These were the first British light cruisers having superfiring gun turrets with more than 1 gun. Against Graf Spee, the class had only single (4x1) 4" secondary guns, but the singles were later replaced with twins.
Ajax and Achilles along with heavy cruiser Exeter confronted German pocket battleship Graf Spee in the South Atlantic and chased her into Montevideo, Uruguay, in December 1939, albeit with very heavy damage to Exeter. With the arrival of replacement heavy cruiser Cumberland and some fine bluffing, Graf Spee's Captain Langsdorff felt obliged to scuttle Graf Spee in the face of what he thought were overwhelming odds. (He soon after committed suicide.)
Of Leander, Ajax, Achilles, Orion, and Neptune, only the latter was lost in the war -- in a minefield.
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