Remembering Her Majesty The Queen - Tributes from Royal Yacht Britannia sailors

The Queen shows her emotion as she stands with the Duke of Edinburgh (left), during a ceremony to mark the paying-off of the Royal Yacht Britannia Credit: PA

The Queen was in the public spotlight for most of her life, so when it came to escaping the glare of publicity, the Royal Yacht Britannia was the perfect bolt hole.

For nearly half a century, the ship carried the Queen and other members of the Royal Family on visits around the globe.

Dubbed the Britannia by Her Majesty the year after her coronation, it served as palace on the water.

Her active service came to an end in 1997 when repairs to extend her life were deemed too expensive.

Royal Yacht Britannia Credit: PA

The Queen and Prince Philip helped design the interiors of the floating palace, toning down the original designs to suit the austerity of post-war Britain. It was a home from home for the royals. 

Sailing Britannia was considered a prestigious commission for the Navy crew hand-picked from volunteers.

The sailors who served on board viewed their role as a privilege and an honour.

Former sailor David Rushforth, who lives in Hartlebury, Worcestershire, was stationed on the yacht in the 1970s as a CPO Engineer, and often came into close contact with her. 

He said: "She was very caring about the crew, and expressed concerns when she thought they were necessary and encouraged us all to enjoy the trip as much as she enjoyed it."

'She was very caring about the crew'

David Bosomworth, from Leeds, was affectionately known to the Queen as 'Buzzy'.

He spent just over 20 years of his career working on the Britannia between 1977 and 1997 and has fond memories of his time serving the Queen.

"She loved being on board because it got her out of the public eye and she could relax. She used to laugh and joke with the crew, and play tricks on people including members of the Royal Family.

"I remember Princess Anne being a little girl, and she was telling her mum she was bored, so the Queen said, ‘Go and find the golden rivet’, so we had to paint a rivet gold, so that Princess Anne could go and find it," Mr Bosomworth said.

David Bosomworth was affectionately known to the Queen as 'Buzzy' Credit: Handout

Tom Suddes, a former royal photographer who trained at RAF Cosford in Shropshire, also worked on board.

He said: "The Queen, bless her, in particular, was really very good at making you feel relaxed.

"At the same time, you were obviously aware of the job you were doing.

"I was recording history for the archives in Windsor Castle."

The Queen cuts a ribbon on the Royal Yacht Britannia, watched by the Duke of Edinburgh, to mark the vessel’s one millionth mile. Credit: Martin Keene/PA

Other crew members have also spoken about the Queen’s sense of humour and how she enjoyed joining in with jokes on board the Britannia, including Dennis Green - who was part of the Britannia crew in 1950.

"One of the lads was supposed to be a magician, and unknown to the rest of the crew, this sailor asked one of the ladies-in-waiting if the Queen would wear a special watch for a party which she agreed to."

Tom Suddes worked as a royal photographer Credit: ITV News Central

"He asked if anyone had a watch that he could borrow and the Queen said, ‘I have’. So he put the watch into a bag, onto a block of wood and hit it with a hammer.

"No-one knew whether to clap, laugh, or whatever, until the Queen started laughing and then we realised it was a joke.

"It was very good actually," Mr Green said.

Official protocol still applied on board, but the Royal Family were able to relax and spend time together.

They sometimes played games such as deck hockey, and made water shoots and slides, inviting members of the crew to join in with the fun and games.

The Royal Yachtsmen were held in great esteem by the Queen, who made sure she knew about those working for her.

The Queen on board Credit: Tom Suddes

Allan Jones, who served on the Royal Yacht Britannia between 1969 and 1974, spoke of the time the Queen remembered a personal moment for his family.

"She said, 'What's your name?' I said, 'It's Jones Ma’am.' 'Oh yes, Jones, you're the person whose wife is expecting a baby.'

"Well, I was knocked sideways. I thought, 'Why would the Queen go to all that trouble to find out about Jones from Huddersfield whose wife is expecting a baby?'," Mr Jones said.

'It was a great privilege to serve Her Majesty'

The Queen on board Credit: Tom Suddes

When Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997, the world caught a rare glimpse of emotion as the Queen said goodbye to the ship, and her dedicated crew.

Tony Wilkinson, who was part of the crew between 1981 and 1985, spoke of how significant his time on the Royal Yacht Britannia was.

He said: "My time sailing on the Royal Yacht was an unbelievable experience, something I will never be able to do again, and I saw sights that I'll never see.

"It was fantastic, a great experience and a great privilege to serve Her Majesty."

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