location and destination of the Bismarck became
a matter of wide speculation among the British.
If she had been heavily damaged by the Prince
of Wales, would she double back and return to
Germany? If she was only slightly damaged, would
she head for the French coast for repairs or
rendezvous with a naval auxiliary vessel to accomplish
any necessary repairs at sea? Would she rendezvous
with a tanker to take on more fuel? Would she
immediately begin operations against convoys
in the North Atlantic? The British did not have
sufficient resources to adequately cover all
of those possibilities, so it became a matter
of assessing their probabilities and prioritising
the allocation of resources to cover the various
Admiral Tovey continued to sail in a
south-westerly direction while the Prince
of Wales was ordered to remain on a southerly
course and join his task force. Force H,
now more urgently required than before,
was proceeding northward off Spain after
leaving its convoy a few hours earlier.
Other units of the Royal Navy were also
converging on the area to assist in the
search for the Bismarck.
As soon as it became light enough on
the morning of 25 May, the Victorious was
ordered to make an air search to the north-west
for the Bismarck, but by that time she
was already south-east of that area and
heading further away. Several Swordfish
took off and after a search of several
hours, they returned without success. One
Swordfish did not return and was lost without
That morning Admiral Lütjens, apparently
in the belief that he was still under radar
observation by the British cruisers that
had been trailing him, began transmitting
a long message to the German Naval High
Command. In this message, he reported on
the action that took place on the previous
morning against the Hood and Prince of
Wales. He then described the damage sustained
by the Bismarck and his intention to head
for St. Nazaire for necessary repairs.
He commented on the effectiveness of British
radar and other circumstances that adversely
affected the accomplishment of his mission.
The German Naval High Command had not
intercepted any further sighting reports
from the Suffolk since the last one sent
out during the night before the Bismarck
made her attempt to break away. Convinced
that contact had actually been broken,
they immediately advised Lütjens of
this and ordered him to cease transmission.
The Bismarck had apparently been receiving
radar signals from the Suffolk, but they
were in fact not strong enough to be reflected
from the Bismarck and be received by the
Suffolk. Lütjens believed that the
British radar had a range in excess of
the 23,000 meter (25,000) yards it actually
The British intercepted Lütjens'
transmission at several locations, but
their radio direction-finders within range
were roughly in a line and therefore could
point only in the same general direction.
They did not have a direction-finder situated
far enough at an angle to the transmission
where it could cut across the lines of
the other direction-finders and enable
them to pin-point its position by triangulation.
The direction indicated did, however, give
a clue to the course of the Bismarck based
on the last known position of the ship.
It was now almost certain that she was
heading for the French coast, and further
search efforts would be concentrated in
During the day of 25 May, the Bismarck
was forced to reduce her speed during the
day to a more economical 20 knots instead
of her maximum sustained speed of 28 knots.
A repair crew was later able to bypass
some of the damaged pipes and valving and
thereby allow part of the fuel reserves
earlier cut off to be tapped for use, but
this only slightly alleviated the problem.
At about 1030, an observer aboard one of
the aircraft spotted the wake of a ship below,
and the pilot (Dennis Briggs) immediately
turned the plane toward the ship for a closer
look. As soon as the ship could be identified
as a large warship, possibly a battleship,
its position was radioed back to their base.
As soon as the Catalina flying boat had come
into view, the Bismarck immediately opened
fire on it with her anti-aircraft batteries,
thereby advertising the fact that she was
an enemy warship. About an hour after being
spotted by the Catalina, the Bismarck had
another unwelcome intruder, a Swordfish on
a scouting mission from the Ark Royal, which
had just arrived in the area with Force H.
After more than 31 hours of breaking contact,
the Bismarck had been discovered again.
Soon the light cruiser Sheffield, also
from Force H, was spotted by the Bismarck.
Now that the Bismarck had been discovered,
it would just be a matter of time before
all of the available resources of the Royal
Navy would be thrown against her.