Sun ship building yard with HMS Avenger (Rio Hudson), 
HMS Biter (Rio Parana) and HMS Charger (Rio de la Plata)




Shipbuilding is one of the oldest industries in the United Kingdom, and in the past it was of the largest, most important industries in the land. The UK shipbuilding industry built the ships that created the greatest Empire in the world, built the merchant and naval fleets that made the UK a world power, played pivotal roles in all our major wars, and continues to put the Royal and Merchant Navies in a leading position today. Despite its vast contributions to our nation, shipbuilding is often an overlooked or forgotten industry.

The British Shipbuilding Industry has changed almost beyond recognition over the past thirty years. UK shipyards continue to compete strongly for orders, building 25-30 vessels per annum and gaining a worldwide reputation for repair and conversion work.

These pages attempt to summarise a little of the main shipbuilders who constructed the Aircraft Carriers used by the Fleet Air Arm. The review covers the UK as well as the shipyards from the U.S. with contracts to build British carriers under Lend-Lease, and well as from the Netherlands, and yards that built the captured German ships. The information is not meant to be comprehensive and reflects the fact that very little is to be found about the once great Ship Building Companies in Britain.


Armstrong, Newcastle-on-Tyne (see also Vickers-Armstrong)
(see history pages in web of successor Vickers Defence systems)

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Courageous 1915
    • Eagle I (built as Almerante Cochrane) 1913
    • Furious 1915

Hermes I 1918

William Beardmore & Co., Glasgow, Scotland

Beardmore, Clydebank, Glasgow - north bank of the River Clyde, eight miles from the city centre of Glasgow on the west of Scotland.

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Argus (built as Italian liner Conte Rosso) 1914


Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Ark Royal I (renamed as HMS Pegasus) 1914

Blytheswood Shipbuilding Company Ltd. Glasgow.

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Adula 1937

John Brown Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Ltd. Clydebank , Clydebank

                 John Brown Shipyard and town hall                                         photo of John Brown offices

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Indefatigable 1939
    • Nairana (became Karel Doorman I) 1940

Caledonia S.B., Dundee

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Activity (built as Telemachus, renamed as Empire Activity) 1938

Cammell Laird Shipyard, Campbeltown Road, Birkenhead, Wirral

Cammell Laird was originally established in 1824 and has a long and illustrious record of service to the marine industry. The Group is one of the largest commercial ship repair, conversion and shipbuilding companies in the UK and is recognised internationally within the industry for the range and quality of marine and industrial services it offers. Over five thousand ships have been built on the sites now operated by the Group.

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Ark Royal II 1935
    • Ark Royal III (built as HMS Irresistable) 1943

Venerable (became Karel Doorman II, then 25 de Mayo) 1942

    • Empire MacColl 1943

William Denny & Brothers, Dumbarton, Clyde

William Denny & Brothers ships included the completion of the Cutty Sark in 1869. The Denny Tank is the last surviving part of the important shipyard of William Denny and Brothers. The yard operated from 1844 to 1963 building every type of vessel from sailing ships to modern liners.

(see the Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank webpage)

Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank. Built in 1882 the Denny Tank was the first commercial ship model testing tank built in the world. The Denny Tank is the last surviving part of the important shipyard of William Denny and Brothers.

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Engadine (built as Ian Bucanan) 1941
    • Empire MacAndrew "MK" 1943
    • Empire MacDermott "MS" 1943

Devonport Dockyard

Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth, UK

Devonport Dockyard, originally known as Plymouth Dock, on the Hamoaze (the name for part of the River Tamar), is the largest Naval dockyard in Western Europe and dates from 1693.Most of the dockyard is now in private hands as a commercial enterprise and the remainder, occupied by the Royal Navy, is known as the Plymouth Naval Base.
Devonport Dockyard and the Museum

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Terrible (became HMAS Sydney) 1943

Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co, Govan, Glasgow

This shipard was famous for having built the 19th century SS Empress of Britain

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Implacable 1939
    • Theseus 1942

Harland & Wolff

Harland & Wolff, Belfast & Glasgow, Harland & Wolff Ltd., Govan Yard, Glasgow, Harland & Wolff - Greenock Yard, Glasgow. It was one of the largest shipyards in the world. Harland & Wolff's most famous project was the legendary Titanic, her sister ship Olympic and in 1907 saw the launch of two new Cunard ships, Lusitania and her sister Mauretania.

