IT was the pride of the Royal Navy and the most powerful warship afloat the day it slid down its slipway and entered the waters of the Clyde.

Brought to life by the toil of hundreds of Clydebank shipyard workers, HMS Hood entered service just as the First World War was coming to a close - and would meet its demise during the next great war in battle with one of the era's most notorious battleship.

Struck in her ammo magazine by a shell fired from the German battlecruiser Bismarck on 24 May 1941, Hood was torn apart by a cataclysmic explosion which cost the lives of 1,415 members of her crew, leaving just three survivors.

And although its guns have long fallen silent, the suddenness of the ship's demise still resonates today as those with a connection to the 'Mighty Hood' gathered to mark the 100th anniversary of her launch.

A product of John Brown's shipyard, HMS Hood  - ship 460 in the company's order book - was an 860 foot long armour-plated behemoth designed to outmatch any other warship afloat when she was launched in 1918.


HMS Hood in Clydebank

During the inter-war years the battlecruiser visited every corner of the globe as the flagship of the Special Service Squadron, including a complete circumnavigation of the planet.

Yet it too fewer than four minutes for the ship to sink beneath the icy waters of the Denmark Strait following the disaster of its final battle.

The ceremony to mark the centenary of the launch was held at West College Scotland's Clydebank Campus, which now sits on the spot where HMS Hood was built.

Among those who attended the event, organised by the HMS Hood Association, was Mrs Jane Johnston, of Hamilton whose uncle William Pennycook served as a stoker on HMS Hood and died in the disaster.


Jane Johnston inspects the model of HMS Hood

She said: "My uncle William was posted to HMS Hood as a stoker in the engine room. He was just 22 and it was his first time at sea.

"My grandparents were  devastated when he didn't come home again. They never got over it."

"Uncle Willy was known as the gentle giant in our family. He was a big man, 6ft 2, and everyone loved him."

The pensioner, who was joined the Hood Association along with her daughter Carol, 53, said that it was important to keep the memory of the ship and her tragic sinking alive.  

She said: "It was a tragedy, all those young men gone in an instant. They should never be forgotten."


William Pennycook, centre, died in the tragedy aged just 22. 

The remains of HMS Hood were found in 2001 by shipwreck hunter David Mearns in 2001. A decade later, he was able to recover the ships' bell and laid a plaque with the names of the dead that the site.

He said: "It's an accurate description to call it a wreck because it suffered not just one magazine explosion, but two  - which ripped the ship apart and really obliterated major portions of it."

"The only identifiable sections are the bow, which is lying on its starboard side, the stern - which is lying at a strange angle upright - and then the middle of the ship is turned upside down.

"The areas where the magazines were are essentially obliterated. There is wreckage strewn over a very large area with two distinct debris fields over nearly two and a half kilometres."

The ceremony saw the Association receive a scale model of HMS Hood from the Polderhuis Museum in Holland, which had been gifted the item by an enthusiast.


HMS Hood during sea trials off the Isle of Arran

HMS Hood Association President Rear Admiral Philip Wilcocks said that the model, which will be displayed at the campus, was a lasting memorial to the sailors who lost their lives.

He added: "There will be an opportunity here on the Clydebank to remember this very special ship and recognise the courage, comradeship and self-sacrifice of those men and officers who put their lives on the line for us and who perished in the service of freedom.

"British, Australian, Canadian, French and Polish men, all now resting with the ship in the depths of the Denmark Strait."