- [Narrator] The war at sea between 1914 and 1918
was mainly between two great fleets,
Britain's Royal Navy and Germany's Imperial Navy.
The sea war encompassed all the world's oceans.
It also saw the development
of new naval weapons and battle tactics.
The German and British navies each had two roles.
One was to destroy the other's battle fleet
and the second was to destroy the enemy's merchant shipping.
Both sides went to war in 1914
with both these roles given priority.
In modern times, the navies tend to concentrate their fleets
around the giant aircraft carriers.
In 1914, however, and later in 1939,
it was the battleships that were the fleet's flagships.
These were the largest type of warships afloat
and had the biggest guns.
Prior to 1914,
the battleship had gone through major changes.
At the turn of the century,
this type of battleship had guns of different sizes.
There would be four 12-inch guns in the main turrets
with smaller caliber guns along each side.
The purpose was to be able to engage all types of warship
and to attack from all angles,
but as the years progressed, there were many changes
and a new way of thinking was to produce
a new type of battleship which had much larger guns.
This was called the dreadnought,
so called after the first British vessel
which began this type.
The dreadnoughts were given 10 12-inch guns
with just a few lighter weapons for close defense.
When these battleships came into service,
it immediately made all previous types obsolete.
Germany, keen to build a navy as strong as Britain's,
embarked on a massive shipbuilding program,
thus began the dreadnought race.
This led to ever increasing tension
between the two countries.
By the outbreak of the First World War,
the German Imperial Army had 13 dreadnought-type battleships
against the British Royal Navy's 21.
The German type, however, was a vast improvement
on the original British type.
They had much larger caliber guns
with 15 inch guns on all turrets.
These guns had a range of more than 12 kilometers,
this was three times that
of the pre-dreadnought type battleships.
However, during World War I,
the battleship's effective range of firing
was limited by the primitive capability
of the optical aiming instruments and devices.
Another development was that these new types
also had much more efficient energy use,
burning oil rather than coal
which gave them much greater range.
Torpedo launchers were also fitted to the new battleships.
At the outbreak of war,
the opposing fleets sailed to their wartime bases.
For the first year, the war at sea was relatively quiet
and the new battleships saw little action.
In January 1915, however,
there was a serious class in the North Sea
off the Dogger Bank.
British naval intelligence intercepted German radio signals
revealing their battle cruisers
were making ready for an assault.
Five Royal Navy cruisers were dispatched
which completely intercepted four German battleships.
One of the British ships was hit several times
and badly damaged whilst the German battleship Seydlitz
had two of its main turrets destroyed.
The Blucher was also hit which slowed her escape.
She was then attacked by four of the British ships.
She was sunk with nearly 800 of her crew
going down with her.
In 1916, Admiral Hipper sailed into the North Sea
with five battle cruisers heading a fleet
of 16 modern battleships.
Their purpose, to draw the Royal Navy
out of their base in England.
Initially, the plan worked.
The British released its fleet to answer the threat.
From the onset, it soon became clear
that German gunnery was superior
to that of the Royal Navy.
Their greater accuracy achieved largely
because they now had new stereoscopic range fighters.
Four of the British battle cruisers were badly hit
and another blown up and sunk.
British supporting battleships arrived at the scene
and began to pound the German fleet,
but this did not stop the German battleships,
they fought back
and sunk yet another British battle cruiser.
The battle which became known as the Battle of Jutland
raged for 90 minutes,
90 minutes of the most intense fighting
ever to take place at sea during the First World War.
Despite the superiority of the German fleet,
they were heavily outnumbered.
Von Scheer's fleet couldn't sustain the level of punishment
and were finally forced to withdraw.
The Royal Navy had won the battle, but the cost was high.
British losses were far higher, in fact,
than that of the Imperial Navy.
Germany would never risk her fleet in open conflict
for the rest of the war.
In 1918 with the war lost,
the German high seas fleet sailed into the British base
at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys to surrender.
The ships were impounded,
but the German Imperial Navy was to deliver
its final blow to the British.
They scuttled the entire fleet of battleships,
battle cruisers, and destroyers.
