Andrew Norman is the author of several books, including a biography of T E Lawrence, Unravelling the Enigma, and Adolf Hitler: The Final Analysis. He lives in Dorset, England.
HMS Hood: Pride of the Royal Navyby Andrew Norman
When the battle cruiser HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismark and her consort Prinz Eugen in May 1941, the shock to the Royal Navy, Britain, and the world was immense. The Hood had seemed invincible and the epitome of naval power with her eight 15-inch and eight 4-inch guns. She would prove be anything but, and would become the tomb of 1,418 men. Basing his narrative on
When the battle cruiser HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismark and her consort Prinz Eugen in May 1941, the shock to the Royal Navy, Britain, and the world was immense. The Hood had seemed invincible and the epitome of naval power with her eight 15-inch and eight 4-inch guns. She would prove be anything but, and would become the tomb of 1,418 men. Basing his narrative on primary sources at the Royal Naval Museum and in Germany, plus a unique interview with one of only three survivors of the disaster, Andrew Norman offers his own theory for the ship's fantastically rapid loss. Doubts were immediately raised over the official verdict. Just how could an inboard fire break a ship this large in two? And why did she sink in just seven minutes? Andrew Norman suggests a new answer.
- The History Press
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- 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.50(d)
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I will focus on the technical aspects of this deplorable book. Concerning the spotty history and anecdotes, I offer only this warning--the book boasts of Norman's 'unique interview' with Hood survivor Ted Briggs, who flatly denies ever having any sit-down with Norman. Reader beware. To bridge the gap between Norman's account and reality, I have settled on the following format. NORMAN: Hood's 'belt protection was superior in strength to that of any other ship in the fleet.' REALITY: The Nelson-class battleships had thicker belt armor of a superior steel with a more acute angle to deflect shells. NORMAN: 'Most, if not all [of Bismarck's shells], failed to explode or did so only partially.' REALITY: German shells indeed underachieved, but it was Prinz Eugen's ammunition that gave a demonstrably poor performance, not Bismarck's. Norman says that, if Bismarck hit Hood with a shell, 'chances were that it had not exploded'--opening the door for his theory that Eugen fired the fatal shell. Had Norman bothered to learn the fundamentals of the battle...but that would mean contradicting his own theory. NORMAN: When sunk, Hood was 'well within' her immune zone, 'defined as a range no closer than 12,000 yards, and the outer limit beyond 25,000 to 30,000 yards.' REALITY: Hood's 'immune zone'--the area where both the belt armor and the deck armor are likely to resist the armor-piercing shells--was non-existent. Quite the contrary, through much of Norman's specified zone, neither Hood's belt nor her deck would suffice to keep out Bismarck's shells. She was doubly vulnerable! But Norman again is steering us toward his Eugen theory, puzzling though it is--if Hood was immune to Bismarck's 800kg armor-piercing shells, what could Eugen achieve with shells that were 122kg and not armor-piercing? Norman claims Eugen's shells could by-pass Hood's armor, plummeting from the heavens and straight down Hood's funnel. And how would shells achieve the great heights necessary for this death-plunge...? You're on your own, as Norman offers no explanation. In reality, Eugen's shells in this fight were descending at an angle only about 20 degrees above the horizontal; so unless the Germans managed a bank shot off a low-flying billiards table, this theorized hit was physically impossible. Lest I spend another 400 words detailing Norman's fancies, I must stop here. Given the availability of many fine books on Hood and Denmark Strait, why bother with Norman's?
Having found the last resting place of the Titanic and Bismarck, it was only a matter of time before someone would find the 'Hood.' This ship was indeed the pride of the Royal Navy and fondly regarded as the most beautiful ship wherever she went. With her recent discovery, there were bound to be a plethora of books on the subject giving rise to the age-old debate of how and why this magnificent Battle Cruiser sank so quickly. Andrew Norman favours one particular theory for the sinking of the Hood - and I must say, it really is as plausible as any I have read (except for the 'Built from the same faulty batch of steel as the Titanic' theory!). His description of the 'Concept of the Immune Zone' is easily understandable - and something of which I was previously unaware. His conclusions that an 8 inch shell from the Prinz Eugen sank the Hood is, therefore, as sound as any. That said, it is the job of any good author to write his book in such a way as to lead the reader to that same conclusion. HMS Hood - Pride of the Royal Navy is hardback, measuring 9¼ in x 6 in and contains over 150 pages of information and dialogue presented in an easy-to-read style. There is also a liberal sprinkling of very relevant b & w photographs throughout. Altogether, a very competent piece of work, where the author sets the scene by telling us all about the ship through the recollections of a variety of very different people who served on board at different times. This gives the reader a good 'feel' for the ship before arriving at the events of May 1941 - which are described in even closer detail. As the jacket states 'In these pages you will meet' and then lists 5 of those individuals - two of whom had the great fortune to be amongst the three survivors on that fateful day. Doubtless, those who subscribe to a different 'reason' as to why the Hood sank so quickly, will knock this book in order to place their own favoured theory at the top of the pile. Personally, I don't know because I wasn't there - but I do believe this book should be read alongside all other theories in order to provide a balanced view. Unlike many, it is a very good read. NM