Wrecks of South China Sea

HMS Prince of Wales

Name:                HMS Prince of Wales

Class and type:  King George V-class battleship

Displacement:    43,786 tons (deep)

Length:               745 ft 1 in (227.1 m) (overall)
                           740 ft 1 in (225.6 m) (waterline)

Beam:                103 ft 2 in (31.4 m)

Draught:             34 ft 4 in (10.5 m)

Laid down:         1 January 1937

Launched:          3 May 1939

Completed:       31 March 1941

Commissioned: 19 January 1941

Propulsion:        8 Admiralty 3-drum small-tube boilers
                          4 sets Parsons geared turbines

Speed:              28.3 knots

Complement:    1,521 (1941)

Fate:                  Sunk on 10 December 1941 by Japanese air attack off Kuantan, South China Sea

Armament:        10 × BL 14-inch (360 mm) Mark VII
                          16 × QF 5.25-inch (133 mm) Mk. I
                          32 × QF 2 pdr 1.575-inch (40.0 mm) Mk.VIII
                          80x UP projectors

Armour: Main Belt: 14.7 inches (370 mm)
                          Lower belt: 5.4 inches (140 mm)
Deck:                 5–6 inches (127–152 mm)
Main turrets:      12.75 inches (324 mm)
Barbettes:          12.75 inches (324 mm)
Bulkheads:         10–12 inches (254–305 mm)
Conning tower:   3–4 inches (76–102 mm).

Aircraft carried: 4 Supermarine Walrus seaplanes, 1 double-ended catapult

HMS Prince of Wales was a King George V-class battleship of the Royal Navy, She was involved in several key actions of the Second World War, including the battle of Denmark Strait against the German battleship Bismarck, operations escorting convoys in the Mediterranean, and her final action and sinking in the Pacific in 1941. Prince of Wales first encountered the Germans while being outfitted in her drydock, being attacked and damaged by German aircraft. She was heavily involved in the first contact with the German battleship Bismarck and the cruiser Prinz Eugen, and landed 3 hits on Bismarck including two critical hits, one which caused extensive flooding forward, and another which exploded under Bismarck's armour belt causing machinery damage, the combined effect of both hits caused her to make the ill-fated decision to return to port.[3] Prince of Wales suffered heavy damage during the engagement and had to return to Rosyth to be repaired. Prince of Wales transported Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the Newfoundland Conference with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

On 25 October 1941, Prince of Wales departed for Singapore to join Force Z, a British naval detachment. She docked there on 2 December with the rest of the force, and at 2:11 on 10 December Force Z was dispatched to investigate reports of Japanese landing forces at Kuantan. On arriving there they found the reports to be false. At 11:00 that morning Japanese bombers and torpedo aircraft began their assault on Force Z.

In a second attack at 11:30 one torpedo struck Prince of Wales on the port side, wrecking the outer propeller shaft and causing the ship to take on a heavy list. A third torpedo attack developed against HMS Repulse, a Renown-class battlecruiser in Force Z, but she managed to avoid all torpedoes aimed at her.

A fourth attack by torpedo-carrying Type 1 "Bettys" sank Repulse at 12:33. Six aircraft from this wave attacked Prince of Wales, with three of their torpedoes hitting the ship on the starboard side, causing flooding. Finally a 500 kg bomb hit the catapult deck, penetrated through to the main deck and exploded, tearing a gash in the port side of the hull. At 13:15 the order was given to abandon ship and at 13:20 Prince of Wales sank; Vice-Admiral Tom Phillips and Captain John Leach were among the 327 fatalities.

Prince of Wales and Repulse were the first capital ships to be sunk solely by air power on the open sea (albeit by land-based rather than carrier-based aircraft), a harbinger of the diminishing role this class of ships was subsequently to play in naval warfare. The wreck lies upside down in 223 feet (68 m) of water, near Kuantan, in the South China Sea.

Action with Bismarck

On 22 May 1941, Prince of Wales, the battlecruiser Hood and six destroyers were ordered to take station south of Iceland and intercept the German battleship Bismarck if she attempted to break out into the Atlantic. Captain John Leach knew that main-battery breakdowns were likely to occur, since Vickers Armstrongs technicians had already corrected some that took place during training exercises in Scapa Flow. These technicians were personally requested by the captain to remain aboard. They did so and played an important role in the resulting action.

