Allied Warships

HMS Exeter (68)

Heavy cruiser of the York class

HMS Exeter firing her Anti-Aircraft guns in 1942

NavyThe Royal Navy
TypeHeavy cruiser
Built byDevonport Dockyard (Plymouth, U.K.): Parsons 
Ordered15 Mar 1928 
Laid down1 Aug 1928 
Launched18 Jul 1929 
Commissioned23 Jul 1931 
Lost1 Mar 1942 
Loss position5° 00'S, 111° 00'E

During the Battle of the River Plate on 13 December 1939 HMS Exeter was badly damaged and had to withdraw to the Falkland Islands for temporary repairs. These lasted until January 1940, after which the ship returned to Devonport Dockyard for full repairs which took until March 1941 to complete.

HMS Exeter (Capt. Oliver Loudon Gordon, MVO, RN) was sunk in the East Indies, north west of Surabaya in Java Sea in approximate position 05º00'S, 111º00'E, by torpedoes and 8-inch gunfire of a Japanese cruiser force.

The report submitted by Capt. Gordon after the war gives very approximate position 04º38'S, 112º28'E.


Commands listed for HMS Exeter (68)

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1Capt. Frederick Secker Bell, RN25 Aug 1939mid 1940

2Capt. Walter Napier Thomason Beckett, DSC, RN30 Nov 194010 Mar 1941 (+)
3Capt. Oliver Loudon Gordon, RN11 Mar 19411 Mar 1942

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Notable events involving Exeter include:

13 Dec 1939
Battle of the River Plate.

The German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee intercepted what was thought to be a small convoy of merchant ships 150 miles off the River Plate estuary. The convoy turned out to be three British cruisers of Commodore Sir Henry Harwood's squadron. Consisting of the light cruisers HMS Ajax (flagship of Commodore Sir Henry Harwood, RN, Capt. C.H.L. Woodhouse, RN in command), HMNZS Achilles (Capt. W.E. Parry, RN) and the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter (Capt. F.S. Bell, RN). They initially identified the Graf Spee's smoke as a merchant ship and HMS Exeter was detached to take a message to her, but soon the mistake was realised. With the British squadron now split (as planned before the battle) action commenced at with the Admiral Graf Spee opening fire at 0615 hours. The subsequent battle saw the cruiser HMS Exeter badly damaged with all her guns put out of action but still seaworthy, she suffered 61 killed and 23 wounded and was forced to make for the Falkland Islands to carry out repairs. HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles were both damaged and suffered casualties, HMS Ajax 7 dead and wounded and HMS Achilles 4 dead. They both shadowed the Admiral Graf Spee into Uruguay territorial waters where she entered the port of Montevideo. The Admiral Graf Spee suffered 36 dead and 60 wounded, hit by seventeen 6 inch shells and two eight inch shells, with water purification and desalination plant destroyed and kitchens wrecked she was allowed just 72 hours to make good her the damage that threatened her seaworthiness she was unable to do so. On the 17th December she left Montevideo with a skeleton crew, anchored just outside the 3 mile limit and after the crew left her she was blown up and scuttled to prevent her falling into British hands. Her captain later shot himself.

10 Mar 1941
While the ship was being refitted at Plymouth, the Commanding Officer of HMS Exeter, Capt. W.N.T. Beckett, MVO, DSC, RN (offsite link), died from complications resulting from surgery.

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