RFA Abbeydale



Official Number                165409                                                                 

Class:                               1st DALE CLASS Freighting Tanker

Pennant No:                      X32 / A109

Builder:                             Swan Hunter
Launched:                         28 December 1936
Into service:                      4 March 1937
Out of service:                  18 September 1959 - laid up

Fate:                                 Broken Up


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data:  Originally there were to have been ninetween ships in this Class. The first six were purchased off the stocks from the British Tanker Co Ltd whilst building at the instigation of the then Director of Stores, Sir William Gick, who was concerned at the age of the RFA Fleet and ships that were approaching the end of their economic lives. A further two ships were purchased from Anglo Saxon Petroleum Co Ltd for evaluation purposes. At the outbreak of WW2, a further eleven ships were acquired from the MoWT war programme although one of these, to have been named EPPINGDALE, which had been registered in London as EMPIRE GOLD on 21/02/43 and intended for transfer to the Admiralty for manning and management as an RFA and despite five Officers being appointed to her, the intended transfer was cancelled the following day and she thus never entered RFA service. Three of this Class were converted into LSG’s and were then reconverted back into tankers at the end of the War.


1936 ordered by the British Tanker Company Ltd

28 December 1936 launched by Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend  as Yard Nr: 1506 named ABBEYDALE

11 January 1937 Captain W Frost RFA (Lieut-Commander RNR (Ret)) appointed as Master

18 January 1937 Mr Vincent B Pybus RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

CEO Vincent Pybus

Chief Engineer Vincent B Pybus RFA


4 March 1937 completed after running trials

5 March 1937 sailed on her maiden voyage from the River Tyne to Trinidad. The Sunderland Daily Echo reported on this day -

Sunderland Daily Echo 5 3 37 press report

10 April 1937 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

17 April 1937 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

2 June 1937 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east bound

3 June 1937 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

5 June 1937 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour for the River Tyne

12 June 1937 sailed the River Tyne for Abadan

2 October 1937 Radio Officer George S Heatherington RFA discharged dead He died from suicide by drowning and was certified dead in a hospital in Singapore.  He is buried in Kranji Military Cemetery, Singapore in Plot 14 Row C Grave 23 - his grave stone shows his name in error as G F Heatherington.


Radio Officer George S Heatherington RFA



Image courtsey of Tony Beck with thanks


2 November 1937 Mr Frederick E Langer RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

CEO Frederick LANGER

Chief Engineer Officer Frederick E Langer RFA


3 March 1938 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

5 March 1938 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

10 March 1938 Mr Harold M Pearson RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

4 April 1938 sailed the River Tyne for sea trials returning the same day

6 April 1938 sailed the River Tyne for Abadan

7 July 1938 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

9 July 1938 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

21 July 1938 sailed the River Tyne for Abadan

13 January 1939 the ships Chief Officer Charles F Smith RFA was promoted and appointed as Acting Master

Captain Charles F Smith

Chief Officer Charles F Smith RFA

16 January 1939 Captain William Frost RFA sailed from Malta in the Transport Nevasa for Southampton (relieved)

13 April 1939 berthed at Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd on the Tyne from Rosyth

26 April 1939 Captain George W Callaway RFA (Lieut-Commander RN (Ret)) appointed as Master

3 May 1939 sailed the River Tyne for Abadan via Sheerness

26 May 1939 Engineroom Storekeeper Ah Sow Lam discharged dead. He is buried in Kalkara Royal Naval Cemetery, Malta



Image courtesy of British War Graves with thanks


2 July 1939 passed Wilson's Promontory, Victoria, Australia

9 July 1939 arrived at Auckland, New Zealand to discharge from Abadan

15 July 1939 sailed Auckland, New Zealand for the Persian Gulf

23 July 1939 passed Goods Island, Torres Strait, Queensland, Australia

9 September 1939 sailed Port Said in Convoy Blue 1 which also contained RFA ALDERSDALE

26 September 1939 sailed Gibraltar in escorted convoy HG1 for Devonport. RFA ALDERSDALE and RFA SERBOL were in the same convoy.

10 October 1939 arrived at Liverpool in the company of RFA SERBOL

21 October 1939 joined escorted convoy OA22 sailing from Falmouth - the convoy dispersed on 23 October. The Governor of Trinidad reported to the Admiralty by signal on 9 November 1939 that Abbeydale was five days late arriving at the island. Source - Admiralty War Diary - In fact she arrived on 10 November 1939.

