RFA Northmark

The above image would appear to be the ship when she was in commission as HMS Bulawayo.

Previous name:                       Westerwald  Nordmark
Subsequent name:                  HMS Bulawayo


Pennant No:                            A121

Laid down:                              14 November 1936

Builder:                                   Schichau, Elbing

Launched:                               5 October 1937
Into Service:                            9 May 1945
Out of service:                        1947 to Royal Navy

Fate:                                       Scrapped


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


As a German Naval Auxiliary


16 January 1939 commissioned into the German Navy. Her Commanding Officer was KKpt R. Peter Grau

July 1939 deployed with the Gneisenau off the island of Maderia

22 August 1939 deployed from Germany to support the German Pocket Battleship Deutschland in the North Atlantic.

25 October 1939  having changed her name to Nordmark she refuelled Deutschland

17 November 1939 reported to the German Consulate at Trondheim, Norway that she had been stopped by the Norwegian Navy torpedo boat off Hidrifi Island. The ship was sailing in Norwegian territorial waters and acting as a merchant vessel on the orders from the German High Command

18 November 1939 allowed to proceed after stating she was a German Government vessel with weapons for self defence only

20 November 1939 taken under escort of German Naval vessels to transit the Great Belt territorial waters as the Danish Government had blocked passage between 54.47N & 54.51N

22 November 1939 entered Swinemunde thence after seven days to Danzig shipyards

12 March 1940 entered Swinemunde with the German Cruiser Emden and the Battleship Lutzow - became icebound

11 April 1940 in the Artic Ocean refuelled the German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst

13 May 1940 off Jan Mayen Island refuelled the commercial raider 'Widder' during the laters break out into the North Atlantic. Nordmark had suffered damage to her bow and stern from ice.

27 July 1940 damaged during an air raid near the Jutland coast.

12 September 1940 until 21 May, 1941 supplied the Admiral Scheer

23 October 1940 sailed Gdynia

7 February 1941 refuelled the raider Kormoran off the Cape Verde Islands while disguised as an American ship Dixie

14 March 1941 Able Seaman Arthur Herbert Freeman a British merchant seaman and a prisoner held on the ship and originally captured on the ss Afric Star shot dead by German guards during a fire and what they (the Germans) perceived as an attempt to take over the ship .  He is buried at VILLENAVE D'ORNON (ST. BRICE) COMMUNAL CEMETERY, Bordeaux, France

Freeman AH

Courtesy and © of The War Graves Photographic Project


14 April 1941 while purporting to be an American tanker Prairie spotted by an seaplane from HMS Alcantara in the South Atlantic Ocean - challenged, accepted as genuine and allowed to continue on her voyage. Later it was found she was not the  American ship named Prairie.

16 April 1941 RASed with an Italian submarine Archimede in the South Atlantic Ocean

17 April 1941 RASed with another Italian submarine Guglielmotti in the South Atlantic Ocean

17 April 1941 RASed with a third Italian submarine Ferraris in the South Atlantic Ocean

22 April 1941 RASed with a fourth Italian submarine Perla in the South Atlantic Ocean

2 May 1941 RASed with German submarines U105, U106 and U107

14 May 1941 while returning to Germany from the South Atlantic one of her British prisoners died - Chief Engineer Officer Robert Scott Carruthers of the ss Craftsman who had been wounded when his ship was attacked and sunk by the German commercial raider 'Kormoran' on the 9 April 1941.

 CEO Carruthers

Chief Engineer Officer Robert S Carruthers

Mr Carruthers was buried at sea with full military honours and is remembered with pride on the Tower Hill Memorial


The Memorial at Tower Hill for those who died when the ss Craftsman was sunk includes Chief Engineer Robert S Carruthers, from that ship, who died on 14 May 1941 onboard the Nordmark
Image supplied with thanks to Brian Watson

19 May 1941 while returning to Germany her passage was via the English Channel under escort of ships of the German Navy and Airforce with no attack from British forces

20 May 1941 injured prisoners from ss Craftsman (including the ships Master who had been blinded) were discharged at Cuxhaven. Berthed later at Hamburg.

March 1942 to April 1945 Operations in Norway


As the German supply ship Nordmark

9 May 1945 captured by British forces at Copenhagen

4 June 1945 due to shortage of tankers the Admiralty directed that she was to be sailed to Rosyth as soon as possible with minimal German crew. Her RN crew was to be provided from HMS DIADEM and the Polish Ship ORBI. If this was not possible she was to sail with her German crew but under a guard from HMS DIADEM and the ORBI - source Admiralty War Diary of this date page 1051

8 June 1945 arrived Rosyth escorted by HMS DIADEM and the Polish Ship ORBI - source Admiralty War Diary of this date page 66.

