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CHAPTER SIX. Linthouse, 1900-1932
PRE-WAR PERIOD, 1900-1914
N0 records of the comparative outputs of the various Clyde shipbuilders are available until 1876, but after that date Alexander Stephen and Sons topped the tonnage output for any yard on the Clyde in the years 1876, 1881, 1883, 1923, 1925 and 1931, and were close to the first in 1877, 1879, 188o, 1882, 1887, 1893, 1894, 1896, 1900 and 1913. The fact that they have been able to top the tonnages three times in the last ten years is remarkable, as the vessels built at Linthouse are not of a type conducive to mass production and large tonnages.
Touching this latter point, it should be recalled that in 1900, when the business was first made a limited company, the two younger managing directors, A. E. and F. J. Stephen, came to a decision on policy which affected the whole future of the company. They felt that it was not good strategy to attempt to compete with the pure cargo-builders, and that the personnel and layout of the yard were more suited to higher-class vessels. From that date a change can be seen in the average type of ships built at Linthouse.
During the period between 1900 and 1931, though the yard's output of mercantile tonnage was increased by over 50 per cent. above the output of the previous thirty years, and reached a total of 770,000 gross tons in 145 ships, including some 19,000 tons in eighteen torpedo-boat destroyers, there is ample evidence in the Firm's records of the disturbing influence of the Great War upon world trade and, consequently, on shipbuilding in general.
In the ten years prior to 1914, Linthouse had settled down to a steady average of 30,000 tons per annum, but this, of course, was interrupted by the War. Since then the output has been very erratic, averaging only about 21,500 tons per annum, though this latter figure includes many important large ships, among them the Viceroy of India, of 19,648 gross tons, the largest vessel yet built at Linthouse. This average also includes the largest output of any one year, viz., 58,784 tons of ships completed in 1931, with a total value of about two and a half million pounds.
The following diagram, showing the amount of tonnage produced from 1900 to 1931, as well as the amount of steel worked, gives a graphic indication of the variation in yearly output, both before and after the War.
The Firm's books, besides recording the ever-increasing size and complexity of ships and their machinery, show other world tendencies — one of the most apparent being the sudden increase, and gradual decrease, in ships built for foreign owners.
Thus, before 1900 there were many vessels built for European nationals — French, German, Italian and others, as well as for owners in the Americas and further afield. At the same time there were foreigners serving apprenticeships in the yard, and learning naval architecture at the universities. As time went on, however, more shipyards opened abroad, and to-day a vessel built on the Clyde for a foreign owner may be regarded as the exception rather than the rule.
After 1900, although there was a distinct falling-off in foreign orders, a number of important ships still continued to be built at Linthouse for Continental owners. In 1902 and 1903, for example, the three ships, Oscar II, Hellig 0lav, and United States, each of 10,000 tons gross, were built for the Atlantic passenger and emigrant service of Det Forenede Dampskibs-Selskab, of Copenhagen.
In 1905, an order was also secured for a passenger ship from the Koninklijke Hollandsche Lloyd, of Amsterdam, after keen competition with other builders; it may be mentioned that a slight slip in adding up the cost of this vessel was probably the deciding factor that secured the contract. This error, however, was not allowed to detract from the quality of the construction, and the connexion thus formed resulted in four ships being built between 1905 and 1913 — the Hollandia, Zeelandia, and finally, the two luxury liners, Gelria and Tubantia, of 14,000 tons each. These ships traded between Amsterdam, the Continent, and Buenos Ayres. The last-named vessel, delivered shortly before the War, had but a short career, as, although neutral, she was sunk by a German torpedo, off the Belgian coast.
During 1907, when the Austrian owners, Fratelli Cosulich, of Trieste, decided to embark upon the passenger trade, carrying Italian labourers to Buenos Ayres, their first ship for the service was the Linthouse-built Oceania.
A number of vessels were also built during the same period for the Compagnie Beige Maritime du Congo, for their cargo and passenger-trade between Antwerp and the Congo. This was a profitable and increasing service, although hampered by the limited draft at the bar of the Congo River; the successive ships built at Linthouse for this company were of increasing size, culminating in the Anversville, of 7,645 tons. This ship, which was built in 1912, returned to the yard, eighteen years later, in 1930, to be reconditioned and thoroughly modernized, with new boilers fitted with superheaters; she now appears good for another eighteen years, and her owners report that she is highly satisfactory, with most economical fuel consumption.
An account of work done for foreign owners would be incomplete without some reference to the curious structure built by the Firm, in 1902, for a Spanish client, Senor Felix de Chavarri. Designed to represent the navigation bridge and forward deck-house of a mammoth ocean-liner, it consisted of two stories, the lower one of steel, about 50 ft. square, the upper of teak, representing a wheel and chart house. The upper house was the billiard room, while the lower contained other public rooms and bedrooms. All the apartments were very handsomely panelled in polished hard-woods, as was the practice in ship-work at that time, and the whole structure rested on a very solid stone and cement foundation, about 10 or 12 ft. high, containing the kitchens and offices. The house was built on the summit of a hill, overlooking Bilbao, and Mr. Hunter took a great interest in the scheme, personally designing many of its naval features. Much of the work was done in the shipyard the whole structure taking many months to complete, and a number of men being sent out to Bilbao to assist in its erection. It was currently reported, at the time, that the building was in some way to play an important part in Spanish political events, but the Linthouse "Ship House" does not appear to have figured in the revolution of 1931!
Since the completion of the aforementioned foreign vessels, and after the War period, the drastic change in conditions is clearly reflected at Linthouse by the entire absence of Continental orders; it is not until 1931, the year of fiscal change and the fall in value of the pound sterling, that an order from the Continent appears, in the shape of a 7,400-ton cargo-ship for the Compagnie de Navigation d'Orbigny, of Paris.
With the gradual decline of Continental orders, contracts were secured for Linthouse from another quarter overseas, a large proportion of the vessels required for the reconstruction of the merchant fleets of Australia and New Zealand being built by the Stephens between 1902 and 1913. These Australasian vessels, which totalled some 42,000 tons, included ships for the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company, the Howard Smith Company, the Adelaide S.S. Company, and the Union S.S. Company of New Zealand.
