Smith, Samuel Rowley (No. D/JX 198146)

Smith, Samuel Rowley (Samuel)

Able Seaman

No. D/JX 198146, HMS Prince of Wales, Royal Navy

Killed in action on Wednesday 10 December 1941 (aged 21)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon, England (Panel 48 Column 2)

Newtownards and District War Memorial

Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s)


Samuel Rowley Smith was born on 24 February 1920 in Mark Street, Newtownards and he was the eldest son of Hamilton and Margaret Smith (nee Rowley) who later lived at 10 Thomas Street, Newtownards.  They were married on 17 April 1919 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s).  Hamilton Smith, son of Hamilton Smith, a labourer, was a soldier who had served for 9½ years with the Connaught Rangers (Private, No. 117676) and had been wounded during the Great War.  Margaret Rowley from 75 Mark Street, Newtownards was a daughter of Samuel Rowley, a soldier.

During the Second World War Samuel Rowley Smith served with the Royal Navy aboard the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and, after that ship was sunk on 10 December 1941, he was reported missing.  In May 1942, his parents were informed that their son must now be presumed to have been killed.  His parents, brothers and sisters placed an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice in the 12 December 1942 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:

May the heavenly winds blow softly

O’er that sweet and hallowed spot,

Though the sea divides us from your grave,

You will never be forgot.

In 1947 the following verse was included:

The call was sudden, the shock was severe,

We little thought the end was near;

It is only those who have lost can tell

The pain of parting without farewell.

Built at the Cammel Laird shipyard in Birkenhead and launched in May 1939, HMS Prince of Wales was damaged by German bomber aircraft in August 1940 while still being fitted out.  She suffered further damage in May 1941 when she and HMS Hood fought the German battleship Bismarck in the Battle of the Denmark Strait.

On 25 October 1941 HMS Prince of Wales departed for Singapore to join Force Z, a British naval detachment that included the battle cruiser HMS Repulse.  HMS Prince of Wales docked in Singapore on 2 December with the rest of the force and, at 2.11 am on 10 December, Force Z was dispatched to investigate reports of Japanese Forces landing at Kuantan, Malaysia. They found the reports to be false. At 11.00 am Japanese bombers and torpedo aircraft began an assault on Force Z. In a second attack at 11.30 am torpedoes struck the Prince of Wales on the port side, wrecking the outer propeller shaft, and causing the ship to take on a heavy list. HMS Repulse was also hit and sank at 12.33 pm.

More torpedoes hit HMS Prince of Wales and then a 500 kg bomb hit the catapult deck, penetrated through to the main deck and when it exploded it tore a hole in the port side of the hull.  At 1.15 pm the order was given to abandon ship and at 1.20 pm HMS Prince of Wales sank.  Able Seaman Samuel Smith was among more than 320 men who died.  Able Seaman David Cowan from Holywood, who was aboard HMS Repulse, was also killed.

Able Seaman Samuel Rowley Smith (No. D/JX 198146) is commemorated on Plymouth Naval Memorial in Devon; on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s).