Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Sinking of the Bismarck

Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Commander-in-Chief of the German navy, planned a two-pronged sortie into the North Atlantic by the battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugenfrom the north and the battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenaufrom the French port of Brest. Damage to several vessels reduced this to a single thrust by the Bismarck group under Admiral Günther Lütyens. Although Bismarck and Prinz Eugen broke out into the Atlantic — sinking HMS HoodBismarck was caught making for France, damaged by air attack, battered into a hulk by superior British forces and either sunk by Dorsetshire's torpedoes or scuttled by her crew.

Bismarck triumphant: the German battleship (above) engaging the old battlecruiser HMS Hood in the Denmark Strait on May 24. A hit from one of the German warships caused a massive explosion which sank Hood: only three of her complement of 1,421 survived.

Bismarck, on fire in the distance, engaged by the battleship HMS Rodney on May 27. Damage incurred in the Denmark Strait action had forced Bismarck to turn back, and an air-dropped torpedo had damaged her rudder. Although she shot well at the start of her final action, her inability to manoeuvre was a fatal disadvantage.

Survivors from Bismarck are pulled aboard HMS Dorsetshire. There were only 117 survivors from her company of 2,200: Admiral Lütyens was among those lost.

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