The seven completed German capital ships are perhaps the most famous warships of the Second World War, and had an impact of the fighting far in advance of their actual military capabilities. The mere existence of the Tirpitz and its presence in Norway pinned down a large part of the Royal Navy and forced the British into a massive effort to sink her involving midget submarines, naval aircraft and heavy bombers.
These ships are normally associated with the Nazis, but work on the three pocket battleships (Deutschland/ Lutzow, Admiral Speer, and Admiral Graf Spee) began in the late 1920s. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were built between 1933 and 1939 and Bismarck and Tirpitz were completed during the Second World War.
The book starts with an overview of the development and design of the seven ships. This is followed by three chapters looking at the three classes of ship, starting with a detailed description of the class and followed by sub-chapters on each ship, each with a brief operational history, followed by the photographs. We start with pictures of the ships under construction, then move on to detailed pictures of different parts of the ship and of the ships in service and at sea. In most cases we follow the ship to its eventual destruction (Lutzow, Admiral Graf Spee scuttled, Scharnhorst and Bismarck destroyed by the Royal Navy, Gneisenau damaged by the RAF and never fully repaired, Admiral Scheer and Tirpitz sunk by the RAF).
The pictures are well chosen and most are of a very high quality (the lower quality ones tend to be of more historical significance - the explosion of the Graf Spee or the last moments of the Bismarck for example). The detailed pictures will be of great value for the modeller, as well as being of interest to the general reader (amongst many impressive photos is a picture taken during a British bombing raid on Brest that shows two heavy bombers flying over the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in dry dock, all seen from above)
The appendix on the incomplete aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin is particularly interesting, illustrating that the ship was much closer to being complete than I had realised - 85-90% by September 1939, with the hull complete, engines installed and only nine months to go before she was to be ready for sea trials. After that very little progress was made, and the incomplete carrier moved around the Baltic before eventually falling into Soviet hands.
1 - Battleships of the Reichsmarine and the Kriegsmarine
2 - Reconstruction of the Reichsmarine: The First Battleship Concepts (Deutschland/ Lutzow, Admiral Speer, Admiral Graf Spee)
3 - The Evolution of Battleships D and E (Scharnhorst, Gneisenau)
4 - The Evolution of Battleships F and G (Bismarck, Tirpitz)
Appendix: The Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin
Author: Siegfried Breyer & Miroslaw Skwuit
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