Anatomy of the Ship, The Battleship Bismarck

B1934

The publisher has built an unrivalled reputation for detailed technical drawings of warships. This new release provides a superb presentation of the German battleship Bismarck.

The established series presentation has been followed. The book begins with concise and effective text, providing a history of the vessel, followed by a selection of outstanding photographs. The main body of the book is given to a collection of excellent technical drawings to declared scales. It is unlikely that this book will ever be bettered in its field.

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NAME: Anatomy of the Ship, The Battleship Bismarck
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
DATE: 070214
FILE: R1934
AUTHOR: Jock Brower
PUBLISHER: Comway, Anova
BINDING: soft back
PAGES: 158
PRICE: £16.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Armour, big gun, battleship, capital ship, WWII, World War Two, Second World War, German re-armament, sea chase, German Navy, air power, carriers, torpedo aircraft, radar, maritime patrol
ISBN: 978-1-84486-224-5
IMAGE: B1934.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/pj79du5
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: The publisher has built an unrivalled reputation for detailed technical drawings of warships. This new release provides a superb presentation of the German battleship Bismarck.

The established series presentation has been followed. The book begins with concise and effective text, providing a history of the vessel, followed by a selection of outstanding photographs. The main body of the book is given to a collection of excellent technical drawings to declared scales. It is unlikely that this book will ever be bettered in its field.

The main traditional readership for this fine series of ship exposures is the model and model engineering fraternity. However, this book is very aggressively priced and even within the budget of young readers who may be interested in ships and history more than in modelling. Any reader who wants to understand fully the naval warfare of WWII must read books like this.

No space has been wasted. Fine line drawings appear in fold-out covers.

There is only one constraint. The drawings include large-scale subjects where there are smaller items of ship equipment, of better than 1:50, but full ship profiles and lines must be executed at smaller scale of 1:550 to fit inside the page sizes. This presents no difficulty for the most serious model engineer, producing a very large and highly detailed model, because the drawings can be copied and rendered at larger size where necessary. To attempt to produce all technical drawings at a standard size would require a larger, more costly book and provide smaller scale drawings of minor components and smaller equipment, where the greatest detail is important.

The subject achieved fame for sinking the British flagship HMS Hood, and being pounded into defeat by an avenging British Fleet. The real story of the design and construction of this warship and her very limited deployment is rather more complex.

KMS Bismarck was based on a German WWI design and produced as part of Hitler’s intention of building a fully scheduled blue water fleet in time to launch a war on neighbouring nations in 1944. His miscalculation of British and French reaction to his invasion of Poland resulted in a navy that was a long way from being war ready. The number of U-Boats was significantly below the required number to seize dominance of the Atlantic and cut the British supply lines from North America. The surface fleet was even less ready. The armoured cruisers built for commerce raiding were inadequate in numbers for their task and unprepared for the courage of much smaller Allied cruisers. They were also poorly suited for fleet actions because they were built for fuel economy and overwhelming firepower against merchant ships and small convoy escorts. The other surface ships included some very competent designs for battleships, battle cruisers, heavy cruisers, light cruisers and fleet destroyers, but in small number, a long way short of matching the Royal Navy, even in the British home fleet located at Scapa Flow.

The result was that the German Navy had to plan fast hit-and-run voyages, where their capital ships did just enough to persuade the Royal Navy that they were a potent threat that would tie down a disproportionate British naval force. That threat was to continue through most of WWII and only ended with the sinking of the Tirpitz and Scharnhorst in the late stages of war.

The limited voyages had to be planned to coincide with difficult weather to cloak the break out and give the small squadron a head start to allow them to quickly come under air cover from airfields in France as they sought protection in occupied French ports. With the lack of aircraft carriers, not intended in service until 1944, German capital ships were potentially vulnerable outside home port.

