Hunting the Bismarck – The Pride of Germany – Extra History – #1

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Hunting the Bismarck – The Pride of Germany – Extra History – #1

Hunting the Bismarck – The Pride of Germany – Extra History – #1

May 20th, 1941.
A restaurant in Stockholm. A British officer, the naval attaché to
neutral Sweden, is having dinner alone when the waiter interrupts him with
a telephone call from the embassy. His eyes widen. He slams down
the receiver and rushes out. Waiting for him at the embassy
is a Norwegian colonel, the man Swedish intelligence leaks to
when they want information to land in British hands. He has a sighting report
from a Swedish cruiser. They relay it to London
via encrypted telegram, and it says: “At 1500, two large warships, escorted by three destroyers,
five ships and ten or twelve planes, passed to the northeast.” The ships are German,
and the hunt is on. EXTRA
History This episode is sponsored by Wargaming. Download World of Warships and
use the code EXTRA1 for free goodies. Link in the description. The hunt for the Bismarck is one of the
most dramatic events of World War II. It’s a story of great ships
clashing in frozen waters, a tale of risk-taking,
heroism and shocking loss, and the blind luck
that sometimes changes history. So when Wargaming contacted us again saying that they wanted to sponsor
a series of episodes on the Bismarck, we jumped on that right away. But what makes
the Bismarck story interesting isn’t just the ships and the battles,
it’s the hunt. For the Royal Navy, the biggest problem
wasn’t sinking the Bismarck, it was finding it.
This is a detective story writ large, an international manhunt that stretched
from the icy seas of the Denmark Strait to the chattering computers
of Bletchley Park. It will begin with an interrupted dinner, and end with the destruction
of the largest battleship on Earth. Allow me to set the scene. 21st of May. Early Morning.
A British Naval Base at Scapa Flow. Vice Admiral John Tovey,
commander of the Home Fleet, is aboard his flagship
thinking that this might finally be it. For days, German reconnaissance
planes have passed above him, recording the position of his ships. Scapa Flow is a hard station,
a barren rock in freezing seas, but it’s also
strategically crucial real estate. From their base in Scapa,
Tovey’s fleet guards the watery expanse that stretches between Greenland
and Nazi-occupied Norway, and securing that line was
the only thing keeping Britain alive. This is a crucial juncture in the War. The previous year,
France had collapsed, German forces had occupied
Norway and Denmark, and the Italians had entered the war
on the side of its fascist ally, Germany. The Axis Powers
were now masters of Europe, and Britain stood alone,
besieged in its own islands. As Luftwaffe raids pounded its cities, American supply convoys were
the only thing keeping Britain in the fight. This was a tonnage war, measured in
cargo delivered rather than ships sunk, convoys raced through
U-boat infested waters to get Fortress Britain enough food,
bullets and oil to defend democracy. Tovey’s nightmare was of a single ship:
The Bismarck. British intelligence had been building
a file on her for some time, even attending her launch in 1939 and monitoring her sea travels
via air and signals intercepts. They still didn’t know everything,
they didn’t know how fast she was, her crew complement,
or what new technologies she had, but they did know
that she was enormous and advanced, outfitted with both heavy armor
and 15-inch guns that could sink near anything
the Royal Navy could throw at it. But the British also knew
that Bismarck was more than a ship: she was a political statement. Hitler had jump-started Germany’s
economy with public spending, including a focus on
military rearmament. The Bismarck was a visible symbol
of Germany’s economic miracle, a nation with a 100% employment rate, provided you didn’t count the Jews and
the women forced out of the workplace. And at over forty thousand tons, Bismarck was also a flagrant violation
of post World War I treaties that limited the size
of Germany’s naval vessels. This ship celebrated the Nazis’ success,
and proclaimed their warlike intentions. This was a new Germany: an economically strong Germany
that had military ambition and rejected any attempt to restrain it. But so far, this great ship
was still bottled up in the Baltic, operating out of ports in northern
Germany and occupied Poland. But if the Bismarck
could stage a break out, slip between Denmark and Norway
and cut north into the Atlantic, it could plunge down
into the Atlantic convoys, a knife straight into
Britain’s supply artery. Previous German raids
had proved costly, and those ships had only been
a quarter the size of Bismarck. Tovey’s phone rings, a direct line
from the Admiralty in London. The call passes on
the Swedish Navy’s sighting, but now, it’s corroborated
with more information. A Polish source reported that
the Bismarck left port three days ago, and a Norwegian resistance cell
spotted a group of German ships passing between Norway and Denmark. Royal Air Force reconnaissance planes,
they say, are currently scouring the fjords. Tovey issues an order to his fleet:
refuel and standby to sail. 13:15 hours.
