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On This Day …..

  • July 19

     

    In 1545 the Mary Rose sank in the Solent.

     

    When Henry VIII became King of England, on the 21st of April 1509, he was determined to return it to its former glory in Europe. One of his greatest legacy’s was the creation of the Navy Royal, in 1520, which later became known as the Royal Navy. Within a year of becoming King Henry ordered two huge new ships to be built, larger than any before. One of these ships was the “Peter Pomegranate” (also known as Peter) and The “Mary Rose” which was the larger of the two. Construction began in 1509, and by 1511 the huge ship was completed. It took 40 acres of trees amounting to about 600 large oak trees.

     

    The Mary Rose was thought to weigh 600 tons and remained the largest ship at sea until 1514 until Henry’s new ship, “Henry Grace à Dieu” (or Henry’s grace of god) was set afloat weighing 1500 tons. Despite the enormity of “Henry Grace à Dieu” Henry’s favourite ship remained the Mary Rose which he named after his favourite sister. The Mary Rose was a carrack class ship which is a very large ship with three of four masts and able to withstand huge waves and long voyages. Normally carracks were used to sail across the world by explorers but the Mary Rose was mainly at sea in the English Channel protecting both the shores of England and the Henry's land in France.

     

    Unlike many other carracks the Mary Rose was equipped with cannons ready for battle and was one of the early warships to use gun-ports allowing heavy cannons to be fired quickly from the side of the ship. The huge cannons on the Mary Rose required them to be set low in the ship and therefore the gun-ports ran close to sea level. The ports had doors and would need to be shut in between firing of the cannons or the ship would soon be flooded. This is one theory as to how the Mary Rose eventually sunk on the 19th of July 1545. Despite her abrupt demise the Mary Rose had a military career of over thirty years through many wars and battles, and she played a large part in the early days of the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy soon grew to become the largest and most powerful in the world from the 16th centaury up until the end of World War II in 1945, when it was surpassed by the US Navy.

     

    The Mary Rose sank during a battle with the French in the Battle of the Solent. The French King Francis I launched a massive invasion plan against England. His invasion army of 30,000 soldiers sailed aboard 200 ships and on the 18th of July 1545 they encountered the much smaller fleet of the Royal Navy’s 80 ships and 12,000 men. King Henry VIII was aboard the “Henry Grace à Dieu” when the Battle began and despite the huge French fleet (larger than that of the Spanish Armada) the only loses to the Royal Navy was the sinking of the Mary Rose, and all but 40 of her 400 crew.

     

    She was laid to rest in the straight near the Isle of White but it is not known the cause and there she remained for some 465 years until she was discovered in 1971. It took the most expensive and difficult maritime salvage operation ever undertaken to save the ship but in 1982 the Mary Rose was raised repaired and placed in a museum. Many of the artefacts were still intact including many of the massive bronze cannons and stone balls.