City of Southampton Society
Registered Charity No 1006256 England and Wales
caring for our city's heritage and its green open spaces
Webmaster John Avery
                                      Titanic departing from Southampton April 1912          John Melody Town Crier          
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Queen Mary entering KG DOCKOur outdoor visit to Minstead Church in 2011 image Will TempleWarrior who after service on the front in WWI became a Southampton Police Horse. Image by kind permission Bitterne Local History SocietySouthampton CenotaphJohn Melody Town Crier at Tudor Revels 2012 image Arthur Jeffery


A new dry dock for a new era by John Avery

The world’s largest dry dock was opened at Southampton on 26th July 1933 when the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert with King George V and Queen Mary on board broke a red, white and blue ribbon stretched across the entrance as she sailed into the dock.

The new graving dock built to accommodate the new Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth had cost more than £2,000,000, it was part of the Southern Railways £13,000 000 dock extension scheme and constituted a remarkable achievement in the history of British engineering. The dock was 12,000 feet in length capable of holding 260,000 gallons of water. The sea was kept back by a huge steel gates weighing 4,000 tons. Two million tons of rubble had to be removed and the project took two years creating welcome employment in those lean years of the 30’s. There were four pumps built to empty the dock in just over 4 hours and accommodation was built to house up to 1200 men for canteen and toilet facilities. The first ship to use the dock was White Star’s Majesticin 1934.

During WW II British commandoes trained there in preparation for the daring raid on Saint Nazaire when HMS Campeltown packed with explosives was used to ram the heavily fortified dry dock in France.

An engineer friend who served on the Queen Elizabeth recalled the horrific event when they had difficult in opening a port light early one morning when the ship was in the dry dock and they found that a dock worker had misjudged the edge of the dock at night and the dead men and his cycle were wedged between the hull and the granite wall of the dock.

During the seamen’s strike of 1966 the Queen Mary was dry docked for several months in the KG V or No 7 dry dock as it was also known. Thieves took the opportunity to steal a huge silver platter that had been presented by the British Insurers Association when the ship was launched in 1935. Down river theQueen Elizabeth berthed at 105/6 berth for the duration of the strike and the warm outflow of discharge water crossing from Marchwood Power Station caused serious erosion problems as the discharge ran by the hull for the long weeks of the strike.

ABP leased out the dry dock to ship repairers and after the demise of some of the British repairers starved of capital during a period of nationalization and huge competition from foreign yards subsidised by their national governments, the dock was unused for sometime. ABP claimed that it was too expensive to renew the gates and removed them and now part of the dock is used as a storage for timber. Our great liners apart from being built abroad return to continental yards for refits and where we led the world in the 30’s our ship building and repair facilities are now very small scale. The nearest repair yard is at Falmouth or on the Tyne.

Outdoor visit to Minstead Church image courtesy Will Temple Outdoor visit on a Guy Arab open top busTug tender Calshot in preservation