RFA Wave King

RFA Wave King


Previous name:               Empire Sheba
Subsequent name:

Official Number:              169897

Class:                              WAVE CLASS  Freighting  Oiler (unmodified)

Pennant No:                    X82 / B 525 / A182

Laid down:                      23 March 1943
Builder:                            Harland & Wolff (Govan)
Launched:                       6 April 1944
Into Service:                    22 July 1944
Out of service:                1956 - laid up at Portsmouth, Hampshire
Fate:                                Broken up


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


Background Data:  A need for fast tankers to bring oil into the country had been envisaged early in the Second World War, but by the time the material had been collected and the Yards had space to build them, the need had largely passed and the original design of diesel-engined ships was abandoned. Instead, the standard 12,000t Class being built were given sharper bows and sterns and turbine engines with water tube boilers. In all, twenty one of this type were built and were offered to the Admiralty, who wanted faster tankers for the Pacific Fleet Train. The Admiralty took twenty of them (the final vessel being completed commercially for Oil and Molasses Tankers Ltd, London as BEECHWOOD) and renamed them with the WAVEnomenclature. Performance varied considerably from ship to ship and they underwent various modifications in their rigs for RAS work. The eight best ones were finally given an extensive refit, with extra accommodation added to the Bridge Deck and extra turbo cargo pumps and derricks to make them more satisfactory for Fleet work. Initially expensive to run, they recouped some of their expensive repair bills by earning revenues from charter work after the Korean War. From this Class was evolved the TIDE CLASS oilers.


31 July 1942 ordered by MoWT

23 March 1943 laid down as EMPIRE SHEBA for the MoWT

28 January 1944 taken over by the Admiralty as the first of the WAVE Class - name cancelled

6 April 1944 launched by Harland & Wolff Ltd, Govan as Yard Nr: 1222 G named WAVE KING.

27 March 1944 Mr Charles M Morgan RFA (Lieutenant Commander (E) RNR) appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

12 June 1944 Captain John M Humphrey DSC RFA appointed as Master

Captain J M Humphrey OBE

Captain John M Humphrey DSC RFA
photo taken early in his career at sea

21 July 1944 completed and taken over from the builders

4 August 1944 was nominated to join convoy UC32 but did not join.

9 August 1944 sailed the Clyde to Liverpool and the to New York in convoy UC33 arriving on the 20 August 1944

11 August 1944 suffered steering gear failure and fell out of her column in Convoy UC 33. USS RIND (DD404) remained with ship for 2.5 hours while the ships engineers repaired the steering gear. Rejoined Convoy. USS RIND rejoined the Convoy patrolling astern.

27 August 1944 sailed New York to Liverpool and then the Clyde in convoy CU 27 arriving on the 8 September 1944

1 October 1944 sailed the Clyde to Port Said in convoy KMF 35 arriving on the 11 October 1944

25 October 1944 sailed Suez independently arriving at Aden on the 30 October 1944

30 October 1944 sailed Aden independently to Khor Kwai arriving 3 November 1944

3 November 1944 sailed Khor Kwai independently to Abadan arriving 5 November 1944

6 November 1944 sailed Abadan independently to Colombo, Ceylon arriving 14 November 1944

16 November 1944 sailed Colombo, Ceylon independently to Trincomalee arriving 17 November 1944

18 November 1944 in Operation Outflank- the Eastern Fleet Task Force from Trincomalee - with escorts

27 November 1944 conducted successful RAS trials with the battleship HMS KING GEORGE V using 2 x 5” buoyant hoses

17 December 1944 sailed with HMS's WHELP and WAGNER - both RASed prior to joining up with Force 66 as part of Operation ROBSON

18 December 1944 RASed HMS WHIRLWIND during Operation ROBSON - the first naval participation in Operation Outflank

HMS Whirlwind


31 December 1944 together with RFA EMPIRE SALVAGE, HMS's WESSEX and WAKEFUL to join Task Force 65

13 January 1945 sailed Trincomalee, Ceylon with RFA EMPIRE SALVAGE and RFA ECHODALE with a RN Unit as Force 69 to take part in Operation Meridan - an air attack on the oil refineries at Palembang to put them out of action They were joined in the fuelling area south of Sumatra by RFA ARNDALE which was despatched from Freemantle two days later

