How far can a battleship shoot

Completion at the end of 1940.

After a first mission in the Baltic Sea until the end of April 1941, she ran out on May 19, 1941 together with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen on an patrol into the Atlantic. (Operation "Rhine Exercise").

At 7.30 p.m. Bismarck hoisted the anchor, ran north and reunited with Prinz Eugen and the destroyers in front of Kalvanes Bay. The association resumed its advance.

The two ships were the Hood and the Prince of Wales. Only about four minutes after the fire had opened and six volleys had been fired, Prince Eugen changed target to Prince of Wales on the orders of Lütjens.

At 5.55 a.m., Bismarck opened fire on the foremost ship, the Hood. The commandant Ernst Lindemann's permission to fire was followed by the first heavy volley without delay, and Bismarck had entered the battle, the noise of which was to be heard as far as the Icelandic capital Reykyavik. The two cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk held their positions about twelve to fifteen nautical miles astern. They followed on the same course, slightly exposed to the side from Bismarck's wake.

Torpedo attacks on their part could not be recognized and at the moment hardly to be feared. Suffolk fired a few artillery volleys, however, which were hopelessly short.

In essence, Wake Walker on Norfolk seemed to have left the battlefield to the senior Holland on Hood.

It was 5.57 a.m. when fire broke out on the Hood, a Bismarck shell had hit the Hood amidships and exploded through the deck in one of the aft ammunition chambers of the heavy artillery. The explosion caused the hood to split in two. At 6:01 a.m. the Hood sank with a crew of over 1,400, only 3 men were rescued. After the end of the Hood, Bismarck, who had previously sailed in its wake, turned to the Prince of Wales.

"Change target on the left to Prince of Wales" was now the order for the heavy artillery on Bismarck, and that meant a fire union with Prince Eugene, who had been shooting at this target for minutes.

But the battle shouldn't last long.

Princs of Wales made a clear impact and turned away under the protection of a self-made mist - smoke curtain.

When the distance had risen to 220 hectometers again, Lütjens had the fire set on the Prince of Wales, who was now running south-east.

Prince of Wales had received four 38 cm hits from Bismarck and three 8 "hits from Prinz Eugen.

A 38 cm grenade had struck through the bridge and had killed all bridge personnel with the exception of the commander and the chief signal master.

The second had put the front control center for the middle artillery out of action and the third hit the aircraft crane. number

Two 8 inch grenades had perforated the ship's wall aft below the waterline and several

The battle near Iceland was over and the ammunition consumption remained surprisingly low:

93 heavy artillery shot (38 cm) at Bismarck and 179 heavy artillery shot at Prinz Eugen.

Prinz Eugen received no hits in this battle, but Bismarck had received three 35.6 cm hits from Prince of Wales. The first hit in Division XXI, in front of the forward tank bulkhead, had the ship above the waterline but below the bow wave of the hull knock through to the side. The bulkheads between compartments XX / XXI and XXI / XXII were damaged. Little by little, nearly two thousand tons of lake water flowed

The second hit entered the ship in Division XIV below the belt armor and detonated on the torpedo bulkhead.

The third hit had been a smooth bore through the stem of a traffic boat. The grenade then went into the water on the starboard side without detonating and without causing further damage.

Bismarck was trimmed and the top speed limited to 28 knots. The voyage into the Atlantic was continued despite a loss of oil on the Bismarck, the two heavy cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk kept in touch. At 6:14 p.m. on the same day, the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was released for independent cruiser warfare.

Bismarck turned hard to starboard to shake off the touching cruisers. Once again the ships Suffolk and Prince of Wales came within range. Both ships (Bismarck and Prince of Wales) fired some volleys, but none of the two ships hit.

At about 11.30 p.m., it was still bright as day, Bismarck suddenly discovered several groups of wheeled planes ahead on the port side, clearly forming at the lower edge of a cloud layer to attack Bismarck. The machines belonged to the aircraft carrier Victorious. Nine Swordfish planes attacked. Bismarck was able to dodge all torpedoes, except for one that detonated on the starboard tank and did no damage. Lütjens, for his part, had learned about the enemy situation on the afternoon of May 24th from Group West, from a Spanish source, that Renown, Ark Royal and a cruiser of the Sheffield class (in other words: "Force H") had traveled on an unknown course from Gibraltar the previous evening expired.

It was shortly after 3:00 a.m. when Bismarck turned to starboard with an increase in speed and then steered first a westerly, then northwestern and northerly course, before the ship finally, gradually completing an almost full turning circle, on its new general course south-east (130 0) St. Nazaire went. At 3:06 am the Suffolk broke off.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m., Lütjens still broadcast messages to the West group - with a transmission time of over thirty minutes. (Lütjens assumed that the enemy was still in contact with the Bismarck. That was a serious mistake.) According to these radio messages, the British Admiralty in London could roughly make out the bearing of the Bismarck. At around 6 p.m. the British ships turned south in the direction of Biscay.

