-H.M.S. Hood Reference Materials-
ADM 116/4351: Report on the Loss of H.M.S. Hood
Updated 16-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.

Chainbar divider

- Page 6 -

Manuscript entry at top of page above minute:Controller would be glad of remarks of DNC before further circulation to departments".

?JR Allfrey?

Sec to Controller

12.6.41

(Minute)

Submitted.

This report contains the findings of the Court, but not the evidence on which those findings are based. Hence, some of the points raised in the following remarks may have been dealt with in the evidence and the Court's conclusions reached after full consideration of such points.

2. A skeleton model of "HOOD" has been made and exhibited to Controller. It is clear from that model that a 15" shell fired from "BISMARCK" at the range and inclination of the fatal fifth salvo could, if lucky and possessing sufficient delay, reach the after magazines. If this shell struck 'somewhere near the mainmast' the delay would have had to be very long for the shell to reach the forward bulkhead of the upper 4" magazine. If this magazine, which contained only 467 rounds of fixed ammunition, had exploded, it is not certain that the remaining magazines would have blown up. A still more lucky shot striking the ship farther aft could actually burst in the group of 4" magazines; in that case these magazines and the adjacent 15" magazines immediately abaft would blow up, and the ship would rapidly sink stern first.

3. DNC, however considers it premature to conclude that because the ship could be blown up in this way that was in fact what happened. The reason for this remark is that "the result of the fifth salvo was a large explosion, the centre of which appeared to be at the base of the mainmast." It is extremely difficult to associate this observed fact with the explosion of the 4" magazines, the forward bulkhead of which is 64ft. abaft the centre of the mainmast and the after bulkhead about 115ft. If the 4" magazines caused "X" magazine to blow up, a fortiori, "X" magazine would have caused "Y" magazine to blow up. The after bulkhead of "Y" magazine is about 180 ft. abaft the centre of the mainmast, so it is even more difficult to reconcile the observed position of the explosion with the blowing up of all the magazines aft.

4. A drawing is enclosed showing of the part of the ship affected and by the hits.

5. The after group of 4" H.A. magazines comprises 6 separate watertight compartments. Over then are 7 hatches and trunks through which the explosion of the magazine contents would vent. The flame, &c., would then have appeared at the after end of the superstructure and forward of 'X' turret. The roof of 'X' and 'Y' magazines is the lower deck, two decks below the weather deck. If the large quantity of cordite in these magazines blew up, the pressure would be so great that the superstructure above would be entirely destroyed and the flame from the explosion would have been seen around 'X' and 'Y' turrets. Is there any possible reason why the products of combustion from these magazines should have passed through the after engine-room and up round the mainmast over the centre engine room? No reason is indicated in the report, neither can one be imagined.

6. The question naturally arises, if the explosion at the base of the mainmast was not due to the after magazines, was there any other large quantity of explosives in that neighbourhood which could have caused the observed effect? The answer to that question is, 'Yes, on the upper deck abreast the mainmast there was a total quantity of about 4,000lbs of T.N.T.' If one or more shells from the fifth salvo detonated sufficiently close to one of the eight torpedo-heads confined in strong boxes on the upper deck, and if one or more of these warheads detonated, the result would be an explosion where it was actually observed.

7. There is a difference between the flame and smoke from the rapid burning of a large quantity of cordite and from the detonation of T.N.T., and it would be interesting to have the views of officers with experience of both phenomena on the sketches enclosed with the report. The picture of the explosion drawn by Captain Phillips gives the impression of T.N.T. detonation rather than cordite explosion.

8. The detonation of a torpedo-head in the open air is fairly damaging, but in a confined box in a ship would be far more devastating. In fact, such a detonation in the position of these tubes in "HOOD" would probably break the ship's back and result in rapid foundering.

9. The foregoing alternative explanation of the occurrence appears plausible and it is considered the finding of the Court should not be accepted as final until further facts are elicited, viz:-

(1). The accounts from "BISMARCK" survivors. The 3rd gunnery officer is one of the survivors, and so far the result of his interrogation has not been seen.

(2). The evidence taken by the court which should be closely examined.

(3). The properties, particularly length of delay, of the 15" shell fired by "BISMARCK" into "PRINCE OF WALES".

(4). The views of those with experience of trials involving the rapid burning of large quantities of cordite and the detonation in a confined space of T.N.T.

10. It is important that the doubts concerning the loss of this ship should be cleared up if possible at a very early date, as although action is being taken to implement the lessons of both explanations, it is impossible to do this quickly for all our old capital ships if the true explanation is as found by the Court. Moreover, it will never be possible to give these ships such protection to their magazines as to ensure certainty that modern shells and bombs under all circumstances that may exist in modern actions cannot reach their magazines.

(Signed)

SV Goodall

D.N.C.

2 Jul 1941

- Page 8 -

V.C.N.S.

LOSS OF H.M.S. "HOOD"

D.N.C. has raised the question of whether the above water torpedoes in "HOOD" were responsible for the destruction of the ship.

