-H.M.S. Hood Crew Information-
H.M.S. Crew List

It is estimated that as many as 18,000 men served aboard the 'Mighty Hood' during the operational portion of her 21 year career. Unfortunately, there is no surviving official single listing of ALL men who served in her. Here you will find our attempt at creating such a listing. We are using the few, fragmentary crew lists known to exist, Navy Lists, various official reports, public records, and most importantly of all, inputs from the families of former crew.

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Bernard William (Bill) Cass

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Date of birth: 28th March 1922
Place of birth: Ryde, Isle of Wight, England
Previous occupation: Schoolboy
Service: Royal Navy
Rank: Boy
Service Number: PJX153717
Joined Hood: 1938
Left Hood: 1940







Biographical Information: Bill Cass served in HMS Hood as a boy seaman, from 1938 to 1940. His primary duty was to man the Hood's secondary armament - one of her 5.5 inch guns. When these were removed in 1940 (being replaced by high-angle 4 inch twin mountings) Bill was drafted off Hood.

Bill served in the Royal Navy right through World War II, in destroyers and minesweepers, and even briefly in HMS Victory on fire watch during German bombing raids.

In total, Bill's Royal Navy time lasted for 18 years, before he left to work on pneumatic drills with Longleys the builders.A member of the HMS Hood Association in its early days, Bill was rediscovered in 2018 as one of the few remaining Hood veterans. As such, he was granted Honorary Membership of the Association.

Bill Cass passed away in his home in Crawley, Sussex, on 3 June 2020. As far as is known, he was the last surviving Royal Navy veteran of HMS Hood (Jack Norman (qv) was the last surviving Royal Marine we know about.)

PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF TIME IN HMS HOOD.

By Bill Cass.

In July 1938 after a gruelling year at HMS GANGES I was drafted to the Boys’ Training Ship HMS IRON DUKE at Portsmouth. When she was taken into dry dock us boy seamen were transferred to a hutted encampment at Fort Gomer , Gosport. We were all from GANGES, St VINCENT in Gosport and the TS CALEDONIA, ages ranging from 16 to 17 and a half. I was allotted to hut 13 at Fort Gomer. At 16 and a half I was one of the youngest. We were quickly organised by the “older hands” (almost 17 and a half) including Bob Tilburn and his mate Bert Wicks who were trained on the TS CALEDONIA.

We sailed from Southampton on the Aquitania on 28 September 1939 and arrived at Gibraltar four or five days later. Our draft for HOOD was taken on a fleet tender and transferred to HOOD lying alongside the outer mole. She was an awe-inspiring sight in her light grey paintwork and gleaming brasswork. We were later to learn that this was due to the strict supervision of the “Mate of the Upper Deck”, Lt Cdr Brownrigg, and his right hand man, the Chief Bosun’s Mate, also known as “The Screaming Skull” or “The Yellow Peril”.

We were ushered down to the boys’ messdeck (having passed 17 and a half Bob Tilburn joined his Part of Ship) and settle into the ship’s routine. We met the Boys’ Divisional Officer, Lt Grenfell (nicknamed Gertie due to his exotic aftershave.) He was also a Physical Training Officer and put us through our paces on the quarterdeck.

One of the first tasks I recall was Officer of the Watch’s messenger to Lt Grenfell. He kept me on my toes, firing questions at me, and once ordered me to tell the Captain, “It is the ACQ from D3.” This, I later found out, was the Admiral Commanding 1st Battlecruiser Squadron (Admiral Whitworth) returning from a visit to the captain of HMS INGLEFIELD, leader of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla.

Our education was maintained by “Tommo”, Able Seaman Thomas, who, it was said, could have been an officer with his education, but was just a three-badge Able Seaman. He had been years on the HOOD, and as his action station was “Y” magazine he would have known very little of her end.

Another of the boys’ instructors was Leading Seaman “Sharkey” Ward who, as myself, was Quarterdeck Division. One morning (we were on Spanish patrol) we were anchored off the coast of Spain. Leading Seaman Ward had just supervised the finishing touches to his pride and joy, the after gangway, when two Spanish cruisers passed close by at high speed, threatening to swamp his spotless woodwork and gleaming brass. Leading Seaman Ward shook his fist at them. I thought at the time, what a petty gesture, as he was only slightly built. But about three years later I was to witness the true calibre of the man.

It was in HMS SANDWICH. Having been dispatched from a North Atlantic convoy to pick up survivors, we were unable to approach their lifeboat. Acting Petty Officer Ward, as he now was, failed to reach them with a Costen gun line due to the high wind. He calmly stripped off his outer clothing, bent a heaving line round his waist, dived in, and after another half dozen heaving lines had been bent on he reached the lifeboat. I was very proud of my “townie” – he came from Sandown on the Isle of Wight and I was from Ryde.

After the Spanish patrol we returned to Gibraltar to find the DEUTSCHLAND moored up in the harbour. There was a football match between the two ships (I don’t recall the result) then we set sail for Malta.

