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4th June, 1941.
To: The Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet.
The following report of the operations culminating in the destruction of the German battleship BISMARCK is forwarded in accordance with Admiralty message 0032 of 28th May, 1941.
2. At 0330 on Sunday, 25th May, Force "H" was in position 39º 35' N. 14º 10' W., steering 310º at 24 knots. At this time instructions were received to steer to intercept BISMARCK from the southward. The enemy had last been located in position 56º 30' N. 36° 00' W. at 0306 when SUFFOLK lost touch. The existing course and speed was therefore maintained.
3. At 0400 instructions were received that destroyers should be sent back to Gibraltar before it became necessary to fuel them, as Force "H" might be required for extended operations. The three screening destroyers were therefore detached at 0900 with instructions to transmit two signals when 150 miles clear, one informing the Admiralty of the position, course and speed of Force "H" at 0730, and the other requesting Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth, to keep me fully informed of the results of Brest reconnaissance.
4. At 1100, when in position 41º 30' N. 17° 10' W., orders were received for Force "H" to act on the assumption that the enemy had turned towards Brest at 0300/25. Course was therefore altered to 360º.
5. At 1215 Force "H" altered course to 345º to reach the initial position for an air search a.m./26 based on the assumption that the enemy's maximum speed of advance was not more than 25 knots. It was my intention to carry out, if necessary, three searches of the area across the Bay of Biscay allowing for the enemy making a substantial detour to the southward. The first search was designed to cover enemy speeds of 25 to 21 knots, the second 21 to 18 knots and the third 18 to 15 knots, Force "H" maintaining an intercepting position to the eastward throughout.
6. During the night the north-westerly wind and sea increased, and speed had to be reduced to 23 knots at 2115, to 21 knots at 2340, to 19 knots at 0020 and finally to 17 knots at 0112.
7. In consequence of this reduction of speed, which the BISMARCK with a following sea would not have suffered, course was altered to 000º at 0300/26 to reach the best position for flying off the search.
8. The latest intelligence regarding the German battle cruisers was contained in a reconnaissance report that they were still at Brest at 1515/23. This lack of information caused me some anxiety as I could not entirely discount the possibility that one or both battlecruisers might have put to sea to support BISMARCK. With this possibility in view a security patrol was flown off at 0716 to search to the west and northward before assuming A/S duties.
9. It had been intended that the first search should cover the area bounded by 47º 30' N. 21° 30'.W., 49º 00' N. 23º 40' W., 52º 25' N. 20º 00' W., 51º 40' N. 17º 00' W., but owing to the head seas experienced during the night the area for the search, measuring some 280 miles by 120 miles was transferred 35 miles to the south-east.
10. Ten Swordfish were flown off at 0835 from position 48º 26' N. 19º 13' W. Two cross-over patrols by Catalinas, arranged by the Admiralty, lay along the western edge of ARK ROYAL's reconnaissance. Weather conditions at this time were wind from 320º force 7, sea rough, sky overcast, visibility 10-12 miles. It had been hoped to increase the density of the search by the use of Fulmars, but weather conditions rendered this impracticable. ARK ROYAL's round down was rising and falling 56 feet at times, as measured by sextant. The handling of the aircraft on the flight deck was always difficult and several slid bodily across the deck which was wet with spray.
11. At 0930 the A/S patrol was landed on; no relief was flown off in order that every available aircraft should be available for a torpedo striking force. Whilst the search was in progress Force "H" proceeded at 15 knots on a course of 015º to reach a position to windward so that the operation of aircraft would not be impeded by subsequent alterations of course of the BISMARCK should the latter be located.
12. At 1030 a Catalina (Duty Z) made a report of "I BS 240º, 5 miles steering 150 from position KRGP 3313 [49º 33' N. 21º 47' W.]". This report, received at 1050, placed the enemy 285º 112 miles from RENOWN. An amplifying report five minutes later gave the enemy's speed as 20 knots. I instructed ARK ROYAL to fly off two shadowers fitted with long range tanks to gain touch, as I feared the Catalina's position might be somewhat inaccurate in view of the weather conditions and the distance from her base. As the reconnaissance aircraft had already reached the limit of their search I decided not to recall them by wireless, but informed ARK ROYAL that I would continue the present course and speed until they had returned when a full scale striking force was to be prepared.
