Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding

Wartime Waterfront

After receiving its first contracts to build merchant vessels in 1941, Burrard Dry Dock Company had to significantly increase its facilities. It ended up becoming one of British Columbia’s most important industrial complexes in the entire 20th century. The shipyard expanded eastward to create room for four new building berths with four long piers. Fixed and travelling five-ton (4.54 t)-capacity cranes were installed between the berths and on the piers. Shops were expanded or rebuilt, and included a copper and sheet-metal shop, a pipe shop, a machine shop, a second plate shop with a mould loft, an electrical shop, a steel fabricating shop, and a joiner’s and pattern-making shop. The main office building tripled in size and a three-storey former carpenter’s and joiner’s shop was refitted for parts storage. The various developments tripled the size of the previous yard at a cost of $3.5 million.

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This is an aerial view of North Vancouver at the end of the war, showing Victory ships under construction in Burrard Dry Dock’s four building berths.

During the war years, Burrard Dry Dock’s north yard almost doubled the number of city blocks it covered, eventually extending from Lonsdale Avenue to St. Andrews Avenue.

This 1944 photograph illustrates the impact of the Second World War’s national war effort and its effect on the local shipbuilding industry.

The North Vancouver community was highly aware of wartime shipbuilding activity on its waterfront. Besides the influx of workers, the sound of rivet guns was a constant reminder.

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