Prince of Wales was a King George V-class battleship of the Royal Navy. She was originally named King Edward VIII but upon the abdication of Edward VIII the ship was renamed even before she had been laid down.
This occurred on New Year's Day 1937 at Cammel Lairds at their Birkenhead shipyard, and hull took just over two years to build. She was launched on 4 May 1939 by the Princess Royal and she was fitting out when war was declared in September.
Unfortunately the building and subsequent fitting-out period was not a happy one and the new and complicated design of hull and equipment caused many difficulties. She had such a lot of incidents that were to bring a reputation for bad luck. The first was during the 1940 Liverpool Blitz when a heavy German bomb burst between Prince of Wales and the quay of the fitting out basin, narrowly missing a 100-ton dockside crane, and exploded underwater below the bilge keel. The explosion took place about six feet from the ship's port side in the vicinity of the after group of 5.25-inch guns. Buckling of the shell plating took place over a distance of 20 to 30 feet (9.1 m), rivets were sprung and considerable flooding took place in the port outboard compartments in the area of damage, causing a ten-degree port list. The flooding was severe, due to the fact that final compartment air tests had not yet been made and the ship did not have her pumping system in operation.
It was decided to get her away from Liverpool and the danger of further German bombs.
She was commissioned on 19 January 1941, but her departure the following day was delayed when her four tugs pulled her on to an unsuspected sandbank before she could even get under her own power. So Prince of Wales sailed with just two of her four screws lashed down to the upper deck because there had been no time to fit them at Liverpool to let her sailed as soon as possible. When the ship reached Rosyth she had more unhappy incidents and crew errors: two rounds were fired while reloading, small fires broke out three times, two men had bad falls and were injured.
Prince of Wales, at the beginning, was under the command of Captain John C. Leach who had never had adverse comments on his qualities of leadership. The ship sailed into action with 110 officers, including an admiral's staff, and 1502 men. The crew were provided by the Devonport Manning Depot, so Prince of Wales was a "Guz" ship and a far higher proportion crew were "Hostilities Only" men.
Within two months of sailing from Rosyth for Scapa Flow, Scotland, she moved into action even though she had not completed her working-up period, there were still numerous defects in her equipment and dockyard workmen were still aboard. On 20 October 1941 the War Cabinet decided that the battleship should become part of Force G, so just three days later Prince of Wales, with the destroyers Electra and Express, sailed out of Scapa Flow, making for Greenock where Admiral Phillips would come aboard.
In December she reached the Far East where she became the flag ship of Force Z that included at that time battleship Prince of Wales, battlecruiser Repulse and the destroyers Electra, Express, Tenedos and HMAS Vampire.
Her brief but storied career ended 10 December 1941, when Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse became the first capital ships to be sunk solely by air power on the open sea, and this is the reason of the diminishing role this class of ships was subsequently to play in naval warfare. The wreck lies upside down in 223 feet (68 m) of water, near Kuantan, in the South China Sea.
In 1922, after First World War, the Washington Naval Treaty was drawn up in an effort to stop an arms race developing between Britain, Japan, France, Italy and the United States. This treaty limited the number of ships each nation was allowed to build and capped the tonnage of all capital ships at 35,000 tons. These restrictions were extended in 1930 through the Treaty of London and the British became concerned about a lack of modern battleships within their navy, so the Admiralty ordered the construction of a new battleship class: the King George V class. Alternatives with 16-inch, 15-inch and 14-inch main guns were considered and the 15-inch armament was chosen. Most designs were intended to steam at 27 knots with full power, and it was decided that the likely decisive range in a battle would be from 12,000 to 16,000 yards. Armour and torpedo protection formed a much greater portion of the design than that of the previous Royal Navy battleships. In October 1935, it was decided that the main armament of the class was limited to the 14-inch (356 mm) guns prescribed under these instruments, but they were the only battleships built at that time to adhere to the treaty, and even though it soon became apparent to the British that the other signatories to the treaty were ignoring its requirements, it was too late to change the design of the class before they were laid down in 1937.
Prince of Wales displaced 36,727 long tons (37,300 t) as built and 43,786 long tons (44,500 t) fully loaded. The ship had an overall length of 745 feet (227.1 m), a beam of 103 feet (31.4 m) and a draught of 29 feet (8.8 m). Her designed metacentric height was 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) at normal load and 8 feet 1 inch (2.46 m) at deep load.
This gave Prince of Wales a top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph). The ship carried 3,542 long tons (3,600 t) of fuel oil. She also carried 180 long tons (200 t) of diesel oil, 256 long tons (300 t) of reserve feed water and 444 long tons (500 t) of freshwater. During full power trials on 31 March 1941, Prince of Wales at 42,100 tons displacement achieved 28 knots with 111,600 shp at 228 rpm and a specific fuel consumption of 0.73 lb per shp. She had a range of 3,100 nautical miles (5,700 km; 3,600 mi) at 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph).
The King George Vs were the first British battleships to alternate engine rooms and boilers in the machinery spaces, which reduced the likelihood of one hit causing the loss of all power. The machinery was arranged in four engine (turbine) rooms and four boiler rooms, with the 8 machinery compartments alternating in pairs of engine or boiler rooms. Each pair of boiler rooms formed a unit with a pair of engine rooms. Nominal full power was 110,000 shaft horsepower at 230 rpm with 400 pounds per square inch (28 bar) steam at 700 °F (371 °C) and were designed for an overload power of 125,000 shp, which was exceeded in service.
Prince of Wales was powered by Parsons geared steam turbines, driving four propeller shafts. Steam was provided by eight Admiralty boilers which normally delivered 100,000 shaft horsepower (75,000 kW), but could deliver 110,000 shp (82,000 kW) at emergency overload.
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