German U-Boats of WW11 - Page 2
Raeder supported Operation Sealion, the planned German invasion of Britain, but argued that first the Luftwaffe had to gain air superiority. When Hermann Goering failed to win the Battle of Britain Reader advised Hitler to call off the invasion.
On 18th May 1941, the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen left port but it was not until 21st May that British intelligence was informed that the ships were refuelling in Bergen Fjord in Norway. Afterwards the ships headed for the Denmark Straits in an attempt to avoid the Royal Navy based at Scapa Flow. However, Admiral John Tovey had been informed of its position and he called up every available warship to destroy Germany's most powerful battleship.
On 23rd May the Bismarck was spotted by the heavy cruiser Suffolk. Using its recently installed radar to track the German ship it was soon joined by the Norfolk. At the same time the Hood and Prince of Wales moved in from the other direction to tackle the German ships head-on.
The warships went into battle on the morning of 24th May. The engagement began when the Hood began firing at the more advanced Prinz Eugen. When the Bismarck arrived it used its 15-inch guns and after taking several direct hits the Hood exploded before sinking. Only three out of a crew of 1,421 survived.
The two German ships now turned on the Prince of Wales and after being badly damaged fled from the area. The Bismarck was also damaged and had a ruptured fuel tank. This resulted in an oil leak and a reduction of her maximum speed. That evening the Bismarck was attacked by nine torpedo bombers and scored one direct hit.
It was decided that she was now vulnerable to attack and orders were given for her to return to the port of Brest. Steaming at moderate speed to conserve fuel it was sited by a British flying boat on 26th May. The aircraft followed the Bismarck until the light cruiser Sheffield took over that afternoon. It was soon joined by the Ark Royal and the Renown. Soon afterwards the Bismarck was hit which resulted in her steering gear being jammed.
Now severely disabled, the Bismarck was now surrounded by the King George V, Rodney, the Norfork and the Dorsetshire. After an hour and a half the Bismarck was a blazing wreck. At 10.36 a.m. the Bismarck sank killing all but 110 of her crew. The loss of its largest ship marked the end of the German Navy's incursions into the Atlantic.
Adolf Hitler grew increasingly disillusioned with the performance of the German Navy and after the Luetzow and Admiral Hipper failed to stop a large Arctic convoy he accused his commander of incompetence. Grand Admiral Erich Raeder resigned in January, 1943 and was replaced by Karl Doenitz as Commander in Chief of the navy.