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Great Britain's Leander class cruisers

Photos

HMS Achilles after the Battle of the River Plate on December 17, 1939:
HMS Achilles after the Battle of the River Plate on December 17, 1939
©IWM, HU-195
HMS Achilles after the Battle of the River Plate on December 17, 1939:
HMS Achilles after the Battle of the River Plate on December 17, 1939
©IWM, HU-200
HMS Achilles' splinter damage from the Admiral Graf Spee during the Battle of the River Plate:
HMS Achilles' splinter damage from the Admiral Graf Spee during the Battle of the River Plate
©IWM, HU-203
HMS Achilles:
HMS Achilles
©IWM, Q-65696
HMS Ajax avoiding a torpedo fired from the Admiral Graf Spee during the Battle of the River Plate:
HMS Ajax avoiding a torpedo fired from the Admiral Graf Spee during the Battle of the River Plate
©IWM, HU-197

HMS Ajax:
HMS Ajax
©IWM, FL-337
HMS Ajax in Montevideo after the Battle of the River Plate on January 3, 1940. In background is Admiral Graf Spee's supply ship Tacoma:
HMS Ajax in Montevideo after the Battle of the River Plate on January 3, 1940. In background is Admiral Graf Spee's supply ship Tacoma

©IWM, A-9
HMS Ajax bombarding Bardia, Libya on December 31, 1941:
HMS Ajax bombarding Bardia, Libya on December 31, 1941
©IWM, A-8040
HMS Ajax leaving Bardia on December 31, 1941:
HMS Ajax leaving Bardia on December 31, 1941
©IWM, A-8040
HMS Leander entering Grand Harbor, Valletta, Malta on December 31, 1945:
HMS Leander entering Grand Harbor, Valletta, Malta on December 31, 1945
©IWM, A-31122
HMS Leander:
HMS Leander
©IWM, A-31349
HMS Neptune:
HMS Neptune
©IWM, FL-2929
HMS Neptune:
HMS Neptune
©IWM, Q-65697
HMS Neptune:
HMS Neptune
©IWM, Q-65786
HMS Orion at Devonport Dock Yard on November 24, 1932:
HMS Orion at Devonport Dock Yard on November 24, 1932
©IWM, Q-92806
HMS Orion bombarding Normandy beaches in June 1944:
HMS Orion bombarding Normandy beaches in June 1944
©IWM, FLM-4018
HMS Orion bombarding Naples:
HMS Orion bombarding Naples
©IWM, A-19149
HMS Orion:
HMS Orion
©IWM, FL-4708

Design

The Leander class' design was to have sides that would be impervious to 6" shells fired greater than 10,000 yards.1

It was thought that the Leander class cruisers might be operating on their own in the shipping lanes.1

The Leander was ordered in the 1929 Program.1 The Achilles, Neptune, and Orion were ordered in the 1930 Program.1 The Ajax was ordered in the 1931 Program.1

Due to modifications during the construction of the Leander the followup ships had a wider beam.1

Welding was used throughout the construction of the Leander class ships.1

The cost was £1.5 million - £1.6 million each.5

Aircraft

There was a single catapult to launch the aircraft.1,2

Armament

  Shell Weight Elevation Range Rounds Carried
6" BL Mk XXIII1
6" L/50 Mk XXIII4
112 lb1 60°1,4 25,480 yards1
23,300 m1
 

There was only a single firing director installed so it was impossible to coordinate firing on more than one target at a time.1

Engines

There were two turbine and three boiler rooms.1 The uptakes went to a large funnel.1

Ships

 

HMS Achilles

  • Manufacturer: Cammell Laird1,2,3,4,5
  • June 11, 1931: Laid down.1,2,4,5
  • September 1, 1932: Launched.1,2,3,4,5
  • October 6, 1933, October 10, 19335: Completed.1,2,4,5
  • 1933 - March 1936?: Home Fleet.1
  • March 31, 1936?, March 19362: Transferred to New Zealand.1,2
  • 1937 - 1943: Royal New Zealand Navy.3
  • 1939: South Atlantic.3
  • November 1939: Member of Force G in Southern Atlantic.1
  • December 13, 1939: Sustained damage during Battle of the River Plate.1,4 Fired 1,242 6" shells.4
  • 1940 - 1943: New Zealand.3
  • 1940 - December 1941: Patrolled near New Zealand.1
  • 1942: All 4" removed and replaced by 20 mm guns.1,2
  • February 1942: Member of ANZAC squadron.1
  • 1943 - 1944: Home Fleet.3
  • January 5, 1943: Member of TF67.1 Bomb hit Turret X.1
  • April 1, 1943 - May 20, 1944: Repairs at Portsmouth.1,2 X turret and catapult removed.1,2,4 4" single mounts removed.2 4" twin mounts, four 2 pdr quad mounts, five 20 mm twin mounts, and six 20 mm guns added.1,2
  • May 1944: Member of Eastern Fleet.1
  • 1945: Pacific Fleet.3
  • May 1945: Member of TF57.1
  • July - August 1945: Raids on Japanese home islands.1

