On This Day – 10 December – Sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse

The sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse was a naval engagement in the Second World War, part of the war in the Pacific, that took place north of Singapore, off the east coast of Malaya, near Kuantan, Pahang, where the British Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse were sunk by land-based bombers and torpedo bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy on 10 December 1941. In Japanese, the engagement was referred to as the Naval Battle off Malaya.

The objective of Force Z, which consisted of one battleship, one battlecruiser and four destroyers, was to intercept the Japanese invasion fleet north of Malaya. However, the task force sailed without any air support, which had been declined by Admiral Sir Tom Phillips, the commander of Force Z, in favour of maintaining radio silence. Although the British had a close encounter with Japanese heavy surface units, the force failed to find and destroy the main convoy. On their return to Singapore they were attacked in open waters and sunk by long-range medium bombers.

Along with the attack on Pearl Harbor only a few days earlier, the Malayan engagement illustrated the effectiveness of aerial attacks against even the heaviest of naval assets if they were not protected by air cover, and led the Allies to place importance on their aircraft carriers over battleships. The sinking of the two ships severely weakened the Eastern Fleet in Singapore, and the Japanese invasion fleet was only engaged by submarines until the Battle off Endau on 27 January 1942.

 

RNA Norwich

RNA Norwich

The Norwich Branch is one of 300+ branches of the Royal Naval Association world wide. It was commissioned in 1979 and today has a membership of just over 90. It is a registered charity in its own right - the Registered Charity Number is: 1068699

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