Shipyards Narrative

Tags:  candib papers 
Author: Don Wilson
Published: Jul 21st 2009
Updated: 2 years ago

Shipyards of the Canadian Naval Shipbuilding Program 1939-2000

Prepared by J. Douglas Hearnshaw


This statement has been prepared for the Canadian Naval Defence Industrial Base (CANDIB) Project, a group formed in 2001 under the guidance of the Canadian Naval Technical History Association (CNTHA). It is intended as background to the project’s primary aim of recording the effect of naval contracts on the Canadian defence industrial base. It addresses the shipyard sector of the industrial base, and lists the Canadian shipyards that have been awarded Canadian naval shipbuilding contracts over the period 1939 to 2000. It provides some facts about each shipyard’s foundation, history, location, changing corporate structure, the naval contracts they received and the personnel on staff at the time of the contracts, together with the present-day status of each yard.

It is intended that these facts may stimulate memories, and reminiscences in the reader or researcher, and by their added contributions, eventually lead to a more detailed accounting of the naval shipbuilding process and particularly of the effects, beneficial and otherwise, that these contracts may have had on this element of the industry.

The statement must be considered a work in progress, since it is subject to change and enhancement as further relevant facts about the yards, their personnel and naval contracting activity become available. It is hoped that it will evolve into a more complete picture and historical record. The use of written contributions, oral recordings and personal communications with the author are to be encouraged in this research process. Any comments, corrections or additional material should be directed to the Author.

The Shipyards

Burrard Dry Dock Company Ltd.

The facility is located in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and was established in the 1890’s. The shipyard was involved in the Second World War Canadian Shipbuilding program, and between 1940 and 1943 produced 12 vessels for the Navy. After 1946 it came under common ownership with Yarrows Ltd. It also contributed to the Navy with the production of 5 vessels in the period 1951-1962. These consisted of one vessel of the St. Laurent Class of Destroyer Escorts, HMCS Skeena, that was launched on 19 August 1952 and commissioned on 30 March 1957; one vessel of the Improved Restigouche Class, that resulted in the delivery of HMCS Kootenay on 7 March 1959, and one of the Restigouche Class, HMCS Columbia, that was
commissioned on 7 November 1959. This contract was followed by another from the navy to supply a destroyer of the MacKenzie Class and resulted in the launch of HMCS Yukon on 27 July1961 followed by her commissioning on 25 May 1963.

The company became officially amalgamated with Yarrows Limited in 1979, to be henceforward known as Burrard Yarrows Corporation, and later as Versatile Pacific Shipyards Inc. Vancouver Division. Under the Destroyer Life Extension Program (DELEX) the joint company undertook modernization of the four vessels of the MacKenzie Class, the MacKenzie, Saskatchewan, Yukon and Qu’Appelle, at a cost of $12 million per ship. The program extended from 1982 to 1985.

Canadian Vickers Limited.

Many events and circumstances provided the preconditions for the establishment of Canadian Vickers. With the creation of the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910 went several tenders of vessels to British shipyards. Vickers, Sons, and Maxim (renamed Vickers Limited in 1911) bid successfully on several of these contracts and for the first time focused their attention on the Canadian Marine situation, since a requirement of the contract was that the vessels be built in Canada. Also at about the same time they gained their first introduction to the Canadian government contracting process with the construction in England of a government icebreaker, the Earl Grey. The British company carefully reconnoitered the old Maisonneuve district of Montreal in 1910 as a possible building site. An offer from the Montreal Harbour Commission for a fifty year lease on fifty acres of land in this area was made to the company together with an agreement to cooperate in reclaiming the site and supervising the civil engineering work. A further offer to forgive payment of land taxes for a period of 20 years was made by the municipality of Maisonneuve on condition that the company would encourage its employees to live there, It so happened that there had been a Government Drydock Subsidy established in the previous year, and this provided the final impetus to Vickers to establish a presence in Montreal. The company became incorporated in June of 1911. In the following year a large floating dock, the Duke of Connaught Dry Dock, built in the Vickers shipyard at Barrow under the terms of the Canadian Dry Dock Act, was delivered to the new Montreal shipyard.

