“The Bismarck is sunk”

Unable to maneuver and sailing in a circle at seven knots, the Bismarck spent the night of 26 May, 1941, fending off British and Polish destroyers. At 0847, the Bismarck was sighted by Admiral Tovey’s squadron of battleships, which included the new HMS King George V, and the HMS Rodney with its unique configuration of three turrets forward of the superstructure, and none behind. They were joined shortly by the cruisers HMS Norfolk and HMS Dorsetshire.

Unable to maneuver, all of the Bismarck’s turrets were out of action by 0931. Tovey closed to point blank range to sink the Bismarck, lest his battleships run out of fuel and the Germans somehow tow the it back to port. For almost 90 minutes, the four ships pounded the hulk but the Bismarck wouldn’t sink, despite being hit more than 300 times. (Remember, the “best” ship the British had, the Hood, sank after just three hits and six minutes.) Admiral Tovey eventually had to head back to port to refuel. At 1039, the Dorsetshire put four torpedoes into the Bismarck and it capsized and sank.

At 1100, only 21 minutes after the sinking, Winston Churchill informed the House of Commons about the operations against the Bismarck: “This morning shortly after day-break, the Bismarck virtually immobilized, without help, was attacked by British battleships that pursued her. I don’t know the result of this action. It seems however, that Bismarck was not sunk by gunfire, and now will be sunk by torpedoes. It is believed that this is happening right now. Great as is our loss in the Hood, the Bismarck must be regarded as the most powerful enemy battleship, as she is the newest enemy battleship and the striking of her from the German Navy is a very definite simplification of the task of maintaining effective mastery of the Northern sea and maintenance of the Northern blockade.”

Churchill had just sat down when he was given a note, he rose again and said: “I have just received news that the Bismarck is sunk.”

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