When Ford sailed the ocean waves
THE name of Ford is always associated with cars and trucks yet, during World War II, Ford Australia had one of the foremost shipbuilding operations in the country.
The armed forces were desperately in need of landing craft, ocean-going cargo lighters, coastal surveillance ships and tug boats. Ford swung into action at its Geelong, Sydney and Brisbane plants, turning out ocean-going ships up to 30m long and capable of carrying 250 tonnes, troop landing craft and a host of smaller craft.
The large cargo vessels were 'D' Class ships and all carried female names beginning with the letter 'D'. Many of them survived the war and were used as coastal cargo ships for many years. These large ships were powered by a series of 50hp diesel engines while the smaller vessels depended on the reliable Ford and Mercury V8 petrol engines.
Ford built 455 Australian Landing Craft in sizes ranging from 106-foot long down to tiny 32-footers. There was even a tug boat built for the navy which was based on the ALC.
The US Army asked Ford to supply special 35-foot cargo lighters and more than 460 slid down the Ford slipways before the end of hostilities.
These welded steel ships proved to be very reliable and stable and certainly played a tremendous role in the Pacific Islands war theatre. And, of course, due to the fact that most of the male workforce was in uniform, they were mainly built by women.
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