-H.M.S. Hood Reference Materials-
ADM 116/4351: Report on the Loss of H.M.S. Hood
Updated 22-Mar-2007

This document is a modern transcription of a portion of Admiralty record ADM 116/4351. The original record concerns the enquiries into the loss of H.M.S. Hood in 1941. The original file is held at the The National Archives at Kew, London. This Crown Copyrighted material is reproduced here by kind permission of The National Archives.

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- Starting at Page 146 -

APPENDIX II

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE TAKEN AT A BOARD OF ENQUIRY HELD ON BOARD H.M.S."DEVONSHIRE" ON TUESDAY, 12TH AUGUST 1941, AND H.M.S. "SUFFOLK" ON 13TH AUGUST 1941, BY A COMMITTEE APPOINTED TO ENQUIRE INTO THE LOSS OF H.M.S. "HOOD" IN ACTION WITH THE GERMAN BATTLESHIP "BISMARCK" ON 24TH MAY 1941.


MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE

Rear Admiral H.T.C. Walker, Royal Navy. (President).
Captain R.D. Duke, Royal Navy.
Captain L.D. Mackintosh, D.S.C., Royal Navy.

LIST OF WITNESSES
  Name and Rank or Rating
Question #s
1. Rear-Admiral W.F. Wake-Walker, C.B., O.B.E., R.N.
1 - 24
2. Lieutenant Viscount Kelburn, Royal Navy
25 - 42
3. Paymaster Commander R. Bailey, Royal Navy
44 - 66
4. Leading Writer W.E. Collard, D/MX. 57192
67 - 78
5. C.P.O. Wm. H.R. Lillington, D/J. 43250
79 - 97
6. Paymaster Lieutenant J.W. Balmer, R.N.V.R.
98 - 107
7. Mr. I.R. Mason, Signal Boatswain, Royal Navy
108 - 134
8. Steward Norman J. Burtonshaw, Royal Navy.
135 - 156
9. Steward Harold Philip, D/LX. 25118
157 - 181
10. Ordinary Signalman Michael R. Toswill, D/JX. 214169
182 - 201
11. Ordinary Signalman Fred Howarth. D/JX. 186303
202 - 221
12. Ordinary Signalman Harry Morgan, D/JX. 216503
222 - 239
13. Lieutenant-Commander C.T. Collett, Royal Navy
240 - 253
14. Lieutenant-Commander S.C.Howe, Royal Navy.
254 - 268
15. Commander L.E.Porter, Royal Navy.
269 - 284
16. Boy 1st Class James Gambleton, C/JX. 162704
285 - 296
17. Lieutenant-Commander A.A. Havers, Royal Navy.
297 - 310
18. Leading Seaman J.R. Bartlett. C/JX. 137758
311 - 322
19. Lieutenant (A) P.D.C. Shaw, Royal Navy
323 - 338
20. Chief Yeoman of Signals A.J. Boxwell. C/J. 70911
339 - 349
21. Midshipman M.R.A.H. Rao, R.I.N.
350 - 362
22. Ordinary Signalman Joseph Wm. Hope, C/JX 195541.
363 - 375
23. Able Seaman Bernard S. Taylor, C/JX 152206.
376 - 391
24. Leading Seaman Winston N. Littlewood, C/SSX. 153990
392 - 404
25. Able Seaman Edward Gallagher, T.DX. 2147.
405 - 419
26. Captain R.M. Ellis, Royal Navy.
420 - 431

NOTE

  1. Witnesses Numbers 1 - 12 comprise Rear Admiral Commanding First Cruiser Squadron and members of his staff and Retinue, who were present in H.M.S."NORFOLK" during this action.
  2. Witnesses Numbers 13 - 26 comprise officers and men of H.M.S."SUFFOLK."
  3. Witnesses Numbers 1 - 8 were seen on board H.M.S."DEVONSHIRE" on 12th August 1941.
  4. Witnesses Numbers 9 - 26 were seen on board H.M.S."SUFFOLK" on 13th August 1941.

Evidence of Witnesses

- Page 147 -

Minutes of a Board of Enquiry held on board HMS "DEVONSHIRE" on the 12th August 1941, to enquire fully into the circumstances attending the loss of HMS "HOOD".

Rear Admiral W.F. Wake-Walker, C.B., O.B.E., R.N.

Witness called and cautioned

1. Are you Rear Admiral W.F. Wake-Walker?

Yes.

2. Will you please tell the Board all the incidents you can remember with regard to the sinking of the "HOOD"?

I remember somebody in "NORFOLK", the Chief Yeoman of Signals I think, saying "the ‘HOOD’ is hit" and I looked at her and saw what appeared to be a big fire towards the after part of the ship; I should say it was approximately level with the mainmast.

Note: A model of "HOOD" was here produced and witness repeated his statement and pointed out the seat of the fire.

3. Will you please tell us what the range and inclination was?

I have the track charts with me; the range was about 30,000 yards.

4. And what was the angle of inclination?

I think about forty to the right.

(Track chart was produced here by the witness - Exhibit A)

5. In what position was the "NORFOLK" then in with regard to the "HOOD"?

Well on the starboard quarter of the "HOOD". I saw this fire break out and it appeared as a sort of raised lump and of a very particular rose colour.

(Colour chart here produced)

6. Can you give us the colour of this flame?

I can describe it best as a brilliant rose colour with no yellow or white in it. I think I should mention here that I have for many years done a certain amount of sketching myself, and my method has been to make pencil notes and remember colours and then paint my pictures anything up to a week after from memory, and so therefore my memory of colours is a good deal better than the average person’s. I was struck at the time by the fact that there was no yellow in it, and it struck me as being a peculiar colour, which I had not expected. This was at the time the fire first appeared in the "HOOD".

7. At what deck level was this fire?

I think you will find that from 30,000 yards the only thing you can see of the "HOOD" is probably the top of her superstructure and her funnels and bridge, and therefore it is quite impossible for me to say at what deck level it was. I watched this fire and it then spread forward until its length was greater than its height and after a time it died down, particularly at the forward end. I thought that they may be able to get this fire under. Previous to this I had been so impressed by the fire that the ship would not continue as a fighting unit. As it died down I saw her two fore turrets fire and the thought "they may be able to get it under", came into my mind. Almost immediately there was an enormous explosion, which was of the same colour, and appeared to have a fairly broad base, widening out as it rose and then spreading into a mushroom of flame. I particularly noticed that the mushroom was flame and not smoke, at any rate in the lower half of it.

In the top of the conical part of this explosion, there were black lines visible to me. I was looking at this with my naked eye, and not through glasses. The black lines were approximately at the top of the conical part and where the explosion started to spread out and become mushroom shaped.

8. Can you say how far forward the original fire burnt?

I should say that it spread as far forward as the bridge structure, because I saw the flash of the two foremost turrets here to the right of it. The flash of the guns was clear to the right of the fire.

9. You could not see the funnels through it?

I cannot say that I saw the funnels. My impression was that it was long. I was aware of the superstructure, because after all at that distance one would not notice that sort of thing. I might add that I mentioned just now that the fire died down; I don’t mean that the fire went away completely, but at the forward end it was not so high as it had been or as it was at the after end.

10. You do not know what salvoes were exchanged between the "HOOD" and the "BISMARCK"?

No, I personally did not take any note of that and my evidence from that point of view is entirely worthless.

11. So that you did not see a hit on the ship before this?

No

12. Could you see if the armoured doors to the torpedo tubes were open or shut?

No, it was quite impossible.

13. Will you please go on from this fire then?

This mushroom of flame and smoke died down and was succeeded by a heavy black streamer of smoke blowing away to port from where the ship was, and for some time I thought that the ship would still be afloat, against my reason, because of this, and I also saw after the explosion a flicker of flame on the horizon from about where the smoke was coming. A flicker is perhaps hardly the right word: a glow is better.

14. The ship had then disappeared?

Well, it was over the horizon. That smoke remained for some time and then the "PRINCE OF WALES" passed between us and it and that was all. I cannot really tell you how long it was on, because by the time we got up there there was nothing to see.

15. Did you see any shots fired after the explosion?

Not after the explosion, but after the fire I definitely saw the fore turrets fire.

16. Can you tell us if there was any difference in the colour of the first flame and the mushroom of the explosion?

No, I do not think there was. I was struck by the colour of this fire and explosion and my definite impression is that the colour was the same.