Three ships were built for the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company, and each presented special problems to their builders. As it was supposed in Australia at the time that 340 ft. was the maximum length for some Australian ports, the first ship, the tryandra, of 4,058 tons, was limited to this length, while her speed, deadweight and cargo-capacity were all specified under penalty at the maximum. The contract was difficult, but all conditions were fulfilled with the barest possible margin, and the U7yandra proved a highly successful ship.
The second of this series, the Wyreema, of 6,338 tons, was also a difficult contract, so much so, in fact, that an eminent Clyde shipbuilder declared the conditions to be impossible, especially in respect to stability. Here again, however, the conditions were fulfilled with the dimensions 400 ft. by 54 ft. by 33 ft. 3 ins. The third ship, the Levuka, was similar to the Wyandra, but the design was complicated by the fact that half her cargo space was required for the carriage of bananas from Fiji to Australia, necessitating refrigerating machinery and insulated holds. A few years ago the Wyreema and Levuka were sold to the Lloyd Brasileiro Cia. de Nay., of Brazil, and sail to-day under the flag of that company, bearing the names Pedro I and II.
The specifications of the Howard Smith Company and the Adelaide S.S. Company were equally difficult, and, as all these ships were most elaborately equipped, it became proverbial at the time among shipbuilders, that an Australian vessel spelt a loss. Throughout the eleven or twelve years during which the boom lasted, however, Linthouse managed to satisfy the owners and take repeat orders whenever they were offered.
Three passenger ships were built for the Howard Smith Company — the Cooma, of 3,839 tons; the Canberra, of 7,707 tons; and the Mourilyan, of 1,349 tons; the last-named being a small cross-Channel steamer, which attained a speed of 15 knots on trial.
The Koombana, of 4,399 tons, built for the Adelaide S.S. Company, in 1908, was one of the earliest merchant-ships to be fitted with water-tube boilers of the Babcock type. Unfortunately, however, she became a total loss, being wrecked on the Australian coast within a few months of her arrival in that latitude. The Makura, of 8,075 tons, built for the Union S.S. Company of New Zealand, was a passenger liner running across the Pacific between America and Australia; she is still on this route, after having been altered to burn oil fuel. The Makura formed the last link in the chain of passenger and mail transport round the globe by all-British steamers and railways. She was hailed in Australasia as the first ship of the "All-Red" route. F. J. Stephen and A. S. MacLellan went out to Australia with her on her maiden trip. Curiously enough, another Linthouse vessel, the Port Kingston, of 7,585 tons, built in 1904, was also taken over by the same company, who re-named her the Tahiti and fitted her to burn oil fuel; after running in conjunction with the Makura for many years she was eventually lost in 1931.
The eight ships detailed above were all built before the War, since when this opening for shipbuilding appears to be closed, owing to the financial position of Australia. Only two tugs have been built at Linthouse for Australia since the War, the Forceful and Garlock, both powerful, sea-going vessels constructed for the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company in 1925 and 1929.
While the Australians were building, another Colonial connexion commenced with the completion, in February, 1901, of an interesting little steamer, the Port Morant. She and her sister ships (one from Ramage and Ferguson, Leith and a second from Messrs. Stephen and Sons), were ordered by a Captain Lamont and Mr. Cousins, who started a company in Glasgow, with the object of importing bananas from the West Indies. This project had never been attempted before, as the voyage was too long to carry the fruit in a fresh condition; indeed, to do so, even with refrigeration, was considered almost impossible.
The original company, being unable to carry out its contract owing to lack of capital, suspended payment when the first ship was in frame and much material for the second already in the yard. Shortly afterwards, however, Sir Alfred Jones, chairman of Elder Dempster and Company, deciding to take up the venture, approached the builders with a view to purchasing the first ship. His wish was for a larger vessel (she was only 290 ft. long), and he desired her lengthened by 30 ft., in order to fit a large amount of passenger-accommodation and (ample) refrigerating plant. All these requirements were eventually arranged.
As the ship was in frame, she had to be cut in two, after being partially plated, her after end launched down thirty feet, and the gap built in amidships, as described in full elsewhere. She was launched in 1901, and sailed on her first voyage from Avonmouth, under the colours of the Imperial Direct West India Mail Service, for Port Kingston, Jamaica; here she loaded the first cargo of bananas that ever left the West Indies for Europe. Her voyage was naturally watched with great interest by her owners, who were delighted when the cargo arrived in fairly good condition, giving great hopes for the future, which have since been amply fulfilled.
As soon as the Port Morant had proved the practicability of this venture, two other ships were built for the same trade, by Messrs. Raylton, Dixon and Company, and eventually Sir Alfred Jones ordered a larger vessel, the T.S.S. Port Kingston, of 7,585 tons, launched in 1904. The latter, one of the handsomest steamers ever built at Linthouse, enjoyed an honourable career, first on the Atlantic and later on the Pacific Ocean.
The business of the Imperial Direct West India Service was then absorbed by Elders and Fyffes Ltd., a company which has been so progressively developed that in 1930 its fleet included thirty-eight vessels of a total of 202,000 tons, all engaged in the transport of bananas to Europe. The foundation of this immense business was due to the energy, enterprise and foresight of the late Sir Alfred Jones, and the ability and resource of Mr. A. H. Stockley, the late Mr. Ackerley and Captain H. F. Bartlett, the directors who have so ably piloted the organization down to present times.
Great difficulties had to be surmounted and much experience acquired in the early days, before the business became so successful. It was necessary, for example, to ascertain at what stage of ripeness the bananas should be cut, and at what temperature the steamers' holds should be maintained to ensure the fruit being landed in a proper condition for distribution. Again, the railway companies had to be induced to furnish specially insulated vans for the transport of the fruit throughout the country in winter, when a touch of frost might destroy an entire cargo. However, all these problems have now been overcome, both in Great Britain and on the Continent. It is a matter of great regret, however, that Sir Alfred Jones, who was always most enthusiastic regarding the prospects of the business, did not live to see his ambition that bananas should be sold in this country at 1/2d. each, so nearly realized as it has been during recent years.
