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Shipbuilding on Film

Every ship launch is an epic. The majestic glide of the colossus into the waiting waters is a spectacle made for filming.

Shipbuilding as a process, too, has long fascinated filmmakers: the slow emergence - over months and years - of the ship's form from its wood and metal skeleton, the awesome investment of labour and craft that brings it into being.

As an island nation, Britain has always imposed itself on the seas. But by the 20th century, Britain's shipyards weren't just meeting her own naval and merchant shipping needs - British shipbuilding was a service industry to the world. These films, from documentaries and newsreels to feature films, bring to life the stories of the communities around the UK shaped by the shipyards.

This collection is supported by The Chandris Foundation, Community Union, The Eric Anker-Petersen Charity and The Shipwrights Charitable Fund.

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Shipbuilding on Film

RECOMMENDED

View A Ship is Launched
A Ship is Launched
Watch for free 6 mins

A Ship is Launched 1957

The famous Swan Hunter shipyards on the Tyne grease the slipway for another stirring launch in the prosperous 1950s.

6 mins England

View City of Ships
City of Ships
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City of Ships 1940

There’s breathtaking footage of the London’s docks at their bustling peak in this informative film celebrating the work of the Port Of London Authority.

33 mins United Kingdom

View Shipyard
Shipyard
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Shipyard 1935 U

Paul Rotha’s brilliant film of the building and launch of SS Orion from the shipyards of Barrow-in-Furness.

24 mins United Kingdom Director. Paul Rotha

View Titanic Newsreels
Titanic Newsreels
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Titanic Newsreels 1912

Very rare footage of the doomed liner in a newsreel released in the aftermath of the disaster.

United Kingdom

View Red Ensign
Red Ensign
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HD

Red Ensign 1934 U

Passionate shipbuilding tale from an on-the-up Michael Powell.

69 mins United Kingdom Director. Michael Powell

View Shipbuilders
Shipbuilders
Watch for free 10 mins

Shipbuilders 1940

Shipwrights, plate-fitters and riveters support the war effort as their ships take majestic shape in this tour of British shipyards.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Leon Schauder

View The Building of a Liner
The Building of a Liner
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The Building of a Liner 1938

The precision and beauty of shipbuilding in Britain.

10 mins United Kingdom

View The Circulating Water Channel
The Circulating Water Channel
Watch for free 11 mins

The Circulating Water Channel 1969

See naval architects craft new designs for maximum bulk capacity in modern shipping.

11 mins United Kingdom

View Clydebank. H.M. Ship 'Australia'
Clydebank. H.M. Ship 'Australia'
Watch for free 1 mins

Clydebank. H.M. Ship 'Australia' 1927

10,000 tons of steel slides into the Clyde in the form of HMAS Australia, a ship that would serve the Australian Navy well in WWII.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Sounds of the Clyde
Sounds of the Clyde
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Sounds of the Clyde 1971

Glasgow shipbuilders organise a "work-in" in response to being laid off by the liquidators of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS).

26 mins United Kingdom

View The "Princess Margaret"
The "Princess Margaret"
Watch for free 5 mins

The "Princess Margaret" 1931

Shipbuilders admire their craft as the SS Princess Margaret launches in picturesque Dumbarton.

5 mins United Kingdom

View Fair Oriana
Fair Oriana
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Fair Oriana 1961

The spectacular story of the building of a massive ocean liner.

28 mins United Kingdom Director. Bill Mason

View Launch of Canadian Pacific Steamship
Launch of Canadian Pacific Steamship
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Launch of Canadian Pacific Steamship 1930

The steamship Princess Elizabeth glides down the slipway at Fairfield, Glasgow.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Ross Belch
Ross Belch
Watch for free 14 mins

Ross Belch 1970

"The Clydesiders are still a tough lot" - as evidenced in this behind-the-scenes tour of a 1960s Clydeside shipyard.

14 mins Great Britain

View The Ship Is a Lady
The Ship Is a Lady
Watch for free 2 mins

The Ship Is a Lady 1928

The "drunken" Duchess of Richmond is launched at Clydebank - the place that launched a thousand ships.

