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.


The Prinz Eugen’s first salvo had been a little short; now she was firing her second. White fountains shot up, some short,

some over             a straddle — and then
a flame leapt up on the Hood’s boat-deck amidships. “It’s a hit,” shouted one of the German crew excitedly, “the enemy’s on fire.”

On the Hood’s bridge the fire was reported as caused by a shell-burst among the four-inch anti-aircraft ammunition. Able Seaman Robert Tilburn, ordered with others to put the fire out, was about to do so when more ammunition began ex­ploding, so they all lay flat on the deck. Then another shell, perhaps two, hit the Hood, killing many of the gun crews now sheltering in the aircraft hangar.

Holland decided, whatever the risks, that he could no longer afford to keep half of his gun power out of action. He hoisted the signal for an alteration back to port to bring the after turrets of both ships to bear.

The executive signal came down, the two ships began to turn. Then the incredible happened. The Bis­marck had fired another broadside and, for the fifth time in four min­utes, the Hood was hidden by a curtain of shell splashes. But at least one shell made no splash : it came plunging down like a rocket, pierc­ed the deck that should have been strengthened and never was, pene­trated to the ship’s vitals deep below the waterline, exploded, touched off the four-inch magazine which in turn touched off the after 15-inch magazine.

Before the eyes of the horrified British and unbelieving Germans a huge column of flame leapt up from the Hood’s centre, followed by a thick mushroom-shaped cloud of smoke. Bits and pieces of the Hood could be seen flying through the air—part of a 15-inch gun tur­ret, the mainmast, the main derrick. High up in the smoke, the ship’s shells were exploding, bursting like white stars.

The smoke cleared to show the Hood with a broken back, in two pieces, bow and stern pointing to­wards the sky. The gunnery officer aboard the Prinz Eugen saw, through the main range-finder, the whole forward section of the Hood rearing up from the water like the spire of a cathedral, towering above the upper deck of the Prince of Wales as she steamed by. Then the Prince of Wales passed, and both parts of the Hood slid quickly be­neath the waves.

After only another 12 minutes of battle the Prince of Wales made smoke and disengaged. She had been hit by four of the Bismarck’s heavy shells and three of the Prinz Eugen’s. The compass platform, echo-sounding gear, radar office, aircraft recovery crane, all the boats and several cabins had been wreck­ed. Her casualties were 13 killed, nine wounded. The time was 6.13 a.m., just 21 minutes after Admiral Holland had so proudly led his squadron into battle.

For most Englishmen, the news of the Hood’s death was traumatic, as though Buckingham Palace had been laid flat or the Prime Minister assassinated. Many simply did not believe it.. Lieutenant-Commander T. J. Cain, 30 miles to the north in the destroyer Electra, thought the Yeoman of Signals was trying to be funny, and rounded on him fiercely. “My God, but it’s true, sir,” the man replied, his eyes filling with tears.

All over the Empire and in South America and the United States, those who remembered her gliding gracefully into their harbours or lying like a golden jewel there at night, who had danced beneath white awnings on her quarter-deck, who had seen her power and ma­jesty for themselves, were incredu­lous and aghast. If the Hood could not stop the Bismarck, what could?

And what of Hood’s survivors? Admiral Wake-Walker could not spare the Norfolk or Suffolk to look for them, but the Hood’s own de­stroyers were not far off and they were ordered to the spot. After two hours’ hard steaming the Electra reached the edge of the scene. There were patches of oil on the water, a floating drawer full of documents, odd bits of wood, little else. They moved on at slow speed, saw three rafts not far apart, one man on each. Was this all, then, that had survived from the great ship’s company?

Cain remembered how the ship looked at Sunday divisions, line upon line of men mustered on her upper decks “like a small army.” “There incest be more,” said the Engineer Officer, “there can’t be only three of them.” But no, that was all. They searched a long time, found other small pieces of wreckage, but nothing human, not even bodies. The rest of the small army, more than 1,400 men, lay 500 fathoms down, their ship their tomb. There they would lie for ever.



In August 1939 she finally put away the deck awnings and light bulbs, painted herself a dull grey, rigged black-out curtains in every passageway, took on reserve officers and men and went out on patrol in the North Sea. And now on this May evening of 1941 the Hood was

designed to do 26 years before : en­gage her country’s enemies in battle on the high seas.

In the early evening of the 23rd she picked up the first of the Suf­folk’s reports. Admiral Holland studied the chart, plotted the Bis­marck’s position and course relative to his, then signalled the squadron world; now, going flat out, it took a ton of oil to drive her half a mile.

She was a beautiful ship, elegant and symmetrical like the Bismarck, but she had one great defect, a lack of armour on her upper decks. The Hood had been designed before the battle of Jutland in 1916, where three British battle cruisers were to increase speed to 27 knots. Over the loudspeakers the ships’ com­panies were told that action was ex­pected in a matter of hours.

