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The Royal Yacht Britannia, Ocean Drive, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ

Tel: 0131 555 5566 Email us: [email protected]

Royal Yacht Britannia

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Britannia was the first Royal Yacht to be built with complete ocean-going capacity and designed as a Royal residence to entertain guests around the world. When she was decommissioned in 1997, it marked the end of a long tradition of British Royal Yachts, dating back to 1660 and the reign of Charles II.

There is additional information about Britannia's specifications and construction contained in the technical paper .

VICTORIA & ALBERT III

Britannia's predecessor was the Victoria & Albert III - the first Royal Yacht not to be powered by sail. It was built for Queen Victoria, but she never stepped on board, concerned about the yacht's stability. King Edward VII did sail on the Victoria & Albert, mainly in local waters and the Mediterranean. Having served four sovereigns over 38 years and not left Northern Europe since 1911, the Victoria & Albert was decommissioned in 1939. She was eventually broken up for scrap at Faslane in 1954

Royal Yacht Britannia Black and White

THE LAST ROYAL YACHT

It was decided that a new Royal Yacht should be commissioned that could travel the globe and double as a hospital ship in time of war. It was also hoped a convalescence cruise would help the King's ailing health. The John Brown & Co shipyard in Clydebank received the order from the Admiralty for a new ship on 4 February, 1952. Sadly King George VI passed away two days later. Not only did Queen Elizabeth II now have to prepare for her new role, but she also had responsibility for the commissioning of the new Royal Yacht.

Royal Yacht Britannia Video

BUILT IN SCOTLAND

John Brown & Co was one of the most famous shipyards in the world, having built the famous liners Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. The keel of the new, as yet unnamed, Royal Yacht was laid down in June 1952. One of the last fully-riveted ships to be built with a remarkably smooth painted hull, she was finally ready to be launched on 16 April, 1953. The ship's name was a closely guarded secret, only being revealed when Queen Elizabeth II smashed a bottle of Empire wine (Champagne was considered too extravagant in post-war Britain) and announced to the expectant crowds "I name this ship Britannia… I wish success to her and all who sail in her". You can read more about getting Britannia ready for Royal service by downloading Letters from a Fish to his Admiral (below), a series of notes and letters written by Acting Captain J S Dalglish, the Officer in charge of commissioning Britannia. John Brown continued as a shipyard until they sadly closed in 2001.

royal yacht britannia falklands war

BRITANNIA COMMISSIONED

After the launch, Britannia's building work continued as her funnel and masts were installed, before beginning sea trials on 3 November 1953 off the West Coast of Scotland. On successful completion, she was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 11 January 1954. On 22 April, Britannia sailed into her first overseas port as she entered Grand Harbour, Malta. During 44 years in Royal service Britannia sailed the equivalent of once round the world for each year, calling at over 600 ports in 135 countries, including the United States of America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Building of Yacht - Royal Yacht Britannia 9

ROYAL HONEYMOONS

Britannia was an ideal Royal honeymoon venue. The Royal Yacht was very private and could sail to secluded locations. Four Royal honeymoons were enjoyed on board, Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones being the first in 1960.

Princess Margaret returns from her honeymoon

THE FIRST DAY AT SEA

As well as hosting state functions, Britannia was an ambassador for British business, promoting trade and industry around the globe. These British overseas trade missions were known as ‘Sea Days’ and an invitation to come aboard proved irresistible to the world’s leading business and political figures. The Overseas Trade Board estimated that £3 billion was made for the Exchequer as a result of commercial days on Britannia between 1991 and 1995 alone.

Commonwealth Heads Of Government taken on Britannia's Verandah Deck

EVACUATION OF ADEN, SOUTH YEMEN

At 20:00 on 17 January 1986, the Yacht dropped anchor at Khormaksar Beach. Civil war had broken out in South Yemen and ships were urgently required to evacuate British nationals and others trapped by fighting. As a non-combatant Royal Navy ship, Britannia would be able to enter territorial waters without further inflaming the conflict.

Royal Yacht Britannia Black and White

DECOMMISSION

"Looking back over forty-four years we can all reflect with pride and gratitude upon this great ship which has served the country, the Royal Navy and my family with such distinction." - Queen Elizabeth II. View the entire Paying-Off Ceremony letter below.

Royal Family RYB

OPENED AS A VISITOR ATTRACTION

After arriving in Leith, Edinburgh on 5 May 1998, The Royal Yacht Britannia opened as a visitor attraction on the 19 October 1998.

royal yacht britannia falklands war

BRITANNIA WELCOMED 5 MILLION VISITORS

The Royal Yacht Britannia, now a five-star visitor attraction and exclusive evening events venue, celebrated welcoming 5 million visitors since opening in 1998.

royal yacht britannia falklands war

OUR LUXURY FLOATING HOTEL, FINGAL, OPENED

In January 2019, our luxury floating hotel Fingal opened to the public. Fingal, a former Northern Lighthouse Board tender, had undergone a £5 million development to become a 22 cabin five-star floating hotel, berthed moments away from Britannia. In September 2023, Fingal was awarded AA Hotel of the Year Scotland.

Fingal Edinburgh - Exteriors 2

TRIPADVISOR'S NO.1 UK ATTRACTION 2023

The Royal Yacht Britannia was voted Tripadvisor's No.1 UK Attraction 2023. What a wonderful accolade for our team who passionately provide a five-star customer experience to ensure each and every visitor has a memorable time on board. Britannia had previously been awarded this prestigious accolade in 2014.

Royal Yacht Britannia Bell

CELEBRATING BRITANNIA'S 25 YEARS

19 October 2023 marks 25 wonderful years since Britannia opened to the public as a visitor attraction. During this time we have welcomed over 7 million visitors, a brilliant milestone to mark the occasion. We thank each and every visitor who has stepped aboard and look forward to welcoming many more to share our history.

Royal Yacht Britannia - Exteriors 8

Visiting Britannia

Tripadvisor’s No.1 UK Attraction 2023

royal yacht britannia falklands war

Start your tour at our entrance, currently located on the Ground Floor of Ocean Terminal. Please note that tickets purchased in person are by card/contactless only. 

Please pre-book your tickets to guarantee admission.

Click on the Visit page  for more information before you visit.

Step aboard to enjoy a great day out!

Fingal Hotel

royal yacht britannia falklands war

AA Hotel of the Year Scotland, AA five-star hotel and 2 AA Rosettes

royal yacht britannia falklands war

Learn more: fingal.co.uk

royal yacht britannia falklands war

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WHY THE RN DOESN’T NEED A ROYAL YACHT DUTY

(because they don’t defend trade or counter Russian submarines & aircraft carriers)

Featured image:

During the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review in 1977, the destroyer HMS Birmingham follows the Royal Yacht Britannia carrying H.M. Queen Elizabeth II.

Photo: Jonathan Eastland/AJAX.

Back in the day who among those who had the honour of sailing aboard warships in company with the Royal Yacht Britannia could not but admire her beauty and feel huge pride at being chosen to protect the Sovereign. But that was then and this is now. The Royal Navy of today is a shadow of its former self. Twenty or so years ago it had enough warships and people to handle the supreme honour of riding shotgun on Britannia.

In 1992 the Royal Navy had 13 destroyers and 37 frigates and 63,000 personnel. Today the RN has 17 operational destroyers and frigates, just over half the number of people and is struggling already to find enough people and ships to handle present and future tasks.

The old Royal Yacht Britannia (retired in 1997) required a complement of 250 and also a dedicated frigate as escort. That was in times when a potential threat to shipping from Al-Qaeda or ISIL did not exist. Britannia also had a protection team of Royal Marines and required a helicopter to be on hand. That all added up to another 400 (or more) people.

Do you think any of those advocating the resuscitation of the old Royal Yacht – currently a museum ship at Leith on the Forth – or construction of a new vessel ponder the full scale of what they are asking?

Bringing the 62-year-old Britannia back into service would require many millions of pounds for reconstruction to make her meet modern environmental safety requirements and also new propulsion (electric rather than steam). Even if a brand new vessel were constructed – all with the aim of becoming a flagship for post-Brexit Britain to drum up global trade – the idea of using scarce defence funds to build her would be an outrage.

Daring Class (Type 45) destroyers have to wait years for the money to pay for their own new propulsion upgrades, while there is neither the money or the people to run assault ships Albion and Bulwark at the same time. There are only an average of six frigates and destroyers on deployment safeguarding British interests, trade and citizens globally at any one time – not forgetting counter-piracy, anti-terrorism and facing down the Russians.

The idea of devoting one of them to babysitting a Royal Yacht is ludicrous. With no slack to spare, overstretch of ships and people has been a fact of life for years. Only a generation of politicians who have allowed the Royal Navy to decline precipitously over the past two decades with barely a murmur of protest could start waxing lyrical about new Royal Yachts. They have allowed the main guarantor of protection for 95 per cent of British trade that goes by sea to wither away.

Yet, when it looks like there may be a few votes in a new Royal Yacht, up they pop. Where were these people when successive cuts in RN warship numbers undermined the very basis of secure trade for the UK?

SeaSunday2023

There have been suggestions a new Royal Yacht can be built with private money, providing work for British shipyards, which is all well and good. Scottish shipyards are currently constructing three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) as a job preservation project to ensure the skills are there when the Type 26 frigate programme finally gets under way. Are the Royal Yacht advocates suggesting that vessel should take precedence over the warships?

ROYAL YACHT 2

A CGI illustration of the Type 26 future RN frigate . Image: BAE Systems.

Seafarers UK

The Royal Navy also needs a new battle damage repair ship, but currently there are no plans to buy one while the order for new Type 26 frigates has been reduced by five vessels, to just eight. They will not even replace the Type 23 frigates on a one-for-one basis. If a new Royal Yacht could be dual purpose, so that she could serve as a hospital ship, for example, might that help justify her?

During the 1982 Falklands War HMY Britannia was not allowed to perform that secondary duty. It angered a lot of people in the Navy who were going off to possibly die in defence of the realm. Perhaps the Merchant Navy rather than the Royal Navy could operate a private Royal Yacht, but she would still be a prime target (whether carrying Royals or not). She would still require protection by the Navy.

Odin considers the proposal for a new Royal Yacht and the enthusiasm for it by certain politicians and others a gross insult to the hard-working Royal Navy. It is expected to make and mend, to send warships approaching their sell-by-date to face danger with some of their systems potentially not fully operational (or fully modern) – and with possibly not a full outfit of weaponry. What the Royal Navy and the UK needs is not a new Royal Yacht, but a properly funded Fleet with more of Her Majesty’s Warships.

It also needs a boost in recruitment so that it doesn’t have to send Royal Marine cooks to serve in its massive new aircraft carriers or borrow engineers from foreign navies. Britain needs a new Royal Navy. As for a new Royal Yacht…you must be kidding.

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The Story Behind the Royal Family's Yacht, Britannia

The ship hosted four royal honeymoons in its 44 years of service.

Hmy Britannia

Often referred to as the last royal yacht, the Britannia was decommissioned in 1997, and despite some efforts , there are no signs of a new one in the near future. Though its seafaring days may be behind it (the ship now serves as a tourist attraction in Edinburgh, Scotland), the Britannia remains an important artifact and a peek behind the curtain of royal life—it even garnered a prominent place in the fifth season of The Crown . Below, a few of its most notable moments throughout history.

It was the first royal yacht designed for ocean travel.

The ship was built by John Brown & Co at the same shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland in the same location the famous ocean liners the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary were constructed. With 12,000 horsepower, the ship could travel at a maximum 22.5 knots (approximately 25 miles per hour), ideal for ocean-going diplomacy. Prior to its launch in 1953, the royal family used ships from the Royal Navy or even passenger liners for the overseas portions of the royal tour.