Admiral von Reuter's decision to scuttle the fleet
cost Germany its battleships,
but the success of the operation
served to take the sting out of the peace treaty
when it was signed a week later
at the Palace of Versailles.
Part of the treaty stipulated that Germany
had to give up her battleships and cruisers.
Thanks to von Reuter, however,
the majority of that fleet were destroyed
and the victors had to leave Versailles empty-handed.
At the end of the war,
the rest of the mighty German fleet
was disbanded under the terms of the armistice,
allowing her to keep only a few minor ships
for coastal defense.
Any new ships built were to be restricted in size,
thus any navy that Germany had
would be far smaller than that of any other country's.
When the Second World War came,
the part played by sea power was not so different
from the part played during the 1914-18 conflict.
Its prime role remained in securing the oceans
and denying them to the opposing fleets
in order to ensure that the maritime communications
could be maintained.
Thus, navies were still centered around the battle fleets
and at the outbreak of war,
the battleships remained their primary vessel.
in the buildup to the war,
Hitler had ordered that the German navy
be strong enough to challenge the British
and embarked on a major construction program.
In contradiction to this plan,
Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, the naval commander-in-chief,
felt that such a plan would be hopeless
and that Germany could never match
the strength of the Royal Navy on the surface.
Instead, he opted for a plan of U-boat construction
to cut Britain's maritime lines.
The German naval expansion program, Plan Z,
therefore represented compromise.
There would be some new battleships
and also a major refit to the existing fleet.
But by 1939, the British Royal Navy
was still the largest in the world
with its empire colonies, it had bases all over the globe.
They hoped to draw the German navy into battle
and destroy them.
At the opening of the Polish campaign,
the first battleship to see action
was the Schleswig-Holstein.
She was the last of the pre-dreadnought battleships
and by the outbreak of war was considered almost obsolete.
She had been deployed in the Polish campaign
and was used extensively to bombard the port areas
such as here in the port of Danzig.
The ship had sailed into the port
with storm troops hidden below decks.
During the attack, the bombardment lasted all day
and continued through the night.
The Polish port which was being used as an ammunition depot
was heavily defended.
Finally, after a very gallant defense,
the Poles capitulated.
Her task completed,
the Schleswig-Holstein moved out into the Gulf of Danzig
to continue bombarding other shore defenses
at Oxhoft and Hel and Heisternest
where she was joined by her sister ship, the Schlesien.
This left the way clear for the troop ships
to pour into Danzig.
Danzig had been part of Germany
until the end of the First World War
and Hitler had been determined
that it should be returned to the Reich,
taken by force if necessary.
The attack had started on the 31st of August.
On the 2nd of September,
Hitler had indicated to the western allies
that he would withdraw from Poland
provided that he was allowed to retain Danzig
and the Polish corridor.
Raeder was wary of having to confront
the might of the Royal Fleet too soon
and warned Hitler repeatedly
that the German navy was not yet ready to face them.
On the 3rd of September,
he was called to the Reich Chancellery
and informed that in response to the invasion of Poland,
Britain had declared war on Germany.
Hitler repeatedly assured Raeder that this wouldn't happen,
but was forced to concede apologetically,
"I was not able to avoid war with England after all."
Raeder observed bluntly, "The surface forces are so inferior
"in numbers to those of the British fleet
"that even at full strength,
"they can do no more than show
"that they know how to die gallantly."
The Admiral Graf Spee was the third
of Germany's pocket battleships,
but was to become the most famous.
On the 13th of December 1939
while raiding merchant ships in the south Atlantic ocean,
she was challenged off Montevideo
by the British cruisers Ajax, Achilles, and Exeter.
The battle that followed highlighted
the fundamental weakness of the Panzerschiff concept,
for the Admiral Graf Spee was not fast enough
to dodge the faster cruisers
and her triple 11-inch turrets
could not cope with the three fast moving targets.
Although, she'd crippled the Exeter,
the Admiral Graf Spee was damaged in the fighting
and was forced to put into Montevideo harbor for repairs.