In all the ships, officers and men went to cabins and messes and put on clean underwear and socks, a ritual the Royal Navy has always observed before battle to help pro­tect wounds from infection. Water­tight doors were closed, ammuni­tion hoists tested, guns elevated and trained. In sick-bay and wardroom doctors sterilized instruments, pre­pared anaesthetics and morphine.

The signals from the Norfolk and Suffolk continued streaming in, and at midnight the enemy was esti­mated to be just over 100 miles away. Admiral Holland signalled his squadron to turn due north; this meant that the two opposing forces were now closing on almost reciprocal courses at a mean rate of 50 knots. They should meet at around 2 a.m. Sunset in this lati­tude was at 1.51 a.m., so while the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen would be silhouetted against its after-glow, the British ships would be in dark­ness and could approach rapidly and unseen.

At about the same time the Suf­folk lost contact. Two hours passed without sight of the enemy or any further news, so reluctantly Hol­land swung his ships round and steadied on 200 degrees or south-south-west, almost the course the Bismarck was steering when the cruisers lost her. He missed Lutjens by a hair’s breadth. The British ships had been steering an almost perfect intercepting course, and the Ger­man ships passed only ten miles to the north-west of Holland’s de­stroyers. Had the visibility then not been down to between three and five miles, they would almost cer­tainly have been spotted.

Just before 3 a.m., the Suffolk signalled that she was in touch with the enemy again. But now instead of the swiftly closing “head on” approach that Holland had plan­ned, he would have to converge at an angle, much more slowly. This meant there would be a long period when the Hood was vulnerable to the Bismarck’s plunging shells.

On board the Prince of Wales, which was on the Hood’s flank near­est to the enemy, every eye, every pair of binoculars was trained to starboard. Then, from above, came a thin, reedy cry : “Enemy in sight!” For a few moments there was nothing to see, the bridge being so much lower than the crow’s nest; then the tops of two masts appeared, the superstructures, the ships them­selves.

The range on sighting was 17 miles, too far to open fire accurate­ly. How quickly would Holland close it? The order went out : “Al­ter course 40 degrees to starboard.” It was a big alteration and meant approaching the enemy at such an angle that the Hood’s and Prince of Wales’s after turrets would not be able to bear. On the other hand,it would expose the Hood’s vul­nerable upper deck to the enemy’s long-range fire for the minimum time. The range began closing rapidly; in minutes now the battle would begin.

The Incredible Happens

FOR a few moments as the two squadrons raced towards each other in that cold, pale dawn, with the eastern sky pink and violet on the low cirrus, there was in all the ships a silence made more striking by the knowledge of the thunder that was to come. Men’s voices and hands had done all they could; the only sounds now were sea sounds, bows slicing the water, whistling wind and spray. On the Hood’s bridge a man with headphones began softly singing out the closing ranges. When the range was down to 13 miles, Admiral Holland said, “Execute.”

There came the tiny, tinkly, ridi­culous ding-ding of the fire gong, like an overture scored for triangle. Then the guns spoke with their terrible great roar. The blast knock­ed one almost senseless, thick clouds of cordite smoke, black and bitter smelling, clutched at the throat, blinded the vision, and four shells weighing a ton apiece went rocket­ing out of the muzzles at more than i,600 mph. Moments later the Bis­marck and then the Prinz Eugen got off their opening salvoes.

The Hood’s shells landed in the vicinity of the Prinz Eugen, but not dangerously so. The Prince of Wales’s were 1,000 yards short of the Bismarck. But the shells of the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were deadly accurate; they enveloped the Hood in a curtain of splashes.


Reaching his patrol area on May 23, Captain Robert Ellis of the Suf­folk found good visibility over Greenland, but on the Icelandic side fog stretched in either direction. When, therefore, he was on his north-easterly run, facing the direc­tion from which the enemy might come, he kept in the open water near the Greenland ice-edge, know­ing that his radar would pick them up a long way ahead. But on the south-westerly leg when the bridge superstructure and funnel smoke obscured the view astern, he steer­ed down the edge of the wall of fog, ready to slip into it if an emergency arose.

There hadn’t been a whisper of the Germans since the sighting in the Bergen fjords two days before; in that time, they could have steam­ed more than i,000 miles; they could be just over the horizon, al­ready at the edge of the Atlantic, on their way back to Germany, or at anchor in some Norwegian fjord. Everyone had his own theory.

It was Able Seaman Newell in the Suffol who brought suspense to an end. At 7.22 p.m., he saw some­thing which for the rest of his life

he would never forget—the Bis­marck, black and massive, emerg­ing from a patch of mist on the starboard quarter, not more than seven miles away. “Ship bearing Green One Four 0,” he shouted, and then as the Prinz Eugen swam into his lenses, “Two ships bearing Green One Four 0.”

