Sink the Bismark!

By Baldmichael Theresoluteprotector’sson

27th May 2021

40 years ago today the Bismarck was sunk, the pride and joy of the German navy. Along with the Tirpitz, her sister ship, they were quite a formidable threat to the UK and its supply routes.

The Bismarck’s career was short, and the Royal Navy pulled out all the stops to see her demise, especially after the ‘Hood’, a battle cruiser, was destroyed. Winston Churchill gave the order to ‘Sink the Bismark!’ as a consequence of her loss with over 1,400 men.

Winston Churchill was also obsessed with sinking the Tirpitz which he apparently called ‘The Beast’. But that’s another story.

The Bismarck itself was a tough beast, well, armoured, fast and well-armed. But in the end she had a lifespan of two years and three months from launch, and only one excursion to the high seas of what I make nine days.

Perhaps it was a bit of a nine day wonder?

As regards the title of this piece, this refers to the film of the same name, a good stirring war film in 1960 based on a book by C.S.Forester, who is probable better known for his Hornblower series set in the Napoleonic era.

In my opinion, the film is well worth watching, and is said to have been generally historically accurate. It has plenty of drama and an understated ‘romance’ for the lead roles taken by Kenneth More and Dana Wynter.

Perhaps romance is too strong a word, but I can’t think how else to phrase it. Possibly it is in my imagination, but then a good film can do that; a dream can be made to seem reality.

Anyway, a follower thought that my having done a post on the Graf Spee, he ought to do something on the Bismarck in similar vein. Rally the troops as it were for the current on-going fight with the EU and Germany. Thank you sir.

So here it is, I have topped and tailed it and edited as necessary. I hope you enjoy it.

Background

Once upon a time there was a chap called A Dolt Hitler. He was running a fair sized European country in the middle (top) part of the continent. He thought it a good idea to try and bully the other countries around him as he wanted more space for his people, the Douchelanders.

These will be known as ‘the other side’ if required, as opposed to ‘our side’, the Great British or United Kingdom.

If you have read the Battle of the River Plate article written about earlier, then you will know the Douchelanders were a right shower. Actually, as the party they had gone to was nasty (sic) and on the social list, left-shower might be more accurate.

Although people did say they were all fash(ion)istas, it is contended that they were both at the bottom of the political circle, so really one and the same.

Anyway, A Dolt had started a small argument with Great Britain, a small but not insignificant set of islands off the mainland of Europe. A Dolt was boasting that the Douchelanders were superior and would beat the Great Britishers in a fight any day.

So he thought he would send two of his best men off to duff us up as it were (I count myself as a Great Britisher although I wasn’t alive at the time).

The two involved were B.I. Smirk and his smaller side kick, ‘Prince’ O’ Gin. The latter was sometimes known as ‘Oy, gin!’ as he fancied a good strong drink to maintain his spirits. The name was of course due to his calling the bar-girl to bring him his favourite tipple.

They set off into the North Sea in a north-westerly direction and headed for the back of Iceland. They hoped to raid this freezer store, but the security was tight, so they continued on to Denmark Streets (Iceland was on the east side of town).

Denmark Streets

Here they encountered a patrol which included ‘The Hood’ as he was known, a big hitter, and fast despite his age, but was getting very bald on top with not much to protect his upper parts.

He did bulge rather and had put on rather a lot of weight in recent years. This is said to have weakened his frame, and put a strain on his heart, which would explain later events.

With him was the youngster, P.O’Whales (nick name ‘The Prince’), who was keen but inexperienced in fighting. He was however still a big hitter with a lot of clout, if not that accurate. He had far better all-round protection, and was still quick on his feet to keep up with the older man.

We mustn’t forget the other two with them, shorter in stature but experienced and able to provide some support nearby if called upon. These were a pair of the county set people but not snobbish.

They were friends at school but not in the same class. There was N.Orfolk who was in the Norfolk class which was logical. The other was ‘Su’ Folk who was in the Kent class which wasn’t logical. They were both related, being of the East Angle family. They were upright fellows and of course therefore right Angles.

It was actually they who first caught sight of B.I.Smirk and ‘Prince’ O’ Gin. ‘Su’ Folk greatly benefited from the assistance of Ray Darr who could see in the dark, let alone the mist which was around.

The Hood and Prince were on the streets keeping a weather eye out for Mr Smirk and his smaller side kick, ‘Prince’ O’ Gin. Their boss, the admirable John Two ‘V’ (so-called for imitating Winston Churchill’s ‘V’ sign, only with both hands) had declined to interfere with how they operated on the streets of Denmark. See footnote 3.

It may be noted he later became barren Two ‘V’, as he and his wife had no children, and which is rather sad.

