This was a trip to visit historic attractions which are linked to diving. Therefore a bit of an unusual weekend as we planned on not doing any diving. It was made possible by former club President Andy Watson working at the Mary Rose Museum. Andy exploited some good contacts to get us some good deals as well as a peak behind the scenes.
Portsmouth is a very pretty, historic city, mostly packed onto a small island. Driving around and parking in Portsmouth was as stressful as diving the Falls of Lora and as confusing as watching Ed set up his kit. Fortunately, we arrived in Portsmouth in time for a drink at a local pub.
We had breakfast at a café on the beach. This also gave Andy the opportunity to give us tickets and an itinerary for the weekend. We have rarely known these levels of organisation.
We were among the first into the Museum for the tour set up for us. The Mary Rose was Henry VIII’s flagship preserved in the mud and silt of the Solent. The museum is built around the remains of the hull. But, most impressive are the thousands of artefacts that were on the wreck. Huge bronze cannons to tiny dice owned by the sailors.
Before we left, we had a fantastic talk by one of the original divers on the project, Dawn Perrier. We were also able to look into the archive of items not usually available to the public. Learning about how the project was run was truly inspirational, a huge number of volunteer divers putting their training to practice, diving with a purpose.
In the afternoon we split up and did our own thing. We mostly explored the Historic Dockyard which includes Nelson’s flagship the HMS Victory, the HMS M33 a survivor of the assault at Gallipoli in 1915, we also saw landing craft from the Falklands and a Field Gun from the Boer War. Maddy did none of this and went Christmas shopping.
Checked out and drove over to Gosport for breakfast and the Diving Museum. We had time to have a walk on the beach before our tour of the museum as we were far too efficient.
Volunteers from The Historic Diving Society run The Diving Museum. We had arrived out of season, so Andy was able to talk them into opening especially and giving us a tour. They have a collection that includes 19th century Helmet diving, military diving artefacts and re-compression chambers.
My favourite item from the museum were the medals of Commander Crabb. An MI6 diver who died in mysterious circumstances in 1956; ‘inspecting’ a Soviet Cruiser that had brought Nikita Khrushchev to a summit in the UK. His story inspired Ian Fleming to write the Bond novel Thunderball.
We had Sunday lunch before heading home. This was a bit of an odd trip as we didn’t even attempt diving. But it was hugely enjoyable. Thanks to everyone who came on the trip, but especially to Andy for setting up all the museums in Portsmouth, calling in favours to make it such a fantastic weekend.
Written by Peter Dix
Trip participants: Ed Chester, Aoife Cleland, Bevan Cope, Peter Dix, Frodo (Alex Hix-Dunn), Bucky (Ben Locke), Cassie Mason, Daisy Mason, Holly Owen, Steve Scarlett, Maddy Shine, Andy Watson.