H.M.S. Hood Today
Poetry About Hood & Her Crew
Updated 07-May-2014

Here you will find assorted selections of poetry written or collected by members of the H.M.S. Hood Association. If you know of or have written a poem that you think should be presented here, please contact our staff.

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The following poem was written by James Goulter and was submitted to the site in May 2012.

Heavy Duty
It all happened in '41
When two great navies
Each lost a flagship
And three thousand families
Lost a son

That magnificent icon of the
British fleet
Taken before her time
In an
All but crushing defeat

Her sinking in such haste
Only three survivors they found
The rest K.I.A
Or drowned

But what a ship
Indeed a classical beauty
And those guns
Heavy duty

I have viewed her
By photo film and sketch
From any angle
A fine cut she
Did fetch

However a Bismarck salvo
Well aimed
And by the vast Atlantic
Our Hood was claimed

Although the loss was great
It served a greater need
A focus an added resolve
From which a greater battle
Did evolve

Bismarck was pursued
By capital units
From near and far
The loss of Hood
Had left a scar

Bismarck was sunk
On the 27th of May
As she headed for Brest
In the Bay of Biscay

It all happened in '41
When two great navies
Each lost a flagship
And three thousand families
Lost a son

© James Goulter, 2012


The following poem was written by Mike Hill in October 2001 after seeing the results of the expedition which first located the wreck. It is published here for the first time through his kind permission.

Hood 2001
If a ship ever died in action, it surely was the Hood,
at his post, without exception, every man aboard her stood.

In an instant it was over, and the great grey ship was gone,
now only in our aching hearts does her legend still live on.

Eternal darkness, two miles down, now hides her from our eyes,
on the cold and silent ocean floor, the fallen giant lies.

No bloody wars or surface storms, disturb her, far below,
beyond the reach of men she rests, where the living cannot go.

But now, six decades later, from the mighty ocean deeps
come haunting, poignant images, of the place where Hood now sleeps.

The graceful bow, upon its side, the anchor chain unwound,
a gleaming silver bell that's destined never more to sound.

Seaboots and a broken plate bear witness to the cost
for here, within this riven hull, fourteen hundred men were lost.

Then leave them here, in solitude, may they ever rest in peace,
until these oceans all run dry, or the wars upon them, cease.

© ML Hill, 2001


The following poem was written by Constance Scott and published in "Shadows of War, British Women's Poetry of the Second World War" (Editor: Anne Powell; Publisher: Sutton Publ. Ltd., Stroud, 1999). We would like to thank Gerhard Weidmann of Germany for telling us about this moving poem.

HMS HOOD
To the Deathless Memory of All Who Served Aboard Her

I used with pride to think my window frames
      The sweetest scene a little window could,
Flowers everywhere, the children at their games;
      Sometimes so naughty, then so ‘darling good’,
But now I only see a list of names,
      Through blinding tears, his dear name . . . and the Hood . . .
Never again will he stride up that path,
      Nor help me plant the flowers with boyish glee,
I shall not hear him whistle, no, nor laugh
      Except in dreams and aching memory.
But I am sworn to duty all my life,
      I hear him ask this last love-gift of me:
‘Yes, yes, I swear it, as a sailor’s wife,
      God helping me, our son shall serve the Sea.’
      I am so cold, will you make up the fire?
      Yet these are roses, what a sad, mazed June!
Where are the children? Do not let them tire
      You kind folk out: I shall be better soon . . .
I shall, in time, learn not to blame the sea
      (When God created it He found it good);
I must be brave to join that company,
      The silent, tragic widows of the Hood.

© Constance Scott


The following poem was written by Micheal Nottage. It is published here for the first time through his kind permission.

Twenty Forth May
On a distant sea
In early light
Silver monochrome caught a fight
Before distant horizon
In distant sight
Our warrior consumed
In a plume of plight
No greater love
No greater pride
That plume of plight
In early light.

© Michael R. Nottage


The following poem was written by Peter Tomlinson. It concerns Hood's final battle in the Denmark Strait. This was originally published in "Reach" magazine and is used here by kind permission of Peter himself.

