When the German battleship Bismarck sank the much-loved and vaunted Royal Navy flagship HMS Hood at 06:00 on 24 May 1941, with the heartbreaking loss of 1,415 of her 1,418 souls, it was a national tragedy. Vengeance was sought against the vessel that had destroyed the ship that had taken on almost mythical connotations amongst the British people.
Just two days later, the Bismarck‘s fate was sealed by a torpedo dropped by a Fairey Swordfish from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. The pilot of that Swordfish sadly passed away yesterday, 11 December 2016, at the age of 97. That torpedo made the big German battleship unmaneuverable, and she limped around uncontrollably for over 12 hours before her crew scuttled her, by that time under intense fire from four Royal Navy warships which had caught up with the stricken vessel. (There is, perhaps, a poetic irony to the one of the world’s most modern vessels being incapacitated by a rickety old biplane!).
As part of the story, however, it should also be remembered that over 2,000 of the 2,200 on board the Bismarck perished too; loss of life on both sides on a tragic scale.