2. I disagree with his view and accept the report of the Board of Enquiry for the following reasons:

  1. For trials, a 15" shell burst outside a torpedo tube protected by a mantlet will not detonate the torpedo.
  2. Although a direct hit may detonate one torpedo it is extremely unlikely that others will be countermined. In "KHARTOUM" a torpedo was fixed into the after galley by an air vessel bursting. The head did not detonate but it burnt to detonation in the fire after a considerable period, about 20 minutes, and in "HOOD" the interval between the first hit and the destruction of the ship seems to have been under 3 minutes.
  3. The angle from which observers saw the "HOOD" i.e. on the "HOOD"s quarter, makes it doubtful whether they can accurately place the position. Lieutenant Commander Terry of "PRINCE OF WALES" who had a good view, considers the explosion occurred between the main mast and X turret.
  4. Many observers saw the bow disappearing into the water. The stern appears to have disintegrated as nothing was seen after the explosion.
  5. The absence of survivors tends to confirm a magazine explosion.
  6. It is known that 1 15" shell can penetrate the magazines.

3. It is therefore proposed to accept the findings of the Court and to inform the C in C H.F. accordingly.

Paper N.L. 9821/41 attached.

(Signed)

B Fraser

7th July, 1941

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D.N.C. in his minute on this paper raises a point of great importance, i.e. as he points out the report contains the findings of the Court, but not the evidence on which those findings are based. I noticed this when the report was first received in the Admiralty and discussed the matter with the President of the Court, but unfortunately it transpired that no shorthand notes of the evidence were taken. At my request, however, the Court have produced a summary of evidence which is attached in paper M.011031/41. This summary is, I understand, compiled from short notes kept by members of the Court at the time.

2. This matter of the blowing up of the "HOOD" is one of the first importance to the Navy. It will be discussed for years to come and important decisions as to the design of ships must rest on the conclusions that are arrived at. This being so, it seems to me that the most searching inquiry is necessary in order to obtain every scrap of evidence we can as to the cause of the explosion. I regret to state that in my opinion the report as rendered by this Board does not give me confidence that such a searching inquiry has been carried out; in particular the failure to record the evidence of the various witnesses of the event strikes me as quite extraordinary.

3. In all normal instructions Boards of Inquiry that are issued to Commanders in Chief it is always stated quite clearly that a full record is to be kept. In this case the Board was ordered very hurriedly and the normal forms were not gone through, which perhaps accounts for the failure to appreciate the importance of this point. In may be that in years to come in the light of further action in connection with other ships our successors may wish to look back at the records of the loss of the HOOD, and it is in the words of those who actually saw the event rather than in the conclusions drawn by any Committee that they would be likely to find matter of real value. In my view the matter is of such importance that a further Board of Inquiry should be held; that all who witnessed the blowing up should be interrogated. (I note that Lieutenant Beckwith gave hearsay evidence as the result of having interviewed a number of witnesses. I also note that of the three survivors from the HOOD only one was interviewed. This strikes me as quite remarkable.

4. With regard to the minutes on this paper D.N.C. gave it as his definite opinion that on the evidence at present available the blowing up of the ship was not caused by a magazine explosion but was more likely to have been caused by the detonation of torpedo war heads. Before, however, confirming this view he asks that further evidence be made available. I certainly think that action should be taken on the points he mentions.

5. With regard to D.N.C.'s paragraph 9(1) it might be possible to get some information out of the BISMARCK survivors.

Paragraph 9(2) I have dealt with above.

Paragraph 9(3). Evidence on this point will presumably now be made available.

Paragraph (4) Experts on the burning of quantities of cordite and the detonation of T.N.T. could presumably give some views after a further inquiry which I have proposed above.

6. I have read the Controller's minute of 7th July carefully and I do not feel that I personally can disregard the opinion of the Director of Naval Construction as does the Controller. The bulk of evidence at present available as to the position of the explosions shows it was somewhere about the mainmast. The D.N.C.'s argument in paragraph 5 of his minute that explosions of the 15" magazines would have gone straight up and destroyed the ship round that magazine rather than run along through the engine room and appear between the mainmast and the funnel seems to me unanswerable.

7. In the summary of the evidence now available, Captain Leach, who should be a most reliable observer, states that when the explosion occurred he was certain that "X" and "Y" turrets were intact. Lieutenant-Commander Terry in the same summary states that as the smoke cleared the ship appeared to be still going ahead, turning to port, listing to port and down by the stern. The point was not pursued apparently, but would seem from this that the ship was still more or less complete at her stern and was not completely destroyed as I understand would be the case if the magazines had exploded.

8. Action is being taken on other papers to order the temporary removal of the above-water torpedoes from the only other two capital ships that carry them, i.e. REPULSE and RENOWN.

9. I propose, therefore, that a further Board of Inquiry should be assembled as soon as possible and that the necessary witnesses should be made available. At this enquiry every individual in every ship present who saw the HOOD at or about the time of the blowing up should be fully interrogated.

T.S.V.P.

18th July, 1941

(Tom Phillips)

Manuscript paragraph below the above minute.

I am not competent to comment on the main issues in this controversy, but I concur with the V.C.N.S. in his remarks about the procedure adopted and the importance of having a full record evidence. In this connection, it does not appear that D.N.C. has seen the summary of evidence in M011031/41 attached. But even if he saw it now, and modified his opinion in consequence, I do not think that V.C.N.S.'s argument in favour of a second Court of Enquiry would then be vindicated (see para 3 of his minute).

This paper has been marked to the First Lord because the matter of this enquiry was discussed at a recent Board meeting and also because if it is decided to hold a second Court of Enquiry the circumstances may give rise to comment.

HVM

19/7/41

(HV Markham, Permanent Secretary to the Board of Admiralty)

- Page 11 -

SECRET

First Lord

When Admiral Blake conducted an enquiry into the cause of the loos of the HOOD a verbatim record of the evidence of the witnesses was not taken. We have found this a considerable handicap in the further investigations we are making as it is obvious that the technical departments will wish to make their own deductions and not, necessarily, conclusions arrived at by the Board of Enquiry.

