Bismarck file photo

Bismarck

CountryGermany
Ship ClassBismarck-class Battleship
BuilderBlohm & Voss, Hamburg, Germany
Laid Down1 Jul 1936
Launched14 Feb 1939
Commissioned24 Aug 1940
Sunk27 May 1941
Displacement41700 tons standard; 50900 tons full
Length824 feet
Beam118 feet
Draft33 feet
Machinery12 Wagner high-pressure; 3 Blohm & Voss geared turbines, 3 three-blade propellers
Power Output150170 SHP
Speed30 knots
Range8,525nm at 19 knots
Crew2092
Armament4x2x380mm L47 SK-C/34 guns, 12x152mm L55 SK-C/28 guns, 16x105mm L65 SK-C/37 / SK-C/33 guns, 16x37mm L83 SK-C/30 guns, 12x1x20mm L65 C/30 machine guns, 8x4x20mm L65 C/32 machine guns
Armor145-320mm belt, 110-120mm deck, 220mm bulkheads, 130-360mm turrets, 342mm barbettes, 360mm conning tower
Aircraft4 Arado Ar 196 A-3
Catapult1 double-ended

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Bismarck was Germany's first "real" post-World War I battleship, with guns and protection of similar scale to those of the best foreign combat ships. Built to a relatively conservative design, she featured a main battery of eight 38 centimeter (15-inch) guns in four twin turrets, two forward and two aft. Her secondary battery of twelve 15 cm (5.9-inch) guns, mounted six on each side in twin turrets, was optimized for use against enemy surface ships, especially destroyers. Her anti-aircraft battery, including sixteen 10.5 cm (4.1-inch) guns in eight twin mounts and several 37mm and 20mm machine guns, reflected the prevailing pre-World War II underestimation of the threat from the air, a failing common to all the World's navies.

The two ships of this class, Bismarck and her "sister" Tirpitz, were quite fast, at just over thirty knots maximum speed. Their steam turbine powerplants, producing some 150,000 horsepower, consumed a great deal of fuel oil, limiting their oceanic "reach" to a degree that was especially critical to a nation with Germany's geography. Future German battleship designs, which World War II aborted, featured diesel engines, intended to produce far greater endurance on the high seas.

Bismarck was very heavily protected against the gunfire of other battleships. With a standard displacement of well over 41,000 tons (about 50,000 tons fully loaded), she was also quite a bit larger than her European and American contemporaries. As shown by the photographs below, originally collected by the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence, this ship's construction greatly interested foreign navies.

Built at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Bismarck's keel was laid at the beginning of July 1936. She was launched with considerable ceremony, including the attendance of Adolf Hitler, on 14 February 1939. Her outfitting, which included the addition of a new "clipper" bow (which the Germans called an "Atlantic" bow), lasted nearly two years. She was commissioned in August 1940, ran trials during the following months, and was not fully ready for service until late in 1940.

She was commissioned in August 1940 and spent the rest of that year running trials and continuing her outfitting. The first months of 1941 were largely devoted to training operations in the Baltic sea. Bismarck left the Baltic on 19 May 1941, en route to the Atlantic, accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. On the morning of 24 May, while west of Iceland, the German vessels encountered the British battlecruiser Hood and battleship Prince of Wales. In the ensuing Battle of the Denmark Strait, Hood blew up and sank. The seriously damaged Prince of Wales was forced to break off contact. Bismarck also received shell hits that degraded her seakeeping and contaminated some of her fuel.

Later on 24 May, Prinz Eugen was detached, while Bismarck began a voyage toward France, where she could be repaired. She was intermittantly attacked by carrier planes and surface ships, ultimately sustaining a torpedo hit in the stern that rendered her unable to steer effectively. British battleships and heavy cruisers intercepted the crippled ship on the morning of 27 May. After less than two hours of battle, shells and torpedoes had reduced Bismarck to a wreck. She capsized and sank, with the loss of all but 110 of her crew of some 2300 men.

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's reaction to Bismarck's loss produced a very cautious approach to future German surface ship operations against Britain's vital Atlantic sea lanes. In June 1989, just over forty-eight years after she sank, the German battleship's battered hulk was located and photographed where she lies upright on a mountainside, nearly 16,000 feet below the ocean surface.

