The hunt for Bismarck turned out to be one of the most ambitious naval operations in the North Atlantic. Incensed by the loss of HMS Hood, a large British force comprising numerous warships of all types — as well as a number of aircraft formations — pursued Bismarck: cruisers, battleships, an aircraft carrier, and a frenzy of destroyers. The "Hunt for Bismarck" collection consists of the badges of all major participants of the grand naval operation aimed at destroying the German navy's most powerful raider.
The badge (or wappen) of the German battleship Bismarck (commissioned in 1940) originates from the family Coat of Arms of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck whose name the ship bears.
During her only naval operation, Bismarck, escorted by the cruiser Prinz Eugen, was to break through into the Atlantic to attack Allied convoys. But the secretive dash for open water did not go unnoticed: the ships were spotted and later intercepted by the British. On 24 May 1941, in the Denmark Strait, a shell from Bismarck struck the British battlecruiser HMS Hood and the ship exploded. However, Bismarck too was damaged and had to abandon her breakthrough mission. During an air raid carried out on 26-27 May by the combined forces of the Royal Navy, Bismarck was immobilized and ultimately sunk with artillery fire.
Prinz Eugen was an Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruiser that entered service in 1940. The ship's badge (or wappen) includes elements from the Coat of Arms of the famous Prince Eugene of Savoy, the Austrian commander of the late 17th-early 18th centuries, whose name the ship bears.
During the Exercise Rhine (May 1941), the cruiser was to escort Bismarck during the breakthrough into the Atlantic to block Allied shipping. On 24 May, Prinz Eugen was brought to action along with the battleship in the Denmark Strait, following which she detached from Bismarck to go on a solo raid (that brought no results).
The badge of Gotland, a seaplane cruiser of the Swedish Navy that entered service in 1934. It depicts elements of the Coat of Arms of the historical province of Gotland whose name the ship bears.
Gotland was the ship that first sighted Bismarck on 20 May 1941 when the German battleship broke out of the Baltic Sea, and relayed the sighting to the Swedish Navy commanders. The British Intelligence Service obtained that information and passed it to the Admiralty in London, which is when the hunt for the battleship began.
The official squadron badge for No. 209 Squadron (Royal Air Force). The falling eagle symbolizes the destruction of the legendary Baron Manfred von Richtofen — widely known as the Red Baron — who was credited to the guns of a pilot from No. 209 Squadron in 1918.
It was a PBY Catalina, a flying boat piloted by Dennis Briggs and Leonard B. Smith of No. 209 Squadron, which finally relocated Bismarck on the morning of 26 May 1941, after the British had lost contact a day earlier. This allowed the Royal Navy to converge fleets and finally sink the German battleship.
The badge of Photographic Reconaissance Unit No. 1, a special flying unit of the Royal Air Force, one of the main tasks of which was tot track the movements of warships of the Germany Navy.
On 21 May 1941, a Spitfire PR Mk. VI flown by Flying Officer Michael F. Suckling sighted and photographed the German battleship Bismarck and cruiser Prinz Eugen in Korsfjord, Norway. This way, the fact that the ships went to sea was confirmed, and the Home Fleet began regrouping its forces to intercept the raiders.
The badge of the 825 Naval Air Squadron (formed in 1934), a naval air squadron of the Royal Navy operating ship-based aircraft. The eagle and the Maltese cross symbolize the aircraft carrier Eagle and the island of Malta where the squadron was based in the early years of service.
In May 1941, it was part of the aircraft compliment of HMS Victorious. During the night of 24-25 May, eight Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber aircraft operating within a squadron attacked Bismarck, scoring a hit amidships and forcing Bismarck to slow down. No aircraft were shot down during the attack, and they successfully made it back to the carrier despite their lack of experience with night-time takeoff and landing.
HMS Ark Royal was the first British aircraft carrier of the new generation, entering service in 1938. This ship had a significant impact on the development of this ship type in the Royal Navy.
She joined the hunt for Bismarck on 23 May 1941 within Force H from Gibraltar, with an aim to intercept the German raider. The carrier played a key role in the operation. On 26 May, her torpedo bombers made a decisive hit on Bismarck, jamming her rudder, which allowed British ships to catch up with and finally sink the battleship.
The badge of HMS Hood, the biggest battlecruiser in the world that entered service in 1920. The ship was named after the 18th-20th century dynasty of Royal Navy admirals. It features elements from the Coat of Arms of the Hood family and the year in which the first ship named "Hood" was commissioned.
