`SINK THE BISMARCK!’ pt.11

At ten miles range the Norfolk, which had come up at the last min­ute, joined battle with her eight-inch guns, and soon a fourth ship, the Dorsetshire, arrived. The King George V and Rodney continued firing and were soon claiming straddles and hits. About 9 a.m. Captain Frederick Dalrymple-Hamilton, on the bridge of the Rodney, saw the burst of a heavy shell on the Bismarck’s fo’c'sle, while another sent a sheet of flame up the superstructure.

The Rodney was only four miles from the enemy and closing when a shell from the Bismarck landed just off the starboard bow, jammed the sluice door of the starboard torpedo tube, rendering it useless. This was the nearest the Bismarck got to a direct hit. Afterwards her fire began to fall off rapidly. The British battle­ships closed the range and poured in salvo after salvo.

It was now possible to see some­thing of the damage being done. Two i5-inch guns were stuck at maximum depression, “drooping,” said one man, “like dead flowers.” The back of another turret had been blown over the side; one of its guns like a giant finger pointed at the sky. In the after turret one barrel had burst, leaving a stub like a peeled banana. Inside the hull flames were flickering in half a dozen places. And still, because there was life in the Bismarck and her flag flew, the huge shells went on being pumped into her. “I can’t say I enjoyed this part of the business much,” said Dalrymple-Hamilton, “but didn’t see what else I could do.”

By 1o a.m. the Bismarck was abattered burning wreck, her guns silent, but at the foremast her ad­miral’s flag and at the mainmast the German naval ensign were still bravely flying. In the British ships they looked at her with awe and admiration that her crew could fight so gallantly to the end. “Pray God I may never know,” said Guernsey, “what those shells did as they ex­ploded inside the hull.” Presently, in the British ships fire was checked; the Bismarck no longer menaced anyone.

Tovey had already stayed ten hours longer than he had said his fuel would allow, and U-boats would soon be on the scene, if they had not reached it already. He sig­nalled the Rodney to form up astern and gave orders to take the flagship home. As he left he made a general signal : “Any ship with torpedoes to close the Bismarck and torpedo her.”

Only one ship, the Dorsetshire, still had torpedoes. She had ant­icipated this order and, closing to a mile and a half, fired two into the Bismarck’s starboard side, both of which hit. She then went round the other side and fired another, which also hit.

In the King George V, half-way to the horizon, Tovey saw through his glasses the great ship keel over to port until her funnel was level with the water, and go on turning until she was completely upside down. The stern dipped below the surface, then the main keel. The great flared bows were the last to go. And then all that was left to show where the Bismarck had been were hundreds of men in lifebelts, swimming in oil and water.

Glory and Disaster

SOME died early in the BisLütjens some late, and the luckiest were those who knew nothing of it. Of those that survived the day, none at all came from the fore part, not from A and B turrets, the bridge or superstructure, the charthouse and gunnery control, the magazines and shell rooms below.

We do not therefore know how Liitjens and Lindemann and all the other officers of the admiral’s staff died. But there is much evi­dence of fires raging forward, both in the superstructure and below decks. It would seem that the peoMullenheim-Rechberg’slenheim-Rechberg’se burned to death by the fires or trapped behind them, and drowned when the ship turned turtle.

In ones and twos the survivors reached the upper deck aft, some through hatches that were still free, others up ammunition hoists, a few up the wiring tch-room to Miillenheim-Rechberg’s after control position. Some of the last men to come up were the people 1o-Ihe engine-room.

Small claims court

WHAT can you do if your new freezer won’t freeze? Or a neighbour won’t repay a loan? Or the motorist who reversed into your correctly parked car won’t fork out the £50 excess you were unable to claim on your insurance?

As a last resort you can take out a county court summons. And thanks to the revamped do-it-yourself procedure for dealing with money claims under £500, you don’t have to worry about costs. Even if you lose, you can normally be landed only with very modest court fees.

First, though, give the other side every chance to put matters right. In the case of unsatisfactory goods, contact the shop manager. Failing satisfaction, write a letter-giving full details – to the shop owner or managing director. (Check your local reference library for the name and address.) Keep a copy of this and all other letters. If you have a good case, he’ll probably arrange for a troubleshooter to sort things out. If he doesn’t, write a final letter saying you’ll go to court to get your money back unless you hear from them within seven days.

Write similar letters if your claim is against a person rather than a firm.

Still no joy? Simply go to the office of the county court covering the area where you bought the goods (the address is under “Courts” in the phone book). You fill in a request form for a default summons. This covers little more than your name and address, that of the company or person you’re claiming against and what your claim is for. Keep it simple-if possible, just for your money back and any clear-cut expenses like postage.

You also have to fill in two copies of another form headed “Particulars of Claim”. Put down exactly what went wrong and keep a copy for yourself. You’ll be given an extremely helpful free booklet and electronic cigarettes, Small Claims in the County Court.

When you hand in the forms, you pay a court fee ranging from £4 (for claims up to £40) to £28 (if £500 is involved). This sum is added to your claim, and so is the extra £4 if you want the summons served by a bailiff. Nowadays, though, it’s more usual to serve a summons by post, for which there’s no charge.

IF you have a good case, the other side will almost certainly pay up. For big firms especially, it’s not worth the trouble and expense of fighting a small claim. The court will send you your money, including the cost of the summons (and the serving of it by the bailiff, if applicable). And that’s that.

But suppose the other side decides to fight. They then enter a defence, saying why they think they should not pay you the money. The case is then referred to arbitration.

