Canadian Vickers Limited was an aircraft and shipbuilding company that operated in Canada during the early part of the 20th century until 1944. A subsidiary of the UK parent, it built its own aircraft designs as well as others under licence. Canadair absorbed the Canadian Vickers Ltd. aircraft operations in November 1944.
|Fate||aircraft division absorbed into Canadair in 1944|
|Successor||Canadair and Versatile Vickers (using Canadian Vickers as brand only)|
|Defunct||1944 (aircraft operations)|
1990 (rail car operations, as Versatile Vickers)
|Headquarters||Montreal, Quebec, Canada|
In 1907 British shipbuilding and weapons manufacturing conglomerate Vickers Sons & Maxim began investigating possible locations for a shipyard in Montreal. Vickers Sons & Maxim intended to use the shipyard as a repair facility for transatlantic shipping traffic entering Montreal. Vickers Sons & Maxim was invited by the Government of Canada in 1911 to establish a Canadian division to manufacture vessels for the nascent Royal Canadian Navy. According to naval historian Marc Milner, "the Harbour Commission and the city of Maisonneuve offered Vickers a first-class location" to establish the yard, and "an extended lease on the land and deferred taxes." Vickers Sons & Maxim established Canadian Vickers Ltd. in June 1911 and constructed the shipyard between Rue Notre-Dame and the St. Lawrence River. Canadian Vickers ordered the construction of a large floating drydock, which was opened in 1912. Due to the establishment of Canadian Vickers, Montreal became one of Canada's leading shipbuilding centres. The shipyard's first full year of operation was 1914, a year marked by the beginning of the First World War.
During the First World War the yard assembled American-designed Holland 602 type submarines on behalf of the British Royal Navy. The hulls were Canadian-built, but the machinery and equipment were American. They were known as the British H-class submarine in the Royal Navy and were the first submarines to cross the Atlantic Ocean under their own power. Canadian Vickers (along with Polson Iron Works of Toronto) also constructed the first vessels specifically designed for the Royal Canadian Navy, the Battle-class naval trawlers.
- H1 – Launched May 1915
- H2 – Launched June 1915
- H3 – Launched June 1915. Mined and sunk July 1916
- H4 – Launched June 1915
- H5 – Launched June 1915. Rammed and sunk March 1918
- H6 – Launched June 1915. Interned and purchased by the Dutch January 1916
- H7 – Launched June 1915
- H8 – Launched June 1915
- H9 – Launched June 1915
- H10 – Launched June 1915. Disappeared 1918
This shipyard would go on to produce many civilian and military ships in Canada, including:
- St. Laurent-class destroyer
- Restigouche-class destroyer
- Mackenzie-class destroyer
- Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers
- floating drydock General Georges P Vanier in 1964 and renamed as Scotia Dock II by Halifax Shipyard; damaged and scrapped 2010
Canadian Vickers also manufactured luxury yachts and vessels that were later converted as yachts:
- Bart Roberts – built in 1963 as icebreaker and converted as a yacht in 2001
- Club Atlantic – motor yacht built in 1967
- Christina O – built in 1943 as HMCS Stormont (K327) and converted as yacht in 1954; renamed as Christina in 1954, Argo in 1978 and current named in 1998
Following the First World War, labour militancy grew within Quebec. In June 1919, Canadian Vickers workers led labour action in Montreal as part of larger strike actions within the shipbuilding industry. The labour strike was a result of demands for maximum 8-hour shifts. Employees of Canadian Vickers coordinated with other work forces in Montreal, though shortly after it began, disagreements over a general strike led the labour action to falter. The end of the First World War also saw a reduction of shipping orders and increased competition among shipbuilders. This led to consolidation among shipyards and Canadian Vickers' parent company, Vickers merged with Armstrong Whitworth to form Vickers-Armstrongs. In 1926, Frank Ross of Montreal Dry Dock Limited and two business partners sought to acquire Canadian Vickers from its parent company. Negotiations began in March and were agreed to in November. In 1928, Ross merged Montreal Dry Dock Ltd. with Canadian Vickers. During the 1930s, the yard survived the Great Depression with repair contracts and constructing manufacturing turbines and structural steel.
The shipyard was reacquired by Vickers in 1956. It was renamed Vickers Canada Limited in 1978 after being sold to Canadian interests and renamed several times again by the last owners Marine Industries, eventually (as Versatile Vickers Inc in 1981 and MIL Vickers in 1987). Shipbuiding operations ceased by 1988.
Canadian Vickers ventured into aircraft manufacturing in 1923 when it won a contract to supply Vickers Viking flying boats to the recently formed Canadian Air Force (Royal Canadian Air Force from 1924). Between 1923 and 1944, Canadian Vickers produced over 400 aircraft, some of which were original Vickers' designs while the remainder were other manufacturers' designs built under license.
