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History of RFA Fort Victoria

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Fort Victoria
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Fort Victoria

RFA Fort Victoria is designated as an Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR) ship, and was originally intended to be the first of a class of six which could support deep ocean submarine hunts conducted by Type 23 frigates.

Fort Victoria was ordered from Harland and Wolff in 1986, and was launched in 1990. However, various problems with the construction of the vessel meant that she was not delivered until 1993, three years after originally planned. She was dedicated by HRH the Duchess of York on the 24th June 1994.

1992 saw the adoption of Fort Victoria by the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley, whom she has held a close affiliation with since.  In 2002 the ship and Barnsley celebrated their 10th anniversary with a Naval Parade through the town and in 2003 following her participation in military operations in the Gulf, she presented her battle ensign to the borough, which can now be seen in the foyer of Barnsley Town Hall.

Fort Victoria regularly deploys on exercises to such places as America, The Middle East and The Mediterranean.  She sailed around the world whilst deployed on Naval Task Group (NTG) 2000 and was in the front line during Operation Telic in 2003.

As part of Operation Aquila, she is currently deployed in the Indian Ocean and is home to 240 men and women from the RFA, the STO(N) and the RN including members of 814 Naval Air Squadron.

 

Fort Victoria, the Name

RFA Fort Victoria is named after Fort Victoria, who’s ruins can be found at Sconce Point on the Isle of Wight.

Since the time of the Tudors, Portsmouth has been Britain’s main Naval Base.  Over the last 400 years, great care has been taken to defend the approaches to Portsmouth around the waters of Spithead.  However, there is also a “back door” – the narrow channel that leads past the Needles into the Western Solent and Southampton Water.  The narrowest part of this channel is only  a mile wide and is situated between Hurst Point and Sconce Point.  So in order to protect this entrance two forts were built, Hurst Fort and Fort Victoria.

Fort Victoria was originally built in 1852 to counter a largely illusionary French invasion threat.  It became out-dated by the development of modern weapons soon after and was obsolete by 1870.  It probably did its best work between 1890 and 1962 when it became an army depot, first for coastal mine laying, next for artillery training and eventually for instructing soldiers in the handling of launches and landing craft.

In 1968, the Isle of Wight County Council purchased Fort Victoria and 50 acres of coastal land to the west and developed it into a country park.