Tag Archive | Force H

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018: Churchill’s best Boxing Day gift

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018: Churchill’s best Boxing Day gift

National Museum of the U.S. Navy. Lot-3478-38 (2407×1750)

Here we see the King George V-class dreadnought battleship HMS Duke of York (17) in heavy seas, often captioned as firing her 14-inch guns at the distant German battleship Scharnhorst during the Battle of the North Cape, some 75 years ago today– Boxing Day, 1943. Her broadside of 10 BL 14-inch Mk VII naval guns could throw almost eight tons of shells at once.

Part of a class of five mighty battleships whistled up as Hitler was girding a resurgent Germany, Duke of York was ordered 16 November 1936, just eight months after the Austrian corporal-turned-Fuhrer violated the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact by reoccupying the demilitarized Rhineland. Built at John Brown and Company, Clydebank (all five KGVs were constructed at different yards to speed up their delivery), she commissioned 19 August 1941– as Great Britain remained the only country in Western Europe still fighting the Blitzkrieg. What a difference a few years can make!

Some 42,000-tons, these 745-foot long ships were bruisers. Capable of breaking 28-knots, they were faster than all but a handful of battleships on the drawing board while still sporting nearly 15-inches of armor plate at their thickest. Armed with 10 14-inch and 16 5.25-inch guns, they could slug it out with the biggest of the dreadnoughts of their day, possibly only outclassed by the American fast battleships (Washington, SoDak, Iowa-classes) with their 16-inch guns and the Japanese Yamatos, which carried 18-inchers.

HMS Duke of York, one of five King George V-class battleships

HMS Duke of York in drydock at Rosyth, Scotland.

HMS Duke of York (17), showing off her unusual quadruple turret as she departs Rosyth, 1942

Her first assignment, once she was commissioned, was to carry Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill to the United States in mid-December 1941 to confer with London’s new ally, President Roosevelt.

HMS Duke of York visits America to transport Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill to the United States, mid-December 1941. Note the Anti-Aircraft pom-pom guns in the drill. The photograph released January 27, 1942.

HMS Duke of York puffing a smoking “O” from her Y turret during exercises off Scapa Flow. This photo was taken aboard HMS Bedouin on 27 February 1942 and if you ask me is from the same set that the first image in this post is. The next day, Duke of York would cut short her work upon a sighting by HMS Trident of the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugene steering for Trondheim in Norway. Trident winged the latter, sending her running for Lofjorden. At 1830 hours on 28 Feb, Duke of York, the light cruiser Kenya, and destroyers Faulknor, Eskimo, Punjabi and Eclipse sailed from Scapa for Hvalfjord, Iceland, to join the Home Fleet and carry out her first operational sortie. IWM A 7549

By March 1942, she was active in the Battle of the Atlantic, sailing from Hvalfjord northwards around Iceland to provide distant cover for convoy PQ 12 against the threat posed by German heavy cruisers (Hipper, Prinz Eugen, Scheer), and battleships (Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau) possibly operating from Norway.

Battleship HMS Duke of York in heavy seas on a convoy escort operation to Russia, March 1942. In all, she would screen 16 convoys from March 1942 to December 1943, with breaks to cover landings in North Africa and Sicily and escort the Italian fleet to captivity.

Rear Admiral Robert C. Giffen, USN, Commander, Task Force 99 Visits with a British Vice Admiral on board HMS Duke of York, probably at Scapa Flow. The photo is dated 22 April 1942. USS Wasp (CV-7) is in the right background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-21027

With the planned Torch landings in North Africa, in October 1942, Duke of York was sent to Gibraltar as the new flagship of Force H, from where she would lend her might to the Allied effort in the Med.

Force H warships HMS Duke of York, Nelson, Renown, Formidable, and Argonaut underway off North Africa, November 1942.

From there, she was later involved in the Operation Husky landings in Sicily in July 1943, again as flagship. She would end up escorting the Italian fleet to Alexandria, Egypt after their surrender in September.

