|Photographer:||Chris Howell [View profile]||Title:||INS Delhi C74||Added:||May 29, 2012|
|Location:||Wellington, New Zealand|
|owned neg with copyright
photo by Keith Wood
HMS/HMNZS Achilles-HMIS /INS Delhi is to date the most famous warship to have a New Zealand connection due to her being part of Commodore Harwoodís cruiser squadron which intercepted the German pocket battleship Graf Spee, a hybrid between a heavy cruiser and a battleship in December 1939. She is the only modern British cruiser to serve in three navies during her career which spanned forty five years, together with the INS Mysore ex HMS Nigeria being the longest period of service of any RN cruiser or Commonwealth navy cruiser. She and her sister HMS/HMNZS Leander are also the fastest ships to have served in the RNZN to date.
She was laid down as the second member of the Leander class light cruisers which saw the Royal Navy revert to and stick with the 6 inch caliber main armament for all future cruiser designs, with the exception of the 5.25 inch AA design for the Dido class cruisers. This class of five ships went on to be amongst the most versatile and useful RN cruisers of WW2, able to operate independently, work with destroyers in a striking force (Force K from Malta) and operate in support of fleet units, they had an impressive war record and together with an ability survive heavy battle damage, the only loss being HMS Neptune, which eventually sank after hitting five mines over a period of some hours and she would have survived if a towing attempt after the first hit had been successful .
However due to political factors (The introduction of Mogami (Japan), Hippper (Germany) and Brooklyn (USA) classes for example) the RN decided to opt for large light cruisers, the Southampton class, to be fair magnificent sea boats, but far more costly , with little added advantage ( for example their range was 12000 miles at 12 knots the Leanderís only 2000 less and the later Fiji class the same) after the next two classes similar to the Leander class, the Amphion class and Arethusa class had been completed, which resulted in far less cruisers being available in 1939 then would have been the case if these designs had been perpetuated.
They introduced several novel features during their construction, the most important being that of welding. As was the case so often with a good design the second main gun director was omitted as a cost saving measure. They were the only metal-hulled true cruisers apart from the Mersey class of the 1880ís to be fitted with a single funnel.
As part of a strategic overhaul of Australasiaís defence requirements, HMS Achilles, then HMS Leander joined the NZ division of the RN in 1930ís followed by the three ship Amphion class (Improved Leanderís), very similar but with two funnels, being transferred to the Royal Australian Navy which gave Australasia a homogeneous force of modern light cruisers to add to the two County class heavy cruisers.
HMS Achilles was laid down by Cammell Laird at Birkenhead on 11th June 1931, Launched 1st September 1932 and commissioned October 6th 1933.
As built her armament consisted of
8 x 6 inch , 200 rounds per gun
They were of the same type introduced with the battleships HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney
4 x 4 inch singles, 3 x 0.5 mg on quadruple mountings.
1 x catapult for Fairy Seafox or Osprey
Her displacement figures as at 30th September 1933 were
Light 6907 tons Half Load 8250 tons Full Load 9140 tons
Her light displacement on completion of her 1944 refit was 7471 tons
522 feet long , 554 feet 6 inches overall. 56 foot beam.
Parson steam turbines , four shafts 72000 shp for 32.5 knots.
1880 tons fuel Armour ranged from 1 to 3 1/2 inches
She then joined the second cruiser squadron of the Home Fleet until 1936, when she departed for New Zealand having commissioned for this duty at Chatham on the 31st of March. During her time with the 2CS HMS Achilles attended together with two other Leanderís, that would eventually be NZ manned, HMS Leander and HMS Neptune, the Silver Jubilee review held at Spithead on the 16TH July 1935.
After departure from Chatham she called at Spithead to pick up her Walrus aircraft and then spent nine weeks with the home fleet at Gibralter before arriving via the Panama Canal at Auckland in on the 6th September 1936. She made numerous port visits in Australasia including a visit to Bluff, NZ in March 1938. During 1938-1939 returned to UK to return loaned personal, during this voyage she encountered a storm in Atlantic which caused severe damage to the ship and her Walrus aircraft.
On the return voyage she lost her Walrus off Sudan in April 1939, then the replacement off the Cook Islands in July.
