HE WATCHED in disbelief as HMS Prince of Wales sank after being bombed by Japanese bombers in the Second World War.
And now Gosport veteran Chris Peacey is to again watch history in the making as the new HMS Prince of Wales is officially named today.
The 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier will be christened in her current home of Rosyth by ship’s sponsor Camilla, the Duchess of Rothesay.
Chris, 93, is just one of three survivors of the original disaster left and will be given a front row seat to today’s ceremony.
He said: ‘I never thought I would live to see the day another ship was named HMS Prince of Wales.
‘There aren’t many survivors of the original battleship. I’m very proud to see the new ship.’
Chris and his shipmates were heroes in every sense of the word. The modern world owes so much to their incredible braveryCaroline Dinenage, Gosport MP
The retired Chief Petty Officer – who is battling cancer – was whisked off by naval escort to Scotland yesterday.
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said: ‘Chris and his shipmates were heroes in every sense of the word. The modern world owes so much to their incredible bravery.’
He joined the Royal Navy as a boy sailor at the age of 15.
After completing his training, he joined Prince of Wales as part of the ship’s first – and only – crew just after she was commissioned in January, 1941.
He was one of 142 boy sailors to call the 33,000-tonne battleship home and was involved in the several key actions of the ship’s short lifespan.
In May of 1941, she fought in the Battle of the Denmark Strait against the mighty German battleship Bismarck – which was eventually sunk.
After the ship tackled convoy duties in the Mediterranean, she sailed to the Pacific, where, on December 10, 1941, she was sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers off Malaysia alongside HMS Repulse.
The disaster claimed the lives of more than 800 British sailors with Chris lucky to have survived the assault.
Recounting the attack, he said: ‘I was in the working space of a turret at the time.
‘There were about 17 of these bombers which came in, wave after wave of them, fully intent on sinking the ships.
‘We could hear this “thump” and the hits that the ship was taking from the aerial attack.
‘I remember one torpedo lifted my off my feet. I said ‘‘Gosh, that was close”.’
As the ship listed taking on water, Chris scrambled out of aft 5.25in gun and walked onto the quarter deck of the ship.
‘It was no trouble at all,’ he said. ‘Half of the quarter deck was in the water. I remember taking my boots off, and walking out into the water.’
Clinging to a small float, Chris watched as his ship sunk in about 30 minutes.
He was later rescued by HMS Express and taken to the Singapore Fleet Shore Establishment.
Within months, he was part of the evacuation of the British territory as the Japanese pressed through Burma.
He returned to the UK in July 1942 and remained in the navy for 27 years before becoming an clerk in the Ministry of Defence.
HMS Prince of Wales is the second of the navy’s two new supercarriers and will be based in Portsmouth.