For several months after the Armistice of November 11, 1918 the British government kept the Grand Fleet at full strength. They were still uncertain times and it was
thought that the war could flare up again. By mid 1919 it was clear that there was peace and the threat of the German High Seas Fleet was no more. Britain no longer
needed the Grand Fleet and so it was dissolved. The political leaders said that Britain no longer needed the hundreds of ships that made up the greatest fleet that Great
Britain ever possessed. They cost too much money to man and maintain and besides the Great Threat had been defeated and they too, were no longer needed. In that
year and the few that followed, rapid naval disarmament was the order of the day issued by the politicians to their Lordships of the Admiralty.

In this period Britain disposed of 83 cruisers. Almost every cruiser of pre-war construction was removed, sold or scrapped. It was a fire sale to end all fire sales.
The remainder of the RN cruiser force that survived this gutting, amounted to 49 ships and nine of those were still on the stocks with work on them slowed to a
glacial pace. Admiral Jellicoe had calculated that the Royal Navy needed a minimum force of 70 cruisers to adequately defend the far-flung trade lanes and
possessions of the British Empire. Now the RN had only 72% of that minimum requirement. Through the 1920s and early 1930s the Admiralty hung on to the 70-
ship minimum and unsuccessfully tried to lobby the politicians to increase the quantity of RN cruisers. However, the political and popular criticism of increased naval
budgets and the shaky financial condition of the Exchequer precluded any meaningful attempt to bridge the gap.

A new naval building race erupted between Japan and the United States and though it was in terms of capital ships, it affected the views on the cruisers that the RN
still possessed. The wartime cruiser construction of the RN concentrated on cruisers with speed and gun power but of short range. They were designed for combat
in the North Sea not for cruising the huge distances of the British trade routes. Only the four
Elizabethans, the four 9,750 ton cruisers named after Queen Elizabeth’s
great sea captains had the range and size for sustained operations in the deep ocean. Only four of 49 were truly capable of the new mission that was mandated with
the peace.
When it was realized that the ambitious USN construction program had only triggered a new arms race, all the major naval powers were invited to Washington to
enter a Treaty that would limit naval construction. Britain jumped at this because she was in no financial position for a new arms race and although Japan was less
eager, that country was near bankruptcy because of the tremendous tempo of new construction. Before the conference, a brief was prepared by the Admiralty for
the British negotiators. In cruisers it emphasized that parity between the USN and RN was unacceptable. As a minimum the RN needed a 3 to 2 quantitative
superiority. As a back up position, if parity in numbers had be granted, cruiser size limitations were to be limited to a maximum of 10,000 tons. This size limitation
was based solely on the RN’s desire to retain the four Elizabethans, which were just under this limit. This provision, generated solely on a short-term outlook, would
come back to plague the Royal Navy throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

The 10,000 limitation was also exactly what the USN desired, as that was the size of cruiser designs that were being explored for new construction. One additional
provision was inserted that mandated a maximum gun size of 8-inches, slightly more than the 7.5-inch armament carried by the
Elizabethans. The terms on cruiser
construction were quickly agreed upon and it was only later in the decade that their full implications to the RN came home to roost.