DENMARK STRAIT - The loss of H.M.S. Hood 1941
In swells of battleship grey
the heaving ocean casts the world to distance.

The dark drape of the night lingers
against a struggling dawn
slow to release its chilling grip.

In faint memories of conflicts passed,
the menacing mass of Bismarck ghosts itself
into the misty morning.

The watching eyes of our Home Fleet
smart with salt and weariness
as the sea-tormenting wind worries the mind
at the far edge of certainty.

The sea, the malevolent sea,
never neutral,
is enemy of both.

And far away as the morning light
reveals a city rubbled by air raids,
the urgent stab and stutter of Morse Code
tells of H.M.S. Hood lost: our champion gone.

© Peter Tomlinson. Poet and novelist.


The following poem was written by Jean Winter. Her father, Painter 3rd Class Frederick William Ward, was one of those lost in the sinking of Hood. We are most grateful to Jean for allowing us to post it here.

In Honour of My Father
Close your eyes and your mind,
Picture a scene of an extraordinary kind.
Down, down deep on an ocean floor
Lay the remains of a terrible war.
A ship that once did throb with life
Lies battered and broken because of the strife.
This grand old lady of the sea
Who gave her all for you and me,
Silently watching over the deep
And all the lost souls who now do sleep.
From Captain down to Cabin Boy,
From Chief to Jimmy the One.
From PO's to AB's to each and everyone.
To all brave men that answered the call,
We raise our glasses to one and all.
This grand old lady with her crew,
Courageous men good and true.
Their deeds transcend down through the ages,
Brought to life in dusty old pages.
Memories of men with laughing faces,
Of happy days of God's good graces.
The ship lies still and silent now
With no one to hear the bell,
No one to answer the call to arms,
Or fight the mighty swell.
Now the battle is over,
The War it has been won,
No one to disturb the sleep of husbands, fathers and sons.
Left in your keeping for the well-earned rest they deserve,
We keep them in our memories, their dreams we will preserve.
You were the finest lady and were so very good
We always will remember that wonderful ship "THE HOOD".

Jean Winter


The following poem was written by Ted Briggs not long after the loss of Hood. There is an interesting story behind this- Ted had sent a copy of this to relatives in New Zealand many years ago. Sadly, over time he lost contact with his relatives and had even forgotten this poem. Happily, he was recently reunited with his New Zealand relatives and they sent him a copy of his poem. Ted has now given it to us to share with all of you.

The Men of the Hood
I sit and dream, Oh! Men of the Hood,
Of the things you did that your love ones should
In peace and happiness be secure,
And of their freedom be ever sure.

I was privileged since the war began,
Of going with you wherever the ban
On Italian and later German shipping,
Needed you to give them a whipping.

When upon France's capitulation,
It was you who was called upon by the nation
To face a task which ensured that Darlan,
Would not surrender those ships at Oran.

None of you wanted to kill the Frenchmen,
But do it you must of Hitler's henchmen
Would turn the guns of those Men 'O' War,
To try and penetrate Britain's shore.

So you opened fire and those ships ne'er again,
Shall sally forth to patrol the main
And gone was the danger that the Huns,
Would ever be able to make use of those guns.

And after that came Cagliari,
Where you helped ensure no aircraft would carry
A load of bombs for the rock of Gibraltar,
Or it's opposite number the island of Malta.

And now I come to your greatest task.
Which in my memory will ever last
For early one morning just after dark,
You brought to action the elusive Bismarck.

You opened fire at seventeen mile,
And closed to twelve though men fall all the while
You realized then the full horror of war,
But true British you kept on and wounded her sore.

Then came the ghastliest thing of that Hell,
To our great Hood a mortal blow fell
With a sickening lurch she went over and down,
And without a chance all you brave lads were drowned.

But not for me for fate had decreed,
That I would come back to tell of your deed
And this I have done I need no advice,
To tell the world of your great sacrifice.