Source: Naval Historical Center

Battleship Bismarck Interactive Map

Bismarck Operational Timeline

16 Nov 1935 Blohm & Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany received the contract for laying down the hull of the future battleship Bismarck; the construction number was BV 509.
1 Jul 1936 The keel of the battleship Bismarck was laid down at Blohm & Voss' shipyard in Hamburg, Germany.
23 Jun 1940 Battleship Bismarck entered floating drydock No. V-VI to install propellers and the MES magnetic system.
14 Jul 1940 Battleship Bismarck departed the drydock after completing the propeller and MES magnetic system installation.
21 Jul 1940 Battleship Bismarck underwent an inclining test.
24 Aug 1940 Bismarck was commissioned into service.
25 Aug 1940 Battleship Bismarck fired 52 3.7cm and 400 2cm shells against raiding British aircraft without any hits.
31 Aug 1940 Battleship Bismarck fired 46 3.7cm shells against raiding British aircraft without any hits.
8 Sep 1940 Battleship Bismarck fired 72 3.7cm and 65 2cm shells against raiding British aircraft without any hits.
10 Sep 1940 Battleship Bismarck fired 6 3.7cm shells against raiding British aircraft without any hits.
15 Sep 1940 Battleship Bismarck departed Hamburg, Germany for the first time. At 1658 hours, while steaming down the Elbe River, she collided with bow tug Atlantik without damage. At 1902, she anchored in Brunsbüttel roads. During the night, she fired 13 10.5cm, 136 3.7 cm, and 191 2cm shells during a British air raid, without any hits.
16 Sep 1940 Battleship Bismarck entered the Kiel Canal.
17 Sep 1940 Battleship Bismarck exited the Kiel Canal at 1448 hours, then arrived at Scheerhafen, Kiel.
28 Sep 1940 Battleship Bismarck departed Kiel for Gotenhafen and then into the Baltic Sea for her trials.
5 Dec 1940 Battleship Bismarck completed her trials in the Baltic Sea and set sail for Hamburg, Germany.
7 Dec 1940 Battleship Bismarck entered the Kiel Canal.
8 Dec 1940 Battleship Bismarck exited the Kiel Canal.
9 Dec 1940 Battleship Bismarck arrived at Hamburg, Germany.
16 Dec 1940 Korvettenkapitän Adalbert Schneider became the acting commanding officer of battleship Bismarck while Captain Lindemann was away on Christmas leave.
31 Dec 1940 Captain Lindemann returned to Bismarck from his Christmas leave and assumed command of the battleship.
6 Mar 1941 Battleship Bismarck departed Hamburg, Germany.
7 Mar 1941 Battleship Bismarck entered the Kiel Canal.
8 Mar 1941 Battleship Bismarck exited the Kiel Canal and entered Dock C of Deutsche Werke Kiel.
14 Mar 1941 Battleship Bismarck began embarking supplies at Scheerhafen, Kiel.
15 Mar 1941 Battleship Bismarck received two aircraft at Scheerhafen, Kiel.
17 Mar 1941 Battleship Bismarck departed Kiel, arriving at Gotenhafen on the same day.
18 Mar 1941 Battleship Bismarck entered the Baltic Sea for trials.
2 Apr 1941 Battleship Bismarck received two aircraft.
5 May 1941 Adolf Hitler, Wilhelm Keitel, and Günther Lütjens embarked battleship Bismarck.
9 May 1941 Adolf Hitler disembarked battleship Bismarck.
12 May 1941 Admiral Günther Lütjens and other staff officers embarked battleship Bismarck.
13 May 1941 Battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen conducted refueling exercises.
14 May 1941 Battleship Bismarck and light cruiser Leipzig conducted exercises; the port side crane was damaged during the exercises.
16 May 1941 The damaged port side crane aboard Bismarck was repaired.
18 May 1941 Battleship Bismarck anchored in the bay at 1200 hours to embark supplies and fuel for Operation Rheinübung.
19 May 1941 Battleship Bismarck departed Gotenhafen at 0200 hours and made rendezvous with heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen and destroyers Z-16 Friedrich Eckoldt and Z-23 off Rügen Island at 1200 hours. At 2230 hours, destroyer Z-10 Hans Lody joined the group.
20 May 1941 Swedish cruiser Gotland detected German battleship Bismarck in the Kattegat at 1300 hours.
21 May 1941 The German fleet containing Bismarck was spotted by a British Coastal Command Spitfire aircraft at 1315 hours in the Korsfjord. It departed Korsfjord at 2000 hours.
23 May 1941 Battleship Bismarck sighted British cruiser Suffolk on her portside at 1922 hours, then cruiser Norfolk at 2030 hours. Her main battery fired at Norfolk but did not score any hits. At 2200 hours, Bismarck reversed course to chase Suffolk, but Suffolk would be able to escape.
24 May 1941 At 0552 hours, battleship Bismarck reported 'in fight with two heavy units' as she was engaged by British warships. Between 0555 and 0601 hours, she was hit on the port side by three shells from HMS Prince of Wales, but by 0601 she was able to sink HMS Hood. Between 0602 and 0609, she scored four hits on HMS Prince of Wales. At 0801 hours, Bismarck reported damage with electric plant no. 4 and boiler room no. 2; she would head for Saint-Nazaire due to her low fuel levels.
25 May 1941 Battleship Bismarck sailed for Saint-Nazaire, closely monitored by Allied aircraft and warships.
26 May 1941 Battleship Bismarck was detected by Allied PBY Catalina aircraft 700 miles west of Land's End, England, United Kingdom at 1030 hours, and Royal Navy's Force H was ordered to attack. Carrier-based Swordfish torpedo bombers attacked between 2047 and 2115 hours. Two or three torpedoes hit her, one of which hit the stern and jammed her rudder at 12 degrees to port. At 2140 hours, she radioed in the message "Ship unable to maneuver. We will fight to the last shell. Long live the Führer." Within hours, Allied warships closed in on her.
27 May 1941 At 0710 hours, battleship Bismarck sent in what would become her last radio report. She was sighted by battleships HMS King George V and HMS Rodney at 0844 hours, and their guns fired 3 minutes later, hitting Bismarck and quickly disabling her guns. Heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk and HMS Dorsetshire joined in on the attack shortly after. After receiving about 400 gunfire hits from the British ships and several torpedo hits from HMS Dorsetshire, Bismarck's crew set off scuttling charges in the boiler room to scuttle her. She sank at 1039 hours; 2,091, most of her crew, were killed.

