The Mary Rose 25th Anniversary
Mary Rose in her cradle
Mary Rose memories
By Robin Worman
The sight of 500 year old timbers slowly breaking the surface of the Solent has become the iconic image of the raising of the Mary Rose in 1982. Robin Worman broadcast the dramatic events for BBC Radio Solent and remembers a remarkable few days.
Solent on the water
From the discovery to the raising of the Mary Rose was perhaps the most fascinating project that I'd covered since BBC Radio Solent opened.
Robin Worman on board Tog Mor
Over the years leading up to 11 October 1982, I had got to know Alexander McKee, the writer and historian, who first discovered the Mary Rose on the seabed.
He was helped by a very knowledgeable and dedicated group of amateur divers from Southsea and Southampton Branches of the British Sub Aqua Club and also Margaret Rule, an eminent land archaeologist who had learnt to dive in order to see the wreck at first hand.
The project also had the encouraging support of Prince Charles whom I interviewed when he made his last dive on the wreck in the days before before Mary Rose was raised.
From humble beginnings in 1965, diving from small craft in all weathers, they had progressed to this big day in October 1982.
The diving vessel, Sleipner
The lift should have taken place on Sunday, 10 October and I got up at 3.30 in the morning and travelled out to the wreck site with my engineer, Peter Sillett.
The lifting vessel Tog Mor, loomed out of the awful weather like a giant Praying Mantis and with difficulty we boarded her and started to rig for broadcasting.
The weather worsened and we waited for the lift to begin. But the complexity of locating the lifting frame over the cradle containing Mary Rose was proving a problem and coupled with the weather meant eventually, that we all had to return to the Camber Docks in Portsmouth.
The Mary Rose barge
Next day, Monday, 11 October, dawned calm and bright, and we re-boarded Tog Mor. This time all went well; the lifting cables tightened and at 7am started to haul the precious "Tudor Time Capsule" up through the murky Solent waters.
By mid-morning she broke surface for the first time in 437 years to a tumult of sirens from hundreds of boats, great and small and a cannon fired from Southsea Castle where in 1545, Henry VIII had watched his flagship heel over and sink with the loss of 700 lives.
It was a truly emotional moment and a tribute to all the talents that had made the lift possible.
A little later, I was leaning on Tog Mor's rail beneath the great lifting arms, eating a lunchtime sandwich and chatting to Alexander McKee, when there was a loud bang and the top of the lifting frame crashed down onto the cradle bearing Mary Rose.
One of the two retaining pins had sheared and when we focused in disbelief on the remains of the ship, expecting to see her sinking beneath the waves again … she was still there… and apparently only superficially damaged.
Tog Mor at sunset
I glanced across at Alexander McKee and I'm sure that we both mentally thanked the engineers who had put a spare retaining pin on the frame … just in case!
After safety checks were made by divers to check frame and cradle, we all watched and cheered as Mary Rose, now on her barge, was slowly towed into Portsmouth Harbour … back to where she was built in the early 1500's
last updated: 05/03/2008 at 12:49
Have Your Say
Post your memories of the raising of the Mary Rose
Mrs Mary Davis - Portsmouth.
Maureen Jauncey - Thornhill Park, Southampton.
Mary Shapcott - Parkstone, Poole, Dorset
Hilary Green - Shoreham-by-sea
Roy Roe - Brighton
Gary Nobles - Blandford Forum, Dorset
Michael D. Finch - Petersfield
Nicola Scarlett - Southampton
Elaine Halford - Gosport
Dylan Hopkinson - Southampton