I Was There! - We Fired the Torpedoes that Finished Her

The War Illustrated, Volume 4, No. 95, Page 645-646, June 27, 1941.

When the chase of the Bismarck was ended and her guns were silenced, she still had to be sunk by torpedoes from the cruiser Dorsetshire, and here is the story of Lieut.-Commander G. R. Carver who fired those torpedoes.

What it felt like to be the man who fired the torpedoes that finally sank the Bismarck was described by Commander Carver when Dorsetshire landed 83 survivors from Bismarck at a British port. He said:

The captain gave me the “stand by” order. I felt how terrible it would be to miss. It was my first chance of firing point-blank at an enemy.

We had closed in to short range, and the captain told me to give her two. I was astonished, when the torpedoes hit home, that the Bismarck hardly shuddered. We went around to the other side and I let her have another. When that one hit she began to list and quickly turned over to sink.

The water appeared to be full of struggling Germans, and we must have lost fathoms of rope which we trailed over the side to try to pick them up.

She was a terrible sight. Her top was blown clean away, flames were roaring out in several places and her plates were glowing red with heat. Great clouds of black smoke were billowing from her and rising for a hundred feet or so.

When our torpedoes hit her the Bismarck settled down by the stern, and the heeled over to port. She had not blown up, but just went straight down on her side with her battle ensign still flying. It was a most impressive sight, and we watched in silence as she finally went under.

Dorsetshire's eight-inch guns had already contributed in a devastating way to the Bismarck's destruction. Prisoners who had been rescued said they were astounded by the rate and the accuracy of the shells.

Commissioned Gunner T. A. Pentney, a Londoner, described the action when they came upon the enemy steaming at about 10 knots in a rough sea. He said:

We opened fire at long range at 9.5 a.m., and kept up a ceaseless pounding until we had drawn into close range. By that time the Bismarck was in a hopeless state.

They fired four salvos at us at the beginning of the action, but they all roared overhead. Then her attention was fully occupied by the Rodney, which had come up and had started to pound her.

For many of the Dorsetshire's crew it was their first action, and as one lieutenant said:

I felt much better in a ship-to-ship fight than I thought I should. I was on the bridge and all I can say is that the enemy fought very well. I expected them to haul down their ensign, but they kept it flying to the very end.

The way this colossal German battleship “just rolled over like a giant porpoise and settled in a matter of moments” is still a matter of surprise to those who saw it.

But there was a private surprise for the Dorsetshire's officers. When the battle was over they listened to Lord Haw Haw on the radio. Lieut.-Commander (E.) J. F. Mansell, of Slough, said:

We heard him announce that H.M.S. Dorsetshire, steaming at 35 knots – a wonderful speed, anyhow – was on fire fore and aft before sinking at 2 p.m. on the day of the action. Which seems rather to put us in the Ark Royal class!

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