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Almost as though the X-Craft failed!
on 21 June 2013
Operation Source, mounted in September 1943 was a daring naval attack on the Bismarck's sister ship Tirpitz holed up in a Norwegian Fjord. Six British miniature submarines (X-Craft) were towed to Norway from Scotland. X-5, 6 & 7 were to attack the Tirpitz, X-8 the Lützow and X-9 & 10 the Scharnhorst. X-8, 9 and 10, however, failed to mount their attacks leaving the Tirpitz as the only target. X-6 and X-7 succeeded in placing their charges below the battleship before both craft had to be abandoned with six of the combined crews of eight men being rescued and taken on board the Tirpitz from where they saw X-5 destroyed at close range. To this day, it not known whether X-5 was retreating after having placed her own charges or was pressing home her attack when sunk. The commanders of X-6 (Donald Cameron) and X-7 (Godfrey Place) both received the Victoria Cross. Henty-Creer, commander of X-5, received only a Mention in Despatches - an award which remains contentious to this day!
Thought still afloat, the Tirpitz was now incapable of going to sea and would have been destroyed had the Germans attempted to tow her all the way back to Germany for repair. In the last stages of the war, she was moved to another location where she was rested on the seabed and used as a static gun battery. As such, she was eventually destroyed by RAF bombers from the Dambuster Squadron. In one RAF museum in the UK, I saw an RAF account of the sinking of this great ship which afforded no credit to those X-Craft whose deeds created a situation whereby the Tirpitz was a sitting target at the time she was finally sunk! But I digress.
In this extensive work by Patrick Bishop, we appear to have a number of additional elements to the entire story of the loss of the Tirpitz which, for many authors, ends with the X-Craft attacks and the immediate aftermath. In this account, however, we have the added intrigue of secret agents and mention of 24 different operations to sink the mighty warship - ranging from the foolhardy to the ridiculous, although all were brave.
The book is well written and quite comprehensive to which the author brings two very clear abilities; Firstly, he has undertaken all the requisite research - essential to a work of this nature. Secondly, he has a most engaging style of writing. All things considered, therefore, I learned a great deal more about a story of which I already knew much.
My problems with the work are, however, twofold; Firstly, the remarkable, outstandingly brave and dramatic events of Operation Source are such that a number of Hollywood movies have been based on the exploits of those X-Craft commanders. To my knowledge, none have been based on the RAF operation which finally sank this battleship. In this work, I was disappointed to find the heroism of success almost entirely laid at the feet of those Aircrews in such a way that one `might' even come away believing Operation Source had been a complete failure!
My second problem concerns the way in which the book is finally produced. 390 pages tightly packed into a paperback measuring 7¾x 5 in. (198 x 128 mm) is a very thick book. With the writing tightly squeezed to the edges of each page, the reader will find themselves struggling at times to read what is written close the book's central crease.
A curious assortment of diagrams and photographs are reproduced on the low-quality paper used for the text in addition a further 32 historic photographs on glossy paper placed together in two sections.