Skillful bluffing by the British created the impression
that powerful forces were close at hand.
Langsdorff was instructed by Hitler
to avoid the humiliation of the surrendering of his ship,
so on the 17th of December,
the ship was scuttled in Uruguayan territorial waters.
Under the captaincy of Langsdorff,
the Admiral Graf Spee sank nine ships,
totalling over 50,000 tons.
Not a single civilian, officer, seamen, or passenger
lost their lives at his hands.
In a last letter written moments before he took his life,
"A captain with a sense of honor
"cannot separate his own fate from that of his ship
"and I can only prove by my death
"that the fighting services of the Third Reich
"were ready to die for the honor of the flag."
The Scharnhorst was launched on the 3rd of October 1936.
This fast and robust vessel weighed 32,000 tons.
Her sister ship, the Gneisenau,
was launched two months later.
These two new ships gave a new slant
to the definition of a battleship
by sacrificing armor plating to secure high speed.
These two ships spent the first part of the war
attacking merchant shipping convoys in the north Atlantic.
In November 1939, they intercepted a convoy
off the coast of Iceland
escorted by the armed merchant cruiser Rawalpindi.
She engaged the Scharnhorst immediately.
In the exchanged that followed, she was sunk,
but her sacrifice enabled the convoy to escape.
The Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau
gave further British battleships the slip
and returned safely to port in Wilhelmshaven
(speaking in foreign language)
- [Translator] The goal of the whole business
was a trade war.
We were not the first battleship in the Atlantic.
The Panzerschiffs, which were later renamed
the Admiral Scheer and the Graf Spee,
had already been active before us.
The Scheer was our example
as it had been very successful
and we were ordered to carry out our attacks
using the same methods.
This meant to set sail and find as many convoys
and merchant ships as possible
and to either destroy them or capture them
and bring them back to fort.
Well, the British had already added armored merchant ships
to their convoys as protection
and these were armed
and sometimes they were protected
with battleships or cruisers.
We wouldn't always risk going into battle against a ship
which may have had better armament than ours.
This could've had severe consequences.
This would only result in us losing our ship
or bringing them back battle-damaged
and this would've taken us out of the war
either for good or whilst it's being repaired.
We had many ships around us in our battle fleets
which were used for reconnaissance.
We also had our aircraft.
These would search the seas for the convoys
and in particular, those without escorts.
Although, sometimes the merchant ships were disguised
and had hidden guns.
Unfortunately, most of the ships or convoys
that were sailing without escorts
were ships that were not carrying
any significant or important loads or were empty,
but that didn't stop us.
Before we would engage and start to shoot,
we would always give the convoy
the opportunity to stop and surrender.
We attacked the ones which hoisted the war flag
or sent out Morse or radio signals for help.
We did capture quite a few ships.
Most times, we operated independently.
In fact, both the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau
acted independently of each other,
but both ships came under the direct orders
of the battle fleet commander.
Although, we were in the same fleet,
we rarely came into contact
unless it was to receive new orders
concerning posts or reconnaissance areas.
During the campaign in the Atlantic,
we were at sea for nine weeks.
- [Narrator] On the 7th of April 1940,
Britain's Royal Air Force spotted German merchant ships
steaming north towards Norway.
They were headed for the ports of Narvik and Trondheim.
Each of the ships disguised as coal ships
were packed with storm troops and assault troops.
Germany was about to invade Norway.
Amongst the fleets were the battleships
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
There were also two-thirds of Germany's U-boat fleet,
deployed to protect the troop ships.
Although, being spotted by the RAF,
fog and low cloud had helped to mask the ships
and although, the British home fleet had been alerted,
they were slow to respond to the possible threat.
The convoys reached their destinations
Although, one of the merchant ships
had been sunk by a Polish submarine.
One British destroyer which had also managed
to intercept the fleet was rammed
by the German cruiser Hipper
which sent her to the bottom of the North Sea.
German seaborne troops
made five separate landings in Norway
at Oslo, Kristiansand, Bergen, Trondheim, and Narvik
whilst airborne troops seized the airfield at Stavanger.
