The H.M.S. Hood Association Online Archive
"Newsheet 3 " (Third Association Newsletter)
Updated 06-May-2014

The third H.M.S. Hood Association newsletter (1976).

Chainbar divider

Dear Shipmates,

We are now busy planning our next re-union which will be on May 21st, 1977, followed the next day by the annual Hood memorial service at Boidre.

Our Standard fund is building up and that means we shall have it ready for the Service.

I wish to thank members who send stamped addressed envelopes, but please omit the envelopes in future as usually the envelopes are too small for the newsheets etc., so please just a stamp.

We now have a Hood tie which orders can now be made at £1.45 each; it's a beautiful terylene tie with the Hood Crest so please send cash with order.

Wishing all shipmates the best of health.

Yours faithfully,
Fred (White)

Here is our President's story of the sinking of our ship, the Mighty Hood.


At midnight on Thursday 22nd May 1941, Cable Party and Special Sea Dutymen was piped and HOOD, PRINCE of WALES, ACHATES, ANTELOPE, ANTHONY, ECHO, ELECTRA and ICARUS sailed from Scapa Flow. Messdeck 'Buzzes' were, as usual, rife throughout the ship, but it was not until next morning that Captain Kerr broadcast that the BISMARCK and a Hipper class cruiser were believed to be in Bergen and that Hood (wearing the flag of Second-in-Command Home Fleet, Vice Admiral Holland) and company were sailing to Iceland in order to cover the Denmark Straits and the passage between Iceland and Faroes, should the German force attempt to break out into the Atlantic.

We had, as you all well know, had many similar buzzes in the past, so no-one got unduly excited about this one. However, as we were entering Hvalfiord, information was received that the German force had sailed and we were ordered by C. H.F. to intercept.

Captain Kerr again informed the ships company and added that Bismarck had been sighted and was being shadowed by Norfolk and Suffolk. We then began to realise that this was indeed going to be no false alarm and the possibility of impending surface action became very real.

Strict radio silence was observed by Hood's force. Enemy and amplifying reports from the shadowing cruisers to Admiralty and C. in C. H.F. were intercepted and passed on to the ships company as received.

On the evening of Friday 23rd May, the Commander broadcast that hands would go to Action Stations at midnight and that action was expected to commence at about 0200 on the morning of 24th May.

My action station, with that of Midshipman Dundas, was the compass platform. Able Seaman Tilburn was 4" Guns crew on the boatdeck.

Shortly after midnight the shadowing cruisers reported "lost contact". This caused some concern as it appeared Bismarck may have turned round. In actual fact she had turned to attack and drive off the Norfolk and Suffolk, then resumed course.

Since it was imperative to regain contact as soon as possible. Admiral Holland ordered Hood and Prince of Wales to steer a more Southerly course and detached the destroyers to search to the North.

At 0247 contact was again established by Norfolk and Suffolk when it became apparent that Bismarck had not reversed course. Shortly after this Hood herself gained Radar contact. Bismarck was then 30 miles on the starboard beam. Visibility and weather conditions were generally poor and the Admiral decided to maintain a parallel course until conditions improved.

The atmosphere throughout the ship was now electric. My own feelings were a mixture of apprehension, wild excitement and fear. I do not think there was a soul aboard who did not consider our mighty Hood and her consort more than a match for Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, as the cruiser had now been identified.

At 0430 visibility improved and Admiral Holland ordered course to be altered by both ships together to starboard to intercept. At 0535 the enemy spotting tops came into sight at a range of 17 miles off the starboard bow. Ten minutes' later; course was again altered a further 40° to starboard. Admiral Holland's intention being to close the range as rapidly as possible in order to:

(a) Get into decisive gun range,

(b) Protect Hood's suspect deck armour by making a flatter trajectory for shells.

At 0552 at a range of 25,000 yards, the order and signal to 'Open Fire' was given and course altered a further 20° to starboard placing the enemy fine on the starboard bow. Consequently X and Y turrets could not, at that time, be brought into action. Hood had also wrongly assumed that Bismarck was the leading ship and it was not until the third salvo that it was realised she was astern of Eugen. We had fired about six salvoes before the Germans replied and one hit was scored on Bismarck, whether by Hood or Prince of Wales has not been fully established, but I like to think it was Hood.

Bismarck naturally concentrated both ships' fire on Hood. I remember watching with fascinated horror as she appeared to spout four large incandescent stars along her length and realised that these were shells heading our way. Her first salvo fell short, her second over and the third hit. The ship shuddered and Commander Gregson, the Squadron Gunnery Officer, went to the starboard wing of the compass platform to investigate. He came back and reported a hit at the base of the mainmast and that there was a fire round the 4" Ready-Use lockers. Captain Kerr ordered this fire to be left until the ammunition had been expended. Bismarck's next salvo, according to Midshipman Dundas, appeared to go through the Spotting Top without exploding. This I did not see, but certainly bodies from above fell on to the compass platform.

By this time Hood and Prince of Wales had reached a range of 16,500 yards and the Admiral ordered a turn to port to bring our after guns into action. As the ships began to turn, the next salvo from Bismarck struck Hood. I heard no explosion as such on the compass platform. A gigantic sheet of flame shot round the front and we were all thrown off our feet. When I got up the ship was listing slightly to starboard and it was obvious that she had been very badly hit.

However, she righted herself and at that moment the Quartermaster reported up the voice pipe "Steering gear gone, Sir". Captain Kerr ordered, "Change over to emergency steering". She then started listing to port and carried on going. She had gone, I suppose, about 40° when it became obvious she just wasn't coming back and people began to make their way out. I went to the starboard door of the compass platform and went out just behind the Squadron Gunnery Officer and in front of the Navigating Officer. I had just got out of the door, half-way down the ladder to the Admirals bridge, when the water came level and I felt myself being dragged under. The Midshipman managed to smash one of the windows of the compass platform and went out through that, spraining an ankle in the process. Able Seaman Tilburn, on the boatdeck, had the most miraculous escape. A wire, presumably from the "roof aerials", twined round his legs and he took out his knife under water to cut himself free. Afterwards we all said exactly the same, we felt ourselves being dragged down and down and then suddenly seemed to shoot to the surface. This the Court of Enquiry attributed to a boiler explosion under water and our being caught in air bubbles.

When I came to the surface I was on her port side, something I have never been able to figure out! She was about 50 yards away, her bows vertical with the water and B. turret just going under. I turned and swam as best I could in water 4" thick with oil and managed to get on one of the small rafts she carried, of which there were a large number floating around. When I turned again she had gone and there was a fire on the water where her bows had been. Over on the other side I saw Dundas and Tilburn on similar rafts. There was not another soul to be seen. We hand-paddled towards each other and held on to one anothers rafts until our hands became too numb to do so.

Prince of Wales had apparently reported, "Hood sunk, very little hope of survivors". C. in C., however, had refused to believe this and ordered two of Hood's Destroyer screen to close the area and search for survivors. Thus it was that 3 and a half hours later we saw the verv welcome sight of Electra's bows as she headed towards us.

Note from Editor: This particular article is also in the "Remembering Hood" area of the site.