1936 photo of HMY Brittannia being towed to the spot where she was scuttled

Britannia's Last Voyage

This striking photo shows the Royal Yacht Britannia on her way to her final resting place to be sunk off the Isle of Wight on the 10th July 1936, in line with King George V’s wish following his death.

She was scuttled at night, and for this reason boat builder, columnist and general student of these things Adrian Morgan (see comments link below) believes this shot was actually taken the day before.

The Wikipedia has a good page on the original Britannia here (there is of course a magnificent new Britannia is currently being fitted out) and there are more posts on this weblog here.

Thanks to Daniel Simons for sending me this photograph. I should tell you that Daniel has published a new hardback book ‘Valkyrie Weather: Rowhedge and the America’s Cup’, which follow Lord Dunraven’s two America’s Cup challengers Valkyrie II (1893) and Valkyrie III (1895) from their construction through trial races, regattas, Atlantic crossings and Cup races in New York, to their final journeys to the nautical knacker’s yard using contemporary newspaper and yachting journal articles.

It’s likely to be of particular interest to those interested in Rowhedge family and local history.

Only 100 copies of ‘Valkyrie Weather’ are available, and the book is available only through eBay.

The story of the new Britannia

Britannia replica returns to Cowes - Photo by Hamo Thornycroft www.yacht-photos.co.uk

Britannia replica returns to Cowes - Photo by Hamo Thornycroft www.yacht-photos.co.uk Britannia replica returns to Cowes - Photo by Hamo Thornycroft www.yacht-photos.co.uk

Britannia replica returns to Cowes – photos courtesy of Hamo Thornycroft 

My thanks to Jana of the Britannia Trust for sending over these photos, and information about the building of the new Britannia.

On King George V’s death in January 1936, the old king left instructions that his famous J class racing yacht named Britannia was to ‘follow him to the grave’.

Stripped of all her spars and fittings, the elegant old racing machine was towed out from Cowes and sunk off St Catherine’s Deep, somewhere west of Ventnor and south of the Needles, on July 1st. The remains of her hull are there to-day, rotting in a deep watery grave. Nobody is supposed to know the exact location (but see Adrian Morgan’s comment below), though fishermen from the island report having  snagged nets on her.

An exact replica of her hull was built, between 1993 and 2009 at a shipyard in the Russian port of Arkhangelsk, inside the Arctic Circle, and financed by a Norwegian magnate. Since then she has overwintered in northern Norway, until in January she was brought west and south to Cowes, and arrived on the 4th February.

The yacht has been purchased by Minicast Holdings of Gibraltar; on completion of her fitting out, the company will donate the use of her to the Britannia Trust for a minimum of 10 years.

The Britannia Trust’s plan is to complete the building work at Cowes, including fitting new deck hardware, installing a new interior, and fitting a mast, rigging and sails, engines and generators. The aim is to create a flagship for charities aiding underprivileged children and war veterans, and to use her as a fundraising venue for charities.

The trust believes the new Britannia is ideally suited for charitable work, as it has the potential to attract thousands of people every year.

The reconstruction team is now seeking sponsors for the project, which is to be project-managed by Giuseppe Longo, who was responsible for managing the restoration of the Lulworth. Stefano Faggioni is to act as chief interior designer, with the aim of making the interior of the new Britannia look as much like the original as possible, but with  modern amenities.

The reconstruction process will be documented and filmed, and during the works a live webcam will stream continuous images from the dockyard.