24 November 1939 at Kingston, Jamaica Donkeyman Harold P Mann accused before the Master by the Chief Engineer Officer of using foul and insolent language towards him and refusing to obey his lawful commands. The Master declined to deal with the allegations as he belived them to be so serious and directed that the allegations should be dealth with by a magistrate.

Donkeyman Harold Philip Mann

Donkeyman Harold P Mann

13 December 1939 at Kingston, Jamaica

29 December 1939 was in a list of ships reported as sunk by the German Navy and published in 'Bremer Zeituag'. The German error/exaggeration was fully reported in the Canberra Times, Australia of the 26 January 1940

Canberra Times 26 1 1940 Abbeydale

20 January 1940 at Callao, Peru

21 January 1940 sailed Callao, Peru

24 January 1940 Bosun R E Finker logged for desertion

30 January 1940 Donkeyman Harold P Mann appeared before the Magisrate at Kingston, Jamaica charged under the Sections 480/486, Merchant Shipping Act. He was convicted. He signed off the ship.

26 February 1940 arrived at Panama

27 February 1940 sailed Colon to Kingston, Jamaica arriving on 29 February 1940

3 March 1940 sailed Kingston, Jamaica to Trinidad arriving on 7 March 1940

17 March 1940 arrived at Bermuda having sailed from Trinidad

30 March 1940 at Bermuda with RFA ORANGELEAF (1) moored alongside - fire broke out on ABBEYDALE which caused damage to both ships - source Admiralty War Diary dated 31 March 1940 refers

6 April 1940 sailed Bermuda to Trinidad

15 April 1940 sailed Trinidad to Halifax arriving 25 April 1940

26 April 1940 sailed Halifax in escorted convoy HX38 to the Clyde along with RFA OLWEN(1) arriving at Greenock on 12 May 1940

16 May 1940 Mr M N Carlyle RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

23 May 1940 sailed Greenock, up the Clyde to Glasgow

12 June 1940 sailed Glasgow

19 June 1940 at Greenock

June 1940 was allocated for Operation Accordion - the proposed invasion of the Azores

22 July 1940 anchored at the Clyde awaiting orders

1 August 1940 anchored at Kilcreggan

18 September 1940 anchored at Tail of Bank

October 1940 Mr Henry S Edwards RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer


Chief Engineer Officer Henry S Edwards RFA

22 November 1940 from Rothsay to refit on the Clyde until 2 December 1940 then anchored at Tail of Bank until 4 December 1940

9 December 1940 sailed Tail of Bank

14 December 1940 Captain A Edwards RFA appointed as Master

23 December 1940 sailed from Glasgow, in ballast to, Curacao in escorted Convoy OB 263 arriving on 13 January 1941

20 January 1941 sailed Curacao to Kingston, Jamaica arriving 22 January 1941

16 February 1941 sailed Kingston, Jamaica to Trindad arriving on 21 February 1941

12 March 1941 sailed Trinidad to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

29 April 1941 arrived at Montevideo from Port Stanley, sailing again on 30 April 1941

27 May 1941 refuelled HMS's NEWCASTLE and CUMBERLAND - details from the Admiralty War Diary of 25 May 1941 page 490

9 June 1941 arrived at Rio de Janerio sailing the next day

1 July 1941 refuelled HMS NEWCASTLE - details from Admiralty War Diary page 552

14 July 1941 arrived at Montevideo, sailed the next day to Trinidad 

4 September 1941 until 7 September 1941 under going repairs at Trinidad

26 September 1941 arrived at Montevideo from Trinidad 

28 September 1941 sailed Montevideo to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands arriving 3 October 1941

9 October 1941 sailed Port Stanley, Falkland Islands to Trinidad 

16 November 1941 arrived at Trinidad 

4 December 1941 sailed Trinidad to New Orleans arriving 12 December 1941

12 December 1941 at New Orleans under repair until 12 January 1942

13 January 1942 sailed New Orleans to Curacao arriving 21 January 1942

25 January 1942 sailed Curacao to Freetown arriving 10 February 1942

5 March 1942 arrived at St. Helena from Freetown

8 March 1942 at St Helena HMS NIGELLA came alongside to refuel in the lee of the Island. HMS BRIDGEWATER also tried to come alongside to refuel but was unable due to the swell off the Island


