February 1939, as the giant battleship Bismarck was launched, Adolf Hitler could barely contain his excitement. With her he hoped the Nazi’s would rule the waves. In May 1941, she entered the Atlantic on her maiden voyage, but just six days later she would be fighting for her very survival in one of the greatest navy duals of World War Two.
Bismarck was a treaty busting battleship. In the years before World War Two, international naval conferences tried to control the size of the world’s new warships. Hitler signed the 1935 Anglo-German naval agreement with every intention of breaking it. In the 1930s he was building up his armed forces, ready for war and he wanted the biggest battleships in the world.Ordered in 1935, Bismarck sailed past any treaty obligations, by the time she was launched in 1939, she weight a massive 50,000 tonnes.
She was armed with eight 15″ guns and an array of 44 other guns for use against aircraft and smaller vessels. She had 13″ armour and a speed advantage over ships from other countries bound by pre-war treaties.
Facing a certain and gruesome end, only one question remains to be answered – did the British deliver the final blow, or was the Bismarck scuttled to avoid surrender?