HMS Duke of York leading the Italian Fleet to Alexandria for surrender left to right Italia, Vittorio Veneto, Cadorna, Montecuccoli, Da Recco, Eugenio Di Savoia, and Duca d’Aosta – 14 September 1943

With no rest for the weary, Duke of York was then again off Norway, this time screening the carrier Ranger on her raids there— the only time American carrier aircraft would strike Europe during the War.

Royal Navy battleship, HMS Duke of York, underway astern of USS Ranger (CV 4), September 1943. Note the TBM Avengers on deck. #80-G-88048 (2048×1641)

Remaining on-call for convoy escort, Duke of York would be screening JW 55B on the Russian run past Norway when she would meet her biggest boogeyman.

The German battleship Scharnhorst at the time was the only serious naval asset the Kriegsmarine had at the time as Bismarck had been sunk in May 1941, the pocket battleship Graf Spee run to ground in 1939, Scharnhorst‘s sister Gneisenau crippled by a British air raid in 1942, the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer in Wilhelmshaven for major overhaul, Tirpitz left nearly condemned after a British X-Craft mini-submarine raid in Sept 1943, and the pocket battleship Lutzow in Kiel under repair until after the new year. The two remaining Hipper-class heavy cruisers were likewise deployed to the Baltic in support of operations against the Soviets.

With that, the epic 11-hour running fight that was the Battle of North Cape stretched out between the guardians of JW 55B (Duke of York along with heavy cruiser HMS Norfolk, light cruisers HMS Belfast, HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica, and the destroyers HMS Savage, Scorpion, Saumarez, Opportune, Virago, Musketeer, Matchless, and HNoMS Stord) and the unescorted Scharnhorst.

The 38,000-ton Scharnhorst, with her 13-inch armor belt and battery of nine 11-inch guns, was no match for Duke of York, however, she could make 31-knots, which gave her a slight advantage in speed during the running fight. Nevertheless, the British radar sets mounted on their ships meant she could never shake her pursuers. Almost her entire crew, including KAdm. Erich Bey, would be lost in the cold sea off North Cape, Norway.

While the German battlewagon parted Duke of York‘s hair so to speak with her own 11-inch guns– passing shells through her masts, severing wireless aerials– the British battleship, in turn, used her own radar-controlled guns to get deadly serious with 52 salvos on her opponent, straddling her on 31 of them and inflicting terrific damage.

Sinking of the Scharnhorst, 26 December 1943 by Charles Pears via Greenwich RMS. The action began at 0900 and went to nearly 2000. Duke of York is seen to the left, Scharnhorst over the central horizon. Illum shells light the final scene. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/12177.html

In the end, it was too much for any ship and Scharnhorst, crippled, blind, burning, and outnumbered 13-to-1, was sunk by a brace of 19 torpedoes fired by the British destroyers Opportune, Virago, Musketeer, and Matchless at near point-blank range. Just 36 of her nearly 2,000-man crew was saved. As far as I can tell, it would be the last significant British surface action to involve battleships.

Cobb, Charles David; The Sinking of the ‘Scharnhorst’, 26 December 1943; absorbing torpedoes from British and Norwegian destroyers National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-sinking-of-the-scharnhorst-26-december-1943-25967

“The last moments of the ‘Scharnhorst’ are recorded in this painting as fire takes hold of her and she is listing to starboard. Her guns are trained to port and her bridge tower glows in the light of the flames that rage through most of her length. In the right background are three destroyers and in the left background is a cruiser, probably the ‘Jamaica’. This painting was commissioned by the artist for publication in the ‘Illustrated London News’.” http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/13726.html Object ID BHC2250 from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. The artist is Charles Eddowes Turner

The Battle of the North Cape: HMS ‘Duke of York’ in Action against the ‘Scharnhorst’, 26 December 1943, by John Alan Hamilton (1919–1993) via the Imperial War Museum London. Painted 1972, transferred from the Belfast Trust, 1978.

Gun crews of HMS DUKE OF YORK under the ship’s 14-inch guns at Scapa Flow after the sinking of the German warship, the SCHARNHORST on 26 December 1943.

Given a refit for service in the Pacific, Duke of York would sail in April 1945 for the Far East, arriving in Sydney on 29 July.

