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Why did the Mary Rose sink?

PUBLISHED: 18:15 12 October 2011 | UPDATED: 15:55 20 February 2013

Hidden Treasures of the Mary Rose at Whitgift School

Hidden Treasures of the Mary Rose at Whitgift School

The sinking of the Mary Rose remains something of an enigma. In April's Surrey Life magazine, we go behind the scenes of the landmark Hidden Treasures exhibition, which is set to see previously unseen items from Henry VIII's favourite ship take a&...

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2009


The sinking of the Mary Rose remains something of an enigma. In April's Surrey Life magazine, we go behind the scenes of the landmark Hidden Treasures exhibition, which is set to see previously unseen items from Henry VIII's favourite ship take a break from their Portsmouth home to go on show at Whitgift School in Croydon.


Many theories surround the sinking of the Mary Rose. Which do you think seems the most plausible?



The gun ports
Negligently, the gun ports were left ajar. This was one of the first ships to be able to fire a broadside because the cannon were low down in the ship, so you don't topple over when you fire them. If the ship turned suddenly and those gun ports had been left open, then like the Herald of Free Enterprise that sank going across the North Sea, you're going to sink.

A French cannonball
It's all a big English cover up, this thing was hit by a canon ball and if you investigate all the timbers, where the carpenter was working an where he was found, if you look at the tools in the hull somebody was repairing canon damage and this has all been covered up.

Language barriers
There were a lot of mercenaries on this ship and so many of them didn't speak English. There were a lot of different nationalities and so as soon as there was a problem, nobody could quite be got to do things quite fast enough because no one understood the instructions.

Too many cooks
There were a whole load of officers on the ship, all of high calibre because it was the flagship. There's a problem and there are 15 different solutions. The admiral had only taken up his command the day before, so he was brand new. This ship had also been refitted, it weighed considerably more and so its dynamics changed dramatically. So it didn't handle in the same way. By the time they'd decided the best way to handle this, the ship's gone.

Sea sickness
There was an outbreak in 1545 of the plague and also dysentery on board the fleet and some think that the Mary Rose may have been the first to have been hit by this. There were guys in the sick bay and people on the ship who had quite clearly been unwell and maybe their manning levels were low.

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