RFA War Bahadur with the effects of the storm damage of January 1938 very visible

Official Number:                   142737

Class:                                  WAR CLASS Freighting Tanker

Pennant No:                        Y 7.319

Laid down:
Builder:                                Armstrong Whitworth, Low Walker
Launched:                            4 November 1917

Into Service:                         December 1918
Out of service:                      1939 hulked
Fate:                                    Broken up


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data: To combat the alarming losses of British merchant ships during WW1, the New Ministries and Secretaries Act was passed in December 1916, which provided for the appointment of a Shipping Controller with very wide powers “to take such steps as he thinks best for providing and maintaining an efficient supply of shipping”. On 20 December 1916, the first meeting of the Merchant Shipbuilding Advisory Committee took place where it was decided that an extensive shipbuilding programme should be started, the ships to be of a simple design and as far as possible to be of a standard type as regards hulls and engines. These new vessels for the Government were given a standard nomenclature, the prefix to their names being WAR. Eight hundred and twenty one vessels were ordered from U.K. yards and abroad and four hundred and sixteen were completed to Government order, two hundred and seventy nine were sold and transferred to private owners before completion and the remainder were cancelled. Of the four hundred and sixteen completed to Government order, fifteen were transferred to Admiralty service as oilers. They were all modified versions of the A and B Class standard dry cargo ships, known as the Z Class. All had two large dry cargo holds, six of them had five cargo tanks and the remaining nine had seven cargo tanks, specially designed for the carriage of heavy fuel oil. Most of them were initially under commercial management.


1918 ordered.

4 November 1818 launched by Armstrong, Whitworth & Co Ltd, Low Walker, Newcastle as Yard Nr: 950 named WAR BAHADUR for the Shipping Controller.

December 1918 completed and placed under initial management of C.T. Bowring & Co Ltd., Liverpool. Her name is derived from the Hindu word meaning “hero” and was a title formerly conferred by the British on distinguished Indians

16 December 1918 sailed Devonport for Sabine and reported in the New York Tribune of the 18 December 1918

7 January 1919 arrived Port Arthur, Texas

10 January 1919 sailed Port Arthur, Texas for Gibraltar

1 April 1919 off Abadan at anchor

5 April 1919 at Muscat HMS MOTH alongside and refuelled her - 47 tons of FFO supplied

HMS Moth


8 April 1919 at Ghubbet Herahib Bay on the East coast of the island of Al Hallaniyah, Oman with HMS MOTH berthed alongside - refuelled her with 30 tons of FFO

6 September 1919 arrived at Port of Spain, Trinidad from Gibraltar

28 September 1919 arrived Plymouth from Port of Spain, Trinidad

4 December 1919 arrived at Port Said from Plymouth for Abadan

29 December 1919 passed HMS ARK ROYAL while the aircraft carrier was steaming south from Suez to Aden

HMS Ark Royal 1918


3 January 1920 arrived Suez from Abadan

13 January 1920 berthed at Gibraltar

25 January 1920 in collision with the Greek s.s. ATHENA south of Ras Garib and retuned to Suez for repairs

5 March 1920 sailed Port Said after repairs following the collision of 25 January 1920

5 April 1920 arrived at Aden from Gibraltar sailing the same day for Singapore

28 April 1920 sailed Singapore in ballast for Abadan

10 May 1920 Chief Cook Edward Borg discharged dead - natural causes - Fever

15 June 1920 sailed Aden for Port Said

7 July 1920 berthed at Gibraltar while on passage from Constantinople

28 July 1920 arrived at Bermuda from Constantinople

3 August 1920 passed Sand Key, Florida westbound

1 September 1920 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour from Tampico and Bermuda

30 September 1920 arrived Port Arthur, Texas

12 October 1920 arrived at Port Said from Portsmouth

2 November 1920 at Abadan Hospital Able Seaman Ernest Albert Fletcher discharged dead from suspected cholera

6 November 1920 at 18°12N 58°16E Carpenter Maruis Madsen discharged dead from cholera

AB Ernest Albert FletcherCarpenter Marius Madsen

AB Ernest A Fletcher and Carpenter Marius Madsen
who were both discharged dead

21 November 1920 arrived at Suez from Abadan

30 November 1920 at the European Hospital, Aden Fireman George Beagley discharged dead from pneumonia. Admitted to the hospital on 15 November 1920

