-H.M.S. Hood Crew Information-
Autobiography of Ernest "Mac" McConnell (1921-2004)
By Mac McConnell, 2001
Updated 06-May-2014

This article was written for the website by former Hood crewman Ernest "Mac" McConnell in 2001. It covers his naval career. Mac was a longtime member of the Hood Association and was well liked by all who knew him. He passed away unexpectedly on 12 January 2004.

Chainbar divider

Mac McConnell in 2002I was born in Portsmouth on 19th June, 1921 and went to Solent Road school in Farlington near Portsmouth.

As a teenager I made the decision that I wanted to follow my father into the Royal Navy - it just seemed the logical thing to do. It also meant that I would stay on at school until I was 15 in order to take the necessary exams. The only job I had before joining up was as an errand boy for the local grocer's shop.

I joined the Royal Navy on 8th October 1936 and started my training at H.M.S. "St. Vincent," Gosport. The training was a broad preparation for like in the Navy and included seamanship, gunnery and rifle drill. The latter stands out in my mind as it always seemed to take place on the coldest part of the parade ground. I also remember many a frosty morning spent climbing the mast.

Mac McConnell in 1940On Saturday mornings it was always cleaning the mess deck, utensils and generally preparing for the Captain's rounds.

Whilst at "St. Vincent" we were allowed ashore for 5 hours three times each fortnight.

I left "St. Vincent" on 3rd March 1938 and joined my first ship - H.M.S. "Dunedin," a light cruiser, as a Boy 1st Class, to start my sea training. During my time in her "Dunedin" was used as a target ship for torpedo attacks by Fleet Air Arm Swordfish. Along with other boys, my job was to go away in the whaler on completion of the exercise to retrieve the torpedoes and bring them back to the ship. This was a hectic job - especially when the sea was rough.

I spent just over 4 months in "Dunedin" before another draft came through, this time to the Battle Cruiser H.M.S. "Hood". I joined "Hood" at Malta on 16th July 1938.

Crews of Hood and Deutschland, 1938During my time in "Hood" the ship was taking part in duties associated with the Spanish Civil War - I remember that we responsible on one occasion for taking some refugees to Marseilles. Then, during the Munich crisis we were dispatched to the Atlantic to shadow the German pocket battleship "Deutschland." She was already out there seemingly ready in case of war. Once the crisis was over we headed back to Gibraltar. The following day the "Deutschland" arrived and a football match was arranged. "Hood" won the match 4-1 so, in the space of 24 hours the situation changed from war to football. Either way, we would have won.

The routine in "Hood" continued with the usual series of drills - "Out Collision Mats" seemed to be a favourite. There was always painting ship too. For us Boys general cleaning was on our hands and knees with a holystone in each hand scrubbing the deck whilst it was being hosed down with water. (A holystone was a sandstone block, about the size of a brick when new.) The powers that be always found plenty for us to do.

Mac McConnell in May 2001My action station during my time in "Hood" was in B turret.

By May 1940 I was due to be confirmed as Able Seaman and so it was time to leave "Hood." I said goodbye to the ship in Devonport on 21 May, 1940 and returned home to barracks at H.M.S. "Victory." I was at "Victory" for 3 months until a draft came through to the destroyer H.M.S. "Fury." I joined my new ship at Liverpool on 29th August, 1940.

Most of my memories revolve around the time I spent in "Fury." I was in her for just over 4 years and experienced Atlantic convoys, Russian convoys, Malta convoys, the invasion of Sicily, the surrender of the Italian Fleet and many more operations in the Med. The Russian convoys were the worst operations that "Fury" took part in but the most memorable would have to be the "D Day" landings. We were eventually mined on the 21st June during a storm and finished up on the rocks several miles along the French coast. There we stayed for about 3 weeks until we were refloated and towed back to Portsmouth. I left H.M.S. "Fury" on 17th July, 1945.

After the war I remember in particular being drafted to the Petty Officers' school in Kingsmoor near Chippenham in Wiltshire which I joined in March 1947. The officer in charge of our course was Prince Phillip, who was a Lieutenant at the time and courting the then Princess Elizabeth. I finally left the Navy on 18th June, 1951.

Rest in Peace Mac- We will miss you