I sit and dream, Oh! Men of the Hood,
Of the things you did that your love ones should
In peace and happiness be secure,
And of their freedom be ever sure.

R.I.P.

Ted Briggs


The following poem was written by Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Lieutenant Steegman. He had served on Hood earlier in his career. He wrote this poem whilst on patrol 500 miles northeast of Cape Farewell in 1944.

Untitled
We pass alert and cautious o'er your grave
Now three years old. A thousand friends and more
A thousand fathoms deep. I humbly crave
Forgiveness for my tears; my heart is sore.
What blessed hopes would I not now forswear,
Deny my faith, distort the desperate truth,
If, by some miracle, the sounding gear
Could echo up the voices of your youth.
Rage on, ensanquined seas; hurl un your heads
The ancient curse on sailors yet unborn.
Not all the storms in Hell can rock the beds
of Hood's great company. No more I'll mourn
For now we know no sailor ever dies.
We pass right on. "All's well", her echo cries.


The following poem is actually a song. It was written by Damien W. Sullivan in honour of his relative Percy Bembridge who was lost in the sinking of H.M.S. Hood. We thank Damien for allowing us to use it here.

Iron Ships
(For Percy Bembridge and all those that served on the Iron Ships and never came back)
Like Brunel's dream, I had my reasons,
I have heard them called to me.
As soon as I was old enough,
my fate was with the angry sea.

Down by the water's edge, she weighs anchor,
Leviathan of Scapa Flow.
The Jutland strait, like God forboding,
what comes this day, I just don't know.

I am dreaming, I am drowning, I am calling
far away. Let my blood spill for a reason.
Iron ships have sailed today,
have sailed away........

Bugles blare out, calls attention.
Battle stations at five miles.
Lines of steel they call prevention.
Unknown fears and nervous smiles.

I am dreaming, I am drowning, I am calling
far away. Let my blood spill for a reason.
Iron ships have sailed today,
have sailed away........

Down by the water's edge, she weighs anchor,
Leviathan of Scapa Flow.
The Denmark strait, like God forboding,
what comes this day we just don't know.

I am dreaming, I am drowning, I am calling
far away. Let my blood spill for a reason.
Iron ships have sailed today,
have sailed away........

(Copywrite 1994) D W Sullivan.


The following poems are from "The Mighty Hood Remembered"- a superb collection of Hood inspired poems written by Bee Kenchington. They appear here courtesy of Lt Ted Briggs, MBE.

To Lost Sailors H.M.S. Hood-May 1941
Untroubled by the tumult of the sea,
So peacefully you rest beneath the deep,
For years unseen and yet remembered still
Locked in our hearts where none can do you ill
Or spoil the memory of lives so bravely spent;
Young lives, too soon by savage war curtailed,
Bright youth, extinguished in the battle's roar;
So long apart and yet we still recall
Unsparing courage, model to us all,
And we who follow on must never fail
To keep in mind the anguish and the pain
Of loved ones, left to mourn upon the shore.
Peace must be our aim for evermore
Lest your great sacrifice be made in vain

To My Brother
Deep, deep the sea that is your grave,
Ice-cold and dark above your metal tomb
Where you and many other sailors, brave,
By fire from alien guns came to their doom.
There was no pleasure then and none today,
Too cold for mortal men to find delight,
Even the dolphins choose elsewhere to play.
Sleep, sleep in your uncharted ocean bed,
Untroubled by the turmoil of this world,
In that quiet solace - dueness to the dead;
And let the ocean, whipped by wind and tide
Make fit memorial to courageous men
Who left our shores that fateful day in May,
Never to enjoy this life again.

