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The Mary Rose 25th Anniversary

You are in: Hampshire > History > Local History > The Mary Rose 25th Anniversary > Mary Rose memories

Mary Rose in her cradle

Mary Rose in her cradle

Mary Rose memories

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

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.

Royal backing

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 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

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.

Heartstopping moment

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

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
created: 05/10/2007

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Neville Wood
The day that the Mary Rose was raised was the day we moved into our house in Clanfield, we had moved from Clare in Suffolk. We tired of unpacking boxes and with the children in toiw drove to Southsea front, parked and watched the raising of the Mary Rose; history in the making?

Michael Whitehead
I live on the Isle of Wight and I was involved in the Mary Rose almost from the start of the project. Incidentally I am glad to see mention at last of Alexander McKee and the teams of amateur divers, including the Portsmouth Fire Brigade, Southsea Branch BSAC also the Navy who struggled on a non-existent budget in the early days to find the site and to uncover and identify the wreck. The divers from the then Plessey Radar Diving club, of which I was a member, used to travel over to the site from the Island in a variety of odd vessels and spend our weekends on the fishing boat(s) lent or hired to the project in the company of diesel fumes, decaying fish, a large roaring air compressor normally used to supply road drills, Fire Brigade portable pumps and lots of other divers. Excavating the first trenches across the site was a fairly scary and somewhat dangerous job using high pressure water pumped through fire hoses which had to be weighted down with a half hundredweight lump of iron as they would thrash about if allowed to escape - the brass nozzle could seriously injure a diver. Added to this was the absolute zero visibility caused by clouds of disturbed mud and if you managed to accidentally swim in front of the unseen jet from a high pressure hose it felt like the kick of a horse in the ribs. When you surfaced from a shift your wet suit contained a few pounds of solent mud that took some getting rid of when you finally got home. Happy days! Conditions became better as time went on and a specialised diving boat became available. The digging became proper excavation under the guidance of archaeologist Margaret Rule and many exciting discoveries were made. I finally had to leave when I could no longer spend that much time on site necessary to learn how to excavate properly, despite the fact that we had been doing exactly that for many years.

elizabeth Greenfield
What a day to remember not only was this fantastic ship raised but i took home our 3rd son Paul from hospital he was born in Epsom General and I would not leave with him until i had seen the Mary rose out of the water a day to remember and 2003 after 2 big brevements Paul and I visited the mary rose

Tony Brown
My involvement goes back to when i sat in Alexander Mckee`s lounge at his home on following up a sales lead of his involvement in the location of the Mary Rose.My interest was initially in the potential submersible pump sales / hire opportunities as my companies parent Swedish HQ had been involved in the raising of the Wasa in Stockholm, Sweden.My company,ITT Flygt Pumps Ltd, however agreed to loan the five submersible pumps and provide their maintenance from our local service depot at Horndean, over the duration of the exploratory period which were used to excavate the hull by jetting.Following the successful raising and placement in the allocated dry dock the same pumps were used for many years to spray chilled water as the installed system (of others supply)intended for this duty was found to be unsatisfactory. I was personally pleased to have had involvement with Mark Jones,Christover Dobbs,Margaret Rule and of course in the early days Alexander Mckee with a project of such local and national importance.I have such happy memories now in my retirement.