25 June 1945 arrived at Palmers, Hebburn on Tyne.

As a British Naval Auxiliary

January 1946 renamed Northmark and considered for RFA Service

11 January 1946 Captain John Smith RD RNR  appointed as Commanding Officer

4 May 1946 Stoker 1st Class Edward Walker D/KX 153047 discharged dead. He is buried in Milford Haven Cemetery in Section A grave 148

Walker E

Courtesy and © of The War Graves Photographic Project


12 June 1947 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

30 June 1947 Captain Kenneth A Short DSO Royal Navy appointed as Commanding Officer

July 1947 on completion of refit was commissioned as HMS Bulawayo


HMS Bulawayo 1947

HMS BULAWAYO shortly after commissioning

29 September 1947 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

13 January 1948 the Times Newspaper reported -

Times News Report 1948 Bulawayo

18 February 1948 sailed Sheerness to Point-a-Pierre, Trinidad arriving on 3 March 1948 to load.

6 March 1948 sailed Trinidad to Sheerness. A total of four of these round trips were made arriving at Sheerness on 29 June 1948 at the end of the last trip

20 March 1948 Leading Signalman Ernest D Cook JX 142225 discharged dead

18 June 1948 RASed with HMS VANGUARD

HMS Vanguard


24 July 1948 announced that the Home Fleet's Autumn Cruise to the West Indies and to South Africa. Among the ships taking part were to be HMS's DUKE OF YORK (Flagshire of Vice Admiral Sir Rhoderick R McGrigor KCB), THESEUS, VENGEANCE, DIADEM, SOLEBAY, BULAWAYO and RFA FORT BEAUHARNOIS

13 September 1948 off Portland undertook a practice RAS with HMS JUTLAND

23 September 1948 entered Portland Harbour

14 October 1948 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

1 January 1949 Commissioned Boatswain William Howard Leaman Royal Navy appointed an Ordinary Member of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the New Years Honours List of this day

14 January 1949 at Portsmouth Dockyard moved berths from No: 3 Basin  to No: 15 dry dock

2 February 1949 at Portsmouth Dockyard moved berths from No: 15 dry dock to No: 3 Basin

11 March 1949 Officers Cook Peter Burdett appeared before Portsmouth Magistrates' Court charged with larceny - he was remanded on bail for 14 days

24 March 1949 before Portsmouth Magistrates' Court Officers Cook Peter Burdett from the ship pleaded guilty to stealing a pair of trousers and was fined £5

6 April 1949 at Portsmouth Dockyard a fire was discovered in the cable bringing shore power to the ship. The Dockyard Fire Service was called and extinguished the blaze

August 1949 Captain Donald Fuller Royal Navy appointed as Commanding Officer

19 August 1949 the ships company dance was held at the Embassy Ballroom, Fawcett Road, Portsmouth

26 September 1949 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

29 September 1949 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

30 September 1949 the Portsmouth Evening News newspaper reported: -

Portsm Even News 30 9 1949 Bulawayo

3 October 1949 Commander in Chief Portsmouth Admiral of the Fleet Sir Algernon Willis GCB, KBE, DSO visited the ship

11 October 1949 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour


Bulawayo RAsing

HMS Bulawayo RASing with a King George V Class Battleship

 MOD copyright acknowledged

13 October 1949 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

17 October 1949 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

24 October 1949 sailed Devonport to Gibraltar arriving on 29 October.

31 October 1949 sailed Gibraltar to Malta GC

10 November 1949 berthed at Malta

22 November 1949 off Malta RASed with HMS GRAVELINES (trough method) - training RAS - only 47 tons of FFO transferred 

23 November 1949 off Malta RASed with HMS GRAVELINES (trough method) - training RAS - only 24 tons of FFO transferred

29 November 1949 sailed Malta for alongside replenshment with HMS St AUSTELL BAY

27 March 1950 sailed Gibraltar to Sheerness

20 April 1950 Captain H Murray-Clark, Royal Navy was appointed as Commanding Officer

October 1950 into reserve at the Gare Loch Scotland and used as Headquarters Ship, Reserve Fleet, Clyde Division

21 January 1952 at the Gare Loch with HMS ZEEBRUGGE berthed alongside

30 January 1952 at the Gare Loch with HMS ZEEBRUGGE berthed alongside

4 October 1955 arrived for breaking up at Dalmuir, Scotland.

Additional information

Copyright © 2008 – 2017 Christopher J White

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