17. Can you draw a line across any particular bit of these colours to give us an idea of the colour?

Note: Witness then pointed out the colour on the charts. He indicated section of L." as being the nearest approach to it, of any of the colours that the Committee could produce.

18. These are the sketches you made for the previous committee. Is there anything that you would like to add to or remark on that?

I think I have shown too much of the hull as being visible above the horizon, and I cannot say that the picture in fig 4 had quite such a wide base.

19. Would you like to say the yellow shown in fig. 4 was not in your original sketch?

Yes, it was not in my original, as the colouring was done entirely by one Admiralty pattern red pencil!

20. You said that after the fire had spread forward a bit the two forward turrets fired. Does that mean the after turret did not fire or that you did not observe it fire?

I do not think I observed it fire, but I should not say it did not. My impression of their flash was of a yellower flame than of the fire.

21. The final after glow: could that have been the fire still persisting or was it a continuation?

I should think it was much more likely to be oil fuel from what I could see. All I could see was a red glow and the smoke coming from it. After the explosion it surprised me that there should be anything above the surface still burning.

22. Was it about the same colour as the original fire?

It was a small fire, only just visible above the horizon and it was so small that the colour did not impress me a great deal, except that it was red. I cannot give you any idea, except that it was still red and not yellow.

23. What was the weather like?

It was not a dark day, it was rather a light grey morning, the sun was not showing. There were no heavy clouds about in that direction. It was a rather colourless morning on the whole.

24. Was there any mist?

No mist in that direction.

Witness withdrew.

- Page 152 -

Note- Lieutenant Viscount Kelburn's Evidence actually starts on page 151 but this particular page is missing from our records. Text of this page will be added after our next PRO trip.

Lieutenant Viscount Kelburn, R.N.

32. Did the smoke spread at the top of this cylinder of fire?

Only very little. The effect was not so much of a cylindrical flame as a composite picture with red flame at the bottom spreading out into black smoke and above that debris. It was just like an inverted cone.

33. Could you tell us whereabouts with reference to the fire the explosion arose?

No, because I came back onto the "HOOD" from looking at the "BISMARCK" at what must have been almost the moment of the explosion and I haven't any clear recollection of the "HOOD" just before the explosion, because I took my eyes off her after I had seen the fire die down.

34. Will you describe the action salvo by salvo, as far as you can?

I saw the "HOOD's" opening salvoes, I think without glasses. I saw her open fire and I think the moment she had fired I put my glasses on to the "BISMARCK" to see where that salvo fell and I cannot remember clearly now where it did fall.

35. Could you say that was an eight-gun salvo?

Not with certainty. I saw the "BISMARCK" fire and then I saw another salvo from the "HOOD" and again I am not quite clear where it fell and I am not clear really in my mind as to where the "BISMARCK's" fell. I am also not sure as to whether the "BISMARCK" fired twice, but the salvo I remember most distinctly was the "HOOD's" third salvo and I could see splashes around the "BISMARCK" and it was undoubtedly a straddle and probably a hit. The spread was small and I could see splashes on each side of the "BISMARCK." I then turned my glasses back on to the "HOOD" and saw the fire and then my story goes on as before.

36. So you did not see the "BISMARCK" hit the "HOOD?"

No.

37. Was it possible for you to see if the torpedo tube doors in the "HOOD's" sides were open or shut?

I do not think it was possible to see them.

38. Did you see the "HOOD" fire at all after the fire or explosion?

Yes, either at the beginning of the time I was watching the fire or towards the end of it, I definitely saw hwe fore turrets fire. I could not be certain that her after turrets did not fire as well. I am certain that one of her fore turrets fired and I think both.

39. What was the visibility and the state of cloud?

The visibility was about 18 to 20 miles.

40. Was it a gray horizon, blue or black?

I should say rather bright gray, with plenty of blue sky about and my recollection is that it was a gray background.

41. Was the colour of the explosion the same as the fire? If not what colour was it?

My recollection is that they were the same colour. It was a very vermillion red.

42. Will you draw for the Committee sketches of the various phases of the fire and explosion?

Yes, I think I can do that.

43. Is it possible for you to give any description of the debris you saw?

Well parts of it looked like the fore top and it looked like masts and funnels, that was the impression I had. It was more like spars at a distance. They were not lumpy bits of metal so much as pencils, matches, etc. That was my impression of it.

Witness withdrew.

Note: Admiral Wake-Walker later did a colour sketch of the colour of the fire which is included as Exhibit 1

- Page 151 -

Paymaster Commander R. Bailey, R.N.

44. Are you Paymaster Commander R. Bailey, R.N.?

Yes.

45. Will you tell the Board from the model what the inclination of "HOOD" was?

Witness indicated from the model an inclination of about 45 to the right.

46. What was your impression of the visibility and colour of the horizon?

The visibility was clear, the colour of the horizon, I think the sky was grey down on the horizon, but clear and a good background, for the "HOOD" and "PRINCE OF WALES", as I saw them they were still silhouetted against the sky and they both appeared as small black silhouettes. The horizon was light grey.

47. Where were you?

At the after end of the Compass Platform of "NORFOLK."

48. Were you watching through binoculars or with the naked eye?

Through binoculars at times.

49. Are your impressions of the action clear or not?

Yes, quite clear.

50. Will you describe what you saw of the action with "BISMARCK," salvo by salvo?

I cannot describe it salvo by salvo. I watched the "HOOD" and "PRINCE OF WALES" approaching and saw them open fire, "HOOD" opening fire first. I noted the time she opened fire in my notebook, which was 0553. From then on I was shifting my sight from "HOOD" and "PRINCE OF WALES" across to "BISMARCK" and back, to see the effect of the sire from both sides. I noted in my notebook that "HOOD" was on fire two minutes after she first opened fire, and that she blew up four minutes after that. I cannot say how many salvoes she fired, nor at that range was I able to detect hits on either ship.

51. You say you saw a fire in the "HOOD": what was the position of this fire?

It was just forward of the mainmast. The fire appeared as a red glow, something like as if it was in the hull, that is to say I saw no flames appearing above the silhouette of the ship. The impression at that distance was that the hull itself was glowing and that there were no flames shooting out. This might have been caused by the ship being below the horizon.

52. How far forward did the fire extend?

Perhaps to the after edge of the after funnel, but not more than that.

53. And how high was it?

It seemed to me to cover from what appeared to me to be the waterline up to the boat deck. As I say I never saw flames, it was always a glow.

54. Can you pick out the colour from the colour chart?

Witness indicated No. 6 on Exhibit No. 2.

55. Did you know that that "HOOD" had armoured doors in her side through which torpedoes were fired?

Yes.

56. Could you say if these were closed or open?

No, I could not see them.

57. Would you go on from there when you had seen the fire started?

The fire was accompanied by a certain amount of black smoke, but not enough to obscure the ship. I watched it anxiously waiting to see the fore dying down, indicating that it was being got under control. This was through glasses. I saw that in fact it did begin to diminish.

58. Did it diminish throughout its entire length?

My impression was that it diminished in height rather than in breadth and intensity diminished also. Then it swelled up again and suddenly the explosion occurred, which seemed to me to come from that part of the ship which was on fire. That is to say not from a turret which had been hit separately.

59. Can you describe the explosion?

The colour of the explosion seemed to me to be the same as that of the fire but a little lighter in shade, that is to say it was the same reddish colour, not orange or yellow, but of course very much brighter. I saw showing up through the flash a number of whitish streaks which I took to be white hot pieces of metal going up.

60. What was the general shape of the streaks?

Thin streaks, rather like the tail of a rocket. Immediately following the flash a thick cloud of black cloud formed and shut down and blotted out any further view. This seemed to clear fairly quickly but when it had cleared away I could see nothing of the "HOOD" except that the water there seemed to be rather jagged as though there was still a quantity of wreckage above the surface.

61. How high would you say this explosion went?

I should say four times the height of the main mast.

62. Did you see any splashes from the "BISMARCK's" fire near the "HOOD" at the time of the explosion?

I cannot say that I did, but as I said previously I was moving my glasses to and fro between the two British ships and the "BISMARCK" and a salvo may have landed whilst I was looking away.

63. Did you see the "HOOD" fire at all?

Yes.

64. With how many guns?

She was firing with all four turrets and I saw here fore "X" or "Y" at least twice after the fire had broken out. I should say that all turrets were in action right up to the explosion. I also saw the fore turrets fire after the fire had broken out.

62. You are quite certain about the after turrets?

Yes, quite certain, about one or more of the after turrets.

