In the early hours of May 24, 1941, as the mighty German ships Bismarck and Prinz Eugen slipped through the Denmark Strait, they were dramatically intercepted by the Royal Naval battleships Hood and Prince of Wales. Within six minutes of the first salvo being fired, the Hood, pride of the Royal Navy, was blown out of the water in one of the most gigantic explosions ever witnessed at sea.
Bismarck’s fourth salvo landed a shell forward of the Hood’s after turrets, piercing her deck, exploding the 4-inch magazine. Simultaneously this detonated the adjacent 15-inch magazine, and in one mighty eruption the battleship broke in two. Within seconds she was gone. Of the ship’s company of 1400 officers and sailors only three survived.
Outraged at the grievous loss Winston Churchill signaled the Admiralty just three words: “Sink the Bismarck!” Thus began one of the epic sea chases in the history of naval warfare.
Damaged by shells from Prince of Wales’s 14-inch guns, and losing fuel oil, Admiral Lutjens broke off the engagement and steamed Bismarck towards the anonymity of the North Atlantic. Evading the British warships for 32 hours he had hopes of reaching the safety of Brest, but when spotted by a lone Catalina of 209 Squadron RAF Coastal Command, Lutjens knew it was the beginning of the end for the mighty German warship.
When attacked by Swordfish from Ark Royal, her rudder was jammed and Bismarck’s fate was sealed. As she limped haphazardly through the waves trailing oil, the Home Fleet closed in for the final encounter. Overwhelmed by British gums and torpedoes, Bismarck’s crew fought a gallant last battle, but the odds were too great. Watching Bismarck’s final moments from King George V’s bridge, Admiral Tovey said: “She put up a noble fight against impossible odds, worthy of the old days of the Imperial German Navy.”
Robert Taylor, master-painter of sea and sky, portrays the Bismarck at the fateful moment she was located by RAF Coastal Command. Greeted by a defiant barrage of fire from Bismarsk’s anti-aircraft guns, the Catalina veers away, but already the radio operator has transmitted her position. Like the Hood just two days earlier, the pride of Hitler’s Kriegsmarine was by now, destined for the deep.
Each print is signed by FOUR of the small band of only 110 crew members who survived the sinking of the Bismarck.
Obergefreiter JOHANNES ZIMMERMANN
Kapitanleutnant KARL-AUGUST LANDFERMANN
Obergefreiter HANS HELLWIG
Matrose II JOSEF STATZ