Swan Hunter Shark

H.M. Torpedo-Boat Destroyer Shark

Swan, Hunter, and Wigham Richardson, Limited, Wallsend on Tyne, Builders

One of Twenty

Picture from The Engineer, 8 November 1912 issue, page 501. It was accompanied by the article below. Which comes across as a bit of a memory test about which they would be asking questions later to test your comprehension. The  third paragraph is a bit sub-par however, as it seems to suggest that the crew will comprise men equipped with fittings.

The Shark would be a casualty, four years later, in the battle of Jutland, one of those cases where the captain went down with his ship.

H.M.S. Shark

The Naval Programme of 1911–1912 included twenty ocean-going torpedo-boat destroyers of what is known as the Acasta class. Of these the first to run her trials at sea is the Shark, of which, by the courtesy of Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Limited, who built her, we are enabled to give the accompanying illustration. This firm is building two other boats of the same class, the Sparrowhawk and the Spitfire, the former of which was launched in October last. The other vessels of the class are being built by John Brown and Co., Limited, three, the Acasta, Achates, and Ambuscade; Messrs. Denny, one, the Ardent; Hawthorn Leslie and Co., Limited, three, the Christopher, Cockatrice, and Contest; the Fairfield Company, one, the Fortune; The Parsons company, one, the Garland; the London and Glasgow Company, three, the Lynx, the Midge, and the Owl; and Messrs. Thorneycroft, five, the Hardy, the Paragon, the Porpoise, the Unity, and Victor. The first of these, the Hardy, is being fitted with Diesel engines for cruising purposes.

All the vessels of the class are to be of approximately the same displacement, namely, 935 tons, and to have the same or approximately the same horse-power, namely, 24,500, the trial speed varying from 31 to 32 knots.

The dimensions vary slightly, the length from 257ft. to 260ft.; the beam from 26½ft. to 27ft.; and the draught from 8ft. to 8.3ft. The armament is the same in every case, namely, three 4in. guns and two torpedo tubes, and each vessel will carry a complement of 100 men. It is understood all of them will have water-tube boilers, and all be fitted for burning oil fuel.

The Shark herself is, like her sister vessels the Sparrowhawk and Spitfire, 260ft. long by 26ft. beam, and has a draught of 8.3 ft. She is propelled by three screws, as are to be the Acasta, Achates, Ambuscade, Christopher, Cockatrice, Contest, Lynx, Midge, and Owl, while the Ardent, Fortune, Garland, Paragon, Porpoise, Unity, and Victor are only to have two propellors.

We understand that the Sparrowhawk and Spitfire are in a forward state of construction, and that their builders have two other similar torpedo-boat destroyers in hand, namely, H.M.SS. Sarpedon and Ulysses.

Death By Goods Train

One hundred years ago, in the 29th September 1912 issue of The Engineer, is this unusual obituary. That of an actual engineer, a shipbuilder, smashed to death, aged 56 in his motor car by a goods train. Nasty.


IT is with very great regret that we have to record the death of Mr. Clement Mackrow, who was for so many years been connected with the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company, Limited. It appears that on Monday evening last Mr. Mackrow was leaving the company’s works in his motor car alone. While passing over a level crossing of the Great Eastern Railway at Canning Town his car was crashed into by a goods train which was being shunted, and the unfortunate gentleman was killed instantaneously, his body being terribly mutilated — a lamentably sad ending to a busy and useful life. The whole of Mr. Mackrow’s business career was spent with the Thames Ironworks Company. Following in the footsteps of a distinguished father — the late Mr. G. C. Mackrow — Mr. Clement Mackrow devoted the whole of his energies to the science of shipbuilding, and he achieved marked success. At an early age he entered the drawing-office of the company, working in that position under the immediate supervision of his father. He passed on to the mould loft and the various other departments of the works, and, though we believe there was never an actual apprenticeship, it can be said that he served his time at the works. For years father and son laboured side by side with one aim in view, the building of first-class ships and the keeping of their company in the foremost ranks of shipbuilding undertakings. As a sidelight on the character of Mackrow, the younger, we would instance the production of his “Naval Architect’s, Shipbuilder’s, and Marine Engineer’s Pocket-book,” which is now in its tenth edition and is a standard work of its kind. At the early age of eighteen he had found, as had many others before him, the want of a pocket-book which contained within two covers all the ordinary formulæ, rules, and tables that the shipbuilder requires in following his vocation. The data were in existence, but were scattered through a large number of books, and even some of the most commonly used formulæ necessitated tiresome searches and occasioned great waste of time. So the boy – he was but little more – set himself the task of collecting all the available information and of arranging it in a readily accessible form as a small pocket-book. In the preface to the first edition he modestly disclaims originality for any of the material he had brought together, yet, as a fact, he had presented much of it in such new and more readily understood form that he might well have claimed more credit than he did. The compilation of the book occupied the leisure time of four years, so that at the age of twenty-two he was the author of a book which had an immediate sale.

The book is still available from Amazon, sort of, but they aren’t terribly enthusiastic about its freedom from typographical errors and the like. It’s in its twelfth edition and is in any case out of copyright and freely available from the Internet Archive (but has not been adequately re-edited into any kind of modern shape).

He was born in Poplar in 1855, the son of Naval Architect George Colby Mackrow and Mary Maria Gosling. He had two elder brothers, George Frank and Henry James, also in the Naval Architect line – all whilst still in their teens. He had two younger sisters, Marian and Florence. In 1878, before he published his book, he’d married Mary Houghton Whiteley. But in the 32 years of marriages as noted in the 1911 census, there’d been no children. At that time, Marion, his also as yet unmarried sister, was living with them (along with a couple of servants, Edith and Emily) at Oaklands Grove Hill Woodford, in Walthamstow.

