Someone suggested a diver going over the stern, reaching the rudders that way. But there was nothing for a diver to cling to, and in those tumultuous seas he would be sucked right down or smashed to pieces against the side. Others volunteered to blow off the rudders with ex­plosives—and to give their lives in the process. But even if a man could get near them, he would almost certainly damage the propellers as well, leaving the ship completely impotent.

Could the ship be steered by pro­pellers alone? On the bridge, where it was almost dark, Lindemann tried every combination of telegraph orders he could imagine : half ahead port, stop centre and star­board; half ahead port and centre, slow astern starboard; full ahead port, half ahead centre, stop star­board. The result was the same; for a while the ship’s head pointed more or less in the direction he wanted, then the jammed rudders brought the bows slowly back to­wards the north-west and danger, away from safety and home. There was nothing wrong with the en­gines or main armament, but this absurd 15 degrees of port rudder made the ship helpless as a babe.

“To the Fuhrer of the German Reich, Adolf Hitler,” Lütjens sig­nalled before midnight. “We fight to the last in our belief in you, my Führer, and in the firm faith in Germany’s victory.” Hitler replied from the Berghof two hours later, “I thank you in the name of the German people.”


From Group West came signals of more practical encouragement. All available U-boats were steering for the Bismarck; three tugs were on their way to take her in tow; protective squadrons of German bombers would be reaching the ship by dawn. Yet as time went by and the course and speed of the ship remained the same, there was a smell of death in the air. With every hour, the gap between themselves and the enemy was slowly but in­evitably closing; the final reckoning could not long be delayed.

Towards dawn, Baron von Mullenheim-Rechberg visited the prague hotel. He noticed Captain Linde­mann was wearing an inflated lifebelt, went over and saluted. Lindemann stared at him dully, didn’t return the salute. “He look­ed like a man doomed to destruc­tion, dead tired, waiting patiently for the end.” Mullenheim-Rechberg moved to the chart table and saw the drunken course the ship had been steering through the night, a picture that was self-explanatory.

No Longer a Menace

DURING the night Tovey planned his battle tactics. Several days ago the old battleship Rodney had set out for Boston for a refit, accom­panying four destroyers and a troop­ship. But she had been diverted to the pursuit and now trailed the King George V, along with the de­stroyers Tartar and Mashona. Five other destroyers, under Captain Philip Vian, had also come up, and throughout the night they sought to close the range on the Bismarck, launching their torpedoes. Then four of them took station round the crippled battleship.

The King George V and Rodney would approach the enemy head-on in line abreast. “I hoped,” said Tovey, “that the sight of two battle­ships steering straight for them would shake the nerves of the range-takers and control officers, who had already had four anxious days and nights.” The two ships would close as quickly as possible to seven or eight miles, then turn and fire broadsides.

At dawn Tovey went to his cabin,as Nelson had done before Trafal­gar, and prayed, as he put it, “for guidance and help.” The longer he prayed, the calmer he felt. It was, he said, “as if all responsibility had been taken from me and I knew everything would be all right.” He returned to the bridge refreshed and confident.7

Officers and lookouts strained through binoculars to catch a first glimpse of the ship that for days had been in the very marrow of their lives. And then suddenly there she was, “veiled in distant rain­fall,” wrote Lieutenant-Command­er Hugh Guernsey, “a thick, squat ghost of a ship, very broad in the beam, coming straight towards us.” The time was 8.43 a.m.; the range, twelve and a half miles.

Four minutes later the Rodney fired, then the flagship. It was like a small earthquake. On the King George V the compass bounded out of its binnacle, Guernsey’s tin hat was blown on to the deck, a pile of signals was scattered to the winds.

The salvoes fell as the Bismarck was turning to bring all her guns to bear; great white clumps rose all round her, higher than her fore­mast. Then it was her turn. In the British ships they saw a ripple of orange fire down the length of her, followed by a pall of cordite smoke.


