RFA Limeleaf



RFA Limeleaf


Previous name:                         Masula, Oligarch
Subsequent name:                   Californian, Athelrill, Koyo Maru, Ogura Maru No 3   

Official Number:                        139177                                                                   

Class:                                         Emergency Wartime Construction LEAF Group Freighting Tanker

Pennant No:                              Y7.158

Signal Letters:                           JNQF (1919)

Laid down:

Builder:                                      Barclay Curle, White Inch Yard
Launched:                                 28 October 1916


Into Service:                               24 December 1916
Out of service:                           1919 sold commercially
Fate:                                          1944 Torpedoed and sunk


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

1913 ordered as the passenger / cargo liner MASULA for the British India Steam Navigation Co, London (along with her sister MARGHA (which became BOXLEAF) as one of a class of  nine similar ships

1915 requisitioned by the Admiralty on the stocks and converted into an oiler

28 October 1916 launched by Barclay, Curle & Co Ltd., Whiteinch as Yard Nr: 538 named RFA OLIGARCH. Her conversion was found to be unsatisfactory

24 December 1916 completed for the Shipping Controller and placed under management of Lane & MacAndrew Ltd, London as an oiler transport and renamed LIMELEAF. Base port Devonport

19 April 1917 torpedoed and damaged by the German submarine UB 40 (Oberleutnant zur See Hans Howaldt) near the Owers Light Vessel in the English Channel with the loss of seven of her crew. Mostly buried in Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth. 6th Engineer Officer John G Muir RFA is also remembered with pride on a memorial in Kirkoswald Old Churchyard, Ayrshire, Scotland


RFA Limeleaf Chesney Muir



Graves of those buried in Milton Road Cemetery, Portsmouth



The entry on the Tower Hill Memorial for the one crew member
who has no known grave but the sea 

21 April 1917 arrived at Portsmouth

31 May 1917 an Admiralty report on this ship showed she had completed only one round trip from the UK. She required engine repairs at Newport News delaying her 5 days and on her return further engine repairs on the River Clyde delaying her a further 5 days. Her second round trip from the UK resulted in her being torpedoed and taken to Portsmouth for permanent repairs arriving on 21 April 1917. These repairs were expected to take 5 to 6 months – source MT23/808 at the TNA

12 March 1918 entered New York with Captain Matthew J Broomfield RFA as Master plus a crew of 71

23 March 1918 at 40°71N 60°08W in a convoy of twenty one ships from New York being escorted by HMS DUKE OF EDINBURGH suffered from defective steering and dropped astern

25 March 1918 rejoined the convoy

2 May 1918 at 49°49N 33°14W sighted by HMS LEVIATHAN


HMS Leviathan



5 May 1918 at sea at 41°08N 45°24W Able Seaman George Georgeson discharged dead – heart failure

10 December 1918 arrived at Portsmouth from Port Arthur

29 January 1919 sailed Devonport for Halifax arriving on 8 February 1919

30 January 1919 passed the Lloyds SIgnal Station on the Lizard sailing west

12 February 1919 sailed Halifax for Lough Swilly

24 February 1919 arrived at Glasgow

6 March 1919 sailed Glasgow to Sabine, Texas in ballast

21 March 1919 arrived at Norfolk, VA from Glasgow

19 April 1919 at sea Fireman & Trimmer Joseph McDermott discharged dead – natural causes

24 April 1919 berthed at Gibraltar from Port Arthur via Norfolk

19 June 1919 arrived at Glasgow from Greenock in ballast

1919 purchased by N.V. Insulinde Tankstoomboot Maatschappij (Franz Hoynck, Manager) Amsterdam and renamed CALIFORNIA

1921 management transferred to J.A. Stockmans, Amsterdam

1923 management transferred to S.P. Boese, Amsterdam

2 June 1924 arrived at Glasgow from New York with 1 passenger

1925 purchased for £65,640 by United Molasses Co Ltd, Liverpool and renamed ATHELRILL





4 February 1925 berthed at Liverpool from St. Thomas, WI with four stowaways – one Spanish, one Danish and two without proof of identity. Captain H T Evans was Master

28 May 1925 berthed at Avonmouth Old Dock from Havana

29 May 1925 the Western Daily Press reported –


West Daily 29 5 25 Limeleaf


1926 purchased by Nippon Tanker Kabushika Kaisha, Yokohama and renamed  KOYO MARU

13 September 1926 while in dry dock at Yokohama Wharf caught fire and a gas explosion on the ship killed 4 with 17 seriously injured and a further 6 missing. The ship was later repaired

28 March 1928 sailed from Otaru, Japan for Vancouver, Canada

1928 purchased by Ogura Sekiyu Kabushika Kaisha, Tokyo name unchanged.

28 February 1929 in Los Angeles Harbour was in collision with British tramp steamer Fishpool – large amounts of oil gushed from a breach in her hull


Fishpool 01

ss Fishpool


26 May 1929 after being repaired from the damage caused on 29 February 1929 at Los Angeles sailed only to be involved in another collision while still in the same port.

1938 renamed Ogura Maru No 3

24 March 1942 requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy

June 1942 Captain Fukuzawa Tetsushiro, Imperial Japanese Navy in command until January 1943 – formerly in command of the Japanese submarine 1-8

December 1943 Captain Niimi Kazutaka, Imperial Japanese Navy in command. Formerly in command of the Toho Maru

23 February 1944 sunk by USS Cod (SS224) in the South China Sea in position 03°53 N 129°05 E about 100 miles north of Morotsi Island in the Moluccas



USS Cod (SS224)