Military Wiki
York-class cruiser
HMS York secured.jpg
Class overview
Name: York-class heavy cruiser
Operators: RN Ensign Royal Navy
Preceded by: County class
Succeeded by: None
Planned: 7
Completed: 2
Cancelled: 5
Lost: 2
General characteristics - York[1]
Type: Heavy cruiser
Displacement: 8,250 tons standard / 10,350 tons full load
Length: 540 ft (164.6 m) p/p
575 ft (175.25 m) o/a
Beam: 57 ft (17.58 m)
Draught: 17 ft (6.17 m)
Propulsion: Eight Admiralty 3-drum water-tube boilers
Parsons geared steam turbines
80,000 shp (59,700 kW) on four shafts
Speed: 32.25 kt (30.25 knots full load)
Range: 1,900 tons oil fuel; 10,000 nmi (20,000 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h)
Complement: 623
  • Main belt
    • 3 in
    • 2 12-1 in enclosing bulkheads
  • Lower deck
    • 1 14 in over machinery
    • 1 12 in over steering gear
  • Magazine box citadels 4-1 in
  • Transmitting Station 1 in
  • Turrets
    • 1 in face, rear, crown
    • 2 12 in base
    • 1 in barbette
    • 2 in hoist
  • Aircraft carried: One x Fairey Seafox
    Aviation facilities: rotating catapult
    General characteristics - Exeter[1]
    Displacement: 8,390 tons standard / 10,410 tons full load
    Beam: 58 ft (17.67 m)
    Complement: 630

    as York, except;

    • Magazine box citadels 5-1 in
    Aircraft carried: Two x Fairey Seafox, later Supermarine Walrus
    Aviation facilities: Two fixed catapults
    Notes: Other characteristics as per York

    The York class was the second and final class of 8-inch (203 mm)–gunned heavy cruisers built for the Royal Navy under the terms of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty. They were essentially a reduced version of the preceding County class, scaled down to enable more cruisers to be built from the limited defence budgets of the late 1920s.

    It was initially planned to build seven ships of this class, though in the end only two were constructed—HMS York, started in 1927, and HMS Exeter, started in 1928. Exeter differed in appearance from York because of late changes in her design. The remaining ships were delayed due to budget cuts, and then following the London Naval Treaty of 1930 the Royal Navy decided its cruiser needs were best met by building a greater number of yet smaller cruisers with 6–in guns.[2]

    Both ships served in vigorously in the first few years of World War II. Most famously, Exeter took part in the Battle of the River Plate against the German raider Graf Spee, and was badly damaged, though later repaired and extensively modernized. Ultimately, both ships were lost in action by early 1942.


    The Royal Navy had a need for smaller cruisers than the County class, the largest design possible under the Washington limits, in order that more could be built under the strict defence economies of 1920s Britain. From 1925 the Royal Navy planned a "Class B" cruiser (as against the 10,000-ton cruisers of Class A, such as the Counties.)[2]

    The new design was to have a displacement of 8,500 tons, as opposed to the 10,000 tons of the County class. This weight saving was mainly to be accomplished by reducing the armament to six 8-in guns (as opposed to the 8 guns on the County class), and also by using a new Mark II mounting for the guns. Otherwise the new ships were to share all the main features of the preceding class.[2]


    The economies in size allowed for a 50-foot (15 m) reduction in length and 9 feet (3 m) in beam over the Counties. Their engines were identical - four boilers in two boiler rooms providing steam for four Parsons geared turbines, generating 80,000 shaft horsepower. The design speed was 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h), one knot faster than the County class.[3]


    As the preceding County class cruisers had virtually no armour, protection was added into the design and included a 3-inch-thick (76 mm), 8-foot-deep (2 m) main belt and an armoured lower deck joining at its top edge. Over the magazine spaces, the belt thickened to 4in, and the armour extended above the belt, with a 2.5-in magazine crown The turrets had 2in armour to the face and crown, 1.5in on sides and rear, and the barbettes on which the turrets sat had 1in armour. The transmitting station was also covered by 1in armour.[2] To shorten the belt length, the amidship magazine found on the Counties was removed (reduced armament required less magazine space anyway). This armour scheme was generally equivalent to that of the County class, though thicker over the machinery spaces.


    The six 8 inch Mark VIII guns were mounted in three turrets. York used the Mark II mounting, which was intended to be 20 tons lighter than the Mark I mounting used on the earlier County class ships; however, in fact it turned out to be heavier.[4] The Mark II mounting was capable of firing at up to 80 degrees elevation for anti-aircraft barrage fire. However, this feature, which was also shared with the Mark I mounting, turned out to produce more mechanical headaches than were justified by its very marginal military utility.[5] Exeter used a modified Mark II* mounting, limited to 50 degrees elevation.[6]

    The secondary armament consisted of four 4in QF Mark V guns and two 2pdr guns. Two triple 21-in torpedo tubes were carried. This was similar to the County class, with the exception that the Yorks carried two fewer torpedo tubes, because of the narrower beam.


    As a result of the magazine changes, and to keep the funnels distant from the bridge, only two funnels were required; the forward boiler room uptakes trunked up into a large fore-funnel. This was raked in York to clear the flue gasses from the bridge, but was straight in Exeter owing to an altered bridge design and more extensive trunking. To maintain homogeneity of appearance, York stepped raked masts and Exeter vertical ones. York had a tall "platform" style bridge as seen in the Counties, which was somewhat distant from 'B' turret. This was because it had been intended to fit a catapult and floatplane to the roof of the turret, which needed clearance distance and required a tall bridge to provide forward view. The roof of the turret, however, was not sufficiently strong to carry this catapult and it was never fitted. Exeter was ordered two years later and the bridge was redesigned in light of this, being lower, further forward and fully enclosed, as later seen in the Leander and Arethusa classes.

    York eventually received a rotating catapult amidships behind the funnels, and Exeter had a fixed pair in the same location, firing forwards and angled out from the centreline. A crane for recovery was located to starboard and one aircraft could be carried, initially a Fairey Seafox and later, in Exeter, a Supermarine Walrus.

    Compared to the County's, the Yorks saved 1,750 tons in net weight, but the reductions in cost of £250,000 and manpower of 50 was something of an uneconomical saving.


    Name Pennant Builder Laid down Launched Completed Fate
    York 90 Palmers Shipbuilding & Iron Company, Jarrow 16 May 1927 17 Feb 1928 6 June 1930 Rammed and crippled by two Italian explosive motor boats at Suda Bay 26 March 1941, beached in Suda Bay. Further damaged by German air raid, 18 May 1941. Abandoned, 22 May 1941. Salvaged and scrapped Feb 1952.
    Exeter 68 HM Dockyard, Devonport 1 August 1928 13 July 1929 31 July 1931 Sunk by gunfire from Japanese cruisers Haguro and Nachi in Second Battle of the Java Sea 1 March 1942.


    1. 1.0 1.1 British and Empire Warships of the Second World War, H. T. Lenton, Greenhill Books, ISBN 1-85367-277-7
    2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Marriott, p.35
    3. Marriott, p.29, p.35
    4. Marriot, p.35
    5. Marriott, p.21
    6. Marriot, p.36

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