I am therefore of the opinion that it is necessary for a new Board of Enquiry to investigate this matter and I would propose that Rear Admiral Walker, who was a former Captain of the HOOD should be the President, and that Captain Morse and Captain Clarke should be the other members.

I consider it also necessary to have a Constructor and an expert in Explosives to assist the Board and if the setting up of the Board is approved I will consult the Controller as to a suitable person.

DP

(Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord)

19th July, 1941

Noted in manuscript:

I agree.

AVA

19/9

(AV Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty)

Intialled

DP

22/7

- Page 12 -

Secretary

I have obtained First Lord's approval for another enquiry before seeing your minute. I do not think the reasons you give against holding another inquiry are as important as doing everything we can to arrive at the truth. Perhaps you would wish to see First Lord before this enquiry is ordered.

I have written personally to Admiral Blake explaining why this enquiry is necessary.

After you have dealt with his papers and if inquiry is to go on this paper should go to Controller to suggest name of a Construction and Explosives expert.

DP

20/7

First Sea Lord

I am afraid I did not make my minute clear. I am very much in favour of a second Enquiry and find V.C.N.S.'s argument unanswerable. My reason for marking the papers to the First Lord are not on account of any possible (/) in the proposal, but in order to ensure that he could not be taken by surprise in the House or Cabinet later on. I was not of course aware that he was already in the picture.

HVM

21/7/41

(HV Markham, Permanent Secretary to the Board of Admiralty)

Manuscript entry

Noted

DP

22/7

Manuscript entry

Draft orders submitted herewith

It is understood from Naval Secretary that Captain Mackintosh has been substituted for Captain Clarke.

(Signed)

?J Lawson?

Head of NL

26.7.41

Manuscript entry

Approved

DP

29/7

Manuscript entry

Sent on.

?J Lawson?

30/7

Manuscript entry

Captain Duke substituted for Captain Morse - vide enclosed note of Naval Secretary.

?J Lawson?

7/8

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SECRET

MESSAGE

OUT

Date: 20.5.41 [sic- this should read 30.5.41]

To:

F.O.I.C. Glasgow

Repeated F.O.I.C. Greenock

C. in C. Home Fleet 936

C. in C. Western Approaches 257

C.S. 1 200

NORFOLK

DUKE OF YORK

P/L BY SECRET T/P

From Admiralty

IMMEDIATE

A Board of Enquiry has been constituted to investigate th (sic) technical aspects of the loss of H.M.S. Hood. President Vice Admiral Sir G. Blake K.C.B., D.S.O. members Captain C.F. Gammil, PRESIDENT Captain C.H.J. Harcourt C.B.E. DUKE OF YORK. A constructor is being nominated by D.N.C. as technical adviser.

The Board is to assemble in the first instance at Glasgow a.m. tomorrow Saturday to take evidence from witnesses in NORFOLK.

Admiral Blake leaves Euston 2130 today Friday, accompanied by Captain Hammil. Constructor will not be present tomorrow Saturday. It is requested you will make the necessary arrangements and inform all concerned.

1952B/30

for Sec. To V.C.N.S.

Approved 1st S.L.

1st Lord

1st S.L.

Contr.

V.C.N.S.

A.C.N.S.(H)

NAV SEC.

N.A.1st S.L.

O.D.(5)

Ops. (4)

E. (2)

Dep. Contr. (2))

D.N.C. )

S.W.R. )

M. 36

Additional Circulation by M.

N.L.

- Page 14 -

(Copy to V.C.N.S)

Controller.

(Copy to First Lord.)

The loss of HOOD from internal explosion after a few minutes' action at 23,000 yards is disturbing, as we thought the defects in construction which led to similar losses of three capital ships at Jutland had been eliminated.

As I recollect the matter, after the loss of the capital ships at Jutland we quickly reached the conclusion that it was due to "flash" passing down to the magazines and the sad experience was related to the case of the LION at Dogger Bank, when "flash" very nearly caused her to blow up, but the timely action by the Major of Marines prevented this from happening.

I cannot recollect the full discussion which led to the conclusion that "flash" was the cause of our losses at Jutland, nor do I know whether any other possible causes were fully examined.

Now, after the lapse of 25 years, we have the first close action between one of our capital ships and that of the Germans since the Battle of Jutland and the HOOD has been destroyed in what appears to the onlooker to be exactly the same manner as the QUEEN MARY, INDEFATIGABLE and INVINCIBLE, in spite of the action which was taken subsequent to Jutland to prevent further ships being destroyed as a result of "flash".

In the light of this experience, will you please have the whole matter re-opened, going back to the records of the last war and see whether any theory can be evolved that would explain the loss of all four ships from some cause other than "Flash".

Please let me know whom you propose as President of the Committee.

(Signed)

Dudley Pound

28th May, 1941.

- Page 15 -

COPY

First Sea Lord

With reference to attached, I think I would choose Rear-Admiral A.U. Willis is available as he would bring a fresh mind to bear on the question.

2. As you know HOOD's magazine can be penetrated by a 15" shell at 23,000 yards but evidence I have so far seen does not indicate that the explosion occurred in a magazine.

3. I am assuming that the evidence will be sifted by a Board of Enquiry, after which I think the Committee should be set up.

Is this your intention?

(Sd. B.A.F.)