Apart from the loss of the Blucher,
all other German objectives were taken
with relatively little resistance from the Norwegians.
However, by the time of the invasion on the 9th of April,
the British home fleet had almost caught up
with the German fleet
and whilst the troops were being landed safely,
there were soon to be ferocious battles going on at sea.
Both German and British losses were going to be heavy.
(speaking in foreign language)
- [Translator] We were on the occupation of Norway
which took place in April 1940.
Normally, we would hear rumors
which would spread over the ship before any orders came,
but this time most of us were taken completely by surprise
when the order was given.
We just set sail all of the sudden
with hardly any warning given.
All of the ships were fully loaded
and we had a fleet of destroyers with us.
These destroyers were packed full of ammunition,
lancers, and equipment.
We sailed up the coast of Norway
and then on route, we were told that our destination
was to be Narvik.
Our job was to travel with the destroyers to the port,
protect them whilst they went in and the troops disembarked
and all the ammunition and equipment was unloaded
and then protect them on the way out again.
The journey up was pretty rough.
There was a gale blowing and the seas were running high.
It was worse for the destroyers.
It got so rough at one point
that equipment was falling overboard
and not just equipment, some men went overboard as well.
It was that rough.
Well, we finally took the destroyers into Narvik
and they unloaded.
Whilst we were waiting for them to come back out,
we were attacked.
It was early morning and still dark
and the British fleet had caught up with us.
The battleship Renaud,
we fought with her for about two hours.
The Gneisenau was also involved.
We managed to get away and sailed towards our destroyers
as we had to get them out safely.
However, we heard that it would no longer be necessary
as the British had caught them on the way out
and they were all lost.
The missions we were on during the Norwegian campaign,
and I did five more of these, usually lasted about a week,
sometimes they would last three weeks
and the longest one we did lasted for nine weeks
which is a long time on the Atlantic.
We saved 18,000 nautical miles.
Life onboard could be difficult at times,
but being seamen we were used to living
in small cramped spaces
and we were perhaps better off being on a big battleship
rather than on one of the smaller ships.
Most Germans like to eat potatoes and it's funny,
but that's what I miss most of all.
Of course, it would've been impossible
to carry enough potatoes onboard
to last 2,000 men for nine weeks,
there would have been no room left for anything else.
We had a good crew
and the officers in ranking were all very fair.
Of course, we always moaned about the boss,
but without someone in charge,
it is impossible to run a ship.
There was never any question when orders were given,
you just carried on your duty,
but quite often the job was not easy.
At sea, there would always be what we call the war guard.
There was a war guard for both cruise stations
on the guns where I was,
a starboard guard and a backboard guard.
There would also always be a guard on duty
who guarded the ammunition and machines.
We all joined in with this duty
and took turns on the rotor.
On some occasions, we were all on duty all of the time,
so there was little time for recreation or resting.
I also remember when I was on guard duty,
I would have to eat my meals at my post.
Sometimes this war guard would be hard.
Then, there were only four of us,
so we could take shorter duties and have time to rest.
This was usually when the weather was good
and we could see more.
There was also a night guard on the guns.
This was usually the middle gunners
and during the daytime, the heavy gunners,
this ensured that we had our guns manned
and operational 24 hours a day and could act immediately.
The worst time for us was when we were out on the North Sea,
out in the real cold icy conditions.
The cold made everything difficult
and the conditions were hard.
It wasn't the same for the rest of the crew onboard
because when the ship was cruising, there was heating,
except for the towers where we were, they had nothing.
We used to borrow electrical heaters
from wherever we could find them,
but this was not possible out on the rough sea,
so we usually ended up standing for hours
on duty in freezing cold.
This type of work is no piece of cake, let me assure you.
- [Narrator] In June 1940, the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
were sent north with an order to carry out an attack
in the north of Norway.
The Norwegian campaign was drawing to a close.
With the evacuation of Allied troops from Narvik,
Germany now had a strong foothold on the whole country.
The German fleet were intending to intercept the ships
carrying the retreating Allied forces.
