History of HMS Repulse
HMS Repulse was one of two Renown-class battlecruisers built for the Royal Navy during the First World War. Originally laid down as an improved version of the Revenge-class battleship, her construction was suspended on the outbreak of war because she would not be ready in time. Admiral Lord Fisher, upon becoming First Sea Lord, gained approval for her to resume construction as a battlecruiser that could be built and enter service quickly. The Director of Naval Construction (DNC), Eustace Tennyson-d'Eyncourt, quickly produced an entirely new design to meet Admiral Lord Fisher's requirements and the builders agreed to deliver the ship in 15 months. They did not quite meet that ambitious goal, but the ship was delivered a few months after the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Repulse and her sister ship Renown, were the world's fastest capital ships upon completion.
Repulse participated in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1917, the only combat she saw during the war. She was reconstructed twice between the wars; a reconstruction in the 1920s increased her armour protection and made lesser improvements, while another in the 1930s was much more thorough. Repulse accompanied the battlecruiser Hood during the Cruise of the Special Service Squadron on a round-the-world cruise in 1923 to 1924 and protected international shipping during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 to 1939.
The ship spent the first months of the Second World War hunting for German raiders and blockade runners. She participated in the Norwegian Campaign of April to June 1940 and searched for the German battleship Bismarck in 1941. Repulse escorted a troop convoy around the Cape of Good Hope from August to October 1941 and was transferred to the East Indies Command. She was assigned in November to Force Z, which was supposed to deter Japanese aggression against British possessions in the Far East. Repulse and her consort, the battleship Prince of Wales, were sunk by Japanese aircraft on 10 December 1941 when they attempted to intercept landings in British Malaya.
Force Z - The Death of Capital Ships
In late 1941 Winston Churchill decided to send a small group of fast capital ships, along with one modern aircraft carrier to Singapore, to deter expected Japanese aggression. In November, Repulse which was in the Indian Ocean was ordered to Colombo, Ceylon to rendezvous with the new battleship Prince of Wales. The carrier Indomitable, which was assigned to join them, was delayed when she ran aground in the Caribbean. Prince of Wales and Repulse and their escorting destroyers comprised Force Z, which arrived in Singapore on 2 December 1941. On the evening of 8 December, Force Z set out on an attempt to destroy Japanese troop convoys and protect the army's seaward flanks from Japanese landings in their rear.
Force Z was spotted during the afternoon of 9 December by the Japanese submarine I-65, and floatplanes from several Japanese cruisers spotted the British ships later that afternoon and shadowed them until dark. Admiral Sir Tom Phillips decided to cancel the operation as the Japanese were now alerted. Force Z turned back during the evening, after having tried to deceive the Japanese that they were heading to Singora. At 00:50 on 10 December, Admiral Philips received a signal of enemy landings at Kuantan and correspondingly altered course so that he would arrive shortly after dawn.
The crew of I-58 spotted Force Z at 02:20, reported their position, and fired five torpedoes, all of which missed. Based on this report the Japanese launched 11 reconnaissance aircraft before dawn to locate Force Z. Several hours later 86 bombers from the 22nd Air Flotilla based in Saigon were launched carrying bombs or torpedoes. The crew of a Mitsubishi G3M reconnaissance bomber spotted the British at 10:15 and radioed in several reports. The pilot was ordered to maintain contact and to broadcast a directional signal that the other Japanese bombers could follow.
The first attack began at 11:13 when 250 kilograms (551 lb) bombs were dropped from eight G3Ms from an altitude of 11,500 feet (3,505 m). The battlecruiser was straddled by two bombs, then hit by a third which penetrated through the hangar to explode on the armoured deck below. This inflicted a number of casualties and damaged the ship's Supermarine Walrus seaplane, which was then pushed over the side to remove a fire hazard. Anti-aircraft fire damaged five of the Japanese bombers, two so badly that they immediately returned to Saigon. In the ensuing attacks, Repulse was skilfully handled by her captain, Bill Tennant, who managed to avoid 19 torpedoes as well as the remaining bombs from the G3Ms. However, Repulse was then caught by a synchronised pincer attack by 17 Mitsubishi G4M torpedo bombers and hit by four or five torpedoes in rapid succession. The gunners on the Repulse shot down two planes and heavily damaged eight more, but the torpedo damage proved fatal. At 12:23, Repulse listed severely to port, quickly capsized and went down by the stern with the loss of 508 officers and men. The destroyers Electra and Vampire rescued the survivors, including Captain Tennant.