On 22 May 1941, the battlecruiser Hood, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Holland, was sent to intercept the battleship Bismarck that was heading towards the open Atlantic. The battle between Holland's units and the German ships occurred on the dawn of 24 may at the exit of the Denmark Strait. Several minutes into the fight, a shell from Bismarck hit Hood’s ammunition stores and exploded, sinking the ship with almost all of her crew.
The badge of HMS Dorsetshire, a County-class heavy cruiser of the Royal Navy that entered service in 1930. It depicts a lion, one of the main elements of the Coat of Arms of England and Dorset County, after which the cruiser was named.
On 26 May 1941, HMS Dorsetshire was called away from escorting a convoy and rushed for an interception course with the battleship Bismarck. The ship participated in the battle on 27 May in its final stages, whens he finished the German battleship off with several torpedo hits. HMS Dorsetshire rescued the majority of the survivors from the defeated German raider ship.
HMS Zulu was a Tribal-class destroyer commissioned in 1938. The ship's badge feathers elements of the traditional armament of the South African Zulu people.
In late May 1941, HMS Zulu — along with the ships of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla which were escorting a convoy across the Atlantic — was called away to join the hunt for Bismarck. During the night of 26-27 May, the ship attacked the German raider with torpedoes despite receiving damage from her guns.
The badge of HMS Norfolk, a County-class heavy cruiser that entered service in 1930. It features elements from the Coat of Arms of Norfolk County whose name the ship bears.
At the beginning of the operation, the ship patrolled the Denmark Strait along with cruiser HMS Suffolk. On 23 May, Norfolk spotted the German ships and radioed their location to the squadron of Vice-Admiral Holland. She pursued the German battleship until 25 May, and later participated in the battle of 27 May when Bismarck was sunk.
The badge of HMS Mashona, a Tribal-class destroyer that entered service in 1939. It depicted the Bird of Zimbabwe, a legendary totem of the South African Mashona people.
In May 1941, HMS Mashona served within the escort fleet for one of the Altantic convoys. On 24 May, the ship was recalled to join the hunt for the battleship Bismarck. HMS Mashona and the battleship HMS Rodney chased the German raider until 27 May, but had to turn back due to a lack of fuel. The following day, she was sunk by German dive bombers that had been sent to assist Bismarck.
HMS Cossack was a Tribal-class destroyer that entered service in 1938. She became famous for the boarding of the German tanker Altmark in Norwegian waters and teh associated rescue of 300 British sailors. The ship was named after the Russian Cossack people, a tradition in the British Navy since the middle of the 19th century.
In May 1941, she served as the flagship of Captain Phillip Vian, commander of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla that escorted British battleships. When Bismarck was detected on 26 May, Captain Vian — acting upon his own initiative — rushed to intercept the German raider. During the night of 26-27 May, Cossack and other destroyers of her flotilla launched several torpedo attacks on the battleship and continued to keep her in sight, directing the main fleet forces towards Bismarck.
HMS Suffolk was a County-class heavy cruiser that entered service in 1928. The Castle and Key depicted on the ship's badge are elements of the emblem of the Suffolk Regiment, a motif derived from the battle honor granted following the Regiments' prominent part in the defense of Gibraltar at the end of the 18th century.
In May 1941, the ship patrolled the Denmark Strait along with cruiser HMS Norfolk. Suffolk made the first sighting report on Bismarck and, while maintaining radar contact with her, kept the fleet of Vice-Admiral Holland updated as to the enemy battleship's whereabouts. She participated in the battle in the Denmark Strait as well as in the hunt for the German battleship up until 25 May.
HMS Renown was a battlecruiser of the Royal Navy that entered service in 1916. The classical symbols depicted on the ship's badge — the laurel wreath and the torch of glory — echo the name of the ship.
From 23 May 1941, HMS Renown, under the flag of Vice-Admiral Somerville, took part in the hunt for battleship Bismarck. On 26 May, Force H headed by the battlecruiser appeared to be the only force capable of holding off the raider ship's breakthrough to France. The main task for HMS Renown was to provide cover for the aircraft carrier Ark Royal that had delivered the major blow to the German battleship.
HMS Sheffield was a Town-class light cruiser that entered service in 1937. The design of the ship's badge was derived from teh Coat of Arms of Sheffield city, which the cruiser was named after.
On 23 May 1941, HMS Sheffield left Gibraltar with Force H to participate in the operation to destroy Bismarck. On 26 May, on the order of Vice-Admiral Somerville, she established radar contact with the German raider ship and radioed her location to Ark Royal’s aircraft, which dealt fatal damage to the battleship.
