The End of an Era
In 2018 Jim and I traveled to Scotland. Always enthusiastic about history, we were excited to learn that Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia is berthed at Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh, Scotland and open to tour. Not on our original agenda but nevertheless not to be missed, we spent several hours visiting this wonderful piece of history. Officially decommissioned on December 11, 1997, it's a bit sad to think that this era has been concluded, but with a little imagination, one can hear the voices of the Royal Family as they worked and played on this lovely yacht.
Since the 1660s the British Monarchy has had a Royal Ship. The Britannia was the 83rd and the last such vessel of the Royal Family. Christened and launched on April 16, 1953, at Brown's Shipyard in Clydebank by the Queen herself, the ship logged over a million nautical miles visiting 600 ports in 135 countries for 968 state visits. She was an ambassador for the United Kingdom and a place of solace for Queen Elizabeth. The Queen was exceptionally happy aboard Britannia for it was here she felt the privacy that she so needed in her busy life.
Life Onboard The Britannia
The Britannia served the Queen in many ways. First and foremost, she traveled to foreign countries and entertained heads of state aboard the ship as an ambassador for her country. The Royal Family also spent many holidays together traveling around the Scottish Isles in summer or onboard for a Christmas vacation.
The Britannia was the only ship in the world in which the captain was always an Admiral. The crew, selected from the Royal Navy, included 240 yachtsmen or "yotties" as they were called. About half of the yotties were appointed to their positions as part of the Permanent Royal Yacht Service and the rest volunteered for a one year commitment. At the end of their volunteer period, many elected to stay on permanently if a position was available. It was not uncommon for yotties to serve 20 years or more until their retirement unless expelled for medical or disciplinary causes.
A yachtsman may serve many roles aboard the Britannia including caring for the Royal Children and seeing that they were safely entertained during their visits on board. These yachtsmen were known as "Sea Daddies" and provided activities such as treasure hunts and outdoor games on the Veranda Deck.
If the Royal Family was in residence, all maintenance near the Royal apartments had to be completed by 8 a.m. The yachtsmen wore soft-soled shoes to reduce noise and maintain the peaceful environment desired by the Queen. Additionally, hand signals were used in lieu of verbal orders.
A peak into the gleaming and pristine engine room which performed impeccably and without need for major repair during the entire 44 years of service. The queen, being very proud of her ship, often brought guests to see this display of craftsmanship after dinner. Many thought this was simply theatrical and not the real engine room as it was remained spotless at all times.