HMS Nigella

9 March 1942 at St. Helena HMS BRIDGEWATER came alongside (again) to refuel in the lee of the Island with some sucess


HMS Bridgewater

12 March 1942 at St. Helena - HMS JASMINE came alongside to refuel in the lee of the Island 

13 March 1942 sailed St Helena to Freetown arriving 20 March 1942

30 March 1942 undertook OAS trials.

7 April 1942 arrived at St Helena from Freetown

17 April 1942 sailed St Helena

6 August 1942 while being escorted by HMS ARMERIA met fleet units and commenced refuelling them

10 August 1942 to 15 August 1942 in Operation Beserk as Force W - a sea / air exercise in the Atlantic. Reports show she had an inexperienced crew which resulted in complete disorder

19 August 1942 the Admiralty directed that after Operation Beserk Abbeydale was to be sailed to Trinidad for cargo and to return either to Gibraltar or Freetown - a decision as to which port would be signalled later - souce Admoralty War Diary on this day

20 August 1942 sailed Gibraltar escorted by HMS's BURDOCK and ARMERIA (known as Force W) to meet HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH

28 August 1942 RV'ed with HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH in approximate position 14°12N 37°15W

6 October 1942 berthed at Gibraltar having arrived from Trinidad being escorted by HMS's VIMY and BURDOCK

October 1942 was fitted out as a DEMS at Gibraltar

25 October 1942 sailed Loch Ewe in escorted convoy KMS2G to Algiers

November 1942 undertook the first recorded multi-ras in the Mediterranean with two ships abeam and one astern.

10 November 1942 joined Convoy KMS 2 to participate in Operation Torch- the Allied Landings in French North Africa. Other RFA’s involved in Operation Torch were RFA’s  BROWN RANGER, DERWENTDALE (1), DEWDALE (1), ENNERDALE (1),  NASPRITE and VISCOL

11 November 1942 arrived Arzeu Beachead on Operation Torch for which she was awarded the North Africa 1942 Battle Honour

12 November 1942 arrived Algiers in Convoy KM 62G

21 November 1942 was damaged after fouling a sunken wreck whilst on Fleet Attendant Duties at Oran

3 December 1942 sailed Bone in escorted convoy MKX3F to Gibraltar. RFA DINGLEDALE was also in this convoy for part of the time

9 December 1942 the Naval Officer in command at Oran reported that Abbeydale's damage had been repaired

15 December 1942 a signal from C.S. Gibraltar and copied in the Admiralty War diary of this day reports that the damage to her No 7 port tank and pumproom required the ship to be dry docked for 2 or 3 days. Until this was done the tank could not be used. The ship also required a refit and it was suggested that she be returned to the UK for his to be done.

22 December 1942 sailed from Algiers in escorted convoy MKS 4 to the Mersey arriving 6 January 1943. RFA DERWENTDALE was in this same convoy making for the Clyde

26 December 1942 at Gibraltar in ballast

8 January 1943 under going repairs 

11 January 1943 Captain George F Rutter RFA (Commander RNR) appointed as Master. Mr Allan D Harris RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

Captain G F Rutter

Captain George F Rutter RFA

3 March 1943 repairs completed

3 March 1943 sailed Liverpool in escorted convoy ON170 and acted as Escort oiler for New York arriving on 20 March 1943

22 March 1943 under going repairs at New York until 24 March 1943

1 April 1943 sailed Hampton Roads in escorted convoy UGS7 to Algiers

12 May 1943 sailed Gibraltar in convoy TE21 to Bone arriving 16 May 1943

20 May 1943 in Operation Husky - Naval Operation Orders dated this day - Appendix 1 - shows ABBEYDALE would be based at Algiers together with RFA's EMPIRE SALVAGE and ORANGELEAF (1) to provide Furnace Fuel Oil

16 June 1943 sailed Gibraltar, along with RFA’s BROWN RANGER and CELEROL, in escorted Convoy KMS 16

18 June 1943 sailed Alexandria in Convoy XTG 2

27 June 1943 17.04 hrs torpedoed by the German submarine U73 (Oberleutnant zur See Horst Deckert) and badly damaged (broken in half) in the Mediterranean off the Algerian Coast at 36°53N 01°55E while part of convoy XTG-2 in ballast. No fatalities. Towed by HMSV SALVESTOR to Algiers and repaired during 1944/5 at Taranto Dockyard.

