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Front page of the Daily Express No. 12,797 of May 31, 1941. The main article continues on back page.

U-boat and bombers stopped rescuers

Express Staff Reporter H. L. McNALLY

THE Bismarck had her brains blown out before she was sunk. That is the simple way in which a naval man descried her destruction to me today.
Accurate gunnery from the battleships Rodney and King George V. destroyed the power of Hitler's greatest warship by putting the complicated mechanism of her control out of action so that she became unnavigable, and by silencing her big guns. Then the cruiser Dorsetshire fired her torpedoes. Four minutes later the Bismarck turned over, exposed her keel above the sea, cracked in two - and sank. There was nothing left of her. but hundreds of Germans were struggling in the water. A stiff gale was blowing. They had no rafts or floats. To launch boats had been impossible.

500 cadets

There had been about 2,400 men and boys aboard ; there were 500 young cadets in addition to the ship's normal company, in training for the ships Hitler is building. Of all these only about 100 were saved. A warship did all she could until the Germans themselves brought rescue work to an end. The seas were too high for boats to be launched, but ropes and lifebelts were flung over the side. Men too weak to climb were hauled aboard by loops around their shoulders. Hundreds more might have been saved - probably 400 - but a submarine was sighted, then a flight of German aircraft.

Threw out rafts

So the warship had to speed away. But before leaving her crew threw rafts and lifebelts into the sea. The Germans left in the sea sank in a few minutes. Those rescued were confined to the ships's recreation-room. Chilled. weary. punch-drunk from two hours of salvoes of heavy shells, they had no spirit left. Some were wounded. Those suffering from extreme exhaustion were given hot baths. wrapped in blankets, well fed. One man. a stoker, who had kept himself afloat with one arm, had to have the other amputated. He was given blood transfusions. rallied. but died next day. They put a German imperial eagle flag - they had no swastika aboard - over his coffin and mustered the prisoners on the quarter-deck. The chaplain read the committal service.

Nazi salute

As the British saluted, one German shot up his arm in the Nazi style. He was followed by the other officers and men. One officer took the loss of his ship with philosophic calm, the surgeon-commander who attended him told me, just shrugging slightly and saying. "Well. that's that." A few of the Germans, when warmed and fed, became truculent, said the Bismarck did not matter anyway - they had sunk the Hood. One said they could have taken on any two battleships in the world. Another: "The Hood came at us like a bull at a red rag." One warship did her job without a single casualty, although the [At this point the article continues on the back page, Col. 3 under the title: "Bismarck told 200 planes would save her"]

Bismarck told 200
planes would save her

enemy went on firing till the last. Routine work went on right through the engagement. A signal passed through her control room: "Why is there no water in the officers' heads ?" (wash rooms) A plumbing defect had developed. It was rectified. Here is a British officer's story: "After the Ark Royal's torpedo plane attacks the Bismarck's speed was cut to 12 knots. She turned west, putting out a smoke screen, then steered north. "Destroyers began to give her a pretty thin time with torpedo attacks, while the King George V. and Rodney were steaming up through the night. "On board the two battleships there must have been a good deal of anxiety lest the Bismarck should not last out till morning, to give them a chance to sink her.


"At dawn visibility was poor. Rodney and King George V. delayed their attack until 9 a.m., when the Bismarck was about 15 miles ahead of them. "Rodney's 16-inch guns began the shooting. Two minutes later King George V. joined in. "The Bismarck fired back. But she seemed to be hardly under control. Her steering was wild, and her shells straddled the Rodney without hitting her. "As the ships drew closer her fire fell off and became more and more inaccurate. "It was seen later that a turret was out of action, with its guns cocked up in the air, pointing away from the British battleships. "They closed up to about two miles range, pumping heavy shells into her. But still she did not sink. So the Dorsetshire went in."


Telling of the Bismarck's duel with the Hood off Greenland the officer said : - "Hood opened fire as soon as she came within range, followed soon after by the Prince of Wales. The hit that ended her set the whole of her fore-deck on fire. It reached a magazine and she was blown out of the water. Visibility was as low as a mile and there were occasional snow-storms, but the cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk managed to keep the Bismarck in sight. Suffolk came under fire from the Bismarck about 6 p.m., and soon afterwards the Prince of Wales and Norfolk returned the fire. The Bismarck broke off the action and ran for it."
Said another officer: "Eight or nine torpedoes hit the Bismarck before she finally heeled over, her crew swarming like black dots over the hull." Even to the last the Germans apparently believed she was unsinkable. They were hoping for relief from land: they had been told 200 planes had been sent out to their assistance. The ship went down with her battle colours still flying. The Hood blew up two minutes after being hit. An officer who took part in the Battle of Greenland said that the Bismarck was first sighted in the Denmark Straits on Friday, May 23, about 7.30 in the evening. "Most inconvenient," he commented. "I was just going to have dinner." With her was the cruiser Prinz Eugen. The weather was fairly thick ; it was not possible to see more than six or seven miles. There was a danger of running into the enemy at close range. But she was kept in sight all through the night, which was never really dark. "Until she was attacked by torpedo bombers I imagine the Bismarck felt she was in no danger," said the officer. "it was then she decided to take drastic action to escape, and started for Brest."

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