Lucigen before being purchased by the Admiralty

Subsequent name: 

Official Number:                      127965                                                         

Class:                                    Tanker Depot Ship

Pennant No:

Laid down:
Builder:                                  Armstrong Whitworth, Low Walker
Launched:                              25 November 1908
Into Service:                           1939
Out of service:                        1946
Fate:                                      Scuttled off Lagos


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -

Background Data:  Around the outbreak of WW2, the Admiralty purchased 3 old tankers for depot ship and escort oiler work which were manned and managed by their former commercial owners although some RFA personnel were based onboard. None of them served in the post~War Fleet


Port of Registry Liverpool

25 November 1908 launched by Armstrong, Whitworth & Co Ltd, Low Walker, Newcastle as Yard Nr: 814 named LUCIGEN for Lucigen Steamship Co Ltd (H.E. Moss & Co, Managers)  Liverpool.

February 1909 completed

6 March 1909 ran sea trials and was then laid up on the Tyne


Lucigen on her sea trials

© Tyne & Wear Archives Service

4 June 1910 the Shields Daily Gazette reported -


Shields Daily Gazette Lucigen 4 6 1910


7 August 1910 in response to distress signals, she closed the Anglo Saxon Petroleum Ltd tanker Cardium in the Red Sea which had a serious stokehold fire and had lost all power. The Master sent a radio message on their behalf to request tug assistance and the tanker was later successfully towed to safety


Cardium 1900

Anglo Saxon Petroleum Ltd. tanker Cardium


27 November 1910 sailed New York

26 February 1911 sailed the River Tyne for New York

14 March 1911 arrived at New York

20 March 1911 sailed New York for Hamburg

22 April 1911 reported that at 45.10N 47.15W she had sighted two very large icebergs

27 April 1911 arrived New York from the Tyne

20 July 1911 arrived at New York

12 August 1911 sailed Belfast for Philadelphia

30 December 1911 sailed New York for London

29 January 1912 sailed Savona

11 February 1912 sailed Novorossisk for Nordenham

8 March 1912 sailed Bremen enroute to New York

24 March 1912 encountered heavy pack-ice in the North Atlantic and had to divert southwards for an hour to clear it

31 March 1912 finally arrived in New York

2 December 1912 sailed New Orleans for Portland

6 June 1913 berthed at Portsmouth from Port Arthur, Texas

8 July 1913 arrived Port Arthur, Texas from Cardiff

17 July 1913 sailed Norfolk VA for Portsmouth arriving on 31 July 1913

25 August 1913 arrived at Port Arthur, Texas

22 September 1913 sailed Portsmouth

11 October 1913 sailed Portsmouth for Port Arthur, Texas

5 November 1913 berthed at Portsmouth from Port Arthur, Texas

15 December 1913 sailed Portsmouth Harbour

2 February 1914 sailed Portsmouth for Spithead

3 February 1914 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west

6 February 1914 entered dry dock at Cardiff

23 February 1914 arrived at Malta while on passage from Cardiff

27 February 1914 arrived at Port Said

8 August 1914 stopped by HMS ODIN and allowed to proceed

7 October 1914 off New York HMS SUFFOLK spoke to Lucigen and allowed her to proceed

1915 Captain George H Davidson listed as Master and 1st Engineer R W Ibbotson listed as Chief Engineer Officer in records in the National Maritime Museum

1 August 1915 off the coast of the United States Ordinary Seaman John M Stewart discharged dead - natural causes. Remembered with pride on the Stornaway Memorial

