The Royal Navy had a series of Heavy Cruisers built between 1928-30, known as the 'County class'. They were built in 3 similar sub-classes and had large, strong hulls and were very seaworthy and long ranged but due to treaty restrictions, there was only enough spare displacement available to provide the magazines with reasonable armour, the rest of the important parts had only thin armour. The main requirement for the Royal Navy's cruisers was to protect trade across Britain's global empire and show the flag in far away ports and the County Class cruisers were a great success in this role and proved able in combat too. Following on from the County class, the Royal Navy had 2 smaller heavy cruisers built for it, HMS York and HMS Exeter. These two ships had six, instead of eight 8 inch guns, which reduced the lenght of the hull, in turn making them lighter but the armour protection was improved.
During WW2, HMS Exeter made her name by being one of Commodore Harwood's 3 cruisers that fought and intercepted the Graf Spee. During the famous battle of the River Plate, HMS Exeter was the Graf Spee's main target and very soon, B turret was hit by an 11 inch shell and knocked out, a hit which also killed most of the bridge crew, which forced Captain Bell to move aft and control the ship from the aft conning postion. Exeter fired torpedoes at Graf Spee and forced her to turn away but another hit from the German ship knocked out A turret. Y turret was temorarily disabled but was repaired and Exeter carried on fighting with only one main turret working until Commodore Harwood ordered her to retire from battle. Exeter managed to hit Graf Spee several times with 8 inch shells, contributing to the numerous hits scored on the German ship. Graf Spee retired to Montevideo soon aftwards and was tricked into scuttling several days later, thinking that more powerful British forces had arrived, including the battlecruiser HMS Renown and the carrier HMS Ark Royal. In fact the only reinforcement to hand was the heavy Cruiser HMS Cumberland.
After returning home from fighting the Graf Spee, Exeter was out of action for just over a year, while being repaired on upgraded. Her single 4 inch guns were replaced with twin mounts and she had two 8 barrel 2pdr pom-pom AA guns fitted, along with search and gunnery radars. After repair and refit, she escorted a convoy to Aden via South Africa and transferred to the British Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean. She took part in exercises and convoy escort during her deployment there. In early 1942 an Allied fleet was formed, with ships from the British, Dutch, Australian and US Navies to defend the Dutch East Indies against the Japanese. In late February 1942 the Allied fleet, with the heavy cruisers HMS Exeter and USS Houston, plus the Dutch light cruisers De Ruyter (flagship), Java and the Australian HMAS Perth, plus 9 destroyers met a Japanese fleet built around the heavy cruisers Nachi + Haguro, escorted by 2 ligth cruisers and 14 destroyers met in the first Java Sea battle. The Japanese heavy cruisers where bigger and more heavily armed and all the Japanes ships carried the deadly long lance torpedo. The gunfire from both sides was not very accurate apart from a single 8 inch shell hitting Exeter and knocking out one of her boiler rooms, forcing her to retire. The Japanese launched a massive torpedo attack, which sank a Dutch destroyer and then a British destoyer sank after hitting a mine. The Allied fleet retired but the main force ran into the Japanese again, this time losing the De Ruyter and Java to torpedo hits. Exeter managed to effect some repairs after the battle and was ordered to withdraw to Ceylon, escorted by the destroyers HMS Encounter and USS Pope. They were however, intercepted by the Japanese heavy cruisers Myoko, Nachi, Haguro and Ashigara and sunk in a very one sided battle.
Aoshima have made an all new tool series of British heavy cruisers in 1/700. The kit looks to be of good quality with a decent level of detailing. The kit is waterline only and is just Exeter on its own, as it appeared following repairs and refit after the Battle of the River Plate.