Learn about the famous Royal Naval Vessel the HMS Hood

The HMS Hood was a Royal Navy battlecruiser. Hood was the first of four Admiral-class battlecruisers to be built during World War I. Hood remained the greatest warship in the world for 20 years following her commissioning, and her grandeur was mirrored in her nickname, as The Mighty Hood.

HMS Hood Construction

Hood after she was fitted with an aircraft catapult; a Fairey III is visible on her stern, 1932

Hood’s construction began on September 1, 1916, at the John Brown & Company shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland, as yard number 460. Hood’s design was given an additional 5,000 tons of armour and bracing. Following the loss of three British battlecruisers.

On August 22, 1918, ship was launched by the widow of Rear Admiral Sir Horace Hood, a great-great-grandson of Admiral Samuel Hood, for whom the ship was named. On January 9, 1920, Hood sailed for Rosyth to finish her fitting-out. She was commissioned on 15 May 1920, following her sea trials, under Captain Wilfred Tompkinson. The ship had cost £6,025,000 to construct.

Hood was widely recognized as one of the most aesthetically pleasing warships ever built. Her massive stature and strong weaponry gave her the moniker “Mighty Hood,” and she came to represent the strength of the British Empire itself.

Design

Hood was notable for having a front freeboard of only 11 feet 3 inches, as opposed to the other ships’ forward freeboards of 19 feet 6 inches. Low freeboard had been popular for about ten years because it demanded less armour and made a smaller target for gunfire to attack, but it also compromised seaworthiness. 

Hood was very wet in rough weather due to her short freeboard, and her top speed decreased rapidly as the wave height increased, rendering her only fit for service in the comparatively calm Mediterranean. This was interpreted as a validation of the high-freeboard design used in the remainder of her class, and all following British battleship classes had high freeboard.

 Characteristics 

Hood measured 410 feet 6 inches overall, 75 feet in beam, and 28 feet 6 inches in draught at deep load. At standard load, she displaced 14,780 long tons and 15,588 long tons at deep load. Her crew consisted of 690 officers and ratings. 

Two 3-cylinder vertical triple-expansion steam engines, each driving one propeller, propelled the ship. Eight water-tube boilers supplied steam to the engines, which when forced, generated a maximum of 11,000 indicated horsepower.

Military weapons, equipment and armour

The ship was mounted with four 32-calibre BL 13.5-inch Mk I-IV cannons in two twin gun turrets, one fore and one aft of the superstructure. Every weapon came with 80 shells. Hood’s secondary weaponry consisted of ten 40-calibre 6-inch Mk I-III guns located in casemates in the superstructure.

The four of these weapons installed on the upper deck had a fundamental flaw in that they were mounted low in the ship and were useless at fast speeds or in bad weather. They were taken out in 1904. The ship carried 200 rounds of ammunition for each cannon.

Hood was protected by both compound and nickel steel armour. Her waterline main belt thickness ranged from 14 to 18 inches. It was 8.5 feet high and spanned the center 250 feet of the ship, with 5 feet 6 inches below the waterline under normal load. 

The 150-foot-long upper strake of 4-inch armour defended the ship’s side between the barbette. Oblique bulkheads 3 inches thick joined this strake to the armour that protected the turret bases. The gun turrets and bases were protected by 17 inches of armour, which was reduced to 16 inches below the oblique bulkheads.

Hood as a fast battleship

Hood on her speed trials, 1920s

Some writers, such as Anthony Preston, classify her as a fast battleship because Hood appeared to outperform the fast Queen Elizabeth-class battleships. Hood kept the same weaponry and level of protection while being much faster.

In 1918, American commanders such as Vice Admiral William Sims, head of US naval operations in Europe, and Admiral Henry T. Mayo, commander of the Atlantic Fleet, were blown away by Hood, which they referred to as a quick battleship.

Hood’s Sinking

Hood was hit by several German shells on May 24, 1941, early in the Battle of the Denmark Strait, detonated, and sank, killing all but three of her 1,418-person crew. The loss impacted British morale because of her widely projected invincibility. 

Hood’s back was broken by the explosion, and the last sight of the ship, which sank in three minutes, was her bow, virtually vertical in the sea. The location of the sinking is given as 63°20′N 31°50′W in a note on a survivor’s sketch in the RN Historical Branch Archives.

Facts/Trivia about the HMS Hood 

  • HMS Hood, the Royal Navy’s final battlecruiser- For more than two decades, she was the pride of the Royal Navy. As one of the world’s largest and most powerful warships.
  • The Battle of Denmark Strait was quick- One of history’s shortest clashes between capital ships was the Battle of Denmark Strait between Bismarck and the British ships HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales. They were blown up after few minutes of being fired.
  • The final salute of HMS Hood- Hood’s bow portion was stuck straight up in the air as she sank. Witnesses were astounded as one of her huge guns fired a final shot high up into the air. A desperate act of defiance by the entrapped, hopeless crew firing a salute seconds before ship sunk beneath the waves.
  • Britain’s largest battle cruiser- The HMS Hood, which was launched in 1918, was Britain’s largest battle cruiser about 41,200 tons, but it could also reach a relatively rapid speed of 31 knots.

Wrapping it up

The HMS Hood’s wreck is scattered across two debris fields on the seafloor at a depth of around 2,800 meters. Some artifacts from the sinking of the Hood still survive. The ship sank so quickly that only three people survived. 

It has become a famous ship because it was large and powerful but it only took a few minutes for it to sank when it was fired. It was among one of the shortest battles recorded in history.