Scotts - A postscript to building for victory


By James A. Pottinger

In George Moore's exhaustively researched book Building for Victory published by the WSS, there are a number of references to the Admiralty's stated concerns as to the apparent lack of progress in the construction of warships by Scotts' Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. of Greenock.

As my first, and then later employer, I have a special interest in the company and it may be appropriate to try and put on record the circumstances pertaining to the company when extreme pressure was being exerted to meet the needs of war, a situation not unique to Scotts'. The company was given over wholly to naval construction and repair, and was possibly the smallest of the so called "Large Naval Yards", in comparison with other builders such as Vickers, Cammell Laird, John Brown, Fairfield etc. they did not have the spread of facilities or manpower levels. Reference was made by the Admiralty to the imbalance in berths in relation to fitting out and engineering capacity possibly the one factor above all which mitigated against a higher level of production was the sheer number of berths in operation. During the years 1939-1944 they were using the following number of building berths on Admiralty work: 7; 13; 14; 14; 13; 12 respectively aggregating 73 berths in total against the next highest Vickers (Barrow) with 80.


Only the much larger Vickers (Barrow) and Harland & Wolff exceeded this total. To increase production John Brown and Vickers Naval Yard respectively were able to build two destroyers and up to four submarines on each berth, the space available at Cartsburn shipyard would not allow this.

Two aerial photos taken on 11/7/1940 of the building berths and outfitting basins show the following vessels under construction, either on the stocks or being fitted out alongside: MILNE - M-class destroyer on the stocks; MARKSMAN - M-class destroyer on the stocks; TRAVELLER - T-class submarine on the stocks; TROOPER - T-class submarine on the stocks; LOYAL - L-class destroyer on the stocks; LOOKOUT - L-class destroyer on the stocks; ROYALIST - Modified Dido- class cruiser on the stocks; CHIDDINGFOLD - Hunt-class destroyer on the stocks; COWDRAY - Hunt-class destroyer on the stocks; SCYLLA - Dido-class cruiser on stocks; TYNE - depot ship fitting out afloat, PYTCHLEY - Hunt-class destroyer fitting out afloat; QUANTOCK - Hunt-class destroyer fitting out afloat; T- class submarine afloat (possibly TUNA) complete 1/8/1940.


The following gives dates of completion of above warships:

                                    Laid down        Launched        Completed

PYTCHLEY                   26/7/39          13/2/40          23/10/40

QUANTOCK                 26/7/39          22/4/40          6/2/41

CHIDDINGFOLD            1/3/40           10/3/41           16/10/41

COWDRAY                    3/4/40           22/7/41           29/7/42

MILNE #                       24/1/40          30/12/41         6/8/42

MARKSMAN*               21/1/40          28/7/42          8/4/43

LOOKOUT                  23/11/38         4/11/40          30/1/42

LOYAL                        23/11/38         8/10/41           31/10/42

TARPON                      5/10/37          17/10/39         8/3/40

TROOPER®                  7/5/40           5/3/42           29/8/42

TUNA                           13/6/38          10/5/40          1/8/40

TRAVELLER                17/1/40          27/8/41           10/4/42

SCYLLA                       19/4/39          24/7/40          12/6/42

ROYALIST                   21/3/40          30/5/42          10/9/43

TYNE                           15/7/39          28/2/40          28/2/41

LCM111                              21/11/40         23/11/40

LCM112                              21/11/40         23/11/40

LCM113                              17/12/40         18/12/40

LCM114                              17/12/40         18/12/40

TLC15                                9/12/40          11/12/40

TLC16                                11/12/40         16/12/40

* Renamed MAHRATTA, suffered bomb damage during air raids on nights of 6/7 May 1941 and had to be taken apart and rebuilt.

@ TROOPER was blown off the stocks during same raids

# Completed by John Brown at Clydebank due to disruption from above raids

Analysis of above shows that during 1940 the following ships were launched: LOOKOUT; SCYLLA; TYNE; PYTCHLEY; QUANTOCK; TUNA; 6 landing craft.


In 1941 CHIDD1NGFOLD; COWDRAY; MILNE; TRAVELLER and LOYAL were launched. The landing craft were possibly being fabricated in the plate or boiler shops, and do not show on the yard berths.


The result was that more or less all of the above were being fitted out during part of 1940 and during all of 1941, which on the face of it appears to be an almost impossible workload. It would seem from above that the most significant bottleneck was in outfitting, where in addition to the total workload as a whole the shortage of outfitting trades was a factor; a problem in warship yards on the Clyde as a whole. Whilst labour was being directed by the Government to work in the mines no such augmentation to the workforce of shipyards was apparently considered. The lack of available housing in Greenock especially mitigated against the recruitment of additional labour from outwith the area. A factor revealed after the end of the war was that many of the manual labour personnel •were suffering from what can only be regarded as malnutrition and exhaustion, not actually starving, but nevertheless were deficient in certain vital constituents, the incidence of TB possibly being a legacy of these conditions. Greenock, whose economy depended almost exclusively on shipbuilding and marine engineering, had only just come out of the debilitating depression of the thirties, with all its malign effects on the morale and well being of the labour force.


Additional constraints were due to fact that Scotts' engine works constructed the main propulsion plant for the majority of the surface and submarine warships built in their own shipyard, and also for other naval ships building in the Royal Dockyards and other private yards, see list below.

