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RFA Sir Lancelot

RFA Sir Lancelot

RFA Sir Lancelot in Dock, Brigham & Cowans, South Shields, c.1973

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Should really be RFA Pete but does raise a question that may appear to be dumb to the more knowledgable ones on here. I have long wondered whether there would be any advantage / disadvantage if the RFA fleet was to be fully integrated into the Royal Navy? Do the Americans operate in a similar way to ourselves?
 

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the Americans have a similar (but not exactly the same) setup with grey ships designated USNS as opposed to USS. Thers has been discussion on the RFA section on these matters.
 

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Spursnut,
When the RFA had these ships (affectionately known as Sir Boats to us RFA people) and other older tonnage tankers, the RN had no agenda to take the RFA over. However, since we acquired new tonnage namely: Wave class tankers and Bay class LSDAs (the latter having similar capability to the old Intrepid and Fearless), the RN stepped up their periodic attempts to swallow us up and take over the platforms. In my opinion full integration is near fully achieved and inter-operability is superb. Without going too in depth, the reason why the RFA is not officially under the RN umbrella or flying the white ensign is down to cost! RFA man their platforms with a considerably lot less people than the RN need. An example: Bay class has an engine room complement of 18; Chief Engineer (four stripe Officer not a Chief as in RN Chief) down to Motor boy (MM2) the plant is the same as Bulwark and Albion who man the same area with 65 (could be as high as 85). RFA seafarers are career seaman (ship to leave and back to ship) rather than spend years in shore establishments and 2 year appointments to ships each 7-10 year period. The salaries paid to RFA seafarers are way behind that of RN if you compare rank for rank. I would wager a WO1 and some CPO ranks in certain branches earn as much or more than RFA Chief Officers; RFA people do not retire to a pension after 22 years of service, instead a pension is available at aged 60. RFA platforms and those that man them have to go through OST (Operational Sea Training to non RFA SN members) and get put through the same grind as RN platforms. Officers and Ratings go through training at RN establishments and have to attain the required standards.

Advantage or disadvantage? For the RN – probably an advantage. To the RFA, I’m not sure. To the treasury – disadvantage, too costly!
Some serving and retired Senior RFA Officers here at SN may disagree with the above and may be able to answer your question in a better way, without being overly-defensive of the RFA as me.

By the way the Americans have the Military Sealift Command, which operates similar to the RFA. However, I think they have some sort of other organisation too, that have semi-arrangements where there is a mix of military and civilian-manned ships. The MSC is however headed up by an Admiral or other high-ranking US naval Officer, whereas the RFA is headed up by a Commodore who is an RFA Officer.
Mick S
 

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No worries Pete. Many of my friends in the UK and other people i have dealings with are unaware of the RFA. They usually think i'm dyslexic and mean the RAF. In order to make them understand i refer to the Galahad and Tristram (that took hits in the Falklands Campaign) and then the penny drops. They then say "so your in the Navy?" to which i usually reply "no, same as the Navy but different!"
Some very good pics on your website by the way.
Regards
Mick
 

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Mick,
Much appreciate your comprehensive explanation of the situation. I am a bit dim where the RFA are concerned, always aware of the great job they do but didn't understand the politics! I recall when working in Gibraltar as a naval contractor seeing two of the lifeboats from Sir Galahad in the sheds at the dockyard, a very sobering moment. Just one other point, I was once told that the RFA ships did not carry weapons, was this true in the past as it certainly isn't now?
 

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I was told that the Tarbatness had some bofors in crates somewhere, though I don't remember seeing them, as for that, I didn't see any on the RFA's I served on 1970-75.
 

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