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Friday, 9 September 2011

One Day In 1922

A section from the book by Ernie Bradford 'The Mighty Hood', I like to think this is what my great-grandfather would of seen on that day in 1922. So take some time and just imagine for a moment life back in 1922 on board 'The Mighty Hood'. If your interested in this book then simple type in Google the title and author, there are plenty around in many different covers and re-prints and cheap.

Chapter VII (page 56)
Imagine a soft day in the September of 1922. The coast of Brazil lies ahead, the Carioca mountains lifting out of the morning haze. Seen from this distance, the three peaks round which Rio de Janeiro is built have the shape of a sleeping giant. Dividing the white houses and the skyscrapers rises the peak known as The Hunchback. At the entrance to the bay the conical Sugar Loaf mountain needles the sky. Six o'clock and the hands have just fallen in at their parts of ship. There is dew on the deck, for the humidity off this coast is high and the wind is drawing from the land bringing with it a heavy smell of damp earth and tropical flowers, of heat and the city. Soon the steady trade winds will pick up with the day and begin to blow from astern, lifting the sea that has been with us all night and sending flickers of spray high over the long sheer of the quarterdeck. The Hood sits easily in a sea like this and the Atlantic swell does not bother her as it does the smaller ships. "In the Hood," wrote one of her officers, "we don't feel the weather very much. She takes sixteen seconds in rolling her normal arc, whereas in the Atlantic and most oceans the period of roll is eleven seconds. The happy result is that our broadbeamed lady is little more than halfway through her roll when the next wave catches her and steadies her. I find all this very palatial after destroyers. . . . It's much the same when we have a head or a stem sea the period between the average Atlantic wave crest is about 400 feet, but the fact that the Hood is over 800 feet long means she is always on two waves, or sometimes on three. ... As you know," he went on, "we're on our way to Brazil for the centenary celebrations of their independence. We'll be there today well, within a few hours; the coast is already in sight.

Chapter VII (page 57)
"One thing you would notice is that, while the long fo'c's'le is completely dry, not a flicker of water reaching it, there are times when the stern settles down in a trough and seems to take a long time to rise. She was always wet aft in a big sea, and even the graceful sweep of her sheer running upward all the way from "Y" turret to the ensign staff could not keep her completely dry. The reason was not hard to find. When the alterations to her design had been made, and the extra armor added, she had floated some three feet deeper in the water than had originally been intended. This reduced freeboard was partially offset by the marked sheer at her bows and stern, but it was never enough to keep her quarterdeck dry in heavy weather. Right up in the bows, standing between the great hawes-pipes and listening to the crunch and thunder of the broken sea under your feet, you got a true picture of the ship. She had that beautiful rakish clipper bow, with a big flare so that the razored waves were flung wide and clear. From the jackstaff, right in the eyes of her, you could see how the deck fell away in a graceful curve toward "A" turret, whose polished tampions gleamed in the early sun. They were moving one of the guns now up to its maximum elevation of 30 degrees. The turrets were unlike those in any previous ships. They could train 60 degrees abaft the beam, and had a flatter roof than on any previous British battleship. Five inches of armored steel covered the roof, there was i5-inch plating on the face, and the sides had a thickness of 11 to 12 inches. For the first time sighting hoods had been dispensed with and a 3O-foot range finder spanned the top. "B" turret rose behind "A" and then the dense steel cliffs of the bridge and the conning tower, with the sunlight shining on windows and apertures, and the flicker of small figures behind them. The conning tower was the heaviest and most elaborate that had been designed.

