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HMS Repulse


This post about HMS Repulse is a sequel to the Battle of Britain letter. My father’s cousin Daphne was the widow of a Battle of Britain pilot. Her brother Dennis was a Royal Marines officer aboard HMS Repulse.

Dennis was in the Repulse during the hunt for the Bismarck. His tour of duty came to an end in South Africa and he left the ship at Cape Town. The Repulse sailed on to Singapore and was sunk by Japanese aircraft on 10 December 1941.

Dennis had a very lucky escape, but many of his friends died. Some of the survivors wrote to him with graphic accounts of the sinking. I used one of their letters in my book Seven Days of Infamy, an account of the attack on Pearl Harbour and its impact across the world.

Dennis also took lots of photos aboard the Repulse. We had the negatives developed when I was looking for pictures to put in my book. It was heartbreaking to see those cheerful young faces, knowing the awful things that were about to happen to them a few weeks later.

About 50 men died when a Japanese bomb, dropped from 10,000 feet, went straight through the Repulse‘s catapult deck and exploded below.

 

 

A lot of these Marines on parade then abandoned ship too far aft and were sucked straight into the still-turning propellers, with dreadful results.

And Midshipman Christopher Bros. The poor lad was only 18, just out of Rugby school. Trapped with 25 men in the tiny transmitting station at the bottom of the ship, he quelled a panic as water poured in.

Bros ordered the men out, standing guard to prevent a rush as they slipped through the tiny escape hatch one by one.

The men all survived. Bros insisted on staying until last and was the only one to drown.

A week later, one of the Japanese pilots returned to the scene and dropped flowers on his grave. The wreck of the Repulse was clearly visible on the seabed below as the hibiscus fluttered down. Awful.

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