Thread: KMS Bismarck

KMS Bismarck

  1. #51

    KMS Bismarck

    CAREER TIMELINE OF THE BISMARCK

    6 November 1935: Building contract placed with the Blohm & Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, construction number BV 509.

    01 July 1936: Keel laid down on slipway 9 at the Blohm & Voss Shipyard.

    14 February 1939: Launched. Christened by Dorothea von Loewenfeld, granddaughter of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

    April 1940: The first crew members come aboard.

    23 June 1940: Enters floating dry dock No. V-VI for a three week period where the three propellers and the MES magnetic system are installed.

    14 July 1940: Leaves the dry dock.

    21 July 1940: Undergoes an inclining test (Krängungsversuch). In the “empty ship as completed condition” at 42,500 tons, the Bismarck has a metacentric height (GM) of 3,9 m.

    24 August 1940: At 1230 the ship is officially commissioned at the Blohm & Voss Shipyard under Captain Ernst Lindemann. The battle flag is hoisted and the ship put into service with the Kriegsmarine.

    25 August 1940: Air raid alarm. Bismarck's anti-aircraft battery fires 52 x 3.7 cm and 400 x 2 cm projectiles. No success.

    31 August 1940: Air raid alarm. The anti-aircraft battery fires 46 x 3.7 cm projectiles. No success.

    08 September 1940: Air raid alarm. The anti-aircraft battery fires 72 x 3.7 cm and 65 x 2 cm projectiles. No success.

    10 September 1940: Air raid alarm. The anti-aircraft battery fires 6 x 3.7 cm projectiles. No success.

    15 September 1940: The Bismarck leaves Hamburg for the first time. At 1658 hours, while steaming down the Elbe, collides with the bow tug Atlantik but neither ship is damaged, and at 1902, the Bismarck anchors in Brunsbüttel roads. During the night of 15/16 September, while anchored, there is an air raid alarm in which the anti-aircraft battery expends 13 x 10.5 cm, 136 x 3.7 cm, and 191 x 2 cm projectiles. No success observed.

    16-17 September 1940: The battleship passes through the Kiel Canal assisted by tugboats. At 1448 on the 17th, the Bismarck enters the Kiel-Holtenau sluice, leaves the Kiel Canal, and then comes alongside Scheerhafen, Kiel.

    17-24 September 1940: At Scheerhafen, Kiel.

    24-28 September 1940: Made fast to Buoy A 12 (Kiel).

    28 September 1940: Bismarck leaves Kiel escorted by the mine clearance vessel 13 until Cape Arkona, and then she arrives alone at Gotenhafen.

    October-November 1940: Conducts trials in the Baltic Sea. While at Gotenhafen, the two 10.5 meter stereoscopic base rangefinders are installed above the foretop and after command posts. The four after 10.5 cm SK C/33 double mounts of the new C37 model are installed as well.

    05 December 1940: Leaves the Baltic and sails back to Hamburg to complete her outfitting.

    07-08 December 1940
    : Passes through the Kiel Canal.

    09 December 1940: Arrives at Hamburg.

    16-31 December 1940: Korvettenkapitän Adalbert Schneider acts as Bismarck's Deputy Commander in substitution of Captain Lindemann on Christmas leave.

    24 January 1941: Ready to sail again.

    06 March 1941: Leaves Hamburg and sails again to Gotenhafen.

    07-08 March 1941
    : Passes through the Kiel Canal for the last time.

    08-14 March 1941: Tied up inside Dock C at Deutsche Werke Kiel.

    14-17 March 1941
    : Embarks supplies (ammunition, fuel, water...) at Scheerhafen, Kiel. On the 15th, embarks the first two Arado 196 (T3+IH and T3+AK) of a total air-wing of four.

    17 March 1941: Departs Kiel and arrives at Gotenhafen.

    18 March-April 1941: Conducts trials in the Baltic.

    02 April 1941: Embarks the last two Arado 196 (T3+DL and T3+MK).

    Late April 1941: Two new 2 cm Flak C/38 quadruple mounts are installed to both sides of the foremast above the searchlight platform.

    05 May 1941: Adolf Hitler visits the Bismarck together with Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, the Chief of Fleet Admiral Günther Lütjens, and other personalities. The Führer stays aboard for four hours.

    12 May 1941
    : Admiral Lütjens and the Fleet Staff embark in the Bismarck.

    13 May 1941: Refuelling exercises at sea with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.

    14 May 1941: Exercises with the light cruiser Leipzig. As a result of these exercises, the 12-ton portside crane is disabled.

    16 May 1941: Portside crane repaired.

    18 May 1941 (Sunday): Operation Rheinübung commences.

    1200. Leaves the berth in Gotenhafen and anchors in the bay to embark supplies and fuel.

    19 May 1941 (Monday)
    :

    0200. Bismarck departs Gotenhafen and begins her cruise west.

    1200. Position 54º 45' North, 13º 20' East. Bismarck joins Prinz Eugen and destroyers Z-16 Friedrich Eckoldt and Z-23 off Rügen Island.

    2230. Destroyer Z-10 Hans Lody joins the battle group.

    20 May 1941 (Tuesday):


    0200-0600. Passes through the Great Belt together with Prinz Eugen and the destroyers Z-10, Z-16, and Z-23.

    1300. Bismarck and Prinz Eugen are sighted in the Kattegat by the Swedish cruiser Gotland.

    21 May 1941 (Wednesday):

    0800-0900. The German battle group enters the Korsfjord near Bergen.

    1100. Bismarck anchors in the Grimstadfjord. Position 60º 19’ 48” North, 05º 14’ 48” East.

    1315. Sighted and photographed by a British Coastal Command Spitfire.

    2000. Leaves the Korsfjord together with the Prinz Eugen and the three destroyers.

    2340. Course 0º.

    22 May 1941 (Thursday):

    0420. Course 0º. The destroyers leave the group. Bismarck takes the lead.

    1200. Position 65º 53' North, 03º 38' East. Course 0º. Speed 24 knots.

    1237-1307. U-boat and air alarm. Zig-zagging.

    1310. Approximate course 325º

    1800. New course 311º.

    2125. Approximate course 295º.

    2322. Course 266º.

    23 May 1941 (Friday):

    0400. New course 250º. Speed 27 knots.

    1200. Position 67º 28' North, 19º 28' West. Course 250º. Average speed 24 knots.

    1420. Course 270º.

    1811-1822. False alarm. Vessels identified as icebergs.

    1821. Bismarck and Prinz Eugen reach the ice limit. New course set at 240º.

    1922. Sights Suffolk on her port side at 7 miles.

    2030. Bismarck sights Norfolk and fires five main battery salvoes. No hits scored. The forward radar set (FuMO 23) is disabled due to the blast shock from the forward turrets. Shortly afterwards the Prinz Eugen passes the Bismarck and takes the lead.

    2200. Reverses her course and tries to engage the Suffolk which realizes the Bismarck's manoeuvre and withdraws.

    24 May 1941 (Saturday):

    0543. Course 220º. Speed 28 knots. Bismarck and Prinz Eugen sight two ships at 17 miles on port side.

    0552. Hood opens fire and the Battle of the Denmark Strait begins. Bismarck reports to Group North: "Am in a fight with two heavy units."

    0555. Bismarck fires her first salvo at Hood followed shortly after by Prinz Eugen.

    0555-0601. Bismarck is hit on the port side by three 35.6cm shells from Prince of Wales. One amidships under the armoured belt (section XIV), a second in her bows (section XXI), and the third one passes through a boat.

    0601. Hood blows up and sinks in approximate position 63º 22' North, 32º 17' West.

    0602-0609. Bismarck scores four hits on Prince of Wales.

    0609. Fires last salvo at Prince of Wales. 93 x 38cm armour piercing shells (Psgr. L/4,4 (m.Hb)) fired. She is losing oil and her top speed is reduced to 28 knots. 2,000 tons of water in the forecastle.

    0632. Bismarck reports to Group North: "Battlecruiser, probably Hood, sunk. Another battleship, King George or Renown, damaged. Two heavy cruisers keep up surveillance."

    0705. Bismarck reports to Group North: "We have sunk a battleship at about 63º 10' North, 32º 00' West."

    0801. Bismarck reports to Group North:
    1. Loss of Electric plant No. 4.
    2. Port Boiler Room No. 2 is taking water, but can be held. Water in forecastle.
    3. Maximum speed 28 knots.
    4. Denmark Strait 50 miles of floating mines. Enemy has radar instruments.
    5. Intention: to put to St. Nazaire. No losses of personnel.

    1200. Position 60º 50' North, 37º 50' West.

    1240. New course 180º. Speed 24 knots.

    1814. Turns 180º to starboard while the Prinz Eugen leaves the formation.

    1840-1856. Fires some shells at Suffolk and Prince of Wales. No hits.

    1914. Bismarck reports to Seekriegsleitung: “Brief fight with King George without results. Prinz Eugen released for oiling. Opponent keeps up surveillance.”

    2056. Bismarck reports to Group West and Seekriegsleitung: "Shaking off contacts impossible due to enemy radar. Due to fuel [shortage] will proceed directly to Saint-Nazaire."

    2300. Sighted by the United States Coast Guard Cutter Modoc.

    Midnight. Bismarck is attacked by eight Swordfish of the 825th Squadron (Lieutenant-Commander (A) Eugene Esmonde) from carrier Victorious. Bismarck's speed 27 knots. The battleship is hit by one 18 inch MK XII torpedo on the starboard side, amidships. The damage is insignificant, but the shock of the impact causes one casualty aboard: Oberbootsmann Kurt Kirchberg.

    25 May 1941 (Sunday):


    0028. Bismarck reports: "Attack by carrier-based aircraft. Torpedo hit on starboard side."

    0037. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Further attacks are expected!"

    0131. Fires two salvoes against the Prince of Wales. No hits.

    0153. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Torpedo hit of no significance."

    0310. Turns to starboard and the British lose contact with her.

    About 0500. New course 130º.

    0727. Bismarck reports to Group West: “0700 hours quadrant AK 55. One battleship, two heavy cruisers are continuing surveillance.”

    0912-0948. Bismarck reports to Group West and Seekriegsleitung: “Possession of radar equipment by opponent, effective range at least 35,000 meters, adversely affects to the highest degree the operations in the Atlantic. Ships were located in the Strait of Denmark in dense fog and were continuously tracked. Disengagement failed even in favourable weather conditions. Oil replenishment is generally no longer possible, if disengagement of opponent cannot be accomplished with higher speed. Running battle between 20,800 and 18,000 meters. Opponent Hood concentrates fire on Bismarck. After five minutes, Hood is destroyed by an explosion; thereafter, change of target to King George who then turns away in black smoke caused by definitively observed hits. He remains out of sight for several hours. Own munitions expenditure: 93 rounds. Later, King George took on the fight only at extreme distances. Bismarck received two hits from King George; of those one hit below the side armour belt at sections XIII-XIV. Hit in compartment XX-XXI impaired speed and caused a 1º bow burying forward and destruction of oil cells. Release of Prinz Eugen possible by engagement of cruisers and battleship by Bismarck during fog. Own EM-2 [radar] instrument prone to failures, especially during firing.”

    26 May 1941 (Monday):

    1030. Sighted by Catalina Z/209 flying boat at about 49º 20' North, 21º 50' West.

    1740. Sighted by Sheffield.

    2047-2115. Attacked by fifteen Swordfish of the 810th, 818th, and 820th Squadrons from carrier Ark Royal. The Bismarck is hit by two (or three) 18 inch MK XII torpedoes. One torpedo (or two) hits the port side amidships, and another hits the stern in the starboard side. As a result of this attack both rudders jammed at 12º to port.

    2054. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Attack by carrier-borne aircraft!"

    2105. Bismarck reports to Group West: "[Position] Square BE 6192. Have sustained torpedo hit aft."

    2115. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Torpedo hit amidships!"

    2115. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Ship no longer manoeuvrable!"

    2130-2155. Fires six salvoes against the Sheffield. Distance nine miles. No hits scored.

    2140. Bismarck reports to Supreme Command of the Navy (O.K.M.) and Group West: "Ship unable to manoeuvre. We will fight to the last shell. Long live the Führer."

    2238. Sighted by Polish destroyer Piorun.

    2242. Opens fire against Piorun.

    2325. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Am surrounded by Renown and light forces."

    2358. Bismarck reports: "To the Führer of the German Reich, Adolf Hitler: We shall fight to the last man with confidence in you, my Führer, and with rock-solid trust in Germany's victory!"

    2359. Bismarck reports to Group West: “Ship is weaponry-wise and mechanically fully intact; however, it cannot be steered with the engines."

    27 May 1941 (Tuesday):

    0217. Bismarck reports to Supreme Commander of the Navy (Grossadmiral Raeder): "Submitting application for awarding the Knight’s Cross to Korvettenkapitän Schneider for the sinking of Hood!"

    0500. Bismarck reports to Group West: "50% overcast, ceiling 600 meters. [Wind] from NW at force 7."

    0625. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Situation unchanged, wind force 8 to 9."

    0710. Last report from Bismarck to Group West: "Send U-boat for safe-keeping of war diary!"

    0844. Sighted by King George V and Rodney. Speed seven knots.

    0847. The final battle begins. Rodney opens fire.

    0849. Turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" open fire at Rodney.

    0902. Bismarck is hit for the first time. Foretop command post disabled.

    0908. Forward command post disabled. Turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" out of action.

    0913. After command post disabled. Turrets "Cäsar" and "Dora" proceed to local fire.

    0921. Turret "Dora" out of action.

    0927. Turret "Anton" or "Bruno" fires one last salvo.

    0931. Turret "Cäsar" fires the last salvo and is put out of action. Main battery silenced.

    0958. Possible torpedo hit to port.

    0936-1016: Receives an indeterminable number of hits from point blank range between 2,500 and 4,000 meters, but is still afloat.

    Sometime about 1000. Demolition charges explode in the turbine room.

    1022. Hit on the starboard side by two 21 inch MK VII torpedoes fired by Dorsetshire from 3,000 meters (3,280 yards).

    1037. Hit on the port side by a third 21 inch MK VII torpedo fired by Dorsetshire from 2,200 meters (2,400 yards).

    1039. Bismarck finally sinks at approximate position 48º 10' North, 16º 12' West. 116 men rescued.

    9 June 1989: The wreck of the Bismarck is discovered at a depth of 4,790 meters (15,700 feet) by an expedition led by Dr. Robert D. Ballard.

  2. #52

    Smile

    some one has alot of time on thier hands

  3. #53
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Posts
    172
    How about this.... put the damn Germans, Italians AND the British, Whole mediterranian theatre and Atlantic theatre, In the second one. Yes?
    I've had numerous posts about this haha.

  4. #54
    then we need D-Day and then we need the LCF(landing craft flak).

  5. #55
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    1,450
    So, anyways, I guess that after all of this discossion, we can get on topic, it is fine to surgest things, but lets not veer to far off topic. Thanks, and great surgestions! Now all we need is the F4U-Corsair and seaplanes!
    "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on." ---Robert Frost.
    -=)CSF(=-XGamerms999
    http://www.watchfarscape.com/forums/...ilies/Thud.gif

  6. #56

    ok sorry the topic was Bismarck

    sinking of the Bismarck/operation Rheinubung 1941



    Map/Mission objectives
    #if Bismarck reaches the open Atlantic or has succesfully retreated to Brest it is a victory for the Kriegsmarine
    #if British Homefleet intercepts and sinks the Bismarck victory is achieved

    Denmark strait battle
    when starting BB Bismarck and CA Prinz Eugen engage BC Hood and BB Prince of Wales

    shadowing units: CA Norfolk and CA Suffolk (thanks to their radar Bismarck was followed for a long time)

    intercepting units
    - Force H; CV Ark Royal, CA Sheffield and BC Renown
    - BB King George V, BC Repulse and CV Victorious
    - BB Rodney
    - DD Cossack, Maori, Sikh and Piorun (Polish)
    - CA Dorsethire

    available german units
    #U-73, 556, 97, 98, 48 (were deployed near Bismarck when she was hit by a torpedo from Ark Royal swordfish)
    #Luftwaffe (although Bismarck was, during the critical moments when she was crippled by torpedo, under the virtual umbrella of the Luftwaffe they never showed up..)
    # pocket BB Admiral Scheer just returned after a cruise in the Atlantic
    # pocket BB Lutzow ready for departure to raid the Atlantic
    # BC Scharnhorst and Gneisenau damaged in docks

  7. #57
    Originally Posted by xgamerms999
    It owned the HMS Hood!!
    actually it was the Prinz Eugen that sank HMS Hood. one of its 8"shells penetrated the AA magazine- which caused a fire which spread to the main magazine, which blew the ship up.

    in any case Bismarck got pwned by a crappy old Swordfish!

  8. #58
    btw

    if anyone has the time, and want to know what the Bismarcks armour really was like. Then head on down to Gosport England they have a large chunk of the armour plating from the Tirpitz taken from the upside down hull after the war.