On route, the German cruiser Prinz Eugen
engaged one of the empty British transport ships
which was on route to Narvik,
but had allowed an accompanying hospital ship
to continue its journey.
The British home fleet had deployed
some of its capital ships to the area for protection
including the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious.
The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau spotted the smoke cloud
from the Glorious at a distance of about 30 kilometers.
Accompanying the carrier were British destroyers.
The two German battleships moved in to engage the British.
From a distance of 29 kilometers,
the Scharnhorst opened fire.
The German gunnery was efficient and effective
and within minutes, the Glorious took a direct hit.
She started to burn
which meant that she could no longer launch her aircraft.
The two destroyers accompanying the carrier
moved in close to protect her
and opened fire on the German ships.
The distance between the opposing forces was by now closing.
As the Glorious began to sink,
the two destroyers fought a fierce battle.
However, the first one was soon sunk,
the second one, the Ardent, was hit and sunk,
but not before letting loose four torpedoes.
The Scharnhorst took a direct hit from the starboard side,
gouging a hole four meters by 10 meters
under one of the main towers.
- [Translator] The ship was severely damaged.
We didn't know quite how much until later,
but we did know it was serious.
The middle engine had been damaged and flooded
and the turbine was no longer working.
Fortunately, we did manage to get to Trondheim
with just one engine,
but we could hear the main shaft knocking loudly
and we only just made it.
- [Narrator] Following a period of repair at Brest,
the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau
along with the Prinz Eugen and accompanying destroyers
were to make one of the most dramatic breakouts of the war.
They boldly sailed at full speed
through the English Channel.
- [Translator] After the ship had been in Brest for repairs,
we had new orders.
The trade war in the Atlantic
was becoming increasingly difficult
and whilst we were hold up in Brest,
we knew that we were in range of the British bombers
and they knew we were there.
It was necessary for the whole fleet
to breakout before we were attacked.
There were three options open to us as we could see it.
We could either sail to the Mediterranean going via Denmark
or we could try and sail up past Norway
back to the safety of the Bay of Germany,
or we could dash out through the English Channel
and this seemed the best option.
The British, however, were expecting this
and did everything they could
to make the channel impassible.
However, we took the chance
and much to the disbelief of the British,
we made a dash from the harbor.
There was an attack from the bombers,
but it was a cloudy night
and they were not successful in stopping us.
Somehow we were just very lucky
and it was not until we got to the most narrow point
in the channel at Dover Calais that we were spotted again.
They attacked us with their land battery,
but this was no good
as we were just out of range of their guns.
Then the aircraft arrived.
All around us, the Scharnhorst, the Gneisenau,
Prinz Eugen, and our destroyers and torpedo aircraft,
we were all shooting like mad.
The British also sent some torpedo aircraft.
These approached us very bravely
and made a gallant effort to attack us.
But they were too slow.
They didn't get a chance to fire one torpedo.
We shot down every one of them
with our anti-aircraft battery.
By this time, luck was once again on our side,
the Luftwaffe arrived
and kept the British fighters and bombers busy
and shot down many of the RAF aircraft.
All of our ships managed
to breakout of the channel undamaged.
- [Narrator] The Scharnhorst continued
for the next two years plaguing Allied shipping,
but in December 1944, her end was in sight.
During the Battle of the North Cape,
she was engaged and sunk by British cruisers
and only 36 of her crew survived.
On the 14th of February 1939,
the massive hull of an unfinished German warship
slid into the water at Hamburg, the Bismarck.
For the Nazi Party, this was a day to celebrate
the new might of German war power,
a moment that was enjoyed by the fuhrer himself.
This was to be one of the strongest, largest,
most powerful, and most modern battleships
of all the world's navies.
However, the legend of the Bismarck
is one that spans a mere 277 days.
Only 277 days from its launching to its sinking.
And yet, the gigantic Bismarck was responsible
for one of the most gripping dramas to take place at sea
during World War II.
During that short span of time,
it was the most powerful battleship in the world.
Onboard was the most up to date
and most superior technology available.
