HMS Exeter, a rare and shining example of a British heavy cruiser, has finally made it into World of Warships by the weight of her own historical and technical merits.
The first ship of her kind to grace the ranks of the Royal Navy in our game, Tier V Exeter brings new gameplay options to cruiser Captains and fans of British warships alike. So, why is Exeter so historically significant? What kind of weaponry is she equipped with? How does she perform in the game? Let’s find out!
Telling Exeter’s story
The second, and last, of the York-class cruisers to be completed, HMS Exeter was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1931. Due to British preferences for cheaper light cruisers, as well as the limitations imposed by international naval treaties, she was also the last heavy cruiser to be built by the nation. As a cruiser, Exeter was designed for maximum versatility: a high top speed for scouting; a long-distance cruising range, which enabled her to operate independently; and strong enough armament to hold her own in surface engagements.
And hold her own in a surface engagement she did, in December 1939, a few short months after the start of the Second World War. When German ‘pocket battleship’ Admiral Graf Spee was found to be responsible for the sinking of several British merchant vessels in the South Atlantic, Britain dispatched a number of squadrons to track her down. On December 13, Exeter, together with Leander-class Ajax and Achilles, arrived at the conclusion of their months-long search off the coast of Uruguay. In what would come to be known as the Battle of the River Plate, Exeter was targeted by Graf Spee’s 283 mm guns, resulting in two of her three turrets being knocked out, and her internal communications systems and spotting aircraft being disabled. Nevertheless, battered, smoking, and listing to starboard, Exeter continued the assault. She eventually landed a fatal blow on the infamous German raider, which then fled to neutral Montevideo where she would be trapped and scuttled days later.
After an extensive refit, and following Japan’s entry into the war, Exeter was transferred to South-East Asia to protect Allied assets from the Japanese advance. Once there, she joined the American-British-Dutch-Australian fleet (ABDAFLOAT): a quickly assembled, multinational naval strike force, aimed at harassing Japanese invasion fleets. In the afternoon of February 27, 1942, Exeter engaged the Japanese Eastern Invasion Force in the First Battle of the Java Sea. During the course of the battle, which resulted in a crushing defeat and the loss of two cruisers and three destroyers, Exeter’s boiler room was hit by a 203 mm shell from a Japanese heavy cruiser, forcing her to retreat under a smoke screen early in the engagement. With the ABDA force all but destroyed, Exeter, along with a British and an American destroyer, attempted to flee towards British Ceylon (Sri Lanka) for repairs. However, they were intercepted by the same Japanese invasion force they had previously encountered, and Exeter was once again punished with heavy gunfire before being mortally struck by two torpedoes. She valiantly responded as best as she could with her 203 mm guns, but HMS Exeter sank shortly thereafter.
In World of Warships, Exeter is presented as she would have been equipped during the Battle of the Java Sea, having been refitted following her encounter with the Graf Spee. Consequently, we can see an amplified bridge superstructure and additional anti-aircraft fire control director between the bridge and the forward mast. The masts themselves are also set in a sturdier tripod arrangement, as opposed to the pole versions that Exeter initially had.
Main armament: Six 203 mm/50 BL Mk VIII guns in a trio of twin turrets, two forward–with one of these superfiring–and one aft. Originally intended for a dual-purpose role, the gun elevation speed was found to be too slow for the faster planes of the late 1930s. In general, these guns were quite reliable and were even used to a small extent as coastal artillery along the Strait of Dover.
Secondary armament: Eight 102 mm/45 QF Mk XIX dual-purpose guns in double mounts: two on either side of the ship’s superstructure. These guns were very widely used by the Royal Navy throughout World War II. Though somewhat unremarkable, they acquired a reputation for getting the job done.
Mid-range AA: Sixteen 40 mm Vickers 2-pdr. Mk VIII “pom-pom” autocannons in two octuple mounts. Each individual gun had an impressive firing rate of nearly 100 rounds per minute. Operating the octuple mount required a team of eight men.
Torpedoes: Six 533 mm tubes in two triple mounts on either side of the ship, using Mk VII torpedoes. These torpedoes first entered service in the Royal Navy in 1916, and were used throughout World War II. At 7.7 m in length, they are nearly two meters longer than the tallest recorded giraffe–George–was tall.
When speccing a Commander to take the helm of HMS Exeter, there are a few options you can consider. To start off, a 10-point Commander can’t go wrong with this configuration:
The detection indicator will show the number of opponents currently aiming at your ship with their main battery guns. For an aircraft carrier’s squadrons, the detection indicator will show the number of ships whose AA defenses are currently firing at your planes.
Increases the traverse speed of main battery guns.
Increases the capacity of your ship’s consumables. Does not apply to the consumables of an aircraft carrier’s squadrons.
Reduces the detectability range of the ship and the aircraft carrier’s squadrons.
Later, when you have a 19-point Commander, you could go down two routes, depending upon your preferences:
- Building upon the previous 10-point Commander base, you can further spec Exeter to maximize the continuous damage and AA explosion damage of her anti-aircraft armament. Furthermore, given your access to numerous and powerful consumables, you can take Jack of All Trades for your last 2-point skill, benefitting you with faster cooldown times.
- Alternatively, you can switch out Expert Marksman and Jack of All Trades on level two, in exchange for Last Stand and Adrenaline rush. The former will provide you with a chance to get out of harms way if your engine or rudder have been damaged; the latter will turn any damage done to you against your enemy by decreasing your reload time relative to the percentage of health lost.
Besides Damage Control Party, Exeter has access to three other consumables. First, there’s the Repair Party consumable which greatly improves her survivability. The other two consumables, Hydroacoustic Search and Fighter, can be found in the third and fourth slots. These are useful for spotting torpedoes, concealed enemies, or enemy aircraft, thus enabling you to evade or counter them.
As far as upgrades are concerned, you have three slots that you can fill to further specialize Exeter. A solid pick would be:
Main Armaments Modification 1
to provide that extra sturdiness to your weapons.
Propulsion Modification 1
your ability to accelerate and decelerate in the vicinity of obstacles can be decisive in the outcome of a skirmish. This is your insurance.
AA Guns Modification 1
combined with the previously mentioned Commander skills, and with the fighter consumable equipped, this can make Exeter an intimidating target for a bomber squadron.
Playing with Exeter
- As a British cruiser, your armor is not the thickest, so always be aware of where enemy battleships are on the map. Try not to sail into enemy crossfire and avoid situations where your broadside could be exposed.
- Positioning is everything: single out your targets (mostly other cruisers) and engage them from mid- to long-range distances for optimal results.
- Your torpedoes can travel 8 km and have added versatility provided by the option to launch them individually instead of in a spread. Although you don’t have access to many at a time, they can be invaluable as an area-denial tool, forcing your enemies into exposed and uncomfortable positions.