Naval/Maritime History - 24th of May - Today in Naval History - Naval / Maritime Events in History (2023)



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Naval/Maritime History - 24th of May - Today in Naval History - Naval / Maritime Events in History (2)

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  • May 24, 2019
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Today in Naval History - Naval / Maritime Events in History
24 May 1941 - Battle of the Denmark Strait - Part II
Bismarck and Prinz Eugen sink HMS Hood

Sinking of Hood

A sketch prepared by Captain JC Leach (commanding HMS Prince of Wales) for the 2nd Board of Enquiry, 1941. The sketch represents the column of smoke or flame that erupted from the vicinity of the mainmast immediately before a huge detonation which obliterated the after part of the ship from view. This phenomenon is believed to have been the result of a cordite fire venting through the engine-room ventilators (see article).

At 06:00, Holland ordered his force to turn once again to port to ensure that the aft main guns on both Hood and Prince of Wales could bear on the German ships. During the turn, a salvo from Bismarck, fired from about 9 mi (7.8 nmi; 14 km), was seen by men aboard Prince of Wales to straddle Hood abreast her mainmast. It is likely that one 38 cm (15 in) shell struck somewhere between Hood's mainmast and "X" turret aft of the mast. A huge pillar of flame that shot upward 'like a giant blowtorch,' in the vicinity of the mainmast.

This was followed by an explosion that destroyed a large portion of the ship from amidships clear to the rear of "Y" turret, blowing both after turrets into the sea. The ship broke in two and the stern fell away and sank. Ted Briggs, one of the survivors, claimed Hood heeled to 30 degrees at which point 'we knew she just wasn't coming back'. The bow rose clear of the water, pointed upward, pivoted about and sank shortly after the stern. "A" turret fired a salvo while in this upright position, possibly from the doomed gun crew, just before the bow section sank.

Splinters rained down on Prince of Wales .5 mi (0.43 nmi; 0.80 km) away. Hood sank in about three minutes with 1,415 members of the crew. Only Ted Briggs, Bob Tilburn and Bill Dundas survived to be rescued two hours later by the destroyer HMS Electra.

The Admiralty later concluded that the most likely explanation for the loss of Hood was a penetration of her magazines by a 38 cm (15 in) shell from Bismarck, causing the explosion. Recent research with submersible craft suggests that the initial explosion was in the aft 4 in (100 mm) magazine and that it spread to the 15 in (380 mm) magazines via the ammunition trunks. It has been suggested from examination of the wreckage, found in 2001, that the magazine explosion in the 4 in (100 mm) armament near the mainmast caused the vertical blast of flame seen there, and this in turn ignited the magazines of the aft 15 in (380 mm) guns that caused the explosion that wrecked the stern. This explosion might have travelled through the starboard fuel tanks, igniting the fuel oil there, setting off the forward magazines and completing the destruction of the ship.

A photo probably taken from the Prinz Eugen shows the Hood exploding in the far distance with the Prince of Wales nearby

The wreck of Hood revealed the bow section bereft of any structure. A huge section of her side is missing, from the 'A' barbette to the foredeck. The midship section had its plates curled outward. Moreover, the main parts of the forward structure, including the 600 long tons (610 t) conning tower, were found about 1.1 km (0.59 nmi; 0.68 mi) away from the main wreckage. This has sparked theories that the 15 in (380 mm) forward magazines exploded as a result of the force, flames and pressure, caused by the detonation of the aft magazines. However, a team of marine forensic scientists has found that implosion damage to the forward hull due to the rapid sinking of the Hood, is the most likely cause of the state of the forward hull, and they do not support any theory that the forward magazines exploded.

Add-On The Ship:
HMS Hood
(pennant number 51) was the last battlecruiser built for the Royal Navy. Commissioned in 1920, she was named after the 18th-century Admiral Samuel Hood. One of four Admiral-class battlecruisers ordered in mid-1916, Hood had design limitations, though her design was revised after the Battle of Jutland and improved while she was under construction. For this reason, she was the only ship of her class to be completed. Despite the appearance of new and more modern ship designs over time, Hood remained the largest and most powerful warship in the world for 20 years after her commissioning, and her prestige was reflected in her nickname, "The Mighty Hood".

