Welcome to Historical RFA
When the Korean War broke out in 1950 the 7,515 ton Hospital Ship RFA Maine (4) was at Kobe, Japan with units of the British Far East Fleet and she was immediately placed under the American Naval command. The US Forces initially had no hospital ships in theatre and consequently RFA Maine (4) played an especially valuable role.
This tale of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary relates to the history of an early RFA ship with a wooden hull and a set sails as well as a steam engine for propulsion. It details the effects of warfare in World War 1 and of many deaths and to make it a little more interesting finally a few bars of gold. The story also involves an Armed Merchant Cruiser – HMS Laurentic and a German Submarine U80
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 21 April 1951 the Naval Armaments Vessel Bedenham sailed from Bull Point Naval Armaments Depot, Plymouth loaded with approximately 790 tons of depth charges, ammunition and other ordnance for Gibraltar and Malta.
The Portsdown Underground Fuel Bunker was built during the late 1930s and early 1940s, by Sir Robert McAlpine's construction company, as a bombproof Royal Navy fuel oil reservoir to serve the fleet at the Portsmouth Naval Base. The oil was needed as a guaranteed supply for Royal Navy warships in case oil deliveries to western British seaports were blockaded by the German Navy (a typical underhand Nazi trick). Three were built in the UK the others being at Inchindown some 4 miles to the north of the then naval base at Invergordon and Lyness at the Scapa Flow Naval Base, but the one under Portsdown is one of the largest and best preserved remaining examples. I contacted McAlpines but no records of the construction of the Fuel Bunker exist anymore. In fact very little information exists anywhere. It is my belief that the Portsdown Fuel Bunker had a special purpose and was not just constructed to supply the Royal Navy with fuel during wartime. I think a secondary aim was to ensure an absolutely uninterruptible supply of fuel oil for the D-day invasion fleet of 6 June 1944 and I have shown some evidence of this later on. Other invasion support services like communications and logistics certainly took a very robust approach to their roles, as failure of the landings was unthinkable, but one thing was certain: lack of marine fuel was never going to be a problem.