A successor for HMY Britannia?
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 15 February 2006
HMY Britannia  was built at the John Brown shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland. She was launched by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, on 16 April 1953 and commissioned on 11 January 1954. She was the 83rd royal yacht since the restoration of King Charles II in 1660.Charles II had 25 Royal Yachts, while five were simultaneously in service in 1831.

Designed to be converted into a hospital ship in time of war, HMY Britannia carried The Queen, other members of the Royal Family, and various dignitaries on 696 foreign visits and 272 visits in British waters. Over 1,000 refugees from the civil war in Aden in 1986 were evacuated by Britannia.

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In 1997, the Conservative government announced it would replace the Royal Yacht if re-elected. The Labour Party was silent as to its plans, but after the election, the new Labour government as announced that the vessel would be retired and there would be no replacement.

The Royal Yacht's last foreign mission was at the return of the Crown Colony of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China on 30 June 1997. Britannia was decommissioned on 11 December 1997.

Queen Elizabeth II attended the decommissioning, along with most of the senior members of the Royal Family. Britannia is now permanently moored as an exhibition ship at Leith harbour, Edinburgh, Scotland and is used as a conference and meeting centre.

Norway and Denmark have Royal Yachts and the US Presidents used to use Presidential Yachts. The Russian President, and the Thai and Swedish kings have access to naval vessels, as did General de Gaulle as President of the Republic.

The question whether a new Royal Yacht should be commissioned has recently come to the forefront in the UK, if the letters columns to the London Daily Telegraph are an indication. We shall refer to these in detail in a subsequent column.

This is of course primarily a matter for the UK government, but there is no doubt that HMY Britannia not only assisted The Queen in her role as Sovereign of the United Kingdom, but also as Sovereign of Her other Realms, as well as the Head of the Commonwealth.