Village War Memorial 1939-1945
His name's not there but I am led to dream
Of all the happier things that might have been
Had he not rushed - but waited for his call.
So young, just twenty five when he was killed;
So much of life's potential unfulfilled,
His oyster's pearl unclaimed.
Yet 'better dead' he'd say than sadly maimed.
All thousand of his shipmates joined in steep
Their resting place is 'neath the ocean's deep.
His name's not here but I am led to dream
Of all the greater things, that could have been
Had all the brave survived

Survivor
To Ted Briggs - Survivor H.M.S. Hood
That awful day the mighty Hood went down
And fourteen hundred men or more were lost,
Just three of you were chosen to survive,
To watch your friends and shipmates burn and drown.
How often have you re-lived your ordeal,
Felt freezing, arctic waters sap your strength,
Watched Hood sink, lost evermore from view,
Seen flames and smoke consume your ship of steel?
From year to year you've been our living link
Between a thousand sailors and their kin,
Compelled to keep a memory green and fresh
From which some lesser men than you might shrink.
Yet you have kept the memory alive
Of those who were not chosen to survive.

For Those Who Did Not Survive
Who are the valiant whom we honour now?
Just faceless men to those who follow on?
Names of the dead, inscribed on faded page
Recorded heroes from a bygone age
No - these are men who live among the brave
Who offered all they had, that they might save
The way of life that they themselves held dear.
Victims of war who, sadly, paid the price
For us they made their greatest sacrifice.
Sons, brothers, husbands, leaving us bereft;
But consolation's there for us still left,
Their life's ambition never to be won
These men, so precious each and every one
Are loved and treasured, most of all, by God.

Thought on Remembrance Day
As I've grown old, so grief has grown;
Thoughts of would-be friends, unknown
Of Sons and grandsons, never born.
The yesterdays that never were,
Crowd in and won't let go.

Why has such sadness come again
Once time, the healer, deadened pain?
Does memory serve to pave the way
Towards that final, promised day
When we might meet again?

Aftermath
So many years have passed since our joint woe,
Years that have changed the world beyond belief.
Our friends are now among our erstwhile foe,
And few are left to understand our grief.

Here, time, the healer's used her soothing balm
We strive for lasting peace, all hatred gone
And seek a loving future, free of harm.
But still, for us the silent pain lives on.

FOR REMEMBRANCE DAY 1999


This next poem was written by Leonard Charles Williams and was included in his memoirs. Leonard served as a torpedoman aboard Hood from 1936 to 1941 and was transferred shortly before Hood was lost. The following poem is to his lost comrades. Special thanks to Martin Alden for providing us with this.

To a Shipmate
Yours were the sea, the stars, the earth,
The soft warm winds, and the Northern Lights.
Now your fair substance lies in tidal waters clear.
Trapped in flooded steel for all eternity.

You had your dreams, your youth, your hopes.
Ere ship met ship at dawn off Cape Farewell.
Forever now, your body, washed by northern seas.
Shall rest, a priceless jewel in Neptune's crown.

One day, perhaps, a saner world will find your ocean grave.
A torn and riven hull; and wonder at the madness of this age,
Which squandered youth and brilliance such as yours.

Leonard Charles Williams


The following poem is among the saddest and most touching ever written about Hood or crew. It was written by the widow of an officer lost on Hood, 21 years after the ship and his life were lost.

Untitled
Our grief has come of age,
And they are grown,
The children that you left.

Watchful while they slept,
Curtained against the war-lit night,
We waited -
Over our knitting and our teacups,
The radio on,
Waiting for your return.

"The Hood is sunk" - Later the rumours flew -
"Three hundred saved." "No, three."
"Thank God for them, some mother's son and young."

But we had known, in that first hour,
Closing our eyes from shock and seeing
A gallant company storm the green hill of Heaven,
Comradely and gay, turning to stretch a hand,
Together in their end and in their new beginning.

Nothing to wait for now,
But set to work.
We did not take part
To help to bring the freedom and the peace for which you died.

Enough for us to feed and clothe and tend
The children that you left.
In half a home to give them joy and laughter,
Teach them to know your picture,
Foster those few memories of theirs
And lend them ours, to give them your ideals.

Your prayers have strengthened ours
And God is good.
We may rest now - the widows of the Hood.

M.S.


Another extremely sad and touching poem. Special thanks to Alan Matthews for providing us with this gem.

