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Britannia


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1 A ship's name associated with the Royal Navy since 1682, when the first of this name was built at Chatham. In 1859 the fifth ship named Britannia was allocated to the training of naval cadets and was eventually moored at Dartmouth in Devon for this purpose. Later a college was built there and this, too, was known as HMS Britannia, but changed its name to the Britannia Royal Naval College after the royal yacht Britannia was launched (see (4) below).

2 The first transatlantic ocean liner to be built for what was later to become the Cunard Line. Constructed by Robert Napier, she was a 1,150-ton wooden paddle steamer, 63 metres (207 ft) in length with a maximum speed of 9 knots.

3 A 212-ton British racing yacht launched in 1893 for the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, and owned after his death by King George V. She was designed by the yacht designer G. L. Watson, and was composite built on the Clyde. During her first few seasons she was remarkably successful but a change in the rating rule, introduced in 1896, did not favour her, and her supremacy was challenged by the German Kaiser's Meteor. In 1897 the Prince of Wales sold her but four years later he bought her back, but fitted her out for cruising only. After the First World War (1914–18), King George V fitted Britannia out for racing, which encouraged a resurgence in the sport. During much of the 1920s she competed with great success against other yachts in the Big Class, but was eventually outclassed by the J-class. In August 1935 she was withdrawn from racing having sailed a total of 635 races, winning 231 first prizes and 129 second and third prizes. During her lifetime she had seven different rigs, and could be justly called one of the most remarkable racing yachts ever built. After King George V died in January 1936 she was towed into the English Channel and sunk in deep water off the Isle of Wight, but a replica of her is now being built.

4 British royal yacht, launched in April 1953 by Queen Elizabeth II at the Clydebank shipyard of Messrs. John Brown & Co. Her dimensions were: length overall 125.7 metres (412 ft 3 in.), waterline length 116 metres (380 ft), draught 5.2 metres (17 ft), gross tonnage 5,862, seagoing speed 21 knots.

In July 1938 the British government decided to replace the ageing Victoria and Albert with a new royal yacht which would have a dual role in wartime as a hospital ship. Although preliminary plans were sent to leading shipbuilders in 1939, the Second World War (1939–45) intervened and it was not until October 1951 that the Admiralty announced that a hospital ship, capable of carrying 200 patients and the necessary medical staff, would be added to the rearmament programme. In peacetime, the Admiralty announced, Britannia would be used as a royal yacht by King George VI, but the yacht was, at least theoretically, capable of being converted to her wartime role in 24 hours.

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Subjects: Maritime History.


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