PAGE 2: THE WRECK OF THE BISMARCK

 

Resting three miles beneath the Atlantic Ocean, lies a Nazi warship, once feared and revered.  Now she slowly rots away, silently in her watery grave. Her superstructure is basically intact, the hull still complete.

However, her once powerful and massive main gun turrets have all become dislodged out of their huge barbettes, individually sinking to the sea floor and getting buried in the sand, silt and mud.

The Bismarck was indeed once the pride the German Navy and was responsible for sinking the mighty battle cruiser H.M.S Hood, the pride of the British Navy on May 24th 1941.

Below is an artists rendition of the mighty Hood after taking hits from the Bismarck.  She sails whilst ablaze and was initial only superficially damaged, however, a fatal shot from the Bismarck hit her main magazine and she exploded.

The Hood sank in seconds taking all but three of her one thousand four hundred and eighteen crew to the bottom of the ocean.

 

 

The Bismarck became a top priority for British wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill and she paid the eternal price for her escapade, and was hunted down, attacked and sunk.

Below is an artists impression of the Bismarck as she opens fire on H.M.S Hood.  She literally blew the Hood out of the water with a direct hit.

 

 

The Bismarck was finally sunk by the British Royal Navy and for fifty years she lay deep at the bottom of the ocean, unmolested, quiet and almost forgotten, but then one day she was discovered and the Bismarck was again alive and larger than life...in the imaginations of the public.

 

 

THE BISMARCK IS DISCOVERED

Dr Robert  D. Ballard and his team who discovered the wreck of the Titanic four years earlier in 1985, had taken two years to discover the wreck of the Bismarck.

 

 

The first expedition to find the wreck was on July 1988 but sadly ended in failure. A second expedition was staged in late May 1989, and on June 8th, 1989, after covering hundreds of square miles of ocean sea floor, Dr Robert Ballard and his team finally found the wreck.

The wreck was some six hundred miles west of Brest at a depth of three miles which is 4,790 meters or 15,700 feet.  Either way of saying it, the Bismarck was a long way down with many tons per square inch of sea water pressure bearing down on her 

The wreck of the Bismarck is literally sitting on the side of an underwater mountain range, at the bottom of a vast landslide that occurred fifty years ago.  The landslide of course occurred  when the fifty thousand ton battleship slammed into the seabed.

 

 

The exact position of the wreck is indicated in the image above, she lies in very deep waters and only expert maritime professionals with deep sea submersibles are able to reach her.

 

 

The wreck of the Bismarck is actually sitting upright on the sea bed, embedded in mud and silt, most of the secondary battery gun emplacements still point defiantly to the skies and the Nazi Swastika's still adorn the decks.

Remembering that the ship received heavy damage from British shell fire and torpedo attacks, the Bismarck's remains are in surprisingly good condition. We must remember too that the ship hit the sea bed with some considerable force, similar to a speeding train running into the side of a mountain.

Below is the sequence of how the Bismarck actually sank, and as stated on the image, the depth is not to scale.  If it was, then the image would easily extend to the bottom of this webpage.

 

 

Three miles is incredibly deep, so deep that light does not reach it from the surface.  The ocean seabed at this depth is still relatively unchartered as nobody has every really gone that deep to explore it.  At that depth it is a dangerous and very hostile environment.

The only way that we know of the terrain and topography at this depth is from sensitive electronic mapping equipment.  This kind of information is usually sought by the Navy or specific scientific departments.

Most shipwrecks around the world are badly deteriorated, as salt water is the natural enemy of steel, the Bismarck however, has stood the test of time quite well.

 

 

Except for a piece of the stern that broke away, the rest of the super structure is completely intact. All of the ships main turrets ( held in situ by gravity ) are displaced though, they fell off when the ship capsized.

Some other parts of the superstructure such as the foremast and the funnel are missing too, presumably ripped off as she sank.

 

 

The secondary battery turrets and most anti-aircraft guns however, are still there, and look as if they are waiting to be manned. The forward conning tower and bridge, though heavily damaged are also still in situ.

 

 

There is still a surprising amount of woodwork and paint still adorning the wreck and it is likely that the wreck will remain in a solid condition for several hundred years to come.  There are no plans to raise her at all as she is represents a sea grave.

 

 

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A WAR GRAVE

According to  international law, the wreck of the Bismarck that is resting in international waters is still the property of Germany, and is considered as a war grave. After the discovery of the wreck, the German government gave the following statement regarding future diving expeditions to the wreck site:

 

 

" The Federal Republic of Germany considers itself the owner of the former sovereign Battleship Bismarck. Diving excursions to the interior of the wreck as well as recovery attempts require consent of the Federal Government. This has been categorically denied in other cases of sunken ships of the World Wars, because one must expect to find remains of the dead in the wreck. The Federal Republic feels it is its duty to protect the seamen who went to their death in the sinking of the ship. Following international customs, we view the wreck of the Bismarck as a seamen's burial site that must be accorded proper respect."

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This page is yet another testimony to the total and frightening waste of lives and material that wars destroy. I often ask myself the question..... why?

What was it all for? It appears that all the deaths in World War Two and the deaths in all the other wars for that matter, was all for nothing, maybe one day we will learn the reasons.

The below extracts about the commemorative of the sinking of the Bismarck were copied from www.guardiannews.com/

BISMARCK SINKING COMMEMORATED
By Richard Norton-Taylor. Wednesday May 23, 2001. The Guardian

More than one hundred war veterans yesterday commemorated the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck on May 27th, 1941, in one of the most epic naval battles in modern history.

Accompanying the veterans at the Imperial War Museum, in south London, was Heinz Steeg, rescued from the water after the Bismarck, which was launched by Hitler and said to be  unsinkable,  went down.

Harry Cuffling, 82, from the Isle of Wight, was one of the men who dragged Mr Steeg on board the cruiser, the Dorsetshire. " The German sailors were huddled together in a crowd ", he said. " The sea was very rough and they looked extremely cold. They couldn't talk. We felt no animosity towards them. It's human nature. "

Mr Steeg said he wanted to do the same after the Bismarck shelled the British battleship, HMS Hood, which sank in just three minutes. " There is never any great feeling of joy or celebration when a ship is sunk because a ship is a beautiful thing. But I remain thankful that the men of the Dorsetshire could come to my aid " he said.

 

 

Sir Ludovic Kennedy, a sub-lieutenant on HMS Tartar during the battle and author of a book on the sinking of the Bismarck, paid tribute to what he called his band of brothers .

He described the naval engagement as one of the most  memorable, important and dramatic events  of the second world war.

" The damage she could have done to us and the whole war effort was incalculable. That was why she had to be eliminated and she was eliminated by a good share of luck, skill and courage. The fate of the Bismarck proved that the era of the battleship was over, he added, killed by air power and left "as dead as a dinosaur ".

Seventy seven year old George Bell, who was a seventeen year old captain's messenger on the Dorsetshire at the time, told how he watched the Bismarck capsize. " I remember seeing her turn over completely. All you could see was her huge keel lying in the water before it went under. "

Leslie Sayer, from Col Chester, Essex, who flew a Swordfish biplane on a torpedo mission against the German warship, said: " We were apprehensive, concerned and bloody frightened, in that order. "

Even though no flowers grow on a sailors grave, may all the mariners who gave their lives during World War Two and indeed in all the wars at sea, rest in peace. The legacy of war is remembrance its testimony is death.

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Page created July 23rd 2005.   Updated December 7th 2012.