27 May 2007


27 May 1941: The German battleship Bismarck (Kapitän zur See Ernst Lindemann), which had been severely damaged by an aerial torpedo the day before, was attacked by a force consisting of battleships HMS King George V and HMS Rodney, heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk and HMS Dorsetshire, and five destroyers*, under Admiral John Tovey DSO.

Rodney opened fire at 0847 at a range of about 22,000 yards; King George V followed a minute later. Bismarck returned fire against Rodney at 0849. By 0940, Rodney had closed to 4000 yards, and the two cruisers had joined in. Soon all weapons were silent on Bismarck, though she was still flying her colours and showed no signs of surrender.

With all guns out of action, Lindemann ordered the ship scuttled. Charges were set in the engine room, and the order to abandon ship was given. The charges detonated at about 1000, while the British ships were still firing. Bismarck remained afloat, however, and Dorsetshire moved in to launch torpedoes. Two hit at 1020, a third at 1036, and Bismarck finally sank at 1039.

116 survivors, out of over 2200 men on board, were rescued. Among those lost were Bismarck's CO and XO, and Admiral Günther Lütjens; the senior survivor was the ship's fourth artillery officer, Kapitänleutnant Burkard Freiherr von Müllenheim-Rechberg.

Bismarck (all pictures above)

HMS King George V (above) and HMS Rodney (below)

HMS Norfolk (above) and HMS Dorsetshire (below)

For more information and photos, ZUI this page and this.

* 4th Destroyer Flotilla, under Captain Philip Vian DSO and Bar: HM Ships Cossack, Sikh, Zulu and Maori, and the Polish destroyer ORP Piorun.

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