• Si Biggs

Sinking of HMS Hood - Loss of 162 Royal Marines


The Battle of the Denmark Strait was a naval engagement on 24 May 1941 in the Second World War, between ships of the Royal Navy and the German Kriegsmarine.

The British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Hood fought the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, which were attempting to break out into the North Atlantic to attack Allied merchant shipping (Operation Rheinübung).

HMS Hood

Less than 10 minutes after the British opened fire, a shell from Bismarck struck Hood near her aft ammunition magazines.

Soon afterwards, Hood exploded and sank within three minutes, with the loss of all but three of her crew.

Prince of Wales continued to exchange fire with Bismarck but suffered serious malfunctions in her main armament.The British battleship had only just been completed in late March 1941, and used new quadruple gun turrets that were unreliable. Therefore, the Prince of Wales soon broke off the engagement.

The destroyer HMS ELECTRA rescued the only three survivors out of a total complement of over 1,418 on board, including 162 Royal Marines killed.

These deaths constituted the Royal Navy's greatest single ship loss of the Second World War.

ismarck firing at HMS Prince of Wales shortly after sinking HMS Hood in the Denmark Strait

Bismarck firing at HMS Prince of Wales shortly after sinking HMS Hood in the Denmark Strait

The British public were shocked that their most emblematic warship and more than 1,400 of her crew had been destroyed so suddenly. The Admiralty mobilised every available warship in the Atlantic to hunt down and destroy Bismarck.

The Battle of the Denmark Strait


By 05.45 the opposing battle groups had sighted each other.


The RM Detachment who traditionally manned one of the main armament turrets on a large ship as here on HMS Hood X Turret in 1924. The two officers sitting centre in second row are, one the left the WO, and on the right a General List officer, a Major or a Captain R.M.

Admiral Lütjens was faced with a dilemma aboard Bismarck, his orders were to engage enemy commerce, not enemy warships let alone capital ships.


Bismarck could outrun the British heavy units, but with the ice edge close by and enemy cruisers on his starboard quarter, he had little alternative but to engage in battle.


Admiral Holland ordered his force to open fire at 05:49.


Initially Hood engaged Prinz Eugen instead of Bismarck, a mistake not realised until Hood fired the first salvo of the engagement at 05:52:30 at a range of approximately 12.5 miles (25,330 yards or 23,150 m).


Royal Marines Band members Whaler's Crew HMS Hood.

Hood's shells landed very close to Prinz Eugen causing minor shell splinter damage.


Hood continued to race toward the German ships in an attempt to close the range and reduce the time Hood's decks were exposed to plunging fire.


The German ships quickly found the range to Hood and she was hit first by an 8 inch (203mm) shell from Prinz Eugen on the boat deck which ignited 4 inch (102 mm) ammunition and UP rockets, causing a fire to burn out of control endangering the ship.


Shortly afterwards Prinz Eugen shifted her aim to Prince of Wales following a semaphore order from Bismarck.


At 05:55 Holland ordered "2 blue", a 20 degree turn to port, to enable Hood to bring her aft turrets to bear on Bismarck.


At about 06:00 as Hood was turning she was struck by one or more shells from Bismarck's fifth salvo fired from a range of 15 to 18 km (about 8 to 9.5 nautical miles).


Almost immediately, a huge jet of flame burst out of Hood from the vicinity of the mainmast.

This was followed by a devastating explosion that destroyed the after part of the ship.


Hood's stern rose and sank rapidly, then her bow section reared up in the sea and the forward turret fired one last salvo just before the bow section sank.


HMS Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, sank within 3 minutes, and only 11 minutes had past since Hood's first salvo to her sinking.


Of the 1,418 crew only three men survived (Ted Briggs (1923–2008), Robert Ernest Tilburn (1921–1995) and William John Dundas (1921–1965)), rescued about two and a half hours after the sinking by the destroyer HMS Electra.


The Royal Navy forces pursued and brought Bismarck to battle. The German battleship was sunk on the morning of 27 May.

