The American 'twin barrel' 5 inch naval gun is regarded as 'one of the most successful naval guns' of all time:
Part of its success, comes from the fact that the US Navy standardised the 5 inch gun, for use on both battleships and smaller warships (such as cruisers and destroyers). This made shell logistics 'so much simpler'. On a battleship, the twin 5 inch was only ever a secondary armament (for use against aircraft and surface targets). Whilst on cruisers and destroyers, the 5 inch 'was usually' the primary armament - with up to eight turrets being installed (for example) on the 'light cruiser' USS Atlanta (which featured six centreline turrets 'for stability reasons' and two wing turrets 'for maximising' anti-aircraft firepower). The 5 inch gun was heavily used throughout World War Two, to defend the American warship fleets 'in the Pacific'. When used to defend against enemy aircraft, several turrets would operate together, using barrage fire (the idea being: not to target the enemy aircraft directly, but rather 'target the area' that the enemy aircraft was in) and destroy the aircraft with shrapnel 'exploding outwards' from the 5 inch shells (which were equipped with proximity fuses). As an anti-aircraft gun, the twin 5 inch 'more than proved its worth', and it was a gun turret that would not be easily mothballed - even after World War Two had finished (in 1945) ... When the Iowa class battleships were reactivated (in the 1980s'), the venerable twin 5 inch dual purpose gun, was retained as part of their armament - although with only six turrets (as opposed to ten turrets) to make room for newer 'more modern' missiles.
Here we can see the two sternmost 15 inch naval gun turrets of HMS Hood (turret X is on the left, turret Y is on the right):
Whilst the roofs of these gun turrets were not decorated (with turret markings), both were located on a 'very wet deck' (the quarterdeck) which was usually awash 'when at sea'. Turrets X and Y did not partake in the opening stages of the Battle of the Denmark Strait - as their 'arcs of fire' were limited by Hood's approach angle (on Bismarck). It is with some irony then, that turret X 'appears to have been' fundamentally involved with the explosion that tore HMS Hood in half - with the fatal explosion 'likely originating' in one of its magazines (either shells or cordite). In any case, it is believed/known that the hull form area located around/near turret X (and its barbette) 'utterly disintegrated' during the explosion. Even so 'it took a while to realise' at Hood's helm!
Here we can see the stern deck area of HMS Hood. What I most liked about Hood's stern profile, was the fact that she had a matched pair of naval gun turrets, mounted astern:
Later battleships (including both American, and Japanese), would only have a single gun turret, mounted astern. I feel that the matched pair (in Hood), catered for a more balanced profile - both in terms of her appearance, and in terms of her firepower. Hood's stern deck, was an interesting area of contradiction! For on her Empire Cruise (when she sailed the British Empire), was this area often where the VIPs (such as Royalty) were entertained. With the wooden handrail ladders (middle-bottom right), leading to the Admiral's Day Cabin - came much pomp and ceremony. And yet, when Hood was at sea, even in a fairly calm sea, was this entire stern deck area, often awash with sea water! The stern deck had been designed too low in the waterline. Yet, there is some irony here. For in the wreck of HMS Hood (at the bottom of the North Atlantic), is it the stern deck and it's flag pole, that stand up from the sea bed, as if in salute.
The bow view of HMS Hood. From here, you can make out the shear of her hull form:
Which both helped her sea-keeping, and reduced the chances, of an enemy shell penetrating her belt armour (by striking it an angle, as opposed to square on). You can also see, that Hood could bring to bear, just two forward naval gun turrets (aka four 15 inch shells) when approaching end on - as she did, on that fateful day (at the battle of the Denmark Strait), when she was lost, battling the Bismarck. This view also shows, another important fact about HMS Hood, from the shear number of windows and view slits, that are visible from this angle: how important visually sighting the enemy was, in a time before radar.
