Naval History Homepage and Site Search




by Lt Cdr Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd) (c) 2004

HMS NEPTUNE - Leander-class Light Cruiser 
including Convoy Escort Movements

Edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HMS Ajax, sister ship (Navy Photos, click to enlarge)

return to Contents List   

LEANDER-Class cruiser ordered under the 1930 programme from HM Dockyard Devonport on 2nd March 1931 and laid down on 24th September that year. She was launched on 31st March 1932 as the 14th RN ship to carry the name, introduced in 1683 for a 2nd Rate and last used for a 1909 battleship which was sold in 1922. Build was completed on 22nd February 1934. In 1939 she was deployed in the South Atlantic.


B a t t l e   H o n o u r s

BARFLEUR 1692  - TOULON 1744 - AIX 1757 - QUEBEC 1759 - TRAFALGAR 1805 - MARTINIQUE 1809 - BALTIC 1864 - JUTLAND 1916 - ATLANTIC 1939 - CALABRIA 1940 - MEDITERRANEAN 1940 - BISMARCK Action 1941 - MALTA CONVOYS 1941

H e r a l d i c   D a t a

Badge: On a Field Green, a Trident Gold.


M o t t o

Regnare est Servire :   'To rule is to serve'.



D e t a i l s   o f   W a r   S e r v i c e


(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search



1 9 3 9


September             Stationed in south Atlantic and part of 6th Cruiser Squadron.

                3rd          Deployed on patrol in Freetown area.

                8th          Returned to Freetown from patrol to intercept commerce raiders and German ships

                                attempting return to Europe.

                20th        Passage to Dakar.

                26th        Sailed from Dakar to join HM Cruiser CUMBERLAND and the destroyers HYPERION

                                and HUNTER for combined patrol In search for enemy shipping south of Ascension.


                2nd         Returned to Freetown.

                5th          Nominated to join Hunting Group N which was never formed.

                7th          Deployed on trade defence in Freetown area because of activities of commerce raiders

                                in Atlantic.

                16th        Sailed from Freetown to join HM Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL

                18th        Joined Hunting Group K (HM Aircraft Carrier ARK ROYAL and HM Battlecruiser


                                Took passage to Indian Ocean for raider search off Mozambique.

                22nd       Rescued crew of German freighter ADOLPH WOERMANN which scuttled off Ascension.

                                Later transferred prisoners to HM Armed Merchant Cruiser CARNARVON CASTLE.


November              Trade defence duty in Indian Ocean and Atlantic.

                                Returned to Freetown.

                25th        Passage from Freetown to Join HMS ARK ROYAL and HMS RENOWN.



                4th          Deployed with Hunting Group from Capetown to search for German raider GRAF SPEE

                                in South Atlantic.

                12th        Joined by HM Aircraft Carrier HERMES, HM Destroyers HOSTILE and HUNTER off St.

                                Paul’s Rocks and took passage to Plate estuary.

                                (Note: After GRAF SPEE scuttled this re-inforcement was not required).

                18th        After refuelling at Rio de Janeiro rejoined HMS ARK ROYAL.

                20th        Took passage to Freetown with HMS ARK ROYAL.

                26th        Arrived at Freetown.


1 9 4 0



                8th          Deployed on interception patrol off Dakar.

                                Intercepted British Q Ship BOTLEA (ss LAMBRIDGE) and boarded without knowing

                                her true identity and function.


February                Atlantic trade defence and interception patrol in continuation.

                                Nominated for transfer to 7th Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet

                                To be relieved by HM Cruiser GLOUCESTER which never took place..


March                    Took passage to Malta to join Squadron.


April                       Deployed with Squadron on patrol and for exercises to prepare for the entry of

to                            Italy into the war.

May                        (Note: Other ships in Squadron were HM Cruisers ORION, SYDNEY, GLOUCESTER and



June                        Deployed with Fleet at Alexandria.

                12th        Took part on offensive sweep off Benghazi with HMS ORION and HMS SYDNEY (RAN)

                14th        Returned to Alexandria.