12 December 1920 berthed at Old Kilpatrick from Abadan

20 December 1920 sailed Old Kilpratrick in ballast for Abadan

1921 transferred to Admiralty ownership but remained under commercial management

3 January 1921 arrived at Port Said from the River Clyde

14 February 1921 berthed at Gibraltar from Port Said to discharge her cargo

17 March 1921 berthed at Port Arthur Texas from Gibraltar

24 March 1921 sailed Port Arthur, Texas for Invergordon

16 April 1921 berthed at Invergordon

29 April 1921 sailed Port Said

27 May 1921 arrived at Abadan from the River Tyne

10 July 1921 arrived at Port Said from Gibraltar when on passage to Abadan

23 July 1921 arrived at Abadan

30 September 1921 sailed Port Arthur Texas for Sheerness

13 February 1922 sailed from Plymouth for Abadan 

9 March 1922 arrived at Abadan from Plymouth

25 May 1922 berthed at the Main Wharf, Singapore

29 May 1922 while coming alongside the ship to refuel while in port at Penang a crew member from HMS CAIRO - Stoker T Mahoney fell between the vessels and was crushed. His body was recovered later that day having been washed ashore at Kelawai

HMS Cairo


13 June 1922 Fireman James Thomas Sparks was fined $75 or three months imprisonment by a Court in Singapore for being in possession of a firearm without a licence. Fireman Harry Bunker and Fireman Abraham Deen were also fined $75 or 3 months imprisonment for attempting to sell the firearm to local workers in Keppel Harbour. Bunker and Deen were also charged with attempting to cheat a local shop keeper drinking two whisky and soda without paying for them. Both were fined $30 or one months imprisonment consecutively. The fines were not paid

1922 the accident with the ss Athena (see above) was subject to litigation in the Admiralty DIvision of the High Court - see Lloyds Law Reports [1922] Vol. 10 Ll.L.Rep. 729

22 June 1922 in dry dock at Kings Dock, Keppel Harbour, Singapore

23 August 1922 arrived at Port Said

13 December 1922 reported in the Times that she was due at Malta

20 December 1922 sailed Sagres for Devonport

25 December 1922 arrived at Plymouth from Abadan

1 February 1923 before Falmouth Police Court Chief Steward Michael Wood and Chief Cook Charles Sapieno appeared charged with the larceny of two mugs. The case was reported in the West Briton & Cornwall Advertiser of the same day -

War Bahadur Chief Steward and Chief Cook

West Briton & Cornwall Advertiser press cutting

19 February 1923 arrived Port Arthur from Falmouth

6 June 1923 sailed Plymouth for Abadan

11 July 1923 berthed at Bermuda from Jamaica

27 September 1923 sailed Port Said for Gibraltar

13 February 1924 arrived Port Said from Rosyth when on passage to Abadan

6 September 1924 berthed at Malta from Abadan - the ship was still in port on 12 September 1924

28 November 1924 sailed Abadan for Aden

2 February 1925 berthed at Portmouth Harbour

4 February 1925 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

12 February 1925 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

15 February 1925 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

1 June 1925 Captain William Bushnell RFA appointed as Master and Mr Clifford N Ansell RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

Captain William BUSHNELL

Captain William Bushnell RFA


2 January 1926 at HM Naval Base Portland

4 January 1926 sailed Portland for Trinidad

17 January 1926 arrived at Falmouth having lost three blades of her propeller and with her shaft damaged

20 January 1926 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west

21 January 1926 arrived at Swansea from Falmouth

20 February 1926 berthed at Newport

28 June 1926 entered the Gulf of Oman

5 July 1926 at sea Sailor Charles George Pavey discharged dead from heat stroke

19 August 1926 sailed Trinidad

4 September 1926 Captain William Bushnell discharged dead - natural causes - pneumonia

 Press Cutting 6.9.26 West Morn News

Press Cutting from the Western Morning News of 6 September 1926


7 September 1926 at Plymouth an inquest was held touching on the death of Captain Bushell and this was reported in the Sunderland Daily Echo -


