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13th November 1941

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Events On This Day

Russian Front, The Wehrmacht claimed to have broken through the defences across the Kerch Isthmus in the Crimea.

A few Luftwaffe raiders dropped bombs at night in South West England.

Bill to Amend United States of America Neutrality Act passed House of Representatives.

Japan closed Canton River, west of Hong Kong.

Go To: 14th November
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Gallery

U-81

HMS Ark Royal Picture 1

Abandon ship, the last scene in the glorious career of HMS Ark Royal, when it was found impossible to save her. A destroyer packed with survivors is just leaving the doomed aircraft carrier, and some of the crew have already been taken off by small boats. Here and there a rubber dinghy floating on the waves is emergency succour for any that may have to go into the drink. There is, no panic, no fear only regret that a fine and valiant ship has, by the fortune of war, fallen a victim to the enemy.
Photo, The Daily Miller, Exclusive to The War Illustrated.

HMS Ark Royal Picture 2

British Official Crown Copyright.

HMS Ark Royal Picture 3

So often sunk by German propaganda, HMS Ark Royal was torpedoed on 13 November 1941 by U-81 and sank the next day. The fatal list to starboard is clearly noticeable in this photograph taken from the deck of the destroyer which rescued her crew. In the upper photograph the stricken ship is seen from another angle with some of her complement crowding over the side to be taken aboard the destroyer which thanks to calm weather, was able to come up alongside. The HMS Ark Royal, completed in November 1938, had a displacement of 27,000 tons full load, and was armed with sixteen 4 1/2 inch guns.
Photo, The Daily Miller, Exclusive to The War Illustrated.

HMS Ark Royal Picture 4

HMS Ark Royal Survivors, all smiles and congratulating themselves on their good fortune, arrive at Portsmouth. The HMS Ark Royal was torpedoed in the Mediterranean by U-81 on 13 November 1941. Though officially sunk by Joseph Goebbels on 26 September 1939, the HMS Ark Royal continued a glorious career, taking part in the hunt for the Admiral Graf Spee and the Norwegian campaign. In the Mediterranean last November one of her aircraft torpedoed an Italian battleship. She was at the bombardment of Genoa. And in the chase of the battleship Bismarck.

On 18 May 1941, the Kriegsmarine battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen began Operation Rheinübung by breaking into the Atlantic to raid shipping. After sinking the battlecruiser HMS Hood and damaging the battleship HMS Prince of Wales during the Battle of the Denmark Strait, Bismarck shook off her pursuers and headed for the French Atlantic coast. HMS Ark Royal, HMS Renown, and HMS Sheffield accompanied by HMS Faulknor, HMS Foresight, HMS Forester, HMS Fortune, HMS Foxhound, and HMS Fury were dispatched to the Atlantic on 23 May 1941 to search for the battleship. On 26 May 1941, a Swordfish from HMS Ark Royal located the battleship Bismarck and began to follow her, while the Home Fleet was mobilised to pursue.

At the time of finding the battleship Bismarck, the British ships were 130 nautical miles away and would not be able to catch the battleship Bismarck before she reached Saint-Nazaire. Fifteen Swordfish bombers were armed with torpedoes and sent to delay the ship. HMS Sheffield, also following the battleship Bismarck, which was between HMS Ark Royal and Bismarck. The aircraft mistakenly took the British cruiser for their target and fired torpedoes. The torpedoes were fitted with unreliable magnetic detonators, which caused most to explode on contact with the water, while HMS Sheffield evaded the rest. After realising his mistake, one of the pilots signalled Sorry to HMS Sheffield.

On return to HMS Ark Royal, the Swordfish were rearmed with contact detonator warheads, and launched at 1915 hrs for a second attack, managing to locate the battleship Bismarck just before sunset. Three torpedoes hit the battleship Bismarck, two impacted forward of the engine rooms, while the third struck the port steering room and jammed the battleship Bismarck rudder in a 15° port turn. The battleship Bismarck was forced to sail in circles until a combination of alternating propeller speeds was found which would keep her on a reasonably steady course which, in the prevailing force 8 wind and sea state, forced her to sail towards the British Royal Navy's warships with almost no manoeuvring capability. The battleship Bismarck suffered heavy attack during the night of 2627 May 1941, and sank at 1039 hrs on 27 May 1941.
Photo, Associated Press, badge by permission of HMSO.

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Sources

The Second Great War.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

The War Illustrated.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

2194 Days Of War.
ISBN-10: 086136614X

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