In its 44 years of service, the HMY Britannia traveled around 1.1 million miles.

Royal Yacht State Room

It was commissioned just two days before the death of King George VI.

The King was already in failing health by the time the designs for the HMY Britannia were submitted, and the hope was that traveling might help alleviate some of his symptoms. However, just two days after the John Brown shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland received the order the King passed away on February 6, 1952.

It would take just over a year for the ship to be completed, during which time its name remained a secret—it wasn't announced until the ship's official launch in April of 1953, less than two months before the Queen's coronation . Elizabeth cracked a bottle of English wine (in the post-war era, champagne was considered too extravagant for the launch of a ship) and announced, "I name this ship Britannia … I wish success to her and all who sail in her."

It was created to double as a hospital.

When Britannia was first envisioned, less than a decade after the end of World War II, the designers sought to make it as functional as possible, crafting a space that could be converted from an ocean-going royal residence to a seafaring hospital during any possible future wartime. The main veranda was laid out and re-enforced so that it could support a helicopter landing and the laundry was made much larger than on a standard naval vessel to accommodate the potential patients. Though the ship was never actually put to that purpose, it was pressed into service on a rescue mission to help evacuate European nationals from South Yemen in 1986.

The ship was home to a lot of history.

Long before it became a floating museum, the Britannia had an eye for history. The gold and white binnacle housed on the ship's veranda deck was originally part of the HMY Royal George , a royal yacht that served Queen Victoria . Likewise, some of the bed linens used by Queen Elizabeth aboard the vessel were originally made for Victoria's bed for one of the previous royal yachts.

Britannia's steering wheel was lifted from her namesake, the racing yacht HMY Britannia , built in 1893 for King Edward VII .

Royal Yacht Dining Room

It was redesigned to be less opulent.

Despite the sense of luxury that the term "royal yacht" inspires, the Queen and Prince Philip were actually concerned when they began overseeing the project in 1952 that the original interior design plans by the design firm McInnes Gardner & Partners were too lavish for a country still recovering from the war. The interiors were ultimately redesigned by Sir Hugh Casson and received very minimal updates throughout her 44 years of service.

But it still had homey touches—by royal standards.

Suffice to say that even low-key royal living is a fairly high class. In addition to the 56-seat State Dining Room, which hosted luminaries including Winston Churchill, Noel Coward, Nelson Mandela, and multiple US Presidents, the ship also sported a formal staircase where the Queen would greet guests, separate bedrooms and sitting rooms for both Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, and a phone system designed to match the unique configurations of Buckingham Palace's telephones.

BRITANNIA Queen's bedroom

In the early years of the Britannia's life it was also home to the Queen's Rolls-Royce Phantom V which was hoisted and lowered from a special garage compartment at port so that the Queen could drive her own car at each location. The space was ever so slightly too small, forcing the bumpers to be removed in order to get it into the garage without damage and then refitted when the car was removed. Ultimately Elizabeth began using cars provided for her at port instead and the garage was converted into a storage area for beer.

The steering crew couldn't see where they were going.

Life on board the HMY Britannia was far from typical for her crew. To begin with, due to the prestige and pressure of the position, the commanding officer of the royal yacht was always a flag officer, most commonly a Rear Admiral, although the first two to serve were Vice Admirals, and Britannia 's final CO was a Commodore.

While working, the crew reportedly used hand signals to communicate rather than shouting orders, in order to maintain a sense of quiet and calm for the royal residents. It was also the last ship in the royal navy where the crew members slept in hammocks, a practice that they maintained until 1973.

Hmy Britannia

Perhaps the most unusual element of the ship's functioning, though, was the steering. While on most ships, the steering wheel sits on the bridge, overlooking the front of the vessel, Britannia 's was on the deck below, in the wheelhouse, which meant that the yachtsmen who were actually doing the steering couldn't see where they were going. The crew got around this rather surprising pitfall by using voice pipes from the bridge to confer navigational orders.

It was a royal honeymoon essential.

No fewer than four royal couples celebrated their honeymoons in the HMY Britannia 's honeymoon suite (the only room onboard with a double bed.)

Princess Margaret started the tradition in 1960 for her Caribbean honeymoon with Anthony Armstrong-Jones , a quiet, formal affair where dinners were taken in full evening dress every night. Things didn't go quite as smoothly for Princess Anne on her honeymoon with Captain Mark Phillips in 1973—storms and 20-foot waves left the couple stricken with seasickness for the first week of their Caribbean cruise. Prince Charles and Princess Diana famously spent their 1981 honeymoon on a Mediterranean cruise aboard the yacht. The crew managed to duck the press so efficiently they garnered the nickname "the ghost ship." The final royal honeymoon aboard the Britannia was taken by Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson , Duchess of York in 1986 when the couple traveled around the Azores.

In memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, who was killed in an automobile accident in Paris, France on August 31, 1997.

And a family vacation spot.

In addition to her diplomatic duties on royal tours and her service as a post-wedding retreat, the Britannia was also a vessel for family vacations. During the summer months, the royal family would often take off on what became known as the Western Isles tour, cruising around the western isles of Scotland. During the trip, the family would play games and have barbecues on the islands. The stairway off of the veranda was sometimes even converted into a waterslide for the younger royals. The tour often included a stop off at the Castle of Mey to visit the Queen Mother, then making berth in Aberdeen so that the Queen could travel to her favorite summer home, Balmoral .

Queen Crying At Britannia

The Queen openly wept when HMY Britannia was decommissioned in 1997.

With so many memories around the yacht, it's not hard to understand why the decommissioning of the Britannia was upsetting for the royal family. Though plans were initially drawn up for a replacement yacht, the government ultimately determined not to fund the effort. After the Queen officially took her leave of it in 1997, the ship was placed in the port of Leith in Scotland where it serves as a floating museum and events venue . All of the clocks on board remain stopped at 3:01, the exact time that Her Majesty disembarked for the last time.

Zara Phillips And Mike Tindall Host Pre Wedding Party On Britannia

It was used for a reception for Zara Phillips before her wedding.

Though it's no longer used as their private vessel, the Britannia 's connection to the royal family didn't end in 1997. In 2011 on the night before her wedding, the Queen's oldest granddaughter Zara Phillips contracted the ship for a reception. Though her grandmother wasn't in attendance Zara celebrated her upcoming marriage to Mike Tindall onboard along with her mother and her cousins Prince Harry, Prince William and Kate, Princess Eugenie, and Princess Beatrice.

preview for The Crown: Season 5 - Official Trailer (Netflix)

Lauren Hubbard is a freelance writer and Town & Country contributor who covers beauty, shopping, entertainment, travel, home decor, wine, and cocktails.

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Falklands 40: Conflict Overview

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royal yacht britannia falklands war

Falklands 40

Thursday 14 June 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands following the invasion by Argentina on 2 April 1982.

Over 250 British personnel lost their lives during the conflict and many others made great personal sacrifices. The Royal Navy played a crucial role in the war and this blog seeks to provide an overview of the conflict.

Conflict overview

40 years ago, Argentina invaded a group of islands in the South Atlantic. To Britain the largest are the 'Falkland Islands' - 8000 miles away but have been a British territory since 1833. The conflict also included the Falkland territorial dependencies of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

The invasion started an intensely fought, 11-week conflict in which 255 British personnel were killed and 777 wounded, 649 Argentinian personnel were killed and three Falkland Islanders.

The Falklands conflict was part of a much longer dispute between Argentina and Britain over the territories overarching authority.

The start of the conflict

On 2 April 1982, the day Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, the Government acted quickly and ordered a Royal Navy task force to re-take the islands.

Many other British military personnel were involved too, officially the Falklands conflict was called ‘Operation 'Corporate'.

Who was in command?

For the British forces, Commander-in-Chief Fleet, Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse was in overall command. Rear Admiral ‘Sandy’ Woodward commanded the carrier task group while Commodore Mike Clapp was in charge of the amphibious ships. At the time Margaret Thatcher was the British Prime Minister.

The Argentinian Governor of the Falklands was Mario Menéndez. For the Argentinian forces, Juan Lombardo was Commander-in-Chief of the South Atlantic Theatre of Operations and is widely considered the instigator for the invasion. Leopoldo Galtieri was President at the time, he was an Argentine general and politician.

Important considerations

It’s important to note that there are internationally known rules of engagement around conflict. This determines how people can act and behave in different locations or circumstances. For example, even at sea, different bodies of water have different rules.

During the Falklands there was temporary 200 mile total exclusion zone set up to give boundaries to the conflict. Entry to this area means you would have been at risk of an attack.

This wasn’t declared initially but was defined on the 30 April by the British Government.

What happened and when?

The first task was to retake the island of South Georgia, a mission that included helicopters sinking the Argentine submarine Santa Fe.

On nearing the Falklands, Woodward’s concerns over attack led to his being granted approval by the Government to fire on the Argentinian cruiser, General Belgrano. This is and remains a highly controversial decision due to the ship’s location outside the total exclusion zone.

Throughout May, Argentina responded with significant air attacks and the Royal Navy experienced a series of setbacks including the sinking of HMS Sheffield, Ardent, Antelope and Coventry.

Another major setback of the British campaign was the destruction of vital helicopters and other supplies being transported on the Atlantic Conveyor, a container ship that had been repurposed for the conflict. The ship was badly damaged in an Argentinian attack.

The loss of the helicopters created major transport difficulties for British operations leaving them reliant on the navy to transport troops which made them vulnerable to further attack and sinkings.

It also meant the Royal Marines had to yomp (march) 56 miles in three days across the Falklands before engaging the Argentinians.

Conflict conclusion

As the ground assault began on the Falklands capital, Port Stanley, RAF Harriers provided reinforcements to Royal Marine Commandos and naval gunfire.

There were fierce battles and the Argentinians responded to the move on Port Stanley by targeting and damaging HMS Glamorgan.

After hand-to-hand combat with Argentinian troops, the British eventually took the higher ground which ultimately gave them the strategic advantage.

The Argentinians surrendered on 14 June.

The Falkland Islands remains a dependent territory of Britain.

Header image: HMS Invincible leaving for the Falklands in 1982

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royal yacht britannia falklands war

The Falklands conflict at sea

From combat to life at sea, Argentine and British naval forces recall their experiences

01 Apr 2022

2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the Falklands conflict, a 74-day conflict between Argentine and British forces that resulted in more than 3,000 casualties. Curator Andrew Choong examines the war from a naval perspective, with personal testimony from both sides.

by Andrew Choong, Curator of Historic Photographs and Ship Plans

Early in the morning of 2 April 1982, Argentine Marines conducted amphibious landings in the vicinity of Port Stanley, the largest town and capital of the Falkland Islands.

The landings were briefly resisted by the small garrison of Royal Marines, but Argentine numbers told. Within a few hours, the islands had been secured.

Argentina’s dictatorial ruler General Leopoldo Galtieri was confident that British economic and military weakness would preclude any effective response. In a discussion with US diplomat Vernon Walters, Galtieri dismissed any suggestion that Margaret Thatcher’s government would enter hostilities with the remark, “That woman wouldn’t dare!”

It was an unfortunate error of judgement, for on 5 April the first elements of a British naval task force began making their way towards the South Atlantic.

This would ultimately comprise a formidable assemblage of over a hundred warships, auxiliaries and STUFT. The latter stood for Ships Taken Up From Trade, civilian vessels and their crews requisitioned for the war effort and soon to find themselves in harm’s way.

Thus began the Falklands War, a short yet costly conflict, made all the more tragic by the fact that neither side really wanted it.  

Personal accounts from the Falklands War

Carlos B. Castro Madero was an officer aboard the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano , and had been with the ship for three months when operations against the Falklands commenced.

