Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Mary Rose

Thirty-three years ago today, the timbers of the Mary Rose were lifted above the waters of the Solent, more than 400 years after she had sunk.

According to BT: "The recovery of the vessel - Henry VIII’s naval flagship – had taken 11 years and cost some £4 million to achieve, and was even then jeopardised through technical issues with the complex apparatus used in the salvage operation.

"The ship’s hull had already been emptied and braced, then attached to a frame that was gradually lifted to take its remains off the sea bed. A huge crane was then used to lift them onto a specially-constructed cradle, cushioned with air bags.

"With a number of small boats in attendance filled with spectators – including Prince Charles, President of the Mary Rose Trust - the raising of the cradle, hull and lifting frame began early on the morning of October 11, with the timbers of the ship breaking the surface at 9.03am.  As they did so, a cannon was fired from the ramparts of Southsea Castle, where the king had stood and watched his flagship keel over four centuries earlier."

Construction began on the Mary Rose in 1510 and she was launched in July of the following year. The ship weighed around 500 tons when first built; it is estimated that around 600 trees, mostly oaks, were used in her construction.
  • The ship was substantially rebuilt in 1536, turning it into one of 700 tons and adding an entire extra tier of broadside guns. These and other, later improvements may have contributed to its loss nine years later.
  • The Mary Rose could have operated with a crew as small as 17 when laid up in peacetime, but at war would usually have held somewhere between 400-450 men, and sometimes as many as 700 in extremely cramped conditions.
  • While engaging French ships on the day of her loss (19th July 1545), the Mary Rose made to turn but a strong wind made her lean heavily over to the right, allowing water to gush in through her open gunports, which were as little as a metre above the water line.
  • As few as 35 men from the crew of at least 400 survived the sinking.  Several were killed by cannon, other objects or men falling on them as the ship keeled over, while many others were crushed trying to reach the upper decks via narrow companionways.
 The preserved remains of the ship and numerous artefacts are now displayed in a purpose-built museum in Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard, close to HMS Victory, probably Britain's most famous warship.  I have been on the Victory, and hope one day to see the Mary Rose.

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