Before the one voyage to end in failure, Bismarck had only used her guns in air defence, first firing at attacking aircraft before becoming operational. Bismarck and her escort were spotted early in their voyage and lost the surprise they desperately needed. They met HMS Hood, which was a grossly over-rated WWI design with the lack of deck armour required to protect magazines against plunging fire, and HMS Prince of Wales which was a newly completed member of the KGV class battleships, still with builders aboard when she sailed. The loss of Hood was a serious psychological blow to the British, as was the damage to the new Prince of Wales, but the real significance was that Bismarck had neutralized the first British ships that were intended to slow her down so that the main fleet could come to their support. At that point, Bismarck’s voyage was a success and promised to produce a total success with safe docking in France and future voyages to hold down British vessels to contain those voyages.

Aircraft were to prove effective in recovering the situation. A Catalina flying boat regained contact with Bismarck and FAA carrier torpedo bombers were launched to attack her, causing damage to fuel tanks and steering gear. That was sufficient to enable the main British Fleet to catch up and sink the Bismarck.

The lesson was that Bismark was a capable battleship in actions against other battleships, particularly the inadequately armoured Hood. A full fleet of German warships in 1944 would probably have created a re-run of WWI when the German High Seas Fleet was able to maintain a balance with the British Fleet and produce an inconclusive battle where German ships survived better than British ships but were still forced back to their home port and bottled up there by the RN. What made even this possibility unlikely was that the aeroplane had developed at such a pace before 1939 that fleet actions were in future determined by carrier aircraft. In the Pacific, where Japan had built its intended fleet, and this included vessels superior to American battleships, all the fleet actions were determined by aircraft, starting with the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbour that gave Japan a narrow window of opportunity to rapidly advance across the Pacific islands and threaten Australia. Had they managed to destroy the US carriers in port, they might have forced a disadvantageous armistice with the US. The failure to take out the US carriers led to later actions where US carrier aircraft determined the outcome in favour of the US.

As a detailed description of the Bismarck, this is a highly commended book that deserves to sell far beyond its prime reader targets.

It may be time to wonder how long books of this type and quality will be published. Today, a serious modeller may wait for the soft back edition and its much lower price than a first hard back edition. Some may buy the hard back and hope that the soft back is not too long in publishing. They will then carefully unbind the soft back so that each page can be easily scanned and, in its digital form, be taken into a 3D drafting system.

Once this has been done, all the necessary drawings can be produced to a common scale and printed out to form the drawings necessary to cut parts and construct the model. For working models, the drawings can be adapted on the computer to cater for radio control equipment and other modifications to produce a very impressive working scale model.

With the rapid reduction in the cost of 3D printing, all of the smaller components that currently are purchased from specialist model component manufacturers, can be printed directly from the drawings in plastic or metal. There will still be model engineers who insist on building every part themselves, but high quality models will become a hobby that those with lower skills, or less time, will be able to participate in, by using 3D printing.

That then raises the question of whether special interest books like this will be published in future on paper, when the publisher could create a set of digital files that can be used directly in 3D drafting systems. It also raises many questions about the future of printed books in general. Those of us, who grew up before the digital age began to penetrate book publishing, still prefer to handle paper books, even if we are highly skilled in electronic processing and owners of a comprehensive set of digital computing, reading and communicating products. That may change as electronic systems continue to evolve and include new functionality.

However, it is clear that electronic publishing provides a new set of opportunities where the written word and drawings can be compiled in the same way that music compilations have been produced for many years. In the context of this fine Conway publication, there is the potential for the reader to take digital sections from many difference related sources, and compile a unique electronic book that is interactive and capable of outputting to a 3D printer, from the digital images and drawings.

It is now a marketing question rather than a technical question. In the short term, readers may continue to buy and value paper books, but also acquire electronic versions of the whole or parts of the book. In the longer term, publishers may begin to act as a library of digital files that can be purchased as necessary and combined uniquely by the reader. There may also be a new industry of compilers in much the same way as music compilations became an additional layer to music publishing.

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