Refitting big liners

Lieutenant Colin Churcher

THIS WEEK IN 1971: ‘Mine disposal officers get awards’

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I t was not all that many years ago that the only large ships seen coming in and out of Portsmouth Harbour were all naval, and the only freight ships were a few banana boats from across the seas and others mooring in the Camber with Jersey potatoes. One or two colliers used to call for unloading coal but nothing of exceptional size.

Most would think that the liners of the turn of the last century would have a refit in one of the many large mercantile ports around the country.

But 90 years ago, in 1922, there was much unemployment in the town, as it was then, and 2,487 families received assistance from a Goodwill Fund which reached £16,160 in that year.

To ease matters to some extent, Atlantic liners came into the dockyard for a refit, giving employment to many Portsmouth men.

First of all came Clan Line steamers followed by others owned by the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company.

The excellence of the work done by shipwrights in the dockyard was praised by Sir Herbert Cayzer MP and Sir Thomas Fisher, superintendent of the Canadian Line.

Many of the crews from the ships were picked from Portsmouth.

The speed and finesse of the work done by the men unfortunately rebounded on them as the following year the work ceased and 1,000 men were out of employment.

There’s another event from 90 years ago that I somehow missed. It was on January 12, 1922, that HMS Victory was towed to her final resting place in the oldest dock in Portsmouth Dockyard.

The idea of restoring HMS Victory to the condition she was in at Trafalgar was the idea of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Doveton Sturdee. He suggested that it would cost £100,000, (£3.8m in today’s money).

Since those long distant days, Victory has had millions spent on her of course and after this latest refit she will be back looking as supreme as she ever did.