Hood was involved in several showing-the-flag exercises between her commissioning in 1920 and the outbreak of war in 1939, including training exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and a circumnavigation of the globe with the Special Service Squadron in 1923 and 1924. She was attached to the Mediterranean Fleet following the outbreak of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, Hood was officially assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet until she had to return to Britain in 1939 for an overhaul. By this time, advances in naval gunnery had reduced Hood's usefulness. She was scheduled to undergo a major rebuild in 1941 to correct these issues, but the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 forced the ship into service without the upgrades.

When war with Germany was declared, Hood was operating in the area around Iceland, and she spent the next several months hunting for German commerce raiders and blockade runners between Iceland and the Norwegian Sea. After a brief overhaul of her propulsion system, she sailed as the flagship of Force H, and participated in the destruction of the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir. Relieved as flagship of Force H, Hood was dispatched to Scapa Flow, and operated in the area as a convoy escort and later as a defence against a potential German invasion fleet. In May 1941, the battleship Prince of Wales and she were ordered to intercept the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, which were en route to the Atlantic, where they were to attack convoys. On 24 May 1941, early in the Battle of the Denmark Strait, Hood was struck by several German shells, exploded, and sank within 3 minutes, with the loss of all but three of her crew. Due to her perceived invincibility, the loss affected British morale.

The Royal Navy conducted two inquiries into the reasons for the ship's quick demise. The first, held soon after the ship's loss, concluded that Hood's aft magazine had exploded after one of Bismarck's shells penetrated the ship's armour. A second inquiry was held after complaints that the first board had failed to consider alternative explanations, such as an explosion of the ship's torpedoes. It was more thorough than the first board and concurred with the first board's conclusion. Despite the official explanation, some historians continued to believe that the torpedoes caused the ship's loss, while others proposed an accidental explosion inside one of the ship's gun turrets that reached down into the magazine. Other historians have concentrated on the cause of the magazine explosion. The discovery of the ship's wreck in 2001 confirmed the conclusion of both boards, although the exact reason the magazines detonated is likely to remain unknown since that area of the ship was destroyed in the explosion.

Design and description
Main article: Admiral-class battlecruiser

Profile drawing of Hood as she was in 1921, in Atlantic Fleet dark grey

The Admiral-class battlecruisers were designed in response to the German Mackensen-class battlecruisers, which were reported to be more heavily armed and armoured than the latest British battlecruisers of the Renown and the Courageous classes. The design was revised after the Battle of Jutland to incorporate heavier armour and all four ships were laid down. Only Hood was completed, because the ships were very expensive and required labour and material that could be put to better use building merchant ships needed to replace those lost to the German U-boat campaign.

Hood was significantly larger than her predecessors of the Renown class. As completed, she had an overall length of 860 feet 7 inches (262.3 m), a maximum beam of 104 feet 2 inches (31.8 m), and a draught of 32 feet (9.8 m) at deep load. This was 110 feet (33.5 m) longer and 14 feet (4.3 m) wider than the older ships. She displaced 42,670 long tons (43,350 t) at load and 46,680 long tons (47,430 t) at deep load, over 13,000 long tons (13,210 t) more than the older ships. The ship had a complete double bottom. Hood had a metacentric height of 4.2 feet (1.3 m) at deep load, which minimised her roll and made her a steady gun platform.

The additional armour added during construction increased her draught by about 4 feet (1.2 m) at deep load, which reduced her freeboard and made her very wet. At full speed, or in heavy seas, water would flow over the ship's quarterdeck and often entered the messdecks and living quarters through ventilation shafts. This characteristic earned her the nickname of "the largest submarine in the Navy". The persistent dampness, coupled with the ship's poor ventilation, was blamed for the high incidence of tuberculosis aboard. The ship's complement varied widely over her career; in 1919, she was authorised 1433 men as a squadron flagship; in 1934, she had 81 officers and 1244 men aboard.

