Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding

South Yard, Burrard Dry Dock

Built on the south side of Burrard Inlet, Burrard Dry Dock’s south yard operated from 1941 to 1946. It concentrated on building hulls. Once launched, these were then sent to the north yard to be fitted out and finished. Like its sister yard, it had four berths. Visible in this photo are racks of steel plate ready for use and the rail tracks that brought in supplies. The steel supply was a major concern for Canadian shipbuilders. By March 1942, Wartime Merchant Shipping, the Crown corporation that organized the national production of merchant ships, needed 15,000 to 20,000 tons (13,605-18,140 t) of steel plate per month. (Each cargo ship required 10,000 pieces of steel.) Canadian manufacturers increased their output to avoid reliance on U.S. sources. The south yard closed down after the war, since there were insufficient contracts for Burrard Dry Dock to keep it going.

WHAT
This is an aerial view of Burrard Dry Dock’s south yard, which was built specifically for wartime cargo-ship production. It employed 4,500 workers during World War II.

WHERE
The south yard was built on land at the foot of Vancouver’s McLean Drive, formerly a narrow beach covered with refuse dumps and squatters’ shacks.

WHEN
One year before this 1943 photograph was taken, the south yard claimed a national wartime shipbuilding record by completing the SS Fort Wedderburne hull in 64 days.

WHO
Under Hugh M. Lewis and John Dalrymple, the south yard constructed 61 wartime ships. Dalrymple was an experienced British shipbuilder, while Lewis came from the forestry industry.

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