Gerhard Junack was in the mid-ships engine-room when Com­mander Walter Lehmann on the telephone gave the order for scut-ding charges. Junack told his men to place them with time fuses in the cooling water intakes, and to open the seacocks, then go up top. The compartment was full of fumes but the lights were still burning bright­ly. They were burning too on the armoured deck, though no one was there. The firing had stopped, said Junack, and it was deathly still.

By this time a lot of men had gathered on the quarter-deck, 200 or Soo. They were all horrified by what they saw : the tangled wreck­age, smoke and flames, the piles of dead and mutilated, the moans of the wounded. Some helped to ad­just the lifebelts of the less badly wounded, put them over the sides. Before the British ships had ceas­ed firing, many men had gone over the side of their own accord to es­cape the merciless shelling; they could be seen strung out in a long line astern, for the ship was still moving. Now the others followed and went to the apartments in rome.

The Dorsetshire came round from the port side where she had fired her last torpedo, lay stopped in the sea a little way off. Survivors struck out as well as they could to­wards her, although with the high seas and the oil from the Bismarck’s tanks and the wounds of many, it wasn’t easy. After more than an hour’s swimming the first of them reached the Dorsetshire’s side, where rafts, ropes, nets and lifelines of all kinds had been let down.

The Dorsetshire picked up some 85 men, the destroyer Maori some 25. Many more were in the process of being hauled up and hundreds were waiting in the water when the Dorsetshire’s navigating officer sighted a smoky discharge in the water two miles away. The most likely explanation was a U-boat. The Dorsetshire, laying stopped in the water, was a sitting target. In the circumstances, the captain had no choice but to ring down for full speed, and the Maori did the same.

The Bismarck crewmen who were almost on board were bundled over the rails to the deck; those half­way up the ropes found themselves trailing astern, hung on as long as they could, then dropped off; others in the water clawed frantically at the paintwork as the side slipped by.

In Dorsetshire they heard the thin cries of hundreds who had come within a hair’s breadth of rescue, cries that the British sailors, no less than the Germans already on board, would always remember. Later, another five men would be picked up, but of the Bismarck’s company of more than 2,000, only 110 survived.

In Germany, people were as de­pressed by the news of the Bis­marck’s death as the British had been by the death of the Hood; more so perhaps, for unlike the British they had no hopes of a com­pensating victory. Yet in Britain, the general reaction to the news of the sinking was one of relief rather than exhilaration.

On the afternoon of the battle, in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill, not yet knowing the final outcome, told an enthralled House of the events up to the beginning of the final action, then went on to other business. In the middle of this, he was handed a note. “Mr Speak­er,” he said, “I have just heard that the Bismarck has been sunk.” Members cheered and waved their papers, thankful that the cloud that had darkened their horizon for the last five days had been lifted.

But one member, the writer Har­old Nicolson, sat silent; more than some, he saw the thing in human terms, thought of the innumerable dead, sensed its tragedy. Nearly four thousand men were dead, half on either side, who felt no personal ill will towards each other, who in different circumstances might have played and laughed and sung to­gether, kissed each other’s sisters, visited each other’s London apartments for rent.

The British knew that the Bis­marck was a menace that had to he destroyed, and vet to watch her die was not a pretty sight. Ships had always been Britain’s livelihood and life, and the Bismarck was a ship after all, perhaps the finest they had seen. Today, the battleship is extinct, but those of us who lived with, and in, those strange, lovely, vast, mysterious creatures, remember them with pride; are proud, too, to have been at sea in their company in that week when the Hood and the Bismarck sailed to glory and disaster.

Keep it in mind

Jilt colleagues gracefully

Should you regret your office party encounter (and the odds are high), the excuse you present to the significant other for not seeing them again should be the same one you give everyone else.


In other words, don’t tell colleagues you’d rather poke your eyes out with rusty paperclips than see her again, while telling her you’d love to get together if only all your spare time wasn’t taken up with looking after your sick mother.