Here we can see the bow of HMS Hood, which was - long and fine:
This was for one simple reason - speed. Without a bow that was long, fine and sheared, Hood could not have attained her top speed of 32 knots. Only the hull form in the vicinity of A turret aft, would have been armoured - with the bow being soft. In retrospect, this arrangement was not adequate. Specifically, the deck area around the base of the two gun turrets and barbettes, was regarded as too thinly armoured, and was not thick enough to guard against plunging shellfire (although plans had been made, to thicken the armour in this area). Another point of interest, are Hood's breakwater arrangements - which were designed to protect the forecastle deck, from bow spray (as was encountered, when she pitched into heavy seas).
The most important part of a battleship, has always been it's primary armament naval guns:
In the case of HMS Hood, these were 15 inch calibre - and are regarded, as some of the best naval guns, that were ever fitted to a battleship. Every single sailor, and every single system on-board HMS Hood, was there to serve these guns - to ensure that they could open fire: at the right range, at the right time, and at the right target! They were the most heavily protected part of HMS Hood - with turret face armour being 15 inches thick. The turrets sat atop the barbettes (the vertical cylinders), that were themselves protected by armour, of up to 12 inches thick (thereby protecting the shell supply chain). Hood's two forward naval gun turrets (referred to as A and B), are also somewhat unique in their decoration. At this time, A turret carried a red circular flagship marking - and B turret carried her Spanish Civil War marking (the blue/white/red stripes). Towards the back of each gun turret, is it's local control range finder - which adhered to a general rule: the wider the better, as a wider range finder, tended towards increased target accuracy.
Here we can see the details of the midships area of HMS Hood:
Of particular interest are: i) The eight barrelled 2 pounder anti-aircraft pom poms gun. ii) The 4 inch high angle anti-aircraft gun. iii) One of the secondary armament 5.5 inch naval guns (with it's protective shield). iv) The smaller crane derricks, which were helpful for lifting both ammunition, and smaller boats. v) The torpedo look out control towers. Which I believe, would issue just one command: take evasive action! vi) Venting for the boiler rooms (located at the base of the funnels, just under various life rafts). vii) The smokestacks themselves, which vented waste gases and heat, from Hood's boiler rooms. There's an unproven theory, that the shell that sunk HMS Hood, may very well have penetrated one of these, and detonated the oil fuel (inside her boiler rooms).
Whilst it's hard to imagine HMS Hood being used as a Minesweeper, she was equipped as such!
On the left, can we see a Minesweeper's Para-vane, which would have been towed from the bow of HMS Hood, when looking for mines. To the right of this, can we find both ventilation shafts (at the foot of the main armoured conning tower), and various winches (which I believe, were used for hauling her fifteen inch shells aboard). To the right of these, is the barbette of B turret, which featuring armour of up to 12 inches thick, protected the shell supply chain, of the dual 15 inch gun turret (that sat on-top). Just visible bottom right, is one of Hood's breakwaters (designed to protect the forecastle deck, from bow spray).