He remembered that “although we knew there was something going on, we knew nothing specific. All the Malvinas planning was done totally in secret, so we were really surprised by what happened.”

Taken to extremes, this level of operational security could, and ultimately did, hinder effective cooperation between the Argentine navy, army and air force.

Confusion of a rather different sort reigned among some ships of the British task force, as the Royal Navy’s ships made the rapid transition to a war footing.

In his diary entry for 12 April, Ken Napier of HMS Plymouth recorded the improvisation required to store his ship for an extended deployment.

"We got plenty of meat (frozen): less tinned than we wanted," he wrote. "This was stored throughout the ship, including some on the upper deck, 3 naval stores, the catering office itself and sacks in the Senior Rates Dining Hall.”

British and Argentine naval forces

Although the Falklands were to be the scene of bitter fighting ashore, the role of naval power was crucial. The Argentines possessed formidable naval forces that included an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, submarines and a number of small craft. These were supported by significant air assets from nearby bases.

The British brought a somewhat more powerful fleet to bear, but this advantage was nullified by their much smaller number of aircraft, the need to protect the logistical support and transport ships in the task force, and lastly the fact that they were operating at a distance of almost 4,000 miles from Ascension Island, their nearest base.

From 21 May, British troop landings made it necessary for British ships to operate close inshore, adding to the significant risk posed by air attack. 

The Falklands War at sea

For the men involved in this bitter ten-week conflict, life at sea seemed to revolve around a state of endless readiness punctuated by short, intense moments of terrifying combat.

Black and white photograph of a ship on fire in the Falklands

Madero recalled the atmosphere early in the campaign: “I have to say the men responded very well. We knew we were on a very risky operation so we trained very hard so we could do well for our country.”

A more constant nuisance than the enemy was the climate, as noted by Napier: “The weather changes extremely quickly, going from calm with sun to a full blizzard and gale in an hour…the wind was very cold and wild…I have got quite tanned on my face from the sun and wind.”

Initially wary of engaging the British task force, the Argentines focused solely on air attacks.

Towards the end of April, it was felt that a naval commitment had become essential. The Argentine aircraft carrier ARA 25 de Mayo and the cruiser ARA General Belgrano put to sea with their escorts, intending to execute a pincer movement against the British. Unsuitable conditions prevented the carrier from launching her aircraft, so the operation was cancelled.

The sinking of General Belgrano

On 2 May, ARA General Belgrano was attacked and sunk by the submarine HMS Conqueror .

According to Madero, “there was an incredible explosion…I went up to the main deck and helped injured people to get out… In ten minutes the ship was listing 60 degrees to port, so we thought the ship would sink at any moment. It was like an impossible dream.”

For the men who escaped the sinking ship, the unforgiving conditions offered no comfort.

“My legs were frozen and I was very cold," Madero said. "I was thinking, but my muscles wouldn’t act like I wished. I started thinking I was going to die.”

Madero was one of 772 survivors out of the ship’s total complement of 1,095. The destruction of the Argentine navy’s most powerful surface ship represented a significant tactical and strategic victory for the British, effectively ending overt Argentine naval activity. However, it also generated powerful political and social shockwaves that continue to generate controversy today.

Establishing naval superiority did not grant immunity from air attacks, and from late May onwards more British ships found themselves facing these in the waters around San Carlos Bay, which soon acquired the appropriate nickname ‘Bomb Alley’.

Photograph of a sinking ship in the Falklands

Napier’s account of 23 May recorded an experience that would become typical.

A series of raids from Skyhawks and Mirages, dropping bombs. Our CAP [Combat Air Patrol] is having less luck today. ANTELOPE, who only arrived that morning, was hit by a bomb which did not explode, and several other ships had near misses. The BRILLIANT was bracketed by three bombs. None of the troop ships were damaged at all…Morale remains high, although we are all getting very weary with only a few hours sleep each night. Throughout the attacks, ship’s life is going on…the men have done very well despite their tiredness…We have now not set foot on shore since 29 March.” Ken Napier of HMS Plymouth

In general, despite mounting damage and casualties, the Royal Navy warships maintained an effective air defence over their more vulnerable charges.

Poster drawing of 'air show'

However, there were occasions when failures in coordination led to catastrophe, the worst in terms of casualties being the bombing of the landing ships Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram on 8 June.

The end of the Falklands War

The surrender of the last Argentine ground forces in the Falklands on 14 June came as a relief, although it was some time before the naval task force could begin to disperse. The fighting had resulted in 1,030 British and 2,306 Argentine casualties on land, sea and in the air.

In addition to the physical ravages of war, many men on both sides would struggle to cope with the mental trauma of their experiences.

When HMS Plymouth was finally cleared to depart 11 days later, Napier – with some pride – recorded his impressions of the state of the men.

“It has been a very testing period for the whole ship, and we have done much better than some other ships, who with less damage, have gone home early, when their limited support could have been used. The ship’s company have reacted (apart from a few who have been terrified, and let it show) extremely well to the continuous stress of the last few weeks…Nevertheless, it will be very welcome to be on our way: for most of the crew it will be their 85th day at sea with no time ashore at all…”

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royal yacht britannia falklands war

Main image: HMS Plymouth on fire after air attack on 8 June 1982. Courtesy of Imperial War Museums ( © IWM FKD 1214 )

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Tide of opinion turns against royal yacht

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The future of the Royal Yacht Britannia has been the subject of intense debate. Yesterday Whitehall sources claimed it will not be replaced. Significantly, there was no official denial. Kim Sengupta reports.

Britannia's valedictory voyage will be around the entire coastline of Britain, a country much changed since the yacht's launch at Clydebank 43 years ago, a country no longer in the mood to pay for a lavish replacement. It is the recognition of this mood by the Government and the Royal Family, according to sources, which is leading to the decision that it will be the last royal yacht.

Officially, royal spokesmen stressed yesterday that the Queen had made it clear that she accepted the decision on whether or not to replace Britannia would be taken purely on the basis of national interest. Royal aides took pains to point out that as early as l994 the then defence secretary, Michael Rifkind, told the Commons: "The Queen has made it known that, in the light of changes in the pattern of royal visits since the yacht was built, she does not consider a royal yacht to be necessary in the future solely for the purpose of royal travel. "

Royal spokesmen also confirmed that discussions had taken place between the Government and senior courtiers, although the final say on Britannia's fate would rest with the Cabinet. Ministerial opinion had been hardening against bearing the high cost of replacing or refitting the yacht. The pounds 60m suggested as the replacement cost by the Tory defence secretary Michael Portillo is estimated to be considerably below the cost now. Ministers and civil servants are sceptical about another scheme, involving public and private partnership for a pounds 50m refit.

Within the Ministry of Defence, too, there is concern that funds needed for the hard- pressed military budget would be diverted to refit a ship expensive to run and prone to problems after modernisation.

Even before the election, Labour strategists were surprised at public hostility to the use of taxpayers' money on a royal yacht, with newspaper polls recording a 20-1 majority against such a scheme. The issue figured more strongly in focus groups than subjects like Europe. The mood is believed to have been heightened by growing antipathy towards pomp after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Whitehall sources point out that Britannia's much-discussed "business function" is overstated: only 63 days were devoted to trade promotions between l989 and 1996, and the Queen only used the ship for 11 days last year. It was used by the Prince and Princess of Wales on their honeymoon but even then there was doubt as to whether it was suitable. Jonathan Dimbleby, in his biography of the Prince, wrote: "Even an intimate dinner by candlelight was hardly a private affair, accompanied as it was by the camaraderie of the senior officers at the table and a band of Royal Marines playing `romantic medley' in the background".

It is seen as fitting that Britannia's last appearance on the world stage was as the remnants of empire were folded away at Hong Kong. When the Queen christened it in April l953 there was still a Chief of the Imperial Defence Staff and colonies dotted around the world. The vessel replaced the Victoria and Albert, the 50-year-old ship the Queen's father, George VI, had used; the cost of construction was pounds 2,098,000.

Since then it has sailed almost 1 million miles, ferrying the Queen and Royal Family around the Commonwealth. Its complement of 21 officers and 229 men are specially selected from volunteers. It also carries, for special occasions, a Royal Marine band of 26 musicians. The royal apartments are aft; the crew's accommodation forward. The lower deck houses offices of the "private secretaries" with a reception-room for up to 250 guests.

During the Falklands conflict there was a plan to send Britannia to the South Atlantic as a hospital ship. But it was pointed out that the type of fuel it used was hard to replenish in a war zone. Britannia did see action when it rescued British and other foreign residents caught in the crossfire during the l986 civil war in South Yemen. The ship was then anchored off Aden, the last bastion of Britain's east-of- Suez policy.

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Logistics in The Falklands War

February 9th, 2017 --> In Book Reviews   Issue Volume 25 No. 1 Doi No https://doi-ds.org/doilink/05.2021-81638217/JMVH Vol 25 No 1

Captain Arthur M. Smith

The recent Australian Defence White Paper 2016 defined the unique security challenges facing thenation. Strategic planning within the document includes recognition of the regional and global nature of the nation’s security interests, and the very different sets of challenges that are created for the defence force by state, and also non-state actors such as terrorists. The White Paper suggests that the defence budget should grow to 2 percent of gross national product, a significant part of which would be applied to the development of maritime capability.

Emblematic of this commitment is the recent commissioning of the two 27,800 ton amphibious assault ships (LHDs) of the Canberra class – Canberra and Adelaide – now progressing toward initial operating capability. At full operational capability, the ships will enable the embarkation of a full Amphibious Ready Group based upon the Second Battalion of the Australian Army and their supporting arms, reflecting a transition for the unit from a strictly ground force to an amphibious force. The two LHDs will join the existing capabilities borne by the 16,000 ton dock landing ship Choules, which will soon be upgraded from a command-and-control, as well as a weapons, perspective. The three ships together will hopefully constitute a flexible and deployable amphibious force.

Amphibious forces in the future, however, face the possibility of arriving in a future combat theatre and finding themselves facing an arsenal of advanced, disruptive technologies that could turn previously perceived technological advances and plans for force generation “on their heads”, where Australian armed forces no longer have uncontested theatre access or unfettered operational freedom to manoeuvre The next century will see foes striving to target concentrations of troops and material ashore, while concurrently attacking forces at sea and in the air. The lessons learned from previous conflicts have never been more important; with increasing numbers of out-of- area operations required in remote trouble spots, and at short notice. Given this reality, the adaptive logistical requirements necessary for sustaining any expeditionary interventions require sober assessment and pragmatic planning.

Where are the precedents to help find such guidance? There have been no amphibious assaults to speak of since Inchon in the Korean War, and Suez in 1956. The British expeditionary assault upon the Falklands in 1982, however, provided many lessons, given the inadequate training, little intelligence, no contingency plans, a politically driven rush, and an 8000 mile logistical tether from the homeland. It is not surprising, then, that logistics during the UK “Operation Corporate” were confusing and challenging. It is one of the best examples of “lessons learned” for addressing both anti-access and area denial in a modern conventional conflict.

There is a saying attributed to various past military commanders of the mid-20th century, that “amateurs or juniors discuss tactics, while their seniors and other professionals discuss logistics”. There is also a, perhaps apocryphal quote attributed to the former Chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck, stating, “Fools state that they learn by experience. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others”. As such, the story of the British assault upon the Falklands, as recorded in the book, “Logistics in the Falklands War”1 – by Major General Kenneth Privratsky, US Army (Retired) should be mandatory reading for all those who will partake in instituting preparations, as well as implementation, of future ADF amphibious operations. Surprisingly, in this tome written by an American General Officer/ professional logistician, with credible guidance from, among others, Major General Julian Thompson, the Commander of the 3 Commando Brigade at the Falklands War, the book details the saga of British efforts to supply the modern logistical equivalents of “Beans, Bullets, Black Oil and Bandages” to the invasion force.

