In the 1920s all major naval powers were building cruisers with 8-inch guns and displacing 10,000-tons. These were the maximum limits for cruisers as established by the Washington Treaty. All of the post war cruisers built for the Royal Navy were of these maximum characteristics. With 13 of the County Class subdivided into three different classes, The Royal Navy had severe economic problems, or more accurately the British government did. The economy had never recovered from the debt incurred as a result of the First World War. The Royal Navy faced a unique challenge. With colonies spread across the globe, Great Britain had more and longer trade routes than any other country. The Royal Navy needed quantity, rather than quality of cruisers in order to provide cruisers for trade protection. Their first answer was to design a smaller 8-inch gun cruiser in the York and Exeter displacing 1,400-tons less than the Counties. Collectively called the Cathedral Class, these two ships were still not the answer to Great Britain’s needs. Great Britain had tried to limit cruisers to a lighter displacement and 6-inch guns in the 1927 disarmament conference at Geneva but the US would have none of it. Finally in 1930 the London Treaty recognized two types of cruisers. For the first time there was the heavy cruiser defined as any cruiser mounting guns from greater than 6.1-inch guns up to the maximum of 8-inch. Any gun size less was defined as a light cruiser. He maximum displacement stayed at 10,000-tons. What Great Britain received was a maximum cap of total displacement for cruiser construction, divided by heavy and light types. Finally the Royal Navy could build quantities of 6-inch gun cruisers without worrying that they would be out-built in heavy cruisers. With the signing of the 1930 London Treaty no more 8-inch gun cruisers were built for the Royal Navy. The first 6-inch design to come off the boards was the Leander Class.
The Leander Class had five units, Leander, Achilles, Ajax, Neptun and Orion. Displacing a little over 7,000-tons it was obvious that more of these light cruisers could be built than heavy cruisers within the given maximum tonnage. This class mounted eight 6-inch guns in four twin turrets and was the only British cruiser design with one funnel. With four shafts, the Parsons turbines produced 72,000 shp, giving the ships a maximum speed of 32.5-knots. HMS Ajax was the last of the five to be built. Laid down at Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow on February 7, 1933, Ajax was launched March 1, 1934 and commissioned April 12, 1935. The ships were built with a catapult but in 1941 this was removed from Ajax as well as Orion. Ajax, Neptune and Orion all had two four barreled pom-poms added between 1941 to 1942. In August 1943 Ajax landed the pom-poms and picked up four twin 40mm Bofors mounts. During the war Ajax, along with sister Achilles and Exeter forced the Admiral Graf Spee to seek a neutral port where she was subsequently scuttled. Ajax fired 732 rounds in the engagement and was hit by an 11-inch round, which knocked out X turret and damaged Y turret, as well as with splinters from near misses. Ajax survived the war and was broken up in 1949.
Mountford produces a resin and white metal model of HMS Ajax as she appeared in 1942 after the removal of the catapult and with the addition of the quadruple pom-poms. The model, numbered MM112K, does require assembly and painting. The Mountford HMS Ajax is available from Waterline Ships Co. of the United Kingdom. Just click on the Red Duster below.