Battleship Bismarck
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Part Six - The Final Battle
Early in the morning of 27 May, 1941, HMS King George-V (Admiral Tovey's flagship) and HMS Rodney increased their speed and headed towards Bismarck's position from west - northwest. Then, the two British battleships came within sight, followed soon after by the cruisers HMS Norfolk and Dorsetshire. They all began to close up with Bismarck who was coursing big circles on sea and entered to an optimal gun range.



Bismarck's last fight began at 08.47 AM, with Rodney's first full salvoes. Rodney opened fire with her A and B turrets at a range of 23.500 yards and King George-V opened fire one minute later. Then, Bismarck chose Rodney as her target because of being the most powerful enemy with her 406mm. guns and opened fire with all four guns of her forward turrets at 08.49 AM. Bismarck's first salvo was 1000 yards short, the second (at 08.50) straddled Rodney. The nearest shell of Bismarck was only 20 yards away. Bismarck's next salvo fell over, and it was followed by one short and then several overs. HMS Rodney was succesfully manoeuvring to avoid the German salvoes.

Rodney straddled Bismarck with her third and fourth salvoes and at last scored a hit at 08.50 AM. After a while, at 08.57, Rodney scored another hit which penetrated the forecastle and caused the German ship's Anton turret out of action. By 09.00 AM, Bismarck's rate of fire slowed and had become erratic. The gunners of Bismarck were perfect, but nobody could do more, under the huge 406 and 356mm. shells of British battleships. At these moments the shells of King George-V also hit Bismarck and put the radar antennas and fire control units out of action. At 09.02 AM, another shell of Rodney penetrated the Bruno turret's armour and detonated inside. The explosion blew the rear plate of the gun house over the ship's side with other steel fragments. A few seconds after, another salvo of King George-V hit Bismarck again and destroyed her foretop, together with the central armament control tower and killed most of the senior officers (probably Admiral Lutjens and most of his comrades were killed at this moment). At 09.18 hours, the aft fire control tower was also destroyed leaving the ship without a centralized fire control. At 09.15 AM, Bismarck shifted the fire of her aft turrets Caesar and Dora to King George-V, then shifted to Rodney five minutes later but all the shots were erratic.



At 09.25 AM, King George-V turned north, closing the range down to 12.000 yards, while Rodney was closing it to 9000 yards. The two battleships continued to fire on Bismarck without any pause. At 09.32 AM, only Caesar turret of Bismarck was still firing. At last, by 09.40 AM, Bismarck's guns ceased fire. She was silent and all the main and secondary guns were out of action.

At 10.05 AM, Bismarck was silent and burning as a dark floating hulk on the sea. King George-V closed the range with Bismarck and fired new salvoes at 3000 yards. At these moments, the fuel-oil situation of the British battleships had become very critical, and at 10.15 Tovey ordered them to break off the action and return to their base. HMS Rodney fired her last salvo at 10.15 AM, and King George-V at 10.22. Bismarck, with her flag still flying, was low in the water and on heavy fire, but she showed no signs of sinking. At 10.25 AM, the cruiser HMS Dorsetshire fired some torpedoes into her starboard side and 10.36 AM, another one to the port side. Around 09.50-10.00, the technicians of Bismarck detonated the explosive demolition charges and opened all the water ventils. At 10.40 AM, the brave, mighty battleship capsized and sank. Her colours were still flying.

During the final battle, the British ships fired more than 2800 shells on Bismarck and the battleship received at least 400 of them. Also they fired more than 77 torpedoes. At least 12 (or may be over) of them were successful to hit the Bismarck. When Bismarck sank, more than 2200 brave sailors including Admiral Lutjens and commander Ernst Lindemann died aboard. Only 115 men survived.



The last moments of a brave battleship. Rodney continues fire and Bismarck is burning (at left).

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