  9. #59
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    1,450
    THX Sharp!, unforionatly, I'm not planing a trip to Europe for some time...
    "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on." ---Robert Frost.
    -=)CSF(=-XGamerms999
    http://www.watchfarscape.com/forums/...ilies/Thud.gif

  10. #60

    operation Rheinubung: first and last voyage of the Bismarck

    Originally Posted by FreeloaderUK
    actually it was the Prinz Eugen that sank HMS Hood. one of its 8"shells penetrated the AA magazine- which caused a fire which spread to the main magazine, which blew the ship up.

    in any case Bismarck got pwned by a crappy old Swordfish!
    that was a lucky shot, all other torpedos "bounced" off the armament belt
    except the one that hit the rudder....
    I guess its time for the real story of the Bismarck




    Introduction.

    Following the success achieved by the surface ships in the Atlantic during the winter of 1940-1941, the German Naval High Command decided to launch a much more ambitious operation. The idea was to send a powerful battle group comprised of the battleships Bismarck, Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau into the Atlantic to attack Allied merchant shipping. The latter two battleships were in Brest, in occupied France, since 22 March. They had just completed a successful campaign of two months in the North Atlantic under the command of the Fleet Chief, Admiral Günther Lütjens, in which they sank or captured 22 ships with a total tonnage of 116,000 tons. Unfortunately, the Scharnhorst had to enter dry dock in order to undergo machinery repairs and would be unavailable at least until June. In the Baltic, the Bismarck had almost finished her trials and would soon be ready for her first war cruise. However, the Tirpitz, which had only recently been commissioned on 25 February, had not yet completed trials, and it was unlikely that she would be available in the spring.

    On 2 April, the same day the Bismarck received her last two Arado 196 aircraft, the High Command outlined the strategy to follow in its operation's order (B.Nr. 1. Skl. I Op. 410/41 Gkdos Chefs.). With the Scharnhorst in dry dock and the Tirpitz not ready for action yet, it was decided that Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen would be sent into the North Atlantic in late April under the command of the Fleet Chief. The Gneisenau would later sail from Brest to join them. The mission of the German ships was to attack convoys operating in the Atlantic north of the Equator. Because of the success of the German warships in recent months, the Allied convoys had improved their protection and were now strongly escorted by either battleships or cruisers. So, it would be Bismarck’s duty to engage the escorts while the other ships attacked the merchant vessels virtually unopposed.

    The British Admiralty was concerned and had serious indications that the Germans were planning a large surface operation in the Atlantic. The British knew of Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau's presence in Brest and the danger they posed should they sortie in conjunction with Bismarck. Therefore, they decided to immobilize these two German battleships through air raids. On 6 April, a Coastal Command Beaufort plane (Lieutenant Kenneth Campbell) of the 22º Squadron scored a torpedo hit on Gneisenau's stern. Although the British aircraft was shot down by the anti-aircraft batteries, Gneisenau was damaged and had to enter dry dock for repairs. A few days later, during the night of 10/11 April, the battleship was hit again. This time by four bombs dropped by the RAF, and this forced to lengthen the repair work for months. As a result of these attacks, the German force was reduced to Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, which would be the only warships available to participate in attacks on enemy merchant shipping that spring.

    There were more than enough reasons to cancel the operation until a larger force could be assembled. By autumn, the Tirpitz would be worked up and the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Brest would be ready again. Also the short spring nights made it more difficult for the German ships to reach the Atlantic undetected. Despite this, the idea to send the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen to the Atlantic in the spring remained a viable one. The United Kingdom was in a critical situation for supplies, and five months of "relative calm" at sea would have only strengthened her position. There was also the increasing fear that the United States would join the war, resulting in greater detection capabilities, and thus, reducing to a considerable extent the movements of the German fleet. The Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder thought it more important to utilise Bismarck's potential and keep up the pressure on the British supply lines, and, therefore, he decided to go on with the operation. The most important task was that the two German ships could reach the Atlantic unnoticed. From there, they could get lost in the immensity of the ocean and attack enemy convoys at will.

    In the meantime, Admiral Lütjens had met the U-boat Chief, Vice-Admiral Karl Dönitz, in Paris on 8 April. Both Admirals knew each other well as they had worked together on several occasions before the war. At that conference they outlined the U-boat support that was to be given to the Bismarck. The U-boats would carry on as usual in their normal positions, but if any opportunity arose for a combined action with Bismarck, it would be fully exploited. A U-boat liaison officer was therefore assigned to the Bismarck.

    On 22 April, Admiral Lütjens established the details of the operation now code-named Rheinübung (Rhine Exercise). The departure of the German ships was imminent, but on 23 April the Prinz Eugen was damaged by a magnetic mine while en route to Kiel. This required repair work which delayed the operation for some time. Three days later, on 26 April, Lütjens and Raeder met in Berlin to discuss the situation. The Fleet Chief suggested to Raeder the possibility of postponing the operation until the Scharnhorst and/or Tirpitz would be ready. The Grand Admiral, however, thought it was imperative to resume the Battle of the Atlantic as soon as possible and ordered the operation to go forward.

    Meanwhile, aboard the Bismarck, everything was reaching a level of maximum readiness. In late April, two new 2 cm Flak C/38 quadruple mounts were installed on both sides of the foremast above the searchlight platform. On 28 April, Captain Lindemann informed the Naval High Command (OKM), Group North, Group West, and the Fleet Command that the Bismarck was personnel-wise and materiel-wise fully ready for action, and provisioned for three months. He noted in the ship’s war diary:

    “The first phase in the ship’s life since the commissioning on 24 August 1940, is successfully completed. The goal was reached after eight months, being over the target date by only fourteen days; although the original intention (Easter) was missed by a forced waiting period in Hamburg (24.1–6.3.1941) of six weeks, due to the closing of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal and by ice jams.
    The crew can be proud of this accomplishment. It was accomplished, because there was an overall common desire to engage the enemy as soon as possible. I, therefore, had no qualms to make extremely high demands on them for a prolonged period of time, and because the ship and his equipment had been totally spared, despite of hard use and very Spartan lay-up time, from extensive breakdowns and damage.
    The state of training that has been reached, compares favourably with that of a capital ship’s readiness for a full [scale] battle inspection in the good years of peacetime. Although the crew, with few exceptions, completely lacks real combat experience, I have the calm feeling that all forthcoming combat demands will be readily dealt with. This feeling is strengthened by the fact that the combat value of this ship, by virtue of the achieved state of training, awakens great confidence in every man so that - for the first time in a long time – we can feel at least equal against any opponent.
    The delay of our deployment, whose approximate time could not be kept hidden from the crew, is a tough disappointment for all involved.
    I will use the waiting period in the previous manner, for the further perfection of training, but also to provide somewhat more rest for the crew. Furthermore, I intend to devote more time to division duties and the outer maintenance of the ship, since both of these duties necessarily had to take on very minor role. In addition, I will replenish weekly the expended stores of the three months requisition requirements.”

    On 5 May, Hitler visited Gotenhafen (today Gdynia) to inspect both the Bismarck anchored in the roadstead, and the Tirpitz at the pier in the harbour. Raeder was absent, and Lütjens received the Führer, but he didn't inform him about the upcoming sortie of his ships.

    On 13 May, Admiral Lütjens and the Fleet Staff embarked in the Bismarck and then the ship spent the whole afternoon in the Bay of Danzig conducting refuelling exercises with the Prinz Eugen. On the next day, during the course of other exercises, this time with the light cruiser Leipzig, Bismarck’s 12-ton portside crane was disabled. The departure of the Bismarck was, therefore, once again delayed in order to repair the crane. Finally on 16 May, Lütjens informed the High Command that the ships were ready, and the date for the beginning of Operation Rheinübung was established as 18 May.

    Bismarck's Departure.

    At 1000 on the morning of 18 May 1941 in Gotenhafen, Admiral Lütjens inspected Prinz Eugen's crew. Afterwards, a conference was held on board the Bismarck, where the Admiral briefed the operative plan to the two ships' commanders, Captains Ernst Lindemann and Helmuth Brinkmann. It was decided that if the weather proved favourable, they would not stop in the Korsfjord (today Krossfjord). They would, instead, sail north to refuel from the Weissenburg before cruising into the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland.

    At noon, the Bismarck left the berth under the tunes of Muß i' denn played by the fleet band, and then she anchored in Gotenhafen's roadstead to take on supplies and fuel. Operation Rheinübung had begun. While refuelling in the roadstead, one of the fuel-oil hoses broke and Bismarck could not be refuelled to her full capacity. It was nothing significant, although the battleship was loaded with approximately 200 tons less of fuel. At about 2100, the Prinz Eugen weighed anchor. Bismarck followed suit at 0200 in the early morning of 19 May. Both ships sailed independently until they joined together off Rügen Island at noon on 19 May. It was then that Captain Lindemann informed Bismarck's crew by loudspeaker that they were going into the North Atlantic to attack British shipping for a period of several months. After this, the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen sailed west escorted by the destroyers Z-23 (Commander Friedrich Böhme) and Z-16 Friedrich Eckoldt (Commander Alfred Schemmel). At 2230, the destroyer Z-10 Hans Lody (Commander Werner Pfeiffer) with the Chief of the 6th Flotilla (Commander Alfred Schulze-Hinrichs) on board, joined the formation. During the night of 19/20 May the German ships passed through the Great Belt, which remained closed to merchant ships, and then reached the Kattegat in the morning of 20 May.

    On 20 May, while in the Kattegat, the German battle group was sighted by numerous Danish and Swedish fishing boats. The weather was clear, and at 1300, the German ships were sighted by the Swedish cruiser Gotland (Captain Agren) which reported the sighting to Stockholm. Lütjens assumed this ship would report his position, and at 1737 radioed this incident to Group North, the German Naval command station based in Wilhelmshaven then under the command of Generaladmiral Rolf Carls. The Swedish had reported the sighting and then it was leaked to the British Naval Attaché, Captain Henry W. Denham. Later in the day, from the British embassy in Stockholm, Denham transmitted the following message to the Admiralty in London:
    "Kattegat, today 20 May. At 1500, two large warships, escorted by three destroyers, five ships and ten or twelve planes, passed Marstrand to the northeast. 2058/20."
    Meanwhile, at 1615 in the afternoon, the 5th Minesweeping Flotilla (Lieutenant-Commander Rudolf Lell) joined the German battle group temporarily to help the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen pass through the minefields that blocked the entrance to the Kattegat. At dusk on 20 May, the German ships were already getting out of the Skagerrak near Kristiansand. They were then sighted from the coast by Viggo Axelseen, of the Norwegian resistance, who duly reported the sighting to the British in London. During the night of 20/21 May the Germans headed north.

    Early on 21 May, the British Admiralty received the sighting report from Denham, and aircraft were instructed to be on the alert for the German force. At about 0900, the German squadron entered the Korsfjord south of Bergen with clear weather. Admiral Lütjens had wanted to continue to the north without stopping in Norway, but because of the clear weather he decided to enter the Korsfjord and continue the voyage that night under cover of darkness. Pilots were taken aboard the German ships, and at noon, the Bismarck anchored in the Grimstadfjord at 250-500 meters off the nearest shore. The Prinz Eugen headed north with the three destroyers and anchored in Kalvanes Bay. As a measure of precaution two merchant ships were laid along both sides of Prinz Eugen as torpedo shields.

    Meanwhile, at 1100 on 21 May, the British Coastal Command had dispatched an Spitfire (Lieutenant Michael Suckling) from Scotland to look for the German ships. At 1315, the Spitfire successfully sighted and photographed the German ships in the Korsfjord from an altitude of 8,000 meters (26,200 feet), and then returned to Scotland where it landed at Wick Airfield at about 1415. The sighting of the German battle group by the Swedish cruiser Gotland in the Kattegat as well as by Norwegian resistance operatives the previous day, had proven very unfortunate for the Germans. If the German group would have passed through the Kiel Canal instead, this may have possibly prevented such immediate sightings, and thus the Coastal Command sending the Spitfire. Unfortunately, it took two full days to transit the canal and it was not considered a viable option by the German command.

    During their brief stay in the Korsfjord, the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen painted over their striped camouflage paint with outboard grey. In addition, the Prinz Eugen with less than 2,500 mt of fuel oil left in her tanks refuelled from tanker Wollin. The Bismarck did not refuel and this would later prove to be a mistake. It seems that refuelling the Bismarck was not scheduled, and that Prinz Eugen was refuelled only because she absolutely had to be due to her shorter endurance. By 1700, the Prinz Eugen completed refuelling, and at 1930, the German ships weighted anchor. At this time, Bismarck's intelligence team received a message from Germany, in which, based on an intercepted radio message, British aircraft had been instructed to be on the alert for two battleships and three destroyers proceeding on a northerly course. Around 2000, just before night fall, the five German ships left the Norwegian fiord, and after separating from the coastline, set a course of 0º at 2340, due North.

    Upon receipt of the first sighting reports, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Fleet, Admiral Sir John Cronyn Tovey, immediately began to consider the possible intentions of the German warships. He ordered the heavy cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk, both under the command of Rear-Admiral William Frederick Wake-Walker, to patrol the Denmark Strait. Later in the afternoon, the photos taken by the Spitfire arrived, thus positively identifying one Bismarck class battleship and one Hipper class cruiser in Bergen. Therefore, shortly before midnight on 21 May, the battlecruiser Hood flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Lancelot Ernest Holland, the battleship Prince of Wales, and the destroyers Achates, Antelope, Anthony, Echo, Electra, and Icarus, left Scapa Flow for Hvalfjord in Iceland. Their mission to cover the access points south and east of Iceland.

    To the Denmark Strait.

    On 22 May, the weather worsened. During the night, the German battle group headed North, with the three destroyers in the lead and the Prinz Eugen closing the formation. At 0420, the destroyers were detached and headed east to Trondheim, while the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen maintained their northward course at 24 knots. At 1237 there was a submarine and air alarm, and the German ships zig-zagged for about half an hour. When the alarm ended, the tops of the main and secondary turrets were painted over, and the swastikas on the decks were covered with canvas, as they could help enemy aircraft to identify the German ships. Afterwards, the group set a northwest course to the Denmark Strait. It was cloudy the entire day and the fog was so thick that the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen had to switch on their searchlights from time to time in order to maintain contact and keep position. The weather conditions were therefore very favourable for the German ships to pass through the Denmark Strait and reach the Atlantic unnoticed.

    Meanwhile, at 2000 on 22 May, Admiral Tovey received news that the German warships had departed Norway. He then left Scapa Flow with the battleship King George V, the aircraft carrier Victorious, the light cruisers Kenya, Galatea, Aurora, Neptune, Hermione, and the destroyers Active, Inglefield, Intrepid, Lance, Punjabi and Windsor. The battlecruiser Repulse, sailing from the Clyde was to join them later the next morning.

    That night of 22/23 May, after receiving the report, Winston Churchill cabled to president Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Yesterday, twenty-first, Bismarck, Prinz Eugen and eight merchant ships located in Bergen. Low clouds prevented air attack. Tonight [we discovered] they have sailed. We have reason to believe that a formidable Atlantic raid is intended. Should we fail to catch them going out your Navy should surely be able to mark them down for us. King George V, Prince of Wales, Hood, Repulse and aircraft carrier Victorious, with auxiliary vessels will be on their track. Give us the news and we will finish the job."

    On 23 May the weather remained the same. At 1811 in the afternoon, the Germans sighted ships to starboard, but soon realised they were actually icebergs which were common in those latitudes. Meanwhile, the battle group reached the ice limit, and set a course of 240º. At 1922, the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were sighted by the British heavy cruiser Suffolk at a distance of seven miles. The Suffolk sent an enemy report: "One battleship, one cruiser in sight bearing 020º, distance 7 miles, course 240º." The Germans had detected the British cruiser as well, but were unable to engage the enemy because the Suffolk took cover in the fog. About an hour later, at 2030, the Germans sighted the British heavy cruiser Norfolk, and this time the Bismarck opened fire immediately. She fired five salvos, three of which straddled the Royal Navy ship throwing some splinters on board. The Norfolk was not hit by any direct impact, but had to launch a smoke screen and retire into the fog. The British cruisers then took up positions astern of the German ships; the Suffolk (equipped with a new Type 284 radar) on the starboard quarter, and the Norfolk (with an old Type 286M radar) on the port quarter. Both ships would keep R. D/F (radio direction-finding) contact and report the Germans’ position until more powerful British ships could engage.

    On board the Bismarck the forward radar instrument (FuMO 23) had been disabled by the blast of the forward turrets. Because of this, Admiral Lütjens ordered his ships to exchange positions and the Prinz Eugen with her radar sets (FuMO 27) intact took the lead. Bismarck’s powerful artillery would serve to keep the British cruisers from coming any closer. This change would produce great confusion for the British the next morning.
    After being sighted by cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk, Lütjens could have then turned around and head for the Norwegian Sea in order to refuel from tanker Weissenburg. He had already done this earlier that year when in command of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau his force was detected by the British cruiser Naiad in the Faeroes-Iceland gap. An early retreat at this point would have forced the four British capital ships (Hood, Prince of Wales, King George V and Repulse) that had already put to sea, to go back to Scapa Flow with a considerable expenditure of fuel. This time however, Lütjens continued towards the Atlantic with the hope of shaking off the British cruisers at night. The weather conditions in the Denmark Strait were favourable to do so. When Lütjens decided to press on, it is probably because he believed that the heavy units of the Home Fleet were too far away to intercept him, and that they may still be in Scapa Flow. The German reconnaissance reports seemed to confirm this, although the truth is that Vice-Admiral Holland's force was already approaching the area at high speed. Another thing Lütjens did not count on was the effective use of British radars. At about 2200, the Bismarck reversed her course trying to catch the Suffolk, but the British cruiser withdrew maintaining the distance. Therefore, the Bismarck returned to the formation behind the Prinz Eugen.

    The Battle of the Denmark Strait.

    The Battle of the Denmark Strait, also known as the Iceland Battle, was a brief naval engagement of little more than a quarter of an hour. It was a clash of titans in which the largest warships in the world were put to the test, and it will be remembered as a battle that ended in the sinking of a mythic ship.

    In the early morning of 24 May, the weather improved and the visibility increased. The German battle group maintained a course of 220º and a speed of 28 knots, when at 0525, the Prinz Eugen's hydrophones detected propeller noises of two ships on her port side. At 0537 the Germans sighted what they first thought to be a light cruiser at about 19 miles (35,190 meters / 38,480 yards) on port side. At 0543, another unidentified unit was sighted to port, and thereafter the alarm was given aboard the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. Aboard the Bismarck the identification of the enemy ships was uncertain, and they were now both mistakenly thought to be heavy cruisers. Correct identification at this time was vital in order to choose the right type of shells. Prinz Eugen's First Artillery Officer (I.A.O.), Lieutenant-Commander Paulus Jasper, also believed the approaching ships to be cruisers and ordered to load 20.3cm high explosive shells (Spgr. L/4,7). At this point, the British warships (in reality the battlecruiser Hood and the battleship Prince of Wales) were approaching the German battle group on a course of 280º at 28 knots. Vice-Admiral Holland, aboard the Hood, familiar with the vulnerability of his battlecruiser in long range combat, was probably trying to get closer quickly before opening fire. Admiral Lütjens did not have any other choice but to accept the combat.
    Due to the similar silhouettes of the German ships, at 0549 Holland ordered his ships to both engage the leading German ship (the Prinz Eugen) believing she was the Bismarck. After this, the British ships made a 20º turn to starboard on a new course of 300º. At 0552, just before opening fire, Holland correctly identified the Bismarck at last, and ordered his force to shift target to the right-hand ship, but for some reason Hood kept tracking the leading ship. Aboard the Prince of Wales, however, they correctly targeted the Bismarck which followed in Prinz Eugen's wake a mile or so behind. Suddenly, at 0552.5, and from a distance of about 12.5 miles (23,150 meters / 25,330 yards), the Hood opened fire, followed by the Prince of Wales half a minute later at 0553. Both ships opened fire with their forward turrets, since their after turrets could not be brought to bear due to the ships' unfavourable angle of approach. Admiral Lütjens immediately signalled to Group North: "Am in a fight with two heavy units". The first salvo from Prince of Wales landed over and astern of Bismarck. Afterwards, Prince of Wales started suffering the first of many mechanical problems, as "A" turret's no. 1 gun broke down temporarily and could not fire anymore. Her second, third and fourth salvoes fell over Bismarck. Hood's first two salvoes fell short from Prinz Eugen throwing some splinters and much water on board.

    Jot Dora! The Bismarck Opens Fire

    he British shells were already landing close, but the German guns still remained silent. Aboard the Bismarck, the First Artillery Officer (I.A.O.), Lieutenant-Commander Adalbert Schneider, in the foretop command post, requested several times permission to open fire without reply from the bridge. Finally at 0555, while Holland's force was turning 20º to port (a manoeuvre that now permitted Bismarck to identify correctly the Hood and a battleship of the King George V Class), the Bismarck opened fire, followed by the Prinz Eugen immediately afterwards.1 The distance at this time was around 11 miles (20,300 meters / 22,200 yards). Both German ships concentrated their fire on the foremost right opponent, the Hood. Bismarck's first salvo landed short. Aboard the Prinz Eugen, the port 53.3 cm torpedo tubes had already been trained towards the enemy and Captain Brinkmann ordered the Torpedo Officer, Lieutenant Reimann: "permission to fire as soon as in reaching range". At 0556, Prince of Wales' fifth salvo fell over again, but the sixth straddled and likely hit the Bismarck even though aboard the British battleship no hits were observed. The initial fire of the Germans had been excellent, and at 0557, the Prinz Eugen had already obtained a hit on Hood's shelter deck near the mainmast. This caused a big fire which spread as far as the second funnel. The Bismarck had also been hit, and was now leaving a broad track of oil upon the surface of the sea. Therefore, Lütjens ordered the Prinz Eugen (that had already fired six salvoes on Hood) to change target towards the Prince of Wales, together with the secondary battery of the Bismarck which had just entered in action.

    sinking of Hood

    At 0600, the Hood and the Prince of Wales were in the process of turning another 20º to port in order to bring their after turrets into action, when Bismarck's fifth salvo hit the Hood. The distance was less than 9 miles (16,668 meters / 18,236 yards). At least one 15-inch shell penetrated Hood's armour belt and reached an after magazine where it exploded. The German observers were awestruck by the enormous explosion. The Hood, the Mighty Hood, pride of the Royal Navy and during 20 years the largest warship in the world, split in two and sank in three minutes at about 63º 22' North, 32º 17' West. The stern portion sank first, end up and centre down, followed by the bow portion, stem up centre down. It happened so fast that there was not even time to abandon the ship. Out of a crew of 1,418 men, only three survived. Vice-Admiral Holland and his fleet staff, the commander of the Hood Captain Ralph Kerr, and everyone else perished. The three survivors were rescued after three and a half hours at sea by the destroyer Electra (Commander Cecil Wakeford May), and later landed in Reykjavik.

    After the Hood blew up, the Bismarck turned to starboard and concentrated her fire on the Prince of Wales. The British battleship had since altered her course to avoid the wreck of the Hood, and this placed her between the sinking battle cruiser and the German ships. The Germans were thus presented with an easy target switch. At 0602, the Bismarck hit Prince of Wales' bridge, killing everybody there, except the commander, Captain John Catterall Leach and another man. The distance had decreased to 14,000 meters (15,310 yards), and now even the 10.5cm heavy anti-aircraft battery on Prinz Eugen (on Bismarck probably too) entered in action. The Prince of Wales was at a clear disadvantage, and at 0603 launched a smoke screen and retreated from the combat after being hit a total of four times by the Bismarck and three more by the Prinz Eugen. The British battleship fired three more salvoes with "Y" turret under local control while retreating, but did not obtain any hits. At 0609 the Germans fired their last salvo and the battle ended. For the British, this must have been incredible, the German ships kept the same course instead of following the damaged Prince of Wales and finishing her off.
    The Prinz Eugen was not hit during the battle and remained undamaged, even though some Hood's shells landed close by in the opening phase of the engagement and fragments landed on board. However, the Bismarck had been hit on the port side by three heavy shells probably from the Prince of Wales. The first shell hit Bismarck amidships below the waterline in section XIV, passed through the outer hull just below the main belt, and exploded against the 45-mm armoured torpedo bulkhead. This hit caused the flooding of the port electric plant No. 4. The adjacent No. 2 boiler room also took some water, but this was contained by the damage control parties through the use of hammocks. The second shell hit the bow in section XXI, just above the waterline. This projectile entered the port side, passed through the ship above the armoured deck without exploding, and exited the starboard side leaving a hole of 1.5 meters in diameter. Around 2,000 tons of salt water got into the forecastle, and as a consequence of this 1,000 tons of fuel oil were blocked there. The third shell simply passed through a boat without any appreciable damage at all.
    As a result of these hits, the top speed of the Bismarck was reduced to 28 knots. The battleship was 3º down by the bow and had a 9º list to port. Because of this, the blades tips of the starboard propeller were out of the water at times. Therefore the starboard void tanks in sections II and III were flooded to reduce the bow trim and list. The damage was not especially serious, the Bismarck maintained intact her fighting capability, good speed, and there were no casualties among the crew; only five men had been slightly wounded. However, the loss of fuel was to affect the remaining course of action.

    Lütjens Options

    After the battle in the Denmark Strait, the German ships continued on a south-western course. At this time Lütjens had two main options. The first was to return to Norway and the second to carry on into the North Atlantic. Today most people agree that, if at all possible, Lütjens should have destroyed or at least disabled the already damaged Prince of Wales, then turn around, and head for Trondheim, via the Denmark Strait. Lütjens could also have taken a shorter path to Bergen, via the Faeroes-Iceland passage, although the chances of being intercepted by Tovey's battle group (King George V, Repulse, and Victorious) coming from Scapa Flow were greater as well. Instead, the German Admiral opted not to pursue the Prince of Wales (apparently against Captain Lindemann's suggestions) and headed for the Atlantic. At 0801, Admiral Lütjens sent a series of messages to the Group North informing it of his intention to take Bismarck to Saint-Nazaire for repairs. The Prinz Eugen, which was undamaged, would stay in the Atlantic to attack enemy convoys on her own.

    The decision to head for Saint-Nazaire shows that after a survey of the damage sustained, Lütjens had correctly decided to cancel Operation Rheinübung at least temporarily until the Bismarck could be repaired in port. But, why did he choose Saint-Nazaire? The French port was farther than Norway and it required greater fuel expenditure. Lütjens probably thought France was the best place to resume the battle of the Atlantic as soon as possible following Raeder's wishes. In fact, he had successfully entered Brest with Scharnhorst and Geneisenau a couple of months earlier.

    At 0950, Captain Brinkmann was informed by semaphore of the damage received by Bismarck, and afterwards Lütjens ordered the Prinz Eugen to take up position aft of Bismarck temporarily in order to ascertain the severity of her oil loss. By 1100, the Prinz Eugen resumed her previous position in front of the battle group. The three British pursuing ships, now under command of Rear-Admiral Wake-Walker, were still shadowing the Germans; the Suffolk from the starboard quarter, and the Norfolk with Prince of Wales from the port quarter. At noon, the German command transferred the operative control of Operation Rheinübung from Group North to Group West, and at 1240 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen set a new course of 180º due south at 24 knots.

    Dispositions made by the British Admiralty

    The unexpected sinking of the Hood caused enormous indignation in London, and the British Admiralty began to divert all available warships from their original missions in order to join in the chase for Bismarck. This included leaving most convoys that were at that time crossing the Atlantic unescorted.

    The battleship Rodney (Captain Frederick H. G. Dalrymple-Hamilton) was at sea to the west of Ireland on her way to Boston for repairs with destroyers Somali, Tartar, Mashona, and Eskimo of the 6th Flotilla escorting the liner Britannic (27,759 tons), now used as a troop transport. The Admiralty ordered Rodney to operate against Bismarck and at 1036 on the 24th signalled: "If Britannic cannot keep up, leave her behind with 1 destroyer." Therefore Rodney and destroyers Tartar, Mashona and Somali left Britannic with destroyer Eskimo at noon. The battleship Ramillies (Captain Arthur D. Read) to the South of Cape Farewell was also instructed to leave the convoy she was escorting (HX-127) and "proceed so as to make contact with enemy from westwards, subsequently placing enemy between Ramillies and C.-in-C". In addition, the battleship Revenge (Captain Ernest R. Archer) in Halifax was ordered to put to sea, and she left port at 1500, then headed east.

    The Prinz Eugen is Detached.

    Early in the morning of 24 May, Admiral Lütjens had already decided to detach the Prinz Eugen, and at 1420 sent a semaphore signal to Captain Brinkmann:

    «Intend to shake stalker as follows: During rain squall, the Bismarck will change course west. Prinz Eugen will maintain course and speed until he is forced to change position or three hours after the departure of Bismarck. Subsequently, is released to take on oil from "Belchen" or "Lothringen". Afterwards, pursue independent cruiser war. Implementation upon cue word, "Hood".»

    This was to be a diversionary manoeuvre in which the Bismarck had to distract the British ships long enough to let the Prinz Eugen escape. Meanwhile, Vice-Admiral Karl Dönitz had ordered the U-boat force a complete cessation of operations against merchant shipping in order to support the Bismarck. At this time Lütjens urged Dönitz on a radio telegram to assemble his U-boats in quadrant AJ 68. His intention was that Bismarck would be able to lead the British pursuing ships into a trap the next day. Therefore Dönitz stationed several U-boats (U-93, U-43, U-46, U-557, U-66, U-94) in the given area to the South of the southern tip of Greenland. At 1540, the German battle group entered a rain squall, and the execution order of "Hood" was given. The Bismarck turned to starboard at 28 knots, however the Suffolk was shadowing very close from the starboard quarter and the manoeuvre failed. Therefore, at 1600 the Bismarck resumed her position on Prinz Eugen's wake. Two hours later, at 1814, the Bismarck turned to starboard at high speed again. This time the manoeuvre was successful and the Prinz Eugen maintained her course and left the formation. The Bismarck closed on the Suffolk, and at 1830 opened fire from 18,000 meters (19,685 yards), but the cruiser quickly retired under a smoke screen. Subsequently, the Bismarck became engaged with the Prince of Wales at long distance, and after an exchange of shells the fire ceased at 1856. After this action, in which no hits were scored by either side, the Suffolk joined the Norfolk and the Prince of Wales back to the port side of the Bismarck, probably to avoid being surprised by the German battleship if she decided to reverse her course again. This left Bismarck’s starboard side open. The British would pay a high price for this manoeuvre a few hours later, but before this they would still have an opportunity to attack the Bismarck.

    The fuel situation aboard Bismarck had become serious, and at 2056, Lütjens informed Group West that, due to fuel shortage, he was to proceed directly to Saint-Nazaire. In fact, at this time the Bismarck had less than 3,000 tons of fuel-oil available, and unless some of the 1,000 tons of fuel blocked under the forecastle could be retrieved, the battleship would be forced to slow down in order to reach the French coast. Had Bismarck been refuelled in Bergen on 21 May, now she would have some 1,000 tons more of additional fuel available. That would have given Bismarck more freedom of movement and would have enabled Lütjens to make a diversionary manoeuvre to try shake off his pursuers. But the reality was that the fuel shortage hampered the original idea to drive the pursuing British forces into the western U-boat screen, and it forced Bismarck to follow a steady course to France. As a result of this change of plans, all available U-boats in the Bay of Biscay were now ordered to form a patrol line to cover Bismarck's new expected course.

    Attacked by Swordfish Torpedo Planes

    At 1509, Admiral Tovey had detached Rear-Admiral Alban Curteis (in Galatea) with the carrier Victorious (Captain Henry Cecil Bovell) and the four light cruisers Galatea, Aurora, Kenya and Hermione to close the range and deliver a torpedo attack. At 2210, some 120 miles from Bismarck, Victorious launched all her nine Swordfish torpedo planes of the 825th Squadron under the command of Lieutenant-Commander (A) Eugene Esmonde.4 At 2300, they were followed by three Fulmars of the 800Z Squadron, and at 0100 by two more to maintain touch. Esmonde obtained a surface contact on his ASV (Air-to-Surface Vessel) radar at 2350, and prepared his aircraft for the attack, but instead of Bismarck he found the US Coast Guard Cutter Modoc (Lieutenant-Commander Harold Belford). The Bismarck, only six miles away, spotted the British aircraft and opened fire immediately while increasing the speed to 27 knots.

    One Swordfish lost contact with the rest of the squadron in a cloud layer, and only eight planes proceeded to attack around midnight. The German anti-aircraft fire was very intense and even the main and secondary batteries opened fire. Lindemann and the helmsman, Hans Hansen, operating the press buttons of the steering gear, successfully avoided the first six torpedoes when suddenly the battleship was hit. A 18 inch MK XII torpedo struck Bismarck's starboard side, amidships, at the level of the main belt which resisted the explosion very well. The damage was minimal, although the explosion caused the deat of Oberbootsmann Kurt Kirchberg (who became the first casualty aboard) and injured six men.
    Despite the heavy anti-aircraft fire none of the obsolete Swordfish were shot down, and by 0230, all of them had landed on the Victorious. However, the last two Fulmars that had been launched from Victorious were not so fortunate, and they were lost after they ran out of fuel and were forced to land in the sea. The crew of one of them was rescued later by the merchant ship Beaverhill. After the Swordfish attack, the Bismarck reduced her speed to 16 knots to alleviate the pressure in the forecastle and carry out repairs. The distance between both forces decreased, and at 0131 on 25 May (Lütjens' 52th birthday), the Prince of Wales opened fire on Bismarck. The battleships exchanged two salvoes each at a range of 15,000 meters (16,400 yards), but due to the poor visibility neither side scored any hits. The morale aboard the Bismarck was high and sometime about then, the crew wished the Chief of Fleet a happy birthday by the ship's loudspeaker system.

    Admiral Lütjens Makes His Move

    All three British ships that were shadowing the Bismarck from the port quarter had begun to zig-zag in case of a possible U-boat attack. At 0306, taking advantage of the enemy’s disposition and the darkness, Lütjens saw his opportunity to break the contact with his pursuers. The Bismarck increased her speed to 27 knots and turned to starboard, in a manoeuvre very similar to the one executed the previous afternoon when the Prinz Eugen was detached. The Bismarck succeeded in breaking contact and established a new course of 130º due southeast, to Saint-Nazaire. The British ships tried in vain to re-establish contact with the Bismarck, and at 0401 the Suffolk reported: "Enemy contact lost."

