Diver who found the Mary Rose dies aged 82

DIVERS have paid tribute to one of the men who discovered the wreck of the Mary Rose.

Saturday, 23rd July 2016, 6:10 am
John Towse at Portchester Castle in 2011

Edward John Towse, known as John, from Portchester, died on Thursday, aged 82, from pneumonia at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.

Alongside Alexander McKee, who died in 1992, John found the whereabouts of the famous battleship during a dive in May, 1965.

John was born in Portchester on April 15, 1934.

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The Mary Rose being raised in 1982

He lived in Castle Street for his whole life, and worked at the Royal Naval Physiology Laboratory in Alverstoke for more than 20 years.

John’s family have paid tribute. His nephew, David Wells, 69, said: ‘He was a wonderful uncle, my favourite uncle. He arrived at every family do with the most incredible presents. He always found something that was very fascinating for us.’

After retiring in 1989, John continued his passion for diving until three years ago, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

His death falls in the same week as the reopening of the Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, following a £5.4m revamp.

The Mary Rose being raised in 1982

John is survived by David and other nephews Michael and Stephen, as well as nieces Patricia and Linda. He never married or had children.

David, a retired engineer from Bath, said: ‘He discovered lots while diving, but the main thing was the Mary Rose. Alexander McKee and John went to London and looked up a chart and found an idea of where she was. He continued diving after he retired, mainly getting things like fish, until about three years ago. He dived until the point at which his legs gave out and he couldn’t physically do it any more.’

Christopher Dobbs, another diver from the excavation who is head of interpretation at the Mary Rose Trust, said: ‘John was a key figure in the search for the Mary Rose.

‘It was John who went to the Hydrographic Office in London with Alexander McKee where they found the 1841 Admiralty Chart that marked the last known position of the Mary Rose.

‘They used this to narrow down the search area – and the rest, of course, is history.

‘John has kept in touch with us over the years and we have enjoyed going out to the wreck site together and sharing stories. His contribution should not be forgotten.’

After attending Portsmouth Grammar School, John became a keen member of Southsea’s Sub-Aqua club, becoming secretary in April 1954. He was also the club’s diving officer and later the BSAC Incident Officer.

During this time, he developed the Incident Pit theory which is now widely used in risk analysis and prevention.

In recent years he worked with Dr John Bevan in support of the Historical Diving Society and Diving Museum. He also wrote several publications about the history of his home town, Portchester.

Alison Mayor, from the club, said: ‘John will be remembered fondly for his passion for diving and support for our club. A remarkable and generous gentleman.’

His funeral will be held at St Mary’s Church in Castle Street, Portchester on Monday, August 8 at 11.30am.

Friends and family are welcome at the ceremony.