Royal Marines killed:

ABBOTT, Frederick, Marine, PO/X 4821: ABLETT, Wallace A, Marine, PO/X 328: ADAMS, Frank P, Musician, RMB/X 546: ADAMS, Keith H, Corporal, RM, PO/X 2029: ALLEN, John G, Marine, PO/X 2182: ALLOTT, George, Marine, PO/22532: AMBRIDGE, Walter C, Sergeant, RM, PO/22128: BAILEY, Frederick W, Marine, PO/18832: BARRINGER, William H, Marine,PO/X 4223: BASSTONE, Jack, Marine, PO/X 100574: BATES, Leonard A, Marine, PO/X 1561: BEARD, Alan, Marine, PO/X3360: BENNETT, Ernest, Marine, PO/X 3432: BOCUTT, Alfred A, Marine, PO/21632: BONEHAM, Norman, Marine, PO/X4228: BRAND, William H, Corporal, RM, PO/X 1776: BRITTON, Clarence V, Marine, PO/X 100335: BROWN, Arthur, Marine, PO/21742: BULLOCK, Henry W, Marine, PO/X 546: BURKIN, Robert H, Marine, CH/X 692: CANN, Herbert R, Marine, PO/22722: CAPSTICK, Arthur J, Marine, PO/X 3816: CARPENTER, Robert S, Marine, PO/X 3508: CARTER, Robert J W, Marine, PO/X 4247: CARTWRIGHT, Thomas D, Captain, RM: CHAMBERLAIN, Henry S, Ty/Corporal, RM, PO/X 3393: CLARK, Leonard A, Marine, PO/X 100046: CLARK, Robert G, Marine, PO/X 3361: COLE, George D, Marine, PO/X 100756: COLE, William G, Marine, PO/X 1844~: COLEMAN, Dennis J, Marine, PO/X 101102: COOMBES, Gerald E, Sergeant, RM, PO/X 22638: COOPER, John, Marine, PO/X 3432: COULSON, John, Musician, RMB/X 60: CRAWTE, Alfred E J, Musician, RMB/X1037: CRESSWELL, Henry R, Marine, PO/X 1856: CUTHBERT, Albert T, Corporal, RM, PO/X 1848: DAVIES, Horace D, Lieutenant, RM: DAVIES, Kenneth J, Boy Bugler, PO/X 4687: DAVIS, Herbert A, Marine, PO/19475: DAY, Frederick J, Marine, PO/X 4017: DEAR, Nelson L, Musician, RMB/3013: DISCOMBE, Archie A J, Musician, RMB/X 528: DUNNELL, Graham G, Marine, PO/X 3868: EASTWOOD, Walter C, Marine, PO/22420: EDWARDS, Melville, Marine, PO/X 4154: EMERY, Lawrence A, Musician, RMB/3064: FARRAR, Clifford, Marine, PO/X 3163: FENNER, Henry J, Marine, PO/X 3495: FOTHERINGHAM, George, Marine, PO/X 1639: FOWLER, Robert H, Musician, RMB/X 313: GIBSON, Thomas, Marine, PO/X 1764: GILLAN, Joseph, Marine, PO/X 3429: GLEDHILL, James E, Corporal, RM, PO/X 1814: GOMER, Harry, Marine, PO/216871: GOOD, Bernard E C, Marine, PO/X 1852: GOUGH, John M, Colour Sergeant, RM, PO/216779: GREEN, Benjamin L, Marine, PO/X 3394: GREGORY, John, Marine, PO/X 3365: GRIFFIN, Charles A, Marine, PO/X 3811: GROVES, Stedman B, Musician, RMB/X 505: GUEST, Alan, Band Boy, RMB/X 1108: HAEGER, Edward G, Sergeant, RM, PO/21804: HALL, Thomas, Marine, PO/X 2844: HARRIS, James H, Marine, PO/X 428: HATHERILL, William H, Marine, PO/21992: HENDRY, William, Marine, PO/X 4894: HERMON, Eric D, Marine, PO/X 100265,: HEROD, Maurice H E, Band Master 1c, RMB/2826: HIBBS, Francis H F, Ty/Corporal, RM, PO/X 205: HILL, Eric J R, Marine, PO/X 3870: HISCOCK, Frederick J, Marine, PO/X 1849: HOLLAND, Charles, Marine, PO/22490: HOWIE, Robert G W, Marine, PO/X 3503, (served as Robert G Watson): HOWS, Gordon, Marine, PO/X 3426: HUGHES, William F, Marine, PO/X 1816: HUMPHREYS, William, Marine, PO/X 3815: HUNNS, John A C, Marine, PO/X 3363: HUNTINGTON, Ernest S, Ty/Sergeant, RM, PO/X 1288: JACKSON, George S, Marine, PO/X 3337: JOHN, Thomas, Marine, PO/X 3481: JULIER, Alfred E, Marine, CH/22942: KEITH, Arthur