Dispelling the Myth of the “Under Armored Battlecruiser HMS Hood”
For the Royal Navy HMS Hood was classified a battlecruiser. However many modern historians consider her a fast battleship that was much improved over anything such as the Queen Elizabeth-class battleships, Revenge class battleships and any other battleships afloat on her launch.
USS New Jersey Curator Ryan Szimanski told us:
“Hood was armored to the same level as contemporary battleships when she was built and should be known as a fast battleship not a battlecruiser.”
On paper her level of protection was superior to anything afloat and she was significantly faster. Vice Admiral William Sims and other USN officers in Europe discussing with Admiral Henry T. Mayo, who was the head of the Atlantic Fleet spoke of the Hood also as a “fast battleship”. He also strongly pushed for the development of a similar class for the USN, but eventually the admiralty chose the lightly armoured Lexington-class battlecruiser class instead that was later cancelled.
On construction the main deck armour was added first, During Live-firing trials with the new 15-inch Armour Piercing shell against a mock-up showed her vitals possibly could’ve been penetrated through the 7-in middle belt. Therefore the designers asked to better protect the forward magazines with an extra 5-6 inch in July 1919 with the submerged torpedo tubes removed for compensation, and the aft torpedo-control tower was to be left with slightly thinner 25 mm walls which lately were not even needed. The anti-torpeo protection comprised a 7.5-foot (2.3 m) high torpedo bulge. It went for most of the side between barbettes, divided into an empty outer compartment, inner compartment with a series of water-tight “crushing tubes” and backed by a 1.5 in torpedo bulkhead very strong for any battleship.
The armored belt had face-hardened Krupp cemented armor, in three strakes.
The main one was 12 inches of 305 mm thick between the outermost barbettes, going down to just 5-6 inches or 127-152 mm on both ends. The middle armor belt was 7 inches or 178 mm thick. In addition, the upper belt was 5 in or 127 mm thick amidships starting from the ‘A’ barbette, and completed aft by a shorter 4-inch (102 mm) extension.
With the armor on the gun turrets the gun turrets and their barbettes below were protected by 11-15 in or 279 to 381 mm, also with KC armor. Furthermore, the turret roofs were just over 5 inches thick. Decks were protected by high-tensile steel plates. With the forecastle deck 2.0 inch thick, the upper deck was 2 inch over the magazines and the main deck 3 inches over the magazines and over 1 inch in smaller places but with 2-inch slopes, meeting inside the bottom of the main belt. The lower deck was 3 inches thick, covering the propeller shafts, the other magazines 2 inch down with an extrac1 inch added in other places. This several folds were design to absorb the energy of a penetrating round causing it to explode prematurely being a great benefit to Hood’s armor.
The ship’s waterline belt was 12 inches thick.
Angled 12° outwards, protecting and allowing torpedo hits to vent to the atmosphere. The sloped belt was very close to the 330 mm that would be found in any ship classed as a super dreadnought and clearly way above any usual battlecruiser protection level. Superior to the latest battlecruisers like the Repulse. HMS Hood. The outer faces of ‘A’ and ‘Y’ barbettes were considerably thicker (below decks) than any other dreadnoughts. The conning tower (9-11 in) was record-thick for any British capital ship. This tower itself weighed as much as 600 long tons alone, easily the weight of a destroyer.
The main fire-control director became protected by an armored Hood 6-3-2 inch and a 6-inch-thick communications tube ran to the main deck. The anti-torpedo bulges of the Admiral-class battlecruisers were also the first fitted and the most advanced in the world for ASW protection. In all the Hood was a more than capable ship for 1941, armed and armored to engage any ship, she had many significant refits in the 20s and 30s bringing her up to modern standards.
Truth is we will never know why she sank (there are several theories) but she was more than capable of engaging Bismarck and as proven was far from under armored.
USS New Jersey Curator Ryan Szimanski added:
“Hood was every bit Bismarck’s equal in firepower, speed and armor on paper. Her major deficiency was crew experience. Bismarck’s crew was well trained for ship on ship engagements in the protected baltic while Hood’s long service prewar crew had been dispersed to new construction and her current crew had combat experience but not in battleship on battleship combat, World War II era battleships were egg shells swinging hammers at each other. Their guns far outclassed their armor and whoever got the first hit had a tremendous advantage for the rest of the engagement.”
Lastly, a small example of ship armor:
Percentages of battleships overall weight:
- Hood – armor 32%, hull & machinery 51%
- Rodney – armor 29%, hull & machinery 48%
- KGV – armor 30%, hull & machinery 39%
- Vanguard – armor 29%, hull & machinery 42%
Historian Harry Gillespie : Collected Works
Harry Gillespie is a writer who resides in the UK with his family. His work focuses on Naval & British history with a specific look at 20th century warfare and ships. From World War 1 to The Falkland Islands Campaign.
Huge thanks to Won-hui Lee for the cover image! Ship (Finished), 워니’s Dio.. : 네이버블로그 (naver.com)
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Dispelling the Myth of the “Under Armored Battlecruiser HMS Hood”.