Allied Warships

HMS Hood (51)

Battlecruiser of the Admiral class

HMS Hood before the Second World War

NavyThe Royal Navy
Built byJohn Brown Shipbuilding & Engineering Company Ltd. (Clydebank, Scotland) 
Ordered19 Apr 1916 
Laid down1 Sep 1916 
Launched22 Aug 1918 
Commissioned5 Mar 1920 
Lost24 May 1941 
Loss position63° 20'N, 31° 50'W

Hood, a 42,100-ton battlecruiser built at Clydebank, Scotland, was completed in March 1920. For more than two decades, she was the World's largest warship and, with her long, low hull and finely balanced silhouette, was to many the embodiment of big-gun era seapower. During her travels in European waters and far away, Hood actively represented Great Britain throughout her career. Her first cruise, in 1920, was to Scandanavia. The next year she went down to Gibraltar and Spain and in 1922 visited Brazil and the West Indies. After a brief call on Denmark and Norway in 1923, Hood was flagship on a eleven-month cruise around the World, accompanied by the smaller battlecruiser Repulse and a number of light cruisers. In 1925, she called on Lisbon to help commemorate Portugal's contributions to navigation and exploration. For ten years after 1925, Hood was assigned to the Royal Navy's Home and Atlantic Fleets, operating primarily around Europe, with a visit to the West Indies in 1932. She served with the Mediterranean Fleet in 1936-39, protecting British interests during the Spanish Civil War.

Back with the Home Fleet after mid-1939, Hood operated in the North Atlantic and North Sea through the first part of World War II and received minor damage in a German air attack on 26 September 1939, an event that demonstrated the relative ineffectiveness of contemporary anti-aircraft gunfire.

In June and July 1940, the battlecruiser was in the Mediterranean area. She was flagship during the 3 July Mers-el-Kebir battle, the most dramatic and destructive of several incidents in which the British Navy seized, interned, destroyed or attempted to destroy the warships of their recent ally, France. These acts were undertaken on Government orders to allay fears that the French Navy might fall into German hands.

Hood spent the remainder of her service operating from Scapa Flow, covering the North Sea and Atlantic from the threat of German surface raiders. She was now elderly, overloaded, and burdened with an inadequate armoring arrangement. However, her great operational value had acted through the 1930s to prevent the Royal Navy from taking her out of service for a badly-needed modernization, and now it was too late.

In May 1941, HMS Hood (Capt. Ralph Kerr, RN, CBE, with Vice-Admiral Lancelot Ernest Holland, RN, CB onboard) in company with the new battleship Prince HMS Prince of Wales, she was sent out to search for the German battleship Bismarck, which had left Norway with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen for the Atlantic. On the morning of 24 May, the two British capital ships found the enemy to the west of Iceland. In the resulting Battle of the Denmark Strait, one or more of Bismarck's fifteen-inch shells got into Hood's after magazines. They erupted in a massive explosion. The great ship sank very quickly about 260 nautical miles west-south-west of Reykjavik, Iceland in position 63º20'N, 31º50'W with all but three of her large crew, an event that shocked the Royal Navy, the British nation and the entire world. HMS Hood's remains were located and photographed by a British deep sea expedition in July 2001.


Commands listed for HMS Hood (51)

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1Capt. Sir Irvine Gordon Glennie, RN3 May 193915 Feb 1941
2Capt. Ralph Kerr, RN15 Feb 194124 May 1941 (+)

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Notable events involving Hood include:

21 May 1941
The British battlecruiser Hood (Capt. R. Kerr, CBE, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral L.E. Holland, CB, RN) and the battleship Prince of Wales (Capt. J.C. Leach, MVO, RN) were ordered to proceed to Hvalfjord, Iceland as the German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen were spotted by air reconnaissance at Bergen, Norway. As there were indications that these two were going to 'set sail' for a raid on the ocean trade routes.

The two British capital ships were escorted by the destroyers HMS Electra (Cdr. C.W. May, RN), HMS Anthony (Lt.Cdr. J.M. Hodges, RN), HMS Echo (Lt.Cdr. C.H.deB. Newby, RN), HMS Icarus (Lt.Cdr. C.D. Maud, DSO, RN), HMS Achates (Lt.Cdr. Viscount Jocelyn, RN) and HMS Antelope (Lt.Cdr. R.B.N. Hicks, DSO, RN).

24 May 1941
HMS Electra (Cdr. C.W. May, RN) rescued the 3 survivors from the British battlecruiser HMS Hood, which was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck, off Iceland.

Media links

British Battleships, 1919-1945, Revised Edition

R. A. Burt

Hms Hood: Pride of the Royal Navy

Norman, Andrew

Hood and Bismarck

Mearns, David and White, Rob

Sunk by the Bismarck

Hoyt, Edwin P.

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