Underwoods - The Benfleet Slipway

Boat building and repairing by the Creek

By Robert Hallmann

Perhaps it is because it began in 1940 wartime that so little is known about Underwoods Shipyard on the creek between Benfleet Station and Canvey Bridge? It lasted for little more than twelve years.

Photo:The main picture was taken c.1940-45 (probably at a launching party), and commemorates a workforce of some 57 men, boys and women. (In the background one worker is holding a baby, though its participation seems unlikely, even in wartime?) Mrs Hilda Underwood is the first lady from left with the circular handbag. Standing next to her is Mrs. Cushing. Squatting in the foreground first from left is Miss Wightman. Prominent standing second from right (with rope) is Mr. Thorogood. Fourth from right Mr. Leslie Watts, Patricia Pedder's father, one of ten siblings. Who else do you know?

The main picture was taken c.1940-45 (probably at a launching party), and commemorates a workforce of some 57 men, boys and women. (In the background one worker is holding a baby, though its participation seems unlikely, even in wartime?) Mrs Hilda Underwood is the first lady from left with the circular handbag. Standing next to her is Mrs. Cushing. Squatting in the foreground first from left is Miss Wightman. Prominent standing second from right (with rope) is Mr. Thorogood. Fourth from right Mr. Leslie Watts, Patricia Pedder's father, one of ten siblings. Who else do you know?

Patricia Pedder

Talk is that they repaired Motor Torpedo Boats. Others remember it as 'building Motor Fishing Vessels (MFVs)'. Of course, both are possible, if the latter followed the former in peacetime. Oddly enough, Dauntless Shipyard on the eastern Canvey side of the bridge was evacuated and the skilled workers moved to Wales for the duration of the war, which on the face of it seems a contradiction.

Photo:A boat still on wooden supports in water, though with bunting flying, the bow under an arch that must be part of the dock building with a corrugated roof?

A boat still on wooden supports in water, though with bunting flying, the bow under an arch that must be part of the dock building with a corrugated roof?

Patricia Pedder

Photo:Foreman Cecil Watts (right) with an as yet unidentified worker at Benfleet Slipway. Cecil Watts - Patricia Pedder's uncle - worked there until it closed about 1952. Canvey houseboats in the background.

Foreman Cecil Watts (right) with an as yet unidentified worker at Benfleet Slipway. Cecil Watts - Patricia Pedder's uncle - worked there until it closed about 1952. Canvey houseboats in the background.

Patricia Pedder

Wartime secrecy must be the reason for so little information being available. The Slipway did however attract enemy attention when it was attacked by aircraft. So maybe it was the yard that was the target in February 1943 when Benfleet railway station was attacked and Mr Toovey was injured in Knightleys' station news kiosk?

It's difficult to reconcile the works in today's situation, when with the widening of Ferry Road only the bus stop survives. It is also the former site of the Tea Rooms that have been remembered and mentioned in previous communications.

Many of these memorable pictures were kindly supplied by Patricia Pedder whose father and uncle both worked at the 'Slipway' 'during the war and until about 1952-3 before the new road was made'. Patricia's father was Leslie Watts and his brother Cecil Watts was Foreman.

In Patricia's words:

'The Yard was situated in Ferry Road near the site where you would now catch a bus at Benfleet Station to Hadleigh. The men who worked there built motor torpedo boats for the Second World War, among many other types of landing craft, from 7 am to 7 pm with half an hour for lunch break.'

Photo:The Relief bus to Seaview Road with a large and patient queue of would-be customers, while the driver talks to a gentleman, possibly a one-armed gentleman, in a light suit. Was there a problem? A strike, perhaps? Does anyone remember?  'The Old Ferry Tea Rooms' are well remembered by those who caught their buses there, but the arched corrugated buildings in the background, somewhat the worse for wear, can only be Underwoods Shipyard.

The Relief bus to Seaview Road with a large and patient queue of would-be customers, while the driver talks to a gentleman, possibly a one-armed gentleman, in a light suit. Was there a problem? A strike, perhaps? Does anyone remember? 'The Old Ferry Tea Rooms' are well remembered by those who caught their buses there, but the arched corrugated buildings in the background, somewhat the worse for wear, can only be Underwoods Shipyard.