John Lippiett
I was at sea in HMS AMBUSCADE, on exercise in the Channel off Portland. We had returned in late July from the Falklands War, so had had our fill of excitements in 1982 anyway. At the time that Mary Rose emerged from the Solent, we stopped exercising and all gathered around our grainy, black and white TVs to watch this extraordinary event. It was gripping, but also moving to see our Navy's first true warship for the first time, especially while we were onboard a modern frigate.Later, when she was in the dry dock awaiting the cover and spraying system, I took my wife and two very young children to see it. Our dog rumaged in a waste bin and found a discarded chicken leg. Our son shouted: "Look, the dog has got a Mary Rose bone!".Little did I know then that I would find myself 25 years later battling to preserve this unique ship, with its absolutely outstanding collection of contents. The project remains the world's largest maritime excavation ever achieved and this week we celebrate the outstanding human endeavour and achievement of many hundreds of divers, conservators, the salvage team, and the staff and volunteers who have helped keep this national treasure for future generations. The conservation of the ship and her 19,000 artefacts is long and painstaking, but the end is in sight. Having no government funding, we have only achieved this through the generous sponsorship of the Heritage Lottery Fund and public and corporation sponsorship. We are world- leaders in this form of conservation , and have a remarkable science educational reach for children aged 7 through to PHD students! Visited and admired by 7 million visitors to date, our surveys indicate their enormous satisfaction and admiration for what they see. We have a huge and popular education programme with some 30,000 children coming with their schools each year. Their excitement at seeing the Tudor treasures of 500 years ago alone makes the whole project worthwhile. Many children then bring their parents to see us in the school holidays - where else do you find children dragging parents to museums?! We are working very hard to expand our access programme to get all our community more involved and interested; results so far have been so successful that organisations are queueing up to join our various schemes.None of this would have been possible without the determination of our predecessors of 25 years ago. Indeed, there are a number of them who have been working continuously with the trust ever since.

Chris H.
I was a young soldier on a R.P.L military vessel based at Marchwood and I remember taking Royal EngineerDivers down the Solent to test equiptment to be used for vacuming the mud off the possible site of the Mary Rose.After an hour or so they had found pieces of debris which was later removed for date testing. Later in years I was returning from France on a bright sunny morning with my family and friends on a cross-channel Ferry when we looked down and saw for the first time the Mary Rose in her cradle alongside the Harbour wall at Portsmouth .

Steve Draper
I live on the Isle of Wight and was one of many sport divers that gave up my holiday time to dive and assist in the excavation of the Mary Rose site in 1980/81.Daily life aboard the salvage vessel "Sleipner" was basic, hard work and fun but the running warm water in the baths below deck was very welcome after each shift.Great to have paid a small part in the project.The delayed week-end of the lift was my wedding day 9th October 1982 - so I missed being out on the water to watch her being raised - I did manage to watch from the TV lounge in our honeymoon hotel in Cornwall though!!I did attend the 20th anniversary in 2002 - great to see familiar faces, albeit a tad older.Sadly, I'm unable to be present at the 25th celebrations as, yes you've guessed it, it's also my Silver Wedding Anniversary so family committment etc, etc.Kind regards to all at he Mary Rose Trust.

Christine Adams
I have three great memories of 11 October 1982 for obvious reasons not in the correct order they are; watching the the raising of the Mary Rose. I watched this, via the television, from beginning to end mesmerised as part of my favourite time in history came back to life. I sat in awe as this remarkable feat unfolded, held my breath as one of the wires snapped and sighed with relief as it was finally docked safely. All this excitement took place on the labour ward of Salisbury District Hospital where I was eagerly awaiting the birth of my first born. Ellen was born later the same day, at 23.59 to be exact, she has since put herself through university and is now a Fourth Engineering Officer on cruise liners.I'm so proud of her and as there is no seafaring history in the family I like to think that maybe she was motivated into this profession by my pleasure at viewing the Mary Rose, that and the amount of times we have been to see this fine ship at Portsmouth. Lastly, whilst still watching the television, well you've got to do something to take your mind off of the pain of labour, Rainbow, the children's programme, was screened.It was a great episode as it was without the squeaky monotone voice of Zippy, as his zip had got stuck and couldn't be undone! wonderful only to have been bettered if Bungle had had a case of Laryngitis. I have no photographs of the day but I have something better to remind me, a lovely daughter, whom I love every day and I'm so proud of.