Forward turrets of Duke of York during a refit at Rosyth in 1945. Note the 2pdr on “B” turret and the 20 mm Oerlikon guns at left. This would be her configuration for the Pacific Theatre. IWM Photograph A20166.

Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser waving his telescope in greeting as HMS Duke of York entered Sydney Harbor. July 1945

She would move to Japanese Home waters for the final push and helped screen Allied carrier task forces in the weeks before VJ Day.

HMS Duke of York in Guam Harbor, August 1945. She was there to allow Adm. Sir Bruce Fraser, RN, C-in-C British Pacific Fleet, to present the order of Knights Grand Cross of the Bath (GCB) awarded by King George VI to Adm. Chester Nimitz.

Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser with Admiral Nimitz after the investiture on board the DUKE OF YORK at Guam. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205161320

In the end, she was one of 10 Allied battleships— eight American and her sister HMS King George V (41)— in Tokyo Bay during the Japanese surrender ceremony, 2 September 1945.

HMS Duke of York and King George V silhouetted against Mount Fuji 1945 IWM

WITH THE BRITISH NAVY IN THE FAR EAST. AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER 1945, ON BOARD HMS EURYALUS AND HMS DUKE OF YORK, AND ASHORE WITH THE BRITISH NAVY IN THE FAR EAST. (A 30576) Naval air might on parade when more than 1,000 Allied naval aircraft flew over HMS DUKE OF YORK as she proceeded on her way to Tokyo. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205161681

Warships of the U.S. Third Fleet and the British Pacific Fleet in Sagami Wan, 28 August 1945, preparing for the formal Japanese surrender a few days later. Mount Fujiyama is in the background. Nearest ship is USS Missouri (BB-63), flying Admiral William F. Halsey’s four-star flag. British battleship Duke of York is just beyond her, with HMS King George V further in. USS Colorado (BB-45) is in the far center distance. Also, present are U.S. and British cruisers and U.S. destroyers. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, 80-G-339360, now in the collections of the National Archives.

The above photo was immortalised by martime artist Charles David Cobb

Cobb, Charles David, 1921-2014; Japanese Surrender, Tokyo Bay

Japanese Surrender, Tokyo Bay USS Missouri HMS Duke of York HMS King George V Mount Fuji Tokyo Bay Charles David Cobb via National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth

Retiring to Hong Kong, she was present there for the reoccupation of the colony from Japanese forces.

View of Hong Kong harbor from Mount Victoria. The battleship at anchor is the HMS Duke of York.

 

The flagship of the British Pacific Fleet, HMS Duke of York. Pictured at Woolloomooloo Wharf November 23, 1945. At this point, she was just four years old and had fought the Italians, Japanese and Germans (2222×1700)

HMS Duke of York at Hobart, Tasmania, 1945

Returning to the UK, Duke of York deployed as Home Fleet Flagship until 1949 then became Flagship of the Reserve Fleet for two years until reduced to Reserve status in November 1951.

HMS DUKE OF YORK AT MADEIRA. APRIL 1947, MADEIRA, PORTUGAL. HMS DUKE OF YORK, FLAGSHIP OF THE HOME FLEET VISITED MADEIRA DURING THE SPRING CRUISE OF THE HOME FLEET. (A 31304) The Commander in Chief, Admiral Sir Neville Syfret, KCB, KBE, inspecting Portuguese troops at Madeira. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205162328

Laid-up in the Gareloch, she was placed on the Disposal List and sold to BISCO for scrapping, arriving at Faslane on 18 February 1958, less than 22 years after she was ordered. Her three surviving sisters (sister Prince of Wales was sunk by the Japanese in December 1941 in the South China Sea) were likewise disposed of at the same time.

