HMS Prince of Wales (53)
HMS Prince of Wales was partially responsible for the containment and eventual sinking of the KMS Bismarck.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
HMS Prince of Wales served the British Navy for a few short years in World War 2 taking part in the damaging that would lead to the eventually sinking of the mythical KMS Bismarck. She was a class of five King George V-class ships that included HMS Duke of York, HMS Howe, HMS King George V and the HMS Anson. Together with HMS Hood, she took part in the initial cat and mouse engagement of the mighty German battleship. HMS Prince of Wales (or "PoW") survived long enough to ferry Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Newfoundland to meet with US President Roosevelt for the Atlantic Charter and suffered her fate at the hands of Japanese torpedo bombers on her way out of Singapore in the Pacific Theater.
By battleship standards in World War 2, HMS Prince of Wales was slight in design considering the naval treaty-violating monsters that became the German KMS Bismarck and the Japanese IJN Yamato. She was fielded with 10 x 14" main guns, putting her power behind even the American Iowa-class battleships being laid down but offering up of a higher rate of sustained fire as a result. Whereas the Germans, Japanese and Americans had the luxury of either operating in secrecy to create their new battleships, bending or completely disregarding treaty limitations or designing battleships with the war in full swing, the Prince of Wales was built and adhered to the naval treaties in place that limited battleship construction to around 35,000 tons.
Armament was a mix of offensive and defensive systems starting with the 14" main guns held in two forward and one aft turrets. This was augmented by the addition of no fewer than 16 x 5.25 guns for added effect. Defensive capabilities were accomplished through 32 x 2-pounder "pom-pom" dual-purpose cannons and 16 x 12.7mm (.50 caliber) anti-aircraft heavy machine guns. Power was derived from 4 x Parsons geared turbines fed by 8 x Admiralty three-drum small-tube superheated boilers. Total output was 110,000 shaft horsepower providing an adequate 28 knot surface speed. Two Supermarine Walrus type amphibious aircraft were carried aboard and used for patrol, reconnaissance and search & rescue duty and launched from a double-ended catapult system amidships. Twin masts characterized the type and mounted each superstructure.
HMS Prince of Wales, just barely out of construction, was called to action almost immediately with her new technology, unbroken systems and untrained gunnery crew. The Prince of Wales was joined by HMS Hood in a battle of mythical and historical proportions. In the heat of the Bismarck battle, HMS Hood was placed out of commission by the KMS Prinz Eugen, leaving the Prince of Wales to defend herself against the two German ships. HMS Prince of Wales caught a disastrous direct hit to her bridge that forced her to retire from the fight to live another day. All was not at a loss however, as HMS Prince of Wales managed to score hits on the Bismarck that would contaminated its fuel supply, forcing it to head towards Brest for repairs. This seemingly random act would become the undoing for Hitler's pride as the Bismarck would soon be hunted down and sunk miles away from her French destination.
HMS Prince of Wales was later stationed in the Pacific off Singapore by October of 1941. In December of that year, she was caught with HMS Repulse by over 80 Japanese bombers and torpedo bombers. A critical hit by an enemy torpedo against her port propeller shaft forced the spinning propeller to cut into the hull. This began uncontrollable flooding and furthermore cut power to her 5.25" gun batteries along with power to her pumps leaving a blind, helpless and shocked Prince of Wales crew on the brink. Without the ability to maneuver, HMS Prince of Wales was at the mercy of more torpedo attacks, receiving four more into her side. The Prince of Wales was officially out of action and would sink in a short hour and twenty minutes time taking with her hundreds of British souls and her Admiral (Phillips) and Captain (Leach).
HMS Prince of Wales was ordered in 1936 and laid down by the Cammell Laird and Company in 1937. She was launched in 1939 and officially commissioned in March of 1941 surviving until December of that year.