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LETTER FROM BRITISH VETERAN ANDREW BROWN

The following letter and photos were sent to us by the British veteran Andrew Brown. Andrew was a radar operator on board the battleship King George V during the chase and sinking of the Bismarck, and therefore was a witness of the events.

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Saturday, 17 Feb 2001

Andrew Brown

On the Saturday night 21st of the 5th 1941, as I was going to my duty post I watched H.M.S Hood and H.M.S Prince of Wales (P.O.W) leave Scapa Flow around midnight. I was never to see the Hood again! I never placed any significance about this as H.M.S Prince Of Wales hadn't really finished her trials and still had dockyard workmen aboard and the Hood was a battle cruiser, she didn't have the armour plating that the K.G.V had. H.M.S Hood had been built between the First and Second World War and had never been in action. K.G.V sailed from Scapa, approximately 24 hours later. On our second morning at sea our captain broadcast to the ships company to tell us H.M.S Hood had been sunk and H.M.S Prince Of Wales had been damaged. We couldn't believe it but at the same time those two ships should never have been anywhere near the Bismarck (that is only my opinion) you can imagine how we felt. The Bismarck led us a merry dance for almost three days, the ships that were supposed to be shadowing the Bismarck lost the scent. When the Bismarck was eventually found she had suffered some damage to her rudder mechanism from one of the Fleet Air Arms SwordFish Torpedo Bombers. If that hadn't happened I doubt very much whether we would have caught up with her.

On the morning of 27th of May 1941 we picked her up on the radar at 28,000 (14 sea miles). We fired our first salvo at approximately 12 miles away, my job was to observe the fall of shot and report to gunnery control. Our aerial was fixed to the top of the forward control turret and when trained on the target it's possible to follow the projectiles on the screen. For example 'Fall of Shot', you can tell whether it's long, short on target etc. Unfortunately after several salvos and broadsides our radar broke down, caused by the blast from our 14 inch guns and as we had no radar mechanics from there on I was a spectator. I must say it wasn't a pretty sight, why the hell didn't they surrender? There would have been no disgrace, such a fine ship and all those lives lost, only 115 survivors out of the ship's company of 2000. H.M.S Dorsetshire delivered the coup de grace with torpedoes. K.G.V didn't have enough fuel to take us back to Scapa Flow after steaming around for three days at 30 knots, we had turn into Loch Ewe to refuel. Thank god we never caught up with the Tirpitz! King George the 5th later went on to Tokyo Bay.

Andrew Brown

battleship King George V


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