This book covers not only the most famous German battleship of the period, but also her sister ship. The text is concise and lavishly illustrated with b&w photographs, maps, sketches and drawings.
NAME: Battleships of the Bismarck Class, Warships of the Kriegsmarine
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Gerhard Koop, Klaus-Peter Schmolke
PUBLISHER: Seaforth, Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War Two, Second World War, naval architecture, marine technology, capital ships, German Navy, Kriegsmarine, battleships, fleet in being, Lancaster, X Craft, carrier aircraft, Lancaster bomber, earthquake bomb
DESCRIPTION: This book covers not only the most famous German battleship of the period, but also her sister ship. The text is concise and lavishly illustrated with b&w photographs, maps, sketches and drawings.
The Bismarck and the Tirpitz were developed from a WWI design. They were powerful and well-armoured capital ships that were intended to lead a very powerful fleet in a war to be begun in 1944. When Hitler miscalculated British and French responses to his invasion of Poland, the war began in 1939 when much of the planned tonnage had yet to be built. The result was that the Bismarck Class battleships were inadequately supported, lacking aircraft carriers and a balanced fleet.
Building the vessels was a challenge because they were too large for the births intended and innovative efforts were required to provide the length of cradle on which they would be constructed, Further innovation was required to ensure that they could successfully launch. During their construction, they faced air attack and the first action for Bismarck was in throwing up anti-aircraft fire before she was completed and taken into full service.
Bismarck was to sail and fight in a single voyage. Initially a successful voyage with the sinking of HMS Hood and the disabling of HMS Prince of Wales, Bismarck soon found the lack of air cover fatal. Tirpitz became a threat in being for Russian convoys, lurking in a northern fjord. She was targeted by midget submarines, carrier aircraft and finally by heavy bombers armed with earthquake bombs.
Whether Germany got value for money in building large capital ships is open to debate. Certainly they tied up RN warships, but effort would have been more profitably spent on submarines that offered a real prospect of doing serious damage. There must also be debate as to the probable situation had Germany been able to start the war in 1944. The completed capital ships in 1939 were totally inadequate to provide a fleet that could take on the Royal Navy in a formal battle similar to Jutland during WWI. Had the surface fleet building program been expanded and completed, it is still probable that the Kriegsmarine would have been unable to fight anything other than an inconclusive second Jutland. In all probability, even that is highly questionable because there was no adequate provision for air cover at sea, beyond the range of shore-based aircraft. Some have argued that by 1944, in the absence of British bombing and a peacetime supply of raw materials, the Germans would have been able to increase the size of their surface fleet, complete an adequate number of submarines and have the use of jet aircraft, rockets and an atom bomb. That is not a credible case because Germany was slow to bring advanced weapons into service until circumstances forced desperate measures. Had Hitler continued to take a series of steps to expanding Greater Germany, he is likely to have concentrated on land forces, of which he had some understanding, and on expanding East into Russia which had always been his real goal. His surface fleet would probably have been neglected just as it was from 1939, and production of older aircraft designs would have continued.