The RFA and the Naval Service

Discussion in 'RFA' started by Revenge, Jul 7, 2013.

Welcome to the Navy Net aka Rum Ration

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial RN website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. The Royal Navy's official Facebook page has just claimed that the RFA is 'part of the Royal Navy'.

    Wikipedia continues to claim that the RFA is part of the Naval Service, no doubt edited by MOD PR.

    QRRN explicitly states however that the RFA isn't part of the Royal Navy (instead describing it as a 'uniformed Merchant Marine service') and that it isn't part of the Naval Service (instead it is a 'supporting organisation...which [is] largely civilian-manned'). This is on the RN website:

    For those who can't be bothered going through the link, these are the relevant sections:

    BRd 2

    April 2013




    0101. Composition of the Naval Service
    1. The Naval Service comprises the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, QARNNS, Reserve Forces and Naval Careers Service. The Naval Service is supported by a range of organisations (including external agencies and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary) which are largely civilian manned. The latter organisations do not form part of the Naval Service, but where they contain personnel of the Royal Navy those per sonnel individually form part of the Naval Service. They are all governed by the Admiralty Board of the Defence Council.

    0105. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA)
    1. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service (RFA)

    is a uniformed Merchant Marine Service accountable to the Admiralty Board through Fleet Commander.

    It doesn't really matter I suppose except for academic accuracy and legality, but it does seem a bit off that the RN doesn't seem to know what actually comprises the RN?
  2. Or perhaps we could just cut the RFA in toto?
  3. Revenge, would you like to tell what the status of the RFA is in time of conflict?
  4. It remains part of the Merchant Navy, albeit that the sponsored reserve status kicks in in very specific circumstances for the personnel and not the vessels, and not the RFA as a whole.

    It doesn't suddenly switch from being MN to RN tout court - QRRN is explicit;the RFA is not part of the RN. It can't be both MN and RN, and paras 0101 and 0105 are clear on this. If it was part of the RN it wouldn't be specifically excluded by QRRN, the vessels would be titled HMS, they would fly the White Ensign and various other odds and sods people would notice would apply.

    Don't take this as RFA-bashing; my family are Merchant Navy - I just think it is sad if the RN can't get their facts right, and I also think it's sad if the RFA's special (and distinct) identity is lost.
  5. Seadog

    Seadog War Hero Moderator

    I think this has been done before, a lot. RFA vessels are 'government owned vessels on [FONT=&quot]non commercial[/FONT] service' so I ask; what is [FONT=&quot]merchant[/FONT] about the RFA?

    The notion of the Merchant Navy as an institution is bogus. Aspects of vessel and officer / rating certification are the same as Red Ensign ships ( the RFA has a defaced blue ensign ) and some gold chain wearing sov ring wearing Thailand residing ABs like the idea of themselves as 'merchant seaman' even some who have never sailed in a commercial vessel.

    I first saw the RFA referred to as part of the Naval Service 4-5 years ago at JSCSC. The director and DS ( RM and RN) seemed to think so, the Assistant Commandant 1* did and the 3 RFA officers on course didn't seem to mind. I've even seen it included as a 'fighting arm' which is stretching it a bit. RFA Officers hold and have held RN Staff appointments including Flag Lieutenants to 1 and 2 SL. I don't see P&O or Sooking Dredging Officers getting those gigs.

    One of the drivers in rebranding the RFA may be to keep the commercial quick buck makers at a distance, those who think that they could deliver fuel, ammo and dry stores for less than the RFA. The RFA, its officers and ratings have more utility than that. Mr Maersk does not.

    That said, it seems to be having a bit of trouble hanging on to deck, ME and SE officers these days.

    As for the RN getting their facts right, well, updating BRs takes a while. And who decides? I don't know but I do know this, it isn't Wikipedia.
  6. Thanks Seadog.

