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Vosper Thornycroft

The Company has its roots in two shipbuilders, Vosper and Thornycroft, who both started out in the late 19th Century. The two companies merged in 1966, and twenty years later Vosper Thornycroft was floated on the London Stock Exchange. Herbert E Vosper established Vosper & Co. in 1871 when he was 21, on Broad Street in old Portsmouth. He won a gold medal in 1904 at reliability trials with a paraffin engined launch. Sir John I Thornycroft, founder of the company named after him, established a shipbuilding yard at Chiswick, on the Thames, in 1864. He built his first steam launch when he was only 19 years old.


Thornycroft transfers its main shipyard from Chiswick in London to Southampton (vessels built at Chiswick in the 1800's included -Launch 'Nautilus', HM Gunboat 'Melik', HM Destroyer 'Albatross'. Also built here was the first Thornycroft steam van) The first Royal Navy ship to be built at the Southampton yard was the Tribal Class destroyer HMS Tartar (above right) with a speed of over 35 knots and the first Thornycroft vessel to have four funnels....also under build were two specialist ships used by Thos. Cook and Sons for Nile cruises.
Vosper mainly concentrates on tugs and barges...characteristics are solid build, engined by the company's own heavy but reliable steam, paraffin and crude oil engines.


The era of the First World War meant a busy time...A steady supply of destroyers were built at the Southampton yard, including the L Class ship HMS Lance, which fired the first naval shot of the war on August 5, 1914...HMS Teazer achieved a trial speed of over 40 knots in 1917, a world record for destroyers...29 destroyers and flotilla leaders were outputted between 1914-1918, including nine which fought in the battle of Jutland...three submarines were also built during this time...5,000 motor vehicles were built and a new type of coastal motor boat produced...The company was also instrumental in the development of the depth charge thrower.
Vosper's main business at this time was workboats for the Admiralty, ship's boats, whalers, dinghies and tenders, allied to general engineering manufacture...these activities underwent rapid expansion during this period, with the addition of shell manufacture..Founder H.E.Vosper retired in 1919.


A decade of varied output at Southampton with tugs, pilot steamers, light ships, cattle barges and pleasure boats all built...A new class of destroyer, HMS Amazon, was built and fitted with Brown-Curtis turbines and Parsons-type cruising turbines...Another important order was six destroyers for Chile, all launched in 1928...Sir John I.Thornycroft, founder of the firm, died in the same year.
Like Thornycroft, Vosper suffered from the problems of retrenchment in the of the major jobs of the decade was the rebuild of Captain Scott's Antarctic exploring vessel Discovery.


The early part of the decade was blighted by depression...One bright spot was the launch of the new D Class destroyers Daring and Decoy, capable of over 38 knots, in 1932...Miss England IIIbroke the world water speed record on Loch Lomond the same year, achieving119.81mph...As War approached, output was stepped up with growing numbers of destroyers and the first of a new design of landing craft.
This was the era when Vosper really took off as builders of high speed craft...Vosper V8 engines powered hundreds of craft...40ft seaplane tenders were built for the Air Ministry...major developments were pioneered by the company in the development of motor torpedo boats, culminating in MTB 102 with a speed of 48 knots...Bluebird II was designed for Sir Malcolm Campbell to achieve the world water speed record of 141.7 mph in 1939...MTBs were also built for overseas navies.


Wartime meant another busy spell, starting with the 1940 launch of the mine-layer HMS Latona, the biggest and most powerful ship built at the Southampton yard...minelayers were also built for Turkey...destroyers, landing craft, rescue craft and torpedo boats filled the order books as the War progressed....After the War, commercial work resumed importance, including two passenger and cargo steamers for the Mediterranean.
A major era for Vosper as hundreds of MTBs were built for the Second World War...Vosper MTBs gained a worldwide reputation and the company also developed a new type of air sea rescue launch...the pattern was set for future designs with a 73-ft MTB completed in 1948..It was to form the basis of the famous Brave Class fast patrol boats.


Another era of varied output from ferries and passenger ships to yachts...Destroyers included HMS Duchess with a full displacementof 3,600 tons and length of 390ft...Even bigger was the fleet oiler Sechura with a dwt capacity of 6,000 tons.
A new air-sea rescue launch was developed by Vosper...In 1954 the project which culminated in the Brave Class boats started....Brave Borderer and Brave Swordsman, powered by gas turbines, exceeded 50 knots and were highly manoeuvrable. Based on this work, Vosper built the yacht Mercury with speeds in excess of 50 knots.


The decade started with the delivery of the New Zealand frigate Otago...In 1960, Sir John E.Thornycroft, son of the founder, died...
The synergy between Vosper and Thornycroft became evident with both companies achieving export success...Vosper was successful in selling patrol boats and later larger warships such as corvettes...
1966 saw the merger of Vosper(Portsmouth) and Thornycroft(Southampton), combining Vosper's successful work in patrol boats with Thornycroft's pedigree in larger vessels...The new VT secured considerable success in the export market with significant orders in the Middle East, Africa and the Far East.


A major order for Type 21 frigates for the Royal Navy was secured...along with an even bigger order for Mark 10 frigates for Brazil...Equally significant for the longer-term was the construction of the first glass reinforced plastic minecountermeasures vessel, HMS Wilton..She was followed by the Hunt Class...In 1977 came nationalisation


A decade of further export success, particularly in the Middle East..Royal Navy work was headed by Type 42 destroyers and the design and build of HMS Sandown, the world's first third generation GRP minehunter, designed by VT...In 1985, VT was privatised again in a management buy-out led by current company President Peter Usher and subsequently floated on the Stock Market...The Gentry Eagle powerboat secured a transatlantic speed record


The era of continued shipbuilding success, combined with broadening the base of the company...Major orders from the UK Ministry of Defence for minehunters and Gulf navies for minehunters, corvettes and strike craft...underlining VT's traditional role as a designer and builder of innovative ships and one of the world's leading exporters of naval vessels. VT's reputation for innovation sees the company selected to build a futuristic Trimaran Warship Demonstrator, while the record-breaking pedigree is maintained with the construction of the Cable and Wireless Adventurer which circumnavigates the world in record time.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:09:38 ZULU