                20th        Escorted French Battleship LORRAINE with HM Cruisers ORION and SYDNEY and HM

                                Destroyers STUART (RAN), DECOY, HASTY and DAINTY for bombardment of Bardia

                                (Operation MA3- See Naval Staff History (HMSO-2001)

                21st         Took part in bombardment and returned to Alexandria.

                27th        Sailed from Alexandria with HMS EAGLE, HM Battleships ROYAL SOVEREIGN,

                                RAMILLIES, HM Cruisers GLOUCESTER, LIVERPOOL, ORION, H M Australian Cruiser

                                SYDNEY, HM Destroyers DAINTY, DECOY, DEFENDER, DIAMOND, ILEX, JERVIS,

                                JUNO and VOYAGER (RAN) to cover passage of two convoys (MS1 and MF1) from Malta to


                                (Note: These convoys were carrying personnel evacuated from Malta).

                28th        Intercepted Three Italian destroyers with cruisers of Squadron off Zante.

                                Engaged enemy destroyers and avoided torpedoes

                                (Note Disabled Italian destroyer ESPERO was sunk later by HMAS SYDNEY but

                                OSTRO and ZEFFIRO escaped.

                                Because of the expenditure of ammunition the mercantile passage was cancelled.)

                30th        During return passage to Alexandria with Fleet under air attack and ship’s

                                aircraft damaged by near misses.


July                         Prepared to cover passage of same convoys (Operation MA5)

                4th          Took part in negotiation with French cruiser to avoid bloodshed when Admiralty

                                attempted to impose rigid implications of Operation CATAPULT on CinC


                                (Note: For details of Operation CATAPULT at Oran and situation at Alexandria see

                                RELUCTANT ENEMIES by W  Tute and Naval Staff History (HMSO – 2001).

                7th          Sailed from Alexandria with HMS EAGLE, HM Battleships ROYAL SOVEREIGN,

                                WARSPITE, HM Cruisers GLOUCESTER, LIVERPOOL, ORION and SYDNEY (RAN)

                                screened by HM Destroyers DAINTY, DEFENDER, HASTY, HOSTILE, HYPERION,

                                ILEX,  IMPERIAL, JANUS, JUNO, VAMPIRE (RAN) and VOYAGER (RAN).

                9th          After Italian heavy units were reported by aircraft from HMS EAGLE came under fire

                                from cruisers which disengaged when HMS WARSPITE retaliated and attack by

                                aircraft from HMS EAGLE.

                                (Battle of Punta Stilo - first clash with Italian Fleet units).

                                (Note: Italian heavy squadron included the battleships CAVOUR and CESARE, 16

                                cruisers and screen of four destroyers.

                                See THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN by D MacIntyre and above


                12th        Joined escort for Convoy MF1 with HMS GLOUCESTER, HMS ORION and H M Destroyer

                                STUART (RAN).

                13th        Arrived at Alexandria with MF1.

                21st         Deployed SW of Crete with HM Battleships MALAYA, ROYAL SOVEREIGN, WARSPITE,

                                HMS EAGLE and HM Cruisers SYDNEY (RAN) screened by ten Fleet destroyers to cover

                                passage of Convoy

                23rd        Covered diversionary operation at Castelloriso by HMS ORION, HM Australian Destroyers

                                VAMPIRE and VENDETTA.

                27th        On completion of operation detached with HMAS SYDNEY to meet HMS MALAYA, HMS

                                RAMILLIES and HMS EAGLE south of Crete.

                                Under air attack.

                28th        Detached with HMAS SYDNEY to carry out sweep away from Fleet.

                                Intercepted and sank Greek petrol carrier ERMIONE.


August                  Transferred to Indian Ocean for trade defence duties.

                                (Note: CinC had requested that an 8in cruiser be provided but HMS AJAX was sent

                                instead and was fitted with radar to give warning of the approach of aircraft.).

                                Took passage to Durban to carry out patrol and interception.



