RFA Roseleaf came into service in 1916 as RFA Califol but was then renamed as Roseleaf and was home ported at Portsmouth. She had survived the Great War but under the civil management of Lane & MacAndrew Ltd. She was under the command of Captain Charles J. Rudder and had been used to carry oil from the United States to the United Kingdom under the Red Ensign.
On Tuesday 15th July 1919 she was in the Cardiff Channel Dry Dock at Cardiff in refit when, at about 2.35pm, a violent explosion occurred which could be heard all over the City. Flames burst from the ship and a heavy cloud of smoke rose from her.
Twelve people onboard the ship were killed and five others were injured. The explosion was so violent that several of the deceased were projected bodily into the air higher than the masts and out of the ship. One was blown out of the hold and landed on the floor of the dry dock dead. Another was thrown over the roof of a neighbouring building and fell on the corrugated iron roof of a tool-shed with such force that the roof was dented. From this roof he fell to the ground and was found to be dead. All those who were killed were employees of the refit company – the Bute Dry Dock Company.
The fire brigade attended and Sixth Engineer Thomas Cosser was rescued by firemen from the forepeak using smoke helmets and was brought on deck by being hauled up by a rope. He had suffered severe burns. He was conveyed to the Royal Hamadryad hospital in Cardiff in the back of an opened light lorry. There were no ambulances. It would appear that Thomas Cosser survived at least for the next twelve months as there is no record of him dying during that period.
The explosion was believed to have occurred shortly after Thomas Cosser had entered the forepeak. What action Cosser took or did not take is unknown. It was reported that the ships cargo tanks had been cleaned and had been certified free from gas by an independent engineer.
Nine of deceased were buried in Cathays Cemetery, Cardiff between the 21st and 22nd of July 1919
No record has been found showing what damage was caused to the Roseleaf by the explosion. She was sold out of service in 1920 to the British Tanker Company and renamed ‘British Rose’. Further details of her history can be found in ‘RFA’s under two flags’ on this site.