Posts Tagged ‘Portsmouth’

MGB 81

Posted: March 1, 2019 in History, Post medieval history
Tags: , ,

Motor gunboat 81 was built for the Royal Navy in 1942. It is believed to be the only gunboat in World War II restored to her original condition. These gunboats were fast with speeds up to 45 knots and were designed for the protection of shipping in UK coastal waters, particularly to guard against the threat of German E-boats, groups of which would cross over the Channel and attack merchant shipping.

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In 1945 MGB 81 passed into private ownership. It was involved in a smuggling operation in 1958 and was subsequently sold for scrap, but ended up as a permanent mooring in the sailing school. In 1968 it was bought by a boat preservation trust and restored to its wartime condition.

MGB 81 is currently berthed at the Portsmouth historic dockyard.

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The launch of HMS Trafalgar

HMS Trafalgar was a 120 gun ship of the Line built at Woolwich in 1840-41. In an age of great change for the Royal Navy she was the last ship of her type to be built. She was launced by a neice of Admiral Lord Nelson in the presence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert using a bottle of wine taken from the stores of HMS Victory at the time of the battle of Trafalgar. 100 Trafalger veterns were on the ship for the launch. She took part in the bombardment of Sebastapol in the Crimean war in 1854. She was converted to screw propulsion in 1859 and retired from active service in 1873. She was renamed HMS Boscawan and sent to Portland Harbour to act as a training vessel. She was retired in 1906 when the training school moved to a land base in East Anglia.

Figurehead from HMS Trafalgar (Admiral Lord Nelson). Now in Historic Dockyard Portsmouth

Figurehead from HMS Trafalgar (Admiral Lord Nelson). Now in Historic Dockyard Portsmouth

Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

In January 1510, Henry VIII signed a warrant for the construction of two new warships. The largest of the two was to be called the Mary Rose. The name was chosen as it had both personal and religious significance. The Mary refers to both Henry’s sister and to the Virgin Mary, patroness of England, whilst the rose symbolises both the Tudor Rose, the family emblem of the Royal family and the mystic rose a symbol of the Virgin Mary.

Model of Mary Rose

Model of Mary Rose

Mary Rose was launched on July 1511 and saw active service in three wars with France. It easy when we think about Tudor warships to imagine that they were like those of the later Napoleonic era, floating gun platforms designed to inflict the maximum amount of damage on an enemy ship at range. But Tudor warships were designed to be a platform for transporting soldiers, the main naval tactics of the day being to come alongside an enemy and bought them and overpower them on their own decks. This can be seen as only five of the guns aboard Mary Rose could be classified as ‘big guns’.

At the battle of the Solent in July 1545, the Mary Rose was effecting a term when suddenly she heeled over to one side and began to sink. There are many accounts of this sinking and of the reasons for it. However, it appears only one of these accounts was actually written by somebody who was on the Mary Rose and survived to tell the tale. According to this report, the lowest set of gum ports on the ship were not closed before the turning manoeuvre was undertaken. In itself, this might not have been a problem but as the ship turned the wind caught her sails and caused her to heel over much more than usual. The open gum ports were now below the water level and water flooded into the deck. This then probably caused a series of other events to occur and the ship was not able to right herself and began to sink. Less than 10% of a crew of 400 made it back to the shore.

Mary Rose lay in the silt of the Solent until 1965 when a group of divers began to search for the wreck. In 1970, they found a gun barrel in the silt. This long gun known as a ‘sling’ was a type of long-range gun which dated from before the end of the 16th century. This gave them a clue that they were in the right area and the following year the first timbers of the ship were found.

The Sling gun found in 1970

The Sling gun found in 1970

After many years of planning and excavation, the remains of the wreck were finally lifted from the seabed in October 1982 and, after works had been carried out put on display at a museum in Portsmouth. The original Mary Rose Museum opened in 1983, has now been replaced by a new museum which opened in May 2013 and enables a much better display the ship itself and the artefacts that were excavated from it.

