King George V Class Battleship
38000 Tons (Standard)
During the Battle of Britain, Prince of Wales was damaged during August 1940 in the Merseyside Blitz, suffering a near-miss that exploded between her port side, severely buckling and springing her outer plates. Construction was advanced by postponing tests, shortening trials. Commissioned January 19, 1941 with Captain John Leach. The ship was not completed until March 31, 1941.
In early August, the Prince of Wales carried Winston Churchill as a passenger to Newfoundland for a secret meeting with Franklin D. Roosevelt beginning and resulted in the signing of the "Atlantic Charter". Next, she was assigned to the Mediterranean for convoy escort duty, where she shot down several attacking planes on September 27.
When Japan commenced hostilities on December 8, 1941 in Malaya, the force steamed northwards to intercept the invasion force, along with HMS Repulse and four destroyers: HMS Electra, HMS Express, HMS Tenedos and HMAS Vampire. Unable to find the force, they were spotted by Japanese submarine I-65 returning to Singapore and shadowed.
Early in the attack, the Prince of Wales was disabled by a lucky torpedo hit where the propeller shaft entered the hull, which caused severe flooding, rendered the rudder useless, and cut the power to her 5.25" guns and many pumps. Further electrical failures left parts of the ship in total darkness and added to the difficulties of Prince of Wales damage repair parties as they attempted to counter the flooding. In total, the ship sustained four torpedo and one bomb hit. Several hundred men were killed when the ship sank, including Vice-Admiral Phillips and Captain Leach.
The wreck site was designated as a 'Protected Place' in 2001 under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986, just prior to the 60th anniversary of her sinking. The Royal Navy maintains a White Ensign flag on the mast of the Prince of Wales. Also, a British flag attached to a line on a buoy that is tied to a propeller shaft is periodically renewed.