Killing the Bismarck

Destroying the Pride of Hitler's Fleet
Narrated by: Traber Burns
Length: 11 hrs and 30 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (231 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In May 1941 the German battleship Bismarck, accompanied by heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, broke out into the Atlantic to attack Allied shipping. The Royal Navy's pursuit and subsequent destruction of the Bismarck was an epic of naval warfare. In this new account of those dramatic events at the height of the Second World War, Iain Ballantyne draws extensively on the graphic eyewitness testimony of veterans to construct a thrilling story, mainly from the point of view of the British battleships, cruisers, and destroyers involved.

He describes the tense atmosphere as cruisers play a lethal cat-and-mouse game, shadowing the Bismarck in the icy Denmark Strait. We witness the shocking destruction of the British battle cruiser HMS Hood, in which all but three of her ship's complement were killed, an event that fueled pursuing Royal Navy warships, including the battered battleship Prince of Wales, with a thirst for revenge. While Swordfish torpedo bombers try desperately to cripple the Bismarck, we sail in destroyers on their own daring torpedo attacks, battling mountainous seas. Finally the author takes us into the last showdown, as battleships Rodney and King George V, supported by cruisers Norfolk and Dorsetshire, destroy the pride of Hitler's fleet.

This vivid, superbly researched account portrays this epic saga through the eyes of so-called ordinary sailors caught up in extraordinary events. Killing the Bismarck is an outstanding book, conveying the horror and majesty of war at sea in all its cold brutality and awesome power.

©2010 Iain Ballantyne (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good story, Bad narrator

The narrator should do something else! He reads haltingly, akin to a 1st or 2nd grader! He detracts from the story.

7 people found this helpful

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Good but not Spectacular

I was getting bored even when they were actually sinking the Bismark. Sorry for the spoiler :-) . I am a huge fan of even the stuff that most would consider to be "historic monotony". This writer needs to work on his presentation. Otherwise fine.

5 people found this helpful

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Fascinating

Nice perspective from the Royal Navy perspective. I enjoyed the last chapters telling what became of the vessels involved. A must-read for any military history enthusiast.

2 people found this helpful

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History of Brave Men

Lots of interesting facts you dont see in the movies. The gut wrenching fear and feelings for the men on the recieving end of those big guns. Both sides... Once you realize you are on the winning end, you still feel for the enemy who is living through the horror.

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1960 a young boy became awed

Around 1961 in Junior High, I was required to read a book and right a book report.
I have deslexia and reading was very difficult for me. But this story carried me through to the finish. Not long after I bought a Avalon Hill board game that simulated the history. I have been in love with the story ever since.

This audio book kept my interest even more, please enjoy some fascinating history.

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ONE OF THE GREATEST NAVAL BATTLES OF WW2

Great book and narration! Keeps up your interest from beginning to end. This book deserves to be made into a major movie the likes of Dunkirk.

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Not a bad additional read about the Bismarck.

I really wanted to like this book. I have always been interested in World War II books, and the Bismarck is not something I am more than generally familiar with. That being said, I can't really recommend it.

I was very interested on the British side and this was perfect for that. Except it reads less like a historical writing about what happened on the British side, and more some weird personal agenda. I think what threw me off was the forward where the author was really upset that there are die hard supporters of the Bismarck who thought well of the Germans.

I personally don't have a dog in that fight, but the anger and frustration the author had in the forward came through and made me feel less like this is an unbiased look at the British and more like he was trying to prove a point. I absolutely agree the British Navy, especially WWII and earlier was an incredible thing, but you could read the almost propaganda writing as it was.

That made the book hard. The stories were all over the battle, which I did partially expect considering you want to keep it interesting, but it became more of a historical novel and less of a historical documentary that I was hoping it would be. There was no detail on the command of the British forces and it really felt like it was missing a lot of things.

If you have read everything else about the Bismark, I would recommend it. I did give it three stars because it was written well. It was smooth, but just fluffy... too fluffy for me.

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A New Perspective

A good attempt at illustrating the human cost of such a great battle. This was not a rehash of old facts but a storytelling of the people who were there.

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Well done

The story is fantastic, and actually it was nice getting much more detail of the British account in detail because a lot of the information has been left out of the more generic accounting. Ballantyne does a fantastic job of painting the picture and keeping you in suspense despite knowing the outcome. The end however suffers a little because perhaps the last 1/4 of the book details almost down to corvettes how each and every British ship involved ended the war - which for the major surface combatants is fine but covering DDEs that broke off and sailed for England when the rest of the fleet turned north in pursuit is excessive.

Performance wise, the author butchers a few German and Japanese names (that's right, some of those DDEs died in the pacific) which normally is fine but for example he can't pronounce Prinz Eugen which is a problem when a major supporting "character" has that name. Otherwise well read, has that stuffy English professor tone.

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    3 out of 5 stars

Important book marred by poor narration.

Narration: narrator sounds like he is distant, trying to make himself heard over a downpour.

Whether content good or bad, I am not going to suffer so poor a narration..

I am returning this book..

1 person found this helpful

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  • Paul
  • 06-11-18

Shame about the narration

Fantastic first hand accounts, really brings it to life and makes it all the more terrible. I just couldn't quite get over the American accent.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mr. Alan R. Jenkins
  • 01-28-17

Bismarck from the British side

Excellent literal documentary of the British vessels and crews involved in the famous hunt and destruction of one of the greatest battlecruiser of WWII. Superb personal accounts highlight the struggle, the anguish and fortitude of the men of the Royal Navy that were directly connected with the tragic loss of the ill-fated Hood and on to the eventual search, hunt and battles with the Bismarck that ended with loss of many men in the cruel North Atlantic Ocean. Well written, and well narrated, this is a book that looks from the opposite side of the often written Bismarck story.

2 people found this helpful

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  • John G
  • 02-01-17

Very good listen.

What made the experience of listening to Killing the Bismarck the most enjoyable?

Good historical detail mixed with first hand accounts.

Any additional comments?

Overall very good, however it was a bit of a shame that a book primarily about the Royal Navy was read by an American who seemed thoroughly unfamiliar with British naval terms and history. Listening to common words mispronounced in an American way (like lieutenant mispronounced loootenernt, and buoy as boooey(?!)) will be quite jarring to most people who listen to this book, the majority of which I assume will be from outside the US.Other than that no complaints. Good show.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Nerra
  • 03-30-19

The voice doesn't match the story.

story of the Royal Navy's hunt and battle with the Bismarck, read by an American news reader. wrong accent for this story.

1 person found this helpful

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  • IanE
  • 08-24-17

A different angle..

The story is well known and the telling of it from the British side is a little different and refreshing.. I wasn't keen on the narrator's style at first but it grew on me and from midway through I had been won over and started to enjoy the way he told the story. all in all a good listen.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Callum
  • 02-21-17

Compelling and informative

Very interesting story, and good in its detail whilst providing the human element of the events from the British sailors.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-10-20

Enjoyable from start to finish.

I couldn't wait to get in my car to drive to work so I could listen, one of my favourite naval books iv listened to yet.

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  • Douglas Martin
  • 10-03-19

Sad but true.

War is a history we repeat without heed to the very lessons recorded, published and narrated. A excellent bppk. Well structured and researchef. Recommended