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Pennant Number: 22
Notes: The LEANDER class light cruisers were the first single-funneled cruisers to have been built by the Royal Navy since the 1880's. This single streamlined funnel not only helped to reduce backdraught, but made it more difficult for an enemy to identify and acquire a good range. They were also the first cruisers in the Royal Navy to make extensive use of welding in the hulls, which reduced weight considerably. The 6" were capable of 60° of elevation, and were hand-loaded. The single 4" mounts replaced by twin 4" DP mounts in 1938, while the saluting guns removed early in World War II. Two 4-barreled "pom-poms" added in 1941; those were replaced by two quad 40mm Bofors AA mounts in 1943, and various single 20mm AA added. The LEANDER class were regarded as good sea boats, but very wet -- a problem that plagued them throughout their careers.
AJAX, flying the flag of Commodore H. H. Harwood, took part in Battle of River Platte on 13 December, 1939 (alongside ACHILLES and the heavy cruiser EXETER), and fired 732 6" rounds at ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE; in return, she was hit by an 11" shell which put "X" turret out of action and partially jammed "Y" turret. Repairs following the battle took nearly eight months; during this refit, her aircraft and catapult were removed. AJAX was reassigned to the Mediterranean Fleet; in company with the heavy cruiser YORK, they sunk the Italian destroyer ARTIGLIERE and the torpedo boats AIRONE and ARIEL on 12 October, 1940. In return, AJAX received seven hits; fourteen of her crew were killed and 23 more were wounded -- more casualties than those inflicted by the GRAF SPEE. AJAX took part in the Battle of Cape Matapan on 28 March 1941, but did not play a significant part in that action. While serving with "Force Q" guarding convoys on 1 January 1943, AJAX was hit by an 1,100-lb. bomb which went straight down her funnel and exploded in her middle boiler room. Repairs were made at New York, and took over ten months to complete.
Following World War II, AJAX (along with ACHILLES and LEANDER) was offered for sale to the Indian Navy, but this offer was rejected to both cost and lack of manpower. AJAX was sold for breaking up and scrapped at Newport in November, 1949.
(Additional information from "The LEANDER and SYDNEY Class Cruisers" by Keith McBride; WARSHIP 1997-1998, pp. 167-181.)
* Scratchbuilt by John Youngerman - as AJAX appeared in 1942