The next short chapter has come to
being thanks to the efforts of several people, I am extremely grateful
for their help in compiling of this unique part of the book. Which
enables the reader to actually relive the battle, in which the ships
were lost through the eyes of a Japanese pilot, who attacked Repulse on
that fateful day. His name is Haruki Iki, at the time of the battle he
was a Lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Airforce.
Iki-San has spoken of his war time exploits in both American and European programs covering World War Two and is also included in the exhibits held at Sentosa Island museum Singapore, which is dedicated to the Far Eastern war.
Two questions have somewhat peculiar answers; I take full responsibility for this, by never fully understanding the tremendous difficulties in translating English to Japanese and vice versa. The first incidence can be found in question 8, where his reply is in respect of the total number of torpedoes the Japanese felt scored hits on Repulse. I meant to ask was he successful in striking Repulse with his own attack. The final point is in the last question, (10), I meant to inquire about the condition of HMS Prince of Wales after he had completed his attack on Repulse. The reply only tells of the condition of the battleship when his squadron first encountered Force Z..
Lt Haruki Iri
did you join the Japanese Naval Airforce?
I graduated from the Naval Academy on November 17, 1934, and also
graduated from the Naval officers pilots course on September 28, 1937.
How soon before the ships arrived in Singapore were you informed to
prepare to attack them?
On November 28, 1941 the Japanese armed forces received information that
the Prince of Wales and Repulse would enter port in Colombo and then
head for Singapore. The commander of our combined fleets, Isoroku
Yamamoto, decided to send 36 warplanes of the type known as the
‘Betty’ equipped with torpedoes and then based in the Philippines,
to reinforce those in Malaya. On November 30, 1941 one of the combined
called ‘Kanoya Naval Forces’ to which I belonged was unofficially
told to attack the Prince of Wales and repulse, using the Betty. A
reconnaissance plane discovered both planes were in Singapore. At a
meeting held on December 3, 1941 the Southern Armed Forces ordered three
fleets to sail from Malaya from the Philippines.
What training had you done against
The warplanes known as Nell and Betty were specially designed for the
Japanese navy to attack using torpedoes and bombs, had a patrol range of
750 nautical miles and so we were training day and night with these
planes to realise their maximum potential. The usual attacking tactics
were for nine planes to fly about 100 metres apart from each other and
to launch the attack simultaneously at about a height of about 20-50
metres and a bout 1 mile or less from the target. The torpedoes could
travel through the water at about 45 knots.
How long had you been flying the
type of bomber you flew on the day of battle?
R5. I trained on the Nell to attack China from August 1936 to August
1941, and trained on the Betty from September 1, 1941 to December 10,
1941, the total number of hours being around 172.
How long had you been training
with the new type of torpedo that your planes carried that day?
From September 1, 1941 till December 2, 1941.
Repulse been damaged when your squadron arrived in the area?
Yes. When our squadron arrived I could see Repulse had been hit on the
port side. Later I was informed that a torpedo from a Nell warplane of
Lieutenant Shirai’s ‘Miharu’ based squadron had hit a 250kg bomb
Was the Repulse a hard target to
approach. If so why was this?
R7. Yes it was very
difficult because when I was attacking the Repulse it was firing
intensively and turning to starboard. So one of the small fleets was
attacking from starboard and the other two fleets were attacking from
port. We lost a few warplanes and they sank close to the Repulse. Later
on I found that 17 bullets had penetrated my plane.
Q8. Did your torpedo score a hit on
the ship? If yes do you remember at what point it hit?
Yes. I scored 2 hits on the port side, 3 on the starboard and 1 on the
Q9. Was the Repulse sinking when
you left? If yes how did she look to you?
Yes. We could see Repulse sinking when we were about 3 kilometres away
and about 3 kilometres above sea level. After finishing our attack we
were still watching her firing, but losing speed. Then she started to
sink towards the port side. At that time we could also see the Prince of
Wales was escaping towards the south east at a speed of 5-6 knots.
Did you have a chance to see the
Prince of Wales? If yes, how did she appear?
R10. Yes. My group consisted of 26 warplanes and from a height of about 3 kilometres we could see the British navy. There were 3 destroyers just in front of the ships and the Repulse was following about 1 kilometre behind heading south-south-west. We decreased height by about 3-400 metres and were about 10 miles away from the British ships when we began our attack
Iki pictured at the controls of his ‘Betty bomber in 1942.
The types of planes that attacked force Z. Above, the Mitsubishi type 96 G4 M1 Betty, flown by Lt Haruki Iki’s squadron. Below, the Mitsubishi G3 M2 Nell, responsible for the initial high-level bombing of Repulse and final attack on Prince of Wales