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The Pursuit & Sinking of Bismark

Around forty members attended our February meeting to hear a talk “The Pursuit & Sinking of Bismark” by David Bickerton - one of the fascinating stories of WW2 when dozens of British warships were involved in a five-day 1750-mile pursuit.

In May 1941, HMS Hood and the battleship Prince of Wales were ordered to intercept the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, which were en route to the Atlantic, where they were to attack allied convoys. On 24 May 1941 Hood was struck by several German shells, exploded, and sank with the loss of all but 3 of her crew of 1,418. Due to her publicly perceived invincibility, the loss of the Hood greatly impacted British morale.

There followed a hunt for the Bismarck involving many British warships. This ended when, almost within reach of safety at Brest, Bismarck, was sighted and crippled by British aircraft. On May 27 three British warships descended on the ship inflicting heavy damage. The pride of the German navy became a floating wreck with numerous fires aboard. Few guns were operational as she was listing badly to port and unable to steer. Arguably, she was also victim of scuttling and quickly sank. Of a 2,221-man crew, only 115 survived.David Bickerton’s father was a crewman aboard HMS Dorsetshire one of the three British ships involved in the final showdown. 

My father in law Alec Kew was a Royal Marine gunner on the King George V in a forward turret in this battle (Dave Bramley).

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