-H.M.S. Hood Crew Information-
Autobiography of Thomas Keith Evans
By Commander TK Evans
Updated 08-Aug-2017

This article was written by former Hood crewman and former H.M.S. Hood Association Chairman, Commander Keith Evans in 2001. It covers his naval career with an emphasis on his days in Hood from 01 January 1938 to 03 January 1939.

Chainbar divider

Keith Evans in May 2001I joined HOOD - having taken passage from Devonport in GLORIOUS to Gibraltar thence in SHROPSHIRE to Palma, Majorca in the second week of January 1938.

At that time I was a Paymaster Cadet, the most junior officer in the ship - my February 1938 Navy List shows Vice-Admiral A.B. (ABC) Cunningham as the most Senior Officer Commanding the Battlecruiser Squadron of HOOD and REPULSE (later relieved by Vice-Admiral G Layton). Captain A.F. Pridham (later relieved by Captain H.T.C. Walker (Hooky). I remember many of the Wardroom, Gunroom and Warrant Officers -
Paymaster Commander J.P. Cundall, Commander D. Orr-Ewing, Lieut-Commander C.H. Hutchinson, (submariner after the war Captain of the Royal Navy College, Dartmouth), Lieutenant LeBailley (later Vice-Admiral Sir), Lieutenant Grenfell (? and RT Officer) , Warrant Supply Officer C.R. Hillard (a rather roundist man in stature) and others. In the Gunroom we had a number of Australian Midshipmen (some of whom were lost in H.M.A.S. SIDNEY in the Far East, one "Bull" Wells became a Vice-Admiral Commanding the Royal Australian Navy). Of the rest, David Currey and Frank Hearn became life long friends: The former (died 1999) was godparent to my elder son (1950) - I was best man at his second wedding - his cottage (the shack) in the Langedoc in South France was our holiday home for ten years in the seventys and eightys. Frank Hearn was probably my closest friend from 1939 to his sudden death in 1993 - he was best man at my first wedding in 1943. Our first wives became good friends - we played a lot of golf and tennis together. He had a distinguished career retiring as a Rear-Admiral, having been Commodore, Naval Drafting and Chief Naval Supply and Secretariat Officer.

On joining HOOD on a warm sunny day I was met on the quarterdeck by Paymaster Lieutenant Geoffrey Henderson, Captain's Secretary and within half an hour I was playing deck Hockey.

I was of course still under training and spent time in the Ship's Office (getting my Ledger certificate), Naval Stores, Victualling Office, the Galley (making bread and rolls) and the Captain's Office (Captains Requestman-Defaulters etc.). Although my memory for names is fading somewhat, I well remember Chief Writer Jones, Petty Officer Writer Morgan (a good footballer) and Leading Writer Gatrell in the Captains Office who taught me quite a lot. (I was also the Wine Caterer in the Gunroom - Gin at 3p a tot).

I had a very happy year in HOOD in the Mediterranean with many memories now helped by hundreds of photographs - and now videos of more recent times.

Visits to Gibraltar - Malta (the fleet base). I had two later commissions in the Mediterranean - in 1951 and 1953 as Secretary to Captain A.C.C. Miers (VC CB DSO). First Submarine Flotilla H.M.S. Forth - and my final appointment as Base and Staff Supply Officer H.M.S. St Angelo 1966 to 1969. I am very fond of Malta and the Maltese people (so indeed was my mother who died in 1970 - her casket lies at the bottom of the Grand Harbour).

(Visits)
Golfe Juan (South of France) - I did a walking tour with Frank Hearn and William Willett (now dead - was Sailing Master to Prince Philip for a number of years - to St Martin Vesubie and Grasse - a lot of snow - we were joined by an attractive Austrian girl for part of the time) - Gibraltar for Combined Fleet Manoeuvres - Navarin Bay for Fleet Regatta - Tangier - Corfu (visited by the King of the Hellenes and ex-Kaiser's palace there) - Marseilles (great fire in the Rue de la Canbiere) - Nyon Patrol for the Spanish Civil War at Valencia, Candia, Barcelona and more.

My action station was the Plot, and cyphering.

A Few Memories at Random
Spain and the Nyon Patrol
Palma - Candia - Valencia - Barcelona (a quick run ashore everything very cheap in the shops. Paymaster Lieutenant A. 'Roosevelt' Jackson the A.).2 came on board having purchased 3 fur coats for his wife. Sinking of the Spanish cruiser 'Beleares'. HOOD took on board refugees from Valencia and Barcelona who had come down from Madrid to join up with General Franco and disembarked at Marseilles. I think we had Franco's sister on board on one occasion. I have a photograph of CPO Writer Jones and myself taking down the particulars of refugees at a desk on the Quarterdeck.

Marseilles
The Fleet Base (until the outbreak of the war, then Alexandria)

Many sporting facilities - Racing, tennis, illegible writing, cricket, squash at the Marsa. Hockey at the Corradino.

Strada Stretta commonly known as 'The Gut'. Wrexford's 'Aunty' a bit of a hag I think from Northern England. Bella and Tessa may have been Maltese but I think more oriental, comfortable numbers. As Gunroom officers most of us aged 18 or 19 (not quite under age) I think our leave expired at 1900 (later on occasions) so we had to make way for our 'elders' from the Wardroom and Warrant Officers Mess.

Hood was in the floating dock at Parlatoria Grand Harbour for about ten days for bottom scraping and minor repairs during which period the Snotties slept on camp beds in the Junior Officers Club - place was full of noisy cockroaches and we used to line them up for races between our beds. Christmas was spent in Malta and as is the custom the messes were decorated for the occasion. In the Gunroom we used French letters (some with teat ends) for balloons variously painted and inscribed. The Snotties Nurse was not very 'amused' during Rounds on Christmas Day with the V.I.P.s Mrs Layton, the Admiral's wife had a good laugh.