With war looming she departed Auckland 28th August to search the west coast of Chile for German merchant ships, then passed through the Magellan Straits to join the newly establish South Atlantic Station under Commodore Harwood to search for German raiders and merchant ships. The South America Squadron, Force G under Commodore Harwood and together with the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter and her sister HMS Ajax (the lightest and fastest of the Leander class) engaged the Graf Spee on the 13th December 1939, during the 82 minute action she was hit by splinters which caused the loss of four of her crew in the gun director, and injured seven others. An 11 inch shell also landed nearby. When HMS Exeter with 61 dead retired from the action, HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles harried the Graf Spee to her destination Montivideo. The crew would witness the scuttling and destruction of her, off the port, on the 17th December 1939.
She returned to NZ arriving on the 23rd of February to a heroís welcome. My mother was amongst more than 100,000 who lined Queen Street , Auckland to witness the crew parade, the largest gathering to that time in New Zealand history.
She passed by the German raider Orion laying mines off Auckland on the night of 13/14th June 1940, they would claim the Union SS liner Niagara five days later, however as she was not fitted with radar, so Orion went undetected as she did over the next few months as HMS Achilles and other ships searched for her and her later consort the Komet. During September 1940 while at Noumea an armed guard took charge of a French freighter which was forced to return with Achilles to Auckland.
Later on March 1st 1941 she again came close to intercepting the Orion and a captured tanker the Ole Jacob near East Cape.
For the next year she was heavily involved in convoy duty and for the third time just missed a German raider this time the captured whaler Adjutant acting as a minelayer for the raider Komet. Adjutant laid magnetic mines across Wellington Harbour on the night of 25th May 1941, HMNZS Achilles passed over this minefield on arrival the next day departing two days later in company with the troopship Aquitania and Johan Van Oldenvarnebelt. Fortunately the mines were defective and only post war analysis of German records lead to their general location, although to this day they have not been recovered including others laid off Lyttelton by the same minelayer.
She became HMNZS Achilles on the creation of RNZN by order of King George VI on October 1st 1941.
During December 1941 she is one of the escorts of ZK5 comprisiing the troopships Aquitania, Sarpedon and Herstein from Brisbane to Port Moresby.
With the entry of US into WW2 she became part of an ANZAC cruiser force based on Fiji, for a time during early 1942, together with HMNZS Leander. Both ships participated in various Pacific operations including being attached as escorts to US carriers involved in Battle of Coral Sea, they did not take any direct part having been detached before the battle. This was the only time the both of New Zealandís Leanderís worked together during WW2, After a refit in Australia (During which she is fitted with an unknown number of 20 mm single mountings) in November 1942, she returned to the Solomanís. While a member of the covering force for TF 67 a Japanese aircraft dropped a bomb on her near Guadacanal on the 5th January 1943, which hit X turret causing the death of thirteen of her crew ,with eight wounded. However another of the cruisers USS Helena, makes the first successful use of proximity fuses against aircraft in WW2 during this action. After temporary repairs at Espiritu Santo for temporary repairs, arriving back at Auckland 3RD of March 1943, as the damage was beyond local resources to repair she sailed two weeks later for UK arriving at Portsmouth 22nd March 1943,where she was refitted from April 1943 to May 1944, during this refit her X turret was landed and replaced by more AA guns and her pole masts were replaced by tripods. Her armament now comprises 6 x 6 inch, 8 x 4 inch, 4 x 4 pom pomís, 5 x twin 20 mm, 6 x single 20 mm and 8 x 21 inch TT. She now has an extensive radar fit with five different sets and is fitted out as fighter direction ship. Her refit was delayed by a serious explosion onboard, but with D-Day approaching she was sent north from Portsmouth complete her refit, being re commissioned 23rd May 1944. She did not return to active service until 16th August 1944, sailing for the Far East via Suez.
HMNZS Achilles arrived at Trincomalee to join the British Pacific Fleet in September 1944. This would ultimately be the most powerful RN fleet of WW2, when Achilles joined it comprised of HMS King George V, HMS Howe, HMS Illustrious, HMS Victorious, HMS Indomitable, plus six other modern cruisers and three flotillas of modern destroyers of the Q/U/W classes. During a visit to Fremantle in January 1945 her crew helped quell a major fire on a Panamanian freighter, aptly named the Panamanian.
