The Ship

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About the Ajax Ship

The Ajax is a light cruiser in the Leander class. The ship was launched on March 1, 1934, and by April 12 1925, it was completed. Three days after that, it was commissioned as Ajax. It became the seventh Royal Navy warship with that name. Its displacement was 9,653 tons while the length was 554’6″. The ship had a main armament made up of 8 x 6″ guns, and the total cost of the building was £1.48 Million. The ship was the fastest of her class during the builder’s trials, where she clocked 33.06 knots.  Other ships in the same class were Achilles, Neptune, Orion, and Leander.

From the beginning, it appeared that the ship was destined for greatness from the very beginning, and it will become one of the most popular Royal Navy warships of modern times as well as the most distinguished of all ships that were named Ajax. After World War 2 was declared, the ship was part of the immediate action as a member of the South American Squadron of the Royal Navy. Within hours of the declaration, it captured and sank the S.S. Olinda, which was a German merchant ship and on that same day, captured the U.S.S. Carl Fritzen. On December 5, Ajax, along with Cumberland, took out the crew of the S.S. Ussukuma, the German steamer with supplies of ammunition, torpedoes, explosives, and other things for the German surface raiders and U-boats around the South Atlantic Ocean.

Eight days after these heroics, Ajax was part of three Royal Navy ships involved in the Battle of River Plate. This was the first significant naval engagement of the Second World War, and it was in this battle that the Admiral Graf Spee German pocket battleship was destroyed. Ajax had more heroic moments during the War such that by the end, it had won 9 battle honours which were more than all the other ships that were named Ajax before it won. All the six Ajax ships before it have a combined eight battle honours from 1780 to 1916.

On August 23 1942, this shop was adopted by the Yorkshire Town of Halifax. However, the most unique and significant honour that this ship got was that a town was named after it. The munitions plant, founded in 1941 in Canada, had developed rapidly to become a town. Thus a name was necessary.  They decided to be named Ajax after the ship and remain the only city or town named after a ship. Not only was the town named after the ship, but all the streets of the town were named after the officers and crew members of this ship as well as the other two Royal Navy warships that were involved in the River Plate Battle, the Exeter and Achilles. Members of the ship that came after it, Frigate Ajax, were also included in the names, today, over 600 streets have been named in that way, and Sharplin Drive is the street named after Bob Sharplin. There is also a street named after Kapitan Sur Zee Hans Langsdorff, the commander of Graf Spee, who was known for his chivalrous act during the War. No crew member of the allied ships that he captured lost their life.

Ajax had to return to Chatham Dockyard after the River Plate Battle as it suffered heavy damages during the battle. It also got upgrades in the process. Ajax played a major role during the War, which it survived, although it suffered serious damages on two more occasions during the War. It had to be sent to the repair yards after each of these damages. In q942, it was sent to the Chatham Dockyard, and in 1943, it got damaged in a bombing raid and was temporarily repaired in Gibraltar before being sent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. In 1944, she was part of the D-Day allied invasion forces at Normandy.

After the War, the ship was not involved in so much action except with the controversial Exodus Incident. At this time, Ajax was part of the task force of the Royal Navy that was tracking holocaust survivors in a ship named Exodus, which was trying to get to Palestine and make a better life for themselves. Britain controlled Palestine at this time, and it intercepted the ship with the intention of preventing them from going there. The event caused international outrage and uproar.

On February 16 1948, the ship was decommissioned. There were plans in place to sell it Chile, but Sir Winston Churchill intervention prevented that as he pointed out that this ship has too much heritage and reputation to be sold to another country, and it is best if the ship is broken up, the ship was added to the disposal lists after that and was towed to the Cashmore’s Yard on November 18, 1949, where it was finally broken up/.

Ship's Designer

Albert Ajax Adams was the one who designed the ship. He was born in 1885 and is from a shipbuilding family.

The Ship's Builder

Vickers Armstrongs was the one who built the ship. The builder is one of the most popular in the world and holds a prestigious position in the history of British shipbuilding.

The Ship Name

The ship derived its name from Ajax in Greek mythology. He was Telamon’s son and the King of Cyprus. He is considered to be a hero. This Ajax is not the same as Ajax, son of Oileus and the prefix Great was attached to his name to differentiate them. Ajax is said to be slow but very strong and big.

The Motto

NEC QUISQUAM NISI AJAX. (None But Ajax Can Overcome Ajax)

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