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A genuine classic of naval literature,
This review is from: The Battleship "Bismarck": A Survivor's Story (Hardcover)Few episodes of the second world war at sea seem to have the same allure for writers as the events surrounding the sinking of the Bismarck. The result is a profusion of books on the subject, which seems to grow year by year.
However, many of these books are little more than reheats of well-known information, and very few are as worthwhile a read as this account, written by the Bismarck's senior surviving officer, von Mullenheim-Rechberg, who served in her after fire control station.
There are several reasons for this; first, the author seems to have a knack for anticipating precisely the sort of information the reader wants to know; second, having occupied a senior role on board ship, he writes with some authority; third, by broadening his account beyond the immediate circumstances of operation "Rhine Exercise", he provides a rare insight into what life was like in the wartime German navy.
More broadly, he also gives the reader a fascinating insight into the mindset of those numerous Germans, who, while not being supporters of the Nazi regime, nevertheless served loyally in its armed forces, in many cases at the cost of their lives.
Among the many outstanding features of this book is the way that the author attempts to look at events from the point of view of Admiral Lutjens as the operation unfolded, presenting a most useful view from what Liddell-Hart memorably described as "other side of the hill". He also paints a far more interesting portrait of her commander, Captain Lindemann, than many of the two-dimensional accounts that one comes across.
A further, and poignant aspect of this account is the way in which the author charts the rapid swings in moral as one side then the other seemed to gain the upper hand, followed by the terrible realisation on board that this was a mission which few would survive.
Much credit is also due to Jack Sweetman, the book's translator, whose excellent work has ensured a highly readable narrative, free of the silly mistakes sometimes made by those unfamiliar with naval terminology.
All in all this a book that both the naval enthusiast and the more general reader will find hard to put down, and one of those select titles that truly merits the description "classic".