63. How did the colour of the fire and explosion compare with the colour of the "HOOD's" gun flashes?

The gun flashes seemed more orange than the fire and certainly more orange than the explosion. I saw flashes  from the after guns through the smoke caused by the fire which seemed to make them a little darker than gun flashes normally are.

64. You have told us the glow of the original fire did not appear to extend above the boat deck. If that is so how did you see it?

I can only think that it was an optical illusion, due to the distance but the appearance was as though the ship herself was glowing in that section.

65. Did the fire extend abaft the mainmast or not?

No.

66. How do you know it was four minutes from the fire to the explosion?

I was noting times for the narrative of the action.

Witness withdrew.

- Page 157 -

Leading Writer Walter W.E. Collard, Official No. D/MX.57192.

Witness called and cautioned

67. Are you Leading Writer W.E. Collard, D/MA. 57192?

Yes.

68. Will you give the Committee your account of this action?

Just at the time we were coming up to the "HOOD" and "PRINCE OF WALES" most of the 4-inch supply party on "B" gun deck were asleep. These two ships were practically ahead of us., and the first we saw of them was smoke on the horizon. I thought that the action would be commencing very shortly, so I went as far forward as I could and stood by P.1 gun, and there procured a pair of glasses: I think they belonged to the Captain of the gun. I woke up several more of the supply party, and told them to keep down in case we were fired upon. I then saw the two British ships open fire, "HOOD" being first, but could not see the fall of shot as the "BISMARCK" was out of my sight. However, we swung around, and I could see both "HOOD" and "BISMARCK." All this time I was using glasses, and I have an idea that I saw "HOOD's" first or second salvo falling very near to "BISMARCK." "BISMARCK" replied and narrowly missed "HOOD." There were several more salvoes fired after this by "HOOD" and then I have the impression that I saw a sharp burst of flame amidships, and I remember that the idea came into my head that perhaps some ammunition had exploded on the upper deck of "HOOD."

69. When you say amidships, can you give us anything more definite than that?

It appeared to me to be just a little abaft the mainmast. The next thing I saw was that the fire seemed to grow in length and spread forward until it had practically reached the superstructure.

70. How high was this fire?

It was not very high above the upper deck: it was not very easy to see from my position,  but it could not have been very high anyway.

71. And what colour was it?

Note: Witness pointed out that it was a blend of Nos. 5 & 6 on Colour Chart, Exhibit 2.

72. What did you see then?

This fire then appeared to die down but seemed to be still mainly amidships where it had first broken out. There suddenly there was a terrific explosion and a blaze of light which seemed to light up the whole sky.

73. Was this light the same colour as the previous fire?

It appeared to be of lighter hue. I could see debris above the flash of the explosion, but could not distinguish from what part of the ship it came. There was a heavy pall of smoke hanging over the ship by this time, and this gradually blotted out the ship from our sight. I could still see amid this smoke a certain amount of small tongues of fire, but nothing very much.

74. Did you hear any explosion; was there much noise?

Yes, there was a certain amount of noise.

75. Did you see at any time the "HOOD" firing with all four turrets?

No I do not think all turrets fired. I have the impression that near the fire turrets were firing, as I could see the flash of the guns there. I do not think I can remember anything else about the guns.

76. Could you see if the armoured doors in the side, masking the torpedo tubes were open or shut?

It was quite impossible to see as the ship was too far down over the horizon, for me to see from my position.

77. What were your impressions of the visibility and light?

Visibility was very good indeed and extreme, there was little cloud near the ships, and all the ships were clearly silhouetted against the horizon.

78. What was the colour of the sky behind the ships?

As far as I can remember, it was whitish-gray.

Witness remained present, as shorthand writer.

- Page 158 -

Chief Petty Officer William H.R. Lillington, O.N. D/J. 43250

Witness called and cautioned

79. Are you Chief Petty Officer Lillington, D/J. 43250?

Yes.

80. Where were you during the action between "HOOD" and the "BISMARCK?"

I was on the bridge of the "NORFOLK."

81. What was your impression of the visibility and the colour of the cloud behind the "HOOD?"

The colour of the cloud was gray, which made the ship look black, and the visibility was good.

82. Where was she when you first saw her?

Witness indicated an inclination of about 155 right.

83. Was she at this inclination when she opened fire?

Yes, and then she turned to port to about 110.

84. Were you watching the action through glasses?

Yes, I was keeping the "BISMARCK" in view, but when somebody said that the "HOOD" was hit and on fire it made me look towards her.

85. So you did not see the "HOOD" until she was on fire?

I saw her open fire and then went over to the "BISMARCK" and then at the moment she started to get on fire I was actually looking away, but when people remarked that she was on fire it made me look towards her.

86. Could you describe this fire and where was it?

It was just abaft "Y" turret.

87. What colour was it?

Orange.

88. an you indicate the colour on this chart?

Witness indicated colour No. 4 on Exhibit 2.

89. How far forward did it extend?

Well, it did spread forward a little but not much.

90. Did it cover "X" Turret?

It did not spread far forward from that particular spot. This fire was on for about two or three minutes, and it looked to me like cordite flames, as they were leaping high and low, and then after about three or four minutes there was a hugh explosion and she just went up.

91. Can you describe the explosion?

It was huge; just one huge flame, which nearly touched the sky, and a lot of black smoke, and then I could not see anything else.

92. How did you know it was a cordite fire? Are you acquainted with cordite?

Yes, I have seen a good many cordite fires.

93. Could you see which part of the ship the explosion came from?

No, the flames were leaping from the after part and then the explosion occurred.

94. Could you see any salvoes landing around the "HOOD" at the time of the explosion?

I saw a few splashes nearby.

95. Was that at the time of the explosion?

Yes.

96. When you say at the time of the explosion do you mean just before or just after?

Well, just at the explosion.

97. Did you see any debris in the air?

No, only the black smoke.

Witness withdrew.

Lieutenant Viscount Kelburn, R.N., here produced his sketch (Exhibit 4) and said that the inclination was further right than he had previously indicated, and that it was more likely thirty to the right.

The Committee decided that the part of his evidence regarding the inclination of "HOOD" given by C.P.O. W.H.R. Lillington was incorrect.

page 160

Paymaster Lieutenant J.W. Balmer, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Witness called and cautioned

98. Are you Paymaster Lieutenant J.W. Balmer, R.N.V.R?

Yes.

99. Will you give an account of what you saw of this action, starting by letting us know what the visibility and horizon and clouds were?

I think the visibility was bad but I cannot remember very well/

100. Where were you during the action?

I was on the Compass Platform of "NORFOLK" taking notes of what was going on. I cannot remember the range, but it was about fifteen miles.

101. Can you tell us at what inclination the "HOOD" was to the "NORFOLK" at first?

Note: Witness indicated an inclination of about 45 to the right on the model of "HOOD."

102. Will you please go on from there the?

I think my own impression of "HOOD" was when I assumed she had been hit from the enormous fire which seemed to start about half way between the stern and the mainmast. At that distance it was hopeless to see whether it was a turret or anything else. That fire seemed to spread, I should say in both directions, fore and aft, and then eventually appeared to be being extinguished.

103. Do you mean totally extinguished?

Well, I could not say with certainty, but the colour seemed to alter.

104. Was the colour like any of these on the chart?

I should not like to swear to the colour, my impression was that there was a tinge of orange. I do not think I can give any proper indication of the colour. After that it must have been a matter of seconds, after the fire had died down, that there was another enormous sort of cannon explosion, which struck me as being a very thick inverted cone shaped explosion. There seemed to be bit in it but I never appreciated at the time that she had actually sunk, and in fact I heard people talking about it on the bridge, and in my noted I put down "appeared to blow up," because there seemed such a small amount of debris if it was the whole ship and I just could not believe that she had blown up.

105. Could you indicate on the model where the seat of this cone was?

I do not think I could. I was conscious of a lot of very black smoke and I thought that she had been hit again and was making smoke. I do not know whether she was or whether that was part of the explosion, but it was for that reason that I thought she had not been blown up, but was making smoke.

107. Have you any idea as to the duration of the fire?

I cannot remember about the first one but I did make notes at the time which were incorporated in the report on the action. I think it was about a minute or two.

Witness withdrew.

- Page 162 -

Mr. I.R. Mason, Signal Boatswain, R.N.

Witness called and cautioned

108. Are you Mr. I.R. Mason, Signal Boatswain, Royal Navy?

Yes.

