NotesThe keel of the "Bismarck" was laid down at Blohm and Voss' shipyard in Hamburg 01/07/1936 ,the ship launched 14/02/1939 and commissioned 24/08/1940 (50,900 tonnes) under the command of Kapitan zur see Ernst Lindemann."Bismarck" was 250m. in length, beam 36m., speed 30 knots. As commissioned, she was the largest warship then afloat. Under Plan Z, she was intended to be part of a fast battleship squadron for a main German battleline of larger subsequent battleships. Plan Z was scrapped with the onset of WW11. Instead she was used as a commerce raider, for which she was well designed being faster (30.1 knots) than any of her contempoary British battleships and with her prime armament of eight 15" guns in four twin turrets.
Under the original plan, Operation Rheinubung, the "Bismarck ", heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen", battlecruisers "Gneisenau" and "Scharnhorst", and newest battleship "Tirpitz" were to break out into the Atlantic , destroy as much shipping as possible, force suspension of Allied convoys, divert British naval forces from the Mediterranean to reduce risks to the planned invasion of Crete, and allow reinforcement and supply to Rommel's Afrika Corps in Libya. Neither "Gneisenau" or "Scharnhorst" could participate due to mechanical problems and war damage, "Tirpitz" ,sister ship to "Bismarck", had not yet finished her working-up sea trials ,so the plan devolved to solely "Bismarck" and "Prinz Eugen".
On 20/05/1941 both ships left Korsfjord proceeding north to the Denmark Strait. Alerted by deciphered Enigma code messages the British despatched two heavy cruisers,HMS "Suffolk" and HMS "Norfolk" to patrol the Denmark Strait, but awaited air reconnaissance to advise the departure of the German ships. This was forthcoming from a Spitfire reconnaissance flight ,such that the battleship HMS "Prince of Wales" and battlecruiser HMS "Hood" were despatched towards Iceland. Admiral Lutjens on the "Bismarck" was aware that a fleet oiler the "Weissenberg" was waiting for him in the Artic, but he proceeded too far south to enable him to use this refueling option. On the evening of 23rd May, the two British heavy cruisers detected the German ships and shadowed them pending the arrival of the British battleships. The ships engaged battle initially from a range of 12 1/2 miles eventually closing to 9 miles apart. The "Hood" in the process of turning to port to bring her full armament to bear on the "Bismarck" was hit amidships by a shell from the "Bismarck" which penetrated her relatively thin deck armour and exploded in one of her magazinescausing the ship to sink within 3 minutes with the loss of all 1415 of her crew. The"Prince of Wales" made smoke and turned away after an engagement which had lasted less than 20 minutes. The "Bismarck" was leaking oil which forced her to reduce speed to a maximum of 20 knots, such that Admiral Lutjens decided to make for dry-dock in St. Lazaire for repairs. "Prinz Eugen" departed eventually reaching Brest safely on 01/06/1941. On the evening of24th May, an attack was made by Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS "Victorious" ,one hit leading to complete flooding of the forward port boiler room, causing the bow to drop and reducing speed to 16 knots. An aircraft sighting of the "Bismarck"on 26th May enabled a Swordfish flight from HMS "Ark Royal" to engage the "Bismarck" with one torpwdo jamming her rudder and steering gear, such that she could only steer in large circles. Around 08.00am 27th May, the battleships HMS "Rodney" and HMS "King George V" closed to within 21 miles of the "Bismarck" and commenced fire at 08.47am. By 09.31am all the "Bismarck" main gun turrets were out of action. The end came with 3 torpedoes from HMS "Dorsetshire", with the ship sinking 10.39am with the loss of 1995 from a total crew complement of 2200.
On 8th June 1989 ,the wreck of the "Bismarck' was located some 600 miles west of Brest ,380 miles south of Cork,at a depth of 4790 metres. The wreck was revisited in June 2001, but has been left undisturbed as a war grave.