RFA Briarleaf


Previous name:                        OLETTA
Subsequent name:                   LACUNA,  DOVREFJELL, NAPHTHA SHIPPER, ALTENGAMME

Official Number:                139172

Class:                                      Emergency Wartime Construction LEAF Group Freighting Tanker

Pennant No:                             Y7.151

Laid down:

Builder:                                     Readhead, South Shields
Launched:                                 September 1916

Into Service:                              14 December 1916

Out of service:                           1 August 1920
Fate:                                         Bombed and sunk 1945


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data.   During WW1 eighteen vessels of varying types were acquired second hand and converted or purchased and converted while on the stocks, or in a few cases building as tankers. Some were converted after serving with the Dummy Battleship Squadron by the insertion of cylindrical tanks in their holds. All were originally intended to operate as RFA’s however owing to reasons of international law and the operation of the US Neutrality Act, these oilers became Mercantile Fleet Auxiliaries, being renamed with the LEAF nomenclature and placed under civilian management although operationally they remained under Admiralty control.


September 1916 launched by J. Redhead & Sons Ltd, South Shields as Yard Nr 451 named RFA OLETTA

14 December 1916 completed and placed under management of Lane & MacAndrew Ltd, London as an oiler transport. and renamed BRIARLEAF. Base port Devonport

18 January 1917 at Bermuda with HMS WEYMOUTH berthed alongside

HMS Weymouth 1910


25 March 1917 berthed at South Shields

31 May 1917 an Admiralty report on this ship showed she had completed only two round trips from the UK to Sabine, Texas during which she had suffered serious defects to her main shaft bearing resulting in having to stay 28 days at Bermuda, 10 days at Sabine (including loading time) on both visits to that port and 19 days on the River Tyne - source MT23/808 at the TNA

18 October 1918 was attacked in the North Atlantic by a submarine - the torpedo exploded prematurely and a shot fired from the submarine's gun missed

December 1918 Captain George E Patterson appointed as Master

Captain George E Patterson

Captain George E Patterson

6 December 1918 arrived at Wallsend on Tyne from Scapa Flow

15 January 1919 arrived at Trinidad from the River Tyne

7 March 1919 passed Lloyds Signal Station of the Lizard and arrived at Falmouth from Trinidad when on passage to Thameshaven

23 March 1919 sailed Gravesend for Trinidad

24 March 1919 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west

15 May 1919 sailed Gravesend for Trinidad

15 June 1919 sailed Trinidad for the UK

1 July 1919 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

2 July 1919 arrived at Falmouth from Trinidad

28 September 1919 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on Flamborough Head sailing south

January 1920 Captain Peter Fraser appointed as Master

1 August 1920 sold to Anglo Saxon Petroleum Lrd., London name unchanged

2 August 1920 sailed Tampico for Portsmouth

30 August 1920 arrived at Rotterdam from New Orleans

20 October 1920 arrived at Port Arthur, Texas from Rotterdam

4 November 1920 sailed New Orleans

18 November 1920 arrived at Port Eads

22 November 1920 cleared from Ports Eads for Port Arthur

24 November 1920 sailed Port Eads for Port Arthur

13 December 1920 arrived at New Orleans from Tampico

24 January 1921 berthed at Port Eads from Tuxpam and reported in the New York Tribune of the following day

28 March 1921 sailed Galveston for Liverpool

3 April 1921 sailed Tuxpan for St Catherines Point

27 June 1921 arrived at Tampico from Rotterdam

15 July 1921 sailed New Orleans for LEFO

4 August 1921 berthed at Avonmouth

7 August 1921 sailed Avonmouth for Key West

2 September 1921 arrived at Ports Eads

17 October 1921 arrived at Thameshaven from New Orleans

15 November 1921 sailed Tuxpan for LEFO

12 December 1921 arrived the Clyde from Tampico

1922 renamed LACUNA by her owners

15 May 1922 arrived at Montreal

6 August 1922 at 11am radioed she was 90 miles south of Nantucket

14 September 1922 radioed she was 185 North of Cape Hatteras

11 October 1922 arrived at Port Eads

9 January 1925 stood by the steamer Eda which had gone aground five miles north a half east magnetic Vlieland Light

20 April 1926 berthed at Thameshaven from Curacao with one DBS as passenger. Captain W Fretwell was Master

1 May 1926 at Antwerp Ships Cook Reginald Laurence Rumsey discharged dead from intestinal colic

30 May 1927 purchased for £70,000 by A/S Dovrefjell ( Olsen & Ugelstad, Managers) Oslo and renamed J.J. LACUNA before again being renamed DOVREFJELL



RFA Briarleaf after her sale out of service and being renamed DOVREFJELL in 1927


13 May 1935 arrived Thames Haven

16 May 1935 arrived at Falmouth

2 October 1937 berthed at Grangemouth from Haifa with a cargo of crude oil

January 1938 purchased for £51,000 by Naptha Tankers Ltd (S, Catsell & Co Ltd, Managers) London and renamed NAPHTHA SHIPPER

24 January 1939 after machine damage repaired at Blohm & Voß in Hamburg

13 February 1939 the ships owners were unable to pay for the repairs. At the request of the Blohm & Voß shipyard the ship was arrested. The management of the ship was allocated to Atlantic Rhederi F & W Joch, Hamburg

3 September 1939 taken over by German authorities.

7 October 1939 taken over by the German Kriegsmarine.

3 May 1940 renamed Altengamme

7 May 1940 sailed from Kiel to Oslo escorted by German Kriegsmarine ships. One had to return due to engine defects

9 May 1940 arrived at Oslo

20 May 1940 sailed from Oslo in escorted convoy

22 May 1940 arrived at the Great Belt

31 March 1941 berthed at Le Havre. Damaged during an air raid

1 July 1941 damage repaired

1 April 1942 sailed from Bergen in escorted convoy NS 02

5 April 1942 arrived at Trondheim

19 March 1943 confiscated by the Hamburg Prize Court

July 1944 undergoing repairs at Oslo

4 October 1944 she was in collision with the small Norwegian steamer ULV which sank in Aalesund Harbour but this was raised after the end of the War

19 April 1945 damaged in British air attack during Operation Hannibal - transporting refugees and wounded from the East

4 May 1945 bombed by Russain aircarft and suffered engine damage at Neu Mukran, Rugen Island, Germany (54.26 00N  13.37 00E). Abandoned by German Forces and bombed again by Russian aircraft, hit and burnt for two days

1950 wreck partly raised and broken up




In 1926 Anglo Saxon announced a scheme whereby they were prepared to sell, then charter back, a number of war-built tankers. Included in these were the former BRIARLEAF, LAURELEAF and DOCKLEAF

Additional information

Copyright © 2008 – 2018 Christopher J White

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