The entire affair started named as Operation Rheinübung and was a planned sortie of the battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, and battleship Bismarck. The intent was that the Bismarck could fight off any convoy escort while the Twins and Prinz Eugen could wreak havoc with the merchantman. The force would have actually been a fairly substantial one for the Royal Navy and only a few outdated inferior battlecruisers in the Royal Navy would have been able to actually catch the group. Other actions though led to the dropping of the Twins from the planned sortie.
Even with the loss of the two battlecruisers the force was still substantial enough to elicit an immediate responses from the Royal Navy in the form of a massive search to locate the Bismarck once they were alerted of her sortie. The Bismarck was sighted in the Denmark Strait by the cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk. The battleship Prince Wales and battlecruisers Hood engaged the Bismarck. In the subsequent battle the Hood was hit and exploded while the Prince of Wales was forced to break off contact following the loss of Hood. What ensured was a cat and mouse games across the North Atlantic between the Bismarck and a large portion of the Royal Navy. The Bismarck was eventually crippled at the edge of escaping by a lucky hit, from a torpedo launched in an attack by carrier aircraft, which jammed her rudder. The battleships King George and Rodney delivered the final blow to the Bismarck in a naval gunnery battle.
Detailed account of Operation Rheinübung
Tech Data on the Bismarck
Now the most interesting aspect of the situation to me is how the Bismarck has entrenched itself in the public mind. If you ask the layperson on the street what the greatest battleship ever was they will most likely say Bismarck. I’m assuming you can find someone who knows what a battleship is and knows the name of at least one. The Bismarck as a battleship was actually full of several major design flaws and could probably go down as one of the poorest designed of the modern battleships. The actual design was basically a revamped larger version of a World War I Bayern Class. In general the Bismarck was suited for knife fighting ranges in bad weather that is prevalent in North Atlantic. She lacked the protection against long-range plunging fire and actually the communication lines to the turrets ran above the armored deck. The rudder and propulsion setup of the Bismarck made her more vulnerable to torpedo hits like the one that disabled her.
Perhaps some of the mystique of the Bismarck comes from the devastating loss she dealt the Royal Navy when she sunk their pride the Hood. The Hood was actually badly outdated having been completed following World War I and had a glass jaw. Her design emphasized speed over armored protection and she lacked adequate deck protection. A refit had been planned to rectify the problem but it was never carried out.
One of the interesting what ifs to me that surrounds the battle is what would have occurred if the Bismarck had escaped being hit during the battle with the Hood/PoW. During the battle the Bismarck had taken a hit that resulted in the cutting off and contamination of a substantial amount of fuel. Without this damage the potential exists that in continuing her mission the Bismarck might have managed to evade the Royal Navy and gotten loose in the Atlantic. The damage she could have done in terms of just disrupting convoy schedules would have been substantial.
Questions? Comments? Area of debate or interest?
Edited by CJ AEGIS, 30 May 2003 - 07:10 AM.