ROYAL YACHT (HMY) BRITANNIA -
On September 21/18, TV station WNED Ch 17) in Buffalo. NewYork
aired a documentary on the Royal Yacht Britannia. This ship is part of
the series titled "Great British Royal Ships". Included in the tour was
a glimpse of the Communications Centre as it appeared when the ship
was paid off in 1997. Your webmaster photographed some areas of the centre
directly from a 42 inch flat screen TV. If anyone can help fill in the
unknowns, please contact: email@example.com
From the onset Britannia was designed to be a floating residence
for the Royal family with a quick conversion to a hospital ship. As a hospital
ship, Britannia could accomodate some 200 wounded military personel. Not
many people know this, but Britannia had a more important (but hidden)
role other than providing a means of transport for the Royal Family.
During the peak of the Cold War in the 1950s and 60s, it was feared that
a nuclear Armageddon would destroy London and the British seat of government.
To ensure the survivability of the government and to control the
military forces, an emergency plan known as Python was devised. It designated
five sites from which the government could operate from in case of nuclear
attack. Britannia was one of those five sites. Britain's nuclear
ICBM missile force could be controlled from any of those five sites.
Initially, Python was
classified but was declassified once Britannia paid off. .
During the Falklands war with Argentina, Britannia could not fulfill
her role as a hospital ship due to cost. By 1982, the entire Royal Navy
had converted over to ships which used diesel oil to fuel their engines.
Britannia still burned Bunker C oil because she was steam driven.
To dispatch a tanker to the Falklands filled with Bunker C would have simply
been cost prohibitive. However Britannia did well in 1986 when she rescued
some 1,082 foreign and British nationals who had congregated on a beachhead
in Yemen, during that country's civil war.
As of 1997, Britannia was paid off and is now a museum ship in Edinburgh,
Scotland. Since Wikipedia.org has an excellent writeup on HMY
Britannia, readers are referred to that web site for any additional
information.This web document will therfore focus on the ship's Communications
Centre and Britannia's electronics fit during her service life.
|The tour host is seen here entering the Communications
Centre. The glare is a reflection from the cameraman's light . Were there
any VHF radios on the bridge when Britannia paid off. ?
|This is all that's left from Britannia's crypto
system .These might have been BID580's
used to read the online broadcast or possibly BID660 devices. By
the 1970s, all comms were done using BID660's or in some cases KW7's.
All messages to and from the Queen were encrypted. as well as any state
|This is the Marconi
Lodestar III , a Medium Frequency Direction Finding set. There might
have been a different set here in 1954.
|This position in the Comm Centre remains
unidentified at this time.
|What is it?
|This appears to be a power distribution
panel of some kind, possibly to charge batteries.
|The NATO stock number on the Filter Band
Suppresser indicates that the equipment is of military origin.
|A general view of the Communications
NAVIGATION DEVICES and SYSTEMS
Britannia was fitted with Decca Navigator Mk21 for navigation in
European coastal waters. This would been after 1969.
|Introduced in November 1969, the Deccca Mark 21 was the first receiver
where everything was contained in a single box unit. Britannia paid off
with this unit. (Photo from the collection of Walter Blanchard)
NAVIGATION SYSTEMS AS OF 1954
||Original model is not known at this time,
nor is it known if Britannia was upgraded to Loran 'C' later on.
||Original Mark is not known at this time. Upgraded
to MK 21 sometime after 1969.
||Original model is not known.
|Admiralty (Sperry type) gyro b>compass
||The master gyro was situated on the platform
deck under the bridge with repeaters to the Royal chart house, compass
platform, wheelhouse, bridge wings, steering compartment and emergency
OLDER COMM CONFIGURATIONS
Dixie Deane served aboard HMY Britannia from 1957 to 1986.
He recalls some of the older comm configurations. " Receivers - I think
we had moved on from B28's and 29's to B40's and 41's. Transmitters
were 600 type although a 603 was adapted especially for Radfones and was
known as a DS9B. Royal Cyphers were not double encrypted but had there
own individual Typex rotors
and settings. Also as a backup there was a One Time Pad. The Royal
Cypher Office was situated in the Royal Apartments as as annex to the Royal
COMM DEVICES AS OF 1954
|Four MF/HF transmitters
||Possibly model 600 .One set is provided with
its own battery equipment for emergency use if all other power supplies,
including emergency generator, fail. All transmitters are CW/Phone capable,.
A link is provided for ship-to-shore telephone communication and on certain
phones speech can be scrambled for security purposes if required.
|Four MF/HF receivers
||These might be the companion Admiralty B28s.
||Whip aerials were used in addition with wire
aerials. The whips are situated on the bridge and on the sides of the funnel.
The decorative caps on the tops of the masts are Type
AJE aerial outfits designed to operate in the 225 to 449MHz band. They
were painted gold and only two out of three were functional. The
third one was a dummy.
|Sound Reproduction Equipment
||Model unknown. Fitted throughout the ship
with a choice of three programmes.
Name: HMY Britannia
Radio Callsign: GQXC. Before 1953, this callsign was
used by a small British merchant steamship called the RUSSELL.
Ordered: 5 February 1952
Builder: John Brown & Company
Laid down: 16 June 1952
Launched: 16 April 1953
Commissioned: 11 January 1954
Decommissioned: 11 December 1997
Tonnage: 5,769 GT
Length: 412 ft (126 m)
Beam: 55 ft (17 m)
Height: 123 ft (37 m) to top of mainmast
Draught: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Propulsion: 2 Pametrada steam turbines, 12,000 hp (combined)
Speed: 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph)
Range: 2,400 nautical miles (4,400 km)
Capacity: 250 guests
Troops: 1 platoon of Royal Marines
Crew: 21 officers and 250 Royal Yachtsmen
CREDITS or REFERENCES
1) US Public Broadcasting System
3) Dixie Dean <yachtieone(at)btinternet.com>
4) Extracts from "Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia" by
Sir Victor Shepheard, K.C.B., R.C.N.C.(1954)
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