John Abraham - Sinking of the HMAS Repulse and Prince of Wales

Running time
3 min 39 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


What happened then was that when we got hit at Singapore, they also dropped mines in the river, and that was on Sunday the 8th. We couldn't go to sea on Monday the 9th, so we went to sea on the 10th. Prince of Wales and Repulse went to sea at the same time to ... they went left, we went right. They went down to intercept a convoy that was supposed to be there.

We had radio contact pretty well all the way. The next thing we get while we were in those Malacca Straits, we're heading north, was they're under attack. Repulse went first we heard. Then Prince of Wales went, and our Australian destroyer, I think it was Vampire or Voyager, I forget which one it was now.

They were in escort from ... and one thing the Japanese did do, we understood at that time, once they sunk the Prince of Wales and Repulse, they let the destroyers go in and pick up survivors. So, then we continued on up through the Malacca Straits and we went to Calcutta because there was nowhere else, nothing else we could do. When we first went into Singapore and we saw those two battleships tied up together, we went over the other side to the causeway.

Everyone remarked on ship "Wouldn't you feel safe on one of those ships?" Now, that was our honest opinion. "Wouldn't you feel safe on one of those ships?" Three days later, they were on the bottom. It was disbelief to most of us, but it made us think how vulnerable we were. We had very little AA stuff, anti-aircraft stuff on. We had very little air attack defence equipment. Our air attack, on a big ship like the Manoora, was two three-inch HA, that's High Angle guns. That was our aircraft plus twin Lewis guns. Never had such a thing as a Bofor or anything like that. That was our aircraft. We felt very vulnerable to aircraft.

We operated in the Bay of Bengal, and we were losing ships right and left. And we had no ASDIC gear on the Manoora. So, we couldn't detect submarines. We had no depth charges if we did find them. Our only thing we had was the old aircraft, but you were very vulnerable with that. I'm trying to get the name of it now, the old pass a duck we used to call it. In order to drop that over the side, we don't have a catapult. We used to do a 360-degree turn full ahead. That calmed the waves down, dropped the aircraft over.

At that stage, we were very vulnerable because you didn't know what was in the area. We always felt much better when it was coming into land because he would do a run round and let us know if anything was there, and we felt much safer in recovering him. But we were always closed up ready for anything. So, we were always very vulnerable, and we lost a lot of ships there.

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