The next day Bismarck, in company with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, was reported heading south-westward in the Denmark Strait. At 20:00 Vice-Admiral Lancelot Holland, in his flagship Hood, ordered the force to steam at 27 knots, which it did most of the night. His battle plan called for Prince of Wales and Hood to concentrate on Bismarck, while the cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk would handle Prinz Eugen. However the two cruisers were not informed of this plan because of strict radio silence. At 02:00, on 24 May, the destroyers were sent as a screen to search for the German ships to the north and at 02:47 Hood and Prince of Wales increased speed to 28 knots and changed course slightly to obtain a better target angle on the German ships. The weather improved, with ten-mile (16 km) visibility and crews were at action stations by 05:10.

At 05:37 an enemy contact report was made and course was changed to starboard to close range. Neither ship was in good fighting trim. Hood, designed twenty-five years earlier, lacked adequate horizontal protection and would have to close the range quickly, as she would become progressively less vulnerable to plunging shellfire at shorter ranges. She had completed an overhaul in March and her crew had not been adequately retrained. Prince of Wales, with thicker armour, was less vulnerable to 15-inch shells at ranges greater than 17,000 feet (5,200 m), but her crew had also not been trained to battle efficiency. The British ships made their last course change at 05:49, but they had made their approach too fine (the German ships were only 30 degrees on the starboard bow) and their aft turrets could not fire. Prinz Eugen, with Bismarck astern had the Prince of Wales and Hood slightly forward of the beam and both ships could deliver full broadsides

At 05:53, despite seas breaking over the bows, Prince of Wales opened fire on Bismarck at 26,500 yards.  There was some confusion among the British as to which ship was Bismarck and thirty seconds earlier Hood had mistakenly opened fire on Prinz Eugen as the German ships had similar profiles. Hood '​s first salvo straddled the enemy ship, but Prinz Eugen, in less than three minutes, scored 8-inch-shell hits on Hood. The first shots by Prince of Wales – two three-gun salvoes at ten second intervals – were 1,000 yards over. The turret rangefinders on Prince of Wales could not be used because of spray over the bow and fire was instead directed from the 15-foot (4.6 m) rangefinders in the control tower.

The sixth, ninth and thirteenth salvos were straddles[ and two decisive hits were made on Bismarck. One shell holed her bow and caused Bismarck to lose 1,000 tons of fuel oil, mostly to salt-water contamination. The other fell short, and entered Bismarck below her side armour belt, the shell exploded and flooded the auxiliary boiler machinery room and forced the shutdown of two boilers due to a slow leak in the boiler room immediately aft. The loss of fuel and boiler power were decisive factors in the Bismarck '​s decision to return to port. In Prince of Wales, "A1" gun ceased fire after the first salvo due to a defect. Sporadic breakdowns occurred until the decision to turn away was made and during the turn "Y" turret jammed.

Both German ships initially concentrated their fire on Hood and destroyed her with salvoes of 8- and 15-inch shells. An 8-inch shell hit the boat deck and struck a ready service locker for the UP rocket projectors and a fire blazed high above the first superstructure deck. At 05:58 at a range of 16,500 yards, the force commander ordered a turn of 20 degrees to port to open the range and bring the full battery of the British ships to bear on Bismarck. As the turn began, Bismarck straddled Hood with her third and fourth four-gun salvoes and at 06:01 the fifth salvo hit her, causing a large explosion. Flames shot up near Hood '​s masts, then an orange-coloured fireball and an enormous smoke cloud obliterated the ship. On Prince of Wales, it seemed that Hood collapsed amidships and the bow and stern could be seen rising as she rapidly settled. Prince of Wales made a sharp starboard turn to avoid hitting the debris and in doing so further closed the range between her and the German ships. In the four-minute action, Hood, the largest battlecruiser in the world, had been sunk. 1,419 officers and men were killed. Only three men survived.

Prince of Wales fired unopposed until she began a port turn at 05:57, when Prinz Eugen took her under fire. After Hood exploded at 06:01, the Germans opened intense and accurate fire on Prince of Wales, with 15-inch, 8-inch and 5.9-inch guns. A heavy hit was sustained below the waterline as Prince of Wales manoeuvred through the wreckage of Hood. At 06:02, a 15-inch shell struck the starboard side of the compass platform and killed the majority of the personnel there. The navigating officer was wounded, but Captain Leach was unhurt. Casualties were caused by the fragments from the shell's ballistic cap and the material it dislodged in its diagonal path through the compass platform. A 15-inch diving shell penetrated the ship's side below the armour belt amidships, failed to explode and came to rest in the wing compartments on the starboard side of the after boiler rooms. The shell was discovered and defused when the ship was docked at Rosyth.

