Portsmouth remembers hundreds of sailors who died in sinking of HMS Hood

HMS Hood was destroyed on May 24, 1941
HMS Hood was destroyed on May 24, 1941

Remembrance service at QA Hospital

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NEVER forget they gave their lives for our freedom.

That was the message from city leaders on a day when one of the biggest single losses of life suffered by the Royal Navy is remembered.

HMS Hood in a picture thought to date from 1936

HMS Hood in a picture thought to date from 1936

It was a moment in history that sent shock waves through wartime Britain – the sinking of the iconic HMS Hood.

The Portsmouth-based warship – affectionately known as the ‘Mighty Hood’ – was sunk 75 years ago today after being blasted by the German battleship Bismarck during the Second World War.

More than 1,400 men were killed in a matter of minutes on May 24, 1941, with only three of Hood’s company surviving the Battle of the Denmark Strait.

Now, as the restored bell of HMS Hood is today unveiled at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth has been on to unite and remember the heroes who sacrificed their lives to protect Britain.

City council leader Cllr Donna Jones urged people to join commemorations.

‘The sinking of HMS Hood was a huge loss and tragedy,’ she said.

‘A large number of people lost their lives, many young men leaving behind families in the city.

‘Today is going to be a special day of memory and reflection – reflection of what could have been and memory of those who gave their lives for us.’

The bell was recovered in the Denmark Strait, the resting place for more than 1,400 of Hood’s ship’s company.

It has been painstakingly restored to its former glory and will now stand as a lasting reminder of the wartime icon.

Speaking of the ship’s demise, Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said even today, 75 years after Hood’s loss, the tragedy was still being felt.

‘I knew of the tragedy of the Hood, but what really brought it home to me was when I was talking to a lady whose brother had been on board,’ said the armed forces minister.

‘He’d sent her a picture of the whole crew lining her decks while berthed in Valletta, which she showed me. There were so many, so young.

‘She was such an iconic ship, vast, and her loss was a massive blow, but what endures for me is the thought of all those hundreds of smiling faces in the Maltese sun, pausing for a moment from their duties, to capture the moment and their pride in their ship.

‘We should remember the great number lost with her on that terrible day, and their sacrifice for our sake.’

Fellow city MP, Flick Drummond, added Britain – and Hood’s home city of Portsmouth – was rocked by the ship’s loss.

‘Her loss was devastating not just for the family of all the crew, but for Portsmouth and the whole of the country,’ said the Portsmouth South MP.

Only three people survived the sinking of the 48,000-tonne ship, including Fareham man Ted Briggs, who died in 2008.

All the names of those killed are inscribed on the Portsmouth Naval War Memorial.