Photographs

Deck, profile, and hull drawings of the Bismarck.Close-up view of a shaft of battleship Bismarck, 1939-1940Close-up view of the propellers of battleship Bismarck, 1939-1940View of German battleship Bismarck
See all 110 photographs of Battleship Bismarck



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Anonymous says:
    22 Apr 2005 08:09:26 PM

    Awesome collection of Bismarck pictures!
  2. Anonymous says:
    25 Jul 2005 09:01:56 AM

    Great pics,I must agree,but where are technical specifications?
  3. Anonymous says:
    2 May 2007 12:48:39 PM

    You didnt mention how Bismarck disappeared for 36 hours, but was found by a Catalina PBY.
  4. Jasko76 says:
    2 Jun 2008 02:39:05 AM

    Nor did he mention that it was actually sank by her own crew when they opened the valves and flooded the ship. Not that it matters really, as she was by then nothing more than a floating and burning wreck, smashed beyond recognition, refusing to sink.
  5. Alan says:
    29 May 2011 01:43:50 AM

    In a remarkable feat of survival, two seamen from the Bismarck, Otto Maus and Walter Lorensen, clung to a raft for 36 hours without food or water in a rough icy sea, until rescued by the German weather ship Sachsenward at 2235 hrs on 28 May.

  6. Alan says:
    7 Feb 2012 01:14:33 AM

    Out of the 115 survivors from the Bismarck, only two were officers.
  7. Veritas says:
    20 Feb 2013 08:56:25 PM

    The PBY was American not Canadian.
  8. Alan Chanter says:
    16 May 2013 08:34:54 AM

    The aircraft that 'found' the Bismarck was actually a Catalina 1 belonging to No.210 Squadron RAF Coastal Command. The Americans were not yet in the war in May 1941.

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Battleship Bismarck Photo Gallery
Deck, profile, and hull drawings of the Bismarck.
See all 110 photographs of Battleship Bismarck



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