Leander class cruiser (1931)

From Academic Kids

HMS Ajax
HMS Ajax
Leander-class RN Ensign
General Characteristics
Displacement: 9,740 tons full load (9,000 Sydney-class)
Length: 554.9 ft
Beam: 56 ft
Draught: 19.1 ft
Propulsion: 4 Parsons geared steam turbines, 6 boilers (4 Sydney-class), 4 shafts, 72,000 shp
Speed: 32.5 knots
Complement: 570
Armament: Original configuration:

8 x 6-in guns
4 x 4-in guns
12 x 0.5-in machine guns
8 x 21-in torpedo tubes

Aircraft: 1 Fairey Seafox (Fairey Swordfish WWII. Supermarine Walrus in Sydney-class)

The Leander class was a class of eight (including modified Australian Leanders) light cruisers built for the Royal Navy (RN), named after the character from Greek mythology. Three of the class were built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Two ships were loaned to New Zealand and one RN ship, Neptune, was manned by the newly formed Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) from 1941 till her eventual sinking, though she was never part of that Navy. The class were influenced by the York-class heavy cruisers. The RN Leanders were named after figures of mythology The first ship to be launched was the nameship in 1931. All ships were commissioned between 1933 and 1936.

They were built to the restrictions of the London Naval Treaty of 1930. The class had only one funnel, a unique feature among British cruisers. They had competent armour protection which allowed them to take a considerable punishment that would sink a lesser ship. They had a good armament consisting of eight 6-inch guns in twin turrets, two forward, two aft. Their secondary armament consisted of four 4-inch guns which was later increased to eight in four twin turrets. They had weak anti-air warfare weaponry, having just twelve 0.5-inch machine guns.

The Australian Leanders were modified from the RN ships and were name after Australian cities and known as the Sydney class. Two of the RAN ships were actually commissioned into the RN upon their commissioning in 1936, being known as Amphion and Apollo before finally being transferred to the RAN were they were then recommissioned as Perth and Hobart respectively. The changes that were made to the Sydney class were mostly internal, though the sub-class was actually given a second funnel due to propulsion changes.

In World War II, the Leanders' armament was altered substantially. Their anti-aircraft weaponry was much improved, with sixteen 2-pounder guns and varying numbers of 40 mm Bofors and 20 mm Oerlikons being fitted. One turret was removed during the war from Achilles and Leander to make way for a number of anti-aircraft guns. The aircraft that the class handled was also changed, to the capable, if primitive looking, Fairey Swordfish. The RAN ships used the Supermarine Walrus instead.

The class saw much action in the Second World War, proving their capability in a variety of duties. Achilles and Ajax saw action during the Battle of the River Plate, cornering the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo harbour. Ajax, a town in Ontario, Canada, was named in honour of the ship, and streets in the town were named in honour of the crew. Their actions were immortatalised in the movie The Battle of the River Plate. Ships of the Leander class also saw service at the Battle of Cape Matapan. Sydney fought in the campaign in Greece in 1940, including the Battle of Calabria, where she sank the Italian destroyers Espero and Zeffiro. Orion was heavily damaged in the evacuation of Crete. Ships of the class also supported the Messina, Salerno and Anzio landings, as well as Operation Overlord, where a number of the class performed vital bombardment duties for the invasion force.

In the Pacific War, Hobart, Perth and the RNZN ships saw much action. At the Battle of Kolombagara, Leander was heavily damaged by a Long Lance torpedo, causing many casualties. Hobart took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea and provided fire support for the amphibious landings at Guadalcanal. Leander-class cruisers took part in the Battle of Okinawa.

Three ships of the class were lost. In 1941, Sydney was sunk by the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran off the coast of Australia. Neptune was sunk by an Italian mine off the coast of Tripoli. Perth was lost in the Battle of the Java Sea in early 1942.

The surviving Leanders were decommissioned soon after the war, except for Achilles, which was sold to India in 1948, being renamed Delhi.

Leander-class cruiser
Royal Navy
Achilles | Ajax | Amphion | Apollo | Leander | Neptune | Orion | Phaeton
Royal Australian Navy
Hobart (ex-Apollo) | Perth (ex-Amphion) | Sydney (ex-Phaeton)
Royal New Zealand Navy
Achilles | Leander
Indian Navy
Delhi (ex-Achilles)

List of cruisers of the Royal Navy


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