The ship's structure as it looks today

The ship’s structure as it looks today

HMS Warrior had a crew of 705 which comprised three groups – the engineering staff (98), the Royal Marines who responsible for the gunnery (115) and the Royal Navy crew. The conditions under which the crew lived were very similar to those of their counterparts 100 years earlier. They shared their mess deck with the main battery of guns and slept in hammocks strung from the superstructure of the ship

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in the middle of the mess deck is the galley where all the food was prepared for the crew and the officers. The main meal of the day would be taken at noon and each seaman took it in turn to do a week’s duty as a mess Cook. This meant that he had to collect and prepare the days food for his mess and take it to the galley where it would be cooked by the seaman who worked there.

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The galley also provided the food for the captain’s cabin, which was at the rear of the mess deck and the officers quarters and wardroom which were immediately below it.

Captains day room

Captains day room

Captains dining room

Captains dining room

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HMS Warrior is an unique ship within the history of the Royal Navy. She was launched in 1860, having been built as a response to recent developments in the French Navy. As the first ship built of iron, rather than using metal cladding she represented a major step forward in the evolution of fighting ships. When she was launched she attracted much more attention than any other preceding ship had ever had.
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She was a hybrid between the first modern battleships and the classical ships of the line from the preceding Napoleonic period. She had the capability both sailing under her engines and under sail. Her unique features include retractable steam funnels, so that when she was under sail power the profile of the funnels did not interfere with the flow of the wind. Her gun layout and her facilities were still very reminiscent of ships of the Napoleonic era.
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HMS Warrior remained in active naval service for 22 years during which time her guns never fired in anger. By the time he was retired from service ship design had already moved on and the turn-of-the-century would see the dispensing with the gun arrangements of the previous era and the introduction of deck based pivot guns as on modern battleships. Indeed even in 1860 Warrior has a very early prototype of these guns in the arrangements of her bow and stern chases, the direction of file which could be changed through 100° arc home side to side by mechanical means.

The trackway on the deck enabled quick change of direction of fire

The trackway on the deck enabled quick change of direction of fire

After active service, HMS Warrior used by the Navy in a number of different roles with in ports. Because of her construction, the hull lasted very well and eventually she was sold by the Navy for use as a floating jetty. She ended her working life as a floating oil jetty in Milford Haven in south-west Wales. In 1979, recognising the importance that the ship had played in the development of warships she was purchased, towed to Hartlepool and underwent restoration to her original 1860s condition. She is now on permanent display at the Portsmouth historic dockyard not far from that other great Royal Naval vessel HMS Victory.

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A number of musical instruments were found in the wreck of the Mary Rose.

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A boxwood pipe made by the Bassano family. These were a family of Italian musical instrument makers who had relocated to London at the invitation of King Henry VIII

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A Tabor or snare drum which would originally been covered in animal skins.

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A fiddle and bow – It could be played like a violin or a guitar.

A large selection of combs have been recovered from the wreck

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A number of different pairs of shoes and boots were preserved in the wreck.

Here are 2 examples from the exhibition

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The Cooks cabin was next to the galley. In it were found his personal eating implements – a small knife, a spoon, bowls and his stool.

Cooks personal implements

Cooks personal implements

In the galley were a pair of bellows, various equipment for cooking and over 100 wooden plates.

Bellows

Bellows

Grinder Top

Grinder Top

Wooden plates

Wooden plates

The officers probably eat from Pewter plates found in their cabins

Pewter plates and mug

Pewter plates and mug

Items for making up medicines

Items for making up medicines

The Surgeon aboard ship performed operations but was also responsible for the treatment of all forms of disease encountered by the crew. The standard varied considerably and the patient’s chance of survival was very dependent on the knowledge and the skill of the surgeon. Little was understood at this time about the nature of dsease and most treatments, dietary, herbal or blood letting, were applied to adjust the imbalance of the 4 humours which people thought were the cause of most diseases.

Jars and containers found in the Surgeon's cabin

Jars and containers found in the Surgeon’s cabin

A syringe probably used for draining wounds

A syringe probably used for draining wounds

A Urethral syringe used for treating VD with injections of  mercury

A Urethral syringe used for treating VD with injections of mercury