Sir Alfred, a man of wide views and great enterprise, was undoubtedly a firm friend to Alexander Stephen and Sons, who built for him at the rate of one ship per year for ten years, until his death in 1907. The first vessel constructed at Linthouse for Elders and Fyffes Ltd., in 1905, was the Nicoya, of 3,617 tons, which was followed in due course by the ships listed below:
The majority of these vessels transport bananas only, but the twin-screw ships, running on Elders and Fyffes' passenger service to the West Indies, carry a hundred passengers each, in addition to their fruit cargoes. The small ships, Telde and Orotava, were built for the fruit and vegetable trade between Liverpool and the Canaries.
Considering the present enormous world consumption of bananas, it is interesting to recall that the fruit was once an expensive curiosity, exhibited at the Colonial Exhibition of 1887. Its current popularity and efficient distribution are largely due to the close and friendly co-operation between the owners, shipbuilders, and refrigerators — Messrs. J. &. E. Hall Ltd., of Dartford.
Though the main principles of the original systems of construction, insulation and refrigeration devised for the first Nicoya have not been greatly altered, the second Nicoya, of 1929, is different in almost every detail, showing many gradual improvements of methods, simplifications of fittings and new constructional materials. The process of improvement is still by no means completed, however, and the co-operative method is still carried on, after twenty-five years, with as much enthusiasm as at the commencement of the enterprise. The growth of Messrs. Elders and Fyffes Ltd., from a one-room office in Covent Garden to an organization covering all Britain and many parts of the Continent, is a striking example of what can be achieved, and may still be done in the future by the application of science to the creation of new trades.
Besides the West Indian ships, Sir Alfred Jones built at Linthouse, during the same period, a large number of vessels for the West African trade of Elder Dempster and Company; these ships, which were all specially designed to suit west coast conditions, included the Burutu, Tarquah, Karina, Mendi and Falaba, all of about 4,000 tons. This branch of the business was run in conjunction with the Belgian firm, Cie. Belge Maritime du Congo, which continued building at Linthouse as already detailed elsewhere.
During the pre-War years of the present century many other well-known shipowners were constant customers of Linthouse. Four vessels were built for the Anchor Line — one Indian trader, the Massilia, 5,353 tons; the two cargo-ships, Anchoria and Media, and one Atlantic liner, the Tuscania I, of 14,348 tons. Four large passenger-ships were also constructed for the Allan Line — the Tunisian, Virginian, Grampian and Hesperian; the Virginian, 10,754 tons, is notable as being one of the first two Atlantic liners to be propelled by steam turbines, in 1905, while the Tunisian was the first ship built at Linthouse to British Corporation rules.
The Clan Line also constructed the three cargo-ships, Clan MacLachlan, Clan MacNaughton and Clan MacQuarrie, of about 5,000 tons each, while the Aberdeen Line (George Thompson and Company), built the sister ships, Miltiades and Marathon, in 1903.
When the British India Steam Navigation Company decided to reconstruct its fleet in 1910, the Stephens received a large proportion of the orders, and, between that date and 1914, 52,500 tons were built for this company alone. Ten ships were constructed, varying from plain cargo-ships to passenger vessels and high-speed mail-carriers; all, however, possessed the common characteristic of being suitable for Indian waters and conditions.
Alongside the above vessels a continuous succession of cargo-ships was laid down to augment the growing fleet of Maclay and McIntyre, for whom several vessels were built about this period, ranging from the Uganda, in 1905, to the Mascara, in 1912 — a total tonnage of 32,668 tons.
Prominent in the yard's records is the El Uruguayo, 8,361 tons, built in 1912 for Furness Withy and Company, and the first Linthouse ship to be completely insulated and refrigerated for the transport of frozen meat.
Meanwhile, in addition to the ordinary output of approximately 30,000 tons of cargo and passenger ships per annum, various smaller craft were constructed, including the steam yachts, Emerald and Medea, and the tugs Cruiser, Victor and Campaigner, for Messrs. Steel and Bennie's Clyde River service.
During the pre-War period, outlined in the previous pages, various changes naturally occurred in the Firm's personnel, owing to the inevitable and regrettable operations of "Anno Domini." It has already been shown how, after the death of Alexander Stephen, in 1899, the Firm was converted into a limited liability company, of which his brother, John Stephen, became chairman. About 1902 the latter being well advanced in years, the active direction of affairs passed into the hands of A. E. and F. J. Stephen, sons of the late Alexander, both of whom had been partners in the business since 1887. But John Stephen continued as chairman until his death in March, 1917, at the age of eighty-one. Though trained as an engineer, he had throughout his business life been in charge of the construction work in the shipyard, and was exceedingly popular with the men, who latterly referred to him as "Old Jock." He was greatly interested in Central Africa, being one of the founders of the Livingstonia Mission, and also of the African Lakes Corporation, which was so largely instrumental in opening up the Zambesi Valley as a trading route. An exceedingly generous man, he more or less financed the building of at least two Govan churches, in addition to the Govan Y.M.C.A., and contributed largely to many African missions and Glasgow charities.
The yard manager, Robert MacMaster, who had been with the Stephens since 1864, became a partner before his death in 1902, while Robert Kelly, another forceful character, who had grown up with the Firm, held the post of engine-works manager. Matthew Hunter, a man of unusual personality and ability, who had joined in 1899 to assist F. J. Stephen, succeeded Robert MacMaster as yard manager, in 1902, and became a director in 1908; he retained charge of the yard throughout the exceptionally difficult War period.
The secretary, Alexander Scott, a well-known figure at Linthouse for many years, was also made a director in 1908, shortly before his death in 191o, when he was succeeded by the then assistant secretary, Thomas W. McIlmoil.
A nephew of the Stephens, Alexander Stephen MacLellan, became a director in 1913, after having been some years in charge of the engine works, to assist his uncle, A. E. Stephen. The shipyard drawing-office was under the direction of Shirley B. Ralston, who was made a director, with T. W. McIlmoil, in 1921.
In 1904, the Firm opened a department to deal exclusively with repair-work, in addition to its shipbuilding and engineering activities. For this purpose a piece of ground belonging to the old Napier Yard, close to Govan dry docks, was purchased, fitted with shops and machinery, and placed under the management of Mr. Thomas Ballantine, well known in ship-repairing circles. Among the much important work handled by this new department was the lengthening of the two Aberdeen liners, in 1912, and the conversion of several ships from cargo-carriers to oil tankers, during the War.