It's massive array of weapons
and the extremely high level of its crews training
made this ship a seemingly invincible war machine.
The sea power of the Bismarck
now stood between Germany and victory
and no navy in the world had ever engaged
an enemy warship like her.
(speaking in foreign language)
- [Translator] Just before the summer of 1940,
I was ordered to the battleship Bismarck.
We spent the next few weeks
getting to know the ship inside out,
learning where everything was and how the ship ran.
Next, we were allocated to our positions.
I was ordered to join the 15-inch artillery,
the middle artillery,
and I was trained how to use the guns
and how to work the ammunition chamber,
and all aspects of this station.
And then we set sail.
We were ordered to run a series of tests and trials
for the new ship in the Baltic Sea.
Our job was checking the guns, calibration,
and firing with blanks.
With practice and getting to know the guns,
we managed to achieve a salvo rate,
one round every six seconds.
Considering the size of our heavy artillery,
this was pretty good.
- [Narrator] The British had been waiting
for the Bismarck to make its move
and as the mighty battleship
slipped past the coastline of Norway, she was spotted.
A signal was transmitted
to the Admiralty Building in London.
A Royal Air Force reconnaissance aircraft
was sent to confirm the sighting.
The aerial photographs were sent back to London
and the sighting was confirmed,
it was definitely the Bismarck.
She was lying in anchor, hidden in deep fog in a fjord
whilst her accompanying ships took on fuel.
- [Translator] Nobody onboard knew
that we had been spotted by the Royal Air Force
and consequently we were unaware
that Britain knew we were coming.
We sailed into the Denmark Strait on the 22nd
and this was when we had the first encounter
with two British cruisers.
All of the sudden, these two British cruisers
came out of the fog.
We were given permission to open fire,
but then the two cruisers disappeared again into the fog,
so we couldn't see them to hit them with our guns.
The British also had radar just as we did
and here, the commander of our fleet made a mistake.
He assumed that the cruisers hadn't seen us visually
and that although their radar beam might've hit our ship,
they did not reflect back to the British cruisers
as this type of radar was ineffective at this time.
- [Narrator] This belief, however, was incorrect.
The British cruisers, Suffolk and Norfolk,
had seen Bismarck accompanied by the Prinz Eugen
and already knew her whereabouts from the previous signal.
The new position was transmitted back to London.
As Bismarck continued,
a message was sent to the battleship Hood
giving them coordinates
and orders to intercept and engage the Bismarck.
The Hood at this time was Britain's capital ship
and most closely comparable to Bismarck.
Although aging, she was still the most powerful ship
in the Royal Navy
and was considered to be a worth adversary of the Bismarck.
The Hood together with the Prince of Wales
and six destroyers set off to cut off the enemy
at the Denmark Strait.
The ships closed fast on each other
and prepared to do battle.
In the first exchange, the Hood and the Prince of Wales
opened fire with the Bismark and Prinz Eugen
returning fire immediately.
In the first minute,
a shell from the Prinz Eugen hit the Hood
starting a fire which rapidly spread forward
setting the whole ship ablaze,
a huge explosion followed moments later.
The Hood sank within minutes,
having fired only five or six salvos in the whole exchange.
Of its crew of over 1400 men, only three survived.
With the Hood destroyed, the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen
turned their guns on the Prince of Wales.
He was also hit and forced to break off
any further offensive action.
After the appalling loss of the Hood,
the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen
endeavored to make good their escape,
but the captain of the Prince of Wales
faced difficult decisions.
She was a new ship with many teething problems
still to be ironed out.
There were many casualties
and her bridge was seriously damaged.
She eventually retired to Iceland and refueled.
Though, unknown to her, she had hit the Bismarck
causing a major oil leak
and making her intended foray into the Atlantic impossible.
- [Translator] Well, we had taken three hits
against the Hood.
One in the engine room, one in the front of the ship,
and one in the launch position.
One of the crew had died in the battle.
We sailed a bit further
and then it was decided that the Prinz Eugen
should carry on towards Greenland
and we, the Bismarck, would try to make it dash
to Brest for repairs.