109. Where were you during the action between the "HOOD" and the "PRINCE OF WALES" and the "BISMARCK?"

On the Flag Deck of "NORFOLK."

110. What was your duty there?

Signal Boatswain.

111. Can you remember what the visibility was and the colour of the horizon behind the "HOOD" and "PRINCE OF WALES?"

The visibility was fifteen miles or more, extremely good visibility, the colour of the horizon I cannot remember.

112. What was the inclination of the "HOOD?"

Note: Witness indicated an inclination of 60 to the right on the model.

113. Can you remember clearly what you saw of the "HOOD" from the time she opened fire until she blew up?

Yes, but actually I never saw all the action because I had other duties to perform, but I remember "HOOD" opening fire on the "BISMARCK," with "HOOD" firing first, and the "BISMARCK" fired and the first salvo to my mind I should say dropped alongside the "HOOD," the length of the ship's side, and soon afterwards another salvo landed which appeared to hit the "HOOD" and then there was a big fire aft.

114. You could not say whether that was the second or third salvo?

It was not the first: it looked to me like the second or third salvo.

115. Can you describe the fire any further than you have done?

I should say it was abreast of "X" or "Y" turrets. It was more of a red glow than anything else. "HOOD" continued firing and she fired at least two salvos while the fire was still burning.

116. Which turrets fired?

"A" and "B" turrets for certain.

117. Can you describe the fire a little more?

There was a certain amount of smoke and I should say it went about as far as the after part of the superstructure, the forward part of "X" turret. The "HOOD" continued firing and fired at least two salvos from her forward turrets, the "BISMARCK" of course was still firing at her, and I should say about three minutes after the commencement of the fire on the "HOOD" the "BISMARCK" put in another salvo, which appeared to hit the "HOOD" aft and all the after part went in a terrific explosion. It put me in mind of big fireworks where all the stars shoot out and at the moment the explosion occurred I was looking with the naked eye, but I got a telescope, and saw the main mast go up to about 1000 feet and it came down in one complete piece.

118. What was the colour of the original fire?

It was a pinkish red.

119. Are any of the colours of the fire here on this chart?

Witness indicated No. 5 on Exhibit 2.

120. What was the colour of the explosion?

I did not take much notice of it but it appeared rather yellowish, something like No. 3 on the chart (Exhibit 2).

121. Did you see the "HOOD" fire her guns after the fire on board her had started?

Yes, definitely.

122. Which turrets fired as far as you can remember?

"A" and "B" turrets.

123. Did you ever see her fire either of her after turrets at any time?

No, I cannot say that I did.

124. Could you see if the armoured doors in the side of the "HOOD" over the torpedo tubes were open or closed?

No, I could not see them.

125. Was there any interval between the salvo which you think is about the fifth one hittin the "HOOD" and the explosion?

No, there was no interval. The explosion was almost instantaneous.

126. Was it your impression that this explosion was due to a hit?

Yes, observing that it hit in the place where the fire was burning at the time.

127. How could you tell a hit where the fire was burning?

Actually at that particular moment I was looking rather closely, not using my telescope, but before the explosion it seemed as if the shell entered and then the terrific explosion followed. Things flew when it entered.

128. What sort of things did you see fly then?

Well, it must have been parts of the ship, actually I saw something fly away from the after part of the ship, near where the shell struck.

129. You definitely saw something fly away from the after part of the ship before the explosion?

Yes.

129. (sic) Could you see any of the structure of the ship's side being blown outwards or upwards?

No, I did not observe that point.

130. Could you see the ship's side in the vicinity of the turrets at all?

Yes, I could definitely see the side.

131. Could you see any holes in the ship's side?

No I could not see any holes.

132. You saw the mast in the air through your telescope did you?

Yes.

133. Did you recognize it as a mast?

Yes, and besides that other people in the vicinity who were watching it through telescopes were certain it was the mast in one piece.

134. Did you see it as a tripod mast?

Yes.

Witness withdrew.

- Page 165 -

Steward Norman J. Burtonshaw, Official No. D/LX. 25118.

Witness called and cautioned

135. Are you Steward Norman J. Burtonshaw, Official No. D/LX 25118?

Yes.

136 Can you remember what the visibility was and what was the colour of the horizon behind the "HOOD" on the morning of her action with the "BISMARCK?"

It was pretty good visibility and the colour of the horizon behind the "HOOD" was grey.

137. Where was the "HOOD" in relation to to the "BISMARCK" and "NORFOLK?"

Witness indicated and inclination of about thrity to the right on the model of "HOOD" for "NORFOLK" and said that "BISMARCK" was to the starboard of "HOOD."

138. Where were you during this action?

I was on "B" gun deck, amidships on the port side.

139. What were you doing there?

I was one of the 4-inch supply party.

140. Can you remember clearly what you saw of the "HOOD's" action with "BISMARCK", salvo by salvo if you can?

I did not see any salvos actually hit the ship but I saw a fire a few minutes after fire was opened, and soon after that there was a terrific explosion and that was all.

142. Where was this fire in the "HOOD?"

Just forward of the mainmast.

Witness indicated the position of the fire on the model, roughly amidships.

143. What was the colour of the fire?

An orange colour.

144. Is the colour of the fire in any of these charts?

Witness indicated colour No. 3 on Exhibit 2.

145. How high was this fire?

It did not seem to me to be very high.

146. How long was the fire, did it extend the whole length of the ship or not?

I cannot remember how long it was.

147. Was there any smoke attached to the fire?

No, not before the explosion, just a clear flame and then the explosion followed.

148. Did you see any shots hit the "HOOD" at all?

No.

149. Can you describe the explosion?

Well, there was just a fire for a couple of minutes and then a terrific explosion and black smoke and that seemed to be all.

150. Was there any flames as well as smoke?

There was just before the explosion.

151. How high did this explosion go? Was it above the main mast?

Yes, it was a pretty big explosion.

152. And was the colour of the explosion the same as the colour of the fire then?

Yes.

153. Did you see the "HOOD" firing at all?

No, I did not see the "HOOD" firing.

154. Did you see any debris go up in the air with the explosion?

No, just black smoke went up as far as I can remember.

155. Did you have glasses?

No.

156. Did you see anything of the ship after the explosion?

No.

Witness withdrew.

Rear-Admiral Wake-Walker, recalled, said he would like to emphasise that that the explosion was upwards and not outwards.

The Board the adjourned.

- Page 167 -

Steward Harold Philip Official No. D/LX. 23018

Witness called and cautioned

157. Are you Steward Harold Philip, Official No. D/LX. 23018?

Yes.

158. Where were you at the time of the action between the "HOOD" and the "BISMARCK?"

I was on the 4-inch gun deck, on the port side, of "NORFOLK."

159. What was the visibility and the colour of the horizon behind the "HOOD?"

It was rather grey actually. The visibility was good.

160. In what direction was the "HOOD" from the "NORFOLK?"

Witness indicated and inclination of 15 to the right on the model.

161. Have you got a clear impression of what you saw?

Yes.

162. Will you describe what you did see of the sinking of the "HOOD."

I started watching the "HOOD" as soon as it was piped over the broadcaster that she was going to engage the "BISMARCK," and I was watching with the naked eye. After they opened fire there seemed a sort of glow just about abaft the after funnel. Then there were two flashes of yellowish flame abaft the funnel.

163. Was it abaft the original glow?

There was a fire but then after there were two large flashes and then a huge cloud of smoke arose.

164. Where were the flashes relative to the fire?

Abaft the fire I think.

165. What was the colour of this fire?

The fire was a reddish glow.

166. Can you say if the colour of the fire corresponds to any on this chart?

Witness indicated No 7 on Exhibit 2.

167. And can you tell us what the colour of the explosion was?

It was more of a yellow than the fire.

168. Did you see any fall of shot from the "BISMARCK" around the "HOOD"?

No.

169. Did you see the "HOOD" fire?

Yes, I saw her fire.

170. Did she fire before or after the fire started?

Before the fire started.

171. With this explosion was there any smoke as well as flame?

There was a huge cloud of dense smoke went up after the two flashes I had seen, above the funnel, and that was all.

172. What colour was the smoke?

It went up black, thinning off to grey.

173. Were the flashes of flame to do with the explosion?

I do not know what they really were; they might have been guns firing or an explosion. Just about with the smoke there was an explosion and while we were watching it was piped that the "HOOD" had gone.

174. How soon after the glow of the fire did you see the flashes?

Not long after; a few seconds I should say it was.