Early Beginnings and the World War I era

The year 1912 marked the official beginning of Vickers in Canada and plans for shops, drawing offices, and the company’s distinctive enclosed building berths were developed. 1913 was spent in site construction and by 1914 Vickers was ready for production, following the arrival of a floating dry dock from Britain. The first construction was a government icebreaker, the John D. Hazen, which became an onsite schoolroom for the inexperienced Canadian workforce. There was little time for consolidation however, as August 1914 brought the outbreak of worldwide conflict. Immediately the labour force was expanded to 1500. All the construction facilities were directed to wartime production and a munitions plant was opened on the property, producing over 500,000 projectiles. The new company’s building capacity was tremendous by Canadian standards and its output was unrivalled. Twenty-four submarines were rapidly produced for the British, Italians, and Americans. The developing U-boat threat set the further priorities for production and the company directed its energy to the construction of two hundred fourteen sub chasers, seventeen armed trawlers, and twenty-six drifters to combat this underwater menace. Yet Vickers had the capacity to simultaneously build nine 7000 ton cargo vessels for vital merchant marine service: altogether an impressive output for the newly formed company.

Following the First World War Vickers was fortunate in deflecting the post-war depression that hit so many Canadian industries, as a result of acquiring government contracts for Canadian merchant marine vessels.

The 1920’s and the Depression Era

The 1920s marked several important initiatives by Vickers in exploiting all of its production facilities. First there was the opening in 1923 of an aircraft division; then the establishment of an industrial wing producing boilers, pulp digesters and mining equipment; and finally there was the purchase and integration of a structural steel mill. Meanwhile shipbuilding capacity was expanded with the outright purchase and amalgamation of the rival Montreal Drydocks Ltd. Ironically it was at this time that the parent company in England decided to divest itself of its Canadian assets in order to raise capital and the Vickers facility was sold to Canadian interests in 1926. When the great depression finally struck however, Canadian Vickers was not immune. Major shipbuilding came to a virtual halt and layoffs trimmed the workforce to a low of 200 men. The industrial and aircraft divisions did their best to maintain the firm’s viability but shipyard activity was reduced to small-scale construction of tugs and dredges and ship repair work.

World War II era

With the renewed impact of war in 1939 all facilities were geared up and retooled for the conflict. Men were rehired and the workforce expanded to 2000. With a pool of well trained shipbuilders and the expanded facilities of the 1920s, efficiency and capacity far outstripped that of the First World War. In concert with the other Canadian shipyards, the new corvettes for the Navy were of first priority and under the 1940 building program a total of eight were built - all ahead of schedule. Exclusive to Vickers was the production of frigates, and a total of twenty-six were produced (fifteen in one year alone), along with ten vessels for the merchant marine.

At the end of 1943 the company became involved in the Canadian navy’s 1943-44 Revised Frigate building program which called for the construction of 29 vessels. Davie was awarded 12 of them and Canadian Vickers shared the balance with Yarrows. The aircraft division worked to capacity building Hampdens and amphibious PBY Cansos. Meanwhile the industrial wing continued to turn out steam-engines, boilers, and steam generators at an unprecedented rate. It was an unrivalled contribution to the Canadian war effort and a high point of the company’s fortunes.

Prosperous Years

After the Second World War, management and leasing difficulties led Vickers to dismantle its aircraft division. However the high rates of production established during the war in other divisions were translated into peacetime contracts. The post-war years saw a variety of vessels clear the ways including a dredger; motor coasters; canal ships; a mine sweeper; and an icebreaking ferry. This high rate of production earned for Vickers the reputation as Canada’s lead yard - the best in the country for price, efficiency, and quality.

The industrial arm of the firm continued building mining and industrial chemical equipment… From the end of the war to 1950, Vickers’s marine output consisted of: twenty ocean-going cargo ships; one lighthouse tender; one lightship; six coasters; and one canaller vessel.

The 1950’s

During the 1950s a slight decline in marine production coincided with a pronounced upsurge in labour militancy. A new and powerful union representing 350 shipyard men threatened production with a damaging ten week strike. But the company recovered and was determined to preserve its reputation as a reliable builder. Fortunately for the company, a new government contract for three destroyer escorts and one minesweeper buoyed the firm’s fortunes, and Vickers becoming the lead yard in the construction of the DDE vessels for the Canadian Navy. It also managed the Naval Central Drawing Office (NCDO) on behalf of the Government, where production drawings and purchase orders for all the materials required by the ship class were produced. This Naval building program led to the Launch of the first ship of the DDE class, HMCS St Laurent, on 29 April 1953, and her commissioning on 10 November 1956. Vickers also supplied a vessel of the Improved Restigouche Class, HMCS Restigouche, commissioning her on 7 June 1958.

In 1956 the Vickers Group in the UK, who had sold the company to Canadian interests in 1927, reacquired a controlling interest in the Canadian Company, retaining the Canadian personnel and directors. It was also at this point that the newly proposed Seaway began to affect shipbuilding, and contracts for large 26,000 ton bulk carriers began to develop with eight of these ships produced up to 1959. These vessels along with the naval contracts, and tugs, dredges, and icebreakers formed the bulk of the decade’s ship production. The Industrial Division obtained a contract to produce the lock gates for the newly approved Seaway development project.

