The Battlecruiser HMS Hood

 [Drawings by Stefan Dramiński]

The construction of the Hood’s sister ships Anson, Howe and Rodney was suspended in March 1917, although the work on their design continued. All the changes introduced to the Hood’s armor protection were automatically added to the blueprints of the other three ships. However, following the end of the war and cuts in the Royal Navy shipbuilding budget, the construction of the three battlecruisers was finally cancelled in October 1918. It was decided that the money needed to finish the warships would be better spent on the re-building of the British merchant fleet, which suffered great losses to German U-boats during the war.

Turret “B” with a UP mount on its roof.  [Drawings by Stefan Dramiński]


HMS Hood was launched on August 22, 1918 and christened by Lady Hood, widow of the late Admiral Horace Hood (lost at Jutland on HMS Invincible). Admiral Hood was the great-great-grandson of Admiral Samuel Hood, after whom the battlecruiser was named. The outfitting of the ship continued for the next two years until January 1920 when the battlecruiser left for Rosyth under her own power. She was docked at Rosyth on February 20, 1920 where the outfitting continued until March 29, 1920. After a series of trials the Hood entered service with the Royal Navy on May 15, 1920 under the command of Captain Wilfred Tomkinson. The total cost of the battlecruiser’s construction was 6 025 000 pounds. In mid May 1920 HMS Hood became the Flagship of the Battlecruiser Squadron, Atlantic Fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Roger Keyes.
In the same month the warship steamed out of Rosyth. Most of her over one thousand-man complement were the sailors and officers who had formerly served on HMS Lion and took part in the battle of Jutland. The wartime exploits of the Lion’s crew under the command of Rear Admiral Sir David Beatty earned her a lot of recognition and respect. Now that she was going into reserve, the Hood would take her place as the Navy’s new gem in peacetime. On May 31, the fourth anniversary of the battle of Jutland, the Hood’s crew paid tribute to their fallen comrades during a ceremony held off the coast of Denmark. The ships of the Battlecruiser Squadron (including HMS Hood, the battlecruiser HMS Tiger and nine destroyers) received orders to set course for Kronstadt to support the British Baltic Squadron in their operations against the Bolshevik forces. However, the orders were then changed and the ships were directed to go to Scandinavia instead. HMS Hood made several port calls, including Christiana (today’s Oslo), Kalmar (to allow the crew to visit Stockholm, which at that time was off-limits to battlecruisers) and Copenhagen. Wherever she went the ship attracted huge crowds of spectators. In Sweden, Denmark and Norway the Hood was visited by kings Gustav V, Christian X and Haakon VII.
In the spring of 1921 the Hood, accompanied by HMS Tiger, departed for a cruise of the Mediterranean and Gibraltar. En route the ships made port calls at Malaga, Valencia and Toulon. In summer the battlecruiser returned to Rosyth where she underwent repairs followed by speed trials and armament tests. In the spring of 1922 HMS Hood arrived at Gibraltar once again. After her return to home waters in the summer of 1922 the battlecruiser was inspected by King George V at Torbay.
The Washington Naval Conference of 1921 – 1922 was convened to slow down the naval arms race following the Great War. The participating nations agreed to set the top limit for the displacement tonnage of battlecruisers and battleships at 35 000 tons. As a result a number of large warships exceeding the agreed limit were ordered to be scrapped. However, the Royal Navy was allowed to keep their newest battlecruiser as an exception to the rule. The move allowed HMS Hood to maintain her status as the world’s largest warship over the next several years.
In the second half of 1922 the Hood and battlecruiser HMS Repulse visited Brazil to represent the Royal Navy at the Brazilian Independence Day celebration. In Rio de Janeiro the ship was visited by Brazilian president Epitácio Pessoa. During the rest of the cruise HMS Hood made port calls at West Indies, the Canary Islands and Gibraltar. En route the crew performed a series of gunnery and torpedo exercises. A year later the battlecruiser paid another visit to Norway and Denmark where it was inspected by  King Haakon VII and Queen Maud of Norway.
Between November 27, 1923 and September 1924 HMS Hood was the centerpiece of the Special Service Squadron on a cruise around the world. The Squadron, commanded by Vice Admiral Sir Frederick L. Field, included battlecruiser Repulse, cruisers Delhi, Danae, Dragon, Dauntless and Dunedin and nine destroyers. The purpose of the 40 000 mile cruise (in which the King himself was personally involved) was to showcase the power and the global reach of the Royal Navy. In the ten months it took to complete the voyage, HMS Hood had almost 750 000 visitors at various ports around the world, which helped to reinforce her reputation as the most recognizable warship in the world. During the cruise the Special Service Squadron visited South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. While visiting Australia the Hood escorted HMAS Australia on her way to be scuttled as a result of the Washington Treaty.

Fore bridge deck with an air lookout sight and a pair of searchlight sights.  [Drawings by Stefan Dramiński]


After the return from the “Empire Cruise” in 1924 the battlecruiser spent the rest of the year at Rosyth and Devonport undergoing maintenance and repairs. In January 1925 she rejoined the Atlantic Fleet and remained in service until 1929. During that period the ship attended Vasco da Gama celebrations in Lisbon (1926), paid a visit to Malaga where she was inspected by Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain (1928) and participated in a number of routine exercises.
In May 1929 the ship was docked at Portsmouth where she stayed for the next two years undergoing a major refit. The work included installation of the new HACS fire control system, extensions to the compass platform, installation of additional armor and the addition of a pair of eight-barrel pom-poms (QF 2-pounder AA guns). The ship also gained the capability to launch and recover sea planes after a catapult and a crane had been installed on the quarterdeck. After the completion of all the work the battlecruiser underwent a series of sea trials.
In May 1931 HMS Hood resumed her role as the Flagship of the Battlecruiser Squadron. In Early 1932 the ship, accompanied by the Repulse and several other vessels, went on a cruise of West Indies. During the return journey, on January 21 1932 the Hood suffered damage to two of her propellers after she encountered a major storm. The ship then arrived at Portsmouth for repairs.
A year earlier, in September 1931, some of the ship’s crew took part in “Invergordon Mutiny” over the proposed reduction of pay rates in the Atlantic Fleet. Following the mutiny, the Atlantic Fleet was re-named the Home Fleet in 1932. During the Hood’s early days of service in the Home Fleet the ship was once more officially inspected by the King.
Between 1933 and 1939 HMS Hood deployed to the Mediterranean on several occasions. While there the battlecruiser engaged in routine exercises and made a number of port calls, including Gibraltar, Madera, Canary Islands, Malta and Greece. In  January 1935, while returning from West Indies, HMS Hood was involved in a collision with battlecruiser HMS Renown in which she suffered damage to one of the propellers and a section of the port side. The damaged ship set course for Gibraltar where temporary repairs were carried out allowing the battlecruiser to continue on to Portsmouth. She remained at Portsmouth for the next three months undergoing repairs to areas affected by the collision. In the aftermath of the incident the commander of the Battlecruiser Squadron and the captains of the two ships faced the court martial proceedings, but only the captain of the Renown was found guilty and stripped of his command. However, the Admiralty took a different view and strongly criticized Rear Admiral Sir Sidney R. Bailey for sending inconsistent and confusing signals in the moments leading to the collision of the two warships.[...]

 

Bibliography

Klimczyk Tadeusz – Monografie Morskie 6 – Hood, AJ-Press 1997
Roberts John – The Battlecruiser Hood, Conway Maritime Press 2001
Taylor Bruce – The Battlecruiser HMS Hood, An Illustrated Biography 1916 – 1941, Chatham Publishing 2005
HMS Hood Association – www.hmsHood.com

 

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