Sunderland 8 9 26 Inquest

Press Cutting from the Sunderland Daily Echo of 8 September 1926


8 September 1926 Captain Cyril F Haughton RFA appointed as Master

Capt Cyril F Haughton

Captain Cyril F Haughton RFA

18 February 1927 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

24 February 1927 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour for Plymouth

22 April 1927 Mr Joseph S Harrison RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

4 June 1927 arrived at Plymouth

8 June 1927 sailed Plymouth for Chatham

18 July 1927 while on passage to Port Arthur, Texas radioed she was 297 nmiles away from the port

20 July 1927 docked at Port Arthur, Texas

23 July 1927 sailed Port arthur, Texas for a UK port

28 September 1927 sailed Pembroke Dock for Devonport arriving on 30 September 1927

3 November 1927 arrived at Port Arthur, Texas to load

6 November 1927 sailed Port Arthur, Texas

5 January 1928 berthed at Port Arthur, Texas to load

7 January 1928 sailed Port Arthur, Texas for Devonport

26 February 1928 berthed at Port Arthur, Texas to load

28 February 1928 sailed Port Arthur, Texas

7 August 1928 arrived at Malta while on passage to Abadan

2 June 1929 berthed at Gibraltar from Port Said to discharge cargo

22 July 1929 berthed at Gibraltar from Abadan to discharge cargo

23 September 1929 Captain James D Ashworth RFA appointed as Master

Capt J D Ashworth

Captain James D Ashworth RFA

11 December 1929 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

20 December 1929 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour from the Oil Fuel Jetty

16 April 1930 arrived at Port Said from Abadan

6 May 1930 sailed Abadan

29 May 1930 berthed at Gibraltar from Abadan to discharge cargo

13 June 1930 arrived at Port Said from Gibraltar

27 June 1930 arrived Abadan from Gibraltar

13 July 1930 arrived Suez from Abadan

18 August 1930 sailed Trinidad

8 September 1930 Mr Andrew H Ireland RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer


Chief Engineer Officer Andrew H Ireland RFA


22 January 1931 arrived at Port Said when on passage to Abadan

10 April 1931 arrived Abadan from Gibraltar

26 July 1931 at Devonport

24 August 1931 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

25 September 1931 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

January 1932 - 1935 in reserve at Rosyth

17 September 1935 Captain J Martin Smith DSC RFA (Act Lieut Commander RNR Retd) appointed as Master

22 December 1935 sailed Bermuda to Gibraltar

1936 transferred to Admiralty management and manning as an RFA

16 January 1936 berthed at Gibraltar

14 April 1936 berthed at Gibraltar from Trinidad to discharge cargo

6 September 1936 sailed the Clyde

12 September 1936 arrived at Gibraltar from Glasgow in ballast

22 October 1936 berthed at Swansea

27 October 1936 sailed Swansea

11 March 1937 berthed at Gibraltar from Abadan and Port Said to discharge cargo

March/April 1937 transported a damaged seaplane from Buenos Aires to Portland

16 April 1937 Mr John Atchison RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

1 May 1937 at Leith Docks Able Seaman John Robertson discharged dead. When returning to the ship attempted to ride on the buffers of a shunting truck. He fell between the lines and two trucks ran over him - he died of his wounds at the scene

15 May 1937 Captain Alexander H Hardy RFA appointed as Master

Capt. Hardie 2

Captain Alexander H Hardy RFA

9 June 1937 sailed Grangemouth

13 June 1937 grounded at Rosyth which was caused by both pilotage error and insufficient power of the tug BUCKIE BURN. This led to a more powerful tug being stationed at Rosyth

7 December 1937 berthed at Gibraltar from Trinidad to discharge cargo

14 January 1938 while Captain David A Rees RFA was in command suffered severe damage from an Atlantic gale with the upper and lower bridge, the wireless office and the Master's cabin being carried away. The chart room was wrecked. The Chief Officer, the quartermaster and a look out were lifted from the bridge with the wreckage and dropped onto the main deck. Derricks were twisted. Funnel stays were snapped and the funnel holed. The steering gear was put out of action. Distress rockets were fired but not answered. The starboard lifeboat was carried away. The vessel was eventually steered from the emergency steering position and the ship was escorted into Devonport under escort from HMS WOLVERINE. 

