On this day : The 24th May 1941

The Bismarck sinks the Hood

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Bismarck – Germany’s fantastic new battleship – was heading for the Atlantic, via the Baltic, since her officers thought that would be a safer route.

Expecting that the Bismarck would try to break out into the Atlantic, where she could do serious damage to the Allied war efforts, the British Home Fleet dispatched ships to stop her.

On the 24th of May, HMS Hood (a British battle cruiser – the pride of the Royal Navy) and HMS Prince of Wales (a British battleship) encountered the Bismarck in the Denmark Strait (southwest of Iceland).  The British opened fire.

Less than ten minutes after the opening salvo of the Battle of Denmark Strait, a Bismarck shell struck the Hood near the battle cruiser’s aft ammo magazines.  A terrific explosion ensued, and the Hood sank in about three minutes.  Everyone on board died except for three crew members.

Also damaged, the Prince of Wales ceased the engagement with the German ships.  They did not pursue her (although, had she not turned away, the Prince of Wales may have been struck by an about-to-be-fired torpedo from Prinz Eugen).

The Bismarck was the most modern of Germany’s battleships, a prize coveted by other nation’s navies, even while still in the blueprint stage (Hitler handed over a copy of its blueprints to Joseph Stalin as a concession during the days of the Hitler-Stalin neutrality pact). The HMS Hood, originally launched in 1918, was Britain’s largest battle cruiser (41,200 tons)-but also capable of achieving the relatively fast speed of 31 knots. The two met in the North Atlantic, northeast of Iceland, where two British cruisers had tracked down the Bismarck. Commanded by Admiral Gunther Lutjens, commander in chief of the German Fleet, the Bismarck sunk the Hood, resulting in the death of 1,500 of its crew; only three Brits survived.

During the engagement, the Bismarck‘s fuel tank was damaged. Lutjens tried to make for the French coast, but was sighted again only three days later. Torpedoed to the point of incapacity, the Bismarck was finally sunk by a ring of British war ships. Admiral Lutjens was one of the 2,300 German casualties.

 

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