16 January 1945 attached to the British Pacific Fleet - the Main Body as Force 69 sailed from Trincomalee. The underway replenishment group included RFA’s WAVE KING, ARNDALE, ECHODALE and EMPIRE SALVAGE escorted by the cruiser  HMS CEYLON and the destroyer HMS URCHIN

Wave King 1945

RFA Wave King as part of the British Pacific Fleet

20 January 1945 formed part of the underway replenishment group supporting Operation Meridian One - the naval air strike on the Royal Dutch Oil refinery at Pladjoe, the largest and  most important oil refinery in the Far East

7 February 1945 arrived Freemantle

13 February 1945 sailed Freemantle independently to Sydney, NSW arriving 20 February 1945

27 February 1945 in the company of RFA's ARNDALE, CEDARDALE and Requisitioned Auxilary SAN ADOLPHI sailed Sydney, NSW escorted to Manus, Admiralty Islands by HMAS WHYALLA and arriving on 9 March 1945

15 March 1945 the British Pacific Fleet, retitled as Task Force 57 to fit in with US Navy practice, was directed to participate in Operation Iceberg - the invasion of Okinawa - and RFA’s ARNDALE, BACCHUS (2), BROWN RANGER, CEDARDALE,  DINGLEDALE, WAVE KING and WAVE MONARCH were attached.

18 March 1945 at Manus, Admiralty Islands with HMAS KALGOORLIE alongside being refuelled

19 March 1945 sailed Manus, Admiralty Islands independently to Leyte arriving 26 March 1945

28 March 1945 to 30 March 1945 The British Pacific Fleet Train, designated Task Force 112 - included RFA’s ARNDALE, CEDARDALE, DINGLEDALE, WAVE KING and WAVE MONARCH

4 April 1945 with RFA WAVE MONARCH joined TF 57 and commenced refuelling RN & RAN warships

5 April 1945 with RFA ARNDALE sailed to Leyte Gulf escorted by HMAS PIRIE and HMAS TAMWORTH

14 April 1945 - Pacific - Task Force 57 -  established a record at the time for the number of ships refueled in one day and pumped 5,050 tons of oil in 9 hours

15 April 1945 sailed Leyte Gulf escorted by HMAS TAMWORTH

23 April 1945 to 30 April 1945 the British Pacific Fleet and Fleet train were at San Pedro Bay for rest, recreation and storing along with the distilling ship RFA BACCHUS (2) and the water carrier RFA BROWN RANGER

3 May 1945 HMAS NAPIER, NEPAL, NIZAM and NORMAN and HMS PHESANT, (destroyers), screened the escort carriers STRIKER and RULER, and RFA's WAVE KING and WAVE MONARCH, in the Okinawa area.

6 May 1945  - 7 May 1945  elements of the British Pacific Fleet met up with the Tanker Group at Cootie One - 21.12. N 128.44 E - for fuelling. The Group included RFA’s CEDARDALE, WAVE  KING & WAVE MONARCH and 2 other MFA oiler under the escort of HMS NORMAN

14 May 1945 refuelled HMS EURYALUS

15 May 1945 with Fleet Train in Area COOTIE RASing BPF ships with RN Frigates HMS WOODCOCK, HMS PHEASANT, Destroyers HMAS NIZAM, Escort Carriers HMS RULER and HMS STRIKER for defence of Fleet Train tankers RFA's DINGLEDALE, ARNDALE, WAVE KING and WAVE MONARCH (Operation ICEBERG TWO). RASed with HMS EURYALUS

22 May 1945 at Cootie One together with RFA WAVE MONARCH met up with HM and HMA ships for fuelling purposes. HMAS NORMAN refuelled from RFA WAVE KING abeam and received 162 tons of FFO

5 June 1945 sailed Manus Naval Base, Admiralty Islands independently to Sydney NSW arriving 11 June 1945

19 July 1945 sailed Sydney, NSW independently to Manus arriving 25 July 1945

July 1945 - Pacific - part of Task Unit 112

31 July 1945 at 0900 hours TF 37 RV'ed with Task Unit 112 which consisted of oilers HMS OLNA (later to become RFA OLNA (2)), RFA's WAVE GOVERNOR and WAVE KING and the MV CARELIA, stores supply ships MV GLENARTNEY and MV CORINDA, ammunition issuing ship MV ROBERT MAERSK, escort carriers HMS's CHASER, RULER and SPEAKER, the corvette converted to a radar and radio maintenance ship HMNZS ARBUTUS, escorted by destroyers NORMAN and NEPAL, sloops CRANE, PHEASANT, WOODCOCK and REDPOLE, frigates ODZANI and DERG and minesweeper HMAS PIRIE, in replenishment area, BRITISH TIZZY. At 1000 hours replenishment commenced. The weather in the area was less than ideal, with a heavy swell running caused by a succession of typhoons to the east of the area. However, because the British were now mastering replenishment at sea (RAS) the weather did not affect the operation as much as it would have done just a few weeks ago.HMS KING GEORGE V again refuelled by the abeam method and was able to take on fuel at 840 tons per hour. (KGV maximum fuel capacity 4100 tons, average capacity 3886 tons)

6 August 1945 HMS CRANE provide AA defence for HMS ARBITER,. HMS CHASER, HMS RULER. tankers RFA's DINGLEDALE and WAVE KING and SAN AMADO, Stores Supply Ships GLENARTNEY, FORT WRANGELL during BPF replenishment with Destroyers HMAS's NORMAN, NIZAM, frigate HMS BARLE, sloop HMS PHEASANT, minesweepers HMAS's BALLARAT and BURNIE

14 August 1945 alongside USS Housatonic (AO35) to receive a pumpover of US Navy Special Fuel oil and AVGAS

USS Houstandic

USS Housatonic (AO35)

15 August 1945 cleared USS Housatonic

20 August 1945 sailed Manus independently to Tokyo Bay 5 September 1945

2 September 1945 - present in Tokyo Bay during the surrender signing together with RFA DINGLEDALE

10 September 1945 at Buckney Bay with HMAS PIRIE alongside to be refuelled

17 September 1945 at Buckner Bay, Okinawa transfered six survivors to USS Santa Fe (CL60) for medical treatment. The survivors had come from USS YMS421 (a US minesweeper) which had been lost in a typhoon having grounded and broken up on a local reef and had then been rescued by RFA Wave King

1 October 1945 under repair at Hong Kong

26 October 1945 Second Cook and Baker Samuel Hannah appeared before the Standing Military Court, Hong Kong charged with theft of two loaves of bread from the ship on 19 October 1945. Hannah pleaded Guilty. Hannah was seen leaving the ship at 6.30pm with a parcel under his arm. He was stopped by the Chief Officer and two loaves of bread were found. He was fined $20. Seaman Samuel Smith Robinson was fined $30 or ten days imprisonment for disobeying a lawful command of an officer. He pleaded Guilty.

27 October 1945 Able Seaman Thomas Wheeler (Royal Navy) discharged dead having died from a fractured skull. He is buried in Sai Wan War Cemetery, Hong Kong.



Courtesy and © of The War Graves Photographic Project


31 October 1945 in port at Hong Kong

5 December 1945 in port at Hong Kong

1 January 1946 in the London Gazette of this day Captain John M Humphrey DSC RFA was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire  (OBE)

