RFA Bishopdale during World War 2
On 14 December 1944 RFA Bishopdale was at anchor in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf, Philippines when at about 12.50pm, with the Air Raid Signal showing ‘All Clear’, she was awaiting a US naval cruiser to make fast to her port side prior to being refueled. An enemy VAL dive bomber flew from out of the sun and with engines cut out approached the Cruiser’s port quarter. Finding itself too low it opened up to full throttle and came into attack.
Japanese VAL dive bomber
The plane missed the cruisers after turret by a few feet and endeavoured to pass between the two ships but fouled the fore part of Bishopdale’s bridge and crashed complete with bombs into No. 3 wing tank starboard and exploded.
The ship’s side and bottom at the forward end of No. 3 starboard tank were blown out. The forward pump room was wrecked and No. 2 starboard tank was holed, causing these compartments to flood to sea level with water.
The ship took a heavy list to starboard and as a result of the explosion and scattered petrol from the plane, a fire broke out in No. 3 starboard tank. The fire was being fed from a leak high up in the starboard bulkhead of No. 3 centre tank which was then full of fuel.
By this time the US cruiser had parted all lines and backed away.
The bottom pipe line in No. 3 centre tank was undamaged and the fuel in this tank was transferred to an empty to bring the level below the damage part of the bulkhead.
The fire was attacked by the crew with ‘Foamite’ and within ten minutes of the outbreak it was extinguished.
The necessary wing tanks were flooded with twenty five minutes of the taking the initial list to starboard, to being the ship onto an even keel.
Fueling could have been resumed half an hour after the attack but the cruiser did not return.
3rd Officer John Waine RFA of RFA Bishopdale
One of Bishopdale’s DEMS gunners was killed and several crew members were injured. One of the ship’s Pumpman died of his injuries the following day
The initial survey of the damage revealed that –
- Both forward deck discharge line fractured.
- Forward starboard lifeboat and launching structure was demolished.
- Fore and aft flying bridge was damaged for approximately 20 feet and pipes and electric conduit beneath it were damaged.
- Oiling-at-sea stirrup rails were fractured in three places.
- Upper bridge guard rails, awning spars and stanchions were demolished or damaged.
- Signal lamp and police and IFF Antenna broken and/or missing
- Standard and steering compasses were unshipped and gambol rings strained and distorted and several smaller items about the fore end were broken or damaged
- All radio feeders were severed