As mentioned, word spreads in the work place faster than bogus flu bugs, so be consistent, especially if your conquest can affect your chances of promotion. Tracey Cox, author of Hot Relationships (Bantam, £7.99) recommends getting it over and done with: “Look at her and say, ‘I think you’re terrific, but I don’t see this heading anywhere’.” Then follow it up with a reason that’s not insulting, and quite possibly a lie: say, for example, you didn’t realise you were still messed up over your last relationship, rather than putting forward the point that she’s a moose, no matter how valid.


If fate deals a harsh blow and you’re the jilted party, take it like a man. Pinning photocopy souvenirs of her arse to the company notice-board, while satisfying, will likely result in a reprimand. As a wise man once said, the best revenge is living well. And you can do it healthy – get the best advices from . Learn about the miracle supplements such as raspberry ketones. Read what the studies told us about it at . And getting to rub their nose in it five days a week makes it all the more worthwhile.


I did what?

When the full horror of your hedonism hits home, Ben Webb reveals how to deal with the aftermath.


The party was fantastic. It must have been because you wake up with a piercing headache and partial memory blackout. You guzzle some painkillers and blearily attempt to piece the night back together.


There were the tequila slammers, the food fight, calling the MD a “Frank Skinner lookalike with the personality of lain Duncan Smith” (bang goes your pay rise), and the casino finale, which has emptied your Christmas present fund. Oh, what a night.


The only good thing is that you know you are not alone. Many people, at their firm’s annual knees-up, drink as if prohibition is about to be reintroduced. Last year, recruitment firm Office Angels asked 1,000 office workers about their party antics — n per cent admitted that their partners would be disgusted by their behaviour.

According to The Industrial Society, the New Year starts in a whirl of anxious employers and employees trying to patch up the consequences of a party that went honkers. Revellers in very high spirits often believe that because they are not in the office, normal house rules don’t apply.


They’re wrong. Viv Du-Feu, chairman of the Employment Committee Group at law firm Eversheds, warns: “Just because you are off-site is no excuse. If a serious complaint is made about you then managers will investigate.”


A second problem is judging what level of tomfoolery is acceptable. Legal experts say that disputes over unfair dismissal arising from behaviour at the office party usually hinge on whether the employee knew they were behaving in a way that was unacceptable to the company. Citing a tremendous piss-up in a brewery, Du-Feu says: “We had a case of two managers from a brewing company who were sacked for committing a lewd act at a party. They claimed unfair dismissal on the grounds that similar lewd acts had happened before. They won.”


So, the type of behaviour that went on at past parties obviously forms some kind of guideline. But that doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to cause chaos. Merry japes are one thing; criminal acts are a whole different ball game.


After suffering from severe postnatal depression, I want to share the cure that got me back to living again; running. After my twins were born, all I wanted to do was burrow under my duvet. But my friends and relatives encouraged me to tackle running again.  I ventured outside and started off walking down my road before needing to run home and hide again, but as time passed I progressed to a jog and then a run.  The other thing that helped me escape from depression is the natural supplement 5htp. Learn more about its benefits.

The only time I was able to leave the house was when needed to run, as I knew that I wouldn’t need to interact with anyone. I can honestly say my recovery was all down to running and 5-htp supplement – it made me feel like a human being again. Sam Hastings


The memory-jogging picture of the New Forest 10 in the 195os. Cross-country running was a great feature in the sporting calendar. The photograph ‘Cloud nine’ captured exactly what I carry in my mind’s eye of those days. I am now 71 and still run several times a week. I’m sure there are countless runners for whom it all began with school cross countries. Thanks for the memory! Michael Whawell, Peterborough


I am running my first half-marathon soon. I can run ‘without glasses, but I can’t see much of what s going on! Would you recommend getting disposable contact lenses only for the races? You can probably get a free trial – try them the week before the race.

I switched to contact lenses from glasses for running – it definitely makes a difference in the rain. Go for it, they’re relatively cheap these days. Old specs, elastic round the back and a cap if it rains.

I’ve tried contacts and never got on with them, just make sure your glasses have silicone nose pads and they won’t move much. If you’re worried about steaming up, try washing-up liquid to coat the lenses.

I couldn’t imagine wearing glasses when exercising. Maybe try out some disposables and if you get on with them use them for training as well.


