Updated 24 Nov 2009
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Feb 2003: James Cameron, the film director, has made a special documentary, shown on Discovery TV, in which he took submersibles equipped with James Cameron, the film director, took down to the sea bed ROV's, to film the inside and outside of the Bismarck and conduct a detailed survey of the wreckage. His findings confirm the German point of view that the Bismarck was scuttled and not actually sunk by the Royal Navy. See the foot of the next page for details.
July 2004: Bismarck Survivor, BRUNO RZONCA, the only Survivor residing in the United States, passed away on July 23, 2004, after battling cancer.
The Bismarck was "discovered" in 1989 by the same team that found the Titanic. She lost her guns when she turned turtle, they were only held on by sheer weight and gravity. Her superstructure has almost gone. In the TV footage of the Bismarck, the AA guns could clearly be seen on her decks. A large faded swastika still adorns her bow. The Bismarck was initially conceived to be the crown of a German fleet powerful enough to compete with the Royal Navy. But, soon after the outbreak of war, factories and resources faced increased demand and Bismarck was redeployed instead as a 'commerce raider' to harass and destroy North Atlantic convoys which were vital to Britain's war effort. Designed with the rough north Atlantic in mind, and coupled with a large fuel capacity, this was a role in which she would have excelled. Churchill, aware of this, knew that letting the Bismarck into the open seas was a recipe for disaster. A contract for the building of Bismarck was placed on the table on 16th November 1936. This was a year after naval construction restrictions were lifted. Construction took over 2 years and Bismarck was launched on 14th February 1939. She was finally commissioned on 24th August 1940. On 18th May 1941, Bismarck left German waters accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. Operation Rheinubung was under way.
On 23rd May, both ships were detected on radar of HMS Suffolk and Norfolk who requested the support of Hood and Prince of Wales. Hood was sunk (see Hood) in a short, ferocious battle. On 26th May, Bismarck was spotted by a Catalina flying boat and Ark Royal launched her Swordfish planes, at extreme range, in an effort to cripple her.
The Battleship Bismarck, pride of Hitler's Kriegsmarine and marvel of marine engineering, was built for only one purpose - to destroy allied shipping and to rule the waves. How close she came to that purpose is already well documented and the subject of a well known film "Sink the Bismarck". The Royal Navy had some luck also, a Fairey Swordfish, from HMS Ark Royal, caught the rudder of the Bismarck, causing a steerage lock which swung the Bismarck back, towards the pursuing British ships. Thus enabling the Royal Navy to close and finish her off. Although an "enemy" ship, I have always marvelled at the sleek superstructure and exquisite lines of this beautiful ship. Such a vessel was worthy of preservation and enthroning upon a museum dockside forever to be marveled at. Alas, the Atlantic Ocean has her now and forever, lying broken and humiliated on the sea bed.
1 July 1936: Laid down at the Blohm & Voss
Shipyard, Hamburg. Yard No. BV 509, slipway 9.
http://www.kbismarck.com/archives/index.html - on this link this is credited as being onboard the Tirpitz - which is correct?
15 September 1940: Leaves Hamburg for the
first time. In the afternoon anchors in Brunsbüttel.
12 May 1941: Admiral Lütjens and the Fleet
Staff embark ship.
1200. Leaves the berth in Gotenhafen and anchors in the bay to embark supplies and fuel.
19 May 1941 (Monday):
0200. Leaves Gotenhafen and begins her cruise west.
1200. Position 54º 45' north, 13º 20' east. Joins Prinz Eugen and destroyers Z-16 Friedrich Eckoldt and Z-23 off Rügen Island.
2230. Destroyer Z-10 Hans Lody joins the formation.
20 May 1941 (Tuesday):
0200-0600. Passes through the Great Belt together with Prinz Eugen and the destroyers Z-10, Z-16, and Z-23.
1300. Sighted by Swedish cruiser Gotland (below) in the Kattegat.
21 May 1941 (Wednesday):
0800-0900. Enters Korsfjord near Bergen.
1100. Anchors in the Grimstadfjord.
1315. Sighted and photographed by a British Coastal Command Spitfire.
2000. Leaves the Korsfjord together with the Prinz Eugen and the three destroyers.
2340. Course 0º.
In this image above is shown the Prinz Eugen, centre, which was moored further up the Fiord. See the map below
22 May 1941 (Thursday):
0420. Course 0º. The destroyers leave the group. Bismarck takes the lead.
1200. Position 65º 53' north, 03º 38' east. Course 0º. Speed 24 knots.
1237-1307. U-boat and air alarm. Zig-zagging.
