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Thomas Norman Kemp Beard
Name: Thomas Norman Kemp Beard Rank: Midshipman Service Number: O5119 Service: Royal Navy’s HMS Hood, Royal Canadian Navy Date of Birth: May 16, 1921 Place of Birth: Halifax, NS Date of Enlistment: August 25, 1939 Age: 18 Place of Enlistment: Victoria, BC Address at Enlistment: Victoria, BC Height: 5 feet 8 inches Complexion: Dark Eyes: Brown Hair: Brown Trade: Student Marital Status: Single Religion: Roman Catholic Date of Death: May 24, 1941 Age: 20 Memorial: Halifax Naval Memorial (Panel 5) Commemorated on page 23 of the Newfoundland Book of Remembrance Displayed in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa on January 23 Thomas Norman Kemp Beard was the son of Commander Charles Taschereau Beard (1890-1950) and Kathleen Adele (Kemp) Beard, of Victoria, British Columbia. His parents were married in Dover, England October 13, 1916. He had two sisters, Pamela Monica and Kathleen Patricia. His father served in the Second World War, coming out of retirement to command the armed merchant cruiser (AMC), the HMCS Prince Robert, during the early part of the war. The Prince Robert and crew captured the German merchant freighter Weser off the coast of Mexico. He later retired due to poor health. Thomas attended Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and was later trained as a Naval Cadet at Stadacona and Britannia in 1939. He served in H.M.S. Victory and then H.M.S. Hood as a Midshipman. He applied for Cadetship in the Royal Canadian Navy September 29, 1938. His father signed a declaration of his consent that Thomas be admitted to the Royal Canadian Navy February 15, 1939 and he completed his medical examination July 15 in Esquimalt, British Columbia before enlisting August 25, 1939. He was stationed at the naval shore establishment HMCS Stadacona beginning August 25, 1939, and then at HMS Britannia (the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon, England) from September 10, 1939 to July 25, 1940. He was rated Midshipman on April 1, 1940, at HMS Britannia; effective May 1, 1940. It was noted, “he is apt to be bullheaded and ready to do anything. He takes charge well.” He completed additional training at HMS Victory (the main Naval Barracks on Queen Street, Portsmouth Dockyards) from July 25 to October 25, 1940, and then was stationed aboard the battle-cruiser HMS Hood on October 26, 1940. Two days later, on October 28, the Hood sailed to intercept the "pocket battleship" Admiral Scheer, and again on December 24, 1940, to locate the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, but Hood failed to find either ship. In January 1941, the ship began a refit that lasted until March; even after the refit she was still in poor condition, but the threat from the German capital ships was such that she could not be taken into dock for a major overhaul until more of the King George V- class battleships came into service. Captain Ralph Kerr assumed command during the refit, and Hood was ordered to sea in an attempt to intercept the German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst upon the refit's completion in mid-March. Unsuccessful, she was ordered to patrol the Bay of Biscay against any breakout attempt by the German ships from Brest. Hood was ordered to the Norwegian Sea on April 19th when the Admiralty received a false report that the German battleship Bismarck had sailed from Germany. Afterwards, she patrolled the North Atlantic before putting into Scapa Flow on May 6, 1941. Battle of the Denmark Strait When Bismarck sailed for the Atlantic in May 1941, Hood, with the new battleship Prince of Wales, was sent out to intercept the German ships before they could break into the Atlantic and attack Allied convoys. The German ships were spotted by two British heavy cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk on May 23rd, and the British ships intercepted Bismarck and her consort, the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, in the Denmark Strait on May 24th. The British squadron spotted the Germans shortly after dawn, but the Germans were already aware of their presence. The British opened fire with Hood engaging Prinz Eugen, the lead ship in the German formation, and the Germans returned fire, both ships concentrating on Hood. Prinz Eugen was probably the first ship to score when a shell hit Hood's boat deck, between her funnels, and started a large fire among the rockets and ready-use ammunition for the anti-aircraft guns. Just before 6:00 AM, while Hood was turning to port to unmask her rear turrets, she was hit again on the boat deck by one or more shells from Bismarck's fifth salvo, fired from a range of approximately 16 ½ kilometers. A shell appears to have hit the spotting top, as the boat deck was showered debris. A huge jet of flame burst out of Hood from the vicinity of the mainmast, followed by a devastating magazine explosion that destroyed the aft part of the ship. This explosion broke the back of Hood, and the last sight of the ship, which sank in only three minutes, was her bow, nearly vertical in the water. Thomas Beard was one of 1415 men lost when HMS hood was sunk by the Bismarck. Only three survivors were pulled from the water. They were Ordinary Signalman Ted Briggs (1923–2008), Able Seaman Robert Tilburn (1921–1995), and Midshipman William John Dundas (1923–1965). The three were rescued about two hours after the sinking by the destroyer Electra, which spotted substantial debris but no bodies. Of the 1415 casualties, there were sixteen Newfoundlanders considered British subjects before Newfoundland joined Confederation, and four Canadians. The four Canadians on HMS Hood at the time of its loss were Midshipman Thomas Norman Kemp Beard, Midshipman Francis Llewelyn Lloyd Jones, age 20 from Revelstoke, British Columbia), Able Seaman Samuel Charles Milburn, age 18, born in Halifax, and Midshipman Christopher John Birdwood Norman, age 19 from Victoria, British Columbia. Three are remembered on the Halifax Naval Memorial in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Samuel Charles Milburn is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, England. The Bismarck escaped May 24th, but was leaking fuel and attempted to escape to a German-held French port. Two days later, it was sighted and crippled by Swordfish torpedo bombers of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm from the carrier HMS Ark Royal, and was subsequently intercepted by British warships May 27, 1941 and heavily damaged. A command went out to scuttle the ship and it sunk shortly thereafter.