Author Archives: Richard Johnstone-Bryden

Celebrating Britannia’s Diamond Jubilee

Royal Mail is now accepting advance orders for its latest commemorative sheet which marks the 60th anniversary of HM Yacht Britannia’s launch by HM The Queen on 16 April 1953. This striking sheet will be officially released on the actual anniversary and complements the stamps that will be issued by Royal Mail on 30 May to celebrate  Her Majesty’s Coronation in 1953. I had the privilege of being invited to write the text for this beautifully produced product which is bound to become a highly sought after memento of this famous Royal Yacht.

The sheet is packed full of fascinating facts, figures, stories and photos relating to Britannia – including her launch, historic ports of call and decommissioning on 11 December 1997.

It also contains details of the design and specifications of the Royal Yacht which  played a central role in The Queen’s reign as she travelled across the world, welcoming monarchs, presidents, prime ministers and diplomats on board.

Since opening to the public on 19 October 1998, Britannia has become an award winning tourist attraction which is visited by approximately 270,000 people every year.



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75 years ago today

On this day in 1938, the Prime Minister’s wife Anne Chamberlain launched Britain’s biggest historic ship, HMS Belfast, in the Harland & Wolff shipyard. Commissioned on the eve of WWII, Belfast’s action packed naval career included the capture of the German liner Cap Norte, the Arctic Convoys, the Battle of North Cape, the D Day Landings, the Yangtse Incident, and the Korean War.

In 1971 a new phase in Belfast’s life began when she was saved from the scrapman’s blowtorch to act as a lasting reminder of the powerful big gun armoured warships that formed the backbone of the Royal Navy in the first half of the 20th Century. Now preserved in the Pool of London, Belfast is one of London’s best known tourist attractions and is visited by 250,000 people every year.

To find out more about her rich heritage and see a comprehensive set of contemporary photographs, please keep a lookout for my next book HMS Belfast Cruiser 1939. It will shortly form the latest volume in Seaforth Publishing’s acclaimed Historic Ships series when it is released early this summer.

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A Norfolk Village Saves Its Lifeboat

Residents of a Norfolk village have rallied round to save their former Victorian lifeboat from destruction on a Welsh beach. The 35ft Edward Birkbeck was built in 1896 as an improved non self righting Norfolk & Suffolk pulling and sailing lifeboat. She served as Winterton’s No1 lifeboat until the station closed in 1925 by which time she had been launched 44 times and saved 94 lives. She was subsequently converted into a sailing yacht and left to her fate in ConwyHarbour around 2003. Fortunately, the Harbourmaster, Barry Tuson, investigated her past and discovered the link to Winterton-on-Sea so he contacted the Parish Clerk to see if the villagers wanted her. The residents responded by forming the Winterton-on-Sea Lifeboat Restoration Group which includes some descendants of the original crew who still live in the village. The project has provided the perfect opportunity to bring the residents together and share their skills which range from boatbuilding to fund raising and administration. Their project received a major boost from the company Bam Nuttall which paid for Edward Birkbeck to be brought home in March 2012 while a local landowner kindly offered the use of a barn to accommodate the lifeboat.

To pay for the on-going restoration work, the group have embarked on a fund raising campaign and are also appealing for more information about her original layout along with any documents or images relating to any aspect of her 117 year history.

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The return of Norada

East Anglia is home to a wonderful selection of classic sailing and power boats. As part of my plan for this section of the website I intend to highlight some of the area’s rich maritime heritage.

The miserable weather of 2012’s so-called summer failed to damped the enthusiasm of the Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust’s numerous supporters when the rejuvenated 53ft wherry yacht Norada set sail for the first time six years. She was built for hire by Ernest Collins in 1912 and is the first of the Trust’s three wherries to emerge from an extensive restoration at its Wroxham base. The work carried out since 2006 includes rebuilding the counter stern along with the replacement of the tabernacle, several planks and frames. Having completed a number of day charters in 2012, Norada should be available this season for longer skippered charters as soon as remaining internal work has been completed.

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Betsie Jane’s nomination

It gives me great pleasure to see that the 40ft motor cruiser Betsie Jane has made it on to the short list for the powerboat category within this year’s  Classic Boat Awards  Her nomination is a fitting tribute to the hard work of the self taught furniture maker Paul Rainbird. In 2012, he completed Betsie Jane’s restoration which had been started by Ron Bailey in 1991. Following her relaunch at the Loddon boatyard of Greenway Marine, Betsie Jane has been used by Paul and Heidi Rainbird for skippered day trips on the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads.

I had the opportunity to join Paul and Heidi for a memorable day out on the River Waveney in May 2012. My visit coincided with the opening of Eddie’s Ternpike ferry service, between the Waveney River Centre at Burgh St Peter and Carlton Marshes, by the renowned  botanist Professor David Bellamy. In an unexpected twist to the day, David Bellamy and his wife joined Betsie Jane for a short trip down the River Waveney, while I took the on board shots for my Classic Boat feature. You can read more about Betsie Jane’s history and restoration within the February 2013 issue of Classic Boat (CB296).

Please do find the time to vote for Betsie Jane and some of the worthy candidates that have been nominated for the other categories. These awards are a great way to recognise the dedicated people behind some of the finest boats in the world.

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Welcome to my new website

Welcome to my new website.

I would like to begin the news section by thanking Michael Lavocah for all of his hard work during the construction of this website. I am extremely pleased with the results and have thoroughly enjoyed developing this project with Michael, who is a published author in his own right. His first book, Tango Stories: Musical Secrets, provides the perfect introduction to the music and people who shaped tango through a series of delightful vignettes that are bound to entertain newcomers and devotees alike.

Over the coming weeks and months, I will be expanding the number of galleries to display more of the images from my photo library. I will also be adding further examples of my previously published work, together with regular news items, that I hope you will find of interest. If you are in the processing of building or restoring a boat that you think I will be interested in covering for the various yachting magazines, please do not hesitate to contact me. Equally, I am always delighted to hear from Yacht Clubs and the organisers of boating events about forthcoming events or anniversaries.






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