HMS Exeter was the second and last York-class heavy cruiser built for the Royal Navy during the late 1920s. Aside from a temporary deployment with the Mediterranean Fleet during the Abyssinia Crisis of 1935–36, she spent the bulk of the 1930s assigned to the Atlantic Fleet or the North America and West Indies Station. When World War II began in September 1939, the ship was assigned to patrol South American waters against German commerce raiders. Exeter was one of three British cruisers that fought the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee later that year in the Battle of the River Plate. She was extensively damaged during the battle and was under repair for over a year.
After her repairs were completed, the ship spent most of 1941 on convoy escort duties before she was transferred to the Far East after the start of the Pacific War in December. Exeter was generally tasked with escorting convoys to and from Singapore during the Malayan Campaign and continued on those duties in early February 1942 as the Japanese prepared to invade the Dutch East Indies. Later that month, she was assigned to the Striking Force of the joint American-British-Dutch-Australian Command and took on a more active role in the defence of the Dutch islands. The culmination of this was her participation in the Battle of the Java Sea later in the month as the Allies attempted to intercept Japanese invasion convoys. Exeter was crippled early in the battle and did not play much of a role as she was forced to withdraw. Two days later, she attempted to escape inbound Japanese forces, but was intercepted and sunk by Japanese ships at the beginning of March in the Second Battle of the Java Sea.
Most of her crew survived the sinking and were rescued by the Japanese. About a quarter of them died during captivity. Her wreck was discovered in early 2007 and declared a war grave, but by 2016 the remains had been destroyed by illegal salvagers. (wiki)