Specs:
Displacement:42,076 long tons (42,751 t) deep load
Length:
745 ft 1 in (overall) 740 ft 1 in (waterline), Beam: 103 ft 2 in
Draught: 34 ft 4 in
Installed power: 110,000 shp (82,000 kW)
Propulsion:
8 Admiralty 3-drum small-tube boilers
4 sets Parsons geared turbines
Speed: 28.3 knots
Range: 15,600 nmi at 10 knots
Complement: 1,556 (1945)
Radars:
(1942)
1 x Type 273/M/P Surface search
1 x Type 281 Long range air warning
6 x Type 282 Pom-pom directors
1 x Type 284/M/P Main armament director
4 x Type 285/M/P/Q HA directors
( Radars added between 1944–1945)
Type 281B
2 × Types 277, 282 and 293 radars added.
Armament:
10 × BL 14 in (360 mm) Mark VII guns
16 × QF 5.25 in (133 mm) Mk. I DP guns
48 × QF 2 pdr 40 mm (1.6 in) Mk.VIII AA guns
6 × 20 mm (0.8 in) Oerlikon AA guns
Armor:
Main Belt: 14.7 inches
Lower belt: 5.4 inches
Deck: 5–6 inches
Main turrets: 12.75 inches
Barbettes: 12.75 inches
Bulkheads: 10–12 inches
Conning tower: 3–4 inches
Aircraft carried: 4 × Supermarine Walrus seaplanes, 1 catapult

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Warship Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017: Who touches me is broken

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017: Who touches me is broken

Here we see the Renown-class 15in gun battlecruiser HMS Repulse of the Royal Navy sailing as part of Force Z from Singapore, 8 December 1941, the day WWII expanded to the Pacific in a big way with the entrance of the Empire of Japan to the conflict. Just 48 hours later, some 76 years ago this week and just three days after Pearl Harbor, Japanese aircraft caught Repulse and the new King George V-class battleship Prince of Wales in the South China Sea, unsupported and unable to resist the onslaught.

Originally part of the eight planned “R” type battleships of the Revenge-class, big 33,500-ton vessels with 8 15-in/42 cal guns, 13-inches of armor and a top speed of 21-knots on a 26,500shp plant, the last two of the class were carved off and improved upon a good bit. These ships, Renown and Repulse had much more power (126,000shp on 42 glowing boilers!) while sacrificing both armor (at their thickest point just 10 inches) and guns (six 15-inch Mark Is rather than 8). But what these two redesigned battlecruisers brought was speed– Renown making an amazing 32.58kts on builder’s trials, a speed not bested for a capital ship for almost a half-decade until the one-off HMS Hood reached the fleet in 1920.

HMS Renown and HMS Repulse in 1926, what beautiful ships

Our ship had a storied name indeed and was the 10th RN ship to carry the name introduced first for a 50-gun galleon in 1595 and last for a Royal Sovereign-class pre-dreadnought sold in 1911, earning a combined total of 7 battle honors between them. Her motto: Qui Tangit Frangitur (Who touches me is broken.)

Both Renown and Repulse were laid down on the same day– 25 January 1915, five months into the Great War, at two different yards. Repulse, built by John Brown, Clydebank, in Scotland, was the first one complete, commissioned 18 August 1916, just six weeks too late for Jutland.

Conning tower and forward turrets with 15-inch guns of HMS Repulse at John Brown & Co_s Clydebank yard, August 1916 National Records of Scotland, UCS1-118-443-295

HMS Repulse, Rowena, Romola and Erebus at the John Browns shipyard at Clydebank in July 1916.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 18131) British battle cruiser HMS Repulse. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205252642

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 74265) Battlecruiser HMS Repulse below the Forth Bridge. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205319053

Battlecruiser Repulse view of the tank and the compass platform

Repulse became the first capital ship to carry an aircraft, mounting a tiny 800-pound Sopwith Pup on two bullshit looking flying off platforms from her “B” and “Y” turrets in September.

Sopwith Pup N6459 sits on a turret platform aboard HMS Repulse in October 1917

Repulse did get a chance to meet the Germans in combat, however, as the flagship of the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron during the ineffective scrap of the Heligoland Bight on 17 November 1917 with RADM Richard F. Phillimore’s flag on her mast. The most severe damage done to the stronger German force under RADM Ludwig von Reuter was when one of the Repulse‘s 15-inch shells hit on the light cruiser SMS Königsberg, igniting a major fire on board.

Win one for the Repulse!

She later finished the war uneventfully but was on hand at the surrender of the High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow.