The battleship Prince of Wales, the aircraft carrier Victorious, their escort destroyer and the cruiser Suffolk were withdrawn from the race due to lack of fuel. The cruiser Norfolk and the battleship Rodney were in a reasonable position. But the planes of the Ark Royal would have to bring success, because if the speed of the Bismarck remained the same, they would have as good as escaped by the morning of May 27th.

At 2:50 p.m., fifteen Swordfish machines were ready to attack despite the bad and stormy weather. Around the same time, Sommerville had sent the Sheffild to keep in touch with Bismarck. The commandant of the Ark Royal, Captain L.E. Maund, however, did not receive timely knowledge of this detachment of the Sheffild. On the contrary, he had given his pilots a clue that no other ship would come in sight between Ark Royal and Bismarck. And so the "Swordfish" had, when they spotted a ship on the radio measuring device, pushed down through the clouds and had released their torpedoes. But the error should also have had its good sides. Because most of the torpedoes had already detonated when they hit the water surface due to the failure of the chosen magneto ignition. The old-fashioned impact fuses would therefore be used again for the next attack.

At 5:40 p.m. Sheffild, detached from Sommerville, spotted the German battleship at the limit of visibility. Tovey signaled Sommerville at 6:20 p.m. That King George V would have to call in to replenish the oil if Bismarck was not slowed down in his speed by midnight. Rodney could continue the pursuit, if necessary without a destroyer. At 7.15 p.m. the time had come, with low cloud cover, changing visibility and against a north-westerly storm, fifteen “Swordfish” started, one after the other. Around 8 p.m. they reached the airspace over the Sheffild. This instructed the machines, but initially incorrectly; for after only thirty minutes they were back without having seen Bismarck. Re-instructed, they flew away again. And that the direction was right this time, the Sheffild showed itself by the soon coming noise of German flak fire. Around 8.30 p.m. - air raid alarm on Bismarck.

At 9.15 p.m. Bismarck received a hit on the port side in the steering gear. The crew tried to repair the steering gear for hours, but all attempts failed! Captain Lindemann tried to steer the ship with the three propellers, all of which were undamaged, but this attempt also failed.

Bismarck was now running between five and seven knots in a north-west direction towards the enemy.

At around midnight, any attempt to get the steering gear back on the road was given up. After the aircraft attack, the narrow combat zone around Bismarck had been orphaned for about an hour and a half when Bismarck noticed the appearance of the destroyers before 11 p.m. Alarm! And in the usual way, the 38 and 15 towers were ready for defense in seconds. "Permission to fire" - and the salvos of both calibers went out onto the closest destroyer, the Piorun. Apparently, Bismarck's artillery was immediately in good shape, because the enemy turned and ran out of range. But then they were always there, the destroyers. And so it went on for hours: Bismarck sighted the enemy; this attacks; Bismarck's artillery defends itself; the consciousness of the inability to maneuver burdens the crew, and fear of torpedo hits; Lucky; the opponent disappears from sight; and hope again.


16 inches and ten 14 inches tubes opposite.

And Bismarck's twelve six-inch tubes were juxtaposed with twenty eight-inch tubes.

A British total bullet weight of 18,448 kg (including the heavy cruisers Norfolk and Dorsetshire, 20,306 kg, with sixteen 20.3 cm tubes) against a German weight of 6904 kg.

At 7:53 a.m .:

constantly on Rodney

In 1981, forty years after the tragedy, one of the survivors, the then fourth artillery officer in the eighth artillery command post, Burkard Freiherr von Müllenheim-Rechberg, presented his memories of that dramatic event. This report, which impresses with the authenticity of the experience, the clarity of the language and the precision of the presentation, was a great book success in Germany and abroad.


On May 24th, it showed excellent clout. At an average combat distance of one hundred and ninety hectometers, it sank the largest and most famous battle cruiser of its time in just six minutes and with the expenditure of only ninety-three shells.

This lightning-fast success, which surpassed even the wildest expectations, showed Bismarck to be a high point in German naval artillery.

On May 27th, Bismarck showed an almost unbelievable stamina that exceeded even the highest expectations in this respect - Bismarck proved to be a high point in German shipbuilding too. It had on the British side of co-operation overall

They also had over

The following ammunition was fired against Bismarck on May 27th at combat distances that went down to twenty-five hectometers and accordingly produced high hit rates:

Norfolk 527 8 "grenades

Dorestshire 254 8 "grenades

Dorsetshire 3, of which hits: 2 (and possibly a third)


Destroyer Maori: at 1:37 a.m .: 2, no hit

Destroyer Maori: at 6:56 a.m .: 2, no hit

Destroyer Zulu: at 1:21 a.m .: 4, no hit

Destroyer Sikh: at 1:28 a.m .: 4, no hit Rodney and King George V had not penetrated the vital rooms of Bismarck through the belt armor or the armored deck on May 27 with any grenades, and Tovey had sparked when his unit was running out after the final battle at Sommerville have to :



Overcome an extremely brave fight

led, worthy of the days gone by

Imperial German Navy, and you

went down with a waving flag "


Muzzle velocity of a 38 cm grenade of the Bismarck / Tirpitz class: