RFA Nucula


RFA Nucula along side HMS Renown in Auckland Harbour, New Zealand


Previous name:                     Hermione, Soyo Maru, RN Oiler No: 73        
Subsequent name:

Official Number:                    123992

Class:                                  Station Oiler

Pennant No:                          Y7.220

Laid down:
Builder:                                 Armstrong Whitworth & Co.
Launched:                             24 July 1906
Into Service:                          1922 (as an RFA)
Out of service:                       10 June 1937
Fate:                                     Scuttled


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data:  Acquired from commercial owners in the early Twenties, this tanker had a very short life with the Admiralty before being transferred to the New Zealand Government as their Navy’s first oiler to provide afloat support for their new cruisers HMNZS's DIOMEDE and DUNEDIN. Her main use was in transporting fuel oil from San Pedro in California to Auckland


24 July 1906 launched by Armstrong, Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle as Yard Nr: 776 named HERMIONE for Oil Tank Steamship Co Ltd (C.T. Bowring & Co Ltd, Managers)  Liverpool

September 1906 completed

16 October 1906 sailed Penarth for Philadelphia

31 October 1906 arrived at Philadelphia from Penarth

18 November 1906 the Lloyds Signal Station on St Catherines Point, Isle of Wight reported that the ship, on passage from Philadelphia to London, was five miles south east of the Signal station flying a signal 'Not Under Control'

15 December 1906 sailed Philadelphia for the UK

3 January 1907 sailed Las Palmas for Liverpool

27 February 1907 sailed Newport, Wales for Philadelphia

18 March 1907 sailed Philadelphia for Plymouth

8 July 1907 sailed London for Philadelphia

27 August 1907 arrived at Monte Video from Liverpool

11 November 1907 arrived at Liverpool from the River Plate

1908 purchased by Toyo Kisen Kaisha, Yokohama and was renamed SOYO MARU

13 January 1908 berthed at Pacific Street Wharf, San Francisco on first voyage from the UK for her new owners carrying 7,600 cases of champagne. She had come under the charge of British Officers while her Japanese Officers remained onboard as passengers. All the ships tankers were filled with freight. One tank was filled with pebbles in sacks as ballast. A serious accident occured when a temporary tackle which had been rigged to assist in the removed of the sacks of ballast through the open tank lid. The hook attached to a block fell and hit the head of George Greeves, a long shoreman who sustained a fractured skull. Reported at length in the newspaper 'The San Franciso Call' of 14 January 1908

5 February 1908 legal action in the San Francisco Courts against the owners of the Soyo Maru for damage caused to part of the cargo which had been off loaded on her arrival at San Franciso. This day sailed from Gaviota, California with a cargo of oil for Japan

10 March 1908 arrived at Yokohama, Japan

19 May 1908 arrived at Gaviota, California from Yokohama

27 May 1908 sailed Gaviota, California for Japan

1 October 1908 arrived at Port Arthur, Texas from Yokohama, Japan

5 December 1908 sailed Philadelphia for Avonmouth Dock

20 December 1908 arrived Avonmouth Dock

24 December 1908 sailed Avonmouth Dock for Kustendje

5 March 1909 berthed at Honolulu, Hawaii from Lobitos, Peru for bunkers

6 March 1909 sailed Honolulu, Hawaii for Japan

6 July 1909 berthed at Honolulu, Hawaii from Lobitos, Peru for bunkers. Carrying a cargo of 5,913 tons of crude oil

9 July 1909 sailed Honolulu, Hawaii for Japan

18 January 1910 arrived Honolulu from Peru

23 June 1910 arrived at Colombo from New York for Yokohama

3 September 1910 sailed Teneriffe for Liverpool

15 May 1911 arrived at Port Said

8 October 1912 suffered an engine room fire in the Malacca Straits about 160 miles north of Singapore. The cargo, passengers and crew were safe - reported in the Hong Kong Telegraph of 11 October 1912

11 November 1912 the Globe (an English newspaper) reported that -

Nucula on Fire

Nucula on fire 2

6 December 1912 - Hong Kong press reports indicate that the fire damage (see above) is extensive around the poop 

14 February 1914 sailed Southampton for Port Arthur

7 April 1915 requisitioned by the Shipping Controller (F.C. Strick, Managers) and was renamed NUCULA and served as R.N. Oiler Nr: 73 until 15 August 1915

29 September 1917 managers became Anglo Saxon Petroleum Co Ltd, London and served as R.N. Oiler Nr: 220. with name unchanged

13 April 1918 berthed at New York having sailed from Liverpool. Captain Bernard Charles Wilton as Master with 56 crew

10 September 1918 berthed at New York having sailed from Plymouth Captain George William Ferris as Master with 56 crew

23 November 1918 berthed at Galveston from New York

13th December 1918 sailed Gravesend for Philadelphia

8 January 1919 at Marus Hook, Philadelphia Fireman Yin Leong discharged dead from natural causes. He had signed on on 7 November 1917 at Singapore

January 1919 was stated to be in very poor condition and was recommended for disposal by the Director of Transport. The Admiralty approved expenditure of £50,000 to refit her for retention and she was purchased on their behalf by Anglo Saxon Petroleum Co  Ltd, London, remaining under their management

11 January 1919 sailed Philadelphia for Falmouth

23 March 1919 arrived at New Orleans from London

18 April 1919 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

19 April 1919 arrived at Falmouth from New Orleans (reported in the New York Tribute newspaper on 20 April 1919)

18 July 1919 sailed Gravesend via Grangemouth to Philadelphia

12 August 1919 reported by radio to Lloyds at Lerwick passing drifting mines at 69.55N 13.40E and at 65.05N 12.11E

25 September 1919 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

23 October 1919 and 24 October 1919 at Port of Spain, Trinidad moored alongside HMS RENOWN to refuel her - supplied 3,709 tons of FFO

8 December 1919 arrived at Trinidad from Thames Haven

19 May 1920 arrived at Galveston, Texas from Port Talbot

13 June 1920 arrived at Sheerness from Galveston

5 July 1920 arrived at Port Said from Sheerness

11 August 1920 at Suez Chief Steward J E Smith discharged dead - drowned

29 October 1920 arrived Suez from Abadan. RFA WAR BHARATA also arrived the same day and also from Abadan

10 November 1920 at Suez Fireman Ah Sang discharged dead with beri beri. He signed on at Singapore on 14 October 1920

28 December 1920 Lloyds Telegrams reported that Nucula was in collision with the British steamer British Emperor outside of the Bussorah Bar, Euphrates. Damage was reported to be serious

British Emperor 1916

ss British Emperor

25 April 1921 sailed Port Arthur, Texas to the Clyde

16 May 1921 arrived at Greenock from New Orleans

21 May 1921 sailed Glasgow in ballast for a Texan port

11th June 1921 arrived at Port Arthur from the Clyde

26 July 1921 sailed the Clyde for Port Arthur

10 August 1921 berthed at Port Arthur, Texas

19 August 1921 sailed Beaumont, Texas for Devonport

7 September 1921 arrived at Queenstown, Ireland for Haulbowline from Port Arthur

12 September 1921 sailed Queenstown for Beaumont, Texas

3 October 1921 arrived at Port Arthur, Texas from Queenstown, Ireland

7 October 1921 sailed Port Arthur, Texas for Sheerness

29 October 1921 arrived at Sheerness from Port Arthur, Texas

6 December 1921 sailed Sheerness for Beaumont, Texas

30 December 1921 arrived at Port Arthur from Sheerness

29 January 1922 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

3 February 1922 sailed Portsmouth for Port Arthur, Texas

26 February 1922 arrived at Port Arthur, Texas from Portsmouth

10 March 1922 berthed alongside at Bermuda Dockyard

14 March 1922 sailed Bermuda Dockyard

22 March 1922 arrived at Port Arthur, Texas from Bermuda

25 March 1922 sailed Port Arthur, Texas for Devonport

2 May 1922 shortly after arrival from Port Arthur, Texas extensively damaged from a collision with the British m.v. CALCHAS off Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde



10 May 1922 sailed Old Kilpatrick for Port Arthur

June 1922 transferred to Admiralty management for service as an oiler on the China Station

14 June 1922 Captain John R Gorrie RFA appointed as Master

 John Ross Gorrie

Captain John R Gorrie RFA


20 June 1922 Radio Officer Arthur R Winter RFA signed on this day. He had previously sailed as a Radio Officer on RFA RUTHENIA

Radio Officer Arthur R Winter

Radio Officer Arthur R Winter RFA


22 June 1922 berthed at Devonport Dockyard

24 July 1922 when on passage to Yokohama passed Malta this day

4 August 1922 arrived at Aden sailing the same day for Yokohama

10 September 1922 berthed at Hong Kong. The Officer of the Guard from HMS BLUEBELL boarded

11 October 1922 it was reported in the Straits Times of this date in Singapore that NUCULA had taken over from RFA PEARLEAF (1) and that PEARLEAF would be returning to England

26 March 1923 at Hong Kong with HMS MOTH berthed alongside

28 March 1923 at Hong Kong with HMS TARANTULA berthed alongside to refuel

12 April 1923 at Hong Kong

21 April 1923 arrived at Wei-Hai-Wei

11 May 1923 at Wei-Hai-Wei berthed alongside HMS DURBAN

HMS Durban


15 June 1923 at Wei-Hai-Wei alongside HMS DURBAN to refuel her

16 June 1923 at Wei-Hai-Wei alongside HMS DESPATCH to refuel her

20 June 1923 sailed Wei-Hai-Wei

1 August 1923 at Wei-Hai-Wei stores party from HMS DURBAN working onboard

14 August 1923 arrived at Wei-Hai-Wei. A working party from HMS DESPATCH came onboard

1 September 1923 while at Wei-Hai-Wei a signal was received which ordered her to Nagasaki to act as the Base Oiler there during the Yokohama Earthquake Relief Operations

8 September 1923 arrived at Wei-Hai-Wei and berthed on HMS CARLISLE to refuel her. Later moved and anchored

9 September 1923 at Wei-Hai-Wei with HM Submarines L5, L15, L19 and L33 berthed alongside to refuel

11 September 1923 sailed from Wei-Hai-Wei

29 September 1923 at Nagasaki, Japan with HMS DESPATCH berthed alongside - supplied the warship with 120 tons of FFO



November 1923 returned to Hong Kong on completion of Relief Operations at Nagasaki following the Yokohama Earthquake

19 November 1923 at Hong Kong secured to No: 2 buoy

3 December 1923 Captain Richard D Williams RFA appointed as Master

Captain Richard D Williams

Captain Richard D Williams RFA


11 January 1924 at Hong Kong with HMS DIOMEDE berthed alongside

22 January 1924 at Hong Kong with HMS DESPATCH berthed alongside - supplied the warship with 535 tons of FFO

13 February 1924 arrived at Hong Kong and secured to No: 2 buoy

17 February 1924 at Aden

22 February 1924 at Bombay, India

23 February 1924 Mr Richard M Marrack RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer. He had previously served on RFA DREDGOL

25 February 1924 at Colombo, Ceylon

1 March 1924 Captain Cyril F Haughton RFA appointed as Master. The ship was at Singapore

Capt Cyril F Haughton

Captain Cyril F Haughton RFA

24 March 1924 at Hong Kong

5 April 1924 sailed from Singapore


Nucula ships dog Boy

The ships dog - 'Boy'
Image donated by James Fryer

1924 fuelled ships of the Special Service Squadron led by the Battle Cruiser HMS HOOD on their world tour and accompanied them to Australia and New Zealand


