80 Years for Force Z

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paulcadogan
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80 Years for Force Z

Post by paulcadogan »

Friends,

Today, December 10, 2021 marks 80 years since Prince of Wales & Repulse met their end in the South China Sea at the hands of Japanese aircraft.

Here's to the memory of all those who were there, those who died, those who survived and of course the two great ships whose remains are being stripped away by money-hungry scavengers.

Here is a video series with commentary by Repulse survivors - uploaded by Armoured Carriers to Youtube. Enjoy and remember!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_NkGtIBK_M&t=6s - Repulse: Lamb to the slaughter (covering the events leading up to Dec 10)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1LGu44Wc2o - Repulse: Falling skies (covering the opening phase of the sortie and the high level bombing)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qg7NIFvL34 - Repulse: Trial by torpedo (obviously the torpedo attack and sinking)

Paul
Qui invidet minor est - He who envies is the lesser man
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wadinga
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by wadinga »

Hello Paul,

Amen to everything you have written. Two great ships heroically attempted to stem an aggressor's tidal wave and failed.

Reading accounts of the attacks, it is clear that the ability of the Japanese aircraft to form up undisturbed for formation torpedo assaults, outside their target's effective gun range, was a big factor. To my mind the lack of an outer screen of escorts with adequate AA capability was a huge factor. Similar formation attacks in the Mediterranean and on Arctic convoys were broken up by ships like the "Dido"s and even the lone US destroyer Wainwright in the case of PQ-17. The destroyers available to escort Force Z had insufficient AA capability to adequately protect themselves, let alone disrupt attacks on the capital ships.

Any opinions?

All the best

wadinga
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by dunmunro »

wadinga wrote: Fri Dec 10, 2021 2:55 pm Hello Paul,

Amen to everything you have written. Two great ships heroically attempted to stem an aggressor's tidal wave and failed.

Reading accounts of the attacks, it is clear that the ability of the Japanese aircraft to form up undisturbed for formation torpedo assaults, outside their target's effective gun range, was a big factor. To my mind the lack of an outer screen of escorts with adequate AA capability was a huge factor. Similar formation attacks in the Mediterranean and on Arctic convoys were broken up by ships like the "Dido"s and even the lone US destroyer Wainwright in the case of PQ-17. The destroyers available to escort Force Z had insufficient AA capability to adequately protect themselves, let alone disrupt attacks on the capital ships.

Any opinions?

All the best

wadinga
It was rather tragic that Repulse wasn't given a quick refit, as per Hood, to replace her elderly HACS FC with modern HACS fit and replacement of all 4in guns with 4in twin mounts.

Add Exeter, Mauritius (both ear marked for service there) and a couple of AA cruisers and a flotilla of modern destroyers (Tribal-JK-LM-Hunt) and Force Z might have survived. As it was removing or relocating the initial shaft hit on PoW would have really changed things.
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paulcadogan
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

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No doubt, with more, better equipped ships there might have been more of a fighting chance, but with the waves of Japanese bombers, without airborne opposition, could still have gotten through as they did at Midway (Yorktown - with 2 cruisers and 6 destroyers around her, plus her CAP) for example.

I've always wondered how it would have gone if PoW hadn't taken that early fatal hit. Repulse's return to check on her status after dodging 19 torpedoes was the act that sealed her fate, allowing her to be caught in the torpedo trap and hit. Had she been able to continue to withdraw from the area and had more freedom to maneuver as she had initially, she may have been able to get away.

It is indeed surprising that she wasn't taken in hand earlier for a better AA refit. The time, in July 1941, that Adm Somerville rejected her as a replacement for Renown in Force H because of her lack of a good AA suite (and her insufficiently modernized state) should have been an incentive for taking her in hand. I guess with Renown going in for refit and Repulse needed for convoy escort there was only time for minimal 20 mm upgrading. How she could have used 7 twin 4-inch on Dec 10/41!

Force Z was also at a disadvantage had the encountered the Japanese surface forces, even if the big ships were quite capable of taking on Kongo and Haruna two on two. The 8 Japanese cruisers and 12 destroyers with their torpedo attack capabilities would have turned any fleet encounter into a British nightmare!
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wadinga
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by wadinga »

Hi Paul,

Yorktown was first slowed down by dive bomber hits which made the later torpedo plane hits easier. Besides the single engine carrier aircraft were less cumbersome than long range bombers. If those Buffalo fighters had turned up earlier even they might have got some kills and broken things up.

Mauritius was apparently out of service in refit due to electrical problems with her degaussing coil causing accelerated corrosion. :shock:

All in all given the strength of the opposition, Force Z was a "forlorn hope".

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
paul.mercer
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by paul.mercer »

wadinga wrote: Sat Dec 11, 2021 6:12 pm Hi Paul,

Yorktown was first slowed down by dive bomber hits which made the later torpedo plane hits easier. Besides the single engine carrier aircraft were less cumbersome than long range bombers. If those Buffalo fighters had turned up earlier even they might have got some kills and broken things up.

Mauritius was apparently out of service in refit due to electrical problems with her degaussing coil causing accelerated corrosion. :shock:

All in all given the strength of the opposition, Force Z was a "forlorn hope".