Seven Faded Letters
Seven faded letters came to my house today,
A long awaited message from a war now far away,
And so my darling daughter I'm giving them to you,
A legacy of love sent to me so very long ago.

I know you've often questioned through all these lonely years,
Why you never knew your father and I shed so many tears,
The reason Oh my daughter, I know you'll understand,
When you read these faded letters I'm holding in my hand.

The carefree days were ending, the war was getting near,
When I met a handsome sailor who was young and full of fear,
The future was uncertain, the past was gone forever
And the only true reality was the love we shared together.

Your dad and I were just eighteen that summer long ago
But Mother said he wasn't good enough for me and so,
We shared our dreams in secret till summer time was gone,
While battles started raging as the cruel war went on.

I said goodbye forever on that bleak and dismal day,
One final kiss, a last embrace before he sailed away,
Then for many months I waited for the note that never came,
And for many more I cursed the war and that blue-eyed sailors name.

Today the truth dawned sadly, because here I have at last,
Those long awaited messages penned in the distant past,
As my Mother on her death bed confessed with pain to me,
That she'd locked up all my letters and thrown away the key.

Now as I read these treasures with love on every page,
I think of that ill-fated day back in another age,
Of how I'd prayed to heaven as many mothers would,
But our prayers were never answered - His ship was called 'The Hood'.

Seven faded letters came to my house today
Beneath the sea he calls me from a time now long away
And so my darling daughter, I'm giving them to you
A legacy of love sent from the dad that you never knew.

Joan Mercer.


The next poem is one of the best tributes written to the ship and her men. It was written by the H.M.S. Hood Association's own Dixie Dean.

The Mighty Hood
(A Tribute to H.M.S. Hood and Crew)
The mighty Hood, the name acquired,
She toured the world and was admired,
Her mighty grace, it shook the best,
Until disaster stunned the West.

For years before this tragic blow
Her beauty shone with supreme glow,
Throughout the world she was well known
For her splendour and her grace alone.

Her crew were proud of being part
Of a ships company with a superb heart,
When things went wrong as sure they must
The name of Hood restored their trust.

During the years of trial and woe
The Hood was first to have a go,
She fought her way through thick and thin
To show the world that we could win.

In the dark days of World War Two
We knew that Hood would see us through,
And she did until that fatal day
When Bismarck smashed our dreams away.

Her gallant crew had done their best,
But many souls were laid to rest.
Lives that were lost were not in vain
For the name of Hood would live again.

And those who perished on that day,
Their name will shine in bright array.
For years to come they'll stand supreme
As members of the finest team.

The Hood was something never lost,
Although this day we count the cost
Of comrades great who gave their lot,
But what they gave was not forgot.


The following poem is a touching tribute to Hood as well as the other great vessels of the Royal Navy. Special thanks to Alan Matthews for providing this to us.

In Memory of the Royal Navy's Warships of World War II
('Reflections from Guzz')
Once I looked from the Tamar Bridge at the warships down below,
ships of the modern navy with names I did not know.
And, as I stood and gazed at them on the water far below
I saw a fleet of phantom ships and men of long ago.

The Rodney and the Nelson, the Valiant and Ramilies
Repulse, Renown and Malaya, coming home from foreign seas.
I saw Revenge and Warspite, ill-fated Royal Oak,
so many ships, their names made faint by shell and fire and smoke.

And some I see to harbour come as thro glasses dark,
the Barham and the Glorious, the Eagle and the Ark,
and then, there comes the greatest, the mighty warship Hood,
dark and grey and wraithlike, from the spot on which I stood.

From the cruel North Atlantic, from the Med and Java sea,
the big ships and the little ships returned for me to see.
There's the Dorsetshire, Edinburgh, Campbeltown and Kent,
the Cossack, and Courageous, the Charybdis and Ardent.

Now I can't see very clearly, must be smoke that's in my eyes,
but mercifully hidden are the men and stilled, their raucous cries.

You don't know Shorty Hasset, he won the D.S.M.
He still fought on when Exeter was burning stern to stem.