Chapter VII (page 58)
There were 600 tons of armor on its more exposed sides. Above, on the crown, was the main gunnery control position with a 3O-foot range finder moving in a revolving hood. She was the last British capital ship to have masthead control tops, but those giant steel nests, although old-fashioned, added to the strength and grandeur of her appearance. She was also the last British warship to have a large secondary battery of twelve 5.5-inch guns, in open batteries. If you walked aft and climbed the ladders leading to the shelterdeck behind the bridge, you found the secondary batteries to port and starboard of the funnels. The shelterdeck ran scrubbed and shining past the two huge funnels (through either of them two London tube trains could have been driven abreast). Then you came to the boatdeck where eighteen boats ranging from 50-foot steam pinnaces to 16-foot dinghies were stowed. Rigged from the mainmast were the tackles leading to the derricks, and round the foot of the mast the first battery of 4-inch antiaircraft guns lifted their gray muzzles. Beyond that, and turning slowly against the skyline, was the secondary director, and then the torpedo control position. Searchlights opened blank eyes above this further mass of steel. At the very end of the shelterdeck was another battery of antiaircraft guns. Looking down now from the break of the deck, the roof of "X"
turret lay immediately below you and beyond it, half hidden from this angle, "Y" turret and the receding barrels of the guns. Then there was nothing but the salt-drenched sweep of the quarterdeck, and beyond that the marbled face of the Atlantic. On deck you had the air of the moving sea, and that curious tang which haunts a big warship a compound of metal polish, drying wood, new paint, caustic soda, and soap. Occasionally a hot brassy taste of funnel fumes would drop down under some errant air current, then the sea smell would come back clearer and cleaner, aided perhaps by the crisp scent of new bread rising from the bakery just forward of the secondary battery.

Chapter VII (page 59)
At nine o'clock, cleaned into the rig of the day, the ship's company fell in for "divisions" and prayers. Breakfast over, "divisions" was the formal routine inspection before the day's work was assigned. Prayers were held every day before the ship's activity was resumed. "Not like now," writes a retired petty officer, "when I see they've made Church Service optional in the fleet We had prayers every morning. I think it was a good thing myself. Put us all, and the ship, in our proper perspective. Of course the Hood had her own chapel for Communion and Divine Service. We carried the fleet padre. I think she was the only ship in the fleet to have her own private chapel. . . ," This afternoon in Bio de Janeiro the ship would be open to visitors. The chapel was one of the things they would probably see, but there was so much that they never would. She was so large that the average sailor knew little more of the ship than his own messdeck, his action station, his sea watch station, and the part of ship to which he was assigned. Down below, it was easy
enough to lose your way. When visitors were aboard, messengers were stationed at various points to conduct them safely through each separate area, at the end of which the messenger handed over his charges to another. (It was likely that he would himself have got lost outside the section which he knew.) Although the Hood had scuttles in a few places, it was mainly a world of electric light and forced ventilation in which you found yourself. Designed to live and fight in any quarter of the world, special attention had been paid to her ventilation" so that, closed up for action whether in tropic or arctic conditions, her crew could still work their slip efficiently. Engine and boiler rooms had their natural supply, but the rest of the ship was served by supply and exhaust fans. The low-pressure air purred through long miles of trunking the steady background noise that became part of the sailors' silence. Now, in these warm waters, the air was the same temperature as outside, but had they been in polar regions it would have been warmed before circulating through the ship.

Chapter VII (page 60)
To insure that none of the main bulkheads were pierced and weakened by the fan trunkings, each of the main transverse compartments had its own air supply. Below water she was divided into five hundred watertight compartments. Half of a sailor's time is spent in housemaid's work, and, like all ships, the Hood needed constant attention. Like the Forth Bridge, no sooner was an operation such as painting one side of the ship completed, than the other side must be started. Plumbing, lighting, galley maintenance, rust revention, and just plain cleaning were chores that never ceased. "Join the Navy and see the world" was the sailor's moan, his face a yard or so away from the bulkhead he was cleaning, a piece of waste in his hand, and a bucket of "strangers" hot water, caustic soda, and soap at his feet. (I'll still be down 'ere scrubbing this galley flat when they 'angs Itler!'  remember one sour veteran saying in later days.) There was more bright work then than now. From binnacles, compass rings, telescope bands, brass rails, brass-mounted tillers, and metal treads on ladders, innumerable pinpoints of light flickered against the warship's dreadnought gray. Overalls rolled down to the waist, two stokers were checking the capstan grease points in the capstan flat Tinder the fo'c'sle. In the next compartment aft lay the trim, empty operating theater. A sick berth attendant looked in for a moment, checked that everything was in its proper place, and closed the door behind him. Farther aft under the turret of "A" gun was the sick bay itself, with five cots occupied. Aft again, and under 'B'  turret, the petty officers' reading room lay empty save for one sailor scrubbing the deck. Next to it in the petty officers' mess there was the cheerful clatter of pots and pans where the messman was polishing the utensils for the midday meal. The "spitkids," large circular bowls dating back to the days when sailors chewed their tobacco and spat in a way that would now earn them punishment, shone as bright as silver and pooled the scrubbed deck with light. Now they were used as ash trays, and the messman who polished them every day always felt a pang when the first cigarettes dropped into them at the midmorning "stand easy."