In 1957 or 1958 a contract was awarded to Vickers for the construction of the first vessel in the “MacKenzie” Class of destroyers. Named HMCS MacKenzie, this vessel was launched on 26 May 1961 and commissioned on 6 October 1962.

The industrial wing, now once more prosperous, expanded into the nuclear energy field producing calandrias for Atomic Energy Canada, and ninety railroad cars were turned out in addition to mining and mill equipment. With fewer labour disputes, industrial production came to the forefront as the company’s most prosperous activity.

Troublesome Last Years

The 1960s opened on an optimistic note. The workforce was up to 1000 men. The Canadian Government Shipbuilding Regulation, a subsidy, and another government scheme called the “Angel Plan” which greatly facilitated the purchase of new ships, translated into new orders for vessels. However union demands threatened to undermine the contracts that ensued. A crippling strike in 1962 followed by continued labour unrest, along with a disastrously low bid to construct the icebreaker Louis St. Laurent led to a huge deficit by the latter part of the decade. Actually, a loss of 61/2 million dollars finally appeared on the balance sheet at the end of 1967, shortly before the delivery of the Government Icebreaker Louis S. St. Laurent. In retrospect however, the overall shipbuilding output for the 1960s had not been inconsiderable, counting one major icebreaker; and a ferry among other ships, altogether totaling twenty-one vessels.

In 1978 the company was again acquired by Canadian interests and became known as Vickers Canada Ltd. More corporate changes took place when in 1981 the company was acquired by Versatile Corporation, a British Columbian conglomerate company that had established a near monopoly of shipbuilding on the west coast. Vickers Engineering subsidiary, Vickers Stanwick Systems Inc, (the former NCDO) was also acquired by Versatile, and company names were changed to Versatile Vickers Inc. and Versatile Systems Engineering Inc. respectively. By 1987 however these companies were no longer profitable and changed hands again, this time to the MIL Group, with name changes to MIL Vickers Ltd., and MIL Engineering.

At the end of 198x, with shipyard personnel downsized to 500 men, the company was forced to announce to the government in Ottawa that it could no longer operate the shipbuilding facility but would continue to repair ships and operate its Industrial Division. Finally MIL Vickers Ltd. stopped ship repairing in January1988.

The shipbuilding division was finally completely shut down and the company proceeded to channel energy and resources into the more profitable industrial wing. A consortium was formed with Eldorado Nuclear to produce casks for spent fuel, mining equipment, subway cars, and mill machinery continuing to be the staple products.

Following an aborted attempt to sell the yard to private interests and the refusal of the MIL Vickers employees to accept far-reaching contract changes that might still have made the company competitive, MIL announced that its Vickers yard was to be shut down at the end of 1989, and the facilities were razed to the ground shortly thereafter.

Corporate Structure and Management Personnel, Presidents and Management Teams
194?-1951 President: T. R. McLagan. General Manager: Russ. Thoman.
Secretary Jim Hatcher, Vice presidents: Richard Lowery, Agar, Naval Architects: James Gilmore, German, Richard Lowery, J.A.S. Peck, J. D. Hearnshaw, A. Barker, Tom Kennedy.
1951-1966. Presidents, Richardson, Col. Orm Barratt, Vice presidents, Tom Abell, J.A.S. Peck,
1966 (Aug) - at least 1972, President: Eric Harrington.
Repair Managers: Bill Rhodes, Albert Redman, James Fraser.
NCDO team: Thomas Campbell, James Clark, Charles Brassington, Ed. Cairns, Bill Broughton, Jack Patience
PNO Staff: Frank Freeborn, Keith Farrell, G. Bridgeman, Mathwin Davis, Ken Salmon, Tom Maxwell, Alec Arnott, Graham Wagland, Don Wilson, David Cutler, John Dibben
Verbal reminiscences from various sources continue to surface that a group of employees acquired the company and briefly operated the Repair and Industrial Divisions until selling out.

Chantier Maritime de St. Laurent Limitée

Situated on the Isle of Orleans, this Quebec yard built 4 minesweepers, a gate vessel for Halifax Harbour, and a tug, HMCS Listowel for the RCN during the Second World War.

Collingwood Ship

An active participant in Canadian Naval building programs during the war years 1940-1944, producing a total of 18 vessels. The first vessel of the program of corvette building in 1940 that was to be retained by the Canadian Navy, and not sent for Royal Naval service, was built at Collingwood and appropriately named HMCS Collingwood. She was commissioned on November 9, 1940.