30th May, 1941

Note: Above document annotated as follows: Para 1 noted "C"' Para 3 noted "A"' "Is this your intention" noted "B".

Controller.

A. Committee have been set up with Admiral Blake as President.

B. Yes, please.

C. When A is completed we might consider whether it would be better to appoint Willis or let Blake go on with it.

(initd.) D.P.

30/5/41

- Page 17 -

THE TIMES
Wednesday, 28th May,1941
DESIGN OF THE HOOD
NO MISCALCULATION
The Handicap of Age.
To the Editor of The Times.

Sir, - In your leading article of today on the destruction of the HOOD, you write that she was the largest and most powerful warship afloat; that she was blown up by a lucky hit although she had. been specially 'designed to be invulnerable to that kind of danger. You conclude that this raises the technical Question whether a miscalculation was made in her design.

As great concern has resulted from this misfortune, it is important that the nation should realize the reason of it.

(1) The HOOD was not the most powerful warship afloat. True she was the largest, but she was constructed 22 years before the BISMARCK. In those 22 years engineering science, and the power-weight ratio, have changed beyond imagination.

(2) It cannot be quite truly said "she was destroyed by a lucky hit." There are numerous magazines in a capital ship in addition to the four largest ones, which lie beneath the main turrets. If therefore a heavy shell penetrates the armour at the angle of descent given by long ranges, the chance of one of the magazines being ignited is quite considerable.

(3) The HOOD was the most powerful ship, of her speed, that could be constructed in those days. But after the war the sailor made up his mind, after much experiment, that a very fast ship cannot afford to sacrifice armour to get that speed.

(4) So in the NELSON class speed was sacrificed, to ensure protection against sudden annihilation by shell, torpedo, or bomb.

(5) Since the NELSON was built, modern engineering has closed the gap between the two factors.

The HOOD was destroyed because she had to fight a ship 22 years more modern than herself. This was not the fault of the British seamen. It was the direct responsibility of those who opposed the rebuilding of the British Battle Fleet until 1937, two years before the second great war started. It is fair to her gallant crew that this should be written.

Yours faithfully,

CHATFIELD, A. of F.

Winchester, May 26th. 1941

C/o N.I.D.,

Admiralty,

London S.W.1

7th June, 1941

PERSONAL

Controller

1st Sea Lord

I am enclosing for your personal information and retention a copy of the report on the loss of H.M.S. HOOD.

I have also sent one to the Controller. Four official copies have gone to Secretary of the Admiralty.

2. As you will notice, I have cut out almost all non essentials from the Report so as to make it readable.

3. Mr Pengelly, the Chief Constructor, who has gone back to Bath to report to D.N.C., will no doubt investigate the most likely path of the one or more 15" shells which got through the protection somehow or other. I consider that this should be a matter for a complete technical investigation with a view to ascertaining whether there is anything to be learnt with regard to existing ships. I have mentioned this to controller.

4. Apart from technical aspect, the question of ready use supplies at high angle guns appears to require survey. There must have been stacks of it around the guns to cause an extensive cordite fire. Having regard to the very slight risk from air attack, I should have said that much of the ammunition might well have been below. I understand from Captain Davis, late Commander of HOOD, that there were the most stringent orders about keeping the Armoured Door closed down to the 4" Handling Room. Thus I cannot think that any flash can have passed down from the cordite fire.

No doubt C. in C. Home Fleet, will raise this matter in his report as I gather PRINCE OF WALES are rather apprehensive after seeing the fire in HOOD.

5. Another point which will no doubt be raised by C. in C., Home Fleet, is the question of having two ships stationed at 4 cables firing at one ship. Off hand, I should say a separation would have been advisable from the gunnery point of view, but, of course, there is the technical aspect to be considered. Mutual support was obviously essential.

6. As I remarked in the report, it is a great pity that no photos were taken from PRINCE OF WALES. Memories are very elusive. I remember, after Jutland, that I had to investigate visual evidence. It was extraordinary how confusing it was. Ships blowing up which were never there etc. Immediately afterwards we instituted a photographic service so that trained men. With nothing else to do, could take photos during any action.

(Monograph)

B

(Vice Admiral Blake, President First Board of Enquiry)

Manuscript entry below the above

Controller

What further action do you propose please.

DP

8/6

- Pages 37 to 42 -

Final Report of the First Enquiry into the Loss of HMS Hood

The Board comprised:

Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake, KCB, DSO, RN (President)
Captain C.F. Hammill, RN
Captain C.H.J Harcourt, CBE, RN,

The following is taken from the report of that Board:

At about 0555 on Saturday, May 24, action was joined between HMS Hood wearing the flag of Vice-Admiral L. E. Holland, Captain R. Kerr, CBE; HMS Prince of Wales, Captain J.C. Leach, MVO, and the German battleship Bismarck in company with the German 8-inch cruiser, Prinz Eugen.

HMS Hood was sunk by gunfire from Bismarck at 0600.  No salvos from Prinz Eugen were observed.

Fire was opened in the following order: Hood, Bismarck, Prince of Wales.

The range on opening fire was 25,000 yards, and 16,500 yards when Hood was sunk

The speed of Hood and Prince of Wales during the action was 28 knots.

Diagram A shows the relative positions of Hood and Prince of Wales and the line of fire at the commencement of the action.

Diagram B shows the relative positions of Hood, Prince of Wales, Norfolk and  Bismarck when Hood blew up.

The diagrams are subject to correction when the analysis has been completed, but are sufficiently accurate for the purpose of the enquiry.

