May 24, 2016

It's Been 75 years

Bismark and Prinz Eugen, having sunk HMS Hood, should have been able to finish off HMS Prince of Wales with little trouble, especially given that P.o.W.s main armament was malfunctioning. However, Captain Leach had handled his malfunctioning ship brilliantly and the British battleship's parting salvo was quite consequential. It Struck Bismarck below the waterline peeling away enough hull plating to cost the German ship about a knot in speed. Much more importantly, it ruptured and contaminated a fuel tank. For reasons not entirely clear the German ship had not topped off in Norway and the German admiral was suddenly quite aware of how far from home he was and how much of hios depleted fuel reserves he needed to burn to get there. 

Dispatching the Prinz Eugen to continue the raid, Admiral Lütjens began heading home. 

Meanwhile, in England, the national threat level was raised from "Muddling Through" to "Not Amused" .  The loss of Hood was a terrible shock and the Royal Navy mobilized every asset they had to find the Bismarck and send her to the bottom.

There wasn't much available however, The royal Navy was spread thin over the entire planet and the weather in the area of concern was deteriorating to the point that air reconnaissance was becoming impractical. Bismarck eluded the cruisers that had been shadowing her and it looked like there was nothing to stop the ship's return to Germany. Late on the 26th, there was a brief sighting by a reconnaissance aircraft, but it was then apparent that Bismarck was well out of range of any UK ships and home free...

Actually, there was one ship that could theoretically make a difference, but the Carrier Ark Royal was just at the extreme range of its torpedo planes and in any event, the ship was pitching like a cork in a terrible gale that would normally preclude flying at all.

Despite hellish weather, (hurricane force winds with green water coming over the deck!) three of Ark Royal's obsolete Swordfish torpedo planes managed to lumber into the air, and some time later flew through a hail of flack to each drop a single, relatively underpowered 450mm torpedo. Only the one dropped by the plane piloted by John Moffat struck the German warship, but the location made all the difference. The Bismarck's steering gear was wrecked.

The ship's crew tried to steer via screws but the ship's three screwed arrangement and the dreadful weather made this exceedingly difficult. 

Suddenly, Bismarck was not quite home free anymore. 


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