The British ultimately won the war, chiefly because of their ability, in an improvised military campaign (for which they had no prior planning), to project and sustain a Task Force consisting of a Carrier Task Group and an Amphibious Task Group, across a distance of 8,000 miles. A vital role was played by the small British territory of Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, just over half way distance (3800 miles) to the Falklands. The 26 ships (later rising to 44) of the Royal Navy that took an active part in the campaign were supported by 22 ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, including 6 specialist Landing Ships (Logistic), by two ships of the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, and by 54 requisitioned civilian “ships taken up from trade”, known as STUFT vessels, from 33 different civilian companies. Many of the civilian STUFT ships used had to be fitted with extra equipment, including helicopter landing decks, specialist communications apparatus, and water treatment plants for the long voyage. In addition, the cruise liner SS Uganda was requisitioned and converted to serve as a hospital ship.

In the rush to sail, many of the ships of the Task Force were not “tactically loaded” or “combat loaded”. Most ships of the Task Force used a short halt at Ascension Island to redistribute personnel, stores and equipment before continuing to the Falklands. But, there were many reported cases of staff or equipment being assigned to more than one ship either at the start of the voyage, or at Ascension, and then losing contact with their parent unit or being unable to secure other transport.

The circumstances of the amphibious assault at San Carlos on the western side of the Falklands forced the British Navy and land forces to remain relatively fixed in place during the amphibious assault and beachhead buildup. This is when the Argentine air force unleashed its attack on British naval forces supporting the landing force. Within an hour of the first waves of Argentine aircraft attacking, it became evident that it was the ships, and not the men ashore, that were the targets. Because of the aggressive air attacks, the waters around the landing area and beachhead were referred to as “Bomb Alley”. Flying just above the wave tops, the Argentine based attack aircraft made repeated attacks on the British Task Force with bombs and Exocet anti-ship missiles. The Argentine air attacks initially sank one British destroyer, 2 frigates, and caused the sinking of one critically and logistically important container ship, Cunard’s Atlantic Conveyor. The attack upon Conveyor ultimately had a vastly negative effect upon British strategic mobility, by eliminating the main source of heavy lift helicopters which it was transporting for the landing force, all of which were lost at sea. Additionally, two more Destroyers, three frigates and three logistic landing ships were damaged.

Enemy action had an effect on the buildup in a way that simply was not anticipated. The entire brigade’s operations had been planned on the assumption of keeping its logistics afloat. Nevertheless, the air assault forced the UK to create huge dumps on land at Ajax Bay. The Argentine Air Force also attacked the beach head and dropped 12 bombs on the brigade maintenance area, killing 6 men and wounding 27, as well as starting a major fire in 45 Commando’s heavy weapons ammunition dump. The various stores ships were withdrawn, with only those unloading allowed in the area. The air attacks reduced the rate of off-loading supplies at San Carlos, which in turn slowed the start of the land campaign, thereby delaying logistics, resulting in the loss of manoeuvre opportunity in terms of time and speed. Political as well as military considerations also limited the use of two large ocean liners which had been used as troop transporters, SS Canberra and RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, neither of which could be risked as a target for any length of time. Likewise, they were designed for pierside loading and discharge, and would prove slower to unload in the South Atlantic than the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Logistic Landing Ships.

The original logistics plan called for a small base to be established ashore but for most brigade supplies to be kept afloat off the beachhead, including two LSLs carrying resupply, and the cruise ship/ troop transport SS Canberra for immediate although not Geneva Convention protected medical support. Sea transport along the coast was further limited, however, by the limited numbers of landing craft, together with powered rafts known as Mexeflotes, and other smaller craft, as well as by British reluctance to risk larger vessels close inshore.

Following the first landings at San Carlos, it became obvious that the plan to hold most supplies offshore and afloat was impractical in the face of Argentine air attacks. Ajax Bay was chosen for the logistics base ashore, as it was the largest of the very limited beach landing areas, and with the only buildings, foremost being a disused mutton refrigeration plant. The fleet auxiliary and STUFT ships had to be brought in under cover of darkness to unload, mostly sailing away before each morning’s air attacks. Most of the STUFT ships did not have the capability to unload by helicopter at night, despite the fact that unloading using landing craft and Mexeflote rafts was a long and difficult process.

The only suitable location for a field dressing station was at Ajax Bay, known as the “Red and Green Life Machine”, housed within the disused refrigeration plant next to a large ammunition dump. In consequence, the British decided not to mark the dressing station with a Red Cross for protection under the Geneva Convention since it was so close to the ammunition dump, and at one point it functioned with two unexploded bombs lodged in its roof. In four weeks, 725 patients were treated, including among them 40% Argentine casualties. By the time that the Argentines had surrendered, the “Red and Green Life Machine”, while under the supervision of then Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly, performed over 300 major surgical procedures upon both British and Argentine casualties, even though some arrived in such bad condition that they required as much as 5 units of blood to stabilise them prior to surgery. Within the facility, two British army and two Navy surgical teams worked side by side. The lighting was deemed inadequate, and there was no sterile water, no autoclave, no diathermy machine, and a limited supply of linen. Gloves were worn but not often changed from one operation to the next.

In preparation for the Falklands assault, the British lacked a capable hospital ship. The only vessel in the Royal Navy earmarked as a potential hospital ship was the Queen’s Royal Yacht Britannia, but, because she required special furnace oil upon which to operate, and only had a 200 bed capacity, planners deemed her unsuitable to support the task force. There were no friendly places to provide medical support in the vicinity of the Falklands closer than Montevideo Uruguay, (four and a half sailing days or 1000 miles) to the north-west. The projected inability to care for potential casualties therefore led to the requisitioning of the cruise ship Uganda. At the time, Uganda was in the Mediterranean at Alexandria, on an educational cruise carrying a thousand school children. After her owners received requisition instructions, Uganda proceeded to Gibraltar for modifications to accommodate a major surgical facility, an intensive care unit, a specialised burn ward (14% of all injuries incurred were burns), x-ray facility, as well as clinics and laboratories to treat patients, in addition to the installation of a helicopter deck to receive casualties. Uganda also lacked the capacity to produce fresh water for drinking or washing. Reverse osmosis fresh water generators were installed. Completion of Uganda at Gibraltar, complete with Red Cross markings to adhere to the Geneva Convention, occurred at a pace comparable to Canberra – in a mere 65 hours! While modifications were nearing completion, a 135 person medical team boarded Uganda to help store 90 tons of medical supplies for the new 500 bed floating hospital.

Uganda would provide the highest level of care in theatre. Following agreement among the warring parties, and with assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross, she would be located in a restricted neutral navigational area designated a “Red Cross Box” at sea about twenty miles north of Pebble Island, along with two of Argentina’s hospital ships, Bahia Paraiso and Almirante Irizar. Both countries had agreed that any casualties evacuated there should not participate further in the war.

The only communications available aboard Uganda was via maritime satellite. Three British fast dispatch vessels, former ocean survey ships Hydra, Hecla and Hecate, would transport 60-100 British and Argentine casualties each, those patients requiring additional or long term care, from Uganda to Montevideo, Uruguay. From there, the British casualties were transported by VC-10 medical evacuation planes, which would airlift the British casualties to the United Kingdom via Ascension Island.

Exposure to the cold weather was a problem for all troops in the Falklands and the boggy and rugged terrain also caused multiple cases of Trench foot and endemic mild diarrhoea from drinking the water. Battle casualty treatment and resuscitation at the unit level and evacuation functioned well, resulting in a very high survival rate for casualties treated. Of over 1,000 casualties evacuated back to the designated hospital ship SS Uganda, including over 300 Argentineans, all but three men survived. Worthy of note, however, was that the vast majority of British casualties occurred not on land, but at sea due to exploding fuel and the difficulty of reaching injured sailors in burning passageways and compartments. Ultimately, the war cost 255 British servicemen killed, 777 wounded with 10 percent of those permanently disabled, 6 ships lost, many other ships damaged, and 20 aircraft destroyed. For Argentina, it suffered an estimated 750 killed, 1100 wounded, and vast amounts of equipment lost.

As noted by British General Julian Thompson, on the scene in the Falklands, “Surely one of the strangest things in military history is the almost complete silence upon the problems of supply”. Forces in the future, however, will again be expected to deploy quickly and operate over great distances in austere areas. When that happens, logisticians will need to provide support without reliance on fixed  infrastructure, deep draft ports or airfields. The British experience at the Falklands highlights the difficulty of providing logistics over long distances into austere environments, particularly in situations of significant threat and especially for amphibious operations.

British Field Marshal Archibald Wavell stated, in 1944: “It takes little skill or imagination to see where you would like your army to be, and when; it takes much knowledge and hard work to know where you can place your forces and whether you can maintain them there. A real knowledge of supply and movement factors must be the basis of every leader’s plan; only then can he know how and when to take risks with those factors; and battles and wars are won only by taking risks.”

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Inside the Royal Yacht Britannia

We explore how the royal yacht britannia, the royal family’s former yacht, became one of britain’s best-loved attractions….

royal yacht britannia falklands war

Words by Kirsten Henton & photos by Euan Myles

This year marks two major milestones for the iconic Royal Yacht Britannia , the Royal Family’s former yacht, aboard which they would cruise the Western Isles of Scotland each summer. Celebrating both 70 years of service and 25 years as a multi-award-winning floating museum and visitor attraction, this regal yacht is more popular than ever.

Since dropping anchor in Edinburgh’s historic port of Leith and opening to the public in 1998, a year after it was decommissioned, Britannia has captivated some six million visitors. It’s a spectacle of refined elegance crammed full of fascinating royal and naval history.

Somewhat randomly, Britannia, and the bold tartan trews worn by the guides, were fixtures in my family for over a decade. Having taken early retirement, my father, Richard Henton, who has a lifelong interest in the Royal Navy, subsequently worked as a guide aboard Britannia from 2003 to 2014.

royal yacht britannia

As he puts it: “The nice thing about working on Britannia was being associated with a truly prestigious icon that was instantly recognised internationally. I also had a certain affection for the Royal Yacht since I remember her launch back in 1953.”

The decades following WWII witnessed great change globally. War-torn countries from Europe to Eastern Asia endured significant financial and social hardships, while colonised countries that had formed the backbone of European empires, many of whose citizens had fought and died in two World Wars, actively sought their independence.

Seismic events such as the Partition of India, unrest in Palestine and Malaya (now Malaysia), and the later Suez Crisis all signalled the complexities of this new order. In addition, the Commonwealth came to prominence. Plus, Britain had a new monarch. Following the death of King George VI on 6 February 1952, 25-year-old Elizabeth was proclaimed queen and a new chapter in British history began.

royal yacht britannia falklands war

It was into this changing world that Britannia was launched. In fact, the shipyard received the official order to commence work on the new Royal Yacht from the Admiralty on 4 February 1952, just two days before King George VI died.

THE ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA: UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Although plans for a new Royal Yacht were temporarily shelved owing to WWII, work began on Britannia in 1952 at the renowned John Brown & Co. Shipyard in Clydebank, where liners including the Lusitania, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth were also constructed. Although officially launched on 16 April 1953, it wasn’t until 11 January 1954 that Britannia was commissioned into active service with the Royal Navy.

royal yacht britannia

The 412-foot-long (126-metre) yacht was one of the last fully-riveted ships to be built. It was seen to have quite the modern form with a crisp clipper bow and a sleek cruiser stern. Meanwhile, down in the engine room, two steam-powered turbines generated 12,000 horsepower and a maximum speed of 22.5 knots (around 25 mph).

royal yacht britannia

Curiously, the ship’s wheel, which was taken from its 1893 namesake, Edward, Prince of Wales’s (later Edward VII) Royal Cutter Britannia, is located in the wheelhouse for security reasons. This meant that yachtsmen at the helm couldn’t actually see where they were going. Instead, they followed instructions via voice pipes from the bridge above.

