A ship’s clock exemplifies how even an everyday item, if steeped in a seafaring context, can be transformed from the merely utilitarian to the appealingly evocative. Add historical significance and it just gets better. Then add the fact that it is an ultra-rare relic from a legendary ship that lies at the bottom of the sea, and you have history come alive. Gaze well upon this particular naval timepiece, then, for it hails from the “Pride of the Royal Navy,” HMS Hood, having survived its celebrated ship’s fateful end by a simple twist of fate.
As Michael Hull points out in this issue (see “The Royal Navy’s Ill-Fated Symbol,” pp. 24–29), the Hood—while embodying the very ideal of Britannia’s sea power and sporting the steepest price tag of any British warship to date—was, for all her beauty and grandeur, a flawed vessel from the get-go. Years of service as a “seagoing ambassador” and recruitment tool, combined with ramped-up activity during the trouble-brewing 1930s, only added to her woes by the eve of World War II. By the time of her defeat in the famous showdown with the Bismarck, the Hood was out of shape and out of date. And it was during a much-needed refit that this ship’s clock of the Hood, now in the collection of a Naval Institute member, was removed and left ashore. The clock had avoided the watery grave that awaited the “showpiece of British naval might.” The Hood is gone—but her clock ticks on.