We entered Grand Harbour and moored to a buoy in Bighi Bay. I have a vague memory of attending a funeral about this time. I believe it was of a Surgeon Commander. The ship was taken into dockyard hands and all 42,000 tons was lifted high and dry in Malta’s dry dock. Us boys were armed with chipping hammers and scrapers and sent down to the bottom of the dock to remove barnacles. The ship was seated on three rows of steel blocks, one under the main keel and two, one either side under the bilge keels. I don’t recall how much headroom we had, but I believe we had to work in a crouched position.

My next clear memory was of New Year’s Eve when I was called from my hammock about 2345 to ring in the New Year. Tradition has it that the youngest member of the crew rings 16 bells wearing the Captain’s uniform but as I was very small and Captain Walker was a big man that was out so I did the job and was taken to the wardroom and given a small glass of punch from a steaming container. I’ve never seen so much gold braid in my life, of course having the ACQ on board and all his retinue with him.

Apart from those officers already mentioned the only other names I recall were the ship’s Commander, David Orr Ewing, and Gunnery Officer Lt Cdr “Tiny” Gregson. As the nickname suggests he was a massive man, and it was rumoured on the messdecks that he had once boxed against Primo Carnera . After my glass of punch I was ushered back to my hammock.

I have hazy memories that whilst at Malta I visited the corroding canteen where a boxing match was staged, and Leading Seaman Wiltshire put up a very good show for HOOD.

We left Malta early in the New Year (1939), arrived at Portsmouth on (I believe) January 5th and tied up alongside South Railway Jetty. I do recall it was a miserable wet day and our soggy paying-off pennant wasn’t a brilliant sight.

We didn’t get the major refit we so badly needed owing to the intense political situation and we soon joined the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow and engaged in extensive manoeuvres, during which we had a taste of “action messing”. This was in the form of mess kettles of soup being brought to the crew at Action Stations.

I recall being on the Boys’ messdeck when Chamberlain’s famous words, “We are now at war with Germany” came from the speakers and some of us rushed up to the 5.5” sponson above our messdeck and looked over the flat calm, sunlit North Sea. Nothing in sight.

It was such a day a couple of months later when the Home Fleet was despatched to cover the return of the submarine SPEARFISH which was damaged off Norway. We were in company with the ARK ROYAL, RODNEY and NELSON, several cruisers and destroyer screen. Apparently several German planes headed our way were intercepted by ARK ROYAL’s aircraft but one got through, dropped several bombs alongside the ARK ROYAL then headed for us out of the sun. I was in the air defence position at the time. It was equipped with six swivel chairs with attached binoculars. I was in the port midships chair, and I could hear this plane in a screaming dive behind me. I risked a quick peep round to see what was going on, and looked straight into the face of Lt Cdr Gregson who warned me I could be shot for deserting my post. The bomb dropped close to our port beam and blew part of the lower boom inboard.

After the sinking of the ROYAL OAK in Scapa Flow, the fleet anchorage was moved to Loch Ewe, but we made the occasional visit to the Clyde mooring at Greenock.

One of my sporadic diary entries noted a return to Scapa on Friday 8th March 1940 and on the 11th the RENOWN took the flag of the ACQ from us. She had just returned from an extensive refit at Portsmouth.

We left Scapa on the 14th March and arrived at the Clyde the following day, and we were given leave.

On one of our visits to the Clyde we went over the “measured mile”. I was messenger for the signals distribution office at the time and a general signal was made that we had clocked 31.8 knots.

We also had a visit from Winston Churchill early in the war. He inspected the crew, paying special attention to the Boys’ Division. This was due to the public outcry against boys being on active service.

Returned from leave on 28th March, the following day I was 18, so moved from Boys’ Division to Quarterdeck Division.

We left the Clyde on the 30th March, arrived at Plymouth the following day and moored up in the dockyard.

A very large floating crane had been lined up for us. The 5.5” guns were lifted out from the outboard side. The ship was then turned by tugs and the other side’s guns removed. Twin 4” High Angle mountings were lifted in, and on May 14th “secret weapons” arrived on board. These were officially called U.P. mountings (unrotating projectiles) two in number. Each had a block of 20 steel barrels and fired rockets which contained a small parachute and an explosive charge. The idea was to float down a screen in the path of attacking aircraft. When tested off the coast it was rumoured that the small parachutes floating down had caused an invasion scare.

On becoming Ordinary Seaman my action station was changed to lookout for the 5.5” secondary armament. Hence I was now redundant so was in a draft of about 50 hands detailed draft.

I have an entry of leaving HOOD on Tuesday 11thJune. I have an idea we left Plymouth and were drafted off in Liverpool. We arrived in Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, the same day.

By 15th June we commandeered a small Dutch coaster and sailed for France. Quite a contrast. Our skipper was Leading Seaman Henry, about six of us young Ordinary Seaman (all ex-HOOD) and three engine room staff.



Additional Photographs
None at this time.




Memorials
No known memorials



Sources
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
'Register of Deaths of Naval Ratings' (data extracted by Director of Naval Personnel (Disclosure Cell), Navy Command HQ, 2009)
Mrs Kirsty Scarlet Berry, his daughter.