|Attack on Force Z|
|Japanese air attack|
|After the action|
After the action
Admiral Phillips and Captain John Leach, commanding Prince Of Wales, were among the lost. Captain William G. Tennant of Repulse was rescued by Vampire. The senior survivor of Prince Of Wales was Lt Cdr A. G. Skipwith, the ship's First Lieutenant, who was rescued by Express.
London Gazette report by Flt Lt Vigors:
“ It was obvious that the three destroyers were going to take hours to pick up those hundreds of men clinging to bits of wreckage and swimming around in the filthy, oily water. Above all this, the threat of another bombing and machine-gun attack was imminent. Every one of those men must have realised that. Yet as I flew around, every man waved and put up his thumb as I flew over him. After an hour, lack of petrol forced me to leave, but during that hour I had seen many men in dire danger waving, cheering and joking, as if they were holiday-makers at Brighton waving at a low-flying aircraft. It shook me, for here was something above human nature. - Flight Lieutenant Tim Vigors, DFC, RAAF ”
The next day, Lt Haruki Iki flew to the site of the battle again. He dropped two wreaths of flowers into the sea. One was for the fellow members of his 'Kanoya' Air Corps who perished at the hands of British gunfire and the other for the British sailors who died in the battle. This was because their display of bravery in defence of the ships had gained them the utmost admiration from all pilots in his squadron.
On the way back to Singapore with the survivors, Express passed Stronghold and the 4 American destroyers heading north. Express signalled the action was over, but the ships proceeded to search the area for more survivors. None were found. While returning to Singapore from this search, Edsall boarded the fishing trawler sighted by Force Z that morning. The trawler was identified as Shofu Fu Maru, and was taken to Singapore where the crew was interned.
Effects of the sinking
“ Pound: Prime Minister, I have to report to you that the Prince of Wales and the Repulse have both been sunk by the Japanese - we think by aircraft. Tom Phillips is drowned.
Churchill: Are you sure it's true?
Pound: There is no doubt at all.
Churchill hangs up
In all the war, I never received a more direct shock... As I turned over and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor, who were hastening back to California. Over all this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme, and we everywhere were weak and naked.
Singapore had essentially been reduced to a land base after both capital ships were lost. Combined with the earlier attack on Pearl Harbor, this left the Allies with only three operational capital ships in the Pacific Theatre.
The two ships were the first capital ships actively defending themselves to be sunk solely by airpower while steaming on the open sea. This incident demonstrated the vulnerability of even the most modern surface ships to the potency of air attack and drove home the necessity of air cover to protect against such an incident. The Genzan Air Corps would attempt a torpedo attack on USS Lexington in early 1942, but they lost seventeen aircraft to the carrier's combat air patrol and anti-aircraft guns.
The ships today