The shipyard was built on land that was piled up in Belfast Harbor after it was dredged in the 1840’s to allow bigger ships to pass through. The shipyard was originally built by Robert Hickson and Company, who began building iron ships in 1853. A year later, Edward J.  Harland came aboard as a manager and took over the business in 1859. In 1861 he joined forces with G.W. Wolff and Harland & Wolff was born.

 Harland & Wolff Buildings, Belfast. Ship-building cranes of Harland & Wolff 'Samson'  and 'Goliath', Belfast.

See the searchable database of Harland & Wolff  "Searchable Database of Drawings "This database contains the most up to date records of our Archive. This is an ongoing project and some entries are incomplete

See PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE of NORTHERN IRELAND The Harland & Wolff Archive (D/2805)

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

  • Bulwark 1944
  • Campania 1941
  • Centaur 1944
  • Eagle III (built as HMS Audacious) 1942
  • Empire MacKay 1943
  • Formidable 1937
  • Glorious 1915
  • Glory 1942
  • Magnificent 1943
  • Powerful (became HMCS Bonaventure) 1943
  • Pretoria Castle built as Mercantile Pretoria Castle) 1939
  • Unicorn 1939
  • Vindictive 1917
  • Warrier 1942

Hawthorn, R.W., Leslie & Co., Hebburn-on-Tyne, Newcastle

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Triumph 1943

Lithgows Ltd. Kingston Shipbuilding Yard, Port Glasgow
Lithgow Group today - Buckie Shipyard
                        - Malakoff & Moore
                        - J Fleming Engineers

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Amastra 1934
    • Empire MacRae 1943
    • Empire MacCallum 1943


Greenock (Scotts' Shipbuilding & Engineering Co, Greenock)

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Athene (built as Clan Brodie) 1940


A. Stephen and Sons, Clyde, Glasgow.

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Ocean 1942

Swan Hunter, Wallsend-on-Tyne (Swan Hunter & Wingham Richardson Ltd., Shipbuilders Ltd., Newcastle) Swan Hunter (Tyneside) Ltd

The Swan Hunter facility at Wallsend was acquired in 1995 by the THC Fabricators (UK) Limited. Placed into receivership in 1993 after some 130 years of shipbuilding, Swan Hunter was at that time symptomatic of the general decline of the British industrial
infrastructure. THC Fabricators (UK) Limited stepped in to save the facility shortly before liquidation and the company was re-named Swan Hunter (Tyneside) Limited.

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

  • Albion 1944
  • Ancylus "MF" 1934
  • Empire Mahon "MJ" 1943
  • Empire MacCabe "ML" 1943
  • Leviathan 1942
  • Vengeance (became Minas Gerais) 1942
  • Vindex (built as Port Sydney) 1942

Vickers-Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness
(see history pages in web of successor Vickers Defence systems)

Vickers Defence Systems can trace its history back to 1847. In its time Vickers has made a range of guns, submarines, aircraft, ships, tanks and car. 1847, when W G Armstrong, later Lord Armstrong, established an engineering works on Tyneside to manufacture his newly-invented hydraulic machinery. Vickers also built the first British submarine and the first british airship. Both businesses also manufactured a wide variety of military aircraft and it was a Vickers Vimy that completed the first non-stop Atlantic crossing, in 1921.

