Skip to comments.BRITISH FLEET ENGAGES BISMARCK, HIT IN CHASE BY AERIAL TORPEDO (5/27/41)
Posted on 05/27/2011 5:30:35 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
British sink the Bismark
Tuesday, May 27, 1941 www.onwar.com
In the North Atlantic... Rodney and King George V come up and in a gun battle lasting less than two hours, the Bismark is reduced to a hulk. She is finished off with torpedoes from the cruisers Dorsetshire and Norfolk.
In the Mediterranean... On Crete, German forces take Canea and Suda. The Allied forces are now largely split up and moving in a disorganized manner in the direction of Sfakia to be evacuated. The evacuation is authorized by Wavell after he has consulted with London. The battleship Barham is damaged by air attack.
In North Africa... Rommel has reinforced his troops on the Egyptian border and his two panzer regiments retake Halfaya Pass in a converging attack. The Germans begin work to fortify their new position, especially by digging in their 88mm guns.
In Iraq... British forces begin to advance from their positions around Habbaniyah and Fallujah toward the capital, Baghdad.
May 27th, 1941
UNITED KINGDOM: The first catapult equipped merchantman, the steamship ‘Michael E’ puts to sea, with its complement of two Hurricanes. It is later sunk by torpedo.
FRANCE: Paris: The Vichy vice-premier, Admiral darlan, signs the “Paris Protocols”, giving Germany access to Syrian and Lebanese military facilities and naval bases at Tunis and Dakar.
GREECE: CRETE: The Allied commander General Freyberg receives orders to evacuate the island.
The town of Chania falls.
As HMS Barham covers a supply mission, she is damaged by air attack to the northwest of Alexandria. Canea and Suda fall to the Germans.
EGYPT: Rommel recaptures the Halfaya Pass from British troops who have held the Pass for the last two weeks. He sent in three battle groups. The Coldstream Guards lost 100 men.
U.S.A.: Washington: Roosevelt today warned America of Nazi designs on the Americas. He promised to extend US patrols in the Atlantic to protect the sea-lanes to Britain, and announced that he had proclaimed an “unlimited national emergency.” requiring that its military, naval, air and civilian defenses be put on the basis of readiness to repel any and all acts or threats of aggression directed toward any part of the Western Hemisphere. the US was rearming only for self-defence, he said.
He also declares that labour and capital must defer to government mediation processes “without stoppage of work.”
Joseph Grew, US Ambassador to Japan, writes Hull to advise that war was inevitable if the diplomatic talks between the US and Japan broke down. (Marc Small)
ATLANTIC OCEAN: The Bismarck is sunk by ships and planes of the Royal Navy with the loss of some 2300 lives and 110 survivors. The loss of this ship will be debated. The Germans maintain the scuttled, the British of course maintain the BISMARK was sunk. (Ray Cresswell)
King George V, Rodney and BISMARK all open fire around 08.45. Only the German ship is hit and by 10.15 she is a blazing wreck, after being pounded with 16-inch and 14-inch guns from ever-decreasing range. BISMARK still remained afloat thanks to her honeycomb pattern of watertight compartments which her designers claimed made her unsinkable. The big ships were running out of fuel and were ordered home. Heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire, having left convoy SL74 the previous day, fires torpedoes to finish her off, but the BISMARK’s captain has already ordered her to be scuttled. BISMARK sinks at 10.35 to the southwest of Ireland, the 2,200 men who died included Admiral Lutjens and her captain, Ernst Lindemann. HMS Norfolk is there at the end. The Dorsetshire and other British ships stood by to pick up survivors - but made off when told a U-boat was in the vicinity. 110 of the BISMARK’s crew survived.
HMCS St Clair (ex USS Williams) and HMS Mashona attacked by 5 German bombers, west of Galway Bay, Ireland. Mashona capsized and sunk, survivors picked up by St Clair. (Tom Carlson)
At 0101, the Colonial, dispersed from Convoy OB-318, was hit by one torpedo from U-107 and sank after a coup de grâce at 0146 about 200 miles WNW of Freetown. The master, the convoy commodore (Rear Admiral W.B. Mackenzie RN), 88 crewmembers, six naval staff members and four gunners were picked up by target ship (ex-battleship) HMS Centurion and landed at Freetown. (DS)
Day 635 May 27, 1941
British battleships HMS King George V & HMS Rodney approach German battleship Bismarck from the Northwest and begin firing at 8.47 AM. Bismarck is an easy target, almost stationary & illuminated by the sun rising behind her. Loss of steering & a port list render her firing inaccurate. Bismarck is hit several times putting her guns out of action, without registering any hits on the British. King George V & Rodney plus heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk & HMS Dorsetshire close in, firing 2876 rounds including 719 14-inch & 16-inch shells. About 400 shells hit Bismarck, turning her into a burning hulk but she does not sink until the crew blow scuttling charges in the boiler rooms (she is also hit by torpedoes from HMS Dorsetshire). Bismarck sinks at 10.39 AM. Dorsetshire & destroyer HMS Maori begin rescue 110 survivors but then leave on a false sighting of a U-boat. German weather ship Sachsenwald picks up 5 survivors next day. In all, 2091 German sailors are killed.
Pivotal turn here...cant wait for next fews days seeing their reporting of what happened to the Bismarck...
I’m on the edge of my seat wondering whats going to happen to the Bismarck
abb won’t be joining us this morning to update the day-by-day story of Bismarck vs. the Royal Navy (some lame excuse about work or something - nothing really important like bass fishing.) But he was kind enough to drop off a couple links to sites with the current state of research into the wrecks of the two main characters. If someone wants to check them out and post some juicy tidbits on this thread it would be appreciated. Or from the other sites that abb and others have linked to over the last several days. I would try but I have my own work-related issues to attend to.
Hanson Baldwin’s analysis of torpedo tactics & damage was detailed and (as it turns out) prophetic.
The Swordfish biplane had a very good war, and one of its high points was the hunt of the Bismarck.
Bismarck had already been reduced to 20 knots by damage to its reserve fuel supply during the Battle of the Denmark strait (where Hood was sunk). A successful torpedo strike on the 24th May led to another 4 knot reduction in speed.
The decisive torpedo hit was on the 26th, which jammed rudder and steering and made the Bismarck effectively unfightable. On the 27th of May: Rodney and King George V, along with heavy cruisers Norfolk and Dorsetshire sank the Bismarck.
An excellent blow-by-blow account of the full chase is available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_battleship_Bismarck
As Admiral Tovey recorded in his memoirs: “The Bismarck had put up a most gallant fight against impossible odds, worthy of the old days of the Imperial German Navy, and she went down with her colours flying”
I really appreciate you posting these articles. As much as I enjoy the headlines I find the prices for goods on the ads equally facilitating.
Duh, spell check error, facilitating=fascinating.
Facilitating works. The ads facilitate you in finding a nice little gay-as-a-picnic frock for $8.95 or 2 pounds of fancy chocolate candy for $1.39
While BISMARCK wasn’t going anywhere, his guns were out of action, his crew was abandoning ship, and he was aflame from stem to stern, the British didn’t sink him. The crew scuttled the ship.
Yep. That’s the 2nd time in two days in these old papers where I’ve read “gay” being used as it should.
Bismarck withstood an incredible pounding without sinking.
Yes, its internal compartmentalization made it very hard to sink.
I think another reason was that Rodney closed to short range, and her shells were being fired into the ship more or less horizontally, so they didn’t poke holes in Bismarck below the water line. Vertical plunging fire from long range might have been more effective in sinking her, but was certainly less accurate.
Even so, he took an incredible pounding.
able to post via laptop during court recess. the issue of whether the scuttling charges or the torpedoes “sunk” the Bismarck is not settled, at least among those who have actually viewed the wreckage.
See the two links at post #10 for the differing viewpoints.
Just as in the Battle of Britain, the decisive British superiority in radar played a key role in sinking the Bismarck. German Admiral Lutjens commented a day or two ago on the inferiority of his radar. In contrast, even the near obsolete Swordfish biplanes had onboard radar.
The other key British advantage was their high frequency direction finding (Huff-duff). Admiral Lutjens foolishly broadcast long messages back to Germany, thus giving away his position.
When James Cameron explored BISMARCK, one of the things he used was a joystick/wire controlled miniature “Alvin” that was able to get into the hull, the superstructure, etc.
He ran the Alvin along the BISMARCK’s torpedo armor belt, on the inner hull. No holes.
Now I can understand the British position. After what BISMARCK did to HOOD [and PRINCE OF WALES], they want credit for taking him out. And, as I said in my post, BISMARCK was a flaming wreck. His range finders were gone. His main guns were toast. He was going nowhere. Unfortunately for the British claims, nowhere included under water. While the DORSETSHIRE’s torpedo attack was serendipitous, it wasn’t fatal.
I will be sure to listen to that later on. If I am not mistaken Roosevelt says something that will generate a headline in tomorrow's NYT that will top the Bismarck story.
From the 2001 Blue Water Recoveries expedition.
Missing Shell Plating/Torpedo Damage
Damage to the Hull
I looked at that. But there was no damage to the torpedo belt in Cameron’s film. The Germans have sworn up and down that they scuttled from the jump. and i seem to remember an off the cuff remark by Ballard that since BISMARCK’s hull was largely intact when he found it, that the condition of the ship supported the Germans.
No doubt the ship was slowly settling prior to the HMS Dorsetshire’s torpedo hits. From scuttling or gunfire, it is not known.
Certainly, she would have eventually sunk from scuttling.
And I think had the crew not scuttled, Bismarck would have sunk from the torpedo hits.
Torpedoes usually do their damage from flooding, causing instability that is too great to be overcome from counter-flooding. Then the vessel turns turtle and sinks, which is what happened to Bismarck.
Either would have caused her to sink. But both actions did, and they happened coincident with each other.
Ballard's "analysis of the wreck not only showed extensive damage to the superstructure by shelling and some minor damage to the hull by torpedo hits, but also suggested that the Germans scuttled the ship to hasten its sinking.
This has never been proven by marine investigators but is confirmed by survivors..."
"...On discovering the wreck, it was found that the whole stern had broken away; as it was not near the main wreckage and has not yet been found, it can be assumed this did not occur on impact with the sea floor.
The missing section came away roughly where the torpedo had hit, raising questions of possible structural failure.
The stern area had also received several hits, increasing the damage caused by the torpedo.
This, coupled with the fact the ship sank "stern first" and had no structural support to hold it in place, suggests the stern became detached at the surface.
In 1942 Prinz Eugen was also torpedoed in the stern, which subsequently collapsed.
This prompted a strengthening of the stern structures on all German capital ships...
"In fact, upon close inspection of the wreckage, it was confirmed that none of the torpedoes or shells penetrated the second layer of the inner hull.
Cameron put forward a theory to explain the large gashes observed by the Anglo-American expedition: he suggested that Bismarck suffered a "hydraulic outburst" when it hit the bottom. Cameron said the belt held, but inner forces caused the s
ides to bulge out and break in places.
Cameron sent small ROVs into the gashes and into the ship's interior.
Twice they came upon torpedo holes at the ends of long gashes.
But upon sending the tethered robots even deeper into the ship it was discovered that the torpedo blasts had failed to shatter its armoured inner walls.
All that was destroyed was an outer "sacrificial zone" of water and fuel tanks that German engineers had created to absorb torpedo hits and keep interior spaces flood free.
'The inner tank walls are untouched by any explosive force', 'So the armor worked.'
Cameron concluded that the torpedoes caused "no significant flooding"...
"The third survey found no underwater penetrations of the ship's fully-armoured citadel.
Eight holes were found in the hull, one on the starboard side and seven on the port side, all above the waterline.
One of the holes is in the deck, on the starboard side of the bow.
The angle and shape indicates it was fired from Bismarck's port side and struck the starboard anchor chain.
The anchor chain has disappeared down this hole.
Six holes are amidships, three shell fragments pierced the upper splinter belt, and one made a hole in the main armour belt.
Further aft a huge hole is visible, parallel to the aircraft catapult, on the deck.
It is unclear whether this was a result of an internal magazine explosion due to a shell penetration of the ship's armour.
The submersibles recorded no sign of a shell penetration through the main or side armour that could have caused this; it is likely that the shell penetrated the deck armour only.
"Huge dents showed that many of the 14 inch (356 mm) shells fired by King George V bounced off the German belt armour.
Interior ROV footage showed that the "terrible destruction" the Anglo-American expedition reported was in fact to the torpedo bulges, which were designed to absorb the energy of torpedoes and plunging shells.
Underneath the torn bulge sheeting, the ship's 320 mm (12.6 inch) thick main belt armour appeared to be intact.
It cannot be confirmed by Ballard that the shell holes pictured in Bismarck's armour were full penetrations.
"Furthermore, Ballard's expedition revealed there were no signs of the implosions that occur when air-filled compartments succumb to outside water pressure.
This suggests that Bismarck's compartments were flooded when the ship sank, supporting the scuttling theory.
"The American expedition's final conclusions were strikingly different from the findings of the Anglo-American team; they estimated that Bismarck could still have floated for at least a day when the British vessels ceased fire and could have been captured by the Royal Navy, a position supported by the historian Ludovic Kennedy.
Ballard found the hull sound, adding:
"we found a hull that appears whole and relatively undamaged by the descent and impact".
They concluded the direct cause of sinking was due to scuttling: sabotage of engine-room valves by her crew, as claimed by German survivors."
Survivors from the BISMARCK are pulled aboard HMS DORSETSHIRE on 27 May 1941.
Finally, we might note the photo of Bismarck on page 3 above lists the ship as 35,000 tons.
That would make it smaller than the old US North Carolina class battleships.
In fact, Bismark was 51,000 tons, or roughly the same size as the not-yet-built new US Iowa class battleships.
One of the pics here clearly shows a shell penetration through and through the armor belt on the starboard side. So the argument that there were no penetrations of the armor is not persuasive.
The fact remains that the ship sank immediately after the final torpedo hit.
I saw no photos at your link, only renderings.
From your link:
"He cites that the ship was clearly wallowing before the scuttling actually began and most decisively, the ship rolled over and sank in conjunction with the impact of Dorsetshire's last torpedo.
He does not dismiss the reports of scuttling, but believes that this only hastened the inevitable by a matter of minutes."
Then quoting from post #30 above:
"The American expedition's final conclusions were strikingly different from the findings of the Anglo-American team; they estimated that Bismarck could still have floated for at least a day when the British vessels ceased fire and could have been captured by the Royal Navy, "
Obviously, I can't resolve this debate, but however you look at it, Bismarck was one tough bird, so to speak.
For some reason, that link only goes to the index. Click on link Battleship Bismarck Wreck and then go to Hull Damage. Photos are there.
And yes, Bismarck was put together well and reflected great credit to her designers, builders, Captain and crew.
What is interesting about this debate is that almost alone in the history of naval warfare, this sinking generates huge debate.
Can anyone else think of an instance where who sank a ship and how the fatal hit occurred matters as much?
Perhaps since it was such a huge propaganda story makes it a hot topic.
See here a very comprehensive study of Bismarck’s damage.
That the HMS Hood was sunk by enemy shellfire is not disputed. There are various theories about exactly how the magazine explosion was touched off, but that’s the extent of the debate.
With the Bismarck, the point of dispute is whether the scuttling by the crew or the torpedo strikes from HMS Dorsetshire finally caused her to capsize. Both did, in my estimation.
I guess the Bismarck argument is kinda like the guy who leaves his job and says he quit, but his boss says he fired him.
Right but in the case of the Hood it was a more important debate because the ‘how’ would dictate design changes or modifications or perhaps tactical changes. At a minimum there would be some finger pointing and blame.
Like that guy who left his job and was sure his boss fired him but who really wanted to know why.