HMS Hood at Sea

Magnificent photo of HMS Hood at the Spithead Review in 1937 to mark the ascension of George VI to the throne.

(Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224384)

 

 “The bows of the battle cruiser HMS HOOD awash as she moves at full speed through Caribbean waters during the Cruise of the Special Service Squadron. The ship on the horizon is the  HMS REPULSE, the other vessel forming the Special Service Squadron.

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205090611″

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, HMS Hood made a series of cruises throughout the British Empire and the world. She was not only a beautiful ship but the largest warship afloat at the time. Unfortunately, like the empire itself, the “Mighty Hood” was a bluff. In spite of refits, she remained a museum of 1920s naval technology.

HMS Hood at sea circa mid to late 1930s

 © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224389

Worse, her insufficient deck armour, while strengthened, was never brought up to standard and this made her vulnerable to plunging fire. A German shell from the Bismarck (we think) plunged through her thin deck armour and exploded in her after magazine. This resulted in an explosion so massive the Hood almost disintegrated. She broke in half and sank in just a few minutes taking all but three of her crew to their deaths.

HMS Hood seen from battle cruiser HMS Repulse circa mid 1930s.

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224383

While undergoing several brief refits, HMS Repulse was in no better shape to withstand a heavy enemy attack than the Hood. She was sunk with heavy loss of life in company with HMS Prince of Wales off Singapore by Japanese torpedo bombers.

This shocked the world because HMS Hood was the well-known warship in the world and had come to symbolize the British Empire. She had spent so much time showing the flag around the globe from the mid 1920s to the late 1930s that the Royal Navy ran out of time to remove her from service and have her rebuilt. While aware of her deficiencies, the Admiralty kept her in service and the result was disastrous.

HMS Hood entering Portsmouth harbour on a grey day circa mid-1930s

 HMS HOOD (HU 108395) HMS HOOD entering Plymouth harbour. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205224387

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/