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Sink the Bismarck Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 3/19/2015

The scourge of Allied shipping and the pride of the Kriegsmarine - the mighty battleship Bismarck was finally dealt with in May 1941.

Germany had long sought control over the Atlantic shipping lanes in their road to total victory in Europe. Perhaps the best known of the German battleships was KMS Bismarck who, along with KMS Prinz Eugen and other German warships, were charged with the destruction of Allied merchant shipping across the Atlantic. A cat-and-mouse game eventually ensued between elements of the British Royal Navy and the Germans that ultimately led to the demise of the mighty Bismarck. The Royal Navy responded to German aggression by releasing a hunter-killer task force intended to engage and eliminate the threat posed by the massive battleship. What followed was perhaps one of the most famous naval engagements of the war featuring torpedo-laden biplanes, massive naval artillery bombardments, and extensive use of naval tactics to bring down one of the war's best known warships.


Royal Navy forces landed two torpedoes into the Bismarck, the second disabling the rudder and forcing her into a turn. From there Royal Navy warships closed in to unleash their justice on the warship which was now, more or less, a floating fortress. The end result would see thousands of British and German sailors lives cast about as thousands of shells were lobbed back and forth until the Bismarck finally went silent. At the end of it all, just 115 Bismarck sailors were recovered while the ship itself sank to the ocean floor off the French coast.


The engagement proved a strategic and morale victory for the British in the early going though at the expense of the battleship HMS Hood and her 1,413 souls and other Royal Navy warships damaged. The Germans, however, were dealt what became the first of many irrecoverable blows which led to a heavy reliance on the U-boat submarine fleet to contain Allied shipping ventures in the Atlantic.


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There are a total of 19 Sink the Bismarck Timeline Events. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence.

1941
Wednesday
April 2nd

Under the direction of German Navy Grand-Admiral Raeder, Operation Rheinubung is fleshed out. The operation calls for direct hit-and-run engagements with British merchant shipping across the Atlantic.

1941
Tuesday
May 20th

The German heavy cruiser KMS Prinz Eugen and the battleship KMS Bismarck leave port for the North Sea.

1941
Wednesday
May 21st

The British Navy is notified of the increase in German warship activity in the North Sea.

1941
Wednesday
May 21st

In an effort to beef up Royal Navy presence in the North Sea, the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious and the battlecruiser HMS Repulse are called to action in support of existing forces under the command of Admiral Sir John Tovey.

1941
Thursday
May 22nd

A hunter-killer group of 14 Royal Navy ships, including the battleships HMS King George V, HMS Hood and the HMS Prince of Wales, leave Scapa Flow.

1941
Friday
May 23rd

At 7:22 PM, the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Suffolk and the HMS Norfolk spot and shadow the mighty German battleship Bismarck. Its location is radioed in to Vice-Admiral L. E. Holland.

1941
Saturday
May 24th

At 5:52 AM, the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen fall under attack from Royal Navy ships.

1941
Saturday
May 24th

At 6:00 AM, the Bismarck fires a salvo at the battleship HMS Hood, striker her ammunition magazine, with the resulting explosion destroying the British ship leaving only three sailors alive.

1941
Saturday
May 24th

At 6:13 AM, the battleship Prince of Wales is damaged enough to pull out of the battle.

1941
Saturday
May 24th

The HMS Suffolk loses track of the KMS Bismarck.

1941
Sunday
May 25th

German Admiral Lutjens orders that the Prinz Eugen break from the Bismarck.

1941
Monday
May 26th

A British Coastal Command PBY Catalina flying boat spots the KMS Bismarck 700 miles from Brest.

1941
Monday
May 26th

The Royal Navy hunter-killer group receives some help with the arrival of the HMS Renown, HMS Sheffield and the HMS Ark Royal arriving from Gibraltar.

1941
Monday
May 26th

At 2:50 PM, an attack group from the HMS Ark Royal consisting of Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers begins their attack on the Bismarck.

1941
Monday
May 26th

Between 8:47 and 9:25 PM, the Bismarck registers two direct torpedo hits. In a stroke of luck for the British, the second torpedo hits the stern section of the Bismarck, jamming her rudder to one side, forcing the vessel to go into an uncontrolled turn.

1941
Monday
May 26th

Royal Navy ships open fire with their long range guns and close in on their prey.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

At 8:47 AM, the Bismarck is now being raked from front to rear by the guns of the Royal Navy warships. The battleship HMS King George V and the HMS Rodney unleash their short range armament on the hapless German ship.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

At 10:00 AM, the Bismarck's guns fall silent s she takes on water and burns.

1941
Tuesday
May 27th

At 10:36 AM, the mighty German battleship Bismarck sinks into blue depths, leaving only 115 German sailors to recount her story.