This abundantly illustrated book is definitely a worthwhile addition to the Bismarck canon. Here’s what you get:
First, 40 pages covering historic background through commissioning.
Next, 60 pages covering the famous sortie into the Atlantic.
These historic sections are heavily photo illustrated, which is both good, but also bad. The photos, while including all the famous ones, do have many not seen in other Bismarck histories. However, the text is actually fairly brief, and while it covers all the essentials, there is not in-depth operational coverage.
Next comes roughly 50 technical pages subdivided into topics like armament, fire control, and boats, and on to topics like anchors and chains, smoke generators, and sound locators (these last are representative of an interesting level of technical detail not easily found elsewhere).
Roughly 10 pages on “Paint Schemes” have nice color profile drawings of Bismarck as painted during all phases of its short career. Elsewhere in the book are color profiles of the Prinz Eugen and even of each of the German destroyers that escorted Bismarck as far as Norway. The Arado floatplanes get color profiles as well. Plus there are a couple of pages capturing the few photos that exist of Bismarck in color.
There is then a short section on James Cameron’s Bismarck diving expedition (in which the author participated) accompanied by eerie underwater color photographs of the wreck (as usual, due to lighting limitations these are always tight shots of fairly small areas).
Twenty pages then offer photos of a couple of outstanding Bismarck models, one in 1:100 scale. Such hyper-detailed models are often the easiest way to visualize key design details, since the photography is inevitably better than it is ever possible to get of an actual ship. (The book is on high quality, but not high gloss, paper, so while photographic fidelity is very good, it is not of the absolute highest possible range.)
Lastly, 40 pages of appendices cover things like ranks, flags, survivors’ names, and other pertinent miscellany.
Overall, a very good book. The huge number of illustrations and level of detail in certain areas make this book well worth a look by modelers and by those fascinated with the dramatic story of this particular ship. Those whose interests are more oriented towards naval or military history may find it just a bit light on substance; hence four stars rather than five.