Previous name:                         Rona,  Califol
Subsequent name:                    British Rose, Portofino

Official Number:                        137518                                                           

Class:                                       Emergency Wartime Construction LEAF Group Freighting Tanker

Pennant No:                               Y7.171

Laid down:
Builder:                                      Sir Raylton Dixon, Middlesborough

Launched:                                  2 May 1916
Into Service:                               August 1916
Out of service:                            1920 sold out of service and name changed
Fate:                                          Sunk - see below



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

Ordered by Colonial Sugar Refining Co Ltd, Sydney and was laid down as the cargo ship RONA

2 May 1916 launched by Sir Raylton Dixon & Co Ltd, Middlesborough as Yard Nr 594 named  RFA CALIFOL for the Shipping Controller

August 1916 completed and placed under management of Lane & MacAndrew Ltd, London as an oiler transport and renamed ROSELEAF. Base port Portsmouth

30 September 1916 in the Atlantic west of the Shetland Islands chased by a U-Boat but escaped

21 October 1916 at 55°27N 17°12W while on passage from Immingham to Sabine in ballast stopped and boarded by HMS PATIA - allowed to proceed

27 April 1917 was attacked by gun fire from an unknown submarine off the NW coast of Ireland. She fought the attacker off using her own gun

31 May 1917 an Admiralty report on this ship showed she had completed three trips from the UK - prior to the first journey she had to have various alterations and repairs of a minor nature together with the removal of various fittings etc. These had delayed her 5 days on the River Humber.  During the second journey and after a collision with the steamer Bertil she was delayed 11 days on the River Tyne repairing damage to her port side, fire damage in cross bunker, her rudder head gland holding down bolt had carried away and a new stuffing box had to be supplied and fitted (including discharging time and bunkering) and a further 5 days on the River Clyde for cleaning main boilers and deck and engine room jobbing - source MT23/808 at the TNA

4 June 1917 at Hampton Roads joined convoy and sailed escorted by HMS CARNARVON



7 December 1917 at New York joined convoy and sailed. RFA ELMLEAF was also in this convoy escorted by HMS CARNARVON

18 February 1918 arrived and anchored at Grassy Bay, Bermuda

9 October 1918 Captain Maurice William Mackay RFA awarded the Lloyds Silver Medal for Meritorious Service


Captain Maurice William Mackay RFA

23 November 1918 at Leith Fireman David Bissett discharged dead from influenza

2 December 1918 at Leith Bosun Roderick Cameron discharged dead from influenza

24 December 1918 arrived at Trinidad

16 January 1919 sailed Norfolk VA for Lough Swilly

1 February 1919 arrived at Greenock from Norfolk, VA

9 February 1919 sailed Glasgow for Sabine

22 February 1919 after sailing in ballast from Glasgow to Sabine, Texas returned to Tail of the Bank with engine defects (information from Lloyds Casualty Lists)

23 February 1919 sailed Glasgow (again) for Sabine

18 March 1919 arrived at Port Arthur, Texas from the Clyde

14 April 1919 arrived Greenock from Port Arthur, Texas

10 June 1919 arrived at Copenhagen

13 June 1919 arrived at London from Newport News, USA via Falmouth

June 1919 Captain Charles Joseph Rudder RFA appointed as Master

Capt C J Rudder

Captain Charles J Rudder RFA

9 June 1919 arrived at Falmouth from Trinidad

12 June 1919 arrived at Thames Haven from Falmouth

2 July 1919 entered dry dock at Cardiff for refit

15 July 1919 twelve people killed in a gas explosion on the ship while in refit at Cardiff. An Engineer Officer was badly burned

 Press report Roseleaf

Press report from the Dundee Courier of 16 July 1919

16 July 1919 those listed as killed by the Cambrian Daily News were - F Haggerty, T Morris, George Davies,  E Barnett,  A Davies,  D Craik,  J Powell,  Archie Lewis, Walter Roath,  David Thomas,  H Pargrave and Fred Algar - all employed by the ship repairers

30 July 1919 during the inquest at Cardiff touching on the deaths of those killed in the explosion on the Roseleaf the 2nd Engineer Officer Henry Fraser admitted he took the 6th Engineer Officer Cosser onto the ship and down to the forepeaf carrying a naked light despite notices on the ship and gangways warning against using naked lights on the vessel. The Coroner advised the jury that the 2nd Engineer Officer had been man enough to the shoulder the whole responsibility for the explosion but no jury would convict him of manslaughter. A verdict of accidental death was returned in each case.

5 January 1920 sold to British Tanker Co Ltd.

30 March 1920 in the London Gazette of this day Captain Charles Joseph Rudder appointed as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

4 April 1920 arrived at Port Said

14 May 1920 arrived at Suez from Abadan

26 May 1920 sailed Suez to Abadan

19 July 1920 sailed Suez for Abadan

26 August 1920 arrived at Suez from Abadan

18 September 1920 sailed Suez for Colombo

2 October 1920 arrived Colombo from Suez

26 November 1920 sailed Singapore for Suez

26 January 1921 sailed Suez for Avonmouth

11 February 1921 berthed at Avonmouth after a voyage from Abadan carrying 4 passengers

4 March 1921 renamed British Rose

25 March 1921 arrived at Aden when on passage from Liverpool to Abadan

10 April 1921 arrived Abadan from Liverpool

23 April 1921 arrived at Suez from Abadan

24 May 1921 arrived at Port Said from Swansea when on passage to Abadan

27 June 1921 sailed Port Said for Swansea

10 July 1921 arrived at Swansea

11 July 1921 the Pumpman was gassed and 4th Engineer Officer Kenneth Erskine of North Shields, attempted to rescue him. 4th Engineer Officer Kenneth Erskine was awarded the Royal Humane Societies Bronze Medal and certificate which was presented to him at the Mercantile Marine Office at Tilbury on the 9 December 1921. RHS Reference Number 46013. 4th Engineer Officer Erskine had previously sailed on RFA WAR BHARATA


4th Engineer Officer Kenneth F Erskine

20 July 1921 sailed from Swansea from Abadan

30 July 1921 arrived at Port Said while on passage from Swansea to Abadan

14 August 1921 arrived at Abadan from Swansea

20 August 1921 sailed Abadan for Swansea

8 September 1921 sailed from Suez for Swansea

20 October 1921 sailed Avonmouth for Port Arthur, Texas

10 November 1921 arrived at Port Arthur, Texas from Avonmouth

15 November 1921 sailed Port Arthur for London

11 January 1922 the Shields Daily News reported that -

BRose Press Report 11 1 22 Shields Daily News

25 June 1922 sailed Swansea

31 July 1922 sailed Suez when on passage from Swansea to Abadan

13 September 1922 at Suez - while on passage from Abadan to Swansea was found to be leaking from No 1 oil tank - the Canal authorities refused her permission to enter the Canal until oil in this tank had been discharged

3 October 1922 arrived at Swansea from Abadan

13 December 1922 at Swansea

20 December 1922 at London

2 January 1923 when on passage from Falmouth to Abadan towed the British steamer Rosefield into Bilbao, Spain  which had damage to it's engines and hull reported to have been caused by the British Rose

21 January 1923 sailed Aden

29 January 1923 at Abadan

12 February 1923 passed Perim

19 February 1923 sailed Suez for Marseilles, France

12 May 1923 at Bombay

19 July 1923 sailed Aden for Abadan

18 August 1923 arrived at Aden from Abadan

23 November 1923 sailed Aden for Abadan

16 March 1924 sailed Melbourne for Abadan

6 April 1924 sailed Colombo for Abadan

22 October 1924 at Aden

2 November 1924 sailed Abadan for Aden

13 November 1924 sailed Aden for Abadan

7 December 1924 at Bombay

19 January 1925 at Abadan

12 February 1925 sailed Aden

4 March 1925 sailed Abadan for Le Havre

4 April 1925 at anchor in Le Havre Roads

17 July 1925 at Abadan

7 November 1925 at Bombay

17 December 1925 at Abadan

25 December 1925 at Aden

2 January 1927 sailed Aden

13 January 1927 went to the aid of an oil tanker on fire named 'Volga' off the coast of Oman, Persian Gulf

 PRESS REPORT Roseleaf 2

Press Report from Gloucester Citizen of 13 January 1926

30 May 1927 rescued Flight Lieutenant Carr RAF and Flight Lieutenant Gillman RAF in the Persian Gulf together with their crashed aircraft - a Hawker Horsley - minus its port wings and 'airscrew'. The officers were attempting to fly in a nonstop RAF flight from Cranwell to India

17 September 1927 at Bombay

12 November 1927 sailed Bombay for Abadan

12 December 1927 sailed Aden for Abadan

30 November 1929 at St Georges Hospital, Bombay 2nd Officer John R Squires discharged dead from Thrombosis and actute pulmonary tuberclosis

 John Squires

2nd Officer John R Squires

23 April 1930 sailed Liverpool

4 May 1930 arrived at Aden from Abadan

24 July 1930 sold to La Riviera Societa Anonina di Nav (A. Lauro, Manager), Genoa and renamed Portofino

21 September 1930 sailed Aruba for LEFO

5 May 1934 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

1 July 1937 was involved in a collision with a Brixham fishing ketch 'Sunstar' in the Eddystone fishing grounds in fog. The fishing ketch was lost with all hands.

26 April 1939 at Gibraltar was arrested for a debt of £6,000 from a collision on the 1 July 1937 - see above

27 October 1942 sailed Taranto to Tobruk with 2,200 tons of German Army gasoline arriving on 29 October 1942

6 November 1942 while under the control of the Italian Navy attacked by aircraft of the Royal Air Force while in Benghazi, bombed and sunk

Additional information

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