The result was almost instantaneous, the maximum also became the minimum and every naval power started building 10,000 ton cruisers armed with 8-inch guns.
Although there was no quantitative limitation in the treaty to cruiser construction, there was a de facto monetary limitation. The British government did not have the
funds to build to the 70-ship level and every pound spent on RN cruisers went into the big, expensive
County Class heavy cruisers. By 1925 it was clear to the
Admiralty that British interests would be far better served by more numerous, smaller cruisers. With more and more budget cuts the RN had to do something to get
more cruiser construction. The first solution was the Type B heavy cruiser. The big
County Class cruisers were designated as Type A cruisers and two smaller
cruisers, mounting six 8-inch guns was designed and became
York and Exeter, sometimes called the Cathedral Class because of the two major cathedrals located in
those cities. Coming in at 8,230 tons, they were cheaper and lighter than the 10,000-ton cruisers. Originally both
York and Exeter were planned to be part of the
1927 building program but defense cuts and shaking finances allowed only the
York to be ordered. Construction of HMS Exeter was pushed back to the 1928
program and the design of
Exeter was improved over that of HMS York. Exeter had one more foot of beam and thicker armor over the magazines than her half-
sister. The design for
York had a catapult on B turret and a high forward superstructure. The catapult on B turret proved to be a flop so Exeter did not repeat the
mistake. She was given a much lower streamlined superstructure with two catapult tracks forming a V as they diverged outward from a centerline point amidship.
HMS Exeter was constructed in the Devonport Dockyard and was laid down August 1, 1928. She was launched July 18, 1929 and completed July 27, 1931. Exeter
received the 8-inch Mk II gun, which had no antiaircraft capability.
Exeter was given a water distilling plant in order to provide pure water for the super-heated steam
plant that was fitted. Another innovation was the torpedoes, which used enriched oxygen giving them 25% greater range.
Exeter was given machinery to produce
liquid oxygen for the torpedoes. After trials
HMS Exeter steamed to her name port for a visit after which it was time for working up. After minor repairs the cruiser
was dispatched to Invergordon, home of the Atlantic Fleet to join the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. While at sea, news was received that the pay of the servicemen had been
cut by the government. The crew was notified and a survey was made to ascertain which sailors would be particularly hard hit. In the Atlantic Fleet in Invergordon,
this news generated the Invergordon Mutiny in which ship’s crews refused to turn to. On September 15, 1931
Exeter steamed into the port and was received by
cheers of the crews in mutiny. Sailors from other ships tried to persuade the
Exeter’s crew to join the mutiny but other than about crewmen, the Exeter crew did not
participate in the mutiny. It was after the mutiny that
Exeter was sent back to Devonport for the fitting of the twin catapults and other modifications.

In January 1932, as part of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, it was time to show the flag in the Caribbean, as the spring cruise made for the West Indies. After island visits
the squadron steamed to Scapa Flow for the Home Fleet Regatta, circumnavigated the United Kingdom and in July participated in the Royal Review in July. In August
the squadron sailed for Copenhagen. Visits continued in 1933 with visits to Spain and the Scandinavian countries.
HMS Exter paid off in August 1933 but was
recommissioned in October. Her new mission was with the America and West Indies Squadron as part of the South American Division. In 1935 Italy was making
moves to invade Abyssinia creating an international crisis. The Mediterranean Fleet and
HMS Exeter was ordered to steam at high speed from Valparaiso, Chile to
Alexandria, Egypt, the longest path of any of the ships ordered to the Med for the crisis. She made it to Alexandria with only 1% of her fuel capacity remaining. It was
a wasted trip as both the British and French governments backed down and Italy took over the African country. On December 29, 1936 she went back to her old
haunts in the West Indies and South America as flagship for the commander of the South America Division. She returned to Devonport on August 17, 1939 to pay
off.  Leave was cancelled on August 23 because of the worsening European situation. On August 25
HMS Exeter steamed south to Freetown. On September 1 in
consultation with the Commander-in-Chief South Atlantic, it was planned what the
Exeter and the South America Division would do to protect trade. During that same
day the Panzerschiffe
Admiral Graf Spee was refueling and replenishing from the supply ship Altmark south of the Canary Islands to be ready to attack merchant
shipping in the event of war.
Captain H.H. Harwood had been in command of Exeter since December 29, 1936 and now became Commodore of the South America Division.  In addition to the
Exeter, the squadron had the heavy cruiser Cumberland, light cruiser Ajax and two destroyers. Subsequently the destroyers were recalled to home waters but
Harwood received
HMS Achilles, sistership to Ajax, from the Pacific. With the start of the war Graf Spee started her raid into the South Atlantic with a side trip into
the Indian Ocean. Harwood transferred his flag from
Exeter to Ajax in late October when Exeter was dispatched to Port Stanley, Falkland islands for rest at the
closest British base. By late fall the Admiralty had organized four hunter groups. One was in the Indian Ocean with two cruisers and the carrier
HMS Eagle off the
Cape of Good Hope. The group south of St. Helena had two cruisers,
HMS Ark Royal and HMS Renown. Further north there was a French force reinforced with
HMS Hermes. The only hunting group that didn’t have an aircraft carrier was Harwood’s South America Division. Harwood decided that the merchant traffic in the
River Platte estuary was the most likely target if
Graf Spee make for the West. Exeter, Ajax and Achilles operated there but HMS Cumberland, Harwood’s strongest
ship needed urgent repairs and went to Port Stanley.