The ship’s name also remained a mystery to all but a few until its christening. When Queen Elizabeth II smashed a bottle on the bow in April 1953, some 30,000 people, mainly shipbuilders and their families, turned out in the pouring rain to hear her proclaim “I name this ship Britannia” for the first time, although it was never painted onto the hull.

THE ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA: UNDERSTATED INTERIORS

Stepping aboard Britannia, you might expect some serious luxury. However, as Laura McCall, of the Royal Yacht Britannia reveals, luxury wasn’t the look the Royal Family were going for at all: “The initial designs were considered to be too opulent and, instead, more of a ‘country home’ feel was chosen by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip… it’s elegant yet reflects the post-war austerity in which the ship was built.”

This period also necessitated the ability to convert Britannia into a hospital ship, should it ever be required. Over in the state apartments, it’s a homely affair. What’s more, it remains relatively unchanged, a time capsule of chintzy chairs, surprisingly narrow single beds and considerably ordinary decor.

royal yacht britannia falklands war

Of course, the grand state dining room, magnificent staircase, and teak sun lounge with its giant picture windows – said to have been our late Queen’s favourite spot – quickly remind you that it was still a floating palace fit for royalty.

THE ROYAL YAHCT BRITANNIA: LIFE AT SEA

Britannia offered an escape for the Royal Family. It was a private bubble, which Queen Elizabeth II described as “the only place I can truly relax.”

royal yacht britannia

McCall says: “King Charles enjoyed summer holidays on Britannia and in later years, [it] was where His Majesty brought his own sons for family trips to the Western Isles.” It has also hosted four royal honeymoons and, McCall continues, was where “the Royal Family entertained everyone from prime ministers and presidents to the celebrities of the day, including Frank Sinatra.”

For the 220 yachtsmen, known as ‘yotties’, who served aboard Britannia, life was very different to other postings. The rules were unusual, for starters. As Acting Captain J S Dalglish, the officer in charge of commissioning Britannia, later wrote: “Everything in the yacht is done in complete silence. We used no… broadcasting device for getting orders round the vessel, but instead the telephone etc. below decks, and signs and signals above.”

royal yacht britannia

THE ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA: THE SOFT ART OF DIPLOMACY

It wasn’t all high days and holidays, however. Britannia was a mobile ambassador, a vessel that ferried the next generation of royals looking to represent Britain through diplomacy, trade, even the odd humanitarian mission.

royal yacht britannia falklands war

It also played a vital role in connecting Britain with the expanding Commonwealth, formed of mainly ex-British territories all the way from New Zealand to Jamaica. In her Christmas Day broadcast in 1953, Her Majesty The Queen said: “The Commonwealth bears no resemblance to the empires of the past. It is an entirely new conception, built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace.”

Britannia was a vital tool the Royal Family used to honour those promises and strengthen ties with nations previously stitched into its empire.

THE ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA: THE MUSEUM

Today, people visit Britannia from all over the globe. According to my father: “The highlight of being with visitors was their evident interest in all aspects of life on board and observing their reactions to what many considered to be the decidedly non-luxurious aspects of the Royal Family’s  accommodation and the generally cramped nature of the ship’s company.”

He adds: “Those from Commonwealth countries and the USA showed particular interest since they had often seen Britannia when she visited their own countries.”

royal yacht britannia

Planning a visit? My dad’s top tip is not to rush it but to give yourself sufficient time to look around properly – at least an hour and a half. Personally, I can’t recommend a trip to the Royal Deck Tea Room enough. Go for a scone and a glass of something bubbly, stay for the views to Fife and the Antony Gormley statue gazing across the Forth.

Britannia’s arrival in Leith opened a new chapter in the yacht’s story. Now, as Britain welcomes a new monarch, she continues to tell the tale of the royals of the 20th century.

To book your tickets for The Royal Yacht Britannia, go to royalyachtbritannia.co.uk

This is an extract, read the full feature in the July/August 2023 issue of Scotland, available to buy here from 16 June. 

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SCOTLAND MAGAZINE

Published six times a year, every issue of Scotland  showcases its stunning landscapes and natural  beauty, and delves deep into Scottish history. From mysterious clans and famous Scots (both past and present), to the hidden histories of the country’s greatest castles and houses, Scotland ‘s pages brim with the soul and secrets of the country. Scotland magazine captures the spirit of this wild and wonderful nation, explores its history and heritage and recommends great places to visit, so you feel at home here, wherever you are in the world.

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Sailing Yacht Britannia

In April 1893, some 20 years into G. L. Watson ’s trail blazing career, the royal sailing yacht  Britannia was launched. The prestige associated with this order from the Price of Wales, Britannia’s revolutionary design, enduring beauty, speed and a 43 year career in the ownerships of King Edward VII and King George V have all contributed to the Britannia legend.

The Royal sailing yacht Britannia racing Career

Britannia was built at D&W Henderson’s shipyard on the Clyde alongside her near sister, the America’s Cup challenger Valkyrie II . Her spoon bow was controversial and Watson was initially condemned for experimenting on such a prestigious commission, but it was not long before her admirable qualities were recognised and the perfection of hull form became known as the ‘ Britannia ideal’.

In the great season of 1893, Britannia acted as a trial horse for America’s Cup challenger Valkyrie II and saw off the challenge of the Herreshoff designed Navahoe to dominate racing in British waters. The following year when America’s Cup victor Vigilant raced in Britain in what was mooted as a re-run of the America’s Cup races, Britannia dominated; upholding British racing prowess after the loss of Valkyrie II .

The introduction of a new rating rule in 1896 gave Watson the opportunity to out-design Britannia , but the arrival of the Kaiser’s Meteor II killed off both the King’s pleasure and his prospects of winning. In 1898 Edward VII sold Britannia , but soon regretted it and by 1902 she was back in his ownership and once again became a regular sight on the British regatta circuit. Inherited by George V in 1910, Britannia was updated and again raced successfully in the British Big Class. The lead provided by George V in fitting out Britannia for the 1920 season re-established the Big Class in the aftermath of World War I and paved the way for the likes of Cambria , Astra and the J Class.

Conversion to J-Class

Following Watson’s early death in 1904, all leading British yacht designers were involved in the regular updating of the royal sailing yacht  Britannia . In 1930 it was Charles E. Nicholson ’s turn and he designed what remains the world’s tallest wooden mast for her. In 1931 Britannia emerged rejuvenated to race competitively with the J Class against which she would add a further 15 firsts to her racing record.

Britannia’s last season was the summer of 1935, when the American J Class Yankee visited British waters, in what was the last great flourishing of Big Class racing. Then with the King’s health failing she was withdrawn from racing and on 10th July 1936 her great career came to an end. As per the dying wishes of George V, she was towed out to St. Catherine’s Deep off the Isle of Wight and scuttled.

Although not a sailor, King Edward VIII fully appreciated the affection that surrounded Britannia and after she was scuttled, he commanded that G. L. Watson & Co. be presented with a memento of what remains the most successful racing yacht of all time. This souvenir of Britannia is held in the G.L. Watson Archive together with the original drawings.

G.L. Watson & Co. Ltd. 20-23 Woodside Place, Glasgow G3 7QL, Scotland

Tel: +44 (141) 501 0480

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royal yacht britannia falklands war

Not the Royal Yacht Britannia: Waiving the Rules

Otto English celebrates another costly Boris Johnson project because this time the British people might just cotton on to the cavalcade of nonsense…

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Not The Royal Yacht Britannia Waiving the Rules

Otto english celebrates another costly boris johnson project because this time the british people might just cotton on to the cavalcade of nonsense….

Brace yourselves because I’m about to declare that Boris Johnson has done something brilliant. And, no, it’s not the vaccination programme or Brexit or any of that stuff. I’m talking about the new royal yacht.

It’s a fabulous idea. But, before I explain why I think that, let’s catch up with the story so far. 

If you have a long memory, you will recall that, back in 1997, the wicked Labour Government under Tony Blair, stripped the Queen of her beloved yacht, Britannia. That boat was the last in a long line of royal yachts stretching back to the time of King Charles II.

Manned by a Royal Naval crew and supplemented by a detachment of Marines that sometimes included a military band, Queen Elizabeth II and her family used the vessel for state visits, family holidays and honeymoons – clocking up well over a million nautical miles in the process.

It also had a secondary purpose as a ‘hospital ship’ which justified its cost to the public purse. During the Falklands War in 1982, there was a plan to deploy the boat in that capacity. But, when it was revealed that Britannia used different fuel to the rest of the fleet, the idea was dropped. The yacht had huge symbolic value and would have made an enticing target so perhaps the different fuel story – which was completely true – was also a useful get-out clause. Either way, the controversy rather undermined the justification for its cost: if the ship couldn’t be deployed in its military role, why should the taxpayer fund it?

In 1986, the ship did serve a useful humanitarian function when it helped to evacuate 1,000 people from 26 different countries out of war-torn Yemen.

But, by the early 1990s, HMY Britannia had become a relic of another age; the British Empire equivalent of one of those Japanese imperial soldiers who kept fighting World War Two decades after it had ended.

royal yacht britannia falklands war

THE Apotheosis of Apophenia Conspiratorial Minds

Its running cost was an eye-watering £11 million a year to run and it needed a refit of around £17 million every 10 years to keep it going.

In 1994, John Major’s Government announced that the ship would be decommissioned but that that plans would be considered for a replacement.

When the end came three years later, almost the entire Royal Family turned out to say goodbye and it was one of only a handful of times in her long reign that the Queen was seen to (almost) cry .

Even before it was decommissioned, the rumblings started. In the run-up to the 1997 General Election, the Major Government promised that it would build another ship if it was re-elected. That announcement reportedly infuriated the Queen, who objected to being dragged into a game of political point-scoring.

The Glorious Return

Ever since 1997, the ‘royal yacht’ issue has had totemic value on the Conservative right.

It’s the sort of notion that plays well with a certain kind of Express and Telegraph reader; a curious, cultish logic whereby the ship – which once represented all that was great about Great Britain – can somehow be conjured up once more by shamanic ship-builders in Union Jack overalls to restore the country to its place as top nation.

The Telegraph ’s Christopher Hope has long campaigned to bring it back and, perhaps with an eye on that newspaper’s readership, Boris Johnson began backing the plan while he was Foreign Secretary in 2017.

It has now been announced that the project will go ahead at an initial cost of £250 million, with the eventual price tag likely to be far higher than that. Running such a vessel over the proposed 30 years that follow will undoubtedly cost many hundreds of millions more. The Guardian has suggested that it could cost as much as £10 million a year.

There’s just one small – but not insignificant – problem with the whole royal yacht thing: the Queen still doesn’t want one and nor do her family.

The idea that it might be named after her late husband Prince Philip was snubbed by Buckingham Palace and, last week, a senior royal told The Sunday Times that a royal yacht was “too grand” a symbol for use in the modern age. “It is not something we have asked for,” they added.

None of that seems to have dented the Johnson Government’s enthusiasm and it is going ahead with it anyway. It doesn’t matter that the Royal Family don’t want it; or that it is completely impractical in the 21st Century; or that most of the world’s major capitals are not ports. The Prime Minister has decided to build the vessel and build it he jolly well will.