    The version of QRRN cited is from April 2013, so it's about as up to date as it gets, and it says explicitly that the RFA isn't part of the Naval Service. No ambiguity at all. Given that QRRN has legal force over the Naval Service, the basic element of its composition would seem to be rather important. The line 'the Royal Fleet Auxiliary is a uniformed Merchant Marine service' has been signed off by the lawyers just three months ago. I don't think the RN can really operate on the basis that the current edition of QRRN isn't up to date, as you put it...this would have some serious consequences in all sorts of areas.

    I quite agree on the Wikipedia point - in fact that is my point; Wikipedia is frequently wrong (and certainly is in this case) - it wrongly claims the RFA is part of the Naval Service. I strongly suspect, as I noted, that MOD PR review the articles on there - and that in addition to the points you raise, I think there is an attempt to blur the boundaries between the RN and the RFA partly for political reasons; certain articles on there include RFAs as RN hulls. It seems a way of boosting the size of the Naval Service in the public mind (or that of whoever notices) whilst cutting back actual RN warships.

    The points you make above about posts held by RFA personnel confirm what QRRN says - that it is a related civilian organisation with a special relationship to the RN, but they don't confirm that the RFA is part of the RN, because QRRN says very deliberately that it isn't.

    I do agree about these days the MN being something of a fiction in itself.

    Again, it's not RFA-bashing, it just looks like the PR bods in the RN are desperately trying to make their service bigger than it is by claiming an organisation which legally doesn't belong to it, however integral it may be to the RN's operations. The RFA may not be Merchant Navy in spirit (although Richard Woodman's history of the Merchant Navy in World War II features it), but it is certainly not Royal Navy in fact. As a little historical aside (from TOOTP), the reason RFAs are called RFAs and not HMS is precisely because they are Merchant Service:

    "My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have decided that the title "H.M.S.” shall in future be strictly confined to commissioned ships flying the white ensign and shall never be applied to fleet auxiliaries which are manned with mercantile crews…."

    As it was then, legally it still is, however close the two organisations have come together.
  7. At a time long ago in a land not that far away, the RFA was owned, manned and tasked by the Royal Naval Supply and Transport Service; DST(FM)74 to be precise. An RFA was, effictively, a Naval Stores Depot, Armament Depot, Oil Fuel Depot, Victualling Depot at sea in direct support of the RN. Accordingly, the OPCON of Fleet Oilers/Store Ships was usually with CinC Fleet. Shortly after Aunty Betty granted the RNSTS its own ensign (and a rather nice one it was too), the Purple Mafia abolished it. After various shoe hornings and lump hammer re-structurings, the RFA found itself to be a unique asset without a unique owner. Additionally, the capability of O/Tide/R Class RFAs to carry offensive HELOs (eg Sea Kings) that were capable of more than VERTREPs, a Platform starved Fleet grasped the chance to deepen and widen its reach. Although the ships were commercially registered at Lloyds and the officers and seamen, Contract and non Contract were Merchant Navy accredited and professionally qualified, they increasingly lost their benign Merchant status. Long gone were the days when an RFA could go alongside to receive replenishment stores and re-victual for re-issue without shed loads of diplomatic bumf: they now carried offensive capability and were, to all intents and purposes, treated as warships. In due course and, probably, inevitably the RFA was transferred in its entirity to Fleet. The integration with the Navy has continued to the extent that Seadog ably described.

    As an aside, I found it amusing when the DSDA was formed that, in true brown job fashion, it required that the single Service professionals should be uniformed. So to cover the Naval professional aspect, they grabbed the RFA and chose Pursers for the "maritime" element. The Pursers are very able and skilled people but only had/have experience of running the Ship's account. All the storekeeping/accounting of the nature that DSDA was/is concerned with was performed by the STONnery who are only uniformed when appointed to ships and certain key shore formations. Fair does to the lads appointed; they reacted, learnt and adapted to the circumstances admirably but from day one were an a hiding to bugger all. (John, if you read this bollox, they certainly picked an ace first man for the job)
    • Like Like x 4

Share This Page