At 0530 on December 13, 1939
Admiral Graf Spee was approaching the River Platte estuary when smoke was sighted and at 0550 was identified as HMS Exeter. At
same time the panzerschiffe identified the
Ajax and Achilles, which were operating together with the Exeter acting separately. Battle stations were sounded aboard the
German ship. It was another 26 minutes before the British discovered the German ship. At 0614
Exeter was ordered to investigate smoke to the east. Two minutes
later
Graf Spee was identified and in another two minutes at 0618 Graf Spee fired her first salvo at Exeter with the 11-inch guns and with her 5.9-inch secondaries at
the British light cruisers.
Exeter was west of Graf Spee and opened fire at 0620 while Ajax and Achilles steamed towards the east to get on the other flank and opened
fire at 0622. The 11-inch shells savaged the
Exeter. B turret was quickly knocked out. This hit also wrecked the bridge with splinters killing or wounding all of the
personnel. Captain Bell, who was wounded, made for the aft control position but it was also wrecked. He had transmit orders through a chain of crewmen. There was
a 12-foot hole in the bow where fires had started. The starboard torpedo mount was wrecked so
Exeter turned to bring her port torpedo mount to bear. During the
turn A turret was knocked out and another shell penetrated 65-feet through the beam before exploding and starting serious fires, which caused flooding of the
secondary and B turret magazines. Communication and control positions had been knocked out but Y turret continued to fire under turret control until flooding caused
its power to fail. By 0730
HMS Exeter had no way to fight with all weapons out of action, listing to starboard and down by 3-feet at the bow. She was being steered
with a ship’s boat compass and was little more than a floating target. With her machinery intact she still could make 20-knots. She broke off action and at 0740
Ajax
and
Achilles also broke off. Rather than pursue any of the cruisers, Graf Spee made for Montevideo, which was reached 14 December. On December 17 she was
scuttled in the estuary.
Exeter had fired 190 8-inch shells at Graf Spee but only three shells hit, the most serious of which knocked out the Graf Spee’s freshwater
equipment.
Exeter reached Port Stanley for repairs the previous day on December 16.
Port Stanley had only limited repair facilities and Exeter’s damage was far beyond its capability. Back in London some in the Admiralty were proposing to leave Exeter
un-repaired at Port Stanley rather than tie up dockyard space in the United Kingdom that would be necessary to get the cruiser operational again. Winston Churchill, still
First Lord of the Admiralty at this time, would have none of that and ordered that
Exeter return for proper repairs. Back at Port Stanly Y turret became operational
again but the only thing that could be done for A and B turrets was to get their guns back on centerline. In late January 1940
HMS Exeter, leaving her wounded behind,
steamed out of Port Stanley for the long cruise back home. She was escorted all the way and on February 14, 1940 (Valentine’s Day) reached Plymouth where crowds
along the shore greeted her. Her crew as well as the crew of
Ajax were honored by the City of London on February 23. During her lengthy repair at Devonport,
changes were made to the cruiser. The mast were shortened and made into tripods instead of the previous pole masts. The bridge was enlarged and shortened, and twin
4-inch gun mounts with their own directors replaced the single 4-inch mounts. Two eight-barreled pom-pom mounts were added on platforms on either side of the aft
superstructure and Oerlikon gun tubs were added on the crowns of B and Y turrets were.  She received Type 279 radar. Additional splinter proof ready ammunition
boxes were added at the guns. Although of less importance the 8-inch guns were given greater elevation to greater range. At last
HMS Exeter was ready for action
again. On March 24, 1941 she made for Scapa Flow to join the 1st Cruiser Squadron. After work up she had patrol and convoy duty in the North Atlantic for four
months. In summer she was transferred to the Indian Ocean. On December 7, 1941
Exeter was escorting a convoy to Rangoon, Burma. She was ordered to make for
Singapore to join
HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse but they were sunk before Exeter arrived. She was used in convoy duty from Singapore to India and from
Singapore to the Dutch East Indies.