The Spanish Maine?

Telegrams from Havana report that a terrible disaster occurred on Tuesday night to the United States cruiser Maine, lying off Havana. The greater part of the crew were asleep when, at a quarter to ten, a terrific explosion occurred. The explosion set fire to the ship, and in the end the vessel sank. All the boats of the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII were lowered to render assistance. About 200 sailors are reported to be missing. Many were blown into the sea, and were able to save themselves by swimming until picked up by boats. All the officers escaped.


The United states Cruiser “Maine”

The Maine is an armoured cruiser of 6,682 tons and 9,000 horsepower, and is one of the finest vessels in the United States Navy, having been built only a few years ago at a cost of over half a million sterling. Her complement is about 400 officers and men.

From The Graphic, 19 Feb 1898, page 219. Soon after this event, we’re into the Spanish American War. “You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war

Surprise SS

We’re aware that steamships have been around for over 200 years, stretching back to into the late end of the eighteenth century, But when I envisage a ship from a year beginning with an 18, I really don’t imagine anything like the following which looks as if it belongs in the 1920s or 1930s. But there it* is – The Cymric – with a somewhat smaller vessel alongside.

I’m not entitled to be quite so surprised. After all, 1898 is jammed up at the modern end of the 19th century. And of course it would be cartoon-odd for all ships to suddenly lose their sails and sprout funnels on the stroke of midnight on the 1st of January 1900, but – even so …


The White Star Line are now introducing a new type of vessel in the Cymric, whose arrival in the Mersey from Belfast was the object of much interest. She is a steamer of 12,551 tons gross measurement, and her dimensions are as follows :– Length over all, 600 feet; beam, 64 feet; depth, 42 feet. The Cymric has twin propellors driven by two independent sets of quadruple expansion engines, with boilers working up to 210 lb. pressure. She is the largest cargo-carrying steamer in existence, exceeding in size the Georgic, the next largest of the fleet, by 2,300 tons. In addition to her large cargo capacity, the Cymric is fitted for the conveyance of live cattle on two decks well clear of the passenger quarters. In one important feature the Cymric differs from the other cargo steamers of the line. She is provided with accommodation for a limited number of cabin passengers. Hitherto saloon passengers have not been carried by the cargo and cattle steamers of the White Star Line. The passenger accommodation is similarly arranged to that of the Teutonic and Majestic. The saloon is amidships on the upper deck, and is capable of seating about one hundred passengers.

The Largest Cargo-Carrying Steamer in Existence : The White Star Liner S.S. “Cymric”

From a Photograph by Priestley and Sons, Limited

Picture and text from The Graphic of 19 Feb 1898, page 238. It’s interesting that it mentions The Georgic, a ship apparently known on the intertubes only in its 1932 version.

* Yes I know it’s a she, but I’m not an actual maritimer so I get to speak like a normal person.

Liner Notes


Frames and Beams in position up to Engine-Room

They’re just saying, saying it with photos on page 568 of the December 8 issue of The Engineer in 1905, that it’s a Liner being built for Cunard. They don’t say what it’s going to be called.


Frames with Bossing for Propellor Shafts

They do refer to it as another great Cunard Liner, and report where it’s being built:

The Construction of A Great Liner

Through the courtesy of the builders — Swan, Hunter, and Wigham Richardson, Limited, of Wallsend-on-Tyne — we are enabled this week to give half-a-dozen reproductions of photographs of the express passenger steamship they are building to the order of the Cunard Company, a similar vessel, as is well-known, being under construction in the yard of John Brown and Co., Limited, Clydebank. The pictures illustrate in a striking way a great ocean steamship “in the making,” and in the earlier stages. They also give a fair idea of what the facilities are in an up-to-date modern shipyard provided with overhead electric crane equipment for dealing with the erection and conveyance of material, and with the transporting, and holding to their work, of hydraulic and other appliances for drilling and riveting material of the heaviest scantling now worked into merchant ship structures. The covered-in shipbuilding berth on which the great Cunarder is being built at Wallsend is 740ft. long — but can at any time be extended to 900ft. — with a clear inside width of 100ft. and a height of 144ft. All the covered-in berths are equipped, as is seen on some of the engravings, with numerous electric overhead cranes.


Midship portion of Structural Cellular Bottom


Here’s the shot that gives you the scale of the thing. They are engineers that did stand in that.


Oh yes, the vessel. It would be launched the following year, 1906, by one Anne Emily Innes-Ker (1854-1923), née Spencer-Churchill. The four-funnelled (it was going to have three, but they had a rethink) floater would be known as Mauretania.



First-Class Japanese Battleship Kashima

Built by Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth and Co at Newcastle upon Tyne. Picture from The Engineer, March 24 1905, p 288. There are also photos of various stages of its construction.


State of the Hull on May 11th, 1904 – One Month’s Work


State of the Hull a bit later – note the humans giving a sense of the scale. It’s not a large ship, by Armstrong’s standards.


Progress on the Hull by June 4th, 1904


And here’s a couple of photos of its launch, from page 322 of The Engineer of the following week (March 31, 1905).


In May 1937 the Hindenburg caught fire. In volume 7 (1937-38) of the photography magazine Modern Photography is Dr Paul Wolff’s photo, one of the last, of the craft at Friedrichshafen. Included is its sister vessel the Graf Zeppelin.