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. In this new account of those dramatic events at the height of the Second World War, Iain Ballantyne draws extensively on the graphic eye-witness testimony of veterans, to construct a thrilling story, mainly from the point of view of the British battleships, cruisers and destroyers involved. He describes the tense atmosphere as cruisers play a lethal cat and mouse game as they shadow Bismarck in the icy Denmark Strait. We witness the shocking destruction of the British battlecruiser Hood, in which all but three of her ship's complement were killed; an event that filled pursuing Royal Navy warships, including the battered battleship Prince of Wales, with a thirst for revenge. While Swordfish torpedo-bombers try desperately to cripple the Bismarck, we sail in destroyers on their own daring torpedo attacks, battling mountainous seas. Finally, the author takes us into the final showdown, as battleships Rodney and King George V, supported by cruisers Norfolk and Dorsetshire, destroy the pride of Hitler's fleet. This vivid, superbly researched account portrays this epic saga through the eyes of so-called 'ordinary sailors' caught up in extraordinary events. Killing the Bismarck is an outstanding read, conveying the horror and majesty of war at sea in all its cold brutality and awesome power.
Iain Ballantyne has spent time in most types of warship, from nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, to destroyers and frigates. Past assignments as a writer have taken him from the Arctic to minefields off war-torn Kuwait and into the Bosnian war zone.
He reported on patrols by British commandos in Ulster's 'Bandit Country' during The Troubles and also from Berlin as special guest of the German government at a time when it was working hard to persuade the world that reunification was a good idea.
Iain was one of a select few journalists aboard the carrier HMS Ark Royal when the pilot of a Sea Harrier shot down over the Balkans was rescued by Special Forces and returned to the ship.
In the early 1990s Iain also flew aboard a US Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier during flying operations off Libya - experiencing the full 'cats and traps' roller-coaster ride. He also accompanied Royal Marines on fast boat anti-smuggling patrols off Hong Kong prior to the 1997 hand over of the former British colony to China.
More recently, Iain was aboard a Royal Navy frigate during a NATO counter-terrorism exercise in the Mediterranean and the same year (2008) visited US Navy and British warships facing down the Iranian threat in the Northern Arabian Gulf.
Aside from being aboard the frigate HMS London when she was nearly hit by a torpedo launched by a Soviet submarine in 1991, during his visits to the USSR in its dying days Iain also came across a previously secret Russian prototype submarine at Balaclava in the Crimea. His report and photographs of the vessel when published were a world first.
During other forays into Russia Iain was allowed full access to the Kirov Works in St. Petersburg, which had manufactured Soviet T34 tanks during WW2 and secret military technology during the Cold War, also twice visiting the Kronstadt naval base (a restricted area). One memorable interview session with a Russian admiral involved 16 vodka toasts to 'the beautiful women of the world.'
In 1992 Iain was one of two writers spearheading an evening newspaper series on the industrial-naval city of Plymouth as it struggled to recover from post-Cold War defence cuts. His work played a pivotal role in securing the Evening Herald a top prize in the UK newspaper industry's national awards. The Evening Herald was named National Community Newspaper of the Year.
In 2007, Iain's work in the maritime arena was saluted with a Special Recognition Award from the British Maritime Charitable Foundation (BMCF), for making 'a consistent and unwavering contribution to raising maritime awareness over the years'.
In addition to being founding (and current) Editor of the naval news magazine WARSHIPS International Fleet Review, Iain continues to write for newspapers as well as magazines. His input for several years also infused and informed stories on naval affairs in the Sunday Telegraph and most recently in the Sunday Times.
Iain's books have been published by Orion, Pen & Sword and the US Naval Institute Press. In 2010 Iain's WW2 era book, 'Killing the Bismarck' (Pen & Sword), was awarded a 'Mountbatten Certificate of Merit' by a distinguished panel of judges who paid fulsome tribute to its qualities. Iain is an Associate Member of the HMS Warspite Association, a profile of the legendary battleship having been his first proper naval history book.