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CAREER TIMELINE OF THE BISMARCK

Compiled by José M. Rico

The Bismarck in the Baltic Sea


16 November 1935: Building contract placed with the Blohm & Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, construction number BV 509.

01 July 1936: Keel laid down on slipway 9 at the Blohm & Voss Shipyard.

14 February 1939: Launched. Christened by Dorothea von Loewenfeld, granddaughter of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

April 1940: The first crew members come aboard.

23 June 1940: Enters floating dry dock No. V-VI for a three week period where the three propellers and the MES magnetic system are installed.

14 July 1940: Leaves the dry dock.

21 July 1940: Undergoes an inclining test (Krängungsversuch). In the “empty ship as completed condition” at 42,500 tons, the Bismarck has a metacentric height (GM) of 3,9 m.

24 August 1940: At 1230 the ship is officially commissioned at the Blohm & Voss Shipyard under Captain Ernst Lindemann. The battle flag is hoisted and the ship put into service with the Kriegsmarine.

25 August 1940: Air raid alarm. Bismarck's anti-aircraft battery fires 52 x 3.7 cm and 400 x 2 cm projectiles. No success.

31 August 1940: Air raid alarm. The anti-aircraft battery fires 46 x 3.7 cm projectiles. No success.

08 September 1940: Air raid alarm. The anti-aircraft battery fires 72 x 3.7 cm and 65 x 2 cm projectiles. No success.

10 September 1940: Air raid alarm. The anti-aircraft battery fires 6 x 3.7 cm projectiles. No success.

15 September 1940: The Bismarck leaves Hamburg for the first time. At 1658 hours, while steaming down the Elbe, collides with the bow tug Atlantik but neither ship is damaged, and at 1902, the Bismarck anchors in Brunsbüttel roads. During the night of 15/16 September, while anchored, there is an air raid alarm in which the anti-aircraft battery expends 13 x 10.5 cm, 136 x 3.7 cm, and 191 x 2 cm projectiles. No success observed.

16-17 September 1940: The battleship passes through the Kiel Canal assisted by tugboats. At 1448 on the 17th, the Bismarck enters the Kiel-Holtenau sluice, leaves the Kiel Canal, and then comes alongside Scheerhafen, Kiel.

17-24 September 1940: At Scheerhafen, Kiel.

24-28 September 1940: Made fast to Buoy A 12 (Kiel).

28 September 1940: Bismarck leaves Kiel escorted by the mine clearance vessel 13 until Cape Arkona, and then she arrives alone at Gotenhafen.

October-November 1940: Conducts trials in the Baltic Sea. While at Gotenhafen, the two 10.5 meter stereoscopic base rangefinders are installed above the foretop and after command posts. The four after 10.5 cm SK C/33 double mounts of the new C37 model are installed as well.

05 December 1940: Leaves the Baltic and sails back to Hamburg to complete her outfitting.

07-08 December 1940: Passes through the Kiel Canal.

09 December 1940: Arrives at Hamburg.

16-31 December 1940: Korvettenkapitän Adalbert Schneider acts as Bismarck's Deputy Commander in substitution of Captain Lindemann on Christmas leave.

24 January 1941: Ready to sail again.

06 March 1941: Leaves Hamburg and sails again to Gotenhafen.

07-08 March 1941: Passes through the Kiel Canal for the last time.

08-14 March 1941: Tied up inside Dock C at Deutsche Werke Kiel.

14-17 March 1941: Embarks supplies (ammunition, fuel, water...) at Scheerhafen, Kiel. On the 15th, embarks the first two Arado 196 (T3+IH and T3+AK) of a total air-wing of four.

17 March 1941: Departs Kiel and arrives at Gotenhafen.

18 March-April 1941: Conducts trials in the Baltic.

02 April 1941: Embarks the last two Arado 196 (T3+DL and T3+MK).

Late April 1941: Two new 2 cm Flak C/38 quadruple mounts are installed to both sides of the foremast above the searchlight platform.

05 May 1941: Adolf Hitler visits the Bismarck together with Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, the Chief of Fleet Admiral Günther Lütjens, and other personalities. The Führer stays aboard for four hours.

12 May 1941: Admiral Lütjens and the Fleet Staff embark in the Bismarck.

13 May 1941: Refuelling exercises at sea with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.

14 May 1941: Exercises with the light cruiser Leipzig. As a result of these exercises, the 12-ton portside crane is disabled.

16 May 1941: Portside crane repaired.

18 May 1941 (Sunday): Operation Rheinübung commences.

    1200. Leaves the berth in Gotenhafen and anchors in the bay to embark supplies and fuel.

19 May 1941 (Monday):

    0200. Bismarck departs Gotenhafen and begins her cruise west.

    1200. Position 54º 45' North, 13º 20' East. Bismarck joins Prinz Eugen and destroyers Z-16 Friedrich Eckoldt and Z-23 off Rügen Island.

