Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday's Film Adaptions: The Last Nine Days of the Bismarck by CS Forester

The true story of Hitler's mightiest battleship, how it was hunted, fought, and destroyed in the crucial battle for the Atlantic. In 1941, the Bismarck, the fastest battleship afloat, broke out into the Atlantic, its mission to cut the lifeline of British shipping and win the war for Germany. How the Royal Navy met this threat, its desperate attempt to bring the Bismarck to bay in six desperate days of Atlantic storm is the story C.S.Forester tells with mounting excitement and suspense. This story is the basis of the movie 'Sink the Bismarck'.

"Tension and high excitement!…In this book C.S.Forester has compressed the taut drama of one of the great sea campaigns of history." NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE.

Part 1 - The most desperate chances
THIS IS A STORY OF THE MOST DESPERATE CHANCES, of the loftiest patriotism and of the highest professional skills, of a gamble for the dominion of the world in which human lives were the stakes on the green gaming table of the ocean. There was a pursuit without precedent in the history of navies; there were battles fought in which the defeated gained as much glory as the victors, and in which the most unpredictable bad luck was counterbalanced by miraculous good fortune. For six days that pursuit lasted, days of unrelenting storm, of tossing gray seas and lowering clouds, without a single gleam of sunshine to lighten the setting of the background of tragedy. Those actors in the tragedy who played their parts at sea did so to the unceasing accompaniment of shrieking wind, leaping waves, flying spray, and bitter cold.

And all this took place against a background of events of vital importance in the history of the world, when England stood alone, almost ringed-in by enemies of unbelievable power and malignity. She was friendless and yet unafraid, guarded and vigilant, although the world's newspapers were pouring from the presses with headlines telling of disasters yesterday and predicting new disasters tomorrow.

BRITAIN'S LAST ALLY CONQUERED. GREECE OVERRUN, said one headline. ATTACK LAUNCHED ON CRETE, said another. JUGOSLAVIA OVERWHELMED . . . . BRITISH IN FULL RETREAT IN NORTH AFRICA . . . . ROMMEL ADVANCES . . . . WILL HITLER MOVE INTO SPAIN NEXT? . . . . GERMAN SUBMARINES CLAIM HUGE SUCCESSES IN ATLANTIC . . . . SCHARNHORST AND GNEISENAU AWAITING THEIR MOMENT IN BREST . . . . BLITZ AGAIN ROCKS ENGLAND . . . And each succeeding map that the daily papers carried showed how the black stain of Nazi conquest was spreading over frontier after frontier.

Now, at this moment, when Britain's resources and will to survive were being strained to the utmost, preparations were being made to strike another blow against her lifelines. The battleship Bismarck was making ready in Gdynia harbor to proceed to sea after a prolonged period of training and working up in the Baltic. The largest, the most dangerous, the most modern ship of war yet launched . . . she was completing her stores, cramming herself as full as her storerooms and her shellrooms and her bunkers would hold. There were meat for her refrigerators and flour and vegetables for her food lockers; oil for her bunkers, fresh water for her tanks, and, above all, shells for her magazines. A fussy little steam train brought up a long train of trucks alongside the ship, each laden with the monstrous fifteen-inch shells, three quarters of a ton each, deadly even in appearance, for the ship's crane to lift and swing into the air, down, down, down, through deck after deck, into the shell-rooms far below waterline.

While this was going on a new contingent came marching along the wharf to reinforce — or at least to augment — the ship's company. It was a detachment of young naval officers, very young indeed, hardly more than boys. They were newly promoted cadets — proud of their new status and of their new uniforms — swinging briskly and proudly in formation to the gangway leading down from the ship's side; the band, which had preceded them so far, halted at the foot and continued to play as the young men turned with military precision to march up the gangway; as they reached the quarterdeck, the senior officer saluted the officer of the watch and reported the arrival of his party on board. A word of command brought them into formation facing the bridge at the moment when the work on the dockside was completed.

The officer on the dock supervising the loading of the ammunition shouted, "Last one!"

"Last one," echoed the officer on the deck, waving one finger in reply to the finger waved to him. The last fifteen-inch shell, grim and ugly, swung up in the crane to make its descent into the shellroom. The busy gangs of workers on the dockside melted away; the band, still playing, marched off towards the gate, its music dying away slowly. Only the sailors standing by the lines remained, apparently. Admiral Lutjens, brisk, efficient, and active, came out of his sea cabin and made his way to the loud-speaker on the bridge.

