Thule’s Rush in!
RFA Black Ranger was one of a class of six small tankers, built during the Second World War, all of which distinguished themselves in various theatres; in fact Black Ranger had given sterling service on many of the Russian Convoy’s.
Since the end of the Second World War, the ship had been based mainly at Portland, where she served as the ‘Training Oiler’ for ships in work up, occasionally relieved with trips with the Training Squadron, to places like the Baltic.
On the 18th November 1960, Black Ranger had left Portland, escorted by HMS Rocket, Keppel and Loch Alvie for a mock battle, after clearing Portland Race and proceeding at a speed of twelve knots, the tanker proceeded to her designated position. Under the waves the submarine HMS Thule was manoeuvring for a mock attack on the “convoy”, Thule had estimated the position of Black Ranger on his port side, when the captain of the submarine ordered periscope depth, on reaching the correct depth; all hell broke loose as through the periscope he spied a large grey object rushing toward the periscope.
Second later, there was a violent crunch as Black Ranger collided with the submarine, HMS Thule blew tanks and came to the surface, almost alongside Black Ranger, the submarine had sustained damage to her casing, periscope and snort mast, whilst the tanker had escaped unscathed.
There is an unsubstantiated story, that says the Captain of HMS Thule sent the following signal to RFA Black Ranger…”Thule’s rush in where Ranger’s fear to tread”