Raised from a 437-year sleep

11 October 2014

The flagship of King Henry VIII’s navy – named after his sister – the Mary Rose was built in 1509, the year Henry came to the throne. In 1545, disaster struck the Mary Rose. The French had landed on the Isle of Wight. Henry went to Southsea Castle to watch his fleet leave Portsmouth and engage with the French force in the Solent. At the head of the English fleet was his pride and joy – the Mary Rose.

From his advantage point on top of Southsea Castle, Henry had a commanding view of the impending battle. Unfortunately, right before his eyes he watched one of the greatest naval tragedies. It is not known exactly what happened to cause the sinking of the ship but one theory suggests that the crew fired the guns on one side of the ship and were turning the ship to fire the guns on the other side. Unfortunately, they failed to close the gun ports and a combination of this and the wind caused the ship to tilt, fill with water and sink. Whatever the cause, the Mary Rose sank within a matter of minutes. The 500-strong crew were trapped below decks as the weight of water surged down the companion-ladders. Those on the open deck were caught beneath the netting fitted to repel enemy boarders. The cries of the men were heard from the shore and only forty, clinging to the fighting-tops, survived.

As the Mary Rose keeled over and water crashed through the gun-ports, the door of the Master Carpenter’s cabin slid to, trapping his dog. Nearly four and a half centuries later, on 11 October 1982 when the ship was raised from the depths of the Solent, the skeleton of the dog – a two-year-old whippet-terrier cross – was found and sits waiting for his master patiently behind glass at the new Mary Rose Museum.

[The Mary Rose now lies in drydock in Portsmouth and a cuddly stuffed version of the whippet-terrier, christened Hatch, is on sale in the shop in the museum.]

N.B. The picture featured in this blog is not of the Mary Rose but of HMS Victory in Portsmouth.
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