As ‘The Hood’ took the lead, this meant that he was potentially vulnerable to the blows from B.I.Smirk who was a head taller, if not quite as fast. It may have made sense for the older man to lead, but this had consequences as you will see shortly.

Visibility in the streets was relatively poor and when The Hood and ‘Prince’ encountered B.I.Smirk and ‘Prince’ O’ Gin, they were placed somewhat at a disadvantage. They decided to concentrate on Mr Smirk.

Nevertheless the enthusiastic ‘Prince’ O’ Whales and ‘The Hood’ started raining blows on B.I.Smirk. Indeed, the ‘Prince’ landed some effective blows. One broke the catapult B.I.Smirk was carrying. Another hit him on the nose and made it bleed, slowing old Smirky down.

B.I.Smirk for some reason did not respond very quickly. However, he was heard to utter the immortal phrase ‘Ich lasse mir doch nicht mein Schiff unter dem Arsch wegschießen. Feuererlaubnis!’

Roughly translated this apparently meant ‘I’m not going to have my ship shot under my ass. Fire permit.’ Scholars have debated whether this is correct.

Some say it should be ‘I’m not going to have my chip shop under my ass. Fire permit.’ This seems unlikely as no one was aware he owned a chip shop.

Others said, no, no ‘I’m not going to have my chip shot under my ass. Fire permit.’ This seems to make no sense either as he was not playing golf at the time.

Yet others have said ‘I’m not going to have my shop shit under my ass. Fire permit.’ As you can see opinion is divided.

In any event it is not clear why a fire permit was required when common sense would say just get in there and start lashing out. Still, that’s the Douchlanders for you, forms for everything (in triplicate).

Nevertheless, when B.I.Smirk got in there, he landed effective blows. Sadly for The Hood one of these hit the magazine he was reading before the encounter and ruined it completely. This annoyed him so intensely that he just ‘blew up’, had a heart attack and sank to the ground.

But defiant to the last, he was last seen with his hand raised and giving the finger to B.I.Smirk. He bowed his head and died.

This all came as a shock to ‘Prince’ O’ Whales, let alone the other side. Prince gamely carried on but eventually saw the sense in abandoning the fight after suffering bruising blows and not getting in any more blows in return.

The Chase

Well, B.I.Smirk and Prince’ O’ Gin headed off into the wilds of Atlantis, a very wet and extensive side of town. Meanwhile N.Orfolk and ‘Su’ Folk kept a wary eye on them, trying hard to not let them out of their sight but out of range of B.I.Smirk who had a much longer reach than Prince’ O’ Gin.

In due course, it was decided by the Douchelanders that Prince’ O’ Gin should go on and make a nuisance of himself elsewhere in Atlantis, whilst B.I.Smirk should go and himself patched up in a place called Breast. This was a suitable place for tits like Mr Smirk to go to, one of A Dolt’s biggest as it were.

B.I.Smirk had been found to be losing rather a lot of blood from his nose and was leaving a trail behind him which could be tracked, so ultimately the decision made sense.

The admirable John Two ‘V’ had decided that all the stops should be pulled out to stop B.I.Smirk in his tracks, and consequently got Victor Pious, known as a ‘carrier’, so send out his scouts.

These were known as the fairies, due to their lightness and fragility. And also the strings bags in which they carried their shopping. They had bought some swordfish recently and upping the stakes, when they found the B.I.Smirk, they launched their steaks at him.

Sadly, they all missed except one which hit him in the belt and did no appreciable harm, although it probably scared him a bit.

Our side were rather alarmed to lose track of B.I.Smirk for over 31 hours, until he was spotted by a cat roaming Atlantis. This was despite the wet weather and the fact that cats don’t like it. This cat was actually in the Great Britishers employ and reported the location of Mr Smirk back to his boss.

The cat was part of the Flying Squad by the way.

Another team had been sent to intercept B.I.Smirk. This included the Park Royal. It was a bit like Noah’s Ark which at around 500 feet long and 50 feet beam or width was a good size (despite some people’s childish view of it as a little toy bath tub).

Anyway, ‘The Park’ was another ‘carrier’ and also had some fairies available. They went off with their string bags and swordfish steaks, which seemed to be a favourite of theirs, to attack Mr Smirk and try and wipe the smile (let alone the smirk) off his face.

The first attempt was an abject failure as they mistook one of our side for B.I.Smirk. They attacked a light bruiser, ‘Chef’ Field, a willing helper in the fight against the Douchelanders.

All the sword fish steaks missed; indeed, some of these exploded on impact on the wet ground, indicating they were rotten. This enabled the fairies to go back and complain and get new ones as replacements free of charge (although it is understood they had explosives, or charges hidden inside, which is why they could do rather more damage than you might suppose).

