Company History

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The Vosper Company was founded in 1871 by Herbert E. Vosper, a pioneer in the development of marine propulsion machinery and builder of small coastal craft and motor yachts. In 1931 Commander Peter du Cane assumed control of the company and it was under his guidance that it began to take the quest for speed at sea seriously. His enthusiasm for speed, practical engineering genius and mastery of seamanship attracted many kindred talents and set the course for Vosper’s future development. Under his direction the company designed many successful naval and commercial high speed craft including Sir Malcolm Campbell’s ‘Bluebird II’ which broke the world speed record in 1939 at 142mph.

During World War II over 350 motor torpedo boats (MTB’s) and motor gun boats (MGB’s) were constructed to Vosper’s designs and played a significant role in disrupting enemy shipping and protecting vital sea lanes. The dislocation of the German submarine base at St. Nazaire in 1942 following a heroic midnight raid by the Vosper designed MTB74 is typical of the invaluable contribution they made to the Allied war effort at sea.

The end of hostilities in 1945 gave Vosper the opportunity to translate the wealth of seagoing experience gained during the war years into faster and more powerfully armed patrol craft and small warship designs. These incorporated advances in engineering and weapon technology much of which was derived from the fast developing aeronautical industry. Most notable perhaps was the company’s pioneering role in the application of the gas turbine aero-engine for marine propulsion and the adoption of aircraft design techniques for stressing the structures of high speed craft. Developments in high strength lightweight materials and ship hydrodynamics were also harnessed to improve performance, payload and reliability.

The late 70’s were a difficult time for all British shipbuilders with the election of a new Labour Government. In anticipation of nationalisation 1977 Vosper plc was formed under the ownership of Vosper Thornycroft (UK) Ltd., Vosper Private Ltd, Vosper Inc., and Yarrow plc.

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