In Norway. An RAF pilot cruising the fjords spots and photographs
a large ship with a heavy cruiser nearby. Back in Scotland,
an analyst confirms the silhouette while the photos
are still damp from the darkroom: it’s the Bismarck, probably with
the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. The photos confirm
Tovey’s greatest fear. Worse: the weather is deteriorating,
with fog forecast overnight. Bismarck had probably
been hiding in the fjords, waiting for just such weather
to cover its dash to the Atlantic. Tovey summons his subordinate,
Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland, and details his plan. Holland will take his squadron
to southern Iceland and hold there, staying in a position
to intercept the Bismarck regardless of whether she sails down
the east or the west coast of the island. Tovey will stay in Scapa, in case the
Bismarck tries to use the foul weather to sneak past the north side of Britain. The cruisers currently patrolling the
Denmark Strait would stay on course with orders
to spot and shadow the Bismarck, then radio its course
so Holland can intercept. Holland’s squadron slips out at midnight. 22nd of May at 02:00 hours,
in Norway. An RAF bombing raid hits
the Bismarck’s last known position, releasing their payloads
blind due to the low clouds. Heavy fog, no sighting. Further reconnaissance flights
are futile for the next several hours. 20:00 hours.
In the Scapa Flow. Admiral Tovey, who has been living
next to the phone for the last 24 hours, receives a report from the Admiralty: a daring reconnaissance plane has flown
low enough to break through the clouds. The Bismarck is gone. Any further reconnaissance fights
are grounded due to poor weather. He orders the command
to sail for Iceland immediately, hoping to fill any gaps in their screen. In the 30 hours since
the last sighting of the Bismarck, the German raiders
could’ve sailed 600 miles toward the Atlantic access points
around Iceland. As Tovey leaves port, he radios Holland
to say that Bismarck is heading his way, and that the fleet
must maintain radio silence. The Bismarck has slipped through the
first net, it must not slip through another. 23rd of May, 19:22 hours.
The Denmark Strait. Two sister cruisers have been
searching the icy, mine-filled waters of the Denmark Strait for 50 hours, ever
since the Bismarck was last spotted, when a lookout sees two ships
emerge from a snowstorm. He thinks they’re British at first, but
a second glance sends him scrambling. It’s a German battleship,
and only seven miles away, well within the killing range
of its 15-inch guns. Action stations sound. The officers
below abandon their pre-dinner sherry. Running feet pound the deck. The cruiser turns hard over
and makes for the fog, its 8-inch guns useless
against the steel behemoth. For three agonizing minutes,
the crew waits for incoming shells as their little ship
slowly takes cover in the mist. The Bismarck’s shells never arrive. Reorienting herself, the cruiser stalks
its quarry through the fog and rain, deploying its most effective weapon:
a sensor array. These cruisers may not have
heavy guns, but they’re outfitted with advanced systems that allow them
to track enemy ships solely by radar, a feat never achieved before. The cruiser radios its sighting report
to her sister ship fifteen miles south, who relays it to the rest of the fleet
and rushes to join the pursuit. An hour passes 20:30 hours.
The Denmark Strait. Overeager and heading at speed, the second cruiser
plunges through a fog bank to find itself nearly
head-on with the Bismarck, six miles away and closing at 30 knots. Her captain orders the helm hard to
starboard and deploys a smoke screen, breaking for the mist. This time,
the Bismarck is quick on the draw. A salvo of 15-inch shells
lands behind the vessel’s stern, rattling it with metal splinters. Another shell lands 50 yards short
and skips like a stone over the bridge. But the cruiser escapes,
shrouded in mist. The twin cruisers,
a little wiser and a bit more careful, fall in behind the Bismarck
and the Prinz Eugen, staying out of sight but within
the ten-mile range of their radar arrays, quietly broadcasting
Bismarck’s position to the fleet. 21:00 hours.
The Interception Fleet at Denmark Strait. Admiral Holland’s battlecruiser force
plunges towards the Bismarck. There are rough seas
and snow flurries in the strait, with waves so high
that their destroyer escorts are getting submerged
and have to pull back. Destroyers will do little good anyway,
Holland knows. This will be a two-on-two battle
of capital ships. At his disposal he has
the newest ship in the British fleet: The Prince of Wales and his flagship, the pride of the Royal Navy,
the HMS Hood. The Hood has been called
the most beautiful ship afloat. Between the wars,
she had circumnavigated the globe as a symbol of British invincibility. She’s the star of fleet reviews
and propaganda reels. Many of her crew
got their first taste of navy life by seeing her at holiday parades
or through childhood tours of her deck. She is the beloved, the unsinkable,
The Mighty Hood. And she is steaming toward destruction. Join us next time for a clash of flagships, a wounded giant, and a three-word order
that will echo throughout naval history.