War Period 1914-1918
The War years of 1914 to 1918 are reflected in the shipyard records by a sudden drop in the annual output of tonnage from 41,000, in 1914, to no merchant ships at all, in 1916, and an average of 11,000 tons of merchant work for the following five years. First came a gradual paralysis, caused by the enlistment of workers, then an increased activity, due to the building of torpedo-boat destroyers, aeroplanes and other War work.
For a short time after the outbreak of hostilities the Firm, having a full order book, carried on its usual programme, but it soon became apparent that all the resources of the country would be needed to supplement the activities of the regular warship builders and naval dockyards.
In November, 1914, Messrs. Stephen and Sons were visited by a representative of the Admiralty, in the person of Admiral Sir Reginald Hall, R.N., who suggested that the most suitable vessels for the Firm to construct were light cruisers, torpedo-boat destroyers and submarines. It was evident that at first it was not the intention of the Admiralty that the ordinary work of the Firm should cease. Indeed, this was scarcely practicable, as some of the berths were still occupied by merchant ships in various stages of construction, and there were signs of a growing demand for such vessels as transports, hospital ships and armed merchant-cruisers.
In view of the type and capacity of the yard, it was decided that a beginning should be made with torpedo-boat destroyers, and in December, 1914, an order was placed with the Firm for two vessels of the Admiralty-designed "M" class, to be named the Noble and the Nizam, their yard numbers being 470 and 471. The first of these vessels was delivered in February, 1916, but before their delivery took place orders were received for two more of the same class. These were followed, at intervals, as shown in the table of vessels completed during the War, by fourteen others, making a total of eighteen, practically a flotilla as enumerated below:
All the propelling machinery for the above vessels was constructed in the Linthouse engine and boiler shops, save that supplied to the Noble, Nizam and Nomad, which were fitted with machinery built elsewhere on the Clyde.
The first four sets of machinery were triple-screw direct-driven Brown-Curtis turbines; subsequent ships had also Brown-Curtis turbines, but with single-reduction gearing driving twin screws. The aggregate S.H.P. per ship was about 30,000. The boilers, of which there were three per vessel, were of the usual water-tube type, the first four sets being constructed by Babcock, while the remainder were made at Linthouse to Yarrow's design.
A maximum speed of almost 37 knots was attained on trials, which took place on the measured mile at Wemyss Bay, as in peace time; in this instance, however, the destroyers' guns were ready for action against submarines as soon as they were outside the defence-boom across the Firth, between Dunoon and the Cloch.
Throughout this period, when many firms were engaged upon war-work, there was a very welcome co-operation between the various organizations. The spirit of co-operation thus inaugurated has continued, and, as time passes, it becomes increasingly apparent that closer contact between the units of the engineering and shipbuilding industries is a vital factor in establishing the success of Great Britain in competition with foreign countries.
One of the most unusual events of that time was the midnight launch of H.M.S. Non Pareil the first, and probably the last, in the experience of the Firm. Although there was a great demand for more destroyers during 1916, it was not for this reason that the witching hour was chosen. Owing to exceptionally cold weather, or inferior grease, the vessel failed to move more than a few feet when the triggers were released at 11 a.m., on May 15th, 1916. The "ways" were immediately removed, re-greased and replaced, and thirty-six hours later, at almost midnight on the 16th, the launch took place by the light of a brilliant full moon — a most creditable performance on the part of the shipwrights.
Several of the Linthouse-built destroyers did not remain long unscathed. H.M.S. Nomad was sunk at Jutland, after being in commission only a few weeks, while H.M.S. Sturgeon tried conclusions with a mine shortly after leaving her builders. Apropos the latter accident, in which the after part of the vessel, up to the bulkhead forward of the wardroom, was completely removed, a friend from Chatham sent word to Linthouse that "The fish had lost her tail!"
An early War incident, in December, 1914, at the time of the Scarborough raid, was the despatch of twenty-four Linthouse carpenters, in charge of their foreman, Charles Brown, to Scapa Flow, for work on the Grand Fleet. Their work, which consisted largely in repairing storm-damaged ships on the spot, included far more than timber repairs; they undertook all kinds of woodwork, steelwork, hole-boring; in fact, whatever was required, as the Navy men appeared to imagine that no job was too big for them. The constant movement of the Fleet, however, prevented their being constantly employed, and they returned home, after considerable delay, in February, 1915.
Working conditions were extremely difficult, especially during the earlier years of the War. Prices and wages rose to unprecedented heights, while skill fell in equal proportion, and materials were controlled so that no yard could be sure of obtaining even its nominally-allotted quota. Gradually, however, the various problems were surmounted, large numbers of women being employed and found eminently suited to different kinds of work. The manufacture, or mass-fabrication, of standardized aeroplanes, also undertaken by the Firm, was equally hampered by lack of both materials and labour.
In the Spring of 1915, Messrs. Stephen and Sons, together with several other shipbuilding firms, were consulted by the War Office, regarding the construction of aeroplanes. It was found that establishments with large woodworking departments could, with certain modifications, undertake the supply of the fuselages of aeroplanes. In the case of Linthouse, the only difficulty lay in the erection of the machines, which was overcome by installing and equipping for this purpose a new building, 400 ft. long by 70 ft. wide, along the east side of the yard.
In this building there was ample room for the frame-erecting department, wing and tail section, completed nacelles, doping room, enamelling room, large store, and A.I.D. office; there was also space for erecting completed machines, and for the large cases wherein they were packed, which passed out through large doors, on horse lorries, for despatch by rail. An annex along one side was added later, for the accommodation of mechanics, metal-workers and the necessary machinery.
The aeroplanes were built on a mass-production system, in conjunction with Messrs. G. and J. Weir Ltd., of Cathcart; owing, however, to early difficulties in arranging the fabrication system of the different parts, the first machine was not completed until 20th August, 1915. After that date, the rate of production improved rapidly, and latterly as many as four or five 'planes per week were despatched.