175. Can you give us some idea of the distance apart of these two flashes?

They were not very far apart,

176. Were there two distinct flashes?

Yes.

177. Have you any idea how high they were?

No.

178. Were they higher than the main mast?

No.

179. Did the smoke go above the main mast?

Yes.

180. Did you see any debris or pieces of the ship up in the air?

No.

181. And you saw nothing of the "HOOD" herself after the explosion?

No.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee consider that as he had no glasses and is very inexperienced, although he obviously believes in what he says, too much reliance should not be placed on his evidence.

- Page 169 -

Ordinary Signalman Michael R. Toswill, D/JX. 214169.

Witness called and cautioned

182. Are you Ordinary Signalman Michael R. Toswill, D/JX. 214169?

Yes.

183. Can you give us the position of the "HOOD" relative to you?

Witness indicated an inclination of 30 degrees to the right on the model.

184. Where were you during this action between "HOOD" and "BISMARCK?"

I was in the After Control.

185. Have you a clear picture in your mind as to what you saw?

Not a really accurate and clear picture, as far as I was concerned.

186. can you tell us what you remember and what you saw?

It was rather difficult to see anything clearly, but I saw what appeared to be two fires burning. I thought at first that they were two different ships, but on still looking at the object I saw that there was only one ship there.

187. And were those fires in the "HOOD?"

Yes.

188. Whereabouts were these fires in the "HOOD?"

They were at each end of the ship. I am rather doubtful as to which way the ship was steaming. I should imagine that they were forward and aft.

189. Were these fires widely separated?

Yes, at first, and then they quickly spread into one great flame.

190. Were you looking through glasses?

No, I was looking with the naked eye.

191. What colour were the flames you saw?

Orange, as far as I can remember.

192. Can you indicate on this chart the colour of the flames?

Witness indicated Colour No. 5 on Exhibit 2.

193. Did these fires extend the whole length of the ship?

Yes.

194. What happened after that?

Then the whole of the ship seemed to blow up and that was all.

195. Can you describe the blowing up of the ship at all?

Well I could faintly see black patches in the air.

196. Was there much smoke attached to this explosion?

Yes, a good bit of smoke.

197. What colour was the smoke?

I could not say what colour it was. It was rather difficult to see the smoke against the background.

198. Did you see the "HOOD" fire at all?

Yes.

199. Before or after the fire did she open fire?

Once after the fire.

200. Could you see which guns were firing then?

No.

201. Were the flashes of gunfire to the right or to the left of the fire on board "HOOD?"

I should think they were to the right.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that although the witness was very intelligent his recollections were very vague.

- Page 170 -

Ordinary Seaman Fred Howarth, Official No. D/JX. 186303.

Witness called and cautioned

202. Are you Ordinary Seaman Fred Howarth, Official No. D/JX. 186303?

Yes.

203. Where were you at the time of the action between the "HOOD" and the "BISMARCK?"

I was on the port side of the Flag Deck.

204. What were you doing there?

I was standing around to hoist signals if required.

205. Were you keeping a lookout on the "HOOD" or the "BISMARCK?"

I was watching the "BISMARCK."

206. Were you watching through a telescope or with the naked eye?

With the naked eye.

207. Have you a generally clear picture of what happened?

I think so, more or less, but it was a long way off and I could not see very clearly.

208. Well (sic) you tell us then what you did see?

I saw a fire break out on the quarter deck of the "HOOD" and then one amidships, and then there were orange flames and black smoke. Soon after this there was a big explosion, and she blew up.

209. What colour was the fire on the quarter deck?

Orange.

210. Can you give us the position of "NORFOLK" relative to her?

Witness indicated an inclination of about 60 to the right on the model.

211. You said there was an orange flame on the quarter deck. Whereabouts was this?

Witness indicated a position abreast "X" turret.

212. And where was the second fire?

Witness indicted a position abreast the after funnel.

213. Did these fires merge into one big one?

They did more or less, it seemed to get bigger, and then the explosion took place just after that.

214. Can you describe the explosion?

There was simply the explosion and then the ship seemed to break up and that is all I actually could see.

215. What colour was the explosion?

An orange flame and then the explosion.

216. Was there any smoke with this explosion?

Yes, thick black smoke.

217. Was the smoke on top of the flame or below it?

On top of the smoke.

218. Did you see the "HOOD" fire at all?

Yes, I saw her fire just before she went up.

219. Was this after the fire had started?

Yes, it was after.

220. Could you say which guns did actually fire?

I should think it was the forward one.

221. The after ones did not fire at all?

I did not notice them fire.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that this witness had a very vague idea of the incident.

- Page 172 -

Ordinary Signalman Harry Morgan, D/JX. 216503.

Witness called and cautioned

222. Are you Ordinary Signalman Harry Morgan D/JX. 216503?

Yes.

223. Where were you during the action between the "HOOD" and the "BISMARCK?"

I was on the Flag Deck.

224. What was your duty there?

I was one of the signalmen of the watch.

225. Did you keep an eye on the "HOOD?"

Yes, we were watching it all the way.

226. Were you watching the "HOOD" through glasses?

No, with the naked eye.

227. Will you tell us what happened then? Tell us what you saw.

Well, actually I could not see anything up till the last. It was too far away and the only thing I saw was this ball of fire amidships and then a split second after that all the ship seemed to be one mass of flame and then I could not see any more.

228. Will you please tell us what position the "HOOD" was in with relation to you.

Witness indicated an inclination of 100 to the right of the model.

229. Whereabouts was this ball of fire that you say you saw?

I do  it think it was exactly amidships. It was a little nearer to the main mast than amidships perhaps. It was just one red glow, there did not seem to be any flames there, or coming from it, and then a split second afterwards all the ship seemed to disappear.

230. How far forward did this glow extend?

Not very far.

231. Up to the fore mast would you say?

I could not see any other part of the ship from where I was. I just saw this fire and that is all.

232. What colour was this fire?

I should say it was a bright orange.

233. Can you indicate this colour of the fire on this chart?

Witness indicated colour No. 7 on Exhibit 2.

234. Can you describe the explosion at all?

No, I could not hear anything if that is what you meant.

235. Can you describe what you saw of the explosion.

No, I just saw the square of flame and then the whole ship was one mass of flames, just for an instant or two and then she blew up.

236. Was the flame the same colour as the fire?

Yes, it did not seem to change colour a lot.

237. Was there a lot of smoke?

I did not see any smoke at all.

238. Did you see "HOOD" fire at all at this time?

Yes, I saw her fire.

239. Was it after this fire had started or after?

I could not see anything after that as I was already spellbound by the sight.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that although Ordinary Signalman Morgan was an intelligent witness he has not had sufficient experience to be a reliable witness.

- Page 174 -

Lieutenant-Commander C.T. Collett, Royal Navy.

Witness called and cautioned

240. Are you Lieutenant-Commander C.T. Collett, Royal Navy, of H.M.S. "SUFFOLK?"

Yes.

241. Can you tell us what the visibility and colour of the background on the morning of the action between the "HOOD" and the "BISMARCK?"

The visibility was extreme. As to the background I could not swear as to what colour it was.

242. Where were you during this action?

I was in the Air Defence Position.

243. did you watch the "HOOD" through glasses or with the naked eye?

With the naked eye.

244. Will you tell us what you saw as far as you can remember?

I saw a large sheet of flame arising to a considerable height, and then afterwards a very large black pall of smoke.

245. Can you tell us where "HOOD" was in relation to "SUFFOLK?"

No, I am afraid she was much too far off to see the inclination. I do not even know which way she was going.

246. Could you see anything of the ship herself?

She was just a blur on the horizon.

247. Did this sheet of flame envelope all of the ship that you could see?

When I saw the sheet of flame I could certainly see no ship. Just the sheet of flame and nothing else.

248. What colour was the flame?

Crimson, I should say.

249. Can you tell us the colour of the flame from this chart?

Witness indicated No. 7 on Exhibit 2.

250. Was this sheet of flame actually the explosion?

Yes.

251. Did you see any smoke with the flame?

No, not woth the flame. The flame disappeared and then about a minute afterwards a very dense column of black smoke poured into the sky to a considerable height. It remained there for quite a long time.

252. Could you see any fire before this big sheet of flame?

No, I was not looking at the time, this sheet of flame just caught my eye that is all.

253. By a sheet of flame, do you mean a flash?

Yes.

Witness withdrew.

- Page 175 -

Lieutenant-Commander S.C. Howe, Royal Navy.

