Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

Landmark anniversary of Prince of Wales-Repulse disaster marked

The bell from HMS Prince of Wales on display to mark 80th anniversary of sinking
10 December 2021
Topic:
TWO icons of one of the Royal Navy’s darkest hours in World War 2 are on display today – 80 years to the day of the tragedy.

The bells of Her Majesty’s Ships Prince of Wales and Repulse can be seen at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth – in tribute to more than 840 men lost when the ships were sunk by the Japanese just three days into the war with Japan.

Brand-new battleship Prince of Wales and WW1-era battle-cruiser Repulse formed Force Z, sent to the Far East by Churchill to deter any Japanese aggression.

They did not. And when Japanese forces invaded the Malay peninsula, the capital ships were dispatched from Singapore to stop them.

Instead, Force Z was intercepted by Japanese aircraft in the South China Sea. The two ships became the first capital ships lost at sea to air power after a valiant, but unequal fight on December 10 1941 - just three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Some 330 men went down with Prince of Wales, 512 with the Repulse.

Royal Navy divers recovered the bells from the wrecks 20 years ago amid growing fears of plunder by unscrupulous souvenir hunters and scrap metal merchants and returned them to the museum in Portsmouth for safekeeping.

“We hope our visitors take a moment to reflect on the enormity of the loss,” said Victoria Ingles, senior curator at the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

“Ship’s bells are held in great affection by the crew and it was so important that both were retrieved, with permission, from the wreck sites in 2002. Their display is a fitting tribute to the many lives lost.”

HMS Prince of Wales’ 21st Century namesake – the second of the UK’s 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers, berthed just a stone’s throw from the museum – is also marking the anniversary.

Ship’s bells are held in great affection by the crew and it was so important that both were retrieved, with permission, from the wreck sites in 2002. Their display is a fitting tribute to the many lives lost

Victoria Ingles, Senior Curator NMRN

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.