Obituary: David W. Simmonds, 1921 - 2015

David Simmonds was born in 1921 in Letchworth, Herts. In 1938 he was apprenticed to James Taylor (Chertsey) Ltd, on the Thames. He had an incredible five years at this yard which was unique and entirely self contained – building vessels up to 110 feet (33.5m) long.

He then became a Royal Navy Shipwright/Diver serving in the Levant Station. In 1946 he was de-mobbed, but as there was no work available he joined with a friend to repair boats at Bosham, near Chichester.

David Simmonds then contracted to design a 20 foot fishing boat. In 1950 he joined a small yard in Swanwick to design and build Sarcelle a 25 foot Sloop. About 6 of these boats were built, and much later he saw one as far afield as St Lucia.

David Simmonds joined Port Hamble in 1952 in the Sales Department, but they soon found he had other talents and he set up the production line for the Herreshoff “Islanders” and half a dozen strip planked convertible motor and sailing boats for an American company in Maine. He designed and built the Pacemaker series of small power boats of which he raced twice in the early Cowes Torquay powerboat races. He also designed many other craft built by the yard including the Horizon class 32 foot (9.8m) motor sailers. He became Works Director and In-house Designer with two draughtsmen to help in a very busy time.

He was one of the key figures in setting up the Ship Building Industry Training Board to train new apprentices in the first year of their apprenticeship full time at a purpose built training centre at Woolston, Southampton on the bombed out site of SuperMarine’s air craft factory in 1966. This was the fore runner of all the yacht and boat building training schools that have appeared in the UK since. Port Hamble during this period built several large wooden Fred Parker designed motor yachts along with Laurent Giles and Arthur Robb sailing yachts.

After leaving Port Hamble, in 1967 he set up a new enterprise in the West Indies, Antigua Slipway Ltd and as Managing Director, prospered until his retirement at 65 years. He continued as a Surveyor and Consultant, however, and claimed to have finally retired in 2000.

In 2009 he received Honorary Status of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects having been a member continuously for 60 years.

He lead a busy existence in Antigua, until failing health caught up with him on Thursday the 26th March 2015 in Antigua.

He leaves a widow Maggie, son Paul and daughters Virginia and Sue.


With thanks to Charles Lawrence, author of Pacemakers from Port Hamble, 2nd edition, 2013, in which much of this biography first appeared.