Dodging Torpedoes Is Fun!

Classic British Understatement

 

HMS Repulse in transit to Singapore

 

Battlecruiser HMS REPULSE, painted in a dazzle camouflage scheme, while escorting the last troop convoy to reach Singapore. The ship was sunk a few days later with great loss of life on 10 December 1941 by Japanese torpedoes. (Photo and caption courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

“I found dodging torpedoes quite interesting and entertaining until in the end they started to come from all directions and they were too much for me.”

So wrote Captain William Tennant, RN, Commanding Officer of HMS Repulse when she was sunk off Malaya by Japanese planes on 10 December 1941. In an amazing demonstration of ship handling capability (and a bit of luck), Tennant managed to conn his almost 800 foot long battlecruiser to outmaneuver 19 Japanese torpedoes dropped from torpedo bombers. Eventually, planes came from every direction of the compass and sank the Repulse. Tennant survived to become a Knight Commander of Bath (KCB) and a full Admiral.

 

source: “Alarm Starboard!” by Geoffrey Brooke. As a young sub-lieutenant, RN, Brooke was aboard HMS Prince of Wales and witnessed the destruction of HMS Repulse. Captain Tennant was a family friend. In his memoir, Brooke says he saw Tennant on several occasions after the war but they never discussed the dreadful day of 10 December 1941.

 

HMS Repulse Haifa

 

Stern of HMS Repulse in Haifa, then part of the British Mandate of Palestine. July 1938. (Photo courtesy of the US Library of Congress)

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/