1800. Course 311º.
2322. Course 266º.
23 May 1941 (Friday):
0400. Course 250º. Speed 27 knots.
1200. Position 67º 28' north, 19º 28' west. Course 250º. Average speed 24 knots.
1420. Course 270º.
1811-1822. False alarm. Vessels identified as icebergs.
1821. Reaches the ice limit. Course 240º.
1922. Sights Suffolk at 7 miles.
2030. Sights Norfolk and fires five main battery salvoes. No hits scored. The forward radar set (FuMo 23) is disabled. Shortly afterwards the Prinz Eugen passes the Bismarck and takes the lead.
2200. Inverts the course and tries to engage the Suffolk which realizes the Bismarck's manoeuvre and avoids contact.
Right: Bismarck Searchlight shows the way for the Prinz Eugen
24 May 1941 (Saturday):
0543. Course 220º. Speed 28 knots. Sights two ships at 17 miles.
0552. The Iceland Battle begins. Hood opens fire. (See base of next page for new footnote August 2001)
0555. Fires first salvo at Hood.
0555-0601. She is hit on the port side by three 356 mm shells from Prince of Wales. One in her bows (section XXI), a second amidships under the armoured belt (section XIV), and the third one passes through a boat.
0601. Hood blows up.
0602-0609. Obtains four hits on Prince of Wales.
0609. Fires last salvo at Prince of Wales. 93 380 mm shells fired. She is losing oil and her top speed is reduced to 28 knots. 2,000 tons of water in the forecastle.
0632. Bismarck reports: "Battle cruiser, probably Hood, sunk. Another capital ship, King George V or Renown, damaged. Two heavy cruisers keeping contact."
0705. Bismarck reports: "We have sunk a battleship at about 63º 10' north, 32º 00' west."
1200. Position 60º 50' north, 37º 50' west.
1240. New course 180º. Speed 24 knots.
1814. Turns 180º to starboard while the Prinz Eugen leaves the formation.
1840-1856. Fires some shells at Suffolk and Prince of Wales. No hits.
2056. Bismarck reports: "Shaking off contacts impossible due to enemy radar. Due to fuel, steering to Saint-Nazaire."
2300. Sighted by the United States Coast Guard Cutter Modoc.
Midnight. Attacked by eight Swordfish from carrier Victorious. Speed 27 knots. She is hit by one torpedo on the starboard side, amidships.
0849. Turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" open fire at Rodney.
0902. She is hit for the first time. Foretop command post disabled.
0908. Forward command post disabled. Turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" out of action.
0913. After command post disabled. Turrets "Caesar" and "Dora" proceed to local fire.
0921. Turret "Dora" out of action.
0927. Turret "Anton" or "Bruno" fires one last salvo.
0931. Turret "Caesar" fires the last salvo and is put out of action. Main battery silenced.
0958. Possible torpedo hit to port.
0936-1016: Receives multiple hits at point blank range between 2,500 and 4,000 meters, but is still afloat.
Sometime about 1000. Demolition charges explode in the turbine room.
1022. Hit on the starboard side by two torpedoes fired by Dorsetshire.
1037. Hit on the port side by a third torpedo fired by Dorsetshire.
1039. Bismarck finally sinks in position 48º 10' north, 16º 12' west.
9 June 1989: The wreck of the Bismarck is discovered at a depth of 4,700 meters. Evidence since collected suggest that the Bismarck was actually scuttled as opposed to being sunk.
had put up a most
gallant fight against impossible
odds, worthy of the old days of
Commander of the Home Fleet, Admiral Sir John Tovey
It was clear from Enigma decrypts, with the death of the Bismarck, that the large network of supply ships that was to have supported her patrol would now be made available to U Boats. The first to go was the Belchen, a 10,000t tanker, sunk off Greenland by the Cruisers Aurora and Kenya. Within 2 weeks the Royal Navy had eliminated almost the entire network at sea, some 9 tankers and supply ships sunk in the North & South Atlantic. Understandable euphoria swept the OIC, this was real operational intelligence. Risk factors were involved. The Kriegsmarine would want to know how it was possible the Royal Navy could find and destroy all these ships, spread over a large area, in a matter of 14 days. The officers of the Royal Navy ships involved asked the same question.
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