HMAS Supply
HMAS Westralia
HMAS Success
HMAS Sirius
HMNZS Endeavour
Royal Fleet Auxiliary History
Royal Fleet Auxiliary History

Tanker Registry

The history of the Australian Navy Fleet Auxiliary is a wide and varied one indeed from the early beginnings with HMS Supply a stores ship of the first fleet in 1788, (the namesake of our famous grey lady HMAS Supply), to the modern tankers of the RAN today

Several ships at the start of World War One were requisitioned for service to the Australian fleet, one of note was the fleet Oiler HMAS Kurumba

Although built for the RAN Kurumba served with the Royal Navy in the early stages of 1917 to the start of 1919. She was then transferred to RAN control on March 13 1919 and finally arrived in Sydney during July of that year.

HMAS Kurumba

Displacement(Tons) 7,806
Dimensions(Feet) Length 378
Beam45.6 Draught: 23.3
MachineryTriple expansion 2,300hp
Speed(Knots) 10
Range(Miles) N/A
ArmamentOne 4" Gun.

Much like the collier Biloela, Kurumba was considered at the time to be suitable for conversion to carry an operational detachment of a pair of seaplanes but after some time the scheme was scrapped in 1923. Up until to June 1928 when Kurumba paid off into reserve, she had made some 13 voyages to Borneo and New Guinea. The Oiler remained out of commission until the New Year i 1939. Kurumba was eventually sold on January 30th 1948 but was not scrapped until 1966.


HMAS Biloela

Was unfortunately completed too late for war service but served as a Fleet Collier from 1920 till 1927. During her short career in the R.A.N. HMAS Biloela made several voyages to New Guinea and the New Hebrides until the disposal of the RAN's squadron of coal burning Cruisers and Destroyers necessitating her decommissioning on November 14th 1927. During the early 1920's plans were formulated for Biloela's conversion as a seaplane carrier embarking twelve aircraft, but along with similar plans for Kurumba, the scheme was scrapped as it would divert the ships from their primary task of Fleet support. The originally planned armament of two 4" guns were never mounted.

After her sale in March 1931 Biloela was renamed WOLLERT (1932), IVANHOE (1937), then YOH SING and finally CREE. She was sunk on November 21st 1940 by an enemy submarine.

Displacement(Tons) 9390
DimensionsLength 382.ft
MachineryTriple expansion single screw, 2,300hp.
Speed(Knots) 11,
Range(Miles) 5,000 @ 10 knot
Ships Company70

HMAS Biloela was built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard and it took 1 year and 8 months to complete on 5.7.1920.


Requisitioned Ships

Overall there were thirteen ships requisitioned for service with the Royal Australian Navy and for a fleet at war the lone Kurumba was unable to meet all replenishment needs. To meets the needs of the fleet and the heavy demand for Oil, 13 auxiliary oilers were placed at the disposal of the RAN for varying periods.

AASE Maersk

RFA Bishopdale
RFA Bishopdale

AASE Maersk6184 Gross Tons
407 x 54.7 feet
489hp = 11 knots
489hp = 11 knots
1 x 4" Gun + 1 x 12 Pdr
Built: 1930
USN 6.10.1942
Returned 1945
RFA Bishopdale17,357 Gross TonsBuilt 1937
X66 481.7 x 61.9Req - April 1942
490 NHP = 11.5 knotsRN 1945
British SailorBuilt -Req Jan 1 1942
Returned May 12 1942
Req May 21 1942
Returned Oct 6 1942
CapsaBuilt -Req August 1942
Cedar Mills--
Falkefjell7927 gross tons
Built 1931
462 x 59.7 feet
Req Dec 12 1941
778 nhp = 11 1/2 knotsRet April 20 1942
GadilaStorage Vessel Built -Req - June 20 1942
Returned Aug 21 1942
MadronoStorage Vessel Built -Req - May 25 1942
Returned June 4 1942
OstavStorage Vessel Built -Req - June 20 1942
Ret July 2 1942
PeakStorage Vessel Built -Req - May 28 1942
Ret June 22 1942
Vera-Built -Req - September 1942
Yamhill-Built -Req -


Refuelling at sea can be a precarious and arduous task and requires expert seamanship from both skippers for such a manoeuvre.

But a steady course brings RFA Wave Sovereign along side H.M.A.S Sydney to commence refuelling during the Korean War.
Photo courtesy of

The Tankers are the energy source for the Navy. Without them, the fleets would all become immobile, as the Japanese Navy found out during WWII.

Refuelling at sea can be a precarious and arduous task and requires expert seamanship from both skippers for such a manoeuvre.

HMAS Supply ( ex RAFA Tide Austral ) RAS'ing RFA Derwentdale 1974