W, Marine, PO/X 3863: KERSLEY, Albert S, Marine, PO/22368: KIRK, Russell G, Marine, PO/X 3421: LAYCOCK, Henry, Marine, PO/X 22631: LAYTON, Sidney G, Marine, PO/X 3392: LEVACK, John S L, Marine, PO/X 4826: LOCK, Robert H, Marine, PO/X 4804: LONDON, Reginald J C, Sergeant, RM, PO/X 911: LONG, George H, Musician, RMB/X 975: LUMLEY, Heaton, Major, RM: MANSER, Richard A, Marine, PO/X 100888: MARSH, Percy G, Marine, PO/22660: MCFADYEN, Walter E, Ty/Sergeant, RM, PO/X 859: MCQUADE, Ernest G, Marine, PO/X 3494: MILES, Ronald S, Marine, PO/X 3074: MILLS, Montague D, Marine, PO/X 3424: MORGAN, Albert H, Marine, PO/X 3391: MORGAN, Ronald, Marine, PO/X 3386: MURRAY, Frederick C, Marine, PO/X 3864: NEALE, Robert S, Marine, PO/22454: NOBLE, Alexander, Marine, PO/X 3496: ORRELL, Walter J, Marine, PO/X 100578: PALMER, James A, Marine, PO/X 3487: PALMER, Reginald W, Ty/Sergeant, RM, PO/X 1063: PEACE, Denzil S, 77 Marine, PO/X 3427: PERKINS, William G, Marine, PO/X 3390: PERRY, Leonard, Marine, PO/21963: PIERCE, Robert D, Marine, PO/X 4141: PIKE, William A, Musician, RMB/X 738: PLANT, Edwin, Marine, PO/X 1788: POAR, Reginald J, Marine, PO/215898: PORTER, Frederick A, Marine, PO/19699: PORTER, Reginald J, Musician, RMB/3040: PRATT, Albert W C, Marine, PO/X 1400: RANDALL, Stanley R, Marine, PO/X 3871: REED, Hector L, Corporal, RM, PO/1682: RODLEY, Samuel J, Marine, PO/X 3967: ROSENTHAL, Henry C, Marine, PO/X 4273: ROWE, Stanley G S, Marine, PO/X 4837: ROWLANDS, Daniel J, Marine, PO/X 3490: RUNDLE, Arthur F, Marine, PO/X 3358: RUNNACLES, Frederick E, Marine, PO/X 3420: RUSSELL, David L, Musician, RMB/X 1450: SADLER, Edward R, Marine, PO/X 3890: SAUNDERS, Albert, Ty/Corporal, RM, PO/X 1501: SCOTT, Robert C, Marine, PO/X 1245: SEWELL, Gilbert W, Marine, PO/22568; SHADBOLT, Maurice H, Marine, PO/X 3800: SMITH, Benjamin T, Marine, PO/X 1564: SNOOK, George A, Marine, PO/X 2073: SOUTHGATE, Thomas E, Marine, PO/X 3799: SPARKES, Ernest, Marine, PO/X 3911: STEPTOE, John H, Marine, PO/X 4879: STODDARD, George H P, Marine, PO/X 1276: STUBBINGS, Douglas H, Marine, PO/X 100028: TAPSELL, Albert E, Marine, PO/X 3874: TAWNEY, David R, Musician, RMB/X 568: TAYLOR, Lewis J, Marine, PO/X 541: TAYLOR, Reginald L, Musician, RMB/3087: TELFORD, Charles, Marine, PO/X 3647: THORPE, Joseph, Marine, PO/X 3187: SCOTT, Robert C, Marine, PO/X 1245: TOOGOOD, Leslie B, Marine, PO/X 4878: VINEY, Albert E, Marine, PO/21511: WALLIS, Michael H S J, Marine, PO/X 4834: WALTON, Clifford, Marine, PO/22215: WARREN, Donald, Marine, PO/X 100275: WEARN, Arthur, Marine, PO/X 1941: WEARNE, Harry E, Able Seaman, P/JX 133821: WEAVER, Henry E, Marine, PO/X 3923: WELCH, Sidney C T, Marine, PO/X 3501: WELLS, Philip J, Corporal, RM, PO/X 1645: WHITE, Harry, Ty/Marine, PO/X 4215: WHITEHEAD, Reginald C, Sergeant, RM, PO/X 1038: WILLIS, Herbert, Marine, PO/X 4881: WISHART, Jack E, Marine, PO/X 3489: WORSFOLD, Sydney G, Band Corporal, RMB/2854: WYATT, Jeffrey A F, Marine, PO/X 2560: YOUNG, Percy A, Boy Bugler, PO/X 3413: YOUNGER, Albert, Marine, PO/X 3813.

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The Royal Marines - A Geo History 1664 to Present Day:


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