Bismark and Hood...

...The Battle of the Denmark Strait, a Technical Analysis for a New Perspective, from Fonthill Media

Title: Bismarck and Hood
Author: Marco Santarini

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-633-7

A new paperback edition of this intriguing book which looks at the events of one of the most famous naval actions of WW2, the sinking of HMS Hood by the Bismarck during the Battle of the Denmark Strait.  The biggest single loss of life suffered by the Royal Navy during the war, there were just 3 survivors from a crew of 1,418.

The author is a Rear Admiral in the Italian Navy and a gunnery expert, and that expertise is evident.  The book is so much more than just a chronology of events, as it explores warship design of the period following WW1 and the German rearmament.  Technology changed over the years and the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen were both modern designs, as was the Prince of Wales, whereas the Hood was that bit older.  He goes on to consider the tactics of both sides in the Battle, as the German units tried to break out into the Atlantic  to carry out more commerce attacks.  An important element of a successful breakout was to do so undetected and they were at times able to escape detection but not all the time.  This was part of the story but the Hood and Prince of Wales were moving to intercept.  The author explains how even the angle of their interception course was to influence the course of events, as the German ships could bring their full broadsides to bear, while the two British ships could not.  He goes on to consider which targets each side chose to engage first, the weight of each salvo from the different size guns in use, and how soon they managed to achieve hits in those early salvos.  Exactly that happened may never be discovered, the lack of survivors from the Hood meant we will never know exactly what happened in the short time before she so dramatically exploded.  The Prince of Wales suffered some mechanical failure and had been damaged and they made the decision to withdraw.

The level of detail examined involves the construction of the ships, the effectiveness of the fire control systems and much more.  Some of the maths and equations regarding the gunfire is complex, and there is even more in the 6 appendices.  The action in the Denmark Strait lasted just 16 minutes, during which time the Royal Navy suffered the loss of one of her most famous ships, and the reputation of the Bismarck became legendary.  A fascinating examination of the known facts and I have to say I learned a lot more about the action than I had known before.