing in various posts, has ever been released by the British government. Even then, this partial release of records concerning the mutiny only occurred in 1971 — forty years after the event.

On the morning of September 15, the Atlantic Fleet was under orders to steam into the Atlantic for a series of maneuvers.

From confidential report to Their Lordships of the Admiralty by Rear Admiral Tomkinson:

At this time (0847 on 15 September after Valiant refused to sail) large numbers of men were massed on the forecastles of Hood, Rodney and Dorsetshire, and there was a considerable amount of cheering… it became evident that neither Hood nor Rodney could go to sea.

…Shortly before dinner (on the 15th of September) it had been reported to me that disturbances had again broken out in the Canteen and that additional patrols, under the command of a Lieutenant Commander from Hood had been landed from Hood and Valiant. Further reports were received that the disturbances were of a disorderly nature, that meetings were being held in both the Canteen and in the open air, and that there was much speech-making, cheering and singing…

The libertymen returned to their leave, but in a very disorderly and noisy manner, and having returned on board, in several ships remained on the forecastles, speechmaking, cheering and singing until a late hour.

The Captains dining with me dispersed to their ships’ having been directed to report immediately on the state of affairs on the ship under their command; and at 2315 I reported the circumstances briefly to the Admiralty by telegram, adding that the cause of complaint seemed to be the drastic reductions in pay of ratings below petty officer who were on the pre-1925 scale of pay.

On receiving the reports of the Captains it became evident…there was a considerable number of men in Rodney, Hood, Valiant and Nelson who intended to prevent their ship sailing the next morning in accordance with the practice programme.

The Invergordon anchorage, on the Cromarty Firth in Scotland, is where the ships were moored at the time of the mutiny. This is a photo of the village of Cromarty looking down at the firth.

Nearby, the small village of Invergordon (known in Lower Deck slang as “InverG”) had few entertainments for the sailors. There was a large canteen for ratings in InverG however, serving weak beer, and this is where the men first gathered and speakers from the Lower Deck suggested they go on strike. The word mutiny was never used since to mutiny was still an offense punishable by death.

Ironically, the word strike dates to the era of sailing ships most especially merchant ships. To remove the sails from the yardarms to repair them for a voyage was to “strike” the sails. Obviously the ship couldn’t go anywhere without sails. Hence, if sailors had a grievance with the owner of the vessel, they would sometimes “strike” the sails.

[Images courtesy of The Naval History and Heritage Command Archives, The Naval History and Heritage Command Archives, and Geograph Website.]