Motto: “Ever Faithful.”
Launched at Devonport in 1929, H.M.S. Exeter of 8,390 tons, mounted six 8-in. guns as her main armament, and was thus the most powerful of the three British cruisers under Commodore H. H. Harwood which defeated the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the Battle of the River Plate, December 13, 1939. In the earlier stages of the action the Exeter became the principal target for the enemy's 11-in. shells. On fire and with her guns mostly silenced, she was obliged to withdraw to execute temporary repairs at Stanley, Falkland Islands.
Completely refitted in this country in 1940, the Exeter was recommissioned for further foreign service. She was one of the five Allied cruisers which faced a superior Japanese squadron in the Battle of the Java Sea on February 27, 1942. With most of her boilers disabled and the greater part of her ammunition expended, she put back to Surabaya, but left again 24 hours later in company with two destroyers. Though her boilers were partially repaired by the superhuman exertions of the engineroom staff, she was again engaged by Japanese cruisers and destroyers on March 1, being so heavily damaged as to be incapable of movement. Soon after being abandoned by her surviving officers and men she sank.
This glorious fighting record recalls the stubborn resistance which a previous Exeter offered to several enemy ships at the Battle of Sadras (also in the Eastern seas) 160 years before.