THE loss of the Clyde-built battle cruiser, HMS Hood, in the Battle of the Denmark Strait on May 24, 1941, was a terrible blow for the Royal Navy.

Hood was sunk in a salvo fired by the German battleship, Bismarck. She broke in half and sank, with the loss of all but three of her 1,418 crew.

“The sudden loss of the Hood is surely one of the most stunning events in the naval history of the 1939-45 war,” observes Evan Mawdsley in his 2019 book, The War for the Seas.

But the Bismarck herself had only a few days left. The heavily-armoured vessel had been damaged during the engagement by the Prince of Wales battleship; leaking fuel, she began to head for the western French port of Saint-Nazaire for repairs.

But she was shadowed by British cruisers and, at around midnight on May 24-25, was attacked with torpedoes fired by RAF Swordfish aircraft.

On May 26, Swordfish from the Ark Royal air group attacked her, and one torpedo jammed her rudder; early the following day, as Mawdsley relates, the King George V and Rodney battleships poured between 300 and 400 heavy shells into the crippled German vessel while heavy cruisers fired guns and torpedoes at her.

The cruiser Dorsetshire finished her off with torpedoes and she sank with the loss of some 2,000 lives. A mere 114 crew survived.

“Shadowed relentlessly by British fighting ships, harried and worried by aircraft whose damaging torpedoes crippled her, lost and found again, the Bismarck never had a chance to slip through the naval net,” is how this newspaper described the fate of the German ship.

Survivors from the Bismarck were photographed (above) disembarking under armed escort at Greenock. Marched up a gangway and put onto a waiting bus, they were, the Glasgow Herald noted, “a dour-looking crowd; not a smile was to be seen on the faces of any of them, and most of them were scowling as the bus drove off.”

Read more: Herald Diary