The last of the RFA Leaf-class support tankers leaves the Service tomorrow.
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 Capt Duncan Lamb said: “It is with a heavy heart that the Royal Fleet Auxiliary says goodbye to an old friend. Orangeleaf has been a fantastic asset to the Naval Service over the last four decades delivering on Operations around the world.
“As a former Commanding Officer of Orangeleaf, I will personally be sad to see ‘the old girl’ leave the Service, however, Orangeleaf's departure makes way for the new Tide-class tankers. I have been given the honour to Command the first Tide-class, RFA Tidespring, which is a hugely impressive and capable next generation tanker.”
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.
As well as the history books, RFA Orangeleaf is also consigned to a series of children’s books called 'Mrs Orangeleaf and Friends', written by a former shipmate-turned author and vicar, Pierre Cornlouer.
Second Officer Kelly Taylor said: “Between July and November 2000 I was appointed to RFA Orangeleaf as Deputy Logistics Support Officer. During this time the USS Cole was attacked in the Yemen while we were in company with her, and 17 US sailors lost their lives. This memory from my time in Orangeleaf will stay with me forever. I was next appointed in 2006 as LSO around the UK coast where the dynamics and situation were certainly different from my previous trip. RFA Orangeleaf was a pleasure to serve in as she was not only a unique class of ship but also a pivotal operational asset to the RFA Service.”
Second Officer Jodie Hill said: “Orangeleaf had a personality that anyone who served in her will always remember. She had a commanding presence when replenishing warships which was noticeable by all. She was a great ship to drive and I will be sad to see her step down.”