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HMS Ajax was a Leander-class light cruiser which served with the Royal Navy during World War II. She became famous for her part in the Battle of the River Plate, the Battle of Crete, the Battle of Malta and as a supply escort in the Siege of Tobruk. This ship was the eighth in the Royal Navy to bear the name. In February 1942, she was adopted by the civil community of Halifax.

Ordered 1 Oct 1932

Laid down 7 Feb 1933

Launched 1 Mar 1934

Commissioned 12 Apr 1935

Class and type:     Leander-class light cruiser

Displacement:      7,270 tons standard      9,740 tons full load

Length:   554.9 ft (169.1 m) Beam:     56 ft (17 m)     Draught: 19.1 ft (5.8 m)

Installed power:   72,000 shaft horsepower (54,000 kW)


Four Parsons geared steam turbines Six Admiralty 3-drum oil-fired boilers    Four shafts

Speed:    32.5 knots (60 km/h)

Range:    5,730 nmi (10,610 km; 6,590 mi) at 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)

Complement:   peacetime 550 wartime 680

Sensors and processing systems:          

type 284/286 air search radar  type 273/271 surface search  type 285 6 inch (152 mm) fire control  type 282 40 mm fire control


Original configuration:

8 (4x2)[3] BL 6-inch (150 mm) Mk XXIII guns [4]    4 × QF 4-inch (100 mm) Mk V guns

12 × Vickers .50 machine guns    8 × 21-inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes

By 1945:

8 (4x2) 6 in (152 mm)  8 (4x2) QF 4-inch (100 mm) Mk XVI guns

16 × 40 mm Bofors guns  8 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (quadruple mounts)


4 in (102 mm) main belt  2.5 in (64 mm) ends   1.25 to 2 in (32 to 51 mm) deck

1 in (25 mm) turrets

Aircraft carried:  One catapult-launched Fairey Seafox, replaced by a Supermarine Walrus

When the German raider, Admiral Graf Spee, became a threat, Force G was formed from Ajax (flagship, Commodore Henry Harwood), Exeter and Achilles, all cruisers. (Cumberland, also part of this force, was undergoing a refit at Port Stanley. Force G located and engaged Graf Spee on 13 December, despite the German warship's greater firepower. Ajax was hit seven times by the Germans: X and Y turrets were disabled, structural damage was sustained and there were 12 casualties including 7 killed.

Exeter, more severely damaged, retired, leaving the two light cruisers to maintain contact with Graf Spee when she withdrew to Montevideo. The reasons for the German ship's withdrawal and her failure to exploit her advantage are unclear, but there was damage to her bows, that affected her sea-worthiness, and to her fuel systems. Ajax and Achilles, joined by Cumberland, awaited events and successfully bluffed the Germans into believing that a superior force was on hand. Graf Spee was scuttled by her own crew. Ajax refuelled at Port Stanley and resumed her patrol.

In January 1940, she returned to Britain for refit, via Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro and Freetown, Sierra Leone. She was joined en route by the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, the battlecruiser Renown and the destroyers Hasty, Hero, Dainty and Diamond. Ajax arrived at Plymouth at the end of January; the following month, she was handed over to Chatham Dockyard for refit.

Final disposition

Ajax was decommissioned in February 1948. She was initially intended to be sold to the Indian Navy, but this deal did not materialize due to Winston Churchill′s apparent disapproval of the sale; he felt that such an important vessel would be better off broken up to preserve her history. After running aground at Newport, Monmouthshire, on 9 November 1949 while under tow to the scrapyard, she was refloated and duly arrived at Cashmore′s, in Newport, South Wales, for breaking up on 18 November 1949.

By wikipedia



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