HMS Prince of Wales

HMS Prince of Wales – Royal Navy

Arrival in Singapore

A short life, but an eventful one. Ordered in July 1936, keel laid on January 2, 1937 – launched on March 5,1939, joined the fleet in March 1941.

Strictures of the Washington Treaty limited main armament of the King George V Class to 14”. Great Britain elected to honor the treaty even as it was apparent others did not. Designs were frozen in compliance – unfortunate. While fitting out in August 1940 during the Battle of Britain, the ship suffered bomb damage causing serious flooding with a ten degree list. She had to be dry-docked for repair delaying completion; the main turrets were delivered behind schedule. Prince of Wales sailed without tests done on compartments for air tightness, her fuel system, bilge and ballast such was the desperate need for capital ships. The four gun 14” turrets suffered from nearly continuous problems in training necessitating a request from Captain John Leach to keep personnel from Vickers aboard to maintain the troublesome four gun arrangement. Prince of Wales became known as a ‘Jonah (unlucky ship). There were more than a few that felt she should have continued the action with the Bismarck. John Leach was nearly court martialled for the decision, but strenuous support from John Tovey, Commander Home Fleet, saved Leach’s career. The issue with Bismarck would dog her.

Considering all problems, Prince of Wales performed well during engagement in the Denmark Strait with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen on May 22, 1941. Her first salvo was 1000 yards over – rangefinder issues, but the new battleship scored two decisive hits: one in Bismarck’s bow costing the German battleship 1000 tons of oil, and another through the side armor belt shutting down two boilers causing Bismarck to lose speed. Falling under fire from Bismarck and consort Prinz Eugen, Prince of Wales was hit below the waterline. A 15” shell hit the compass platform on the bridge killing all at that station. A second lodged near port boiler rooms bur providentially did not explode. Jams occurred in both four gun turrets forcing Captain Leach make a proper decision to break contact as Prince of Wales was new and valuable to the Royal Navy.

During her short career Prince of Wales was involved in addition the famous Battle of the Denmark Strait, convoy escort in ‘the Med’ and delivered Winston Churchill to the crucial first meeting with Roosevelt at Argentia Bay. The much used ship sailed for Singapore and was sunk by Japanese land based aircraft with battlecruiser HMS Repulse on December 10, 1941. The two capital ships had the dubious distinction of being first sunk by land based aircraft on open sea.

On October 25, 1941 she left with escort for Singapore. The raison d’être for the huge base was to support Royal Navy Capital Units arriving in relief from expected sieges once war with Japan broke out. New CV Indomitable was to have joined them but ran aground off Jamaica and was drydocked. Enroute, to Singapore, the diminutive Admiral commanding, Tom Phillips AKA ‘Tom Thumb’, called at Freetown, Capetown for fuel and reassuring news exposure, further stops: Mauritius Islands, and the Maldives arriving Columbo, Ceylon on November 28th meeting up with Repulse. Arrival at Singapore on December 2, 1941 Prince of Wales and Repulse were greeted joyfully.‘Force Z’, as the Group was called, was ordered to set sail on December 8, 1941 to attack Japanese landings in the Khota Baru area north of Singapore. Phillips complied, confident of air cover. The British were sighted by a Japanese sub and aircraft the evening of the 9th. News arriving from Kuantan of a landing came early in the morning of the 10th. Phillips responded with alacrity but no transports were found and the mission’s rationale became moot. At 1100 Japanese air attack began with eight ‘Nells” (G3M) medium land based bombers, one bomb hitting Repulse caused little damage.The next wave of seventeen ‘Nells’ arrived at 1130 striking Prince of Wales with one then another torpedo wrecking a propellor shaft, ruining the shaft seal and putting the entire electrical system on the rear half of the ship out of commission, frustrating any attempts at damage control. She took on a list. The Japanese scored three torpedo hits on Prince of Wales and one 1100 lb bomb caused heavy damage amidships. Other near misses damaged the hull further worsening the list.

Aft 14” turret

At 1315 ‘Abandon Ship’ was ordered. At 1320 Prince of Wales rolled over and sank. Captain Leach and Admiral Phillips were among 327 of the crew going down with the ship. Part of the sinking was blamed on AA crews lack of training which TOMH believes could not alone have saved the ship.

Prince of Wales lies upside down at 233 ft. A Royal Navy ensign tied to one of the propellor shafts is renewed when necessary. Billy Mitchell was right.

Displacement: 43,786 tons (deep)

Length:745 ft 1 in (227.1 m) (overall)

Beam:103 ft 2 in (31.4 m)

Draught:34 ft 4 in (10.5 m)

Installed power:110,000 shp (82,000 kW)

Propulsion:8 Admiralty 3-drum small-tube boilers

4 sets Parsons geared turbines

Speed:28.3 kn (52.4 km/h; 32.6 mph)

Range:15,600 nmi (28,900 km; 18,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)

Complement:1,521 (1941)

Sensors and processing systems:

Type 279 radar added

Type 284 radar added.

Radars added in May 1941.

4 x Type 282 and Type 284 radars added.

Radar added between June–July 1941.

Type 274 Radar added.


10 × BL 14” (360mm) Mark VII

16 × QF 5.25” (133mm) Mark I

32 × QF 2 Pounder 1.575” (40mm) Mark VIII

80 × UP Projectors

Armor: Main Belt: 14.7” (370mm)

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)


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