The propulsion system consisted of 24 Yarrow boilers, connected to Brown-Curtis geared steam turbines driving four propellers. The battlecruiser's turbines were designed to produce 144,000 shaft horsepower(107,000 kW), which would propel the ship at 31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph), but during sea trials in 1920, Hood's turbines provided 151,280 shp (112,810 kW), which allowed her to reach 32.07 knots (59.39 km/h; 36.91 mph). She carried about 3,895 long tons (3,958 t) of fuel oil, which gave an estimated range of 7,500 nautical miles (13,900 km; 8,600 mi) at 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph).


A close-up of Hood's aft 15-inch Mark I guns in 1926.

Hood carried eight 42-calibre BL 15-inch Mk I guns in hydraulically powered twin gun turrets. The guns could depress to −5° and elevate to +30°. At maximum elevation, they fired a 1,920-pound (870 kg) shell to a maximum range of 30,180 yards (27,600 m). The turrets were designated 'A', 'B', 'X', and 'Y' from front to rear, and 120 shells were carried for each gun.

Hood's secondary armament was a dozen 50-calibre BL 5.5-inch Mk I guns, each with 200 rounds. They were shipped on shielded single-pivot mounts fitted along the upper deck and the forward shelter deck. This high position allowed them to be worked during heavy weather, as they were less affected by waves and spray compared with the casemate mounts of earlier British capital ships. Two of these guns on the shelter deck were temporarily replaced by QF 4-inch Mk V antiaircraft (AA) guns between 1938 and 1939. All the 5.5-inch guns were removed during another refit in 1940. The gun fired a 82-pound (37 kg) shell to a maximum range of 17,770 yards (16,250 m).

The original antiaircraft armament consisted of four QF 4-inch Mk V guns on single mounts. These were joined in early 1939 by four twin mounts for the 45-calibre QF 4-inch Mark XVI dual-purpose gun. The single guns were removed in mid-1939 and a further three twin Mark XIX mounts were added in early 1940. This mounting could elevate from −10 to +80°. The Mk XVI gun fired about twelve 35-pound (16 kg) high-explosive shells per minute at a muzzle velocity of 2,660 ft/s (810 m/s). Against surface targets, it had a range of 19,850 yards (18,150 m) and a maximum ceiling of 39,000 ft (12,000 m), but an effective anti-aircraft range of much less.

In 1931, a pair of octuple mountings for the 40-millimetre (1.6 in) QF 2-pounder Mk VIII gun were added on the shelter deck, abreast of the funnels, and a third mount was added in 1937. These gun mounts could depress to −10° and elevate to a maximum of +80°. The Mk VIII 2-pounder gun fired a 40-millimetre (1.6 in) 0.91-pound (0.41 kg) shell at a muzzle velocity of 1,920 ft/s (590 m/s) to a distance of 3,800 yards (3,500 m). The gun's rate of fire was around 96–98 rounds per minute.

Two quadruple mountings for the 0.5-inch Vickers Mk III machine gun were added in 1933 with two more mountings added in 1937. These mounts could depress to −10° and elevate to a maximum of +70°. The machine guns fired a 1.326-ounce (37.6 g) bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,520 ft/s (770 m/s). This gave the gun a maximum range around 5,000 yd (4,600 m), although its effective range was only 800 yd (730 m). To these were added five unrotated projectile launchers in 1940, each launcher carrying 20 7-inch (180 mm) rockets. When they detonated, the rockets shot out lengths of cable that were kept aloft by parachutes; the cable was intended to snag aircraft and draw up the small aerial mine that would destroy the aircraft.

Six fixed 21-inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes were mounted on Hood, three on each broadside. Two of these were submerged forward of 'A' turret's magazine and the other four were above water, abaft the rear funnel. The Mk IV torpedoes had a warhead of 515 pounds (234 kg) of TNT. They had two speed and range settings - 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) with a maximum range of 13,500 yards (12,300 m) or 40 knots (74 km/h; 46 mph) to 5,000 yards (4,600 m). About 28 torpedoes were carried.