Witness called and cautioned

254. Are you Lieutenant-Commander S.C.Howe, Royal Navy, of H.M.S. "SUFFOLK?"

Yes.

255. Can you tell me the distance between the "HOOD" and the "SUFFOLK" at the time the "HOOD" blew up?

We estimated it at about  eighteen miles from the plot. By subsequent plotting it was shown that it was probably nearer thirty miles. It may have been a mirage.

256. What was the effect of the mirage?

The "BISMARCK" appeared to be above the horizon the whole time.

257. What about the "HOOD?"

We never saw any part of the ship.

258. What did you see then of the "HOOD's" sinking?

I saw her gun flashes, and then a very bright red flash and a very large column of smoke. The glow from the explosion from "HOOD" was reflected on the smoke for some seconds. I think it was the smoke rather than the flash which attracted my attention.

259. When you saw gun flashes, from how many turrets were there flashes?

I could not tell at all.

260. They were all before this fire you saw?

After the fire there was no flash from the "HOOD": there was a pause and then a few flashes from the "PRINCE OF WALES."

261. What was the colour of the flame of the explosion?

Dark red, as far as I can remember.

262. Can you point out this colour on the chart?

Witness indicated No. 8 on Exhibit 2.

263. Did this seem to pulsate or was it more of a steady flame?

Steady I should say.

264. Was the smoke on top of the fire?

Yes.

265. Was it in any particular shape?

Finally it became mushroom shaped. My first impression was the red glow reflected on the smoke for quite a time, several seconds I should think at least.

266. What was the shape of the red glow?

I could not say: it was lighting up this enormous mass of smoke.

267. Did you see any flame at all?

No I cannot remember seeing any flame at all. I think I described it as a colossal explosion and a large column of smoke.

268. Would you say that your recollections of the action are clear now or rather hazy?

They are not very clear now.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that the recollections of this witness were rather vague.

- Page 176 -

Commander L.E. Porter, Royal Navy.

Witness called and cautioned

269. Are you Commander L.E. Porter, Royal Navy, of H.M.S. "SUFFOLK?"

Yes.

270. Where were you during the action between the "HOOD" and "BISMARCK?"

I was on the hanger, on the after control.

271. Can you tell us where the "HOOD" was in relation to the "SUFFOLK?"

From the after control I could not see her at all.

272. Could you at any time see the hull of the ship?

No, I did not look through glasses. It is almost impossible to use glasses up there, owing to the vibration and smoke.

273. Will you just tell us briefly what you did see?

It was a calm dark morning, and the silhouettes of the upperworks of the German ships were clear against the horizon. The horizon behind them was light. More or less on our port beam, as it appeared from the top of the hanger, one had the impression that there were ships because I saw gun flashes, very much like summer lightening it looked.

The gun flashes started from the port quarter and were immediately followed by gun flashes ahead. To the hanger personnel it was not at all clear which ships were which. We had been turning a good deal and were rather out of touch as to where the "BISMARCK" was and where the British ships were.

From the darkness on the port quarter I suddenly saw a very thin high pillar of flame which went up to a very great height in the air, about 800 to a thousand feet.

This cylinder of fire was immediately followed by a huge rolling cloud of smoke which appeared to develop at the bottom of the flame, and not from the top. The flame went straight up and the smoke went up from the sea following the flame, and not on top of it.

274. What was the colour of the smoke?

Oil fuel smoke, it was very dark smoke anyway. I looked through my glasses at it and could see it very plainly.

275. What was the colour of the flame?

Orange.

276. Can you pick out this colour of the flame from this chart?

Witness indicated colour No. 3 on Exhibit 2.

277. Was it more orange than pink?

That was my impression, yes.

278. Is your impression still vivid?

Yes, very.

279. Did you see any debris?

I had the impression that there were very large floating pieces on top of the column.

280. Have you any idea for how long this flame was visible to you?

About a second I think.

281. Did the cloud of smoke persist after that?

Immediately following the flame were these rolling mushroom clouds on the surface of the water, which extended from right to left, because I looked through my glasses at the smoke and my first impression was that the bows of a ship were appearing on the left hand side of it , as I was looking.

Then I realised that this could not be so, as it was too far away but that was my first impression. It came up in a big mushroom and then extended away.

282. Was there any wind then?

No, it was almost dead calm. Then later, I should say about ten minutes later, the aftermath of the explosion had resolved itself into a huge lightish grey, because it showed up against the dark background. One can describe the lower pillar of smoke, or mushroom of smoke, as gout after gout of smoke came boiling out. It is very clear in my mind even now.

283. You said it was a slim pillar of fire going about 200 to 1000 feet in the air. Have you any idea of the diameter?

It was difficult to see, but it was very thin, in relation to its height.

284. Are you by training inclined to register colour?

Yes, I can remember colour very easily. In fact I do a good deal of photographic work entirely by memory of colours.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that Commander L.E. Porter was a very clear witness.

- Page 179 -

Boy 1st Class James Gambleton, Official No. C/JX.162704.

Witness called and cautioned

285. Are you Boy 1st Class James Gambleton, O.N. C/JX.162704?

Yes.

286. Are your recollections of what you saw still distinct in your mind or are they gone a bit hazy.

I can remember what I saw.

287. Where were you during the action between the "HOOD" and the "BISMARCK?"

On the after director.

288. Have you got glasses?

No, but I borrowed a pair off a Midshipman up there.

289. Did you watch the "HOOD" through glasses?

We thought it was the "BISMARCK" at first, as all we could see was three ships firing.

290. Can you tell us as shortly as you can what you know about the sinking of the "HOOD?"

We saw three ships, two close together, and one a little distance away, which we thought was the "BISMARCK." There were a few salvos and then we could hear the firing and could see the flames and there was a shower of sparks going up in the air and then the message came through that the "HOOD" had blown up.

291. Can you describe this flame and sparks more closely?

No, I was looking through the mist and as the salvos were going backwards and forwards there was just one shower going up.

292. What colour were these sparks?

There was some smoke on the deck and all sparks going up in the air.

293. The smoke was below the sparks?

Yes.

294. How much of these three ships could you see?

Only the outline, we could see the hull and superstructure, but not plainly as it was misty.

295. What was the colour of the sparks?

Red and yellow, just like a normal flame.

296. Can you pick out the colour of the sparks from this chart?

Witness indicated that it was a blend of colours numbers 3 and 4 on Exhibit 2.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that this witness was not very clear.

- Page 180 -

Lieutenant-Commander A.A. Havers, Royal Navy.

Witness called and cautioned

297. Are you Lieutenant-Commander A.A. Havers, Royal Navy, of H.M.S. "SUFFOLK?"

Yes

298. Where were you during the action between the "HOOD" and "BISMARCK?"

I was outside the Officers' Galley on the upper deck.

299. Can you describe the position of "HOOD" in relation to the "SUFFOLK" to us?

Witness communicated that he could not give any inclination.

300. Can you show us where you were standing, from this model of "SUFFOLK?"

Witness indicated his position, from the model. Height of 22ft. approx.

301. Are you recollections of what you saw quite clear now or not?

Yes.

302. Will you please tell us what you saw of the encounter then?

I heard the broadcast saying that the "HOOD" and "PRINCE OF WALES" were about to engage the enemy, so I looked on the port bow and shortly afterwards saw flashes of gunfire.

303. Was this very close?

No, not as far as I can recollect.

304. Were you using glasses?

No.

305. Will you tell us what happened then?

After two or three salvos and also some salvos from the ships ahead of us and "BISMARCK" and "PRINZ EUGEN" I saw a big red glow, a fan shaped glow, followed by a stalk of red flame in the middel which rose to a considerable height in the air, several hundred feet at least, just like a stick of rhubarb.

It was perfectly obvious what it was, that some big ship had blown up. I thought it was either "HOOD" or "NORFOLK" or "PRINCE OF WALES." I then went up to the after control.

306. Did you see any smoke in addition to this flame?

About ten minutes later when it got lighter there were vast quantities of black smoke over the spot where the explosion had taken place, which remained there for a considerable time, an hour I should think.

307. But you did not see any smoke just before or just after the flame?

I saw nothing before except the flashes of the guns.

308. And the first smoke that you noticed was about ten minutes after?

I think there was smoke after but it was too dark to see anything clearly and I went to the after control to have a look at it.

309. Can you pick out the colour of the flame from this chart here?

Witness indicated colour Number 7 on Exhibit 2.

Witness withdrew.

