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How many men died on HMS Repulse?

How many men died on HMS Repulse?

World War 2

HMS Repulse Overview

HMS Repulse, one of two Renown-class battlecruisers, was built for the Royal Navy during World War I. Initially laid down as an advanced version of the Revenge-class battleship, her construction was halted at the outbreak of war due to concerns about readiness. Admiral Lord Fisher, upon becoming First Sea Lord, pushed for the resumption of her construction as a battlecruiser to expedite her entry into service. Eustace Tennyson-d’Eyncourt, the Director of Naval Construction, quickly designed a new blueprint to meet these requirements. The builders committed to delivering the ship in 15 months, narrowly missing this target, with Repulse entering service shortly after the Battle of Jutland in 1916. At completion, Repulse and her sister ship Renown were the fastest capital ships in the world.

World War I Service

HMS Repulse (British Battlecruiser, 1916-1941) photographed circa 1916-17, after post-trials alterations but prior to receiving searchlight towers on her after funnel in place of open searchlight platforms. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.
The Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS Repulse photographed circa 1916-17, after post-trials alterations but prior to receiving searchlight towers on her after funnel in place of open searchlight platforms. Official U.S. Navy photo NH 525 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

Repulse saw combat in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1917, her only action during World War I. Post-war, she underwent two major reconstructions, one in the 1920s which improved her armor, and a more comprehensive one in the 1930s. Between wars, she participated in significant missions such as the Cruise of the Special Service Squadron from 1923 to 1924 and safeguarded international shipping during the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939.

World War II Service

At the onset of World War II, Repulse was engaged in hunting German raiders and blockade runners. She took part in the Norwegian Campaign in 1940 and searched for the Bismarck in 1941. Later, she escorted a troop convoy around the Cape of Good Hope and was transferred to the East Indies Command. In November 1941, Repulse was assigned to Force Z to deter Japanese aggression in the Far East. On December 10, 1941, Repulse and the battleship Prince of Wales were sunk by Japanese aircraft while attempting to intercept Japanese landings in British Malaya.

Design and Features

Repulse entering Vancouver Harbour during her world tour with Hood and other ships of the Special Service Squadron, 1924

Repulse, designed to meet the requirements set by Admiral Lord Fisher, featured a long, flared bow and mounted six 15-inch guns in twin turrets. She had a secondary armament of seventeen 4-inch guns and carried two 21-inch torpedo tubes. Her armor included a 6-inch-thick Krupp cemented belt, with turret armor ranging from 7 to 9 inches thick. After the Battle of Jutland, additional horizontal armor was added. She was the first capital ship to have a flying-off platform for aircraft.


Repulse measured 794 feet 2.5 inches in length, with a beam of 89 feet 11.5 inches and a draught of 29 feet 9 inches. She displaced 26,854 long tons at normal load and 31,592 long tons at deep load. Her Brown-Curtis steam turbines produced 112,000 shaft horsepower, achieving speeds of up to 32 knots. On trials, her turbines exceeded expectations, delivering 118,913 shaft horsepower and a speed of 31.73 knots.

The Very Underrated British BL 14-inch Mk VII Naval Gun Designed For The RN In The Late 1930s

Inter-war Period

After World War I, Repulse underwent significant refits to improve her armor and combat capabilities. Her armor belt was thickened, and additional anti-torpedo bulges were added. She was re-commissioned in 1921 and joined the Atlantic Fleet’s Battlecruiser Squadron. Repulse participated in a world cruise with HMS Hood and other ships in 1923-1924 and underwent further modifications in the late 1920s and 1930s, including enhancements to her anti-aircraft armament and the addition of aircraft facilities.

Spanish Civil War and Late 1930s

Repulse in July 1938, from the stern

During the Spanish Civil War, Repulse protected international shipping and later participated in the Coronation Fleet Review for King George VI. She was involved in maintaining order during the Arab Revolt in Palestine in 1938 and was refitted to serve as a royal escort during the King and Queen’s Canadian tour in 1939.

