-History of H.M.S. Hood-
Range & Time Information for the Battle of the Denmark Strait
Compiled by Frank Allen
Updated 07-May-2014

This page is intended to be a quick reference sheet listing stated times, ranges and bearings related to the major combatants involved in the Battle of the Denmark Strait. These were, of course, H.M.S. Hood, H.M.S. Prince of Wales (PofW), Bismarck (BS) and Prinz Eugen (PG).

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I. Ranges and Times Matrix

Ranges and times
Click to enlarge

II. Known Course Changes

The only stated German course/heading in the Prinz Eugen (PG) war diary is 220º before the battle ("0532 hours- Ship goes back to 220º"). Its also 220º on the PG battle map. H.M.S. Prince of Wales (PofW) estimated the German course to be 240º but this appears to have been based, at that time, upon sketchy information (per a private letter from Colin McMullen, and the book "Alarm Starboard" by gunnery officer Geoffrey Brooke, it is clear that PofW was having great difficulty ranging the Germans until the time fire was opened. This also opens up the possibility that their initial sighting ranges were off, perhaps significantly). Norfolk and Suffolk estimated the German course to be about 220º (per Suffolk/Norfolk's map).

A rough idea of what the Germans saw is in the PG battle map. For exact turns per British, consult ADM116/4352, pg 391-397 and see list below:

0535 hours- 240º
0537 hours- 280º
0549 hours- 300º
0555 hours- 280º
0600 hours- 260º
0600-0605 hours- conjecture, but would appear to be something around 320º - 330º with a gradual return to roughly 260º and then a turn to roughly 160º

III. Bearings

0537- PofW estimated bearing to leading German ship (PG) to be 335º (per ADM116/4352, pg 391-397)

0543- PG and Hood both estimate bearing to each other as 337º (per PG battle map & Hood Enemy Report)

0549- Hood estimates bearing to lead German ship (PG) as 337º (per ADM234/509, pg 193 and ADM116/4352, pg 391-397)

0550- PG estimated bearing to PofW as 330º (per PG battle map)

0553- PofW estimated bearing to Bismarck (BS) as 334º (per ADM188/1187, Encl IVa with 1 degree substracted)

0555- PG estimated bearing to PofW as 330º (per PG battle map)

0555- BS estimated to be 50º off British ships' bows (per ADM116/4351, pages 37-42, Diagram B)

0555- PofW estimated bearing to BS as 332º (per ADM188/1187, Enclo IVa)

0558.5- PG estimated bearing to PofW as 331º (per PG battle map). "A arcs" of Hood and PofW opened (per ADM116/4351, Pages 90-91 and ADM116/4352).

0558.5- PofW estimated bearing to BS as 331º (per ADM188/1187, Encl IVa).

0559.5- PG estimated bearing to PofW as 321º (per PG battle map)

0559.5- PofW estimated bearing to BS as 330º (per ADM188/1187, Encl IVa)

0601- PofW estimated bearing to BS as 328º (per ADM188/1187, Encl IVa)

IV. Speeds/Distances Travelled

Between 27 and 32.5 knots for Prinz Eugen. 28 knots is the only stated speed for Bismarck (based on British observations). It is possible she steamed slower (27 knots like PG) or faster...though there is no reason for any speed increases before the alarm of 0545.

1. PG War Diary (the last stated speed for the German squadron was: "0021 hours- Speed to 27 knots." However, another speed was mentioned later in the war diary, during Captain Brinkmann's "Considerations at the Conclusion of the Break-through": "After the cease-fire, it was possible to report to the Chief of the Fleet that neither hits nor losses were recorded (reportable) aboard Prinz Eugen. BS also seemed undamaged (since) a speed of 28 knots could be maintained, although speed was reduced to 24 knots after a while.")

2. PG Machinery Log (contains graph which shows speeds and times. Speeds also mentioned in Engineer's text. It would appear that PG maintained 27 knots until roughly 0610, when she accelerated to 32.5 knots. Presumably she had to either catch up to Bismarck or maintain her lead following her anti-torpedo maneouvres. Of course, the Machinery Log "speed graph" is broken down in to 10 minute increments. Nowhere is there to be seen any instances of half-shaded blocks. This means that times may have been rounded-up. In other words, PG may have increased speed anywhere from 0601 to 0610. There are two likely speed-up times...0603 and 0607).

28 to 29 knots for British throughout (per ADM116/4352, pg 391-397). Note: Germans estimated the British speed to be 25 knots and the log of Prince of Wales claims 28 knots and 8 tenths. Hood survivors claimed Hood was steaming at 29 knot, thus PofW would presumably be at the same speed. Most of the textual accounts from PofW say 28 knots. 28 knots is therefore the best estimate.

Distances Travelled at Said Speeds-
27 knots= 50 km/h or 0.83 km/min or 911.4 yd/minute or 0.45 nm/min
28 knots= 51.85 km/h or 0.86 km/min or 945 yd/minute or 0.46 nm/min
29 knots= 53.7 km/h or 0.89 km/min or 978.9 yd.min or 0.48 nm/min
30 knots= 55.6 km/h or 0.92 km/min or 1012.7 yd/min or 0.5 nm/min
31 knots= 57.4 km/h or 0.957 km/min or 1046.4 yd/min or 0.51 nm/min
32 knots= 59.26 km/h or 0.98 km/min or 1080.2 yd/min or 0.53nm/min
32.5 knots= 60.2 km/h or 1 km/min or 1097 yd/min or 0.54 nm/min

V. Other Considerations

Seas were not especially rough and the wind was not strong. Visibility was also good - overcast but the cloud ceiling was well overhead. It had also been full daylight since at least 0500 (it had been a murky twilight before that, since about 0200). We need data on the Irminger Flow (to determine how the current's speed and direction would affect the ships). Despite this environment, the British ships still experienced problems with sea spray and flooding (in handling areas).

Books/Private Correspondence-
Though its not listed in the war diaries or ADM files, there is a fair bit of "anecdotal" evidence- that is, accounts of the battle as told by survivors/participants. One such item is in "Pursuit" by Sir Ludovic Kennedy. Apparently, P. Schmalenbach or F.O. Busch had commented to him about Prinz dodging back and forth/jinking between Hood's shell splashes. No comment on Bismarck doing or not doing likewise though. This may or may not affect the timeline and Prinz Eugen's location during portions of the battle.

Similar anecdotal evidence exists for happenings aboard Prince of Wales...correspondence between Colin McMullen and Ludovic Kennedy details the great difficulty experienced in initially ranging the German warships. Additional anecdotal evidence from Geoffrey Brooke also helps with the understanding of the situation aboard Prince of Wales.