Forces of Valor "Battle of the Denmark Strait" - German Kriegsmarine Battleship Bismarck and British Battlecruiser HMS Hood, May 24th, 1941 (1:700 Scale)
"I will not let my ship be shot out from under my ass."
- Captain Lindemann, commander of the German battleship, Bismarck
The German battleship Bismarck is one of the most famous warships of the Second World War. The lead ship of her class, she was named after the 19th-century German chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck's fame came from the Battle of the Denmark Strait in May 1941 (in which the battlecruiser HMS Hood, flagship and pride of the Royal Navy, was sunk), from Churchill's subsequent order to "Sink the Bismarck", and from the relentless pursuit by the Royal Navy that ended with her loss only three days later.
Design of the ship started in the early 1930s, following on from Germany's development of the Deutschland class cruisers and the Gneisenau class "battlecruisers". Construction of the second French Dunkerque class battleship made redesign necessary, and Bismarck's displacement was increased to 41,700 tons. Officially, however, her tonnage was 35,000 tons to suggest parity with ships built within the limits of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement (1935) that allowed Germany to build up to five 35,000-ton battleships, the maximum displacement agreed by the major powers in the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. Fully laden, Bismarck and her sister-ship Tirpitz would each displace more than 50,000 tons. The prototype of the proposed battleships envisaged under Plan Z, Bismarck's keel was laid down at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg on July 1st, 1936. She was launched on February 14th, 1939 and commissioned on August 24th, 1940 with Kapitan zur See Ernst Lindemann in command.
This formidable ship, the largest warship then commissioned, was intended primarily as a commerce raider, having a broad beam for stability in the rough seas of the North Atlantic and fuel stores as large as those of battleships intended for operations in the Pacific Ocean. Still, with eight 15 inch main guns in four turrets, substantial welded-armour protection and designed for a top speed of not less than 29 knots (she actually achieved 30.1 knots in trials in the calmer waters of the Baltic, an impressive speed when set against any comparable British battleship), Bismarck was capable of engaging any enemy battleship on reasonably equal terms. Her range of weaponry could easily decimate any convoy she encountered. The plan was for Bismarck to break through into the spacious waters of the North Atlantic, where she could refuel from German tankers and remain undetected by British and American aircraft, submarines and ships, while attacking the convoys.
HMS Hood (pennant number 51) was the last battlecruiser built for the Royal Navy. One of four Admiral-class battlecruisers ordered in mid-1916, her design - although drastically revised after the Battle of Jutland and improved while she was under construction - still had serious limitations. For this reason she was the only ship of her class to be completed. She was named after the 18th-century Admiral Samuel Hood.
Hood was involved in a number of flag-waving exercises between her commissioning in 1920 and the outbreak of war in 1939; these included training exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and a circumnavigation of the globe with the Special Service Squadron in 1923 and 1924. She was attached to the Mediterranean Fleet following the outbreak of the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, Hood was officially assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet until she had to return to England in 1939 for an overhaul. At this point in her service, Hood's usefulness had deteriorated because of advances in naval gunnery. She was scheduled to undergo a major rebuild in 1941 to correct these issues, but the outbreak of World War II forced the ship into service without the upgrades.
When war with Germany was declared in September 1939, Hood was operating in the area around Iceland, and spent the next several months hunting between Iceland and the Norwegian Sea for German commerce raiders and blockade runners. After a brief overhaul to her engine plant, she sailed as the flagship of Force H, and participated in the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir. Relieved as flagship of Force H, Hood was dispatched to Scapa Flow, and operated in the area as a convoy escort and later as a defence against a potential German invasion fleet. In May 1941, she and the battleship HMS Prince of Wales were ordered to intercept the German battleship Bismarck which was en route to attack convoys in the Atlantic. On May 24th, 1941, Hood was struck by several German shells early in the Battle of the Denmark Strait and exploded; the loss had a profound effect on the British. Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the Royal Navy to "sink the Bismarck", and they fulfilled his command on May 26th-27th.
The Royal Navy conducted two inquiries into the reasons for the ship's quick demise. The first, held very quickly after the ship's loss, concluded that Hood's aft magazine had exploded after one of Bismarck's shells penetrated the ship's armour. A second inquiry was held after complaints were received that the first board had failed to consider alternative explanations, such as an explosion of the ship's torpedoes. While much more thorough than the first board, it concurred with the first board's conclusion. Despite the official explanation, some historians continued to believe that the torpedoes caused the ship's loss while others proposed an accidental explosion inside one of the ship's gun turrets that reached down into the magazine. Other historians have focused on the cause of the magazine explosion. The discovery of the ship's wreck in 2001 confirmed the conclusion of both boards, although the exact reason why the magazines detonated will forever be a mystery as that area of the ship was thoroughly destroyed in the explosion.
Shown here is a 1:700 scale replica of the famed German battleship Bismarck and British battlecruiser HMS Hood. Sold Out!