3 April 1946 in port at Hong Kong

3 May 1946 in port at Hong Kong

26 May 1946 sailed Hong Kong to Abadan via Singapore (arrived on 31 May 1946)

 7 June 1946 arrived Bombay - sailed 13 June 1946 arrived Abadan 19 June 1946

21 June 1946 sailed Abadan for LEFO

3 July 1946 sailed Port Said

9 July 1946 passed Gibraltar

13 July 1946 arrived Old Kilpatrick to discharge

15 July 1946 sailed Old Kilpatrick to the Clyde.

28 August 1946 sailed the Clyde to Abadan

1 September 1946 passed Gibraltar

6 September 1946 arrived Port Said

13 September 1946 sailed Aden

19 September 1946 berthed at Abadan

21 September 1946 sailed Abadan to Bombay arriving 26 September 1946

28 September 1946 sailed Bombay

17 October 1946 arrived Sydney, NSW, Australia

29 October 1946 sailed Sydney, NSW, Australia

12 November 1946 arrived Colombo and sailed on 14 November 1946 to Abadan

23 November 1946 sailed Abadan to Port Said

3 December 1946 sailed Port Said to Malta

20 December 1946 sailed Malta to Port Said arriving on 23 December 1946

23 December 1946 in transit through the Suez Canal 

2 January 1947 arrived at Abadan

4 January 1947 sailed Abadan to Singapore

17 January 1947 arrived at Singapore and sailed the same day to Kure

26 January 1947 arrived at Kure

4 February 1947 sailed Kure to Abadan arriving 25 February 1947

27 February 1947 sailed Abadan to Trincomalee

15 March 1947 arrived Abadan

12 April 1947 berthed at Invergordon

15 April 1947 sailed Invergordon for the River Clyde

30 April 1947 sailed the River Clyde for Abadan

9 May 1947 sailed Port Said for Aden

14 May 1947 sailed Aden for Abadan

5 August 1947 at Hong Kong Captain Robert Morrison RFA discharged dead after suffering a heart attack

1 September 1947 Mr D F Gorrie RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

25 September 1947 Captain Robert Grimer DSC MID RFA appointed as Master

29 January 1948 sailed Abadan for LEFO

3 February 1948 passed Aden this day while on passage from Abadan

7 February 1948 arrived Suez

8 February 1948 sailed Port Said

19 February 1948 berthed at Saltend, Hull from Abadan to discharge

6 March 1948 arrived at Port Said - sailed the same day

15 March 1947 berthed at Abadan

18 March 1948 sailed Abadan

29 March 1948 arrived at Port Said - sailed the next day

7 April 1948 sailed Port Said

27 April 1948 berthed at Gibraltar

29 April 1948 sailed Gibraltar

24 June 1948 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

29 June 1948 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

5 July 1948 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

29 September 1948 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

30 September 1948 berthed at Portsmouth Harbour

5 October 1948 sailed from Portsmouth Harbour

31 October 1948 arrived at Abadan - sailed the next day


Wave King

RFA Wave King refuelling astern
kindly donated by Kimberley Dunstan

22 April 1949 arrived Melbourne, Victoria, Australia from Abadan to discharge

26 April 1949 sailed Melbourne, Victoria, Australia for Abadan in ballast 

16 May 1949 at Bombay

24 July 1949 at Darwin, Northern Territories the ship's Volley Ball team played a Polish Nationals team and lost by 17 goals to 15

12 August 1949 arrived Abadan from Colombo, Ceylon

13 September 1949 sailed Abadan

18 September 1949 sailed Aden for LEFO

26 September 1949 sailed Port Said

8 October 1949 arrived at Hull from Abadan

11 October 1949 sailed Hull for the River Tyne in ballast

14 October 1949 berthed at Hebburn on Tyne

9 November 1949 Captain Albert E Curtain OBE RD RFA (Commander RNR (ret)) appointed as Master

16 November 1949 Mr Harry G May RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

27 November 1949 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on Flamborough Head sailing south when on passage from the River Tyne to Abadan

15 January 1950 berthed at Auckland, New Zealand

11 March 1950 at Gibraltar

3 April 1950 following the sight of white rockets being fired some 30 miles north east of the Bishops Rock lighthouse together with four other ships and the St. Mary's lifeboat from the Isles of Scilly searched for who or what was in distress. An RAF Coastal Command Lancaster was also scrambled to aid in the search but nothing was found

15 April 1950 in dock at Hull

17 April 1950 sailed Immingham to Abadan in ballast

29 June 1950 at Bombay

24 July 1950 at Suez

16 January 1951 berthed at Swan Hunter Wallsend, River Tyne

1 March 1951 arrived at Abadan

3 June 1951 arrived at Abadan

22 August 1951 passed Gibraltar sailing westwards

6 November 1951 sailed Gibraltar

7 January 1952 Captain Howard D Gausden DSO RFA appointed as Master

Captain Howard D Gausden

Captain Howard D Gausden DSO RFA
image as at 1919 when an Apprentice

9 January 1952 at Devonport moved by RFA CAREFUL to No 9 berth

4 February 1952 Mr J W Ritchie RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

30 April 1952 arrived Singapore

7 May 1952 sailed Singapore for Mena Al Ahmadi

5 June 1952 Mr J Wilson RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

27 September 1952 refuelled HMAS HAWKESBURY at 20°22S 115°40E prior to Operation Hurricane (explosion of an Atomic Weapon in HMS PLYM off Monte Bello island)

