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HMS Prince of Wales Fact File

Displacement: 38,000 tons (41,460 laden)
Dimensions: Length: 227.1m; Width: 31.4m; Max draught: 10.5m
Engine: 8 Admiralty boilers, 4 Parsons geared turbines, 4 shafts
Speed: 29.25 knots. Range: 14,970 miles (24,090km)
Protection: Main Belt: 381 - 114mm; Deck: 330-279mm
Drive Power: 110,000hp
Armament: 10 x 356mm guns in 2 quadruple turrets and 1 twin turret; 16 x 133mm dual purpose guns in 8 twin turrets
Anti Aircraft: 48 x 40mm AA guns, 10 x 40mm Bofors guns
Aircraft: 4 Supermarine Walrus (via 1 x double ended catapult)
Commissioned: March 1941
Crew: 1640

When war was declared, the HMS Prince of Wales was still being fitted out in Birkenhead, Merseyside. Work continued to get her ready for action but she was still at her berth when she suffered damage from German bombers. Bombers attacked the port between August 1940 and January 1942, killing nearly 4000 people. Her commission was hastened by cancelling some of the tests and sea trials and she was commissioned in early 1941. Workers continued to conduct some minor work for another 8-9 weeks.

One of 5 King George V class Battleships, the Prince of Wales saw brief but widespread action and was involved in the famous chase after the German Battleship Bismarck in which HMS Hood was sunk.  PoW being badly damaged and could not continue the pursuit. Following on from repairs, PoW carried Churchill across the Atlantic to meet up with US President Roosevelt. Then, on her return, she was sent off to the Med, where she successfully engaged Italian aircraft during the siege of Malta.  Then, with HMS Repulse, she was deployed to the Far East to counter the threat from Japan. On the same day as Pearl Harbour, Dec 7th 1941, the Japs invaded Malaya. PoW, Repulse and 4 destroyers were sent to hit the Japanese invasion force. Finding no targets, they returned to Singapore, on 10th December were attacked by Japanese bombers and torpedo planes. They were hit many times by bombs. Repulse was sunk first, and half hour later, the Prince of Wales.

They were the first capital ships ever to be sunk by aircraft on the open seas, a stunned world heard whilst still recovering from the shock of the Japanese cowardly sneak attack on Pearl Harbour 3 days earlier. This event was considered by many to be the beginning of the end for the capital ship  being a predominant force in naval warfare. Many lessons were learnt, the stronger hull of the PoW than the Repulse enabled her to remain afloat for longer, thereby enabling the rescue of a lot more of her crew. The importance of radar in giving warnings of attack. The radar on the PoW was defective. Properly trained AA gun crews, would have given the Japs a more of a bloody nose, possibly avoiding the torpedo planes and could have resulted in them not being sunk.

See image below for description of numbered items

Prince of Wales being built at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead

KING GEORGE V-Class Battleship ordered from Cammell Laird at Birkenhead under the 1937 Build Programme on 29th July 1936. She was laid down on 1st January 1937 and launched on 3rd May 1939 as the 12th RN ship to carry this name. First used for a 3rd Rate in 1765 and last used for a battleship built in 1902 and sold in April 1920. Build was completed on 31st March 1941 and had been delayed by damage to the build shipyard during air raids on Merseyside.  Operational History can be found here:

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