Length: 16 inches
Release Date: October 2012
Historical Account: "Battle of the Denmark Strait" - At 05:45 on May 24th, 1941, German lookouts on board Bismarck spotted smoke on the horizon; this turned out to be from Hood and Prince of Wales, under the command of Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland. Lutjens ordered his ships' crews to battle stations. By 05:52, the range had fallen to 26,000 m (28,000 yd) and Hood opened fire, followed by Prince of Wales a minute later. Hood engaged Prinz Eugen, which the British thought to be Bismarck, while Prince of Wales fired on Bismarck. Adalbert Schneider, the first gunnery officer aboard Bismarck, twice requested permission to return fire, but Lutjens hesitated. Lindemann intervened, muttering "I will not let my ship be shot out from under my ass." He demanded permission to fire from Lutjens, who relented and at 05:55 ordered his ships to engage the British.
The British ships approached the German ships head on, which permitted them to use only their forward guns, while Bismarck and Prinz Eugen could fire full broadsides. Several minutes after opening fire, Holland ordered a 20 turn to port, which would allow his ships to engage with their rear gun turrets. Both German ships concentrated their fire on Hood; about a minute after opening fire, Prinz Eugen scored a hit with a high-explosive 20.3 cm (8.0 in) shell; the explosion detonated Unrotated Projectile ammunition and started a large fire, which was quickly extinguished. After firing three four-gun salvos, Schneider had zeroed in the range to Hood; he immediately ordered rapid-fire salvos from Bismarck's eight 38 cm guns. He also ordered the ship's 15 cm secondary guns to engage Prince of Wales. Holland then ordered a second 20 turn to port, to bring his ships on a parallel course with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. Lutjens ordered Prinz Eugen to shift fire and target Prince of Wales, to keep both of his opponents under fire. Within a few minutes, Prinz Eugen scored a pair of hits on the battleship that started a small fire.
Lutjens then ordered Prinz Eugen to drop behind Bismarck, so she could continue to monitor the location of Norfolk and Suffolk, which were still some 10 to 12 nmi (19 to 22 km; 12 to 14 mi) to the east. At 06:00, Hood was completing the second turn to port when Bismarck's fifth salvo hit. Two of the shells landed short, striking the water close to the ship, but at least one of the 38 cm armour-piercing shells struck Hood and penetrated her thin deck armour. The shell reached Hood's rear ammunition magazine and detonated 112 t (110 long tons) of cordite propellant. The massive explosion broke the back of the ship between the main mast and the rear funnel; the forward section continued to move forward briefly before the in-rushing water caused the bow to rise into the air at a steep angle. The stern similarly rose upward as water rushed into the ripped-open compartments. Schneider exclaimed "He is sinking!" over the ship's loudspeakers. In only eight minutes of firing, Hood had disappeared, taking all but three of her crew of 1,419 men with her.
Bismarck then shifted fire to Prince of Wales. The British battleship scored a hit on Bismarck with her sixth salvo, but the German ship found her mark with her first salvo. One of the shells struck the bridge on Prince of Wales, though it did not explode and instead exited the other side, killing everyone in the ship's command center, save Captain John Leach, the ship's commander, and one other. The two German ships continued to fire upon Prince of Wales, causing serious damage. Guns malfunctioned on the recently commissioned British ship, which still had civilian technicians aboard. Despite her problematic main battery, Prince of Wales scored three hits on Bismarck in the engagement. The first struck her in the forecastle above the waterline, but low enough to allow the crashing waves to enter the hull. The second shell struck below the armoured belt and exploded on contact with the torpedo bulkhead, inflicting minimal damage. The third shell passed through one of the boats carried aboard the ship and then went through the float plane catapult without exploding.
At 06:13, Leach gave the order to retreat; only two of his ship's ten 14 in (360 mm) guns were still firing and his ship had sustained significant damage. Prince of Wales made a 160 turn and laid a smoke screen to cover her withdrawal. The Germans ceased fire as the range widened. Though Lindemann strongly advocated chasing Prince of Wales and destroying her, Lutjens obeyed operational orders to shun any avoidable engagement with enemy forces that were not protecting a convoy, firmly rejected the request, and instead ordered Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to head for the North Atlantic. In the engagement, Bismarck had fired 93 armour-piercing shells and had been hit by three shells in return. The forecastle hit allowed 1,000 to 2,000 t (980 to 2,000 long tons; 1,100 to 2,200 short tons) of water to flood the ship, which contaminated fuel oil stored in the bow. Lutjens refused to reduce speed to allow damage control teams to repair the shell hole which widened and allowed more water into the ship. The second hit caused some flooding and splinters damaged a steam line in the turbo-generator room, though Bismarck had sufficient generator reserves that this was not problematic. The flooding from these two hits caused a 9-degree list to port and a 3-degree trim by the bow.