Where now.! Dodger Long and Lofty, where now the boys and men?
They are lost and gone forever-shall we see their likes again?
I thought I saw them mustering on deck for daily prayer,
and heard 'For those in Peril'' rise on the evening air.

Then darker grew the picture as the lowering night came on,
I looked down from that lofty bridge, but all the ships were gone.
Those mighty ships had vanished; gone those simple men,
we'll surely never-ever, see the likes of them again.

Acknowledgements to 'Rodney Buzz'.


The next poem was written by crewman Henry J. Wannerton in March 1922. It is about a real-world rescue Hood participated in during 1922. Sadly, Henry served upon Hood again, and was lost in her sinking on 24th May 1941.

A Day's Work on a Sunday at Sea
At Vigo in North Western Spain,
Our Battle Cruiser lay
When a message sent by W/T
Came in from far away.
"I'm out at sea, off Finisterre
It's blowing a North West gale
No shelter, or headway can I make"
So read the dismal tale.

A message came from the 'Surprise'
A very yacht like craft
Swan bowed, no boom, you know her kind,
And cut away right aft.
Let steam be raised for 20 knots,
And round the order flew,
For everyone knew the little ship
And sympathised with her too.

In record time our men below
Full head of steam had raised
And when we reported 'All ready Sir'
Our captain was amazed.
Let the ship go ahead the captain sang
Make sure in an emergency
My men will not fail me.

In spite of wind and rain and sea,
The 'HOOD' must do her best
We must stand by that little ship
The 'HOOD' must stand the test,
And well, the big ship stood the strain
Though seas were turning high
Ever lurching, heaving and rolling on
With scarce a plank left dry.

For six long hours we ploughed ahead,
At last we found our quest,
Gunwales under with head to sea
Trying to do her best
By clever steering of our ship
We broke the raging sea,
And the mighty battle cruiser 'HOOD'
Made for the yacht a lee.

For six hours more our ship stood by
To shelter our friend in need
And doubtless those on board 'Surprise'
Found us a friend indeed
As night came on, the wind died down
And stilled the raging main
So with Bon Voyage turning 16 points
We made our port again.


The author of the following is unknown, but we do know that in song form, it is sung to the tune of "Silent Night".

H.M.S. Hood
When H.M.S. Hood went down in the deep,
That was the news that made mothers weep;
For the sons who had fought for a country so proud
Were down there below with the sea as their shroud.
They are sleeping in heavenly peace, sleeping in heavenly peace.

Then came George V, the Prince of Wales too,
They took in hand what the Hood had to do.
The Suffolk, the Norfolk, the Cossack as well,
Along with the Rodney shelled Bismarck to hell.

They sank that ship, oh, we are glad; but for our lads we feel sad.
So mothers and wives and sweethearts, be proud;
Though your dear lads have the sea as their shroud,
They were fighting for freedom, let us never forget.
The freedom they fought for will be won yet.
They are sleeping in heavenly peace, sleeping in heavenly peace.


The following, based on a German naval song, was taken from H.M.S. Hood Association Newsletter No. 6

Untitled
There are no roses on a sailor's grave,
No lilies on an ocean wave
The only tribute is the seagulls' sweeps
And the teardrops that a sweetheart weeps.


The following is an epitaph by Shipmaster Phineas James to his stricken comrades. Taken from H.M.S. Hood Association Newsletter No. 6

Untitled

We that survive perchance may end our days,
In some employment meriting no praise.
They have outlived this fear and their brave ends,
Will ever be, and honour to their friends.


What body of naval poetry could be complete without Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson's famous prayer, written on the very morning of the Battle of Trafalgar?

Nelson's Prayer
May the great God, whom I worship, grant to my country,
And for the benefit of Europe in general,
A great and glorious victory;
And may no misconduct in anyone tarnish it;
And may humanity after victory be the predominant
Feature of the British Fleet.
For myself individually
I commit my life to Him that made me,
And may His blessings alight on my endeavours
For serving my country faithfully.
To Him I resign myself and the just cause
Which it is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen