Thursday, May 27, 2010

End of the Bismarck

Interestingly there appears to be no accepted name for the last engagement of the Bismarck on May 27, 1941 when it was sunk in a battle with the HMS Rodney and HMS King George V and some cruisers.

The fragile nature of the surface raider was well illustrated by the Bismarck's fate. A single torpedo hit on May 26th ensured the ship would not escape. The German battleship's effectiveness was also degraded by a night-long destroyer attack that resulted in no hits but meant that the German crew was exhausted by the time the British battleships arrived.

The two British warships quickly gained an ascendancy over the Bismarck with multiple damaging hits on it within the first half hour or so. The Germans in turn were ineffective in their fire, a complete turnaround from the Denmark Straits battle.

The Bismarck was nothing if not tough, however, and the British battleships had to withdraw after a couple of hours pounding away at short range without bringing the Bismarck even close to sinking. Torpedo attacks by the cruisers followed, but apparently it took the scuttling efforts of the German crew itself to finally send it below the waves. Unfortunately fear of U-boats prompted the British to leave before rescuing most of the crew, so over 2,200 German sailors perished.

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