Skip to Content
For 44 years the Royal Yacht Britannia acted as the Royal Family’s personal yacht, taking them across a million miles of ocean before it was finally decommissioned following austerity measures in 1997. Now the crew of that famous ship have got back together to bring new life to its faded hull and to celebrate their time together.
In its heyday, the Britannia was crewed by between 220 and 250 Royal Navy personnel. Since it was decommissioned in the late 90s a number of the crew have returned each year to its not permanent docking space at Leith, in Edinburgh.
This year around 60 “Yotties”, as they were known, have returned to the ship. Among them was one time chief petty officer in the engine room David Rushforth.
Speaking to STV’s The Hour, he said: “We decided that it would be really nice if we could come and work the ship again. We make a pilgrimage up here now every year, and they just accommodate us and let us have a bit of fun.
“So we do some painting, we do some work on the boats, anything to help the staff really. And, of course, we chat to the public as well to share the experiences with them.”
When not hosting a reunion celebration for the Yotties, the Britannia is a five-star visitor attraction attracting over 250,000 visitors a year. Among the highlights are the rather grand officer’s mess, and the not so grand marines’ barracks where cramped bunks have handles so that the sailors don’t fall out in choppy waters.
David Rushforth added that a highlight of his time on board the ship was the Queen’s silver jubilee year: “In 1977, we did 44,000 nautical miles that year. That is the equivalent of one and a half times round the world.”
As a thank you to the crew for their service, the following year the Queen asked the flag officer to let the crew bring their families on board for the day. This kind of personal thanks added to the respect the Yotties already had for her.
David added: “It’s different from normal service, this ship. When the Royal Family, any member of the Royal Family, came on board for a voyage we all just walked round really proud of what we were doing.”
INSIDE THE BRITANNIA