In this he failed. As the Prinz Eugen steamed away, the pursuers targeted only the Bismarck. At this point the battleship King George V was only miles away and closing fast. By midnight the planes had found the Bismarck and attacked. Eight torpedoes were fired at the Bismarck and one hit home amidships.
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He also informed Berlin that it was impossible for him to shake off the Royal Navy and that he was abandoning the task in hand to sail to St Nazaire as his ship was short of fuel. Just after In fact, the Bismarck was doing the opposite — sailing east for a port in Biscay. The Norfolk and Suffolk also drew a blank. What gave away the Bismarck was the Bismarck itself.
This message was picked up by the Royal Navy.
However, the information sent to Tovey was misleading as he was not in a position to interpret the bearing given to him by the Admiralty. The Admiralty also made another error.
It failed to use gnomonic charts for its bearings and the King George V was given the position of the Bismarck but it was miles out. Through no fault of his own, Tovey was wrong.
The Admiralty did realise its mistake and informed Tovey that the Bismarck was, in fact, making for the Biscay ports. Finally, the Royal Navy was given the correct course to follow but the Bismarck had a lead on them of miles. The weather also favoured the Bismarck as it was deteriorating and visibility was reduced as the cloud as low. The Admiralty used Catalina flying boats to search for the Bismarck. This information was given to the Swordfish crews from the Ark Royal which was steaming up from Gibraltar.
They took off at The lead Swordfish spotted a large ship on its radar and fourteen planes dived through cloud for an attack. The ship quickly sank, with only three survivors.
Among the crew who died were four Australian sailors who had been sent to the Hood for consolidation training. The loss of the ship spurred the British admiralty into action. Part of the motivation was to take revenge, but it also made sense to disable such a dangerous piece of the German war machine. A reconnaissance aircraft reported seeing an oil slick in the wake of the Bismarck, the ship had been hit in the bow. As it limped toward the German-controlled French port of Saint Nazaire the Allies attacked the Bismarck with torpedo bombers but only managed one superficial hit.
Over the next few days the Bismarck evaded its pursuers, making running repairs and manoeuvres to confuse the Allies. But on May 26 a force, including the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, closed in. The Ark Royal launched an attack accidentally targeting the British ship Sheffield. Due to an error in plotting, Tovey believed the German warship would be heading to its home port through the Norwegian Sea, and he sailed northerly with the Home Fleet, searching in vain for his prey. At the same time, Captain Dalrymple-Hamilton of the battleship Rodney under the command of Tovey believed that the Bismarck was heading toward France.
He decided not to follow orders and remain where he was. On the afternoon of 25 May, Tovey was radioed the position of the Bismarck.
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He was shocked to learn that the German battleship was heading southeast to a French port and not sailing north for her home haven. At , Tovey directed the Home Fleet to a new course southeast. While the Admiralty ordered all British ships in the Atlantic to try and intercept the Bismarck, its exact location was unknown.
The Admiralty agreed and extended the search further north. By 26 May, the British fleet was upon the Bismarck. Captain Martin decided to intercede. On a second aerial attempt, fifteen Swordfish biplanes from the Ark Royal , each carrying one 1, pound torpedo under its fuselage, attacked the Bismarck; two, possibly three struck the warship.
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On the 27th, Churchill went to the Admiralty and watched the scene on the charts in the War Room. News was received every few minutes. It appears, however that the Bismarck was not sunk by gunfire, and she will now be dispatched by torpedo. It is thought that this is now proceeding, and it is also thought that there cannot be any lengthy delay in disposing of this vessel. Great as is our loss in the Hood, the Bismarck must be regarded as the most powerful, as she is the newest, battleship in the world.
Churchill had just sat down when a slip of paper was handed to him, and he rose again. One hundred and ten survivors, exhausted but sullen, were rescued by us. The work of mercy was interrupted by the appearance of a U-boat and the British ships were compelled to withdraw. For Churchill and the English people, the sinking of the Bismarck was an important triumph against Hitler.
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Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill , vol. Admiral Sir John Tovey. Related Story. Tags: Royal Navy.
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