Historical RFA

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RFA History

RFA Ships

Historical RFA

RFA Honour

RFA History

RFA Ships

RFA Volunteer





Previous name:
Subsequent name:                 Volens    

Official Number:                      149159                                                      

Class:                                    Dockyard Mooring Vessel

Pennant No:                           1916 – X38      1918 – X77
Laid down:                             1916
Builder:                                  Charles Rennoldson, South Shields
Launched:                              17 March 1916
Into Service:                           June 1916
Out of service:                        1947
Fate:                                      Sold out of Service


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -,,


Background Data:  Some official lists, marked as  “Lists of RFA’s” show vessels which spent some time as RFA’s during the First World War. These records are extremely sketchy and some of these vessels were “Yard Craft”, partially or wholly Dockyard manned, partly by RNR or Reserve Fleet personnel. Some of the Depot Ships staffed by skilled civilian Dockyard workers were for a time under the White Ensign. The Director of Stores was understood to be concerned with their manning and operationally they remained under Admiralty control.



28 February 1916 Engineer Lieutenant Albert Nicholls RNR appointed as Chief Engineer Officer


Engineer Lieutenant Albert Nicholls RNR

17 March 1916 launched by Charles Rennoldson & Co, South Shields as Yard Nr: 177 named VOLUNTEER

18 April 1916 Lieutenant  Robert Tanner RNR appointed in command

June 1916 completed. On Boom Defence duties at Devonport

9 October 1916 when on passage from Haubowline to Bantry stranded. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Rober Tanner RNR, was cautioned he should be more careful in future

9 January 1917 sailed Queenstown for Devonport

1 February 1917 directed to sail from Devonport to Portsmouth to store for salvage duties in Northern Ireland

3 February 1917 arrived at Portsmouth

16 February 1917 a working party of 2 Petty Officers and 12 seaman joined VOLUNTEER at Portsmouth for ‘important salvage work under Lieut. Commander Damant Royal Navy’

21 February 1917 sailed Portsmouth for Lough Swilly having been delayed by fog

Guybon Damant

Lieut Commander Guybon Damant Royal Navy

13 March 1917 Lieut. Commander Damant Royal Navy reported that salvage work on the wreck of HMS LAURENTIC was undertaken by the crew of RFA VOLUNTEER on the 8th, 10th, 11th & 12th of the month. Salvage work could not be undertaken on other days due to bad weather. The divers arrived at the Starboard Entry Port abreast the Baggage Room. The Starboard Entry Port door was removed by a light charge of explosive and the door was removed. 

19 March 1917 Lieut. Commander Damant Royal Navy reported to the Admiralty that salvage work resumed on 14 March 1917. Entry to the ship was again made via the Starboard Entry Port. A iron grating was found across the passage way. The hinges of this grating were destroyed and it was hoisted out. Behind the grating were a large number of casks of luricating oil and cases of stores. These were broken out by degrees. The door to the strong room was reached and this door was opened by cutting away the hinges. A diver went inside and found the boxes (of gold). It took an hour to remove one box of gold due to the debris, wooden wreckage, coaling baskets etc. When sunk the LAURENTIC’s back had been broken just before the strong room so the deck was at a 50 degree angle and the boxes containg the gold had to be dragged up a narrow steeply sloping cross passage and over the coamings of two doors. On 15 March 1917 three more boxes of bullion were removed from the strong room.  No work could be undertaken on 16th, 17th, 18th or 19th of the month due to there being to much seas

25 March 1917 Lieut. Commander Damant Royal Navy reported to the Admiralty that salvage work could be undertaken on the 19th, 20th or 21st of the month due to a very heavy northerly gale blowing. This gale did not moderate until 24 March 1917 when it was found that one of the moorings that RFA VOLUNTEER had previously laid had carried away altogether and the other was seriously damaged. Work was started recovering anchors and relaying the moorings. A buoy which had broken adrift was recovered by a trawler. It needed repair to be used again. Very strong wind on 25 March 1917 prevented all work

2 April 1917 Lieut. Commander Damant Royal Navy reported to the Admiralty that since 25 March 1917 the weather had been so bad as to prevent any work to be done on the wreck. RFA VOLUNTEER went to the neighbourhood of the wreck on several occasions but the swell was too heavy to allow the ship to be moored or a diver to be sent down.

