The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

The Mary Rose

Mr. Trevor Sapey came to give us a talk and slideshow on the 22nd January. The very interesting talk was entitled The Mary Rose. Mr. Sapey was dressed in clothes which would have been worn by a Middle Class person. His shirt would have cost about 6 shillings, the sleeves were removable. He had a cover over his head which would have been to keep out nits and a flat cap was on the top. He carried a bag with a spoon and nit comb inside.

In 1509 Henry VIII came to the throne and became King of England. He built up his navy. He wanted to go to war with the French. In 1510 Henry authorised £700 to be spent on making two ships. These were the Mary Rose and a smaller ship called the Peter Pomegranate. The Mary Rose was named after Henry’s sister Mary and the Tudor symbol the Rose.

She was built as a warship. She was armed with heavy bronze and iron guns. When the Mary Rose was finished, she weighed 500 tons and had a crew of 411 men. England and France went to war in 1522 and the Mary Rose was the flagship of Howard’s fleet when they captured the French port of Morles. In 1527 the Mary Rose came in to dry dock in Portsmouth, where a lot of repair work was done on her. In 1543 Henry VIII went to war with France again, and the next year he captured the town of Boulogne. Because of this in 1545, a huge French fleet set sail for England. The French had over 200 ships and the English had about 80 waiting in Portsmouth.

Henry VIII was getting old and ill, came down to take charge of the battle himself. Although the English were outnumbered, the French fleet couldn’t get into Portsmouth. It was defended by fortifications, including the Round Tower, Square Tower and the newly finished Castle at Southsea. On the 18th July 1545, Henry met with his senior officers, including the Vice - Admiral Sir George Carew, who was in charge of the Mary Rose.

One of the questions Mr. Sapey asked us was “Why did the Mary Rose sink”?

One theory was that she had fired all of her guns on one side and was turning when she was caught in a strong gust of wind.

Or, she was overloaded with heavy guns or with extra soldiers, or the most likely reason was in the heat of battle with the French galleys, perhaps the Captain or the crew made a mistake. It is claimed that the Admiral called out that he had “the sort of men that he could not rule”. Maybe the men could not understand English as there were Dutch and Spanish on board.

At dawn on the 19th July the French galleys started firing at the English fleet. apparently there was no wind, so the English ships were becalmed. Then suddenly a breeze sprang up, and the English ships set sail. Then to the watching King’s horror, the Mary Rose capsized and sank, drowning nearly all her crew.

After sinking the Mary Rose embedded herself deeply in the soft upper sediments of the seabed, resting on the hard clay below. For centuries she lay on her starboard side at an angle of around 60 degrees.

The surviving portion of the ship had filled up rapidly, leaving her port side exposed to the currents and marine organisms. Sometime during the 17th and 18th centuries the entire site was covered with a layer of hard grey clay, which sealed it off from further erosion. In c1836 Divers John and Charles Deane discovered the site of the wreck and recovered a bronze demi cannon gun.

Alexander McKee was a British journalist, military historian, and diver, who published nearly 30 books. In between writing his book, McKee took up sub-aqua diving with the Southsea Branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club. He proposed an official search for the Mary Rose to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, but his proposal was rejected.

McKee published King VIII's Mary Rose in 1973. It was the first book about the Mary Rose Project for nearly a decade. McKee’s more recent referenced book How we found the Mary Rose was published as late as 1982.

Easter 2015

St George’s Ladies Group

A Committee was set up to consider many different methods of raising the hull. They decided to use a purpose built lifting frame that would be attached by wires to steel bolts passing through the hull at carefully selected points. These points were spread evenly across the section of the ship mainly in the major structural beams. The giant floating crane Tog Mor was used for this extremely precise operation. The whole package weighing 570 tonnes was lifted into the air and placed on to the deck of a barge ready to be towed ashore. It was then taken to the Royal Naval Base in Portsmouth.

Once ashore, the Mary Rose was wrapped in protective foam and polythene and constantly sprayed to keep her wet. The ship was constantly sprayed with chilled and recycled fresh water. This prevented the wood from drying out, and stopped bacteria growing on the timbers. In 1985 she was turned upright and titanium supports were installed to support her.

Most of the 19,000 artefacts found at the wreck were cleaned and recorded aboard the diving vessel. Some of the things found were a doctor’s chest, backgammon, nit combs, jewellery, shoes, navigation equipment, leather book covers and the skeleton of the ship’s dog called “Hatch”. In the galley, down in the hold just in front of the step for the main mast, were two massive brick ovens. The crew’s food was cooked here in two large cauldrons supported on iron bars over a fire box. The objects found in the wreck, show that in their spare time the men relaxed with books, music and games. Hawm, an early form of Oboe and two Fiddles were found on board.