2 mins United Kingdom

View Born to Boats
Born to Boats
Watch for free 15 mins

Born to Boats 1958

From the Norfolk Broads to Cowes, more and more people discover they were born to boats.

15 mins United Kingdom

View Floodtide
Floodtide
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HD

Floodtide 1949 U

The son of a Scottish farmer get a job in a shipyard and shows an unexpected flair for design, conceiving a revolutionary ship.

90 mins United Kingdom Director. Frederick Wilson

View The Launch of MV Cedric
The Launch of MV Cedric
Watch for free 1 mins

The Launch of MV Cedric 1952

Enter the spectacular slipways of Harland & Wolff, explore the shipyard that built the Titanic and her sister ships.

1 mins Northern Ireland

View Ships for the World - Built in Britain
Ships for the World - Built in Britain
Watch for free 14 mins

Ships for the World - Built in Britain 1966

From luxury liner to 60s super-tanker, Britain's shipbuilders big up their export business in a funky and slightly bizarre promotional film.

14 mins United Kingdom Director. Daniel Ingram

View The Construction of a Graving Dock
The Construction of a Graving Dock
Watch for free 18 mins

The Construction of a Graving Dock 1935

A construction project looks to the future at a Swan Hunter’s Tyneside shipyard in the 1930s.

18 mins United Kingdom

View The Duke of Lancaster
The Duke of Lancaster
Watch for free 6 mins

The Duke of Lancaster 1956

Experience luxury afloat as the Duke of Lancaster embarks on its maiden voyage. Behold the splendour of the ill-fated Funship during it’s heyday with the British Railways fleet.

6 mins Northern Ireland

View Launch of TSS Principe Perfeito
Launch of TSS Principe Perfeito
Watch for free 7 mins

Launch of TSS Principe Perfeito 1960

Hard graft and champagne at the successful launch of a Portuguese cruise liner, built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson.

7 mins United Kingdom

View Launch of M.S. Joseph R. Smallwood 11th July 1972
Launch of M.S. Joseph R. Smallwood 11th July 1972
Watch for free 9 mins

Launch of M.S. Joseph R. Smallwood 11th July 1972 1972

The Swan Hunter shipyard celebrates the launch of a tanker built to serve the Come By Chance oil refinery in Newfoundland.

9 mins United Kingdom

View The Launch of the MV Innesmoor
The Launch of the MV Innesmoor
Watch for free 15 mins

The Launch of the MV Innesmoor 1954

Explore the gleaming new interiors of the Tyne-built cargo ship Innesmoor.

15 mins United Kingdom

View Manchester Commerce
Manchester Commerce
Watch for free 2 mins

Manchester Commerce 1963

A Tees-built ship embraces new surveillance technology on its sea trial.

2 mins United Kingdom

View Oil Tanker Wellfield; HMS Bulldog Torpedo Boat Destroyer
Oil Tanker Wellfield; HMS Bulldog Torpedo Boat Destroyer
Watch for free 15 mins

Oil Tanker Wellfield; HMS Bulldog Torpedo Boat Destroyer 1931

The casual heroes of the shipyards – workers and the ships they build on Tyneside are captured in beautiful monochrome by an early cine club.

15 mins United Kingdom

View Walker's Planesailing
Walker's Planesailing
Watch for free 4 mins

Walker's Planesailing 1968

Revolutionary Sail inspired by Plane

4 mins United Kingdom

View Launch of M.S. Manora
Launch of M.S. Manora
Watch for free 6 mins

Launch of M.S. Manora 1970

A brass band serenades guests in the rain at aTyneside launch of the towering MS Manora cargo ship from Swan Hunters shipyard in Wallsend.

6 mins England

View Tall Ships: Newcastle Maritime Festival 86
Tall Ships: Newcastle Maritime Festival 86
Watch for free 10 mins

Tall Ships: Newcastle Maritime Festival 86 1986

The Queen visits a magnificent maritime spectacle on the Tyne as Newcastle hosts the Cutty Sark Tall Ships regatta.

10 mins England

View A Ship There Was
A Ship There Was
Watch for free

A Ship There Was 1952

A heart-warming tale about a Tyneside shipyard worker who dreams of a cruise on the luxury ocean liner he helps to build.

