Military historian Bishop (Battle of Britain, 2009, etc.) fashions an exciting, detail-packed account of the British obsession with dismantling Hitler’s prize battleship.
Named after the architect of the Imperial German Navy, Tirpitz was the great hope in Hitler’s plan to crack the supremacy of the British navy, the lifeblood of a nation reliant on maritime trade. Along with its sister ships, the steel-plated, seemingly invincible Tirpitz was employed in the North Atlantic to disrupt British trade convoys so that Hitler could turn his attention to attacking Russia. In his patiently descriptive account of the Battle of Britain, Bishop traces the key engagements, such as the bringing down of the Bismarck after an extremely costly pummeling by British torpedoes, which underscored how outmoded and outclassed the British fleet was. Subsequently, the British were on continual lookout for the deadly but elusive Tirpitz, about which Churchill maintained: “No other target is comparable to it.” Commanded initially by Capt. Karl Topp, with a crew of 2,600 living aboard in fairly luxurious style, Tirpitz was moved to Trondheim, Norway, keenly followed by British intelligence. Bomber Command devised several ill-begotten raids with “roly-poly” bombs, yet nothing could touch the massive ship, which posed a continual threat to the Russian convoys. Special Operations were enlisted to come up with a raiding plan, and new bombs and midget submarines were tested and honed in Scotland for the great mission undertaken in September 1943. Bishop builds a suspenseful story, delineating the crews involved on both sides in a sneak attack that required extraordinary courage from the seamen, who were under duress.
Armchair military historians will relish this account of bringing down the biggest prey in the German fleet.