Navarin
For the Fleet regatta. A somewhat desolate place. Only run ashore was when four of us went riding on very tired and shaggy horses.

Tangier Again with Frank Hearn and another midshipman having tested the flesh pots one afternoon we went riding - very hot and we got lost. Unfortunately it was the evening of the reception on the quarterdeck of HOOD for local dignitaries and English residents and looking very scruffy we had to return to the ship in a boat containing the guests to be greeted at the top of the gangway by the officer of the Watch and the Duty Commanding Officer. Unfortunately the Paymaster Commander saw us and was furious. Seven days Number 11 was the punishment.

Gibraltar
Combined Fleet manouevres - Home and Mediterranean Fleets - a vast array of ships. Battleships - Battlecruisers (HOOD berthed along the detached mole) - Cruisers - Destroyers - Submarines - Depot ships - Hospital ship Maine - (I am not sure if the target ship 'Centurion' was there)

It was fun - many sporting and social events. Sing song in the drill shed of the base establishment "Cormorant' (later renamed 'Rooke'). I seem to remember some of the singing being led by the two Commanders in Chief, Admiral Sir Roger Beckhouse (Home Fleet) and Admiral Sir Dudley Pound (Mediterranean Fleet). For some strange reason I remember that the chorus to one song was 'Bang go the Guns of the Destroyers doing night attacks - the shooter of St Angelo goes Toot Toot Toot' or words to that effect.

As a matter of interest Sir Dudley Pound's elder son George was my Captain in H.M.N.Z.S. Royalist in 1957-58. I was his Paymaster Commander. We were both on loan to the Royal New Zealand Navy for a full commission in Far East Fleet as New Sealand's contribution to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation.

An excellent book on Admiral Pound has been published recently - "Churchill's Anchor" - the author is Robin Brodhurst who is currently Head of History at Pangbourne College, where the Falklan Islands Memorial Chapel was opened by the Queen in March 2000. I was as school there as a Cadet R.N.R. in 1933-37.

But I remember Gibraltar for a more sombre occasion. Apart from a grounding near one of the moles, the Munich crisis of 1938. In the growing tension between the Allies and Germany a large draft of naval personnel was embarked in the liner 'Aquitania' - in late September she was in the Atlantic enroute for the Straits of Gibraltar: the German pocket battleship 'Deutschland' was known to be in the area - in the event of hostilities, which were expected, HOOD was deployed to to intercept her and escort 'Aquitania'. I can't remember if the ship's company was excited or fearful: in the event Prime Minister Chamberlain after a meeting with Chancellor Hitler in Germany returned to Northolt airport London and on disembarking declared he had an agreement with Hitler waving a piece of paper "Peace in our time". How wrong he was! HOOD and the German pocket battleship then spent a week in Gibraltar with many sporting and social events. I don't think that as sailors out two ships companies had any quarrel with each other.

I left HOOD in Malta on 13 January 1939 before she returned to the U.K. for refit and recommission. After what had been a very happy year I was very sorry, but on hindsight I suppose that I was very fortunate but doubt that even if I had remained in the ship I would have been onboard on 24 May 1941.

My subsequent ships in 1939 in the Mediterranea were 'Arethusa', 'Barham', 'Warspite' (I was in her first week of September, the war having been declared on the 3rd for cyphering duties in the Admiral's Office) and then had a 'pierhead jump' to 'Penelope' for 6 weeks as Captain's Secretary the incumbent having been taken sick at Gibraltar on passage from the U.K. After 22 months overseas I was discharged to the U.K. accompanying a draft of about 1000 sailors by troopship to Malta and then Marseilles and train across France to a Channel port and thence to Portsmouth. The 4 officers with the draft were a retired Liet-Commander called up for the war, who by the most extraordinary coincidence became my first father-in-law 4 years later, Lieutenant Michael LeFanu (subsequently Admiral Sir Michael and First Sea Lord), a Lieutenant Royal Marines who became a Major-General, and Paymaster Midshipman T.K. Evans, who became a mere Commander.

I had a charmed life during the war, 4 ships having been sunk after I left them. 'Glorious' - 'Barham' - 'Penelope' and of course, The MIGHTY HOOD. Perhaps I should add that in 1944-46 I was serving as Secretary to the Commodore Commanding East Indies Destroyers and Frigates: we were of course preparing for a landing on Malaya (Operation Zipper); thanks to the dropping of the Atom Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagaski in Japan, this operation did not take place: had it done so there would have been countless thousands of dead, no doubt myself included, on both sides.

24 MAY 1941
I was serving in 'Hawkins' as Captain's Secretary (Captain H.P.K. (Joe) Orun who escaped from the submarine 'Thetis' lost during acceptance trials off North Wales). We spent 1940 in the South Atlantic on patrol, visiting either Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro for food and fuel - being neutral ports for a maximum of 48 hours at any one time. For 'Rest and Recreation' we had 2 weeks at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands!!

On that fateful day, after visiting Capetown and the Seychelles, we were coming alongside Mayden Wharf in Durban when on the tannoy of another ship (I think 'Dorsetshire') we heard the announcement "We regret to announce that in action with the German Battleship 'Bismarck' in the Denmark Strait off Greenland, H.M.S. HOOD has been sunk, it is feared with considerable loss of life". All hands on deck seemed to stop what they were doing for about a minute (in fact more likely several seconds).

As a former shipmate I just could not comprehend that the Mighty HOOD had gone and am not a bit ashamed to say that I began to cry.

Keith Evans
February 2001