It will  be noted that the bearing of Bismarck from Hood on opening fire was approximately green 30°.  "A" arcs were not bearing.  "A" arcs were opened just before Hood was sunk and one salvo was fired from either X or Y turret.
 

NOTES ON EVIDENCE

Evidence from Norfolk

Norfolk was not in action.   Although Hood was at a range of 20,000 yards, she was clearly visible.   Being the leading ship, Hood was in no way obscured by smoke or firing from Prince of Wales. Hood, being the Senior Officer's ship, was closely watched; in fact, two signal ratings had their telescopes on her all the time.  From a long distance point of view, the evidence is considered reliable and this is borne out by the reasonably consistent statements of the majority of the witnesses.

Evidence from Prince of Wales

Prince of Wales opened fire with her forward turrets shortly after Hood.  In sifting the evidence from this ship the fact has to be borne in mind that the ship was in action and that in some cases the fall of shot from Bismarck was between Hood and Prince of Wales, a distance of four cables. Few witnesses were able to give their undivided attention to Hood.

Nevertheless, the close-up view has provided the more detailed evidence, from which it has been possible to form certain definite conclusions.
 

Sequence of Events

The following sequence of events has been arrived at from the sifting of all the evidence available from HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Norfolk.

(a) Ships opened fire in the following order: Hood, Bismarck, Prince of Wales, all within one minute.  Bismarck fired 4-gun salvos.  Gun range: 23,000 yards (approx).
(b) Opening salvo from Bismarck fell ahead of Hood, as observed from Prince of Wales.  It was therefore probably out for line and slightly short.
(c) Second salvo fell between Prince of Wales and Hood.   It was therefore probably correct for line, but still short.
(d) Third salvo was a straddle and included at least one hit which apparently burst on the port side just before the mainmast.
(e) Fourth salvo was probably just over, as it appeared to be astern of Hood.
(f) Fifth salvo undoubtedly straddled and hit, and Hood blew up.  Gun range: 16,500 yards.
 

Effect of hits

(a) Third salvo

The hit from the third salvo, which apparently burst in the vicinity of P2 4-inch HA Twin (station 245), just before the mainmast, caused a cordite fire.  Presumably this must have come from the 4-inch Ready Use ammunition.   This is confirmed by a conversation which Midshipman Dundas had with Able Seaman Tilburn, survivor from Hood, after the action.  Tilburn was on the 4-inch gundeck port side forward, lying down.  He stated that the cordite fire was caused by the ammunition in the Ready Use lockers.  There was apparently no large explosion connected with the fire. Captain Phillips, HMS Norfolk, who at one time was commander of Hood, associated this hit with the starboard upper deck torpedo tubes, and stated that he saw a bright flash in about that position.  There is no confirming evidence of this, and had the warheads detonated, the shattering effect would have been apparent.  The cordite fire appears to have spread fore and aft from the initial position.  Probably the 4-inch UP and pom-pom RU ammunition were all involved.   It flared high at first, but after spreading, appeared lower.  The fire was still burning between the after end of the superstructure and the after funnel when the hit or hits from the fifth salvo occurred, which blew the ship up.

(b) Fifth salvo

It is considered that this salvo which straddled Hood obtained one or more hits.

The actual position of the hit was not seen except by one observer, who stated that it was in the same locality as the third salvo (somewhere near the mainmast).  The result was a large explosion, the centre of which appeared to be at the base of the mainmast, and rose to a height variously estimated at from 300 to 600 feet.  Much wreckage was thrown into the air.  There is a consensus of opinion on the position of the explosion both from Norfolk (distant view) and Prince of Wales (close-up).   The appearance of this explosion from Norfolk and Prince of Wales varies possibly due to the angle of vision and distance.  It is best described by the rough sketches which are attached.   There was little noise from the explosion and this is confirmed by Midshipman Dundas who was on the compass platform of Hood.  He also state that there were no hits on the forward part of Hood.
 

Subsequent Observations of Hood

After the explosion, which enveloped the ship in flames and smoke, Hood heeled to port, stopped, and sank within two minutes.   The Captain of Prince of Wales deemed it necessary to alter course to starboard to avoid the wreckage.  As Prince of Wales drew abreast of the wreck, the bow of Hood back to A turret was seen out of the water, at an angle of about 40°.  The bow subsequently slid back into the water very quickly and nothing remained afloat.  This is confirmed by Midshipman Dundas, who, when in the water, saw the bow with the forefoot just clear of the surface sliding backwards at an angle of about 45°.  Lt.-Cmdr. Terry, Prince of Wales, who had a good view, states that he thought the bottom plating had been blown out between X turret and the mainmast and that he could see the frames on the starboard side as the ship heeled to port.

Midshipman Dundas, who was on the enclosed compass platform of Hood, stated that everyone was thrown off their feet by the shock of the explosion, and wreckage started to come down.  On getting to his feet and with the ship listing heavily to port he scrambled up and started climbing through one of the windows.  When he was halfway through the window, the water came up underneath him and the next thing he knew was that he was swimming.

Midshipman Dundas states that the other two survivors were the only men he saw.  They all came to the surface quite close together.  They had reached a small raft when picked up.
 