At the termination of the War, there had been completed and despatched to the Continent, Russia, and home aerodromes, fifty B.E. 2C scouting machines, and 430 F.E. 2B fighters, the last hundred of which were fitted with special electric outfits for night-flying, in addition to Holt flares and bomb-carriers.
The engines for all the machines were supplied by the Royal Aircraft Factory, and several of the 'planes were flown direct from Renfrew Aerodrome to the Western front. The major portion of the woodwork for all the machines was made in the joiners' shop, at Linthouse, which also handled large quantities for Messrs. G. &. J. Weir's aeroplane factory, at Cathcart.
One hundred sets of B.E. 2E wings and tail-planes were also made in the joiners' shop, and 25 used sets were stripped, reinforced and repaired. A vast quantity of spare-parts were also made, including 60 tubular nosings, 30 complete sets of wings, tail-planes, fins and rudders, fitted complete with mountings; the packing of one set of wings alone, in large cases 20 ft. long, 6 ft. wide and 41 ft. deep, took four men a full day to complete.
At the same time continuous demands for replacements of various components were promptly attended to and despatched to the required destination. Another side of the work was the dismantling and rebuilding of crashed machines, sixty-four of which — some bearing ominous evidence of contact with the enemy — were taken down, twelve of these being entirely rebuilt. One of these rebuilt 'planes, No. B.410, brought down a Zeppelin during a London air-raid.
In addition to these contracts, material for 150 night flyers was received, tabulated and despatched to Messrs. Barclay Curle and Company Ltd., for erection; rough material was also distributed to sub-contractors for manufacture.
The erection contract terminated on 31st December, 1918, by the application of the break clause. The enumeration, packing and despatch of surplus material—comprising 9 complete and 20 incomplete machines, 31 sets of wings, 103 cases of instruments, 337 cases of various fittings and material, containing a total of 224,250 items; also 3,846 gross of bolts, pins, washers, ferrules, etc., in many different sizes, with an advice note of contents, and seven copies of A.S.I forms placed in each of the 440 cases — took six months to complete.
From start to finish of the contract, not a single machine was turned down, or a serious complaint received from pilots, headquarters, or A.I.D. In June, 1918, a warm letter of appreciation was received by the Firm from the Department of Aeronautical Supplies.
Although work was constantly hampered by delays in the supply of components, a considerable number of hands — averaging 6 staff, 130 men and 60 women — were fairly consistently employed. During the progress of the work, the Government arranged several lectures and cinema demonstrations to show the workers some of the results of their labours.
Several Linthouse-built machines are mentioned in the following official accounts:
"The night fliers have been very active of late and have been doing some very efficient work both in bombing and in night reconnaissance, flying over roads and railways, dropping flares at intervals and reporting when and where troops and transport were observed.
"It is risky work, because the machines have to come low and are under heavy fire, but the risks have been well justified, and most valuable information obtained.
"Three night fliers, Linthouse-built machines — Nos. A5711, A5749 and D9099 — set out on one of these trips in very bad weather, to get some urgently required information. They started about 11 p.m. and were greatly hindered by severe rain-storms and low clouds. They persisted, however, flying as low as a few hundred feet, dropping lights and noting where lights were seen in woods, and troops and transport observed on the roads. On several occasions the troops showed up so plainly in the light of the flares, that our men were able to turn their machines' guns on them, doing a great deal of damage and scattering the troops. The wind and rainstorms grew worse, and all three machines had the greatest difficulty in struggling back with a 30-mile-per-hour wind against them. They succeeded in crossing the line 300-400 ft. up, and of course were subjected to a very heavy fire.
"The whole trip was carried out most daringly and successfully, and the skill and daring of the pilots and observers was recognized by awarding them all the Distinguished Flying Cross!"
In another raid, a Linthouse machine, No. A5713, "saw lights on a Hun aerodrome. On making for it the light was extinguished, but the pilot flew round and fired a coloured light, whereupon another aerodrome was lit up and two Huns were seen taking off and one landing. Our pilot came down and dropped eight light bombs round the 'drome: the lights were promptly extinguished and one of the Hun machines was seen, in the light of a flare, to have crashed in the darkness."
On another occasion, "the above machine with two others, in a night reconnaissance, encountered bad weather and heavy rainstorms, but managed to find a field packed with transport. Flares revealed transport, troops, and apparently an artillery brigade bivouacked, and these were bombed and machine-gunned, and the troops dispersed in all directions."
During the latter part of the War, when the sinking of merchant-ships became increasingly serious, some standard cargo-vessels were built at Linthouse, to the order of the Controller of merchant shipping. Three of these vessels, which were altered and re-altered on the stocks, to meet the constantly-varying need to replace ships sunk during the intensive submarine campaign, were the War Hunter, War Gascon and War Hussar; all three were single-screw vessels of about 5,200 tons gross, of the type known at that time as "A" Class.
The fourth, taken over during construction, in 1920, by the New Zealand Shipping Company, and named the Piako, was a single-screw refrigerated cargo vessel, of 8,283 tons register with double-reduction geared Linthouse-built turbines. Contrary to the general experience with double-reduction gears, the machinery of the Piako was an outstanding success, and is still running at the present time, 1932. The only renewal has been one pinion — a good record for even a single-reduction gear for a ten-Year period! It is interesting to recall that the first Piako was built at Linthouse for the same owners in 1876.
Work on the Vasna, which was building for the British India Steam Navigation Company in 1914, was stopped when the War broke out; after a year on the stocks she was converted into a hospital ship for the Persian Gulf, under the direction of Colonel Carter, celebrated for his reorganization of the Medical Service of the Mesopotamia Campaign.
The Bayano, built at Linthouse in 1913 for Elders and Fyffes Ltd., and converted into an auxiliary cruiser, was unhappily torpedoed off Port Patrick as she was proceeding south from the Clyde; her commander, Captain Parsons, an old friend of Linthouse, and most of his company, were lost.
Towards the end of the War, plans were considered for fabricated ships with straight frames, parts of which were to be constructed all over the country by bridge-builders and others, and finally assembled in the shipyards. Fortunately, however, the Armistice was declared before these examples of "Frightfulness" took shape at Linthouse.
