York-class and Exeter-class Cruisers
HMS York was the first of two York-class heavy cruisers built for the Royal Navy in the late 1920s. She mostly served on the North America and West Indies Station before World War II. Built by Palmers launched on 17 July 1928 and completed on 1 May 1930.
Stationed with the 8th Cruiser Squadron on the America and West Indies Station until September 1935 when detached to the Mediterranean for the Abyssinian Crisis, until early 1936. She returned to the American Station in September 1939 at the outbreak of WW2 and provided escort for the first Atlantic Convoys. In October she became part of Force F based at Halifax, Nova Scotia, with HMS Berwick. On 3 March 1940 she intercepted the German blockade runner Arucas in the Denmark Straits, returning to the Home Fleet a month later, to participate in the Norwegian Campaign. In August she was assigned to the Mediterranean 3rd Cruiser Squadron, based at Malta and Alexandria. She escorted Malta convoys and on the 13 October sank the crippled Italian destroyer Artigliere. Convoy duties continued and transporting troops to Greece. On the 26 March 1941, while at Suda Bay, Crete, she was badly damaged when rammed by explosive motor boats launched from the Italian destroyers Crispi and Sella. She was then purposely run aground to prevent sinking but on 18 May suffered further damage by German bombers. Upon evacuation of the island on the 22 May 1941 she was abandoned and left wrecked by demolition charges.
Her hull was finally broken up for salvage in 1952.
HMS Exeter was built by Devonport Dockyard launched on 18 July 1929 and completed on 27 July 1931. Originally designed as the sister to HMS York, various alterations were made before building. She joined the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, serving with the Atlantic Fleet until 1933. In 1934 she joined the America and West Indies Station, diverting to the Mediterranean for the Abyssinian Crisis of 1935/36. At the outbreak of WW2 she joined the South American Division and Force G with HMS Cumberland, where she took part in the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939. During this action with the German Pocket Battleship Graf Spee, she was badly damaged and withdrew to the Falkland Islands, eventually returning to Devonport. She then underwent full repairs and modernisation until 10 March 1941, followed by working up exercises and patrols in northern waters until 22nd May 1941 when she escorted Convoy WS-8B into the Indian Ocean. She thus became attached to the Far East Fleet and stayed in the Indian Ocean area until the outbreak of the the Pacific War. In early 1942 she came under the control of the fledgling ABDA Command and became part of the Allied Striking Force against the threat of Japanese invasion, leading to the Battle of the Java Sea. During this action she was critically hit in one of her boiler rooms, causing her to retire to Surabaya. After emergency repairs she was ordered to escape to Ceylon but was intercepted and badly damaged by gunfire from the Japanese cruisers Nachi, Haguro, Myoko and Ashigara, and then struck by two torpedoes from the destroyer Inazuma. She subsequently sunk north-west of Bawean Island on 1 March 1942.
Photographer: Ross Watton