General News

Mike Day writes :-


The Creosol class were 18 ships in the second “1,000 ton Class” of Admiralty designed harbour oilers. As Captain Sigwart said in his book on the RFA, 12 ships were named after trees with an OL suffix, and the other six had names connected to the oil industry.

RFA Sprucol was built by Short Brothers yard in Sunderland, launched on 4th July 1917 and completed in January 1918.

On the 10th July 1918, Sprucol was making her way off the east coast of England when she was torpedoed by UB110, near amidships. The explosive force was devastating and nearly all her cargo was lost, but somehow Sprucol was not completely destroyed and sunk. These Admiralty tankers were very strongly constructed; today they would be described as being over-engineered. The ship made it to Hull, although she may have been towed rather than under her own engines. Repairs at the repair yard took about four months, which seems extraordinarily quick in view of the damage shown in photographs. Those riveters were no slouches.

Three ships in this class were built with diesel engines; 2 four-cylinder Swedish-built diesels were directly connected to two screws. They seem to have had a very bad reputation for reliability according to most books, as did most diesels built in the First World War, although you don’t hear about that from the submarine service. Original sources for this reputation for the RFA ships are obscure. However, with the need to reduce the size of the fleet, the diesel-engined SprucolOakol and Teakol were sold out of the service in 1920. Somewhere between January and March 1920, depending on sources, Sprucol went to Anglo American Oil, joining their distribution fleet, and was renamed Juniata.

She seemed to give very good service for 20 years, with a two year spell with the French Esso fleet from 1934 to 1936, when she was returned to London. In 1940, the Royal Navy requisitioned the Juniata. Her condition must have been quite ropey, as sisterships of the Creosol class had 10 to 15 more years of service in them.

The battleship Royal Oak had been torpedoed by U-boat ace Gunther Prien’s submarine in October 1939, and the Admiralty were desperate to block every possible access to the Scapa Flow anchorage with booms or blockships. That was Juniata’s destiny, being sunk in Water Sound on the 7th, 14th or 17th April 1940, depending on sources.