May 26, 2018


MAY 26


Emergency Evacuation at Dunkirk: At 9:00 am on May 26, 19410, Churchill ordered Operation Dynamo to officially commence. It called for the evacuation of British soldiers which had found themselves surrounded by German troops, during the Battle of France.  Before the operation even started, 28,000 men had already escaped. The Operation planned for the rescue of 45,000 men from the BEF within a two day period, however, German troops were expected to block further evacuation. Approximately 25,000 men escaped during this period, including 7,669 on the first day.


The last battle of the Bismarck. Following the Battle of Denmark Strait,  Bismarck's fuel tanks were damaged and several machinery compartments, including a boiler room were flooded. She was on her way to reach Brest for repairs. The hunt was on as Allied warships tried to approximate her position using triangulation.  The Polish destroyer, ORP Piorun was sent to join in the hunt and was the first of the destroyers to spot the Bismarck. The Allies proceeded their attack in four phases:  the first phase consisted of air strikes by torpedo bombers from the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal, thereby disabling Bismarck's steering gear and jamming her rudders. This limited her to make only turning maneuvers, and thus prevented her escape. The second phase consisted of shadowing and harassing the Bismarck through the night (May 26/27) by British destroyers. Again, the Polish destroyer, ORP Piorun participated in shadowing the Bismarck, launching torpedoes during the night. Piorun charged at Bismarck by herself, while Maori manoeuvered for position to fire torpedoes. Alone, Piorun exchanged fire with Bismarck for about thirty minutes though neither side scored any hits. According to one report, before firing on the Bismarck, Commander Pławski transmitted the message "I am a Pole". (other sources claim that the signal to commence fire was "Trzy salwy na cześć Polski" (Three salvoes for the Glory of Poland!)  Unfortunately Piorun was not able to use the remaining torpedoes, because of low fuel and at 05:00 was ordered home.  The third phase occurred on the morning of May 27 and culminated in a joint attack by British battleships King George V and Rodney, supported by cruisers. They opened fire at 08:47.  The Bismarck returned fire, but due to her inability to steer and that the battleship listed to port so drastically, her shooting accuracy was greatly compromised.  That and her slow speed of 11 kn (13 mph; 20 km/h) made her an easy target when she was hit by the big guns of Allied battleships. When Bismarck's guns were put out of action, the Norfolk and Dorsetshire closed in for an attack. The Rodney launched one 16-inch (406 mm) salvo destroying the forward control post, which killed most of the senior officers, while the other salvoes destroyed all four gun turrets. Bismarck was silent, and lower in the water. Rodney then moved in from a position of 3km (1.9m) to fire into the superstructure while King George V fired from further out. (this maneuver enabled the salvos to attain a more vertical angle). With her engines still running, the Bismarck's upper works were destroyed, and her guns silenced. The Bismarck was slowly beginning to settle by the stern due to flooding, and listed 20 degree to port. It was then that the crew abandoned ship and procedures to scuttle her began.  The Bismarck did not give any sign of surrender.  With the Bismarck mostly under water, the Dorsetshire launched three final torpedoes at short range. At least one hit the superstructure, and the Bismarck went under the waves at 10:39 that morning.  British warships rescued 111 survivors from Bismarck before being obliged to withdraw because of an apparent U-boat sighting, leaving several hundred German men to their fate. The following morning, a U-boat and German weathership rescued five more survivors.

1 comment:

  1. Dunkirk itself was only part of the story, our Dad was part of the many thousands of Polish and other allied soldiers who remained behind until evacuation in equally challenging circumstances... a log below from the SS Alderpool's ship's master T. V Frank - which rescued 3000 polish troops weeks after Dunkirk - our Dad was one.

    Extract from the Master’s Log of M.T. “Alderpool”

    M.T. “Alderpool”
    23rd June, 1940
    Letter to Sir R Ropner & Co.Ltd

    Dear Sirs

    I beg to advise you of my arrival at this port today with about 3000 Polish troops and 528 civilians from La Pallice.

    The following is a history of the voyage.

    14.6.40 p.m. Left Cowes Road for Brest

    16.6.40 a.m. Arrived Brest. Port closed on account of magnetic mines. Ordered to Glenan Island (about 90 miles down coast)
    16.6.40 p.m. Arrived at Glenan Island and anchored awaiting orders.
    16.6.40 p.m. Admiralty message received stating that Brest now clear of mines and all ships ordered to Brest to proceed there.

    17.6.40 p.m. Arrived at Brest and anchored off breakwater.
    17.6.40 p.m. Brest evacuated by all British ships. This S/S ordered to Clyde
    (with a wink).
    17.6.40 p.m. Proceeded as ordered.
    17.6.40 p.m. Making for Ushante. Received orders from British destroyer to proceed to La Pallice.

    18.6.40 11.50 p.m. Anchored in La Pallice Harbour.

    19.6.40 a.m. Hove up anchor and proceeded towards port.
    19.6.40 a.m. Ordered to anchor by British destroyer.
    19.6.40 p.m. Asked by British destroyer if I would take risk of entering port
    which was closed on account of mines. Also warned that S/S would
    be bombed.
    19.6.40 p.m. Proceeded into port. Ordered to anchor by French examination
    vessel and refused to anchor.
    19.6.40 8.00 p.m. Polish troops embarking. Air Force first.
    19.6.40 8.20 p.m. Requested General in Charge Poles to have all machine guns
    erected ready for firing.
    19.6.40 8.30 p.m. Twenty five machine guns fitted.
    19.6.40 10.20 p.m. First air raid. Some bombs. French fired two shots only from
    big AA gun and then quit. Drove off raider with machine gun fire. Raids continuous throughout night. Guns only silent for five minute intervals. Several bombs dropped. Only defence against raiders were guns of this vessel. No other guns firing in harbour.

    20.6.40 4.45 a.m. All troops and civilians aboard possible to collect. Let go and
    proceeded. Last raid. Raider at about 1600 feet hit repeatedly by machine guns. Tracer bullets could be seen entering wings and fuselage. Raider when turning to get out of fire, wobbled and side-slipped. Last see to N.E. of port losing altitude.
    Left La Pallice with only ten tons of water aboard. Could not get any at that port. Ordered to Falmouth. Escort small sloop. Complimented by destroyer, who when he saw number aboard also signalled “You hog”.

    21.6.40 4.00 p.m. All food and water finished. Ordered to Liverpool, a further
    run of 45 hours. Requested sloop to get change of orders. In meantime, proceeding towards Falmouth. Later received orders for Plymouth.

    22.6.40 4.10 a.m. Let go anchor in Plymouth harbour.
    8.10 p.m. In berth. Disembarking troops.
    2.00 p.m. All troops and civilians ashore.
    6.30 p.m. Left berth and proceeded to anchorage.
    7.00 p.m. At anchor in harbour awaiting orders.

    Received from Polish General : - One machine gun and 1000 rounds.
    From O.C. Air Force : - One machine gun and 1000 rounds.
    From Ordinance Officer : - 6 machine guns and several thousand rounds.
    From O.C. Troops : - Three rifles and about 150 rounds.

    The first two guns are my own property. The other six belong to ship.


    T. V. Frank