HMS Prince of Wales
- On 25/01/2012
- In General Maritime History
By Chris Warne - Stroud News and Journal
Seventy years ago last month, 840 British sailors perished in the lukewarm waters of the South China Sea when Japanese torpedo bombers descended from a cloudless sky to ambush two Royal Navy battleships making haste for Singapore.
The devastating two-hour aerial assault, which left HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse rooted to the seabed, was the greatest single defeat suffered by the Royal Navy during the Second World War and has been dubbed ‘Britain’s Pearl Harbour’ by historians.
With the passage of time the tragedy has faded from the national consciousness but for Stonehouse resident Charles Wright, 92, the events of that fateful day will never be forgotten.
Indeed, the memories of the chaotic scramble to help wounded comrades emerging from below deck, many of them severely scalded by steam from burst pipes, are never likely to be forgotten by him.
Ebley-born Charles Wright was in charge of the starboard aft 5.25-inch gun turrets mounted atop the HMS Prince of Wales on December 10, 1941.
"They estimate that 92 aircraft attacked us," he said.
"We never had a chance really. We kept putting barrages up but they just kept coming.