Saturday, March 21, 2009


Thursday’s excursion took us to Portsmouth, to the historic dockyards and a tour of what is still an active port and naval facility.

Our goal in undertaking this was, of course, to give our students a sense of history, but also a hands on feeling for the history of empire.

We began with the Naval History Museum and then proceeded to the ships, the HMS Victory, Nelson’s ship at the Battle of Trafalgar where he lost his life saving Britain (later we would tour the ship) and the Mary Rose, designed by Henry VIII, launched in 1511 as the first “purpose-built” warship, sunk in 1545 resisting a French invasion force before Henry’s eyes, and recovered in 1982. Currently the ship is undergoing a process whereby polyethelene grycol is being used to impregnate the wood, thereby preserving the ship. It will go on exhibition in 2011 with the creation of a £35,000,000 museum, a good reason to return.

A harbour tour of the modern port, a guided tour of the HMS Victory, no photos allowed, and a visit to the Mary Rose Museum, showing artifacts recovered from the ship, rounded out our day.

We began with the museum which used a series of exhibits of dioramas (just coming back into museum favour after years of having been abandoned), model ships, artifacts and documents and letters, to tell the story of both Lord Wellington and the British Navy.

Then, on to the Mary Rose. The ship is currently in a large closed chamber where it is being flooded with PEG to preserve it. Right now, though, there is not a whole lot to see and less to photograph.
The group never did get on board the HMS Warrior from 1860. One of the frustrations of these tour days, we all agree, is that they cannot be longer. So much to see.
After the Mary Rose it was time for a harbour tour. Megan Hart, Aleks Eydelman and Michelle Nguyen (suitably hatted), and Kristen Carder, face turned away, wait for the departure.
The tour showed us the extent to which Portsmouth is still a vital port and a military centre, though the presence of military personnel on the streets and in the grounds told us that as well. This must be a prime posting for British cadets, non-coms and officers.

Spice Island emphasises the commercial history of the port, which remains today.
Then, off to the Victory, which was the highlight of the day, at least for many of us.

Sadly, they did not allow photos on board. A shame, as the restoration and presentation is stunning.

Rosa, with her pink chenille charms, captured the heart of a pirate. We would not let her bring him home.
The Mary Rose Museum gives a taste of what will be on offer in just two years.

This was a great day of touring . Certainly the British know how to present their history in a most satisfying manner. When we booked, we were told that this is one of Britain's most highly visited attractions, and with its mix of ships, museums, shops, cafés one can see why.

For once I have posted before I've gotten our student journals, I shall be curious to see their responses.


Obi Won WD40 said...

Hi Rick,

Can we have a correction please, as coming from a Naval Family, my ancestors would never forgive me. My late father was a Pompey based and trained Jack Tar, on my Mothers side of the family they were all Chatham, which led to some interesting banter.

Victory was Admiral Lord Nelsons Flagship, Wellington was the Commander of the Land Forces. Same era, but different commands.

Best wishes,


PS If i could I would have written this with the "51" Flighter I got from you LOL

The PENguin said...

Can't believe I did that, after lecturing students on Nelson half the day. Please put it down to mehaving written this in the middle of the night.