The hull form in this area, was protected by the thickest belt armour - of up to 12 inches. The idea was a simple one: important machinery (such as the boilers and engines), were enclosed in the thickest belt armour, so that warships like Hood, could take punishment under fire, and still maintain a manoeuvrable gun platform (aka the ability to fire their primary naval guns). Unfortunately, Hood's machinery spaces were considerably long (about 391 feet, 45.5 percent of her length), and she had been designed in a time, when plunging shell fire (which would penetrate the deck), had not really been considered. Hence, the midships deck armour was way too thin, and what armour there was (of up to 3 inches thick), was spread over too small an area! Such short comings, were not known to her sailors - who believed her to be the greatest warship in the Navy, and she was :) This view also best showcases Hood's secondary armament - her twelve 5.5 inch naval guns. These were designed to engage surface targets only, such as destroyers - which could have easily launched torpedoes at her. These guns, would also have supported the primary 15 inch naval guns (when in range).
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).
Without a doubt, this little gem has to be one of the best books on HMS Hood (that I have ever read):
There's three reasons for this. First: is the fact that the book summarises (on the first few pages) exactly what type of warship HMS Hood was intended to be - a bigger, better, faster Queen Elizabeth class battleship. This was what the Royal Navy/Admiralty originally envisaged, and even though various Admirals (such as Sir John Jellicoe) attempted to prevent this (by saying that they had no need for such fast battleships), the Battle of Jutland (which took place at the same time that HMS Hood was laid down - 1916) caused a boycotting of Sir John Jellicoe's ideas - as it was proven that lightly-armoured battle cruisers, were incapable of meeting heavily-armoured battleships in battle. Thus, would HMS Hood be a - bigger, better, faster Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately, Hood's great length (860ft), meant that similar levels of protection (to a Queen Elizabeth), resulted in thinner deck and side armour as such armour had to be spread over a longer distance. Thus, was it known - that Hood's deck armour was too thin and not in the same-league as a true battleship (even though plans existed to thicken her deck amour). Second: is the fact that this book actually provides, the most realistic/acceptable reason for the loss of HMS Hood (that I have ever read). It had been accepted (at the time) that HMS Hood was lost because of a primary magazine explosion. Now, whilst this may very well be true - witnesses at the time (most-likely those on-board HMS Prince of Wales) reported that there was no sound of an explosion from HMS Hood. This seems a little strange, as it's hard to imagine a room full of 15 inch shells exploding - without any sound! Thus, does this book provide a more realistic/alternative explanation of how HMS Hood could have blown up, without making a sound. This explanation is: that it was NOT a primary shell magazine that exploded, BUT a primary cordite magazine (the source of the charges that were packed in behind a shell - to explode/burn and propel a 15 inch shell, from a 15 inch naval gun barrel). Thus, it seems that a magazine full of cordite, would have burned fiercely, and in doing so - placed overwhelming stress on internal bulkheads (inside HMS Hood). Such forces would not have been contained for long, and would have eventually vented forwards, through the boiler rooms and through the deck vents. It is with this venting, that the book suggests it's reason for the loss of HMS Hood: as with so much heat and force, would Hood's hull form have failed to hold up - and hence, split her in two (without the sound of an explosion). Third: is the fact that this book contains, some of the most amazing pictures of HMS Hood - that I have ever seen! Where possible, I have divided these into categories - before I tell you about them. Category One: The pictures of HMS Hood when she is being constructed. My favourite picture here, shows the construction of Hood's hull form, when the scaffolding is along side. You can clearly see the style/shape, of an important improvement over the Queen Elizabeth's - Hood's anti-torpedo bulges (which formed an integral part of her hull form, as opposed to an after thought). In second place, do I find the picture that looks forward (from the stern) of Hood's decks (before the turrets and superstructures have been installed). You can clearly see the men that built her, who appear to be just normal men doing an honest days work together with the frames for the bow sections (showing that Hood was far from complete at the time the photo was taken). Category Two: The pictures of HMS Hood within the Mediterranean Sea. Two of these photo's stand out for me - as they show Hood's hull form beneath the waterline (in a semi-turbulent sea). Both pictures also seem dynamic (as Hood is at speed), with both pictures also showing her neutrality markings (on B turret) - which were used to help identify her within the Spanish Civil War. Category Three: The picture that shows HMS Hood when she's being painted (presumably in harbour). What I find most exciting about the picture here, is that although it's just a close-up of her midships section - it's hard to miss one simple fact: HMS Hood was massive! This picture (more than any other), causes me to have disbelief that she could ever have been sunk/destroyed by a single lucky/well-placed shell. Yet, that is precisely what happened! Overall: this is an amazing book that contains a wealth of information on HMS Hood, and her nemesis the Bismarck. There's also some good information on the Battle of the Denmark Strait, and the sinking of the Bismarck. For me, there's also one more thing that really makes this book into a little gem. The fact that it explains a battleship's immunity zone - the idea that between certain ranges, that a battleship's side and deck armour could not be pierced (e.g. within a certain range, plunging shellfire is impossible, because the enemy could not elevate their gun barrels to a suitable angle to avoid a skimming shell when it hit the deck of the enemy ship - as it's plunging angle was too low to cause penetration - aka the mathematics of projectile motion).
