These adverts provide fascinating glimpses of shipbuilding and marine engineering on Queen's Island over six decades.
The urgent demands for tonnage during the Second World War is shown only in part due to wartime censorship. Postwar advertising largely concentrated on promoting the Company’s tanker and cargo ship construction, but with some notable exceptions, for example, the passenger liners Amazon
built for Royal Mail Lines and the turbo-electric powered Canberra
for P&O-Orient Lines - one of a new generation of duel purpose vessels, both passenger liner and cruise ship.
Above, in the foreground is the first batch of ‘Flower’ class corvettes, out of twenty, constructed by Harland & Wolff between April 1940 and January 1941. The corvette during the Second World War formed the backbone of convoy protection across the North Atlantic with upwards of 270 constructed by a large number of yards.
Above, wartime censorship prevented the Company from showing off any of its latest warships like HMS Belfast (Yard No. 1000). Instead, its naval construction was promoted with an image of the ‘Arethusa’ class cruiser HMS Penelope (Yard No. 940) shown on her sea trials in November 1936. Above is one of several ferries constructed by the Company in the mid to late 1930s for the cross-channel trade between Britain and Ireland.
During the Second World War repair work became one of the largest parts of the yards work. In this advert a large passenger vessel is pictured in the Thompson Graving Dock receiving a new balanced-type rudder.
Above, the urgent need for cargo vessels to meet the demands for food and military equipment and to help offset the terrible loses the Merchant Marine sustained during the Battle of the Atlantic led to record numbers of vessels like this being launched.
Above, the warship that proved to be the decisive weapon in the Battle of the Atlantic and Pacific was the aircraft carrier. This advertisement, published in 1942, features HMS Formidable (Yard No. 1007) an ‘Illustrious’ class aircraft carrier and the first of this type of vessel constructed by Harland & Wolff.
Formidable became illustrious for another reason. On 17 August 1939 the 28,000-ton vessel prematurely launched herself. Lady Wood, wife of the Secretary of State for Air had been invited to christen the new carrier, the second of three being built for the Royal Navy, and could only watch in horror with the rest of the launching party as the cradle supporting the bows of the vessel collapsed a few minutes before she was due to be launched; the vessel was undamaged but a woman spectator, the wife of a Harland & Wolff employee, was killed by a flying bolt.
Watch film footage of the accident here
The 8,255-ton oil tanker Borgny (Yard No. 1380) built for Fred. Olsen & Co. was launched on 4 November 1948 and delivered on 31 March 1949. New orders placed in 1947 included no fewer than seventeen tankers, part of a flood of orders for this type of tonnage in response to the high level of demand for oil in fuel-starved postwar Europe.
Borgny is interesting as she is the first direct connection between Fred. Olsen and that company’s eventual ownership of Harland & Wolff.
Above, at the end of the Second World War Harland & Wolff had five aircraft carriers under construction for the Royal Navy. By late 1949, when this advertisement was published, three of these enormous vessels were in the final stages of fitting out. By far the largest of the group was the 36,800-ton HMS Eagle (Yard No. 1220) launched by Princess Elizabeth on 19 March 1946. Behind Eagle is HMS Bulwark (Yard No. 1281) and HMS Centaur (Yard No. 1280).
Next... the 1950s