At 06:05 Captain Leach decided to disengage and laid down a heavy smokescreen to cover Prince of Wales '​s escape. Following this, Leach radioed the Norfolk that the Hood had been sunk and then proceeded to join the Norfolk roughly 15 to 17 miles astern of the Bismarck. Throughout the day the British ships continued to chase the Bismarck until at 18:16 when Suffolk sighted the Bismarck at 22,000 yards. Prince of Wales then proceeded to open fire on Bismarck at an extreme range of 30,300 yards, she fired twelve salvos but owing to the range all of them missed. At 01:00 on 25 May Prince of Wales once again regained contact and proceeded to open fire at a radar range of 20,000 yards, after observers believed that she had scored a hit on Bismarck, Prince of Wales's "A" turret temporarily jammed leaving her with only six operational guns. After losing the Bismarck owing to poor visibility and after searching for twelve hours Prince of Wales headed for Iceland and would take no further part in actions against the Bismarck.


HMS Repulse

Name:                          HMS Repulse

Class & type:                Renown-class battlecruiser

Laid down:                   25 January 1915

Launched:                    8 January 1916

Commissioned:           18 August 1916

Fate:                             Sunk by Japanese air attack off Malaya on 10 December 1941


Displacement:              34,600 long tons (35,200 t)

Length:                        794 ft 2.5 in (242.1 m) (o/a)

Beam:                          89 ft 11.5 in (27.4 m)

Draught:                      29 ft 8 in (9.0 m)

Installed power:            112,000 shp (84,000 kW)

Propulsion:                  4 x shafts, 4 x direct-drive steam turbines

Speed:                          31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph)

Range:                          3,650 nmi (6,760 km; 4,200 mi)

Complement:               1,181

Armament:                   3 x 2 – 15-inch (381 mm) guns

4 x 3 – 4-inch (102 mm) guns

6 x 1 – 4-inch (102 mm) AA guns

2 x 8 – 40-millimetre (1.6 in)

2-pounder "pom-pom" AA guns

8 x 21 in (530 mm) Mk II torpedo tubes

Armour: Belt:               2–9 in (51–229 mm)

Decks: 1–4 in (25–102 mm), otherwise no change

Aircraft carried:           4 x seaplanes

Aviation facilities:        1 x double-ended aircraft catapult

HMS Repulse was a Renown-class battlecruiser of the Royal Navy built during the First World War. She was originally laid down as an improved version of the Revenge-class battleships. Her construction was suspended on the outbreak of war on the grounds she would not be ready in a timely manner. Admiral Lord Fisher, upon becoming First Sea Lord, gained approval to restart her construction as a battlecruiser that could be built and enter service quickly. The Director of Naval Construction

(DNC), Eustace Tennyson-D'Eyncourt, quickly produced an entirely new design to meet Admiral Lord Fisher's requirements and the builders agreed to deliver the ships in 15 months. They did not quite meet that ambitious goal, but the ship was delivered a few months after the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Repulse, and her sister HMS Renown, were the world's fastest capital ships upon completion. Repulse participated in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1917; the only combat she saw during the war. She was reconstructed twice between the wars; the 1920s reconstruction increased her armour protection and made lesser improvements, while the 1930s reconstruction was much more thorough. Repulse accompanied the battlecruiser HMS Hood during the Special Service Squadron's round-the-world cruise in 1923–24 and protected international shipping during the Spanish Civil War in 1936–39.

The ship spent the first months of the Second World War hunting for German raiders and blockade runners. She participated in the Norwegian Campaign of April–June 1940 and searched for the German battleship Bismarck in 1941. Repulse escorted a troop convoy around the Cape of Good Hope from August to October 1941 and was transferred to East Indies Command. She was assigned in November to Force Z which was supposed to deter Japanese aggression against British possessions in the Far East. Repulse and her consort Prince of Wales were eventually sunk by Japanese aircraft on 10 December 1941 when they attempted to intercept landings in British Malaya.