13. At 1114 the Catalina reported that her thull had been holed by shrapnel and requested instructions. I asked ARK ROYAL how many aircraft would be required to ensure gaining contact; she replied 6 but proposed to fly off the two aircraft fitted with long range tanks at once to carry out a square search.
14. At this time (1125) the Catalina lost touch and I instructed ARK ROYAL to send at least 4 aircraft. Before these could be flown off one of ARK ROYAL's aircraft reported in touch (at 1114) but also reported the enemy as a cruiser and gave the position of the enemy as 77 miles to the west of Force "H". This was some 25 miles further to the eastward than the Catalina's report but was considered to be a more accurate position in view of the shorter time interval between departure and sighting. Seven minutes later a second aircraft of the reconnaissance gained touch and reported that the enemy was a battleship. The aircraft on track 305º was the first to sight followed by the aircraft on track 285º. There were five more aircraft to the northward of these two and three more to the southward. These aircraft were on their way back to the ARK ROYAL when touch was first gained. The long range shadowers were flown off at noon and the majority of the reconnaissance landed on. Force "H" was then manoeuvred to the south-east on a course 140º at 24 knots, my intention being to maintain the weather gage for flying operations, to avoid loss of bearing on BISMARCK, and to keep within about 50 miles of the enemy to facilitate the launching of T/B attacks. Should it be desirable for RENOWN to attack unsupported it was my intention to do so from up wind and astern with the object of causing him to turn and thus slow up his retreat, and also to enable full use to be made of smoke.
15. The two shadowers were relieved as necessary throughout the day. Touch was maintained continuously and excellent reports transmitted until the shadowers were finally recalled at 2230.
16. Orders were received from Admiralty at 1145 that RENOWN was not to become engaged with BISMARCK unless the latter was already heavily engaged by either KING GEORGE V or RODNEY.
17. The Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, reported his position at 1050 as 51º 37' N. 20º 42' W., closing the ship reported by the Catalina, and requested Admiralty confirmation that the report did not refer to RODNEY. This was confirmed by Admiralty.
18. At 1208 the Catalina reported 4 UN* 050º 10 miles steering 140º from position KRG7 4731 [49º 47' N., 21º 29' W.]. It was assumed that these were four of the five destroyers which had just parted from Convoy W.S.8B, and who were now some 50 miles W.N.W. of the BISMARCK.
Admiralty footnote— * UN —unknown vessel.
19. At 1201 the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, reported that his position at 1100. was 51º 33' N. 20° 43' W., course 150º, altering to 130º at 1155, speed 26 knots.
20. It was evident at this stage that unless aircraft from ARK ROYAL could reduce the enemy's speed he could not be overhauled by our batteships till well within range of bombing aircraft from the French coast the following day. It was also doubtful whether the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, would have sufficient fuel to enable him to continue the chase until the following day.
21. At 1315 I detached SHEFFIELD with orders to close and shadow the enemy, who was then some 40 miles south-west of RENOWN who was in position 49º 39' N. 18º 58' W. at 1330. The V/S* signal ordering this movement was not repeated to ARK ROYAL, and as will be seen later this omission had serious consequences.
Admiralty footnote— * V/S—visual signal.
22. ARK ROYAL informed me that after the interrogation of observers who had sighted the enemy ship, considerable doubt arose, whether the ship was in fact BISMARCK or PRINZ EUGEN. In consequence the torpedoes of the striking force, which was then being ranged, were set to 30 feet instead of 34 as originally intended. The torpedoes were fitted with Duplex pistols. The striking force, of 15 Swordfish look off at 1450 in position 49º 35' N. 18º 30' W. One aircraft had to return and made a successful emergency landing with the torpedo in place just after the last of the striking force had left the deck. It had been intended to carry out a synchronised diversion by Fulmars, but this had to be abandoned owing to sea and cloud conditions.
23. Weather and cloud conditions were particularly bad over the target area when the striking force took off. Reliance was therefore placed on the A.S.V. set carried in one of the aircraft of the striking force. This aircraft located a ship 20 miles from the position given to the leader on taking off. This ship was SHEFFIELD, of whose presence near BISMARCK the striking force were not aware. A situation report made to Admiralty at 1345 containing the information that SHEFFIELD had been detached to shadow had been received by ARK ROYAL, but had not been decoded before the striking force left.