- Page 181 -

Leading Seaman Joseph Richard Bartlett, Official No. C/JX. 137758

Witness called and cautioned

311. Are you Leading Seaman Joseph Richard Bartlett, O.N. C/JX. 137758?

Yes.

312. Where were you on the day of the "HOOD's" action against the "BISMARCK?"

On the port side of the hangar deck.

Witness indicated this position on a model of "SUFFOLK."

313. Are your recollections of this action clear now in your mind or rather hazy?

They are perfectly clear.

413. Will you briefly tell us what you saw from "SUFFOLK" then?

We were all standing up there and looking at the firing, and I saw a ship, we could not distinguish which ship it was, as it was just a blur on the horizon. I saw her open fire and then just after that I thought I saw a small flash followed just after that by a big flash which seemed to start from the bottom and rise up to the top in the form of a triangle.

315. Was it a broad based triangle?

Yes, fairly broad based.

316. Was it a pulsating flame or steady?

It just seemed to be one great flash.

317. What colour was this flame?

Witness indicated a blend of colours 3 and 4 on Exhibit 2.

318. Did the smoke then come up from below this flame?

It seemed as if the flame died down and then it seemed to leave a big pall of smoke rising up.

319. What colour was the smoke?

Black.

320. Was that all you could see?

Yes.

321. Was it a very tall flame?

Yes, it reached some height in the air.

322. Were you watching this through binoculars?

No, I was watching with the naked eye.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that this was a clear witness.

- Page 183 -

Lieutenant (A) P.D.C. Shaw, Royal Navy.

Witness called and cautioned

323. Are you Lieutenant (A) P.D.C. Shaw, Royal Navy, of H.M.S. "SUFFOLK?"

Yes.

324. Where were you during the action between "HOOD" and "BISMARCK?"

I was above the A.D.O. Just round the director control.

325. Will you please tell us what you saw of the sinking of the "HOOD?"

I was up there with the idea of spotting the fall of shot, and I was watching the "PRINCE OF WALES" and "HOOD" through my glasses, and I think "HOOD" fired two or three salvos, one of which got a hit on the "BISMARCK" and then I saw what appeared to be a big explosion, which so far as I could see was roughly around "X" turret. It was around "X" or "Y" turret.

326. Are you fairly clear that it was not before "X" turret?

I would not swear to it. It was certainly in the after part of the ship.

327. Could you see the hull of the ship at all?

Yes, I could definitely see the hull of the ship.

328. Could you tell us what the inclination was of "HOOD" to you?

Witness indicated that the inclination was about 45 right.

329. What happened after that?

Well, after that there was three sort of columns of smoke and fire went up, and great puffs, and they went up at fairly short intervals and then black smoke which pretty well obscured the whole thing.

330. Can you describe these three puffs in detail?

Well, it seemed orange and a lot of smoke, fairly black smoke. They seemed to come up in big bursts, not in one continuous stream?

331. Did this rise very high?

Yes, they went to a good height, up to between 150 and 200 feet I should think.

332. Could you indicate the colour on this chart?

Witness indicated that it was not quite as dark as No. 4 on Exhibit 2.

333. What you saw was apparently the effect of three explosions?

Yes, roughly.

334. Was there smoke as well as flames from these explosions?

Yes.

335. Was the smoke at the top or the bottom?

At the bottom.

336. What colour was the smoke?

It was black, it was pretty dense too.

337. What was the interval between these three flashes?

There was a distinct interval between each flash.

338. Did the three flashes appear to come from the same part of the ship or from three different parts?

No, apparently from the same part, certainly from the after part of the ship. I mean from what I was looking at I think I should have been able to distinguish it, but it appeared to me to come from the same part of the ship.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that this witness was quite clear about what he did see, but seemed hazy about the time interval between the flashes.

- Page 184 -

Chief Yeoman of Signals Alfred J. Boxwell, O.N. C/J. 70911.

Witness called and cautioned

339. Are you Chief Yeoman of Signals Alfred J. Boxwell, C/J. 70911?

Yes

340. Are your recollections of the action between "HOOD" and "BISMARCK" distinct or hazy now?

They are hazy in absolute detail, but I remember the general things that happened.

341. Will you tell us what you saw of the loss of the "HOOD" as briefly as you can?

During the action I observed two explosions which I put down to shell explosions. The first explosion I saw was the explosion on the "HOOD" and the other on the "BISMARCK." The hit on the "HOOD" appeare to be aft somewhere.

The hit on the "BISMARCK" had no duration, that I took to be a shell hit on the "BISMARCK": that happened after the "HOOD." I was watching at the time of the commencement of the explosion on the "HOOD" and it seemed to have the same spark in it at the commencement but instead of stopping it continued and went on in a serious (sic) of scintillations. It developed, and got constantly brighter, carrying on with a pyrotechnic effect, and I think the colour of it was reddish orange.

342. Can you pick out the colour from this chart?

Witness indicated colour No. 5 on Exhibit 2.

343. Can you describe this scintillating effect a little more closely?

It was a sort of sparking effect, the same as the hit on the "BISMARCK," and I thought at first it was shell hit on the "HOOD," but as it went on after I realised it was something much more serious.

343. How high did this sparking effect or fire rise?

I cannot tell you exactly the position of the ship until she opened fire and it was only be reason of her opening fire that I knew where she was. Regarding the height of the explosion, I could not see the ships, therefore I could not say what height it was exactly, but I should say it was some hundreds of feet.

344. Was this mostly flame?

Yes, I should say more flame than smoke. There was not a great deal of smoke although there was some there.

345. Where was the smoke?

The smoke I observed afterwards. I was not watching the explosion through glasses nut as soon as it happened I got hold of a telescope and I could see rolling clouds of smoke over the water, and no sign at all of the ship.

346. At the beginning was there much smoke with the flame?

No, I cannot remember a great deal of smoke.

347. Did you know the "HOOD" had fired by the flash of her guns?

Yes, I saw a ship firing.

348. What did the effects of the two flashes look like to you? What was the comparison between "HOOD's" flashes and her shell bursts on the "BISMARCK?"

The difference was very marked, as the ordinary gun flash just licks forward and I could see the smoke, and I could recognise gun flash, whereas this explosion on the "BISMARCK" could be described as a point of light rather than anything else, and with no period in it. It simply was just a spark and then was gone.

349. Did this colour compare with the flash?

No, it was whiter. That was the impression I retained. To my mind the explosion seemed mainly to be upwards, rather than broad. It seemed concentrated in one point rather than spread out.

349. Was it a wide column of fire?

No, I do not think so. Just going up a fairly broad cone.

Note: The Committee considered this a very verbose witness of doubtful value.

- Page 186 -

Midshipman M.R.A. Rao, Royal Indian Navy

Witness called and cautioned

350. Are you Midshipman M.R.A. Rao, Royal Indian Navy, of H.M.S. "SUFFOLK?"

Yes.

351. Are your impressions of the action between "HOOD" and "BISMARCK" still quite clear in your mind?

Yes.

352. Where were you during this action?

I was on top of the hanger deck with the Commander.

353. Will you tell us what you saw of the sinking of "HOOD" as briefly as you can.

I saw the "HOOD" coming along on an opposite course to "BISMARCK." I could just faintly see the silhouette. Then the "BISMARCK" opened fire and I counted four salvos of the "BISMARCK." The fourth salvo was a hit on the "HOOD" with sparks coming out from this hit and then a blaze.

354. Could you tell on what part of the "HOOD" this hit was?

I think it was the after part.

355. Can you describe this blaze a bit more fully?

The sparks rose quite high, and then a big red glow appeared on the deck and then a flash about fifty feet in the air.

356. What were the colours of these fires?

The sparks were quite red, and the flame was a mixture of red and yellow.

357. Can you indicate the colour on this chart?

Witness indicated colour No. 6 on Exhibit 2.

358. Was there any smoke with this flame?

Not with the flame, but afterwards there was dense smoke.

359. Did the dense smoke come from the same place in the ship as the flame did?

I don't think I can remember that.

360. What colour was the smoke?

Dense black.

361. What shape was this column of flame?

It was think at the bottom, then swelled out in the centre and then closing again at the top.

362. Was it very narrow at its base compared to its height?

Yes, it was compared to its height; very narrow.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that this witness was a very clear one.

- Page 188 -

Ordinary Seaman (H.O.) Joseph William Hope, O.N. C/JX. 195541.

