The Battle of the Denmark Strait was a Second World War naval battle between ships of the Royal Navy and the German Kriegsmarine, fought on 24 May 1941. The British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Hood fought 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.
The Battle of the Denmark Strait, also known as the Iceland Battle, was a brief naval engagement of little more than a quarter of an hour. It was a clash of titans in which the largest warships in the world were put to the test, and it will be remembered as a battle that ended in the sinking of a mythic ship.
This engagement composed of one German formation and two British formations. The German formation included the battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. The first British formation included the heavy cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk. The second formation included the battlecruiser Hood and the battleship Prince of Wales.
At 0537 on 24 May, Holland's group made contact with the German ships in the Denmark Strait. German sailors identified Prince of Wales as King George V, as they did not believe Prince of Wales had been deployed to sea yet. The mis-identification was understandable. Prince of Wales was rushed to action without proper shakedown and training; in fact, while underway to intercept the two German ships, shipyard workers traveled aboard the battleship to frantically work on mechanical problems with her main armament. At 0552, Hood opened fire first at a distance of approximately 26,500 yards or about 13 nautical miles, then Prince of Wales followed suit. They first fired on the lead ship, which Holland had incorrectly assumed to be Bismarck. The mistake was detected and the order amended, but Hood, for whatever reason, continued to fire on the lead ship Prinz Eugen for some time longer. Both British ships continued to close in on their German counterparts.
Prince of Wales opened fire at a distance of 26,500 yards (24,300 m) with her six forward 14” (35.6 cm) guns. Bismarck was about a mile astern of Prinz Eugen. The first salvo from Prince of Wales fell wide about 1,640 yards (1,500 m) astern of Bismarck. Suddenly, the No. 1 gun in A turret on Prince of Wales failed to operate leaving her with only five guns available forward. Her second, third and fourth salvos were also wide. Hood’s first two salvos fell short of Prinz Eugen. Puzzled, Brinkmann and Lindemann wondered why the British targeted the smaller ship. The German guns remained silent.