Back to the HMS Prince of Wales crew list

John Catterall Leach

Captain. DSO. MVO.

HMS Prince of Wales

Took over command of HMS Prince of Wales from Captain Hamilton just before she left Rosyth for Scapa Flow.
Died when Prince of Wales was sunk on 10th December 1941.

 

A quote from Henry Leach, son of Captain Leach, and a Midshipman at the time of the sinking of Force Z:

 

He was assigned as a midshipman to the Colony class cruiser, HMS Mauritius. The famous photo of PoW docking in Singapore is present in this volume, and though she isnt pointed out, Mauritius is visible on the right edge of the photo. Mauritius was undergoing refit in Singapore when the war in the Pacific began, a refit that was elsewhere. I think he shows us a side of the Force Z few realized existed.

I had been appointed to the Prince of Wales, but before I joined her, my father had been made captain, so I ended up in the cruiser Mauritius, which in fact was in dock in Singapore naval base at the time Prince of Wales and Repulse came out for their final voyage. It had been a very public voyage at every stage, round the Cape, at Mombassa, Colombo, then Singapore. Each stage was scheduled so the world knew, and this was thought to be a deterrent. So this brand new ship, very powerful, very capable, but not yet fully worked up, and Repulse, a marvelous ship, but old, and with an anti-aircraft armament that was frankly laughable, virtually might not have existed, arrived.

And these two ships and a couple of pretty elderly destroyers were to take on the entire Japanese Navy. I would call it arrogance, and a thoroughly misplaced arrogance. I know that my father and the captain of the Repulse regarded their mission as one-way. 
They didnt think they had an earthly chance, and of course they hadnt.

I had dinner with my father, in Prince of Wales. I suppose it would have been two nights before she finally sailed. We hadnt seen each other for inside a year, so we had lots to talk about. And he obviously didnt like the situation. He asked me what I thought about it. In my youthful arrogance I remember saying, Oh, let em come, lets have a go at them. And he turned a very sad face to me saying, I dont really think you have any idea of the enormity of the odds were up against. And I hadnt. Well, we talked about this and that and he sealed up a letter to my mum saying that I was with him and all that stuff, and that was that.
Ive always, been a very poor swimmer, and I was just sploshing about in the pool to keep cool and my father swam over to me and said, I promised Bill Tennant [captain of the Repulse] Id give him a drink before we went back on board. I asked if I was included in this, and he said, Yes, of course. Just before he got out of the pool he made a remark which I thought nothing of at the time, but I recalled subsequently: Im just going to do a couple of 
lengths in the bath; you never know when it may come in handy. They were prophetic words. Later I joined them for a glass of good stuff. I detected even at the time, these two great men were talking at each other across the table, because they did not want to discuss with me the hideousness of the situation. That was the last time I saw my father. 


The younger Mr. Leach was a gunnery officer later on HMS Duke of York when she engaged Scharnhorst, and as was pointed out in response to my earlier post, later Admiral Leach who was involved in Operation Corporate.

 

 

Please contact Andy (Webmaster) with any further information.

 

Andy Wade (Webmaster)

Information provided by

 

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record:

JOHN CATTERALL LEACH DSO, MVO
Captain, Royal Navy
Additional Information: Age 47.
Captain of HMS Prince of Wales.
Memorial: Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 44, Column 2.