Vessel type Passenger and cargoship
Year launched 1948
Cargo type Passenger and cargo
Country of build United Kingdom

At the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, the British passenger/cargoship Gothic became one of a handful of merchant vessels to see service as a royal yacht – converted for a Commonwealth tour while Britannia was under construction.


The build

Built at Swan Hunter's Wallsend yard, Gothic was the last in a series of four Corinthic-class liners ordered by the Shaw, Savill & Albion Line in 1946 for the service between the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

The 15,902grt vessel could carry up to 85 passengers, 95 crew and some 10,000 tons of cargo, with much of its 668,000 cu ft of cargo space refrigerated. Powered by six steam turbines, the ship had a service speed of 17 knots.

Royal selection

Gothic entered service in December 1948, and in 1951 was sent for a refit at the Cammell Laird yard after being chosen to serve as the royal yacht for a tour which had to be cancelled after the death of King George VI.

Gothic returned to the yard in 1953 for the completion of the refit work – which included modifications to the accommodation, the installation of special Marconi communications equipment, and painting the black hull white.

Royal engagement

Queen Elizabeth II speaking in New Zealand during a 1953 royal tour of Australia and New Zealand. Picture, Wikimedia Commons.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh joined the ship in Jamaica on 22 November 1953, along with two ladies-in-waiting, three private secretaries, a press secretary, an acting Master of the Household, two equerries, 20 officials and staff, 72 naval staff, nine members of the press and a band of the Royal Marines.

Gothic sailed via the Panama Canal to Fiji and Tonga, before spending three months visiting New Zealand and Australia. The return trip included calls at Cocos Island, Colombo and Aden, arriving there on 27 April 1954 to enable the royal party to disembark and join the now commissioned Britannia for the last leg home.


The final years

Gothic returned to normal service later in the year and continued on the UK-New Zealand run until a devastating fire broke out onboard in August 1968, killing four crew members and two passengers. The ship's master, Captain Brian Agnew, was awarded an OBE for helping to save the ship but the company decided repairs would not be viable and Gothic was demolished in Taiwan in August 1969.

Gothic fact file


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