Perhaps it is because it began in 1940 wartime that so little is known about Underwoods Shipyard on the creek between Benfleet Station and Canvey Bridge? It lasted for little more than twelve years.
Talk is that they repaired Motor Torpedo Boats. Others remember it as ‘building Motor Fishing Vessels (MFVs)’. Of course, both are possible, if the latter followed the former in peacetime. Oddly enough, Dauntless Shipyard on the eastern Canvey side of the bridge was evacuated and the skilled workers moved to Wales for the duration of the war, which on the face of it seems a contradiction.
Wartime secrecy must be the reason for so little information being available. The Slipway did however attract enemy attention when it was attacked by aircraft. So maybe it was the yard that was the target in February 1943 when Benfleet railway station was attacked and Mr Toovey was injured in Knightleys’ station news kiosk?
It’s difficult to reconcile the works in today’s situation, when with the widening of Ferry Road only the bus stop survives. It is also the former site of the Tea Rooms that have been remembered and mentioned in previous communications.
Many of these memorable pictures were kindly supplied by Patricia Pedder whose father and uncle both worked at the ‘Slipway’ ‘during the war and until about 1952-3 before the new road was made’. Patricia’s father was Leslie Watts and his brother Cecil Watts was Foreman.
In Patricia’s words:
‘The Yard was situated in Ferry Road near the site where you would now catch a bus at Benfleet Station to Hadleigh. The men who worked there built motor torpedo boats for the Second World War, among many other types of landing craft, from 7 am to 7 pm with half an hour for lunch break.’
‘North sea boats were repaired in the war, overhauls done and on one occasion 70 planes passed overhead and machine-gunned the yard. Everyone took cover under the boats being repaired.’
‘It was a grand event when a boat was launched and all members of the company were present.’
‘To get to Ferry Road all traffic had to go via the level crossing and many times wait until the trains passed through the Station. Buses started at Ferry Road to and from Canvey, where crews were found having a cup of tea in the Ferry Tearooms until their bus was due to go out again.’
‘My father Mr Leslie Watts was among the men who worked at Benfleet Slipway throughout the time it existed. He lived at the bottom of Essex Way, coming home for dinner on his bike.’
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