    2230. Destroyer Z-10 Hans Lody joins the battle group.

20 May 1941 (Tuesday):

    0200-0600. Passes through the Great Belt together with Prinz Eugen and the destroyers Z-10, Z-16, and Z-23.

    1300. Bismarck and Prinz Eugen are sighted in the Kattegat by the Swedish cruiser Gotland.

21 May 1941 (Wednesday):

    0800-0900. The German battle group enters the Korsfjord near Bergen.

    1100. Bismarck anchors in the Grimstadfjord. Position 60º 19’ 48” North, 05º 14’ 48” East.

    1315. Sighted and photographed by a British Coastal Command Spitfire.

    2000. Leaves the Korsfjord together with the Prinz Eugen and the three destroyers.

    2340. Course 0º.

22 May 1941 (Thursday):

    0420. Course 0º. The destroyers leave the group. Bismarck takes the lead.

    1200. Position 65º 53' North, 03º 38' East. Course 0º. Speed 24 knots.

    1237-1307. U-boat and air alarm. Zig-zagging.

    1310. Approximate course 325º

    1800. New course 311º.

    2125. Approximate course 295º.

    2322. Course 266º.

23 May 1941 (Friday):

    0400. New course 250º. Speed 27 knots.

    1200. Position 67º 28' North, 19º 28' West. Course 250º. Average speed 24 knots.

    1420. Course 270º.

    1811-1822. False alarm. Vessels identified as icebergs.

    1821. Bismarck and Prinz Eugen reach the ice limit. New course set at 240º.

    1922. Sights Suffolk on her port side at 7 miles.

    2030. Bismarck sights Norfolk and fires five main battery salvoes. No hits scored. The forward radar set (FuMO 23) is disabled due to the blast shock from the forward turrets. Shortly afterwards the Prinz Eugen passes the Bismarck and takes the lead.

    2200. Reverses her course and tries to engage the Suffolk which realizes the Bismarck's manoeuvre and withdraws.

24 May 1941 (Saturday):

    0543. Course 220º. Speed 28 knots. Bismarck and Prinz Eugen sight two ships at 17 miles on port side.

    0552. Hood opens fire and the Battle of the Denmark Strait begins. Bismarck reports to Group North: "Am in a fight with two heavy units."

    0555. Bismarck fires her first salvo at Hood followed shortly after by Prinz Eugen.

    0555-0601. Bismarck is hit on the port side by three 35.6cm shells from Prince of Wales. One amidships under the armoured belt (section XIV), a second in her bows (section XXI), and the third one passes through a boat.

    0601. Hood blows up and sinks in approximate position 63º 22' North, 32º 17' West.

    0602-0609. Bismarck scores four hits on Prince of Wales.

    0609. Fires last salvo at Prince of Wales. 93 x 38cm armour piercing shells (Psgr. L/4,4 (m.Hb)) fired. She is losing oil and her top speed is reduced to 28 knots. 1,000 tons of water in the forecastle.

    0632. Bismarck reports to Group North: "Battlecruiser, probably Hood, sunk. Another battleship, King George or Renown, damaged. Two heavy cruisers keep up surveillance."

    0705. Bismarck reports to Group North: "We have sunk a battleship at about 63º 10' North, 32º 00' West."

    0801. Bismarck reports to Group North:
        1. Loss of Electric plant No. 4.
        2. Port Boiler Room No. 2 is taking water, but can be held. Water in forecastle.
        3. Maximum speed 28 knots.
        4. Denmark Strait 50 miles of floating mines. Enemy has radar instruments.
        5. Intention: to put to St. Nazaire. No losses of personnel.

    1200. Position 60º 50' North, 37º 50' West.

    1240. New course 180º. Speed 24 knots.

    1814. Turns 180º to starboard while the Prinz Eugen leaves the formation.

    1840-1856. Fires some shells at Suffolk and Prince of Wales. No hits.

    1914. Bismarck reports to Seekriegsleitung: “Brief fight with King George without results. Prinz Eugen released for oiling. Opponent keeps up surveillance.”

    2056. Bismarck reports to Group West and Seekriegsleitung: "Shaking off contacts impossible due to enemy radar. Due to fuel [shortage] will proceed directly to Saint-Nazaire."

    2300. Sighted by the United States Coast Guard Cutter Modoc.

    Midnight. Bismarck is attacked by eight Swordfish of the 825th Squadron (Lieutenant-Commander (A) Eugene Esmonde) from carrier Victorious. Bismarck's speed 27 knots. The battleship is hit by one 18 inch MK XII torpedo on the starboard side, amidships. The damage is insignificant, but the shock of the impact causes one casualty aboard: Oberbootsmann Kurt Kirchberg.

25 May 1941 (Sunday):

    0028. Bismarck reports: "Attack by carrier-based aircraft. Torpedo hit on starboard side."

    0037. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Further attacks are expected!"

