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  HMS Prince of Wales (53)
Royal Navy
King George V Class Battleship

38,000 Tons (Standard)
43,786 (Full Load)
745' 1" x 740' 1" x 112' 5"
10 × 14" Mark VII guns
16 × 5.25" DP guns
48 x 2 pdr (1.5") AA
1 x 40 mm AA
8 s 20 mm AA
Aircraft: 4 Walrus

Click For Enlargement
RAN 1941

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December 10, 1941
Ship History
Built by Cammell Laird and Company at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, England. Laid down on January 1, 1937. Launched on May 3, 1939. During late August 1940 during the Battle of Britain Liverpool Blitz (Merseyside Blitz) German bombers targeted the area and a bomb scored a near-miss that exploded between her port side that severely buckled and spring her outer plates. Construction was accelerated by postponing tests and shortening trials.

Commissioned January 19, 1941 in the Royal Navy (RN) under the command of Captain John Leach. By March 31, 1941 the battleship was fully completed and underwent training exercises off Scapa Flow. The main gun batteries were experiencing issues and some were resolved by technical representatives from Vickers-Armstrongs that remained aboard to resolve any further problems.

Wartime History
On May 22, 1941 Prince of Wales and Hood were ordered to south of Iceland to intercept battleship Bismarck if it entered the Atlantic Ocean and the next day were ordered to steam at 27 knots to the Denmark Strait.

On May 24, 1941 Prince of Wales and Hood fought against German battleships Bismarck and Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen during the Battle of the Denmark Strait. After the sinking of Hood, seven large caliber shells hit Prince of Wales forcing the battleship to disengaged under a smokescreen and joined HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk. During the brief battle, Prince of Wales scored three hits on Bismarck. On May 25, 1941 at 1:31am gunfire was exchanged with the Bismarck briefly. Twelve hours later, Prince Of Wales broke off pursuit due to low fuel.

Afterwards, to Rosyth, Scotland for six weeks of repairs. In early August 1941, embarked Prime Minsister Winston Churchill and steamed to Newfoundland for a secret meeting with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt that resulted in the signing of the Atlantic Charter. Next, she was assigned to the Mediterranean Sea for convoy escort duty. On September 27, 1941 shot down several attacking Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) aircraft with her 5.25" guns and afterwards was dispatched to intercept Italian Naval vessels but were unable to locate and her convoy reached Malta safely. Afterwards, returned to Gibraltar then to Scapa Flow arriving October 6, 1941.

On October 25, 1941 she departed for Singapore, to deter Japanese aggression in the Far East, the flagship of the Eastern Fleet and was assigned to "Force Z" with HMS Repulse and HMS Electra and HMS Express.

On December 8, 1941 at the start of the Pacific War, Force Z departed Singapore led by flagship Prince of Wales with HMS Repulse and destroyers: HMS Electra, HMS Express, HMS Tenedos and HMAS Vampire steamed northwards to intercept the Japanese invasion force off Malaysia. Unable to find the enemy, they were spotted and shadowed by Japanese submarine I-65 while returning to Singapore.

Sinking History
On December 10, 1941 in the South China Sea bound for Singapore Japanese land based bombers including G3M2 Nells and G4M1 Bettys attacked HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales. Early in the attack, the Prince of Wales was hit by a lucky torpedo that damaged the propeller shaft and caused it to enter the hull resulting in severe flooding and rendered the rudder useless. The damage also cut the power to her 5.25" guns and many pumps. Other electrical failures left parts of the ship in total darkness and added to the difficulties of damage repair parties as they attempted to counter the flooding. The battleship sustained four torpedo and one bomb hit. At 1:15pm the order to abandon ship was give and five minutes later the battleship capsized and sank off off Kuantan.

Memorials
During the attack and sinking, a total of 327 sailors were lost, including Vice-Admiral Phillips and Captain Leach. List of crew killed in action aboard HMS Prince of Wales on December 10, 1941.

Shipwreck
The wreck lies nearly upside down on the bottom of 68m / 223'. After the war, Japanese salvage divers searched unsuccessfully for this wreck to salvage materials.

The wreck site was designated as a 'Protected Place' in 2001 under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986, just prior to the 60th anniversary of her sinking. The Royal Navy maintains a White Ensign flag on the mast of the Prince of Wales. Also, a British flag attached to a line on a buoy that is tied to a propeller shaft is periodically renewed.

Ship's Bell
The ship's bell was raised in 2002 with the blessing of the Ministry of Defense and The Force Z Survivors Association. It was restored, then presented for permanent display by First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Alan West, KCB DSC ADC to the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool.

References
HMS Prince of Wales Roll of Honour

Overview Expedition 'Job 74' [PDF 5.6 megs] Survey May 17-27, 2007
Prince of Wales Stern Damage Report [PDF 4.6 megs] by Kevin Denlay
Prince of Wales Hull Indentation Report [PDF 2.3 megs] by Kevin Denlay
Death of a Battleship, 2012 Update [PDF 4 megs] by William H. Garzke, Jr., Robert O. Dulin Jr. and Kevin Denlay (members of the SNAME Marine Forensics Committee), presented at the 2012 Marine Forensics Symposium, Maryland, USA
Thanks to Kevin Denlay for additional information, research and analasys

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Last Updated
April 9, 2021

 

SCUBA
68m / 223'

SCUBA
3 33.6 N
104 28.7' E

PDF File
Overview
Expedition Job 74

5.6 MB

PDF File
Stern Damage
4.4 MB

PDF File
Hull Indentation
2.3 MB

PDF File
Death of a Battleship
4 MB
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