Launch Day

Despite the cold, gloomy, cloudy day in Belfast on March 16th 1960, the launch of the CANBERRA was watched by around 300 guests and more than 11,000 onlookers squeezed into the shipyard to witness the great occasion.


From the Southern Hemisphere the events in Belfast were eagerly anticipated by the Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies:


“I do not doubt that my wife will do honour to an historic occasion which enriches the long and happy association between the Company and Australia.”


His wife, the Lady Sponsor Dame Patti Menzies, added a personal touch to the ceremony when she tied a sprig of white heather (taken from a bouquet gifted to her by the P&O Chairman Sir William Currie) to the launching lever. With one pull a bottle of Australian wine smashed against CANBERRA's enormous bow and she slipped elegantly into the Musgrave Channel to loud cheers and applause!

Her Majesty the Queen added her blessing:


“I send my very best wishes for the future of this fine ship as a link between the countries of the Commonwealth and for the good fortune of all who sail in her.”

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Launch Day