View Full Version : Bismark

8th Dec 2002, 08:48
One of the great sea battles of WW2 was the sinking of the Bismark. I have read books and seen the film on the subject but one piece of information eludes me.

The turning point in the battle came when an aircraft from the Ark Royal, a Gloucester Gladiator I think ( I stand to be corrected on both points) launched a torpedo from astern that jammed the ships rudder, enabling the pursuing British Navy to catch up and sink her.

Now the pilot of that particular aircraft , I would have thought , should be a household name in Britain for that heroic piece of derring-do but I have never seen the crews name mentioned.

Does anyone have any details of that particular pilot or know of any references?

vintage ATCO
8th Dec 2002, 09:27
The aircraft involved were Fairy Swordfish, the first attack by 825 Squadron from HMS Victorious on 24 May (lead by the legendary Lt Cmdr Eugene Esmonde). The second attack was by acft from Ark Royal on 26 May and it was in this attack that Bismarck's rudder was damaged.

My books are packed away but you say you've read them. A search on Google found these two sites http://www.kbismarck.com/ and http://www.bismarck-class.dk/ (and presumably others), neither of which names the pilot. If the name is known then it would be in the reports in the Public Records office at Kew but in which case I am sure it would have made the various books, so perhaps it was never certain who dropped that particular torpedo.

Anyway, thanks for making me find those two sites. Now for some interesting reading!

8th Dec 2002, 11:03
The Pilot was John Moffat. He is still flying as an active member of the Scottish Aero Club at Perth and owns a Tripacer.

See http://www.battleships-cruisers.co.uk/fleet_air_arm.htm

tony draper
8th Dec 2002, 13:48
I read on another website that a new documenrty has been made that states the British did not actually sink the Bismark and that she was scuttled by her own crew using demolition charges.
I will see If I can find my way back and get the details.

8th Dec 2002, 20:08
Robert D Ballard published a book in 1999, which has excellent detailed underwater photography of Bismarck, and the following comments : "Both Ludovic Kennedy and Lt.Cmdr Burkard von Mulenheim-Rechburg, [who served on the ship at the time she was sunk] , record eyewitness reports that scuttling charges were set off before the ship sank. Kennedy also points out that the Admiralty official report also gives credence to the scuttling"

Immaterial really, some very courageous bloke ensured that she was done for anyway!

wet wet wet
8th Dec 2002, 22:14
There was an article on John Moffat in the March issue of Pilot, at 83 he is reputably the oldest active pilot in Scotland. Quite a character.

13th Dec 2002, 21:09
Theres alot of Bismark stuff going at the moment particularly a movie by James Cameron. He made the Titanic movie so you will see not someone who lets facts get in the way of a good movie !
He did Lightroller no favours in that move and then gave a token apology payment to his kin !

Basically his claim was that the Bismark was not sunk by the British Navy but that she was scuttled by the German Navy.
I dont suppose it occured to him WHY they scuttled it !;) ;)

Several groups have been down to it and the reports vary from lots of torpedo holes to no damage apart from the scuttling charges.
Incidentally one of the reports states that she had an Armoured Belt on the water line ( so did the Prince of Wales !!) and that the water and fuel tanks were all aound the outer hull skin as sacrificial compartments. Fuel Tanks :confused: :confused:
Anyway she was classed as unsinkable ( now where have I heard that before :D :D )

13th Dec 2002, 21:18
From the accounts I have read of the battle, by the time the RN had finished with her she was a shambles below decks, they closed in and hammered her with everything from 4" to 16" and torpedo's.

Whether she was scuttled or just sunk she was going down one way or another. Even if she had been towed to the nearest drydock she would have been out of service for years.

15th Dec 2002, 03:59
Ludovic Kennedy:"That she would have foundered eventually there can be little doubt; but the scuttling ensured that it was sooner rather than later."

15th Dec 2002, 10:45
Just to add my own little bit of reseacrh, this web site is a must to read, it describes a personal log of the escape from the Bismark of some of its crew.


Hers's a cut and paste from that site.

Bismarck was a sinking ship, and her" scuttling merely hastened an inevitable demise. Bismarck had been decisively defeated by the gunfire from her British opponents. The order to scuttle the ship was given at 0930, about 45 minutes after the start of the gunnery action, after all main battery turrets were out of commission. By this time, the ship was a total wreck, incapable of defending herself.

By 1000 on 27 May, only one 20mm gun remained operational on board Bismarck. All the 380mm, 150mm, 105mm, and 37mm guns had been disabled. Some shells had holed the armor belts and water was flooding compartments below. Fires had occurred in turrets Bruno, Anton, and Dora; and several 150mm, 105mm, and 37mm magazine fires had forced flooding of magazines to prevent explosions. "