Dale-class oiler

The Dale class were a class of replenishment oilers taken up for service with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, supporting the Royal Navy during the inter-war period. They went on to see action during the Second World War and supported British and allied fleet units in Cold War conflicts such as the Korean War.

RFA Abbeydale underway in 1952
Class overview
Name: Dale class
Operators: Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Preceded by: Ol class
Succeeded by: Sprite class
Subclasses: 3
Built: 19361941
In commission: 19371969
Completed: 18
Lost: 5
Retired: 13
General characteristics : First group
Type: Replenishment oiler
  • Abbeydale and Arndale: 17,210 long tons (17,486 t)
  • Aldersdale: 17,231 long tons (17,508 t)
  • Bishopdale: 17,357 long tons (17,636 t)
  • Boardale and Broomdale: 17,388 long tons (17,667 t)
  • Abbeydale, Arndale and Bishopdale: 481 ft (147 m)
  • Aldersdale: 482 ft (147 m)
  • Boardale and Broomdale: 483 ft (147 m)
  • Abbeydale, Arndale and Aldersdale: 62 ft (19 m)
  • Bishopdale: 61 ft (19 m)
  • Boardale and Broomdale: 61 ft 8 in (18.80 m)
Draught: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
  • Abbeydale and Arndale: Droxford Diesel Engines
  • Bishopdale and Broomdale: Burmeister and Wain Engines
Speed: 11.5 knots (13.2 mph; 21.3 km/h)
Range: 880 tons of fuel oil
Capacity: 11,650 long tons (11,837 t)
Complement: 40
General characteristics : Second group
Displacement: 17,000 long tons (17,273 t)
Length: 483 ft (147 m)
Beam: 58 ft 6 in (17.83 m)
Draught: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
Propulsion: Burmeister & Wain 8-clylinder diesels with a single shaft
Speed: 13 knots (15 mph; 24 km/h)
  • 1000 tons of fuel oil
  • 75 tons of lubricating oil
Capacity: 12,000 long tons (12,193 t)
Complement: 40
General characteristics : Third group (as second group except:)
Displacement: 17,210 long tons (17,486 t)
  • Darkdale, Denbydale, Derwentdale, Dewdale, Ennerdale and Echodale: 483 ft (147 m)
  • Dingledale, Dinsdale, Eaglesdale and Easedale: 479 ft (146 m)
  • Darkdale, Denbydale, Derwentdale, Dewdale, Ennerdale and Echodale: 59 ft 4 in (18.08 m)
  • Dingledale, Dinsdale, Eaglesdale and Easedale: 61 ft 3 in (18.67 m)
Draught: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
  • Darkdale, Denbydale, Derwentdale, Dewdale, Dingledale, Dinsdale and Echodale: Burmeister & Wain eight-cylinder diesels with a single shaft
  • Eaglesdale, Easedale and Ennerdale: triple-expansion steam engines with one shaft

Class overview

The ships were eventually acquired in three batches. The first consisted of the acquisition of six tankers under construction for the British Tanker Company in 1937.[1][2] The tankers all had slightly different designs and dimensions, but had a deadweight capacity of 11,650 tons of fuel oil.[1] These initial eight were supplemented with the purchase of two tankers under construction for Royal Dutch Shell in 1938. These two new tankers were slightly larger and faster than their earlier class members.[1][2] With the outbreak of the Second World War looming the Ministry of War Transport had ordered a number of new tankers to the designs used by the Royal Dutch Shell. Of these, ten were taken over by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary while under construction, and were subsequently incorporated into their Dale class.[1][2] There were plans to take over an eleventh ship, to be named RFA Eppingdale, but this was not carried out and the vessel was retained by the Ministry of War Transport.[2] All of the ships were named after English dales, and were identified with the suffix '-dale' in their names.

Group I

The first group of six ships were under construction at a variety of yards when they were bought. Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd and Harland and Wolff built two each, while Cammell Laird and Co. and Lithgows each produced one.[1] The ships saw active service during the war, in the Arctic, Atlantic and the Far East. Aldersdale was bombed and sunk while sailing as part of Convoy PQ 17 in 1942, while Boardale was wrecked during the operations off Narvik in 1940.[2][3] Abbeydale was torpedoed in the Mediterranean and broke in half, but was later repaired, Bishopdale was nearly destroyed by a kamikaze attack in the Pacific, and Broomdale was accidentally torpedoed by HMS Severn at Trincomalee in 1944.[2] Those ships that survived the war remained in service with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, with most being disposed of in the early 1960s. The longest-lived was Bishopdale, which despite being decommissioned in 1959, was not scrapped until 1970.[4]