In addition to supplying armaments, Linthouse also undertook the manufacture of artificial feet and ankles, under the direction of Yarrow's. These limbs, which were made in the modelmakers' shop, from rough beechwood blocks to several sizes, proved highly satisfactory when completed with fittings and polished. As the shop was of but moderate size, the workers were limited to one foreman and nine joiners; despite its small staff this department completed and delivered 2,175 feet and ankles between April, 1917, and June, 1920.
Another war-time activity at Linthouse was the spare-time cultivation of allotments on the twelve acres of ground specially set aside for that purpose by the Firm. These allotments, which were situated in front of the main office, provided excellent growing-ground; fine crops were raised and there were keen contests for the prizes offered by the directors for the best produce.
Linthouse received Royal recognition of its War-work upon two occasions, as both H.M. The King and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales inspected the yard during their visits to the Clyde.
During the King's visit, on 18th May, 1915, a number of employees with long-service records were presented to His Majesty. The Prince of Wales, who inspected Linthouse in April, 1918, displayed keen interest in all departments, and insisted, with his usual enterprise, upon personally manipulating certain machinery, including a pneumatic riveter.
Both visits undoubtedly encouraged the people to renewed efforts during the critical days preceding the Armistice of November, 1918.
POST-WAR PERIOD 1918-1932
At the end of the War a period of intense activity began. Owners filled the books of the shipyards with orders for new tonnage to replace ships lost in the War, in many instances absorbing individual yards to ensure the delivery of new vessels. The shipbuilders were equally harassed to ensure supplies of steel from the steelmakers, and many thousands of tons of steel were imported in stock sizes and taken up by the builders, at exorbitant prices, sometimes as high as £27 per ton, to keep the works going.
Many of the leading steelmaking firms were bought up by the larger shipbuilders, so that it became almost impossible for other builders to obtain steel to complete their vessels on the stocks. Prompted by these conditions Alexander Stephen and Sons, together with a number of other firms, including the Clan Line (which by this time possessed its own shipyard), combined to purchase the Steel Company of Scotland, of Blochairn and Hallside; this company had large rolling mills for plates and angles of all qualities, including the special Admiralty high-tensile steel, and a foundry which was one of the best-equipped for the largest type of steel castings, such as ships' sternposts.
Since then Linthouse has obtained all its steel from The Steel Company of Scotland, of which Fred J. Stephen is chairman, a position which he has held since the company was purchased by the Linthouse Firm and its associates in April, 1920.
The feverish period immediately following the War, when money appeared well-nigh inexhaustible, provided a new impetus to the already apparent tendency towards combines and amalgamations; firms of long standing and ancient name were absorbed and disappeared, or were controlled by others, and the terms "vertical" amalgamations and "horizontal" combines came into common use.
In addition to, or because of, the difficulty in obtaining material, labour was still a problem. The Government's War policy of "Peace at home at any price" had its effect in the post-War reconstruction; again, departmental delay and red tape kept many workers idle with their regiments merely for lack of the machinery necessary for their release. By degrees, however, work in the shipyards approached normal, and ships were produced in greatly increased numbers, though at greatly increased cost.
An unlooked-for effect of this large and expensive output was that many shipowners were unable to take up all the vessels ordered, and many were cancelled, with or without penalty. The Stephens did not escape this shrinkage of orders, but agreed to accept the cancellation of a number of contracts by old clients without insisting on penalties.
The first post-War ships to be completed at Linthouse were of the type urgently needed after the loss of so many provision-ships. Five insulated and refrigerated meat-carrying vessels were finished — the Princesa, in 1918, for Furness Withy and Company; the Nariva and Natia, in 1920, for the R.M.S.P. Meat Transports Ltd.; the Piako, in 1920, for the New Zealand Shipping Company; and the Matakana, in 1921, for the Shaw Savill and Albion Company.
A new series of banana ships was also commenced in 1921 with the Tortuoaucro, which has been followed by four others of a similar type, the Tucurinca, Chagres, Corrales and Nicoya, also the Cavina and Ariguani, two larger ships carrying passengers as well as fruit, and two smaller ships for the Canary trade.
Two large, luxurious liners for the Anchor Line were also commenced when the War ended, and finished in 1923 and 1925. These vessels were the California and Caledonia, of 17,000 tons each, which, with three similar ships, built at Fairfield and Dalmuir, formed a new fleet of the finest ships that had ever traded between the Clyde and New York. The California and Caledonia, easily the most important shins launched from Linthouse up to that date, were equipped with magnificent passenger accommodation, and geared turbine machinery, with oil-fired boilers. The construction of both these ships was suspended by the owners during the 1921-2 slump, that of the first vessel for seven months and that of the second for fully two years. Though well advanced, neither ship suffered in the slightest through this delay. In 1926 a third ship, the Britannia, of 8,464 tons, was completed for the Indian passenger-trade of the Anchor Line.
Another series, built between 1921 and 1931 for old clients, was one of eleven ships for the British India Steam Navigation Company and its associates — the Khedivial Mail Steamship and Graving Dock Company Ltd., The Nourse Line, and the Australasian United Steamship Company.
The Mulbera, of 9,200 tons, and the sister ships, Kenya and Karanja, of 9,890 tons, were built for the East African branch of the B.I.S.N. Company, the former trading out of London and the two latter out of Bombay. All three are passenger-ships, the Kenya and Karanja being built to carry 1,700 natives, as well as 246 Europeans; all three are engined with twin-screw geared turbines with oil-fired boilers, the Mulbera having double-reduction gear, and the other two ships single-reduction gear.
The Dalgoma, 430 ft. long and 5,953 gross tons, launched in 1923, is an entirely different type — a cargo deadweight carrier (designed to carry on occasion a large number of Indian emigrants in her 'tween decks), on the lines of the company's pre-War ships, Umta, and others. Her propelling machinery is of a different type, and marks a milestone in the progress of the Linthouse engine-works, as the twin engines are two-cycle Diesels, of 3,200 S.H.P., of the Stephen-Sulzer type.