- The problem we had was that the welded seine
between the backboard and the second boiler room
was seriously damaged and water was coming in.
We were all on the alert
and were kept very busy.
When water comes into a ship, as you can imagine,
this is the worst that can happen, people start to panic.
Later, after this, things started to settle down
and we went back to our normal combat posts
and the ship steamed on.
Later that day, Bismarck was attacked
by aircraft from the new carrier Victorious.
One hit was obtained but caused little damage.
The German ship separated
and the whereabouts of Bismarck became unknown,
but for the British, the hunt was on.
Catalinas took off to join in the search.
As the Catalinas scoured the ocean,
there came a break in the clouds
and the tell-tale wake of a ship was spotted.
As the ship came into view,
the signal was flashed back to the fleet,
the target had been sighted.
Within minutes, the Ark Royal together with the Force H
drew close and reported to position.
The weather was particularly bad
in the vicinity of the target,
but the crews were told no other ship was in the area.
The order was flashed to the Sheffield
to find and shadow the Bismarck.
The Ark Royal never noticed her departure.
The aircraft of the Ark Royal flying in difficult conditions
picked up a ship on their radar
roughly in the position where the Bismarck was expected.
Assuming it to the Bismarck, they pressed their attack,
but on the Sheffield.
But fortune was turning against the Bismarck.
Onboard the Ark Royal, the returning aircraft
were rearmed and refueled.
In heavy rain, the Swordfish took off for the second attack.
Without doubt, this would be the last chance
to stop Bismarck's escape.
Read Admiral PD Gick was one of the Swordfish pilots
who flew against the Bismarck.
- We went in using the ASV which was ahead of us.
To our amazement, all the gunfire
was bursting right out ahead of us,
but while you can convince yourself
that these black blobs weren't gonna hurt you,
you didn't worry,
and we discovered afterwards that the Germans
were so convinced that no aircraft
could possibly fly as low as 100 naughts,
that their gun control organization
and there was their minimum speed.
We climbing were doing 75, flat out doing 80,
so we were completely out of harm.
It was a lot of luck really.
- [Translator] On the 26th in evening,
we were attacked for the first time
by the British Swordfish, the torpedo aircraft.
Later in the night, a second attack came
and this time they were more successful.
We got hit.
We had tried to evade the aircraft and torpedoes,
but on this time, we took a hit on the rudder.
It was badly damaged.
It was bent about 12 degrees
and after this, we could only sail
about eight miles straight
with the help of the engines working against the rudder.
We were helpless.
We must've been about six hours ahead of the British fleet,
but because we could not escape, only go in large circles,
they caught up with us.
At about 6 AM, they caught us.
We tried to accelerate away, but it was useless,
we could only travel in a circle,
about a 12 degree radius.
It wasn't long before we all realized
that we had become a sitting target
for the British fleet.
- [Narrator] Steaming helplessly in circles,
the Bismarck was engaged the following morning
by the British fleet being hit repeatedly
by the battleships Rodney and King George V.
(speaking in foreign language)
- [Translator] We took two direct hits
on the front of the ship,
the tower crew came up top
and warned us to get away as quickly as possible
as the tower was about to explode at any minute.
The ships guard sounded the order for the crew to retreat.
We ran back to the part of the ship where our quarters were.
We were below deck.
There was panic everywhere.
The crew from the operating rooms,
the ones that manned the boilers and turbines
had been given the signal Measure V.
The V meant versunken, sinking.
We had 15 minutes to abandon the ship.
I tried to open the hatchway.
This was impossible
because the flacks had fallen on top of it.
I shouted out for someone above to try and move them
which luckily, somebody did hear and they were moved.
I let the other comrades out first
and made sure the room was clear.
Then, there was another direct hit on the deck.
We lost so many men and many more were badly injured.
Then, I managed to get to the backboard side,
this was a mistake on my part,
the water was pouring in.
I had to pull myself up higher out of the water
and get to the next level up the ship.
You cannot imagine or believe what I saw.
I was on a deck in front of the Caesar Tower.
