Built to the limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty, HMS Rodney and her sister ship, HMS Nelson, both had all three turrets of their main armament on the fore deck of the ship. As odd as these ships looked, their carried 16 inch guns, the largest in the Royal Navy.
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.
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.
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
A RAF Coastal Command Catalina (AH545 WQ-Z of 209 Squadron) located the German battleship Bismarck on 26 May 1941 which led to the sinking of the Bismarck. The sighting was made by the co-pilot, American US Navy Ensign Leonard “Tuck” Smith, but was credited to the pilot, British Flying Officer Dennis Briggs of the RAF, because the United States was supposed to be neutral.