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Arethusa Class Light Cruiser

Penelope entering Grand Harbour Malta, March 1942
Penelope entering Grand Harbour Malta, March 1942
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A smaller version of the earlier Leander class with the two funnels of the intermediate Amphion class but of smaller dimensions and with only three turrets the aft super-firing guns having been removed. Suitable for acting as destroyer leaders. Four ships of the Arethusa class were built between 1934 and 1936. They differed from their predecessors in having only three 6-inch turrets instead of four. This reduction in armament led to a 50-foot reduction in length. Welded construction was widely used for the first time to save weight, over 250 tons being cut off the original specification. They were envisaged as an antidote to the commerce raider, normally an auxiliary cruiser, over which even with their reduced armament they would enjoy a comfortable superiority. Considered also as stand-by fleet cruisers, a top speed of 32 knots was retained in the specification. This was fortunate because, in the event, they were used almost exclusively with the fleet, particularly in the Mediterranean theatre where they distinguished themselves in their defence against air attack. The two that were lost by enemy action were both torpedoed by German U-boats. Light AA armament was increased during WWII.

Proved very satisfactory in service and their design was adapted for the Dido class. All had a very active war especially in the Mediterranean and two were torpedoed. 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 Charlestown in the USA.

Displacement: 5,220 (5,270 Penelope and Aurora) tons standard ; 6,665 (6,715 Penelope and Aurora) tons full load
Dimensions: 480 pp, 506 oa x 51 x 14 feet
Propulsion: 4 shaft Parsons geared turbines, 4 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 64,000 shp. = 32.25 knots
Range: unknown ; 1,325 tons fuel oil
Complement: 500
Armament: 3 dual 6-inch / 50 Mk 23 ; 4 dual 4-inch / 45 QF Mk 16 HA (4 single 4-inch / 45 QF Mk 8 HA in Arethusa and Galatea, later replaced by 4 dual Mk 16) ; 2 quad 0.5-inch MG ; 2 triple 21-inch TT. ; 1 seaplane
Armour: 1 to 3 inch magazine box protection ; 2.25 inch belt ; 1 inch deck, turrets and bulkheads

Modifications

Aurora completed without aircraft facilities, and had a deckhouse for accommodation in lieu for service as Commodore (D). There were plans to fit twin 4in instead of the singles before completion, but the first two ships commissioned as designed, although Aurora and Penelope completed with four twins and a second HACS aft. Galatea received twin 4in herself before the war. Extra plating was added amidships after completion to reduce wetness and to protect the boats. Arethusa had received two quadruple 2pdr and radar by April 1941, and landed the catapult. Later the same year, two UP mountings and four single 20mm were added. The former were removed in the spring of 1942, as were the single 4in mountings and a further four 20mm. Radar 286 was landed and radars 273, 281, 282,284 and 285 were fitted. Three additional 20mm were added by October 1942. Between March and December 1943, while under repair in the USA, the 2pdr were supplanted by quadruple 40mm Bofors, three single 20mm by four twin, and the radar fit modernised. By April 1944 her light AA outfit comprised four power-operated twin 20mm and three single 20mm. Galatea lost her catapult during a refit between October 1940 and January 1941, when she received two quadruple 2pdr and eight single 20mm, as well as radar 279. Penelope also lost her catapult and had two quadruple 2pdr fitted between August 1940 and July 1941. Four single 20mm were added at the end of 1941, and four more in the summer of 1942. Aurora received a UP mounting and two quadruple 2pdr in the summer of 1940, had radars 284 and 290 added in April 1941, and in August received six single 20mm and two quadruple .5in MGs

Penelope in 1942
Penelope in 1942
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