Mrs Mary Davis - Portsmouth.
When the Mary Rose was raised in 1982 I was working for Portsmouth City Council as an Administrative Assistant in the Committee Section.Part of my job from 1980 until 1985 was to provide administrative support to the Mary Rose Trust and its various committees. This involved sending out the agendas for the meetings, attending them and producing the minutes afterwards.As you can imagine this was such an exciting time for the project and it was fascinating to attend the meetings to hear about the latest finds and plans to raise the hull. The BBC 2 archaeological series 'Chronicle' even filmed part of the meeting at which the final decision to raise the hull was made.My enduring memory of the raising is the day before, 10 October, as this had been the original planned day-a big reception for VIPs was held on that Sunday at Southsea Castle, an ideal viewing point for the raising ( I was there helping on the day). However due to weather conditions, the raising was delayed until the Monday 11th.Unfortunately, I was at work in the Civic Offices that day so only got to see the event on TV! Later on, I was lucky enough to view the hull before she was on display to the general public as I accompanied the Mary Rose Trust's Executive Committee on a visit to the Naval Base. I thoroughly enjoyed my association with the project and feel proud to have been a very small part of it.The funny thing is that in 1990 I gave birth to my daughter-she was two days late and arrived on 11 October, the eighth anniversary of the raising!

Maureen Jauncey - Thornhill Park, Southampton.
I remember this day as it was my husband's 40th birthday and the day we got married. I was watching the raising of 'The Mary Rose' on TV whilst getting dressed ready for our wedding, and thinking what a dismal rainy day. It will be our Silver Wedding on 11 October 2007 and of course it will be my husband's 65th birthday, when he will officially be a pensioner.

Mary Shapcott - Parkstone, Poole, Dorset
I vividly remember the day when the Mary Rose was raised. We were living in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk at the time.I was 8 months pregnant with our first child and I was busy making his christening cake. I spent the time dashing from the kitchen, mixing the cake to the front room watching the ship inch above the waves. 25 years on, we now live In Poole.Our son was born one month after the raising of the ship, on November 4th, and was christened on January 2nd (my birthday), by my father who was a vicar.The christening cake was delicious! Our son Tim still lives locally with his wife in their own house. How time flies.

Hilary Green - Shoreham-by-sea
I have vivid memories of the day the "Mary Rose" was raised. I sat with my three sons, then aged 6, 4 and 3 months in front of the television.We did not normally have the television on in the morning, but I told them something very special was going to happen and that we were going to be late for school that day.I remember the shock at seeing part of the "Mary Rose" collapse into the water. I took several slide pictures of the action on TV as it happened and they came out quite well. We then walked the mile to school quite a bit later than usual - a most memorable day.

Roy Roe - Brighton
At the time of the Mary Rose being resurfaced I was working at the Theatre Royal in Brighton as stage manager and on that day we were getting a new show in that was due to open that night I just happened to pop up to my office and somebody shouted up the stairs put your tv on Roy there might be something on there about the Mary Rose!"So of course I did just as it was about to be brought to the surface! I shouted back down the stairs and within seconds my office was crowded I had a job to get a look in! It was a moment that I'm sure none of us will forget but afterwards we had to work through our tea break to make sure that the show opened on time that night and of course it did!I retired fairly recently after twenty-five years in the job although I still pop in the old place quite regularly to help out with the odd show etc and to see everyone, once it's in your blood that's it!

Gary Nobles - Blandford Forum, Dorset
The Mary Rose has appeared to have had a big influence on my life, I was born on the 11th October 1982, this is how it happened and what has happened since: My mum was sat watching the Mary Rose being lifted off the sea bed, she was pregnant with me.Whilst lifting the Mary Rose part of the frame broke, this resulted in my mum jumping and going into labour, I was born a few hours later 2 weeks early.The staff at Poole hospital suggested that if I was a girl I should be called Mary Rose! As it turned out I was a boy and they said I was a born archaeologist.This was a joke due to the circumstances of my birth, however as I grew up with this story my interest in archaeology was sealed. By the age of 5 I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist, I ended up studying archaeology at Bournemouth University and I am now just finishing my Masters at UCL and I will be celebrating my 25th Birthday with this link in mind.

