Wartime role of HMY Britannia - query

Discussion in 'History' started by Purple_twiglet, Jun 12, 2009.

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  1. Purple_twiglet

    Purple_twiglet War Hero Moderator


    Posted here as its a bit busier than the history section.

    I'm doing some sniffing round some interesting Govt papers at the moment, which hint at what Britannia may or may not have done in wartime.

    I'd be really interested if anyone could advise here or via PM, firstly what they understood her wartime role to be - hospital ship, or something else?

    Secondly, I understand she did a lot of ASW exercises post 68, does anyone know what the scenarios were, and how much work was done training the crew to wartime preparation?

    Finally, does anyone here have similar knowledge about what RFA Engadine may or may not have done?

    There is method to this madness, and any answers are much appreciated.

  2. Britannia was always suppossed to be able to be used as an Hospital ship during times of war.
    During the Falklands she was unable to be used due to the fact that she used different fuel to the rest of the fleet :twisted:
  3. Served on RFA Engadine many times :wink: :wink: :wink: :wink: Your clue is 747 Sqdn :roll:
  4. Purple_twiglet

    Purple_twiglet War Hero Moderator

    Thanks Slim - the Hospital ship myth appears to have been just that after a certain point in time. Its around the late 1960s that this role was abandoned, but I'd like to work out what happened next.
  5. The Royal Yacht Britannia was designed as a dual function vessel - a Royal Yacht in peacetime and a hospital ship in times of hostility.

    There was extensive consultation with the Medical Director General of the Royal Navy during the design phase both to determine the requirements for the ship in the hospital ship role; and to ensure that the conversion could be performed in the most economic manner with minimal alteration to the existing structure and equipment.

    As a hospital ship Britannia had accommodation for 200 patients with the wards in the after part of the ship where the Royal Apartments are usually located. While most patients were anticipated to be medical and surgical cases provision was made to cater for patients with tuberculosis and infectious diseases.

    Provision was made for operating theatres, ophthalmic facilities, physiotherapy facilities, X-ray facilities, and pathology laboratories all on the lower deck. Provision was also made for a full dental clinic, including laboratory, on the main deck. In addition the sun deck located aft was specially strengthened to permit the landing of helicopters for casualty evacuations.

    Although normally manned by a Royal Navy crew, when operating as a hospital ship, Britannia would have been manned by a merchant navy crew in accordance with international law.


    Certain features have been embodied in the design which add to the value of the ship as a Royal Yacht, but which are not altogether essential for that purpose. They would however be necessary if and when the ship is used as a hospital ship. Such features include ship’s stabilizers, certain air-conditioning, large laundry facilities and comparatively high speed, none of which could be added on conversion as a hospital ship except at considerable additional expense and long delay in completion.

    This is a very good techincal paper that discusses Britannia's role as a hospital ship.

  6. Slim, you are quite correct in quoting the official reason. This caused a little bit of mirth amongst the crews of Uganda and Canberra, (can't speak for the Black Pig,) different company. As they both burned the same FFO as HMY.Also Canberra did carry out at 3 RAS(L)s so there was spare fuel afloat in the RFAs as well. Of course HMY's range inbetween refueling may have been an issue.

    Think I am correct in saying that HMY's hospital ship potential was only officially recinded in the mid 80s, post Corporate.
  7. Typical of the UK government - too tight to buy some jerry cans.
  8. Seadog

    Seadog War Hero Moderator

    TimeToJoinUp and the link would have it that;
    Really? I'm not saying 'under no circumstances' but I can see all sorts of reasons why not. The Merchant Shipping Acts past and present specify the minimum cabin space for ratings and officers and the notion that civvy sailors would happily bunk 50 (or whatever) to a mess in is fanciful. The medical staff would be RN/QARNNS/ Joint, why couldn't the ship's company be RN (having binned their secure comms and any weaponry?)
  9. If you read the tech report I link to above (2nd one) it details in there how the merchant cabins would have been constructed in the current mess space using partitions to create 2 and 4 man bunks.

    I have no idea about whether or not using Merchant navy personnel was strictly necessary, sorry. I would however find it difficult to believe that the RN would hand over Captaincy of the ship if they didn't need to.
  10. Seadog

    Seadog War Hero Moderator

    Reference the status of hospital ships; more links within this Red Cross link-they'd know!


    Harking back to the notion that International Law requires hospital ships to have MN crews in wartime, who drives military ambulances during hostilities?
    The question is rhetorical.
  11. Was used at least once though for disaster relief in the 1980s- think it was Hong Kong cyclone or something. Link to follow when/if I find it.
  12. Just spoken to the Deputy Captain of Canberra during Corporate, He confirms that Canberra did RAS 7 times. From RFAs Plumleaf,Tidepool and Olna. Her RAS fuel lines ran from the Promenade Deck to the engine room bunker tanks via a lift shaft. So as I said before, fuel for Britannia was available in the South Atlantic.
  13. Seadog

    Seadog War Hero Moderator

    Indeed it does TTJU. My speed reading is wanting. Quite a work up during the transition to war and I'm not convinced that the subdivisions would meet any civvy requirement but privacy. Perhaps Sir Victor as RCNC was aware of MN practice, but not its provenance?
  14. Is this the safeguard reason or just a myth? I watched HMY Britannia RAS(L) from an RFA on Ocean Wave 97
  15. Possibly a myth, I was informed of the fact by several POME's on Ark Royal however as a WAFU perhaps it was naive of me to believe them :p
  16. Purple_twiglet

    Purple_twiglet War Hero Moderator

    Thanks all for the answers - am going weekend now, but willl look forward to seeing the thread on sunday.
  17. tiddlyoggy

    tiddlyoggy War Hero Book Reviewer

    One of my oppos at work was boiler room tiff on the yacht for years, I'll ask him on Monday.
  18. In the event of nuclear war, the plan for Britannia was for her to be used as the evacuation vessel for the Queen; there were no plans for her to go to the government bunker, TURNSTILE, and she was supposed to sail off and find somewhere to hole up.

  19. As I said earlier, it was the official reason given but not a very good one. Furthur to my last Canberra even burned a little bit of dieso mixed in with the FFO. Horrible!

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