HMS Ajax

  • Cost: £1,480,0975
  • Manufacturer: Vickers2, Vickers at Barrow1, Vickers-Armstrongs5, Vickers Armstrong at Barrow3,4
  • February 7, 1933: Laid down.1,4,5
  • March 1, 1934: Launched.1,2,3,4,5
  • April 12, 1935, June 3, 19355: Completed.1,2,4,5
  • 1935 - September 1939: America and West Indies Station.1
  • 1939: South Atlantic.3
  • September 1939: Member of South America Division.1
  • September 1939: Captured German merchants Carl Fritzen and Olinda.1
  • December 5, 1939: Helped capture German steamship Ussukuma.1
  • Mid-December 1939: Member of Force G in looking for Admiral Graf Spee.1
  • December 13, 1939: Battle of the River Plate.1 Damaged by seven hits from Admiral Graf Spee.1 Fired 732 6" rounds.4
  • December 1939 - July 1940: Repairs and refit.1,2 Larger catapult installed.1,2 Supermarine Walrus added.1,2
  • 1940 - 1942: Mediterranean Fleet.3
  • July 1940: Member of 7th Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean.1
  • October 11 - 12, 1940: Battled Italian torpedo boats.1 Sank Airone and Ariel.1 Damaged destroyer Artigliere.1
  • 1941, Mid-19412: Refit at Port Said or Alexandria.2 Catapult removed.1,2,4 2 pdr quad mount added.1,2
  • April 29, 1941: Took off last troops in Greece.1
  • May 21, 1941: Hit by bombs from Ju 87s of III St Gr2.1,4
  • June 1941: Supported Syrian operation.1
  • November 1941: Member of Force K, Malta.1
  • Early 1942: Refit at Capetown?.2 Six 20 mm guns added.1,2
  • May - October 1942, May 27 - October 24, 19422: Refit and repairs at Chatham.1,2 2 pdr quad mount and 0.5" machine guns removed.1,2 Two 2 pdr quad mounts and three 20 mm guns added.1,2
  • 1943: Force H.3 Refit in United States.3
  • 1943 - 1945: Mediterranean Fleet.3
  • January 1, 1943: Member of Force Q at Bone.1 Damaged during bombing raid.1,2
  • March 4 - October 1943: Repairs and refit at New York Navy Yard.1,2 A 2 pdr quad mount and four 20 mm guns removed.2 Two 40 mm Bofors quad mounts and four 20 mm twin mounts added.2
  • May 1944: Eastern Mediterranean.1
  • June 1944: With Force K at Gold Beach supporting Normandy landings.1
  • August 1944: Supported landings in southern France.1

HMS Leander

  • Manufacturer: Devonport3,5, Devonport Dock Yard1,2,4
  • September 8, 1930: Laid down.1,2,4,5
  • September 24, 1931: Launched.1,2,3,4,5
  • March 23, 19335, March 24, 1933: Completed.1,2,4,5
  • 1933 - 1937: Home Fleet
  • April 1937: Loaned to New Zealand.1,2
  • 1939 - 1940: New Zealand.3
  • September 1939 - 1941: Escorted troop convoys to Red Sea and Suez.1
  • 1940: Mediterranean Fleet.3 Red Sea.3
  • 1941: East Indies.3
  • 1941 - 1943: New Zealand.3
  • February 1941: Captured Italian raider Ramb I near Bombay.1
  • March 4, 1941: Captured blockade runners Ketty Brovig and Coburg near the Seychelles.1
  • April 1941: Basra.1
  • June 1941: Mediterranean Fleet.1
  • June 13, 1941: Syria.1
  • June 23, 1941: Fired on Vichy French Guépard.1
  • June 1941: Refit at Alexandria.2 Aircraft and equipment removed.1,2 2 pdr quad mount added.1,2
  • Late 1941: Refit in New Zealand.1,2 2 pdr quad mount removed.1,2 Aircraft and equipment added.1,2 Five 20 mm guns added.1,2
  • December 1941: Southwest Pacific.1
  • February 12, 1942: Member of ANZAC Force at formation at Suva, Fiji Islands.1
  • May 1942: Landed Allied troops on Espirito Santo.1
  • 1943: Refit.1,2 Aircraft equipment removed.1,2,4 Two / Four2 20 mm single mounts, one 20 mm twin mount, and two 40 mm Bofors quad mounts added.1
  • January 1943: 3rd Fleet.1
  • 1943: Joined CruDiv 9, Task Force 36.1.1
  • July 12, 1943, July 13, 19432: Battle of Kolombangara.1,4 Intercepted Tokyo Express shipping.1 Badly damaged by torpedo.1,2,4
  • August - December 1943: Temporary repairs at Auckland.1,2
  • 1944 - 1945: Refit in United States.3
  • January 3, 1944 - August 27, 1945: Repairs at Boston.1,2
  • October 12, 1945: Repairs at Rosyth.2