There’s usually a preliminary hearing which you both attend. Often the registrar (a sort of junior judge) is able to arrange an agreed settlement at this stage. If not, a date for the arbitra­tion is fixed and you’re told what documents you’ll need to bring.

The arbitrator (usually the registrar) doesn’t have to stick to the strict rules of evidence. The idea is to see that you each have a fair and equal chance of stating your case. Either of you can be represented by a solicitor, but the idea is to do without them.

The arbitrator decides between you. If you win, you get what you claimed plus the cost of the summons (but not your solicitor’s costs). If you lose, you forfeit the cost of the summons. But your opponent can’t normally claim his solicitor’s costs. Usually the DIY small claims procedure means free justice for the ordinary citizen. I know. I’ve used it myself.

`SINK THE BISMARCK!’ pt.9

A Time For Miracles

THE leader of the second striking force was Lieutenant-Commander Tim Coode. He and his 44 fellow pilots, observers and air-gunners had no illusions about what lay ahead; but on them now lay all the hopes of the Navy, and of England, for if they could not slow the Bis­mare k down, no one else could.

The weather was as bad as ever, angry seas, cloud at about 600 feet, frequent rain storms which at times blotted out visibility almost entirely. There had been a suggestion that the Fulmar fighters should also take off, to create a diversion during the attack, but in these conditions it was impossible; ironically, only the slow, ungainly, out-of-date Swordfish were operable.

At 7.10 p.m. the green flag went down, Coode opened his throttle, and his Swordfish trundled down the slippery deck. One by one the others followed.

They sighted the Sheffield at 8.35 p.m., and Captain Larcom sig­nalled to Coode, “The enemy is 12 miles dead ahead.” Coode led the striking force upwards, to meet above the cloud and there split up so as to approach the Bismarck from different directions. But the wall of cloud reached to io,000 feet. With no chance of carrying out a co-ordi­nated attack, each sub-flight of two or three planes must attack on its own. Coode’s own sub-flight was the first, and down through the grey murk they screamed.

Some minutes later those on the bridge of the Sheffield, 12 miles astern, saw stabs of light and the brown puffs of bursting shells on the Bismarck’s port side. The time was 8.53 p.m. The last attack had begun.

On the admiral’s bridge of the King George V and in the plotting-room just off it, Tovey and his offi­cers once more waited for news. There were no longer any calcula­tions to be made about the enemy’s position; questions of fuel and en­durance had long been decided; they knew that in less than three hours, barring a miracle, they would have to turn for home. Everyone was tired, physically and emotionally, and the movements of the ship did nothing to ease it.

And now the buzzer from the wireless office sounded; a signal had arrived. The Fleet Signal Officer unwrapped it, read, “From the leader of the striking force. Esti­mate no hits.” It was the final blow.

Although all hope was gone, the squadron steamed on; there was nothing else to do. Presently an­other signal arrived on Tovey’s bridge, this time from the Sheffield. “Enemy’s course 340 degrees,” it said. Tovey looked at it, baffled: 340 degrees was north-north-west, or directly towards them. “I fear Lar­com has joined the reciprocal club,” he said bitingly. What he meant was that Larcom had mistakenly judged the Bismarck to be moving from right to left instead of left to right. It was not an uncommon mis­take, especially at long range and in poor visibility, though hardly to be expected from so senior an officer.

But a few minutes later another signal arrived, this time from a shadowing Swordfish. “Enemy steering due north,” it said. A few more minutes passed in which no one knew quite what to think, then a further Swordfish report confirm­ed the Sheffield’s estimate of north-north-west. And then the Sheffield reported again, this time a course of north.

Now there was no doubt about it, something very serious had hap­pened to the Bismarck. Tovey and his officers looked at each other with incredulity and joy.

Helpless As a Babe

Coode, with three planes and joined by a fourth from another sub-flight, had dropped out of the cloud on the Bismarck’s port beam. Thirteen of the 15 torpedoes were fired at the enemy, but Goode ob­served no definite hits at this stage. Afterwards, Goode hung around in the low cloud and rain, but saw no other attacks and, assuming that they were the only planes to find  the target, he passed the signal to Tovey, “Estimate no hits.”

In fact, all the remaining Swordfish found the Bismarck. Re­turning to the Ark Royal, the pilots were debriefed, and as a result Cap­tain Maund reported to Tovey, “Estimate one hit amidships,” and a while later, “Possible second hit on starboard quarter.”

It was a correct estimation. The hit amidships exploded against the armour belt, did no damage. But the hit on the starboard quarter was another matter.

Leading Seaman Herzog, a load­er on the Bismarck’s starboard side aft, saw two planes coming towards him, wheels almost touching the wavetops, flying so low that at full depression his 37-mm flak gun could no longer bear. There was an explosion, and Herzog was thrown against other members of the crew. Down in the engine-room, Lieuten­ant-Commander Gerhard Junack saw the deck plates rise and fall “at least three feet.”

The ship was turning to port at high speed when the hit came. On the bridge Lindemann ordered the wheel to be centred. She refused to answer to it, went on swinging to port. The torpedo had struck right aft, at least 20 feet down, breached the steering-gear compartments and flooded them. The three pro­pellers were unharmed, but the rudders were jammed at 15 degrees port. Ordinary Seaman Herbert Blum, on damage-control duty, remembered the time in the Bal­tic when they had practised their response to damage in the steering-gear compartment, and his lieuten­ant saying, “The chances of such a hit are 100,000 tot against.”

The first thing to do was try to free the rudders. The ship was put at slow speed into the wind, and below, the hatch leading to the steering compartments was opened. At once the water came surging and gushing into the passageway. Quickly the hatch was secured and battened down; no diver could pos­sibly get down there, let alone move about and work.