HMS Repulse – Remembered
Technical divers pay their respects to the fallen sailors and soldiers of the HMS Repulse.
South China Seas, Singapore.
Shortly after the outbreak of war in the Pacific on 8 December 1941, the HMS Repulse left Singapore in company with the other major element of the Eastern Fleet, including HMS Prince of Wales, and 4 destroyers, to try and intercept Japanese invasion force heading towards Malaya (Malaysia).
On December 10, 1941, after failing to find any Japanese invasion forces, and turning south, Japanese aircraft were spotted. The fleet was attacked by 86 Japanese aircraft from the 22nd Air Flotilla based in Saigon, which attacked both HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse.
The HMS Repulse survived a bomb hit and managed to dodge 14 torpedoes before being sunk in 20 minutes after receiving 5 torpedo hits. 327 crew members died in the sinking. Including a young electrician Arthur Frederick Cavell.
On April 30th 2010 technical diving instructor , for Big Blue Tech, Andrew Frederick Cavell joined an expedition to dive on the HMS Repulse. During his expedition he noticed a similar name and matching surname in the list of sailors who died on during the sinking.
Returning home to Thailand Andrew researched and discovered his great uncle was a serving member of the HMS Repulse and in fact is the same sailor who’s name he saw on the expedition. Andrew had no idea he had been diving on a wreck that was resting place for someone related.
The wreck site was designated as a ‘Protected Place’ in 2001 under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986, just prior to the 60th anniversary of her sinking. The Royal Navy maintains a White Ensign flag on the mast of the Repulse. However this flag has been either removed or washed away by the strong currents.
Leading up to a second technical diving expedition a decision was made to place a Red Ensign on the wreck at the bow to honour the site and those who lost their lives serving on the HMS Repulse. The Red Ensign or “Red Duster” which is commonly used by Royal Merchant Navy Ships but at the same time by all Royal Navy who are departing from a foreign port. The Repulse would of flown this flag when leaving Singapore and never returned to remove it.
The current flag on the bow was placed by James Foleher and James Thornton-Allan who are both former soldiers from the British military.
In keeping with the rules outlined by the Protection of Military Remains Act there was no penetration or disturbance conducted on either expedition dives to the HMS Repulse by members of Big Blue Tech.