Weapons of World War Two
The 18th May 1941 departed from the military port of Gotenhafen the combat group "Bismarck", to start a raid against the British supply lines in the Atlantic; it was the beginning of the operation "Rheinubung". The group was formed by the battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, two splendid and very modern warships. Nobody thinks that for the Bismarck it will be the last mission. One week later, of the superb battleship would not remain more than a scrap heap and few dozens of castaways. But for now the ship is, with reason, the pride of the new Nazi Germany, powerful and self-confident, albeit in excess.
When it was laid the keel of the Bismarck, Hitler was already unconcerned about the limits imposed by the Versailles Treaty; because of that, the new battleship had a displacement above 50000 tonnes, without resorting to subterfuges, as it had been made to build the former "pocket battleships". Launched in 1939 like her sister Tirpitz, she differed from this one only in some details: a slightly inferior displacement, a reduced antiaircraft armament and the absence of torpedo tubes. The vertical armor reached a maximum of 305 millimeters and the horizontal one 102 millimeters. Her notable operational range rendered her as a fearsome long-range weapon.
The capacity of maneuver was excellent thanks to a special type of rudder, but this would be precisely the cause of her fate. When the ship, hit by the Swordfish from the squadrons 810, 818 and 820 embarked in the Ark Royal, is left with the rudders blocked, she would be necessarily forced to turn around without being able to maneuver. Practically immobilized, she would be totally dismantled by the British salvos. With her sinking it would end the illusion kept of being able to collapse Britain with the corsairs or the large surface vessels. From that moment the U-Boote would have the word.
In the spring of 1941, the Supreme Command of the German Navy held a series of reunions to set the most functional strategy in the immediate future. The Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, commander in chief of the Kriegsmarine, knew that he was alone defending the role of the large warships in the war against the convoys in the Atlantic, but he was determined to impose his standpoint to his main contradictors because he had reasons to suppose that Hitler shared his views as well. The main reason on which Raeder based his opinion was that the large surface units had given excellent proofs in this type of operations.
To this was opposed the very commander of the Bismarck, who stated that the large warships were not the most suitable ones for ambushes, for this meant in some way to send them to the adventure without any protection. The Bismarck with all of her power seemed like a warship wasted for a war of ambushes. But finally the views of Raeder prevailed and the Bismarck left for her first and only mission. An encrypted order prohibited the navigation to every military and mercantile ship in wide sectors of the Baltic, to keep hidden the departure of the great battleship.
But despite of all another encrypted message arrived to the British Admiralty, which immediately put the Home Fleet in state of alarm. In that very moment is started a dramatic persecution that would end one week later with the sinking of the German battleship little less than 400 miles from Brest. She received the "coup de grace" from the British cruiser Dorsetshire. With the Bismarck sank the commander, Admiral Lutjens, and a large part of the crew.
Length: 251 meters
Beam: 36 meters
Draught: 10.2 meters
Displacement: 50153 tonnes at full load
Propulsion: Steam turbines Brown-Bovery in three axes fed by twelve boilers Wagner, for a total power of 130000 horsepower with three propellers
Maximum speed: 29 knots
Operational range: 15000 kilometers at 19 knots
Armor: 305 millimeters in waterline; 51 millimeters in deck (102 millimeters above magazines); 330 millimeters in conning tower; 350 millimeters in main turrets front; 205 millimeters in secondary turrets front
Armament: Eight 380-millimeter cannons (4 x 2); twelve 150-millimeter cannons (6 x 2); sixteen 105-millimeter cannons (8 x 2); sixteen 37-millimeter cannons (8 x 2); thirty-six 20-millimeter cannons (4 x 4 plus 6 x 2 plus 8 x 1); one catapult and six aircraft
Complement: 1989 (2192 as flagship)
Also in Weapons of World War Two: