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Previous name:                        Olifant
Subsequent name:  

Official Number:                       139169                                                                         

Class:                                      Emergency Wartime Construction LEAF Group Freighting Tanker

Pennant No:                             Y7.152

Laid down:
Builder:                                    Irvines Shipbuilding & Drydock Co Ltd, West Hartlepool
Launched:                                 15 August 1916
Into Service:                              25 November 1916

Out of service:                           4 February 1917

Fate:                                        Torpedoed and sunk

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


October 1915 purchased by the Admiralty on the stocks

15 August 1916 launched by Irvines Shipbuilding & Drydock Co Ltd, West Hartlepool as Yard Nr: 557 named RFA OLIFANT

25 November 1916 completed and placed under management of Lane & MacAndrew Ltd, London as an oiler transport and renamed PALMLEAF. Base port Devonport. Ship fitted with 4.7 inch gun and carried two DEMS (RNR) gunners

2 February 1917 sailed Devonport for Port Arthur, Texas in ballast

4 February, 1917 4.50pm was torpedoed and sunk in the North Atlantic 240 miles W of the Fastnet Rock at 50.00N 15.00W by the German submarine U54 (Kapitanleutnant Freiherr Volkhard von Bothmer).


Kapitanleutnant Freiherr Volkhard von Bothmer

The  torpedo struck the port side by No 7 tank. A further explosion occured after 6pm. There were no fatalities but one of the crew was injured (fractured rib) by accident. Her Master Captain P Daniel and Engineer Sub Lieutenant Charles Robert Whelpdale (the Chief Engineer Officer) were taken prisoner.

5 February 1917 the crew, in two life boats , were rescued by SS Argyll and landed at Queenstown

15 March 1917 registry closed - vessel sunk.

12 May 1917 an enquiry was held at the HM Navigation School, Portsmouth into the circumstances attending the sinking of the ship

31 May 1917 an Admiralty report on this ship showed she had completed only one round trip during which she had suffered damage following grounding at Queenstown. This resulted in 9 days at Devonport for the repair work (including discharge of cargo & loading bunkers) - source MT23/808 at the TNA



Additional information

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