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Maritime Disasters: Mary Rose

May 10th, 2016 by Piper Smith

The Mary Rose was an English Tudor carrack warship and one of the first to be able to fire a full broadside of cannons. She was one of the earliest purpose-built warships to serve in the Royal Navy– it is thought that she never served as a merchant ship. In 1545, King Francis I of France launched an invasion of England with 30,000 soldiers in more than 200 ships. Against this invasion fleet, the English had about 80 ships and 12,000 soldiers, with the Mary Rose– the flagship of Vice Admiral Sir George Carew. On July 19th, 1545, the two sides fought a fairly inconsequential battle (the Battle of Solent) with little damage being done to either side. The next day, a breeze sprang up and as Mary Rose advanced to battle she capsized and sank with the loss of all but 35 of her crew. There were sources that said that the ship had fired from the port side and made a sharp turn so she could fire from the starboard side. The turn was so sharp that the ship heeled sufficiently to submerge the open gun ports, allowing enough water to enter to sink the ship. At the time, many sailors did not know how to swim as they considered this “tempting fate”.