HMS_OlnaBy the middle of the Second World War the Naval Staff started to give some serious thought to a fast fleet tanker, the ship or ships that were envisioned would have a speed of around 18 knots and would be able to keep up with a Naval Task Force, whilst supplying them with fuel oil, lubricating oil, aviation spirit and water as well as some stores.

By the middle of the Second World War the Naval Staff started to give some serious thought to a fast fleet tanker, the ship or ships that were envisioned would have a speed of around 18 knots and would be able to keep up with a Naval Task Force, whilst supplying them with fuel oil, lubricating oil, aviation spirit and water as well as some stores.

 

Planning of this type of ship continued into 1943 and various ideas were thrown into the melting pot, including the need to incorporate a flight deck into the design, so that the ship could operate aircraft for self defence, this would have meant building a small hanger and space for a  limited number of aircraft, however the work entailed in this sort of design was considerable, as all shipyards in the UK were full to capacity, as were those in the United States and Canada..

 

The plan for this class was abandoned in early 1944, however the Admiralty did recognise that two fast tankers would be needed to supply the needs of the Far Eastern Fleet and more importantly, they would be needed on station by the beginning of 1945.  These tankers would be capable of 18-20 knots in order that they could keep up with a fast moving Battle Fleet, they would need to carry up to 15,000 tons of fuel to keep the Battle Fleet at sea.

 

Now came the problem, and it was an old one as their was very little likelihood of getting these ships built in UK, American or Canadian yards, so another solution had to be sought to solve the problem.  It was then decided that two tankers already being built by Swan Hunters on the Tyne for the Anglo Saxon Petroleum Co would fit the bill nicely, these two ships were being built using all welded construction and had been named “Hyalina” and Helicina”

 

Both of these two ships had been designed to carry around 17,000 tons of cargo and with a speed of 16 knots seemed ideal, to enhance their performance it was decided to limit their cargo capacity to 15,000 tons and make a few modifications t bring their speed up to 17 knots, however these ships were considered as a purely stop gap measure in the light of the fact that they did not fulfil all of the requirements.

 

The first of the ships to be launched was renamed HMS Olna and as it had been planned that she would be an important element of the British Pacific Fleet, she was designed to have a complement of 300 Naval personnel.  She had nine sets of tanks, each of which were sub-divided transversely by two longitudinal bulkheads.  Her cargo capacity was 9,000 tons of fuel oil, 3,000 tons of diesel, 2,350 tons of petrol and 240 tons of lubricating oil.

 

 

HMS_Olna

 

 

HMS Olna

 

Two separate pump rooms were built into the design so that they divided the tanks into sets of three groups, in that way a comprehensive cargo could be carried to meet the requirement of the Task Group they were assigned to.  In the pump rooms were 4 pumps for the fuel oil, these had a capacity of 390 tons per hour each, 1 pump for diesel with a capacity of 150 tons per hour and 2 pumps for the petrol with a capacity of 200 tons per hour. The petrol pump room was armour plated, with 100lb thickness on the top and sides.

 

There was also plastic armour around the wheelhouse and radio rooms.

 

Olna was more or less completed as planned, though with some modification to bring her up to Naval standards, these were the sub-division of the cargo tanks as previously mentioned, alteration to the armament carried, fitting of fuelling at sea gear so that the ship could replenish by both the stern and abeam methods, using 5 inch rubber hoses.

 

Alteration was also made to the piping and pumping arrangements, as well as one or two modifications to the crew accommodation to make them reasonably comfortable for her crew.

 

Olna was completed in May 1945 and after a hasty work up, sailed to join the fight against the Japanese, where she proved to be a very effective ship, far better than the “Dale” and “Wave” class tankers being operated by the RFA.  In fact after a brief career with the Royal Navy, she was transferred to RFA manning and continued in the RFA Fleet until 1967.

 

 

RFA_Olna_2

 

 

RFA Olna

 

 

 

Lessons learned from this ship and the Waves were incorporated into the design for the “Tide” class.

 

 

 

RFA Olna 1953

RFA_Olna_1

 

 

Two images of RFA Olna with changes to her RAS rigs

 

 

The second ship, which would have been named “Oleander” was not completed in time and the war ended before she could join her sister, she was therefore returned to her original owners and a replacement vessel was built to replace “Olna”.

 

 

Helicina

 

Mv Helicina

which was planned to be

RFA Oleander

 

Olna’s armament consisted of 1 x 4 inch HA/LA gun, 4 single 40 mm Bofors and 4 single 20 mm Oerlikons.

 

 

battle_of_the_river_plate_olna

OLNA

 

Builder: Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Wallsend

Launched: 28th December 1944                               Completed: May 1945

Yard No: 1689                                                           Official No: 180853

Tonnage: 12,660 grt, 7,412 nett

Length: 561.8 feet                       Beam: 70.2 feet                      Draught: 40.5 feet

Machinery: 2 x Turbo electric engines by British Thomson-Houston and Company Limited, Rugby.  Twin shafts.

Speed: 16 knots

Pennant Numbers: X 116 (World War 2), A 216 (Post 1947)

Call Sign: MQTR

 

During her career with the RFA she was used for fuelling at sea experiments, so her rig was changed several times.  In 1956 she played the German tanker “Altmark” in the film Battle of the River Plate.

 

Arrived at Castellon, Spain in March 1967 for breaking up.

Copyright © 2008 – 2017 Christopher J White

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