Bells of Royal Navy ships sunk in catastrophic attack 80 years ago on display in Portsmouth

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Both HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse were attacked and sunk by Imperial Japanese Navy planes on December 10, 1941, just days after Pearl Harbor.

The sinking of the two ships is considered one of the navy’s worst disasters, with 330 crew members from HMS Prince of Wales and 512 from HMS Repulse.

The bells of both ships are now on display at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which is near the pier at Portsmouth Naval Base which houses the aircraft carrier which inherited the name HMS Prince From Wales.

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Victoria Ingles, senior curator at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, looks at the bell of the HMS Repulse ship which was sunk with the HMS Prince of Wales after a Japanese air attack on December 10, 1941. 842 men were killed in what is one of the worst disasters in British naval history. Picture date: Wednesday December 8, 2021.

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A spokeswoman for the museum said: “This was the first time that battleships at sea had been sunk only by an air attack and marked the end of the battleship as the predominant type of ship, replaced by the aircraft carrier.

“The ships had led the British naval squadron Force Z tasked with deterring Japanese expansion.

“Their sinking weakened the geographically important city of Singapore and contributed to its surrender on February 15, 1942, a humiliating defeat for Allied forces.”

Victoria Ingles, senior curator at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, looks at the bell of the ship of HMS Prince of Wales which was sunk with HMS Repulse after a Japanese air attack on December 10, 1941. 842 men were killed in what is one of the worst disasters in British naval history. Picture date: Wednesday December 8, 2021.

Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill recalled in his post-war memoirs: “Throughout the war I never received a more direct shock.

“As I turned and squirmed in my bed, all the horror of the news washed over me.

“There were no British or American ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific, except for the American survivors of Pearl Harbor, who were rushing back to California. Across this vast expanse of waters, Japan was supreme, and we were everywhere weak and naked.

Victoria Ingles, Senior Curator of the NMRN, said: “We hope our visitors take a moment to reflect on the enormity of the loss.

Victoria Ingles, senior curator at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, and Will Heppa move the bell of the HMS Repulse ship which was sunk with the HMS Prince of Wales after a Japanese air attack on December 10, 1941. 842 men lost their lives in it is one of the worst disasters in British naval history. Picture date: Wednesday December 8, 2021.

“The ship’s bells are held with great affection by the crew and it was so important that both were recovered, with permission, from the wreckage sites in 2002. Their display is a fitting tribute to the many lives lost . “

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron

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