                2nd         Deployed at Durban for trade defence

                30th        Transferred to South Atlantic Command and took passage to Freetown for Atlantic

                                convoy defence and interception patrol duty.



                7th          Sailed from Capetown to Freetown

                                Returned during passage for repair of defects.



                8th          On completion took passage to Freetown.

                                Nominated to relieve HM Cruiser DEVONSHIRE.

                                Flag transferred from DEVONSHIRE at Duala, French Cameroons.

                                Covered military operation by Free French in Cameroons.

                                (Note: See RELUCTANT ENEMIES).

                                Resumed trade defence duties on release from Free French operation.


December              Atlantic trade defence in continuation.

                2nd         Sailed from Lagos, Nigeria for patrol

                18th        Deployed with HM Cruiser DORSETSHIRE in search for German ADMIRAL SCHEER after

                                ss DUQUESA had made a raider report to divert attention from the break out of German

                                cruiser HIPPER into the Atlantic.

                28th        Sailed from Freetown to UK and escorted convoy during passage.


1 9 4 1



                29th        Sailed from Gibraltar



                4th          At Scapa Flow

                5th          Took  passage to Plymouth.

                                Deployed at Plymouth

                                Nominated for refit.


March                    Passage to Sheerness.

                                Taken in hand for refit by HM Dockyard

                                (Note: One source records damaged in an air raid. This is to be confirmed.)


April                       Carried out post harbour trials.

                                Nominated for return to Mediterranean after work-up with Home Fleet,


May                        On completion of post refit sea trials took passage to Scapa Flow.

                3rd          Joined 2nd Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet and commenced work-up..

                                Deployed with ships of Squadron to escort. HM Battleship KING GEORGE V and HM

                23rd        Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS during search for German Battleship BISMARCK.

                                Took part in search operation after loss of HM Battlecruiser HOOD.

                25th        Detached with HMS VICTORIOUS and HM Cruiser NORFOLK.

                                Covered passage of military convoy WS8X against possible attack by BISMARCK.



                3rd          Joined HM Cruiser NORFOLK with HM Aircraft Carrier VICTORIOUS to strengthen the

                                Ocean Escort for military convoy WS8X during Atlantic passage.

                5th          Detached from WS8X to intercept German ship GOZENHEIM, one of BISMARCK's supply

                                ships which had been reported by aircraft from HM Battlecruiser RENOWN.

                                Enemy ship scuttled on approach and hulk was then torpedoed.

                                63 survivors taken to Gibraltar.

                                Took passage to rejoin WS8X as Ocean Escort during passage from Freetown to Cape of

                                Good Hope.

                24th        Detached from WS8X on arrival at Capetown.

                                Joined South Atlantic Command at Simonstown.

                28th        Rejoined WS8X for escort during passage to Aden


July                         Transferred to Mediterranean Fleet

                                (Note: This was due to heavy losses in defence of Crete).

                11th        Detached from WS8X on arrival at Aden and made independent pass to Alexandria.

                20th        Deployed in Eastern Mediterranean in 7th Cruiser Squadron as relied for HM Cruiser


                                (HM Australian Cruiser HOBART relieved HMAS PERTH during this period.)

                                Embarked Army and RAF personnel for passage to Cyprus to reinforce garrison

                                (Operation GUILLOTINE).

                22rd        Deployed with HM Battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, VALIANT, HM Cruisers NAIAD,

                                AJAX, PHOEBE, LEANDER, CARLISLE, ABDIEL and HOBART (RAN) screened by HM

                                Destroyers HASTY, HAVOCK, JACKAL, JAGUAR, JERVIS, KANDAHAR and NUBIAN

                                for diversionary sweep in eastern Mediterranean. (Operation MD5)

                                (Note: This deployment was made to distract enemy attention during passage of a relief convoy

                                to Malta from Gibraltar (Operation SUBSTANCE).

                25th        Returned to Alexandria with Fleet units.


August                  Eastern Mediterranean deployment in continuation.