Witness called and cautioned

363. Are you Ordinary Seaman Joseph William Hope, C/JX. 195541?

Yes.

364. Have you been talking over this affair since this Enquiry started?

No, not at all.

365. Where were you during the action between the "HOOD" and "BISMARCK?"

In the Air Defence Position.

366. What was your job there?

Anti-Aircraft Look-out.

367. Are your impressions of what you saw of the sinking of "HOOD" still quite clear in your mind?

Yes.

368. Will you tell us as clearly as you can what you saw of the sinking of the HOOD?"

I saw at first the flashes from the "HOOD's" guns as they were opening up. We could just make out a dark shape. All of a sudden there was a terrific great flash of flame and after that there was a very dense cloud of black smoke, and I got a pair of binoculars to find out which ship it was, but all I could see was the smoke.

369. Were you looking through binoculars to start with?

No.

370. Can you describe this flame in any more detail?

It was a dark red and orange flame, a terrific flame.

371. Can you show us this colour on this chart?

Witness indicated colour No. 7 on Exhibit 2.

372. In what shape was this flame?

It went straight up in the air, quite a long way, and it was fairly long as well. It was much longer than it was high.

373. And that was clear flame was it?

Yes, clear flame.

374. How long did this flame last? Have you any idea?

The actual flame lasted for three to four seconds and then the smoke blotted it all out.

375. Was the colour of this flame similar to the colour of the flashes the "HOOD's" guns when she fired?

Yes, they were the same colour.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that this witness was no fool and obviously confident of what he saw.

- Page 189 -

Able Seaman Bernard S. Taylor, Official No. C/JX. 152206?

Witness called and cautioned

376. Are you Able Seaman Bernard S. Taylor, C/JX. 152206?

Yes.

377. Are your recollections of the blowing up of the "HOOD" quite clear in your mind or not?

Quite clear.

378. Where were you at the time of the action between the "HOOD" and the "BISMARCK?"

On the Port H.A. Director.

Witness indicated his position on the model of "SUFFOLK."

379. What was your duty there?

Director Layer.

380. Will you tell us what you saw of the blowing up of the "HOOD" as far as you can remember?

I did not actually see any flash but it appeared there was a lot of sparks going up and just afterwards dense black smoke was pouring out.

381. Can you describe what this pillar of sparks was like?

It seemed to spread out in a fan shape.

382. Did it seem to come from a narrow base or a broad one?

From a narrow base I think.

383. Did it go very high in the air?

Yes, very high.

384. Do you remember what the colour of it was?

Yes.

385. Can you pick out the colour of it on this chart?

Witness indicated colour No. 4 on Exhibit 2.

386. Will you go on from this pillar of sparks?

Just afterwards dense black smoke was pouring out.

387. Did it pour out from the same position?

Yes, and it lasted about fifteen to twenty minutes.

388. Could you see anything of the "HOOD" before this explosion?

No, I could not see because there were black clouds behind her and visibility was not too good.

389. Was your attention was drawn to the spot by this flash?

No, I could see gun flashes before that.

390. Did you see this with the naked eye?

Yes, but just after the explosion I had a pair of glasses.

391. Had the flame disappeared by the time you got the binoculars?

Yes, and I could see black smoke only.

- Page 190 -

Leading Seaman Winston N. Littlewood, O.N. C/SSX. 153990?

Witness called and cautioned

392. Are you Leading Seaman Winston N. Littlewood, C/SSX. 153990?

Yes.

393. Is your recollection of the action between the "HOOD" and "BISMARCK" quite clear in your mind or not?

Only of the huge pillar of sparks, but what I saw is clear in my mind.

394. Where were you at the time of the action?

In the Port H.A. Director of "SUFFOLK."

395. What was your duty there?

I was trainer.

396. Will you please tell us what you saw of the blowing up of the "HOOD?"

After about a third or fourth salvo from the "BISMARCK" there seemed to be a flash which we thought was the "HOOD" firing and just a few seconds after that we saw a huge pillar of sparks going in the air and clouds of black smoke.

397. Can you describe these sparks?

It was a narrow pillar, going up very high.

398. Did it spread out at all?

When it reached the top it fell over on both sides. There was a similar explosion on the "BISMARCK" about as thrid of the height.

399. What was the colour of this pillar?

It was an orange colour.

400. Can you tell us what the colour of this pillar was from this chart?

Witness indicated No. 3 on Exhibit 2.

401. Could you see anything of the ship before this explosion?

No.

402. Was it the explosion which drew your attention to that particular point on the horizon?

No, we were looking in that direction, and we were looking at the other ships firing. We could tell where she was by the gun flashes.

403. Was the pillar of sparks a flash or did it scintillate like stars?

It scintillated like stars.

404. Do you mean stuff thrown up in the air and exploding when it was in the air?

Yes, it was like a type of firework. It was not a sheet of flame definitely, just like trickling sparks.

Witness withdrew.

- Page 191 -

Able Seaman Edward Gallagher, Official No. TD/X. 2147

Witness called and cautioned

405. Are you Able Seaman Edward Gallagher, TD/X. 2147?

Yes.

406. Is your recollection of the explosion and the blowing up of the "HOOD" quite clear in your mind?

Yes.

407. Where were you during the action between "HOOD" and the "BISMARCK?"

On the Compass Platform of "SUFFOLK."

408. What was your duty there?

Depth charge and communication number.

409. Will you tell us what you saw of the explosion in the "HOOD?"

There was a big dull red flash and then a split second afterwards it was mixed with a deep yellow flash, the two combined, and four or five seconds after there was a huge dense cloud of smoke which enveloped the whole ship.

410. Can you tell us the shape of these flashes?

The red flash was a huge broad glow.

411. Did it go up in a straight column?

It was broad and high.

412. Can you point out the colours of the flashes on this chart?

Witness indicated No. 8 for the first flash and a blend of Nos. 4 and 5 for the second flash, on Exhibit 2.

413. Were you looking at this with glasses or with the naked eye?

I was looking with the naked eye.

414. Had you seen the "HOOD" before this explosion took place?

No, I had only seen gun flashes from the "HOOD" before that.

415. Did you see any smoke?

There were huge clouds of dense black smoke with the explosion.

416. Did it rise very high?

Yes, very high.

417. As high as the flash or higher?

As the flash disappeared the smoke was still going very high.

418. How many salvos did you see the "HOOD" fire?

I saw her fire six or seven salvos altogether.

419. Was the flame higher than it was broad?

Yes, a good bit higher.

Witness withdrew.

Note: The Committee considered that this was an intelligent observer but quite untrained.

- Page 193 -

Captain R.M. Ellis, Royal Navy.

Witness called and cautioned

420. Are you Captain R.M. Ellis, Royal Navy, Commanding Officer of H.M.S. "SUFFOLK?"

Yes.

421. Are you recollections of the blowing up of the "HOOD" clear now or are they hazy?

My own are not clear. I did not actually see her blow up. I was looking at the "BISMARCK" at the time.

422. What would you consider would be the reliability of most of your ship's company on that point?

I think that through distance, the unexpectedness of the event and the lapse of time since it happened, a great deal of reliability cannot be placed upon their evidence, unless they all say the same thing.

423. Would you consider your Chief Yeoman of Signals normally a reliable witness?

I should say average reliability.

424. Your Commander on the other hand is a trained Staff Officer and would be very reliable?

Yes.

425. Have you anything yourself that you want to tell us? Do you wish to tell us anything further?

No, I do not think I can give you anything further that would be useful. It was a very difficult morning, marker refraction, rapidly changing visibility, and this occasion is the first time I have seen my own and  the "NORFOLK's" plots put together and it is a surprisingly greater distance than I thought it was.

426. Did you at any time owing to refraction see any portion of the "HOOD?"

I thought I saw the tops of her masts and funnels.

427. Did you see any of the flame or smoke from "HOOD"?"

All I saw was in the corner of my eye a little flash and then the smoke which formed afterwards.

428. Could you describe the flash?

Yes, it was very similar to the flash of high explosives going off at long distance in misty weather, a rather dull reddish colour.

429. What was the shape of the flash?

I could not say.

430. By high explosive do you mean T.N.T. or cordite?

No, I mean high explosive, not cordite. But then again there was so much haze that the colour might have been affected by distance.

431. Some of the witnesses have said they thought they saw shell hits. Do you consider that evidence reliable?

I consider it most unlikely. I think what they actually saw were probably the secondary armament flashes. It is quite possible, but I doubt it.

Witness withdrew.

The Committee adjourned.