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Head-on fight at 60m.p.h.

From J. R. N. NIXON
STANDING on the bridge of one of his Majesty's ships I saw the Hood go down only two or three hundred yards away, with her guns still firing.

Article from the
Daily Express No. 12,797
of May 31, 1941. Back page.
The battle of the giants was the climax to a chase by Hood and Prince of Wales with their accompanying destroyers at top speed hour after hour in the eerie half-light of the Arctic night. For part of the time a thick curtain of snow enveloped the scene. Then, as if nature were taking a hand, the curtain suddenly lifted. There was the sea, like black treacle, and there, in the sombre, murky light of dawn, apeared two specks on the horizon - the Bismarck and her accompanying cruiser. For some minutes our ships sped on towards the Germans to shorten the range. They, too, turned in towards their pursuers.

"Open Fire"

The world's biggest warships were thundering towards one another at a combined speed of probably more than 60 miles and hour. The specks grew rapidly into recognisable shapes, with masts, bridges, funnels - and guns. The tension of waiting for the battle to begin became acute. Then " open fire " was ordered by signal. Almost simultaneously orange-gold flame belched with a roar from Hood's great forward guns. Within three seconds puffs of black smoke shot out from the Bismarck - she also had opened up. Prince of Wales's guns then began firing. Dense clouds of yellow cordite smoke enveloped her bridge, blotting out the view.

Flash of Flame

Hood was still surging forward on a parallel course. Fountains of water shop up in her wake - the first about 100 yards astern , the second 50. Suddenly she was hit. The shell appeared to fall just ahead of one of her after-15-inch gun turrets. A large fire broke out, with thick black smoke. Hood continued to fire, and to race forward. What happened next was a strangling, sickening sight. There was a terrific explosion. The whole of the vast ship was enveloped in a flash of flame and smoke. It rose high into the air, like a giant mushroom. Sections of funnels, masts and other parts hurtled hundreds of feet into the sky. Some fell on the ship. Most landed back on the sea and quickly disappeared. Hood's bow tilted vertically into the air, and, three or four minutes after, all that remained, apart from bits of wreckage, was a flicker of flame and smoke on the water. A destroyer was diverted to rescue work, and managed to pick up three of the ship's company - two seamen and a midshipman. - Reuter.

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