It is reported that despite being attacked by his own side, ‘Chef’ Field was very restrained and did not try to attack the fairies in retaliation.

When the fairies realised their mistake they went home, but not before one of the politer ones apologised saying ‘Sorry for the kipper’. As the steaks were swordfish this seems strange, but may have been a joke.

The fairies returned to the fray with their replacement steaks, this time with much better success. Three hits were achieved and one was crippling, hitting Mr Smirk in the bum, causing B.I.Smirk to go round and round in circles like a dog chasing its tail.

‘They don’t like it up ’em’ as Corporal Jones would say.

The last round

The end was in sight for Mr Smirk and others of our side closed in for the kill. These included ‘King’ George (whose call sign was V) and Rod Knee, or ‘Hot Rod’/’Rodders’, his nicknames.

The latter had enormous hands, 16” in span, which could do tremendous damage if they landed. Let alone his knees which he wasn’t adverse to using.

It has been said in the fight, which lasted around one and a half hours, that Hot Rod suffered some flak from his missus who was close by and the blast effects of her buns – it is believed this was mis-quoted or fake news as no one said his missus was around at the time. See footnote 1.

It didn’t take long to reduce B.I.Smirk to a quivering wreck, although he refused to sink to the ground, which showed the tough stuff he was made of, despite his smirking.

And this was despite the tinned fish that was thrown at him by Mr D’Orsett, a shyer man it has been said, but a heavy bruiser nevertheless.

In the end it seems Mr Smirk decided it was over and, holding the scuttle he was carrying for some reason, sank down never to rise again.

Post Script

An honourable mention should be given to ‘Orp’ P. O’ Run.  He was from or of Troy it was said, and well-polished. His nickname was therefore ‘The Des-troyer’. See footnote 5.

During the chase he constantly darted in and out of cover to try and annoy B.I.Smirk and keep him awake so that he would get no rest.

It is said that ‘Orp’ kept repeating ‘I am a pole’, a possible reference to what he felt about Mr Smirk and the Douchelanders who had invaded his country in September 1939. It might have been ‘I have a pole’, referring to the weapon he had.

It is believed he wished to stick it up Mr Smirk’s stern, but that may be conjecture.

In any event, his bravery cannot be over emphasised as he was considerably smaller than Mr Smirk and a single blow could have demolished him. Still, speed counts for a lot, which ‘Orp’ had, and just because one is small, people should not discount your assistance or tenacity.

Or indeed that if you are small and light like a fairy you cannot do significant damage if you kick someone in the right place.

Summary

There you have it. The price of war and the stupidity of war. Indeed, the arrogance of war of those whose pride is in trying to bully other nations into submission by force of arms. Here is a roundup of the battle

Germany – Lost one very modern Battleship and 7 supply ships, with over 2,000 men killed.

United Kingdom – Lost the aging ‘Hood’ and the destroyer HMS Mashona with just under 1,500 men by my calculation.

Operation Rheinübung, the German name for the ‘excursion’, was a failure as no merchant ships were sunk, the original purpose of the raid being to do this and seriously disrupt the convoys keeping the United Kingdom going.

The Germans would have been better off concentrating on their submarine fleet, but that’s what stupidity does to you when you decide to be a bully. You make poor decisions and as a consequence history repeats itself as no one listens.

Just as well the Germans didn’t learn as the United Kingdom and the world would have been a different place.

Of course the Germans, strictly the Nazis/communists are still at it today as I have indicated elsewhere. You can browse my website to see what I mean if you are not already in the picture.

Otherwise I hope to have you visit my site again, when I hope to do a post about Matt Hancock.

Bye for now.

NB Footnotes and links pending, hopefully in tomorrow sometime – or maybe the next day – sometime soon anyway I hope.

P.S. In sinking the Bismarck, a ‘Mark of the Beast’ was sunk. See post of the same name. Mark of the Beast

Main ships involved and referred to above.

Cast

Bismarck                               – B.I. Smirk

Prinz Eugen                          – Prince O’ Gin

H.M.S. Hood                        – ‘The Hood’

H.M.S. Prince of Wales     – Prince O’ Whales (The Prince)

H.M.S. Norfolk                    – ‘Nor’ Folk

H.M.S. Suffolk                     – Sue Folk

H.M.S. Victorious               – Victor Pious

H.M.S. Ark Royal                – Park Royal

H.M.S. Rodney                    – Rod Knee (Hot Rod or Rodders)

H.M.S. King George V       – ‘King’ George (V)

H.M.S. Dorsetshire            – Mr. D’ Orsett

H.M.S. Sheffield                 – ‘Chef’ Field

ORP Piorun                          – ‘Orp’ P.O’ Run

Fairey Swordfish                – The Fairies (various)

PBY Catalina                         – The cat

Links etc

https://www.kbismarck.com/buquepari.html

http://www.hmshood.com/history/denmarkstrait/bismarck3.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairey_Swordfish

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consolidated_PBY_Catalina

The film.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sink_the_Bismarck!

