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Maurice Pink, Dunkirk, Hunt for the Bismark, Sinking of Repulse, Escape from Singapore and Anzio

Updated: May 3, 2022

Maurice Pink, Royal Marines Bandsman, 13th May 1922 - 27th October 2019

He cheated death twice during the war, when his ships were sunk in enemy attacks

Maurice Pink, of the Royal Marines Band Picture: Pink family archive

Teenager Maurice Pink should never have survived. He was in the communication room of HMS Repulse - three decks down and hatches bolted shut - when the battlecruiser was sunk.

No-one held out much hope for the unfortunates on his deck, and most did perish. But, somehow, the 19-year-old lived - although he had been thrown against the bulkhead and suffered ruptured eardrums in the explosion.

Good fortune meant a midshipman, acting as cabin boy for the captain, knew about a ladder to the captain's day-cabin. It was dark, and they must have been terrified beyond belief, but they found their way up and out.

HMS Repulse band. Maurice is fourth from the left in the top row Picture: Pink family archive

After two hours in the sea, naked and swallowing oil while Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales sank in the Gulf of Thailand, Maurice was picked up by HMS Electra and taken to Singapore.

HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales had been defending British territories in the Far East - part of the deterrent against potential Japanese aggression.

But they'd been left without air cover and were sunk by the Japanese on December 10, 1941 - three days after Japan bombed US ships at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Repulse avoided as many as 19 aerial torpedoes before being struck by four or five. She sank quickly, in eight or nine minutes. More than 500 members of its crew (out of 1,300 personnel) were lost.

The monument to the memory of those on HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales Picture: Pink family archive

Singapore was captured by the Japanese in early 1942 and most of the HMS Repulse survivors spent four years in Japanese war camps. But Maurice's luck held. He got away on a cattle boat to Ceylon, and on to South Africa on The Empress of Russia.

His war had been eventful long before his ship was downed. At 18 he helped with the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk, France; and in June, 1941, Repulse had for a short time chased the German battleship Bismarck.

In 1943 he joined HMS Spartan, a light cruiser. It was sent to the Mediterranean and on January 29, 1944, supported troop landings at Anzio, Italy, by bombarding the shore and providing anti-aircraft protection.

But Spartan was bombed and sunk. Again, Maurice survived. Within weeks he joined another ship, HMS Aurora, but his nerves were shattered and he was suffering from constant, severe headaches, panic attacks and tinnitus, which led to three months in hospital.

"For many years he would not discuss the war or anything of his naval history, and he suffered from headaches, panic attacks and nightmares," says son Stephen.

"Nowadays, this is recognised as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) but there was little help after the Second World War."

Maurice later became life president of the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse Survivors Association, having served for many years as chairman and relinquishing that role only two years ago.

In 2011 the association raised money to build a memorial to the lost ships and men at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Two years ago, Maurice represented the survivors' association at the naming ceremony of the new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales at Rosyth, Scotland, and he was immensely proud to meet the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

Full article: Ipswich Star

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