Leander-class Light Cruiser
Ordered as the fifth and final ship of the Leander class 1929 programme, she was from the 1931 Estimate. Her keel was laid on 7 February 1933 at Vickers Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness yard, launching on 1 March 1934 and completing 12 April 1935. She commissioned to operate as part of the 8th Cruiser Squadron in America and the West Indies in 1935 but was sent to the Mediterranean for 7 months following the Abyssinian Crisis; eventually joining the squadron at Bermuda in November 1935. She returned to the UK for a refit and modifications, which included upgrade to her 4-inch battery from, single to twin turrets.
She rejoined the West Indies squadron in February 1938 until deploying to the Pacific off South America. On the 27 January she provided assistance to earthquake victims at Talcahuano, in Chile, before returning to Bermuda and deployment to the South Atlantic in March. After war was declared with Germany in September 1939, she took up station of the River Plate sinking the German merchant Olinda on the 3 September.
As the flagship of Commodore Henry Harwood and in company with the cruisers Exeter and Achilles forming Force G, which located and engaged the German Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee on 13 December 1939. Ajax was hit seven times resulting in X and Y turrets being disabled, structural damage 12 casualties including 7 killed. Exeter was damaged more and left the two light cruisers to shadow Graf Spee, which took refuge at Montevideo. Soon joined by HMS Cumberland, the three cruisers waited for the German ship to leave port, which it did on the 17 December but only to be scuttled by Captain Langsdorff who committed suicide two days later.
Between January and August of 1940, Ajax underwent a refit at Chatham Dockyard, before joining the 7th Cruiser Squadron and service in the Mediterranean on convoy escort and troop carrying duties. Another refit at Chatham dockyard for most of 1942 and then back in the Mediterranean, where she was hit by a 1,000 lb, at the start of 1943. Extensive repairs were carried out at the Norfolk Navy Yard in the USA and she re-commissioned on Christmas Day 1943 at Portsmouth UK, before returning to the Mediterranean in February 1944. She took part in the Normandy landings on D-Day bombarding Gold Beach.
After the war she repatriated German sailors from the Admiral Graf Spee from Uruguay. She decommissioned in February 1948 and arrived for scrapping at Newport South Wales on the 18 November 1949.