Patrick O'Brian and the Prinz Eugen:
I saw Master and Commander this weekend, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Parts of the sound track were recorded by Richard King using cannons supplied by Michigan cannoneers, with live shot of all sorts. What you hear in the movie are actual ball, bar, grape and chain shot flying overhead, so the whistling and humming sounds are probably quite authentic (NPR/All Things Considered story).
There's a good website about men-of-war here, although it seems related to another movie, Pirates of the Caribbean. The Royal Navy also has a nice history section to its website.
The lines in the Master and Commander about the phasmid disguising itself reminded me of a story my father told of flying a sortie over the English Channel during WWII and coming across a very large ship with what appeared to be cargo boxes on its deck. When they peeled off to attack the convoy, the boxes unfolded to reveal very large guns - it was in fact the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, against which the squadron had no chance, and so they quickly broke off, scattered, and returned to base.
I'm farily sure this was not any part of the famous Channel Dash by the Bismarck & Prinz Eugen described in this MOD article, since he never mentioned the Bismarck. It must have been some other movement - his flight logbooks are still around, so I will have to ask and have a look to try and find the dates.
I had an old Revell model of the Bismarck which I think I eventually destroyed with a pellet gun. I probably even made airplane noises and rat-a-tat-tatted at it as I made pass after pass, immune from its silent, plastic guns and frozen turrets. I'm sure my sound effects were just as effective as those depicting exchange of fire between the Surprise and the Acheron.