Davie Shipbuilding and Shiprepairing Co. Ltd.

Located at Lauzon, Quebec and began shipbuilding operations in 1825. On Jan 2, 1920 the Davie Shipbuilding and Repairing Company was taken over by Canada Steamship Lines, and was formally acquired by a newly structured CSL in 1925. Reference 6 makes reference briefly to the building of submarine chasers by the company on land that was later acquired in 1927 by George D. Davie and his brother Allison, who started their own shipyard, calling it George T. Davie and Sons. George D’s son Charles became the manager of this new shipyard. In 1933 the two yards became separate entities.

The first Canadian Naval shipbuilding program of the Second World War called for the construction of 106 vessels and in January 1940 Davie was awarded a contract for 10 corvettes under this program, with a design based on the form of whaling vessels developed by Smith’s Dock Company in England. The first four of these vessels were earmarked for the Royal Navy and were completed within ten months of contract signing. This program was followed by the building of 6 Bangor Type minesweepers, and later by a series of Park and Fort class merchant vessels that required plant facilities in the yard to be upgraded to handle these large ships.

By 1943-44 the Canadian Navy had developed a Revised Frigate building program consisting of 29 vessels, and Davie was awarded a contract for 12 of them. The rest were built by Yarrows and Canadian Vickers. They were all delivered in 1944. In summary, Davie’s wartime naval shipbuilding production amounted to ten corvettes, 6 minesweepers and 12 frigates.

In 1951 Rodgie Mclagan and Richard Lowery joined the company and in 1953 the company was reportedly building a destroyer escort vessel and 3 minesweepers. HMCS Fundy was the lead ship of the MCB minesweeper class and was delivered in 1956. this vessel had survived the fire that occurred at Davie in 1955.

By 1955 a Destroyer Escort vessel of the Improved Restigouche; Class, HMCS Gatineau, was under construction, and was delivered on 17 February 1959.

A contract to supply a vessel of the MacKenzie Class Destroyer led to the launch of HMCS Qu’Appelle on 2 May 1962 and her subsequent commissioning on 14 September 1963. In 1960 the yard was awarded a contract valued at $15.7 million for the construction of the Replenishment Ship Provider for the Canadian Navy. This completed vessel was also commissioned in September 1963.

Other Naval contracts included the conversion of HMCS Margaree to a DDH destroyer and the major refit of HMCS Cape Scott. At the beginning of 1966 Davie was awarded the refitting contract for the Bonaventure which had been purchased by the Canadian Navy from the UK in 1957. Some interesting benefits to the shipyard resulting from this contract, as its reputation for producing high quality work was enhanced as a result of effectively utilizing the technologically advanced equipment acquired to complete this naval contract. A huge cost overrun however was experienced on this contract, but under the leadership of Takis Veliotis the company exonerated itself handsomely from any blame in subsequent investigations.

In 1968 the company received a contract to build 2 Destroyer Escort vessels (DDH) for the RCN, but the honour of being the lead yard for the program went to Marine Industries. The yard commenced building these vessels in 1969, delivering the Athabaskan in 1972 and the Algonquin in 1973.

In February 1976 Power Corporation, owners of CSL who held a controlling interest in the Davie shipyard, chose to sell its shares in the yard to the holding company Societe de construction navale, (Soconav). This new holding company had been set up by four employees of Marine Industries Ltd, namely Louis Rochette, William H. White, Maurice Provencher and Marcel Lafrance, and the Quebec Government’s Societé générale de financement (SGF) was the major shareholder. More corporate changes occurred in1981 when the company was sold to Dome Petroleum for $38.6 million, and again when the company was subsequently acquired by Versatile Corporation in 1985. At this time Davie’s management successfully argued against a name change to Versatile Quebec, and was given the new name of Versatile Davie Inc. In 1987 MIL made an offer to Versatile for the Davie yard as well as Versatile Vickers and Versatile Systems Engineering, and the acquisition was completed on January 16, 1987.

The Davie shipyard was involved in the aborted Canadian Naval Submarine program, announced by the Government in 1987, spending a great deal of time and money in developing a bid in conjunction with other contractors who formed the Canadian Submarine Consortium. Another aborted Federal Government project was the Polar 8 super Icebreaker.

