Online Exhibitions & Stories

Women in Shipbuilding Gallery 7: The Ships

Rewriting Women into Maritime History

Which ships did women help build?

The shipyards built and repaired warships and merchant vessels. There was a desperate need for shipping to counter the U-boat war. Merchant ships were being targeted by U-boats including on the essential east coast coal trade to which mines and staithes in the region were contributing so much. Warships on escort and patrol duties against U-boats were also being sunk in large numbers. Seafarers from the north east in the Mercantile Marine and the Royal Navy were on the front line as soon as they left harbour. Women working in shipyards had a vital role in defeating the U-boat blockade by replacing losses and expanding the fleet of warships and merchant vessels. Many of these vessels had long and successful careers before being broken up and recycled. Although they left no physical trace, Lloyds Register Foundation has a rich historical record of these vessels in drawings and documents that can be explored in its online collection of Ship Plans and Survey Reports. Very few ships from this period were preserved. Most of the ships that survive are, paradoxically, those that were sunk. The war at sea was global, so ships built in the north east can be found all around the world. Historic England helps to protect historic wreck sites around our coast by highlighting their significance, sharing their stories and applying legal controls. Historic wrecks are an important part of the industrial heritage of these women shipbuilders and the north east.

SS City of Brisbane

SS City of Brisbane, built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd. Launched 19 October 1917 and completed March 1918. It was torpedoed by a U-boat on 13 August 1918. The wreck lies off Newhaven, Sussex. 

© Lloyds Register Foundation.

SS Persier

SS Persier, built as the War Buffalo by the Northumberland Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Howdon. Completed June 1918. Torpedoed by a U-boat on 11 February 1945. The wreck lies off the Erme Estuary, Devon. 

© Lloyds Register Foundation.

SS Clan Macvey

SS Clan Macvey built by the Northumberland Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Howdon. Completed 23 July 1918. Torpedoed by a U-boat on 8 August 1918. The wreck lies to the west of the Isle of Wight.

© Lloyds Register Foundation.

SS Dover Hill

SS Dover Hill, built as the Clan Macvicar by the Northumberland Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Howdon. Launched 15 December 1917 and completed March 1918. Sunk as a ‘Gooseberry’ breakwater on 9 June 1944 during the D-Day landings. The wreck lies off Sword Beach, Normandy.

© Lloyds Register Foundation.

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