Sinking of the Hood

The battlecruiser Hood was completed in 1920. The largest warship in the world, the Hood was the major symbol of the power of the Royal Navy in the 1930s.

By the outbreak of the Second World War experts considered the Hood to be vulnerable from aerial or long-range attack. However, in July 1940, she successfully took part in the bombardment of Mers-el-Kébir.

On 24th May 1941 the Hood led the new battleship Prince of Wales into action against the Bismarck and Prince Eugen.

The engagement began when the Hood began firing at the more advanced Prince Eugen. When the Bismarck arrived it used its 15-inch guns and after taking several direct hits the Hood exploded before sinking. Only three out of a crew of 1,421 survived.

Primary Sources

(1) The Manchester Guardian (26th May, 1941)

An admiralty announcement on Saturday said that the battlecruiser Hood suffered an unlucky hit in a magazine and blew up. It is feared that there will be few survivors. The 35,000 ton Bismarck, one of Germany's two newest battleships was damaged.

The two new German battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz may both have been present, though only the Bismarck is mentioned in the official bulletin. Recently the German Admiralty was at pains to let the world know that both were completed and on service. They are reported to have been designed to steam at more than 30 knots, and if that is their speed the Hood should be the ship most likely to keep them within range in a running fight. None of our battleships can exceed 25 knots apart from the new King George V class, and we know nothing of their whereabouts.

The destruction of the Hood is surprising, for her design was based on the lessons of Jutland, where three battlecruisers were all destroyed by the blowing up of their magazines. The armour protection for the Hood was considered by the experts to be the most effective that could be devised. All the protection possible was provided in the gun turrets and ammunition trunks to prevent the flash of an explosion passing down the trunk into the magazine and the handling rooms - the cause of the destruction of the Queen Mary, the Indefatigable, and the Invincible at Jutland - and more than a third of the weight of the ship was devoid of armour.