Fire control

An aerial view of Hood in 1924: The two forward gun turrets are visible with their prominent rangefinders projecting from the rear of the turret. Behind the turret is the conning tower surmounted by the main fire-control director with its own rangefinder. The secondary director is mounted on top of the spotting top on the tripod foremast.

Battlecruiser or fast battleship
Although the Royal Navy always designated Hood as a battlecruiser, some modern writers such as Anthony Preston have classified her as a fast battleship, since Hood appeared to have improvements over the fast Queen Elizabeth-class battleships. On paper, Hood retained the same armament and level of protection, while being significantly faster.

Around 1918, American commanders, including Vice Admiral William Sims, commander of US naval forces in Europe, and Admiral Henry T. Mayo, commander of the Atlantic Fleet, became extremely impressed by Hood, which they described as a "fast battleship", and they advocated that the US Navy develop a fast battleship of its own. However, the US continued with their established design direction, the slower, but well-protected South Dakota-class battleship and the fast and lightly armoured Lexington-class battlecruiser, both of which were later cancelled in accordance with the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922.

Influences from Hood showed on subsequent Lexington designs, with the reduction of the main armour belt, the change to "sloped armour", and the addition of four above-water torpedo tubes to the four underwater tubes of the original design. To add to the confusion, Royal Navy documents of the period often describe any battleship with a maximum speed over 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph) as a battlecruiser, regardless of the amount of protective armour. For instance, the never-built G3 battlecruiser was classified as such, although it would have been more of a fast battleship than Hood.

The scale of Hood's protection, though adequate for the Jutland era, was at best marginal against the new generation of 16-inch (406 mm) gunned capital ships that emerged soon after her completion in 1920, typified by the American Colorado-class and the Japanese Nagato-class battleships. The Royal Navy were fully aware that the ship's protection flaws still remained, even in her revised design, so Hood was intended for the duties of a battlecruiser and she served in the battlecruiser squadrons through most of her career. Late in her career, Hood was outclassed by the armour and protective arrangement of World War II-era fast battleships, but few available "big gun" vessels could match Bismarck's speed, and in 1941, the Admiralty included Hood among the ships sent to engage the German battleship Bismarck.

Construction of Hood began at the John Brown & Company shipyards in Clydebank, Scotland, on 1 September 1916. Following the loss of three British battlecruisers at the Battle of Jutland, 5,000 tons of extra armour and bracing were added to Hood's design. Most seriously, the deck protection was flawed—spread over three decks, it was designed to detonate an incoming shell on impact with the top deck, with much of the energy being absorbed as the exploding shell had to penetrate the armour of the next two decks. The development of effective time-delay shells at the end of World War I made this scheme much less effective, as the intact shell would penetrate layers of weak armour and explode deep inside the ship. In addition, she was grossly overweight compared to her original design, making her a wet ship with a highly stressed structure.

She was launched on 22 August 1918 by the widow of Rear Admiral Sir Horace Hood, a great-great-grandson of Admiral Samuel Hood, after whom the ship was named. Sir Horace Hood had been killed while commanding the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron and flying his flag on Invincible—one of the three battlecruisers which blew up at the Battle of Jutland. To make room in John Brown's shipyard for merchant construction, Hood sailed for Rosyth to complete her fitting-out on 9 January 1920. After sea trials, she was commissioned on 15 May 1920, under Captain Wilfred Tompkinson. She had cost £6,025,000 to build (roughly equivalent to £237 million today).

With her conspicuous twin funnels and lean profile, Hood was widely regarded one of the finest-looking warships ever built. She was also the largest warship afloat when she was commissioned, and retained that distinction for the next 20 years. Her size and powerful armament earned her the nickname of "Mighty Hood" and she came to symbolise the might of the British Empire itself.

Naval/Maritime History - 24th of May - Today in Naval History - Naval / Maritime Events in History (9)

HMS Hood - Wikipedia

Naval/Maritime History - 24th of May - Today in Naval History - Naval / Maritime Events in History (10)


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