Summary

(a) After weighing all the evidence we consider that the explosion was caused by one or more hits from the fifth salvo fired by Bismarck.
(b) The magnitude of the explosion and the rapidity with which the ship disappeared lead to the conclusion that one or more of the after magazines exploded, causing a large area of the outer bottom plating to be blown out.
(c) The position round about the mainmast, where the explosion became visible, has no magazine directly below that point.  The nearest magazine is the 4-inch HA magazine immediately abaft 290 station, that is 65 feet abaft the mainmast.
Should this magazine explode, there is a possibility that it might vent itself through the after engine room to the observed point.  At the same time, the explosion of this 4-inch magazine would almost certainly cause the adjacent 15-inch magazines to blow up.
 

Conclusion

We consider:

(a) That the warheads in the above water torpedo tubes did not detonate.
(b) That the original cordite fire on the shelter deck, although extensive, was superficial and was not the cause of the ship blowing up.
(c) That the probable cause of the loss of HMS Hood was direct penetration of the protection by one or more 15-inch shells at a range of 16,500 yards, resulting in the explosion of one or more of the after magazines.

Diagram A shows the relative positions of Hood and Prince of Wales and the line of fire at the commencement of the action.

Diagram A

Diagram B shows the relative positions of Hood, Prince of Wales, Norfolk and  Bismarck when Hood blew up.

Diagram B

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Sketches of Hood by RADM Wake-Walker

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Sketch of Hood by Capt A.J. Phillips, H.M.S. Norfolk

Sketch of Hood by Capt A.J. Phillips, H.M.S. Norfolk

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Sketch of H.M.S. Hood by Captain J.C. Leach, H.M.S. Prince of Wales

Sketch of H.M.S. Hood by Captain J.C. Leach, H.M.S. Prince of Wales

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SECRET

C/o N.I.D.

Admiralty,

London, S.W.1

10th July, 1941

Sir,

LOSS OF H.M.S HOOD.

With reference to our Reports, dated 2nd June, 1941, it is understood that, for record purposes, the visual evidence obtained by the Board from witnesses is required.

2. The summary of evidence from the Officers and Ratings concerned is attached.

3. It will be observed that, as might be expected, the impressions left on the minds of these witnesses are much at variance.

The sifting of the evidence by the Board was carried out immediately after the evidence was taken. By a process of elimination and by judging the reliability of witnesses, the narrative and conclusions contained in the Report were formulated.

4. It is not considered that any further analysis of this evidence is of value.

We have the honour to be, Sir,

Your obedient servants,

(signed)

Captain, H.M.S. President.

(signed),

Captain, H.M.S. Duke of York

(signed) Geoffrey Blake

Vice-Admiral

The Secretary of the Admiralty,

London

S.W. 1

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SECRET

Loss of H.M.S. Hood 

Summary of Evidence

Foreword

The conclusions arrived at by the Board of Enquiry were based on the visual evidence of observers.

Some were occupied with their duties, while others were able to give their more or less undivided attention to observing HOOD from the time of opening fire until the ship blew up and sank.

It was noticeable that in many cases the evidence was contradictory and it was only by question and answer and general conversation that the reliability of witnesses could be gauged.

The summary of evidence which is now placed on record must be viewed in the light of the above.

2. Method of taking Evidence

In order to obtain a consistent line of evidence, a number of questions were formulated by the Board of Enquiry which were supplemented by other questions arising out of the answers.

It was not possible in the time available, especially in NORFOLK, to record word for word the evidence obtained and the evidence of each witness is therefore summarised.

3. List of principal Questions out to Witnesses

  1. Where were you and what were you doing?
  2. Did you see HOOD open fire?
  3. Did she open fire before of after PRINCE OF WALES?
  4. Did HOOD fire all her turrets to commence with?
  5. When did BISMARCK open fire?
  6. Did you see fall of shot from BISMARCK?
  7. Did you see HOOD hit and where?
  8. What did you first observe in HOOD?
  9. What happened later?
  10. Did HOOD continue firing after being hit?
  11. What was the end?

NOTE: The descriptions given by certain witnesses of the cordite fire in HOOD and subsequent explosions are illustrated in the report.

4. List of Witnesses

NORFOLK

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

Lieutenant Viscount Kelburn.

Captain A.J.L. Phillips.

Commander A.C. Luce.

Lieutenant (T) R.H. Royds.

Lieutenant R.S.C. Langford.

Chief Yeoman Mighall.

Yeoman Tonkin.

 

PRINCE OF WALES

Captain J.C. Leach, M.V.O.

Lieutenant R.C. Beckwith.

Lieut. Commander A.H. Terry.

Lieut. Commander G.C.J. Ferguson, R.N.V.R.

Sub. Lieutenant Wormsley, R.N.V.R

Lieutenant C.R. Bateman.

C.P.O. French, C.G.M.

Chief O.A. Westlake.

 

HOOD

Midshipman W.J. Dundas

5. Summary of Evidence of Witnesses

H.M.S Norfolk

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

Lieutenant Viscount Kelburn (Flag Lieutenant).

These two officers were together on the bridge of NORFOLK and their evidence was similar

NORFOLK was in a position on the starboard quarter of HOOD at a range of approximately 20,000 yds. Inclination of HOOD was about 50° to line of observation.

When the action commenced, it appeared that HOOD opened fire before PRINCE OF WALES, and also opened fire with all turrets. BISMARCK opened fire shortly after HOOD and before PRINCE OF WALES.

It was thought that HOOD straddled BISMARCK shortly after opening fire. After action had been joined for about four minutes, a glow aft was observed on HOOD in the neighbourhood of the mainmast. No fall of shot from BISMARCK was seen; neither was there any visual sign of a direct hit. The opinion was expressed that this glow was probably an ammunition fire.

