RFA Aspenleaf





Previous name:                        Lake Erie, HMS Centurion, RFA Saxol, Admiralty Oiler 122
Subsequent name:                   Prygona  

Official Number:                        110631                                                  

Class:                                        Emergency Wartime Purchase — LEAF Group Freighting Tanker
Pennant No:                              Y7.170

Signal Letters:                           JNKF (1919)

Laid down:
Builder:                                       Barclay Curle & Company, Glasgow

Launched:                                  21 November 1889
Into Service:
Out of service:                           Sold out of service 19 January 1921
Fate:                                          Broken up


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

21 November 1889  launched by Barclay, Curle & Co Ltd, Whiteinch as Yard Nr: 420 named LAKE ERIE for the Beaver Line service of Elder Dempster & Co Ltd, Liverpool. Was commissioned by the Dominion of Canada for the carriage of the Canadian mails

1 March 1890 sailed Liverpool for New York

7 April 1890 arrived at New York from Liverpool with Captain Fullam as Master

13 June 1890 arrived Antofagasta from New York

20 January 1891 sailed Tocopilla for UK ports

21 May 1891 arrived at Falmouth

26 May 1891 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west from Falmouth for Liverpool

27 February 1892 arrived Melbourne from Liverpool

12 August 1892 arrived at Queentown from Bluff Harbour and later sailed for Sharpness

4 January 1893 arrived at Auckland, New Zealand from Sharpness

30 June 1893 passed St Catherines Point west bound when on passage from London

29 April 1894 passed St Catherines Point when on passage to London

29 October 1894 arrived at Auckland, New Zealand from Sharpness

7 May 1895 arrived at Sharpness from Auckland, New Zealand

10 November 1896 arrived at Adelaide

14 December 1896 sailed from Adelaide for Newcastle, NSW

10 February 1897 arrived at Timaru, New Zealand (South Island)

11 November 1899 at 25th South Street, Brooklyn Able Seaman H De Vires discharged dead – natural causes

30 January 1900 her maiden voyage was from Liverpool to Cape Town as a Boer War Transport and over the next 16 months she made 8 round voyages as such

24 February 1900 arrived at Cape Town with four Companies of the Imperial Yeomanary consisting of 529 officers and men and 302 horses

14 April 1900 sailed Cape Town for St Helena

21 April 1900 arrived at St Helena with 394 Boer prisoners which included 34 officers

7 May 1900 while on passage to London arrived at St Vincent this day

7 June 1900 sailed London with 17 officers, 650 men and 304 horses from the 1st Royal Dragoons, 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the Scottish Rifles and 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Light Infantry for the Cape

17 July 1900 arrived at Table Bay from Natal

8 August 1900 passed Maderia

13 August 1900 returned to the London Docks from Cape Town with injured soldiers from the Boer War

24 September 1900 stood by the transport ss Suffolk which had run aground 20 miles to the West of Cape Saint Francis to the west of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Suffolk foundered and her crew and soldiers onboard were picked up by the Lake Erie

15 October 1900 sailed Cape Town for Royal Albert Docks, London with a number of invalid troops and Royal Naval Officers as passengers arriving on 10 November 1900

20 January 1901 sailed Cape Town for Gravesend carrying 400 members of Lord Strathcoma’s Horse and some invalids on board who were landed into Gravesend Hospital on 14 February 1901

23 February 1901 sailed the Royal Albert Dock for Queenstown, Ireland

26 February 1901 sailed Queenstown, Ireland to Cape Town with 300 mounted infrantry

23 April 1901 sailed Cape Town for London with a number of invalid troops onboard

7 May 1901 at Cape Town Able Seaman J R Gibson discharged dead from natural causes

16 May 1901 arrived at Southampton with 34 Officers and 517 men onboard

29 May 1901 sailed the Royal Albert Dock for South Africa with 15 officers, 151 men and 302 remounts

19 July 1901 sailed Cape Town for London with a number of troops being carried home

1901 ownership transferred to British & African Steam Navigation Co Ltd ( Elder Dempster & Co Ltd, Managers) Liverpool name unchanged

10 August 1901 berthed at Southampton with officers and 500 men from the Boer War

26 August 1901 sailed Southampton with 34 officers, 562 men and 305 remounts for the Boer War

8 November 1901 sailed Cape Town arriving at Southampton on 3 December 1901

11 December 1901 sailed the Royal Albert Dock, London with Officers and men and 205 remounts for the Boer War. Arrived at Gibraltar on the 19 December 1901 and received four companies of mounted infantry – 15 officers and 400 men – who had arrived from Malta on the transport Menes. The Lake Erie sailed the same afternoon