    Vice-Admiral Wake Walker's order to change the position of Suffolk in the previous afternoon (24 May) now had its consequences. It gave the Bismarck room to manoeuvre, and Lütjens did not waste this opportunity. With the Suffolk stationed on Bismarck's starboard quarter, it would have been much more difficult for the German battleship to break contact.

    Nevertheless, on board the Bismarck they did not realize that the contact had been broken, and at 0700 Admiral Lütjens sent the following message to the Group West: "One battleship, two heavy cruisers keeping contact." At 0900, Lütjens sent another long message to the Group West. Neither message reached Group West until well after 0900. Ironically, Group West had previously sent (at 0846) a message confirming that the British had lost contact. After this, Bismarck kept strict radio silence, but the British had already intercepted her signals allowing them to calculate her approximate position.

    At 1152, Lütjens received a personal message from Admiral Raeder: "Heartiest Birthday Wishes! In view of your recent great armed feat, may you be granted many more such successes [as you enter] a new year of your life!" Minutes later, at noon, Lütjens delivered the following speech to the crew by the loudspeakers:

    "Soldiers of the battleship Bismarck! You have achieved great fame! The sinking of the battlecruiser Hood does not only have a military, but also a morale [psychological] value [significance], because Hood was England’s pride. The enemy will now attempt to gather its forces and deploy them toward us. Therefore, I released Prinz Eugen yesterday noon so that he can conduct his own war on merchant vessels. He has accomplished to evade the enemy. By contrast, because of the hits we have sustained, we have received the order to head for a French harbour. The enemy will gather on the way and will engage us in battle. The German Nation is with you [in spirit] and we will fire until the barrels glow and until the last projectile has exited the barrel. For us soldiers [the battle cry] as of now is: “Victory or death!”

    At 1625, Lütjens received yet another message of congratulations, this time from Hitler: “I send to you today my very best congratulation for your Birthday!" That same afternoon, Bismarck's Chief Engineer, Lieutenant-Commander Walter Lehmann and several crewmen began to construct a dummy funnel. This would give the battleship two funnels and hopefully confuse the enemy, should Bismarck be detected again. During the night of 25/26 May, the Bismarck maintained her course and there were no incidents on board.

    The Bismarck is Located

    In the morning of 26 May, as the Bismarck was approaching the French coast, the crew was ordered to repaint the top of the main and secondary turrets yellow. Hard job considering the state of the seas, nevertheless it was carried out although the yellow paint washed off at least once.

    A few hours earlier, at 0300, two Coastal Command Catalina flying boats had taken off from Lough Erne in Northern Ireland on a reconnaissance mission in search for the Bismarck. At about 1010, Catalina Z of 209 Squadron commanded by Dennis Briggs sighted the German battleship that immediately answered with very accurate anti-aircraft fire.5 The Catalina jettisoned her four depth charges and took evasive action after her hull was holed by shrapnel. Then reported: "One battleship, bearing 240º, distance 5 miles, course 150º. My position 49º 33' North, 21º 47' West. Time of transmission 1030/26." After more than 31 hours since the contact was broken, the Bismarck had been located again. Unfortunately for the British, however, Admiral Tovey's ships were too far away from the German battleship. The King George V was 135 miles to the north, and the Rodney (with a top speed of 21 knots) was 125 miles to the northeast. They would never catch up with the Bismarck unless her speed could be seriously reduced.

    Only the Force H, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir James F. Somerville, sailing from Gibraltar, had a chance to intercept Bismarck. The battlecruiser Renown (Captain Rhoderick R. McGriggor) was in the best position, but having lost the Hood only two days earlier, the Admiralty did not permit Renown to engage the Bismarck. The best hope for the British was to launch an air strike from the carrier Ark Royal. The Ark Royal had already launched 10 Swordfish at 0835 to try find the Bismarck, and once the report of the Catalina sighting arrived, the two closest Swordfish altered course to intercept. At 1114, Swordfish 2H located the German battleship too, followed seven minutes later by the 2F. Shortly afterwards two more Swordfish, fitted with long-range tanks, were launched to relieve 2H and 2F and keep touch with Bismarck.

    At 1450, fifteen Swordfish commanded by Lieutenant-Commander J. A. Stewart-Moore took off from the Ark Royal (Captain Loben E. Maund) to attack the Bismarck. At 1550, they obtained radar contact with a ship and dived to attack. The attack, however, turned out to be a failure since the ship sighted was actually the light cruiser Sheffield (Captain Charles A. Larcom) which had been detached from Force H to make contact with the Bismarck. Luckily for the British, the Sheffield was not hit by any of the 11 torpedoes launched because they had faulty magnetic pistols. Two torpedoes exploded upon hitting the water, three on crossing the cruiser wake, and the other six were successfully avoided. The Swordfish returned to the Ark Royal and landed on her deck after 1700. At 1740, the Sheffield obtained visual contact with the Bismarck.

    The British put every effort on one last attack. It would be dark soon, and they knew this was their last real chance to stop or at least slow down the Bismarck. If they failed again, the Bismarck would reach the French coast on the next day, since another air strike late at night was unlikely to succeed. Therefore, at 1915, another group comprised of fifteen Swordfish, mostly the same used in the previous attack, took off from the Ark Royal, and this time their torpedoes were armed with contact pistols.

    Meanwhile, the pursuing British forces had run across U-556 (Lieutenant Herbert Wohlfarth) which sighted the Renown and the Ark Royal at 1948. The German submarine was perfectly placed for an attack, but could not do so as it had no torpedoes left. Wohlfarth had spent his last “fishes” on the ships of convoy HX-126 a few days back. Therefore, U-556 could only make signals reporting the position, course and speed of the enemy.

    The Swordfish striking force, this time under the command of Lieutenant-Commander T.P. Coode, first approached the Sheffield to get the range and bearing to the Bismarck, and at 2047, began the attack. Bismarck's anti-aircraft battery opened fire immediately. During the course of the attack, the Bismarck received at least two torpedo hits. One torpedo (or two) hit the port side amidships, and another struck the stern in the starboard side. The first hit did not cause important damage, but the second jammed both rudders at 12º to port. The Bismarck made a circle and then began to steer northwest involuntarily into the wind. As before, none of the Swordfish were shot down although some were hit several times. The damage to the Bismarck was so serious that at 2140, Admiral Lütjens sent the following message to Group West: "Ship unable to manoeuvre. We will fight to the last shell. Long live the Führer".

    The impact in the stern area caused the flooding of the steering and other adjacent compartments. This meant that all repair attempts would have to be done under water. Divers were ordered to enter the steering compartment in order to free the rudders, but the violent movement of the water inside made this an impossible task. It was not possible to lower divers over the side due to the high seas. As an alternative, it was considered to blow the rudders away with explosives and try to steer the ship using the propellers alone, but the idea was rejected fearing that the explosion could damage the propellers.

    Destroyers Attack Bismarck

    After the aerial torpedo attack, the new erratic course of the Bismarck caused her to close the range with the Sheffield. At about 2145, Bismarck opened fire on the Sheffield at a range of about nine miles. Bismarck fired a total of six salvoes and the British cruiser turned away to the north under the cover of a smoke screen. The Sheffield was not hit, but some splinters disabled her radar and injured twelve men of whom three died later.6 The turn caused Sheffield to lose contact with Bismarck, but at 2200, she made contact with the destroyers of the 4th Flotilla (Captain Philip L. Vian) Cossack, Maori, Zulu, Sikh and Piorun, and provided them with the approximate bearing and distance to the German battleship.

    At 2238, the Polish destroyer Piorun (Commander Eugeniusz Plawski) sighted the Bismarck. The German battleship responded shortly thereafter with three salvoes. The destroyers proceeded to attack, but Bismarck defended herself vigorously in the dark. At 2342, splinters knocked down Cossack's antennas. Shortly after 0000, star shells from the destroyers began to illuminate the area. About an hour later, a star shell fell on Bismarck's bows starting a fire there that had to be extinguished by some crew members. Throughout the night the destroyers attacked the German battleship. These attacks were carried out in heavy seas, rain squalls and low visibility, and no torpedo hits were obtained on Bismarck, that time after time repelled every attack with heavy and accurate fire from her main and secondary batteries. By 0700, a total of 16 torpedoes had been fired by the destroyers of the 4th Flotilla.

    The Final Battle (a desperate fight against impossible odds)

    The sea ran high with the wind from the north-west at force 8 (34-40 knots). On board the Bismarck, the atmosphere on the bridge was tense, and they knew it was only a matter of time before the British engaged them with heavy ships. The German battleship was steering against the wind at seven knots. The flooding in the stern compartments had somehow reduced the bow trim although the ship had a slight list to port. At 0833, King George V and Rodney altered their course to 110º, and ten minutes later at 0843, they sighted the Bismarck at 23,000 meters (25,150 yards).

    he Rodney opened fire at 0847, followed by the King George V one minute later. The distance at this time was about 20,000 meters (21,870 yards). The Bismarck returned fire at 0849 with the forward turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" against the Rodney. At 0854, the Norfolk joined the battle with her eight 20.3cm guns, and at 0858 the secondary battery of Rodney joined the action.

    At 0902, the Bismarck was hit by several shells that struck the forecastle, foremast and disabled the foretop rangefinder. At 0904, the Dorsetshire (Captain Benjamin C. S. Martin) which had just arrived, also opened fire. Two battleships and two heavy cruisers were firing against the Bismarck. At 0908, the forward rangefinder and turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" were put out of action. Bismarck's fire control was, therefore, shifted to the after command post. From there, the Fourth Artillery Officer (IV.A.O.), Lieutenant Müllenheim-Rechberg directed four salvoes against the King George V. But at about 0913, just as he got the range, his station was also put out of action by a 35.6cm shell that destroyed the cupola. The after turrets then proceeded to fire under local control at Rodney which, in the meantime, had launched six torpedoes at Bismarck, none of them hit. At 0921, turret "Dora" was put out of action after one of its own shells exploded inside the right barrel. At 0927, turret "Anton" or "Bruno" surprisingly fired one last salvo. Four minutes later, at 0931 turret "Cäsar" fired its last salvo. Only a few secondary guns were still in action, but these were soon to be silenced, too, by the enormous avalanche of British fire. At this time, Captain Lindemann, gave the order to scuttle and abandon ship.

    Once the Bismarck lost her fighting capability, Rodney got closer, and from distances between 2,500 and 4,000 meters continued firing with her nine 40.6cm guns against the German battleship. The hits continued. At about 0940, the rear wall of turret "Bruno" blew out and the turret caught on fire. At 0956, the Rodney launched two more torpedoes from 2,700 meters with one possible hit scored on the portside. From this point blank range it was virtually impossible to miss a shot, and shell by shell hit the Bismarck which amazingly was still afloat. Soon after 1000, the Norfolk launched four torpedoes from about 3,600 meters with one possible hit to the starboard side. The destruction aboard the Bismarck was complete, and men had begun jumping overboard. All guns were out of action, their barrels pointing in different directions at odd angles. The funnel and superstructure were holed in many places. The port forward hangar was demolished. In some places the decks looked like a slaughterhouse. Ironically, the mainmast was still standing with the battle flag flaying with the wind. The Rodney ceased fire at 1016, and Tovey, short of fuel, was forced to leave the battlefield.

    The Sinking of the Bismarck

    At 0920, the Ark Royal had launched twelve Swordfish in order to attack Bismarck. The Swordfish striking force appeared on the scene at about 1015, but due to the heavy fire from the British warships stayed away. At first, the King George V mistook them by German aircraft, and even opened fire with her anti-aircraft battery, but fortunately no planes were hit. At 1020, the Dorsetshire closed the range and fired two 21 inch MK VII torpedoes from 3,000 meters at the starboard side of the Bismarck. Both of them hit, but no appreciable effect was observed. Then, the British heavy cruiser turned around, and at 1036 fired another torpedo from 2,200 meters against Bismarck's port side that also hit. The Swordfish circling over the area were privileged witnesses to this unfolding drama. By this time the German battleship had a heavy list to port, with the water reaching the upper deck. The port secondary battery turrets were almost submerged. Finally, the Bismarck capsized and sank at 1039 in the approximate position of 48º 10' North, 16º 12' West.

    Almost two hours had elapsed since the battle had begun, and the Bismarck had shown a formidable capacity of resistance. The British first struck Bismarck at 0902, and ceased fire around 1016. For 74 minutes, the Bismarck received a continuous hammering that no other warship could have taken. We need not forget that the Hood (however the Hood was a battlecruiser and not a BB so it had poor armour) sank six minutes after the first German shells were fired only three days earlier. Moreover, neither the main belt nor the armour deck were seen to be penetrated during the combat, and in the end it was her own crew who scuttled the ship. During this last engagement 2,876 shells were fired at the Bismarck. They are itemised as follows:

    380 of 40.6 cm from Rodney
    339 of 35.6 cm from King George V
    527 of 20.3 cm from Norfolk
    254 of 20.3 cm from Dorsetshire
    716 of 15.2 cm from Rodney
    660 of 13.3 cm from King George V


    It will never be known how many of them did actually hit (400, 500, 600, maybe more), but taking into account the short distances in the last phase of the combat, it is assumed that many shells hit.

    At 1100, only 20 minutes after the sinking, Winston Churchill informed the House of Commons gathered at Church House about the operations against Bismarck: "This morning shortly after day-break, the Bismarck virtually immobilized, without help, was attacked by British battleships that pursued her. I don't know the result of this action. It seems however, that Bismarck was not sunk by gunfire, and now will be sunk by torpedoes. It is believed that this is happening right now. Great as is our loss in the Hood, the Bismarck must be regarded as the most powerful enemy battleship, as she is the newest enemy battleship and the striking of her from the German Navy is a very definite simplification of the task of maintaining effective mastery of the Northern sea and maintenance of the Northern blockade." Mr. Churchill had just sat down when he was given a note, the Prime Minister rose again and said: "I have just received news that the Bismarck is sunk." The cheers were loud and long.

    Survivors

    Ceremony aboard the Canarias for the Bismarck's dead.
    Around 800 sailors managed to abandon the Bismarck before she sank. The rest of the crew, many of them still alive sank with the battleship. An hour later, the Dorsetshire picked up 86 sailors and the Maori another 25. The temperature of the water was 13º C. The British did not recover more men because they claimed there were U-boats in the area. Hours later, the U-74 (Lieutenant Eitel-Friedrich Kentrat) rescued three more sailors. They were Herbert Manthey, Otto Höntzsch, and Georg Herzog. The next day (28th), the German weather observation ship Sachsenwald (Lieutenant Wilhelm Schütte) found two more, Otto Maus and Walter Lorenzen. Meanwhile, the Spanish heavy cruiser Canarias (Captain Benigno González-Aller) had left the port of El Ferrol at 1140 on 27 May in an attempt to rescue some survivors from the Bismarck. On 30 May, after a brief meeting with the Sachsenwald the Canarias found two dead bodies floating in the sea which were pulled aboard. These were Walter Grasczak and Heinrich Neuschwander. At 1000 on the next day (31st), they were given a naval burial service and their bodies were committed to the deep. In the end, out of a crew of more than 2,200 officers, non-commissioned officers and men only 115 survived.

    Following the sinking of the Bismarck, German aircraft had been sent to look for Admiral Tovey’s force that had run low on fuel and was on its way back home. On 28 May, the destroyers Tartar and Mashona were attacked by German bombers. Mashona was hit by a bomb on her port side and sank with the loss of 46 men. The Tartar rescued about 170 men, including Mashona’s commander William H. Selby. The rest of the British fleet arrived safely in port.

    Operation Rheinübung: Final Observations

    Although considered a fine commander, Admiral Lütjens has been unjustly criticised for some of the decisions made during Operation Rheinübung. Today with the advantage of knowing the final outcome of battle, it is easy to conduct a deep examination of the operations and say what Lütjens should or shouldn't have done. But one must put oneself in the German Admiral’s place and try to understand the difficulties that affected his decisions and the time and circunmstances in which they were made. Nevertheless, the truth is that both German and British committed a series of "reproachable mistakes" that made this story even more dramatic and interesting. If a single one of those mistakes had not been made, the course of the operations could have developed in a completely different way and the outcome of the battle could have been quite different. As Karel Stepanek playing Admiral Lütjens in the 1960 movie "Sink the Bismarck" says: "We have a most interesting chess game here".

    From the operative point of view, Operation Rheinübung was a failure since its first stages, since as early as 20 May, the German battle group had been already detected in the Kattegat. The British demonstrated that they had heavily improved their vigilance, and successfully signalled Bismarck's movements from her first arrival in Norwegian waters. The Germans, on the other hand, suffered from inadequate military intelligence and a lack of effective cooperation with the U-boat arm. Despite all this, the Bismarck almost escaped, and she would certainly have done so, if it were not for that fatal torpedo hit on the stern. If there is one thing that can not be reproached is the conduct of her crew which was in every way exemplary.

