Build the Ships – Chapter 8 – Ships on the Operating Table (Part 2 of 2)

The chapter continues with a tribute to the men repairing the ships:

“The ship repairers who worked on jobs like this are men of great experience and knowledge; but they also have a zest for difficulty and flair which, in other professions, would be called inspiration. A similar gusto seems to be in the workmen of the repair yards. They are lucky. Every job is different.”

There follows a description of the repair of the Teakwood which was one of the first ships to be torpedoed in the war, in September 1939 at the entrance of the Bay of Biscay, which broke her back. Somehow, she limped to Falmouth unaided. In peace-time she would have been a scrap job, but of course that would have been a waste of valuable resources, so she was docked, temporary repairs were made and she was sent, under her own steam, to the North of England to be rebuilt. The problem was that her bows had dropped some five feet (150cm or so for those reading in decimal!) and was twisted from stem to stern. They raised the keel blocks beneath her to let her settle, cut out fifty feet from the point of breakage, but found, on taking sightings, that her after-part was still 11 ¼ inches out of the true on the starboard side. So they ballasted the section, floated it to the quay and then pondered how to float it in again in alignment and level.

The solution was to bolt two cruciform supports with brackets to the bottom of the dock, put two vertical stops on the keel and then to bring the after-part into the dock square to the brackets. A diver was sent down to check, and such was the tightness and accuracy of the manoeuvre that he could not even get his knife blade between. The new and inventively conceived method had been a complete success.

An example of a temporary repair to limp a ship home

Ships arrived patched with screens of logs hanging over holes to break the seas where their steel plates had been torn and twisted below. As long as the captain could keep a ship upright, he might nurse her home to be repaired. Where water had come in, often the solution was to let more into another part to keep her steady and balanced. Great ingenuity was needed to use whatever was available locally to patch holes sufficiently to return home, and much inventiveness and determination to achieve the seemingly impossible was to hand!

An element of this seems to run through all shipbuilding, the view that with determination, nothing is impossible. Perhaps that is why Dan and those supporting and helping him can look at the Scot II and envisage her completed, and working the Caledonian Canal again.

Copyright: Ruth Patterson 2010

See also:

About Ruth Macadam

Great Granddaughter of Henry Robb. School teacher.
This entry was posted in British Shipbuilding, British War Ships, Scot II, ship repairs, Shipbuilding, Shipyards, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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