Just as the Boris Johnson Garden Bridge brought so much joy to London, the Boris Johnson Boat will make all the difference. We shall be the envy of the world. Here will be proof, to use Boris Johnson’s own words, that we are once more “a great independent, maritime nation!”

The Swiss, Hungarians, Afghanis and Czechs will shout “hurrah” as Liz Truss gracefully descends the gang plank – piped along her way by the Royal Marines band – handing out trade deals like confetti.

“But hold on,” I hear you saying. “I thought you said it was a good idea?”

Well, I do.

Because maybe – just maybe – as this cavalcade of nonsense goes on and the pointlessness of the enterprise become apparent, the British people will start to question the sanity of a Government which seems to have left its brain in another age. If it takes a £250 million boat to do that, then I for one am in favour.

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The Royal Yacht Britannia Has a Fascinating History—Here's Everything You Should Know

It doesn't get more majestic than Queen Elizabeth II's yacht.

“Britannia is special for a number of reasons,” Prince Phillip once said. “Almost every previous sovereign has been responsible for building a church, a castle, a palace or just a house. The only comparable structure in the present reign is Britannia. As such she is a splendid example of contemporary British design and technology.”

Although she retired from service in 1997, today the Britannia, one of many of the world's grandest yachts , is docked in Edinburgh, where she is open as a visitors’ attraction and host of private events. Below we give you all the Royal Yacht Britannia facts you might want to know, from who owns the yacht now to why she was decommissioned to how fast she is to how to get tickets to visit. Britannia was, after all, the one place the queen said she could “truly relax,” so why not see why for yourself?

queen royal yacht britannia in usa

Royal Yacht Britania Facts and History

On February 4, 1952, John Brown & Co shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland, received the order from the Admiralty to build a new Royal Yacht to travel the globe and double as a hospital ship in times of war, according to the royal yacht's website . King George VI passed away two days after, sadly, and so on April 16, 1953, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II announced the yacht’s new name as the ship was revealed.

"I name this ship Britannia,” she said. “I wish success to her and all who sail in her." Britannia was commissioned into the Royal Navy in January 1954 and by April of that year sailed into her first overseas port: Grand Harbour, Malta.

royal yacht britannia facts staircase

The queen and The Duke of Edinburgh worked with interior designer Sir Hugh Casson for the ship to serve as both a functional Royal Navy vessel and an elegant royal residence. Queen Elizabeth II selected deep blue for Britannia’s hull, instead of the more traditional black. Its Naval crew included 220 Yachtsmen, 20 officers, and three season officers—plus a Royal Marines Band of 26 men during Royal Tours.

All of them might have had to change uniform up to six times a day, so the laundry service on board worked nonstop. The yacht also engaged in British overseas trade missions known as Sea Days and made an estimated £3 billion for the Exchequer between 1991 and 1995 alone.

royal yacht britannia facts drawing room

The ship’s wheel was taken from King Edward VII’s racing yacht, also named Britannia, according to Boat International , and the 126-meter ship could reach speeds of 22.75 knots, or a seagoing cruising speed of 21 knots, according to Super Yacht Times . Other fun facts: The yacht could produce her own fresh water from sea water, and shouting was forbidden aboard to preserve tranquility, favoring hand signals for Naval orders instead.

royal yacht britannia facts dining room

Over the next 44 years, the Britannia would sail the equivalent of once around the world for each year, in total visiting 600 ports in 135 countries. Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones were the first of four couples to honeymoon on the ship in 1960, gifting them all privacy to sail to secluded locations. Prince Charles and Princess Diana followed in 1981 on the Mediterranean as well as Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips before them in 1973 in the Caribbean and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986 in the Azores.

diana and william

For family vacations aboard the ship, games, treasure hunts, plays, and picnics were organized, and on warm days the children could play in an inflatable paddling pool on the Verandah Deck.

royal yacht britannia facts sun lounge

In the Sun Lounge, the queen especially enjoyed taking breakfast and afternoon tea with views through large picture windows, a space you can see replicated in the TV show The Crown. Although no filming took place on board the Britannia for the show, researchers ensured scenes aboard it were accurate. In the queen’s bedroom, the resemblance is seen down to the decorative wall light fittings and embroidered silk panel above her bed that had been specially commissioned.

queen crying at britannia

In 1997, the ship was decommissioned after the government decided the costs to refit it would be too great. On its final day in her service that followed a farewell tour around the U.K., the queen openly wept as the Band of HM Royal Marines played "Highland Cathedral."

"Looking back over 44 years we can all reflect with pride and gratitude upon this great ship which has served the country, the Royal Navy and my family with such distinction," Queen Elizabeth II said. All clocks on the ship stopped at 15:01, the exact time the Queen disembarked from the yacht for the final time, and they would remain at that time until the present.

royal yacht britannia facts clock

How to Tour the Royal Yacht Britania

Today the yacht is owned by Royal Yacht Britannia Trus t, and all revenue it generates goes to the yacht’s maintenance and preservation. Ticketed entry allows you to step into state rooms like the Sun Lounge, the State Dining Room and State Drawing Room, in addition to the working side of the ship in the Crew’s Quarters, Laundry and gleaming Engine Room. Along the way you will see original artifacts from the shop—95 percent of which is on loan from The Royal Collection.

the royal yacht britannia

How to Visit the Royal Britania

You can visit the Britannia any day of the year on Edinburgh’s waterfront. Hours vary by season, and you can find them listed and purchase tickets on the yacht’s website . Private tours are also available, and you can visit the Royal Deck Tearoom, where the Royal Family hosted cocktail parties and receptions, for drinks, meals and scones. Additionally, the Britannia hosts special ticketed events for New Year’s and other occasions, and event spaces can be booked as well.

While you are in Edinburgh, you can also stay on the Fingal , a neighboring yacht-turned-floating-hotel, which is a seven-minute walk from the Britannia, and dine at its Lighthouse Restaurant & Bar, which serves breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner, and cocktails.

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  • EDINBURGH, The PRINCE PHILIP

1921 - 2021 from Greece (also England)

Duke of, Royal visitor, was born on 10 June, 1921, on the Greek island of Corfu, the fifth child and only son of Prince and Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark. After attending kindergarten school in Paris, he was educated at Cheam preparatory school in England, Salem in south Germany and Gordonstoun in Scotland.

Courtesy of Falkland Islands Government Archives.(This image is subject to strict copyright provisions and may not be reproduced without written permission)

royal yacht britannia falklands war

He entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1939 before being commissioned into the Royal Navy. During World War II he served in the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Pacific Ocean and Japan.

Early in 1947 he renounced his Royal title and became a British subject in order to continue his career in the Royal Navy as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. On his marriage to HRH The Princess Elizabeth on 20 November 1947 he was created Duke of Edinburgh with the prefix of His Royal Highness. He continued his naval career, reaching the rank of commander, until it came to an end with the death of King George VI in 1952 and the accession of Queen Elizabeth II.

Property of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.(This image is subject to strict copyright provisions and may not be reproduced without written permission)

royal yacht britannia falklands war

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have four children: Charles, Prince of Wales (b1948), Anne, Princess Royal (b1950), Andrew, Duke of York (b1960) and Edward, Earl of Wessex (b1964). They have seven grandchildren.

After opening the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, the Duke of Edinburgh left Australia on 11 December and sailed from New Zealand on 17 December in HM Yacht Britannia . He travelled home through the South Atlantic visiting several FIDS bases between 1 and 4 January 1957, the Falkland Islands between 7 and 9 January and South Georgia on 12 January.

Imperial War Museum; photograph issued under non-commercial licence.(This image is subject to strict copyright provisions and may not be reproduced without written permission)

royal yacht britannia falklands war

On 31 December Governor Sir Raynor ARTHUR was flown by helicopter from HMS Protector to the whale factory ship Southern Harvester which the Duke was visiting. Returning from Southern Harvester the party were transferred again by fishing basket from the whale catcher Sondra which came alongside Britannia , using a 50 foot sperm whale as a fender.

The Duke had the roughest ride as the whaler rolled away just as his basket touched down on the Yacht, but the Bosun kept his head and tipped HRH unceremoniously out onto the deck before the basket was dragged away. On this day, New Year's Eve, Britannia had crossed the Antarctic Circle at breakfast time and every member of the crew received a Red Nose certificate which was reproduced from a lino cut, designed and made by the artist Edward Seago, who was a guest onboard, and Prince Philip. It was a memorable day for the Duke's two secretaries who were the first British women to cross the Antarctic Circle.

Courtesy of British Antarctic Survey Archives (ex-Crown Copyright) (This image is subject to strict copyright provisions and may not be reproduced without written permission)

royal yacht britannia falklands war

From 1 to 4 January the Prince visited the Falkland Islands Dependencies bases in the Antarctic, enjoying for the most part excellent weather.

After a tranquil crossing of Drake Passage, Britannia anchored in Stanley harbour at 9 am on Monday 7 January and the Duke, wearing naval uniform and sporting a fair beard which he had been growing since leaving New Zealand, landed by barge at the Public Jetty. Presentations were made by Governor Arthur, Prince Philip inspected a Guard of Honour and walked past the Boys' Brigade and Girls' Life-Brigade on parade and through lines of schoolchildren.

After a short stop at Government House he drove in the Governor's London taxicab to the Town Hall, where he replied to an Address of Welcome presented by Les HARDY , the Senior Elected Member of LegCo. After a change of clothes at Government House, Prince Philip went to the Racecourse for five races, the highlight of which was the Sailors' Race in which HRH finished first on a horse which had never previously won.[But see editorial comment (1) below] As he passed the post the Royal Yacht band played All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor .

Courtesy of British Antarctic Survey Archives (ex-Crown Copyright)(This image is subject to strict copyright provisions and may not be reproduced without written permission)

royal yacht britannia falklands war

Following lunch at Government House he visited the Hospital, Nurses' Home and the Infants' School. Later he arrived at Sapper Hill to see peat cutting and a shooting match between a naval team and one from the Islands. At the Gymnasium he inspected wool, examined horse gear and saw work by spinners, weavers and dyers before planting a tree at Arch Green and visiting the Cathedral.

He then returned to Britannia where he gave a dinner party and later returned to the Town Hall to present prizes to the winners of the various sports and races held over the last two days. The prize-giving was followed by a lively and energetic Ball with music provided by the Royal Yacht band. Prince Philip spent the night at Government House.

HRH Duke of Edinburgh with Basil BIGGS (Police Constable/Handyman in South Georgia 1954-1969) at Grytviken

Courtesy of Betty Biggs and Bob Burton

royal yacht britannia falklands war

HRH Duke of Edinburgh with Basil ...

On the morning of Tuesday, 8 January HRH made a 70 minute flight in a FIGAS Beaver seaplane. He flew over the wreck of the SS Great Britain , and over Port Louis (the first settlement), Darwin School, Goose Green and Fitzroy before returning to Stanley. Later he visited the Racecourse for an exhibition by sheep dogs and also the Meteorological Station. He held an evening reception in Britannia for 172 people before the Royal Yacht sailed for West Falkland .

On Wednesday, 9 January Britannia anchored off Fox Bay and HRH went ashore to see the general set-up at Fox Bay East where drafting for shearing was in progress. He then visited the Settlement's new recreation centre, the Government wireless station, the power station and the surgery. After smoko at the house of the manager, Wick CLEMENT , Prince Philip visited the woolshed to see shearing and baling, returning to a lunch party in Britannia , before sailing for South Georgia.

HMY Britannia seen through the Whale Bone Arch - with a helicopter from HMS Protector in the distance

Courtesy of the Jane Cameron National Archives (This image is subject to strict copyright provisions and may not be reproduced without written permission)

royal yacht britannia falklands war

HMY Britannia seen through the Whale...