HMS Neptune

  • Manufacturer: Portsmouth3, Portsmouth Dock Yard1,2,4
  • September 24, 1931: Laid down.1,2,4
  • January 31, 1933: Launched.1,2,3,4
  • February 12, 1934, February 23, 19344: Completed.1,2,4
  • 1934 - 1937: Home Fleet.1
  • 1937 - September 1939: Africa Station.1
  • 1939: South Atlantic.3
  • September 1939: Member of 6th Cruiser Squadron in the South Atlantic.1
  • September 5, 1939: Captured German merchant Inn.1
  • October 22, 1939: Captured German merchant Adolph Woermann near Ascension Island.1
  • 1940: Mediterranean Fleet.3 East Indies.3
  • May 1940: Joined 7th Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria.1
  • June 1940: Bombarded Bardia.1
  • July 1940: Punto Stilo.1
  • July 1940: Sank small tanker in Gulf of Athens.1
  • November 1940: Based in Freetown.1
  • 1941: Home Fleet.3 Mediterranean Fleet.3
  • February - May 1941, February 12 - May 1, 19412: Refit.1,2
    0.5" machine guns removed.1 Three 2 pdr guns added.1
    Three 0.5" quad mount machine guns and three 2 pdr Mk VIII quad mount pompoms added.2
  • June 4, 1941: Helped capture and sink by torpedo, Bismarck's supply ship the Gonzeheim.1
  • November 1941: Member of Force K at Malta.1
  • December 19, 1941: Sunk by four mines in an Italian minefield of Tripoli.1,2,3,4 All but one of the crew were killed.1

HMS Orion

  • Manufacturer: Devonport3,5, Devonport Dock Yard1,2,4
  • September 26, 1931: Laid down.1,2,4,5
  • November 24, 1932: Launched.1,2,3,4,5
  • January 16, 19345, January 18, 1934: Completed.1,2,4,5
  • 1934 - 1937: Home Fleet.1
  • 1937 - 1940: Member of 8th Cruiser Division, America and West Indies Station.1
  • 1939 - 1940: America and West Indies.3
  • 1940 - 1945: Mediterranean Fleet.3
  • 1940: Mediterranean.1 Escorted Malta convoys.1 Ferried troops to Greece.1
  • June 1940: Flagship of 7th Cruiser Squadron.1 Bombardment of Bardia.1
  • July 1940: Punto Stilo.1
  • 1941: Catapult4 and 0.5" machine guns removed.1 Seven 20 mm single mounts and two 2 pdr quad mounts added.1
  • March 1941: Battle of Cape Matapan.1
  • April 1941: Supported troops along North African coast.1
  • May 29, 1941: Heavily damaged by bombs.1,2
  • May - July 1941, July 14 - August 5, 19412: Temporary repairs at Simonstown, South Africa.1,2 Catapult removed.2
  • July 1941 - February 1942, September 5, 1941 - February 15, 19422: Repairs at Mare Island, California.1,2 0.5" machine guns removed.2 Seven 20 mm and two 2 pdr quad pompoms added.2
  • February - December 1942, March 30 - April 24, 19422: Repairs at Devonport.1,2
  • January 1943: Member of 15th Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean.1
  • June - July 1943: Supported Sicily landings.1
  • September 1943: Supported Salerno landings.1
  • January 1944: Supported Anzio landings.1
  • June 1944: Supported Normandy landings with Force K of Gold Beach.1
  • August 1944: Supported southern France landings.1
  • September - October 1944: Supported retaking of Athens.1
  • April 1945: Bombarded San Remo.1

