28th March 1922 –
Bismarck leaves builders

bismarck leaves elbeOn 28th March 1922, Bismarck was towed out from the Blohm & Voss shipyard at Hamburg by two Belgian tugs. She was anchored overnight off Cuxhaven, and then preliminary trials were conducted. Bismarck had been allocated to Britain in late 1919 by the Allied Reparations Committee, after the Great War. In 1921 it was agreed that Cunard and White Star would jointly buy Imperator and Bismarck, but would retain separate ownership. Cunard paid £0.5 million and White Star paid £1 million for their respective vessels, each to be paid in ten instalments. Each line agreed to pay to the other one-half of the net profits of the ship it operated, using a pool system to share the profits.

Bismarch fuelling for trialsFinally, after taking on fuel, on 1st April 1922, still in her original Hapag livery and with “Bismarck” defiantly painted on her bows, she headed out into the North Sea, under Captain Hans Ruser, for her sea trials. There were several representatives of White Star aboard, including Captain Bertram Hayes, to study her performance. This was to be the only time she ever sailed under her German name in German colours with a German captain.

bismarck and tugOn her return to Cuxhaven, the builders were given a final week to finish off work on the interiors. Once completed, on 9th April the German seamen and workers still aboard left on a harbour tender, and immediately after Captain Hayes and the British crew boarded. As soon as Captain Hayes had officially taken command, the British seamen quickly repainted the funnels in White Star colours, then painted out the name “Bismarck” on the bows and stern, replacing it with “Majestic”. Once in command, Bertram Hayes formally assumed the rank of Commodore of White Star’s fleet. Finally, the Red Ensign was hoisted, and later that day Majestic sailed for Southampton, watched in total silence by thousands of Germans, who lined the river banks.