Admiral Hood was a youthful, vigorous and active officer whose service in Africa won him the Distinguished Service Order and who was posthumously raised to a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in recognition of his courageous and ultimately fatal service in the Battle of Jutland, during which his ship was constantly engaged from its arrival at the action and caused fatal damage to a German battlecruiser. He has been described as "the beau ideal of a naval officer, spirited in manner, lively of mind, enterprising, courageous, handsome, and youthful in appearance … His lineage was pure Royal Navy, at its most gallant".
During the Second Boer War, Hood was given command of transport ships taking supplies to South Africa before being transferred to Admiral Lord Charles Beresford's flagship HMS Ramillies in the Mediterranean. In July 1903, Hood was given promotion to full captain and placed in command of HMS Hyacinth, flagship of Admiral G. L. Atkinson-Willes on the East Indies Station. In April 1904, Hood was given his first independent command as he lead a force of 754 sailors, marines and soldiers of the Hampshire Regiment against the Ilig Dervishes of Somaliland. Landing his men on an opposed beach in the dark, Hood led from the front, personally engaging in hand-to-hand combat and driving the dervishes into the hinterland, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
Distinguished by his action, Hood was given command of the armoured cruiser HMS Berwick in 1906 and the following year was made naval attaché to the British Embassy in Washington D.C. It was there he met Ellen Touzalin, whom he later married in 1910. The couple had two sons. In 1908, Hood was given command of the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Commonwealth, in which he served for a year before receiving a shore appointment to command the Royal Naval College, Osborne, where he stayed until 1913 when he was raised to flag rank. For three months Hood raised his flag in the dreadnought battleship HMS Centurion before becoming naval secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill in July 1914.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Hood's experience with coastal operations recommended him to serve with a small flotilla of Humber class monitors on the Belgian coast, bombarding German positions and troop formations during the Siege of Antwerp and then the Battle of the Yser, assisting Belgian forces to hold the coastline during the Race for the Sea. Returning to England for a spell, Hood was soon employed again, being given command of the Third Battlecruiser Squadron operating out of Rosyth in Scotland. Hood's command was the three battlecruisers of the Invincible class: HMS Indomitable, HMS Inflexible and his flagship HMS Invincible.
In late May 1916 came the first and only opportunity for the British battlefleet to engage the German main force at the Battle of Jutland. Hood's squadron was attached to Jellicoe's main battlefleet and thus had not witnessed the destruction of two British battlecruisers at the guns of their German counterparts. Arriving as the action was well underway but ahead of the main fleet by advantage of their greater speed, Hood's force's first action was to rescue the light cruiser HMS Chester, which had been separated from the main fleet to provide a signal relay but was then ambushed by four German cruisers and was in danger of sinking. Hood's timely arrival scattered the German ships and caused fatal damage to SMS Wiesbaden, which sank later that night with 589 of her crew.
Hood's intervention had far greater effects than were realised at the time however. In diverting his squadron to the North-West to aid Chester, Hood had inadvertently confused the German battlecruiser commander Admiral Hipper into believing that the main British force was approaching from the North-West and prompting his withdrawal to the main German fleet, an act which has been claimed saved the British battlecruiser fleet from destruction. Hood meanwhile attached his squadron to the British battlecruiser squadron of Admiral Beatty and with them formed the vanguard of the British battlefleet, which was now heading directly for the approaching Germans.
The unstable cordite ammunition carried by Invincible, coupled with the weakness of her turret design and armour, and bad ammunition handling practices, resulted in a catastrophic explosion from "Q" turret's magazine which blew the ship into two halves which sank separately, each protruding from the sea as the inner end settled on the shallow bottom. Of Invincible's 1,021 crew, there were just six survivors, pulled from the water by attendant destroyers. Hood was not amongst them. The Battle of Jutland was ultimately an expensive stalemate; both sides suffered further losses during the night action but the strategic situation remained unchanged. The Royal Navy however had suffered over 6,000 fatal casualties, three times the German losses.