Spectators watch as lost warship rises from depths

The News front page from Monday, October 11, 1982.
The News front page from Monday, October 11, 1982.
With long gunnery gaiters and sword bayonets fixed to their rifles, we see marines changing guard just inside Eastney Barracks' main gate. 'Robert James Collection

NOSTALGIA: Were these Portsmouth marines being punished?

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It was at exactly 9.03am on a cold, wet October morning 29 years ago that a black, smelly hulk saw daylight for the first time in more than 400 years.

Thousands of waterproofed spectators had gathered along Southsea seafront to watch the hull of the Mary Rose break through the surface of the Solent.

Henry VIII’s flagship had disappeared off Southsea Castle 437 years previously, but on this day she finally came home.

The Tudor warship, the monarch’s pride and joy, went down off Southsea Castle and it had taken 16 years of painstaking work to find her and raise her in triumph.

The eyes of the world were yet again on Portsmouth Harbour. The BBC transmitted live television coverage of the event.

It came towards the end of a remarkable year in which the city had become used to being the focus of attention.

It was, of course, the year of the Falklands War and the city seemed almost permanently in the headlines. But this was something to celebrate.

The complex operation to lift her was unique and fraught with problems. Of course, it did not go without a hitch.

She should have come up at some point during the previous weekend but the poor autumn weather and technical problems put paid to that.

And on the day itself the ship suddenly shifted position and dropped into its giant cradle a few feet beneath the surface.

Giant steel pins holding the cradle together also gave way.

Prince Charles, who had dived on the wreck several times and who had taken a keen interest in the entire project, was out there in the Solent wearing a raincoat and anxiously watching every step of the delicate operation.

But after hours of painstaking work Mary Rose eventually broke the surface.

The News reported on its front page: ‘...the first black timbers of the once proud warship appearing above the waves to a joyful chorus of cheers, applause and sirens.

‘Gone was the impregnable look which marked her as the forerunner of the modern navy. But it was still an awesome and magnificent sight which sent an eerie shiver down the spine.’