W.Bahadur damage The Sphere 22 1 1938


HMS Wolverine

17 January 1938 arrived back in Devonport

5 February 1938 after repairs she became a fuelling hulk at Devonport

3 September 1939 at Devonport at the outbreak of World War 2

November 1939 was damaged during an air raid at Devonport

17 June 1940 Chief Officer Franklin G Edwards RFA appointed as Chief Officer in command

29 October 1940 a letter from HMS DRYAD proposed moving her to Portsmouth from Devonport

18 April 1943 in collision with the escort destroyer HMS MELBREAK



28 April 1944 USS Satterlee (DD626) alongside to refuel - 99,250 gallons received also USS Thompson alongside to refuel - received 111,250 gallons

4 May 1944 USS Thompson (DD627) alongside  to refuel

6 May 1944 USS Fitch (DD462) and USS Forrest (DD461) alongside to refuel

7 May 1944 USS Satterlee (DD626) alongside to refuel - 76,762 gallons received

8 May 1944 USS Baldwin (DD624) alongside to refuel

22 May 1944 USS Rodman (DD456) and USS Ellyson (DD454) alongside to refuel

23 May 1944 USS's Nelson (DD623), Murphy (DD603), Glennon (DD630) and Jeffers (DD621) alongside (two either side) to refuel

24 May 1944 USS Nelson (DD623) while casting off her port screw fouled the anchor chain of the mooring buoy at the bow of War Bahadur


USS Nelson (DD623)

25 May 1944 USS Nelson (DD623) discharged her oil fuel prior to entering dry dock for repairs to her port screw

27 May 1944 USS Meredith (DD726) alongside to refuel - received 28,000 gallons also USS Walke (DD723) and USS Hambleton (DD455) alongside to refuel

29 May 1944 USS Somers (DD381) alongside to refuel

2 June 1944 USS Nelson (DD623) undocked and towed alongside to refuel

4 June 1944 USS Rodman (DD456) alongside to refuel

10 June 1944 USS Laffey (DD724) alongside to refuel

12 June 1944 USS Bates, USS Amesbury (DE66) and USS Blessman (DE69) alongside for fuel and receive provisions. USS Amesbury received 54,218 gallons of fuel oil

15 June 1944 USS Harding (DD625) alongside to refuel

24 June 1944 USS Jeffers (DD621) alongside to refuel

30 June 1944 USS Herndon (DD638) alongside to refuel

6 July 1944 USS Carmick (DD493) alongside to refuel

11 July 1944 USS Gheradi (DD637), USS Herndon (DD638) and USS Butler (CDD34) all alongside to refuel

4 October 1944 USS Henry R Kenyon (DD683) alongside to refuel

24 December 1944 USS Nelson (DD623) alongside being refueled

25 January 1945 USS Henry R Keynon (DD683) and USS Gillette (DD681) alongside refuelling

26 January 1945 while on No 3 buoy, Tamar River USS Cormorant (AM40) alongside refuelling

8 February 1945 USS Clark (DD361) alongside being refueled

16 May 1945 USS Craven (DD382) alongside to empty her fuel tanks prior to entry into dry dock - transferred 2,885.2 barrels of FFO

19 May 1945 USS Craven (DD382) alongside to refuel - received 3,215.8 barrels of FFO

8 January 1946 in Plymouth as a hulk

8 February 1946 in collision with the corvette HMS KENILWORTH CASTLE

HMS KenilworthCastle


7 August 1946 handed over to the Ministry of Transport - subsequently handed over to the British Iron and Steel Corporation

14 September 1946 left under tow from Devonport to Blyth

22 September 1946 arrived at Blyth for breaking up by Hughes Bolckow Ltd.

14 April, 2012 the ships bell was sold this day by auction at Railtons Northern Auction Centre at their Spring Antiques Sales at Wooler, Northumberland. It realised £150.00



published with the consent of the Copyright holder - Jim Railton

Additional information

Copyright © 2008 – 2018 Christopher J White

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