Distinguished Service Medal (GVI), 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Atlantic Star, War Medal, Defence Medal, Navy Long Service & Good Conduct (GVI), Petty Officer George Henry May, Royal Navy, H.M.S. Zulu. awarded the D.S.M. 6/7/1941, ‘For mastery Determination and skill in action against the German Battleship Bismarck’ The ‘Bismarck’ Operation – 7th Destroyer Division and ‘PIORUN’. His recommendation for award was “This man was in charge of the plot during the whole night. He was quick, efficient and untiring. Showed great devotion and coolness under fire.”
H.M.S. Zulu was frequently fired upon during the encounter and near the beginning were the primary target of the enemy, having many salvoes fired upon them.
The war for the Zulu was rarely without incident, she was present at a number of memorable actions, not least the famous Bismarck incident of May 1941, when she attracted the full wrath of the mighty German battleship’s armament – so, too, her fellow consorts from the the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, namely Cossack (Captain P. L. Vian, D.S.O., Flotilla C.O.), Maori and Sikh, all of whom had been called away at short notice from escorting convoy WS-8B. As described by Ludovic Kennedy in his definitive history Pursuit, Commander H. R. Graham, D.S.O., Zulu’s captain, and his crew, were on the receiving end of at least three Bismarck broadsides:
‘A few minutes later it was the turn of Commander Graham in Zulu. He too saw the white flashes of Bismarck’s guns stabbing the night, heard their thunder, sensed upheavals in the sea all round, as though a cluster of underwater geysers had suddenly erupted. To Sub.-Lieutenant James Galbraith in the gunnery control tower the Bismarck looked enormous, almost as though they were on top of her; and as well as the roar of her main armament he heard the sharp vicious cracks of the 15 cm. anti-personnel shells as they burst alongside in a shower of splinters. Another salvo followed, the glare from the enemy’s gun flashes lit up the long, white columns of the proceeding salvo, already collapsing in the wind, vast white miasmic ghosts. This salvo and a third straddled: splinters tore into the gunnery control tower, severed Galbraith’s wrist, wounded two ratings. Graham turned away … ’
Notwithstanding the ferocity of this opening encounter, Zulu and her crew returned to the fray to deliver a torpedo attack a little over an hour later. Ludovic Kennedy continues:
‘Commander Graham in Zulu was not far away, still looking for Bismarck, when the flashes of her salvoes at Maori lit her up. Like Armstrong he raced up to her port quarter, and when he was abeam fired starshell to light the target: as it burst over her at 1.37 a.m. he fired two torpedoes at two miles, and she at once opened fire. Graham had hoped to cross her bows to attack from the other side, but the fire was too hot. As Zulu withdrew, those on her bridge and upper deck looked hard at the enemy to see if they could observe a hit. At the time expected they were rewarded, first by ‘a bright glow that illuminated the water line of the ship from end to end’, seconds later by ‘a very vivid glare between the bridge and stem’, which was claimed as a second hit – though neither was indicative of a successful torpedo attack … ’
Whatever the true outcome of this gallantly delivered attack, Zulu returned home with convincing evidence of her recent brush with near annihilation, namely a nose-cap from one of Bismarck’s 15-inch shells – it had been found squashed flat on the fo’c’sle, looked like the head of a large fish and was duly placed on display in the wardroom and christened “The Bismarck Herring”.
D.S.M. in case of issue, with original medal slip, box of issue, packets of issue & signed congratulations from the Paymaster Lieutenant for his award of the D.S.M. the medals never being worn