Final Ten Minutes
Holland's plan was solid, except for one problem: over an hour before the battle was to commence, Suffolk's radar lost contact with the German ships and in the Arctic mist a visual sighting was unlikely. During the break in contact the German ships altered course, and so when the two forces finally sighted one another the advantage sought by Holland had been lost. It was now a pure meeting engagement.
The British ships opened fire first, accidentally targeting the Prinz Eugen which they had mistaken for the Bismarck (the ships' profiles were quite similar). The Germans held their fire for several minutes while they maneuvered closer. Realizing that they had opened fire on the German cruiser and not the battleship, the British began to shift their fire accordingly.
Bismarck was struck several times, but not fatally. One shell nicked her amidships, another passed clear through the bow without hitting anything vital. Another shell in the bow damaged the forward fuel tanks, causing some flooding and an oil slick, which although it later helped the British find the Bismark in the Atlantic, during the Battle of the Denmark Strait caused no real harm to the German warship.
Three minutes after the HMS Hood crewmembers put their big fifteen inch guns into action, the Bismarck's fifteen inch guns returned the favor. In short order the Germans' capable gunnery had scored hits on the Hood and Prince of Wales both, and on the Hood had caused a fire in a storage area for small anti-destroyer and anti-aircraft cannons not currently being used.