-History of H.M.S. Hood-
Denmark Strait Battle Environment
Updated 18-May-2014

In many accounts of the battle, authors describe a battle at sunrise- literally a scene in which the British force is silhouetted by the rising sun while the Germans are emerging out of darkness. This depiction, though understandable, is nonetheless not completely accurate. This article briefly examines the environmental conditions in which the battle took place. Its meant to help artists, modellers and researchers have a better idea as to what the battle scene actually looked like.

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Lighting Conditions

Sunrise & Sunset in the Denmark Strait

For most of us, the night and day are roughly similar in length. This of course, varies depending on one's global location as well as the time of the year. Nonetheless, we experience two distinct periods each day. This is not the case in extreme latitudes.

The Battle of the Denmark Strait took place in northern waters. The position is such that it experiences very long days but very brief nights during the month of May. Hood's last night was very brief indeed. It consisted of a couple of hours of darkness and a few hours of murky twilight. As it turns out, the sun had already risen before she and Prince of Wales met the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen in battle on 24 May 1941. This fact was attested to by Hood survivor Ted Briggs (both in person to our researchers as well as in his excellent book, "Flagship Hood", chapter 20, paragraphs 22 and 28). His observations have been verified/corroborated using online sunrise/sunset calculation tools.

Based on this information, we therefore know for a fact that:

Clearly, at the time of the battle, the sun was up. Because the sun was not terribly high in the sky, it meant that it was somewhat brighter behind the British and dimmer behind the Germans. It was not however, the classic picture of the Germans coming out of the deep darkness. Both sides were sufficiently illuminated to initially visually detect each other at least 20NM out.



The logs of Prinz Eugen describe the weather as overcast with east winds at Force 3. The precise cloud ceiling is not known, though a Sunderland aircraft overhead noted that they took cover in clouds at 2,500 feet (per AIR 15-415). The general appearance was grey. Indeed, Ted Briggs described it as a grey sky on grey sea (Flagship Hood, chapter Chapter 20, paragraph 28).


Though the British force had encountered severe weather the night before, by the time of the battle, the seas were somewhat less violent. Hood survivor Ted Briggs said that there was a heavy swell from the northeast during the hours leading up to the battle. Again, he described the scene as a "steely blend of sky and sea". (Flagship Hood, chapter Chapter 20, paragraph 28 & 33). He also noted that water sprayed up onto the ship.


Those who write about the battle as well as those depicting the battle in art, scale miniatures or other mediums should be aware that it was an amply lit but otherwise bleak and grey morning. The weather was neither perfectly calm nor was it stormy. There would be little colour except for the white spray of shell splashes, purplish smoke from the British ships, the bright Ensigns and signal flags aboard the ships, the flash of their gun fire, the reddish-brown cordite smoke and the red-orange fires aboard Hood.