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Arethusa-class cruiser (1934)
HMS Galatea AWM 302395.jpeg
HMS Galatea as completed, at Devonport, c. 1935
Class overview
Name: Arethusa-class cruiser
Operators: RN Ensign Royal Navy
Naval Jack of the Republic of China.svg Chinese Nationalists
Naval Ensign of the People's Republic of China.svg Chinese Communists
Preceded by: Leander class
Succeeded by: Town class
Planned: 6
Completed: 4
Cancelled: 2
Lost: 2
General characteristics
Type: Light cruiser
Displacement: 5,220 (5,270 Penelope and Aurora) tons standard load;
6,665 (6,715 Penelope and Aurora) tons full load
Length: 506 ft (154 m)
Beam: 51 ft (16 m)
Draught: 16.5 ft (5.0 m)
Propulsion: Four Parsons geared steam turbines
Four Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Four shafts
64,000 shp (48,000 kW)
Speed: 32.25 knots (59.73 km/h)
Range: 5,300 nmi at 13 kn (24 km/h)
1,325 tons fuel oil
Complement: 500
  • 1–3 in magazine box protection
  • 2.25 in belt
  • 1 in deck, turrets and bulkheads
  • Aircraft carried: 1 × Hawker Osprey, then Fairey Seafox, except Aurora; removed by end 1941.

    The Arethusa class was a class of four light cruisers built for the Royal Navy between 1933 and 1937 and that served in World War II. It had been intended to construct six ships, but the last pair, Polyphemus and Minotaur were ordered in 1934 as the 9,100 ton Town class Southampton and Newcastle


    The Arethusas were a smaller version of the Amphion group of the earlier Leander class, having the unit machinery layout and two funnels of the former. The design was judged to be the minimum required for a "trade route cruiser" to counter the threat of the auxiliary cruiser over which, even with their reduced armament, they would enjoy a comfortable superiority. They were also to be capable of acting as a fleet cruiser (which was fortunate because, in the end, they were used almost exclusively with the fleet). Therefore, no reduction in speed (i.e. machinery) could be accepted and savings had to be found in armament, size and protection; the Arethusas suppressed 'X' 6-inch gun turret and were 50 feet (15 m) shorter and displaced 1,250 tons less than the Leanders. The protection scheme was the same as the Leanders but was generally thinner to save weight. This allowed six Arethusas to be built for every five Leanders within the constraints of tonnage allowed under treaties then in force. Welded construction was widely used for the first time to save weight, over 250 tons being cut off the original specification.

    They were armed with six BL 6 inch Mark XXIII in three twin mountings Mark XXI in 'A', 'B' and 'Y' positions. Triple 21-inch (530 mm) Torpedo tubes were carried abreast the after funnel, the reduction in beam had reduced training space resulting in the omission of one tube vis-à-vis the Leanders. The secondary armament was four QF 4 inch Mark V on single mountings HA Mark III, controlled by a HACS director on the bridge. The 4-inch magazine was retained in the position of the Leander class well forward, but the guns themselves were moved well aft. As a result, the 4-inch shell and charge had to be transported 200 feet (61 m) along the ship to reach the guns. In Penelope and Aurora eight QF 4 inch Mark XVI on four twin mountings HA/LA Mark XIX replaced the single mounts, and a second HACS director was added aft. A shelter was added for the gun crews between each pair of guns as it was recognised that in wartime the crews would spend a lot of time closed up at action stations and would rapidly fatigue in the open gun mountings. Galatea received similar alteration before the outbreak of war. The light armament consisted of an eight 0.5 inch Vickers machine guns in two quaduple mountings.

    A rotating catapult for a float plane and a derrick were fitted between the funnels. It had been intended to carry a second aircraft aft, but in the end this never happened. Aurora completed without aircraft facilities, and had a deckhouse for accommodation in lieu for service as Commodore.


    Aurora received a Unrotated Projectile (UP) mounting and eight QF 2 pounder Mark VIII in two quadruple mountings Mark VII in the summer of 1940. Radar Type 284 was added to the main armament director for taking ranges and bearings and Type 280 air warning at the mastheads was added in April 1941. In August of the same year she received six single 20 mm Oerlikons and two quadruple 0.5 inch machine guns. In 1943 she received Radar Type 282 on the 2 pounder "pom-pom directors".

    Galatea had extra plating added amidships after completion to reduce wetness and to protect the boats. She landed her catapult during a refit between October 1940 and January 1941, when she received two quadruple 2 pounders and eight single 20 mm Oerlikons, as well as Radar Type 279 air warning added at the mastheads.

    Arethusa had received two quadruple 2 pounders and radar by April 1941, and landed the catapult. Later the same year, two UP mountings and four single 20 mm Oerlikons were added. The former were removed in the spring of 1942, as were the single 4 in mountings (replaced by twins as per her sisters) and a further four 20 mm Oerlikons added. Radar Type 286 air warning was landed and radars Type 273 centimetric target indication, Type 281 air warning, Type 282 on the 2-pounder directors, Type 284 on the main armament director and Type 285 on the HACS directors were fitted. Three additional 20 mm Oerlikons were added by October 1942. Between March and December 1943, while under repair in the USA, the 2 pdr were supplanted by quadruple 40 mm Bofors mountings Mark II, three single Oerlikons by four twin power operated mounts Mark V and had the radar fit modernised.

    Penelope also lost her catapult and had two quadruple 2 pounders fitted between August 1940 and July 1941. Four single Oerlikons were added at the end of 1941, and four more in the summer of 1942.

    By the end of the war, the surviving ships had around 700 tons of extra equipment added.


    The Arethusas proved to be very satisfactory in service and their hull was adapted for the Dido class of 1937. All had a very active war especially in the Mediterranean; the two that were lost were torpedoed while working close inshore. Arethusa had a narrow escape in November 1942 when she was hit by an air-dropped torpedo. She caught fire, had two of her three turrets out of action and was badly flooded. However she survived to be repaired at Charleston in the USA.


    Ship Pennant Number Builder Laid down Launched Completed Fate
    Arethusa 26 Chatham Royal Dockyard 25 January 1933 6 March 1934 21 May 1935 Sold for scrapping 1950
    Galatea 71 Scotts, Greenock 2 June 1933 9 August 1934 3 September 1935 Torpedoed by German U-boat U-557 off Alexandria, 15 December 1941
    Penelope 97 Harland & Wolff, Belfast 30 May 1934 15 October 1935 12 November 1936 Torpedoed by German U-boat U-410 off Anzio 18 February 1944
    Aurora 12 Portsmouth Royal Dockyard 23 July 1935 20 August 1936 8 November 1937 Transferred to Nationalist China as Chungkinh 1950, captured by Communist China as Tchoungking 1949, Hsuang Ho 1951, Pei Ching 1951, Kuang Chou 1958, later hulked



    • Chesneau, Roger, ed (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Greenwhich: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-146-7. 
    • Raven, Alan; Roberts, John (1980). British Cruisers of World War Two. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-922-7. 
    • Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945: The Naval History of World War Two (Third Revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2. 
    • Whitley, M. J. (1995). Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. London: Cassell. ISBN 1-86019-874-0. 

    Warning: Display title "<i>Arethusa</i> class cruiser (1934)" overrides earlier display title "<i>Arethusa</i>-class cruiser (1934)".

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