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Snapper

10th December 1941

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We always hear so much about Pearl Harbor, but lets not forget that today is the 65th anniversary of the loss of the battleship HMS Prince Of Wales and the battle-cruiser HMS Repulse. This cataclysmic event removed all major sea power from the Pacific theatre under attack by Japan and in it's own way signalled the death of the British Empire. Never again would the indigenous populace of our colonies in the Far East have faith that their European "masters" had the will or ability to defend them. The loss of face suffered with the disasters in Malaya, Singapore and Burma was total.

 

On a human note the loss of life when the two ships were sunk was huge, 800 sailors died; including the Captain of the Prince of Wales, Captain John Leach and the fleet commander Admiral Sir Tom Phillips. Phillips was a diminutive character who was much liked in the service and elsewhere and he was one of many people of his rank who claimed that "Well fought" capital ships could see off air attack. It was his friend General Archibald Wavell who warned him that one day he would have his ships sunk from under him by air attack and he would claim "that was a great mine". And so it came to pass. Only three Japanese aircraft were shot down.

 

Prince of Wales is generally claimed to have been a "Jonah" ship having been at the centre of several unfortunate incidents. It is often said that the failings of her armament during the chase of the Bismark caused the loss of the supreme HMS Hood - the most famous warship of Her generation. On the day she was sunk the PoW was severely damaged almost immediately by a torpedo which caused the loss of almost all electrical power. She was helpless. The Repulse, however, fought brilliantly and really gave the Japs something to think about. Unfortunately she was severely lacking in anti-aircraft guns. Captain Tennant, who survived, had been the beach commander on the mole at Dunkirk during the evacuation in 1940. What a bloke he must have been.

 

Think of the survivors, taken to Singapore only to fall into the hands of the barbaric Japanese. These great ships now lie in just under a 100 metres of water and are fiercely protected as war graves by the modern Royal Navy (or what is left of it). They did suffer some problems with rogue salvage crews in the past and to that end the bell of the Prince of Wales was raised and is on display in Liverpool. God bless the survivors and victims of this terrible tragedy.

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I was talking to a couple I have known for many years a couple of weeks ago and it turned out that the wife's dad was on the Prince of Wales when it was sunk. Obviously he survived and spent the rest of the war as a POW.

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