Date of Laying Down of HMS Hood

This is one of the most famous, and perhaps most beautiful, warships ever built. The largest afloat when in her prime, she was a battlecruiser, not a battleship, and would ultimately share the fate of her ill-starred sisters at Jutland.

This discussion, which originally appeared on the MARHST-L list in December 1998, concerns the actual date when she was laid down (all posts appear by permission of the respective author). Note the information from John Roberts at the end.

From: William Schleihauf (

The recent thread regarding the loss of HOOD got me looking at a few reference books, and now I've come up with a wee puzzle that perhaps some of the learned list-members can help with. "Popular knowledge" (well, mine, anyways) has it that HMS HOOD was laid down on the very day of the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916. However... the recent "British and Empire Warships of the Second World War" has the date as 1 September 1916. So I started looking through the references on my shelves:
Roberts' "Battlecruisers" - "...was laid down on 31 May"
Maurice Northcott's "Hood" - "1 September 1916 [ship's keel plates]"
R. G. Robertson's "HMS HOOD" (Warship Profile 19): 31 May 1916, *design modified* 1 September 1916
Jane's Fighting Ships 1919: "laid down a few hours before the Battle of Jutland began,; work to modified design begun 1st September 1916".

Hmmm... that may explain what happened. This is in effect repeated in "The Anatomy of the Ship" by John Roberts: "The HOOD was laid down on 31 May 1916 but was almost immediately suspended pending investigations into the lessons of the Battle of Jutland... the DNC's original submission, was approved by the Board [of Admiralty] in August and HOOD was laid down, to this new design, for the second time on 1 September 1916".
The obvious questions:
1) so just was IS the "official" laying down date of HMS HOOD?

2) some material was obviously stuck together on 31 May 1916, but it sounds as if very little actual progress was made. What happened to the original bits of ship "laid down" - and if it were just the beginnings of the keel plates, wouldn't they have just been absorbed into the modified design?

From: Dr. Ian L. Buxton (I.L.Buxton@NEWCASTLE.AC.UK)

Laying down date is important for the shipbuilder for two reasons. The keel/bottom structure occupies that particular berth, which usually precludes its use for another ship. It is also often the trigger for a progress payment from the owner.

I have no direct knowledge of HOOD's dates, but it is entirely feasible that the original flat plate keel (which would be the first section laid) would be incorporated as is into any new design. Having to order and await delivery of new keel plates would only delay construction more. So it is quite possible that a keel was laid 31 May, but serious construction did not start till 1 Sep.

And the definitive answer is in this follow-on post, also by Dr. Buxton ((I.L.Buxton@NEWCASTLE.AC.UK):

The Ensign series book "HOOD Design and Construction" by Maurice Northcott 1975 has always struck me as being the most accurate and based on official sources. He gives laying down as 1 Sep 1916.

This is supported by a message from Ian Johnston who is finalising his history of John Brown, who says:

The following extracts from (the John Brown) shipyard reports make it reasonably certain that Hood was not laid down on 31 May. There were 5 berths in the east yard at that time. 3 and 4 were the big ones of reasonably certain that Hood was not laid down on 31 May. There were 5 berths in the east yard at that time. 3 and 4 were the big ones of which 4 was the longest. Having said that, Barham was built on number 1. Aquitania was built on 4 and Hood on 3. Unable to find which berth Repulse was on but will look at photographs to find out.
Shipyard Reports
4 May 1916

on 21 April, notification from Admiralty that they wished us to prepare for the construction of a vessel similar to Repulse for which we would shortly receive drawings and particulars - but not urgent in nature.
27 June 1916

On 14 June, received letter from the Admiralty that the Treasury had agreed that one ship of the new battlecruisers to be proceeded with. It is to be our 460.
25 July 1916

Hood - informed of ship's name by letter on 14 July.
31 August 1916

Repulse commissioned in Clydebank dock on Tuesday 8 August. On preliminary trials on the Firth of Clyde, engines were worked up to 106,000 shp without a hitch.
2 November 1916

Hood - sufficient information is gradually being obtained from the Admiralty to enable more material to be ordered for this vessel and to employ a few more men on her construction, but in view of the alterations in her design, comparatively slow progress can only be made until the beginning of next year.
1 March 1917

Hood to be pushed with all despatch

It is pretty clear that HOOD could not have been laid down 31 May, but 1 Sep is entirely likely.

This accords with what you need to lay a ship down, namely a contract, a design (at least of the double bottom structure), delivery of suitable material (large ship plates were rolled to order, not stock) and a vacant slipway/berth.

From John Roberts:

Regarding the laying down date of HMS Hood. All the books in which I have written on Hood, including 'Battlecruisers' give the laying down date as 1 September 1916. At the same time it is clear that a start was also made on 31 May and then abandoned. Unfortunately there is no detail in any of the sources I consulted (all by the way original Admiralty documents) which clarifies exactly what happened in detail. My guess is that the ship was started on 31 May and stopped on the next day with very little progress made and no likelyhood of a restart in the near future. Slipways were valuable items in wartime, not lightly left idle, so it is probable that the material was then removed. Hood would then restart, possibly on a different slip on 1 Sept. The other possibilty is that 31 May was an intended start date that has been incorrectly recorded as a actual one. With only one day between start and suspension of construction such confusion is easy. Whatever the truth regarding the earlier date it is absolutely clear that the official laying down date is 1 September and it is on that date that the construction of the ship that became Hood began.

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