    For the German Navy the sinking of the battleship Bismarck was probably the heaviest single blow of the war. Nevertheless, the Kriegsmarine still had considerable striking power and was far from being defeated as the year 1942 proved; however, but the loss of the Bismarck marked a turning point in the war on Allied merchant shipping. Not only because of the loss of the battleship itself, but because the consequences that it brought. Shortly after Operation Rheinübung, the Germans abandoned the use of heavy surface warships for raiding purposes in the Atlantic. From then on, only the auxiliary cruisers remained engaged against enemy merchant shipping, but even their use proved difficult by the end of 1941, and therefore the Germans concentrated their efforts in the U-boat war. U-boats would still bring important successes, but they, too, were eventually defeated in May 1943 with the loss of 41 units, in what it can be considered as the other turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.

    The aircraft carrier had revealed itself as a decisive weapon and soon was to replace the battleship as the ultimate warship. This was confirmed six months later during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, and during the Battle of the Coral Sea, the first true aero-naval battle in history between two carrier forces. Today, now in the 21st century, the battleship era is long gone, but the story of the Bismarck and her brave crew still fascinates thousands of people and her legend is still very much alive.


    By José M. Rico
    http://www.kbismarck.com/operheini.html

  11. #61
    you say the Bismarck sunk the Hood but it was infact a fire started by a shell from Prinz Eugen that blew up the magazine

  12. #62

    Smile

    Originally Posted by Tirpitz
    that was a lucky shot, all other torpedos "bounced" off the armament belt
    except the one that hit the rudder....
    I guess its time for the real story of the Bismarck




    Introduction.

    Following the success achieved by the surface ships in the Atlantic during the winter of 1940-1941, the German Naval High Command decided to launch a much more ambitious operation. The idea was to send a powerful battle group comprised of the battleships Bismarck, Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau into the Atlantic to attack Allied merchant shipping. The latter two battleships were in Brest, in occupied France, since 22 March. They had just completed a successful campaign of two months in the North Atlantic under the command of the Fleet Chief, Admiral Günther Lütjens, in which they sank or captured 22 ships with a total tonnage of 116,000 tons. Unfortunately, the Scharnhorst had to enter dry dock in order to undergo machinery repairs and would be unavailable at least until June. In the Baltic, the Bismarck had almost finished her trials and would soon be ready for her first war cruise. However, the Tirpitz, which had only recently been commissioned on 25 February, had not yet completed trials, and it was unlikely that she would be available in the spring.

    On 2 April, the same day the Bismarck received her last two Arado 196 aircraft, the High Command outlined the strategy to follow in its operation's order (B.Nr. 1. Skl. I Op. 410/41 Gkdos Chefs.). With the Scharnhorst in dry dock and the Tirpitz not ready for action yet, it was decided that Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen would be sent into the North Atlantic in late April under the command of the Fleet Chief. The Gneisenau would later sail from Brest to join them. The mission of the German ships was to attack convoys operating in the Atlantic north of the Equator. Because of the success of the German warships in recent months, the Allied convoys had improved their protection and were now strongly escorted by either battleships or cruisers. So, it would be Bismarck’s duty to engage the escorts while the other ships attacked the merchant vessels virtually unopposed.

    The British Admiralty was concerned and had serious indications that the Germans were planning a large surface operation in the Atlantic. The British knew of Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau's presence in Brest and the danger they posed should they sortie in conjunction with Bismarck. Therefore, they decided to immobilize these two German battleships through air raids. On 6 April, a Coastal Command Beaufort plane (Lieutenant Kenneth Campbell) of the 22º Squadron scored a torpedo hit on Gneisenau's stern. Although the British aircraft was shot down by the anti-aircraft batteries, Gneisenau was damaged and had to enter dry dock for repairs. A few days later, during the night of 10/11 April, the battleship was hit again. This time by four bombs dropped by the RAF, and this forced to lengthen the repair work for months. As a result of these attacks, the German force was reduced to Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, which would be the only warships available to participate in attacks on enemy merchant shipping that spring.

    There were more than enough reasons to cancel the operation until a larger force could be assembled. By autumn, the Tirpitz would be worked up and the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Brest would be ready again. Also the short spring nights made it more difficult for the German ships to reach the Atlantic undetected. Despite this, the idea to send the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen to the Atlantic in the spring remained a viable one. The United Kingdom was in a critical situation for supplies, and five months of "relative calm" at sea would have only strengthened her position. There was also the increasing fear that the United States would join the war, resulting in greater detection capabilities, and thus, reducing to a considerable extent the movements of the German fleet. The Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder thought it more important to utilise Bismarck's potential and keep up the pressure on the British supply lines, and, therefore, he decided to go on with the operation. The most important task was that the two German ships could reach the Atlantic unnoticed. From there, they could get lost in the immensity of the ocean and attack enemy convoys at will.

    In the meantime, Admiral Lütjens had met the U-boat Chief, Vice-Admiral Karl Dönitz, in Paris on 8 April. Both Admirals knew each other well as they had worked together on several occasions before the war. At that conference they outlined the U-boat support that was to be given to the Bismarck. The U-boats would carry on as usual in their normal positions, but if any opportunity arose for a combined action with Bismarck, it would be fully exploited. A U-boat liaison officer was therefore assigned to the Bismarck.

    On 22 April, Admiral Lütjens established the details of the operation now code-named Rheinübung (Rhine Exercise). The departure of the German ships was imminent, but on 23 April the Prinz Eugen was damaged by a magnetic mine while en route to Kiel. This required repair work which delayed the operation for some time. Three days later, on 26 April, Lütjens and Raeder met in Berlin to discuss the situation. The Fleet Chief suggested to Raeder the possibility of postponing the operation until the Scharnhorst and/or Tirpitz would be ready. The Grand Admiral, however, thought it was imperative to resume the Battle of the Atlantic as soon as possible and ordered the operation to go forward.

    Meanwhile, aboard the Bismarck, everything was reaching a level of maximum readiness. In late April, two new 2 cm Flak C/38 quadruple mounts were installed on both sides of the foremast above the searchlight platform. On 28 April, Captain Lindemann informed the Naval High Command (OKM), Group North, Group West, and the Fleet Command that the Bismarck was personnel-wise and materiel-wise fully ready for action, and provisioned for three months. He noted in the ship’s war diary:

    “The first phase in the ship’s life since the commissioning on 24 August 1940, is successfully completed. The goal was reached after eight months, being over the target date by only fourteen days; although the original intention (Easter) was missed by a forced waiting period in Hamburg (24.1–6.3.1941) of six weeks, due to the closing of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal and by ice jams.
    The crew can be proud of this accomplishment. It was accomplished, because there was an overall common desire to engage the enemy as soon as possible. I, therefore, had no qualms to make extremely high demands on them for a prolonged period of time, and because the ship and his equipment had been totally spared, despite of hard use and very Spartan lay-up time, from extensive breakdowns and damage.
    The state of training that has been reached, compares favourably with that of a capital ship’s readiness for a full [scale] battle inspection in the good years of peacetime. Although the crew, with few exceptions, completely lacks real combat experience, I have the calm feeling that all forthcoming combat demands will be readily dealt with. This feeling is strengthened by the fact that the combat value of this ship, by virtue of the achieved state of training, awakens great confidence in every man so that - for the first time in a long time – we can feel at least equal against any opponent.
    The delay of our deployment, whose approximate time could not be kept hidden from the crew, is a tough disappointment for all involved.
    I will use the waiting period in the previous manner, for the further perfection of training, but also to provide somewhat more rest for the crew. Furthermore, I intend to devote more time to division duties and the outer maintenance of the ship, since both of these duties necessarily had to take on very minor role. In addition, I will replenish weekly the expended stores of the three months requisition requirements.”

    On 5 May, Hitler visited Gotenhafen (today Gdynia) to inspect both the Bismarck anchored in the roadstead, and the Tirpitz at the pier in the harbour. Raeder was absent, and Lütjens received the Führer, but he didn't inform him about the upcoming sortie of his ships.

    On 13 May, Admiral Lütjens and the Fleet Staff embarked in the Bismarck and then the ship spent the whole afternoon in the Bay of Danzig conducting refuelling exercises with the Prinz Eugen. On the next day, during the course of other exercises, this time with the light cruiser Leipzig, Bismarck’s 12-ton portside crane was disabled. The departure of the Bismarck was, therefore, once again delayed in order to repair the crane. Finally on 16 May, Lütjens informed the High Command that the ships were ready, and the date for the beginning of Operation Rheinübung was established as 18 May.

    Bismarck's Departure.

    At 1000 on the morning of 18 May 1941 in Gotenhafen, Admiral Lütjens inspected Prinz Eugen's crew. Afterwards, a conference was held on board the Bismarck, where the Admiral briefed the operative plan to the two ships' commanders, Captains Ernst Lindemann and Helmuth Brinkmann. It was decided that if the weather proved favourable, they would not stop in the Korsfjord (today Krossfjord). They would, instead, sail north to refuel from the Weissenburg before cruising into the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland.

    At noon, the Bismarck left the berth under the tunes of Muß i' denn played by the fleet band, and then she anchored in Gotenhafen's roadstead to take on supplies and fuel. Operation Rheinübung had begun. While refuelling in the roadstead, one of the fuel-oil hoses broke and Bismarck could not be refuelled to her full capacity. It was nothing significant, although the battleship was loaded with approximately 200 tons less of fuel. At about 2100, the Prinz Eugen weighed anchor. Bismarck followed suit at 0200 in the early morning of 19 May. Both ships sailed independently until they joined together off Rügen Island at noon on 19 May. It was then that Captain Lindemann informed Bismarck's crew by loudspeaker that they were going into the North Atlantic to attack British shipping for a period of several months. After this, the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen sailed west escorted by the destroyers Z-23 (Commander Friedrich Böhme) and Z-16 Friedrich Eckoldt (Commander Alfred Schemmel). At 2230, the destroyer Z-10 Hans Lody (Commander Werner Pfeiffer) with the Chief of the 6th Flotilla (Commander Alfred Schulze-Hinrichs) on board, joined the formation. During the night of 19/20 May the German ships passed through the Great Belt, which remained closed to merchant ships, and then reached the Kattegat in the morning of 20 May.

    On 20 May, while in the Kattegat, the German battle group was sighted by numerous Danish and Swedish fishing boats. The weather was clear, and at 1300, the German ships were sighted by the Swedish cruiser Gotland (Captain Agren) which reported the sighting to Stockholm. Lütjens assumed this ship would report his position, and at 1737 radioed this incident to Group North, the German Naval command station based in Wilhelmshaven then under the command of Generaladmiral Rolf Carls. The Swedish had reported the sighting and then it was leaked to the British Naval Attaché, Captain Henry W. Denham. Later in the day, from the British embassy in Stockholm, Denham transmitted the following message to the Admiralty in London:
    "Kattegat, today 20 May. At 1500, two large warships, escorted by three destroyers, five ships and ten or twelve planes, passed Marstrand to the northeast. 2058/20."
    Meanwhile, at 1615 in the afternoon, the 5th Minesweeping Flotilla (Lieutenant-Commander Rudolf Lell) joined the German battle group temporarily to help the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen pass through the minefields that blocked the entrance to the Kattegat. At dusk on 20 May, the German ships were already getting out of the Skagerrak near Kristiansand. They were then sighted from the coast by Viggo Axelseen, of the Norwegian resistance, who duly reported the sighting to the British in London. During the night of 20/21 May the Germans headed north.

    Early on 21 May, the British Admiralty received the sighting report from Denham, and aircraft were instructed to be on the alert for the German force. At about 0900, the German squadron entered the Korsfjord south of Bergen with clear weather. Admiral Lütjens had wanted to continue to the north without stopping in Norway, but because of the clear weather he decided to enter the Korsfjord and continue the voyage that night under cover of darkness. Pilots were taken aboard the German ships, and at noon, the Bismarck anchored in the Grimstadfjord at 250-500 meters off the nearest shore. The Prinz Eugen headed north with the three destroyers and anchored in Kalvanes Bay. As a measure of precaution two merchant ships were laid along both sides of Prinz Eugen as torpedo shields.

    Meanwhile, at 1100 on 21 May, the British Coastal Command had dispatched an Spitfire (Lieutenant Michael Suckling) from Scotland to look for the German ships. At 1315, the Spitfire successfully sighted and photographed the German ships in the Korsfjord from an altitude of 8,000 meters (26,200 feet), and then returned to Scotland where it landed at Wick Airfield at about 1415. The sighting of the German battle group by the Swedish cruiser Gotland in the Kattegat as well as by Norwegian resistance operatives the previous day, had proven very unfortunate for the Germans. If the German group would have passed through the Kiel Canal instead, this may have possibly prevented such immediate sightings, and thus the Coastal Command sending the Spitfire. Unfortunately, it took two full days to transit the canal and it was not considered a viable option by the German command.

    During their brief stay in the Korsfjord, the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen painted over their striped camouflage paint with outboard grey. In addition, the Prinz Eugen with less than 2,500 mt of fuel oil left in her tanks refuelled from tanker Wollin. The Bismarck did not refuel and this would later prove to be a mistake. It seems that refuelling the Bismarck was not scheduled, and that Prinz Eugen was refuelled only because she absolutely had to be due to her shorter endurance. By 1700, the Prinz Eugen completed refuelling, and at 1930, the German ships weighted anchor. At this time, Bismarck's intelligence team received a message from Germany, in which, based on an intercepted radio message, British aircraft had been instructed to be on the alert for two battleships and three destroyers proceeding on a northerly course. Around 2000, just before night fall, the five German ships left the Norwegian fiord, and after separating from the coastline, set a course of 0º at 2340, due North.

    Upon receipt of the first sighting reports, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Fleet, Admiral Sir John Cronyn Tovey, immediately began to consider the possible intentions of the German warships. He ordered the heavy cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk, both under the command of Rear-Admiral William Frederick Wake-Walker, to patrol the Denmark Strait. Later in the afternoon, the photos taken by the Spitfire arrived, thus positively identifying one Bismarck class battleship and one Hipper class cruiser in Bergen. Therefore, shortly before midnight on 21 May, the battlecruiser Hood flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Lancelot Ernest Holland, the battleship Prince of Wales, and the destroyers Achates, Antelope, Anthony, Echo, Electra, and Icarus, left Scapa Flow for Hvalfjord in Iceland. Their mission to cover the access points south and east of Iceland.

    To the Denmark Strait.

    On 22 May, the weather worsened. During the night, the German battle group headed North, with the three destroyers in the lead and the Prinz Eugen closing the formation. At 0420, the destroyers were detached and headed east to Trondheim, while the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen maintained their northward course at 24 knots. At 1237 there was a submarine and air alarm, and the German ships zig-zagged for about half an hour. When the alarm ended, the tops of the main and secondary turrets were painted over, and the swastikas on the decks were covered with canvas, as they could help enemy aircraft to identify the German ships. Afterwards, the group set a northwest course to the Denmark Strait. It was cloudy the entire day and the fog was so thick that the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen had to switch on their searchlights from time to time in order to maintain contact and keep position. The weather conditions were therefore very favourable for the German ships to pass through the Denmark Strait and reach the Atlantic unnoticed.

    Meanwhile, at 2000 on 22 May, Admiral Tovey received news that the German warships had departed Norway. He then left Scapa Flow with the battleship King George V, the aircraft carrier Victorious, the light cruisers Kenya, Galatea, Aurora, Neptune, Hermione, and the destroyers Active, Inglefield, Intrepid, Lance, Punjabi and Windsor. The battlecruiser Repulse, sailing from the Clyde was to join them later the next morning.

    That night of 22/23 May, after receiving the report, Winston Churchill cabled to president Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Yesterday, twenty-first, Bismarck, Prinz Eugen and eight merchant ships located in Bergen. Low clouds prevented air attack. Tonight [we discovered] they have sailed. We have reason to believe that a formidable Atlantic raid is intended. Should we fail to catch them going out your Navy should surely be able to mark them down for us. King George V, Prince of Wales, Hood, Repulse and aircraft carrier Victorious, with auxiliary vessels will be on their track. Give us the news and we will finish the job."

    On 23 May the weather remained the same. At 1811 in the afternoon, the Germans sighted ships to starboard, but soon realised they were actually icebergs which were common in those latitudes. Meanwhile, the battle group reached the ice limit, and set a course of 240º. At 1922, the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were sighted by the British heavy cruiser Suffolk at a distance of seven miles. The Suffolk sent an enemy report: "One battleship, one cruiser in sight bearing 020º, distance 7 miles, course 240º." The Germans had detected the British cruiser as well, but were unable to engage the enemy because the Suffolk took cover in the fog. About an hour later, at 2030, the Germans sighted the British heavy cruiser Norfolk, and this time the Bismarck opened fire immediately. She fired five salvos, three of which straddled the Royal Navy ship throwing some splinters on board. The Norfolk was not hit by any direct impact, but had to launch a smoke screen and retire into the fog. The British cruisers then took up positions astern of the German ships; the Suffolk (equipped with a new Type 284 radar) on the starboard quarter, and the Norfolk (with an old Type 286M radar) on the port quarter. Both ships would keep R. D/F (radio direction-finding) contact and report the Germans’ position until more powerful British ships could engage.

