Friday, June 29, 2012

Yet Another List . . . But Not Quite

Following the lead of my dear daughter Tanya, who like me admits to a certain degree of discombobulation when she cannot think of anything to blog about--delighted I was, yes I was, to hear that somebody else besides me had the same difficulty. That is, a feeling of guilt and discomfort about not being able to conjure up something to write about. So imagine my thrill when Tanya writes two blog entries recently about things she likes and dislikes. Whoopee! I steal the ideas . . .

But are you ready for this? In the course of typing this entry, I distract myself on purpose by deciding it's a perfect time to send out half a dozen Postcrossing post cards. So I go through that ritual of getting the names, printing up the addresses, picking out the card to send, putting the postage, and jotting the message down on about half of them. Oh, and next I look up all the addresses in Goggle Earth, see exactly where this card is going, ya know.* Well, after stops in Germany (Bielefeld), Finland (Nastola), Texas (Rowlett), and The Netherlands (Amsterdam), I start looking in the ocean near Finland at some little bitty islands and gradually panned over to the North Atlantic, west of Iceland and I encounter the site of the sinking of the British heavy cruiser HMS Hood on 24 May 1941.** Although I vaguely remembered about this ship and her encounter with the German battleship Bismark, I didn't remember details. So I was amazed to read that out of a crew of over 1400, only three guys--three--survived. All were enlisted guys. (You can read bios with links to their names below.) Incredible.

HMS Hood in 1938 - She went down with all but three hands.

I was immediately struck by the monstrous loss of life and the unbelievable good fortune of these three young men. I mean what are the odds? (Well actually, to be exact the odds were .21 percent of being one of those guys.) They all went on to survive the war. I still cannot wrap my mind around such numbers. All those lives snuffed out with ramifications that are still rippling out even today. War is such a pitiless exercise.

The HMS Hood Association has a considerable web presence, with lots of information to get hung up in if you're so inclined. Below is the chronology of the sinking from the Google Earth site. I had every intention of attaching a shot of the Google Earth screen showing the site, but damned if when I tried to email the citation to myself (the only way I can see of getting the .jpg), the damn program tells me I am giving it the wrong account name. This is my Google account, for Pete's sake! I get mail there every day and have used same account name for oh, say over five years.

HMS Hood Sinking Chronology
16-21 May: Based on reports that Bismarck was likely to attempt a breakout into the Atlantic, the ship was more-or-less on alert. Strategies were planned and discussed.

22-24 May: At sea with the battleship Prince of Wales, and destroyers Acates, Antelope, Anthony, Echo, Electra and Icarus. The force proceeded to waters off southern Iceland in case Bismarck and the accompanying cruiser Prinz Eugen attempted a breakout into the Atlantic in that vicinity.

23 May: Bismarck and Prinz Eugen sighted by H.M.S. Suffolk in Denmark Strait.

24 May: Hood sunk in the Battle of the Denmark Strait. In the engagement, Hood, Prince of Wales and Bismarck all received damage. At 0600, Hood sank following a catastrophic conflagration/explosion resulting from a deep penetrating hit from Bismarck. Out of a crew of 1,418 only three (Ordinary Signalman Ted Briggs, Midshipman William Dundas and Able Seaman Robert Tilburn) survived. Despite the loss of Hood, the action DID achieve the result of effectively cancelling the German sortie: Though Prinz Eugen escaped, Bismarck was later defeated and sunk with a heavy loss of life. No convoys were lost to either ship.

H.M.S. Hood sank at @0600 hours, 24 May 1941, whilst engaged in battle against the German warships Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. All but 3 of her compliment of 1,418 crewmen went down with the ship. It was the single worst Royal Navy ship loss of the Second World War.

*Have you noticed how this keeps one from doing the writing task?

**One of the many things you can do with Google Earth is mark shipwreck sites in the oceans of the world. That's how I found the Hood. Just by the by, there seem to be about ten times as many U-boat sinking sites than any other kind. Google needs to do some work in this area.
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