A ship launch at Wivenhoe Shipyard in 1943
Ship launches at that time were big social occasions
These two photographs show what a special occasion a launch was at this shipyard which was re-opened at the outbreak of War to build small vessels for the Royal Navy.
To help the Navy, Donald Oxton who ran the shipyard at Rowhedge in the 1930s, re-established the old yard at Wivenhoe, left derelict since 1936 when the yard was taken over from Otto Andersen by the National Shipbuilders Securities Ltd to take capacity out of the shipbuilding industry. Mr Oxton is seen here on the left of the lady dressed in white who is his wife, Hylda Oxton.
We don’t know any details of the ship being launched. It was obviously significant given that there are so many naval officers in the picture and the Mayor of Colchester is also present. It is quite possible it was one of 16 motor minesweepers built at the yard.
Wivenhoe Shipyard Ltd, built sixteen ‘short’ 105 foot, and eight ‘long’ 126 foot, motor minesweepers for the Royal Navy and Royal Netherlands Navy during World War 2. Because of the small size and their initials (they only had numbers) they were nicknamed “Micky Mouse boats”.
The design of the short MMS was based on the larger sort of motor fishing vessels which were being used around the coasts of Britain.
For more information about the MMS which were built at the Wivenhoe Shipyard, click here
Thanks to John Collins and the Nottage Maritime Institute for some of this information and to Barbara Husk for the loan of the photographs.