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.


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.


Hardly able to contain his excite­ment, Briggs ordered Smith to take a closer look while he moved to the wireless table. Smith went up into cloud, meaning to curl round to a position astern of the ship, but misjudged. - ed A few minutes later at 2,000 feet the clouds parted and there was the Bismarck on the beam, less than 500 yards away.

There was no need to question her identity : she disclosed it on her own. There were shell bursts all round them, the nasty rattle of shrapnel hitting the hull. Briggs, trying frantically to get his message off in case he was shot down, saw the Bismarck from the corner of his eye as one great winking flame.

At the Admiralty, relief at the Bismarck’s rediscovery was tem­pered by the knowledge that the King George V, 135 miles to the north, would not be able to catch up unless the Bismarck could somehow be slowed down. The man who had the best means for slowing her down was Vice-Admiral Sir James Somerville of Britain’s Force H. With the Renown, Ark Royal and Sheffield, he had crossed ahead of the Bismarck’s track earlier that morning and was now only Too miles away, between the Bismarck and Brest.

Dawn had broken over Force H to show a storm-tossed sea, waves 40 feet high. Although the Ark Royal’s flight deck was 62 feet above the water line, it was being drenched with spray, and at times the forward end shipped green seas like a destroyer. The wind speed over the deck was 50 mph.

An hour and a half before the Catalina’s sighting, the Ark Royal sent off its own Swordfish in search of the enemy. Few carrier-borne aircraft had ever operated in such conditions. With the ship rolling up to 3o degrees, the flight crews had difficulty preventing the planes from sliding across the deck. The first plane off, tearing downhill to­wards the sea, ploughed a furrow through the wavetops with its wheels before it got clear.

When the Catalina’s sighting report came, the Swordfish were re­called to the ship to be armed with torpedoes. Then at 1.15 Admiral Somerville, on board the Renown, ordered the Sheffield to steer for the Bismarck, 40 miles away, and sha­dow from astern. He informed the Admiralty and Tovey of this by wireless signal, also the Ark Royal, which was out of visual touch with the flagship at the time.

The signal reached the Ark Royal in cipher, but as other important messages were waiting to be deci­phered, it was put to one side—so that when after lunch the crews of the striking force went to the Obser­vers Room for briefing, they were not told that the Sheffield was on her way to the Bismarck, and would be quite near her by the time they reached the scene. Their instruc­tions were that the Bismarck was alone.

At about 4 p.m. Captain Charles Larcom on the bridge of the Shef­field saw the Swordfish approach­ing. He was expecting them, having received Somerville’s signal that they had taken off. But there was something horribly familiar about their approach. Instead of flying past, they were coming at him from different directions, as he had often

seen them do when carrying out practice attacks on him. In a flash he realized the pilots had mistaken him for the Bismarck. He rang down for full speed, ordered the gun crews not to fire.

The first plane dropped its tor­pedo, and Larcom put the wheel over to comb the track. A second torpedo fell, but exploded as it hit the water, as did a third. But five or six more were launched successfully. On the bridge, Larcom listened to reports of where they were coming from, swung the wheel hard over to port or starboard. Thanks to his cool ship-handling, not one torpedo hit.

Only during their return flight to the Ark Royal did the Swordfish re­ceive the signal, “Look out for Sheffield.” After landing, the pilots clambered out despondently, but Captain Loben Maund of the Ark Royal was sympathetic, told them they were not to blame and to be ready for another attack in an hour’s time. Then he informed Somerville by lamp what he was doing, and Somerville signalled Tovey, “Sec­ond striking force will leave Ark Royal about 18.30.”

Tovey and his staff were not much cheered. They had been told that the result of the first strike was “no hits.” Not knowing about the Sheffield incident (Somerville had wisely decided this was not the mo­ment to publish it), they had little reason to think that a second attack would be any more successful. Time was running out fast. At 6.21 Tovey had previously signalled the Admir­alty and Somerville that unless the Bismarck’s speed had been reduced by midnight, he himself would have to return to harbour for lack of fuel — with the Hood’s death unavenged and the Bismarck still at large.


