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New Zealand Warships Remember Lost Battleships

New Zealand Defence Force
Te Ope Kaatua O Aotearoa
Media Release
Friday April 22, 2005

New Zealand Warships remember lost battleships.

In the lead up to Anzac Day two RNZN ships exercising in the South China Sea found themselves in the vicinity of the ship wrecks (and war graves) of HMS PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE.

TE MANA and ENDEAVOUR paused in their programmes of current training to sail over the wrecks and hold a brief memorial service for the men lost when the two ships were sunk by Japanese air attack nearly 64 years ago, as WWII broke out in the Pacific. Lieutenant Vicki Rendall reports from on board HMNZS TE MANA:

"We conducted the wreath laying ceremony at 1830 Wed 20 Apr, over the PRINCE OF WALES. The Executive Officer, LT CDR Shane Arndell, made a brief speech about all those on board the two battleships in 1941, who included a number of Kiwis.

"The ships had sailed from Sembawang in Singapore (where the Naval Base, part-funded by NZ was only newly completed) to counter-attack the Japanese naval force which had landed troops in northern Malaya simultaneously with the infamous air attack on Pearl Harbour.

"However as the British ships searched for Japanese forces, they came under air attack by Japanese naval torpedo bombers flying out of Saigon in Vietnam. The torpedo bombers sank the two battleships, the first time capital ships of any nation had been lost to air attack while in the open sea.

"Their loss tilted the balance in the Battle for Malaya and just two months later Singapore surrendered to the Japanese Army."

Today the two ships' wrecks are considered as War Graves and British and Commonwealth warships have frequently visited the location near the Malayasian port of Kuantan. In TE MANA 20 of the ship's officers and senior ratings took part in a brief evening memorial service for the sailors lost with the two battleships.

"After the Executive Officer's remarks, prayers were read, a Bosun's Mate piped the side and then Supply Officer laid a wreath over the guardrails into the water. HMNZS ENDEAVOUR stood off 4 miles distant, with the sun setting behind her.

"Tomorrow we berth in Sembawang, at the very base where the two battleships prepared for what became their last mission. This weekend our officers and ships' companies will take part in Anzac Day commemorations at the Kranji Commonwealth war cemetery. Our evening memorial service over the wreck of PRINCE OF WALES was for us an early reminder of the meaning of Anzac Day."

Ends


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