The rubber and oil and other natural resources of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies were the prime objectives of Japan. Landings were quickly made in Borneo with its
rich oil fields. With Borneo falling the Japanese set their sites on the next major objectives, Sumatra followed by Java. On February 1, 1942 the USN Admiral Hart set
up the ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) Combined Striking Force, which combined the available surface warships of four countries and placed them under
the tactical command of Dutch Admiral Doorman. On February 3 Doorman had assembled a large portion of the force and raised his flag on
De Ruyter. After a
Japanese air attack crippled the
USS Marblehead and knocked out the aft turret of USS Houston, reinforcements were needed. HMS Exeter was ordered to the Java
Sea to become part of the ABDA striking force, along with
HMAS Perth and three British destroyers. All had been on convoy duty until being sent to the Java Sea. The
Australian and British ships joined the
Houston and Dutch cruisers on the afternoon of February 25. That same afternoon news was received that 30 Japanese
transports were approaching from the North and they would obviously have a heavy surface escort, initially identified as two cruisers and four destroyers. That evening
the allied polyglot force steamed north looking for the Japanese troop convoy.
They steamed through the night but found nothing. After a bombing attack in the morning of February 26, which scored no hits, the allied force turned back towards
Surabaya . At 2:30 PM the Striking Force were about to enter harbor when they received news that the Japanese convoy had been found close to the island of
Baewan. The force turned around at struck out to intercept the Japanese transports, which were escorted by heavy cruiser
Nachi and Haguro, Light cruisers Naka
and
Jintsu and fifteen destroyers. The crews of the allied ships were physically exhausted from constant steaming and air attacks with no air support. The Japanese
were fresh and had overwhelming air support. Doorman formed a line of battle with the three British destroyers in the van, followed by the cruisers
De Ruyter, Exeter
,
Houston, Perth and Java. The American and Dutch destroyers were stationed to the port and rear. The Japanese knew exactly the composition and location of the
ABDA force by Doorman and his captains were blind. The commander of the Dutch East Indies , Admiral Helfrich, had used his handful of Brewster Buffaloes and
dive bombers to mount a fruitless raid on the Japanese transports and no aircraft left to support Doorman. By 4:00PM the afternoon of February 27 Japanese float
planes were circling the allied force. Not long thereafter the British destroyer on point detected the Japanese force crossing the T of the allied force from east to west.