These engines were at that time the largest two-stroke engines built in this country, and the first of a standard size of cylinder, which has since been used in many ships. They were the first of the Diesel type to be constructed by the Firm, and were built under licence from Sulzer Brothers, of Winterthur, Switzerland. They have proved a great success, with a most economical consumption of fuel oil, the Dalgoma, which is giving excellent service, has, until recently, only once returned to this country since she was handed over.
The two ships, Famaka and Fezara, of 5,800 tons, were built in 1922 for the Khedivial Company's trade from Egypt to the Red and AEgean Seas. When these were sold to the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company, two smaller vessels, of 1,590 tons, the Tail and Talodi, were built, in 1928, to meet the altered conditions of the eastern trade. All are up-to-date vessels, as the company has progressed far since those dim days when the Arab captain set his course to Malta by means of a red mark on his compass and returned home reporting that the island had vanished! As mentioned in the chapter on "Notable Associations," the seagoing tugs, Forceful and Carlock, were also built at Linthouse, in 1925 and 1929, for the same company.
The Jumna, carrying 9,300 tons deadweight, was launched in 1929 for the Nourse Line's trade between India and the West Indies. She is notable as being fitted with a Bauer-Wach exhaust turbine, to augment the power of her triple-expansion engines; her boilers burn oil-fuel.
A noticeable feature of the Firm's post-War work has been the scarcity of the purely cargo type of vessel, very few of this class having been built since 1918. Two interesting exceptions are the Induna and Alasunda, both good examples of deadweight carriers, built in 1925 and 1929, to carry 9,000 tons deadweight, for the Firm's old friends, Maclay and Maclntyre.
On the other hand, more specialized vessels appear in the yard records, including a cable-laying ship, the Cable, of 1,534 tons, built in 1924 for the Eastern Extension Australasian and China Telegraph Company Ltd.; a home trade ship, the Toward, of 1,571 tons, constructed in 1923 for the Clyde Shipping Company; a cross-Channel steamer, the St. Patrick, of 1,922 tons and 20 knots speed, built in 1930 for the Great Western Railway's passenger-service between Weymouth and the Channel Islands, as well as several yachts (sail, steam and Diesel), which are dealt with elsewhere.
Two large oil tankers, the Victolite and Vancolite, of 11,400 tons gross, to carry 16,000 tons deadweight on a length of 510 feet, were built in 1928, on the Isherwood bracketless system, under the supervision of Sir J. Isherwood, for the Imperial Oil Company of Canada. These vessels have twin-screw Diesel Machinery of 3,300 B.H.P., fitted aft, as is usual in tankers. The engines of the Vancolite are of the Stephen-Sulzer 2-cycle type, built at Linthouse, while the other set is by Krupp's.
In 1931, two other twin-screw Diesel-engined vessels, the Orari and Opawa, were built for the New Zealand Shipping Company. Both ships are about 10,000 tons gross and completely insulated and refrigerated for the New Zealand meat and butter trade, via the Panama Canal. Their engines are of the Sulzer type of 10,000 B.H.P., giving a speed of 17 knots on trial.
In 1924 the Peninsular and Oriental Company recommenced its connexion with Linthouse with a modest contract of 1,048 tons — the Bulan, 220 ft. long, designed for Singapore and eastern waters.
This ship was followed, in 1925 , by the Chitral, a twin-screw vessel of 15,248 tons, for the company's London-Australia service. The latter vessel was really the beginning of the series of well-designed, finely-equipped ships with which the P. and 0. Company has modernized its fleet. She carries 306 passengers, and a large proportion of her cargo-space is refrigerated for the Australian trade. Her twin engines are of the quadruple-expansion type, developing 10,400 I.H.P., with boilers burning fuel oil. One of a class of three ships ordered about the same time, she is probably the last of the fleet to be engined by reciprocating machinery, as later P. and 0. vessels have all had their power produced, by steam turbines, either with gears or electric drive.
The Chitral was followed by the Viceroy of India, ordered by Lord Inchcape, Chairman of the P. and 0. Company, in 1927, and completed early in 1929, for their London-Bombay service. This ship, which is the largest and finest vessel yet launched at Linthouse, possesses special features of hull and machinery which made her until recently the crack ship of the P. and 0. Line and, in many ways, the most advanced vessel in Great Britain.
Her gross tonnage is 19,648, and her dimensions 612 ft. overall by 76 ft. beam and 45 ft. depth. She carries 683 passengers, or 1,100 persons including her crew.
Her saloon accommodation, which includes some 32 de luxe and special cabins, is distinguished by the fact that each of the 415 first-saloon passengers has a separate bedroom. The height of the passenger decks is particularly noteworthy, especially in the case of the fine promenade deck, which is 11 ft. high. The public rooms on this deck are all handsome apartments, luxuriously decorated by Waring and Gillow, of London. The dining saloons are naturally placed near the galleys and pantries, while the spacious Pompeian swimming bath below is reached by an electric lift.
Her propelling machinery is probably the most outstanding feature of the Viceroy of India, as she was the first passenger liner to be fitted with turbo-electric machinery by British builders for British owners. Despite the large power of 17,000 S.H.P. in two shafts, the machinery, turbines, electro-generators and electro-motors have all given perfect service throughout. It may be interesting to record the history of their inception.
The original specification called for 17,000 S.H.P. to be developed by high-pressure geared turbines and Yarrow water-tube boilers, but the Firm, being aware of the special conditions attached to the London-Bombay mail service, suggested that the turbo-electric drive was worthy of consideration. With customary foresight Lord Inchcape and his technical advisors decided to adopt the suggestion, and when the order was finally placed with the Firm, the gearing had given way to electric motors.
There are six Yarrow boilers, working at 375 lbs. pressure and 700 degree superheat. The two turbines of Curtis type revolve at 3,000 revolutions per minute and drive the two turbo-alternators, which deliver electric power to the two large motors driving the propellers at 109 revolutions per minute. A speed of 19.7 knots with two alternators, and 17 knots with one alternator, was obtained on trial. The oil-fuel tanks carry 2,300 tons.
There are also many other interesting engineering features in this vessel. Two ordinary Scotch boilers of 230 lbs. pressure are provided for auxiliary and domestic service, and the twenty-two electric cargo winches, the four capstans and the windlass are all of special type on the constant current variable voltage system. The very extensive passenger accommodation is mechanically ventilated by Thermotanks, and heated by electric Morganite panels.
