A Royal Visit

On Sunday 7th August 1955, the Royal Yacht Britannia was anchored in the Milford Haven Waterway. It was a lovely sunny August day and a young Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh with their two young children Prince Charles (then aged 7 years) and Princess Anne (then aged 5 years) were brought ashore in the Royal Barge of the Britannia and landed on the secluded sandy beach of Lindsway Bay.   Their objective was that of any family to picnic, play games and splash about in the sea.

The family was accompanied by Royal security men who stood at the top of the steps leading up from the beach on the coast path.  Word began to spread in the nearby village of St. Ishmaels about the visit and some of the residents walked over to do some rubber necking.   The security men at the top of the steps stopped them from descending to the beach and persuaded them to give the royal family some privacy.   This was a very long time before the days of the paparazzi.

The royal family were engaged in the 1955 Royal Tour of Wales for three days. The tour started on Saturday with a visit to Brecon and the Brecknock Agricultural Show and was followed by opening the newly constructed Usk Reservoir near Llandarcy.   The royal party then drove to Haverfordwest, where the Queen and Duke were greeted by cheering crowds and a Royal Naval guard.  They proceeded to Neyland where they boarded the Royal Barge to be ferried to the Royal Yacht Britannia, anchored off Hazel Beach near  Neyland.  On the morning of Sunday 7th the royal party attended a service at St Davids Cathedral followed by meeting the St. Davids lifeboat crew.  They then drove to Milford Haven to board the Royal Barge and return to the Britannia.  It seems it was then that the royal family briefly escaped their tight schedule for a few hours of freedom for a private picnic on Lindsway Beach.  On the third and final day of the tour on the Monday, the Queen visited Pembroke Castle, birth place of her ancestor Henry Tudor born there some 500 years earlier. They then proceeded to Aberystwyth and visited the Plant Propagating Station and the National Library of Wales, to return by railway train.  Their few brief hours of family pleasure on Lindsway Beach must have a very pleasant interlude for them

The 125 m long Royal Yacht Britannia was almost brand new at the time of her visit to Pembrokeshire. She had been launched only on 16th April 1953 and was commissioned on 11th January 1954.   She had state apartments for the royal family and could cater for up to 250 guests.  She was used for royal family holidays and to make state visits to the Caribbean, the Pacific islands and the coasts of Europe.  She was in commission for 43 years and 334 days and travelled 1,087,623 nautical miles making 695 overseas visits and 272 local visits.   On 20th August 1956, the Britannia left Portsmouth to begin her first world tour and steamed 39,549 miles over the next 110 days.  The Duke of Edinburgh joined her in Mombassa and began a four month tour of the Seychelle Islands, Ceylon, Malaysia, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Ascension Island and The Gambia.

Britannia was decommissioned on 3rd June 2012.   The Labour government of Jim Callaghan in grave financial difficulties, refused to pay for a replacement yacht.  The Queen wept in public at the decommissioning ceremony.   Britannia has become a top tourist attraction and as part of the National Historic Fleet is permanently moored at Leith Docks in Edinburgh, Scotland.   The large motor launch of the Britannia, known as The Royal Barge, along with two Fast Motor Launches (FMLs) that accompany the Royal Barge, were refurbished for the Queens Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3rd June 2012 when 670 boats participated.  One million people lined the banks of the Thames to watch and the BBC television four and a half hour documentary was watched by an audience of 10.3 million people worldwide. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh accompanied by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall boarded the Royal Barge and accompanied by the two FMLs took part in the Thames Pageant.  The Queen in her Diamond Jubilee speech recalled her happy days of long ago with many trips aboard the Royal Barge.  I am sure her very rare few hours on Lindsway Beach with her children was one of them.

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