1924 - 1942

A publicity view of the Lubrafol

Built for the S.A. d'Armement, Antwerp, Belgium (Belgian Gulf Oil Co SA) by Sir W.G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle-upon-Tyne .

Entered service during December 1924 - by December 1928 a total of 230,000 miles had been covered.

The Lubrafol became the focus of a libel suit between the government of the Kingdom of Belgium and its owners as part of the government's acquisition of assets (or ability to use them) following the invasion of Belgium by Germany during May 1940. During this period the ship continued to be operated by and all expenses paid by the Belgian Gulf Oil Co. The Belgian government sent out a requisition to all ships on May 17th 1940 operating under the Belgian flag which was duly acknowledged by the Belgian Gulf Oil Co. However before the Belgian government could make use of the Lubrafol the ship was sold to the Gulf Oil Corporation on November 1st 1940 with her registry transferred to Panama & therefore no longer under the claim of the government of Belgium. At the time of the filiing of the libel suit on November 15th 1940 the ship was at Port Arthur, Texas.

On April 24th 1942, the Belgian Lubrafol was time-chartered to the US War Shipping Administration (WSA) at Aruba and registered in Panama.

On April 4th 1942 U564 sailed from Brest on its sixth active patrol. The U-boat crossed the Atlantic to prey on shipping off the east coast of America. Six ships were sunk during this patrol, the fifth being the Lubrafol on May 9th 1942. The U564 returned to Brest on June 6th 1942.

The unescorted Lubrafol was loaded with 67,000 barrels of heating oil bound from Aruba to New York with a crew of forty four (38 crewmen & 6 armed guards). The torpedo attack took place about 10am off Hillsborough lighthouse, Florida, the starboard side was hit, igniting several oil tanks. The ship was heavily damaged with the engines stopped. Two crewman died on the ship, eleven were lost in the evacuation of the ship, in particular one of the three lifeboats caught fire. The close proximity to shore allowed for a quick and effective response by the US Coast Guard. The survivors and the bodies recovered were brought ashore at Boynton Beach. Although abandoned by its crew the tanker did not sink immediately and drifted north on the Gulf Stream for two days before sinking about forty miles off New Smyrna Beach, Florida in 180 feet of water at position 26.26N/80.00W.

The burnt out wreck was reported broken up in 1954 (quite what that means I don't know). Divers visiting the wreck report the ship is lying on her starboard side somewhat intact on the bottom, with parts rising some forty feet off the seafloor. Jelled oil can still be found in the upper parts of some of the holds.

In the attack on the Lubrafol the actions of First Officer J Michaelsens led to his award of the Kings commendation for brave conduct.

Basic Details

Built: 1924 by Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd, Newcastle
Launched: 1924
Tonnage: 7,138 tons
Deadweight: 10,100 tons
Length: 440 feet
Breadth: 57 feet
Draught: 34 feet
Propulsion: Two Armstrong Whitworth/Sulzer 4S60 engines developing total of 3,400hp at 110 rpm
Screws: 2
Speed: 11 knots

Page added August 26th 2007
Last updated August 15th 2009

Return to Ship menu
Return to Picture menu
Return to Home page