If the Bismarck were to turn sharply west and increase speed when the British ships were going away from her, would their radar-men notice? There was nothing to be lost by trying, and soon after 3 a.m. Lindemann ordered the helms­man to put the wheel over to star­board, as the first move in a circle.

On board the Suffolk, tiredness, constant repetition and over-confi­dence had made the radar operators automatons, dulled them to the idea of anything new. When at about 3.30 they failed to pick up the Bis­marck on the inward leg of their zigzag, no one thought greatly of it. They had lost and found her several times during the past 33 hours, soon they would find her again.

But time passed, and although the Suffolk increased her speed and kept on towards the west where she believed the Bismarck had gone, there was not a sign or whisper of her. She had vanished as completely as if she had never been, and at 5 a.m. Captain Ellis signalled to Wake-Walker: “Have lost contact with the enemy.”

IN THE Bismarck that morning, May 25, Lütjens thought he was still being followed, and in this belief he

transmitted to Germany a long sig­nal about the efficiency of British radar, the engagement with the Hood, damage to the oil tanks—a thing he would not have dreamed of doing had he known he was alone.

The transmissions were picked up by various direction-finding stations about Britain, and the bearings passed to the Admiralty, who could hardly believe their luck. The Bis­marck was shown to be south and east of her last reported positions, and Lieutenant-Commander Peter Kemp suggested the position be re­layed to Tovey immediately. But Rear-Admiral Jock Clayton said no, explaining that before putting to sea Tovey had asked for bearings only and not a worked-out position : To­vey had two newly equipped direc­tion-finding destroyers with him and, from a different angle, they would enable him to pinpoint the Bismarck.

So Kemp sent the bearings only and they reached the flagship soon after so a.m. But what the Admir­alty didn’t know was that Tovey’s destroyers had all left for Iceland to refuel. Next, the bearings were plot­ted wrongly in the flagship, and as a result showed the Bismarck to be, not south-east of her last reported position, as she really was, but north of it. Accordingly, at 10.47 Tovey broadcast this position to the fleet, and the King George V, Prince of Wales, Victorious and Suffolk all turned north-east.

When the Admiralty staff heard what Tovey was doing, they didn’t know quite what to make of it. Tovey would not have turned the fleet towards the Iceland-Faroes gap without good reason. The best thing was to wait and see. And so all that morning and part of the afternoon, Tovey and Lütjens were steering away from each other, with the distance between them gradually opening.

During the afternoon the mistake in plotting was discovered by To­vey; all indications were that the Bismarck was heading for France. Accordingly, at 6 p.m. he ordered a turn to south-east. But the King George V turned virtually alone, for most of the ships were desper­ately short of fuel. After agonizing debate, the Norfolk too turned south-east.

Now the two main adversaries were steaming roughly the same course, but with the Bismarck ­though neither side knew it at this moment-150 miles in the lead. In something over 48 hours the Bis­marck’s young crew, most of whom had never been outside Germany, would find themselves in France.

Mistaken Identity

THAT night a Catalina aircraft of Coastal Command raced in the darkness across the waters of Lough Erne in north-west Ireland. The co­pilot was an American naval officer, Ensign Leonard Smith. He and eight other Americans had been assigned to Coastal Command as “Special Observers,” but were soon serving as full crew members a fact known then to very few. The plane circled once over the sleeping countryside and set course south-westwards across Donegal Bay towards the open sea in search of the Bismarck.

For three hours the plane flew, then dawn broke, and to those on watch came the pleasant smell of frying bacon and eggs. The plane carried 1,750 gallons of petrol so could remain airborne for up to 28 hours. The crew took their meals with them, and cooked them on a Primus stove as they went along.

At 9.45 they reached the area of search. It was a hazy morning with poor visibility and a very rough sea. About half an hour later, flying be­low cloud at 500 feet, Smith pointed ahead and said, “What’s that?” Flying Officer Dennis Briggs, the captain, saw about eight miles away a dull black shape which gradually took on the contours of a large warship.


