The RFA has previously escaped detailed coverage, being mentioned almost in passing as a minor part of some other naval activity. Being based on merchant ship types, it lacks the romance of the warship and the colour of battle. Without the RFA many of those other events would not have been possible. Certainly the Falklands War would not have been practical without the RFA and the Argentine thieves would still have been on the British Islands today.
NAME: The Forth Force – The Untold Story of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary since 1945
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Geoff Puddefoot
BINDING: Hard back
PRICE: GB £25.00
GENRE: Non fiction
SUBJECT: RFA, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, fleet train, support vessels, organization, history, technology, naval architecture
DESCRIPTION: The author started with a 25 anniversary title covering the RFA operations during the Falklands War, moved to this new book providing an RFA history from the end of WWII, and has started work on a third RFA book tracing the history from the beginning up to the end of WWII. The RFA has previously escaped detailed coverage, being mentioned almost in passing as a minor part of some other naval activity. Being based on merchant ship types, it lacks the romance of the warship and the colour of battle. Without the RFA many of those other events would not have been possible. Certainly the Falklands War would not have been practical without the RFA and the Argentine thieves would still have been on the British Islands today. During the Falklands War British forces were 8,000 miles from home with no close friendly port. The whole operation depended entirely on putting together a completely self-contained amphibious warfare force that could strike suddenly and decisively at a numerically superior force close to its own ports and points of reinforcement. That single campaign alone would have justified the operation of the RFA but the story has been continuous since WWII. From 1945 no surface fleet could operate without its own supply train in close attendance and without its own air support. A Task Force can comprise a larger number of support vessels than warships. At every opportunity warships top up their fuel bunkers and ammunition lockers from their supporting vessels at sea and underway. Where RFA vessels immediately after 1945 were recognizable as merchant ships, they have become increasingly specialized and this process is likely to continue. Where initially RFA ships carried stores with only perhaps more and heavier cranes and derricks, or were similar to commercial tankers with the addition of derricks and hoses for refuelling other vessels at sea, modern RFA vessels are increasingly multi-purpose vessels built in a similar manner to contemporary warships, with integrated defensive weapons systems and helicopter STOVL landing platforms. Some RFA vessels are frontline amphibious warfare craft that are designed to take troops and vehicles directly onto a hostile shore. As RFA vessels are equipped with ever larger landing pads and the Fleet Air Arm is equipped with helicopter and STOVL aircraft, the RFA fleet train is becoming a very convenient airfield dispersal system for a Task Force in combat. It is now possible to fly aircraft from their normal carriers to RFA vessels for maintenance and repairs, increasing the effectiveness of the combat carriers. The author has faithfully captured the development of the RFA capabilities since 1945 in an interesting well-written and engaging book.