HMS Prince of Wales at Cape Town, November 1941. Six months earlier Captain
John Leach had stood on the compass platform as a
15-inch shell from the German battleship Bismarck passed through from the starboard side, killing the majority of the personnel there - and leaving himself unharmed. However, one month after this photograph was taken a Japanese torpedo found his and his ships Achilles’ heel. Striking between her two port propeller shafts, support for the outer failed and her massive propeller momentarily ran free at over 200 RPM,
destroying and warping bulkheads along the shaft all the way to B Engine Room (in the heart of the ship). Rapid and massive flooding ensued, with seawater funneled along the shaft. Although this was controlled by a crew operating in emergency lighting and soaring temperatures so severe areas became uninhabitable, within an hour three more torpedoes slammed into the ships starboard side, devastating the established flood boundaries. Limping on Prince of Wales was finally hit by a 500-lb bomb which was detonated by her armoured main deck. Despite this failure to penetrate the ship, her reduced freeboard allowed the area to flood, fatally ridding her of what little stability remained.
Captain John Leach went down with his ship as she suddenly lurched over and capsized at 13:24, unable to dupe death twice.