In July 1941, the Canadian government awarded Canadian Vickers a contract to produce PBV-1 "Canso" amphibians (a version of the Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat) for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Many of the aircraft were delivered to the United States Navy as the PBV-1; also to the United States Army Air Forces as the OA-10A for rescue work.
To speed Canso production, the government authorized construction of a new manufacturing facility at Cartierville Airport in Ville Saint Laurent, on the north-western outskirts of Montreal, and appointed Canadian Vickers to manage the plant's operation on the government's behalf. Independently Boeing also produced Catalinas in Canada.
In 1944, business pressure compelled Canadian Vickers to ask the government to relieve it of its management responsibilities regarding the Cartierville plant. Ottawa agreed and entered into a management contract with Canadair Limited, a new company founded by a small group of former senior Canadian Vickers personnel headed by Benjamin W. Franklin (no relation to his famous namesake). On 4 November 1944, Canadair Limited took over operation of the plant. In September 1946, Canadair Limited and the plant were acquired by the Electric Boat Company of Groton, Connecticut.
In 1952, Electric Boat bought Consolidated Vultee and combined it, Canadair, and several smaller companies to form General Dynamics Corporation. General Dynamics later became one of the largest U.S. aerospace corporations. Canadair remained a General Dynamics subsidiary until January 1976 when it was re-acquired by the Canadian government.
In December 1986, the government again sold Canadair, this time to Bombardier Inc., a Quebec-based international conglomerate. Today, Canadair itself no longer exists as a separate entity having been absorbed into Bombardier Aerospace.
Canadian Vickers aircraft designs
- Vickers Viking IV (six built)
- Avro 504N (13 built)
- Avro 552 (14 built)
- Curtiss HS-3L (three built)
- Fairchild FC-2 (11 built)
- Fokker Super Universal (15 built)
- Bellanca Pacemaker (six built)
- Northrop Delta (three Mk I and 17 Mk II built) (First all-metal stressed-skin aircraft built in Canada)
- Supermarine Stranraer (40 built)
- Canadian Vickers PBV-1 Canso (30 built at Vickers, 282 at Cartierville/Canadair plant)
Other aircraft work
Versatile Vickers used the Canadian former Vickers plant briefly to build rail cars in the 1960s and 1970s during the period of turmoil at the shipyard in Montreal. The rail car products were mostly built under contract, or licensed from other rail car builders or as joint production efforts (such as the MR-63 subway cars for the Montreal Metro with technical support from CIMT-Lorraine which also designed the rubber-tired system for some of the Paris Métro lines). In 1979 Vickers name was changed from Canadian Vickers Ltd. to Vickers Canada, Inc. following the purchase of its shares by the Canadian management from the British holding company. In 1981 the name was again changed to Versatile Vickers, Inc. Versatile Vickers went out of business in 1990.
|1963–1967||MR-63 subway cars built for the Montreal Metro which opened in 1966, and were based on GEC Alsthom's MP 59 trains for the Paris Metro. Retired 2016–2018.|
|1969||Commuter Cab car (Bi-level "Town Car" coaches and gallery cars) built as a variant of the Pullman Company Gallery coaches for the Canadian Pacific Railway's Montreal suburban service; later re-classified as AMT 900 series cars. Rebuilt early 2000s and now retired.|
|1972–1977,||Car shells supplied by Canadian Vickers or the Budd Company for General Electric for Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Connecticut Department of Transportation M2 railcars.|
|1980||PATCO II railcars were manufactured by Canadian Vickers under a license from the Budd Company for the Port Authority Transit Corporation.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Canadian Vickers.|
- Linteau 1985, p. 84
- Pritchard 2011, p. 51
- Milner 2002, p. 24
- Milner 2002, p. 46
- Boutiller 1982, pp. 99–100
- Fleet, Yacht Charter. "BART ROBERTS Yacht – Canadian Vickers – Yacht Charter Fleet". yachtcharterfleet.com. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
- "CLUB ATLANTIC a Motor Yacht by Canadian Vickers Shipyards – Charter World Luxury Yachts and Superyachts". charterworld.com. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
- "CHRISTINA O a Motor Yacht by Canadian Vickers Shipyards – Charter World Luxury Yachts and Superyachts". charterworld.com. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
- Heron 1998, pp. 110–13
- Pritchard 2011, pp. 49, 51–52
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-02-28. Retrieved 2011-02-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2010-02-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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- Heron, Craig, ed. (1998). The Workers' Revolt in Canada, 1917–1925. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-8082-0.
- Linteau, Paul-Andre (1985). The Promoters' City: Building the Industrial Town of Maisonneuve 1883–1918. Translated by Robert Chodos. Toronto: James Lorimer & Company. ISBN 0-88862-782-3.
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