Group II

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary made two further purchases the following year, when they acquired two tankers being built for Royal Dutch Shell at the yards of Harland and Wolff and the Blythswood Shipbuilding Company Ltd. These were taken into service as Cairndale and Cedardale.[1][5] Entering service just prior to the outbreak of war, both ships went on to be heavily engaged. Cairndale made numerous voyages from Britain to the African coast before being torpedoed and sunk in the Eastern Atlantic in 1941 by the Italian submarine Guglielmo Marconi.[6] Cedardale saw service in the Far East, and survived the war. She continued in service throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and was scrapped in 1960.[7]

Group III

The third group was the largest of the Dale class. Ten new oilers that had been ordered by the Ministry of War Transport were acquired by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary to expand their capabilities.[1][5] The first were ready for service in January 1939, with the final ships being completed by mid-1942.[5] As with their earlier sisters, all saw active service in a variety of theatres. U-boats scored several kills among the third group, Darkdale and Dinsdale were both torpedoed and sunk in 1941.[8][9] Denbydale was badly damaged by Italian frogmen of the Decima Flottiglia MAS in harbour at Gibraltar in 1941, and was written off.[5] She did however continue in service throughout the war as a fuel and accommodation hulk, and was finally towed back to Britain for scrapping in 1955.[5][10] Three of the ships, Derwentdale, Dewdale and Ennerdale, were completed as Landing Ships (Gantry) and given light anti-aircraft armament. Now capable of deploying 250 troops aboard 15 LCMs, they initially took part in Operation Torch, and went on to see action at later allied amphibious landings in the Mediterranean and Pacific.[5] All three survived the war, though Ennerdale was badly damaged by a magnetic mine in December 1945, and were converted back into oilers.[5] The survivors all continued in service until their increasing obsolescence led to their retirement from service in the late 1950s, with most having scrapped by the early 1960s.[5]


 Name   Pennant   Builder   Laid down   Launched   Completed   Fate 
Group I
Abbeydale A109 Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd 28 December 1936 4 March 1937 Scrapped in 1960
Aldersdale X34 Cammell Laird and Co. September 1936 7 July 1936 17 September 1937 Sunk on 7 July 1942
Arndale A133 Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd 5 August 1937 September 1937 Scrapped in 1960
Bishopdale A128 Lithgows 31 March 1937 Scrapped in 1970
Boardale Harland and Wolff 22 April 1937 7 June 1937 Wrecked on 30 April 1940
Broomdale A168 Harland and Wolff 2 September 1937 3 November 1937 Scrapped in 1960
Group II
Cairndale X36 Harland and Wolff 25 October 1938 26 January 1939 Sunk on 30 May 1941
Cedardale A380 Blythswood Shipbuilding Company Ltd 25 March 1939 25 May 1939 Scrapped in 1960
Group III
Darkdale Blythswood Shipbuilding Company Ltd October 1939 30 July 1940 November 1940 Sunk on 22 October 1941
Denbydale Blythswood Shipbuilding Company Ltd 26 December 1939 19 October 1940 30 January 1941 Scrapped in 1955
Derwentdale A114 Harland and Wolff 14 November 1939 12 April 1941 30 August 1941 Sold in 1960
Dewdale A151 Cammell Laird 29 December 1939 17 February 1941 14 June 1941 Scrapped in 1960
Dingledale A144 Harland & Wolff 11 December 1939 27 March 1941 10 September 1941 Scrapped in 1967
Dinsdale X106 Harland & Wolff 1939 21 October 1941 11 April 1942 Sunk on 1 June 1942
Eaglesdale A104 Furness Shipbuilding Company 20 December 1940 18 November 1941 9 January 1942 Scrapped in 1959
Easedale A105 Furness Shipbuilding Company 15 February 1941 18 December 1941 12 February 1942 Scrapped in 1960
Echodale A170 Hawthorn Leslie 4 January 1940 29 November 1940 4 March 1941 Scrapped in 1961
Ennerdale A173 Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd 27 January 1941 11 July 1941 Scrapped in 1959


  1. Jane's Fighting Ships. p. 81.
  2. Olver. "Dale Class Tankers (First Group)". Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  3. Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy, Vol. 2. p. 49.
  4. "RFA Bishopdale". Royal Fleet Auxiliary Historical Society. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  5. Olver. "Dale Class Tankers (Second and Third Groups)". Archived from the original on 12 July 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  6. "RFA ships starting with C". Royal Fleet Auxiliary Historical Society. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  7. Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy, Vol. 2. p. 72.
  8. Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy, Vol. 2. p. 99.
  9. Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy, Vol. 2. p. 104.
  10. Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy, Vol. 2. p. 101.


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