RFA Ship Classes
The Eddy class were a part of the RFA’s post World War 2 construction programme and were designed for Fleet Attendant duties in naval bases around the world. The original plan called for ten ships in the class, but two were cancelled during construction and the other eight members of the class were to all intents and purposes redundant as soon as they were built, as the advances made in Replenishment at Sea techniques during the Second World War had overtaken their intended use.
The ‘Tide’ class of Fleet Tankers were the first purpose designed and built replenishment tankers for the Admiralty and they incorporated lessons learned from the Second World War, especially operations with the Pacific Fleet Train and a need for a fast replenishment tanker that could keep up with a task force.
In the early years of the Second World War two ships were ordered to increase the number of vessels available to carry petrol in bulk. Both of these vessels were built by Blythswood Shipbuilding and were designed and constructed to be of the single deck type of ship, with poop and forecastle, like the Ranger class and like that class had a straight stem, raked slightly forward and a cruiser type stern.
By the autumn of 1940 the losses of Merchant ships was becoming acute, and there was an urgent need to replace this lost tonnage if the country was to survive, the capacity of British shipyards was full, and so a team was despatched to the United States and Canada to seek out sources of new shipbuilding.
This team, which was known as “The British Merchant Shipbuilding Mission” was given Government authority to buy or have built sufficient ships of around 10,000 tons deadweight to feed demand, they were armed with a set of drawings prepared by J. L. Thompson and Sons of Sunderland, these drawings were of the “Empire Liberty” design, which to all intents and purposes became the Canadian “North Sands” type of ship.
By the early part of 1943 the Admiralty had decided to take over two 15 knot tankers of the standard “Fast” type, to supplement their overworked tanker fleet. These two tankers were being built by Harland and Wolff as the “Empire Sheba” and “Empire Venus”, arrangements were made to take them both over once completed.
These two tankers were to be placed in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary fleet and as such their main duty would be the fuelling at sea of ships of the Royal Navy, so some consideration had to be given to the special arrangements needed to equip these ships to fulfil this function.
At the beginning of World War 2 the Admiralty owned a number of tankers, unfortunately most of these were either small or old, the modern tankers that the Admiralty had started to acquire, the “Dale” class were slow in comparison with those used by the US Navy. One other drawback attributed to British tankers, was their lack of refuelling capacity, in short for much of the war they could only refuel by the astern method, abeam refuelling was still largely in the experimental stage and not anything like as developed as that used by our American allies, as became quickly apparent when RFA Tankers were first used in the Pacific Fleet Train.
The Ranger class were designed by Rowland Baker and were intended to replace the “Belgol” class of 2,000 ton tankers, however as their was a distinct lack of tanker capacity during the war, the “Belgol” class remained in service throughout the war.
In the 1930’s the then Director of Stores William Gick CBE [later to become Sir William Gick CB, CBE] was becoming concerned about the age of the RFA Fleet, especially those ships which were nearing the end of their useful service life, and it was decided that the RFA needed a fleet of modern tankers to service the needs of the Royal Navy.
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.