Sink the Bismarck!

Sink the Bismarck!

name = Sink the Bismarck!

| | image_size = | caption = Original theatrical poster, showing Kenneth More and Dana Wynter. | producer = John Brabourne
director = Lewis Gilbert
writer = Edmund H. North
starring = Kenneth More
Carl Möhner
Dana Wynter
music = Clifton Parker
cinematography = Christopher Challis
editing = Peter R. Hunt
distributor = 20th Century Fox
released = February 11, 1960
runtime = 97 min.
language = English

"Sink the Bismarck!" is a 1960 black-and-white war film based on the book "The Last Nine Days of the Bismarck" by C. S. Forester, and recounts the true story of the Royal Navy's attempts to find and sink the famous German battleship during the Second World War. It stars Kenneth More and Dana Wynter. It was directed by Lewis Gilbert. It was the inspiration for Johnny Horton's song, "Sink the Bismarck". The film has a number of historical inaccuracies which have been discovered since its release in 1960.


The film begins in 1939, with actual footage of Germany's largest and most powerful battleship, "Bismarck" being launched, in a large ceremony in Hamburg with Adolf Hitler attending. The launching of the hull of the ship to later be completed is seen as the beginning of a new era of German power in the sea.

Two years later in 1941, the British convoy routes are being ravaged by U-Boat and surface raider attacks which are cutting off vital supplies which Britain needs to continue its war against Germany. In May, British intelligence discovers that the "Bismarck" and the heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" are attempting to make a breakout into the North Atlantic to raid convoys. The man assigned to coordinate the hunt for the "Bismarck", is the Admiralty's chief of operations, Captain John Shepard, who has been deeply distraught and embittered over the loss of his wife during a German air raid and later the loss of his ship when it was destroyed by German ships commanded by Admiral Günther Lütjens. Upon receiving his new post, he discovers that his nemesis, Lütjens, is the fleet commander aboard the Bismarck. Shepard's experience of conflict with Nazi Germany's naval forces and his understanding of Lütjens' thinking allows him to predict the decisions of Bismarck's crew. Shepard is initially aggressive towards his staff, but comes to increasingly rely on his assistant, WREN Second Officer Anne Davies's coolness and skill to plot the operation against the "Bismarck".

Meanwhile on the Bismarck, Gunther Lütjens, like Shepard, is also an embittered man. After Germany's loss in World War I, Lütjens perceived himself to have received no recognition for his efforts in the war and forgotten. He relates his loss of recognition to that of Germany after World War I. Lütjens promises his subordinate captain of the "Bismarck", Ernst Lindemann, that this time both he, Lindemann and Germany will be remembered in greatness after this war.

The film goes on to depict the hunt of the "Bismarck", including the sinking of HMS "Hood". which culminates in the final destruction of the "Bismarck" by several British ships, with Lütjens in his final moments in complete disbelief of the loss around him, and in delusion he insists to Lindemann that German forces will arrive in time to save them, at that instant he is killed by an exploding shell.

After the sinking of the Bismarck, Shepard is emotionally relieved and reinvigorated by the experience. He and Davies are on friendly terms (within professional limits) and he asks her to be his personal assistant. He then invites her to dinner; and, before leaving the underground room, he picks up the ship marker of the Bismarck from the map table and takes it as an object to remember the experience. Upon leaving the underground facility, he and Davies discover that it is morning rather than night — they've both lost track of time having spent the best part of a week in the operations room — and so they decide to have breakfast.


*Kenneth More "as" Captain Jonathan Shepard
*Carl Möhner "as" Captain Lindemann
*Dana Wynter "as" 2nd Officer Anne Davis
*Laurence Naismith "as" First Sea Lord (Sir Dudley Pound)
*Karel Stepanek "as" Admiral Gunther Lutjens
*Maurice Denham "as" Commander Richards
*Mark Dignam "as" Captain, "Ark Royal"
*Michael Goodliffe "as" Captain Banister
*Jack Gwillim "as" Captain King George V
*Esmond Knight "as" Captain, "Prince of Wales". Knight actually served as a gunnery officer on board her, and was badly injured during the battle with the "Bismarck".
*Edward R. Murrow "as" himself. Murrow recreates some of his historic wartime broadcasts for CBS for the film.
*(Sir) Michael Hordern "as" Admiral Tovey, Commander-in-Chief, "King George V"

Historical inaccuracies

In the film, the German fleet commander, Admiral Lütjens, is portrayed as overconfident, vengeful, egotistic, and an enthusiastic Nazi who is furious over his and Germany's lack of recognition following the end of World War I. This characterization is completely fictitious and is meant to make Lütjens the villain of the film. In reality Lütjens was the opposite of this characterization. Lütjens was pessimistic over the chance of success of "Bismarck's" mission and he publicly protested the brutality of Nazi anti-Semitic crimes during Kristallnacht along with two other navy commanders. [ [ Bismarck: A portrait of the Men Involved] ]

The film also makes a mistake in the sequence of events aboard the "Bismarck", showing Lütjens ordering Captain Ernst Lindemann, to open fire on the "Hood" and "Prince of Wales". In the actual event, Lütjens actually ordered Lindemann to avoid engaging the "Hood", in which Lindemann refused his order and ordered the ship's gun crews to open fire on the "Hood" and "Prince of Wales".