Post-war, Repulse was extensively rebuilt with some 4,500-tons of additional armor and torpedo bulges, drawing on lessons learned about how disaster-prone battlecruisers are in combat (“There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”) against battleships and submarines. This gave her a distinctive difference from her sister for years until Renown got the same treatment. This process is extensively documented by Ivan Gogin over at Navypedia.

She joined the brand-new HMS Hood and five “D” class cruisers in 1923-24 as part of the “Special Service Squadron” to wave the Royal Ensign in a round-the-world cruise that saw her visit several far-flung Crown Colonies as well as the U.S and Canada.

HMS Repulse entering Vancouver Harbor, as part of her round-the-world cruise in 1924 with HMS Hood

HMS Repulse off the coast of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, on 12 June 1924. Photographed from an aircraft flying out of Naval Air Station Pearl Harbor. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 57164

Photographed through a porthole, circa 1922-24. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 525-A

In 1925, Repulse undertook Royal Visits to Portugal, South Africa and east coast of South America with Prince of Wales then largely spent the next 10 years in a reduced status with up to a third of her crew on furlough, though she put to sea for a number of exercises to give a good show between yard periods and a lengthy reconstruction.

HMS Repulse Firing her 15-inch guns during maneuvers off Portland, England, circa the later 1920s. The next ship astern is sister HMS Renown. Photographed from HMS Hood. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 57181

HMS Repulse leading other Royal Navy capital ships during maneuvers, circa the later 1920s. The next ship astern is HMS Renown. The extensive external side armor of Repulse and the larger bulge of Renown allow these ships to be readily differentiated. Photograph by Underwood & Underwood. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 57183

She also picked up some deck-mounted torpedo tubes, always a waste on a capital ship!

Back to work after 1935, she was a common sight in the Med, protecting British interests.

HMS REPULSE (FL 12340) Underway. May 1936. She was serving extensively off Spain in this period during the Spanish Civil War. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205166001

1938- British Renown-class battlecruiser HMS REPULSE after 1930’s reconstruction leaving Portsmouth.

Renown Class Battlecruiser HMS Repulse at Haifa, July13th and 14th 1938. Note the extensive hot weather awnings over her decks in this image and the below.

HMS Repulse, from the stern, as a Royal Marine in tropical kit stands guard with a bayonet-affixed SMLE during her visit to Palestine in 1938. That pith helmet, tho!

Assigned to the Home Fleet at the outbreak of WWII, she sailed first for Halifax to provide cover in the western north Atlantic for HX and SC convoys then returned to the UK in early 1940 to screen the Northern Patrol and the Norwegian convoys, later operating off Norway itself, primarily in the Lofoten Islands, during the campaign there, just missing a chance to sink the cruiser Adm. Hipper.

Repulse then formed part of Force A, intended to block German surface raiders including Scharnhorst and Gneisenau as well as a variety of lesser cruisers from massacring Atlantic convoys.

She got a break in late 1940 with a refit at Rosyth where these great images were taken.

‘JACK OF ALL TRADES’. 1940, ON BOARD HMS REPULSE DURING HER REFIT IN DRY DOCK. (A 1337) Signalman May of HMS REPULSE repairing flags while in harbor. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205135733

TYPES OF SEAMEN. 1940, ON BOARD HMS REPULSE DURING HER REFIT. (A 1339) This Seaman, who has grown a beard since joining the Navy, is known on board as the ‘Bearded Gunner’. Here he is shouldering a 4-inch shell. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205135735

By March 1941, Repulse was assigned to Force H in the Med, and dispatched to Gibraltar where she would help shepherd Freetown convoys. However, in May the great German battleship Bismarck broke out into the Atlantic and Repulse took part in the effort to run her to ground– though she never contacted the Germans.

Then, Churchill decided that HMS Prince of Wales, who did get in some licks on Bismarck, along with Repulse would be a terrific addition to bolster the defenses of Singapore against a lot of noise the Japanese– who had just taken over nearby French Indochina– were making.

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 6793) The battlecruiser HMS REPULSE, painted in a dazzle camouflage scheme, while escorting the last troop convoy to reach Singapore. Copyright: � IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119433

British troop reinforcements come ashore at Singapore, November 1941 escorted by Repulse and Prince of Wales. These men would soon become Japanese prisoners of war.

