Sink the Tirptiz, 1942-44

Published on
December 12, 2018
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Angus Konstam
Other Publication Information
Illustrator Jim Laurier
Product / Stock #
Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site

The newest series for Osprey has moved from the land and the sea to the air. Whereas their previous series’ focused on large land and naval campaigns, this series turns its focus to well-known air campaigns. Using the tried and true format that Osprey has perfected, the volume has several full color plates rendered by an artist attempting to capture critical moments in the campaign, historical photographs, maps, and lots of charts comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses of each side. Often the color plates can be hit and miss. These are really quite dramatic.

Anyone with a casual interest in World War Two has some familiarity with the Bismarck’s sister ship, the Tirpitz. Commissioned into service after the Bismarck’s sinking, she spent her entire service career in Norway and the arctic. The powerful ship helped keep the Royal Navy’s home fleet in place to help protect Arctic convoys from possible commerce raiding from the Tirpitz. While I was familiar with the final act of this drama – dropping 12,000 pound Tallboy bombs on the battleship. I was not so familiar with the resources the Royal navy and Air Force committed to sink the Tirpitz.

From 1942, until the battleship’s sinking in late 1944, the Royal Navy and Air Force committed a fair amount of resources to sink the Tirpitz. Beginning in March, 1942 when the Fleet Air Army attempted to intercept the Tirpitz on one of her sortie’s, British naval aviation threw the assets they had when she was at sea and berthed. With the relative lack of success of the Tirpitz’s commerce raiding cruises, the Germans were content in keeping her berthed to at the very least divert Royal Navy resources from other theaters. In this mission, the Tirpitz was successful. Berthed in Northern Norwegian Fjord, it was largely beyond the reach of the Royal Air Force. In an audacious commando raid, small submarined (X-Craft) were able to cripple the ship in the fall of 1943, in the eyes of the Royal Navy, she was still considered operational.

The Royal Navy conducted a series of raids beginning in early 1944 to sink the ship and failed. Between faulty ordnance, obsolete aircraft, and abominable weather, she was not sunk. The Royal Air Force decided to take another crack at it with Lancaster’s carrying Tall Boy Bombs from airfields in Northern Russia. By attacking overland, they avoided the German Radar net. By attacking quickly and from another direction they hoped to get the jump on the flak batteries surrounding the ship as well as the smoke generators that protected the Tirpitz. They were successful and sunk the ship. While the readiness of the ship to fight had degraded considerably since the submersible attack in 1943, she was still considered a threat. I think the author is indeed critical of the British obsession with sinking the Tirpitz, but given the threat she posed throughout the war, it is certainly understandable.

Osprey has built a successful cottage industry publishing on hundreds of topics of interest to hobbyists and academic historians. This new series is very successful on shedding light on an important and costly air campaign against the last remaining battleship of the Kriegsmarine. If you have any interest in the intersection of air power and traditional naval units, this is a book just for you. My thanks to IPMS and Osprey Publications for giving me the opportunity to review this book.


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