After breakfast in our room we took a short drive north to the Ocean Terminal at Leith, where the Royal Yacht Britannia is permanently berthed.
Britannia served the royal family from 1954 to 1997, during which the ship sailed over one million miles. The ship had been commissioned just two days before the death of King George VI and was the first royal vessel designed for ocean travel. It took over a year to build and the name was a closely guarded secret until she was launched by the young Queen Elizabeth II in April 1953. She had been crowned only a couple of months before. The yacht was classed as an official royal residence.
The garage space for the Rolls-Royce Phantom was so tight that the bumpers had to be removed to get it in. The car would be used to transport the members of the royal family when they reached their destination.
Queen Elizabeth II loved the Britannia and was moved to tears during her decommissioning service in 1997. The Queen’s bedroom and sittingroom.The bedroom of Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh. The ‘Honeymoon Suite’ is the only bedroom on board with a double bed. Four royal couples celebrated there honeymoon on Britannia; Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.The Ward Room – the mess cabin for commissioned officers. Officers serving on the Britannia were chosen from the ranks of the Royal Navy and served two-year terms. The crew were all volunteers from within the Royal Navy. After serving 365 days you could be admitted to “The Permanent Royal Yacht Service” as Royal Yachtsmen and then served until you chose to leave or were dismissed for medical or disciplinary reasons. As a result, some crew served for 20 years or more. The ship also carried a troop of Royal Marines when members of the Royal Family were on board.
You could wear a captain’s cap and ‘lift a pint’ in the Petty Officer’s Mess. The Britannia was the last ship of the British navy to convert from hammocks to cots for the sailors. The crew slept in hammocks until 1973. There were display cases full of items from around the world that had been presented to the Queen on her travels. The Queen and Prince Phillip requested that some of the lavish interior designs planned for the yacht be toned down since the country was still recovering from the war years. There were minimal changes made in the decor during her many years of service.
The kitchen was not very big, but some really elaborate meals could be produced for dignitaries in the State Dining Room. The table in the State Dining Room can sit up to 96 guests.Near the main entrance doors there is a lovely staircase from which the Queen can make a ‘grand entrance.” The Drawing Room was a lovely space with a grand piano off to the side.
Since the ship was built less than 10 years after the end of WWII, and that horrible time was still fresh in people’s minds, the yacht was designed so it could be converted to a hospital ship if necessary. The bow was structurally strengthened to allow for helicopter landings. This, though is just the medic’s room.
One of the busiest departments on board; the laundry room. During the visit of one foreign dignitary he was given a tour of the engine room. After the tour, he turned to his guide and said, “That is very nice. Nice and clean, but now show me the real engine room.” Nope. This is it; always kept pristine. It was a real treat to be able to see this lovely vessel. We drove east along the coast of the Firth of Forth to the pretty little town of Dirleton and toured the castle ruins and gardens.