8 April 1917 Lieut. Commander Damant Royal Navy reported to the Admiralty that the weather had continued to be unfavourable but it was possible to undertake work on 4th & 6th of the month. The mooring were relayed and divers went down to work on the wreck on 6th April 1917 for two hours before the sea state became so bad as to necessitate slipping from the buoys. On 6th April the divers were able to reach the strong room door via the Staboard entry port but were unable to penetrate further as the deck above had closed down to within a few inches of the strong room deck. From other rents seen in the hull it became apparent that the gale of the 19th of the month and subsequentl days had caused the wreck to break up badly

25 April 1917 the question of using salvage equipment on RFA THRUSH was raised as a possibility with Lieut. Commander Damant Royal Navy

30 April 1917 arrived at Lough Swilly from Belfast

4 May 1917 Lieut. Commander Damant Royal Navy reported to the Admiralty that salvage work on the HMS LAURENTIC had restarted and due to fine weather had continued during the 1st, 2nd 3rd and 4th of the month. The wreck had continued to break up. She was lying on her port side and had collapsed so much that the starboard side instead of being 64 feet above the sea bottom was only about 26 feet above it. The divers, still working through the starboard entry port,  had again reached the middle of the strong room but were, as yet, unable to force a way down to its lower side. The contents of the strong room had to be broken up and removed piecemeal. The aircompressor which had been supplied from Portsmouth was still not working correctly.

14 May 1917 Lieut. Commander Damant Royal Navy reported to the Admiralty that salvage work on the HMS LAURENTIC had continued and diving had occured on the 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 12th and 13th of the month. Progress was being made in removing the Decks and Structures which had collapsed over the position of the valuabes. Large quantities of explosives were required and these had been demanded. An engineer from Portsmouth Dockyard had arrived on 10th and repaired the air compressor

23 May 1917  Lieut. Commander Damant Royal Navy reported to the Admiralty that salvage work on the HMS LAURENTIC had continued and diving had occured on the 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 21st and 22nd of the month. Large pieces of the decks and bulkheads being dislodged had been slung and hoised and by the afternoon of 22nd of the month the gold could be reached by divers crawling into the strong room by a rent in the main deck. Twenty-two ingots of gold were recoved. 

24 May 1917 the recovered ingots were sent under escort, for safe custody, to the Bank of Ireland, Donegall Place, Belfast. The serial number of each ingot and its weight were listed and forwarded to the Admiralty

26 October 1917 Engineer Lieutenant Isaac D Strachan RNR appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

12 December 1917 the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Rober Tanner RNR, received appreciation for his performance of salvgage duties with regard to the wreck of HMS LAURENTIC

1918 boom Defence duties ended and reverted to a Mooring Vessel

19 February 1918 the Police Gazette of this day listed among those who were wanted for Deserting or being Absentees from H M Services – Fireman John William Upton MMR  for desertion on 31 January 1918 from the ship

1 March 1918 renamed Volens


Mooring Vessel Volens
© Mike Day Collection

1920 based at Haulbowline

31 July 1926 arrived at Plymouth

6 October 1927 in company with Anchorite sailed from Berehaven for Plymouth

23 April 1928 arrived at Dartmouth from Plymouth

17 April 1930 the Weston Morning News reported –

Press report Volens

4 February 1931 salvaged a Royal Airforce Iris seaplame which sank on landing in Plymouth Sound

29 January 1932 at Mount Batten, Plymouth a Royal Airforce Iris seaplane was in collision with the sailing fishing vessel Erycina and sank. It was raised by the VOLENS onto a slipway

VOLENS Salvage work

13 January 1933 salvaged a third Royal Airforce Iris seaplane in Plymouth Sound and took it to RAF Mount Batten

Volens salvaged 2nd Sea plane


July 1935 Captain T Larsen was Master

7 May 1936 while on passage from Sheerness to Invergordon arrived at Dundee and berthed on the Eastern Wharf

8 May 1936 sailed Dundee for Invergordon

1 June 1939 at Liverpool Bay involved in the salvage of HM Submarine THETIS

22 August 1939 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on the Lizard sailing west

29 August 1939 still engaged in salvage work on HMS/m THETIS together with the Salvage Tug’s Ranger, Zelo, Hawa Dilli and HMS TEDWORTH  and the submarine being moved from Liverpool Bay to Red Wharf Bay, Anglesea for beaching

January 1947 purchased for £3,500 by Tees Conservancy Commissioners name unchanged

27 January 1948 raised the ss San Nicholas which had sunk in the Tees after two months of salvage work

13 January 1956 arrived Gateshead for demolition by J.J. King & Co


Notes: –


1 Navy Lists 1916, 1917 and 1918 all shows her to be a tender to HMS Vivid