“In all the war I never received a more direct shock.”
The Worst Catastrophe of the Royal Navy in World War Two
The sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse by Japanese naval planes on 10 December 1941 gave a death blow to defences of the British Empire throughout much of Asia. The loss of these two ships fatally weakened the defenses of Singapore, the impregnable British fortress in the Far East. No one considered that Singapore could possible be taken. But it was. Superior Japanese tactics combined with incompetent British military leadership caused the fortress to surrender.
British and British Empire and Commonwealth troops were poorly trained, lacked proper equipment, and were led by several of the most uninspiring British Army generals of the entire Second World War. Over 80,000 soldiers surrendered including British, Australian and and troops from the British Indian Army.
Information which first aired on the BBC and was printed in daily papers in Great Britain is here:
4 December 1941. I have always found this to be a photograph of great melancholy. The magnificent battleship HMS Prince of Wales coming in to moor at Singapore. The ship was sunk by Japanese torpedoes six days later on 10 December 1941 with great loss of life.
(Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)
Loss of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, 10 December 1941
Photograph taken from a Japanese aircraft during the initial high-level bombing attack. Repulse, near the bottom of the view, has just been hit by one bomb and near-missed by several more. Prince of Wales is near the top of the image, generating a considerable amount of smoke.
Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry.
Donation of Mr. Theodore Hutton, 1942.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.