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When the Second World War broke out, Stephen Cranfield of Rowhedge was asked to open up the derelict shipyard at Wivenhoe, clear it, and make it ready to carry out emergency repairs to ships.

There, the men working under Mr. Cranfield built dummy submarines (Stephen only had a newspaper photograph of a submarine to work from), wooden minesweepers - and pontoons for Mulberry Harbour used on D-Day, of which Mr. Cranfield was especially proud.

Rowhedge and Wivenhoe workers were engaged in all stages of construction.

Sport & Country 1943 - Click image for slideshow

Essex County Standard 1944

Wooden Warships... Essex County Standard
Wooden Warships... Essex County Standard
Wooden Warships... Essex County Standard


Click image below for slideshow - Launch of motor minesweeper J614

Similar vessels built at Wivenhoe

A larger and improved design was introduced in late 1943. Termed the 126 foot minesweeper, eight were built at Wivenhoe.

Running trials. There was a measured nautical half-mile between Aldboro’ Point and Bateman’s Tower, and a full mile on the “Second Beach”, towards Colne Point.

Planking has been worked round the frames and the closing strakes are being fitted. A fore knee is already prepared for the next keel and stem. Frank Butcher with members of the Home Guard.

Dummy submarine

One of the dummy submarines surreptitiously photographed at the “Sump”, just below Wivenhoe where the mud was flat at low tide, awaiting a tug. They were constructed on a raft of house-building timber, and there was no time for drawings of any description. Stephen Cranfield based the shape of the decoy submarines on a photograph printed in the News Chronicle of April 24th, 1940 of H.M.S. Snapper returning from a successful attack on four German ships off Norway. With sailor figures on deck the decoys attracted the attention of enemy aircraft at Harwich and other ports.

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