                25th        Deployed with HM Battleships QUEEN ELIZABETH, BARHAM and VALIANT with

                                cruisers of Mediterranean Fleet screened by destroyers from Alexandria for diversionary

                                operation in eastern Mediterranean (Operation MD5)

                                (Note: This was during passage of convoy from Gibraltar to Malta.

                                (Operation HALBERD.)

                27th        Returned to Alexandria with Fleet units.


October                  Fleet deployment in continuation.

                23rd        Carried out bombardment of petrol tanks at Bardia with HM Cruisers AJAX and HOBART.



                17th        Carried out bombardment at Halfaya in support of military advance in Western Desert

                                (Operation CRUSADER).

                                Nominated for transfer to Malta for interception of enemy supply convoys.

                27th        Took passage to Malta as Force B with HM Cruiser AJAX, HM Destroyers KIMBERLEY and

                                KINGSTON to reinforce Force K.

                                (Note: HM Cruisers NAIAD, EURYALUS, HM Destroyers HOTSPUR and GRIFFIN

                                deployed as Force C also sailed in company.

                                HMS AJAX came under attack by torpedo aircraft but was able to avoid the weapon.

                29th        Arrived in Malta to join Force K.

                30th        Deployed as Force B in unsuccessful search operation with Force K.

                                (Note: Concurrent Force K deployment was successful.)



                5th          Escorted HM Supply Ship BRECONSHIRE on passage to Alexandria with HM Cruiser

                                AJAX, HM Destroyers KIMBERLEY, KINGSTON and LIVELY (Operation MD8)

                6th          Detached with HMS AJAX and HMS LIVELY from escort of HMS BRECONSHIRE.

                7th          Detached from HMS BRECONSHIRE on relief as escort for passage to Alexandria by

                                HM Cruisers HOBART (RAN), GALATEA and CARLISLE.

                8th          Arrived in Malta.

                9th          Deployed with HM Cruisers AURORA and PENELOPE, HM Destroyers JAGUAR and

                                KANDAHAR in unsuccessful search for an enemy convoy.

                10th        Returned to Malta.

                17th        Sailed from Malta with HM Destroyers JAGUAR and KANDAHAR as Force B to support

                                Mediterranean Fleet ships from Alexandria which were engaging Italian warships attempting

                                to prevent return of HMS BRECONSHIRE bringing fuel supplies to Malta

                                (Operation MF1 - First Battle of Sirte. See Naval Staff History, ENGAGE THE ENEMY

                                MORE CLOSELY by C Barrett and THE BATTLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN).

                18th        After Italian, warships withdrew deployed in search for Italian convoy M42.

                                Returned to Malta after failing to find M42.

                                On return despatched with HM Cruisers AURORA, PENELOPE, HM Destroyers

                                KANDAHAR, LANCE, LIVELY and HAVOCK to intercept the supply convoy reported

                                outside entrance to Tripoli harbour.

                                During passage, in position 20 miles from Tripoli, ran into enemy minefield.

                                Hit one mine and disabled.

                                Whilst adrift hit second mine which wrecked propellers and rudder.

                                Subsequently detonated a third mine which caused further damage aft.

                                Nearly three hours later a 4th mine was struck amidships and the ship then sank very quickly.

                                Only one seaman survived and taken prisoner.

                                He was the only survivor out of a complement of 764. (Casualty List - note on casualties)

                                (Note: HMS AURORA and HMS PENELOPE were also damaged but managed to return

                                to Malta.

                                Casualty List was published on 17th July 1942.)


P o s t   W a r   N o t e


The name was carried forward in 1946 when used for the Chatham Reserve Fleet Division until it was paid off in 1959. Later in 1966 it was given to the Clyde Submarine Base and is still In use.







by Don Kindell


These convoy lists have not been cross-checked with the text above






Date convoy sailed

Joined convoy as escort

Convoy No.

Left convoy

Date convoy arrived








SL 001F





SL 004








(Note on Convoys)



back to Contents List
or Naval-History.Net

revised 5/6/11
further editing and formatting is required


if any ads offend, please contact Naval-History.Net