RFA Sprucol
849

RFA Sprucol rusting away on a beach on the island of Orkney

Ian_Balcombe

RFA Sprucol - another view from the end of the runway at Kirkwall Airport

© Ian Balcombe

 


Subsequent name:                 Juniata

Official Number:                      142289                                                                     

Class:                                       SECOND 1000 t CREOSOL CLASS Harbour Oiler

Pennant No:                             X67

Laid down:
Builder:                                    Short Brothers, Pallion
Launched:                                4 July 1917
Into Service:                             January 1918

Out of service:                          31 March 1920 - Sold commercially

Fate:                                         Scuttled

 

Items of historic interest involving this ship: -

 

Background Data:  On the outbreak of WW1, the Admiralty embarked on a further programme of tanker construction for the newly-formed RFA Service. Eventually there were eighteen ships in this Class, twelve of which were named after trees with the OL suffix, while the remainder had names connected with the oil industry also with the OL suffix. Four of the Class were diesel engined and were sold after the Armistice but the rest, being triple expansion steamers, had long and successful lives

 

4 July 1917 launched by Short Bros & Co Ltd, Sunderland as Yard Nr: 411 named SPRUCOL

16 July 1917 Engineer Lieutenant Alexander D Scott RNR appointed as Chief Engineer Officer until 11 February 1920 when he was appointed to RFA Limol

CEO Alexander D Scott

Chief Engineer Officer Alexander D Scott RFA

19 September 1917 Lieutenant R A Pritchard RNR appointed in command until 20 November 1918 when he was appointed in command of RFA Oakol

10 July 1918 was torpedoed and badly damaged in position 54.24 N 00.25 E by the German submarine UB-110 ( Kptlt. Werner Fürbringer) but managed to reach the Humber Estuary under her own power. She was then towed to Earles’s Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd’s yard, Hull for repairs. 950 tons of cargo was lost and she was out of  service  for over 4 months. - there were no fatalities.

11 December 1918 Lieutenant John H T Lewis RNR appointed in command until 30 April 1919 when he was appointed in command of RFA Birchol (1)

John H T Lewis

Lieutenant John H T Lewis RNR

1 May 1919 Lieutenant John Weir RNR appointed in command until 26 January 1920 when he was appointed to RFA SUNHILL (see Press Report of 7 April 1921 below)

31 March 1920 purchased by Anglo American Oil Co Ltd (J. Hamilton, Manager) London and renamed JUNIATA

26 April 1920 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west

17 May 1920 arrived Aberdeen from Hull

19 May 1920 sailed Aberdeen to Inverness with a cargo of spirit

1 August 1920 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

2 September 1920 arrived Grangemouth from London

13 September 1920 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west when on passage from Plymouth to Dublin

23 September 1920 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

30 September 1920 sailed Hull in ballast

13 October 1920 sailed Grangemouth for London

26 October 1920 arrived at Hull from Thames Haven

7 November 1920 sailed the River Wear for London

15 November 1920 arrived at Grangemouth with a cargo of petrol

16 November 1920 sailed Grangemouth in ballast for London

22 November 1920 arrived Grangemouth from London

14 December 1920 arrived at Grangemouth from London

16 December 1920 sailed Grangemouth for the River Wear

28 December 1920 sailed the River Wear for London

2 January 1921 arrived Albert Dock Hull from London

11 January 1921 arrived the River Wear from London

25 January 1921 arrived at Grangemouth from London

3 March 1921 sailed Albert Dock, Hull for Grangemouth

7 April 1921 The Scotsman newspaper reported that ...

Press Report Scotsman 7 4 21

13 April 1921 sailed Plymouth for Cardiff

1 August 1921 sailed Plymouth for Avonmouth

19 August 1921 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

31 August 1921 arrived Grangemouth from London

27 September 1921 arrived Plymouth from Thames Haven

28 September 1921 sailed Plymouth

20 November 1921 sailed the River Tyne for Sunderland arriving the same day

3 October 1922 arrived at Grangemouth from London

18 December 1922 berthed at Grangemouth from Hull to discharge

20 December 1922 sailed Grangemouth to Hull in ballast

28 December 1922 arrived Grangemouth from Hull

18 August 1923 arrived at Grangemouth from London

3 December 1923 arrived Salt End Jetty Hull to load and sailed the same day

11 December 1923 berthed at Grangemouth from Hull to discharge

13 December 1923 sailed Grangemouth for Hull in ballast

26 January 1924 berthed at Salt End Jetty, Hull and sailed later the same day for Grangemouth with a cargo of spirit

5 February 1924 berthed at Salt End Jetty, Hull and sailed later the same day for Grangemouth with a cargo of spirit

10 March 1924 sailed Salt End Jetty, Hull with a cargo of spirit for Grangemouth

24 April 1924 berthed at Salt End Jetty, Hull sailing later the same day to Sunderland with a cargo of kerosine

10 November 1924 berthed at Salt End Jetty, Hull from Aberdeen in ballast and sailed later the same day for Grangemouth with a cargo of spirit

17 July 1925 sailed Grangemouth in ballast

10 September 1925 sailed Salt End Jetty, Hull 

14 December 1925 arrived at Grangemouth from Hull

15 December 1925 sailed Grangemouth for Aberdeen

16 December 1925 arrived at Aberdeen from Grangemouth

17 January 1926 arrived at Grangemouth from Hull

20 January 1926 berthed at Salt End Jetty, Hull in ballast from Grangemouth. The same day having loaded a cargo of oil she sailed for Grangemouth

5 April 1925 sailed the River Wear for Hull

25 May 1926 berthed at Grangemouth from Hull

26 May 1926 sailed Grangemouth for Hull

28 May 1926 berthed at Salt End Jetty, Hull from Grangemouth

13 August 1927 arrived at the River Wear from Hull

17 November 1927 Captain Frederick V Soloman appointed as Master

Frederick V Soloman

Captain Frederick V Soloman

19 December 1927 sailed the River Wear for Hull

4 September 1928 berthed at Salt End Jetty, Hull in ballast from Grangemouth sailing later the same day for Grangemouth with a cargo of motor spirit

27 September 1928 arrived Aberdeen from Sunderland with a cargo of motor spirit, discharged and sailed the same day for Hull in ballast

24 December 1929 sailed Grangemouth for Aberdeen with a cargo of motor spirit

26 December 1929 arrived at Aberdeen from Grangemouth to discharge

1 January 1930 sailed Hull for Grangemouth

13 January 1930 sailed Grangemouth for Aberdeen

24 January 1930 sailed Aberdeen

16 April 1930 arrived Grangemouth from Hull via Sunderland

1931 manager now F.J. Wolfe

30 April 1931 in dock at Preston

15 May 1931 sailed Preston for Belfast

25 July 1931 at Preston signing off the crew when the ship was laid up

8 June 1932 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west bound

18 April 1934 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west bound

22 May 1934 arrived at Grangemouth from the River Medway

6 July 1934 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east bound

July 1934 sold to the French company Ste. Auxiliare de Transports, Rouen name unchanged

1936 Anglo-American Oil bought her back again

1940 acquired by Metal Industries Ltd, Rosyth and proceeded to Blyth to be prepared to be used as a block ship by the Admiralty. She was a replacement for the former Depot Ship PANDORA which had been used as a floating workshop in Portsmouth Harbour which too was earmarked for use as a blockship but had hit a  mine when about to enter Blyth Harbour in tow and had sunk in less than five minutes on 23 November 1939

17 April 1940 scuttled at Water Sound, Scapa Flow as part of No.4 Barrier, east of the Churchill Barrier linking the islands of South Ronaldsay and Burray

July 1949 was raised for scrapping. It was found that her condition would not permit towing her to a shipbreaking yard, so she was towed to Inganess Bay, Orkney and beached. Some scrapping work seems to have been carried out there, as the stern section has been separated from the wreck, leaving only the bow section still visible above the surface, a short distance out from the sandy beach off the end of the main runway at Kirkwall airport

 

Notes:

 

Her preparation as a blockship took three or four weeks. The first task was to clean the hull of barnacles and fungus to reduce towing resistance in order to speed the journey to Scapa Flow and to facilitate handling when she was being positioned in the strong tideways there. She was so fouled that she made only 4 knots! Next she had to be lightened as much as possible, consistent with stability, by removing her engines and boilers and by lifting of any of the deck machinery that could be spared.. It was necessary to leave on board the windlass, anchors and cables, bollards for mooring and hand steering gear to ensure her safety at sea and for manoeuvring  and holding in place when she reached her destination. When she had risen to as light a draught as possible, wooden patches measuring about 10 feet x 5 feet were affixed to the outside of the hull. Next she was loaded with broken concrete and stone rubble mixed with cement, This done, she was little more than a solid block, deep down in the water with the wooden patched well submerged. Tugs then towed her to Scapa where divers tightened the wooden patches. The plating behind them was cut away, bulkheads were opened up and explosives positioned and wired up. Finally the patches were blown off and the ship sank. She remained effective as a blockship throughout the War despite the strong tideways

Additional information

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