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Humpday History Highlight

By Wyatt Earp | May 27, 2009

<i>The sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck as seen from HMS Dorsetshire.</i>

The sinking of the German Battleship Bismarck as seen from HMS Dorsetshire.

May 27, 1941 - Bismarck Sunk By Royal Navy

On May 27, 1941, the British navy sinks the German battleship Bismarck in the North Atlantic near France. The German death toll was more than 2,000.

On February 14, 1939, the 823-foot Bismarck was launched at Hamburg. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler hoped that the state-of-the-art battleship would herald the rebirth of the German surface battle fleet. However, after the outbreak of war, Britain closely guarded ocean routes from Germany to the Atlantic Ocean, and only U-boats moved freely through the war zone.

In May 1941, the order was given for the Bismarck to break out into the Atlantic. Once in the safety of the open ocean, the battleship would be almost impossible to track down, all the while wreaking havoc on Allied convoys to Britain. Learning of its movement, Britain sent almost the entire British Home Fleet in pursuit. On May 24, the British battle cruiser Hood and battleship Prince of Wales intercepted it near Iceland. In a ferocious battle, the Hood exploded and sank, and all but three of the 1,421 crewmen were killed.

The Bismarck escaped, but because it was leaking fuel it fled for occupied France. On May 26, it was sighted and crippled by British aircraft, and on May 27 three British warships descended on the Bismarck and finished it off. (H/T -

A terrific story of an epic naval battle. Kudos to the Royal Navy on the pursuit and destruction of the German juggernaut.

Topics: HHH |

7 Responses to “Humpday History Highlight”

  1. Rick Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Thank God for the British toughness

  2. Bitter American Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    “Sink the Bismark,” one of the best WWII movies. Quite factual, pulls no punches.

  3. Alan B Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 3:46 am

    Thank you for the positive comments! It was one of the darkest times in WW2 for us. Everyone was against us (us being UK and Empire/Commonwealth. The Americans had not joined the war. The seas were our lifeline with the continent against us. As far as I can make out, sinking the Bismark became No. 1 goal to Churchill. This is because with her loose, almost the entire navy would be tied down to protect our convoys and because of the terrible blow to public morale of the loss of the Hood.

    Unfortunately, it was a very one-sided battle with the Hood - totally outclassed and out-armoured. And the Prince of Wales was not finished - they still had workmen on board trying to get some of the big guns into action.

    All those fighting were heroes but the really unsung ones were the Swordfish pilots. Biplanes, slow moving (138 mph max). They had to approach without manouvers to about 1000 yards to be sure the torpedoes would hit their target. So they were little more than sitting ducks. Perhaps fortunately for GB its was rumoured they were so slow that they Bismark’s fire control system couldn’t deal with them.

    They only made 2 hits but one disabled the Bismark’s rudder and meant she could not return to home ports. And the rest was history…

    War is terrible but it can bring out the best in people.

  4. Glenn Cassel AMH1(AW) USN RET Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 7:19 am

    I must say that I do enjoy your history highlights. Most folks would not even acknowledge such an event even occured, unless they saw the movie.
    Keep ‘em coming!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Sully Says:
    May 28th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    It has to be one of the strangest naval battles ever. Both ships were doomed by two of the luckiest shots in history.

    It was an epic battle.

  6. Alan B Says:
    May 29th, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Sully said:

    “It has to be one of the strangest naval battles ever. Both ships were doomed by two of the luckiest shots in history.”

    The torpedo hitting the rudder was a lucky shot. Unfortunately the plunging shell through the weak deck armour of the Hood was a disaster that was bound to happen against modern battleships.

    “It was an epic battle.”

    Totally agree!!

  7. Wyatt Earp Says:
    May 29th, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Rick - And tenacity. They never quit searching for the dreadnought.

    B.A. - Seen it. Loved it.

    Alan B - Those Swordfish pilots were a wonder. Amazing what a little British ingenuity can do.

    Glenn - Thank you, sir! There were a lot of good choices for this date, but I gravitated toward the Bismarck.

    Sully - And sometimes, luck is all you need.