HMS Repulse – Illegal Salvaging

Due to illegal salvaging in April 2015, the Malaysian Navy has stopped all diving activities on The HMS Repluse. It is also severely damaged and most likely will never be able to be dived again.

The HMS Repulse is a world-class wreck which we are very lucky to have easily accessible from Singapore. Built in 1916, she saw little action in WWI. In the post-war years she was refitted twice, substantially increasing the thickness of her armour and generally modernizing her. When WWI I broke out, she spent the first two years of the war serving in the North Sea and the Atlantic, notably taking part in the pursuit of the German battleship Bismarck.

In 1941 she, along with the HMS Prince of Wales, was assigned to Force Z, with orders to counter Japanese naval aggression in Asia. Force Z was intended to include an aircraft carrier, but the Indomitable was damaged in route and turned back for repairs, leaving Force Z under strength. Along with the Prince of Wales and 4 destroyers, the Repulse left Singapore in Dec 1941 to intercept an expected Japanese invasion force heading towards Malaysia.

Along the Malaysian coast, Force Z was unexpectedly attacked by a large Japanese torpedo bomber squadron, and first the Prince of Wales followed by the Repulse were hit with multiple torpedos. The Repulse was hit by 4-5 torpedoes in quick succession and sank quickly with substantial loss of life.

While today it seems obvious to us that a fleet should not venture into a combat zone without aerial support, at the time aircraft as offensive weapons were fairly new to naval combat. Prior to the sinking of the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, no capital ship of the line had ever been sunk by aircraft, and it was thought that their heavy armouring made this impossible. Air dropped torpedoes at the time were also generally unreliable and prone to problems. However, unknown to the West, the Japanese had made major improvements to their aerial torpedo design which turned it a serious weapon. The attack on Pearl Harbour, followed shortly after by the sinking of the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, were some of the first battles to demonstrate this new paradigm.

She currently rests upside down on the bottom at an angle- the port side of her main deck is buried in the sand while the starboard side ranges from 2-8m off the bottom. While much of the superstructure was been crushed as the ship sank, her great guns are still visible.  She was designated by the British Govt as a war grave in 2001, and penetration of the wreck is thus not officially allowed. A number of her props have been salvaged, though as of this writing she had at least two props remaining.

Wreck Details 
Name:HMS Repulse
Type:British Battlecruiser
Armament:6 × 15″ guns (3×2)
9 × 4″ guns (3×3)
8 × 4″ A.A. guns (2×2, 4×1)
24 × 2 pdr.
8 x 20mm mg
8 × 21″/533 mm T.T.
4 aircraft
Tonnage:31,592 GRT
Max Speed:32.6 knots
Launch Date:1916
Shipyard:John Brown & Co. Ltd., UK
Sinking Date:Dec 1941
Max Depth:53m to bottom
Min Depth:32m to keel
Orientation:inverted, resting on port side of main deck