29 September 1952 at 35 miles NE of Montebello Island RASed (Astern) with HMAS's SYDNEY,TOBRUK SHOALHAVEN and MACQUARIE HMAS SYDNEY received 772 tons of FFO and 15,000 gallons of AVGAS

30 September 1952 at 35 miles NE of Montebello Island RASed with HMAS MURCHISON

3 October 1952 arrived from Colombo, Ceylon with fuel for Royal Australian Naval ships patrolling off Montebello shortly after the first atomic weapon was tested there - Operation Hurricane

10 October 1952 arrived at Pulo Bukom 

16 April 1953 in refit at Wallsend on Tyne and Captain Edward E A Le Sage RFA appointed as Master

 Captain EEA Le Sage

Captain Edward E A Le Sage RFA
taken early in his career

21 September 1953 at Gibraltar Donkeyman Greaser Ernest Popham missing presumed drowned - logged as discharged dead

8 October 1953 sailed Trinidad for Malta

26 October 1953 arrived at Malta

21 December 1953 sailed from Malta for Mena Al Ahmadi

26 January 1954 Mr J A Swallow RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

30 October 1954 Chief Cook Percy Daniel discharged dead at 15°09N 51°46E buried at sea - apparently natural causes

24 to 29 July 1955 Engineers from HMS LOCH LOMOND and HMS FLAMINGO assisted with feed pump problems in the Persian Gulf. Wave King then sailed to Mina Al Ahmadi to complete repairs and even later salvage money was paid to the RN ships crew.

24 October 1955 Captain Alfred W Camamile DSC RFA appointed as Master

10 January 1956 Mr J A Ferguson RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

23 March 1956 arrived at Gibraltar

21 April 1956 while alongside the Admiralty Oil Fuel depot at Old Kilpatrick, River Clyde. Pumpman Frederick William Saunders discharged dead - natural causes - massive stroke

3 June 1956 sailed Providence for Curacao

9 August 1956 struck a rock off Sao Luis de Maranhao, Brazil and was badly damaged. After refloating, she returned for repairs to the River Tyne via Trinidad

28 August 1956 berthed at Palmers Yard, Hebburn on Tyne together with RFA's WAVE RULER (1) and TIDEREACH

16 October 1956 berthed at Smiths Dock River Tyne with RFA WAVE VICTOR

7 November 1956 Captain E E A Le Sage RFA appointed as Master

19 November 1956 Mr Ciriaco G McFadzean RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

17 June 1957 engaged a crew at South Shields Shipping Office

6 October 1957 Captain A Jackson OBE RFA appointed as Master

6 January 1958 at 12°52N 43°16E Assistant Steward Lau Kwok Kuen discharged dead - missing at sea - presumed drowned

29 June 1958 Mr Kenneth I J George RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

13 January 1959 sailed Malta to Abadan

20 January 1959  at sea at 16°16N 41°20E Bosun Chow Sing Foo and Seaman Lee Yao Ming both discharged dead having died from asphyxia. Both were buried at sea.

March 1960 purchased by H.G. Pounds Ltd, Portsmouth then resold to BISCO for £65,000 for scrap

16 April 1960 arrived under tow from Portland - tug Merchantman - at Barrow in Furness for breaking up. 




1. Early in her career, she suffered serious stern gland trouble off Okinawa and had to be towed to Hong Kong through a typhoon for repairs and she spent almost a year out of commission. A new shaft was fitted there in May 1949.


2. When TF 57 arrived at the fuelling area in April 1945 she established a record for the number of ships fuelled in one day and pumped over 5050 tons of fuel in a period of nine hours.


3. Was part of the British Pacific Fleet Train - hence the B-pennant number

Additional information

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