These were the last of the British prewar light cruisers with only twin 6" gun turrets. They had a little more space, and they were given to Australia.
All three were in the Mediterranean, at one time or another, to fight the Italians.
Later,on 19Nov41 west of Australia, Sydney ran down the German merchant raider Kormoran which was posing as a friendly ship. Captain Burnett moved close to the raider to identify her and/or capture her if she were a German raider supply ship and instead got Sydney hit by close-range broadsides which started serious fires. Sydney lashed back, and Kormoran began sinking and was abandoned, while Sydney staggered off. The many German survivors who were captured by the Australians claimed that they heard and saw the sound and flash of a large explosion, and nothing was heard from Sydney again. It just disappeared with all hands. Many books and thousands of pages of investigation and testimony were created, and there were suspicions of a German atrocity and even pre-Pearl-Harbor Japanese involvement, before the wrecks were finally found on the deep floor of the ocean in 2009, confirming the Germans' account.
With the start of the Asia Pacific War, Perth was sent into the Dutch East Indies to oppose the Japanese. It was captained by the swashbuckling Hec(tor) Waller, who had been a favorite of the famous Nelsonian admiral Andrew "ABC" Cunningham. Hec Waller had been the captain of HMAS Stuart which had participated aggressively in the Battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941, and he was the commander of the Scrap Iron Flotilla of World War 1 era destroyers which had played such a major role in British victory in the early, crisis days of the Mediterranean campaign.
Perth participated in the indecisive battles of the Java Sea - both the daylight and night-time battles - and then accompanied the USS Houston ("the Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast") in an attempted breakout around the western end of Java island. In the process, they ran into the western Japanese invasion forces, and in a confused but one-sided battle both Perth and Houston were sunk, although some major Japanese transports were sunk and/or gutted, in part by recklessly aimed Japanese torpedoes. Both ships' captains were killed in the battle, and the survivors ended up on the Railway of Death in Burma.
Hobart survived the war, although it was so heavily damaged by a single Japanese submarine torpedo south of Guadalcanal that it was out of the war until 1945. It would have also been in the Battle of the Java Sea and probably would have shared Perth's fate, but its refueling was disrupted by a bombing, and it was critically delayed from that.
I have designed a cardstock paper model of Perth(, Sydney, and Hobart), and photos of it can be seen on my LCoat.tripod.com webpage.
Many years ago now, in St. Louis, Captain Waller's grandson Andrew was in a 1:700 naval miniatures wargame I conducted - a hypothetical Battle off the Malayan Shore - what if Prince of Wales and Repulse (Hood in the game, in the absence of a Repulse model at that time) - and he had Perth leading the Allied battleline ... and his Allies countermanded history and won!
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