Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
German battleship Bismarck
|Ordered:||16 November 1935|
|Laid down:||1 July 1936|
|Launched:||14 February 1939|
|Commissioned:||20 August 1940|
|Fate:||Sunk on 27 May 1941|
|Displacement:||41,700t standard; 50,900t full load|
|Dimensions:||250.5m x 36m x 8.7m|
|Armament:||Eight 15 in (380 mm) (4×2)|
Twelve 5.9 in (150 mm) (6×2)
Sixteen 4.1 in (105 mm)
Sixteen 37 mm (8×2)
Twelve 20 mm cannon
|Aircraft:||6, with 2 catapults|
|Propulsion:||150,000hp (110 MW) = 30.8 kts (54 km/h)|
Design of the ship started in 1934. During the design process, Bismarck's displacement grew to 42,600 tons, well over the 35,000 ton limit allowed by the naval agreement with the United Kingdom, including fuel stores as large as those of the battleships intended for opeations in the Pacific ocean. Her keel was laid down at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg on 1 July 1936, she was launched on 14 February 1939, and commissioned in August 1940 with Kapitän zur See Ernst Lindemann in command.
Because of the British numerical superiority in battleships, Adolf Hitler ordered the Kriegsmarine to target allied merchant shipping. Bismarck set off on this mission on her maiden voyage, leaving port on 18 May 1941. The British Admiralty learnt of her departure from Enigma code messages, from Allied spies who noted her passing the Skagerrak between Denmark and Norway, and from contacts in Sweden. Three days later, she was spotted by Allied reconnaissance aircraft while refueling in a Norwegian fjord and was soon acquired by the patrolling British cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk.
On 24 May 1941, accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, she was found between Iceland and Greenland and engaged by the British battlecruiser Hood and the newly commissioned battleship Prince of Wales, which was still being worked up (indeed, she sailed to meet Bismarck with dockyard workmen still on board completing her fitting out).
Hood had relatively weak deck armour, and therefore wished to close with the Bismarck as quickly as possible (differences in armour become less significant as range decreases, and at close range the trajectory of the Bismarck's shells would not have been steep enough to hit the Hood's deck armour). However while doing this the Hood was fatally hit and quickly sank. The most plausible explanation for Hood's destruction is that one of Bismarck's shells penetrated its deck armour and struck a powder magazine. Hood exploded and rapidly sank, taking all but three of the 1,418 crewmembers with her. Prince of Wales, all but one of her main guns out of action, (due to mechanical failure rather than battle damage) escaped under a smokescreen, but not before striking Bismarck three times, one hit causing water to be introduced into fuel storage. This had the effect of reducing the range of the ship, from then on Bismarck kept at only 20 kts. Bismarck headed for St Nazaire's dry dock in France for repairs, and although she continued to be shadowed by Norfolk, Suffolk and Prince of Wales, she eventually broke away and Prinz Eugen detached. With the intention of facilitating a quick recovery, the Bismarck never refueled — a decision that would later come back to haunt her. The result of the battle with Hood showed the effect of deploying a battlecruiser against a battleship, a role for which it was never designed.
Determined to avenge the sinking of Hood and hunt down Bismarck, the British continued to shadow with an increasing number of ships following Bismarck relentlessly and maintaining radar contact. An attack was made by Swordfish biplane torpedo planes from aircraft carrier Victorious during the early evening of 24 May causing one hit. In subsequent maneuvering, it was able to break contact, though its crew was not aware of this, as they could detect British radar but did not know that the return signals were too weak. Admiral Lütjens, despite Capitan Lindemann's objections, foolishly transmitted a half-hour radio message. This message was intercepted but the British made some mistakes correctly using this information.
On 26 May, at dusk, she was attacked by British Swordfish torpedo planes from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. One torpedo hit jammed her rudder and steering gear, rendering her largely unmanoeuvrable, though the Bismarck was able to make some steerage by adjusting the revolution speed of her propellors.
On the morning of 27 May 1941 two British battleships, the King George V and Rodney, opened fire just before 0900 hrs on the Bismarck. Bismarck returned fire but was struck several times. Norfolk, and Dorsetshire joined in. One salvo destroyed the forward control post killing most of the senior officers. Soon most of the heavy guns were silent. Rodney now closed to point blank (appprox 3 km) while the King George V fired from further out.
The Bismarck was still flying its ensign. With no sign of surrender, the British could not leave the Bismarck though their fuel supplies were low. The destroyers were sent home as they had no further torpedoes. Similarly Rodney and KG V tuned back to base. Norfolk had used its last torpedoes so Dorsetshire was ordered to sink the Bismarck by torpedo. At about the same time, Captain Lindemann, gave the order to scuttle the ship and then abandon ship. Shortly after charges had blown Dorsetshire put three torpedoes into the Bismarck and a couple of minutes later she sank at 10:40 am.
Dorsetshire and Maori stopped to take onboard survivors but a U-boat alarm caused thme to sail off with only about a hundred sailors. The next morning a U-boat and a German weathership recovered 5 more.
Over the years, the ship achieved near mythological status, and popularized in the 1960 Johnny Horton hit song, Sink the Bismarck . The wreck of Bismarck was discovered on 8 June 1989 by Dr Robert Ballard, the marine archaeologist also responsible for finding the Titanic. Bismarck rests at a depth of approximately 4,700 m (15,500 feet) about 650 kilometres west of Brest, France. Analysis of the wreck 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, though this has never been confirmed by marine investigators (but confirmed by survivors). Ballard has kept the location of the wreck a secret to prevent other divers from taking artifacts from the ship. Ballard considers that practice, which happened to Titanic, a form of grave robbing.
Nearly a hundred ships of all kinds were deployed to operate with, against, or because of Bismarck:
- The German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen
- The German destroyers Hans Lody (Z-10) , Friedrich Eckoldt (Z-16) , and Z-23 .
- The German submarines U-43 , U-46 , U-48 , U-66 , U-74, U-93 , U-94 , U-98 , U-108 , U-552, U-556, and U-557 .
- The German weather ship Sachsenwald.
- The British battleships King George V, Prince of Wales, Ramillies, Revenge and Rodney, .
- The British battlecruisers Hood, Repulse and Renown
- The British aircraft carriers Victorious and Ark Royal
- The British heavy cruisers Suffolk, Norfolk, Dorsetshire, and London.
- The British light cruisers Kenya, Galatea , Aurora , Neptune, Hermione , Edinburgh , Manchester, Arethusa, Birmingham , and Sheffield.
- The British destroyers Achates, Antelope, Anthony , Echo , Somali , Eskimo, Nestor , Jupiter, Electra , Icarus, Active , Inglefield, Intrepid, Lance , Legion , Punjabi , Windsor , Mashona , Cossack, Sikh, Zulu, Maori, Tartar , Faulknor , Foresight, Forester, , Foxhound, , Fury , and Hesperus.
- The British submarines H-44 , P-31 , Sealion , Seawolf , Tigris , Sturgeon , and Pandora .
- The Canadian destroyers HMCS Assiniboine , HMCS Saguenay , and HMCS Columbia
- The Free French submarine Minerve
- The Polish destroyer Piorun
- The Swedish seaplane cruiser Gotland
- The Spanish heavy cruiser Canarias (attempted to rescue some survivors from Bismarck)
- The US Coast Guard cutter Modoc
Kennedy, Ludovic Pursuit: The Sinking of the Bismarck
- Battleship Bismarck & Tirpitz - English
- Battleship Bismarck - English
- KBismarck - English. The definitive site for information on all aspects of the Bismark and a very complete history of the ship
- Lots of Photos and Drawings of the Bismarck wreck
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