Lloyd's Register and the First World War

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Lloyd's Register was immediately thrust into the Allied war effort. At the time, Lloyd's Register's staff comprised of 360 Surveyors and more than 100 Clerks. Senior members of the Society's staff were seconded to the British military, including Chief Ship Surveyor Sir Wescott Abell, (who became Technical Adviser to the Controller of Shipping) and Surveyors were required to inspect both naval and merchant vessels. The sheer volume of the Society's work was unprecedented. From 1914 to 1919, nearly 10 million tons of new shipping were specially surveyed and classed by Lloyd's Register. To cope with demand, retired Surveyors were even recalled to work.

Surveyors in hostile territories were recalled to London for their own safety. Unfortunately, two Surveyors were unable to escape. George Dykes (Principal Surveyor for the German ports of the Baltic and North Sea) and James Dykes (Surveyor stationed at Fiume) were interned by German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Both James and George Dykes were released after the end of the war. Although there is no admission of this in our records, we believe that George was James' father.

Clerical staff also played an important role in the Society's work throughout the First World War. The Posting Department at Southwark ensured the Register Book was regularly amended with new builds and war losses despite frequent bombing raids by German zeppelins.

Posting House Ammendments to RB

Due to the sensitive material contained in it, restrictions were placed on the Register Book, such as its removal from overseas circulation. However, the Register Book did reach German hands and was subsequently copied. The copies were marked 'AUSZUG', and were placed onboard every warship and submarine in the Imperial German Navy. The Register Book even featured in a propaganda film made by the Germans extolling the success of their U-boat campaign - Der magische Gürtel (The Enchanted Circle). The film shows U-35 commander, Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière, striking out the Brisbane River entry from the Book after successfully sinking her.

1916-7 AUSZUG RB

Of the 500 members of staff employed by Lloyd's Register, 111 joined the colours. The majority of the enlistees worked in the Posting Department or were Clerks. Most of the Surveyors employed by the Society were exempt from service on the front line, due to their specialist expertise, a point that was highlighted in the Annals of Lloyd's Register: 

In view of the national importance of the work in which the Society was engaged, it was found impracticable to release many of the Society's Officers for enlistment in the fighting forces; but, notwithstanding this fact, 111 members of the staff saw active service with the Allied Forces, 2 with the French Army, 12 with the Royal Navy, 3 with the Royal Air Force, and 91 with the British Army. Of this number, 15 gained decorations or were mentioned in despatches, and 15 made the supreme sacrifice. Erected in their honour and remembrance, the Society's War Memorial, designed and executed by Mr. F. Arnold Wright, R.B.S., occupies a prominent position in the entrance hall of the Head Office in Fenchurch Street.

Lloyd's Register's services for both the British and Allied Governments also included:

  • Advice on the testing of new types of auxiliary vessels
  • Testing and inspection of materials in the USA for the British Government
  • Inspection of 1.4 million tons of shell steel in Britain for the Government of France
  • Inspection of almost 8 million tons of ship and boiler steel
  • Condition surveys on vessels requisitioned by the Allied Governments and on those surrendered under the Peace Treaty
  • Adoption of the technique to build ships from ferro-concrete
  • Revival of the Rules for Wooden Ships for 700 vessels built in Canada and the USA
  • Standard Ship Programme launched in 1917