The uniform of a sailor who survived the 1940s sinking of HMS Prince of Wales has been given pride of place on board the new aircraft carrier which bears the same name and was commissioned into the Royal Navy in Portsmouth on Tuesday (December 10th) 78 years on from the loss of the famous battleship.
It has been framed by local classic car Restoration company CMC after one of the Directors of the company, who has worked with both aircraft carriers found the uniform on Ebay.
Alf Woodhead, from Keighley in Yorkshire, was just 23-years-old when his battleship was sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers in the South China Sea on 10 December 1941.
He survived by leaping overboard onto another ship, HMS Express, later telling the Second World War author Martin Middlebrook in 1977 how he had almost been killed on that horrific day as he peered down at the sea thick with oil and bodies.
"My heels landed on the ropes around the side and I pitched forward onto two chaps, breaking my fall," he said. "When I recovered from this fright, I looked up at the Prince of Wales, which was receding astern very fast, and the first thing I noticed was the group of chaps who had cautioned me not to jump still standing there."
But when the chief petty officer returned home and was on a bus in a civilian suit, he was handed a white feather in the street by a woman who wrongly thought he was a conscientious objector.
When he died in 1988, Alf was buried at sea over the wreck of HMS Prince of Wales. A gold wrist watch bought for him by his mother on his 21st birthday remains in his ship's locker at the bottom of the sea.
Now the jacket and cap he wore during the ship's sinking has been handed to the Captain and ships company of the new HMS Prince of Wales, by David Barzilay after being framed by CMC.
David said: Over the last few years I have worked on various projects with HMS Prince of Wales and have collected various items that tell the short history of the Second World battleship from the sinking of the Bismarck to the ship taking Winston Churchill to Newfoundland to meet President Roosevelt.”
Managing Director Nigel Woodward said: “ Giving the uniform to the ship is a fitting tribute to “Alf” and a great piece of history for the ship and we were delighted to frame it and other items that have been collected.”
The captain of the ship, Darren Houston, is keen to contact members of Chief Petty Officer Woodhead's family.
He said: "For us, the history of our predecessors is so important and a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by those in the Service of their country. I am very grateful to David Barzilay for his dedication in obtaining the uniform of CPO Woodhead and to Classic Motor Cars so that we could display it prominently onboard. “
Picture Caption: Seventeen-year-old Able Seaman, Seth Day, RN from Southampton, the youngest sailor on board HMS Prince of Wales, examines the uniform of Alf Woodhead before the commissioning ceremony.