24 May

A Second World War naval battle between the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Hood and the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, both of which were attempting to break out into the North Atlantic to attack Allied merchant shipping.

Less than 10 minutes after the British opened fire, a shell from Bismarck struck Hood near her aft ammunition magazines. Soon afterwards, Hood exploded, and sank within three minutes with the loss of all but three of her crew. Prince of Wales continued to exchange fire with Bismarck but suffered serious malfunctions in her main armament as the British battleship had not fully worked up after only being completed in late March 1941 and soon broke off the engagement. The battle was considered a major tactical victory for the Germans, but its impact was short-lived; the damage done to Bismarck’s forward fuel tanks forced the abandonment of her Atlantic breakout mission and necessitated an escape to safe dry dock facilities in occupied France, producing an operational victory for the British. Incensed by the loss of Hood, a large British force pursued and sank Bismarck three days later.

HOOD023
Last image of HMS Hood taken from Prince of Wales