24. At 1550 on reaching a position over the supposed target an attack through the cloud was ordered, and eleven torpedoes were dropped at SHEFFIELD. The latter increased to full speed and took successful avoiding action. Of the eleven torpedoes dropped, two were observed by SHEFFIELD to explode on hitting the water and three more exploded when crossing her wake. During this unfortunate incident it is satisfactory to record that not a single round was fired at the attacking aircraft by any gun in SHEFFIELD, where the mistake had been immediately appreciated.
25. At 1525 the Catalina reported having lost touch with the enemy in position 47º 30' N. 19º 00' W. Both this report and the preceding one at 1330 placed the enemy 60 miles south of the position reported by aircraft from ARK ROYAL. If was assumed that the discrepancy was probably caused by navigational errors in the Catalina. The latter made infrequent reports and, as H/F was employed, could not be D/Fd. The need for frequent reports on a D/F-able wave was strongly felt throughout the operation.
26. At 1551, the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, reported his position, course and speed as 50º 18' N. 18º 45' W., 128°, 26 knots, and that RODNEY bore 100º eleven miles from him. This was the first definite information that had been received of RODNEY since her signal timed 0900/25. Course was altered to 140º at 1650 to maintain position on BISMARCK, who had been reported steering that course at 1340.
27. At 1632 the Catalina signalled that she was being attacked by enemy aircraft, type unknown. She had previously made this signal at 1345 but on each occasion the alarm was caused by the ARK ROYAL's shadowing Swordfish.
28. The striking force returned to ARK ROYAL at 1720. Owing to the motion on the ship the three aircraft who had realised that the target was friendly and who had not fired their torpedoes, were ordered to drop them before landing on. Meanwhile the relief shadowers had reported that the enemy ship was definitely BISMARCK.
29. On completion of landing on speed was increased to 29 knots to regain lost ground, and by reducing the distance from the enemy to assist the next striking force in gaining contact.
30. At 1747 SHEFFIELD gained touch with BISMARCK and made her first enemy report. Being in some doubt regarding the Commander-in-Chief's intentions, I requested his position, course and speed and asked whether he wished me to leave the carrier and join him. I added that should no reply be received I would remain with the carrier. A second striking force of 15 aircraft was prepared with all possible speed. Owing to the limited number of serviceable aircraft to provide this number, it was necessary to refuel and rearm most of the aircraft that had just returned.
31.At 1900 the Polish destroyer PIORUN was sighted 9 miles to the southward and the bearing and distance of the enemy passed to her. The latter portion of the signal, instructing destroyers to shadow and attack as opportunity offered, was not passed owing to visibility closing down. Having sighted PIORUN, it appeared evident that the four destroyers which had been reported by the Catalina at 1208 as 4 UN and had also been sighted by first striking force, were Captain (D), 4th Destroyer Flotilla in COSSACK, with ZULU, MAORI and SIKH in company. To assist these destroyers and the striking force in making contact, SHEFFIELD was ordered to make her call sign for D/F-ing purposes.
32. The second striking force took off at 1915 in position 48º 35' N. 16º 54' W., when the enemy bore 167º, 38 miles. In view of the failures with Duplex pistols in the preceding attack, contact pistols were employed on this occasion, torpedoes being set to run at 22 feet. The striking force had orders to make contact with SHEFFIELD before launching the attack, both to ensure gaining contact with the enemy and to avoid any possibility of SHEFFIELD being mistaken for the target. SHEFFIELD was instructed to home the striking force by D/F.
33. The aircraft approached SHEFFIELD at 1955 below the clouds and then climbed to a height of 6,000 feet. The weather conditions at this time appeared to be ideal for a synchronised torpedo attack, cloud 7/10ths from 2,000 to 5,000 feet. During the climb contact was lost with SHEFFIELD but regained at 2035 when a bearing and distance (110º 12 miles) of BISMARCK was passed by SHEFFIELD by V/S. The force took departure for the target in sub flights in line astern at 2040. On nearing the enemy a thick bank of cloud with base about 700 feet and top between 6,000 and 10,000 feet was encountered and the force became split up. At 2047, when it was calculated that the enemy would be in a suitable position for an attack down wind from astern, No. 1 sub flight dived through the cloud, but on reaching the base the enemy was seen four miles down wind to the eastward. Position for an attack on the port beam was gained by approaching just in the clouds, and the final dive to attack was made at 2055. One aircraft from No. 3 sub flight followed closely and also attacked from the port beam. This aircraft observed a hit on BISMARCK about two-thirds of her length from forward. All four aircraft came under intense and accurate fire from the first moment of sighting until out of range.