    0131. Fires two salvoes against the Prince of Wales. No hits.

    0153. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Torpedo hit of no significance."

    0310. Turns to starboard and the British lose contact with her.

    About 0500. New course 130º.

    0727. Bismarck reports to Group West: “0700 hours quadrant AK 55. One battleship, two heavy cruisers are continuing surveillance.”

    0912-0948. Bismarck reports to Group West and Seekriegsleitung: “Possession of radar equipment by opponent, effective range at least 35,000 meters, adversely affects to the highest degree the operations in the Atlantic. Ships were located in the Strait of Denmark in dense fog and were continuously tracked. Disengagement failed even in favourable weather conditions. Oil replenishment is generally no longer possible, if disengagement of opponent cannot be accomplished with higher speed. Running battle between 20,800 and 18,000 meters. Opponent Hood concentrates fire on Bismarck. After five minutes, Hood is destroyed by an explosion; thereafter, change of target to King George who then turns away in black smoke caused by definitively observed hits. He remains out of sight for several hours. Own munitions expenditure: 93 rounds. Later, King George took on the fight only at extreme distances. Bismarck received two hits from King George; of those one hit below the side armour belt at sections XIII-XIV. Hit in compartment XX-XXI impaired speed and caused a 1º bow burying forward and destruction of oil cells. Release of Prinz Eugen possible by engagement of cruisers and battleship by Bismarck during fog. Own EM-2 [radar] instrument prone to failures, especially during firing.”

26 May 1941 (Monday):

    1030. Sighted by Catalina Z/209 flying boat at about 49º 20' North, 21º 50' West.

    1740. Sighted by Sheffield.

    2047-2115. Attacked by fifteen Swordfish of the 810th, 818th, and 820th Squadrons from carrier Ark Royal. The Bismarck is hit by two (or three) 18 inch MK XII torpedoes. One torpedo (or two) hits the port side amidships, and another hits the stern in the starboard side. As a result of this attack both rudders jammed at 12º to port.

    2054. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Attack by carrier-borne aircraft!"

    2105. Bismarck reports to Group West: "[Position] Square BE 6192. Have sustained torpedo hit aft."

    2115. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Torpedo hit amidships!"

    2115. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Ship no longer manoeuvrable!"

    2130-2155. Fires six salvoes against the Sheffield. Distance nine miles. No hits scored.

    2140. Bismarck reports to Supreme Command of the Navy (O.K.M.) and Group West: "Ship unable to manoeuvre. We will fight to the last shell. Long live the Führer."

    2238. Sighted by Polish destroyer Piorun.

    2242. Opens fire against Piorun.

    2325. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Am surrounded by Renown and light forces."

    2358. Bismarck reports: "To the Führer of the German Reich, Adolf Hitler: We shall fight to the last man with confidence in you, my Führer, and with rock-solid trust in Germany's victory!"

    2359. Bismarck reports to Group West: “Ship is weaponry-wise and mechanically fully intact; however, it cannot be steered with the engines."

27 May 1941 (Tuesday):

    0217. Bismarck reports to Supreme Commander of the Navy (Grossadmiral Raeder): "Submitting application for awarding the Knight’s Cross to Korvettenkapitän Schneider for the sinking of Hood!"

    0500. Bismarck reports to Group West: "50% overcast, ceiling 600 meters. [Wind] from NW at force 7."

    0625. Bismarck reports to Group West: "Situation unchanged, wind force 8 to 9."

    0710. Last report from Bismarck to Group West: "Send U-boat for safe-keeping of war diary!"

    0844. Sighted by King George V and Rodney. Speed seven knots.

    0847. The final battle begins. Rodney opens fire.

    0849. Turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" open fire at Rodney.

    0902. Bismarck is hit for the first time. Foretop command post disabled.

    0908. Forward command post disabled. Turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" out of action.

    0913. After command post disabled. Turrets "Cäsar" and "Dora" proceed to local fire.

    0921. Turret "Dora" out of action.

    0927. Turret "Anton" or "Bruno" fires one last salvo.

    0931. Turret "Cäsar" fires the last salvo and is put out of action. Main battery silenced.

    0958. Possible torpedo hit to port.

    0936-1016: Receives an indeterminable number of hits from point blank range between 2,500 and 4,000 meters, but is still afloat.

    Sometime about 1000. Demolition charges explode in the turbine room.

    1022. Hit on the starboard side by two 21 inch MK VII torpedoes fired by Dorsetshire from 3,000 meters (3,280 yards).

    1037. Hit on the port side by a third 21 inch MK VII torpedo fired by Dorsetshire from 2,200 meters (2,400 yards).

    1039. Bismarck finally sinks at approximate position 48º 10' North, 16º 12' West. 116 men rescued.

9 June 1989: The wreck of the Bismarck is discovered at a depth of 4,790 meters (15,700 feet) by an expedition led by Dr. Robert D. Ballard.



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