All the best

wadinga
Hi Wadinga,
I agree, the whole operation was a 'forlorn hope' as you said, just how one battleship and an elderly battlecruiser was supposed to overawe the Japanese fleet is a mystery and very bad planning by the RN.
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by paul.mercer »

Gentlemen,
Another point, I was looking at pictures of Yamoto and her sister ship, the amount of smaller guns -presumably many being AA, made their decks and upperworks look like a porcupine, in addition they were the largest most heavily armed and armoured battleships ever built, yet both ended up being sunk by a combination of torpedoes and bombs from large numbers of aircraft. Even if PoW and Repulse had a destroyers escort them I think that both they and their escorts would have been sunk as well. it was a mission doomed from the start.
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by Steve Crandell »

I agree, although the number of aircraft devoted to attacking Yamato was huge; many more than force Z.
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by dunmunro »

paul.mercer wrote: Mon Dec 13, 2021 10:49 am Gentlemen,
Another point, I was looking at pictures of Yamoto and her sister ship, the amount of smaller guns -presumably many being AA, made their decks and upperworks look like a porcupine, in addition they were the largest most heavily armed and armoured battleships ever built, yet both ended up being sunk by a combination of torpedoes and bombs from large numbers of aircraft. Even if PoW and Repulse had a destroyers escort them I think that both they and their escorts would have been sunk as well. it was a mission doomed from the start.
Historically, no destroyers were sunk. I'm not sure why increasing the escort and, consequently, AA firepower would result in greater losses. Yamato and Musashi were sunk by a far larger and more powerful number of strike sorties.
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by Fatboy Coxy »

The bit that makes me wonder is the Admiralty's lack of foresight in all this

They questioned the validity of sending just the two ships (Prince of Wales & Repulse) as a deterrent, never really feeling the Japanese would buy it, but at the same time failed to assemble a supporting cast for the two ships, ie Cruisers and Destroyers.

So if/when war broke out, what did they expect Phillips to do, retire to Colombo, and join the slowly assembling fleet of mostly R class battleships, and C, D and E class cruisers.

You can fault Phillips for not doing more on the air cover, but as Cunningham said, "it takes 300 years to build a tradition, and 3 years a ship". With Phillips given the responsibility on the spot, he had to sail and confront the Japanese. He was dammed by his own Admiralty!
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paulcadogan
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by paulcadogan »

Fatboy Coxy wrote: Tue Dec 14, 2021 7:34 pm The bit that makes me wonder is the Admiralty's lack of foresight in all this

They questioned the validity of sending just the two ships (Prince of Wales & Repulse) as a deterrent, never really feeling the Japanese would buy it, but at the same time failed to assemble a supporting cast for the two ships, ie Cruisers and Destroyers.

So if/when war broke out, what did they expect Phillips to do, retire to Colombo, and join the slowly assembling fleet of mostly R class battleships, and C, D and E class cruisers.

You can fault Phillips for not doing more on the air cover, but as Cunningham said, "it takes 300 years to build a tradition, and 3 years a ship". With Phillips given the responsibility on the spot, he had to sail and confront the Japanese. He was dammed by his own Admiralty!
One thing I think we tend to forget is that when PoW and Repulse were sent to Singapore, Britain was not yet at war with Japan and I don't think anyone in Britain knew exactly when or if war would come. There WERE plans for a larger, more balanced force - an aircraft carrier, which I am learning would NOT have been Indomitable, but rather Illustrious or Formidable, plus cruisers and destroyers, I believe even combined with US forces.

Alas, this fleet was not assembled all at once as availability was an issue, with the capital ships arriving first - having just the four small destroyers, 2 of WW1 vintage, and as if on cue, the Japanese commenced hostilities. As you say, Phillips had to act using what he had. I'm not sure how much intelligence he had about the Japanese forces arrayed against him - much more than just "trying our metal against the old battlecruiser Kongo".
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by HMSVF »

I cant remember which author wrote it but their is a great line that "The Japanese were disciples of the British, and in their eyes their successors".
It cant have helped having the likes of Semple,Rutland and Heenan helping the Japanese either.

It was a doomed mission. Churchill supposedly thought that POW and Repulse could "do a Tirpitz" and be a sort of "fleet in being" forgetting that Tirpitz was out of range of all but carrier aircraft, and in addition had good air cover. Singapore was woefully protected.The British underestimated the Japanese.

That said luck was against Phillips. He almost made contact with some Japanese cruisers and he was almost out of range. The decision to go and investigate some launches off the coast was to cost him his life. POW's first torpedo hit caused damage that I don't think any Director of Naval Construction thought possible and the biggest "what if" is what if Wildish hadn't restarted the turbine??? No loss of power potentially to the rear half of the ship? Steering remains intact? 5.25 and Pom Poms remain in action longer.

Would it have made a difference ? Probably not in the long run. The Japanese would probably just sent more planes till the job was done.




Alt universe story! HMS POW saves Singapore after she is beached in the Johore Strait due to her air attack battle damage!.Japanese Army ground to a halt as POW empties her magazines of 14 inch,5.25 and Pom Pom shells. Yamashita takes horrendous losses and and runs out of supplies due to the delay. POW scrapped in situ post war.

I know,I know! Ill never be an author!
paul.mercer
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by paul.mercer »

Gentlemen,
An interesting topic indeed.
I often wonder if the RN never appreciated the possible danger from aircraft when new ships were being built between the wars, I am probably wrong is saying this, but it seems that Germany, Japan and eventually the USA realised it, even after the 'Billy Mitchell' trial in 1925.
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Re: 80 Years for Force Z

Post by dunmunro »

paul.mercer wrote: Tue Dec 21, 2021 10:13 am Gentlemen,
An interesting topic indeed.
I often wonder if the RN never appreciated the possible danger from aircraft when new ships were being built between the wars, I am probably wrong is saying this, but it seems that Germany, Japan and eventually the USA realised it, even after the 'Billy Mitchell' trial in 1925.
The RN put more effort into the development and installation of AA weapons than any other post WW1 navy and had by far the strongest AA batteries afloat in Sept 1939. The impediment to the RN being stronger in terms of AA defense and resistance to air delivered weapons was the tight financial restraints imposed upon them by the treasury and competition from the RAF.
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