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10th December, 1941


Snapper

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Try imagining what was going on in the Admiralty following the loss of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales. They were both ill-starred ships in many ways - the Repulse, a battlecruiser of 1916 vintage, much modified - and oft known as HMS Refit - a Guz ship, meaning she was from Plymouth and the even less loved Prince of Wales, a new KGV manned from Portsmouth, but thought of as a Jonah given so many problems, not least her poor gunnery performance which some said caused the loss of the mighty HMS Hood in action with the Bismark- a crime too great for some in the Navy. Off they went to frighten the little yellow men. With only air cover from Malaya, a flight of Brewster Buffaloes - against hordes of Vietnam based Japanese aircraft. The poor PoW was hit by a torpedo which lifted her bodily out of the water - can you imagine that? - and wrecked her power, leaving her a sitting duck. On the bridge Admiral Tom Phillips, a believer in sea power whereby "well fought" capital ships could beat air power, stood with Captain Leach and watched his world crumble. Repulse carried on fighting to the end, dodging torpedo attacks and fighting back. But the end was inevitable. She went down in six minutes with great loss of life. PoW foundered and with them went the hopes of the Empire. In that half an hour, British Imperial power came to an end. The Repulse survivors manned guns on the destroyer HMS Elektra so the crew could help rescue others. What amazing men. Her captain Tennant, who had been beachmaster at Dunkirk, survived. Good. Sadly little Tom Phillips and Captain Leach went down with the Prince of Wales. There was an occasion when Phillips, arguing against the value of modern aircraft was warned that one day he would find himself on a sinking ship and he would say "That was a great...mine". And so it came to be. God bless the men of Repulse and Prince of Wales. Never forgotten.

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