Author: efoeth

Boats & Launches of HMS Hood, 1941

With special thanks to Sean Carroll and Frank Allen for the discussions and additions.

The exact layout of the boats aboard HMS Hood in 1941 is frequently-asked question. My list is (currently (*))

Many sources will claim that HMS Hood in 1941 was fitted with three 35 ft FMBs —one of which was an admiral’s barge fitted earlier in 1940—but now I believe that this third fast motor boat was never fitted and HMS Hood sank with one of her 50ft Steam Pinnace’s still on board. The most direct evidence follows from an image from an undisclosed 1941 album showing the pinnace more clearly in the far background but I can make a very good case (or so I hope) with public material. One other difference is a 2nd 16 ft dingy that is easily spotted on photographs.

After 1940 Hood no longer carried her 5.5 inch guns and after the 1941 Rosyth refit a few changes were introduced that make it fairly straightforward to date an image as either 1940 or 1941

  • Torpedo lookout removed from foremast
  • Type 284 gunnery radar fitted on the top DCT
  • Fore topmast removed and aerial spreader mounted on a frame
  • Type 279M fitted to main mast
  • HF/DF office on main mast starfish removed (small cabinet present)
  • 50 ft Steam Pinnaces replaced by 35 ft FMBs

Normally we’d use the presence or absence of the 35 ft FMB to date an image, but as the port side boat was never fitted we should no longer do that. Some of the images below are cropped, not showing the clearest indicators that are often in frame (i.e., removal of the HF/DF office on the main mast and torpedo lookout from the foremast), but you can find them in various publications if you need to be sure.

First we’ll have a look at the boat deck prior to 1940. Hood carried (A) 2 x 50 ft Steam Pinnaces and (B) 1 x 45ft Admiral’s Barge; the latter has an overhanging stern and its overall length is almost the same as the 50 ft Steam Pinnace.

On the original plans from 1940 we see—from left to right—

  1. 45ft Admiral’s Barge
  2. 45 ft Motor Launch
  3. 32 ft Cutter
  4. 42 ft Motor Launch
  5. 50 ft Steam Pinnace
  6. 16 ft dingy,
  7. 35 ft FMB (Admirals Barge)
  8. 30 ft gig stored on top of the second 32 ft Cutter

For those people who are detail-minded, note that the 42 ft Motor Launch is placed at a slightly inboard angle. Note that with the new 35 ft FMB (Admirals Barge) that the 45ft Admiral’s Barge is now simply referred to as a pinnace.

Near the port side pompom many boat outlines are visible and many of them are crossed out, except for (A) 2 x 25 ft FMB. Note that the more forward boat is also placed at an angle

Near the starboard pompom the situation is largely the same with many older boat locations crossed out and only (A) 16 ft FMB and (B) 25 ft FMB .

Two 16ft dinghy’s in cradles on either side of the DF platform are not on this drawing.

In this well known image from 1940 we see the (A) 45ft Steam Pinnace , (B) the cradle for the 16ft dingy—ignorant that it is not on the plans—and (C) the crutches for the 25 ft FMB.

When we compare the drawings with these image taken from 1941 we see that little has changed (left image courtesy HMS Hood organization, right own collection).

  1. 16 ft FMB,
  2. 2x 16ft dinghy’s in cradles,
  3. 3x 25 ft FMBs ,
  4. 2x 27 ft Whaler,
  5. (presumably) 30 ft Gig/32 ft Cutter combination,
  6. 42 ft Motor Launch
  7. 45 ft Motor Launch (note the 2nd rubber at the blue arrow),
  8. 35 ft FMB
  9. 35 ft FMB (Admirals Barge)
  10. our suspected 50 ft Steam Pinnace.

While these images visually confirm most boats, it’s not clear from the left view what type of boat is actually at J.

I cannot confirm the presence of the 30ft gig or 32 ft Cutter on top the the other 32 ft Cutter and 45 ft Motor Launch, respectively. That is, on some pics I can see something on top of the motor launch but not enough to make out what, but it’s fair to assume that the 1940 plans still holds; both the 42 ft Motor Launch and 45 ft Motor Launch can be spotted in various other 1941 photographs (not presented).

There is circumstantial evidence in Bruce Taylor’s highly recommended book, pp 210, with a summary of the refit by Philip Bucket dated the 6th of March 1941 that reads:

“[…] The second picket boat has been replaced by a 35-foot motor-boat”

Taylor adds a footnote that both steam pickets were replaced, but the above is oddly specific. This could well mean that first one boat was removed and then another, but it may well mean that only one steam pinnace was removed which is not contradicting my 50 ft Steam Pinnace theory. We already noticed that the 45ft Admiral’s Barge was demoted to the rank of ordinary Steam Pinnace.

