Weekend Watching: The Little Ships of England

This fun contemporary documentary details the effort put into the construction of a fleet of wooden vessels – from small civilian boats to minesweepers – for the defense of Britain in World War II.

Among other things, it’s a fascinating look at the total war in which Britain was engaged that was unknown in the US. All of the nations resources were put into the effort, from forests to high schoolers. The young teenager showing up to serve as a learner (he couldn’t have been more than 15) was sobering, as was a look at how the ships were built of timber, oakum, and tar. That the Royal Navy was sending men to sea in wooden ships in an age of steel is a tribute both to the skill of her shipwrights and the courage of her men.

The film is also an oblique reminder that we have, for whatever reason, given up on wood for fiberglass in our small ships, and that it may be time for a reconsideration of the value of wooden vessels in modern war.

Finally, it is a reminder that great is ever the enemy of good enough. Britain needed hulls, and it understood that getting ships to sea trumped any compunctions about looking like a second-rate force.

The film is about 15 minutes long. Enjoy.


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