The Tragedy of Force Z
The sinking by Japanese aircraft of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in December 1941 and the subsequent loss of Singapore was a grievous blow to British morale. But have historians misunderstood what really happened?
British accounts of the weeks immediately before the outbreak of war with Japan in December 1941 are dominated by the story of Force Z, comprised of the new battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battle-cruiser HMS Repulse. It is the tale of a futile gesture of late and inadequate deterrence, leading inexorably to disaster. The loss of the force to Japanese air attack on 10 December, just two days into the conflict, was traumatic; the greatest single defeat suffered by the Royal Navy during the Second World War.