Commander in chief of the Home fleet

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tovey,_1st_Baron_Tovey

Vice Admiral Holland – commander of Hood and Prince of Wales

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancelot_Holland

Bismarck’s and Prinz Eugen’s ‘Operation Rheinubung’ (Rhine exercise)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Rhein%C3%BCbung

footnote 1

Rodney was lightly damaged by near-misses and by the blast effects of her own guns.

Footnote 2

Several Bismarck survivors spoke afterwards of a sailor on Dorsetshire, Midshipman Joe Brooks, who leapt into the water in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a German sailor who had lost both his arms. In a 1989 National Geographic documentary on Bismarck, one of the survivors said, “the name Joe Brooks meant something to us; our government should’ve given that man a medal for humaneness.

Over 2,000 died, including Captain Lindemann and Admiral Lütjens.

From

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_battle_of_the_battleship_Bismarck

Footnote 3

Aware of Hood’s inadequate protective armour, distant to the southeast of where the battle took place, Holland’s superior (Admiral Sir John Tovey) deliberated on ordering him to have Prince of Wales sail ahead of Hood. With the ships in this position, Tovey concluded the better-protected Prince of Wales could draw the German battleships’ large-shell gunfire. Ultimately, Tovey did not give the order, later saying “I did not feel such interference with such a senior officer justified.

From

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Denmark_Strait

My own comment is why did he not suggest to Vice-admiral Holland that Prince of Wales sail ahead. At least he could then say he advised this approach. As a commanding officer I do not see why everything has to be an order which must be followed as opposed to advice which should be considered.

Footnote 4

H.M.S.Hood

The armoured belt consisted of face-hardened Krupp cemented armour

A proposal was made to increase the armour over the forward magazines to 5 inches and 6 inches over the rear magazines in July 1919 in response to these trials. To compensate for the additional weight, the two submerged torpedo tubes and the armour for the rear torpedo warheads were removed, and the armour for the aft torpedo-control tower was reduced in thickness from 6 to 1.5 inches (38 mm). However, the additional armour was never fitted pending further trials.

From

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Hood#Protection

My own comment is whether Krupp armour was completely Krupp?!!

Had the deck armour been upgraded it seems likely Hood would have survived, but the following is interesting. Was Vice Admiral Holland’s judgement at fault?

https://www.quora.com/Why-didnt-HMS-Hood-increase-its-deck-armor?share=1

Footnote 5

ORP Piorun

A Polish Destroyer.

ORP Piorun– ‘Lightning’

Another often repeated story, possibly an embellishment, mentions that the Piorun constantly signaled “I am a Pole” using her signal lights for the entirety of the engagement; this account is worth mentioning, but its reality is suspect as first-hand accounts mention nothing of the signal’s duration, although it could have been the case, considering the engagement lasted approximately an hour and in fog. The light would not have given the Piorun’s position away as the Bismark still had fire control radar; however, whether the crew of the Piorun knew of this is doubtful. It is possible the message was repeated to ensure it was correctly received. The time for a single transmission of “I am a Pole” is approximately 8 seconds, meaning the transmission would have been sent 450 times in a single hour, by hand. An unreasonable feat, but not impossible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ORP_Piorun_(G65)

My own comment is that it seems perfectly reasonable that they were signalling this. The Poles sought revenge for their country’s invasion and if you were mad enough about that, it would be unnerving for an opponent to have this signaled for so long.

I also whether or not it would have been possible to have used depth charges against the Bismarck. That may sound ludicrous, but given that what in effect were a type of depth charge caused her sister ship to be severely damaged by x craft, the damage might have also been significant.

A great risk to so small a ship, but again the Poles sought revenge for their country’s invasion. I think they might have done so if that was the only way to stop the Bismarck.

Author: alphaandomega21

Baldmichael Theresoluteprotector'sson. When not posting pages or paging posties, trying to be a good husband, and getting over a long term health issue, I am putting the world to rights. I have nothing better to do, so why not? But of course that includes dancing, being funny (in more than one sense), poking fun at life, poking fun at myself, deflating the pompous, reflating the sad. Seeking to heal the whole of the soul (and body where possible). In short making life as good as it possibly can be for others as well as myself. You can't say fairer than that. But if you can, please say. People need to know.

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