When the Japanese entered the war with a vengeance, enemy troop convoys were spotted, and landings made at Kuantan in Malaysia– with Force Z directed to intercept. Bird-dogged by two Japanese submarines, the Japanese 22nd Air Flotilla, based out of the French facilities at Saigon, tracked the woefully unprepared British ships and some 90~ G3M “Nell” and GM4 “Betty” bombers soon took to the air to erase the Royal Navy from the Pacific on 10 December.

It was a slow-motion slaughter that lasted for hours as the aircraft hounded the British ships.

At approximately 12:30 midday, the battlecruiser Repulse which had dodged 19 torpedoes so far, finally rolled over, within six minutes of three simultaneous hits. At the same time the relatively new battleship Prince of Wales also took three torpedoes – leaving her in a dire situation. With a torpedo having already taken out two shafts earlier in the attack, she was now left with just one. With this and, incredibly, north of 10,000 tonnes of unwelcome seawater aboard, her speed was massively reduced. However, not yet slain her crew took up the fight with high level bombers as she clawed her way home. From that final wave of attackers, one 500lb bomb came to be the final nail and slowly rolling over to port, she settled by the head and sank at 13:18.

THE LOSS OF HMS PRINCE OF WALES AND REPULSE 10 DECEMBER 1941 (HU 2762) A heavily retouched Japanese photograph of HMS PRINCE OF WALES (upper) and REPULSE (lower) after being hit by Japanese torpedoes on 10 December 1941, off Malaya. A British destroyer can also be seen in the foreground. The sinkings were an appalling blow to British prestige. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205023031

THE SINKING OF HMS REPULSE AND HMS PRINCE OF WALES, DECEMBER 1941 (HU 2763) A Japanese aerial photograph showing HMS PRINCE OF WALES (top) and HMS REPULSE during the early stages of the attack in which they were sunk. HMS REPULSE had just been hit for the first time (12.20 hours). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022172

“Sea Battle off Malaya” Description: Photo #: SC 301094 Sea Battle off Malaya Japanese war art painting by Nakamura Kanichi, 1942, depicting Japanese Navy aircraft making successful torpedo attacks on the British battleship Prince of Wales (center) and battlecruiser Repulse (left) on 10 December 1941. Planes shown include Betty bombers. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: SC 301094

In all, around 840 of HMs officers and men – including the task force commander Adm. Sir Thomas Spencer Vaughan “Tom” Phillips GBE, KCB, DSO, and flagship captain John Leach – lost their lives. The Japanese lost six aircraft and 18 aircrew. A squadron of land-based RAAF Brewster Buffalos, which were crap fighters compared to Zeroes but still could have fought off the lumbering twin-engine Japanese bombers, arrived after both ships were on the bottom. Four escorting destroyers, HMS Electra, Express, Vampire, and Tenedos, managed to pick up over 1,000 survivors.

Prince of Wales and Repulse were the first capital ships to be sunk at sea by aircraft alone, smothered in a wave of no less than 49 air-launched torpedoes, about 20 percent of which hit home. It was the final nail in the coffin in the air power vs the all-gun big warship debate following (ironically) the British raid on Taranto in November 1940 and, of course, Pearl Harbor. In the 13 months spanning these three engagements, there was a paradigm shift in naval warfare that found battleships on the bad end of the stick.

Of the attack, Winston Churchill said, “In all the war I never received a more direct shock. As I turned and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American capital ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor who were hastening back to California. Over this vast expanse of waters, Japan was supreme and we everywhere were weak and naked.”

As for her crew, the survivors were scattered to the wind and continued as best they could once reaching dry land again, many winding up as prisoners of war when Singapore fell in Febuary 1942, a fate which some did not survive.

Repulse’s captain, Bill Tennant, survived the sinking and was not lost at Singapore, later going on to become one of the architects of the Normandy invasion, aiding in the setup of the Mulberry harbors and the Pluto pipelines. Sir William retired as an Admiral in 1949 and lived to the age of 73 and his earlier exploits during the miracle at Dunkirk before he arrived on Repulse were portrayed in large part by Kenneth Branagh in that recent film.