Subsequently this glow, which had a distinctive pink colour, increased in length and spread forward between the foremast and the mainmast, eventually covering the middle of the ship.

Shortly afterwards the glow appeared to die down slightly. At any rate it is clear that the ship was still in action at this period, as the two fore turrets were seen to fire.

Suddenly there was a tremendous explosion, which assumed a mushroom shape, and appeared to emanate from the centre of the ship. This spread right over the length of the ship. No high column of black smoke was observed. Ultimately, the appearance settled down to a red glow with a heavy trail of black smoke drifting away to the leeward.

NOTE: Sketches by Rear-Admiral Wake-Walker are included in the Report.

Captain A.J.L. Phillips

Captain Phillips was on the bridge of NORFOLK and observed HOOD open fire. HOOD opened fire before PRINCE OF WALES. He thought that all turrets of HOOD fired. BISMARCK opened fire shortly after HOOD.

Fall of shot from BISMARCK could be seen and also the first hit which preceded the fire.

He observed a brilliant flash under the after funnel, which he attributed to the explosion of the war heads in the upper deck tubes.

Subsequently he observed a corona of flame which lasted two or three seconds and then died down and extended horizontally along the ship. The fire appeared to pulsate. All turrets of HOOD continued firing.

Immediately after a subsequent straddle by BISMARCK, a large explosion took place and extended 600 to 700 feet.

NOTE: Sketches by Captain Phillips are included in the Report.

Commander A.C. Luce

Commander Luce was on the Flag deck.

He did not observe HOOD open fire, but subsequently though that she was firing with all turrets.

He did not see BISMARCK open fire, but observed the fall of shot which he stated had an average spread. When BISMARCK fired she apparently employed ripple salvoes. The discharge appeared unusually large with heavy smoke. The flame of the discharge appeared to be very slow burning.

He did not see HOOD hit, but he heard the Chief Yeoman say that HOOD was on fire.

He observed a glow as from a cordite fire, between the mainmast and X turret on the upper deck level.

He turned away and when he turned back he saw HOOD blow up. He thought the explosion must be from X magazine, but might have been as far forward as the mainmast.

The explosion took the form of a big flash, higher than the mainmast with much smoke.

HOOD was observed to fire between the first hit and the final explosion.

NOTE: Sketches by Commander Luce are included in the Report.

Lieutenant (t) R.H. Royds

Lieutenant Royds was in the Torpedo Control Position.

He observed HOOD to open fire, apparently with all turrets, but he did not observe whether she opened fire before of after PRINCE OF WALES.

He did not observe BISMARCK open fire. He could see the fall of shot from BISMARCK which he considered had a small spread and that ripple salvoes were being fired.

He did not observe HOOD to be hit, but saw the fire start about the foot of the mainmast on the upper deck level. He considered from the colour that it was a cordite fire. This fire died down and then came up more intensely.

Finally, a large explosion took place with a coloured flame.

He considered that the explosion was not such as would be expected from a 15" magazine.

Big objects were observed to be thrown high in the air.

HOOD was observed to fire after the first hit.

Lieutenant R.S.C. Langford

Lieutenant Langford was in a position 15 feet above the Compass Platform.

He observed HOOD to open fire before PRINCE OF WALES, but was not certain as to whether all turrets fired.

He thought that BISMARCK opened fire a short interval after HOOD.

He could see the fall of shot from BISMARCK and expressed the opinion that the shooting was very good, with a very small spread. There was nothing unusual in the discharge of the BISMARCK'S guns.

A cordite fire was observed to break out in HOOD just before X turret.

Further salvoes from BISMARCK were observed to fall, followed by two or three minutes later by a big explosion abaft the funnels. There was an enormous flash and a large column of smoke, not black.

HOOD fired just before the explosion.

Chief Yeoman Mighall

Chief Yeoman Mighall was on the Compass Platform.

He observed HOOD to open fire with all turrets before BISMARCK fired.

He considered that the third salvo from BISMARCK resulted in a hit on HOOD.

The hit produced a tower of flame, followed by a fire just abaft Y turret.

HOOD subsequently fired a salvo.

A salvo from BISMARCK was seen to fall about the same time as the explosion occurred, which blew the ship up.

Explosion had the appearance of a large cone abreast the after turrets.

Fire in HOOD commenced at 1757 (sic) and HOOD blew up at 1800 (sic). This time was taken by a stop-watch.

Yeoman Tonkin

Yeoman Tonkin was standing on the Flag deck and observed HOOD fire with the fore turrets only.

He did not observe whether HOOD opened fire before BISMARCK or PRINCE OF WALES.

He observed fall of shot from BISMARCK and expressed the opinion that the spread was small.

Considered that second and third salvoes hit. After third salvo, fire was observed to break out between funnel and mainmast. Looked like a wood fire starting. Fire subsided.

Fifth salvo again hit HOOD.

Sixth salvo caused fire fore and aft ship, and an explosion which came from the funnels aft.

H.M.S PRINCE OF WALES. (stationed 4 cables on Starboard quarter of HOOD)

Captain J.C. Leach, M.V.O.

Captain Leach was on the Compass Platform, and, therefore, had a very good view.

He stated that HOOD opened fire (with fore turrets only) before PRINCE OF WALES and before BISMARCK.

The first salvo from BISMARCK was short and the second was probably a straddle.

The first straddle started a fire on the upper deck, commencing port side of the after superstructure, near the port after 4" twin mounting. This fire spread forward the port side only.

The next salvo fell astern of HOOD and was considered to be from either PRINCE EUGEN or from secondary armament of BISMARCK.