Doorman ordered a turn to port to parallel the Japanese column but in the confusion the formation broke and the British destroyers wound up on the unengaged side of
the allied force. The Japanese opened fire first but their initial salvo was 2,000 yards short. Although the 8-inch guns of
Houston and Exeter could reach the Japanese,
all three light cruisers were out of range. Doorman ordered a turn to starboard to close the range and allow his light cruisers to come within the range of their guns.
After an hour of gunnery at long range the
Exeter, Houston and Java had been hit but there had been no serious damage. There was an hour of light when the
Japanese unleashed eight of their destroyers to close and launch a mass torpedo attack with their deadly 24-inch Long Lance torpedoes. As 64 torpedoes sped towards
Doorman’s force
Exeter received a critical 8-inch shell hit from Haguro. It exploded in the machinery spaces and Exeter lost six of her eight boilers. Speed dropped
to a crawling 11-knots and
Exeter fell out of the column. Communications among the pick-up allied force had been practically non existent. As Exeter turned to port
away from the Japanese, the captain of the following
Houston thought there had been and order for the column to turn so Houston followed Exeter and in turn Java
and the rear Dutch destroyers followed
Houston, leaving the van British destroyers and De Ruyter steaming west by themselves for six minutes before Doorman on
De Ruyter ordered the van to match the course of the rest of his force.
At 5:15 PM the mass torpedo assault arrived but in part because of the unintended turn to the south none of the torpedoes struck except one, which blew the Dutch
destroyer
Kortender in half. When Admiral Takagi, the Japanese commander, saw all the allied ships steaming south away from his force, he thought the skeedaddle
was on and turned south to charge in pursuit. By 5:20
De Ruyter had caught up with her wandering compatriots and except for Exeter changed course to run to the
northeast. Doorman ordered
Exeter to continue to withdraw to the south and make for Surabaya . All three British destroyers, Electra, Encounter and Jupiter, headed
towards the Japanese in order to give
Exeter more time to safely withdraw. Jintsu leading a group of destroyers came charging towards the British and concentrated
on
Electra, which was soon in sinking condition. It was dusk, which combined with smoke from damage as well as smoke screens laid by both sides, made sighting
difficult. Ships were dodging in and out of smoke. After polishing off
Electra, Jintsu and her ducklings went on looking for there true quarry, the Exeter. Encounter
and
Jupiter had been joined by the Dutch destroyer Witte de With in covering the withdrawal of Exeter. Exeter was not present when De Ruyter and Java were sunk
taking Admiral Doorman with them at the conclusion of the Battle of the Java Sea.
Exeter reached port at 2300 that night and underwent local repairs for the next few
days. On February 28
HMS Exeter, along with destroyers HMS Encounter and USS Pope left Sourabaya in order to escape the Japanese noose via the Sunda Srait.
She drew too much water to use the eastern passages. Early on March 1
Exeter encountered the heavy cruisers Nachi and Haguro who were quickly reinforced by
the other two cruisers of the class,
Ashigara and Myoko. With 40 8-inch guns stacked up against the six 8-inch guns of Exeter, not to mention the devastating
Japanese torpedoes, it was a foregone conclusion.
Exeter fought gamely as long as possible but finally a shell penetrated forward boiler room knocking out all power.
With no propulsion and no power for the turrets, the career of
HMS Exeter was over. Captain Gordon, seeing no hope of fighting or escaping, ordered the cruiser
abandoned and scuttled. Seacocks were opened and small charges along the bottom were exploded.  She went down shortly before noon March 1, 1942.        

The Niko Model HMS Exeter 1942 in 1:700 Scale - The Niko Model HMS Exeter in 1:700 scale is unusual in that it presents her final appearance at the Battle of the
Java Sea, rather than her appearance in her duel with the panzerschiffe
Admiral Graf Spee. You get the enlarged bridge, tripod masts and heavy AA fit that were
incorporated in her lengthy refit following the Battle of River Platte.
Niko Model does its usual excellent job in this multimedia kit. The overall length of the Exeter was
175.25m. In 1:700 scale this equates to 25.03cm. Using a metric ruler the
Niko Exeter came in at 25cm, a wisp away from being spot on in scale and about as close
as you will get in resin casting. The resin casting is very good with only a light sanding possibly needed at the waterline. Fine detail is very well done as splinter shield
bulkheads, platforms and fittings are very thin. There was no breakage and no visible voids, splash or other blemishes.
The hull casting has a great deal of the superstructure cast integral with the hull. Side detail includes the prominent bow knuckle, characteristic of British cruisers, armor
belt, faint anchor hawse and off course the rows of portholes. The belt is a little over-scale but that doesn’t bother me. I think
Niko could have done better with the
anchor hawse. They are very faint and easy to miss and need to be drilled out. Superstructure detail includes doors, windows, booms, junction boxes and support pillars
for the pom-pom mounts. As mentioned earlier splinter shielding and superstructure platforms are very thin and impressive. Deck planking is fine but lacks butt-end
detail. Deck fittings are very well done with fine mushroom ventilators, bollards, capstans, cleats, ready ammunition boxes and coamings. The forecastle deck has anti-
skid metal pattern with smooth anchor-run plates and thin breakwater with support braces. I would prefer to have the deck anchor hawses already drilled but as in the
case on the hull side hawses, the deck hawses will need to be drilled and deepened by the modeler to create the impression of the chain running down into the hull.