25 mins United Kingdom

View Launch of the Athelsultan
Launch of the Athelsultan
Watch for free 9 mins

Launch of the Athelsultan 1950

Grandeur, excitement and pride for a Middlesbrough crowd at the Smiths Dock launch of a ship for the Sugar Line.

9 mins England

View Launching of Genetta IV at Dickies Yard Bangor
Launching of Genetta IV at Dickies Yard Bangor
Watch for free 1 mins

Launching of Genetta IV at Dickies Yard Bangor 1930

The yacht, Genetta IV, takes to the water at Dickies Bangor, where she was made, bedecked with bunting, cheered by crowds and launched by a woman in a flowery hat.

1 mins Wales

View Sea and Ships
Sea and Ships
Watch for free 13 mins

Sea and Ships 1960

Join a family of 1960s holiday makers as they tell the story of their colourful adventure on the high seas of Scotland, steaming around the Firth of Clyde and beyond.

13 mins Scotland

View The Launch of the Thunderer
The Launch of the Thunderer
Watch for free 2 mins

The Launch of the Thunderer 1911

HMS Thunderer is launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury's wife, in a ceremony attended by thousands of dignitaries and most of East London.

2 mins United Kingdom

View Launch of HMS Exeter, Neptune Yard
Launch of HMS Exeter, Neptune Yard
Watch for free 7 mins

Launch of HMS Exeter, Neptune Yard 1978

Royal Navy top brass at the launch of the HMS Exeter destroyer from the world famous Swan Hunters shipyard on Tyneside.

7 mins United Kingdom

View Ship Departing from Port
Ship Departing from Port
Watch for free 1 mins

Ship Departing from Port 1901

A large liner draws away from the quay, but where is she headed?

1 mins United Kingdom

View Home and Away No. 20
Home and Away No. 20
Watch for free 10 mins

Home and Away No. 20 1960

Is that a dinosaur in the shipyard? A new Jurassic-looking crane arrives on the Clyde, plus a look at tyre making and a Scottish regatta.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Philip Dennis

View S.S. Olympic
S.S. Olympic
Watch for free 8 mins

S.S. Olympic 1910

The construction and launch of the S.S. Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic.

8 mins United Kingdom

View Britain's Largest Motor Ship
Britain's Largest Motor Ship
Watch for free 1 mins

Britain's Largest Motor Ship 1929

A ship off the old chocks! White Star's third liner to bear the name Britannic launches from Harland & Wolff's shipyard in Belfast

1 mins United Kingdom

View The Launch of the Punta Medanos at Wallsend
The Launch of the Punta Medanos at Wallsend
Watch for free 5 mins

The Launch of the Punta Medanos at Wallsend 1950

Tyneside shipyard Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson turns out a beast of a tanker for the Argentine Navy

5 mins United Kingdom

View RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde
RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde
Watch for free 1 mins

RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde 1936

The iconic Cunard White Star liner leaves the shipyard of her birth and ventures seawards for the first time.

1 mins United Kingdom Director. James Blair

View Launching of M.V. British Cavalier
Launching of M.V. British Cavalier
Watch for free 4 mins

Launching of M.V. British Cavalier 1962

Cloth caps at the keel blocks, bowlers on the platform, tug boats at the ready for the launch of the British Cavalier tanker on the River Wear at Sunderland.

4 mins England

View British Shipping Industry
British Shipping Industry
Watch for free 20 mins

British Shipping Industry 1935

From US colonialism to UK shipbuilding via anti-strikebreaking measures - this issue of the American newsreel has it all.

20 mins USA

View Stirling Ash
Stirling Ash
Watch for free 7 mins

Stirling Ash 1975

An atmospheric film of a dry dock, the welding of the hull, primitively held by timber supports, before the ship plunges sideways into a river.

7 mins United Kingdom

View The Modest Millionaire
The Modest Millionaire
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The Modest Millionaire 1985

A genuinely fascinating businessman, with workman’s hands, an old battered Austin, still labouring at 77, and keeping many a church going.

25 mins United Kingdom

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