Design and description

Admiral Lord Fisher first presented his requirements for the new ships to the Director of Naval Construction (DNC) on 18 December 1914, before the ships had even been approved. He wanted a long, high, flared bow, like that on the pre-dreadnought HMS Renown, but higher, four 15-inch guns in two twin turrets, an anti-torpedo boat armament of twenty 4-inch (102 mm) guns mounted high up and protected by gun shields only, speed of 32 knots using oil fuel, and armour on the scale of the battlecruiser Indefatigable. Within a few days, however, Fisher increased the number of guns to six and added two torpedo tubes. Minor revisions in the initial estimate were made until 26 December and a preliminary design was completed on 30 December. During the following week the DNC's department examined the material delivered for the two battleships and decided what could be used in the new design. The usable material was transferred to the builders who had received enough information from the DNC's department to lay the keels of both ships on 25 January 1915, well before the altered contracts were completed on 10 March

First World War

Repulse was laid down by John Brown, Clydebank, Scotland on 25 January 1915. The ship was launched on 8 January 1916 and completed on 18 August 1916, after the Battle of Jutland. Her construction cost £2,829,087. She served with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea during the remaining two years of the First World War. Repulse relieved HMS Lion as flagship of the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron for the duration of the war.

Second Battle of Heligoland Bight

Over the course of 1917 the Admiralty became more concerned about German efforts in the North Sea to sweep paths through the British-laid minefields intended to restrict the actions of the High Seas Fleet and German submarines. A preliminary raid on German minesweeping forces on 31 October by light forces destroyed ten small ships and the Admiralty decided on a larger operation to destroy the minesweepers and their escorting light cruisers. Based on intelligence reports the Admiralty decided on 17 November 1917 to allocate two light cruiser squadrons, the 1st Cruiser Squadron covered by the reinforced 1st BCS (less Renown) and, more distantly, the battleships of the 1st Battle Squadron to the operation.

The German ships, four light cruisers of II Scouting Force, eight destroyers, three divisions of minesweepers, eight Sperrbrechers (cork-filled trawlers, used to

detonate mines without sinking) and two trawlers to mark the swept route, were spotted at 7:30 a.m., silhouetted by the rising sun. The light battlecruiser Courageous and the light cruiser Cardiff opened fire with their forward guns seven minutes later. The Germans responded by laying an effective smoke screen. The British continued in pursuit, but lost track of most of the smaller ships in the smoke and concentrated fire on the light cruisers as opportunity permitted. Repulse was detached not long after and raced forward at full speed to engage the enemy ships. She opened fire at about 9:00, scoring a single hit on the light cruiser SMS Königsberg during the battle. When the German battleships SMS Kaiser and SMS Kaiserin were spotted about 9:50 the

British broke off their pursuit and Repulse covered their retreat, aided by a heavy fog that came down around 10:40. The ship fired a total of 54 15-inch shells during the battle and scored one hit on the light cruiser SMS Königsberg that temporarily reduced her speed. On 12 December 1917, Repulse was damaged in a collision with the battlecruiser HMAS Australia. The ship was present at the surrender of the High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow on 21 November 1918.

Inter-war period

Repulse began a major refit at Portsmouth on 17 December 1918[11] intended to drastically improve her armour protection. Her existing 6-inch armour belt was replaced by 9-inch (229 mm) armour plates made surplus by the conversion of the battleship Almirante Cochrane (originally ordered by Chile and purchased after the war began) to the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. The old armour was fitted between the main and upper decks, above the new armour belt. Additional high-tensile plating

was added to the decks over the magazines. The ship's anti-torpedo bulge was deepened and reworked along the lines of that installed on the battleship HMS Ramillies. The bulge covered her hull from the submerged torpedo room to 'Y' magazine and the inner compartments of which were filled with crushing tubes. The bulges added 12 feet 8 inches (3.9 m) to her beam and 1 foot 4 inches (0.4 m) to her draught. The refit added about 4,500 long tons (4,600 t) to her displacement and raised her metacentric height to 6.4 feet (2.0 m) at deep load. Three 30-foot (9.1 m) rangefinders were also added as well as eight torpedo tubes in twin mounts on the upper deck. Both flying-off platforms were removed. This refit cost £860,684.

Repulse was recommissioned on 1 January 1921 and joined the Battlecruiser Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet. In November 1923, Hood, accompanied by Repulse and a number of Danae-class cruisers of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, set out on a world cruise from west to east via the Panama Canal. They returned home ten months later in September 1924. Shortly after her return the ship's pair of 3-inch AA guns and her two single four-inch gun mounts were removed and replaced with four QF four-inch Mark V AA guns. The Battlecruiser Squadron visited Lisbon in February 1925 to participate in the Vasco da Gama celebrations before continuing on the Mediterranean for exercises. A squash court was added on the starboard side between the funnels for the Prince of Wales' tour of Africa and South America that lasted from March to October.[20] Upon her return she was refitted from November 1925 to July 1926 and had a high-angle control position (HACP) added to her fore-top.