Nucula 2 at Singapore 12.4.24

RFA Nucula at anchor off Singapore on 12 April 1924
Image donated by James Fryer


24 May 1924 at Suva, Fiji alongside HMS HOOD refuelling her - supplied 1,049 tons of FFO to the warship

26 May 1924 at Suva, Fiji alongside HMS REPULSE to refuel her

HMS Repulse



Nucula 3 at Suva Fiji May 1924

RFA Nucula alongside at Suva, Fiji in May 1924
Image donated by James Fryer

27 May 1924 transferred to the New Zealand Government at Suva as a Naval Oiler, and was converted for European manning at a cost of £2,500. Was transferred at a rate of £16,500 per annum. Her name was unchanged

5 June 1924 arrived Auckland for the first time. Between 06/09/24 and 23/10/47 she visited  Auckland 28 times

1 July 1924 berthed at Melbourne, Australia from Auckland

24 July 1924 the New Zealand Government budget presented to the New Zealand parliament recorded the fee for the hire of the Nucula charged by the Admiralty was £16,500 per annum

September 1924 a wooden chest the property of a member of the crew was stolen from the ship while it was berthed at the Sheerlegs Wharf, Devonport, Auckland. The chest was found floating in the harbour with part of its contents missing

Nucula New Zealand

(Hawera & Normanby Star, 10 October 1924). Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/24737203


Nucula Officers Auckland NZ 11 1924

The Master and Ships Officers at Auckland, New Zealand in November 1924
Image donated by James Fryer
Lifting Nuculas Funnel 3.1 in March 1925 
Lifting Nuculas Funnel March 1925
Lifting Nuculas Funnel 2 in March 1925
Refit at Devonport, New Zealand in March 1925
Image donated by James Fryer
 Funneless Nucular by Sheer legs at Devonport NZ
RFA Nucula funneless under the Sheer Legs at Devonport, New Zealand in March 1925
Image donated by James Fryer

Nucula loading at Standard Oil Wharf St Pedro CA Oct 1925

Alongside the Standard Oil Wharf, San Pedro, California loading cargo in October 1925
Image donated by James Fryer

21 November 1925 at Auckland, New Zealand Chief Engineer Officer Richard Marrack RFA discharged dead - heart failure

22 November 1925 Mr Harold R Bullimore RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

30 November 1925 Captain A Beardsall RFA appointed as Master

12 May 1926 the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy advertised in the New Zealand Evening Post for a 3rd and 4th Engineer Officers - the advert was similar to that pictured below (1936)

17 September 1926 berthed at Auckland, New Zealand from San Pedro

2 November 1926 sailed Auckland, New Zealand for San Pedro

21 March 1927 and the 5 April 1927 the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy advertised in the New Zealand Evening Post for a 2nd Officer - the adverts were similar to that pictured below (1936)

22 July 1927 the ship's quartermaster Richard Jessup was seen to throw himself overboard while the ship was on passage from Papeete after receiving bad news concerning a serious medical condition. A three hour search failed to find him - discharged dead

28 December 1927 sailed San Pedro for Auckland, New Zealand

18 January 1928 arrived at Auckland, New Zealand from San Pedro

23 February 1928 at Samoa in support of HMNZS DUNEDIN and HMNZS DIOMEDE. The warships mission was to round up troublesome Mau Suva for Auckland, New Zealand

3 April 1928 arrived at Auckland, New Zealand from Suva

6 July 1929 sailed Sydney, NSW, Australia for New Zealand having refuelled HMNZS's DUNEDIN and DIOMEDE

1930 the Admiralty approval was given to the New Zealand Government to sub-charter her to commercial firms for time or voyage charters

14 November 1930 crew members refused to sign new ships articles

17 November 1930 the crew walked off the ship in dispute over manning levels. They were replaced by RNZN sailors from the Naval training ship HMNZS PHILOMEL

article21605406 3 001


1 January 1931 her transfer rate was reduced to £3,250 per annum

Nucula sail Sydney 7 1 1931

RFA NUCULA sails from Sydney, NSW, Australia

15 January 1931 berthed at Sydney, NSW Australia from San Francisco to discharge

2 May 1931 berthed at San Franciso, Calafornia from Auckland

16 June 1931 arrived at Auckland, New Zealand from Sydney, NSW

13 July 1931 Captain G Attwood RFA appointed as Master

15 July 1931 sailed for Bora Bora, Society Islands to refuel HMS DIOMEDE

15 September 1931 berthed at Auckland, New Zealand

16 September 1931 sailed Auckland, New Zealand for San Francisco, USA to load

30 June 1932 sailed Los Angles CA for Wellington, New Zealand

5 August 1932 floated out of dry dock at Auckland

8 December 1932 at Auckland members of the crew saw a yacht 'Ramona' overturn. A signal was sent to HMS Diomede who lauched a sea boat and rescued the yacht's crew

