Echoes of naval glory: Henry VIII's ship, Falklands

Heroism, victory, history, adventure, and outstanding technical skills - Britain has been honoring them all in recent days in a welcome break from the national preoccupation with economic woe.

This onetime hub of empire has been savoring good news instead of bad, as many here ask how the spirit of success can be projected into the future as well.

Imaginations were seized with continuous, live television coverage of history brought to life in the biggest archeological feat in recent history - the brown timbers of Henry VIII's flagship Mary Rose breaking through the green waters off Portsmouth harbor for the first time in 437 years.

It was the culmination of 20 years of skilled work supported by (STR)3.7 million in privately raised funds. Superb diving skills and technical skill were on public display.

At the same time, memories of the Falklands victory, Britain's biggest military campaign since World War II, have been revived with the publication of a long list of medals and honors awarded those who took part - and a triumphant parade scheduled in London Oct. 12.

The events reawakened memories of empire and Britain securely ruling the waves - in sharp contrast with the daily struggle here, as throughout Europe, against the rising waters of unemployment and recession.

It was a dramatic sight at 9:03 a.m. as BBC cameras caught the Tudor timbers of the Mary Rose, the flower of Henry's fleet, reached the air for first time since 1545. The hull had been preserved in silt at the bottom of the sea about a mile off Portsmouth.

''That was an age of romance and glamour, unlike today's talk of recession and gloom,'' said a Surrey schoolteacher watching her television set Oct. 11.

''Henry himself watched the ship sink, and now Prince Charles is watching it come up again. . . .

''I suppose the money spent on it all could have gone to help the health workers (currently on strike for higher pay), but it's marvelous to think of seeing how ships were built and people lived in Tudor days. . . .''

Prince Charles, as president of the Mary Rose Trust, made the last of his 10 dives to the hull just before it came up.

All passing ships were asked to proceed slowly to avoid causing unnecessary swell. Teams of Mary Rose Trust divers in orange wet suits and army divers in black supervised the lifting beneath the waters.

The skillful and painstaking hoisting in a steel cradle was done by a 700-ton floating crane whose huge booms are half as high as London's famous Post Office Tower.

Over the years, divers had brought up decking, superstructure, armaments, and other equipment. Only the hull was left.

Much has already been learned about the daily life of sailors of Tudor times and about the equipment they used. Only about 35 of 715 sailors survived when the ship suddenly sank on its way to do battle with a vastly bigger French fleet on July 19, 1545.

Chief archeologist on the project, Margaret Rule, says the hull will reveal a great deal about shipbuilding in Tudor times.

The only comparable feat of restoration in recent European history was the lifting of the ancient Swedish warship ''Wasa'' from the seabed just off Stockholm some years ago. It has become a tourist attraction.

Both warships sank when, overloaded with men and equipment, water rushed in through the lower line of open gun-ports.

Meanwhile, Britain is debating anew its victory in the Falklands campaign. The campaign honors list included 835 names, one for every 40 of the 28,000 personnel involved on land and sea and in the air. At the top were two posthumous Victoria crosses.

The man who masterminded the military operation, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Terence Lewin, becomes a life peer. Former Falklands Gov. Rex Hunt and the leaders of sea and land forces (Rear Adm. Sir John Woodward and Maj. Gen. Jeremy Moore) become knights.

The extraordinary bravery and skill of British forces are universally acknowledged. But not everyone approves of the victory parade in London. Liberal Party leader David Steel refused to take part.

Senior figures in the Church of England say Britain should be giving thanks for the war's end and praying for nonmilitary solutions to world problems, rather than glorying in a nationalism they find outdated.

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