U-556 WAR DIARY
(26-27 May 1941)
26 May 1941. Position 640 miles west of Land's End. Wind NW, force 8, Sea 5. Weather clear, slightly overcast. Visibility medium to good.
1531. While submerged on account of aircraft several explosions, apparently gun-fire.
1948. Alarm. A battleship of the King George class and an aircraft carrier, probably the Ark Royal, came in right through the mist from astern, travelling at high speed. Bows to the right, inclination 170º. If only I had had a few torpedoes! I would not even had to manoeuvre - I was just perfectly placed for an attack. No destroyers, no zig-zagging! I could have stayed where I was and got them both. Torpedo-carrying aircraft observed operating from carrier.
I might have been able to help the Bismarck.
2039. Surfaced. Made signal: "Enemy in sight, one battleship, one aircraft carrier, course 115º, high speed. Square BE5332 (48º 20' north, 16º 20' west)." Made further signals reporting loss of contact and bearing by hydrophone until 2206. With what remained of my oil fuel I did my best to follow the enemy. Submerged to use hydrophones and report results; sent beacon signals.
2330. Alarm. A destroyer suddenly appeared out of the mist.
I had just reached 90 feet when she hurtled over our heads.
In the boat we could hear the noise of her propellers.
But luck was with us.
No depth charges.
27 May. Wind NW. Force 8. Sea 5. Intermittent rain squalls.
Visibility medium. Night very dark.
What could I now do to help Bismarck?
Observed star shells and Bismarck returning enemy's fire.
It's a horrible feeling to be so near and yet not to be able to do anything.
The only thing I can do now is to keep a lookout and direct those U-boats which still have torpedoes to the scene of action.
Am maintaining contact at extreme range of visibility and signalling to lead the other boats to the area.
0352. I turned south in order to keep abeam of the running fight.
My fuel supply is all but exhausted and I shall soon have to break off, if I am to reach base.
0400. Sea now running higher than ever.
Bismarck still putting up a fight.
Sent in weather report for the Air Force and at 0630 made last signal giving position.
Sighted U-74 and handed over to her the task of maintaining contact.
The only way I can remain in position is by proceeding at slow speed on my batteries.
On the surface I should have to use last oil fuel and return to base.
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