Tribute to Hartlepool sailor who died in one of the worst disasters of Second World War

James Leonard 'Lenny' Pay who died when HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismark in 1941
James Leonard 'Lenny' Pay who died when HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismark in 1941

Family of a Hartlepool sailor who died in a famous sea battle during the Second World War have paid tribute to him after a ceremony marking the centenary of the launch of the ship he served on.

Able seaman James Leonard Pay, from the Headland - known as Lenny to his family and shipmates - was one of more than 1,400 men who lost their lives when HMS Hood was sunk by the German battleship Bismark in 1941. He was just 27.

HMS Hood. Royal Navy/PA Wire

HMS Hood. Royal Navy/PA Wire

Battle cruiser HMS Hood, nicknamed The Mighty Hood, had been one of Britain’s largest warships and was the pride of the Royal Navy.

A ceremony was held last week in Clydebank, Scotland, to mark 100 years since she launched.

Lenny’s great-nephew Glen Hughes paid tribute to Lenny and his grandad, Lenny’s brother William Pay, who also served in the Royal Navy.

Glen, 40, said: “I knew grandad’s brother died in the war, but like a lot of that generation he didn’t really speak much about it.

Glen Hughes. Picture by FRANK REID

Glen Hughes. Picture by FRANK REID

“After he passed away I got in touch with Lenny’s daughter and looked into HMS Hood.

“She was the pride of the Royal Navy. You didn’t just end up on her, you were picked.

“Up until the modern aircraft carrier, HMS Hood was the biggest warship the navy had ever built.”

Lenny was born and lived at Croft Terrace and also Bedford Street in the Croft area of Hartlepool.

He and William joined the Royal Navy during the depression in the 1930s to ease the burden on their families.

William survived the war and went on to work in Hartlepool’s shipyards for 25 years.

Lenny never got to meet his daughter Joan, who was only 18 months old when HMS Hood was sunk. She now lives in Canada,

Glen added: “1,415 men went down on that one ship. You can’t really comprehend that now.

“It was such an iconic symbol of the Royal Navy. I’m very proud of what Lenny and my grandad did.

“I think it is nice and important to recognise it.”

Two other men with Hartlepool ties served on HMS Hood with Lenny; Mickey Stothers who also died when she was sunk, and Felix Rice who moved onto another ship before the tragedy.

The Bismark was destroyed by the navy three days later after the order from Winston Churchill to go after her.

More than 2,000 German sailors lost their lives.