Susan Auld

SUSAN Auld, a pioneering naval architect who designed battleships for the Royal Navy and the floating vessels which were used to land Allied troops in France on D-Day in 1944, has died at the Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle-upon- Tyne. She was 87.

Born Susan Denham Christie, in Tynemouth, near Newcastle, her grandfather was a founder of the company that later became the Swan Hunter Group of shipyards, and her father, John, was company chairman for many years.

Her passion for ships developed when she was still a young girl; she spent hours in the company’s boatyards and even performed some ship launching ceremonies.

She went on to study naval architecture at Durham University under the highly-regarded Sir Westcott Abell.

After graduating in 1936, she joined the design office of Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, as the company was then known, on Tyneside.

However, the male workforce did not readily accept her role in the yard; many subscribed to the superstition that it was bad luck to allow women on ships during construction.

So Auld inspected her ships on Saturday afternoons, after the workers had gone home for the weekend.

However, as the Second World War approached, attitudes were forced to change and the shipyard began the urgent task of producing combat vessels, including the battleship, Anson, and the aircraft carrier, Albion.

Auld later helped design and construct caissons, the floating vessels used by Allied troops to land in France on D-Day.

After the war ended, she returned to designing passenger and cargo ships, including the passenger vessel, Leda, which plied a route between Tyneside and Norway.

After her marriage to John Auld in 1952, she left the shipyard, but wrote a regular feature for the in-house magazine, The Shipyard. Using a pseudonym, she gently made fun of the way ship launches and trials were conducted.

Auld is survived by her husband and two sons.

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