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Mary Rose: ship and armaments relating to transition in OAR

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Mary Rose: ship and armaments relating to transition in OAR
Post by isaac_newton   » Fri Aug 30, 2019 8:39 am

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Yesterday I went and revisted the Mary Rose exhibition at Portsmouth - now that that main conservation work has finished [constant spraying for many years] this is brilliant - highly recomended! :-)

The Mary Rose was a Tudor war ship that sank in 1545 in Portsmouth harbour as part of the fleet that was battling a significant French incursion. From a crew of about 500 only 35 survived [probably because of the anti-boarding netting].

Both sides at this battle seemed to have had a mixture of pure sail and galleys [maybe galleasses]
https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/artic ... mary-rose/

The Mary Rose sank on one side which was buried in the silt, whilst the other side decayed, so when recovered we have effectively a cross section righ thru the ship. Some that you just wont see with any of the other old sail ships - such as the Victory and the Warrior [also in the dockyards with the V's drydock being right next to the MR's hall].

The display hall brings this out brilliantly, with the ship arranged vertically as though it were sailing. From the prow [missing] looking to the stern it really looks like the bones of some giant sea creature.

The hall has three galleries parralel to the ships inside, arranged one on top of each other. So from the top gallery, for instance, you can look down four or five stories right to the base of the hull.

These galleries also contain excellent displays of some of many artifacts found, from long bows, to hand 'gonnes' to cannons to wood working and surgeons tools to shoes and so much more. They recovered many skeletons and were able to identify some of them [the carpenter, master bowman etc] and then do reconstructions on about 6 of them. [most seemed to have significant tooth problems!]

If you get the opportunuity do go and its not expensive.


anyway - thats all sort of background...

From our point of view, this ship [and its armament] nicely illustrates some of the transitions we see in OAR.

When first built in 1510 it was primarily to carry soldiers and just had a few guns. Both 'castles' were prominant and had 2 or even 3 floors]

By the time of its final fight [35 years later], the castles had been retained but it had been heavily adjusted toward gun dominancy - carrying about 90 pieces of various sizes - the largest seem to have a bore of about 6 inches or more.

There are some nice outlines here
https://maryrose.org/meet-the-soldiers/

Interestingly the ships weaponry included:
- longbows
- hand guns [like 'wolves'
- iron 'breech' loading cannon
- bronze muzzle loading cannon
They clearly used all of the above - none were for decoration. The longbows had a rate of fire significantly higher than the hand guns, but I guess the guns were more likely to penetrate serious armour.

More interestingly, the bronze cannons were more advanced than the iron equivalents, and required specialist foundaries, whereas it was claimed that a village blacksmith could make the iron guns!

The bronze guns had trunions and a mount the Nelson would have recognised! Also quite decorated.
[one highlight [top gallery] was one of the bronze cannons had been mounted on a perspex replica of the mount, so it seemed to be floating in air]

The iron guns were made in two parts - the muzzle and then a firing chamber. The muzzle was created from wrought iron - four 'staves' were welded - or beaten together lengthwise [a bit vague on this] I guess like a quarter section thru the muzzle. These were then held by numerous hoops of iron. The windage must have been awefull, especially as the shot all seemed to have been stone!

The fire chamber is like a pot. The powder was placed inside the pot, which was then butted up to the muzzle - both lying in a snuggly fitting 'trench' in a very solid block of oak with a heavy duty pair of wheels.

There did not seem to be much of a locking mechanism, so I guess that there was a lot of blow back when fired, and the chamber would shot back until it hit the massive back stop.

Well - thats enough of this, but I thought that you would be interested...
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Re: Mary Rose: ship and armaments relating to transition in
Post by Dauntless   » Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:10 am

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interesting. I was there many years ago when the wreck had not long been raised, only a year or 2 after. I'm very interested in how it will appear now, compared to what I could see then.

must get down there and see it all again.
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Re: Mary Rose: ship and armaments relating to transition in
Post by isaac_newton   » Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:34 am

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Dauntless wrote:interesting. I was there many years ago when the wreck had not long been raised, only a year or 2 after. I'm very interested in how it will appear now, compared to what I could see then.

must get down there and see it all again.


Do - it really is worth the time.

Do you remember seeing the TV when the MR was got out of the harbour on that metal frame. It seemed really small and disappointing - actually the crane and frame must have been huge!

The hall is [as I said] 4 or 5 stories tall, so it must go into the ground a long way, cause on the surface it looks like a single story building.

It is quite dark and cool, but that actually adds to the atmosphere and every now and then they project films of various portions of the people reneacting the crews activities during the battle. Sounds a bit naff, but it is well done.

In fact it is really well done all round. For example, At either end of the main hall are subsidary displays which focus on one area of interest - for example, there is the master carpenter who had a workshop quite high up in the ship [main deck I think].

Make sure that you eat before you go in, as you will want to spend several hours inside - they do have toilets inside [not tudor style either!]

As I said, I had seen it about 10-15years ago and there is no comparison - and it was interesting then.

PS I dont get a commision!! :-)
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Re: Mary Rose: ship and armaments relating to transition in
Post by Louis R   » Fri Aug 30, 2019 10:23 am

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I've seen video of these pieces being fired [more accurately, of reproductions being fired], most recently on a Time Team episode (S3 episode 4 Teignmouth).

The breech is held in place with a wedge, so there's no movement. Wasn't much sign of blowback, either, but then there wasn't any shot, of course, so barrel pressure was low. I would expect that the repro was also better fit than all but the best of the originals since it wasn't made using original tools, techniques and knowledge of metallurgy, so and original would doubtless have leaked rather more. Particularly after the 30th or 40th round.

In any case, like most early breech-loading designs, it was severely limited in both bore and barrel length and was dropped as guns became larger and more effective weapons.

isaac_newton wrote:< snip >
The iron guns were made in two parts - the muzzle and then a firing chamber. The muzzle was created from wrought iron - four 'staves' were welded - or beaten together lengthwise [a bit vague on this] I guess like a quarter section thru the muzzle. These were then held by numerous hoops of iron. The windage must have been awefull, especially as the shot all seemed to have been stone!

The fire chamber is like a pot. The powder was placed inside the pot, which was then butted up to the muzzle - both lying in a snuggly fitting 'trench' in a very solid block of oak with a heavy duty pair of wheels.

There did not seem to be much of a locking mechanism, so I guess that there was a lot of blow back when fired, and the chamber would shot back until it hit the massive back stop.

Well - thats enough of this, but I thought that you would be interested...
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Re: Mary Rose: ship and armaments relating to transition in
Post by Warpy   » Mon Sep 02, 2019 12:43 am

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It is an interesting parallel for sure.
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Re: Mary Rose: ship and armaments relating to transition in
Post by isaac_newton   » Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:13 am

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Warpy wrote:It is an interesting parallel for sure.


there were a few other points of interest now that I think about it.

1) Clearly to the early tudors, this weapons mix [long bows right thru to large bronze cannon] must have seemed well balanced [or at least necessary]

2) The crew of 500 must have been very crowded! It seems that only a few had their own chests. I alos got the impression that only a few [with chests] had change of clothes - must have been grim when it was stormy.

3) If I read correctly, the MR was only provisioned for a two week period - this was a suprise to me given the endurance of navel ships in the later wars of the 17C. I guess that the MR was just manned for emergencies and actions in the narrow seas, as opposed to the intercontinental operations a couple of centuries later.

4) although there was 90 guns of various sorts, there were only 30 gunners on the lists. I assume, for gun crews, that they used some of the hundreds of soldiers [pike and halberds].
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