Furthermore, in the aftermath of HMS Hood’s destruction, Robert Tilburn responds to Board on Inquiry on how the fire spread on the boat deck:

Could you say exactly were the fire seemed to start?

No, it was somewhere between L.I. and the U.P. mounting.

Which way did it seem to spread?

It did not seem to spread at all. At kept on blazing while we were in action but it did not seem to spread to the picket boat or anywhere else, though I cannot say definitively weather the picket boat took fire or not. Anyway, it did not move [illegible] before L.I. 4″ mounting.

Now, L. I. is the portside, most forward 4″ gun, and, Tilburn was also sheltering on the port side when Hood was hit. That would put the fire near the 35 ft FMB.

When we take a closer look at the boat deck we see the (A) crutches of the 45 ft Motor Launch and the V-shaped crutches of (B) the 35 ft FMB (Admirals Barge) and (C) 35 ft FMB that share the same hull. The boat crutches at (D) are not those of a V-shaped hull. This issue was also raised by Flyhawk when we (I and the Hood association) were assisting them with their 1:700 kit—just to give you an idea how well they were looking at the available material—but we could only offer cognitive dissonance at that time. Of course, on this 1941 image there simply is no third 35 ft FMB at that position as the 50 ft Steam Pinnace was still on board (well, not in this particular image, but, it’s close).

There is also a collection of images at the Hood association by Leonard Eaves that are dated as either 1940 or 1941. Those that are dated are all placed firmly in 1941 except a few. Some images can be pinned to 1941:

Now look closely at this photograph of HMS Hood dated the 22nd of May 1941, mere days before her loss. I scaled the image to roughly Hood’s length and first added the 35 ft FMB to scale. We do not have full resolution but I can make out (A) the bow, (B) the forward cabin, (C) the aft cabin, and (D) its stern; it’s not exact but matches well enough. I did the same with the 50 ft Steam Pinnace. I see (E) a funnel folded down, (F) the cabin with its characteristic upwards sweep, and (G) the stern and steep buttocks. While vague, what we do see matches exactly with what you would expect when a 50 ft Steam Pinnace were in that position.

* Update 09/05/2022 Corrected links to correct 32 ft Cutter.

42 ft Motor Launch

When describing the 45 ft  motor launch that  “42ft motor launch was similar but had only a single rubber, like the 42ft sailing launch from which it was derived. The rubber or rubbing strake is the line at the outside of the hull running the entire length, either a timber of rope. I use Robert’s information to classify all large launches as either 42 or 45 ft.

Shelterdeck, part II

Continuing from Shelterdeck, part I.

This is a bit of work from just before the great audio project that ran over eight months or so and not work done in the last weeks. Remember to not leave your model unattended or properly protected against Sigrid the Destroyer when your attention is diverted to other projects.

There’s a small awning rail on the side of the quarterdeck bulkhead that was made from some leftover GMM ultra-fine 1:700 railing set. I prefer fixing the rail by drilling in the model, so I added a small line and taped the rail in place. With a 0.2 drill the right location was first ‘marked’, later drilled in using the pin vice. Then follows the horrible part; inserting the rail in bulkhead. I use a bit of tape to keep the part in place. I forgot to photograph the gluing process, using a small 0.25mm strip wedged between the rail and the bulkhead as a spacer, gluing one or two locations at a time. Some minor aligning and re-gluing is typically required afterwards (plus after handling damage).

Various eyebrows and details were added next. There’s a small je-ne-sais-quoi on the bulkhead, and a similar pair against the bridge superstructure (top left). It might be a pulley to pull up the awning, but I’ve not been able to find an image where this part is actually used. A small cover over the vent opening was added as well. A number of small vents and the supports for the ladders will added at the last minute; too worried they may break off during handling.

A number of aerial trunks is present, given in full in the AOTS, section F (rig), with each group running to a separate W/T office. An auxiliary W/T aerial runs from the top starfish to a trunk near the conning tower; this trunk as a small ladder (top left images). The main aerial and main auxiliary trunks are situated near the main mast; I managed to find only a few images that shows them both (top right images). The main trunk is a fair bit larger and is a open cylindrical structure with an access hatch seen open (outer top right). A third trunk is present just aft of the searchlight platform; according to the AOTS this trunk was added in 1937 and runs to the second W/T office (bottom-left images). The bottom right image shows the original position of this aerial trunk at the aft end of the shelterdeck, but it was moved aft when the pompom bandstand was added.

I found images of various aerial trunks on other ships with a larger trunk aboard HMS Prince of Wales, and a few smaller trunks aboard a destroyer and HMS Rodney.  A fair estimate was made to create the parts using my lathe (which was really fun to do).

