The 64th anniversary of the sinking of the Bismark


Jul 9, 2000
58,655
854
563
Easley South Carolina
From This Is Staffordshire:

'I saw it on the port bow and we began firing at it'
quote:

EX-SAILOR Harry Colclough was arguably the first person to spot an infamous German battleship — signalling a hail of fire which led to the sinking of the Bismarck.

Mr Colclough, now aged 89, was on lookout duty on board the HMS King George V on May 26, 1941. Seconds after calling in his sighting, the six 14 inch guns directly beneath him opened up fire on the pride of the German navy, at the time the largest battleship ever built.
More at http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/news/saw-port-bow-began-firing/article-2225221-detail/article.html

Comment: A story published for the 65th anniversary.​
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,655
854
563
Easley South Carolina
Jul 9, 2000
58,655
854
563
Easley South Carolina
From The Somerset County Gazette:

Bismarck: Scuttled or sunk? Controversial claim in new wartime naval book
quote:

A FORMER Somerset journalist claims for the first time that the fated German battleship Bismarck was trying to scuttle when she was destroyed by the Royal Navy in 1941.

The controversial claim is made in his new book just published - ‘Killing the Bismarck: Destroying the Pride of Hitler’s Fleet’ — by Iain Ballantyne, who was a reporter for the Somerset County Gazette, Chard and Ilminster News and Yeovil Express.
Full book review at http://www.somersetcountygazette.co.uk/leisure/8361147.Bismarck__Scuttled_or_sunk__Controversial_claim_in_new_wartime_naval_book/
 

Adam Went

Member
Apr 28, 2003
1,194
14
233
Aha! That explains why they were playing the film "Sink The Bismarck" (with ANTR's very own Kenneth More) on TV last night....

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,655
854
563
Easley South Carolina
It get's better Adam. The pilot who scored with the torpedo which destroyed the Bismarck's rudder and signed the ship's death warrant is still around.

From The Southern Reporter:

Navy to salute sole survivor John at Bismarck sinking commemoration
quote:

SEVENTY years on from one of the most famous engagements of the Second World War, the only British surviving veteran from the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck is expected to join members of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm today for a commemorative dinner.

Now in his early 90s, John Moffat can remember the events of May 26, 1941, as if they happened yesterday.
More at http://www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/news/local-headlines/navy_to_salute_sole_survivor_john_at_bismarck_sinking_commemoration_1_1644250
 

Adam Went

Member
Apr 28, 2003
1,194
14
233
That's brilliant, Michael! Thanks for that. Glad to see that Mr. Moffat is still around, sadly they're becoming rarer and rarer these days...

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,655
854
563
Easley South Carolina
>>Glad to see that Mr. Moffat is still around...<<

So am I. As you said, they're getting fewer and and there are a lot of stories out there which need to be told. Considering the sort of aircraft he was flying...the Swordfish wasn't exactly the state of the art...I don't think anybody has any wiggleroom to question his personal courage.
 

Adam Went

Member
Apr 28, 2003
1,194
14
233
Michael:

Especially since this all happened in 1941 when the Bismarck could have had, and did have the backing of the might of the Luftwaffe, aside from the rest of the German fleet - an exceptional effort given the aircraft used, as you say.

Would have been interesting if they'd unleashed the Lancasters on her... ;-)
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,655
854
563
Easley South Carolina
>>Especially since this all happened in 1941 when the Bismarck could have had, and did have the backing of the might of the Luftwaffe, aside from the rest of the German fleet - an exceptional effort given the aircraft used, as you say. <<

The problem here was that the Bismarck was just out of range for Axis air cover. That was one of the reasons why they were making a beeline for France. Then there was the matter of running low on fuel which tipped their hand. Why Lutjens declined to refuel the ship when he had the opportunity just beggers imagination.

>>Would have been interesting if they'd unleashed the Lancasters on her... ;-)<<

Might have washed down the upper works. Land based heavy bombers didn't do very well against moving ships. There were number of examples where such aircraft were used against ships in the Pacific and only one such attack was known to have hit anything.

The B-17's at Midway are an example of that sort of failure.
 

Adam Went

Member
Apr 28, 2003
1,194
14
233
Michael:

Indeed you're right about the Luftwaffe. It seems Lutjens as well as other members of the navy hierarchy had TOO much faith in Bismarck's capabilities.....

In any case it's all a moot point now....
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,655
854
563
Easley South Carolina
>>It seems Lutjens as well as other members of the navy hierarchy had TOO much faith in Bismarck's capabilities.....<<

Oddly enough, Hitler didn't, and he was furious when he found out that the Bismarck's group had sortied. Unfortunately for the German Navy, it was too late to recall the group. Seems that in this instance, Hitler had more respect for what these ships would be facing then his own admirals did.
 