"Gentlemen!" he began his speech, as the young officers stiffened to attention to hear him, listening enthralled. The words he uttered were carried throughout the ship by the public-address system. He welcomed the young officers aboard, and he explained to them that they had been expressly detailed by the highest authority to make this voyage, so that on their return they would disseminate through the Navy the details of the triumphs they had witnessed. They were in the newest and most powerful battleship afloat, and they were going to experience high adventure. There was no ship in the British Navy that could face them in single combat; there was no large ship that could escape them. Four months of harsh training in the Baltic had made the Bismarck the most efficient ship in the world. Did British convoys cover the Atlantic? Bismarck could make short work of convoys and escorts, with the aid of the Prinz Eugen, accompanying them on this voyage of honor. The Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary, the pride of Britain, were crossing the Atlantic over and over again without escort, relying on their speed. Bismarck was faster than they. What would the world say when the news came of the sinking of the Queen Mary with ten thousand troops on board? One or two blows like that, and England would not dare to send a merchant ship to sea. For as long as Bismarck could maintain herself in the Atlantic, England's commerce would be disrupted; and the British people, shattered and shaken already by the blitz, would starve. He had already ranged the whole length of the Atlantic in command of the battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and had sunk a quarter of a million tons of British shipping. A quarter of a million tons. . . . Now they could set themselves a target of two million tons, dealing a blow from which England could never recover. . . .

Down on the dockside one last worker was lingering over some remains of his job, half hidden by piles of stores. The sound of the speech, conveyed over the loud-speaker, just reached his ears. He heard those words about the Atlantic, about the Queen Mary. With the last words of the speech he sauntered down the dock, with every appearance of innocence. His papers were quite in order as he showed them to the police. Already sailors at the lines were singling up and then casting off. Bismarck swung herself about and headed out to sea; the dockyard workers massed at the gate watched her go, and the band played.

At a small port in Sweden a long pier ran out to sea, and on it someone in civilian clothes was quietly fishing. He was surrounded by proof of how closely Sweden guarded her neutrality, how much she feared a surprise attack — Swedish soldiers and Swedish coastguardsmen were constantly patrolling and gazing out to sea. He sat there endlessly, leisurely eating his lunch, changing his bait and occasionally securing a fish. The sun was setting and the Northern day nearly at an end when, looking southward, he saw something silhouetted against the remaining glow of the sky. He had binoculars hanging round his neck; he whipped them to his eyes, gazed long and carefully, rested his eyes, and gazed again. There was no mistaking what he saw: two almost identical silhouettes, one large and one small; the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen with a crowd of merchant ships — eleven all told — accompanying them. He dismantled his fishing rod, picked up his gear, and hurried shoreward along the pier, through the Swedish guards, into the main street, past the post office.

It was into that post office, a few minutes later, that an elderly Englishman came striding. He filled out a telegraph form with a few rapid words and handed it over the counter; the girl there read the address and summoned a waiting Swedish policeman with her eyes. He came up and began questioning. The address was that of a London company in Cheapside; the message said: PIT PROPS AND BATTENS RISING. ELEVEN POINTS AT LEAST — no more.

"What is this firm?" asked the policeman.

"Timber importers — everyone knows them."

"What does this message say?"

The Englishman satisfied his questioner, showed his papers, and a nod from the policeman allowed the message to be sent with a small apology: "Our country has to make sure her neutrality is not violated, you understand, sir."

Chronicles the breakout of the Bismarck during the early days of World War Two. Seen both from the point of view of the many naval vessels on both sides and from the central headquarters of the British where the search for the super battleship was controlled.

Release Date: February 11, 2960
Release Time: 97 minutes

Kenneth More as Captain Jonathan Shepard
Dana Wynter as WRNS Second Officer Anne Davis
Laurence Naismith as First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound
Geoffrey Keen as Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff
Michael Goodliffe as Captain Banister
Maurice Denham as Commander Richards
Peter Dyneley as Commander Jenkins
Jack Watling as RNVR Signals Officer
Thomas Waldron Price as Flag Lieutenant to First Sea Lord
Sean Barrett as Able Seaman Brown
Victor Maddern as Able Seaman
Edward R. Murrow as himself
Karel Štěpánek as Admiral Günther Lütjens in Bismarck
Carl Möhner as Captain Lindemann of Bismarck (voice: Robert Rietti)
Walter Hudd as Admiral Holland
John Stuart as Captain Kerr
Esmond Knight as Captain Leach of HMS Prince of Wales
Sydney Tafler as Henry, civilian workman aboard Prince of Wales
Ernest Clark as Captain, HMS Suffolk
Mark Dignam as Captain, HMS Ark Royal
John Stride as Tom Shepard
David Hemmings as seaman in Ark Royal
John Horsley as Captain, HMS Sheffield
Peter Burton as Captain Philip Vian
Jack Gwillim as Captain, HMS King George V
Michael Hordern as Admiral Sir John Tovey

Author Bio:
Cecil Scott Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith, an English novelist who rose to fame with tales of adventure and military crusades. His most notable works were the 11-book Horatio Hornblower series, about naval warfare during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen (1935; filmed in 1951 by John Huston). His novels A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours were jointly awarded the 1938 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.




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