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Revealed: the face of the man who sank the Mary Rose

Mary Rose

The face of the Bosun of the Mary Rose has been can be seen for the first time for over 560 years. The Bosun’s reconstructed head will go on display at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard from tomorrow.

The head has been modelled by the internationally renowned forensic artist Richard Neave and two of his colleagues, from a skull recovered from the wreck. Only a handful of the more than 500 crew and soldiers survived when the ship sank in July 1545 and Henry VIII was reported to have heard the screams of the drowning men as he helplessly stood and watched from Southsea Castle.

This man was found with the emblem of his comparatively senior status, his Bosun’s call – a whistle – suggesting he was the man who may have been at least partly responsible for the disaster. Expert analysis has suggested that he was in his 30′s or 40′s. His skeleton indicated that although he was doing a relatively sedate job, at some point in his life he had previously carried out heavy physical work. This suggests that he had worked his way up through the ranks. His teeth reveal that he came from south-west England.

John Lippiett (Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust) commented that “it is great to have the opportunity to see what the Bosun looked like after all these years and to welcome his arrival in our Museum”.

The Mary Rose sank on 18 July 1545, during a confrontation with the French Fleet in the Solent, before the eyes of Henry VIII himself. There are many theories about why the ship sank, but evidence from the wreck itself suggests the ship put about with its gunports open, was hit by a squall and sank like a stone. Ensuring that the gunports were closed would have been the Bosun’s job. The Mary Rose settled deep into the silty bed of the Solent, which preserved the many thousands of unique artefacts in excellent condition.

The prominent Historian David Starkey has referred to the Mary Rose as ‘England’s Pompeii’. Not only is the ship important, but the time-capsule like artefacts that have been recovered along with it. The silty bed of the Solent ensured that thousands of arefacts and the remains of many of the crew were preserved.

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Filed under Dockyard, Local History, maritime history, Navy