Importantly, the film also misrepresents the movements of the "Hood" and "Prince of Wales" during the early part of the battle. The film shows an order being given to turn, thus allowing the "Hood", and presumably the "Prince of Wales", to fire full broadsides at the German ship. In reality, the British sought to close the distance first, thus only firing their forward turrets and negating their firepower advantage since the "Bismarck" was firing full broadsides. Only in the final moments before exploding did the Hood begin a turn to present all her guns to the "Bismarck". By this time, however, it was too late and the "Hood" exploded. This tactical deployment has often been called into question and cited as a possible cause for the British defeat, an issue the movie simply sidesteps.

In addition, the film includes a scene aboard the Bismarck where Lutjens schemes about the aftermath of "Bismarck" undergoing its expected repairs in Brest, France. He (seemingly ingeniously) thinks of the possibility of two German battlecruisers based there, "Gneisenau" and "Scharnhorst", going out with the "Bismarck" after the ship has undergone repairs. There is no evidence of such a discussion, though the idea of "Bismarck" going out to sea with the two battlecruisers from Brest to raid Allied shipping in the Atlantic would have been a possibility if "Bismarck" had reached the port. However, this concept was not an original idea of Lutjens: it had already been proposed by German naval staff before the battle but was scrapped because of the serious repairs that the two German battlecruisers needed, from damage sustained during an air raid.

Another mistake was made during the engagement between British destroyers and the "Bismarck". The film portrayal shows three British hits by torpedoes, while the British destroyer "Solent" is hit and destroyed by the "Bismarck". This never happened. There was no destroyer "Solent". However, the Royal Navy did lose a destroyer in the operations. The "Mashona" was sunk by the Luftwaffe on may 28th. [ [ The Slip up Movie Archive] ] The destroyers that attacked were HMS "Cossack", HMS "Maori", HMS "Sikh", and HMS "Zulu".In reality, the Royal Navy did make a failed attempt at a torpedo attack, but scored no hits. In return only "Bismarck" inflicted some minor damage to the British destroyers. Aboard "Zulu", a sub-lieutenant in the gunnery control tower lost a hand to shell splinters while a shell landed on the destroyers forecastle, but did not explode. "Cossack" had its radio antenna sheared off by a shell [Ballard 1990, p. 117. Bismarck: Germany's Greatest Battleship reveals her secrets] . Also, the attacks by the Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers in the movie show some of the planes being shot down. In the actual event, no Swordfish was shot down by "Bismarck's" anti-aircraft guns. However, from the " Victorious" air raid two Swordfish in fact failed to return, and three fliers were picked up from a rubber boat. The film also does not show the controversial details of what happened immediately after the Bismarck was sunk, including HMS "Dorsetshire's" quick departure after rescuing only 110 of "Bismarck's" survivors. The "Dorsetshire's" crew suspected that a German U-Boat was operating in the area; the captain of the "Dorsetshire" responded by calling off rescue efforts and departing. Hundreds of German sailors were left behind in the sea to die.

Some minor mistakes involve the visual appearance of the "Bismarck". When a spy in Kristiansand, Norway sees "Bismarck" arrive in Norwegian waters, the ship has no apparent camouflage on it. Actually, upon arriving in Kristiansand, "Bismarck" had striped camouflage along its sides which was removed shortly before it headed out to sea. Upon sustaining significant damage during its battle with "Hood" and "Prince of Wales", flooding caused "Bismarck's" bow to be barely maintained above the sea level, in the film, "Bismarck's" bow remains at the same level before, during and after the battle.

The "Bismarck" is referred to in the film as the largest and most powerful battleship in the world. Some naval experts criticized "Bismarck's" design for being antiquated, as its design was based on the World War I "Bayern" class battleships. Her fifteen-inch main guns were outsized by a number of warships that had sixteen-inch guns or significantly more weaponry. HMS "Rodney" was armed with sixteen-inch guns, and HMS "King George V" mounted ten guns in three turrets (compared to Bismarck's eight guns in four turrets). Two larger battleships were under construction in Japan — the "Yamato" and the "Musashi" — which were larger than "Hood" or "Bismarck" and had eighteen-inch guns and thicker armour.

In the film, the Hood is firing to port while the Bismarck is firing to starboard; in reality it was the other way around.


External links

* [ "Sink the Bismarck!"] at []

ee also

* [ "Sink the Bismarck"] A&E documentary

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