    On board the Bismarck the forward radar instrument (FuMO 23) had been disabled by the blast of the forward turrets. Because of this, Admiral Lütjens ordered his ships to exchange positions and the Prinz Eugen with her radar sets (FuMO 27) intact took the lead. Bismarck’s powerful artillery would serve to keep the British cruisers from coming any closer. This change would produce great confusion for the British the next morning.
    After being sighted by cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk, Lütjens could have then turned around and head for the Norwegian Sea in order to refuel from tanker Weissenburg. He had already done this earlier that year when in command of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau his force was detected by the British cruiser Naiad in the Faeroes-Iceland gap. An early retreat at this point would have forced the four British capital ships (Hood, Prince of Wales, King George V and Repulse) that had already put to sea, to go back to Scapa Flow with a considerable expenditure of fuel. This time however, Lütjens continued towards the Atlantic with the hope of shaking off the British cruisers at night. The weather conditions in the Denmark Strait were favourable to do so. When Lütjens decided to press on, it is probably because he believed that the heavy units of the Home Fleet were too far away to intercept him, and that they may still be in Scapa Flow. The German reconnaissance reports seemed to confirm this, although the truth is that Vice-Admiral Holland's force was already approaching the area at high speed. Another thing Lütjens did not count on was the effective use of British radars. At about 2200, the Bismarck reversed her course trying to catch the Suffolk, but the British cruiser withdrew maintaining the distance. Therefore, the Bismarck returned to the formation behind the Prinz Eugen.

    The Battle of the Denmark Strait.

    The Battle of the Denmark Strait, also known as the Iceland Battle, was a brief naval engagement of little more than a quarter of an hour. It was a clash of titans in which the largest warships in the world were put to the test, and it will be remembered as a battle that ended in the sinking of a mythic ship.

    In the early morning of 24 May, the weather improved and the visibility increased. The German battle group maintained a course of 220º and a speed of 28 knots, when at 0525, the Prinz Eugen's hydrophones detected propeller noises of two ships on her port side. At 0537 the Germans sighted what they first thought to be a light cruiser at about 19 miles (35,190 meters / 38,480 yards) on port side. At 0543, another unidentified unit was sighted to port, and thereafter the alarm was given aboard the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. Aboard the Bismarck the identification of the enemy ships was uncertain, and they were now both mistakenly thought to be heavy cruisers. Correct identification at this time was vital in order to choose the right type of shells. Prinz Eugen's First Artillery Officer (I.A.O.), Lieutenant-Commander Paulus Jasper, also believed the approaching ships to be cruisers and ordered to load 20.3cm high explosive shells (Spgr. L/4,7). At this point, the British warships (in reality the battlecruiser Hood and the battleship Prince of Wales) were approaching the German battle group on a course of 280º at 28 knots. Vice-Admiral Holland, aboard the Hood, familiar with the vulnerability of his battlecruiser in long range combat, was probably trying to get closer quickly before opening fire. Admiral Lütjens did not have any other choice but to accept the combat.
    Due to the similar silhouettes of the German ships, at 0549 Holland ordered his ships to both engage the leading German ship (the Prinz Eugen) believing she was the Bismarck. After this, the British ships made a 20º turn to starboard on a new course of 300º. At 0552, just before opening fire, Holland correctly identified the Bismarck at last, and ordered his force to shift target to the right-hand ship, but for some reason Hood kept tracking the leading ship. Aboard the Prince of Wales, however, they correctly targeted the Bismarck which followed in Prinz Eugen's wake a mile or so behind. Suddenly, at 0552.5, and from a distance of about 12.5 miles (23,150 meters / 25,330 yards), the Hood opened fire, followed by the Prince of Wales half a minute later at 0553. Both ships opened fire with their forward turrets, since their after turrets could not be brought to bear due to the ships' unfavourable angle of approach. Admiral Lütjens immediately signalled to Group North: "Am in a fight with two heavy units". The first salvo from Prince of Wales landed over and astern of Bismarck. Afterwards, Prince of Wales started suffering the first of many mechanical problems, as "A" turret's no. 1 gun broke down temporarily and could not fire anymore. Her second, third and fourth salvoes fell over Bismarck. Hood's first two salvoes fell short from Prinz Eugen throwing some splinters and much water on board.

    Jot Dora! The Bismarck Opens Fire

    he British shells were already landing close, but the German guns still remained silent. Aboard the Bismarck, the First Artillery Officer (I.A.O.), Lieutenant-Commander Adalbert Schneider, in the foretop command post, requested several times permission to open fire without reply from the bridge. Finally at 0555, while Holland's force was turning 20º to port (a manoeuvre that now permitted Bismarck to identify correctly the Hood and a battleship of the King George V Class), the Bismarck opened fire, followed by the Prinz Eugen immediately afterwards.1 The distance at this time was around 11 miles (20,300 meters / 22,200 yards). Both German ships concentrated their fire on the foremost right opponent, the Hood. Bismarck's first salvo landed short. Aboard the Prinz Eugen, the port 53.3 cm torpedo tubes had already been trained towards the enemy and Captain Brinkmann ordered the Torpedo Officer, Lieutenant Reimann: "permission to fire as soon as in reaching range". At 0556, Prince of Wales' fifth salvo fell over again, but the sixth straddled and likely hit the Bismarck even though aboard the British battleship no hits were observed. The initial fire of the Germans had been excellent, and at 0557, the Prinz Eugen had already obtained a hit on Hood's shelter deck near the mainmast. This caused a big fire which spread as far as the second funnel. The Bismarck had also been hit, and was now leaving a broad track of oil upon the surface of the sea. Therefore, Lütjens ordered the Prinz Eugen (that had already fired six salvoes on Hood) to change target towards the Prince of Wales, together with the secondary battery of the Bismarck which had just entered in action.

    sinking of Hood

    At 0600, the Hood and the Prince of Wales were in the process of turning another 20º to port in order to bring their after turrets into action, when Bismarck's fifth salvo hit the Hood. The distance was less than 9 miles (16,668 meters / 18,236 yards). At least one 15-inch shell penetrated Hood's armour belt and reached an after magazine where it exploded. The German observers were awestruck by the enormous explosion. The Hood, the Mighty Hood, pride of the Royal Navy and during 20 years the largest warship in the world, split in two and sank in three minutes at about 63º 22' North, 32º 17' West. The stern portion sank first, end up and centre down, followed by the bow portion, stem up centre down. It happened so fast that there was not even time to abandon the ship. Out of a crew of 1,418 men, only three survived. Vice-Admiral Holland and his fleet staff, the commander of the Hood Captain Ralph Kerr, and everyone else perished. The three survivors were rescued after three and a half hours at sea by the destroyer Electra (Commander Cecil Wakeford May), and later landed in Reykjavik.

    After the Hood blew up, the Bismarck turned to starboard and concentrated her fire on the Prince of Wales. The British battleship had since altered her course to avoid the wreck of the Hood, and this placed her between the sinking battle cruiser and the German ships. The Germans were thus presented with an easy target switch. At 0602, the Bismarck hit Prince of Wales' bridge, killing everybody there, except the commander, Captain John Catterall Leach and another man. The distance had decreased to 14,000 meters (15,310 yards), and now even the 10.5cm heavy anti-aircraft battery on Prinz Eugen (on Bismarck probably too) entered in action. The Prince of Wales was at a clear disadvantage, and at 0603 launched a smoke screen and retreated from the combat after being hit a total of four times by the Bismarck and three more by the Prinz Eugen. The British battleship fired three more salvoes with "Y" turret under local control while retreating, but did not obtain any hits. At 0609 the Germans fired their last salvo and the battle ended. For the British, this must have been incredible, the German ships kept the same course instead of following the damaged Prince of Wales and finishing her off.
    The Prinz Eugen was not hit during the battle and remained undamaged, even though some Hood's shells landed close by in the opening phase of the engagement and fragments landed on board. However, the Bismarck had been hit on the port side by three heavy shells probably from the Prince of Wales. The first shell hit Bismarck amidships below the waterline in section XIV, passed through the outer hull just below the main belt, and exploded against the 45-mm armoured torpedo bulkhead. This hit caused the flooding of the port electric plant No. 4. The adjacent No. 2 boiler room also took some water, but this was contained by the damage control parties through the use of hammocks. The second shell hit the bow in section XXI, just above the waterline. This projectile entered the port side, passed through the ship above the armoured deck without exploding, and exited the starboard side leaving a hole of 1.5 meters in diameter. Around 2,000 tons of salt water got into the forecastle, and as a consequence of this 1,000 tons of fuel oil were blocked there. The third shell simply passed through a boat without any appreciable damage at all.
    As a result of these hits, the top speed of the Bismarck was reduced to 28 knots. The battleship was 3º down by the bow and had a 9º list to port. Because of this, the blades tips of the starboard propeller were out of the water at times. Therefore the starboard void tanks in sections II and III were flooded to reduce the bow trim and list. The damage was not especially serious, the Bismarck maintained intact her fighting capability, good speed, and there were no casualties among the crew; only five men had been slightly wounded. However, the loss of fuel was to affect the remaining course of action.

    Lütjens Options

    After the battle in the Denmark Strait, the German ships continued on a south-western course. At this time Lütjens had two main options. The first was to return to Norway and the second to carry on into the North Atlantic. Today most people agree that, if at all possible, Lütjens should have destroyed or at least disabled the already damaged Prince of Wales, then turn around, and head for Trondheim, via the Denmark Strait. Lütjens could also have taken a shorter path to Bergen, via the Faeroes-Iceland passage, although the chances of being intercepted by Tovey's battle group (King George V, Repulse, and Victorious) coming from Scapa Flow were greater as well. Instead, the German Admiral opted not to pursue the Prince of Wales (apparently against Captain Lindemann's suggestions) and headed for the Atlantic. At 0801, Admiral Lütjens sent a series of messages to the Group North informing it of his intention to take Bismarck to Saint-Nazaire for repairs. The Prinz Eugen, which was undamaged, would stay in the Atlantic to attack enemy convoys on her own.

    The decision to head for Saint-Nazaire shows that after a survey of the damage sustained, Lütjens had correctly decided to cancel Operation Rheinübung at least temporarily until the Bismarck could be repaired in port. But, why did he choose Saint-Nazaire? The French port was farther than Norway and it required greater fuel expenditure. Lütjens probably thought France was the best place to resume the battle of the Atlantic as soon as possible following Raeder's wishes. In fact, he had successfully entered Brest with Scharnhorst and Geneisenau a couple of months earlier.

    At 0950, Captain Brinkmann was informed by semaphore of the damage received by Bismarck, and afterwards Lütjens ordered the Prinz Eugen to take up position aft of Bismarck temporarily in order to ascertain the severity of her oil loss. By 1100, the Prinz Eugen resumed her previous position in front of the battle group. The three British pursuing ships, now under command of Rear-Admiral Wake-Walker, were still shadowing the Germans; the Suffolk from the starboard quarter, and the Norfolk with Prince of Wales from the port quarter. At noon, the German command transferred the operative control of Operation Rheinübung from Group North to Group West, and at 1240 Bismarck and Prinz Eugen set a new course of 180º due south at 24 knots.

    Dispositions made by the British Admiralty

    The unexpected sinking of the Hood caused enormous indignation in London, and the British Admiralty began to divert all available warships from their original missions in order to join in the chase for Bismarck. This included leaving most convoys that were at that time crossing the Atlantic unescorted.

    The battleship Rodney (Captain Frederick H. G. Dalrymple-Hamilton) was at sea to the west of Ireland on her way to Boston for repairs with destroyers Somali, Tartar, Mashona, and Eskimo of the 6th Flotilla escorting the liner Britannic (27,759 tons), now used as a troop transport. The Admiralty ordered Rodney to operate against Bismarck and at 1036 on the 24th signalled: "If Britannic cannot keep up, leave her behind with 1 destroyer." Therefore Rodney and destroyers Tartar, Mashona and Somali left Britannic with destroyer Eskimo at noon. The battleship Ramillies (Captain Arthur D. Read) to the South of Cape Farewell was also instructed to leave the convoy she was escorting (HX-127) and "proceed so as to make contact with enemy from westwards, subsequently placing enemy between Ramillies and C.-in-C". In addition, the battleship Revenge (Captain Ernest R. Archer) in Halifax was ordered to put to sea, and she left port at 1500, then headed east.

    The Prinz Eugen is Detached.

    Early in the morning of 24 May, Admiral Lütjens had already decided to detach the Prinz Eugen, and at 1420 sent a semaphore signal to Captain Brinkmann:

    «Intend to shake stalker as follows: During rain squall, the Bismarck will change course west. Prinz Eugen will maintain course and speed until he is forced to change position or three hours after the departure of Bismarck. Subsequently, is released to take on oil from "Belchen" or "Lothringen". Afterwards, pursue independent cruiser war. Implementation upon cue word, "Hood".»

    This was to be a diversionary manoeuvre in which the Bismarck had to distract the British ships long enough to let the Prinz Eugen escape. Meanwhile, Vice-Admiral Karl Dönitz had ordered the U-boat force a complete cessation of operations against merchant shipping in order to support the Bismarck. At this time Lütjens urged Dönitz on a radio telegram to assemble his U-boats in quadrant AJ 68. His intention was that Bismarck would be able to lead the British pursuing ships into a trap the next day. Therefore Dönitz stationed several U-boats (U-93, U-43, U-46, U-557, U-66, U-94) in the given area to the South of the southern tip of Greenland. At 1540, the German battle group entered a rain squall, and the execution order of "Hood" was given. The Bismarck turned to starboard at 28 knots, however the Suffolk was shadowing very close from the starboard quarter and the manoeuvre failed. Therefore, at 1600 the Bismarck resumed her position on Prinz Eugen's wake. Two hours later, at 1814, the Bismarck turned to starboard at high speed again. This time the manoeuvre was successful and the Prinz Eugen maintained her course and left the formation. The Bismarck closed on the Suffolk, and at 1830 opened fire from 18,000 meters (19,685 yards), but the cruiser quickly retired under a smoke screen. Subsequently, the Bismarck became engaged with the Prince of Wales at long distance, and after an exchange of shells the fire ceased at 1856. After this action, in which no hits were scored by either side, the Suffolk joined the Norfolk and the Prince of Wales back to the port side of the Bismarck, probably to avoid being surprised by the German battleship if she decided to reverse her course again. This left Bismarck’s starboard side open. The British would pay a high price for this manoeuvre a few hours later, but before this they would still have an opportunity to attack the Bismarck.

    The fuel situation aboard Bismarck had become serious, and at 2056, Lütjens informed Group West that, due to fuel shortage, he was to proceed directly to Saint-Nazaire. In fact, at this time the Bismarck had less than 3,000 tons of fuel-oil available, and unless some of the 1,000 tons of fuel blocked under the forecastle could be retrieved, the battleship would be forced to slow down in order to reach the French coast. Had Bismarck been refuelled in Bergen on 21 May, now she would have some 1,000 tons more of additional fuel available. That would have given Bismarck more freedom of movement and would have enabled Lütjens to make a diversionary manoeuvre to try shake off his pursuers. But the reality was that the fuel shortage hampered the original idea to drive the pursuing British forces into the western U-boat screen, and it forced Bismarck to follow a steady course to France. As a result of this change of plans, all available U-boats in the Bay of Biscay were now ordered to form a patrol line to cover Bismarck's new expected course.

    Attacked by Swordfish Torpedo Planes

    At 1509, Admiral Tovey had detached Rear-Admiral Alban Curteis (in Galatea) with the carrier Victorious (Captain Henry Cecil Bovell) and the four light cruisers Galatea, Aurora, Kenya and Hermione to close the range and deliver a torpedo attack. At 2210, some 120 miles from Bismarck, Victorious launched all her nine Swordfish torpedo planes of the 825th Squadron under the command of Lieutenant-Commander (A) Eugene Esmonde.4 At 2300, they were followed by three Fulmars of the 800Z Squadron, and at 0100 by two more to maintain touch. Esmonde obtained a surface contact on his ASV (Air-to-Surface Vessel) radar at 2350, and prepared his aircraft for the attack, but instead of Bismarck he found the US Coast Guard Cutter Modoc (Lieutenant-Commander Harold Belford). The Bismarck, only six miles away, spotted the British aircraft and opened fire immediately while increasing the speed to 27 knots.

    One Swordfish lost contact with the rest of the squadron in a cloud layer, and only eight planes proceeded to attack around midnight. The German anti-aircraft fire was very intense and even the main and secondary batteries opened fire. Lindemann and the helmsman, Hans Hansen, operating the press buttons of the steering gear, successfully avoided the first six torpedoes when suddenly the battleship was hit. A 18 inch MK XII torpedo struck Bismarck's starboard side, amidships, at the level of the main belt which resisted the explosion very well. The damage was minimal, although the explosion caused the deat of Oberbootsmann Kurt Kirchberg (who became the first casualty aboard) and injured six men.
    Despite the heavy anti-aircraft fire none of the obsolete Swordfish were shot down, and by 0230, all of them had landed on the Victorious. However, the last two Fulmars that had been launched from Victorious were not so fortunate, and they were lost after they ran out of fuel and were forced to land in the sea. The crew of one of them was rescued later by the merchant ship Beaverhill. After the Swordfish attack, the Bismarck reduced her speed to 16 knots to alleviate the pressure in the forecastle and carry out repairs. The distance between both forces decreased, and at 0131 on 25 May (Lütjens' 52th birthday), the Prince of Wales opened fire on Bismarck. The battleships exchanged two salvoes each at a range of 15,000 meters (16,400 yards), but due to the poor visibility neither side scored any hits. The morale aboard the Bismarck was high and sometime about then, the crew wished the Chief of Fleet a happy birthday by the ship's loudspeaker system.

