History of the WSS

History of the World Ship Society
What is now known as the World Ship Society was originally the “brain child” of Michael Crowdy, brought about more or less by chance.

In 1946, Michael was corresponding with various people interested in ships, and as the number of correspondents grew, it became necessary to duplicate the information he received in order to circulate it. As young as he was, Michael realised the potential existing for an organisation such as the Ship News Club and with a great deal of encouragement and some financial support from his father, Michael launched the Ship News Club.

His first publications in early 1947 were duplicated sheets containing news of ships, merchant and naval, whose names began with the letters “A” to “L”, followed a couple of months later with further lists containing the “M” to “Z” ships. These two sets of duplicated sheets have been re-typed and copied by various people and are now accepted as Part 1 and Part of Volume 1 of Marine News.

The first Marine News to appear in magazine format was in June 1947 and was 12 pages with one photograph. News soon got around about the Ship News Club and membership increased rapidly from 50 in January 1947 to 200 in December and 330 in July 1948.

The enthusiasm of Michael had to be seen to be believed and he was soon in contact with a number of shipping personalities such as Francis McMurtrie, Editor of Jane’s Fighting Ships; Cdr. A.C. Hardy; Dr. Oscar Parkes and one other person who became perhaps the best known member of the Committee apart from Michael himself, “Uncle” Fred Bland of Liverpool, the architect of the present Central Record. By February 1949 Overseas Agents had been appointed in Belgium, Denmark, Eire, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.

The first Annual General Meeting of the Ship News Club was held aboard WELLINGTON, Thames Embankment, London on 23rd September 1949 and it was at this meeting that the proposal to change the name of the “Club” to the World Ship Society was accepted and approved.

Today, more than 50 years later, the World Ship Society has thousands of members in countries world-wide with branches in Europe, Australia, South Africa, Asia, and North America.

The monthly magazine, Marine News, has continued uninterrupted over the years and is now a standard 64-page format with colour photographs, widely respected by marine historians and those in the marine industry.

The Central Record and the Photo Libraries have both expanded to enormous size and provide information to members seeking research back to very early times.

The “Mutual Interests” scheme is still popular today. And what started out as a supplement to Marine News — the Warship Supplement — is now its own 52-page publication devoted to naval affairs around the world. Warships is published quarterly for those members interested in navies around the world.

Since the Society’s first publication on the Albyn Line in 1950, it has now produced or been directly involved in the publication of over 135 books on various shipping companies around the world. We now have available reprints of “Yard Lists” covering thousands of newbuilds and going back to the late 1800’s. Indices for both Marine News and Warships are available back to early 1950’s.

Over the years, nearly every task within the Society has been carried out by volunteer members, from their own homes. There are no paid employees. There is no “Head Office” (or “Home Office”). But with the vast resources available to each volunteer (usually from within his or her own collections, it is possible to meet the thousands of marine-related requests received each year from its members.

Today, a large team of volunteer members provide other members with assistance in their research on ships and shipping matters, sometimes going back to very early times. Looking ahead, the future appears very bright for the World Ship Society. New members are joining daily and with the introduction of some services on-line or through the Internet, we hope to attract more of the computer-knowledgeable potential members from every part of the world.

But for the information of the “Old Timers”, don’t despair — the introduction of on-line services is meant to augment what has been traditional for the past 50 years, not replace it. Once again the world is undergoing an exciting change in ships, with builders’ yards unable to cope with the orders they have received. New sophisticated vessels are now being launched to meet the latest SOLAS standards and that means more ships to research and more history to record and investigate. And that is what the World Ship Society is all about — studying and researching ships — whether it be the modern “big boxes”, or the old traditional sailing vessels, or warships past and present.

The foregoing history summary is taken from the notes of the late Cliff Parsons. His notes cover the period from inception to January 1952. The Webmaster is looking for someone in the Society to fill in the remaining years with a format similar to the foregoing. If you can help, please contact us