On May 24, 1941, HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Hood, pride of the British navy, intercepted the German battleship Bismarck and her escort in the Denmark Strait near Greenland. In just a few moments, Hood was blown up by shell fire from the Bismarck and the Prince of Wales was heavily damaged. Despite the wrenching loss of its flagship, the Royal Navy maintained its dogged pursuit of the Bismarck, fatally damaging and finally sinking her a few days later.
The chapters in Hood and Bismarck alternate between an historical description of the two ships and their battle and the assembly of a modern expedition to search for both of them. Bismarck had been located by Dr. Robert Ballard's team in 1989, but the location was kept secret; Hood remained lost in the cold waters of the North Atlantic.
The expedition lead by David Mearns successfully relocated the wreck of the Bismarck and then went on to find the shattered remains of the Hood. The description of how the wrecks were found makes very interesting reading, and the evidence gathered by the expedition offers some interesting perspectives on some old questions: why did the Hood explode and sink so quickly, and was the Bismarck scuttled by her crew or sunk by her opponents?
The book lacks the remarkable artist's conceptions of the "shipwreck as a whole" that are customary in Dr. Ballard's books (in particular, his "The Discovery of the Bismarck", published in 1990). On the whole, however, Hood and Bismarck is very well-researched and written and the analysis and crisp photographs make up for the missing "big picture" paintings. Moreover, the book successfully captures the very human dimension of the struggle between the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine--the very few survivors of the Hood and the Bismarck play a moving role in the search for these sunken ships and in the laying of memorial plaques on their remains. Highly recommended!