Killing the Bismarck
Killing the Bismarck
From the sleeve notes:
‘A harrowing insight into the unremitting cruelty of war at sea, as well as the courage and compassion of frail humans pitted against savage weather and plunged into brutal combat…’
In May 1941, the German battleship Bismarck, accompanied by heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, broke out into the Atlantic to attack Allied shipping. The Royal Navy ‘s pursuit and subsequent destruction of Bismarck was an epic of naval warfare. Astonishingly, nearly seventy years on, this new book by Iain Ballantyne, Killing the Bismarck, alters our perception of this legendary episode, by focusing on the eyewitness accounts of British sailors, marines and carrier aviators, some of them published for the first time in a compelling narrative. During this action-packed story we go aboard cruisers playing a lethal cat and mouse game as they shadow Bismarck and experience the horror of the British battlecruiser Hood’s destruction, a disaster that filled the men of pursuing Royal Navy units with a thirst for revenge.
We fly in Swordfish torpedo-bombers as valiant aircrews take off in atrocious weather and defy storms of anti-aircraft fire during desperate bids to cripple Bismarck. We sail in destroyers as they make daring torpedo attacks, battling mountainous seas. During the final showdown battleships Rodney and King George V, supported by cruisers, destroy the pride of Hitler’s fleet in a close-quarters battle, the terrible reality of which has never been fully depicted in print before.
We also experience Winston Churchill’s anxious vigil and learn of the key role the victory played in establishing the ‘Special Relationship’ between the USA and UK. The author analyses the myths surrounding Bismarck and her destruction, considering whether they have any substance. Included are portraits of the short fighting lives of legendary British warships, such as the battleship Prince of Wales and destroyer Cossack as well as men who sailed to death or glory in them.
Providing a harrowing insight into the unremitting cruelty of war at sea, as well as the courage and compassion of frail humans pitted against savage weather and plunged into brutal combat, Killing the Bismarck is delivered with the verve of a novel, taking the reader on a roller-coaster ride in which each twist and turn yields new shocks.
The book raises the question of whether the Bismarck tried to surrender? – more details of the media coverage this inspired here.
Pen & Sword Maritime,
Published: 12 July 2010
Any enquiries regarding ‘Killing the Bismarck’ should be
emailed direct to Iain Ballantyne
‘The definitive account of the British part in the battle.’
‘The paperback edition provides some fascinating updates to Iain Ballantyne’s earlier hardback and is justly recognised as the definitive account of the British part in the battle.’
Julian Stockwin on julianstockwin.com
'I have just finished reading Iain Ballantyne's magnum opus - an aphorism I use entirely without irony, for “Killing the Bismarck” is a truly towering work.It will surely become - indeed I imagine it is already - a “must read” for any future historian looking at these dramatic and terrible events.’
Rob White, award-winning documentary filmmaker, whose notable works include `The Battle of Hood and Bismarck'
‘...an excellent account of the short lived operations of the Bismarck...Despite knowing the outcome of the events of May 27, 1941, Iain Ballantyne has managed to pen a suspenseful narrative that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.’
Ballantyne energetically moves readers page-by-page through the action, using perspectives from sailors aboard the many British warships and in the cockpits of the Swordfish torpedo-bombers. Through firsthand viewpoints, readers experience the loss of Hood with only three survivors, the frantic air and sea search to re-establish contact with Bismarck, and the gripping action as carrier-launched aircraft and an assortment of British naval vessels aggressively hunted and sank Bismarck. This book would appeal to a history enthusiast as well as a professional naval historian as an excellent and concise one-volume history of Bismarck, or a launching point into the many more detailed technical, naval, and political history aspects.’
Chris Cartellone , Texas A&M University, writing in the (US-based) Nautical Research Journal.
I commend Mr Ballantyne for his very honest account of the necessity to utterly destroy the Bismarck, thus avenging the loss of over 1,400 men from HMS Hood. It is riveting and very well written. He describes one aspect about war at sea that few other authors have. Specifically, he gives us a real sense of the remorselessness of the sea on the body and mind; the horrific effects of explosives on a ship and on the flesh of its sailors. He conveys the meaning of the totality of warfare upon the great waters.’
Captain John Rodgaard, United States Navy (Retired) writing in The Mariner’s Mirror.
‘The title, “Killing the Bismarck”, reflects the determination of all involved, including Winston Churchill himself, to see the German battleship destroyed and the catastrophic loss of the Hood avenged. The author goes beyond the Bismarck episode to tell what happened to the ships of the Royal Navy later in the war. Finally, there is a discussion of a number of the myths and uncertainties surrounding the Bismarck affair. This is probably the best dramatic narrative of the “killing”, told not only in terms of steel and ordnance, but also flesh and blood.’ Warship World
‘This is one of the most compelling accounts of a naval battle that I had read, with some of the best (and most brutal) descriptions of the fighting itself.’
History of War.org