Last of the RFA Leaf Class Tankers to Retire

The last of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Leaf Class support tankers is to leave the Service on Wednesday (30 September).

RFA Orangeleaf, built in Birkenhead and launched in 1975 before being commissioned for service with the RFA in 1984, will complete her service in the port where she was built 40 years ago.

The single hulled tanker will make way for the double hulled RFA Tidespring and her three sisters – Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce. These will enter service from 2016 and are designed to be more environmentally friendly – producing less carbon dioxide emissions – and more fuel efficient.

RFA Orangeleaf was one of four original Leaf Class tankers – together with Appleleaf, Brambleleaf and Bayleaf – with RFA Oakleaf chartered later, but which differed considerably. Built originally for commercial owners, the ships were chartered by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and fitted with accommodation and replenishment-at-sea capabilities.

Two years before she was formally renamed and chartered by the MOD, RFA Orangeleaf sailed from Portsmouth for the Falklands Conflict after being requisitioned for service under Operation Corporate.

In 1990 she supported the Type 42 destroyer HMS York following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and was awarded the battle honour in 1991 along with a further ten RFA ships.

A year later RFA Orangeleaf supported HMS Cardiff and HMS Campbeltown during a humanitarian relief operation in the West Indies following Hurricane Andrew, and in 1997 she joined HMS Monmouth and the French Ship Surcouf in readying for the evacuation of British nationals from Congo as the political situation deteriorated.

She again supported HMS Monmouth off the coast of Sierra Leone in 1998 to provide humanitarian assistance during a civil war in the region and then in 2005 joined fellow RFA ships Argus, Fort George, Fort Victoria, Sir Bedivere, Sir Galahad, Sir Tristram and Wave Ruler in the International Fleet Review for Trafalgar 200 at Spithead.

In 2011 RFA Orangeleaf was the first RFA to hold a light jackstay transfer (light load) with the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon. She has since taken part in an exercise with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency followed by Exercise Joint Warrior – a biannual large scale exercise off the Scottish coast.

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Image: Royal Navy