-H.M.S. Hood Reference Materials-
AIR 14/415: Report on the Sinking of the Bismarck
Updated 08-Mar-2007

This document is a modern transcription of a portion of Air Ministry record AIR 14/415. It deals with aerial aspects of the mission to locate and sink battleship Bismarck in May 1941. This particular excerpt was originally written by Flight Lieutenant R.J. Vaughn of Sunderland Z/201. This aircraft was part of 201 Squadron, attached to 100 Wing, RAF Station Sullom Voe. It concerns Vaughn's eyewitness observations of the Battle of the Denmark Strait. The original file is held at the The National Archives at Kew, London. This Crown Copyrighted material is reproduced here by kind permission of The National Archives.

Chainbar divider

1. Signals (26 - 31/5/41) re operations in connection with the sinking of the Bismarck

2. Report on Operations in connection with the Bismarck

3. 25/5/6 from Hqrs R.A.F. Iceland - enclosing photographs taken by Z/201 while locating enemy naval forces

4. Minutes to A.O.C. and S.A.S.O. submitting draft reports on operations in connection with sinking of Bismarck



Item 5, Page 1

. . .At 0537 hrs. on 24.5.41 a County Class cruiser was sighted steering a course of 240°T at an estimated speed of 28 kts. and at the same time gunfire was seen well ahead. As we closed, two columns, each of two ships in line ahead, were steering on parallel courses at an estimated range of 12 miles between columns. Heavy gunfire was being exchanged and the leading ship of the port hand column was on fire in two places, one being at the base of the bridge superstructure and the other further aft. In spite of these large conflagrations she appeared to be firing from at least one turret forward and aft. (This ship was found afterwards to be "HOOD").

Page 2

At this juncture no engaged ships had been identified and I instructed the pilot to proceed towards the starboard column of ships. The second ship of this line (BISMARCK) (sic) was making a considerable amount of smoke which appeared to come from near the mainmast on the port side. Oil was also escaping and leaving a broad streak in the water behind her.

As we approached the two ships were identified as enemy and a first sighting report was made at 0410 hrs. Immediately prior to this an explosion was noticed on the burning ship of the port column (HOOD) and at the same time we came under A.A. fire from the enemy, and were forced to take cloud cover at 2500ft. On emerging from cloud some five minutes later, the HOOD had almost completely disappeared and only one part of the bow was showing. The second ship of this line then fired a salvo which fell short & slightly ahead of the second enemy ship and immediately afterwards reversed course after having laid a light smoke screen. The second enemy (BISMARCK) then fired a salvo at the ship which had reversed course (later identified as PRINCE OF WALES) and this was a very near miss, with perhaps 1 hit near the stern. This was the most accurate I had observed during the action, the previous bursts from the enemy appearing to be well ahead, but with range correct and those from our units seemed to be either under or over, although in most cases line appeared to be to good.

The leading ship (PRINZ EUGEN) of the enemy line had also been firing and the salvos also fell well ahead of our leading ship but range again appeared to be correct. After emerging from cloud we flew over the wreckage of the sunken warship, observing one large red raft and a considerable amount of wreckage amidst a huge patch of oil. From the height we were flying, no survivors could actually be seen. . .