100 thoughts on Hunting the Bismarck – The Pride of Germany – Extra History – #1

  1. We teamed up with World of Warships to tell the greatest naval detective story of World War II: The Hunt for the Bismarck!

    New players! Download World of Warships and use the code EXTRA1 for free goodies:

  2. Sabaton fans, lets start a lyric chain!
    From the mist, a shape, a ship, is taking form

  3. So you mean to tell me, in May of 1941, the war had just begun. And the Bismarck was the biggest ship that had the biggest guns

  4. Me: Hears That The HMS Hood Is Unsinkable

    Also Me: Oh No Dont Celebrate yet brits, There might be a Bismarck Shell That Has Your Name On It…..

  5. Huh, i never heard that the Germans had a 100% Employment rate back then.

    Then again, we are only told the negative things.

  6. I don’t think the Arctic was that much of a concern in 1941, what with Canada and Greenland guarding the northwest passage and the Soviet Union being the coastline of half of the ocean.

  7. “It would start with a panicked dinner and end with the sinking of the largest battleship in the world”
    Yamato class: am I a joke to you?

  8. Pride of a nation, a beast made of steel
    Bismarck in motion, King of the Ocean
    He was made to rule the waves across the Seven Seas!
    The Terror of the Seas,
    The Bismarck and the Kriegsmarine!

  9. 0:40 that is the flag I wish was used more often in movies or TV shows since I believe it is more accurate and does not have a direct bad meaning behind it or at least not as bad. In addition I wish they used this flag is the resource war video instead of the, really inaccurate, German EMPIRE flag.

  10. Pancernik Bismarck zaatakował Polskę w 1939r. To jego działa bijące w Westerplatte, polską placówkę wojskową , rozpoczęły agresję Niemiec na Polskę i II wojnę światową.

  11. "Largest battleship in the world"? I mean at the time I guess. She couldn't hold a candle to Iowa and definitely not Yamato.

  12. What's interesting was that the Bismarck was considered a he, instead of a she. The first male warship, and the largest flagship of the German navy in the Second World War.

  13. When you rewatch this and all you can hear in the background is "Terror of the seven seas, Bismark and the Kriegsmarine"

  14. Tovey’s nightmare was a ship called the Bismarck but by nightmare is also a boat but is a cruiser

  15. Don’t you guys that the Bismarck and the Tripitz were useless in the battle of the Atlantic? I mean wouldn’t the German Navy been better off if all that material been used in making and arming more U-boats?

    America: "Pfft, amateurs"
    Japan: "Aww, how adorable"

  17. Not to be picky but the pronoun he was used for the Bismarck and it was considered a "male" probably due to the mysoginy part of the Hitler's ideology. Also in sabatons song it is referred to as he and "king"

  18. The one thing I don’t really like is that Alan Turing was betrayed by his county because he was “gay” he was sentenced to jail he officially got a pardon after the war.

  19. dont tell me non of you uncultured swine have never heard Johnny Horton – Sink The Bismark??!?!??! god bless our navy! hooyah boys! miss it more and more everyday!

  20. Honestly in a one on one duel the Yamato would win no problem. But I don’t know why but I still like the Bismarck better.
    Maybe it’s it’s cool appearance or something but I just think it’s cooler than Yamato

  21. OMG…….. There was a girl in my class and I asked her if she had a relative called Lancelot Holland, she said yes and that he was her great grandfather.

  22. From the mist a shape a ship is taking for. And the silence of the sea is about drift into a storm. Sight of power show of force raise the anchor battleships plotting it's course. Pride of a nation a beast made of steel this hulking minestrone king of the ocean he was made to rule the waves across the seven seas. To lead the war mashen. To rule the waves and lead the kriegmarine. The terror of the seas the Bismarck and the kriegmarine.


  24. Extra History" …the largest battleships on Earth
    Iowa-class, Yamato-class, HMS Hood, and Kirov-class: Am I a joke to u?

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