Photo:The yard has also been included in one of Paul Smyth's paintings (featured elsewhere on this website). In 'After Sunset - Benfleet Creek' (1951) the double arches of the corrugated roofs are clearly visible in this detail, seen from Canvey bridge.

The yard has also been included in one of Paul Smyth's paintings (featured elsewhere on this website). In 'After Sunset - Benfleet Creek' (1951) the double arches of the corrugated roofs are clearly visible in this detail, seen from Canvey bridge.

Barbara Pearce


Photo:A scarecrow-like figure was suspended under the roof of the building with the message 'NO HANGING ABOUT', which very much looks like a wartime incentive effort to employees.

A scarecrow-like figure was suspended under the roof of the building with the message 'NO HANGING ABOUT', which very much looks like a wartime incentive effort to employees.

Patricia Pedder

Patricia continues:

'North sea boats were repaired in the war, overhauls done and on one occasion 70 planes passed overhead and machine-gunned the yard. Everyone took cover under the boats being repaired.'

'It was a grand event when a boat was launched and all members of the company were present.'

'To get to Ferry Road all traffic had to go via the level crossing and many times wait until the trains passed through the Station. Buses started at Ferry Road to and from Canvey, where crews were found having a cup of tea in the Ferry Tearooms until their bus was due to go out again.'

'My father Mr Leslie Watts was among the men who worked at Benfleet Slipway throughout the time it existed. He lived at the bottom of Essex Way, coming home for dinner on his bike.'

* * *

If you can add any memories or information about the Boat Yards and people of this area please leave a comment below or email us at the website. You can also join us on the Canvey.org Forum (see right)

This page was added by Robert Hallmann on 10/08/2008.
Comments about this page

The unidentified person next to Mr.Watts, was in fact my father Arthur Patrick Sorrell, known as Art Sorrell. Apparently he and his two brothers John and Ed worked at the slipway after they left the Navy. He then went on to work on tugboats and the barges off of Northwick, across the sea to Pitsea.

By Kathleen Storey
On 11/08/2008

Thanks for that, Kathleen. Another puzzle solved. Are your father and/or uncles in the group picture, too? The tugboats story sounds interesting. Any pictures?

By Robert Hallmann
On 16/08/2008

My dad, Albert Pierce, and one of my brothers, David, leased the Underwood shed when it closed down after 1952.
My dad had started his own scrap metal business in about 1951 with one of my younger brothers, who was still at school at the time (odd but true, very astute laddie was Dave).
They broke up surplus Admiralty boats...Motor Torpedo Boats and Minesweepers, the wooden hulled ones, mostly built in Canada.
They first started burning these boats out on the Point, the very end of the pathway out there where there is a bit of a shell beach. They burnt completely and left all the scrap metal in a sort of skeletal pattern of the boat as it dropped from the ash on to the grit, and then they would go out there after the tide washed the ash away and pick up the copper rivets, 24 hundred weight of them from a Fairmile MTB.
After a time the the Hadleigh Fire Service got fed up with people phoning to say a boat was alight only to find it was one of dads deliberate fires. I don't know how he got permission to do it anyway but he did it for several years.
Then he got bigger and bigger boats and ended up with Underwoods shed and the wharf beside the Tea Rooms there.
About the time I came home from my two and a half years in Australia in 1956, dad and Dave were the perfect copies of Steptoe and Son, but just a bit more successful. They paid cash for their house on the Island.
I helped them for a few months picking up the rivets out on the point and rowing the hessian bags of rivets in a dingy up Small Gains creek and over the wall to Davids van.
Then one day some order came through from someone that Underwoods shed had to be pulled down. So me and one of dads employees got up on the roof with blow torches and burnt the tops off the roofing nails and pulled the roof off. Then the rest of it was dismantled and the whole area was cleared.
Only as I was reading the original posting about Underwoods did I realise I walked right past the front door of the building on my first day on Canvey in about august 1943. We had just got off the train and I was walking with mum past the Underwood door...it was wide open...and right there on the slipway was a half-built Fairmile MTB, the very boats dad made his money from after the war.
Stan Pierce.

