HMS Hood's colour below the waterline - Anti-Fouling Paint

With Flyhawk's kit released I'm getting lots of questions now. Sometimes Richard Dennis and I (James writing rather than Gillian today) are asked to help with the kit paint guides at Flyhawk but this time they only dealt with Frank Allen of the HMS Hood Association (which is perfectly sound - Frank knows what's what as far as this ship is concerned and can be considered one of the most reliable authorities around on the subject). What Frank may have intended as not overstating the known truth appears to have been interpreted by some as ambiguity as far as HMS Hood's anti-fouling paint goes, with some on the big wide internet deciding that "it's still an open debate" about whether the anti-fouling paint was actually grey or not. I've even seen two people decide that the HMS Hood Association website's information only cites grey from 1920-1925.

 

What Frank actually wrote on the HMS Hood Association website was:

"Below Waterline: Precise information is lacking. The only confirmed colour is Peacocks & Buchan's antifouling grey in 1920 and 1925. For the remainder of the time period, no colour was specified. Additional details follow below.

1920-1936: As commissioned, Hood's bottom, to include the propeller shafts and rudder was anti-fouling grey (per ADM 136/13). Painting details are scarce, but she is also known to have had grey bottom paint in 1925. Based on the manufacturer used, we assume she remained grey, but we cannot rule out the possibility that Hood may have also had a black bottom during some periods. We are fairly confident that she was not red below her waterline.

Wartime/As Sunk: We have no confirmed colour information. We assume Hood was still using anti-fouling grey based on her previous history and her wreck (the stern appears dark grey/faded black underneath and shows no sign of red). There is anecdotal evidence to suggest black was used, but its also possible that it was dark grey.

Detailing Suggestion: Although she tended to have her bottom re-coated annually, the coating did get very worn over the course of the year. As a result, unless you are modelling Hood as "freshly painted" you might want to slightly lighten and/or weather the underside with a bit of grey. You can also add worn spots as well as chipping, barnacles and sea grasses if you so fancy."

 



My bold. This is where a small amount of knowledge is dangerous, and I'm not referring to Frank! Whilst most of the D.495s do not specifically name a colour, they do specifically name the manufacturer of the paint, and that manufacturer only made it in grey or black! That the person filling in the D.495s didn't specifically write "grey" every time doesn't mean red is a possibility of equal likelihood, however black cannot be ruled out as Peacock & Buchan's did offer that choice.

 

Frank originally shared these images of the 1937, 1938 and 1939-40 D.495 Docking Forms on Shipmodels.info's Calling All Ship Fans/Battleships and Battlecruisers/HMS Hood thread Page 36 (http://www.shipmodels.info/mws_forum/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=4702&start=700) in November 2020 when he first noticed something that didn't match what he like everyone else alive today thought they knew:

1937

 

1938

 

1939-1940

 

They all still name Peacock & Buchan's, albeit abbreviated to "Peacock's".

 

Richard then shared this excerpt from the Rate Book of Naval Stores:

 

You can see that in most cases the hull was given two coats of "protective" paint which guarded against corrosion in contrasting colours so you could see bits where it had worn through followed by one coat of anti-fouling paint in a different colour again for the same reason. To help folks visualise this, I've drawn a picture as is my way.

 

So in summary, if you know what colours Peacock & Buchan's actually offered, red isn't really on the cards at all as the external finish for HMS Hood despite what modellers expect and want to see.

 

If you haven't seen it, Richard drafted a very interesting article on what he had to date and it's hosted on my site. The good news is that he's gathered a heap more since the National Archives opened again and is planning a redraft. I don't know yet if there are any errors in the current version he intends to straighten out, but I do know there is a lot of modeller-useable information he plans to add to it.

https://www.sovereignhobbies.co.uk/pages/royal-navy-anti-fouling-and-boot-topping-colours

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