Jean Hood's Website

Ships you have to visit

This is a selection of historic ships I've visited. I haven't been paid or otherwise induced to include them, honestly. Some will be easier to visit than others. Look out for open days and 'goodwill' visits by tall ships and the warships of various nations, as well as finding out about the preserved 'static' ships.



A beautiful piece of restoration, HMS Trincomalee is displayed in the water in the contemporary setting of the the historic dockyard at Hartlepool. It may be a little off the beaten track for those who live in the South East, but PLEASE don't let that put you off, because this ship could hardly be presented in a better way: enough information but not too much interpretation. She represents the typical Napoleonic era  frigate, even if built a couple of years after the Battle of Waterloo. She was used in films such as Master and Commander, and you will come away with a far better understanding of what such ships were like for those who served in them. Not just knowledge but feeling. Okay, no real rats, no seasickness, no stench of unwashed bodies (unless the tourists are to blame!), black powder or  bilgewater, nor fear of the lash, but the guides bring the ship to life 
The dockyard, too, is worth a visit, refreshments are good and resonably priced, and the interactive website is excellent. For the modest annual subscription of £20 you can become a Friend of the ship, and that is a good way of helping to keep her in the state and the location to which, since her restoration, she has become accustomed. This is the second oldest warship afloat in the world and the oldest in Europe, and even more remarkable (thank you, Malabar teak, the Indian craftsmen, and the Hon East India Company who built her at Bombay for the Royal Navy) is the fact that this 'wooden wall'  is 65% original.
I visited the ship in 2010 when the vessels of the Tall Ships Race were in Hartlepool, which made it an even more memorable and atmospheric weekend.


Saturday 19th October 2013: Trafalgar Night Dinner aboard Trincomalee. This event takes place annually and anyone can attend - though tickets are limited by the size of the Gun Deck and, probably, the fire safety regulations!  Really good food, a chance to see a lot of the ship. Anyone over 5ft 6ins tall should beware of the deck height. Loyal toast drunk sitting down, but you toast Nelson's Immortal Memory on your feet. Note how close Lt. Cdr Mark Hammon's head is to the deck beam and the hammock hooks, even though he is just sitting down. If you can't make the 2014 dinner then why not get married on the ship?


If you need an overnight room with a view - in this case of Trincomalee, stern-on, in her dock, and the paddle steamer HM Wingfield Castle broadside on - this is the view we had from our room in the Premier Inn at Hartlepool. The image was actually taken outside, because our ground-floor window had restricted opening for security reasons, but that's what we woke up to...


ITS Amerigo Vespucci
Not in the least dwarfed by her surroundings
Amerigo Vespucci
View from the deck at dusk
Amerigo Vespucci leaving London's Canary Wharf
The Italian Navy's magnificent training ship gets a little help to leave London. August 2013


What can you say about the beauty of this magnificent ship, the pride of the Italian Navy? I had the great pleasure of being invited to a reception on board in August 2013, so  as well as seeing her among the office blocks of Canary Wharf had the chance to appreciate her quality from the inside, so to speak, as well as the warm Italian hospitality of her crew. Built of steel in the style of a late 18th Century ship of the line, she's broad and imposing when you see her bow-on, but incredibly elegant in profile. She's 101 metres from the tip of her bowsprit to her stern, and her mainmast soars 54 metres above her beautiful teak deck. When she pays goodwill visits, she is often open to the public. Seeing her passing out of the dock basin makes you realise what Trincomalee would look like if she were allowed to put to sea (which, for legal/health and safety reasons,  she can't because, unlike Vespucci,  she hasn't got, and cannot have,  auxiliary power).



Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
HMS Warrior from off the port bow

Engine Power
Reproduction engines convey the feel of power
A view of part of the huge gun deck

Revolutionary in her day as the first iron-hulled, armoured ship,  the frigate is still a fine sight in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. She's really an armoured, floating box with a bow and a stern: that central citadel made her impregnable, though she was never put to the test. You can go all over the ship, right down to the stokehold - there's hardly anywhere closed to the public.
One tip: there is very little signage and explanation. This means you  need a good knowledge of ships of this type, a guidebook or a good look at the website if you are really going to appreciate what you see.  The man who paid for her restoration wanted her to be displayed in original condition (we draw a veil over the repro engines etc, which, in any case, look splendid) and he specified no signs or information displays on board. He even objected to Fire Exit signs, but without those the ship could never have been opened to the public.  


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U-995, Second World War German submarine,  Kiel


U-995 is typical of a Second World War German U-boat, being a Type VIIC. After the war she was given to Norway and so escaped the scuttling programme. When the Norwegians had finished with her, they offered her back to Germany and she now sits on the Kielerfoerde at Laboe, on the opposite side of the water to Kiel, in the shadow of the naval memorial. The memorial is a rather grandiose affair, but far, far more moving is the memorial, on the same side of the water,  to the German submariners of both world wars.
I was very fortunate in that in 2006 I was given a tour of U-997 by Volkmar Koenig who had served as a midshipman in 1941 aboard U-99, commanded by the famous ace Otto Kretschmer. He had invited me to Kiel when he heard i was researching WW2 submariners' experiences for my book "Submarine". U-995 is well preserved, and very cramped - so you can easily imagine how  liitlr room there would have been when  she sailed  full of stores and crew. She is the only full-size German  U-boat of that period  left intact  in Europe - U-534 has been sliced up for display at Birkenhead, which makes U-995 very, very special.

2007 Commemoration of German submarine centenary
Representatives of many navies attended thethe event
The German Submariners memorial, Moltenort, Kiel
Each plaque lists the dead from an individual boat.
U-995's galley
Not exactly a spacious, fitted kitchen!

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