Achilles was originally built for the Royal Navy, and was commissioned as HMS Achilles on 10 October 1933. This 7030-ton, 554 feet long, Leander Class cruiser having a top speed of 32.5 knots, was built by Cammel Laired & Co., in England. The main armament consisted of six 6-inch guns and several anti-aircraft guns, a formidable warship with a compliment of 800 officers and men. She served with the Royal Navy's New Zealand Division from 31 March 1937 up to the creation of the Royal New Zealand Navy, into which she was transferred in September 1941, renamed as HMNZS Achilles (pennant number 70). She became famous for her part in the Battle of the River Plate, first major naval battle of the WW-II alongside HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter.
HMS Achilles was the second of five ships of the Leander class light cruisers, designed as effective follow-ons to the York class. Upgraded to Improved Leander class, she was capable of carrying an aircraft, becoming the first ship to carry a Supermarine Walrus, although both Walruses were lost before WW-II began.
The Supermarine Walrus was a British single-engine amphibious biplane reconnaissance aircraft
“Battle of the River Plate"On the outbreak of the Second World War, HMS Achilles started patrolling the west coast of South America looking for German merchant ships, but by 22 October 1939 she had arrived at the Falkland Islands, where she was assigned to the South American Division under Commodore Henry Harwood and allocated to Force G (HMS Exeter and Cumberland). In the early morning of 13 December 1939, a force consisting of HMS Achilles, HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter detected smoke off the estuary of the River Plate off the coast of Argentina and Uruguay, which was confirmed to be Admiral Scheer but it was Deutschland class cruiser often known as ‘Pocket Battleship’- Germany’s most formidable Admiral Graf Spee. A fierce battle ensued, at a range of approximately 20 kilometres. Achilles took some damage: four crew were killed, and her Captain, W. E. Parry (later Vice-admiral, C-in-C, Royal Indian Navy), was injured. In the exchange of fire, 36 of Admiral Graf Spee’s crew were killed. And Admiral Graf Spee broke off the engagement to head for the neutral harbour of Montevideo, Uruguay which she entered that night, having been pursued by Achilles and Ajax all day. Graf Spee was forced by international law to leave within 72 hours. Faced with what he believed to be overwhelming odds, the captain of the Admiral Graf Spee, Hans Langsdorff, scuttled his ship rather than risk the lives of his crew.
In 1956, INS Delhi (ex.Achilles) played herself in the film "The Battle of the River Plate".
Achilles in Pacific TheatreFollowing the Atlantic battle, HMS Achilles returned to Auckland, New Zealand on 23 February 1940, where she was underwent refits until June. After Japan entered the war, she escorted troop convoys, then joined the ANZAC Squadron in the south-west Pacific. While operating off New Georgia Island with U.S. Navy forces, a bomb damaged her X turret on 5 January 1943. Between April 1943 and May 1944, HMNZ Achilles was docked in Portsmouth, England for repairs. Sent back to the New Zealand Fleet, the Achilles next joined the British Pacific Fleet in May 1945 for final operations in the Pacific War.
"HMS Achilles" became "INS Delhi"After the war, Achilles was returned to the Royal Navy at Kent, England on 17 September 1946. She was then sold to the Indian Navy and rechristened as INS Delhi on 5 July 1948. India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru took passage in INS Delhi during his historic visit to Indonesia in 1950. Along with INS Ranjit and INS Tir, INS Delhi participated in Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Naval Review in 1953 in the UK and the celebrations in connection with the Independence Day of Mauritius in 1968.
In 1969 INS Delhi paid a goodwill visit to Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.
For the New Zealanders it was the home-coming of an old friend as the ship had served in New Zealand during her commission in the Royal Navy.
By 1972 this premier combatship was modified to carry out the role of a training ship. INS Delhi remained in service until decommissioned at Bombay on 30 June 1978. As part of the scrapping her Y turret was removed and presented as a gift to the New Zealand government. It is now on display at the entrance of Devonport Naval Base in Auckland
Sea-farers over the centuries have believed that the soul of a ship, like humans, never dies, As such when the occasion arose to christen the newly built indigenous Missile Destroyer at Mazagon Dock Ltd, Bombay on 15th November 1998, the name of INS Delhi was revived, The new INS Delhi (D-61) is a modern warship, a tribute to India’s technological advancement in general, and warship building capability in particular.
Naval Philatelic Society of India
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