Greater success came later however when the shipyard participated in the Canadian Patrol Frigate program, to the extent of building three of these vessels. The contract had originally been awarded to MIL and Vickers, but the latter yard closed down and MIL, which owned Davie, decided the best division of labour was for MIL to build only the modules of the stern sections for the ships and transfer them to Davie for complete ship assembly and delivery. The keel of the first frigate was laid in December of 1988. In September of 1993 the first of three Frigates, HMCS Ville de Quebec, was delivered to the Navy. The second vessel, HMCS Regina, left on trials in November of 1993 and the third, HMCS Calgary, in June of 1994. Unfortunately the contract led to legal action with Saint John Shipbuilding Limited, lead yard for the program, which however was ultimately resolved.

Davie also undertook the management of the RCN Tribal Class Refit, Update and Modernization Program (TRUMP), involving four vessels of the DD 280 Class. This contract, was worth $650 million, and was undertaken initially in conjunction with Litton Systems Canada Ltd. The initial contract for the first two vessels ran far from smoothly however, and legal actions arose between Litton, Her Majesty, and MIL et al. and eventually led to an omnibus government settlement. The contract for the second two vessels proceeded smoothly to completion. The fourth vessel of the TRUMP program, HMCS Huron, was delivered back to the Navy in December 1994.

On January 15, 1996 the Davie shipyard was sold to the Cedar Group, or Dominion Bridge Corporation as it is now known, and the deal was ratified of May 15, and the company name being changed to Davie Industries Inc. Some shipyard Personnel: Takis Veliotis, Don Challinor, William H. White,  Michael Ayre, Richard Bertrand, Tom Gibson, Bill Farrish, Mike Donnison

Dufferin Ship

Little is known about this shipbuilding facility which was located in Ontario. It was however involved in the Second World War Naval shipbuilding program, producing six vessels for the Canadian Navy in 1940-41.

George T. Davie & Sons

The yard was set up in 1929 primarily for repair work, by George D. Davie, a manager of the larger Davie organization, (which was owned at that time by CSL), George D. Davie was assisted in this venture by his brother George T. Davie, and the company they formed was created for Charlie, the son of one and the nephew of the other. In 1934-35 Charlie (Charles Gordon Davie) expanded from repair work into building new vessels.

The yard participated in the Navy’s 1940 building program, producing corvettes, and again under the Navy’s 1942 program, produced two twin screw corvettes. In 1943-43 the company secured a naval contract to build 2 frigates, one of them, the long-lived HMCS Victoriaville, was commissioned in June of 1944, eventually becoming a Prestonian class escort vessel, then a diving tender and eventually being sold for scrap in 1974.

During the war years, employment rose from fewer than 100 workers to 2000.

By 1953 the yard was building two minesweepers for the Navy together with a Type J loop layer and a Norton class tug.  When Charlie died his role as president was assumed by Andre Delagrave, brother-in-law to Charlie. Shortly after taking office, he hired John Stubbs, a naval architect from Glasgow, Scotland in 1950. Eventually (in 1951) the yard was sold to Canadian Vickers Ltd and Andre Delagrave was kept on as president, with Maurice Paquet as Treasurer, and J. Edouard Labelle, QC becoming Chairman of the Board. In 1957 Andre Delegrave died of a heart attack at the age of 47. Ken Wood was general manager in the 60’s.

The shipyard was sold back to Davie Shipbuilding in 1967 and finally shut down. Some personnel: John Stubbs, Ken Wood, Wilbrod Berher, Duncan Maxwell

Halifax Shipyards Ltd.

The yard is located adjacent to Bedford Basin, within the City of Halifax. In 1905 the board of directors of the Tyne shipbuilding company, Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, authorized the purchase of land in Halifax, an action that subsequently led to the start up of the Halifax Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.
Later became known by the group name: Halifax-Dartmouth Industries Limited.

The original Tribal Class Destroyers were built by this company between the years 1942-48. They were later converted to Destroyer escort vessels between the years 1952-54.

A contract from the Navy to supply two vessels of the St. Laurent Class destroyer escort vessels led to the launch of HMCS Saguenay on 30 July 1953 and her commissioning on 15 December 1958. The second vessel, HMCS Margaree was launched on 29 March 1956 and delivered on 5 October 1957. These contracts were followed by one for the supply of another destroyer escort vessel, this time of the Restigouche class and resulted in the delivery of HMCS Chaudiere on 14 November 1959.

This yard was awarded a contract to supply one vessel of the Annapolis Class of frigates, and HMCS Annapolis was launched on 27 April 1963, then commissioned on 19 December 1964.

Halifax Shipyards Ltd. was successful in securing the contract to build 12 MCDV vessels for the RCN in 1995 and was acquired by the Irving group at that time.