At 9 am on 12 January Britannia anchored in Leith Harbour, South Georgia, amid magnificent Antarctic scenery on a lovely sunny day. The Duke of Edinburgh and his party went ashore and toured the Salvesen whaling factory before embarking in the whale catcher Southern Jester (Captain and Master Gunner Nochart NILSEN) for the twenty mile run down the coast to Grytviken, the Pesca station and factory. On the way an old packing case was thrown into the sea and the gunner demonstrated his skill and the gun's capabilities by blowing it to bits at a range of 70 yards. Nilsen, when asked if it was a case of whisky he had fired at, replied 'If it had been I'd have missed'.

At Grytviken His Royal Highness re-joined Britannia and entertained a small party to lunch. Then he went ashore to visit the government station at King Edward Point and saw the Post Office-cum-Customs office, the Radio and the Met Station before walking along the beach to the headland where the plain white cross in memory of Sir Ernest SHACKLETON stands. He watched two fin whales being flensed in the factory and then visited Shackleton's grave in the cemetery.

Prince Philip meets the doctors at Leith whaling station South Georgia

Courtesy of John Alexander

royal yacht britannia falklands war

Prince Philip meets the doctors at...

When Prince Philip returned on board, Britannia sailed at high speed to the Bay of Isles where he landed close to the large King and Gentoo Penguin rookeries and spent some time watching these splendid birds. After dark the Royal Yacht sailed for Gough Island.

Prince Philip sent the following message to the Governor:

As I leave the Falkland Islands and the Dependencies I want you to know how much I have enjoyed the last ten days and the many interesting things I have seen in these Islands.
Please thank the Falkland Islands Legislative Council for their very kind message of farewell on my departure and I would be most grateful if you would express my gratitude and appreciation to all the people who had a hand in making my visit such a pleasant and enjoyable experience, to all the people of the Falkland Islands for their welcome, the leaders and members of the FIDS bases and the whaling companies of South Georgia. I send you all my very best wishes for a happy and prosperous future. Philip

HRH meets members of FIDF - Brian Summers (centre) and Vernon Steen (right) in 1991

Courtesy of The Falkland Islands Museum

royal yacht britannia falklands war

HRH meets members of FIDF - Brian...

After the 1982 conflict, the Duke of Edinburgh visited the Falkland Islands for a second time between 8 and 13 March, 1991.

He carried out a very full civil and military programme throughout his visit but was also able to include a fishing expedition at Chartres on West Falkland and wildlife viewing on Carcass and Pebble Islands.

The British Antarctic Territory, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia all used scenes from the 1957 royal visit in the stamps they issued in 1977 to celebrate the Queen and Prince Philip's Silver Wedding.

HRH meets Governor William Fullerton and Mrs Arlene Fullerton in Government House conservatory 1991

royal yacht britannia falklands war

HRH meets Governor William Fullerton...

Editorial comment:

(1)  Patrick Watts MBE commented on horse racing for Falklands Radio for many years. He notes that  'I respectfully correct one small error in connection with his [Prince Philip] success while winning the Sailor's Race on an imported Chilean mare called Itata.  It has been wrongly stated that that HRH finished first on a horse Itata  which had never previously won ... Itata was owned by Les HARDY OBE BEM ... at the 1955 annual Christmas sports meeting in Stanley, Itata   won the West Falkland Plate ridden by the legendary Joe Butler ... and later also took the Port Louis Plate with the same jockey in the saddle'. 

(2)  A photograph album, containing twenty-one photographs, of the visit of Prince Philip to the Falklands, was produced. The album was bound in a pebbled red cloth with gold gilt lettering stamped to the front; the page albums are thick black paper with tissue guards. The photographs each measure 210mm x 160mm and are matte silver gelatin prints. The subject matter for the photographs all surround Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, on his trip to the Falkland Islands Dependencies bases in the Antarctic in early January.  The album was created to commemorate Prince Philip's visit to the Falkland Islands in early January of 1957. After opening the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Prince Philip left Australia on December 11th and sailed from New Zealand on December 17th in the HM Yacht Britannia. He travelled home through the South Atlantic, visiting several FIDS bases between the 1st and 4th of January, 1957, the Falkland Islands between the 7th and 9th of January and South Georgia on January 12th. A limited number of the albums were produced - the first copy is now lodged in the Falkland Islands Museum. 

(3)  The Falkland Islands Government (FIG) announced in a statement “with deep sadness” that the FIG “has today learned of the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.” In tribute to the Prince, the Falklands will stage a 21-gun salute on Saturday at noon, followed by a short parade. “During his decades of public duty, the Falkland Islands was pleased to twice welcome the Duke of Edinburgh to our shores in 1957 and 1991. On both occasions, Islanders were struck by his genuine interest in our people, our home and our history,” Mark Pollard, Chair of the Legislative Assembly, stated “On behalf of the people of the Falkland Islands, we wish to express our heartfelt sympathies for Her Majesty the Queen and the wider Royal family at this sorrowful time. We have a deep and lasting affection for the Duke of Edinburgh, who wholeheartedly engaged with our community – young and old – during his time in the Islands. Whether trout fishing in Chartres or taking part in our Boxing Day horse races, his enthusiasm for our traditions and way of life is something that has positively impacted on generations of Falkland Islanders and will never be forgotten.”

HRH The Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died on 9 April 2021, at Windsor Castle, aged 99 years.

See Image 263

See:   Images 666 and 1462

External links

See:   Prince Philip in the Antarctic   (Pathe News - YouTube video)

See:   Prince Philip visits the Falkland Islands 1991   (FITV You Tube video)

See:   The naming of ' Prince Philip' street in Stanley

Benjamin Jaffray;  The visit of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh to the Falkland Islands in 1957;  Falklands Islands Journal  ; 2020

May 2019 Two photographs added July 2019 Two additional photographs added August 2019 External link added April 2020 One additional image added June 2020 Two additional photographs added September 2020 One reference added April 2021 Text amended; one additional photograph added; two internal links added May 2021 One additional photograph added; two editorial comments added; two additional external link added

ARCHIVIST and Librarian to HRH Prince Phillip

Dame Anne Griffiths. Born 1932; died 2017.

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Montevideo, May 19th 2024 - 04:09 UTC

The news came as some consolation for Brazilians going through unprecedented storms and floods, CBF President Ednaldo Rodrigues said

Royal Yacht Britannia to be replaced by an ocean surveillance ship

The national flagship plan was sunk by Rishi Sunak's administration as Whitehall braced for cuts in the 17 November autumn statement by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

A £250m scheme to create a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia has been scrapped – with the Defense Secretary telling MPs the procurement of a new Royal Navy vessel is being prioritized instead.

The national flagship plan was sunk by Rishi Sunak's administration as Whitehall braced for cuts in the 17 November autumn statement by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. The plan had been championed by Boris Johnson when he was Prime Minister but has faced criticism from MPs at a time when there are other priorities for defense spending.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said he was prioritizing the procurement of the multi-role ocean surveillance ship (MROSS) instead of the flagship.

”In the face of the Russian illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and (Vladimir) Putin's reckless disregard of international arrangements designed to keep world order, it is right that we prioritize delivering capabilities which safeguard our national infrastructure,“ he said.

That meant he had ”also directed the termination of the national flagship competition with immediate effect to bring forward the first MROSS ship in its place“.

Mr Wallace told MPs the MROSS would ”protect sensitive defense infrastructure and civil infrastructure“ and ”improve our ability to detect threats to the seabed and cables“.

Shadow defense secretary John Healey welcomed the news that the ”previous prime minister's vanity project“ has been scrapped and the spending switched to ”purposes that will help defend the country“.

It was revealed in May last year that the Royal Yacht Britannia successor was to be crewed by Royal Navy personnel and the construction of the vessel was expected to begin this year.

The vessel had been expected to be constructed in the UK and taken to the water in 2024 or 2025, and would have toured the world as a ”floating embassy“.

But the Daily Telegraph, which has been campaigning for a replacement for Britannia, reported that the two private consortia bidding for the work were told on Monday morning the project is being axed.

The Defense Secretary last year defended the decision to fund the building of a successor for the Royal Yacht Britannia as ”affordable“ in the face of growing criticism and questions from MPs.

The Commons Defense Committee warned in 2021 that there was ”no evidence of the advantage to the Royal Navy of acquiring the national flagship” and that the initial expenditure of around £250m, combined with the £20-30m a year running costs and providing a crew, would pile extra pressure on the senior service.

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The Royal Yacht BRITANNIA evacuating personnel off Little Aden, January 1986

(MP442). Miscellaneous. Oil on board signed Richard Cosby and dated 2016.

HM Yacht BRITANNIA evacuating off Aden 1986

12 copies worldwide

14 x 20 ins (35.5 x 50 cms) approx

on card:£100; on canvas £125

Purchase or enquire about this print

On 14 January 1986 Her Majesty’s Yacht BRITANNIA, wearing the flag of the Flag Officer Royal Yachts (FORY), Rear Admiral John Garnier CBE LVO, was on passage to New Zealand for Royal Duty with HM The Queen.  HMY, approaching the southern end of the Red Sea, was signalled that fighting between the Government and rival Marxist factions had broken out in the former British Colony of Aden, now the Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Yemen.  The intensity of fighting now threatened the safety of foreigners in the country and with the full agreement of Her Majesty, BRITANNIA proceeded to the Aden area and prepared to evacuate British and Commonwealth nationals.  

The Royal Yacht arrived off Aden at first light the next morning to find a very confused situation with fierce fighting within the port of Aden itself and in the close vicinity. In the early hours of 17 January FORY was joined by the destroyer HMS NEWCASTLE (Captain P J Erskine RN), the frigate HMS JUPITER (Commander R A Y Bridges RN), the fleet tanker RFA BRAMBLELEAF (Captain O G Lynch RFA) and  the surveying ship HMS HECLA (Commander C F Heron-Watson RN) from East Africa. MV DIAMOND PRINCESS (Captain C Burtinshaw MN) joined soon afterwards on loan from Cunard. 

A frustrating constraint was a prohibition from ashore on warships and RFAs entering territorial waters (12 miles) to avoid any chance of provoking the battling elements around Aden. During the afternoon of 17 January, however, it became clear that an initial evacuation should be possible from Abyan Beach, near Khormaksar, north of Aden. With white ensigns flying conspicuously to emphasise her nationality, BRITANNIA anchored as close as possible off the beach and was quickly involved in the rescue effort with Soviet ships. Using 5 of her 6 boats (the Royal Barge remained at the davit head) the Yacht started lifting people from the open beach but with heavy surf making boat embarkation precarious it became obvious that in the very difficult conditions ashore it would not be possible or humane to attempt to evacuate selectively.  The 152 eventually embarked in BRITANNIA by midnight were of 26 different nationalities, and once fed they settled down with relief in the Royal Dining room and Drawing room for passage to Djibouti. 

At first light on 18 January and now alone off the beach, the Royal Yacht started the evacuation again, but this had to be suspended after 3 hours when rebel forces with tanks appeared on the beach and opened fire at Government positions over the embarkation point. Subsequently, shrapnel or shell splashes were observed falling between HMY and the shore. With little prospect of a further safe evacuation that day and after transferring 81 French nationals and a dog to the French ship JULES VERNE, HMY proceeded to Djibouti to disembark the remaining 350 evacuees: the following day NEWCASTLE transferred a lamp post to BRITANNIA who passed it on for the convenience of JULES VERNE’s dog!  Meanwhile JUPITER's boats marked out an embarkation area on a featureless coast near Zinjibar (about 40 miles NE of Aden) which allowed the Royal Yacht, arriving after dark, to recover 209 refugees by boat for transfer to JUPITER for fast passage to Djibouti.  