This restriction is highlighted a number of times in the volume, an additional and pertinent factor is the actual lack of berthing space for fitting out, given the sheer numbers of warships jostling for space alongside with suitable craneage available. Inevitably modifications and alterations to warships under construction  were being introduced by the Admiralty in the light of operating experience.


The air raid noted above did considerable damage to Scotts' workshops and offices in addition to disruption in the yard, the Head Office located adjacent to

the engine works was completely gutted with loss of many models, records, documents and archives, a more immediate problem was the destruction of the engine drawing office. A temporary drawing office was set up in a local school, and apprentice draughtsmen were sent to Glasgow to scour the shops for replacement drawing instruments etc. All electric power was lost for several days, but temporary supplies were provided to the yard by petrol driven generators and by hooking up to a submarine in the basin. It was six months before full production was restored, with no possibility of replacing damaged or destroyed machinery.


The overall impression, borne out by a number of visits to Scotts' by Admiralty staff was that they were in fact grossly overloaded for the facilities available, and as such was having a negative effect on the management, in the critical circumstances pertaining at this stage of the war this was hardly the fault of the company whilst critical of the management in some respects the output for the numbers employed was acknowledged as being fair. Nevertheless it was regrettable that some disruption to production was caused by some instances of inter-union and demarcation disputes. Another factor, which was claimed to be inhibiting production was the perception attributed to Sir Stanley Goodall in August 1943 was that on the Clyde the feeling was that the war was effectively over, and the employers were thinking more of merchant ship orders, and the employees were spinning out the work in hand. This comment is somewhat ironic in that shipbuilders were to be subsequently castigated post war in a number of surveys and reports for not taking a more commercial outlook, additionally many employees knew that as soon as the war shipping boom was over the hire and fire methods previously employed would return.


The following list of warships worked on, launched, and completed, by Scotts' from 1939 to the end of 1945 is impressive, and a credit on all who worked there, an endorsement which could be attributed to all of the shipyards and marine engineering works during these dark days. Warships worked on from 1939-1945, all machinery engines, boilers and gearing, built by Scotts' except where noted:


(engines by John Brown); TALENT+; SATYR; (engines by Davey Paxman)

SCEPTRE; SEA ROVER (engines by Davey Paxman, fitted out by Vickers Barrow);

SIRDAR (engines by Davey Paxman, fitted out by Vickers Barrow); SPITEFUL; STRONGBOW; SPARK; SCYTHIAN (engines by Davey Paxman); SCOTSMAN; SEA DEVIL; SENESCHAL (engines by Peter Brotherhood); SENTINEL; + Transferred to Scotts' from Vickers - TALENT cancelled ARTEMIS (started 2/44, completed 8/47); ARTFUL (started 6/44, completed 2/48, engines by Peter Brotherhood)

Destroyers: LOOKOUT; LOYAL; PYTCHLEY; QUANTOCK; MILNE (outfitted by John Brown); MAHRATTA; (damaged by bombs December 1941) CHIDDINGFOLD; COWDRAY; ROCKET; ROEBUCK (launched prematurely and salvaged, fitted out by John Brown); SERAPIS; SHARK; CAMBRIAN (machinery built and fitted out by John Brown); CARRON; CHEQUERS; CHIEFTAIN; CROMWELL; CROWN


Escort Vessels:   LAPWING; LARK (machinery supplied by Yarrows)

Depot Ship:  TYNE

Misc:   4 LCM Landing Craft. TLC 15; TLC16; LCT 420

The transport ferry TF 43, later LST 3043 (MESSINA) was ordered to be built

by Scotts'.

Conversion on three trawlers: LADY SHAHAZAD; COiLA; AARLA

Alterations to cruisers CLEOPATRA and NEWFOUNDLAND 1944/45

Launched cruiser DEFENCE on 2/9/44

Five weapon class destroyers were ordered from Scotts' in April 1943, these were CARRONADE, CLAYMORE, DIRK, GRENADE, HALBERD and POINARD; but the last three were cancelled by the Admiralty on 23rd December 1944 although they had been laid down, and incurred some cancellation cost for materials used and work carried out.

Work on HMS CARRONADE carried on, however, to bring her ready to launch on 5/4/46 and the next day she made her final and only journey to Troon for breaking up.

Machinery built for other shipyards:

1937 Cruiser GLOUCESTER- Devonport Dockyard

1942 Cruiser SIRIUS- Portsmouth Dockyard; Frigate PHEASANT- Yarrows

1943 Frigate REDPOLE- Yarrows

1946 Submarine ALARIC- Cammell Laird

The following warships were completed immediately before WWII:

Destroyers MATABELE 1/39 and PUNJAB 3/39

Cruiser GLASGOW 9/37

Submarine CACHALOT 8/38

Destroyers HOSTILE 9/36 and HOTSPUR 12/36

Submarine SEAWOLF 3/36

Cruiser GALATEA 8/35

Destroyers ESCAPADE 8/34 and ESCORT 10/34

Destroyer ECLIPSE 8/35

The Elder Dempster cargo ships SANSU and SANGARA, the last merchant vessels built until after end WWII, which were being completed in 1939.

Acknowledgements for help in preparation of above:

Mr G. Moore and Mrs J.F Robb