34. No. 2 sub flight, having climbed to 9,000 feet in cloud, dived down on a bearing obtained by A.S.V. and two aircraft attacked from the starboard beam under intense fire. The third aircraft having lost touch with his sub flight in the clouds returned to SHEFFIELD for a range and bearing on the target. Having obtained this he pressed home a lone and determined attack from the port bow in face of very heavy opposition, and his crew saw the torpedo strike BISMARCK amidships port side.
35. No. 4 sub flight followed No. 3 sub flight into the cloud and became iced up at 6,600 feet. After seven minutes the aircraft dived and found a clear patch at 2,000 feet. BISMARCK was sighted almost at once engaging No. 2 sub flight to starboard. All four aircraft circled astern of the target and attacked simultaneously from port coming under heavy fire. One aircraft was hit many times and both pilot and air gunner were wounded, the observer being uninjured. 175 holes were counted in this aircraft which had to be written off as one of the longerons had been cut.
36. No. 5 sub flight of two aircraft lost contact with the remainder and with each other in the cloud. Having started to ice up at 7,000 feet they came down and when still in cloud at 3,500 feet one was engaged by A.A. fire. On coming out of the cloud this pilot saw the enemy ahead of him and down wind so retired into the cloud, being engaged continuously while gaining a more favourable position. He eventually came in low on the BISMARCK's starboard bow and dropped just outside 1,000 yards. The other aircraft of this sub flight made three attempts to come in but was so heavily engaged on each appearance that he finally jettisoned his torpedo and returned to ARK ROYAL.
37. No. 6 sub flight followed into the cloud and when at 6,300 feet turned 40 degrees to port and climbed clear at 7,450 feet, waited for about 15 minutes and returned to SHEFFIELD for another range and bearing of the enemy. These two aircraft then searched at sea level and attacked on the starboard beam. Intense fire prevented close approach and one dropped at about 4,000 yards while the other returned to the carrier and jettisoned before landing on.
38. The striking force attack took much longer than had been anticipated (2055 to 2125) owing to bad weather conditions around BISMARCK who appeared to be under a cold front.
39. At 2040 a signal was received from Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, giving his position, course and speed at 1800 as 49º 48' N. 17º 33' W., 100º, 22 knots, with RODNEY in company. He also stated that unless the enemy's speed was reduced he would have to return in KING GEORGE V at midnight to refuel, leaving RODNEY to continue the chase. He recommended that RENOWN should remain with ARK ROYAL.
40. During and after the torpedo attack on BISMARCK shadowing aircraft reported frequent alterations of course and that she was making smoke. On receipt of these reports RENOWN and ARK ROYAL altered course as requisite to maintain a position some 40 miles distant from the enemy in order that flying operations could not be unexpectedly hampered. It appeared possible that BISMARCK was endeavouring to shake off shadowers before dark; on the other hand she might have suffered damage to shafts or steering gear as a result of the torpedo attacks.
41. Owing to the time taken to deliver the T/B attack insufficient light remained to carry out another attack before dark. Aircraft could have flown off but in the failing light location of the target would have been difficult, friend might have been mistaken for foe and certainly many of the aircraft would have failed to regain the carrier. It was therefore decided to maintain shadowing aircraft as long as possible and concentrate on preparing all remaining Swordfish for a strong striking force at dawn.
42. Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, requested that aircraft might give the destroyers a visual link with the enemy and ARK ROYAL was instructed to comply. The two shadowing aircraft were ordered to remain in touch as long as possible and establish this link before returning. They left the BISMARCK at 2230 and, after making a detour in heavy rain, located the destroyers. By this time, however, they were not certain of their own position and were unable to assist the destroyers. These two aircraft were D/Fd back to ARK ROYAL, landing on at 2320 when it was practically dark.
43. At 2220 ARK ROYAL reported that one torpedo had definitely hit BISMARCK amidships, and Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, was informed accordingly at 2225. Later, information was received from ARK ROYAL that a second hit had most probably been obtained aft, and Commander-in-Chief was again informed at 2240.
44. SHEFFIELD made her last enemy report at 2140. At this time BISMARCK turned and fired six accurate I5-in. salvos at SHEFFIELD at a range of 9 miles. The latter turned away at full speed and made smoke but suffered a few casualties and superficial damage from splinters. These casualties consisted of 1 killed, 2 dangerously wounded who have since died, two seriously and six slightly wounded. All were ratings. After this SHEFFIELD lost touch but at 2142 sighted Captain (D), 4th Destroyer Flotilla, in COSSACK with 3 other destroyers closing the enemy and signalled the last observed bearing and distance of BISMARCK.
