Visit Portsmouth by Mouse
Portsmouth (Web site), in Hampshire, is on the south coast of England, 75 miles southwest of London, 170 miles east of Plymouth, 31 miles southeast of Winchester, and 19 miles southeast of Southampton. It is a major Naval base, a huge port that has served England for hundreds of years, and home to several historic ships. It houses the remains of the Tudor ship, Mary Rose, one of the first warships able to fire a full broadside from her 71 cannon, launched in the early 1500's; H.M.S. Victory,Admiral Horatio Nelson's flagship during the battle of Trafalgar in which he was victorious, but was mortally wounded by a French sniper; and H.M.S. Warrior, the world's first iron clad, ocean going, battleship. We toured all three and have photos and a slideshow to show you.
Portsmouth has several great museums (links to these are on the Portsmouth city website under "tourist attractions"). The three ships mentioned in the paragraph above are in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyards, a large area that includes the Royal Naval Museum as well as several other attractions. Also worthy of special mention is the D-Day Museum. General Dwight D. Eisenhower planned Operation Overlord in a mansion just north of Portsmouth. The port took part in the preparation for operations on D-Day, and the invasion force destined to land at Sword Beach in Normandy left from here. The D-Day museum tries to explain and describe Portsmouth's role and in the process and does a good job of describing the complex movements of the invasion fleet. One of the main attractions in the museum is the Overlord Embroidery. You can see a description and view some of its panels on the museum's web site. Basically it is a counter point to theBayeux Tapestry, which is described on this web site and which herald's the successful invasion of England by William the Conquerer. The Overlord Embroidery is about 250 feet long. It begins with the preaamble to the war and ends with British forces at the Seine.
The Victory, Nelson's flagship, can be toured above and below decks, with docents acting as tour guides and explaining what life was like aboard a British war ship of the period, how they fought and died. Nelson's quarters are more like what one would expect in a manor house than in a fighting sailing ship--large, with upholstered and carved wooden furniture. We were told that every stick of furniture was stowed securely elsewhere before any fighting began. We also learned about the origins of the phrases "square meal", "being on the fiddle" and "letting the cat out of the bag" and "under the gun". (See our letter)
The H.M.S. Warrior is a very large ship which you also can tour from stem to stern and above and below decks.  This ship represents the best use of 19th century technology applied to a ship.  It was initially armed with newly invented breech-loading rifle-bored cannons firing lead bullet-shaped projectiles.  However, these proved to have a fatal flaw.  Our letter explains why and who they were sold to.
Finally, the Tudor ship, the Mary Rose, was somewhat of a disappointment.  It is under cover and kept in near darkness and sprayed constantly with water to preserve what's left of it, which is not a great deal.
We finished our visit to Portsmouth with a tour around the harbor on a boat which passed the Navy ships in port.  We learned that British aircraft carriers have that swept up deck toward the bow to provide a little more lift to planes taking off.  This is necessary because they are so small.  A modern American carrier is too large to enter the harbor and has to remain anchored off the mouth when they come to visit.
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Photos of:    H.M.S Warrior and D-Day          Slideshow   Letter 
                     H.M.S. Victory and Portsmouth Harbor
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