The Battle of Denmark Strait (aka the Battle of Iceland) occurred on May 24, 1941 when the Kriegsmarine battleship Bismarck along with cruiser Prinz Eugen attempted a breakout into the Atlantic Ocean through Denmark Strait (between Greenland and Iceland). Their mission was to go into the Atlantic and attack Allied supply convoys en route across the ocean. This was, of course, a matter of great concern for the Royal Navy, and so ships were put on patrol everywhere from Greenland to Scotland.

Among the ships on patrol were cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk in the Denmark Strait, and it was the Suffolk that made first contact with the two German ships at approximately 1915 hrs on May 23. Battlecruisers Hood and Prince of Wales along with several destroyers were immediately dispatched to the area, meeting up with the patrolling cruisers and pursuing the enemy. After a chase that went on all night long the Hood fired the first shots of the battle at 0552 hrs. It was a battle of the titans, with the legendary Hood facing off against the state-of-the-art Bismarck. The Hood's first shots were mistakenly aimed at Prinz Eugen and so not as much damage was done to Bismarck as could have been. Both German ships concentrated their fire on the Hood, and after a short battle the Prince of Wales retreated, leaving Bismarck and Prinz Eugen to sail away. HMS Hood, one of the most feared warships of the Royal Navy, had been sunk by Bismarck at 0601, leaving only 3 survivors from a crew of 1418 men.

The Hood did not go unavenged, however, as the Bismarck was hunted down and sunk on May 27. Prinz Eugen managed to escape and arrived safely at Brest on June 1.

In spite of the short time it took, the Battle of Denmark Strait was very important to the course of the war. Had Bismarck and Prinz Eugen managed to break out into the Atlantic unnoticed they could have caused serious damage to the Allied war effort. Fortunately the Royal Navy was able to prevent that, although the loss of the Hood was a very high price to pay.

Sources:
http://www.kbismarck.com/
http://hmshood.com/

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