45. At 2251 ZULU made a contact and reported the enemy steering 110º. From this time onwards Captain (D), 4th Destroyer Flotilla and his destroyers maintained contact, reporting the enemy's course as 110º, 060º, 340º and finally by midnight 310º into the sea. Rear-Admiral Commanding, 18th Cruiser Squadron in EDINBURGH was sighted to the westward at 2315.
46. Just before midnight a signal was received from Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, giving his position, course and speed at 2215 as 49º 10' N. 15º 29' W., 170º, 21 knots, with RODNEY in company. Shortly afterwards Rear-Admiral Commanding, 18th Cruiser Squadron, reported his position, course and speed as 48º 32' N. 15º 22' W., 025º, 13 knots, that he had no fuel left for shadowing and was proceeding to Londonderry.
47. At 2345 I informed Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, of my position (48º 42' N. 15º 17' W.), that no further T/B attack was possible that evening and that I intended turning west for a short distance to keep clear of him. Shortly afterwards I received his intentions to engage from the westward at dawn and directions that RENOWN and ARK ROYAL were to keep not less than, 20 miles to the southward of BISMARCK. Course and speed was adjusted during the night to comply.
48. At 0036 ARK ROYAL reported that after being torpedoed, BISMARCK made two complete circles and reduced speed. I informed Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, accordingly at 0046.
49. It was evident the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, was in some doubt regarding the position of BISMARCK. I therefore reported to him at 0112 that the estimated bearing and distance of the enemy from me at 2345 was 165º 41 miles.
50. The situation at this time was as follows. RENOWN and ARK ROYAL some 40 miles to the northward of BISMARCK, working round to the west to reach a position to the southward; Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, proceeding southward to engage at dawn; and Rear-Admiral Commanding, 1st Cruiser Squadron, working round to the north-east. DORSETSHIRE who had left S.L. 74 at 0930/26 in position 44º 08' N. 24º 50' W. was closing from the south-west. SHEFFIELD'S position was not known exactly but assumed to be in vicinity of BISMARCK and to the westward of the latter.
51. At 0115 a flash was seen bearing 152º, followed four minutes later by heavy gun flashes. Course was altered to 210º to keep clear to the westward. During the middle watch the destroyers carried out attacks, and signals were received between 0202 and 0210 stating that ZULU, MAORI and COSSACK had attacked, the last two claiming one hit each. MAORI added that there was an extensive fire on the forecastle.
52. At 0210, Rear-Admiral Commanding, 1st Cruiser Squadron, reported his intention to keep to the northward and flank mark for KING GEORGE V and RODNEY. At 0301 DORSETSHIRE reported her position, course and speed which indicated she would cross some 10 to 15 miles ahead of RENOWN.
53. The destroyers were instructed by Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, that after all attacks were completed they were to fire starshell every half hour to indicate the position of the enemy, whose course and speed was now reported as 310°, 8 knots.
54. During the night Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, experienced difficulty in making destroyers transmit their call signs on M/F* in order that D/F bearings could be obtained. Many D/F bearings obtained proved to be inaccurate and caused considerable doubt as to the exact position of the enemy.
Admiralty footnote— * M/F—medium frequency.
55. At 0335 I informed Comanander-in-Ghief of my position and reported starshell had been seen bearing 100º, and that an aircraft would be flown off ARK ROYAL at 0500 to spot for KING GEORGE V.
56. At 0610 I ordered SHEFFIELD who had signalled her position at 0500 to obtain and pass a D/F bearing of MAORI who was in touch with the enemy. The third class bearing of 118º which she gave put BISMARCK further south than her previously estimated position.
57. At dawn visibility was low, and after consultation with ARK ROYAL I decided to delay flying off the striking force as there was a serious risk of mistaking friend for foe and I was in considerable doubt as to the position of KING GEORGE V and RODNEY. Having informed the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, that the striking force would arrive at 0715, I later informed him that the attack was postponed on account of low visibility, and later still that I had cancelled the attack on account of the difficulty of identifying our own ships in the existing visibility. I was satisfied that until the situation clarified it was undesirable to fly off the striking force.
