HMS Exeter ( - 1691)
The first HMS Exeter was a 70-gun Third rate. She was involved in the Battle of Beachy Head against France in 1690 but was broken up as a hulk in 1691.
HMS Exeter (1697-1763)
The second HMS Exeter was a 60-gun Fourth rate. She was built in 1697 and survived until 1763, making her the longest serving ship to carry the name so far. She was involved in repeated actions against the French, in 1702 off Newfoundland, in 1705 when she captured the frigate Thétis, in 1711 in the Mediterranean and at the Battle of Quiberon Bay, and in 1748 at the Siege of Pondicherry. Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood of Whitley, subsequently an Admiral and an important figure in British Naval history, served briefly on this vessel.
HMS Exeter ( -1784)
The third HMS Exeter was a 64-gun Third rate. She earned Battle Honours in 1782 at Sadras, Providien, Negapatam and Trincomalee. She was burned as unseaworthy in 1784.
HMS Exeter (1928-1942)
The best known is the fourth HMS Exeter, a York class heavy cruiser that saw important action in World War II. She was built by Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth, Devon. Laid down on 1 August 1928, she was launched on 18 July 1929 and completed on 27 July 1931.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, she formed part of the South American Division with HMS Cumberland. Together with the light cruisers HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles she engaged the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the Battle of the River Plate on 13 December 1939, which action resulted in the Graf Spee 's scuttling several days later. Severely damaged in the battle, Exeter made for Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands for emergency repairs which took until January 1940, then returned to Devonport for full repairs between February 1940 and March 1941.
On returning to the fleet in 1941, she was engaged on escort duty for Atlantic convoys, but on the entry of Japan into the war she formed part of the Allied Striking Force intended to defend the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) from Japanese invasion. At the end of February 1942 she was damaged in the Battle of the Java Sea when she received a hit in the boiler room and was subsequently ordered to Soerabaya. When she attempted to reach the Sunda Strait, she was intercepted by the Japanese cruisers Nachi and Haguro and badly damaged by gunfire and a torpedo from the destroyer Ikazuchi. The crew was ordered to abandon ship, and she was scuttled off the Bawean Islands on the evening of 28 February 1942. Her destroyer escorts, HMS Encounter and USS Pope were also lost in this engagement.
HMS Exeter (D89) (1979 - present)
The fifth HMS Exeter is currently (2004) in service. She is a Type 42 destroyer, launched in 1979 and seeing service in the Falklands War in 1982. Like the city of Exeter, with which she maintains close links, the ship bears the motto Semper fidelis.