The loss of RFA Olga

 

Ashleaf

 

RFA OLGA was launched by Ropner & Sons Ltd., at Stockton on Tees on 12 September 1916. She was completed by the builders by 6 January 1917. The Admiralty placed her under the management of Lane & MacAndrew Ltd., of London as an oiler transport and she was renamed ASHLEAF. Her home port was Devonport. She flew the red ensign.

By the 1 February 1917 she was alongside at Trinidad with engine trouble for 37 days before returning to the UK for a further 17 days of repairs.

She was sunk on the 31 May 1917 when on passage to Falmouth and after the First World War the Admiralty published a report as to her loss – this report stated –

 

The German submarine U.88 then made a long cast to the south and on May 29 turned up in the Channel Approach where at 9.34 a.m. in 48° 54’N., 10° 25’W (in Approach Route A) she met and chased the British oiler Ashleaf, 5,768 tons, bound for Falmouth; her S.O.S. was taken in by the destroyer HMS Brisk (Lieut.-Commander Algernon Lyons)

1HMS Brisk

HMS BRISK – (image not included in the original Admiralty report)

 

which had come out to escort the s.s. Oswego in. The Oswego, however, had been torpedoed by U.86 at 8.12 a.m. and the Brisk arriving on the scene at 8.55 a.m. in time only to pick up survivors, hurried off at full speed to help the Ashleaf, reaching her at 9.52 a.m. U.88 had evidently seen her coming and had gone down, for the Brisk could see nothing of a submarine. She took the Ashleaf under escort and was zigzagging ahead of her at 11.25 a.m. (May 29) when the Ashleaf was torpedoed in 48° 40’N., 9° 30’W Two fleeting glimpses were caught of a submarine and the Brisk let go two depth charges, which drove U.88 effectively down. There seemed no likelihood of saving the ship and the Brisk, after picking up the crew, 42 in number, went off at 12.15 p.m., in accordance with a signal received at 10.50 a.m. from the Commander-in-Chief, Devonport, to meet another ship, the Alcinous. The Ashleaf, however, did not sink; the Brisk found her that afternoon still afloat, and at 3.20 p.m. sent a message to say that it might be possible to salve her. It does not seem to have been received till about 9.45 p.m. and the Commander-in-Chief, Devonport, ordered S.N.O. Scillies to send a tug to 48° 45’N., 10° 8’W., the position given by the Brisk. A tug, the Sun II, was dispatched to this position, but sighted nothing; she had wireless but no code 6 and after waiting about helplessly for an hour returned. The next day (May 30) at 5.30 p.m., the “Q” ship, Salvia,

HMS SALVIA

Q Ship Salvia – (image not included in the original Admiralty report)

 

found the Ashleaf still afloat in a position given as 48° 40’N., 9° 30’W. She gradually collected five armed trawlers and with the help of a small tug, Danube II, made a strenuous effort to get her into port, but on May 31, at 2.30 p.m., in a heavy, labouring sea, the tow had to be abandoned, the wreck broke in two and sank.