One for my Navy friends today! After our holiday to the Channel Islands and France I had a day with my parents in Weymouth before heading to Germany for work, and we visited the important Naval town of Portsmouth and the Historic Dockyards. This is part of the Portsmouth Naval Base, the oldest in the Royal Navy, in use since the 15th Century, and at one time the largest industrial site in the world! The museum part of the base is a huge tourist attraction, home to several large restored and historically important warships, and many different museums.
The main attraction is the HMS Victory, a 104-gun first-rate ship of the line and Admiral Lord Nelson's flagship from the Battle of Trafalgar, the most decisive victory against Napoleon's navy. Nelson was shot and killed at the end of the battle, and the spot on the deck where he fell is marked by a plaque. He was then - respectfully and carefully, I am sure - stuffed into a cask of brandy and lashed to the mast for the long trip home, before he was interred in St.Paul's Cathedral, which I visited on the way home from Germany! The ship itself is very well preserved, with lots of interesting displays, and interesting to imagine working and fighting in the cramped conditions, and low ceilings. The HMS Warrior was another interesting ship, fully restored as a museum. It was the first steam powered and iron-hulled armoured warship in the Royal Navy, although did not see long service before becoming obsoleted by new mastless armoured war ships, and was turned into a floating oil jetty among other ignoble uses before eventually being restored to almost new condition.
The Mary Rose museum displays the remains of King Henry VIII's warship which was rediscovered in the Solent and salvaged at great expense in 1982. This is an extremely important archaeological find, as there was a huge number of well-preserved artefacts recovered including weapons, sailing equipment and many personal items from the crew. Even the ship's dog was recovered! Many of the items on board can be traced by the cabins they were found in, like medical equipment belonging to the barber-surgeon (yes, same guy!). Conservation of the hull has been underway since 1994, due to be completed only in 2016, by impregnating the wood with polymers and now in the final 5-year drying out period! This was a really interesting and well designed museum - the new museum opened in 2013 - and probably the best part of the dockyards for people not so interested in actual ships!
The last part of the dockyards I managed to visit was the HMS Alliance, part of the Royal Submarine Museum, which required a water taxi ride across the busy harbour. The Alliance is a WWII-era submarine and the only one of its kind still around. Supposedly this is a relatively 'comfortable' submarine designed for the huge Pacific theatre, but it was still very cramped and claustrophobic - but lots of interesting equipment to look at for engineering nerds or fans of brass valves and gauges....!