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Francis Clarke
Able Seaman

HMS Prince of Wales

 

Francis Clarke (click for a larger view in a new window (31568 bytes)

My father Francis Clarke, who has sadly recently died, was a survivor of the sinking and I believe he was very much affected by the experience. 

I have a photo of him in uniform with HMS Prince of Wales written on the hat band and I also have his diary which recorded all his ships and routes during the war. He didn't talk a lot about the sinking but I remember when he saw a documentary about it on the television he wept remembering the men being crushed between the two ships. I think there is quite a well known photo of men being taken over into the destroyer and my father is in this photo.

Looking over my father's list of ships , it would seem that after the sinking of the Prince of Wales he was transported from Singapore to Colombo and incorporated into the crew of HMS GLASGOW which sailed from Colombo to Java, Sumatra, Capetown, Durban, Mauritius, Mombasa, Freetown, New York, and Portsmouth. His next ship was HMS GUARDIAN which sailed from Belfast to Glasgow, Gibraltar, Malta, Sicily, Italy and Algiers and finally HMS BLACKMORE which sailed through the Suez Canal to Madras, Bombay, Trincolmalee, Akyab, Rangoon, Arakan and Singapore before returning to Plymouth.

My father was only 20 when he volunteered for the navy and the Prince of Wales was his first ship. He chose the navy, despite being unable to swim, because he loved ships and was born and bred in Hull where the sea was an ever present reality of life. He was a gunner and would later suffer from tinnitus due to the damage caused to his hearing and one thing he always suffered from was sea-sickness but despite this he fully enjoyed seeing countries as far away as South Africa and Ceylon which normally, coming from a very modest background, he would never have had the opportunity to visit. 
I think he fully realised how lucky he was to survive the sinking of the Prince of Wales but was haunted by the image of dying sailors and would still have nightmares well into his later life. He was also lucky being able to escape from Singapore as he left on one of the last transport ships due only to the fact his name came at the beginning of the alphabet. Strangely enough he always said that he felt safe on board a ship and the only time he really felt very afraid was when he had to do patrols into the jungle.
When he returned to Singapore in 1945, he arrived in time for the Surrender and it was a very different experience from his first visit.
My father's five years in naval service changed his attitude to life and being a survivor spurred him onto pursuing a successful career and as a mature student at Liverpool University he was awarded a B.A. and M.A. in History, the latter at the age of 70.
Unfortunately my father died in 2002 after a long struggle with Parkinson's Disease but I have inherited his impressive model ship collection and have several models of the Prince of Wales. He always loved the sea . 

Pamela Soyer

 

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Pamela Soyer (Daughter).