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Sister ships: ARETHUSA, AURORA, PENELOPE
Pennant number: 71
Notes: The ARETHUSA class generally resembled the preceding PERTH class, but lacked the "X" turret. They were designed in an attempt to build the smallest possible useful cruiser, with the ideas of not only building the most cruisers (in numbers) under Treaty limits, but to build them as cheaply as possible, as the Admiralty was having great difficulty getting funding from the government. The resulting design was noted as being a cross of the more-traditional LEANDER class and a large destroyer. Originally, five ARETHUSA class cruisers were to be built. But when British intelligence learned of Japanese plans to build a light cruiser with 15 6" guns, the fifth ship was cancelled to allow its tonnage to be devoted to larger designs.
The ARETHUSA class was noted as being rather cramped, and the magazines for the 4" guns were not well located. The Controller insisted on two aircraft being carried, and space was found for a second aircraft to be stowed on the after deckhouse. However, trials showed this arrangement to be totally unsatisfactory, and no more than a single aircraft was carried in service. Upon acceptance, GALATEA served as a Flagship for fleet destroyers; Rear Admiral of Destroyers Cunningham "commented favorably on his flagship GALATEA as having excellent acceleration and being easily to match a destroyer in that respect, and very nearly as maneuverable." (Raven and Roberts, BRITISH CRUISERS, p. 170; see Bibliography.)
GALATEA served in the Mediterranean through 1939, and was transferred to Home Fleet at the beginning of 1940. Two quadruple 2-pdr. "pom-poms" were added in 1940. She was hit by a single torpedo on 17 September 1940; repairs took a full twelve months. During this time, the aircraft and catapult was removed, and her single 4" guns removed and replaced by twin 4" guns. In addition, eight single 20mm AA guns were added, and radar was installed. When she re-entered service, GALATEA went back to the Mediterranean. On 14 December 1941, GALATEA was approaching the harbor at Alexandria; thinking they were in safe waters, her watertight integrity condition had been relaxed. The German submarine U-557 was lying in wait for just such a target, and hit GALATEA with three torpedoes; GALATEA sank within three minutes.