In January 1918 RFA Sprucol, one of the Admiralty designed 1,000 ton class of oilers, was completed at the shipyard of Short Brothers, Pallion, Sunderland. As a brand new coastal and harbour tanker, the ship was badly needed to service the vast Royal Navy fleet with much needed oil fuel, and as well as supplying this precious commodity, the fuel also had to be collected from Naval storage facilities.

 

In January 1918 RFA Sprucol, one of the Admiralty designed 1,000 ton class of oilers, was completed at the shipyard of Short Brothers, Pallion, Sunderland. As a brand new coastal and harbour tanker, the ship was badly needed to service the vast Royal Navy fleet with much needed oil fuel, and as well as supplying this precious commodity, the fuel also had to be collected from Naval storage facilities.

Not long after the ship was commissioned, RFA Sprucol was steaming through the North Sea when on the 10th July 1918 she was torpedoed and severely damaged by the German submarine UB 110 (Kapitanleutnant Werner Fürbinger); the torpedo struck her around midship’s on the starboard side and blew a huge hole in the ship. 

 

FURBINGER

 

Kapitanleutnant Werner Fürbinger

 UB110

German Submarine UB110

 

 

RFA Sprucol 1

sprucol2 sprucol_3

sprucol4

sprucol_5

 

The damage to RFA Sprucol courtesy of
and with grateful thanks to Geoff Lowe

 

Despite massive damage and the loss of 950 tons of her precious cargo, RFA Sprucol managed to limp into the Humber Estuary where she was then towed to Earle’s Shipbuilding and Engineering Company at Hull, where she spent the next four months in dry dock being repaired before rejoining the fleet.

 

Back to the U-Boat - nine days after she attacked the Sprucol - on 19 July one of the officers of the U-Boat Unter-Leutnant Tietze sighted an armed yacht escorting a convoy of merchant ships.. No action being taken. Later that day a southbound convoy of twenty-nine vessels was sighted just south of Hartlepool. A large number of escorts were with the convoy and a 3,000 ton steamer was selected for an attack. As Furbringer was getting the boat into position for attack he sighted one of the escorts, HMML 263 under the command of Lt. B.T Chick RN and UB 110 was compelled to dive to a greater depth. HMML 263 dropped depth-charges. HMML 44 (Lt. A. Whiting RN) also dropped a depth-charge on the U-boats position. The explosion damaged her main motor and N.2 fuel tank, jammed her hydroplanes in the `rise’ position and UB 110 rose to the surface. Immediately that she did, HMS GARRY a destroyer commanded by Lt.Cdr C.H. Lightoller RN, rammed the boat near her conning-tower, on the port side, causing her to list to starboard. The escorts then concentrated fire on her registering three hits on the tower as her crew came up from inside. Furbringer realized that nothing could save the boat and gave the order to abandon ship. HMS GARRY again rammed the boat after which she capsized and sank. HMT STRATHCLUNIE also came into the attack and claimed one hit on the boat. .Furbringer with two other officers and ten men of the crew were rescued as UB 110 went to the bottom.

 

UB 110 was later raised by the Royal Navy and taken to Whitby. Later she was towed to the Tyne and scrapped.

 

UB_110_at_Whitby_after_being_recovered

The wreck of UB110 after being raised by the Royal Navy

(image with thanks from ShipwreckRon)

 

At the cessation of hostilities surplus RFA vessels were either placed in reserve or sold off into commercial service and this was to be the fate of RFA Sprucol. On the 31st March 1920 the vessel was sold to the Anglo American Oil Company and re-named “Juniata”, under the management of F. J. Wolfe.

  

Juniata-02

The former RFA Sprucol sold out of service and renamed Juniata

 

The ship served with this company for the next twenty years before being scuttled in Water Sound, Scapa Flow as part of the Churchill Barrier No 4, a series of barriers and block ships designed to prevent German U-Boats from entering the naval anchorage at Scapa Flow after the sinking of HMS Royal Oak on the night of the 13/14th October 1939.

barrier_no4 

Churchill Barrier No 4 - blocking Water Sound from U-Boats

  

RFA Sprucol

The Juniata (former RFA Sprucol) as she is today at Inganess Bay

 

 

Copyright © 2008 – 2017 Christopher J White

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website, by continuing to use the site you agree to cookies being used. More info.