Sunday, November 12, 2017


Many of you will have been to Hawaii and while there taken the tour to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour.   It is a sobering experience.

Not too many of you would have flown over the South China Sea off Kuantan where the Prince of Wales and the Repulse were sunk by the Japanese on the third day of hostilities.    On a clear day you can see their indistinct shapes through the water and when I flew over the site fuel oil was still making its way to the surface.

Force 'Z' which comprised the two capital ships and four destroyers sailed from the Singapore Naval Base to intercept that Japanese invasion fleet that was landing troops in south Thailand and north Malaya.   It was commanded by Admiral Tom (Thumb) Phillips who was one of the dwindling band of Admirals who failed to appreciate the changing dynamic of air power.   As it was the fleet had no air cover even though this could have been provided by the deployment of (albeit obsolescent) Buffaloe fighters from Singapore forward to the Kuantan airfield.

Phillips was a good friend of the later Air Chief Marshal (Bomber) Harris who used to tease him both about his height and his stubborn refusal to believe a battleship could be sunk from the air.  It is recorded that Harris once told Phillips ... 'One day Tom you'll be standing on a box on your bridge and your ship will be smashed to pieces by bombers and torpedo aircraft and as she sinks your last words will be ... that was a f*****g big mine'.

Prophetic words indeed ... 840 sailors were killed in the action.  Phillips went down with his ship.



gravedodger said...

That was when even thick old warriors began to understand Battlehips had been overtaken by Aircraft Carriers then Coral sea and Midway got the remaining doubters attention, checkmate.
Coral Sea drawn battle the first fought by ships beyond the horizon, alas for Japan and Admiral Yamamoto the damage caused was not confirmed and Yorktown was sufficiently repaired for Midway a month later that ended the Japanese Navy opportunity to dominate the Pacific theatre.

Anonymous said...

Phillips should not have been in charge of a Trawler..a complete hidebound dumbass. The US Army Airforce sunk a captured German battleship by dive bombing in 1921 and in 1940 Skuas of the Royal navy Fleet air arm sunk the German battleship Konigsberg in Norway by dive bombing not to mention that the first ship sunk by aerial torpedo was also a British 1915, in the Aegean.

Lord Egbut

Psycho Milt said...

To be fair, the admiralty did intend for an aircraft carrier to be included in Force Z, but actual battlefield conditions are often not what the best-laid-plans of mice etc would have had them.

Anonymous said...

Just as an aside the Repulse, along with other war graves, has been badly damaged by salvage teams using explosives. Steel made before Hiroshima and protected from the air is very expensive and sought after for scientific instruments and experiments. HMAS Perth has practically disappeared.

Lord Egbut

Anonymous said...

If the Brits had included a carrier with Z Force they'd have lost that too. The Fleet Air Arm fighters would have been unable to defend their ship against the Japanese. Typical British shambles really.


Tamati said...

On a lighter note, your post reminds me of an incident in Honolulu a few years ago when a friend of mine told me that she witnessed a group of elderly male Japanese tourists ask a grey haired American woman, "excuse me rady, which way to Pearl Harbour?"...she turned on her heals, hands on her hips and responded, "where you f...ig left it"

Anonymous said...

Yes Tamati, I've found that the Americans are becoming ruder as they they age, but then again so am I.

Lord Egbut