29 September 1944 Electrician Neilson Davie Bruce discharged dead


Electrician Bruce's entry on the Tower Hill Memorial


14 October 1944 her after part arrived Taranto in tow

18 October 1944 her fore part arrived Taranto in tow

30 May 1945 was finally taken in hand for rejoining and permanent repairs

25 April 1946 Captain Edward Mills RFA appointed as Master

July 1946 permanent repairs completed

October 1946 – Gyro compass equipment – which had been earlier removed from the ship and RFA's DERWENTDALE (1) and OLIGARCH (2) and was now set for fitting in RFA's CHERRYLEAF (1), PEARLEAF (1) and CEDARDALE

27 September 1947 Captain Leslie Sonley RFA appointed as Master

6 November 1947 Captain Edward Mills RFA appointed as Master again

12 November 1947 Mr D S Wood RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

17 June 1948 berthed at Sydney, NSW to discharge

24 August 1948 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

28 August 1948 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

23 November 1948 Captain David A Rees RFA appointed as Master

Capt David Arthur Rees

Captain David A Rees RFA

14 January 1949 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

18 January 1949 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

12 February 1949 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east bound

25 June 1949 in the South China Sea

24 August 1949 at Dunfermline Sheriff's Court, Fife 4th Engineer Officer Sydney G Crace appeared charged with assault. Mr Crace pleaded Not Guilty and the proceedings were adjourned until 15 September 1949 for trial

 Press Report Even Telegraph 24.8.49 Abbeydale

Press report from the Evening Telegraph of 24 August 1949

15 September 1949 at Dunfermline Sheriff's Court Sydney George Crase was found Guilty of assaulting 2nd Engineer Officer James H Patterson. He was fined £20

26 November 1949 arrived Fremantle, Australia from Abadan

30 November 1949 sailed Fremantle, Australia for Abadan

5 April 1950 Mr Allan D Harris RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

23 May 1950 while on passage from Falmouth for the Persian Gulf passed Gibraltar

31 May 1950 while on passage from Falmouth sailed Suez for the Persian Gulf

15 June 1950 arrived at Abadan

13 July 1950 berthed at Fremantle, Australia from Abadan

17 July 1950 sailed Fremantle, Australia for Abadan

22 December 1950 arrived Sydney, Australia to discharge from Abadan

27 May 1951 at Abadan Hospital Fireman Allee Razak discharged dead from typhoid

25 September 1951 Captain T G Hill RD RFA (Lieut-Commander RNR) appointed as Master

21 January 1952 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on Flamborough Head sailing northbound

7 June 1952 arrived Santos

18 August 1952 Mr J H McKenzie RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

30 October 1952 sailed Trindad for Gibraltar

23 December 1952 sailed Gibraltar for Le Havre

24 March 1953 sailed Suez

7 April 1953 sailed Ras Tanura for Bombay

17 September 1953 Captain Percivale H Brooke OBE RFA appointed as Master



Captain Percivale H Brooke OBE RFA


14 February 1954 arrived at Suez

5 August 1954 Captain Frank C Holt RFA appointed Master


 Captain Frank Holt

Captain Frank C Holt RFA

22 August 1954 arrived at Port Said

22 September 1954 arrived at Suez

2 October 1954 passed Gibraltar sailing west

17 October 1954 Mr Henry S Edwards RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer



Chief Engineer Officer Henry S Edwards RFA

12 February 1955 sailed Sydney, NSW for the Persian Gulf

20 April 1955 passed Gibraltar sailing west bound

30 November 1955 Captain George W Webster RFA appointed Master

Captain George W Webster

Captain George W Webster RFA

15 December 1955 Mr J G Simpson RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

7 January 1956 passed the Lloyds Signal Station at Dover sailing east bound

8 January 1957 Mr P Ryan RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

3 February 1957 Captain Robert D Almond RFA appointed Master. He remained in command until 1 July 1958

Captain Robert Almond

Captain Robert D Almond RFA

2 March 1957 in refit at Smith's Dock, River Tyne

16 April 1957 Mr R C Veitch RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

16 July 1958 Captain E E A LeSage RFA appointed as Master

30 November 1958 Mr Charles H Gurr RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

27 May 1959 Deck Tindal Eusoof Nooroodeen discharged dead. He was killed when he fell down an open tank and suffered multiple injuries

29 July 1959 arrived Devonport to destore

18 September 1959 laid up at  Devonport

5 July 1960 offered for sale by the Ministry of Transport 'as lying' at Devonport in The Times of this day

11 August 1960 sold to BISCO for scrap

4 September 1960 arrived Thomas Ward's Barrow in tow of the British tug CAMPAIGNER for breaking up

14 September 1960 breaking up commenced




She was originally destined to be one of a Class of what was to become 93 tankers over a 15 year period, the lead ship of this Class being launched as BRITISH FAME on 19 June 1936



Copyright © 2008 – 2018 Christopher J White

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