Smith’s Dock

Cliffy William’s dad worked at Smith’s Dock ship builders. On Wednesday 7th April 1953 he took us to see a ship launch. The ship was The Romanic and looked massive to us as it towered above us on the slipway.

“Can we go near the riverbank to get a better look when it goes into the water?” asked Cliffy.

“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” replied his dad.

The preparation was underway when we arrived. Workers were swinging sledgehammers to remove the chocks holding the vessel back. When the last few chocks were about to be removed a lady on the scaffold near the bow gave a short speech and swung a bottle of champagne at the hull. The bottle smashed against the ship which then slowly began to move towards the river. Huge chains on either side, designed to slow the momentum of the ship, set up a cloud of rusty dust as they uncoiled. The ship slid into the water and sent a wave across the river.

We soon found out why we should stay away from the water’s edge.  The wave rebounded off the far bank the returned to the near side bank and swamped the unfortunate onlookers.

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