9 MARCH 2015
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Business Travel News is a publication aimed at the regular traveller and his supplier. We also feature on a monthly basis two leisure items, motoring and cruising.
This week is in fact the motoring edition and on Tuesday (10 March) Her Majesty the Queen will name the largest ship ever built dedicated to the UK holiday market.
We feel justified in highlighting the event in this week’s BTN, especially as there are historical overtones, which can be paralleled with the forthcoming General Election.
There have been two previous Britannias in P&O history. The first entered service in 1835 for P&O’s predecessor company, The General Steam Navigation Co. To celebrate the Golden Jubilee of both Queen Victoria and P&O itself, the company built the Jubilee Class of ships which consisted of the largest and grandest steamers (6,000 tons): Victoria, Britannia, Arcadia and Oceana. This second Britannia entered service in 1887 and was built in Greenock. Winston Churchill sailed on Britannia in 1888 to Bombay with his hussar regiment before going on to fight on the North West Frontier.
Britannia, readers will recall, was also the name of the former Royal Yacht, now a museum ship berthed at Leith, Edinburgh, attracting 300,000 visitors a year.
Launched just before the Coronation in April 1953 Britannia conveyed the Queen, other members of the royal family, and various dignitaries, on 696 foreign trips and 272 visits in British waters covering just over one million miles. Britannia served the nation well, flying the flag.
In 1997, John Major's Conservative government committed itself to replacing the Royal Yacht if re-elected, while the Labour Party declined to disclose its plans for the vessel. Following Labour's victory on 1 May 1997 it was announced that she would be retired and no replacement built.
Tony Blair, the Prime Minister who made this decision, is the only retired head of government in recent times not to receive a knighthood. (Gordon Brown is still an MP and James Callaghan became Lord Callaghan of Cardiff).
Is this a coincidence?
The Queen was reported to have wept at the decommissioning ceremony, which she attended along with most of the senior members of the Royal Family.
Tuesday will be a great day. History shows our Queen to be forgiving. The words will flow. "I name this ship Britannia, may God bless her and all who sail in her."
Tony Blair might even be elevated.
But not before the election.
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