30 September 1915 stopped by HMS OROTAVA at 57.58N 11.30W and allowed to proceed

17 March 1916 at 58.25N 14.40W stopped by HMS GLOUCESTERSHIRE, an Armed Merchant Cruiser, and allowed to proceed

HMS Gloucestershire

HMS Gloucestershire


15 April 1916 in dry dock on the River Tyne

21 April 1916 at North Shields 2nd Mate William Gilliland discharged dead from heart failure

 New Journal 24.4.16 Luicigen

Press Cutting from Newcastle Journal of 24 April 1916

1 September 1916 at Abadan

24 October 1916 sailed Messina to Abadan arriving on 24 November 1916

8 May 1917 while on passage from Abadan to Aden was sighted by HMS BRAMBLE

28 June 1918 sighted by HMS PERTH which what was shown in her ships log as the Perim patrol

15 July 1918 while in a convoy from Milo to Corfu escorted by HMS COLNE parted company from the convoy and sailed direct to Corfu



23 July 1919 berthed at Liverpool from New Orleans

10 August 1919 sailed Barry

25 August 1919 entered Norfolk - reported in the New York Tribune 26 August 1919

6 September 1919 sailed New Orleans

15 September 1919 cleared Norfolk for London - reported in the New York Tribune 16 September 1919

30 September 1919 passed the Lizard while on passage from New Orleans to London - reported in the New York Tribune of 2 October 1919

25 November 1919 arrived at Le Harve, France - reported in the New York Tribune 29 November 1919

22 March 1920 sailed Norfolk - reported in the New York Tribune 23 March 1920

19 April 1920 sailed New York for Portland - reported in the New York Tribune of 20 April 1920

21 May 1920 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

27 May 1920 berthed at Antwerp from New York - reported in the New York Tribune 28 May 1920

1 June 1920 sailed Hull for New York - reported in the New York Tribune 2 June 1920

18 June 1920 sailed Norfolk VA - reported in the New York Tribune 19 June 1920

29 June 1920 arriven Port Arthur, Texas from the River Tyne

31 August 1920 berthed at Port Eads - reported in the New York Tribune of 1 September 1920

5 September 1920 sailed Port Eads for Calais and Dunkirk via Norfolk - reported in the New York Tribune 6 September 1920

24 December 1920 entered dry dock at Millbay, Plymouth for refit

7 January 1921 sailed Plymouth for New York

26 January 1921 at 43.40N 64.15W Fireman Jesse Wonacott discharged dead from heart failure


Fireman Jesse Wonacott

28 January 1921 arrived at New York from Plymouth

30 March 1921 sailed Port Eads to Le Harve - reported in the New York Tribune 31 March 1921

12 June 1921 arrived at Norfolk from Baton Rouge - reported in the New York Tribune 13 June 1921

28 June 1921 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

23 July 1921 arrived at Newport News from Rouen - - reported in the New York  Tribune 24 July 1921

25 July 1921 sailed Newport News for New Orleans - reported in the New York Tribune 26 July 1921

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

14 April 1922 sailed Rotterdam for Baton Rouge

28 June 1923 sailed Thames Haven for New York

11 October 1923 sailed the River Tyne for Beaumont, Texas

16 November 1923 sailed Beaumont, Texas for  Amsterdam

21 March 1924 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

30 March 1924 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west

22 April 1924 arrived New Orleans from Southampton

14 May 1924 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

8 June 1924 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west

12 December 1924 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing east

12 January 1925 arrived at Halifax from the River Tyne

24 May 1925 at Constantinople Galley Boy William Thomas Welch discharged dead from natural causes

18 September 1926 when 96 nmiles west of the Isle of Wight radioed she was bound for Hull

28 September 1926 arrived at Granton from Hull

1 October 1926 sailed Granton for Rotterdam

23 March 1927 sailed Constantinople

2 December 1927 sailed Port Said for Constanza

2 February 1928 sailed from the Tyne in ballast for New York with a crew of 40 aboard. The Master was Captain W B Simpson

5 February 1928 lost her rudder in the Atlantic to the NW of Cape Wrath. Sent out radio messages reporting her predicament and giving her position. The crew set about rigging a sail, using the two funnels as a mizzen which allowed them to run before the wind for a while.

12 February 1928  the German tug Seefalke took her in tow. Still in atrocious weather conditions. The tow parted and three of the crew of the tanker were injured although not seriously. The ship drifted for 14 to 15 hours to within 18 miles of the Skerryvore Rocks before the tow was reconnectedand  and the vessel made the Clyde


Seefalke 02

German tug Seefalke


16 February 1928 at 55.31N 6.39W Fireman & Trimmer William Drysdale discharged dead from natural causes 


Fireman William Drysdale

17 February 1928 arrived at Greenock in tow of the German tug Seefalke and was berthed at Princess Pier with her ensign at half mast. The ship's rudder was broken

28 February 1928 towed to Harland & Wolff Ltd., Govan for a new stern post and rudder to be fitted

22 January 1929 arrived Falmouth having passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard

31 August 1929 while entering Cardiff Docks under tow of tugs Eagle and Falcon the tug Eagle was in collision with a steam collier Alice. The Eagle sank and the Alice was damaged. The Eagle subsequently raised. The collision was later subject to litigation in the Admiralty Division of the High Court on 21 January 1930 when it was found that the Alice was on the wrong side of the channel and was solely to blame - stated case (1930) 36 Ll.L.Rep. 12 refers

13 April 1930 suffered storm damage while crossing the Atlantic from New Orleans to Le Havre - radio room washed away

29 April 1930 the Nottingham EVening Post reported -

Lucigen Press report Nott Even Post 29 April  30

21 June 1930 sailed the River Tyne for Philadelphia

13 September 1930 laid up on the River Tyne

16 April 1937 loading Russian oil at Batum in the Black Sea for Avonmouth

29 April 1937 sailed Istanbul for Avonmouth

16 May 1937 berthed at Avonmouth

17 May 1937 sailed Avonmouth

16 January 1938 arrived at Killingholme, Hull discharging 3,500 tons of petrol from Aruba

26 January 1938 arrived at Sunderland South Docks to discharge 3000 tons of petrol from Aruba

30 January 1938 sailed Sunderland

14 April 1938 arrived at Falmouth

7 July 1938 in refit at Wallsend Slipway, River Tyne at the same time and location as RFA WAR SIRDAR

17 June 1939 sailed the River Tyne

20 June 1939 at Greenock

September 1939 purchased by the Admiralty for service as a Depot Ship

17 October 1939 was scheduled to sail in Convoy 21 from the UK - did not sail

1 January 1940 sailed Harwich to Newcastle independently

3 January 1940 under repair at Newcastle

10 February 1940 and 12 February 1942 sailed the Tyne twice but returned the same day on each occasion

14 February 1940 sailed the Tyne in unescorted convoy FS96 to Southend arriving two days later

18 February 1940 sailed River Thames to Trinidad arrived 10 March 1940 to load

25 February 1940 Greaser John H Rivers discharged dead from injuries received during heavy weather. The location of this death is recorded in the Register of Deaths of Seaman as 'At Sea'

17 March 1940 sailed Trinidad to Freetown arrived 2 April 1940

8 April 1940 sailed Freetown to Trinidad arrived 20 April 1940 to load

1 May 1940 Trinidad - engines defective

29 May 1940 sailed Trinidad to Freetown due to arrive 11 June but eventually entered Freetown on 18 June 1940 with engine defects

27 June 1940 sailed Freetown to Lagos arriving 3 July 1940

17 October 1940 at Lagos with HMS DEVONSHIRE alongside to refuel

HMS Devonshire


July 1941 Engines not very effective. Spent the remainder of  WW2 at Lagos, Nigeria as a stationary fuelling hulk.

1946 was stripped of all useable equipment as she was now unseaworthy

June 1946 was towed out to sea by the Nigerian Marine tug ATLAS and was expended as a target by explosives and gunfire



Was a sister to RFA DELPHINULA

Additional information

Copyright © 2008 – 2018 Christopher J White

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