This film is part of Free

Launching of M.V. British Cavalier

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.

Industry sponsored film 1962 5 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


When the British Cavalier was launched at Joseph Thompson & Sons North Sands shipyard in Sunderland on 19 June 1962, it was the biggest vessel built on the River Wear at the time. Its an impressive sight when the great drag chains on the ways kick up clouds of dust as they break the ships path on the river. A large crowd watch from the South Bank, a reflection of the great local pride in the craft of world class cargo ship builders on the Wear.

Robert Thompson and his sons set up a shipbuilding firm at North Sands on 13 February 1846. By 1884 they were the leading shipbuilder on the Wear and dominated the waterfront. The companys S.S. Empire Liberty, launched in 1941, was the inspiration for a whole fleet of 2,710 Liberty vessels built by the United States government between 1942 and 1945, which contributed to the Allies victory in World War Two. Three launches a day were not uncommon on a river studded with small shipbuilding yards. But the 6 March 1947 was a magnificent day for Sunderland when 3 ships were launched in an hour. Joseph L. Thompson & Sons finally shut down in 1976, and sadly the last shipyard on the River Wear closed in 1988.