Thursday, 26 May 2011

Scotland hears of the loss of the Hood - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1941

A nation was stunned seventy years ago today when news filtered through that HMS 'Hood' had been sunk by the 'Bismarck'. The pride of the Royal Navy had been completely outclassed by the German warship, and was sunk on 24th May 1941 with the loss of nearly all hands. Only three sailors survived out of a compliment of 1,418

The Clydebuilt battlecruiser 'Hood' had been ordered by the Navy in 1916 after losing three battleships at Jutland. She was launched from John Brown's shipyard in August 1918 and fitting out was done at Rosyth. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in May 1920 and from the start she was seen as something special. She was the only one of her class built, so there was no other warship like her. Memories of people who saw her, and served on her, talked of a powerful yet beautiful ship. The Scotsman from seventy years ago today reported her loss and recorded that she was 'The largest warship afloat by tonnage'.

John Brown's large scale model of her still exists and you can get an idea of what she looked like from that. (The model used to sit in the Transport Museum in Glasgow and I hope it is in the new museum at the Riverside when it opens)

During the 1920s and 1930s the Hood travelled all over the world flying the flag so she was well known throughout the Empire where her size and armament earned her the nickname 'Mighty Hood'. In 1935 she had sailed round Scotland and into Loch Eriboll on the North Coast. Whilst anchored there a party of sailors went ashore and on the hillside at Laid set out white painted stones in 6 foot high letters spelling 'Hood'.

In those happy times just before the Second World War no-one expected that she would be lost in so violent a manner and that the white painted stones in the remote Highlands would be one of the few mementos of her service and connection to Scotland.

In recent years children from the local primary school at Durness in Sutherland have kept alive the memory of the 'Hood' by repainting the stones and those of other Royal Navy ships which have followed her in laying out stones in the name of their ship.

The latest ship to do it was the Type 23 Frigate HMS 'Sutherland'. Although a Duke Class frigate, so named after the Duke of Sutherland, the people of the County of Sutherland have adopted her, and men from the 'Sutherland' have visited Loch Eriboll a couple of times to help repaint all the stones at Laid.

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