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Sister ships: ARETHUSA, AURORA, GALATEA
Pennant number: 97
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. PENELOPE differed from her earlier-completed sisters, ARETHUSA and GALATEA, by having her 4" guns in twin mounts rather than in singles; in doing so, these weapons had better arcs of fire.
PENELOPE ran aground off Fleinver on 11 April 1940; temporary repairs took about six weeks at Clyde. She then proceeded to Tyne for permanent repairs, arriving on 26 August 1940. During this time, her aircraft and catapult were removed, and two quadruple 2-pdr. "pom-pom" AA mountings were added, as was radar. PENELOPE returned to service on 2 July 1941 and was sent to the Mediterranean. On 19 December 1941, she struck a mine off the coast of Tripoli, and went to Malta for repairs. While there, four single 20mm AA guns were added. PENELOPE continued in service in the Mediterranean, and suffered damage from two near-missed by aircraft bombs on 26 March 1942; she was then sent to the United States for permanent repairs, carried out at New York (19 May through 1 September 1942). During this time, her radar was upgraded, and four more single 20mm AA guns were added. PENELOPE returned to Portsmouth in October, 1942, and was sent back into service in the Mediterranean. On 18 February 1944, while steaming at 26 knots off the coast of Anzio, PENELOPE was struck by a torpedo from the German submarine U-410; a second hit sixteen minutes later sunk her at once. During World War II, PENELOPE shot down seven enemy aircraft.