Proxxon MF70 Milling Machine

I just bought the Proxxon MF70 Milling Machine (27110), a tiny machine that can be upgraded (or bought) as a CNC machine and offers a much higher rpm than my drill press or lathe: it goes up to 20,000 rpm. I was never able to drill anything below 0.5mm without drills breaking and more or less gave up on that idea without a watchman’s lathe or equivalent, until Marijn van Gils showed his brand-new MF70 could drill almost to 0.1mm in brass (See his HMS Victory Vs Le Redoutable build). As the mill is quite affordable and I no longer have to pump all my savings in my recently completed audio project, I bought one as well.

So I did use the Drill Press with a compound table (27100), a precision machine vice (24260) and a nice dividing head (24264). But, the rate of revolutions is low and the entire setup is quite flexible and as such not precise. More important, it does not have a proper collet system but uses a large three-jaw chuck that is inherently terrible for fine work.

Imagine my surprise that the MF70 does not have a proper collet system either; it uses the Micromot collet system. That’s fine, but these cannot old larger objects such as Proxxon’s own edge finders. For my small lathe, Proxxon failed to deliver a proper collet system for the tail stock too, though that was solved by brutally cutting an MC11 ER11 collet chuck. For the mill this is not an option as the spindle doesn’t use an MC11 system, but after minor search efforts I found a replacement part at USOVO; a new tuning spindle with an ER-11 chuck and it even comes with a small installation manual. Rejoice!

I do wonder why Proxxon seem to be content with their tools not being able to use the entire range of tool mods and expansion sets among them, but at least now I could use the Edge Finder Set (24434) that doesn’t fit the original MF70 to align the vice properly and to help finding, well, edges. I did perform some tests with the Micromot collets and these did hold some of my drills perfectly centered, so I can image some people not needing the ER11 collets. I added an extra collet set in a nice box (24154, but you better buy a set with more collets for less elsewhere as this set contains only 7) plus an additional vice (the vice vice). With these options the mill became roughly twice as expensive and I forgot to buy cutters as these are not included—not even one—but small cutters can be bought as small as 0.2mm at other stores. The mill did come with a cross table (27100) and a set of step clamps (24256).

Installing the new spindle took about half an hour. I used my sturdy Gorilla-proof 1.5mm Hex wrench the remove the motor plate screws that have been tightened very well and T10 (I think) Torx driver to remove a screw holding the spindle in place. The Usovo spindle comes with two bearings but I kept the bearing of the existing spindle. The set does not come with a tool to (un) clamp the nut or hold the  ER11 spindle; I had one for the ER-11 tailstock of my lathe so don’t forget to order one if you purchase this new spindle. You may also want to order a 3.175mm ER-11 collet separately, the default size of many of my drills.

First some experiments starting with something large: a 0.2mm hole through a 0.3mm slice of a 0.7 Albion Alloys tube. Zeroing the drill position is something you’d rather do with the edge finder (that hadn’t arrived at the time of writing) and still on the very first attempt the MF70 left my drill press in the dust. The main causes for inaccuracy went into inconsistently clamping the work piece in the vice and parting the small ring using this method.

My intended targets were the davits for the 27″ whalers. This is a terribly delicate section of the model and it would be really useful if the entire assembly could be mounted by pins into the side of the superstructure when the model is more or less done. These davits are not only very thin (0.5mm rod at the center, filed down to 0.3mm at either end plus a series of 0.7mm rings) but are also angled in slightly inward by 12 degrees. Here drilling in and soldering mounting pins and etched parts to the davit would be very useful; soldering the gripping spar to the davits would be even better as then the whaler could be glued to this spar; rope work can be added last minute. So each 12mm davit needs to be drilled in four times, two pairs of holes at perpendicular angles so the work piece needs to be rotated at least once.

With the ER11 chuck still in the mail I started with several different techniques that are all bad. I bent the davit before drilling it, worried that when bending after drilling it may break at a hole as some parts did. The drill was centered by eye (A). Bending first makes it difficult to clamp the davit so I used a block of plastic  and a small 12-degree alignment plate (B). Soldering the rings before drilling is easiest, but when traversing in steps of 0.1mm you really need to solder all these rings perfectly  if you want to hit them dead center (C). This went well but not really something to recommend as the part will flex.  When the part needed to be rotated 90 degrees I tried two plastic blocks and re-centering the drill (D); this is awful as the part may slip (slide or rotate breaking the drill) and your reference is all over the place. Reversing the part—using a bit of rod to eyeball the angle—went better (E); not really good either with the part poorly supported. The prototype did work out nice though (the one that survived that is), after the rings from the first exercise and some etched parts where added (F). With the part flexing and overall experimentation I lost quite a few drills but it was a great introductory exercise.

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