From 21 January evacuations by all ships were underway. In bad weather NEWCASTLE’s helicopter made 52 flights collecting 248 refugees from DIAMOND PRINCESS off Mukalla for transfer to Djibouti; and HYDRA rescued 49 people from Nishtun. Finally, off Little Aden and where the oil refinery had been burning hard (the scene of this painting), boats from HMY picked up a further 442 people from jetties for passage in the Royal Apartments to Djibouti.  Before she resumed her voyage to New Zealand on 24 January BRITANNIA had rescued 1,082 people of the overall total of 1,379 of 55 nationalities saved by the British ships

It was announced on 10 June 1986 in the London Gazette that Lieutenant Easson (Boatswain) had been awarded The Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in recognition of his hazardous work as HMY’s Beach Master during the Aden evacuation

New national flagship replacing the Royal Yacht Britannia 'to be funded through the Ministry of Defence', says Number 10

The new flagship will replace the Royal Yacht Britannia which was retired in 1997 after 44 years of service.

royal yacht britannia falklands war

Political reporter @itssophiemorris

Monday 21 June 2021 17:04, UK

Handout image issued by 10 Downing Street showing an artist's impression of a new national flagship, the successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said will promote British trade and industry around the world. Issue date: Sunday May 30, 2021.

A new national yacht, which is reportedly set to cost £200m, will be paid for out of the Ministry of Defence's budget, Downing Street has confirmed.

The national flagship, the successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, will sail the globe hosting trade talks.

The prime minister's official spokesperson said Boris Johnson hopes it will be built in the UK, but that international rules on procurement will be followed.

Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997

Mr Johnson announced the commissioning of the new flagship earlier this year , saying it would be used to promote British interests around the world as the UK seeks to build trade links post-Brexit.

The vessel will be part of and crewed by the Royal Navy, the PM said.

"Every aspect of the ship, from its build to the businesses it showcases on board, will represent and promote the best of British - a clear and powerful symbol of our commitment to be an active player on the world stage," he added.

Labour has previously called on the government to set out how the yacht will boost trade and jobs in the UK and to "focus on value for money" with regards to the project.

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Conservative Jake Berry, who is chairman of the Northern Research Group of MPs, has campaigned for the vessel to be built by Cammell Laird on Merseyside.

And at a lobby briefing on Monday, the PM's official spokesperson confirmed the new flagship will be "funded through the Ministry of Defence".

There are calls for the yacht to be built at the Cammell Laird shipyard

"This new national flagship will boost British trade and drive investment into the economy," he said.

"The procurement process, which is being done through the MoD, will reflect its wide-ranging use and so it will be funded through the MoD, as set out previously."

The PM's official spokesperson declined to comment on where the MoD would find the reported £200m required for the project out of its budget, but did confirm the new vessel will not be a warship.

"We will set out the exact detail in due course but this is a trade ship, it is not a military vessel," he said.

The Royal Yacht Britannia was launched by The Queen in 1953 and was retired in 1997 after completing 44 years of service.

The new national flagship is expected to be in service for around 30 years.

The yacht's name is yet to be announced, but reports have suggested it will pay homage to the Duke of Edinburgh who was Lord High Admiral from 2011 until his death earlier this year, and served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

Related Topics

IMAGES

  1. The story behind the Royal Yacht Britannia

    royal yacht britannia falklands war

  2. The Crown True Story: The Royal Yacht Britannia

    royal yacht britannia falklands war

  3. Pin on QE2

    royal yacht britannia falklands war

  4. Royal Yacht Britannia in history

    royal yacht britannia falklands war

  5. Where is the Royal Yacht Britannia and why was it decommissioned

    royal yacht britannia falklands war

  6. The Fascinating Story Behind the Royal Family's Yacht, Britannia

    royal yacht britannia falklands war

VIDEO

  1. HMS AVENGER THE FALKLANDS WAR

  2. Corps of Royal Engineers

  3. Royal Yacht Britannia 7th August 1996

  4. Falklands War Song

  5. The Royal Yacht Britannia im Hafen von Edinburgh , September 2012 (comments in German language)

  6. End Of An Era: Britannia, The Last Royal Ship

COMMENTS

  1. HMY Britannia

    Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia is the former royal yacht of the British monarchy.She was in their 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, the yacht travelled more than a million ...

  2. The History of The Royal Yacht Britannia

    Historical Timeline. Britannia was the first Royal Yacht to be built with complete ocean-going capacity and designed as a Royal residence to entertain guests around the world. When she was decommissioned in 1997, it marked the end of a long tradition of British Royal Yachts, dating back to 1660 and the reign of Charles II.

  3. Why the Rn Doesn'T Need a Royal Yacht Duty

    During the 1982 Falklands War HMY Britannia was not allowed to perform that secondary duty. It angered a lot of people in the Navy who were going off to possibly die in defence of the realm. Perhaps the Merchant Navy rather than the Royal Navy could operate a private Royal Yacht, but she would still be a prime target (whether carrying Royals or ...

  4. Royal Yacht Britannia History: When Did The Queen Retire The Royal

    The tradition of a royal yacht stretches back to 1660, when Charles II became England's king. To mark his return to the throne, his Dutch allies gave him an extravagant gift: a yacht called the Mary. As well as being built for speed, she was also designed with opulence in mind. "To give it the more lustre", the ship's exterior was ...

  5. HMY Britannia (Royal Cutter Yacht)

    Height. 164 ft (50 m) Draught. 15 ft (4.6 m) Sail plan. 10,328 sq ft (959.5 m 2) (1893) His Majesty's Yacht Britannia was a gaff-rigged cutter built in 1893 for RYS Commodore Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. She served both himself and his son King George V with a long racing career.

  6. British naval forces in the Falklands War

    RFA Sir Lancelot. San Carlos Water. RFA Sir Tristram being carried home after the war by MV Dan Lifter. RFA Sir Bedivere (L3004) - bombed by Douglas A-4B Skyhawk - Minor Damage. P.J. McCarthy. RFA Sir Galahad (L3005) - bombed on 24 May and 8 June by Douglas A-4B Skyhawks (sunk by torpedo on 21 June and declared a war grave) (†48) - Fatal Damage.

  7. The HMY Britannia: Inside History's Last British Royal Yacht

    Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia, also known as the Royal Yacht Britannia, is the former royal yacht of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in service from 1954 until 1997. It currently sits at dock in Scotland. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images) Getty Images. The HMY Britannia has been out of commission since 1997, but the last British ...

  8. The Royal Yacht Britannia and the Clyde

    From the outset, Britannia would have two roles - as the royal yacht in peacetime and as a hospital ship in the event of a war. That dual role dictated the design of Britannia, though her three masts were necessary because of royal protocol over the flying of flags. She would eventually displace more than 4000 tons.

  9. HMY ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA 1954

    Object description. Interior view of HMY BRITANNIA's Drawing Room being used as a temporary dormitory by British and foreign national refugees picked up on Khormaksar Beach on 17 January 1986. Men are shown crouching on the sheeted floor with their luggage.

  10. The Story Behind the Royal Family's Yacht, Britannia

    The royal family has a long history of seafaring—the first official royal yacht was the HMY Mary (HMY stands for His or Her Majesty's Yacht), gifted to Charles II by the Dutch in 1660. In fact ...

  11. Falklands 40: Conflict Overview

    Falklands 40 Thursday 14 June 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands following the invasion by Argentina on 2 April 1982. Over 250 British personnel lost their lives during the conflict and many others made great personal sacrifices. The Royal Navy played a crucial role in the war and this blog seeks to provide an overview of the conflict.

  12. Falklands War 40th anniversary: remembering the war at sea

    From combat to life at sea, Argentine and British naval forces recall their experiences. 01 Apr 2022. 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the Falklands conflict, a 74-day conflict between Argentine and British forces that resulted in more than 3,000 casualties. Curator Andrew Choong examines the war from a naval perspective, with personal ...

  13. Tide of opinion turns against royal yacht

    The future of the Royal Yacht Britannia has been the subject of intense debate. ... During the Falklands conflict there was a plan to send Britannia to the South Atlantic as a hospital ship ...

  14. Logistics in The Falklands War

    There have been no amphibious assaults to speak of since Inchon in the Korean War, and Suez in 1956. The British expeditionary assault upon the Falklands in 1982, however, provided many lessons, given the inadequate training, little intelligence, no contingency plans, a politically driven rush, and an 8000 mile logistical tether from the homeland.

  15. Inside the Royal Yacht Britannia

    This year marks two major milestones for the iconic Royal Yacht Britannia, the Royal Family's former yacht, aboard which they would cruise the Western Isles of Scotland each summer. Celebrating both 70 years of service and 25 years as a multi-award-winning floating museum and visitor attraction, this regal yacht is more popular than ever.

  16. Sailing Yacht Britannia

    Sailing Yacht Britannia. In April 1893, some 20 years into G. L. Watson's trail blazing career, the royal sailing yacht Britannia was launched. The prestige associated with this order from the Price of Wales, Britannia's revolutionary design, enduring beauty, speed and a 43 year career in the ownerships of King Edward VII and King George V have all contributed to the Britannia legend.

  17. Not the Royal Yacht Britannia: Waiving the Rules

    During the Falklands War in 1982, there was a plan to deploy the boat in that capacity. But, when it was revealed that Britannia used different fuel to the rest of the fleet, the idea was dropped. The yacht had huge symbolic value and would have made an enticing target so perhaps the different fuel story - which was completely true - was ...

  18. Royal Yacht Britannia Facts Everyone Should Know—and How to Visit

    Royal Yacht Britania Facts and History. On February 4, 1952, John Brown & Co shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland, received the order from the Admiralty to build a new Royal Yacht to travel the globe and double as a hospital ship in times of war, according to the royal yacht's website.King George VI passed away two days after, sadly, and so on April 16, 1953, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II ...

  19. EDINBURGH, The PRINCE PHILIP

    He held an evening reception in Britannia for 172 people before the Royal Yacht sailed for West Falkland . On Wednesday, 9 January Britannia anchored off Fox Bay and HRH went ashore to see the general set-up at Fox Bay East where drafting for shearing was in progress. He then visited the Settlement's new recreation centre, the Government ...

  20. Royal Yacht Britannia to be replaced by an ocean ...

    Falklands war: "The secret pact between Chile and the United Kingdom", ex-head of Argentine Army ... A £250m scheme to create a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia has been scrapped ...

  21. Falklands War: Welsh Guards cleared of blame over Sir Galahad bombing

    A 1982 Royal Navy inquiry into the bombing of Sir Galahad and its sister ship Sir Tristram - where eight more people were killed - was held in private and its findings unreleased.

  22. The Royal Yacht BRITANNIA evacuating personnel off Little Aden, January

    Oil on board signed Richard Cosby and dated 2016. On 14 January 1986 Her Majesty's Yacht BRITANNIA, wearing the flag of the Flag Officer Royal Yachts (FORY), Rear Admiral John Garnier CBE LVO, was on passage to New Zealand for Royal Duty with HM The Queen. HMY, approaching the southern end of the Red Sea, was signalled that fighting between ...

  23. RFA Engadine (K08)

    At the Silver Jubilee fleet review in 1977 she followed the royal yacht HMY Britannia. In the Falklands War she was a helicopter support and refuelling ship in San Carlos Water. By the mid-1980s Engadine was becoming obsolescent so the container ship MV Contender Bezant was bought for conversion, becoming RFA Argus.

  24. New national flagship replacing the Royal Yacht Britannia ...

    The Royal Yacht Britannia was launched by The Queen in 1953 and was retired in 1997 after completing 44 years of service. The new national flagship is expected to be in service for around 30 years.