The German battleship Bismarck is one of the most famous warships of the Second World War. The lead ship of her class, she was named after the 19th-century German chancellor Otto von Bismarck.
Bismarck sailed on her first and only mission, codenamed Rheinübung (Rhine Exercise) on 18 May 1941, accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen.
The Germans had various objectives: destroy as much Allied shipping as possible and force the British to suspend convoys, even temporarily; compensate for their weak submarine presence in the Atlantic; divert British naval forces from the Mediterranean to reduce the risks of the planned invasion of Crete and to allow Rommel and his forces to cross to Libya.
Bismarck's displacement was increased to 41,700 tons. Officially, however, her tonnage was 35,000 tons to suggest parity with ships built within the limits of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement (1935) that allowed Germany to build up to five 35,000-ton battleships, the maximum displacement agreed by the major powers in the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. Fully laden, Bismarck and her sister-ship Tirpitz would each displace more than 50,000 tons.
The Battleship Bismarck, pride of Hitler's Kriegsmarine and marvel of marine engineering, was built for only one purpose - to destroy allied shipping and to rule the waves. How close she came to that purpose is already well documented and the subject of a well known film "Sink the Bismarck". Before she was committed to a watery grave by the British Royal Navy, she accounted for the Hood, an enormous Battle Cruiser of the British Navy. The shot was a bit fortuitous, coupled with the poor deck armour of the Hood, enabling a shell from Bismarck to hit the deck, from above, and detonate the magazines, killing all but 3 of the Hoods 1400 souls. The British Royal Navy had some luck also, a Fairey Swordfish, from HMS Ark Royal, caught the rudder of the Bismarck, causing a steerage lock which swung the Bismarck back, towards the pursuing British ships. Thus enabling the Royal Navy to close and finish her off. Although an "enemy" ship, I have always marvelled at the sleek superstructure and exquisite lines of this beautiful ship. Such a vessel was worthy of preservation and enthroning upon a museum dockside forever to be marveled at. Alas, the Atlantic Ocean has her now and forever, lying broken and humiliated on the sea bed.
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