Specifications

  Leander class
Crew 5503, 5701,2,4, 646 - 6805
Crew - Flagship  
Displacement 6,985 tons - 7,270 tons1,4
Displacement - Loaded 9,000 tons - 9,280 tons1,4
Physical Characteristics  
Length 554' 6"1,2,3,4,5
169.01 m1,4
Length - Between Perpendiculars 522'1,2,4, 530'3,5
159.1 m1,4
Length - Water Line  
Beam 55' 2"5, 55' 3"3, 55' 8"4
16.97 m4
Draft / Height 16'3,5, 19'1, 19' - 19' 8"4
5.79 m1, 5.79 m - 5.99 m4
Draft / Height - Maximum  
Performance  
Speed 32.5 knots1,2,3,4,5
Range at 13 knots 5,730 nautical miles1
Armament 6": 6 or 85
6" twin turrets: 43
6" BL Mk XXIII twin turrets: 41,2
6" L/50 Mk XXIII twin turrets: 44
Anti-Aircraft 4": 85
4" QF Mk V: 41,2
4" L/45 QF Mk V HA: 44
4" twin mounts: 43
2 pdr quad mounts: 23
2 pdr pompoms: 85
40 mm: 165
0.5" machine gun quad mounts: 31,2
Saluting 3 pdr: 44
Torpedo Tubes 21": 2 mounts 4 tubes each1,2,3,4,5
Aircraft 11,3,4
Armor  
Belt - Machinery 3"1
Belt - Main 2" - 4"3,5, 3"4, 3.5"1,2
Bridge 1"5
Bulkheads 1.5"4
Control Tower 1"3
Deck 1" - 1.25"1, 2"3,5
Deck - Lower  
Magazine Box 1" - 3.5"4, 2" - 3.5"1, 3.5"2
Turrets 1"1,3,4,5
Turrets - Top 1"2
Engines  
Boilers Admiralty: 61,4,5
Shafts 41,2,3,4,5
Turbines Geared3
Parsons geared1,2,4
Parsons I.R. geared5
HP 72,0001,2,3,4,5
Oil 1,680 tons - 1,785 tons4, 1,720 tons1, 1,800 tons2,5
  HMS Achilles
Crew  
Displacement 7,030 tons1,3,5
Displacement - Loaded  
Physical Characteristics  
Length  
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Length - Water Line  
Beam 56'1,2
Draft / Height  
Draft / Height - Maximum  
Performance  
Speed  
Range  
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft - 1944 20 mm twin mounts: 71
20 mm: 41
Anti-Aircraft - April 1945 40 mm Bofors: 41
20 mm twin mounts: 51
20 mm: 51
Torpedo Tubes  
Aircraft  
Armor  
Engines  
Boilers  
Shafts  
Turbines  
HP  
Oil  
  HMS Ajax
Crew  
Displacement 6,985 tons1,3,5
Displacement - Loaded  
Physical Characteristics  
Length  
Length - Between Perpendiculars 522'3,5
Length - Water Line  
Beam 55' 9"3,5, 56'1,2
Draft / Height 15' 6"3,5
Draft / Height - Maximum  
Performance  
Speed  
Range  
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft - April 1944 40 mm Bofors quad mounts: 21
20 mm twin mounts: 41
Torpedo Tubes  
Aircraft  
Armor  
Belt - Main  
Engines  
Boilers  
Shafts  
Turbines  
HP  
Oil  
  HMS Leander
Crew  
Displacement 7,270 tons1,3,5
Displacement - Loaded  
Physical Characteristics  
Length  
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Length - Water Line  
Beam 55'1,2, 55' 2"4
16.81 m4
Draft / Height  
Draft / Height - Maximum  
Performance  
Speed  
Range  
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft  
Torpedo Tubes  
Armor  
Engines  
Boilers  
Shafts  
Turbines  
HP  
Oil  
  HMS Neptune
Crew  
Displacement 7,175 tons1,3
Displacement - Loaded  
Physical Characteristics  
Length  
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Length - Water Line  
Beam 56'1,2
Draft / Height  
Draft / Height - Maximum  
Performance  
Speed  
Range  
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft  
Torpedo Tubes  
Armor  
Engines  
Boilers  
Shafts  
Turbines  
HP  
Oil  
  HMS Orion
Crew  
Displacement 7,215 tons1,3,5
Displacement - Loaded  
Physical Characteristics  
Length  
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Length - Water Line  
Beam 56'1,2
Draft / Height  
Draft / Height - Maximum  
Performance  
Speed  
Range  
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft  
Torpedo Tubes  
Armor  
Engines  
Boilers  
Shafts  
Turbines  
HP  
Oil  

Sources:

  1. Cruisers of World War Two An International Encyclopedia, M. J. Whitley, 1995
  2. British Cruisers of World War Two, Alan Raven, John Roberts, 1980
  3. Warships of World War II, H. T. Lenton and J. J. Colledge, 1964
  4. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946, Robert Gardiner, 1987
  5. Janes' Fighting Ships of World War II, 1989
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site