Hood - Life and Death of a Battlecruiser - Roger Chesneau - Part Two
Analysis Three - Death and Inquest. The fact that HMS Hood was heavily used meant that she never received the overhaul that she so desperately needed:
It's true to say that she was modified (e.g. for better air defence), and that she was overhauled/serviced as required (e.g. to maintain the efficiency of her boilers and her top speed). BUT, what was really required was a complete gutting of the ship, with the addition of thicker deck armour - permitted by the saving in weight gained from fitting new machinery (e.g. smaller boilers and turbines), and perhaps the removal of the entire front conning tower's spotting top (again to save weight). Unfortunately, this never happened. Thus, would one more Atlantic sortie - prove to be her demise! It is here that the book helps recreate some of the events of that particular day - as by all accounts, the crew of HMS Hood viewed their final voyage as just another routine patrol. When reading this chapter, did I feel that the Author played right into this part - as he has presented the tale straight to the point: Hood was gone, and in less than three minutes! With the build-up of the preceding chapters, did I feel shocked (even though I knew what happened anyway). I also found the contrast between this book's two inquests to be something of a shock. Whilst the first inquest (into why Hood was lost) was ridiculed as being too quick and not having looked at all the facts - it is surprising that the second inquest (which looked at all the facts or at least many more) concluded the same as the first: that Hood was lost because of insufficient armour thickness (to guard against plunging shellfire), which allowed a large calibre shell to explode inside the hull-form, which in-turn, caused the explosion of a primary magazine. It is only with the recent underwater expeditions (to look at her shipwreck) that the first conclusive evidence has been found that this is (at least a part of) exactly what happened. Not only that though, as from the state of the wreck (as mentioned in the book) - it appears that there was also a second explosion (in the forward parts of the ship) which when taken together, explain why so few of Hood's crew survived. Overall: a very good book, that I feel - tells the whole story of HMS Hood (both peacetime and wartime). When she sunk, it was not only the men on-board that died - but also (for a time) the spirit of the entire British Empire.
Hood - Life and Death of a Battlecruiser - Roger Chesneau - Part One
Something of a first for me - as I actually read this Battleship Book from cover to cover within a day and a half:
It helped that the book is on HMS Hood. It helped that the book is a good read. It helped that the book is packed full of so much information, that those pages just kept turning! I feel that this book really comes in three parts (although it's spread across six chapters): Genesis and Design, Peace and War, Death and Inquest. I shall now consider each of these in turn. Analysis One - Genesis and Design. HMS Hood was born from the Battleship race - specifically the need for speed (at the expense of armoured protection) that gave rise to the Battlecruiser concept. This book goes to great lengths to highlight the fact that HMS Hood was originally designed as a Battlecruiser (e.g. through it's use of design tables), and that on the very day that she was laid down (31 May 1916), that all work was suspended - owing to the Battle of Jutland, which had seen three such earlier Battlecruisers blown apart (after suffering magazine explosions caused through plunging shellfire). In all three cases, was the level of horizontal armour protection called into question. It is here that HMS Hood was transformed into something more akin to a Fast Battleship, as her deck armour was gradually increased (e.g. from 1.5 inches, to between 2-1 inches, to between 3-1 inches - the thicker armour was used closer to Hood's magazines). This book not only considers these developments, but also explains Hood's anti-torpedo protection, machinery (such as the Brown Curtis turbines and Yarrow oil-fired boilers), primary armament (including elevation increase), secondary armament (such as why it was not case-mated) and fire control (of primary, secondary and anti-aircraft guns). Analysis Two - Peace and War. HMS Hood was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 15 May 1920. World War Two started on 1 September 1939. This meant that HMS Hood spent most of her life as a Peacetime Warship of (just over) 19 years! The Peacetime chapter shows very clearly how the reputation of The Mighty Hood was earned, especially in the eyes of the public, who (even now) I feel, would be in awe of this stunning warship (if she sailed into port today). Much of this reputation was earned during the famous World Cruise (which saw HMS Hood travel over thirty-three thousand miles to bolster Britain's relationship with it's Empire). Even so, it is important to remember that HMS Hood was still a warship - which meant that her crew participated in regular gunnery exercises (by herself or with other vessels), as she sailed between the various ports of her World Cruise. Thus, when War broke out - was HMS hood (and her crew) available to participate in front line duties. Some of this was to become routine, such as: i) The various skirmishes into the Atlantic to intercept perceived threats (e.g. preventing the break out of smaller German warships). ii) Convoy duty (e.g. helping to protect Iron Ore en-route from Norway to Britain, and helping to protect the transport of troops from Canada to Britain). Some of this was absurd - such as when HMS Hood (and other British warships) were ordered to sink the entire French Naval Fleet at Mers-el-Kbir (North Africa). Whilst I understand the reasons behind this attack (fear of the French fleet falling into German hands), it seems totally crazy that allies would attack each other like this (when they should only have been concerned with defeating Germany). In any case, the book makes one point very clear (both through text and images) that Hood was heavily used both up-to, and during the early stages of World War Two, and as such - the usual polished ship-shape decks were soon covered with the grime of war.