Smaller resin parts are cast separate without a casting stalk or on runners. In both cases casting is off excellent quality with minuscule flash and very thin parts. The
ridge casting has open areas, portholes and doors on the sides and portholes on the front face. The wind baffles at the top of the bridge splinter shields are outstanding.
The navigation deck at the top of the bridge is another stellar standout, crammed with detail, such as binnacles, raised anti-skid fore deck and raised binocular and signal
lamp platforms. Both the large trunked stack and thin aft stack are also standout castings with thin steam pipes, forward stack platform, deckhouses with doors and
louvers, funnel caps and reinforcing bands. The smaller aft superstructure features tubs for the pom-pom directors with support pillars with the same fine splinter
shielding. Other than the hull of course, the largest separate casting is the deck aft of the bridge.
Niko cast it as a separate piece, rather than integral with the hull
casting, because of the significant overhang above the torpedo mounts and all the way inboard to the stack base. Deck detail includes the planking, thin splinter shields
for twin 4-inch gun mounts, boat cleats, small deckhouse and ready ammunition boxes. Two smaller separate parts are the platform of the aft face of the bridge and a
platform for the aft stack.
Nineteen resin runners contain the smaller parts. Casting quality is again excellent with no flash or voids. Two of them have the main gun turrets with A and B turrets
and two small pedestal platforms with tubs for AA directors. The other has Y turret (B and Y turrets are identical with a Oerlikon tub on the crown) along with the
three anchors and catapult parts. A third runner provides eight 8-inch gun barrels. The spares came in handy as one of the barrels was warped. The torpedo mounts
are outstanding with hollow tubes. The secondary guns each consist of three parts, twin gun barrels, mount, and open back gun shields.
Niko gives you five mounts
so you have backup parts. The secondary resin runners also have search lights and the stern depth charges. The radar mounts, which are completed with Yagi
antennae, main director and two smaller directors are will done on a runner, The single aircraft crane, which is on the starboard side has a detailed resin base and
photo-etch arm. Carley rafts are on the same runner with the crane base. Two runners are for the Walrus floatplane of five resin parts (fuselage with lower wing,
upper wing with engine, tail and two wing pontoons). Photo-etch parts are on the fret for propeller and wing braces. Ship’s boats are on three runners with two motor
launches and four oared boats. Other significant resin parts are the octuple pom-poms with fine barrels and flash suppressors, starfish for the tripod masts, tripod legs
and paravanes.  

Niko provides three brass rods/wires and a full brass photo-etch fret. The brass rods/wire are for the masts, top masts and yards. The instructions provides the
lengths for each part. About half of the fret are for ship specific parts and about half are for generic parts to be cut to the right length. The crane is the largest of the
specific parts, as the catapult has multiple brass parts, including side platforms and aircraft cradles. There numerous support braces for the deck overhangs, platform
support frames, boat oars, boat cradles, pom-pom detail, depth charge rack detail, davits, clinker caps, inclined ladders, aircraft details and radar details. The generic
brass has five runs of four bar railing, one run of three bar railing, three runs of anchor chain, and four runs of vertical ladder. The inclined ladders have side railing
but rungs rather than trainable treads. On the other hand the accommodation ladders do have trainable treads. Instructions are on five pages. Page one is a parts
laydown with resin parts numbered. The photo-etch parts are numbered on the fret. In the sequence of assembly resin part numbers are in a circle and photo-etch part
numbers in a square. The assembly is presented in a series of modules from bow to stern with insets of assembly of equipment and weapons. Page two has two
quarter views of thw bow assembly with insets on the assembly of the secondary gun mounts and radar mounts. Page three has two modules for the start of amidship
assembly with insets on aft stack platform bracing, catapult and Walrus. Page four has three modules with final amidship and stern assembly. Insets are on boat
platforms, crane, pom-pom mounts and depth charge rack. The final page has the final two modules for aft assembly and a painting guide. These instructions are easy
to follow, well laid out with clear photographs and are more than competent to assemble this kit, although there are no frills.
Niko Model has produced an excellent 1:700 scale kit of HMS Exeter in her fit of 1942 fighting with the doomed ABDA Strike Force at the Battle of Java Sea. Niko
provides excellent resin parts, full brass photo-etch fret and brass rod/wire. It is a classic kit for a classic cruiser.