Her first highlight of 1945 was to act as escort for visit of the battleship HMS Howe in February 1945 both arriving at Auckland in company with destroyers on the 5th February , they crossed from Sydney at high speed due to the known presence, location unknown of the German IXD2 U boat U862. This once again highlighted how dangerous submarines were, post war, the release of documents show both the Australian and NZ military authorities through code breaking knew approximately where U 862 was, but the only actual sighting was when a RN submarine knew her arrival date back at Penang but failed to hit her.
HMNZS Achilles departed Auckland 26th April 1945 after a further refit during which she was fitted with 4 x 40 mm singles, possibly swapping 20 mm mounts for these, for Sydney thence to join the British Pacific Fleet arriving on station on the 23rd May 1945. She then had the distinction of being the only member of the BPF to have been in continuous service since the outbreak of WW2, TF57 as the BPF force was known made a raid on Truk during 14th/15th June, during which HMCS Uganda, HMS Tenacious and HMNZS Achilles bombard the island of Dublon. Following this HMNZS Achilles is attached to a joint USN/RN task force which attacks 17th/18TH July targets between Yokohama and Tokyo. After returning to Auckland in August she was dry docked and then sent to Japan to relieve HMNZS Gambia, visiting several Japanese ports and Hong Kong before service with the British Pacific fleet came to end on her arrival at Auckland on the 17th March 1946.
She spent May and June 1946 on a farewell tour of New Zealand, including a second visit to Bluff and finally departed 17th July 1946 for Sheerness, thence Chatham, where she paid off 17th September, being placed immediately in reserve.
She was awarded three battle honours, River Plate 1939, Guadacanal 1942-1943 and Okinawa 1945.
At this stage it appeared she would join her sisters at the scrap yard as with newer cruisers in service, and many of these also in reserve, no further use for her by the RN was anticipated. Then in 1947 with the independence of India, she was transferred to their fledgling navy as the flagship in 1948.She commissioned once more at Chatham as HMIS Delhi on the 5th July 1948 and sailed two days later. During her refit she was given more modern sensors and radar. In 1950 India became a republic and redesignated INS Delhi on 26th January 1950.
15th June 1953 saw her represent India at the Coronation Review at Spithead , her second review.
In 1956 she was able to play herself as Achilles for the film production of the River Battle Plate, this being filmed in the Mediterranean.
Her last phase of service saw her once again fire her guns in anger in 1961 , when together with the ex Colony class cruiser Nigeria (Veteran of Pedestal) Mysore they fired from what I can gather, the last shots in anger of any cruisers of the RN or Commonwealth navies to date during Indiaís reoccupation of the Portuguese colony Goa.
INS Delhi was paid off into reserve at Cochin 1962-1964, before commencing a refit 1965-1966.
Her armament varied over the years, in 1969 it was as follows
6 x 6 inch, 8 x 4 inch, 4 x twin 40 mm, 6 single 40 mm
In the late 1960ís it was decided she would make a training cruise to NZ and she arrived back at Auckland on the 19th October 1969 to the delight of scores of former crew members, during this visit the Indian Admiral arranged for old crew members to be taken for a day trip out of Auckland, so the press reported, well lubricated with rum the Indian Admiral obviously being a student of naval history. Departing Auckland on the 23rd she arrived at Wellington 25th to a similar reception and finally left New Zealand for the final time a few days later.
1971-1972 saw her converted for her final role as a training cruiser.
Finally her age caught up with her and she was relegated to harbour duties at Cochin from where she departed on the 20th December 1977 for her final voyage to the breakers at Bombay where she arrived three days later to a ceremonial welcome, not finally being decommissioned until 30th June 1978. She was sold locally for breaking up later in 1978 and the life of one of the most famous cruisers came to an end.
By good fortune one 6 inch turret and the gun director where her only casualties from the River Plate died, were shipped to NZ and rest at Auckland as a permanent memorial to our greatest warship.