Unit History: HMY Britannia
Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia was the 83rd Royal Yacht since King Charles II in 1660. She is the 2nd Royal yacht to be called HMY Britannia, the first being the famous racing cutter built for Prince Edward in 1893. She is now permanently moored as an exhibition ship at Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh, Scotland.
HMY Britannia was built at the shipyard of John Brown & Co. Ltd in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, being launched by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 16 April 1953 and commissioned on 11 January 1954. During her career as Royal Yacht (she was designed to be converted into a hospital ship in time of war, though this facility was never used), she conveyed the Queen, other members of the Royal Family, and various dignitaries on 696 foreign visits and 272 visits in British waters. The Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales took a honeymoon cruise aboard Britannia in 1981. She also evacuated over 1,000 refugees from the civil war in Aden in 1986. Guests included United States General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commented when he saw the engines: "Well, I’ve now seen the museum pieces. Where are the real engines?"
Britannia logged over a million nautical miles during which she visited nations around the globe.
20 July 1959 - HMY Britannia sailed the newly opened Saint Lawrence Seaway enroute to Chicago where she docked. Queens Landing was named in honour of the point where Elizabeth II came to shore (across from Buckingham Fountain in Chicago Harbor) marking the first visit of a reigning British monarch to Chicago.
In 1997, John Major’s Conservative government committed itself to replacing the Royal Yacht if re-elected, while the Labour Party declined to disclose its plans for the vessel. Following Labour’s victory on 1 May 1997 it was announced that the vessel would be retired and no replacement would be built. The Conservative government argued that the cost of the vessel was justified by its role in foreign policy and promoting British interests abroad. When cancelling the replacement of the vessel, the new Labour government argued that the expenditure could not be justified given the other pressures on the defence budget (from which it would be funded and maintained). Proposals for the construction of a new royal yacht, perhaps financed through a loan or by the sovereign’s own funds, have since made little headway.
The Royal Yacht’s last foreign mission was to convey the last British governor of Hong Kong; The Lord Patten of Barnes, and The Prince of Wales, away from Hong Kong after the handover of the British colony to the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997. Britannia was decommissioned on 11 December 1997
There was some controversy over the siting of the ship, with some arguing that she would be better moored in Glasgow, where she was built, than in Edinburgh, to which the yacht had few links. However, her positioning in Leith coincided with a redevelopment of the harbour area.
Her Majesty The Queen attended the decommissioning, along with most of the senior members of the Royal Family, and the normally impassive monarch famously shed a tear publicly after disembarking for the last time.
Britannia is now permanently moored as an exhibition ship at Leith harbour, Edinburgh, Scotland. Entrance to the yacht is via the Ocean Terminal development. She is available for rental as a conference and banqueting venue. On May 18, 2006 Swiss Hollywood star and legendary first Bond girl Ursula Andress celebrated her 70th birthday on board the Royal Yacht. As of December 9th, 2007, Britannia was visible on Google Earth, docked along side the IAS building.