|The crew of the sinking HMS Prince of Wales abandoning ship to the destroyer Express|
Seventy one years ago today Japanese aircraft torpedoed and sank the British battlecruiser HMS Prince Of Wales off the East coast of Malaysia with the loss of 327 men.
My Dad, an Ordinary Seaman of just 18 at the time, was a gunner on the ship, and survived. Had he not I would, of course, not be writing this now.
At around this time of year throughout the 80s and 90s Mum and Dad would attend Prince Of Wales crew reunions, although as the years went by the number of people there who'd actually survived the action steadily dwindled. My parents themselves stopped going a few years back, as they got older and less mobile and the long train journeys north to Liverpool or Newcastle became more and more difficult for them. Dad of course is still a 'survivor', but I don't suppose that as he sits in his chair in the hospital today he will remember the day.
The sinking of HMS Prince Of Wales and her sister ship HMS Repulse (with the loss of 508 men) was a significant moment in the history of warfare: these were the first ships to be sunk on the open sea by air power alone. But a self-deluding British Government believed them to be invincible - great symbols of Imperial Power.
My Dad used to tell me how the crew were told of the unlikelihood of any attack as the ships, intended to intimidate by their very presence, sailed towards Singapore.
'What about aeroplanes Sir?' he remembered asking, a little nervously.
'Aeroplanes?' scoffed an officer, 'You don't want to worry about aeroplanes son'.
The ships still lie 223 feet deep in the water off Kuantan in the South China Sea.
To this day it is traditional for any Royal Navy ship that passes nearby to hold a service in remembrance.
This is my small commemoration on behalf of my Dad: remembering for him, if you like.