58. While these signals were being passed the destroyers' reports of the position of the BISMARCK suggested she might be as much as 60 miles to the northward of RENOWN. Course was therefore altered to the northward, and at 0810 after ARK ROYAL had struck down her aircraft as it was impossible in existing weather conditions to keep them ranged, MAORI was sighted to the northward. MAORI reported the enemy as being 009º distant 11 miles from her and thereby only 17 miles from RENOWN. The latest estimate previous to this report placed BISMARCK 40 miles from RENOWN. As contact was now definitely established course was altered to 180º to range the striking force and aircraft were flown off at 0926 in position 47º 16' N. 15º 51' W.
59. In the meantime the spotting aircraft which had been flown off at 0509 had become lost in rain, failed to establish contact by W/T with KING GEORGE V and eventually had to be D/Fd back.
60. After sighting MAORI I considered detaching ARK ROYAL to the southward to range the striking force, keeping RENOWN in the vicinity of MAORI ready to support KING GEORGE V and RODNEY as required. I decided however that the appearance of RENOWN on the scene before KING GEORGE V established contact was undesirable in view of the low visibility and furthermore it was imperative to afford ARK ROYAL the maximum degree of protection should KING GEORGE V fail to establish contact and thus leave the third striking force as the only means of dealing with BISMARCK.
61. Heavy gunfire was heard to the northward at 0855 but no report was received indicating what ship or ships were in action.
62. At 0940 SHEFFIELD appeared from the westward, and I ordered her to join ARK ROYAL on a course of 290º while RENOWN turned towards the scene of action to investigate. ARK ROYAL was instructed to fly off a spotting aircraft for RENOWN.
63. At 0952 a signal was intercepted from Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, ordering destroyers to close. Five minutes before this I had informed Cornmander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, that SHEFFIELD and ARK ROYAL had been detached, and that RENOWN was closing him from the southward; I also requested his position, course and speed.
64. The Commander-in-Chief's signal ordering the destroyers to close coupled with NORFOLK's signal that she had ceased flank marking and Rear-Admiral Commanding, 1st Cruiser Squadron's signal ordering DORSETSHIRE to torpedo BISMARCK at close range, led me to suppose that the action was successfully concluded so in view of the Admiralty signal which had just been received indicating that a heavy scale of air attack was to be expected I decided to rejoin ARK ROYAL to afford A.A. protection. I informed Commanderin-Ohief, Home Fleet, accordingly at 0953.
65. At 1025 as I still had no definite information I asked Commander-in-Chief if he had disposed of the enemy; he replied that she was still afloat, adding three minutes later that he could not get her to sink by gunfire. Shortly afterwards Commander-in-Chief also informed me that he had been forced to discontinue the action on account of fuel. I was about to order the T/B striking force to finish off the BISMARCK when DORSETSHIRE, who had been ordered by Rear-Admiral Commanding, 1st Cruiser Squadron to torpedo the enemy at close range, reported at 1034 that the BISMARCK was sinking and at 1039 that she had been sunk.
66. The torpedo striking force from ARK ROYAL located the BISMARCK just in time to see the finish of the action. The enemy was duwn in the water, on fire and silenced. DORSETSHIRE was seen to be in close proximity to BISMARCK and would have been endangered by a torpedo attack on the latter. The striking force therefore closed KING GEORGE V for instructions but could obtain no answer either by V/S or W/T. The striking force then returned to the vicinity of the BISMARCK and were in time to see DORSETSHIRE sink her with torpedoes from close range.
67. Meanwhile at 0955 an enemy aircraft had been sighted by RENOWN and engaged. About this time COSSACK and NORFOLK both reported that they were being bombed. SHEFFIELD'S R.D.F. was not efficient owing to damage from splinters when she had been engaged by BISMARCK. Enemy aircraft were sighted from time to time and engaged whenever they came out of the clouds. Weather conditions prevented the use of fighters. There appeared to be both Focke-Wolfes and Heinkels present.
68. The striking force returned about 1115 and were ordered to jettison their torpedoes before landing on as the motion of the ship was even greater than the previous day and to land on with torpedoes would have jeopardised the aircraft. Whilst landing on was in progress a Heinkel came out of the clouds and dropped a stick of two large and about five smaller bombs 600 yards astern and to port of ARK ROYAL. This was the last interference experienced by Force "H". Landing on was completed by 1152, and from then on the air appeared clear of enemy aircraft and course was shaped to the southward at 24 knots.
(Signed) J. F. SOMERVILLE,
Flag Officer Commanding.
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