In 1927, Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth merged their defence businesses into a new subsidiary called Vickers-Armstrong’s. Notable achievements by the company during this period include the King George V class 14-inch battleships and the Spitfire and Wellington aircraft. Wartime naval production by Vickers-Armstrong’s comprised 225 naval ships, including 8 aircraft carriers, 1 battleship, 1 monitor ship, 36 destroyers, 123 submarines and 51 assault craft. For the Royal Air Force, the company produced 21,676 Spitfire and Seafire fighters and 11,461 Wellington Bombers. After World War 2, Vickers and Vickers-Armstrong’s consisted of four main areas of manufacture: Aircraft, Steel, Shipbuilding and general Engineering.
Also see Vickers Armstrong Retired Workers Group

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

  • Hermes III (built as HMS Elephant)(became INS Viraat) 1944
  • Illustrious I 1937
  • Indomitable 1937
  • Majestic (became HMAS Melbourne) 1943
  • Pioneer (built as HMS Ethalian, renamed as HMS Mars) 1942

Vickers-Armstrong, Newcastle-on-Tyne

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Colossus 1942
    • Hercules (became INS Vikrant)
    • Perseus (built as HMS Edgar) 1942
    • Victorious 1937

Workman Clark & Co. Ltd., Queens Island Northern Belfast, Ireland

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Acavus 1934


Sydney (Australia)

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

  • Albatross 1926


Bremerton Navy Yard.

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Atheling (built as USS Glacier ACV/CVE-33) 1942


Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp., Tacoma, WA, USA
(later became Todd Pacific Shipyards, Inc.)Tacoma, Washington,

Todd Pacific Shipyards has been building and repairing ships since 1916 when the William H. Todd Company purchased a shipyard from the Seattle Construction Dry Dock Company. The company, which celebrates over 80 years in business, was the first iron and steel shipbuilding yard in the Pacific Northwest. During World War II, the Todd organization constructed or repaired 23,000 ships in its U.S. shipyards. During the war, the Seattle division alone was responsible for the construction of 126 ships of six different classes in a 36 month period. Todd is the principal yard to US Navy ships and US Coast Guard Cutters in the Northwest. The current HMAS Canberra Guided missile frigate was commissioned in 1981 and bult at the Todd Pacific Shipyards.


Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Arbiter (built as USS St Simon ACV/CVE-51) 1943
    • Begum (built as USS Bolinas ACV/AVG-36) 1942
    • Emperor (built as USS Phybus AVG, ACV/CVE-34) 1942
    • Empress (built as USS Carnegie CVE/AVG-38) 1943
    • Khedive (built as USS Cordova ACV/AVG-39) 1943
    • Nabob (built as USS Edisto ACV/AVG-43) 1943
    • Patroller (built as Keweenaw ACV/AVG-44) 1942
    • Premier (built as Premier (USS Estero ACV/AGV-42) 1942
    • Puncher (built as USS Willapa ACV/AVG-53) 1943
    • Queen (built as USS Andrews ACV/AVG-49) 1942
    • Rajah (built as USS McLure ACV/AGV-45, then USS Prince) 1942
    • Ranee (built as USS Niantic ACV-46) 1943
    • Ravager (built as AVG-24) 1941
    • Reaper (built as USS Ninjah ACV/AVG-54 1943)
    • Ruler (built as USS St Joseph ACV/AVG-50)
    • Searcher (built as USS AVG-22) 1940
    • Shah (built as USS Jamaica ACV/AVG-43) 1942
    • Smiter (built as USS Vermillion ACV/AVG-52) 1943
    • Speaker (built as USS Delgada ACV/AVG-40) 1942
    • Thane (built as USS Sunset ACV/AVG-48) 1943
    • Trumpeter (built as USS Bastian ACV/AVG-37, then HMS Lucifer) 1942


Commercial Iron Works.