    Admiral Lütjens Makes His Move

    All three British ships that were shadowing the Bismarck from the port quarter had begun to zig-zag in case of a possible U-boat attack. At 0306, taking advantage of the enemy’s disposition and the darkness, Lütjens saw his opportunity to break the contact with his pursuers. The Bismarck increased her speed to 27 knots and turned to starboard, in a manoeuvre very similar to the one executed the previous afternoon when the Prinz Eugen was detached. The Bismarck succeeded in breaking contact and established a new course of 130º due southeast, to Saint-Nazaire. The British ships tried in vain to re-establish contact with the Bismarck, and at 0401 the Suffolk reported: "Enemy contact lost."

    Vice-Admiral Wake Walker's order to change the position of Suffolk in the previous afternoon (24 May) now had its consequences. It gave the Bismarck room to manoeuvre, and Lütjens did not waste this opportunity. With the Suffolk stationed on Bismarck's starboard quarter, it would have been much more difficult for the German battleship to break contact.

    Nevertheless, on board the Bismarck they did not realize that the contact had been broken, and at 0700 Admiral Lütjens sent the following message to the Group West: "One battleship, two heavy cruisers keeping contact." At 0900, Lütjens sent another long message to the Group West. Neither message reached Group West until well after 0900. Ironically, Group West had previously sent (at 0846) a message confirming that the British had lost contact. After this, Bismarck kept strict radio silence, but the British had already intercepted her signals allowing them to calculate her approximate position.

    At 1152, Lütjens received a personal message from Admiral Raeder: "Heartiest Birthday Wishes! In view of your recent great armed feat, may you be granted many more such successes [as you enter] a new year of your life!" Minutes later, at noon, Lütjens delivered the following speech to the crew by the loudspeakers:

    "Soldiers of the battleship Bismarck! You have achieved great fame! The sinking of the battlecruiser Hood does not only have a military, but also a morale [psychological] value [significance], because Hood was England’s pride. The enemy will now attempt to gather its forces and deploy them toward us. Therefore, I released Prinz Eugen yesterday noon so that he can conduct his own war on merchant vessels. He has accomplished to evade the enemy. By contrast, because of the hits we have sustained, we have received the order to head for a French harbour. The enemy will gather on the way and will engage us in battle. The German Nation is with you [in spirit] and we will fire until the barrels glow and until the last projectile has exited the barrel. For us soldiers [the battle cry] as of now is: “Victory or death!”

    At 1625, Lütjens received yet another message of congratulations, this time from Hitler: “I send to you today my very best congratulation for your Birthday!" That same afternoon, Bismarck's Chief Engineer, Lieutenant-Commander Walter Lehmann and several crewmen began to construct a dummy funnel. This would give the battleship two funnels and hopefully confuse the enemy, should Bismarck be detected again. During the night of 25/26 May, the Bismarck maintained her course and there were no incidents on board.

    The Bismarck is Located

    In the morning of 26 May, as the Bismarck was approaching the French coast, the crew was ordered to repaint the top of the main and secondary turrets yellow. Hard job considering the state of the seas, nevertheless it was carried out although the yellow paint washed off at least once.

    A few hours earlier, at 0300, two Coastal Command Catalina flying boats had taken off from Lough Erne in Northern Ireland on a reconnaissance mission in search for the Bismarck. At about 1010, Catalina Z of 209 Squadron commanded by Dennis Briggs sighted the German battleship that immediately answered with very accurate anti-aircraft fire.5 The Catalina jettisoned her four depth charges and took evasive action after her hull was holed by shrapnel. Then reported: "One battleship, bearing 240º, distance 5 miles, course 150º. My position 49º 33' North, 21º 47' West. Time of transmission 1030/26." After more than 31 hours since the contact was broken, the Bismarck had been located again. Unfortunately for the British, however, Admiral Tovey's ships were too far away from the German battleship. The King George V was 135 miles to the north, and the Rodney (with a top speed of 21 knots) was 125 miles to the northeast. They would never catch up with the Bismarck unless her speed could be seriously reduced.

    Only the Force H, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir James F. Somerville, sailing from Gibraltar, had a chance to intercept Bismarck. The battlecruiser Renown (Captain Rhoderick R. McGriggor) was in the best position, but having lost the Hood only two days earlier, the Admiralty did not permit Renown to engage the Bismarck. The best hope for the British was to launch an air strike from the carrier Ark Royal. The Ark Royal had already launched 10 Swordfish at 0835 to try find the Bismarck, and once the report of the Catalina sighting arrived, the two closest Swordfish altered course to intercept. At 1114, Swordfish 2H located the German battleship too, followed seven minutes later by the 2F. Shortly afterwards two more Swordfish, fitted with long-range tanks, were launched to relieve 2H and 2F and keep touch with Bismarck.

    At 1450, fifteen Swordfish commanded by Lieutenant-Commander J. A. Stewart-Moore took off from the Ark Royal (Captain Loben E. Maund) to attack the Bismarck. At 1550, they obtained radar contact with a ship and dived to attack. The attack, however, turned out to be a failure since the ship sighted was actually the light cruiser Sheffield (Captain Charles A. Larcom) which had been detached from Force H to make contact with the Bismarck. Luckily for the British, the Sheffield was not hit by any of the 11 torpedoes launched because they had faulty magnetic pistols. Two torpedoes exploded upon hitting the water, three on crossing the cruiser wake, and the other six were successfully avoided. The Swordfish returned to the Ark Royal and landed on her deck after 1700. At 1740, the Sheffield obtained visual contact with the Bismarck.

    The British put every effort on one last attack. It would be dark soon, and they knew this was their last real chance to stop or at least slow down the Bismarck. If they failed again, the Bismarck would reach the French coast on the next day, since another air strike late at night was unlikely to succeed. Therefore, at 1915, another group comprised of fifteen Swordfish, mostly the same used in the previous attack, took off from the Ark Royal, and this time their torpedoes were armed with contact pistols.

    Meanwhile, the pursuing British forces had run across U-556 (Lieutenant Herbert Wohlfarth) which sighted the Renown and the Ark Royal at 1948. The German submarine was perfectly placed for an attack, but could not do so as it had no torpedoes left. Wohlfarth had spent his last “fishes” on the ships of convoy HX-126 a few days back. Therefore, U-556 could only make signals reporting the position, course and speed of the enemy.

    The Swordfish striking force, this time under the command of Lieutenant-Commander T.P. Coode, first approached the Sheffield to get the range and bearing to the Bismarck, and at 2047, began the attack. Bismarck's anti-aircraft battery opened fire immediately. During the course of the attack, the Bismarck received at least two torpedo hits. One torpedo (or two) hit the port side amidships, and another struck the stern in the starboard side. The first hit did not cause important damage, but the second jammed both rudders at 12º to port. The Bismarck made a circle and then began to steer northwest involuntarily into the wind. As before, none of the Swordfish were shot down although some were hit several times. The damage to the Bismarck was so serious that at 2140, Admiral Lütjens sent the following message to Group West: "Ship unable to manoeuvre. We will fight to the last shell. Long live the Führer".

    The impact in the stern area caused the flooding of the steering and other adjacent compartments. This meant that all repair attempts would have to be done under water. Divers were ordered to enter the steering compartment in order to free the rudders, but the violent movement of the water inside made this an impossible task. It was not possible to lower divers over the side due to the high seas. As an alternative, it was considered to blow the rudders away with explosives and try to steer the ship using the propellers alone, but the idea was rejected fearing that the explosion could damage the propellers.

    Destroyers Attack Bismarck.

    After the aerial torpedo attack, the new erratic course of the Bismarck caused her to close the range with the Sheffield. At about 2145, Bismarck opened fire on the Sheffield at a range of about nine miles. Bismarck fired a total of six salvoes and the British cruiser turned away to the north under the cover of a smoke screen. The Sheffield was not hit, but some splinters disabled her radar and injured twelve men of whom three died later.6 The turn caused Sheffield to lose contact with Bismarck, but at 2200, she made contact with the destroyers of the 4th Flotilla (Captain Philip L. Vian) Cossack, Maori, Zulu, Sikh and Piorun, and provided them with the approximate bearing and distance to the German battleship.

    At 2238, the Polish destroyer Piorun (Commander Eugeniusz Plawski) sighted the Bismarck. The German battleship responded shortly thereafter with three salvoes. The destroyers proceeded to attack, but Bismarck defended herself vigorously in the dark. At 2342, splinters knocked down Cossack's antennas. Shortly after 0000, star shells from the destroyers began to illuminate the area. About an hour later, a star shell fell on Bismarck's bows starting a fire there that had to be extinguished by some crew members. Throughout the night the destroyers attacked the German battleship. These attacks were carried out in heavy seas, rain squalls and low visibility, and no torpedo hits were obtained on Bismarck, that time after time repelled every attack with heavy and accurate fire from her main and secondary batteries. By 0700, a total of 16 torpedoes had been fired by the destroyers of the 4th Flotilla.

    The Final Battle (a desperate fight against impossible odds)

    The sea ran high with the wind from the north-west at force 8 (34-40 knots). On board the Bismarck, the atmosphere on the bridge was tense, and they knew it was only a matter of time before the British engaged them with heavy ships. The German battleship was steering against the wind at seven knots. The flooding in the stern compartments had somehow reduced the bow trim although the ship had a slight list to port. At 0833, King George V and Rodney altered their course to 110º, and ten minutes later at 0843, they sighted the Bismarck at 23,000 meters (25,150 yards).

    he Rodney opened fire at 0847, followed by the King George V one minute later. The distance at this time was about 20,000 meters (21,870 yards). The Bismarck returned fire at 0849 with the forward turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" against the Rodney. At 0854, the Norfolk joined the battle with her eight 20.3cm guns, and at 0858 the secondary battery of Rodney joined the action.

    At 0902, the Bismarck was hit by several shells that struck the forecastle, foremast and disabled the foretop rangefinder. At 0904, the Dorsetshire (Captain Benjamin C. S. Martin) which had just arrived, also opened fire. Two battleships and two heavy cruisers were firing against the Bismarck. At 0908, the forward rangefinder and turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" were put out of action. Bismarck's fire control was, therefore, shifted to the after command post. From there, the Fourth Artillery Officer (IV.A.O.), Lieutenant Müllenheim-Rechberg directed four salvoes against the King George V. But at about 0913, just as he got the range, his station was also put out of action by a 35.6cm shell that destroyed the cupola. The after turrets then proceeded to fire under local control at Rodney which, in the meantime, had launched six torpedoes at Bismarck, none of them hit. At 0921, turret "Dora" was put out of action after one of its own shells exploded inside the right barrel. At 0927, turret "Anton" or "Bruno" surprisingly fired one last salvo. Four minutes later, at 0931 turret "Cäsar" fired its last salvo. Only a few secondary guns were still in action, but these were soon to be silenced, too, by the enormous avalanche of British fire. At this time, Captain Lindemann, gave the order to scuttle and abandon ship.

    Once the Bismarck lost her fighting capability, Rodney got closer, and from distances between 2,500 and 4,000 meters continued firing with her nine 40.6cm guns against the German battleship. The hits continued. At about 0940, the rear wall of turret "Bruno" blew out and the turret caught on fire. At 0956, the Rodney launched two more torpedoes from 2,700 meters with one possible hit scored on the portside. From this point blank range it was virtually impossible to miss a shot, and shell by shell hit the Bismarck which amazingly was still afloat. Soon after 1000, the Norfolk launched four torpedoes from about 3,600 meters with one possible hit to the starboard side. The destruction aboard the Bismarck was complete, and men had begun jumping overboard. All guns were out of action, their barrels pointing in different directions at odd angles. The funnel and superstructure were holed in many places. The port forward hangar was demolished. In some places the decks looked like a slaughterhouse. Ironically, the mainmast was still standing with the battle flag flaying with the wind. The Rodney ceased fire at 1016, and Tovey, short of fuel, was forced to leave the battlefield.

    The Sinking of the Bismarck

    At 0920, the Ark Royal had launched twelve Swordfish in order to attack Bismarck. The Swordfish striking force appeared on the scene at about 1015, but due to the heavy fire from the British warships stayed away. At first, the King George V mistook them by German aircraft, and even opened fire with her anti-aircraft battery, but fortunately no planes were hit. At 1020, the Dorsetshire closed the range and fired two 21 inch MK VII torpedoes from 3,000 meters at the starboard side of the Bismarck. Both of them hit, but no appreciable effect was observed. Then, the British heavy cruiser turned around, and at 1036 fired another torpedo from 2,200 meters against Bismarck's port side that also hit. The Swordfish circling over the area were privileged witnesses to this unfolding drama. By this time the German battleship had a heavy list to port, with the water reaching the upper deck. The port secondary battery turrets were almost submerged. Finally, the Bismarck capsized and sank at 1039 in the approximate position of 48º 10' North, 16º 12' West.

    Almost two hours had elapsed since the battle had begun, and the Bismarck had shown a formidable capacity of resistance. The British first struck Bismarck at 0902, and ceased fire around 1016. For 74 minutes, the Bismarck received a continuous hammering that no other warship could have taken. We need not forget that the Hood (however the Hood was a battlecruiser and not a BB so it had poor armour) sank six minutes after the first German shells were fired only three days earlier. Moreover, neither the main belt nor the armour deck were seen to be penetrated during the combat, and in the end it was her own crew who scuttled the ship. During this last engagement 2,876 shells were fired at the Bismarck. They are itemised as follows:



    It will never be known how many of them did actually hit (400, 500, 600, maybe more), but taking into account the short distances in the last phase of the combat, it is assumed that many shells hit.

    At 1100, only 20 minutes after the sinking, Winston Churchill informed the House of Commons gathered at Church House about the operations against Bismarck: "This morning shortly after day-break, the Bismarck virtually immobilized, without help, was attacked by British battleships that pursued her. I don't know the result of this action. It seems however, that Bismarck was not sunk by gunfire, and now will be sunk by torpedoes. It is believed that this is happening right now. Great as is our loss in the Hood, the Bismarck must be regarded as the most powerful enemy battleship, as she is the newest enemy battleship and the striking of her from the German Navy is a very definite simplification of the task of maintaining effective mastery of the Northern sea and maintenance of the Northern blockade." Mr. Churchill had just sat down when he was given a note, the Prime Minister rose again and said: "I have just received news that the Bismarck is sunk." The cheers were loud and long.

    Survivors

    Ceremony aboard the Canarias for the Bismarck's dead.
    Around 800 sailors managed to abandon the Bismarck before she sank. The rest of the crew, many of them still alive sank with the battleship. An hour later, the Dorsetshire picked up 86 sailors and the Maori another 25. The temperature of the water was 13º C. The British did not recover more men because they claimed there were U-boats in the area. Hours later, the U-74 (Lieutenant Eitel-Friedrich Kentrat) rescued three more sailors. They were Herbert Manthey, Otto Höntzsch, and Georg Herzog. The next day (28th), the German weather observation ship Sachsenwald (Lieutenant Wilhelm Schütte) found two more, Otto Maus and Walter Lorenzen. Meanwhile, the Spanish heavy cruiser Canarias (Captain Benigno González-Aller) had left the port of El Ferrol at 1140 on 27 May in an attempt to rescue some survivors from the Bismarck. On 30 May, after a brief meeting with the Sachsenwald the Canarias found two dead bodies floating in the sea which were pulled aboard. These were Walter Grasczak and Heinrich Neuschwander. At 1000 on the next day (31st), they were given a naval burial service and their bodies were committed to the deep. In the end, out of a crew of more than 2,200 officers, non-commissioned officers and men only 115 survived.

    Following the sinking of the Bismarck, German aircraft had been sent to look for Admiral Tovey’s force that had run low on fuel and was on its way back home. On 28 May, the destroyers Tartar and Mashona were attacked by German bombers. Mashona was hit by a bomb on her port side and sank with the loss of 46 men. The Tartar rescued about 170 men, including Mashona’s commander William H. Selby. The rest of the British fleet arrived safely in port.

    Operation Rheinübung: Final Observations

    Although considered a fine commander, Admiral Lütjens has been unjustly criticised for some of the decisions made during Operation Rheinübung. Today with the advantage of knowing the final outcome of battle, it is easy to conduct a deep examination of the operations and say what Lütjens should or shouldn't have done. But one must put oneself in the German Admiral’s place and try to understand the difficulties that affected his decisions and the time and circunmstances in which they were made. Nevertheless, the truth is that both German and British committed a series of "reproachable mistakes" that made this story even more dramatic and interesting. If a single one of those mistakes had not been made, the course of the operations could have developed in a completely different way and the outcome of the battle could have been quite different. As Karel Stepanek playing Admiral Lütjens in the 1960 movie "Sink the Bismarck" says: "We have a most interesting chess game here".

    From the operative point of view, Operation Rheinübung was a failure since its first stages, since as early as 20 May, the German battle group had been already detected in the Kattegat. The British demonstrated that they had heavily improved their vigilance, and successfully signalled Bismarck's movements from her first arrival in Norwegian waters. The Germans, on the other hand, suffered from inadequate military intelligence and a lack of effective cooperation with the U-boat arm. Despite all this, the Bismarck almost escaped, and she would certainly have done so, if it were not for that fatal torpedo hit on the stern. If there is one thing that can not be reproached is the conduct of her crew which was in every way exemplary.

