Welcome to Historical RFA
The Background to the Requirement for Rescue Ships:
James R. Smith
RFA Historical Society consultant
During WW2 the British Merchant Navy suffered enormous losses in both ships and personnel – a total of 32,952 registered seamen which equated to a 17.8% loss of the total strength.
During World War 2 the Admiralty secured the services of a number of Norwegian tankers to supplement those under RFA command. These tankers were hired from their owners and placed under RFA management. They retained their Norwegian Masters and crews – which were mainly of mixed nationalities.
A Chinese crew member of RFA War Bharata was found guilty on 25 November 1926 at a Court in Singapore on charges of being in possession of firearms and ammunition. He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, ten strokes of the cat and a fine of $100 or three months’ imprisonment by Mr E E Colman, the acting District Judge.
The accused was arrested by the Harbour Board police in possession of seven automatic pistols and 600 rounds of ammunition.
“See How They Run”
Fun onboard with the Rodents
Imagine the Naval Health Officer of the Port of Portsmouth, complete with cocked hat, frock coat, gold braid, epaulettes, and all the other trimmings, walking, with that splendid dignity which pertains to Naval Health Officers, down the Dockyard one fine morning with his sword in one hand and a rat-trap in the other!
Royal Navy ‘War Games’ training in 1937 was a far grander affair than to-days ‘Thursday War’.
In July of that year Britain was at ‘war’ with ‘Blue’ whose naval forces had been bottled up in Blue’s distant home waters by the Royal Navy with the exception of a cruiser (skilfully played by HMS Southampton – mounting twelve 6 inch guns) and a suitably disguised armed merchant cruiser with an assumed armament of four 6 inch guns (even more skilfully played by RFA Prestol). These two ships were tasked by their Admiral to interrupt the essential; sea-borne supplies of the United Kingdom. Against these two ships with their evil plan were Royal Naval forces – the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious, the cruiser HMS Newcastle, the destroyer HMS Brazen playing the part of another cruiser. The Fleet Air Arm was also present with No’s 802, 812, 823 and 825 squadrons.
In 1947 the Admiralty’s Naval Stores Department commenced to issue each quarter the Department’s “Naval Stores Journal”. Members of the Departmental staff were encouraged to submit stories about their work and in 1948 Chief Officer Leslie Rowling DSC RFA wrote about the three RFA’s which had sailed on the Arctic Convoys PQ18 and QP14 in September 1942 – RFA Black Ranger, RFA Gray Ranger and RFA Oligarch. Although not part of the originally published article photographs and a map have been added below to illustrate the article. Chief Officer Leslie Rowling was awarded the DSC for his actions during these convoys
RFA's on Russian Convoys
Looking back some six year since oil fuel was passing through the 5” Rubber hose trailing astern of the Black Ranger, many things are vivid in my memory, some humorous, some sad, and in this my first (and possibly last) literary effort I will try to recapture the picture as seen through my eyes.
A sailor of the RFA Bacchus (2) fell asleep at the wheel and the ship deviated 104 degrees off course a Singapore Court was told on the 20 May 1957.