HMS Hood

Today, 24 May, marks the anniversary of the sinking of HMS Hood. Over 1415 men and possibly two cats were lost in the sinking, with just three survivors. Thanks to the shared name, I feel a connection to the ship. The Hood was the largest ship in the navy (a record it held until the HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2017) and for about two decades held a symbolic role for Britain and its navy. I don’t remember when I first heard of ‘the Mighty Hood’ or why I came to see battleships as a thing of beauty. There is something odd about seeing such a ship as beautiful, given what it’s potential was, but I cannot find a better description – just as one of its former crew couldn’t…

I stood on the beach for some considerable time, drinking in the beauty, grace and immaculate strength of her. ‘Beauty’ and ‘grace’ seem rather ludicrous words to describe a vessel of such size, particularly one whose primary function was for destruction. But I can honestly say I never could, nor indeed, can even today, think of more suitable words to describe her.

Albert ‘Ted’ Briggs upon seeing the Hood in September as a child. Briggs would go on to join the Royal Navy because of that first sight of the Hood and ended up on the Hood itself and was one of its three survivors on 24 May 1941 (Knowles, 2019, HMS Hood: Pride of the Royal Navy, Fonthill, p.199-200).

Perhaps rather than seeing the Hood as having a ‘primary function’ ‘for destruction’, it should have been seen more as the deterrent of its times. Just as nuclear missiles and mushroom clouds have a certain beauty (as I discuss more in another post and also see this post), their ultimate effectiveness is the threat of their use. If they have to be deployed, then there will only be losers.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Hood#/media/File:HMS_Hood_(51)_-_March_17,_1924.jpg

There are two occasions when I particularly remember coming across the Hood during my childhood. Upon joining one school when I was about seven, all the boys were split into ‘houses’. At the school, the houses were Navy, Army, Marines and RAF. The headmasters (who apparently had also taught my father at a different school prior to WWII) seemed to take some glee in allocating me to the Navy and mentioned about ‘the Mighty Hood’. For many years, when lining up for registration each morning, I was at the front of the line and I’m sure the symbolism of the Hood being at the front of the Navy had been in their mind. The other memory was having A Book of Disasters by Jane Ferguson (published in 1981). As I wrote in my book Dealing with Disaster in Japan, it was the sections on earthquakes and entry for HMS Hood were of most interest to me. I suspect that it was around one of these times that I discussed the Hood with my father and learnt that a recruitment office suggested that my father, who once visited the ship with my grandfather, became one of the crew of HMS Hood. Luckily my father was more interested in flying aircraft, going on to fly the iconic Lancaster. However, I have no doubt that had I lived in an age of conscription I would have chosen to go into the navy.

Although the focus of my academic writing has been on Japan, due an interest in symbolism (which itself may have been stimulated by the symbolic significance of the Hood and its sinking), I included discussion of the Hood in my book Shinkansen: From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan

Taken from page 14 of Shinkansen. In relation to the using the name ‘Robin Hood’ to help with spelling, this doesn’t work in France where he is known by another name… but on one occasion the person, after spelling out the name, commented on it ‘being like the boat’. I doubt that would work now, about another 40 years on.

Although I may have learnt about the Hood in a book on disasters, my more recent research on disaster narratives would suggest that any movie on the Hood wouldn’t fit into such a study as my study, like some others, don’t include war films within studies of disasters. But thinking about this, does beg the question about why there hasn’t been more written about the Hood. There are books that look at her history and the sinking, and there have been documentaries (including about the discovery of the final resting place in 2001) and at least one movie (Sink The Bismarck! – which I have just watched again), but, as far as I’m aware, no historical fiction based on her history (and although I also write novels, I would not be able to do one about the Hood). The focus of most historical movies and such like is on the sinking. But that should not define the ship which had such a long and symbolic history in trying to maintain peace. Why are the no novels, TV series or movies focussing on this? Perhaps, as my aforementioned article discusses, it because there is a preference for happy endings in English-speaking countries – unlike as may happen in Japan.

That the Hood had such a symbolic role hit home to me when visiting Victoria in Canada. As I rushed to catch a boat to Seattle, I spotted a picture of the Hood on the wall in the waiting room, and duly stopped my jog to take a picture…

In my office at work I have a plaque showing its design …

I would like to add a diecast model too – but have struggled to find one that has a good balance of size, detail and price. A further link to the Hood at work is that the grandfather, Frederick ‘Ron’ Crank, of one of my friends and colleagues was on the HMS Salopian (named after the county that I am from) and travelled back to Britain with the Hood‘s three survivors after the Salopian had been sunk and the survivors transported initially to Iceland.

The Hood had little to no chance against the Bismarck. Whilst luck may have played its part, the Hood was about 20 years older than the Bismarck and could not compete. Imagine trying to do what you do on your computer with a machine that’s 20 years older, or pitting a current Formula One car against one from 20 years ago. But the Hood should not be merely remembered for the events of 24 May 1941. Had the Hood survived WWII, she would almost certainly have gone on to become a central museum ship instead of HMS Belfast, for example (or like the USS Missouri, ‘the Mighty Mo’, in the USA). Writing this post 79 years on from her sinking and 100 years (and nine days) from when she joined the Royal Navy, all I can hope is that the Hood and her crew rest in peace.

See also Book Reviews: HMS Hood – Pride of the Royal Navy by Daniel Knowles and The End of Glory – War & Peace in HMS Hood 1916-1941 by Bruce Taylor

Ventis Secundis – With Favourable Winds

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on battleoftheatlantic19391945 and commented:
    VICTORIA DAY-MONDAY, May 24, 2021@06:53-Still stands thine ancient sacrifice, a humble and a contrite heart; Lord God of Hosts be with us yet, LEST WE FORGET, LEST WE FORGET!!!

    Poem by Rudyard Kipling.

    At the going down of the SUN, and in the MORNING; WE WILL REMEMBER THEM, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

    Still TRUE to the IDEALS, when as THEY WERE YOUNG MEN, THEY SAILED to meet the FOE AGAIN, THEIR NAMES ENROLLED IN HONOUR’S COURT, THEY ARE ALL RIDING ANCHOR, IN HOME PORT.

    On ALL the OCEANS the WHITE CAPS FLOW.

    YOU ARE ALL NOT FORGOTTEN, H.M.S. HOOD…COMPLEMENT, ON May 24, 1941, LEST WE FORGET, LEST WE FORGET.

    Yours Aye…RESPECTFULLY with LOVE…Brian Murza…Killick Vison, W.W.II Naval Researcher-Published Author, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

    Blog Credit: Christopher P. Hood.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s