THE DEATH OF THE TIRPITZ by Ludovic Kennedy

THE DEATH OF THE TIRPITZ

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The short, hunted life of the mighty Tirpitz--amplified, now, by reproductions of the (recently released) descripted Ultra signals vital to the effort and many, many German and British photos. (The book is adapted from a BBC documentary.) The action is concentrated and graphic, and--a further distinction from other accounts--presented as much from the German as the British point of view. Hitler's fears for the safety of the newly-commissioned Tirpitz, sister-ship to the lost Bismarck, and his ""obsession"" with a British invasion of Norway, confine the battleship to Norwegian waters; the British, alerted to its movements, give its destruction top priority. Holed up in a Norwegian fjord, the Tirpitz' crew holds singsongs and chafes for action. A sortie against a Russian-bound convoy misfires--thanks largely to Ultra intercepts. Hitler, unnerved, issues further restraints. The British sari into their own Donnybrook: convoy PQ 17, 35 merchant ships with enough equipment for a Russian army of 50,000, is left unprotected by Admiral Pound's ""panicky order""--in the belief that the Tirpitz is at loose--that its escorts depart. The convoy is massacred by U-boats and planes: ""Tirpitz had won a great victory without firing a shot."" Now begins in earnest the British scheme to sink the Tirpitz by sending small submersibles into the fjords after her (a bomber attack is impracticable at this date). Two ""chariots""--two-man vessels the size of a 21-inch torpedo carrying detachable warheads--are towed by a Norwegian fishing-boat within five miles of the Tirpitz, and then lost. It's the turn of X-craft, or midget subs--but the Tirpitz has taken refuge in the far north, behind a barrier of nets stretching down from the surface and up from the sea-bottom; and it's in recreating this intricate and delicate operation--the first to seriously damage the Tirpitz--that the documentary form is most impressive. The Tirpitz, repeatedly repaired, relegated at last to serving as a shore-battery, is finally sunk (just because, like Everest, ""it's there"") by the new Tallboy bombs; the men on the Tirpitz expect them. Kennedy cites the errors and coups on both sides impartially; the rest is solely and dramatically how-it-was.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 1980
Publisher: Little, Brown