HMS Hood (51)

Hood in the early 1930s, probably 1932. Her appearance changed very little over her two decades of service. Photo # NH 60418 in the collections of the US Naval History and Heritage Command.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down
1916
Launched
1918
Commissioned
1920
AD/BC
AD
History

The last battlecruiser to enter service with the Royal Navy, HMS Hood was ordered as part of a four-ship class in April, 1916. Two months later, the Loss of three British battlecruisers at the Battle of Jutland saw changes to her design, in order to improve the armor protection. Additional changes were made during construction, before Hood, the only member of her class to be completed, entered service on 15 May, 1920. Hood spent much of her next two decades abroad, showing the flag and visiting foreign ports, and she soon became recognized as a symbol of British seapower. This meant Hood was always the center of attention, but it also meant that the Royal Navy was unable to send her into dockyards for major overhauls, like most of their capital ships received during the 1920s and 1930s. Plans for refits were constantly put on hold, and Hood began World War II virtually the same as she had been when she was completed. One of the fastest capital ships afloat, Hood spent a lot of the early months hunting German raiders. A bomb hit in late 1939 finally got Hood into the dockyard long enough to fix up her engines and heating system, but nothing more major. Hood was deployed to the Mediterranean, and led the attack to neutralize the French fleet berthed at Mers-el-K├ębir in July, 1940, after the fall of France. Hood returned home in August, and received a brief refit, and then a three-month one from January to March, 1941. In May, she sailed to guard the Denmark Strait, between Iceland and Greenland, against a breakout by the German battleship Bismarck. Hood, accompanied by the new battleship Prince of Wales, intercepted Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen at dawn on the 24th. Initially, Hood was positioned so that she could only use her forward guns, to help shield her vulnerable insides from Bismarck, but she turned to unmask her aft turrets, and a shell detonated her aft magazine. Hood went down with all but three of her crew. Her wreck was discovered in 2001.

Bonus Photos

Children watch signalmen demonstrate their jobs aboard Hood during a visit to Vancouver, British Colombia, in June, 1924. Photo in the collection of the City of Vancouver Archives.