BLUF

Due to their threat to Allied convoys and warships in WW2, the Royal Navy spared no effort to sink the Bismarck and Tirpitz.

Summary

A point to consider when reading this article is just how effective airpower could be against Battleships. The Sinking of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse in 1941 showed the effectiveness of airpower. This article by Benjamin Brimelow makes the following points:

Bismark
  • Two German battleships, the Bismarck and Tirpitz, were the pride of the German Fleet.
  • Primary armament 8 x 15-inch guns mounted in 4 turrets.
  • Able to fire 771 kg shells over 32 km.
  • 40+ anti-aircraft guns.
  • Heavily armoured.
  • Both were operational by February 1941.
  • Germany planned to use battleships to destroy merchant ships.
  • However, Battleships were vulnerable to air power.
  • Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were restricted to port by constant RAF attacks.
  • Tirpitz's crew was still being trained.
  • Bismarck sent out with only the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in support.
  • British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the older battlecruiser HMS Hood attacked Bismarck and Prinz Eugen in the Denmark Strait.
  • Minutes into the battle, HMS Hood was sunk, killing 1,412 of her crew.
  • Bismarck separated from Prinz Eugen and headed to France for minor repairs.
  • A strike by British carrier aircraft disabled Bismarck enabling HMS Dorsetshire to finish her off with torpedoes.
  • Only 115 crew survived.
Tirpitz
  • Nicknamed "The Beast" by Churchill.
  • RAF bomber raids slowed its construction.
  • Hitler ordered the German Fleet to occupy the Baltic and waters around Norway.
  • The role of the German fleet was to prevent a breakout by the Soviet Baltic Fleet, based in Leningrad (now St Petersburg).
  • German Fleet redeployed to Norway to intercept Arctic supply convoys.
  • Also was to be used to stop an Allied invasion of Norway.
  • The threat posed by the Tirpitz led Allied warships escorting convoy PQ-17 to redeploy to hunt the Tirpitz and for the convoy to scatter.
  • The Tirpitz was not used against this convoy, but 23 of the 35 merchant ships were sunk by German aircraft and U-Boats.
  • Bombers, carrier aircraft and mini-submarines essentially kept Tirpitz in port.
  • November 12 1944, two Tallboy bombs sink Tirpitz.
  • Nine hundred of her crew were killed.

    References

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