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The Sinking of the Prince of Wales & Repulse: The End of the Battleship Era Paperback – September 22, 2014
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About the Author
Martin Middlebrook is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and lives near Boston, Lincolnshire
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Four clear maps are provided, two diagrams of the first torpedo attack with subsequent flooding on Prince of Wales, and 34 photographs over 14 pages. These all help the reader visualize what happened on that day, that in reality, need not have occurred.
Middlebrook and Mahoney are adept at discussing and second guessing the decisions made in sending these two ships to their fate, with the benefit of hindsight (they state this up front and often), and this allows the reader to make their own decision on whether to cast blame on those who made the choices, or the philosophies of the time in regard to battleships/battle cruisers being able to withstand air attack while at sea, and the dreadfully wrong conclusion that the Japanese, and their equipment was inferior.
The air attack itself from opening defensive fire, to the ships sinking took about two hours under mostly clear skies and calm seas. The high altitude bombing had little effect, but the torpedo attacks were the fateful key to the battle, which proved very one sided -The Prince of Wales and Repulse sunk in exchange for three aircraft lost. The torpedo attacks are riveting as portrayed, and easily visualized by the reader.
Air power trumps sea power, as Billy Mitchell predicted. When one thinks of the Battle of Midway, the opposing naval forces never saw each other. The super Japanese battleships Yamato and Musashi were done in by naval AirPower. Middlebrook hints that even now, our aircraft carriers are obsolete, in the evolution of naval warfare.
As an after thought, the mission of the Prince of Wales and Repulse was eeriely similar to the voyage of the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. Cover was blown, but they continued fatefully on their way. Single torpedo hits to the stern of both Prince of Wales and Bismarck took away their mobility, and put the nail in their coffins.
If you have enjoyed any of Martin Middlebrook’s other books, you will appreciate this book as well.
The details of the attack are described based on both British and Japanese sources. The fatal torpedo wound of the Prince of Wales was only recognized after the war when divers inspected the wreck, which is in shallow water off Malaya. An excellent discussion of a major war event that led to the loss of Singapore, although its fate was probably sealed before the war began.
Top international reviews
If you are looking for lots of illustrations you will be disappointed; however, the text is more than compensation from that shortcoming.
Now looking forward to reading "Scapegoat - The death of Prince of Wales and Repulse" by Martin Stephen (Pen & Sword publications) to get another view of the same event.
Dispels a few myths along the way.