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About David Buck. Force H accordingly continued to the southward during the night. Bursts of starshell and gunfire could be seen during the night while the destroyers attacked. The striking of force of 12 Swordfish was ready but due to the bad weather to strike was cancelled. She reported the Bismarck 11 miles to the north of her.
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The made the enemy 17 miles to the north of HMS Renown so course was shaped to the south-west. By then the battle was almost over, her guns were silenced and she was on fire. They saw her sink.
click She did not open fire and was lost to sight after ten minutes. The position of the enemy was passed to the Commander-in-Chief. HMS Norfolk had seen the beginning and was now to see the end.
Hamer, RN and set course for the northward to take up the possible task of shadowing. Due to the heavy seas HMS Dorsetshire was forced to reduce speed to 25 knots and later even to 20 knots. HMS Dorsetshire arrived at the scene of the action in the nick of time. They were then some 90 nautical miles north of the Bismarck. Fuel was a matter of grave anxiety. A report came in that the striking force had left.
These reports indicated that the Bismarck was not able to hold her course and that her steering gear must have been damaged. It might still be possible to intercept her. The Commander-in-Chief turned to the south at once hoping to make contact from the eastward in the failing light. Due to the bad weather conditions and visibility the Commander-in-Chief decided to haul off the the eastward and northward and then work round to engage from the westward at dawn.
During the night reports from Captain Vian's destroyers came in confirming the northerly course of the Bismarck. The Commander-in-Chief decided not to make a dawn approach but to wait until daylight while approaching from the west taking advantage of wind, sea and light. It was light at hours. The Bismarck after altering course to the north-west had been labouring along with a jambed rudder, steering an erratic course at 8 knots. During the night the attacking destroyers were met with heavy and accurate salvoes.
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Sixteen torpedoes were fired at her. Early in the morning a glare of star-shell burst over her, lighting her up. Three torpedoes followed from a destroyer on the port bow HMS Maori of which one hit on the port side amidships. Three minutes later three more came from the starboard side these were fired by HMS Cossack of which one hit on the starboard bow. The damage that was sustained from these torpedo hits is not known. The Bismarck lay stopped for over one hour. One U-boat U , which was out of torpedoes on its way back from the Atlantic joined her and was within sight during the night.
In the Bismarck the crew was exhausted and men were falling asleep at their posts. Situation before the action, 27 May A north-westerly gale was blowing when dawn broke with a good light and clear horizon to the north-eastward. Reports received during the night indicated that, despite reduced speed and damaged rudders, Bismarck's armament was functioning effectively. Given the weather conditions the Commander-in-Chief decided to approach on a west-north-westerly bearing and, if the enemy continued his northerly course, to deploy to the southward on opposite course at a range of about yards.
Further action was to be dictated by events. Bismarck opened fire at hours after turning to open up A arcs. The first German salvo was short. The third and fourth salvoes straddled and nearly hit, but the Rodney manoeuvered succesfully to avoid them and the nearest fell 20 yards short. Observers state that the German gunnery was accurate at first, but commenced to deteriorate after 8 to 10 salvoes.
The first hit on the Bismarck was believed to be scored by the Rodney at hours with her third salvo.
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Both British battleships made small alterations of course away from the enemy shortly after opening fire, the King George V to increase her distance from the Rodney and the latter to open her A arcs. From then onwards they manoeuvered independently although HMS Rodney conformed to the Flagship's general movements. The Bismarck's secondary armament came into action during this phase.
HMS Rodney opened fire with her secondary armament at hours. Run to the southward. HMS Rodney , 2. Cordite smoke was hanging badly with the following wind and spotting was most difficult. Considerable smoke interference was therefore experienced on the southerly course which was partly overcome by radar. The Bismarck had transferred her fire to the King George V shortly after the turn but except for an occasional splash the latter hardly knew that she was under fire.
At hours, HMS Dorsetshire joined in the firing from the eastwards from a range of yards but observation of the target was difficult and she had to check fire from to hours. Between and hours the range in King George V was more or less steady at yards. The fate of the Bismarck was decided during this phase of the action although she did not sink until later. Around hours, the Bismarck was hit on her forward control position. No hits were obtained. Run to the northward. The King George V followed a minute or so later and both ships re-opened fire at ranges from and yards respectively.
The Bismarck shifted her target to the Rodney about this time. A near miss damaged the sluice of her starboard torpedo tube. Only one turret from her main armament was firing at this time as was part of her secondary armament. A fire was blazing amidships and she had a heavy list to port. She also fired two torpedoes from yards but no hits were obtained. Her view was obscured by smoke and splashes surrounding the target and her radar had temporarily broken down. There were also several defects of individual guns in addition to those effecting the turrets.
She closed in again at hours, fired several salvoes from a range of only yards and then resumed her northerly course. She also fired four torpedoes, one of which is thought to have hit. By hours the Bismarck was no more than a wreck. All her guns were silenced, her mast had been blown away, she was a black ruin, pouring high into the air a great cloud of smoke and flame.
Men were seen jumping overboard at this time and the Captain of the King George V later remarked had he known it he would have ceased fire. End of the action. In the meantime HMS Norfolk had been closing the target but due to the movements of the King George V and Rodney , had not fired her torpedoes until hours when she fired four torpedoes from yards and two possible hits were reported. This was the final blow, the Bismarck heeled over quickly to port and commenced to sink by the stern. After men had been picked up by both ships from the water both ships got underway again as a submarine was suspected to be in the area.
Damage to the Bismarck. Survivors have told the story of terrible damage inflicted on her. The fore turrets seem to have been knocked out at hours.