Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Battle of the Denmark Strait an Amazing Fact

Sometimes you come across actually a quite common known fact to others that had totally passed you by, but when others kindly retell it to you, it just simply stops you dead in your tracks. I knew that after the destruction of HMS Hood her consort, HMS Prince of Wales, had been hit on its bridge by a German 15" shell during the engagement. The shell tore through the unarmoured bridge without exploding leaving behind it a trail of carnage. On the bridge at that time were Captain Leach of HMS Prince of Wales along with fifteen officers of his bridge crew. Of the sixteen, thirteen were killed outright and one left badly wounded and completely blind. Captain Leach was one of the two standing survivors and managed to con his battleship out of harms way under cover of a smokescreen. The blinded bridge gunnery officer eventually regained the sight in one eye but only after a whole year convalescing. During that time HMS Prince of Wales had sailed off to the Far East to fight the Japanese and had been lost along with HMS Repulse as part of Force Z, taking with it Captain Leach.

After the war, when it came to filming Sink The Bismarck, an ex-naval officer who had returned to his pre-war profession of acting was cast in the role of Captain Leach, as seen in the iconic still from the film (see below). That actor was a one Esmond Knight, who in fact was the former gunnery officer whom had been blinded on the bridge of HMS Prince of Wales. Knight had stood by Captain Leach during the whole engagement and only by being so severely wounded was given the perverse chance by fate to escape death in the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales. To me this is totally mind blowing. He is not acting but in a time machine back to that fateful day, his expression carrying across with it the horror and magnitude of event far, far better than any words could describe (see below).

Picture Source:

You Tube video of KM Bismarck v HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales (3:24 into the video clip):

You Tube documentary link:


Chris said...

Thank you for reminding me of this movie! Some of the details are wrong, but it's still been one of my favorites for a long time.

Incidentally, the complete movie is on Youtube as well:

Best regards,

Chris Johnson

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Yes I agree
I could be picky about the RN firing broadsides from the off ;)
There are some nice images of HMS Vanguards firing mechanisms to be seen for sure

It is still better than the Graf Spee being an American cruiser ;) in the film of The Battle of the River Plate :)

My favourite part (apart from the still picture of Esmond playing Captain Leach) is the old naval rating saying "Blimey the Hood's gone" with a pall of smoke in the background! (And the look on the face of the young rating who was just a lad).

Chris said...

To me, a worse error is the movie's characterizations of Lutjens and the Bismarck's Captain--the latter was actually the ambitious Nazi, not the Admiral. But on the other hand, what difference does that make? I still love the movie.

Every time I see it, in fact, I break out the old Avalon Hill game, Bismarck (original version). The last time I played my son (he was about 15), he sailed north of Scotland, then turned around and went back to Norway! I couldn't find him, of course, because I assumed he had ventured out into the Atlantic, and conducted all my searches there. Once Sonny reached Norway, he advised me, "Great game, Dad, very exciting! Can't wait to play again!!"

Little thug.


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...