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In May 1941, Paul Schmalenbach was a Kapitän-Leutnant in the German Kriegsmarine. To be more specific, he was the Second Gunnery Officer of the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. One of his additional duties was that of official Ship's Historian. This duty gave him access to a great deal of information concerning his ship, to include photos and film shot during her most famous operation- "Rheinübung" the sortie with Bismarck in the Atlantic). Sometime after the war, he donated a film showing footage from the mission to the official Prinz Eugen veterans group, the BKPG.
Over the years, many people have mistakenly believed that Schmalenbach himself filmed the material. This is highly unlikely. Prinz Eugen had a small team of war reporters and cameramen from the Propaganda Kompanie (PK). Among these was a reporter named Lagemann who is believed to be the real cameraman. Schmalenbach was a bit too busy during the battle to film it, though as a prominent officer he would have easily been able to obtain a copy later on.
Rough Synopsis of Footage
This black and white film is silent and runs about 11 minutes and 45 second in length. The following times are rough at best but give the viewer a decent overview of when the following described events take place. They are in minutes:seconds format.
0:0–0:01 It starts with a black screen with "Agfa 1941" within a diamond.
0:01–1:12 Admiral Lütjens boards Prinz Eugen and inspects the crew.
1:13–1:16 A view of Prinz Eugen's funnel (from starboard and slightly aft).
1:17–1:20 Crewmen on deck. Prinz Eugen is underway.
1:21–1:57 Famous footage of Bismarck passing from left to right side of screen. Prinz Eugen's guns in foreground. Bismarck is wearing her Baltic stripes.
1:58–2:02 Prinz Eugen crewmen in foreground with Bismarck to starboard in background.
2:03–2:16 KzS Brinkmann and another office address the crew. The ship's band plays.
2:17–2:25 Crewmen exercising (playing "leap frog) on the stern.
2:25–2:33 View looking down at Prinz Eugen's bow from the forward bridge superstructure. Appears to be a bit misty/foggy. There is a support ship ahead.
2:33–2:40 View of Prinz Eugen's stern. In the background is another ship in Prinz Eugen's wake, and in the foreground, a crewman appears to be cleaning or touching-up the stern swastika.
2:40–2:46 Another view of the same ship (and one other) astern of Prinz Eugen.
2:46–2:55 A view of what appears to be a three masted ship passing to port.
2:55–4:04 More men, more exercise on Prinz Eugen's Upper Deck at the stern.
3:04–3:21 View of various ships in Prinz Eugen's wake.
3:21–3:04 Ships in the distance.
3:04–3:33 An Arado floatplane flies overhead.
3:33–4:00 Another stock view of the bow taken from the bridge area/forward superstructure. Her fore Upper Deck swastika is still present. Bismarck is seen manoeuvring ahead of Prinz Eugen as Prinz herself takes up a new position. Bismarck is still wearing her Baltic colours.
4:00–4:06 The very end of Prinz Eugen's stern (one can see the chute like structure at the very end of the stern and the ship's wake below).
4:06–4:11 Bismarck to starboard. Still in Baltic colours.
4:11–4:52 Assorted views of Prinz Eugen's forward superstructure decks and bow (taken from one of the "wings" on the Admiral's bridge level). Good view of the small oval/rounded splinter shields which were below . There is a small group of men who are laying a light canvas across the deck–most likely to cover the bow swastika. This activity is confirmed by still photos.
4:52–5:40 At sea. An assortment of shots showing Bismarck ahead. Ice can be seen floating in the water. At one point Prinz Eugen's focsle can be seen. The swastika is now covered.
5:40–7:19 The Battle of the Denmark Strait. This is clearly not the entire battle, but various scenes shot toward the middle/end of the battle.
5:40 Bismarck has just fired a heavy salvo. Bismarck is clearly aft and to starboard of Prinz Eugen. In this first part of the battle film, Bismarck is either kept centred in the camera's field of view, or is on the left side of the screen. All her salvoes are on the near side and aimed at something abaft the mid-section.
5:41 Bismarck's turrets Anton and Bruno fire.
5:46 Camera jerks (presumably due to Prinz Eugen having fired). Bismarck fires what appears to be a 15cm secondary gun salvo immediately afterwards.
5:57 A British shell splashes on the right side of the screen (its in-line with Bismarck but short). Its likely from one of the salvoes, fired under local control by Prince of Wales's "Y" turret.
5:58 Definite 15cm salvo from Bismarck. All 3 turrets fired. Followed by three small puffs of smoke.
5:27 Camera jerks again–this time, away from Bismarck to the aforementioned salvo splash.
6:04 Bismarck's Anton and Bruno fire, lots of smoke afterwards.
6:06 Bismarck's Caesar and Dora fire, lots of smoke.
6:13 Camera jerks again.
6:15 British salvo splashes on the left side of the screen. Its ahead of Bismarck (and roughly correct for range) but in-line and over Prinz Eugen. Its likely from one Prince of Wales's last few salvoes (from "Y" turret firing under local control). The cameraman now keeps Bismarck on the right side of the screen.
6:34 Possible 15cm salvo from Bismarck (followed by three puffs of smoke).
6:36 Bismarck's Caesar and Dora fire a salvo with lots of smoke.
6:43 Cuts to view of Hood's smoke (from explosion a minute or so earlier). One can clearly see the silhouette of Prince of Wales. firing a salvo as she steers around Hood. German shell splashes appear very close to Prince of Wales. No telling how much of a time gap between the time the photographer stopped filming Bismarck and ran around to the other side of the ship to film Hood and Prince of Wales. This appears to have been filmed as Prince of Wales was early in the process of steering around Hood.
6:51 Cuts back to Bismarck. She has just fired another main armament salvo (heavy smoke can be seen). There is a great lull. Again, we don't know how long it took him to get his camera back over on the other side to look at Bismarck. Bismarck is at more of an angle than before (more bow on than before). She still appears to be to somewhat starboard and aft of Prinz Eugen.
7:05 Scene cuts to Prinz Eugen's bow wave. and then back to Bismarck. She has once again fired a heavy salvo as there is a lot of smoke present.
7:13 onwards A view of the scenery after the battle. To the left, one can see a heavy smoke trail from Norfolk. To the right, one can see lingering smoke from Hood and the retreating Prince of Wales.
7:19–7:25 KzS Brinkmann smoking and examining a shell fragment from Prince of Wales.
7:25–7:35 Prinz Eugen crewmen swapping stories after the battle.
7:36–8:25 Yet another view of Prinz Eugen's bow taken from the forward bridge. She's moving fast and her turrets are to port. Interestingly, her swastika is visible again (canvas may have come undone).
8:26–8:30 More scenes of crewmen on bridge area (standing behind the very front splinter shield...in front of the conning tower. This is the same position from which Lagemann filmed the bow shots).
8:31–8:47 Various views of a tanker (Spichern)
8:48–9:10 Men on the bow handling refueling lines (Spichern is now ahead).
9:11–9:35 Men "sunning" themselves on the main deck near the portside after superstructure, just in front of "C" turret.
9:36–9:45 Men on the bow/focsle. The Spichern is to starboard now.
9:46–9:58 Another of the endless views of the bow from the forward superstructure. The swastika is covered once more.
9:59–10:06 Men on deck near a 10.5cm AAA gun.
10:07–10:15 Men on the stern/quarterdeck (swastika cannot be seen).
10:16–10:31 An older, heavy-set three striped officer poses with his favourite pair of Zeiss binoculars on the stern/quarterdeck, just ahead of the stern anchor hawse pipe. He eventually walks off.
10:31–10:32 More footage of men on forward bridge
10:32–10:49 A ship in the distance is literally buzzed by one of Prinz Eugen's Arados. He flew very low right over the deck.
10:49–11:11 A jovial KzS Brinkmann addressing the crew
11:11–11:45 Officers on the forward bridge. Brinkmann as well. All are dressed quite well (great coats, scarfs, gloves). Coastline in background. They are likely preparing for their arrival in France.