HMS Tartar was a Tribal-class destroyer of the Royal Navy that was commissioned in 1939. The ship was named after the Tartar people living in Russia, a tradition in the Royal Navy since the middle of the 19th century, and the ship's badge echoed her name.
In May 1941, HMS Tartar, along with battleship HMS Rodney and the destroyers HMS Somali and HMS Mashona, served with one of the escort fleets for an Atlantic convoy. On 24 May, the escort was called off to join the hunt for Bismarck. HMS Tartar took off after the German raider and pursued her until the morning of 27 May, when the latter was sunk. On the way back to her base, the destroyer fought off an attack from German dive bombers and took onboard the crew of HMS Mashona after she was destroyed.
The badge of HMS Rodney, a Nelson-class battleship, that was commissioned in 1927. The Eagle depicted on it was one of the elements of the Coat of Arms of the 18th century Admiral George Rodney, for whom the ship was named.
After HMS Hood was destroyed in the Denmark Strait, on 24 May 1941, HMS Rodney was withdrawn from a convoy heading to the U.S. and ordered to go after Bismarck. Rodney participated in the search and pursuit for three days, playing a crucial role in the battleship's sinking on 27 May.
HMS King George V was the lead ship of a series of battleships of the Royal Navy. The ship was first commissioned in 1940. Her badge depicts the monogram of King George V (1865-1936) whom the battleship was named after.
In May 1941, HMS King George V was the flagship of Admiral Tovey, Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Fleet who was put in charge of the operation to intercept and destroy the battleship Bismarck. She participated in the hunt for the German raider ship and her ultimate destruction in action on 27 May.
HMS Victorious was one of the Illustrious-class aircraft carriers; innovative ships, they were the first ships of their type to receive an armored flight deck. She entered service in 1941. The ship's badge depicts Victoria, the ancient Roman goddess of victory.
In May 1941, the newly commissioned aircraft carrier was included in the main forces of the Home Fleet and took part in the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck. During the night of 24-25 May, in severe weather conditions, the torpedo bombers of 825 Naval Squadron carried by HMS Victorious scored a direct hit against Bismarck, flooding several of the ship's compartments.
HMS Maori was a Tribal-class destroyer that entered service in 1939. The main element of the ship's badge was one of the traditional symbols of the indigenous, warlike Maori people of New Zealand.
In May 1941, HMS Maori was assigned to the 4th Destroyer Flotilla commanded by Captain Phillip Vian. From 26 May, the ship took part in the pursuit of Bismarck. During the overnight battle that continued into the dawn of 27 May, Maori made two torpedo attacks on the German battleship, and the nest day she rescued some of the survivors from the defeated Bismarck.
HMS Prince of Wales was a King George V-class battleship of the Royal Navy that entered service in 1941. The ship's badge depicts elements from the Coat of Arms of the Prince of Wales against the background of the Cross of Saint George, the patron saint of England.
On 22 May 1941, as a part of Vice-Admiral Holland's combined forces, the ship was sent to intercept the German battleship Bismarck. In the battle that occurred on 24 May in the Denmark Strait, Prince of Wales was damaged and had to break off from action, having delivered a number of successful hits on Bismarck that made the German battleship abandon her raiding plans.
HMS Sikh was a Tribal-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. The ship entered service in 1938. HMS Sikh was named after the Sikh people living in northern India where the lion — Singh — is a cultural symbol. This symbol became the main element depicted on the ship's badge.
In May 1941, HMS Sikh was assigned to the 4th Destroyer Flotilla of the Royal Navy. The ship joined pursuit of the battleship Bismarck along with the other ships of her flotilla on 26 May. Sikh took part in torpedo attacks on Bismarck overnight into 27 May and subsequently shadowed the battleship until the arrival of the main forces of the Home Fleet.
The naval jack of ORP Piorun, an N-class destroyer laid down in England as HMS Nerissa but later transferred to Poland (in 1940). The naval jack of the Polish navy is based on a traditional 17th century fighting jack design of a scimitar ready to strike at the enemy.
During the operation to destroy the battleship Bismarck, ORP Piorun was assigned to the 4th Destroyer Flotilla of the Royal Navy. During the night of 26-27 May, she was the first to establish visual contact with the battleship and charged at Bismarck by herself. Alone, Piorun exchanged fire with Bismarck with neither side scoring any hits.
Completing the collection provided the following rewards:
||Bismarck - The Last Conquest||
||Alternate permanent camouflage for Bismarck.|
||Bismarck - From the Bottom of the Ocean||
||Alternate permanent camouflage for Bismarck.|