History of the WSS

The World Ship Society was originally the “brain-child” of Michael Crowdy and was 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. 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 the A5 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. Michael was soon in contact with a number of shipping personalities of the era including Francis McMurtrie, Editor of Jane’s Fighting Ships; Cdr. A.C. Hardy and Dr. Oscar Parkes. 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 approved. Today, more than 70 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. What started out as a supplement to Marine News — the Warship Supplement — is now its own 40-page quarterly publication devoted to naval affairs 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 140 books on various shipping companies around the world. We 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. Marine News became a digital publication in 2012 and, in 2014, was joined by a monthly digital Supplement. Following the publication of Warships No. 200 in December 2000, the magazine became a quarterly digital publication in the Supplement series appearing in February, May, August and November each year.

The introduction of on-line services augments what has been traditional for the past 70 years rather than replacing it. Once again, the world is experiencing an exciting change in ships with new sophisticated vessels being launched to meet the latest SOLAS standards as well as reducing the shipping industry’s impact on climate.  All this means that are 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.

Read next Aims & Objectives