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Leander-class cruiser (1931)

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Title: Leander-class cruiser (1931)  
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Subject: HMS Ajax (22), La Galissonnière-class cruiser, List of World War II ships, Emerald-class cruiser, York-class cruiser
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Leander-class cruiser (1931)

Class overview
Name: Leander-class cruiser
Preceded by: Emerald class
Succeeded by: Arethusa class
  • Leander
  • Amphion/Perth
Completed: 8
Lost: 3
General characteristics (as built)
Type: light cruiser

7,270 tons standard

9,740 tons full load (9,000 tons in Amphions)
Length: 554.9 ft (169.1 m)
Beam: 56 ft (17 m)
Draught: 19.1 ft (5.8 m)
Propulsion: 6 x (Leander) / 4 x (Amphion) Admiralty 3-drum water-tube boilers, Parsons single-reduction geared steam turbines, 72,000 shp (53,700 kW) on 4 shafts
Speed: 32.5 kn (60 km/h)
Range: 5,730 nmi (10,610 km) at 13 knots (24 km/h)
Complement: 570
  • 3 in (76 mm) magazine box
  • 1 in (25.4 mm) main deck
  • 1 in (25.4 mm) turrets
Aircraft carried: 1 × Fairey Seafox, later Fairey Swordfish, later Supermarine Walrus
Aviation facilities: Rotating catapult & crane

The Leander class was a class of eight light cruisers built for the Royal Navy in the early 1930s that saw service in World War II. They were named after mythological figures, and all ships were commissioned between 1933 and 1936. The three ships of the second group were sold to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) before World War II and renamed after Australian cities.


  • Design 1
    • Wartime modifications 1.1
  • Ships in class 2
    • Leander group 2.1
    • Modified Leander group 2.2
  • In Fiction 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The Leander class was influenced by the York-class heavy cruiser, and was an attempt to better provide for the role of commerce protection. The 7,000-7,200 ton Leanders were armed with eight BL 6 inch Mk XXIII naval guns in twin turrets, two forward and two aft. Their secondary armament consisted of four high angle QF 4 inch Mk V naval guns, which were later replaced by twin mountings for eight guns (the later high angle QF 4 inch Mk XVI naval gun). Their close range anti-aircraft weaponry consisted of twelve 0.5-inch (13 mm) Vickers machine guns in three quadruple mounts. They also shipped a bank of four 21-inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes on each beam and provision was made in the design for carriage of two catapult-launched Fairey Seafox aircraft.

Speed was 32 knots (59 km/h), and 845 tons of armour was provided. The first five vessels did not contain dispersed machinery; the boiler rooms were arranged together and exhausted into a single funnel, a unique feature amongst British cruisers. This meant that damage amidships was more liable to disable all the boiler rooms.

Wartime modifications

During the war, significant modifications were made to the vessels. Various additional anti-aircraft armaments were added, and the two New Zealand vessels removed a turret to carry heavier 20 mm and 40 mm anti-aircraft guns in its place. Changes to the aircraft launching capability were reported, although use is unclear. Both Fairey Swordfish and Supermarine Walrus aircraft are reported to have been used by the class.

Ships in class

Ships of the Leander class
Name Pennant Namesake Builder Ordered Laid down Launched Commissioned Fate
Leander Group
Leander 75 Leander of Abydos HM Dockyard, Devonport 18 February 1930 8 September 1930 24 September 1931 24 March 1933 Transferred to Royal New Zealand Navy as HMNZS Leander 1941-1945
Broken up at Blyth 1950
Orion 85 Orion the Hunter HM Dockyard, Devonport 24 March 1931 26 September 1931 24 November 1932 18 January 1934 Broken up at Dalmuir, 1949
Neptune 20 Neptune, God of the Sea HM Dockyard, Portsmouth 2 March 1931 24 September 1931 31 January 1933 23 February 1934 Sunk in minefield off Tripoli, 19 December 1941
Ajax 22 Ajax the Great Vickers Armstrong 1 October 1932 7 February 1933 1 March 1934 12 April 1935 Broken up at Newport, 1949
Achilles 70 Achilles Cammell Laird 16 February 1931 11 June 1931 1 September 1932 24 March 1936 Transferred to Royal New Zealand Navy as HMNZS Achilles 1941-1946
Sold to Indian Navy as HIMS Delhi 1948
Amphion Group
Amphion 29 Amphion of Thebes HM Dockyard, Portsmouth 1 December 1932 22 June 1933 27 July 1934 15 June 1936 Sold to Royal Australian Navy as HMAS Perth, 1939
Sunk in torpedo attack, 1 March 1942
Apollo 63 Apollo, God of Light HM Dockyard, Devonport 1 March 1933 15 August 1933 9 October 1934 13 January 1936 Sold to Royal Australian Navy as HMAS Hobart, 1938
Broken up at Osaka, 1962
48 City of Sydney Swan Hunter 10 February 1933 8 July 1933 22 September 1934 24 September 1935 Sunk in surface action, 19 November 1941

Leander group

Named after the character from Greek mythology. Loaned to New Zealand, commissioned as HMNZS Leander in September 1941. At the Battle of Kolombagara, Leander was heavily damaged by a Long Lance torpedo, causing many casualties, and sending the ship to repairs for two years.