14 January 1933 entered Devonport for refit

17 March 1933 in Calliope Dry Dock, Auckland, New Zealand

11 July 1933 at Suva, Fiji alongside HMS DUNEDIN refuelling her

3 August 1933 sailed San Francisco, USA for Auckland, New Zealand

26 August 1933 in collision with HMAS AUSTRALIA and lost an anchor while alongside the cruiser refuelling her at Russell. The anchor was recovered by divers and the Nucula suffered no damage. HMAS AUSTRALIA suffered hull damage which required dockyard repairs

4 April 1934 sailed Auckland for Colombo and the Persian Gulf to load

11 April 1934 suffered engine troubles while en-route from New Zealand to Abadan. Diverted to Sydney, NSW for repairs

12 April 1934 sailed Sydney, NSW to continue to Abadan

15 May 1934 sailed Abadan for Auckland, New Zealand

June 1934 during a voyage from Abadan to Auckland, she suffered major damage to her superstructure off the NE coast of Australia in a cyclone and nearly sank in the huge seas. Extensive repairs were required on arrival Auckland

2 October 1934 arrived at Sydney, NSW from Borneo - arrival reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 3 October 1934

18 October 1934 berthed at Auckland for self maintenance

27 October 1934 sailed Auckland, New Zealand for the Persian Gulf

11 November 1934 at Syndey, NSW off Garden Island

10 May 1935 entered refit at Auckland

31 July 1936 the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy advertised in the New Zealand Evening Post for a Chief Officer and a Third Officer



19 August 1936 refueled HMNZS ACHILLES at Nuhuhiva in Marquesas

2 September 1936 sailed Los Angles for Auckland

20 January 1937 berthed mid stream at Auckland

7 April 1937 berthed at Auckland from San Pedro

17 April 1937 at Auckland, New Zealand while going alongside HMAS SYDNEY to refuel her she was caught heavily by a rip tide and hit the cruiser causing damage to HMAS SYDNEY's port side propeller and forcing her into the wharf causing further damage to her quaterdeck. Nucula was not damaged. Also refuelled alongside HMAS's SWAN, VENDETTA and STUART

Nucula with HMAS Swan Vendetta and Stuart

HMAS's Swan alongside to port, HMAS's Vendetta and Stuart alongide to port
© New Zealand Herald

16 May 1937 sailed Los Angeles CA for Auckland

10 June 1937 arrived Auckland from California for the last time as a seagoing concern as the cruisers HMNZS DIOMEDE and DUNEDIN were about to leave NZN service so NUCULA became redundant

6 July 1937 laid up and used as a storage hulk at Shoal Bay, Waitemata Harbour.

13 April 1938 berthed at Devonport

16 October 1940 offered for sale 'as is' excluding her cargo in the New Zealand Evening Post of this day. She is shown as being berthed at HM Dockyard, Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand

28 May 1943 at Auckland, New Zealand with USS Bridge (AF1) alongside

31 May 1943 at Queens Wharf, Auckland, New Zealand USS Hunter Liggett (APA14) alongside to refuel - supplied with 5,129 barrels of fuel oil

January 1947 her remaining fuel was pumped ashore and she was offered for sale

April 1947 purchased by A.C. Radcliffe Ltd, Auckland for £1,520 name unchanged

23 October 1947 after being stripped of all re-usable equipment, she was towed out to sea by the tugs WILLIAM C DALDY and CORALIE

24 October 1947 the tug YTL 622 towed her to position  36.20S 176.00E and scuttled eleven miles ENE of Cuvier Island in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand in deep water

Additional information

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