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Trouncer (built as USS Perdido ACV/AVG-47) 1943


Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Chester, PA, USA
(later the Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Company - site now owned by Metro Machine)

The Chester facility is wholly owned by METRO Machine of Pennsylvania, Inc. a subsidiary of METRO)

The Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Company in Chester PA, formerly the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, closed in 1989 amid a flood of cost overruns. In the early 1980s the company had completed the conversion of two container ships -- Denebola and Capella -- to Fast Sealift Ships, which are vehicle cargo ships. m Sun Shipbuilding launched its first vessel in Chester in 1917 just as the United States entered the war. In the 1920s Sun Shipbuilding activities included construction of tankers for the Standard Oil Company. In World War II Sun Ship built 281 T-2 tanker oil carriers, nearly 40 percent of all the
tankers built in this country in that period, as well as hospital ships and C4 cargo carriers for the US Maritime Commission. The average production time from laying of the keel to completion of the T-2 tankers was about 70 days. During the war a number of cargo ships originally built by Sun Shipbuilding were converted to flush-deck escort carriers (CVEs) at other shipyards. By the end of the war, Sun Shipbuilding was a city of its own, sprawling along the Delware river. After the war activities ranged from construction C4 Mariner cargo ships and repairs of US Navy destroyers to scrapping war-surplus vessels such as the aircraft carrier CV-4 Ranger.

See web on history of Sun shipbuilding)

Sun shipbuilding yard now owned by Metro Machine Corporation

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Archer (built as Mormacland, then USS BAVG-1) 1939
    • Avenger (built as Rio Hudson, then USS BAVG-2) 1940
    • Biter (built as Rio Parana, then USS BAVG-3) 1940
    • Charger (built as Rio de la Plata, then USS BAVG-4) 1941
    • Dasher (built as Rio de Janeiro, then USS BAVG-5) 1940


Western Pipe & Steel Co, San Francisco (San Pedro SB Division)

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Attacker (built as US Steel Artisan) 1941
    • Fencer (built as USS AVG-14)0 1942
    • Stalker (built as USS Hamlin AVG-15) 1941
    • Striker (built as USS Prince William AVG-19) 1943


Ingalls Shipbuilding (now Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding) Pascagoula, Mississippi

Ingalls is located on the Pascagoula River at the Mississippi Sound, strategically   positioned for easy access to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, via a totally unobstructed 350-foot-wide by 40-foot-deep, 12-mile channel. Ingalls is also adjacent to Naval Station Pascagoula, one of the U.S. Navy's newest, most modern and efficient surface combatant ship bases.Since 1975, Ingalls has delivered 78 new, major surface   warships into the U.S. Navy's fleet. Additionally, dozens of other naval combatants have returned to Ingalls over the years for modernization and overhaul-related projects.

Ingalls is the only U.S. shipyard in recent years to have delivered new-construction surface combatants to an international customer -- the three-ship Israeli Navy SA'AR 5 Class of corvettes -- and is currently involved in a major surface combatant modernization program for the Venezuelan Navy.

(see archive of Ingall built products for 1940s)

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Battler (built as Mormactern, then USS Altamata AVG-6) 1942
    • Chaser (built as Mormacgulf) 1943
    • Hunter (built as Mormacpenn, then USS Block Island ACV-8, then HMS Trailer) 1942
    • Pursuer (built as Mormacland, then USS St George ACV/AVG-17) 1943
    • Tracker (built as Mormacmail, then BAVG-6) 1943



Bremer Vulkan. (Bremer Vulkan Schiffbau & Maschinenfabrik, Bremen-Vegesack, Germany)

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Alexia "MA" 1934
    • Audacity (built as MV Hannover)


(Burntisland Shipbuilding Co., Burntisland, West Germany )

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Empire MacAlpine "MH" 1942
    • Empire MacKendrick "MO" 1942



Wilton-Fijenoord Shipyards, Schiedam, Holland

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Rapana 1935


Nederlandse Dok (Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Mij, Amsterdam

Aircraft carriers built at this shipyard (and construction date):

    • Miralda 1936





News and views of the Clyde's shipping and shipbuilding - past, present and future. Includes Clyde built database, pictures and shipmates etc.

Ship Builders in Scotland.


Glasgow University Archives and Business Records Centre: records John Brown of Clydebank, William Denny of Dumbarton, Lithgows of Port Glasgow, and Scotts of Greenock.