Some personnel: Andy McArthur, Chris West, Dusty Miller

Kingston Shipyards Ltd.

This shipyard was located at the present site of the Kingston museum. Bill Sutton was President, before his leaving for Port Arthur Shipbuilding Co.

The facility was actively engaged in Canadian Naval shipbuilding programs during the Second World War, producing eleven vessels during the period 1940-44.

Marine Industries Ltd.

Marine Industries Ltd was located in Tracy, Quebec close to the mouth of the Richelieu River. The company was founded by Joseph Simard in 1937. It grew from a dredging company which Joseph, with his brothers Ludger and J. Edouard Simard had been operating at the former Chantiers Manseau at Sorel.

This company undertook the construction of the naval auxiliary icebreaking vessel Labrador, which was commissioned on 8 July, 1954. She transited the North West Passage later that year, and was transferred to the Ministry of Transport on 1 April, 1958.

The company participated in the St Laurent Class program by launching HMCS Assiniboine on 12 February 1954, and commissioning her on 16 August 1956.

A further naval contract for a vessel of the Restigouche Class resulted in the launch of HMCS St Croix on 17 November 1957 and a commissioning on 4 October 1958.

In 1959 or 1960 the company was awarded a contract to supply a frigate of the Annapolis class. HMCS Nipigon was launched on 10 December 1961 and commissioned on 30 May 1964.

The company undertook the building of the naval hydrofoil vessel HMCS Bras d’Or, which was commissioned in 1968. This innovative craft was designed by de Haviland Aircraft Company of Toronto and driven in the foil mode by a Pratt and Whitney gas turbine and in displacement mode by a Paxman diesel engine. She attained a speed exceeding 60 knots on her trials in 1968.

In 1968 the shipyard was awarded a contract by the Navy to act as lead yard for the construction of two of the four planned DDH 280 Class vessels. HMCS Iroquois was launched at the Tracy yard in November of 1970 and HMCS Huron one year later. Both vessels were built over the period 1969-1972 with Iroquois commissioning in July and Huron in December, 1972. Two other vessels of the same class were contracted to Davie Shipbuilding. Total cost for the vessels is quoted as $242 million. This contract became the last one involving in-house naval design. All subsequent naval building programs were developed around an industrial total responsibility approach.

The company became part of The MIL Group in 1987 as Marine Industrie Limitee, and was finally closed down.

Some personnel: Louis Rochette, Guy Veronneau, Dave Moriera, Bill White, André Rochon, Dave Fraser, Fernand Paulhus, Peter Turke, Andre Tachereau, Jack Grieve, Marcel Lafrance, Jean-Yves Rheaume, Doug Hearnshaw, Claude Bourdon, Jean Charpentier, Maurice Gendron.

Naval Overseeing staff-Shipyard (DDH-280): Alec Arnott, Don Wilson, Bob McNeilly, Bob McLaren, Clarke Gudgeon, Dave Cutler, Bob Passmore, Terry Lyons, Doug Wilkie, Wally Turner, Bill Bonsor.

DND Headquarters Project Manager and Project Systems Engineering Staff: Jock Allan, Bill Broughton, Bob Douglas (eventually EO of Athabaskan), Peter MacArthur.

Midland Shipyards Ltd

The yard was actively involved in naval contracts in 1940-1944, resulting in the delivery of four vessels.

Morton Engineering and Dry Dock Company

This facility was located on the St Charles River in Quebec City Lower Town. Employment peaked at 2700 men during the First World War, but the yard did not fare well after the ending of hostilities. It is reported that the company leased a machine shop that was located adjacent to the Lorne Dry Dock to Davie Shipbuilding.

In 1937 the Canadian Navy placed orders for the first naval vessels to be built in Canada since the First World War. These were four minesweepers, two of which were awarded to the west coast, one to Collingwood and one to this company.

The company was later actively engaged in constructing corvettes for the Canadian Navy under the Navy’s 1940 building program, and under the 1942-1943 building program, delivering nine twin screw corvettes.  In summary the yard’s wartime production comprised twenty-one corvettes, eight frigates, four cargo vessels and five coasters. Employment had peaked at 2700 men during the war years.

In the Fall of 1945 three employees, Bob W. McGilvray, a marine engineering draughtsman, Jean-Paul Zizka and Gustave Goselin left the company to join Davie. The yard was sold to Herve Baribeau in 1946, becoming the St. Laurence Metal and Marine Works Ltd. It built its last ship in 1949.

Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company

In 1910 local capitalist James Whalen determined to build a shipyard in Thunder Bay to augment his salvage, towing and lumber business. Subsequently he approached the American Shipbuilding Company of Cleveland to direct an engineer to Port Arthur to layout and complete a shipyard including a drydock. This individual did a first class job: layout of the shipyard was so efficient that very little has had to be changed in the intervening years. This was the establishment of the Western Drydock Company.

Early contracts

Under the management of Mr. Whalen a few tugs and barges were built, then the firm got the order to build the largest and most palatial passenger ship on the Great Lakes. She was duly launched in 1913. The machinery was installed. Trials were run and the vessel proceeded to Cleveland to receive the finishing touches. While there it was noted that her stability was poor; she lay over against the wharf in an alarming fashion. The ship had been designed by the American Shipbuilding Company and she was put in their drydock. At the waterline, the hull was enlarged with battleship type blisters which corrected the persistent stability problem. The ship performed very well over a lifespan that extended to September 1949; that month while on a cruise of the lower lakes she caught fire at the dock in Toronto and was completely destroyed with the loss of 119 people. She was the Noronic.

World War I

During World War I the Western Drydock Company directed by Mr. Paige, built one large upper laker bulk carrier, and several seagoing freighters for both the Canadian Government Merchant Marine and the British Admiralty. These were followed by a series of armed naval trawlers for both the above owners. Toward the end of the war, the shipyard was engaged in building more seagoing merchant ships for the Canadian Government Merchant Marine - this was part of the government’s efforts towards mitigating the effects of the post-war depression and the work continued until 1923.

Depression Period

1924 the shipyard built a further upper lakes bulk carrier for the Matthews Steamship Company of Toronto. But they found in common with the other Great Lakes shipyards at this time, that business was drying up; at the conclusion of this contract, all new construction ceased until 1940. During this long difficult period which spanned the Depression the shipyard remained viable with ship repair work. Fortunately at this time an expansion of the paper mills of northwestern Ontario took place and the shipyard set up a very successful general engineering division to manufacture paper mill machinery, flumes, hoppers, and other related mill machinery. This became so active that the management of the shipyard became oriented toward this work rather than shipbuilding.

World War II (1940 to 1945)

Shipbuilding once again came to the fore. In 1940 the Canadian Government and British Admiralty as in the previous war, were looking for naval vessels to be built in Canada. Consequently the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company received contracts for the first of many corvettes. This shipyard with its modern and very active machine shop and boiler shops was able to produce the engines and boilers for these ships as well as the hulls. This machinery was rated by both governments as the best of its kind produced in Canada. Ships produced in the Flower Class Corvettes series in 1940 and 1941 were HMCS Cobalt ,Kenogami,Algoma, Rosthern, Morden, Kamsack ,Oakville and Weyburn, and in 1942, HMCS Port Arthur. This program was followed by six Bangor Class minesweepers built between Aug 1942 and June 1943. Halfway through the war period the shipyard was ordered to construct a fleet of minesweepers of the Algerine class. The work on these went just as well as that of the corvettes and the shipyard proved a very able producer. This series of ships included twelve vessels for Canada and eight for the British Navy, all delivered in 1943 to 1945, and included Kenora, Fort William, Milltown, Kentville, Mulgrave, Blairmore, Sault St. Marie, Winnipeg, Boniface, Portage, Wallaceburg, Border Cities, sixteen others and Styx. Three of these contracts were transferred to Collingwood. The St. Boniface was delivered 15 September 1943. At the conclusion of hostilities, the Canadian government, in assisting France to recover, asked Port Arthur to construct a fleet of twelve self-propelled garbage scows for the French government.

The Prosperous Years

The prosperous 1950’s brought continued success. In 1953 the yard received orders from the Algoma Central Railway to build a turbine driven upper laker. This ship was followed by one for Patterson Steamships of exactly the same pattern. At the same time they built two upper lakers for Canada Steamship Lines. Under the direction of manager Gordon Macdougall (1936-64) the yard became involved in building hydraulic suction dredges in the mid 1950’s for use at the Steeprock Lake mine for dewatering the last of the water and finally 300 feet of sludge and mud from the lake bottom. When this work was completed the dredges were sitting on a floor of pure iron ore.

It is reported that this company built at least three Bay Class Minesweepers - 152 feet long and constructed a wooden hull on aluminum frames, for the RCN. The Chaleur was launched on 21 June 1952. The Thunder, No. 161, was launched on 27 October 1956. After delivery on 3 October 1957, Thunder was used on the West coast as a training ship.

In 1987 the shipyard became a division of Canadian Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd., Thunder Bay, Ontario. The yard was subsequently renamed Pascol Engineering Co., and was finally closed on June 30, 1993.

