The HMS Prince of Wales was one of the most technologically advanced ships in the British fleet in 1941. It was the ship that transported Winston Churchill to Newfoundland for the Newfoundland Conference with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, where the Atlantic Charter was created. At the end of October 1941, the HMS Prince of Wales departed for the Pacific to join the British naval detachment Force Z. On December 10th, Japanese bombers and torpedo aircraft attacked and sunk the HMS Prince of Wales and the HMS Repulse. Tony Rennel of the Daily Mail writes about the stories recounted by some of the survivors.
Today [December 10th], Maurice Pink will bow his head and remember exactly where he was 70 years ago — naked in the middle of the ocean, covered in thick oil and treading water to stay afloat because he’d had to jump from his sinking warship without a life jacket.
Aged 89, he will be at the final reunion of the survivors of one of the Royal Navy’s biggest disasters.
In 1941, the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, the newest and most technologically advanced ship in the fleet, was sunk by Japanese torpedo planes off the coast of Malaya, along with the battle cruiser HMS Repulse.
The war against Japan was just three days old, the hulks of the U.S. ships still burning at Pearl Harbour after the sneak attack on December 8 that had begun hostilities. Now the pride of the Royal Navy was at the bottom of the sea.
In London, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was woken to be told the news.
‘In all the war I never received a more direct shock,’ he later recalled.