The Battle of Bangka Island
0800 hours. It had been a miserable day and night. The wind had now dialed back a bit from a Force 7 to a Force 4 northeasterly. The squalls were gone, but the sky was completely overcast and had been since yesterday morning. The visibility was restricted to a bit over 8 miles and there wasn’t a ship in sight except for those of Force Z. Force Z was heading due north at 25 knots and attempting to intercept an invasion convoy against Bangka Island. But, no one had seen any ships or even planes so far.
Admiral Phillips was not a happy man. His war had not gone very well to date. Phillips was heartily sick of false alarms and he was beginning to wonder if this wasn’t another. Had he gone too far north? He was contemplating reversing course when there was a sighting report from the masthead. Ships bearing 8 points to starboard. It could only be the enemy in these waters. Phillips ordered the fleet to increase its speed to 29 knots and all float planes launched.
Vice Admiral Ozawa was not a happy man. Radio intercepts and aerial reconnaissance of Singapore told him the Royal Navy was at sea. But, with the overcast the Airedales of the 11th Air Fleet could not find the British navy. His ships would have to bear the brunt of British fury. A report from the masthead said there were ships dead ahead and crossing his tee. It was not a good start. Ozawa ordered a 4 point turn to starboard on a heading of 315 degrees to open up his broadsides. Ozawa ordered an increase in speed to 24 knots (all the Fusos could do) and the convoy behind to turn due north until he had assessed what he faced. Ozawa ordered all float planes launched and the cruisers and destroyers to the battleship’s unengaged side.
Phillips turned PoW and Repulse in succession 4 points to starboard and he had them turn 4 points back to port together. He now had his capital ships in a quarter line and could shelter the Repulse’s weak armor with funnel smoke which PoW began to make. Phillips ordered Rear Admiral Palliser’s cruiser division and the destroyers to his unengaged (port side) to protect them. PoW would bear the brunt this day until he had a chance to assess what the enemy’s intentions were.
PoW opened fired at 0806 hours the leading Japanese battleship at 16,000 yards. The turns had thrown PoW gunnery off a bit but she scored 2 hits on the leading BB (later determined to be Fuso). The hits impacted the forward part of the BB and her fire immediately slackened as did PoW’s. Her fore quad had a malfunction (she rolled a 12) and she had lost the use of 2 guns. The lead IJN BB’s fire was ineffective, but the second hit PoW twice. Both hits were to PoW’s hull and though they did not penetrate her armor, they still caused damage that slowed her to 26 knots.
PoW failed to fix her turret, but her radar allowed her to score 2 more hits on the leading IJN BB. Both hits were in the hull and the BB slowed appreciably. The lead BB’s return fire hit PoW twice, knocking 2 of her starboard 5.25” mounts. The second BB’s fire was ineffective.
PoW still could not fix that turret. But she hit the leading BB again somewhere in the area of her secondary. Both IJN BBs return fire was ineffective. Another PoW salvo and another hit on the lead BB, again somewhere in the area of her secondary. By now PoW own secondaeies were firing on the second BB, but to no effect. Only the second BB hit PoW once during this time and caused minor hull damage.
PoW still could not fix that turret, but she did hit the lead BB again in the stern. Again, only the second BB hit PoW and again in her secondary. PoW could not fix her turret, but she hit the lead BB twice amidships causing a fire. But PoW fore turret broke down completely at this point. The lead BB finally hit PoW once, but the trailing BB did not. PoW suffered further minor hull damage and slowed to 23 knots.
PoW could not fix her fore turret. And then her rear quad also had a mishap and was reduced to 2 guns firing. Phillips realized he now needed Repulse to enter the fight and ordered her to take station astern. The lead BB hit PoW once and caused further minor hull damage. PoW fixed her rear Quad and hit the lead BB twice and caused another fire beside the one still burning. The BB slowed again appreciably. Repulse hit the rear BB once in the fore part of the ship and her fire slacken a bit. The lead BB hit PoW once and caused further minor hull damage that slowed her to 19 knots. The second BB hit Repulse twice knocking out her fore turret and causing hull damage.
PoW’s fore turret was still out when her rear quad had another mishap. PoW and Repulse’s fire was ineffective as was the Japanese fire. PoW fixed her rear quad and the Japanese put out a fire, but continued to slow. PoW and Repulse’s fire was ineffective. But the lead BB hit PoW again causing further minor hull damage. PoW fixed her fore quad and the Japanese put out their fire. PoW hit the lead BB thrice but her fore quad broke again. The lead BB’s fire slackened and she slowed, but she hit PoW again and knocked out the last of her starboard secondary. Repulse’s fire was ineffective as was the second BBs.
PoW could not fix her fore turret. PoW hit the Lead BB once reducing her to a crawl. The lead BB hit PoW once, slowing her to 13 knots. Repulse missed and the second BB hit her once, knocking out a secondary mount. PoW still could not fix that pesky fore quad. PoW hit the lead BB again and again her fore quad broke down completely. The lead BB was down to her rear turrets. Repulse hit the second BB once in the area of her secondary and the return fire was ineffective.