|Born||19 Feb 1888|
|Died||10 Dec 1941|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Thomas Spencer Vaughan Phillips was born into a military lineage. His father was British Army Royal Artillery Colonel Thomas Vaughan Wynn Phillips and his maternal grandfather was Admiral Sir Algernon Frederick Rous de Horsey of the Royal Navy. Phillips joined the Royal Navy in 1903 and was trained aboard HMS Britannia. On 9 Apr 1908, he was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant, followed by the rank of full lieutenant in 20 Jul 1909. During WW1, he served aboard destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea and in Asia, during which he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander on 15 Jul 1916. He attended the Royal Navy Staff College between Jun 1919 and May 1920. Between 1920 and 1922, he was a military adviser on the Permanent Advisory Commission for Naval, Military, and Air Questions Board at the League of Nations. In Jun 1921, he was promoted to the rank of commander, and in Jun 1927, captain. Between 4 Sep 1928 and Aug 1929, he was the commanding officer of the destroyer HMS Campbell. Between 24 Apr 1930 and Sep 1932, he was the assistant director of the Plan Division of the Admiralty. After three years in the Far East as the flag captain of a cruiser, he returned to the Admiralty to head up the Plan Division. In 1938, he was given the rank of commodore to lead the destroyer flotillas of the Home Fleet. On 10 Jan 1939, he became a rear admiral, while also acting as a naval adviser to King George VI of the United Kingdom.
Because he had a short stature, Phillips had the nick name of "Tom Thumb".
On 1 Jun 1939, Phillips was appointed the Deputy Chief, later Vice Chief, of the Naval Staff. On 7 Feb 1940, he was promoted to the war time rank of Acting Vice Admiral, recommended by Winston Churchill. In May 1941, he was appointed the commander-in-chief of the Far East Fleet with the war time rank of Acting Admiral, though he did not set sail for Singapore aboard his flagship battleship HMS Prince of Wales until 2 Dec 1941. His fleet of one battleship, one battlecruiser, and other ships was designated Force Z upon arrival.
On 8 Dec 1941, Japan invaded British Malaya. Downplaying the threat of aircraft to his surface ships, Phillips mobilized Force Z to attack the Japanese invasion fleet without air cover. The fleet was spotted by Japanese submarine I-65, which brought an attack by 86 aircraft on 10 Dec, which was later named the Battle off Kuantan. Battlecruiser Repulse sank helplessly, followed by Prince of Wales about 30 minutes later. Phillips went down with the ship.
Thomas Phillips Timeline
|19 Feb 1888||Thomas Phillips was born.|
|10 Dec 1941||Thomas Phillips passed away.|
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