12 February 1902 sailed Cape Town to Southampton arriving on 7 March 1902 with invalids onboard

22 March 1902 sailed the Royal Albert Dock with 46 officer and 589 other ranks and 253 remounts. The ship also called at Queenstown, Ireland for 64 further remounts

12 May 1902 sailed Cape Town to Southampton arriving on 4 June 1902

24 June 1902 first commercial voyage Liverpool – Montreal – Quebec. Carried 100 x 1st Class, 80 x  2nd Class and 500 x 3rd Class passengers

3 July 1902 at sea passenger Johan Drahosey discharged dead – natural causes

8 August 1902 arrived at Montreal from Liverpool

18 August 1902 in collision with the Canadian steamer Seguin on the Great Lakes

24 August 1902 arrived at Liverpool from Montreal

7 October 1902 sailed Liverpool to Quebec arriving on 18 October 1902. The ship was carrying several Mennonite immigrants

14 October 1902 at 54.10N 46.00W passenger Johan Broniska discharged dead – natural causes

18 November 1902 sailed Liverpool to St Johns NB arriving on 29 November 1902 with 862 passengers. The ship was carrying several Mennonite immigrants



29 January 1903 at 50.40N 25.07W passenger Edgar Ball discharged dead – natural causes

6 February 1903 at 44.44N 49.02W passenger Meira Zurk discharged dead – natural causes

7 February 1903 at 43.41N 54.35W passenger Abraham Weinstein discharged dead – natural causes

15 March 1903 sailed Liverpool to St Johns NB with 1,006 passengers arriving on 28 March 1903. The ship was carrying several Mennonite immigrants. Captain Foley was the Master

6 April 1903 acquired by Canadian Pacific Railway Co, Liverpool name unchanged

28 April 1903 sailed Liverpool on her first Canadian Pacific sailing

4 May 1903 at 47.15°N 49.35°W passenger Otto Haler discharged dead – natural causes

11 June 1903 arrived at Quebec from Liverpool

16 July 1903 arrived at Quebec from Liverpool

20 August 1903 arrived at Quebec from Liverpool

10 September 1903 arrived at Quebec from Liverpool

November 1903 the Master and other officers were awarded the Sea Transport Medal. The Master – Captain Jones’s medal was presented to him by HM King Edward VII. The other officers received their medals on various dates during 1904

 Sea Transport Medal

Sea Transport Medal 

Those awarded the medal were – 


Captain O Jones *

 Chief Officer J Parce

2nd Officer W R Rowe

3rd Officer J Crosbie

3rd Officer F J Payne

3rd Officer A J Humphreys

Chief Engineer Officer J Davies

2nd Engineer Officer R J Houston

2nd Engineer Officer E E Knight

3rd Engineer Officer E Malpas 

3rd Engineer Officer H G Hean

3rd Engineer Officer S Gibright

Surgeon G E Goode

Surgeon McW Ford

Purser H W Konles 

each medal was issued with the South Africa 1899 – 1902 bar

*  also for service on the ss Lake Manitoba 

18 December 1903 at 50°40N 25°07W passenger Edgar Ball discharged dead – natural causes

21 December 1903 berthed at Liverpool from St Johns NB. Captain Frank Carey was the Master

28 January 1904 at 44°30N 49°30W passenger Paul Auguste Charles Delmont discharged dead – natural causes

4 February 1904 at 51°00N 11°13W passenger Nicola Vich discharged dead – natural causes

15 February 1904 at 44°09N 47°13W passenger William Scott discharged dead – natural causes

2 April 1904 at 50°54N 19°50 passenger Juliana Hirch discharged dead – natural causes

11 May 1904 at 42°45N 50°55W passenger Emma Rendell discharged dead – natural causes

14 May 1904 at 48°59N 5°13W passenger Frederick Markal discharged dead – natural causes 

17 June 1904 at 47°56N 69°45W passenger Sique Amalia Johanson discharged dead – natural causes

25 August 1904 while on passage to Montreal passed Fame Point this day

11 September 1904 berthed at Liverpool from Montreal, Canada

11 November 1904 sailed Lagos for Liverpool

24 December 1904 at 50°30N 31°25W passenger Bartlomey Wara discharged dead – natural causes

11 March 1905 off St Johns Harbour, New Brunswick passenger William Gibbon discharged dead – natural causes

2 May 1905 in the River Mersey passenger A H Turner discharged dead – natural causes

18 August 1905 at Bootle Hospital Fireman John Robinson discharged dead – pneumonia

26 November 1905 at 51°30N 14°11W passenger Richard Proctor discharged dead – natural causes

11 December 1905 at 49°32N 37°24W passenger Clara Brooks discharged dead – natural causes

10 February 1906 at 43°12N 60°06W passenger William Demaine discharged dead – natural causes

12 March 1906 berthed at Sand Point, Ontario with 29 first class passengers, 95 second class passengers and 947 steerage class passengers. Captain Frank Carey was the ship’s Master

