On the 24th of May 1941, during the Battle of the Denmark Strait, the legendary British battlecruiser HMS Hood was sunk with the loss of 1,415 crew and only 3 survivors. 

Hood was constructed in Glasgow at the John Brown & Company shipyard, with work beginning on the 1st of September 1916 and with the ship being launched on the 22nd of August 1918 by the widow of Rear Admiral Sir Horace Hood, a great-great-grandson of Admiral Samuel Hood, after whom the ship was named. Sir Horace Hood had been killed while commanding the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron and flying his flag on Invincible—one of the three battlecruisers which blew up at the Battle of Jutland. 

With twin funnels and a lean profile, Hood was widely regarded as one of the finest-looking warships ever built. Hood was also the largest warship afloat when commissioned, and retained that distinction for the next 20 years. Hood’s size and powerful armament earned the nickname of “Mighty Hood” and the ship came to symbolise the might of the British Empire itself.  

At the outbreak of WWII Hood was captained by Irvine Glennie and was assigned to the Home Fleet and spent time patrolling between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. During this time, Hood was attacked by a Junkers JU-88 bomber and was hit by a 550lb bomb which damaged the port torpedo bulge and the condensers. 

Hood took part in Operation Catapult, the British attack on French ships that were harboured in Mers-el-Kabir, a naval base in French Algeria. The attack followed the French surrender and was intended to stop the powerful French fleet falling into Axis hands. When the French refused to surrender their fleet, the British fleet opened fire. 

In May 1941, the German battleship Bismarck sailed for the Atlantic with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. Hood and the newly commissioned battleship Prince of Wales sailed in pursuit and conflict was initiated on the 24th with Hood firing the first salvo at 05:52. Early in the engagement, Prince of Wales guns began to malfunction (despite hitting Bismarck 3 times) and the German ships returned fire at 05:55.  

Hood and Prince of Wales were turning to port to bring their aft guns to bare when a salvo from Bismarck struck Hood, some shells landing perfectly over the deck. A huge pillar of flame shot upwards “like a giant blowtorch” which was followed by an explosion which blew two turrets into the sea and saw the ship split in two, with the stern sinking under the waves. The bow of the ship rose clear out of the water, pointing upwards before sinking.  

The ship sank in a mere 3 minutes, killing 1,415 with only Ted Briggs, Bob Tilburn and Bill Dundas surviving. They were rescued 2 hours later by the destroyer HMS Electra (Prince of Wales had disengaged following the loss of Hood). 

Hood had crewmen from Ayrshire aboard. Samuel Kay, William McKim and Edward James Homes all died. 

Samuel Kay 15th of May 1923, born in Glasgow. Son of Samuel and Catherine Kay of Galston, Ayrshire. Worked as a glazer in Kilmarnock until 1939. He and his friend Eric Sykes enlisted in the Royal Navy. He was initially trained at H.M.S. Caledonia and subsequently at H.M.S. St. George. He was posted to Hood in June 1940. 

Sam was 18 years old at the time of his loss. 

William McKim – Bill was born on 22nd June 1923 William and Janet McKim, of Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, Scotland. He was 17 years old at the time of his loss. 

Edward James Holmes – Edward was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire on 26th October 1923 to parents James and Agnes Holmes. The family settled in Ayr. Edward entered the Navy at age 15 and was trained at H.M.S. St. George and the Isle of Man before joining H.M.S. Hood. He was 17 years old at the time of his loss. 

Further Reading

HMS Hood at HMS Hood Association

80th Anniversary of the loss of HMS Hood at Royal Navy MOD