World War II Actions

Repulse escorting the last convoy to reach Singapore, December 1941

Repulse began World War II with patrols and convoy escorts. She was part of the effort to locate and destroy German raiders and supported Allied operations in the Norwegian Campaign. In 1941, Repulse was part of the search for the battleship Bismarck. Later that year, she was assigned to Force Z to counter Japanese threats in the Far East.

Force Z and the Sinking of HMS Repulse

Repulse departing from Singapore on 8 December 1941

In late 1941, as tensions in the Pacific escalated, Winston Churchill made the strategic decision to send a small, powerful fleet to Singapore to deter Japanese aggression. This fleet, known as Force Z, included the new battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser HMS Repulse, along with their escorting destroyers. The original plan also involved the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, but it was delayed due to grounding in the Caribbean.

Repulse, initially stationed in the Indian Ocean, was ordered to Colombo, Ceylon, to rendezvous with Prince of Wales. By early December 1941, Force Z arrived in Singapore. On the night of December 8, the fleet set out with the goal of intercepting Japanese troop convoys and preventing landings that threatened British-held territories.

However, on December 9, the Japanese submarine I-65 spotted Force Z, and Japanese reconnaissance aircraft from several cruisers began shadowing the British ships. Realizing that their element of surprise was compromised, Admiral Sir Tom Phillips decided to abort the mission. Nevertheless, later that night, he received reports of Japanese landings at Kuantan and adjusted course to intercept these forces by dawn.

In the early hours of December 10, Force Z was spotted again by the submarine I-58!

Which reported their position and launched five torpedoes, all of which missed. This information allowed the Japanese to launch a coordinated air assault. At 10:15 AM, a Mitsubishi G3M reconnaissance aircraft located Force Z, and its pilot maintained contact, guiding 86 bombers from the 22nd Air Flotilla towards the British ships.

The initial wave of the attack began at 11:13 AM, with eight G3M bombers dropping 250-kilogram bombs from an altitude of 11,500 feet. As a result, Repulse founder herself straddled by two bombs. Additionally, hit by a third that penetrated through the hangar, exploding on the armored deck below. This caused significant damage and casualties, including the destruction of the ship’s Supermarine Walrus seaplane, which had to be jettisoned to prevent a fire.

Despite skillful maneuvering by Captain Bill Tennant, who managed to evade 19 torpedoes and additional bombs. Repulse was eventually caught in a coordinated pincer attack by 17 Mitsubishi G4M torpedo bombers.

Vice Admiral W G Tennant, Flag Officer Levant and East Mediterranean, visiting HMS Colossus in Colombo, Ceylon. Famous for also overseeing the successful evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.

The battlecruiser was struck by four or five torpedoes in rapid succession. The gunners aboard Repulse managed to shoot down two planes and heavily damage eight others, but the inflicted torpedo damage proved catastrophic.

Repulse is at the bottom of the frame, having been hit by a bomb.

At 12:23 PM, Repulse began listing severely to port, quickly capsizing and sinking stern-first.

Moreover, the sinking resulted in the loss of 508 crew members aboard HMS Repulse.

The destroyers HMS Electra and HMS Vampire conducted rescue operations, saving the survivors, including Captain Tennant.

This tragic loss marked a significant moment in naval history. Highlighting the vulnerability of capital ships to aerial attacks and altering naval strategies in the Pacific theater of World War II.

The wreck site of Repulse was designated as a protected place under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

Wreck and Recent Developments

The wreck of Repulse has faced issues with illegal salvaging. In 2023, reports surfaced of unauthorized scavenging of the wreck by a Chinese ship for its low-background steel.

Further reading: Force Z & HMS Electra


In conclusion, on December 2023, a memorial became unveiled at Teluk Cempedak beach. By King Abdullah of Pahang, lastly honoring both Repulse and Prince of Wales.

“Dunkirk Joe” Rear Admiral Tennant (centre) with his officers on Mulberry B, Arromanches. July 1944. Ernest Edward Allen – Lastly, this photograph A 24857 comes from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.

How many men died on HMS Repulse?