Don Page was an official, also Bob Sutton.

New Name: Pascol Engineering. (807) 683-6261. Steve Allan: General Manager. tel. 1-807-683-6261.or 1-800-824-3289. email: p…@…

Port Weller Dry Dock

This facility is located at St. Catharines, Ontario. In 1987 it became a division of Canadian Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd.

The company reportedly refitted the destroyers Terra Nova and Nipigon in 1993 (Ref. 4, page 17) and also was known to have carried out refits and dockings on AORs and DDH 280’s.

Prince Rupert Dry Dock and Ship

The yard was located in British Columbia, and was involved in the production of two Flower Class Corvettes and two Bangor Class minesweepers for the Navy during the Second World War, over the period 1940-1942.

Saint John Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. Ltd

Located in Saint John, New Brunswick, the company first opened in 1923, and was acquired by Irving interests in 1959. This yard produced the Replenishment Vessels Protecteur and Preserver for the Navy in 1967-1971, for a contract price of $47.5 million.

The company shared the building of the first 6 Canadian Patrol Frigates with Marine Industries/Davie Shipbuilding Co, and produced the Halifax, Vancouver, and Toronto. The contract was signed on 18 August 1983 with a price for the six ships of $3.02 billion. Saint John was to be assisted by Paramax Electronics Inc. of Montreal, a company associated with Sperry (US). This contract represented the first occasion in which the prime contractor was given total systems responsibility, as an incentive to the industry to maximize benefits.

The yard went on to produce all the second six follow-on vessels of the class, the Montreal, Fredericton, Winnipeg, Charlottetown, St. John’s and Ottawa, over the period 1987-1996.

Irving interests acquired ownership of Halifax Shipyards when that facility received the order to construct 12 MCDV of the Kingston class, for the Canadian Navy in 1995.

The shipyard closed down in 2003.

Personnel: J.K. Irving, Andy MacArthur, John Shepherd, Arthur Nightingale

Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd.

The company is located in North Vancouver, BC, and was initially incorporated in 1902.

Later known as North Vancouver Ship and in 1987 it became a division of Seaspan International Ltd.

Victoria Machinery Depot Co. Ltd.

Little has been found to date about the origins of this shipbuilding facility. located on an inlet in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

In 1959 the company commissioned HMCS Terra Nova, a vessel of the Improved Restigouche Class, following a keel laying on 14 November 1952 and launching on 21 June1955. The company was subsequently awarded a contract by the Navy to deliver a vessel of the MacKenzie Class. The launch of this vessel at VMD took place on 1 February 1961, and subsequent outfitting work was carried out by Yarrows Ltd., resulting in HMCS Saskatchewan being commissioned on 14 September 1963.

Yarrows Ltd.

Located at Esquimalt, British Columbia, the facility was established in the 1890’s, and in 1913, the yard then known as Bullard shipyard was acquired by the Clyde Shipbuilder, Yarrows at a cost of $300,000. The prospect of building vessels for the Canadian Navy was evident at the time. It was jointly owned with Burrard Dry Dock since 1947.

The company participated in the building program for the St Laurent Class of DDE vessels, commissioning HMCS Fraser on 28 June 1957 following her launch at Burrards on 19 February 1953.

The company was involved with Burrard Dry Dock Ltd of North Vancouver in the building of two specialized research ships, HMCS Endeavour and HMCS Quest, which entered service in 1965 and 1969 respectively.

Both Yarrows and Burrard Dry Dock were finally amalgamated in 1979, to become known as Burrard Yarrows Corporation. The shipyards later became known as Versatile Pacific Shipyards Inc, and referred to as the Victoria Division and Vancouver Division, and remained so called until at least 1987.

Contacts and References

  1. Kingston Museum Curator/ Historian: Susan Korbett. Web site:

  2. Peter Cairns, President, The Shipbuilding Association of Canada. 222, Sparks St. Ottawa. Tel: 232-7127

  3. David A. Benedet. Author of book Port Arthur Built (1994).

  4. CSSRA Directory 8th. Edition 1987

  5. Tall Ships and Tankers. Eileen Reid Marcil. Ottawa Library Reference no.338.7623830971459 M319

  6. The History of Canadian Vickers Ltd. An unpublished article by John D. King and available through Kingston Museum Archives. VM301 C38 K46.

  7. Warship Build Programs prepared for the CANDIB project by Jim Williams.

  8. Jane’s Fighting Ships.

  9. A History of Marine Technology. SNAME publication, 1995. Technical paper, Post War Canadian Naval Vessels W. J. Broughton (233)

Glossary Note

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