Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding


North Vancouver’s industrial waterfront changed little during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Small businesses included lumber and shingle mills, which can be seen tucked behind log booms. Burrard Dry Dock Company, on the central waterfront in this picture, was an established shipyard that produced mostly coastal vessels. As indicated by its name, North Van Ship Repairs, just in from the left on the waterfront, undertook only small salvage and repair jobs. Almost no vessels were constructed during the prewar period. Britain was reluctant to encourage its former colonies to produce ships, not wanting to export technological savvy and thereby turn them into economic competitors. But by 1940, isolated and poorly armed after the fall of France, the country desperately needed to replace hundreds of cargo ships sunk by German U-boats. Britain’s call for help to Canada and the United States launched the biggest shipbuilding boom North Vancouver has ever seen, changing a sleepy waterfront forever.

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In the central foreground is the floating dry dock after which Burrard Dry Dock was named. It allowed ships to be raised out of the water for hull repairs.

On the north shore of Burrard Inlet, opposite the City of Vancouver, the community of North Vancouver extends towards the mountains.

In 1932 North Van Ship Repairs was a small salvage and repair company. During the war the company built a new yard west (left) of North Vancouver’s U-shaped ferry dock.

Between the two world wars, the Government of Canada had the Royal Canadian Air Force systematically map the country from the air.

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