Thursday, May 24, 2018

Remembering the HMS Hood and Her Gallant Crew

HMS Hood at flank speed
HMS Hood

One of the last photos of Hood from May 23, 1941, as she steamed to meet
Bismark and destiny, taken from the Battleship Prince of Wales 

Perhaps I am a bit of a history nerd (growing up gay and deeply in the closet, books were one of my means of escape), but one of the things that has always fascinated me since I was a child is ships and the ocean.  There are certain ships that achieve iconic status due to their magnificence or their tragic ends or a combination of the two.  Ships such as the French super liner Normandie, perhaps the most beautiful liner ever built, the super liner S.S, United States built just miles from where I sit at the moment, the Lusitania, the Titanic, and in the military realm, the U.S.S Arizona, the Bismark, Houston, Lexington, and for me, the HMS Hood.  To paraphrase an eloquent member of a Facebook page who wrote:

On this day 77 years ago at around 6:00 am Britain and the Royal Navy suffered their most terrible loss.  HMS Hood, British battle cruiser, the largest warship in the world (she was larger than the German battleship Bismark), a 21 year veteran and pride of the Fleet and indeed the entire British Empire, was lost in combat against the Germans in the Battle of Denmark Strait. She went down , fighting for our survival against tyranny and evil, and of her ships company of 1418 galant men and boys, only 3 survived the tragedy. A freak, one in a million hit, from Bismark caused a fire on Hood which caused it to explode and sink in mere minutes.
So many of her crew were so young, some as young as 17 who had enlisted as Britain stood alone against Hitler's Nazi Germany.  The HMS Hood Association is compiling a pictorial roster of the crew that went down with Hood in the battle of the Denmark Straits.  The roster can be found here.
My reverence for HMS Hood in no way diminishes my respect for for other ships that fought valiantly or their gallant crews who strove to do their best for their countries.  May all of them rest in peace. 
A photo of but one of the 1,415 men lost:

The lesson, at least to me, is that war is Hell and should be avoid.  At the time of Hood's loss, few comprehended the horrors of the next 4 years - e.g., Pearl Harbor, the fall of British and French Indochina, D Day, etc.) - much less the full nightmare of the Holocaust. A pox on politicians who recklessly send members of the military to war without just cause or to satiate their meglomanical and/or narsarcist egos.  WWII was perhaps one of the last wars were the causes of good and evil were starkly drawn. 

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