There were at least 50, probably more like 100 dead bodies.
You just cannot imagine such a sight.
- [Narrator] Reducing the Bismarck to a flaming shambles,
the Rodney and King George V had to urgently retire
due to an acute shortage of fuel
and Bismarck's final destruction
was left to the crews of Dorchester.
In all, 111 men from the Bismarck were saved,
but almost 2,000 including all her officers had perished.
It was an enormous relief to the Royal Navy
that the Bismarck had been sunk,
not least that the loss of the pride of the fleet, the Hood,
had been avenged.
The first lord of the admiralty, AV Alexander,
went onboard the Rodney to address her ship's company.
- The destruction
of the Bismarck,
a great and powerful ship
had to be accomplished
for the divisions of the British Royal Navy
because in the navy, I know officers and men
know how to avenge the loss of those who are comrades
and many of whom had been shipmates.
- Three cheers for the first lord of the admiralty.
Hip, hip, hip.
- [All] Hooray!
- The Lutzow was launched under the name Deutschland,
but in February 1940,
Hitler decided that the loss of a ship called after Germany
would be a bad omen,
so the name was then changed to the Lutzow.
In 1940, she took part in the Norwegian campaign
before sailing further north
to threaten Allied convoys to Russia.
In December 1940, she and the Admiral Hipper
took part in a raid against a convoy
defended by eight destroyers.
The destroyers put up a formidable defense
in what became known as the Battle of the Barents Sea.
Finally, the battleships were forced to abandon the raid.
Hitler was furious at such a disappointing performance
and threatened to disband the navy altogether.
Relations between the fuhrer and his grand admiral
had reached breaking point.
Raeder resigned and was replaced by Admiral Doenitz.
The Lutzow was sent to the Baltic for training duty,
but later operated to support the army
against the Russians in eastern Baltic.
Two months after the Bismarck had been launched,
her sister ship, the Tirpitz, had rolled down the slipway.
At 52,600 tons, the Tirpitz was 2,000 tons heavier
than the Bismarck and had a larger armament and crew.
She had been deployed to Norway in 1942
where numerous fjords gave her
plenty of relatively safe anchorages.
In September 1943, British midget submarine known as X-craft
had managed to get into her fjord
and damage the Tirpitz with limpet mines
although all of the X-craft were lost in the process.
Bomber Command was next to attack the Tirpitz.
- [Man] On September 15, 22 Lancasters of Bomber Command
carrying 12,000 pound Tallboy bombs
attacked the 45 ton German battleship Tirpitz
at her anchorage in Kaafjord.
On the run up, small amounts of low cloud
made bombing difficult
and a huge smokescreen put into operation
not more than eight minutes before the attack
soon obscured the target.
The Lancasters flew from a Russian base
to make this attack.
It was carried out from between 13,500 and 17,500 feet.
Despite of the fault of the smokescreen
covering not only the Tirpitz, but all the surrounding area,
in this attack, the battleship received a direct hit for it
on the starboard side.
- [Narrator] Once again the Tirpitz was damaged,
but once again, not significantly,
so Bomber Command was forced to continue
further raids against her.
- [Man] October 29, Lancasters of Bomber Command
carried out their second attack on the battleship Tirpitz
which had been moved Tromso fjord
after the attack on September 15
when a direct hit was scored with a 12,000 pound bomb.
Cloud in the area made the bomber's task
very difficult on this occasion
and strong opposition came from the battleship.
On November 12, 29 Lancasters with 12,000 pound bombs
carried out the third and last attack on the Tirpitz.
On this occasion, weather was clear.
As the aircraft went in to attack,
all the guns of the great ship blazed away, but to no avail.
Three direct hits were scored.
Shortly after the attack, the battleship capsized.
- [Narrator] Now the Tirpitz was sunk,
Germany had lost her most important remaining battleship.
During the course of the war,
the Royal Navy had fought a long hard chivalrous war
against the might of Germany's capital ships,
but by war's end, the importance of the battleship
had diminished with the rise of the aircraft carrier.
Her role eventually being reduced
to little more than that of carrier escort.