Captain Ellis ordered hard a-port and full speed ahead to get into the fog. Another officer pressed the alarm bells and all over the ship men leapt from mess-bench or hammock, slid into sea-boots, snatched coats and scarves, lifebelts and tin hats.

But no salvoes came, and the Suf­folk breached the fog wall unharm­ed. Safe inside, she waited, sending out a string of reports, watching the two blips on the radar scan. The Norfolk, 15 miles away in the fog, picked up the first signals. Captain Alfred Phillips at once increased speed, but in his eagerness mis­judged the direction. He emerged from the fog to find the Bismarck only six miles away, coming straight at him.

The Bismarck’s guns roared in anger. Rear-Admiral Frederick Wake-Walker, in the Norfolk, saw the sea to starboard pocked with shell splinters, observed one shell bounce off the water 5o yards away and ricochet over the bridge. Great columns of milk-white water rose in the air, zoo feet high.

Five salvoes in all were fired be­fore the Norfolk regained the mist;some straddled, and splinters came on board, but there were no casual­ties or hits. Both the Norfolk and Suffolk waited for the Germans to pass, then began to follow. It was not their business to fight the Bis­marck, but to keep in touch with her until bigger ships arrived.

Admiral Tovey, then boo miles to the south-east, was as relieved as the Admiralty in London that his dis­positions had proved correct. But the man to whom the news was of grea­test moment was Vice-Admiral Hol­land in the Hood, which with the Prince of Wales and their destroyers was now only 300 miles away and steering on a converging course.

Preparations for Battle

Jr ANY one ship could be said to have been the embodiment of Brit­ish sea power and the British Em­pire between the wars, it was the mighty Hood. Longer even than the Bismarck (86o feet to 820), al­though narrower in the beam, she mounted, like the Bismarck, eight 15-inch guns in four turrets. Her maximum speed of 32 knots, at the time she was built, made her destroyed by German shells which, fired at long range, had plunged vertically through the lightly pro­tected decks and exploded inside. All big ships built after Jutland had strengthened armour. The Hood’s armour was strengthened on her sides but not on her decks; they were her Achilles’ heel.

Between the wars, when a quar­ter of the globe was still coloured pink for Britain, the Hood showed the flag, as they used to say, to the Empire and the world. Her 1923-24 world tour in company with the Re­pulse and five cruisers was described as “the most successful cruise by a squadron of warships in the history of sea-power.” Their arrival any­where caused huge crowds to gath­er and filled the pages of the local Press. Millions saw the Hood, hun­dreds of thousands came on board.

Keep your face and body healthy and young

When one is young, problems like wrinkles and tired face seem so far away, but as the years go by, people find out that they should make some efforts in order to keep their faces and body in good health. Looking good is not easy… well, there are certain people that have the privilege of enjoying an elastic skin, but they are not many. For all the rest of us, we need to make our body and facial muscles work for us.


The first muscles that lose their elasticity are the ones on the neck and the throat and then they are followed by the muscles on the face. Making certain face and body exercises can help us delay the problem with the wrinkles as you can see at http://www.reinventingaging.org/. Before making these special exercises however, we all have to keep in mind that everything starts with the way we live and the food we eat. If your daily menu is made of high-quality products including diary and meat, if you eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits, if you do not smoke and drink just a glass of wine or beer, than you are treating your body right. If you further make regular exercises or go to the gym, then most probably you are in a good shape.


Now… if you have that base then, we should talk about face exercises that will make your skin look better and your face – younger. The face exercises are not difficult; they are natural and quite effective. You can start by sitting on the floor with your spine set straight, slightly moving your head back to feel a stretch in the muscles of your jaw. You should stay in that position for ten seconds and then slowly move your head to its natural position. This exercise should be done up to five times. The next thing to do is to turn your head slightly to the left reaching your chin with your shoulder. You should stay like that for five seconds and then slowly go to the initial position. Then you can turn your head slowly to the right, reaching your right shoulder with the chin. You can do this second exercise three times for each side. The third exercise that follows is a slight tilt of your head to the right, up and then to the left. Remember that you should do that exercise slowly and you will feel a gentle stretch. You can do that stretching three times for each of the sides. The fourth exercise requires you to kneel with your hands and knees on the floor. Then you should turn your head to the floor, keeping your neck and spine in a straight position, and then you should raise your head to the ceiling inhaling and then down again to the floor exhaling. This last exercise should be done very slowly for five times.


The entire program of facial exercises lasts for just five or ten minutes and it should be done slowly. The aim is to feel your head and face muscles soothed and your entire body relaxed. The best time to do these exercises is in the evening as you prepare to go to bed. Of course, you can also do them in the morning to start the day in a fresh manner. The results will be visible just in few weeks’ time.