Mr. Sapey bought along some artefacts to show us, and for us to hold and think about the use of them. There was a pewter plate with the initials G.C. on it. This would have been George Carew who was the Vice Admiral. There was a pewter spoon, wooden bowl, mallet, pepper grinder, tindall box, wooden tankard, small shaving brush made from badger hair. A piece of wood from the ship, this had been treated with wax and was 600 years old.

There was a horn, weaving board, cut throat shaver, medicine bottle, flesh knife, saw to cut the bone, gunpowder in a pouch, shot gun gadge and an arrow with a metal tip, and a gun cartridge which looked a bit like a wooden rolling pin.

The new Mary Rose Museum opened last year. The new boat shaped museum showcases the very best of 21st century architecture and construction where the visitors will see the ship with its preserving sprays switched off and the final phase of the hull’s conservation through windows into a ‘hotbox’ as up to 100 tons of water is removed from the ship’s timbers. The complete conservation of the Mary Rose will be finished in 2016, when she will be fully integrated with the museum environment.

It is well worth a visit to see this ship and you can always enjoy a cup of tea at the café and look around the shop as well.

Arctic Convoys

Mr. Mike Curtis came on the 12th February to give us a talk and slideshow on The Russian Arctic Convoys.

Mr. Curtis left school and joined the Navy, particularly enjoyed working ‘below the waves’ on Submarines, he was in the Navy for 22 years.

Winston Churchill called the Allied Arctic Convoys to Russia between 1941 and 1945 ‘the Worse Journey in the World’.

Attack from German U-boats and aircraft was not all the Arctic Convoys had to contend with, they had to deal with severe cold, storms, fog, ice floes and waves so huge they tore at the ship’s armour plating.

The North Atlantic Fleet sailed from 1941 to 1945 from the UK to north Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel to aid Russian allies. Supplies came initially solely from British sources with a greatly increasing quantity from America from January 1942. Allied supplies transported to Russia included 7, 411 aircraft, 4,932 anti-tank guns and 5,218 tanks.

Operation Barbarossa beginning 22nd June 1941 was the code name for Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II. Over the course of the operation, about 4 million soldiers of the Axis Powers invaded the USSR along a 2,900 km (1,800mile) front, the largest invasion in the history of warfare.

The invasion was authorised by Hitler on 18th December 1940 for a start date, but this would not be met, so the invasion began on 22nd June 1941. Operation Barbarossa was the largest military operation in World history in both manpower and casualties. The German forces captured over three million Soviet Prisoners of War in 1941, who were not granted the protection stipulated in the Geneva Conventions. Most of them never returned alive. Germany deliberately starved the prisoners to death as part of its Hunger Plan.

Hitler had become disillusioned by his Navy. Before the war the Kriegsmarine had ambitious plans for a surface fleet with impressive Capital ships. The building programme had produced the Bismarck, the Tirpitz and a number of smaller ‘pocket’ battleships. The Germans had powerful ships, yet not so overwhelming a force that they could not be contained by the Royal Navy.

On Christmas Day 1943 the Scharnhorst and several destroyers sailed out from Norway to attack Russia bound Arctic Convoys.

Scharnhorst joined the Bismarck - Class battleship Tirpitz in Norway to interdict Allied Convoys to the Soviet Union, the Germans were intercepted by British Naval patrols. During the Battle of the North Cape, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Duke of York and her escorts sank Scharnhorst. Only 36 men were pulled from the icy seas, out of a crew of 1,968. During the war young men of 18 were drafted into the forces and some lads in the Merchant Navy were only 16 years old.

With German U-boats and aircraft intent on stopping supplies to Russia, many ships were lost and over 3,000 young men perished in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, their bodies never to be recovered.

With a total of 78 Convoys to Russia, Loch Ewe in WesterRoss Scotland was where 19 of the convoys departed, a further 23 left from Liverpool, The Clyde Glasgow, Oban and Reykjavik (Iceland); from Russia to the UK there were 36 Convoys.

At the end of the talk, Mike had a recording of sounds of the sea. We tried to guess what each sound was, there were 5 altogether, these were:-

1. Active Sonar

2. Ocean

3. Whales

4. Dolphins

5. Shrimps.

Priscilla Barlow