Petty Officer MX57227 John RYDER, my graddad was born in Barnsley on 9th October 1919. He was by trade an engineer and on the outbreak of WW2 joined the Royal Navy. He made rank of Petty Officer and in early 1940 was amongst the crew of HMS Prince Of Wales.
Jack was aboard HMS PRINCE OF WALES when it engaged the German battleship BISMARCK
BATTLE OF DENMARK STRAIT
On 22 May 1941, Prince of Wales, the battlecruiser Hood and six destroyers were ordered to take station south of Iceland and intercept the German battleship Bismarck if she attempted to break out into the Atlantic. Captain John Leach knew that main-battery breakdowns were likely to occur, since Vickers Armstrongs technicians had already corrected some that took place during training exercises in Scapa Flow. These technicians were personally requested by the captain to remain aboard. They did so and played an important role in the resulting action.
The next day Bismarck, in company with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, was reported heading south-westward in the Denmark Strait. At 20:00 Vice-Admiral Lancelot Holland, in his flagship Hood, ordered the force to steam at 27 knots, which it did most of the night. His battle plan called for Prince of Wales and Hood to concentrate on Bismarck, while the cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk would handle Prinz Eugen. However the two cruisers were not informed of this plan because of strict radio silence. At 02:00, on 24 May, the destroyers were sent as a screen to search for the German ships to the north and at 02:47 Hood and Prince of Wales increased speed to 28 knots and changed course slightly to obtain a better target angle on the German ships. The weather improved, with ten-mile (16 km) visibility and crews were at action stations by 05:10.
At 05:37 an enemy contact report was made and course was changed to starboard to close range. Neither ship was in good fighting trim. Hood, designed twenty-five years earlier, lacked adequate horizontal protection and would have to close the range quickly, as she would become progressively less vulnerable to plunging shellfire at shorter ranges. She had completed an overhaul in March and her crew had not been adequately retrained. Prince of Wales, with thicker armour, was less vulnerable to 15-inch shells at ranges greater than 17,000 feet (5,200 m), but her crew had also not been trained to battle efficiency. The British ships made their last course change at 05:49, but they had made their approach too fine (the German ships were only 30 degrees on the starboard bow) and their aftturrets could not fire. Prinz Eugen, with Bismarck astern had the Prince of Wales and Hood slightly forward of the beam and both ships could deliver full broadsides.
At 05:53, despite seas breaking over the bows, Prince of Wales opened fire on Bismarck at 26,500 yards. There was some confusion among the British as to which ship was Bismarck and thirty seconds earlier Hood had mistakenly opened fire on Prinz Eugen as the German ships had similar profiles. Hood‘s first salvo straddled the enemy ship, but Prinz Eugen, in less than three minutes, scored 8-inch-shell hits on Hood. The first shots by Prince of Wales – two three-gun salvoes at ten second intervals – were 1,000 yards over.The turret rangefinders on Prince of Wales could not be used because of spray over the bow and fire was instead directed from the 15-foot (4.6 m) rangefinders in the control tower.
The sixth, ninth and thirteenth salvos were straddles and two decisive hits were made on Bismarck. One shell holed her bow and caused Bismarck to lose 1,000 tons of fuel oil, mostly to salt-water contamination. The other fell short, and entered Bismarck below her side armour belt, the shell exploded and flooded the auxiliary boiler machinery room and forced the shutdown of two boilers due to a slow leak in the boiler room immediately aft. The loss of fuel and boiler power were decisive factors in the Bismarck‘s decision to return to port. In Prince of Wales, “A1” gun ceased fire after the first salvo due to a defect. Sporadic breakdowns occurred until the decision to turn away was made and during the turn “Y” turret jammed.
Both German ships initially concentrated their fire on Hood and destroyed her with salvoes of 8- and 15-inch shells. An 8-inch shell hit the boat deck and struck a ready service locker for the UP rocket projectors and a fire blazed high above the first superstructure deck. At 05:58 at a range of 16,500 yards, the force commander ordered a turn of 20 degrees to port to open the range and bring the full battery of the British ships to bear on Bismarck. As the turn began, Bismarck straddled Hood with her third and fourth four-gun salvoes and at 06:01 the fifth salvo hit her, causing a large explosion. Flames shot up near Hood‘s masts, then an orange-coloured fireball and an enormous smoke cloud obliterated the ship. On Prince of Wales, it seemed that Hood collapsed amidships and the bow and stern could be seen rising as she rapidly settled. Prince of Wales made a sharp starboard turn to avoid hitting the debris and in doing so further closed the range between her and the German ships. In the four-minute action, Hood, the largest battlecruiser in the world, had been sunk. 1,419 officers and men were killed. Only three men survived.
Prince of Wales fired unopposed until she began a port turn at 05:57, when Prinz Eugen took her under fire. After Hood exploded at 06:01, the Germans opened intense and accurate fire on Prince of Wales, with 15-inch, 8-inch and 5.9-inch guns. A heavy hit was sustained below the waterline as Prince of Wales manoeuvred through the wreckage of Hood. At 06:02, a 15-inch shell struck the starboard side of the compass platform and killed the majority of the personnel there. The navigating officer was wounded, but Captain Leach was unhurt. Casualties were caused by the fragments from the shell’s ballistic cap and the material it dislodged in its diagonal path through the compass platform. A 15-inch diving shell penetrated the ship’s side below the armour belt amidships, failed to explode and came to rest in the wing compartments on the starboard side of the after boiler rooms. The shell was discovered and defused when the ship was docked at Rosyth.
At 06:05 Captain Leach decided to disengage and laid down a heavy smokescreen to cover Prince of Wales‘s escape. Following this, Leach radioed the Norfolk that the Hood had been sunk and then proceeded to join the Norfolk roughly 15 to 17 miles astern of theBismarck. Throughout the day the British ships continued to chase the Bismarck until at 18:16 when Suffolk sighted the Bismarck at 22,000 yards. Prince of Wales then proceeded to open fire on Bismarck at an extreme range of 30,300 yards, she fired twelve salvos but owing to the range all of them missed. At 01:00 on 25 May Prince of Wales once again regained contact and proceeded to open fire at a radar range of 20,000 yards, after observers believed that she had scored a hit on Bismarck, Prince of Wales’s “A” turret temporarily jammed leaving her with only six operational guns. After losing the Bismarck owing to poor visibility and after searching for twelve hours Prince of Wales headed for Iceland and would take no further part in actions against the Bismarck.
Jack was never to return to HMS Prince Of Wales, something that can be considered quite fortunate considering the fate of the ship on 10th December 1941. Instead he was to serve on a number of other destroyers one of which was HMS VALIANT.
At the end of hostilities Jack resumed a civilian life living at 57 Victoria Street, Penistone, Sheffield. He married Ivy RUSHFORTH at Staincross, Barnsley in 1970. Ivy my grand mother of another marriage. My true graddad had passed away shortly after my birth. Jack could not have been a better granddad. He was employed in a managerial capacity at the John BROWN factory in Penistone.
He passed away in 1982 at Oldham Royal Infirmary after a long battle with illness. He was cremated at Barnsley cemetery.