In 1945, when a major British fleet returned to the Pacific looking for a little payback and to take back Singapore and Hong Kong, it was centered around six heavily armored fleet carriers, escorted by a force of modern battleships slathered in AAA defenses– to include two sisters of Prince of Wales: HMS King George V and HMS Howe.

As for Repulse‘s own sister, Renown helped search for the pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee, traded fire with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, fought in the Med, covered the Torch Landings in North Africa, carried Churchill to the Cairo Conference and even made it to Java by 1944 to plaster the Japanese in honor of her lost classmate. She lived on to be scrapped in 1948 after 32 years of very hard and faithful service.

Both Renown and Repulse had their names recycled for an 8th and 11th time respectively, in the 1960s as two of the four Resolution-class Polaris missile submarines in the Royal Navy. Those boombers are currently laid up at Rosyth dockyard with their used nuclear fuel removed after three decades of deterrent patrols.

The 1941 loss of Repulse and Prince of Wales is still painfully remembered in the Royal Navy today, akin to the loss of the USS Indianapolis or the USS Arizona in the U.S. Navy.

The wrecks of Repulse and Prince of Wales were discovered in the 1960s and have been extensively visited and memorialized over the years.

There is now a campaign to urge recovery of some of the more important artifacts from Repulse (Prince of Wales‘ bell was salvaged some years ago) to beat illegal scrappers to the punch. As reported by the Telegraph, “The massive bronze propellers disappeared sometime between September 2012 and May 2013, followed quickly by components made of other valuable ferrous metals, such as copper. The scavengers have since turned their attention to blocks of steel and high-grade aluminum.”

And of course, she is remembered in maritime art across three continents.

Collinson, Basil; HMS ‘Repulse’, Sunk 10 December 1941; Royal Marines Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/hms-repulse-sunk-10-december-1941-25157

Repulse, sketched at Colombo in 1941, on the way to her fate with destiny. Via the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies.

HMS Repulse & HMS Prince of Wales

Freedman, Barnett; 15-Inch Gun Turret, HMS ‘Repulse’; IWM (Imperial War Museums); http://www.artuk.org/artworks/15-inch-gun-turret-hms-repulse-6934

Specs:

Displacement:
27,200 long tons (27,600 t) (normal)
32,220 long tons (32,740 t) (deep load)
35,000 full (1941)
Length:
750 ft. 2 in p.p., 794 ft. 1.5 in (oa.)
Beam: 90 ft. 1.75 in
Draught: 27 ft. (33 at FL)
Installed power: 112,000 shp (84,000 kW)
Propulsion:
4 × shafts, 2 × Brown-Curtis steam turbines steam turbine sets,
42 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers water-tube boilers
Fuel: 4243 tons oil for 4700nm range @12kts.
Speed: 31.5 knots (28 by 1939)
Crew: 967 (designed) 1,222 (1919) 1,250 (1939)
Armor:
Belt: 3–6 in (76–152 mm) (later increased to 9-inches)
Decks: 1–2.5 in (25–64 mm) (later increased to 4-inches)
Barbettes: 4–7 in (102–178 mm)
Gun turrets: 7–9 in (178–229 mm)
Conning tower: 10 in (254 mm)
Bulkheads: 3–4 in (76–102 mm)
Aircraft carried: 2 Sopwith Pups (1917-20) 4 Sea Walrus (1936)
Armament: (1916)
3 × 2 – 15-inch (381 mm) guns
6 × 3, 2 × 1 – 4-inch (102 mm) guns
2 × 1 – 3-inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns
1x 3pdr Hotchkiss Mk I 47mm
2 × 1 – submerged 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
Armament: (1939)
3 × 2 – 15-inch (381 mm) guns
4 × 3 – 4-inch (102 mm) guns
6 × 1 – 102/45 QF Mk V
2 × 8 – 40mm (1.6 in) 2pdr QF Mk VIII “pom-pom” AA guns
4×4- Quad Vickers .50 cal mounts
8 × 21 in (530 mm) Mk II torpedo tubes

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