Britannia (ship, 1953)

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HMY Britannia Windsor 1959 MIKAN 4821455.jpg
Ship data
flag United KingdomUnited Kingdom (Naval War Flag) United Kingdom
Ship type State yacht
Shipyard John Brown & Company , Clydebank
Build number 691
Launch April 16, 1953
Commissioning January 11, 1954
Decommissioning December 11, 1997
Whereabouts Museum ship in Leith harbor near Edinburgh in Scotland
Ship dimensions and crew
126 m ( Lüa )
width 17 m
Draft Max. 4.6 m
displacement 4,320 tn.l.
measurement 5,769 GRT
crew 236 men
Machine system
machine Steam turbine
12,000 PS (8,826 kW)
21.5 kn (40 km / h)
IMO : 8635306

The Britannia was the 83rd Royal Yacht of Great Britain since the reinstatement of King Charles II in 1660. Today she can be seen along with an exhibition about the ship in the port of Leith near Edinburgh in Scotland.


Exhibition and access to the ship in the Ocean Terminal shopping center
Berth in the port of Leith

The Britannia was built at the John Brown & Company Ltd. built in Clydebank, Scotland. After her launch on April 16, 1953 and her baptism by Queen Elizabeth II , she was put into service on January 11, 1954. During her service as a royal motor yacht (she was designed so that she could be converted into a hospital ship in the event of war , which was never used), she carried the Queen, other members of the royal family and various other dignitaries to 696 visits abroad and 272 Visits to the UK. Prince Charles and Diana Frances Spencer honeymooned on the Britannia in 1981 . Over 1,000 refugees from the Yemeni civil war were evacuated with the yacht in 1986 in Aden . In addition, the Britannia was intended to serve as a safe haven for the royal family in the event of a nuclear war.

In 1997, the Conservative Party under John Major took on the exchange of the Britannia for a more modern ship in its election manifesto. After the Labor Party electoral victory on May 1, 1997, it was announced that the Britannia would be decommissioned, but not replaced by a new ship. The main reason for this decision was the running costs of around 30 million euros annually raised by UK taxpayers. The royal family refused to pay some or all of these costs themselves.

Britannia's last official mission was to get Chris Patten  - the last British governor of Hong Kong  - together with Prince Charles from the city after the crown colony was handed over to the People's Republic of China.

The Britannia was decommissioned on December 11, 1997. Queen Elizabeth II attended the ceremony along with most of the elderly members of the royal family . The otherwise reserved monarch publicly shed a tear when she disembarked for the last time.

The Britannia is now a museum ship in the port of Leith near Edinburgh in Scotland. The ship can be reached through an exhibition about the history and construction of the ship in the Ocean Terminal shopping center. The Britannia can also be rented for conferences and banquets . In 2006 the Swiss film actress Ursula Andress celebrated her 70th birthday at the Britannia .

When choosing a berth, Edinburgh had competed with Glasgow , where the motor yacht was built.

The ship has given its name to Mount Britannia , the highest mountain on Rongé Island in Antarctica , since 1960 .


Queen's bedroom
Dining room

The top deck encompasses the royal family's rooms, with the queen and prince consort sleeping in their own rooms, as there were originally only single beds throughout the ship. Prince Charles had the only double bed on the ship brought on board in 1981 for his honeymoon with Diana. The queen and her husband each had their own sitting room , which represented a kind of office, but also a small living room. The end of the rooms on the upper deck is a veranda . This is said to have been Queen Elizabeth II's favorite room on board. Behind the veranda there is only the sun deck, the wooden floor of which had to be cleaned every morning; an inflatable swimming pool was sometimes set up here.

The main deck is located below the upper deck. This includes the dining room , the drawing room and the ante room . The Dining Room is a relatively large hall, which was also suitable for video presentations and the installation of a dance floor. The Ante Room is the reception room, and the Drawing Room itself was the actual living room of the royal family. Since movable interior walls were used, it is possible to partially merge these rooms into larger rooms. Furthermore, the guest cabins, which are very luxuriously equipped, as well as the kitchen are located on this level.

In the decks below are the spartan cabins for the staff and the guards, which consisted of Royal Marines . A bar and lounges for the crew as well as a large laundry were also located here.


Engine room


When the Britannia was planned, two fundamentally different propulsion systems were considered: on the one hand, a diesel propulsion system and, on the other hand, steam turbines . One of the main advantages of this drive from oil-fired steam turbines is the much higher speed compared to other ship drives. Although only a relatively low speed was planned for the Britannia (23  knots , could be achieved in the sea trials), preference was given to the steam turbines, as the highest priority in the construction of the ship was to be as low-vibration as possible and thus comfortable for the guests Drive continued.

The disadvantage of the turbine drive is the high fuel consumption, especially at part load ( cruising ). This is also reflected in the ship's rather short range. The drive system consists of two shafts, each driven by a high and a low pressure steam turbine. The power achieved was around 4,400 kW (6,000 PS) per shaft, i.e. a total drive power of 8.8 MW (12,000 PS). The steam for the steam turbines was generated in two oil-fired main boilers. In addition, a smaller auxiliary boiler was available for operation in the port or to support the main boiler.

Power supply

At sea, the power supply was provided by three steam generators, each with 500 kW power, which were fed with steam from the propulsion system. There was also a small diesel generator with an output of 270 kW on board, which supplied the ship with electrical energy when the steam boiler was not in operation. The ship was also equipped with a 60 kW emergency diesel generator, which was designed for a total failure of all other generators on board. The power grid on board works with a voltage of 225 volts direct current. In addition, AC power is available to operate certain devices.


For navigation, the Britannia was equipped with a navigation radar of the type 974, an echo sounder as well as a Decca navigation system and LORAN navigation.


Commanders of the Britannia

  • Vice-Admiral Sir Connolly Abel-Smith 1954-1958
  • Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Dawnay 1958–1962
  • Rear Admiral Sir Joseph Henley 1962–1965
  • Rear Admiral Sir Patrick Morgan 1965-1970
  • Rear Admiral Sir Richard Trowbridge 1970–1975
  • Rear Admiral Sir Hugh Janion 1975–1981
  • Rear Admiral Sir Paul Greening 1981–1985
  • Rear Admiral Sir John Garnier 1985–1990
  • Rear Admiral Sir Robert Woodard 1990–1995
  • Commodore Anthony Morrow 1995-1997


  • Her Majesty's Yacht and Hospital Ship "Britannia". In: The Shipbuilder and Marine Engine-Builder. Vol. 61, No. 553, 1954, ZDB -ID 880066-2 , pp. 433-448.
  • Edward HH Archibald: The Metal Fighting Ship in the Royal Navy, 1860-1970. Illustrated by Ray Woodward. Blandford Press, London 1971, ISBN 0-7137-0551-5 .

Web links

Commons : Britannia  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Her Majesty's Yacht and Hospital Ship "Britannia". In: The Shipbuilder and Marine Engine-Builder. Vol. 61, No. 553, 1954, pp. 433-448.

Coordinates: 55 ° 58 ′ 55.7 "  N , 3 ° 10 ′ 38.3"  W.