By Stan Pierce
On 17/08/2008

Dear Mr Hallmann,

Enjoyed your article on Underwoods Shipyard, and would like to add that no MTB's, MGB's, ML's or HDML's were built by Underwoods during the war (but were probably repaired and refitted there). However five 45ft class Admiralty MFV's to be fitted with Chrysler engines were ordered from C.C. Underwood, East Benfleet on 31/8/44. These were numbered MFV's 976 - 980.

MFV 976 was completed 8/45 and was sold out of service 1947. Fished first as Sweet Home then Redeemer. Last reported around 1970.

MFV 977 was completed 10/45, was transferred to the Sea Cadet Corp Caister TS "Progress" in 1958, then sold out 1/60. I saw her out of the water at Dover 9/08

MFV 978 was sold out 13/7/47 at Belfast and became the yacht now "Jonny Eager" (Sometime John'y Eager and Johnny Eager) I saw her fully restored on the River Medina Nr Cowes 7/08

MFV's 979 & 980 were both cancelled at the close of hostilities

I hope this is of some help to your researches,

Kind regards,

Philip Simons,

Military Small Craft & Coastal Forces Historian.

By Philip Simons
On 05/01/2009

Dear Philip Simons,

Many thanks for your additional information. I knew about Motor Torpedo Boats and Motor Gun Boats, but what were/are ML's and HDML's? So my earliest informant was right about Motor Fishing Vessels. It's a shame we don't have photos of any of the Underwood boats either in action or later.
There has already been a great and informative addition to the story by Stan Pierce (above) about the aftermath of the war years. Thanks, Stan, too. I have quite recently been out at the Point by the beautiful little shell beach and there are still quite a lot of metal remnants from the ship burning activities out there, especially bits of twisted metal rope of varying thickness and nuts and bolts, etc. I even brought a few 'souvenirs' back.

Again, many, many thanks, Robert Hallmann

By Robert Hallmann
On 06/01/2009

Dear Mr Hallmann,

further to the information provided by your other correspondents, Lenton & College ("Warships of World War II" circa late-1950s), credits Underwood (South Benfleet) with building sixteen landing craft, commencing in 1941, namely LCP(M) 22 to 27, and LCP(M) 42 to 51.

(LCP(M) = "Landing Craft, Personnel (Medium)").

...not to be confused with LCM ("Landing Craft, Mechanised"), which was an entirely different vessel, intended to land heavy vehicles up to the size of a tank on to an assault beach.

...also not to be confused with a whole host of LCA, LCC, LCE, LCH, LCI, LCN, LCP (of other types), LCV, LCVP, LCW, etc which, together with the LCP(M), made up the 4,000+ small landing craft produced during WWII (including those supplied under "lend lease"), all of which were intended either to deliver personnel to the beach-head, or to support the assault operation close inshore in some other way - including shallow water surveys, mine-sweeping, ambulance services, "pathfinder" services when equipped with additional navigation equipment, and so on.

The key feature of (almost) all the different types of personnel landing craft was their ability to be carried on the standard davits fitted to RN vessels - including the large mercantiles that were requisitioned and converted to support the assaults, and which generally carried these craft and their troops to a position off the beach-head, where the troops would embark in the landing craft as they were being launched.

The LCA type made up about half the total number of personnel landing craft built (over 2,000 LCAs were built), and each was intended to carry 35 troops or 800 lb of equipment from an infantry landing ship (an LSI(S), (M), or (L) - the "(S)mall", "(M)edium" and "(L)arge" varieties of "Landing Ship, Infantry"). They were built on a 39 foot wooden hull, and fitted with an armoured conning position, and Ford petrol engines driving two shafts, giving about 10 knots when empty, and 6 knots when loaded.

Many of the other types in the list above were intended for special purposes.

The LCP(M) consisted of a group of 61 vessels in all, each 39 feet long, with a Scribbs Ford petrol engine driving a single shaft, giving 7+ knots. They were of wooden (clinker-built) construction, and intended to carry 20 troops, plus a crew of three, and mounted a single .303" machine gun for defence.

According to Lenton & College, they were based on the "Northumberland coble", and thought to be more suitable for operations off exposed or rocky costs. For its protection, the single screw was completely enclosed in a "tunnel" built into the hull. In addition, rather than having a "fold-down" door at the bow, troops would disembark using two portable ladders, one each side at the bow; and two fixed ladders, fitted one on each side at the stern.

As far as I can tell there were two LCP(M) war losses, LCP(M) 17, lost off the Isle of Wight on 5th January 1943, and LCP(M) 14, reported lost in November 1943 - but I don't know the circumstances.

Their best documented action came later in the war, when an LCP(M) flotilla landed Royal Marines at Cheduba Island in January 1945, as part of the campaign in Burma.

From December 1944 the 5th Cruiser Squadron (HMS Newcastle (Flag, CS 5), HMS Nigeria, HMS Kenya and HMS Phoebe) had been supporting the 14th Army in its endeavours in driving the Japanese southwards out of Burma, in particular bombarding targets indicated by the 26th Indian Division, which was at the coastal-end of the allied line, then advancing down the Arakan coast. Ramree Island is to the north of Cheduba Island, and it seems that both these islands were selected as suitable homes for new allied air bases to be established as the 14th Army drove southwards. Cheduba Island, about 150 miles south of Akyab, was heavily defended by the Japanese and it was decided that the RN should mount an amphibious assault. The operation was assigned to the 5th Cruiser Squadron and the plans drawn up in HMS Newcastle; with HMS Newcastle, Nigeria and Kenya committed to supporting the assault.

In the meantime, HMS Newcastle, Nigeria and Phoebe had supported landings on the Akyab Peninsula ("Operation LIGHTNING") at the beginning of January 1945; and the 26th Indian Division commenced the successful "Operation MATADOR" assault on Ramree island on 21st January 1945, supported by gunfire from the cruiser HMS Phoebe, and the very big guns of the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, Flagship of the East Indies Fleet, the latter with Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander, SEAC (South-East Asia Command), embarked.

Three days later, on 24th January 1945, cruisers HMS Newcastle, Nigeria and Kenya embarked the Commando of 500 Royal Marines and the four LCP(M) to be used for the "Operation SANKEY" assault on Cheduba Island, and with the destroyers HMS Paladin and HMS Rapid in attendance, anchored before dawn on 25th January 1945, five miles off the top of the island. The assault went in as planned and the island was taken - but with a distinct shortage of Japanese in the vicinity, as they had apparently abandoned the place the day before. Such is war ! The Japanese had presumably been forewarned of what was heading their way by the activity at Ramree, and had decided to make a hasty exit... With the island secured the task force moved off about five days later, to add its weight to the assault on Ramree, bombarding the western coast of that island at the end of the month. Rangoon would be taken by the allies in May 1945.

As far as I am aware this was HMS Newcastle's last offensive action in WWII, as after a short refit in Ceylon she was despatched to Sydney to join the British Pacific Fleet (BPF), only to find when she arrived there (circa 1st April 1945) that the American landings on Okinawa had just begun and that the BPF was thousands of miles to the north, launching air strikes against the Sakashimas, to the south-west of Okinawa. Instead, she was allocated escort duty for a troop transport carrying an NZ Division to Italy via Suez, so re-traced her route back through the Indian Ocean, and then returned to the UK, arriving back in the UK at about the time the Pacific War came to an end.

(the above only a small part of the story, of course, around 35 RN warships were awarded the Battle Honour "BURMA 1944-45")

Incidentally, the MFVs in the two photos both seem to be flying the White Ensign at the stern (certainly in the case of the ship outside the shed, also possibly in the other photo), which I would have thought means that they had both just been commissioned for Royal Navy service at the time the photos were taken (the raising of the white ensign being an important part of the commissioning ceremony) - but sadly I don't have commissioning dates for these vessels, so can get no closer than 1945.

With regard to "ML's and HDML's", I have a handy intro to Fairmile which I prepared for someone else who was attempting to identify a vessel commanded by a relative in WWII from an old photo, an extract of which I shall attach below.

Basically, the "MLs" were "Motor Launches", the WWII boats for the most part based on the "Fairmile B" of 110 feet, and typically capable of about 22-25 knots, and with differences incorporated when fitting out for the various different roles they performed. There were close to 700 MLs produced in WWII.

The "HDMLs" were "Harbour Defence Motor Launches", a significantly smaller Admiralty design, 70-feet long and capable of 11+ knots, so suited to harbour defence rather than offensive operations. About 600 of these were produced in WWII.

Regards,

Jon Summers

Fairmile:-

Fairmile, who approached the Admiralty in the late 1930s suggesting the idea of "kit-boats", produced about 680 Fairmile "B" in kit form, which were put together (mahogany planking on ply frames) in small yards all over the place (circa 40 yards in the UK, and the same again overseas).

For such a small boat this is a huge subject, & if you tap fairmile b into Google you will get tens of thousands of matches, but I'll give you the basics here:

Hull numbers were allocated to Fairmile as follows:
100-111
Fairmile "A" MLs
112-311
Fairmile "B" MLs
312-335
Fairmile "C" MGBs
336-500
Fairmile "B" MLs
ML.390-391 were built for the RIN
ML.400-411 were built for the RNZN
ML.412-423 were built for the RIN
ML.424-431 were built for the RAN
ML.436-441 were built for the RIN
ML.492-500 completed as Rescue Motor Launches (RMLs),
with an extra accommodation block built amidships)
511-600
Fairmile "B" MLs
ML.511-553 completed as Rescue Motor Launches (RMLs),
with an extra accommodation block built amidships)

601-800
Fairmile "D" MGBs/MTBs
801-933
Fairmile "B" MLs
ML.801-827 were built for the RAN
ML.829-832 were built for the S African Navy
ML.846-857 were built for the S African Navy
2001

the sole Fairmile "F" MGB
4001-4004
Fairmile "B" MLs
5001-5029
Mod. Fairmile "D" MGB/MTBs
(HMCS) ML.050 to ML.129 (ex-001-080)
Fairmile "B" MLs
All RCN boats
(USS) SC.1466 to SC.1473
Fairmile "B" MLs
Built in the US, possibly outside the kit boat scheme, for the US Navy

As Motor Launches (MLs) they served the RN & Commonwealth forces (RAN, RNZN, RCN, RIN & SAN), using boats built from kits assembled locally.

While Fairmile used batches of contiguous hull numbers for the kits, each allocated to a particular batch of a particular class, kits seem to have been allocated to different yards as they became available using the "scatter-gun" approach, rather than in batches, so there is no guarantee that contiguous hull numbers were built at the same yard, or fitted out at the same base, or equipped to the same level...

Armament varied, but as some indication as to early vs. late boats:

Typical (early craft)
1 x 3-pdr
2 x 1 x 0.303" MG, single mounts

Typical (later craft)
1 x 40-mm or 2-pdr
2 x 1 x 20-mm, single mounts

Variations
i) 1 x 6-pdr added aft in some (possibly only early) units.
ii) 50 of the earliest craft had 2 x 21" TT fitted in 1940 for anti-invasion duties, but these were later removed (these were apparently ex-US Navy destroyer torpedo tubes, possibly removed as surplus from "4-stackers" supplied under lend lease & converted for escort duties).
iii) A few were fitted as minesweepers with special light sweeps.
iv) Some were temporarily adapted for minelaying.
v) The 1942 Operation CHARIOT boats carried extra fuel tanks on deck.
vi) In 1944 some were specially equipped as Navigation Leaders for the Normandy landings (June 1944).

Variations (specific)
i) 492-500 & 511-553 completed as Rescue Motor Launches (RML) with an extra survivor accommodation block built amidships, and 1 x 2-pdr, 1 x 20-mm, and 2 x 2 x 0.303" MG, twin mounts
ii) Boats transferred to the War Office as WOALs (War Office Ambulance Launches) in 1944, had a large oblong accommodation block added amidships, and seem to have been disarmed.

Their most high-profile operation was the 1942 Operation CHARIOT raid, when HMS Campbeltown (ex-USS Buchanan (DD.131)) rammed & blew up the dry dock at St Nazaire).

MLs that took part were:

20th Flotilla
(Lt-Cdr Billie Stephens, RNVR, responsible for MLs in the "CHARIOT" force)
ML.192, 262, 267, 268

28th Flotilla
ML.298, 306, 307, 341, 443, 446, 447, 457

7th Flotilla (torpedo-carrying boats)
ML.156, 160, 177, 270

One of the boats lost on Operation CHARIOT, ML.306, was salvaged by the Germans & served as RA.9 until becoming a Kriegsmarine war loss on 16th August 1944.

ML.310, another British war loss of 1942, was salved by the Japanese and became their HIJMS Sukei No 12.

Finally, 7 were transferred to the FNFL (Free French) in 1943-44, serving as
Ved. 101 (ex-ML.244)
Ved. 102 (ex-ML.271)
Ved. 103 (ex-ML.266)
Ved. 104 (ex-ML.302)
St Guenole (ex-ML.245)
St Yves (ex-ML.246)
St Alain (ex-ML.247)
(Ved = vedette).

By Jon Summers
On 12/03/2009

Dear Jon Summers,
Many, many, thanks for your addition to this site and subject. It will take some concentrated study, but will also greatly add to our knowledge. All we need now is a photo of one of the Benfleet made landing craft in action somewhere, but that may be a tall order. Or any image of that type of craft. The locally made MFVs seem all accounted for, but your comment confirms they were commissioned for Royal Navy service.
Thank you again, Robert Hallmann

By Robert Hallmann
On 13/03/2009

In your 1st picture of the boat launch the 3rd young man standing in the upper row on the left is my father John Reed then aged 14-15. Born on Canvey in 1928 and when I recently showed him the picture was very suprised indeed as he had no recollection of the picture being taken! If you would like some 1st hand information regarding "Underwoods" I will either ask my Father to contact you directly or I will be pleased to act on his behalf.

Best wishes,

Richard Reed

By Richard Reed
On 15/08/2009

Dear Richard,

It's great the way this story generates contacts and memories. Thanks for adding to the picture and hopefully to the story. We would very much like to add your father's memories. Would you do the honours perhaps? You can put us in touch direct, but it might be easier and more fruitful to collect memories at leisure. We now know what was built there, looking forward to hear from someone who actually worked there.

Good luck, Robert Hallmann

By Robert Hallmann
On 21/08/2009

Dear Robert
My son Richard has brought to my attention his E-mail to you regarding Underwoods Boat Yard and if I may be allowed to add a little extra which may be of interest to you.

I see that there is no mention of the 25 foot whalers built there; These were built in partition at the back of the main office where Mr Underwood worked. The whalers were built by 1 man and a young boy (my age then 14/15) These whalers were built on a piece work.The main office was used also as a drawing office and the architect was the son of the foreman who was known as "shorty" for obvious reasons.

I actually started work when I left Long Road School when I was 14 with a set of tools which my father made up for me. He was a carpenter (not at Underwoods). I was put under the care of "POP" a retired cabinet maker age 70 years who came out of retirement to do his bit for his country. I also worked on the MFV's and also the LCPM' Landing Craft Personel ) Most of these were built over on the Canvey Side Dawsons? My weekly wage was 22 shillings and six pence less 6 pence Income Tax.

I could go on but I am running out of space. John REED

By John REED
On 27/10/2009

Dear John,
Greetings. You have now expanded the story to the Canvey side of the operation as well as adding another line of boat building. And I thought we knew it all. This is marvellous. Please don't let space inhibit you. Many thanks, but we hope there will be more. Please keep your atmospheric memories coming.

Best wishes, Robert Hallmann

By Robert Hallmann
On 28/10/2009

Dear Robert
Just a few more lines to add to the above :-
Of course I meant Dauntless boatyard not Dawsons !!!

Towards the end of the war The 45 foot MFV, were plated with copper sheets. This was to prevent the dreaded boring worm which bored holes in wooden boats out East where the mfv's were going.

In the photograph of the staff on launch day, there is a photo of Mr Thoroughgood in the front row. He was the blacksmith and made all the metal fittings for Underwoods. His blacksmiths shop was in South Benfleet next to the Hoy and Helmet pub and when required we lads took it in turn to go up the hill to his workshop and pump the bellows. He would use sour milk to pour on the still hot metal to cool the item. I don't know why, perhaps some of the readers know.
Our wages were supplemented by 5 shillings one a week when we lads rowed across to the other side of the river out of view to empty the toilet bins as there were no proper mains toilets laid on.

Just a word about Dauntless. It was then a very large shed and on a Saturday we would sweep all the shavings into the centre of the building where there was a trap door and the wood shavings deposited at high tide to float away on the ebb.

Lastly if I remember correctly the planking for the whalers/lifeboats were elm on oak ribs. For the LCPM it was larch on oak frames which were double skinned with calico sheeting treated with linseed oil between the planks, and for the MFVs pine on oak ribs it was oak timber keel,frames and pine planking.

There was a man whose name was Tom Sawyer (believe it or not) who was the only one allowed to operate any machinery i.e. band saw planer etc. He had an unfortunate accident whilst sawing planks (larch) a large piece flew back and went straight through left shoulder missing a main artery. He recovered fairly quickly.

By John REED
On 29/10/2009

Dear John,
Again many thanks for sharing your memories with us. I understand Dauntless were transferred to Welshpool for the duration of the war, returning in 1945. So were the buildings used anyway, or are your memories post 1945? Also I am particularly grateful for pointing out Mr Thorogood the Benfleet blacksmith and the part he played. The smithy is just part of the Hoy and Helmet car park now, but there have been times when its rent went towards the poor of the parish.

Sour milk, I understand, is a lactic acid that helps in the removal of rust, so there must have been a good reason for the blacksmith to use it, but if someone knows better, please comment.
Thanks again, John,
Robert Hallmann

By Robert Hallmann
On 01/11/2009

dear webmaster, the site of underwood slipway's was of course later the benfleet yacht club, but in 1973 it was leased by dauntless boat yard under the name of dauntless enterprise. my wife and I built "BARBAROSSA" our ferro cement boat on this site starting jan 1974 and launching in june 1976 she laid alongside the wharf untill may 1977 when we sailed via sewer bend and holehaven. "BARBAROSSA" went on to sail around the world and has now logged 77,000 miles and still moors in benfleet creek. It's a strange fact that while building our boat I purchased many ex admiralty items for her from Mr Albert Pierce and his son David who then had a yard on the charfleets industrial estate. Many of these items are still fitted to "BARBAROSSA" hope this is of help regards Rob Hart. P. S. I have some photographs of the site both in yacht club day's and Dauntless enterprise day's.

By robert hart
On 01/01/2010

Family history Underwood Boat Yard.
Mr Underwood's son Robert was Managing Director of Prout Catamaran at the Point and his Grandson Alistair is a photographer for the Ecko newsoaper, he is also my Grandson

By Ian Hawks
On 05/01/2010

Family history Underwood Yard
Omitted to mention that Mr Underwood's other Grandson.Edward works in the music industry
Ian hawks

By Ian Hawks
On 07/01/2010

Many thanks, Robert Hart, for your message of the 'Barbarossa'. It's another great addition to the Underwood story that really deserves a whole new site with your adventures and photographs included. So please, be in touch and either add here, or better still, add a new site with the pictures. Around the world in the Barbarossa. There must be some tales to be added from your adventures in a locally built boat. This year will see the addition of a similar community site to this for South Benfleet and we would like to see it there as well.

Hi, Ian, thanks for advancing the Underwood saga into the present time. Great to hear that you're involved as well. Your grandson on the Echo ought to write or get Tom King to write his ancestral story in the Echo. Or here of course...
Robert Hallmann

By Robert Hallmann
On 09/01/2010

Cyril Cooper Underwood was my father, my mother Hilda (shown in the picture) is still alive, albeit 98 and with dementia. We have family pictures of the yard and as children my brother Robert and myself always understood that my father built MFVs and various other boats commissioned by the Admiralty during the war for the war effort. During the early 50s my father built two large motor cruisers at the 'Karoo' was about 40ft and 'Gai-Rob' slightly larger around 45ft. I have great memories of growing up in the yard at Benfleet. My father subsequently bought Dixon Curly's yard in Maldon and we lived there for many years whilst he continued to build motor cruisers, sailing yachts and dinghies. My brother Robert has continued in the Marine Industry being a director of Prout Catamarans of Canvey Island when they won the Queens Award for Industry. We both have continued the family tradition and have sailed extensively throughout our lives. Our father was always considered to be an amazing man who during our childhood, had a variety of interests and different businesses from a caravan site in Cornwall to owning pubs! He died in the early 60s. It is such a pity tht my mother who couldhave filled in all the gaps can no longer remember very much.