| Nebula Hawk
Out of the Depths - The USS Indianapolis - Edgar Harrell
This is the first Warship book that I've read, which has actually been written, by one of the survivors, of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis - the retired US Navy Marine, Edgar Harrell:
I found within it's pages, a retelling of the Loss of the USS Indianapolis, that serves to highlight, both the absurdities of War, and the Refusal of the Human Spirit - to give up! An absurdity of War ... Two Marines sleeping on a Turret roof one night (owing to the heat of the Pacific), with one Marine (Edgar Harrell), choosing not to the second night - only to have that same Turret roof, blown sky high (by a Japanese Torpedo / Magazine Explosion), knowing for well that your friend is gone (as he slept on the Turret's roof again that night). A refusal to give up ... Bobbing away, in a sun bleached sea, with a life jacket that's waterlogged, in a circle of corpses (your former crew-mates), surrounded by sharks (whether you knew it or not), with a parched mouth, and swollen lips - then out of the distance, something bobs up and down, a crate of potatoes, half rotten but Heaven! And it is here, that Edgar Harrell, felt that he would Survive, the ordeal of the Crew of the USS Indianapolis, floating in the Pacific Ocean (for up to four and a half days) - because he knew for well, that God had a plan ... Yes indeed, did I find that this retelling, is as much to do with God, as is the fact, that the US Navy blundered - knowing not (through various absurdities of Command), that the crew of the Indianapolis, were adrift at sea! In places, I found this book hard to read (or at least to relate to), because I don't believe, that I'm very religious (although I like the idea, of such a hierarchy and it's symbolism). Granted, it's hard to say for sure, how many of us would behave (and what we would choose to believe in), having just witnessed, several of our former crew-mates, being ripped to bits by sharks, whilst those very same sharks, chose to pass us by! In any case, there's several parts of this book, that stood out for me ... First: the USS Indianapolis herself. She was a workhorse of the US Navy, featuring in many of the campaigns of the Pacific. I especially liked the recounting, of the bombardment of Iwo Jima - as the power of the Indy's five inch, and eight inch Naval Guns, is made very clear. Added to this, is the technology of a Warship, which even in 1945, could hone a five inch shell, onto the path of an incoming enemy plane - through the marvel of Radar :) Second: the horror of having a Warship, fall apart beneath you. It's hard to imagine, that solid steel could bend and buckle, until you see it - Edgar Harrell did, the bow was gone! I was shocked, by the truth of his recount - at the injuries of the men, who were just trying to make their way, to the decks of a ship, that was rapidly taking on water, whilst exploding all around them, in Fires of Hell! Yet even then, would those same men, have chosen to remain on-board, if only they had the choice. Third: the reality of floating in a sea/ocean (for several days). You can't escape it, unless you die. You have to ride it, even a fifteen foot wave. You have to take it, sun blistered skin. You have to bear it, darkness of night. You have to go with it, this endless tide. For there's simply nowhere, you can go! Your at the mercy of the sea. As was Edgar Harrell, and his fellow survivors. Whilst reciting his tale, did I feel that Edgar, answered an important question - just how would you pass the time? As Edgar was blessed with a working watch, both a blessing and a burden (as he says). I felt that I connected with, an idea that was proposed here - were going to swim for the coast! Though it be, hundreds of miles - were a Marine, and we Strive to Survive :) Fourth: is the disbelief that was encountered, by Edgar Harrell and his fellow survivors, at the persecution (and court-martial) of their Captain - Captain McVay. It seems absurd to me, that you can blame a Captain, for the loss of his warship, whilst they were at war - especially when it was higher up, that the blunders occurred. The fact remains that the Indianapolis, should never have sailed unescorted, through hostile waters. I fully agree with Edgar, that McVay was not at fault - and I feel that the various letters of correspondence, really adds a unique perspective, to the contents of this book. Fifth: Is a further absurdity of War ... Which for me, is perhaps the most striking part of this tale. Whilst many of the survivors, may very well have survived four days at sea (through strength, belief, willpower, luck, etc.), it was that last half a day (from when they had been spotted), that I feel for many, the real test came! For one simple reason: they'd almost run out of, the energy to keep going (e.g. the ability to tread water) - yet they had to wait, for the various rescue ships, to arrive on the scene! It must have been a true Test of Faith, where I suspect minutes felt like hours, and a still mind-numbing thought: that they had been left afloat for so long, in the first place! I wonder how many more would have been saved, if they'd been found, half a day earlier? As at the end, all strength fails - you succumb to the sea. Overall: this book really is, a recounting of one man's Quest for Survival, and the Strength of his Character - amongst the Cruel Sea, of a Pacific War. Whilst I might not share, all of Edgar's views and beliefs (pertaining to God), I feel that I can relate, to two important points that he makes. The first: Edgar won't go near the sea/ocean these days. I can understand why. It would almost be like going back. And as Edgar says: the visions of the dying throws of the Indianapolis, are still raw in his mind (let alone the sharks). The second: when not everything is going to plan, and your entire World seems to be falling apart (let alone a Warship), just remember one thing - God Wills It (at least I believe, that's what Edgar was hinting at). Peace.