Adam Went

Member
Apr 28, 2003
1,194
14
233
Michael:

On another forum where the 70th anniversary was mentioned, a fellow maritime enthusiast made the point that if the German navy were serious about looking after the Bismarck, instead of sending a ship like the Prinz Eugen with her, why not go all out and send, say, for instance, the Tirpitz?

The position she was put in, regardless of how good of a battleship she was, clearly left her vulnerable.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,655
854
563
Easley South Carolina
While the German Navy was keen to send the Bismarck to sea, I don't think the Tirpitz was quite ready by this time. In any event, she had greater value hiding out in the Norwegian fjords and posing a threat just by being there. This was something the Royal Navy had to be ready for and a number of units which could have been better employed elsewhere were tied up for years as a result.

I don't think it would be out of line to propose that the Tirpitz prolonged the war by several months if not a year just by being the threat which couldn't be ignored. That was why the Royal Navy made the extrordinary effort to take her out!

Here at least, the Lancasters were quite effective. The ship couldn't move and a couple of hits with those monster Tall Boy bombs took care of the rest.
 

Adam Went

Member
Apr 28, 2003
1,194
14
233
Michael:

Tirpitz was of course the sister ship to Bismarck, and I believe she was in service by early 1941 from memory. I agree with what you say, I was merely using the Tirpitz as an example - the overall point is that it seems Bismarck was hung out to dry a bit by Naval command, being put in the position she was.

Having said that, on the other hand, it was a very important victory not only in militaristic terms but also physchologically for the Brits - the Germans had conquered all before them in Western Europe to that point, had destroyed much of the British cities, were days away from invading Russia and the US weren't even officially in the war yet.....the events around the Bismarck sinking cannot be underestimated.
 
May 5, 2005
216
1
183
>>the events around the Bismarck sinking cannot be underestimated<<
Indeed. All one has to consider is the astonishment of the Brits and Germans alike when the Hood was blown away. The Brits HAD to sink her.
The Bismarck and Turpitz, Yamato and Mushashi, and the Iowa Class are examples of a design that had pretty much run its course, but what beautiful ships they were/are. I had the privilege of walking around the New Jersey a few years back, and will never forget it. I can't imagine what it could have been like to have been aboard while a couple of battleships were slugging it out. No thanks.
 

Adam Went

Member
Apr 28, 2003
1,194
14
233
Definitely agree with you there, Steve. Not pretty.

Obviously luck was on the side of the Brits to be able to jam the rudder completely, though. Not sure if they would have got her if that hadn't happened.

While she of course wasn't a battleship - any irony in the fact that good old Aquitania saw both World Wars through when bigger, stronger, more powerful vessels did not? Must admit that I have a great affection for Aquitania, one of the unsung heroes of the 4-funnel fleet - as i'm sure those who served on her did as well.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,655
854
563
Easley South Carolina
>>the events around the Bismarck sinking cannot be underestimated.<<

What it served to do was blow away the myth of German invincibility among other things, but it would still be a long war ahead.

>>The Bismarck and Turpitz, Yamato and Mushashi, and the Iowa Class are examples of a design that had pretty much run its course...<<

Maybe and maybe not. It depended on the operational expectations of the sort of wars that the designers expected these ships to fight. When they were designed, the aircraft carrier was seen as more of an auxilary to the fleet. A platform from which scouting aircraft could be flown and from which strike aircraft could be operated to slow an enemy fleet down so they could be brought to battle.

Battleships could take an astonishing amount of punishment. Witness the number of torpedos and bombs it took to send the Yamato and the Musashi to the bottom. The Bismarck and Tirpitz were both extremely tough nuts to crack even given their largely obsolescent armouring schemes.

While it's a common belief that the aircraft carrier was king of the seas, if you take a look at the actual history, there was an astonishing number of surface engagements which were fought without them. Especially early in the war when they were as hard to come by as they were sorely needed.
 
May 5, 2005
216
1
183
>>Especially early in the war when they were as hard to come by as they were sorely needed.<<
Sorry to jump off the topic, but I have always thought it interesting to speculate how different the outcome in the Pacific would have been had those carriers been at Pearl Harbor on December 7. The most obvious difference would have been the battle of Midway. It could not have even happened at all, and how far could the Japanese have conquered the Pacific before they could have been stopped? Admiral Nagumo probably screwed the pooch on the decision to not look for the carriers.
Adam, I'd say that the Aquitania did all right, especially considering how big of a target she was, and how fast she wasn't.
 

Similar threads

Similar threads