*Photo of Devonport Dockyard, 3rd April 1964, courtesy of HMS SEAHAWK staff at RNAS Culdrose.
Hundreds of Plymouth families have been affected by asbestos related disease caused by exposure in Devonport Dockyard. Breathing asbestos dust can cause respiratory difficulties and sometimes causes diseases which can be fatal. Usually symptoms do not develop until many years after exposure to asbestos.
Dockyard workers were rarely properly protected and would often work alongside specialist gangs employed to remove asbestos lagging from pipes and fittings from ships being refitted. Whilst in later years the lagging gangs were given special overalls and masks to wear, others working alongside them and breathing the same air were not protected. Generally, even equipment given to the specialist teams was inadequate. It was a matter of “too little, too late.”
The families of two former dockyard workers: Bob Taylor and Brian Kippax (known at work as “Steve Kippax”), would like to trace former colleagues from Devonport Dockyard who were exposed to asbestos whilst working alongside their loved ones.
Bob Taylor (formerly of Saltash) sadly died of mesothelioma, an asbestos related cancer, in March of this year. He joined the dockyard in 1960 as an apprentice electrical fitter, later qualifying and working as an electrical fitter throughout the 1960s and 70s. In later years, he worked abroad for a while before returning to work at the dockyard until retirement.
His family think it was during the 1960s and 1970s that he was frequently working onboard ships being refitted and was exposed to asbestos dust. Workmates might remember him as an athletic individual, who was one of the founder members of the Saltash Rugby Football Club.
Steve Kippax (known to his family as Brian) was born in 1934 and served in the Coldstream Guards, mainly in Germany. He worked at Devonport dockyard for much of the rest of his career. He lived in St Budeaux, Plymouth. His family believe his main contact with asbestos occurred in the 1960s and 70s, when he was employed as a slinger and then in the cleaning and painting section, working on board ships.
Fellow workers might recall Steve as, tragically, his wife died during his time at the dockyard, when his children were still very young. After a long illness Mr Kippax sadly died of mesothelioma in July of this year at the age of 85.
We would be grateful to hear from anyone who can recall working on board ships with Bob Taylor or Steve Kippax, so that we might help their families seek justice.