The Royal Yacht Britannia
HMY Britannia at Ship Point with her escort HMCS Yukon astern MV Coho in Victoria’s Inner Harbour in 1971.
, is the former royal yacht of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in service from 1954 until 1997. She was the 83rd such vessel since King Charles II acceded to the throne in 1660, and is the second royal yacht to bear the name, the first being the racing cutter built for the Prince of Wales in 1893.
During her 43-year career HMY Britannia conveyed the Queen, other members of the Royal Family and various dignitaries on 696 foreign visits and 272 visits in British waters. She steamed 1,087,623 nautical miles (2,014,278 km).
1971 Royal Visit
The Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Anne marked the centennial of British Columbia’s entry into Canadian Confederation by visiting Victoria, Vancouver, and Tofino, aboard HMY Britannia in 1971. The vessel then sailed to Comox, mooring in her harbour and flying to Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, William Lake from CFB Comox.
Today, she is an award-winning visitor attraction and evening events venue permanently berthed at Ocean Terminal, Leith, in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is visited by over 300,000 tourists each year.
HMY Britannia was built at John Brown & Co. Ltd shipyard in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. She was launched by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 April 1953, and commissioned on 11 January 1954. The ship was designed with three masts: a 133-foot (41 m) foremast, a 139-foot (42 m) mainmast, and a 118-foot (36 m) mizzenmast. The top aerial on the foremast and the top 20 feet (6.1 m) of the mainmast were hinged to allow the ship to pass under bridges.
HMY Britannia was designed to be converted into a hospital ship in time of war, although this capability was never used. In the event of nuclear war, it was intended for the Queen to take refuge aboard HMY Britannia along the northwest coast of Scotland.
The crew of HMY Britannia were known as Royal Yachtsmen, volunteers from the general service of the Royal Navy. Officers were appointed for up to two years, while Royal Yachtsmen were drafted as volunteers. After 365 days’ service they could volunteer be admitted to The Permanent Royal Yacht Service and, being accepted, served until they chose to leave the Royal Yacht Service, retired or were dismissed for medical or disciplinary reasons. As a result, some Royal Yachtsmen served for 20 years or more. The ship carried a platoon of Royal Marines and the Royal Marine Band when members of the Royal Family were on board.