Our speaker Philip Ashe kept his audience spellbound whilst he told us about this iconic ship whose sinking in 1941 was as much a shock to the nation as was President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. He explained how this ship had become such a well-loved symbol of Britain’s power. It entered the Royal Navy’s service in 1920 and after WW1 was sent around the world as a national ambassador – a role it did brilliantly for 19 years. Being a battle cruiser it had speed, beauty and fire-power. It also had a crew, which interacted with those in the host ports at every level. Thousands would be entertained on board on conducted visits – figures of 17,000 in one day were mentioned.
So how could a ship with speed and fire-power become a victim of Germany’s most advanced war vessel – the Bismark? Basically it was not built to withstand a sustained shelling – its role was to have used its speed to hunt and destroy smaller vessels. It was not a heavily armoured war ship, but unfortunately, that is how it ended up being deployed. The fault was with the Commanders rather than the ship.
This was a good story told in a compelling manner after thorough research. Truly a memorable end to a meeting. The speaker was thanked by Ernest Kirkby who remarked on how much he (and I suspect everyone) had learned.