27 March 1906 in the Irish Sea passenger Sarah Demaine discharged dead – natural causes

28 March 1906 berthed at Liverpool from St John’s NB, Canada

1906 converted to carry 150 x 2nd Class and 1000 x 3rd Class passengers

17 July 1906 berthed at Liverpool from Montreal and Quebec, Canada. Captain J V Foster was the ship’s Master

8 October 1906 at 55°33N 9°32W passenger Frantz Herman discharged dead – natural causes

9 October 1906 passed Inistrahull sailing east bound when on passage from Montral to Liverpool

30 July 1907 passed the Old Head of Kinsale sailing east bound when on passage from Montreal to Queenstown

10 September 1907 berthed at Liverpool from St John NB

26 August 1908 sailed Liverpool for Quebec, Canada with 404 passengers Captain F Carey was the Master

20 January 1909 at the mouth of the River Mersey Ships Interpreter Adolf Frederick Engblow discharged dead – found hanged

25 July 1909 off Cape Shutte, in the St Laurence River passenger Nestor Lang discharged dead – missing

25 August 1909 at 52°26N 53°32W Able Seaman G Brierly discharged dead – natural causes

3 November 1909 sailed Liverpool for Montreal, Canada with 362 passengers. Captain F Carey was the Master

29 March 1910 berthed at Liverpool from St Johns NB

14 May 1910 chartered by Allan Line, Glasgow  and made her first voyage London – Quebec – Montreal. Carried out 25 Round Voyages on this route

16 January 1911 berth at Glasgow from Boston, Massachusettes

15 June 1911 berthed at the Port of London from Montreal and Quebec, Canada

21 June 1911 sailed Port of London for Quebec and Montreal, Canada with 92 passengers. Captain F Carey was the Master

24 August 1911 berthed at the Port of London from Montreal and Quebec, Canada

5 October 1912 berthed at the Port of London from Montreal and Quebec, Canada with 41 passengers, one deportee and one DBS. Captain F Caley was the ships Master

26 December 1912 berthed at the Port of London from St. John’s NB, Canada

1913 owners negotiated an agreement with the Austrian State Railways for a passenger and cargo service from Trieste to Canadian ports

6 February 1913 final Allan Line voyage St John N.B. – London

22 February 1913 berthed at the Port of London

29 March 1913 she was renamed TYROLIA after an Austrian Province

April 1913 first voyage Trieste – Quebec – Montreal

19 July 1913 at 40°30N 19°21W Labourer Angelo Rossi discharged dead – natural causes

21 July 1913 at Notre Dame Hospital, Montreal Assistant Steward F Cagnella discharged dead – natural causes. He had entered the hospital on 7 July 1913

12 November 1913 at 40°02N 17°25W Labourer Tommaso Pallario discharged dead – natural causes

February 1914 final voyage Trieste – St John N.B. (5½ Round Voyages)

28 February 1914 resumed the  St John N.B. – Liverpool service

24 March 1914 at sea Ordinary Seaman John Whalley discharged dead – drowned

1914 After service as a British Expeditionary Force Transport she was hired by the Admiralty

14 August 1914 intercepted by HMS GLORY and exchanged signals 

28 October 1914 was taken in hand at Belfast for conversion into the Dummy Battleship HMS CENTURION, being based initially at Loch Ewe


Lake Erie as the Dummy Battleship HMS CENTURION


February to June 1915 she was based in the Aegean and on disbandment of the DBS Squadron in July 1915 she became a Stores Carrier

15 April 1915 Fireman Trimmer T Leach discharged dead. The location and cause are not registered in the Board of Trade Register of Deaths at Sea

9 June 1916, having had cylindrical tanks inserted into her holds, she became RFA SAXOL for service as a tanker.

24 June 1916 taken on charge a Kendal & Dent Deck Watch No 12511 which had been bought by the Admiralty in March 1892. Sold off charge when the ship was sold on 19 January 1921.