HOOD fired after the upper deck fire started, including at least one after turret.

Captain Leach was looking at HOOD when the explosion occurred, due to a subsequent salvo, probably the fifth. A funnel of flame between the after funnel and mainmast shot up to double the height of the mast. He estimated that the base of the explosion was from 20 to 30 feet. Heavy debris was thrown into the air.

When the explosion occurred, he was certain that X and Y turrets were intact.

NOTE: Sketches from Captain Leach are included in the Report.

Lieutenant R.C. Beckwith

NOTE: Lieutenant Beckwith had interviewed a number of witnesses and the following is a summary of the evidence he collected.

The second and third salvo hit and caused a cordite fire on the upper deck which spread rapidly.

The fourth salvo was short; the fifth was a straddle short and a hit was observed in the neighbourhood of the existing fire. This hit caused the final explosion, the seat of which was between the mainmast and after funnel.

Lieutenant-Commander A.H. Terry

Lieutenant-Commander Terry was in the port after high angle director and dictated notes to a Midshipman.

HOOD opened fire with the fore turrets only.

The salvoes from BISMARCK were observed as follows:

First salvo - straddled, no hits,

Second salvo - short, no hits

Third or fourth salvoes - hit and started fire just forward of the mainmast slightly to the port side.

The appearance of the fire was described as deep red flames and heavy black smoke.

HOOD'S after turrets subsequently fired.

Explosion came from abaft fire, about X turret. Explosion went to a height of about 200 feet and then came out in a mushroom shape. There was no great noise.

As the smoke cleared, ship appeared to be still going ahead, turning to port, listing to port and down at the stern.

He considered that the side and bottom of the ship were blown out, as he observed what he considered were the frames of the ship about abreast the mainmast as she heeled over.

Lieutenant-Commander G.C.J. Ferguson, R.N.V.R.

Lieutenant-Commander Ferguson was A.D.O. on the starboard side of the A.D.O. position and did not appear to have seen very much.

He stated that HOOD opened fire with the fore turrets only.

He saw two salvoes fall round HOOD, one of which produced a hit on the disengaged side abaft the funnel which produced black smoke.

Sub-Lieutenant Wormsley, R.N.V.R.

Sub-Lieutenant Wormsley, who is a chemist, was in the port forward high angle director.

He first observed a fire just forward of X turret. Flames yellow with brown black smoke, which he considered was a cordite fire.

When HOOD blew up, the ship was enveloped in a large yellow flash. He observed the main topmast going vertically upwards and the foot of the mast was enveloped in flame. The flash was higher than the mast.

When the smoke cleared away only the bow was to be seen sticking out.

The bow was apparently only afloat between 40 and 50 seconds.

Chief Petty Officer French, Chief Gunner's Mate

Chief Petty Officer French was on P.2 pom-pom platform.

He stated that the second salvo from BISMARCK hit the port side of HOOD before mainmast and threw up some debris.

A cordite fire then started.

He considered that the fourth or fifth salvoes scored a further hit.

This hit caused the boat deck to lift, and he saw X turret falling over. At the same time as the main explosion occurred, flames seemed to come up from under the water and to run along the water-line for the greater part of the ship's length. The bows of the ship came out, broken off in the vicinity of the breakwater.

He had no recollection of HOOD firing after turrets.

Chief O.A. Westlake

Chief O. A. Westlake arrived in the upper conning tower to see HOOD on fire just before X turret.

He stated that he saw salvoes hit on the waterline from foremast to mainmast. The subsequent explosion blew plates out of the ship's side amidships.

He considered that the bow broke off before A turret. In his opinion the seat of the explosion was between the foremast and mainmast.

H.M.S. HOOD.

Midshipman W.J. Dundas

Midshipman Dundas was employed as Midshipman of the Watch on the upper bridge during the action. The upper bridge was closed in and he had no view aft. His position was amidships at the chart table, and he saw very little.

The first salvo from BISMARCK fell on the starboard bow of HOOD, the second on the port bow. After the third salvo, the torpedo officer, who was at the starboard after end of the bridge, reported a cordite fire on the starboard side of the boat deck.

HOOD fired at least one salvo after this report, and was still steaming fast. About the fourth or fifth salvo from BISMARCK everyone on the bridge was thrown off their feet. Wreckage started to come down.

On getting to his feet, Dundas saw a mass of brown smoke drifting to leeward, port side. The ship was listing heavily to port, and he scrambled uphill and started climbing through one of the windows. He noticed the Officer of the Watch climbing through another window. When he was halfway through, the water came up underneath him and the next thing he knew was that he was swimming.

He saw the bows of the HOOD at an angle of about 45 degrees, with the forefoot just clear of the water, sliding back on an even keel.

He was quite sure that the ship received no hits forward.

His recollection is that there was complete silence everywhere after the shock, and that the ship had stopped and was heeling quickly to port. There was no blast bigger than that of the ship's own guns firing.

He had talked to Able Seaman Tilborn (sic) after the action. Tilborn (sic) was on the 4" gun deck, the port side forward lying down. He had said that the cordite fire on the boat deck was caused by the ammunition in the ready use lockers.

When the ship started to list, Tilborn (sic) scrambled down to the forecastle deck and was taking off his kit when he was washed off. After clearing himself of a W/T aerial, he reached the surface and found a small raft.

Dundas stated that the three who were picked up were the only men he saw, and they all came to the surface quite close together and had reached small rafts when picked up.