Michael D. Finch - Petersfield
I was 13 when the Mary Rose popped up from the Solent's sea bed. The day before my parents drove me to Hayling Island where we peered out with binoculars to see the great cranes leering over the site, the floodlights flickering in the watery grey distance.On the Monday Morning I went to school (third year Petersfield comprehensive school in the old money) and we had a double science period with Mrs Betty Mulligan.She, recognising the historic importance of the, occasion, had arranged for the science department telly-on-a-trolly to be in the lab so that we could watch the raising. It was phenomenal, and I recall that we stayed in the lab at lunchtime too and continued to watch. I do remember the heart stopping moment when the yellow cradle supporting the ship snapped, and we all for a moment thought that we would be watching the sinking of the Mary Rose, again!Thankfully this was not to be. As a child I recall with keen eager waiting for the next update on the Mary Rose project on Blue Peter and the passion that Dame Margaret Rule would inspire and educate us viewers.The relics and artifacts that were found with the immense archaeological work and the disbelief of the underwater vacuum cleaner that they had invented to remove the silt and debris from the site. Subsequently I took my now disabled father to see the Mary Rose in the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth, and with the tube commentary we both amazed with awe and a tear in our eyes at the sheer marvel of the restoration and splendour of the hull. I often reflect on that period and the engineering achievement that was the raising of The Mary Rose.

Nicola Scarlett - Southampton
On the morning that the Mary Rose was spectacularly lifted from the sea bed to greet the light of day for the first time in nearly 500 years, I was greeting a new group of people I had never met before as we prepared to undergo 10 weeks of training to become computer programmers.We had all passed aptitude tests for what was then a TOPS course and were taking our first steps towards changing our careers.We undertook this training in a hotel in Basingstoke and 11th October 1982 was our first day. We were all very nervous. We all drifted in, one by one, and sat, glued and enthralled to the television set that displayed the BBC's coverage of the raising of Henry VIII's great flagship.Those of us interested in history knew that the Mary Rose had sank before that illustrious monarch's eyes as it turned, heavily weighted down, in the English Channel. Those of us not interested in history, appeared to be. It was easier than making conversation, after all.Someone in the group made a comment later on, as we recalled our first day. He said, "The raising of the Mary Rose was the most gripping thing any of us had ever seen, judging by our behaviour that morning!".A life-changing experience for the Mary Rose and a life-changing experience for all of us. I wonder what happened to those other people I shared that moment and the following 10 weeks with? One thing is certain. I can recall the moment the ship broke the surface of the water as clearly today as if it had happened yesterday.

Elaine Halford - Gosport
My son was born on 26th of September 1982, and was very very poorly, and was rushed to St Mary's hospital in Milton Portsmouth at 2 days old.The day that he was allowed home and declared fit and healthy, was the day the Mary Rose was lifted.As we drove along the M27, we heard on the Radio news that the Mary Rose was about to be lifted. So, we detoured on our way to St Mary's and drove along Southsea seafront to watch it, just being lifted out of the water. It was an amazing sight, a clear morning. and we could see everything from the beach.My son, Christopher is 25 years old now, and each year I remind him that the day he came out of hospital they lifted the Mary Rose.Truely a day of celebration!

Dylan Hopkinson - Southampton
I'd just turned 11 at the time and was a schoolboy up in York just leaving primary level. We were all gathered together where the TV was as we were for the space shuttle launch, to watch the historic moment. I remember being captivated and the real sense of tension when the leg snapped.Today I am a professional archaeologist and am just coming to the end of a truly fascinating year back at university in Southampton completing my MA in Maritime Archaeology under Jon Adams amongst others who were divers on the Mary Rose all those years ago.Hopefully sometime in the future I will be engaged in some equally amazing discoveries!Can't recommend the course highly enough!

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