27 June 1916 she was purchased by the Admiralty for service as a Fleet Oiler

24 August 1916 at 59°25N 12°40W stopped and boarded by HMS PATIA while on passage from Philadelphia and Halifax to Kirkwall – ordered to proceed

12 September 1916 at Sea 5th Engineer A E Walters discharged dead – accident

7 October 1916  her management was transferred to Lane and MacAndrew she was renamed ASPENLEAF with base port of Portsmouth.

30 December 1916, while on passage from Sabine, Texas to the U.K., she was mined in the English Channel off the Owers Light Vessel



RFA Aspenleaf mined map


The mine had been laid by the German submarine UC16 (Oberleutnant zur See Egon von Werner). There were no fatalities.and she had to be towed into port for repairs and was out of service until May the following year. Her lost cargo was valued at £19,284

14 May 1917 being escorted by HMS JESSAMINE in the North Atlantic to the west of the Fasnet Rock

30 July 1917 joined convoy sailing from Hampton Roads to Liverpool and being escorted by HMS ISIS





21 September 1917 before Falkirk Sheriff Court Fireman Richard Cearns appeared charged with having failed to join the ship at Grangemouth –


Aspenleaf Press Cutting 26 Sept 1917

Press Cutting from the Falkirk Herald of 26 September 1917


7 November 1917 ownership was transferred to the Shipping Controller, name unchanged

25 June 1918 at Sabine Pass, Texas Mess Room Steward Isaac Gold discharged dead – natural causes

11 June 1919 Captain T Fairfield awarded the Lloyds Silver Medal for Meritorious Service

21 April 1919 involved as oiler with British and US mine sweepers removing the ‘Northern Barrage’ – the series of mine fields laid across the northern North Sea to restrict the passage of German U-Boats assisted by RFA‘s CRENELLA, HICKOROL and PETRONEL

18 August 1919 ceased to be deployed assisting the UK & US minespeepers (see above)

25 August 1919 arrived at Glasgow from Invergordon in ballast

12 September 1919 was purchased by Anglo Saxon and was eventually renamed  PRYGONA

16 September 1919 sailed Glasgow to Newport News

29 September 1919 arrived at Newport News

8 October 1919 passed Sand Key, Florida sailing west

22 November 1919 sailed from off Dartmouth for Newport News

23 January 1920 arrived off Dartmouth from Tampico

8 July 1920 arrived at Norfolk VA from Tampico

12 July 1920 sailed Newport News for Gibraltar

27 July 1920 berthed at Gibraltar from Newport News with fuel oil to discharge 

12 August 1920 berthed at Gibraltar from Leghorn in ballast for orders

31 August 1920 arrived at Norfolk VA

7 September 1920 berthed at Port Eads from Norfolk VA

20 September 1920 sailed Newport News VA

5 October 1920 arrived at Gibraltar from Newport with fuel oil for Malta

23 October 1920 at Gibraltar Seaman Peter Lee discharged dead. He died of natural causes in the Colonial Hospital and was buried in North Front Cemetery in plot 1 grave 4874

29 October 1920 arrived at Gibraltar from Alexandria in ballast for orders

20 November 1920 arrived at Norfolk, VA from Gibraltar

8 December 1920 off Ellis Island, New York Harbour Fireman S Butterfield discharged dead – pneumonia

14 December 1920 sailed Boston

10 January 1921 sailed Dartmouth for Newport News

9 April 1921 sailed New Orleans

18 April 1921 sailed Newport News for Gibraltar

27 August 1921 arrived Norfolk from Lisbon

31 August 1921 sailed Norfolk for Tampico

8 September 1921 sailed New Orleans for Rotterdam

15 July 1923 involved in a collision with another vessel in Southampton Water off Fawley

6 February 1925 she was sold for £12,750 to Petersen and Albeck for breaking up at Copenhagen.




1. Was originally named after one of the Great Lakes 

2. When Elder Dempster sold their Canadian interests (Beaver Line) to the Canadian Pacific Railway Co for the sum of £1,417,500, a total of 14 ships plus 3 tugs were involved in the deal and these were as follows: LAKE CHAMPLAIN (RFA RUTHENIA), LAKE ERIE (RFA SAXOL), LAKE MANITOBA, LAKE MICHIGAN, MILWAUKEE, MONTCALM (RFA CRENELLA), MONTEAGLE, MONTEREY, MONTEZUMA (RFA ABADOL), MONTORT, MONTREAL, MOUNT ROYAL (RFA RANGOL), MOUNT TEMPLE & MONTROSE and the 3 Liverpool tugs AFRICAN, BEAVER and OTTER

3. The data listed above is not a complete record of the ship or its crew. It was collected from a multitude of sources, and when further information is at hand it will be added as when it collected and collated