Glasgow University Archives and Business Records Centre holds many maritime sources, mainly relating to shipbuilding, shipowning and the Clyde. The Sydney Checkland business collection records almost every commercial and industrial activity pursued in the west of Scotland in the last two hundred years. Its collection of shipbuilding records includes those of John Brown of Clydebank, William Denny of  Dumbarton, Lithgows of Port Glasgow, and Scotts of Greenock.

CYDEBUILT - The Scottish Maritime Museum, Braehead (UK)

CLYDEBUILT - The Scottish Maritime Museum at Braehead (opened 1999). The “Clydebuilt” exhibition charts the development of Glasgow and the Clyde from 1700 to the present day. It focuses on the development of trade, industry and its infrastructure, but only covers
those elements which have a strong maritime connection.
Further information 0141 886 1013 or 01294 278283

Recollections of John Brown and RMS Queen Mary


Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, Birkenhead, Merseyside 

Some maritime exhibits, particularly on the local ferries, & Cammell Laird, the shipbuilders

The Chamber of Shipping




Committee of European Union Shipbuilders' Associations

Association of European Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers (AWES).

Netherlands Shipbuilding Industry Association


U.S. Government Shipbuilding


Shipbuilders and Ship-repairers Association (SSA)


Shipbuilding network


Aircraft carriers


INTERNET SHIPS Register Internet Ships Register Search (Non-subscriber)


Electronic Shipping Guide


Lloyds Register

The Lloyd’s Register was established in the eighteenth century to provide an independent form of ship classification - Register of Ships.LR holds the world’s largest database of merchant vessels, totalling some 92,000 ships of 100gt and over with up to 600 fields of data available. The database also
contains full details of the 52,000
companies involved with these
vessels and their shipbuilders (2,000
in all). Order free 30 day trial
Historic Register of Ships worldwide and Collections of the Register

LLP datashop: Lloyd's Maritime Information Services (LMIS)

LLP datashop: Lloyd's Maritime Information Services (LMIS), will shortly be opening this Datashop site for direct sales of shipping data. On display is a preview of the way we have combined the databases of both Lloyd's Register (LR) and LLP Limited into a single coherent product range.

US warship database A-Z


Marine and Naval Databases:  Databases | Web Sites


TheNavy Dockyards Society Web site

Flagship Portsmouth

Hong Kong United Dockyards Limited

Royal Naval Museum

National Maritime Museum -Greenwich

Port is an online catalogue of high quality maritime related Internet resources.

World ship trust

US Naval shipbuilding Museum



Scottish Maritime Museum




Maritime and Naval Museums in Britain and Ireland


The Shipbuilder Magazine


Maritime Global Net


American shipbuilders association


Ocean Liner database - passenger ships from 1900-1979


Haze Gray Shipbuilding Pages- World Aircraft Carrier Lists and Photo Gallery - from 1913 to 2000. Naval History Information Center, Haze Gray & Underway

Explore the history of the US shipbuilding industry, with a focus on the  Quincy Fore River Shipyard. American based World Aircraft Carrier Lists & Photo Gallery - one of the definitive online sources for British and world aircraft carrier & seaplane tender data, histories and images - over 1000 photos. 

Sturtivant, R & Ballance, T  (1994). 'The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm' Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1994 ISBN: 0 85130 223 8

The World’s Warships 1941 by Francis E. McMurtrie (1944). Janes London 1941 1st ed. 

Jane's Fighting Ships of World War II by Francis E. McMurtrie (Editor)(1944). 320 pages. Crescent Books; ISBN: 0517679639


 The Clyde, A Portrait of a River by Michael Moss, Canongate Books
ISBN 0-86241-584-5


Shipbuilders to the World (1986) by Moss and Hume



       Created: 3-4-2000, Last Modified: 3-6-2005



Return to Home Page


This page is published by Fleet Air Arm Archive and is updated regularly.
© 2000-2005 All rights reserved for all information created for or on behalf of the Fleet Air Arm Archive
Contact details