by James Crossley
Barnsely, So. Yorks: Pen & Sword/Havertown, Pa.: Casemate, 2010. Pp. vi, 170.
Illus., maps, diagr., appends., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1848842503
In Bismarck, Crossley, author of several works on the Royal Navy, such as British Destroyers 1892-1918, takes a fresh look at what was indeed an “Epic Chase”, one that began when the Germany battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen slipped into the Atlantic on May 21, 1941, in a bid to disrupt Britain’s maritime commerce.
This sortie initiated a week long (May 21-27, 1941) cat-and-mouse game with the Royal Navy that by its end saw massive disruptions in maritime traffic, two great ships sunk with terrible loss of life, and British domination of the Atlantic intact. Of course, this story has been told before, and was even the subject of the rather good motion picture Sink the Bismarck!. What Crossley has done is to bring to the tale a hard analytical look at the decisions, actions, and options available to the commanders, something usually missing in earlier works. Thus, he discusses why Bismarck’s fuel tanks were not properly topped off before the sortie and why Hood, despite her inadequate armor and poor radar, was placed ahead of Prince of Wales as they approached the German vessels, and addresses the curious question of whether Bismarck sank
due to British firepower or was scuttled by her crew, among other matters, while conductin a running critique of the decisions made by the principal commanders on both sides.
Albeit unfortunately lacking in references, Bismarck: The Epic Chase is worthwhile reading for anyone interested in war at sea and in the Atlantic War in particular.