By Gail Monk (nee Underwood)
On 03/02/2010

Dear Gail, thanks for your message. It's amazing how much interest this site has generated. Please add your story, which after all is at the heart of it all. And your pictures. Your own and your brother's memories would make a great new site – this one is getting a little long and the pictures would be interesting, too. But the sheer wealth of replies proves its relevance. Looking forward to the next Underwood instalment. I have mentioned before, there is going to be a new website for Benfleet memories later this year, where your stories will be equally of interest. Robert Hallmann

By Robert Hallmann
On 08/02/2010

My thanks to Mr Robert Hallman for the pictures of the M.F.V.s .My father owned 997 Progress, later called Progress of Deben when registered. As a young man I worked on her and still recognised the tabernacle with the holes in which I painted many times! I replaced odd bits of decking and the occasional plank. She had a new keel fitted in Portugal and we sailed her between the U.K. and the Med every season for many years and she was well known on the route! I took the boat over after my fathers death and eventually sold her to a Canadian. I saw her in Bristol docks looking sad and abandoned with white painted decks and thought how I would have been shot for painting decks by my own father! I then saw her many years later in a yachting magazine for sale having been rebuilt and I was so pleased. I tried for many years to trace her when we owned her but it was only through this wonderful site recently that I found her number, where she was built and PICTURES!! I have all the pictures of her and the same shots, many years later, that you have on this page. Thank you. Harry. harrysouthampton@hotmail.com

By Harry Harper
On 24/05/2010

Mrs.Hilda Underwood 14th June 2011.Happy birthday and congratulation on your 100th. birthday.

By Ian Hawks
On 14/06/2011

i am the current owner of johnny eager she is on exeter quay under going some remedial woodwork,nothing major topsides only.she has a gardener 5l3 since 1952 .ihave some history from her days in milford haven (home port of registry)and her time in yarmouth on the i.o.w with the cambell family .i purchased her december 09 on the river medina i.o.w from two lovely old boys whod spent along time having the engine rebuilt and i thick finally realised the boat was to much for theam .any further information you could pass on would be very appreicated .i have some photos which i will put on .regards graham

By graham brookes
On 19/07/2011

looking at the bus queue at the TEA rooms, reminds me of when I worked and had to come home from Southend by train and join the queue at this buss stop , HORRIED in winter at night when know one else was around ,but in the summer these people were going to stay at THORNY BAY camp site, just look at the pushchair's and cases , to get home sometime three busses would fill up before I could get on, everyone was jolly as it was Holiday time, almost every bus in summer was a relief bus, we didn't mind , I used to quite enjoy listening to the chatter , my brother David had a home made go cart ,he use to charge sixpence to the camp and pick up the people leaving, these people we so grateful as it was a long walk to the camp with luggage etc ,

By Margaret
On 15/08/2011

In the mid 60's I owned lcpm 30. She was somewhat battered and had lots of torredo worm damage along the water line (successfully made good). With her perkins diesel and easily driven hull she made a fine cruiser although very lively in any sort of seaway. I suspect that she was lost during the PLA 'clean up' in the 70's. The tunneled prop and lifting rudder made grounding very comfortable.

By peter lancaster
On 28/09/2011

I and some friends helped Bob Hart and some of his friends, render his boat the Barbarosa.I must admit that his idea of sailing round the world in a concrete boat scared the life out of me,but he done it.Well done Bob.I'm proud to have been part of your adventure.All the best, John.

By John Buckmaster
On 29/09/2011

Re:-Comment by John Reed 29/10/2009 John: My mother (Edith Hudson) worked at Underwoods during the war, she would mention to us kids that there were Motor Torpedo boats being repaired there. She would often come home with her overalls covered in Red Lead and told us that she was applying this product to the under hulls while lying on the slips.!! I also remember how distraught she was on arriving home and having witnessed the accident regarding Tom Sawyer. I remember her saying that a sharp piece of wood had flown off a saw and that had almost struck him in the heart. Can't remember too much about the Boatworks as things were pretty traumatic, for us young kids, just surviving life on the Island during the war.

By Gerald Hudson
On 27/01/2012

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