The HMS Ajax was built at Vickers' shipyard, in Barrow-in-Furness, England. She was laid down on 7 February 1933, launched on 1 March 1934 and completed on 12 April 1935. She was commissioned for service on the North America and West Indies Station, but after working up in May 1935, she was deployed instead to the Mediterranean on detached service after the Abyssinian crisis. This lasted until November when she finally joined her squadron in Bermuda. Until 1937 she undertook exercises and visits to ports in the Americas. At the end of her West Indies deployment, Ajax returned to Britain for refit. At this time, her 4" battery was upgraded by exchanging single for double mountings.
She rejoined her squadron in the West Indies in February 1938 and remained on that station until 1939 when she was redeployed to the Pacific, off South America. On 27 January, Ajax went to assist the rescue of earthquake victims at Talcahuano, in Chile. She then returned to Bermuda and was redeployed to the South Atlantic Division in March.
When war was declared in September 1939, Ajax took up her appropriate station and patrolled off the River Plate. There she sank the German merchant ship Olinda on 3 September. She intercepted the German merchantman Carl Fritzen and the passenger ship Ussukuma (with the cruiser HMS Cumberland) on 4 and 5 September, respectively. Both ships scuttled themselves to avoid capture.
After a brief deployment in and around the Falkland Islands, Ajax returned to her station off the Plate on 21 September.
The Ajax's most notable actions in the war was at the battle of the River Plate. In which the HMS Ajax the HMS Achilles and the HMS Eexter engaged the German Curiser Admiral Graf Spee of the Coast of South America. During the battle the HMS Exeter was forced to withdraw due to taking heavy fire the Admiral Graff Spee then started retreating to River Plate estuary. The Ajax and Achilles remained outside keeping watch on the injured cruiser. The Ajax and Achilles where reinforced with the HMS Cumberland. They managed to bluff the Admiral Graff Spee's captain into scuttling the Gaff Spee. Ironically a few years later the HMS Ajax returned and brought back the Crew of the Admiral Graff Spee back to Europe.
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.
Once refitted and worked up, Ajax became ready for service in August 1940. Her refit had included the addition of a Type 279 Radar, a tripod mast and zarebas for the 4" batteries.
In August 1940, Ajax was allocated to the 7th Cruiser Squadron for Mediterranean service (France had fallen and Italy was now a belligerent with a significant navy). She sailed from Britain on 21 August as part of the escort (with HMS York), to a convoy for Egypt routed via the Mediterranean (Operation Hats), but she remained with a portion that was diverted via Durban. In late September, she escorted a troop convoy (Empress of Japan, Orion and Oronsay) from Aden to Suez. Ajax joined HMAS Sydney at Alexandria on 30 September.[
From 2 to 16 October, Ajax was engaged in major fleet manoeuvres to interdict Italian convoys to Libya and to protect British convoys to Malta. Firstly, she sailed with the fleet to search for Italian convoys, possibly with their own fleet escorts. On 8 October, Ajax again deployed with a major naval force to cover the passage to Malta of convoy MF3 (Operation MB6). Ajax and Orion patrolled south-east of Malta before covering the return of Convoy MF4 to Alexandria on 12 October. (The main fleet was deployed to the west of the convoy)
During the night of 11–12 October, Ajax intercepted a small Italian force. In a close-range night action (sometimes called the Battle of Cape Passero), two Spica class torpedo boats, Airone and Ariel, were sunk and the destroyer Artigliere was disabled (later sunk by HMS York).[Two more warships escaped into a smoke screen. Ajax herself was hit by seven shells that caused severe damage to the bridge and radar installation and 35 casualties, including 13 killed. She returned to Alexandria on 16 October.
At the end of October, Ajax set out on the first of two operations to carry troop reinforcements to Suda Bay, on Crete in Operation Barbarity; she suffered near misses from air attacks. On her return to the fleet on 6 November, she helped to provide cover for a Malta convoy, MW3. This was a large operation, involving most of the Mediterranean Fleet and part of a wider set of ship movements, Operation Coat. She was part of Force X which was detached from the main fleet on 11 November to sortie into the Straits of Otranto, between Italy and Albania, to provide a diversion and give cover for the successful naval air attack on Taranto. After turning to return to the main fleet, they intercepted an escorted Italian convoy. The escorts, naval auxiliary Ramb III and the obsolete torpedo-boat Nicola Fabrizi escaped (Fabrizi was badly damaged) but all four merchant ships were sunk (see Battle of the Strait of Otranto (1940)). Force X also bombarded the port of Durazzo (now Durres) and set the oil refinery on fire. before it rejoined the fleet. Ajax and other vessels were detached from the fleet and refuelled at Suda bay before they returned to Alexandria.
From 15 to 20 November, Ajax and four other cruisers transported troops from Alexandria to Piraeus, the port of Athens, and returned to Alexandria. On 23 November, she was deployed with Force B to cover a convoy to Crete and to support air attacks on Tripoli from HMS Eagle.
Ajax participated in the Battle of Cape Matapan and was hit by bombs from Ju 87s on 21 May 1941. She evacuated many troops from Crete up until 29 May. She then covered Syrian operations in June and joined Force K at Malta in November, being withdrawn in February 1942 for refit.
The HMS Ajax spent two years out of action after being severely damaged by a 1000lb bomb.
As part of Force K, Ajax bombarded Gold Beach during the D-Day invasion (The battery at Longues gave some trouble but was silenced by 6-inch shells through the embrasures of two of the four casemates). She later supported the landings in southern France. Ajax also operated in the Aegean during the reoccupation of Athens and the communist uprising in Greece.
"Ajax" was then assigned to the Royal Navy Palestine Patrol and took part in the efforts to halt illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine. In July 1947 it took part in the Exodus 1947 incident, in which she formed part of the Royal Navy task force which subdued the illegal immigrant ship and later escorted it back to Germany.
She 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. She duly arrived at Cashmore's, in Newport, South Wales, for breaking up on 18 November 1949.
The town of Ajax, in Ontario, Canada, was named after the cruiser following the Battle of the River Plate. The town also has streets named after members of the ship's company. For example, Harwood Avenue is the town's main north-south street. Many street signs in the town bear the silhouette of the ship, and the ship's anchor rests in front of the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Ajax's bell is on a monument in Montevideo, just outside the port customs house, and was donated by Admiral Sir Henry Harwood and Sir Eugen Millington-Drake in 1949.
Class and type: Leander-classlight 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) Propulsion: 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 at 13 knots 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 Armament:
8 × BL 6 inch Mk XXIII naval guns
4 × 4 in guns
12 × 0.5 in machine guns 8 × 21 in torpedo tubes
8 × 6 in (152 mm)
8 × 4 in (102 mm)
16 × 40 mm
8 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (quadruple mounts) Armour: 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
Motto: Nec Quisquam Nisi Ajax (Latin: "None but Ajax can overcome Ajax")
Honours and awards: River Plate 1939; Mediterranean 1940-41; Matapan 1941; Greece 1941; Crete 1941; Malta Convoys 1941; Aegean 1944; Normandy 1944; South France 1944
Edited by Appollosnos, 16 August 2012 - 02:57 PM.