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Photo by Imperial War Museum

Class and type:  York-class Heavy cruiser

Displacement:    8,390 long tons (8,520 t) (standard) 10,490 long tons (10,660 t) (full load)

Length: 540 ft 1 in (164.6 m) p/p 575 ft 1 in (175.3 m) o/a Beam: 58 ft (17.7 m) Draught:  17 ft (5.2 m)

Installed power: 8 Admiralty 3-drum boilers 80,000 shp (60,000 kW) Propulsion:    4 × shafts; 4 × geared steam turbine sets

Speed:  32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph) Range:        10,000 nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)

Complement: 628

Armament:    3 × twin 8 in (203 mm) guns  4 × single 4 in (102 mm) AA guns  2 × single 2-pdr (40 mm) AA guns       2 × triple 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes

Armour: Waterline belt: 3 in (76 mm) Deck: 1.5 in (38 mm) Barbettes: 1 in (25 mm) Gun turrets: 1 in (25 mm)

Magazines: 3–5.5 in (76–140 mm)   Bulkheads: 4.375 in (111 mm)

Aircraft carried:  2 × seaplanes  Aviation facilities:  2 × aircraft catapults

HMS Exeter was the second and last York-class heavy cruiser built for the Royal Navy during the late 1920s. Aside from a temporary deployment with the Mediterranean Fleet during the Abyssinia Crisis of 1935–36, she spent the bulk of the 1930s assigned to the Atlantic Fleet or the North America and West Indies Station. When World War II began in September 1939, the ship was assigned to patrol South American waters against German commerce raiders. Exeter was one of three British cruisers that fought the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee later that year in the Battle of the River Plate. She was extensively damaged during the battle and was under repair for over a year.

After her repairs were completed, the ship spent most of 1941 on convoy escort duties before she was transferred to the Far East after the start of the Pacific War in December. Exeter was generally tasked with escorting convoys to and from Singapore during the Malayan Campaign and continued on those duties in early February 1942 as the Japanese prepared to invade the Dutch East Indies. Later that month, she was assigned to the Striking Force of the joint American-British-Dutch-Australian Command and took on a more active role in the defence of the Dutch islands.

The culmination of this was her participation in the Battle of the Java Sea later in the month as the Allies attempted to intercept Japanese invasion convoys. Exeter was crippled early in the battle and did not play much of a role as she was forced to withdraw. Two days later, she attempted to escape inbound Japanese forces, but was intercepted and sunk by Japanese ships at the beginning of March in the Second Battle of the Java Sea.

Most of her crew survived the sinking and were rescued by the Japanese. About a quarter of them died during captivity. Her wreck was discovered in early 2007.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, she formed part of the South American Division with the heavy cruiser Cumberland, under Commodore Henry Harwood. The ship, commanded by Captain Frederick Bell, was assigned to Force G to hunt for German commerce raiders off the eastern coast of South America on 6 October 1939. Three months later, Harwood ordered Exeter and the light cruiser Achilles to rendezvous with his own Ajax off the mouth of the River Plate, while Cumberland covered the Falkland Islands. The two other ships arrived on 12 December and Admiral Graf Spee spotted Exeter the following morning.

Captain Hans Langsdorff decided to engage the British and closed at full speed. Following British doctrine on how to engage ships like Admiral Graf Spee, Exeter operated as a division on her own, Achilles and Ajax as the other, to split the fire of the German ship. They were only partially successful as the ship concentrated her main armament of six 283-millimetre (11.1 in) guns on Exeter and her secondary armament of eight 150-millimetre (5.9 in) guns on the light cruisers. Langsdorff opened fire at Exeter at 06:18 with high-explosive shells and she returned fire two minutes later at a range of 18,700 yards (17,100 m). The German ship straddled the British cruiser with her third salvo; splinters from the near misses killed the crew of the starboard torpedo tubes and damaged both seaplanes.

After eight salvos from Exeter, Admiral Graf Spee scored a direct hit on 'B' turret that knocked it out of action and splinters from the hit killed all of the bridge personnel except three. Bell, wounded in the face, transferred to the aft conning position to continue the battle. His ship was hit twice more shortly afterwards, but her powerplant was not damaged and she remained seaworthy, although her aircraft had to be jettisoned.

At 06:30, Langsdorff switched his fire to the light cruisers, but only inflicted splinter damage on them before some of Exeter's torpedoes forced him to turn away at 06:37 to evade them. Her second torpedo attack at 06:43 was also unsuccessful. In the meantime, Langsdorff had switched his main guns back to the heavy cruiser and scored several more hits. They knocked out 'A' turret, started a fire amidships that damaged the ship's fire-control and navigation circuits, and caused a 7° list with flooding. She remained in action until flooding disabled the machinery for 'Y' turret at 07:30. At 11:07, Bell informed Harwood that Exeter had one eight-inch and a four-inch gun available in local control and that she could make 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). He ordered Bell to head to the Falklands for repair.

Exeter was hit by a total of seven 283 mm shells that killed 61 of her crew were and wounded another 23. After all Exeter's guns had been put out of action but she was still seaworthy, Bell planned to collide with the enemy, saying "I'm going to ram the --------. It will be the end of us but it will sink him too". In return the ship had hit Admiral Graf Spee three times; one shell penetrated her main armour belt and narrowly missed detonating in one of her engine rooms, but the most important one disabled her oil-purification equipment. Without it, the ship was unlikely to be able to reach Germany. Several days later, unable to be repaired and apparently confronted by powerful Royal Navy reinforcements, Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled in Montevideo harbour.

Exeter made for Port Stanley for emergency repairs which took until January 1940.[10] She was repaired and modernised at Devonport Dockyard between February 1940 and March 1941; Captain W.N.T. Beckett relieved Bell on 12 December 1940. On 10 March 1941, the day Exeter was due to be re-commissioned, Beckett died at Saltash Hospital from complications resulting from surgery related to injuries received earlier in his career. His replacement was Captain Oliver Gordon. On returning to the fleet, she was engaged on escort duty for Atlantic convoys, including the escort of Convoy WS-8B to the Middle East during the chase for the German battleship Bismarck.  After the start of the Pacific War in December 1941, the ship was transferred to the Far East.

Fate:  Exeter was sunk in the second battle of Java Sea on 1st March 1942 when encountered a strong Japanese force composed by by the Japanese heavy cruisers Nachi, Haguro, Myōkō and Ashigara and the destroyers Akebono, Inazuma, Yamakaze and Kawakaze.

The Japanese rescued 652 of Exeter's crew, including her captain, who became prisoners of war. Of these men, 152 died in captivity. The wreck was located and positively identified in February 2007. Exeter lies in Indonesian waters, at a depth of about 200 feet (61 m), 90 miles (140 km) north of Bawean Island – some 60 miles (97 km) from the sinking position given by Gordon after the war.

By wikipedia



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