Achilles was the second vessel loaned to New Zealand, commissioned as HMNZS Achilles in September 1941. She had earlier participated in the Battle of the River Plate. Achilles was sold to India in 1948, and was known as HMIS Delhi for a few years, then served as INS Delhi, until 1978.

Ajax participated in the Battle of the River Plate. The town of Ajax, Ontario was named after the ship, with street names in the town named after members of the crew. Ajax also participated in the Battle of Cape Matapan and took part in shelling the mainland of Normandy during the beach landings. Chile wanted to buy HMS Ajax in 1948-9, but the oppostion leader in the UK , Winston Churchill thought the ship should be retained for the RN and it became a political issue.[1] The Leander class cruisers were very well built in the early 1930's and in the case of INS Achilles proved capable of more than 40 years service. After the rest of the class including, HMS Ajax were scrapped, there was regret in the RN, because in many ways with their long 12,000 mile range and generous hull they were ideal for use as ocean radar pickets.[2]

Manned by New Zealand crew, although not part of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Neptune was sunk by an Italian mine off the coast of Tripoli.

Orion participated in the evacuation of Crete in 1941 and was heavily damaged.

Modified Leander group

The last three ships of the class, referred to as the "Modified Leander", "Amphion", or "Perth" class, had their machinery and propulsion equipment organised in two self-contained units (separated fore and aft), allowing the ship to continue operating if one set was damaged.[3] The two exhaust funnels, one for each machinery space, gave the modified ships a different profile from the early Leanders, which had a single funnel.[3] To cover the separate machinery spaces, the side armour was extended from 84 to 141 feet (26 to 43 m), negating the weight reduction created by the separation.[4] During design, it was planned to modify the forward-most and aft-most 6-inch turrets to be fitted with three guns instead of two, but the plan was cancelled when it was determined that the required alterations would cause several negative side effects, including reducing the ship's top speed and causing problems with effective fire control.[5] All three ships were sold to the RAN, Sydney while under construction and Perth and Hobart after a few years of British service.

Completed 1936 as HMS Amphion and transferred to the RAN as HMAS Perth in 1939. She operated with British ships in the Battle of the Mediterranean, participating in the Battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941. Lost in the Battle of Sunda Strait in early 1942.

Completed 1936 as HMS Apollo and transferred to the RAN in 1938 as HMAS Hobart, she took part in the East African Campaign, the Battle of the Coral Sea and provided fire support at Guadalcanal. After being badly damaged by a torpedo strike in 1943, she returned to action in the Philippines landings (1944), followed by the Borneo and Aitape-Wewak campaigns. She was put into reserve after the war and was not decommissioned until 1962.

Laid down as HMS Phaeton, the ship was acquired by the RAN, launched as HMAS Sydney and was commissioned in 1935. Also involved in the Mediterranean campaign. Sydney sank the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni at the Battle of Cape Spada in 1940. Later that year, Sydney took part in the Battle of Cape Matapan and Battle of Calabria, sinking two Italian destroyers, the Espero and Zeffiro. In 1941, off Western Australia, Sydney encountered the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran; the two ships destroyed each other and Sydney was lost with all hands; the wrecks of both ships were located in 2008.

In Fiction

Warren Tute's novel The Cruiser features HMS Antigone, a Leader-class cruiser with a striking similarity to HMS Ajax.


  1. ^ J. Wise. Securing the Ripest Plum. Britain and the South American Naval Export Market 1945-75 in "Warship 2013". Conway, UK(2013)p121
  2. ^ N. Freidman. British Cruisers. World War Two and After. Seaforth. Uk (2010)
  3. ^ a b Frame, HMAS Sydney, p. 15
  4. ^ Frame, HMAS Sydney, pp. 15–16
  5. ^ Frame, HMAS Sydney, p. 16

External links

  • Frame, Tom (1993). HMAS Sydney: Loss and Controversy. Rydalmere, NSW: Hodder & Stoughton.  
  • Waters, S. D. (1956). The Royal New Zealand Navy. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45. Wellington, New Zealand: War History Branch.  
  • The Royal New Zealand Navy
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