Chapter VII (page 61)
The sea boat's crew was being exercised, a routine that took place every watch, A midshipman and a lieutenant were checking the evolution, the midshipman with a stop watch in his hand. "Half a minute slower than last time, sir," he announced. "Not good' The lieutenant turned to the petty officer in charge. "Still the slowest. If there was a man in the water, every second would count" "Yessir. New coxswain, sir. Jackson's gone sick' The men secured the boat, nattering to each other. "What you want to get them gripes all fouled up for?" "Never even shipped the tiller." "Not bleeding quick enough, 'e says." At all levels the ship was busy one deck down, two decks down, deep under water, in her communicating passages, her offices, stores, galleys, her boiler rooms, and her engine rooms. Below the fo'c's'le lay the carpenter's workshop Chippy's shop resinous with the scent of pine shavings. A new strake was being made for one of the boats. Pale, floating flakes of wood lifted in front of the plane as Chippy's assistant fined down the entrance of the long plank. A pot of glue bubbled in the corner. Through the steel bulkhead behind the carpenter's store came the
murmur of machinery, broken every now and then by the high moan of a thread being cut in a steel bolt. That was the artificers' workshop: a world of spinning lathes, coiled springlike piles of metal shavings, and the bitter smell of sharpened steel. Below the artificers' workshop lay the launderers* store; gleaming sheets, napkins, tablecloths, and pillow slips. The admiral's steward was drawing enough fresh table linen to last him through the round of dinner parties and entertainments that lay ahead. In the passage outside, and a little forward of the launderers' store, sailors were unclipping a watertight door leading down to one of the ship's many provision stores. A lieutenant stood back, waiting for them and consulting a check list in his hand. Seven thousand pounds of fresh meat and 12,600 pounds of fresh vegetables would have to be embarked at Rio.

Chapter VII (page 62-63)
He had just remembered that there were not enough tins of cocktail biscuits, almonds, and olives in the wardroom cupboard for the cocktail party to be given that night. On deck two sailors lurked in the lee of a boat and looked at the land ahead. "Been 'ere before, ain't you, Stripey?" asked the younger.  "Lots of times. Got me feet under the table 'ere. You see my party'll be down to pick me up in 'er motor car. Irish-Spanish she is. Widow. I'm thinking of setdin' out 'ere when me time's up. She's got a department store always a job there for me, she says." Department store! thought the other. If he was going out with a barmaid, he'd say she owned the brewery. The steady sea wind had already overridden the land breeze, and the hoist of flags that lifted to the main yard hung irresolute for a moment between the wind of the ship's movement and this new wind from astern. Telegraphs clanged in the engine room and, within a few minutes, the bright arrow of her wake began to fade and turn into a gentle swath as the speed came down. The other ships in company acknowledged the order and executed it as the flag hoist dropped from Hood's yardarm. In his day cabin Rear-Admiral Sir Walter Cowan was discussing with his chief-of-staff and his secretary the arrangements made for the reception and formalities at Rio. The captain was on the bridge, the squadron navigating officer beside him. Hood began to swing gently through the water, as she altered course one point to starboard for her approach course to the great bay. The fort of Santa Cruz one one side of the entrance and the fort of Sao Joao on the other were quite distinct now under binoculars. Between them the mile-wide channel ran blue and clear, save for a single-funneled merchant ship trailing a snail's track across the water. Her smoke rose up in a dark thread, vertical against the green of the land: no wind in the bay. The onshore breeze lifted before the city and went up high over the hills. Along the docks and crowding thick on the foreshore people were already gathering, their eyes turned seaward. There she came! Breasting out of the simple blue of the Atlantic, she raised her bows and battlements a cloud no bigger than a man's hand - the Hood.

03–14 September: At Rio de Janeiro. Purpose of visit was to represent Great Britain during Brazilian Independence celebration. Members of crew participated in a "mini Olympics" against members of other navies (which included Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and the United States).
Information taken from HMS Hood Association

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