Following the satisfactory completion and performance of the Viceroy of India, two similar but slightly smaller ships, the Corfu and Carthage, were laid down and completed, before the close of 1931, for the P. and O. Company's service between London and the Far East, including Singapore, China and Japan.
These ships, of 14,300 tons gross each, are most efficiently and scientifically equipped for carrying passengers and cargo through climatic extremes, from the heat of the Red Sea to the bitter cold of Northern China. Their passenger accommodation, for 180 1st and 200 2nd Saloon, is fitted with all possible regard for health and comfort, while the furnishings of their public rooms show a pleasant departure from the over-elaboration of decoration which has arisen in recent years. To meet the modern demand for sea and sun bathing an open-air swimming bath is incorporated in their design. In a word, their accommodation is designed to please the passenger rather than the architect.
These two ships, being smaller and of slightly less speed than the Viceroy of India, have twin-screw single-geared turbine engines, with superheated Yarrow water-tube boilers at 400 lbs. pressure, burning oil fuel, and two Scotch boilers for auxiliary purposes. Their I.H.P. is about 16,000, and they attained a speed of over 19 knots on trial, although intended for a service speed of 17 knots. Their machinery rooms are equally well furnished with every modern device for economy and efficiency, and they are worthy examples of the progressive policy of both their owners, the P. and O. Company, and their builders, Messrs. Alexander Stephen and Sons Limited.
Three times in the last ten years Linthouse has headed the Clyde firms' list of tonnage launched, but by the end of 1931, the third year on which this happened, all these ships were finished and for some months all the berths in the yard were empty for the first time in the history of the Firm. At the end of 1931, the Gazcon was laid down, but she will soon be launched, and the prospects of further work are far from bright. The 1931-2 depression has been by far the worst period that the British shipbuilding industry has ever faced — and it comes on top of ten lean years! So much we know, but what of the future?
Several changes in the directorate and staff should be noted, to bring the personal record of the Firm up to date to the present year of 1932. During the War, on the death of John Stephen, A. E. Stephen, his nephew, became chairman of the Firm, a position which he held until 1929, when he retired and his brother, F. J. Stephen, took the office. Of these two sons of the late Alexander Stephen, A. E. and F. J., the former was always intended for the engineering side of the business; he served his time under Mr. Kemp, at Linthouse, and finally succeeded him as engineering partner. A Scottish Rugby internationalist and fine athlete, he infused his department with new energy, and was responsible for many improvements, as well as taking part in the general direction of the business. Unfortunately, however, although he still remains a director, some years before the War indifferent health caused him to give up active control of his department, which was thereafter directed by his nephew, Alexander Stephen MacLellan, who had understudied him for some years, and had become a director of the Firm in 1913.
The present chairman, F. J. Stephen, was always destined to be a shipbuilder and, after taking his M.A., joined the first naval architecture class to be formed at Glasgow University, where he carried off the prize for the first two years of its existence. Following in his father's footsteps he made all the models with his own hands for many years until changed drawing-office methods put an end to this. Even so, he frequently put the finishing touches to a model. During the 'nineties, he took over from his father the main responsibility of the shipyard side of the business and negotiations with owners, in which he has been active ever since.
The latter was also President of the Clyde Shipbuilders' Association, and has been for some years a member of Council of the Institute of Naval Architects. After the Titanic disaster, he was called upon to serve on the "Boats and Davits" committee to advise the Board of Trade on life-saving appliances, and became one of its most active members.
Later, in 1921 and 1924 respectively, Alexander Murray and John Graeme Stephen, the sons of F. J. Stephen, became directors; T. W. Mcllmoil and Shirley B. Ralston also became directors, in 1921, as already recorded in the post-War section of this chapter. The latter has now been naval architect to the Firm for close on thirty years, and during that time has been faced with designs of growing complexity and very varied type.
Matthew Hunter, who had been in charge of the shipyard since 1902, and had become a director in 1908, continued with unabated vigour and resource in this important position. He took a leading part in the affairs of the Clyde Shipbuilders' Association, and in many other ways was of service to the industry. During the very difficult War period, with its variety of problems, A. W. Sampson was brought in to assist Mr. Hunter with the destroyer work. The former is now yard manager, with J. G. Stephen as general manager of the shipyard.
Both Matthew Hunter and T. W. McIlmoil, the secretary, died within a short time of each other, in 1923 and 1925. During the latter year, John Haydock, C.A., who had been acting as accountant for the Firm owing to the increasing complication of business during and after the War, succeeded Mr. McIlmoil, and H. McQuarrie became assistant secretary.
On the engineering side of the business, which in shipbuilding, as in all other activities of to-day, has become increasingly important, the management was extended by the inclusion of George R. Grange, D.S.O., M.C., who was made a director in 1926.
It may also be mentioned that A. M. Stephen, J. G. Stephen and G. R. Grange, who had all done some work in the Firm prior to 1914, joined the army on the outbreak of War, seeing much active service in the years that elapsed before they were able to resume their careers. All three won the Military Cross, and the latter the D.S.O. in addition. A third young Stephen, James Howie Frederic, twin brother of John G., was killed in the advance on Baghdad, in January, 1917.
In the repair department, Thomas Ballantine carried on throughout the War, but retired early in 1928, when the department was reorganized and transferred to the main office at Linthouse, under the direction of Mr. W. B. Johnstone.
Apart from those who have been mentioned, the Firm have naturally been much indebted to many old and loyal servants — some of whom have been with them as many as fifty and sixty years. It is impossible of course to mention all of them. Some are still alive as pensioners, though probably none remain from the wooden and composite shipbuilding days.
There is one name which should be noted - William Leitch — to whom we are indebted for a considerable amount of information forming some chapters of this book. Stone deaf from boyhood, he served the Firm for close on sixty-five years until his death in 1929, for most of this time making all the ship estimates and doing most of the buying — a very responsible position.
Another is that of William Edwards, head clerk at Dundee and Kelvinhaugh, whose grandson, John McLachlan, is in a leading position in the office to-day, and whose son-in-law, William McLachlan, was with the Firm for sixty-five years — a total service of 120 years.