The 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 a bomb.
2x capital ships|
|Engagements||Battle of the Malaya|
Admiral Thomas Phillips|
Captain William Tennant
Force Z was a British naval squadron during the Second World War, consisting of the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, the battlecruiser HMS Repulse, and accompanying destroyers. Assembled in 1941, the purpose of the group was to reinforce British Commonwealth assets in the Far East and deter Japanese expansion into British possessions, particularly Malaya and Singapore. The severe shortage of aircraft to protect Force Z, underestimation of the ability of the Japanese armed forces, and the political rather than naval impetus for its deployment are blamed for the destruction of the force.
Force Z consisted of the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, the battlecruiser HMS Repulse, and four modern Home Fleet destroyers, the E-class HMS Electra, Express, Encounter, and the J-class HMS Jupiter. For Force Z’s final voyage, the older S-class HMS Tenedos and Great War veteran V-class HMAS Vampire were substituted for the damaged Encounter and Jupiter, who remained in Singapore undergoing repairs. Initially a new aircraft carrier, HMS Indomitable, was to be included, but was unable to join after running aground in the Caribbean during working up trials. HMS Hermes was considered as a replacement, but this idea was dismissed as Hermes was too slow.
As early as 1920, British Imperial defence strategy had envisaged sending a fleet to Singapore should Far Eastern possessions or interests be threatened.
A renamed Force G, Force Z arrived at Singapore on 2 December 1941. It was sent to intercept Japanese landings in Malaya. Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk by Japanese air attack on 10 December 1941, becoming the first capital ships under sail to be sunk solely by the action of enemy aircraft in a hostile encounter. The lack of protective air cover and the resulting loss of large capital ships to hostile aircraft action, were seen as a vindication of authorities on Airpower, such as Air Commodore Charles Rumney Samson CMG DSO & BAR AFC, founder of the Royal Naval Air Service, whose papers on the need for Air Defence at Home and in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong had not been implemented, and US General Billy Mitchell's tactical air combat doctrine. Both men had resigned their Commissions due to a failure to adopt a modern policy towards Air Defence.
- Stephen, p. 106.
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