“Have Lost Contact”

WHEN the crews of the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were told that the Prince of Wales had turned away, there was much cheering and shout­ing, joy at victory and relief at sur­vival. “Report hits and casualties,” Lütjens signalled to the Prinz Eu­gen. The signal came back, “None.”

But the Bismarck had been less fortunate. She had received three hits altogether. The most serious had struck the port bow at about the waterline, penetrated two oil tanks and come out the starboard side without exploding. The hit let seawater into the oil tanks and quantities of oil into the sea.

Because of the flooding the bow was down by two or three degrees, and there was a list to port of nine degrees. Lindemann ordered coun­ter-flooding aft to restore the trim, and maximum speed was reduced from 30 to 28 knots. Collision mats were put down to cover the two holes in the bows, and presently they stopped any more water get­ting into the ship, although the oil continued to leak out.

The Bismarck could no longer carry out her assignment without dockyard repairs. The nearest friendly port was Bergen or Trond­heim, both 1,000 miles away. But this meant a return through the haz­ardous passages north or south of Iceland. The coast of France was boo miles further, but meant longer nights and wider seas in which to shake off her shadowers. So Lütjens signalled Germany his intentions to release the Prinz Eugen for in­dependent warfare and for the Bis­marck to put into St. Nazaire.

Meanwhile, unknown to Lütjens, the King George V, flagship of Ad­miral Tovey, together with the Re­pulse, the aircraft carrier Victorious and her escorting cruisers and de­stroyers, were slowly closing from the east. Admiral Tovey calculated that if the Bismarck maintained her course and speed, he would not be in action with her until early next morning (May 25).

But what if the Germans put on a burst of speed during the night, zigzagged violently, broke away westwards or to the north F He had only one weapon that could slow the Bismarck down : the Vic­torious and her Swordfish torpedo planes.

Tovey thought of his raw young airmen, many of whom had never flown on sea operations before. Was it fair to baptize his pilots on such a mission, did they have the small­est chance of success ? The biplanes had wing-struts, two fixed wheels, one engine, things the Wright brothers or Bleriot might have flown an age ago. But he thought of the Hood too, and her 1,400 dead and what might happen in the Atlantic if the Bismarck got away. There was no choice. At about 3 p.m., he ordered the Victorious to steer a di­rect intercepting course towards the enemy. By evening she should be roo miles from the Bismarckthe maximum range for launching and retrieving the planes.

There were to be nine Swordfish in the attack. Each carried a crew of three and an 18-inch torpedo slung below the belly. The first plane trun­dled down the flight deck soon after to p.m., took off, and presently the whole squadron was airborne.

In the Bismarck they watched the approach of the Swordfish with amazement. “It was incredible to see such obsolete-looking planes,” said one German, “having the nerve to attack a fire-spitting mountain like the Bismarck.” But attack they did.

Miraculously, not one of the Swordfish was shot down or even badly damaged, and all returned to the Victorious.

On the other hand, only one tor­pedo struck the Bismarck, and it did little damage. Forward, how­ever, the collision mats had been displaced by the high-speed twist­ing and turning to avoid the torpe­does. Water poured in, the ship again went down by the bows. Speed was reduced to i6 knots to allow divers to reset the mats and bring in more pumps.

For Lütjens two needs had be­come paramount : to abandon the somewhat leisurely course he was steering down the middle of the Atlantic and cut away directly for France; and secondly, to escape the shadowing cruisers. Other planes would be back in the morning for certain. Also Lütjens had heard from shore headquarters of the de­parture from Gibraltar for “an un­known destination” of Britain’s Force H — the Renown, the Ark Royal, the cruiser Sheffield and destroyers. Unless he could give the Norfolk and Suffolk the slip, it would be only a matter of time before the Ark Royal’s planes also found him.

Fortunately, a means of escape had now come to hand. From hydrophones and other devices, it had become evident that there were no British ships on the starboard side (due to an unexpected alteration in the Bismarck’s course), while those on the port were zigzagging, at times coming to within 12 miles of the Bismarck, at others increasing the distance considerably.