The History of White’s (Shipbuilders of Cowes)

Posted by Admin on Saturday, 28th October 2006, 00:00

The White family were operating in Broadstairs, Kent from the mid 1700s.
They moved to Cowes in 1803.

The hammerhead crane was erected in 1911.

In 1855 during the Crimean War gas lighting was introduced for night working.
During World War I they built 27 destroyers, 11 patrol vessels, 2 submarines and 200 seaplanes.
In 1916 HMS Broke engaged six German destroyers; two were torpedoed, two were rammed and with cutlasses drawn they made after the remaining two but the enemy beat a hasty retreat leaving Broke to lick her wounds yet celebrate a courageous victory.
Between the wars destroyers were built for foreign navies.
During World War II White’s built 26 destroyers, one minelayer, and 285 small craft.
The largest ship built was HMS Abdiel, a minelayer 420 feet long, 72,000 SHP and capable of a speed of 40 knots.
Sir Peter Scott commissioned a ship called The Grey Goose; she was relatively silent running and was used to collect ball bearings from Sweden.

GREY GOOSE

 

The first all-welded destroyer was HMS Contest built in 1944.
The Grom & Blyskawica were completed just prior to the war and they were capable of 43 knots and measured 380ft overall. The ships and engines were totally designed at J.S. White’s.

DRAWING OFFICE STAFF

 

During the 1950s, 60s and 70s a number of frigates and destroyers for royal and foreign navies were built along with many commercial ships including the Channel Island Caesarea, Sarnia and Trinity House boats.
With the decline in order for ships, White’s commenced building gas turbines for the Royal Navy.
During 1965 the last naval ship HMS Arethusa was built.

ROYAL MARINES AT THE LAUNCH OF ARETHUSA

 

At this time John Samuel White’s was the oldest private shipyard on the Admiralty list.
They were also building large numbers of lifeboats for the R.N.L.I.

EMPLOYEES WERE USED TO TEST THE LIFEBOATS

 

With the run-down of shipbuilding White’s diversified into other products including air conditioning and bow thrusters.
These products were phased out gradually in favour of compressors and turbines for the oil industry.
John Samuel White's were taken over in the early Seventies and became Elliott Turbomachinery, which closed down in 1981.

John Groves.

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