    For the German Navy the sinking of the battleship Bismarck was probably the heaviest single blow of the war. Nevertheless, the Kriegsmarine still had considerable striking power and was far from being defeated as the year 1942 proved; however, but the loss of the Bismarck marked a turning point in the war on Allied merchant shipping. Not only because of the loss of the battleship itself, but because the consequences that it brought. Shortly after Operation Rheinübung, the Germans abandoned the use of heavy surface warships for raiding purposes in the Atlantic. From then on, only the auxiliary cruisers remained engaged against enemy merchant shipping, but even their use proved difficult by the end of 1941, and therefore the Germans concentrated their efforts in the U-boat war. U-boats would still bring important successes, but they, too, were eventually defeated in May 1943 with the loss of 41 units, in what it can be considered as the other turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.

    The aircraft carrier had revealed itself as a decisive weapon and soon was to replace the battleship as the ultimate warship. This was confirmed six months later during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, and during the Battle of the Coral Sea, the first true aero-naval battle in history between two carrier forces. Today, now in the 21st century, the battleship era is long gone, but the story of the Bismarck and her brave crew still fascinates thousands of people and her legend is still very much alive.
    good to see you are practiceing writing essays

  13. #63
    Here it is. Tirpitz armour from its deck.

  14. #64

    Smile

    wow

  15. #65

    Bismarck rulez

    now we wont have anymore misunderstandings about the legendary Bismarck

    by the way nice picture posted of the deck-armour from Tirpitz
    when Dr. Ballard went on his secound trip to the wreckage of the Bismarck (he found it in 1989 and filmed it, wich ended the long controversy about the sinking of the Bismarck-either British torpedo's or scuttling) he started his voyage from a German harbour (I think it was Kiel, but don't know for sure) where there were still steel plates from the same as used during the construction of the Bismarck being used due to good quality, it was the year 2001 when Dr. Ballard went on this memorable secound trip to the wreckage of the Bismarck.... so let there be no doubt about the might of the Bismarck, besides the Yamato class off course wich is the most powerful BB ever that has been on the oceans, It could take any BB of her time from any navy (IJN, USN, Royal Navy, French navy, Italian navy).
    Even the North Carolina, South Dakota and Iowa class from USN
    any IJN BB besides Yamato class
    any Royal Navy BB from the Renown class, KGV class to the Rodney class
    1vs1 offcourse
    I dare to say it, because in the final hours of the Bismarck, when she was al ready crippled by a torpedo in the rudder and some damage from the earlier confrontation in the Denmark strait she subdued to the following punishing rain of shells without noticable armour or deck penetration or even being sunk not even taking the many torpedo hits in account
    380 of 40.6 cm from Rodney
    339 of 35.6 cm from King George V
    527 of 20.3 cm from Norfolk
    254 of 20.3 cm from Dorsetshire
    716 of 15.2 cm from Rodney
    660 of 13.3 cm from King George V

  16. #66
    I have no doubts that the Iowa would have been able to sink the Bismarck here's why:

    the Bismarck had faced British battleships armed with 14", 15" & 16" guns.

    the 14" guns of the KGV class were a failure, originally the British wanted the KGV class to be fitted with 12- but because they were so desperate to stay within the weight limit of the Washington Naval treaty they decided to limit it to 10 guns. the power of the 14" gun also had been called in to question- the British had more powerful guns available- the 15" gun for example was a tried and tested weapon. Designers were also working on a brand new 16" gun aswell- but the Royal Navy wanted to get the KGV in service as quickly as possible. (the Americans however managed to switch from the original 14" gun planned for their South dakota class BBs to 16" guns & it didnt take that long). considering other nations were building BBs with larger guns its puzzling why the British decided to stick to the 14" gun that only fired a 1590lb shell.
    in anycase the 14" guns mounted in quad turrets were very unreliable, being prone to mechanical failures- during the Battle of the Denmark straight HMS Prince of Wales quad gun turrets were often not operational.

    the Hood was armed with 8x 15" guns- the standard gun for British capital ships for the last 2 decades- it was reliable- fired a 1920lb shell & was generally a very good gun. However it was starting to show its age- as larger & more powerful guns began to emerge that had better armour penetration than it.

    Hms Rodney was armed with 9x 16" guns- the guns fired a 2048lb shell- the reason for this was that back in the 1920s when the Rodney was being designed- during firing trials it was mistakenly reported that lighter shells firing at a higher velocity had better armour penetration than heavier shells firing at a lower velocity. this is why the 16" shell weighed only 128lb more than the then standard 15" shell of the Royal Navy. by the time the truth had been discovered the guns & ships were already in service. the guns turned out to be reliable but not as accurate as the old 15"/42 guns. in the 1930s a proposal to increase the projectile weight to 2250lbs never materialised due to financial constraints.

    now here's my arguement:

    as you can see the guns of the Royal Navy capital ships by 1941 were somewhat lacking compared to the rest of the world. the Bismarck was a fine ship- but her armour protection was to low in the ship- thus critically her fire control & other vital systems were not as protected as she should have been. this major flaw contributed to her losing her guns so quickly.

    lets take a look at the 16" guns carried by the Iowa.

    originally the South Dakota class of BBs were going to be armed with 14" guns as the British had decided to make that the maximum for new Battleships as part of the Washington Naval treaty, anyway the Americans saw sense & decided to go for a new 16"/45 design that fired 2200lb shells.

    by the time the Iowa class came to being they had modified the design to a 16"/50 gun that fired a Super-Heavy 2700lb shell!!. the increase barrel length & much increased projectile-weight would give the ship much greater firepower than before.

    if the Bismarck was vulnerable to 14"-1590lb shells, 15"-1920lb shells & 16"-2048lb shells- imagine what damage a 16"-2700lb shell would do!

  17. #67

    read first, then reply

    Originally Posted by FreeloaderUK
    I have no doubts that the Iowa would have been able to sink the Bismarck here's why:

    the Bismarck had faced British battleships armed with 14", 15" & 16" guns.

    the 14" guns of the KGV class were a failure, originally the British wanted the KGV class to be fitted with 12- but because they were so desperate to stay within the weight limit of the Washington Naval treaty they decided to limit it to 10 guns. the power of the 14" gun also had been called in to question- the British had more powerful guns available- the 15" gun for example was a tried and tested weapon. Designers were also working on a brand new 16" gun aswell- but the Royal Navy wanted to get the KGV in service as quickly as possible. (the Americans however managed to switch from the original 14" gun planned for their South dakota class BBs to 16" guns & it didnt take that long). considering other nations were building BBs with larger guns its puzzling why the British decided to stick to the 14" gun that only fired a 1590lb shell.
    in anycase the 14" guns mounted in quad turrets were very unreliable, being prone to mechanical failures- during the Battle of the Denmark straight HMS Prince of Wales quad gun turrets were often not operational.

    the Hood was armed with 8x 15" guns- the standard gun for British capital ships for the last 2 decades- it was reliable- fired a 1920lb shell & was generally a very good gun. However it was starting to show its age- as larger & more powerful guns began to emerge that had better armour penetration than it.

    Hms Rodney was armed with 9x 16" guns- the guns fired a 2048lb shell- the reason for this was that back in the 1920s when the Rodney was being designed- during firing trials it was mistakenly reported that lighter shells firing at a higher velocity had better armour penetration than heavier shells firing at a lower velocity. this is why the 16" shell weighed only 128lb more than the then standard 15" shell of the Royal Navy. by the time the truth had been discovered the guns & ships were already in service. the guns turned out to be reliable but not as accurate as the old 15"/42 guns. in the 1930s a proposal to increase the projectile weight to 2250lbs never materialised due to financial constraints.

    now here's my arguement:

    as you can see the guns of the Royal Navy capital ships by 1941 were somewhat lacking compared to the rest of the world. the Bismarck was a fine ship- but her armour protection was to low in the ship- thus critically her fire control & other vital systems were not as protected as she should have been. this major flaw contributed to her losing her guns so quickly.

    lets take a look at the 16" guns carried by the Iowa.

    originally the South Dakota class of BBs were going to be armed with 14" guns as the British had decided to make that the maximum for new Battleships as part of the Washington Naval treaty, anyway the Americans saw sense & decided to go for a new 16"/45 design that fired 2200lb shells.

    by the time the Iowa class came to being they had modified the design to a 16"/50 gun that fired a Super-Heavy 2700lb shell!!. the increase barrel length & much increased projectile-weight would give the ship much greater firepower than before.

    if the Bismarck was vulnerable to 14"-1590lb shells, 15"-1920lb shells & 16"-2048lb shells- imagine what damage a 16"-2700lb shell would do!
    If you would have read the part of sinking of the Bismarck and a battle against impossible odds from the operation rheinubung post, than I wouldnt have to repost this part, because what vulnerability are you talking about? that devastating rain of shells and swarms of torpedo's launched at the bismarck in its final&crippled moments couldnt even penetrate its (deck)armour nor sink it...
    but to tackle the misconception wich invaded your perception, I'll show it to you once more.
    I hope you are not blind to real facts

    ...Almost two hours had elapsed since the battle had begun, and the Bismarck had shown a formidable capacity of resistance. The British first struck Bismarck at 0902, and ceased fire around 1016. For 74 minutes, the Bismarck received a continuous hammering that no other warship could have taken. We need not forget that the Hood (however the Hood was a battlecruiser and not a BB so it had poor armour) sank six minutes after the first German shells were fired only three days earlier. Moreover, neither the main belt nor the armour deck were seen to be penetrated during the combat, and in the end it was her own crew who scuttled the ship. During this last engagement 2,876 shells were fired at the Bismarck. They are itemised as follows:

    380 of 40.6 cm from Rodney
    339 of 35.6 cm from King George V
    527 of 20.3 cm from Norfolk
    254 of 20.3 cm from Dorsethire
    716 of 15.2 cm from Rodney
    660 of 13.3 cm from King George V


    It will never be known how many of them did actually hit (400, 500, 600, maybe more), but taking into account the short distances in the last phase of the combat, it is assumed that many shells hit.

    source: Operation Rheinubung by Jose M. Rico
    http://www.kbismarck.com/operheini.html

  18. #68
    im not going into a long debate about this but lets get this clear:

    the 14", 15" & 16" guns of the ships used against the Bismarck were clearly a lot less powerful than the 16" guns fitted to the Iowa class.

    now it is clear that guns used against the Bismarck caused major damage to ship- she took on water, lost all her guns & her uppwerworks were smashed by these guns.

    whether or not the crew scuttled the ship is irrelevant- by the end of the engagement the Bismarck was a sitting duck- you can proudly boast that the guns weren't enough to sink her- but in the end that makes little difference. the 2700lb shells of the 16" guns fitted to the Iowa would have been far more devastating than the shells the British fired against the Bismarck.

  19. #69
    Originally Posted by FreeloaderUK
    im not going into a long debate about this but lets get this clear:

    the 14", 15" & 16" guns of the ships used against the Bismarck were clearly a lot less powerful than the 16" guns fitted to the Iowa class.

    now it is clear that guns used against the Bismarck caused major damage to ship- she took on water, lost all her guns & her uppwerworks were smashed by these guns.

    whether or not the crew scuttled the ship is irrelevant- by the end of the engagement the Bismarck was a sitting duck- you can proudly boast that the guns weren't enough to sink her- but in the end that makes little difference. the 2700lb shells of the 16" guns fitted to the Iowa would have been far more devastating than the shells the British fired against the Bismarck.
    I'm not saying that the arguments you bring forward are not correct. Yes the Iowa class had better armour and more powerful guns than Bismarck
    and it is it true that the Prince of wales had technical problems (it was her maiden voyage, her trials were the battle of denmark strait...).
    During that trip with the Hood she still had technical experts on baord fixing hur turret(s).
    The Battle of Denmark straight was a unfair battle: a post WO I battlecruiser (that means poor armour) and a brandnew Battleship, still in its premature trials against one of the most powerful and new (for the 1941era) battleships Bismarck (with the best gun crew of the kriegsmarine) and a heavy cruiser.
    But the final stage of the sinking of the Bismarck was too: after circling a night around with a poor 7-10knots speed with a stuck rudder straight into the direction of the rushing Royal Navy eager to finish her off before they run out of fuel. In these doomed conditions Bismarck fought off all night British destroyers wich were not able to make a torpedo hit due to accurate firing from main and secondary guns and off course the high seas.
    My point is that if the Bismarck the next morning meeting the Royal Navy for her naval funeral in the worst conditions possible with a poor 10 knots, no rudder control facing two reputated British battleships fully equiped and trained the KGV and Rodney assisted by a couple of cruisers could stand off for 74 minutes before the guns of the Bismarck were silenced after numerous shell and torpedo hits, then why couldnt the Bismarck stand down firm in a combat with a Iowa class BB although Iowa has better armour, guns, and radar
    You mentioned also the South Dakota class BB, wich is also a very nice BB. But in the second naval battle of gualdalcanal vs Kirishima (Kongo class) due to lack of electricity/power in combat south dakota was almost annihilated in a night battle and saved by her sistership washington wich managed to close in on the Kirishima unnoticed at almost a ludicrous distance of 8400 yards and finished her off.
    So why couldnt Bismarck be a worthy match or even the winner in a direct confrontation with a superior Iowa class, South dakota class or even North carolina class considering all the facts from above?
    Even if the USN BB's had better radar-guncontrol, Bismarck had accurate main and second gun control with and without (inferior) radar till the bitter end.

  20. #70
    i can see your point- but like i said- the Bismarck & Tirpitz were fine battleships- in fact according to chuckhawks.com the bismarck pound for pound was probably the hardest battleship to sink. but like i said before the armour protection of the ship was too low in the hull meaning her fire control etc was exposed & that LEAD TO HER DEMISE.

    thats what happened i cant remember which ship did it- but in anycase the Bismarcks fire control was hit & that meant it was effectively game over. she couldnt shoot back.

    in my book she was superior to the Royal Navy BBs of the period (with the exception of the later Vanguard)

    the KGV was built to the limits of the Washington Naval treaty & despite being a decent ship really SHOULD have been fitted with better guns than the poor 14" ones.

    Rodney was an old 1920s BB that was built with many compromises- i.e. slow speed, weak armour & weaker firepower than what could have been.

    the Hood was a WW1 battlecruiser that despite being updated was in no condition to go up against the Bismarck especially teamed with the PoW- that was the worst combination ever!

    the Hood didnt have enough deck armour protection, & the Prince of Wales was fresh out of docks with an inexperienced crew & mechanicaly malfunctioning guns!

  21. #71

    Smile

    own up who just copied and pasted this info from souces like wikipedia.com the free encyclopedia

  22. #72
    The problem with the Bismarck class was its armour set up. It was based on a WW1 ship there for its firecontrol and comms were not in the armoured sections of the ship.

    Its deck armour was poor and its turrets were very strong.

    The firecontrol was out almost right from the word go. why? because of the poor armour setup.

    the very strong armour on the turrets were well blow to bits by the British ships.

    the superstructure didnt stand up to much either.

    The belt armour stood up because it wasnt fired at as much as the deck and superstructure.

    Remember these shells make an arc.

    (btw Iowas armour wasnt that great. every other ww2 made battleship was better protected. her underwater protection was deadful. she could take somthing like 500lb of TNT. the japs torps where 700lbs so she had no protection against them. Vanguard had 1100Lbs but was far better protected then any other ship created during WW2 (apart from Yamato)


    One on one i still maintain KG5 could have taken on the Bismarck even if she was fully operational.


    Pros
    Good rangefinding
    good armour belt
    well trained crew
    fast


    cons
    Very poor armour setup
    poor manuvabity



    KG5
    Pros
    Strongest armoured ship at that time.
    Heavyer broadside then Bismarck
    Very well trained and experianced crew
    fair manuvablity
    very good firecontrol

    cons
    guns had a tendency to malfunction (This didnt happen during the last fight with the bismarck)
    poor sea boat





    In the end i think Bismarck would have lost, Mainly because of its armour set up. If it lost its comms and FCS then it would have no hope. It didnt hit a thing in its final battle with out its fire control.

    but we will never know.


    lets face it. all these great ships and what did any of them really do?


    Bismarck class sunk a very old and un modenised WW1 battlecruiser

    Iowa class shot down some planes

    KG5 class Sunk a modern Battleship Bismarck and Sharnhorst.

    It is a shame Vanguard mised the war. She was very powerfull. Great Armour, very fast, best AA on any RN ship. only think that let her down was the Radar guided guns that are consided to be the most reliable and accurate naval guns ever made..... oh well.

  23. #73
    thats some big armor.

  24. #74

    Smile

    Originally Posted by VTROOPER
    then we need D-Day
    how? and a D-Day map, what would the player do, take out the fortresses?

  25. #75
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    1,450
    Any ways, back on topic, if the Bismark wasn't hit by that torp. and made it back, what do you think would have happened? This is out current discossion topic. Lets try not to stray to far...
    "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on." ---Robert Frost.
    -=)CSF(=-XGamerms999
    http://www.watchfarscape.com/forums/...ilies/Thud.gif

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