The second day of my rail journey around the Southern UK takes me to the port city of Portsmouth better known as Pompey, a name derived from the fact that ship's masters would put Pom. P. for Portsmouth Point in their ship's logs upon arrival. The town in currently the home of the Historic Dockyards district of England and is home to the HMS Warrior 1860, Mary Rose (famously built by Henry VIII to serve as a gun boat, although the weight of its masts and guns capsized it), and most importantly, HMS Victory, the flagship of Lord Nelson at Trafalgar. The best part about a visit to Pompey is that as soon as you get off the train, you are basically at the ticket office to see the dockyards. It is a bit pricy (costing a little under 20 pounds) but it gives you access to the two museum ships, the Royal Navy Museum, Mary Rose center, a few ships on external display, as well as other exhibits. Thus, it is very much worth the money. The docents at all of the museums have studied up on the subjects of their ships and are always happy to be of assistance.
First up was the Warrior 1860. The Warrior was built as an Ironclad by England in order to reply to the French who were building Ironclads of their own. The ship is armed with 68 pound smoothbore and 110 pound rifled Armstrong guns. It largely inspired the design of later US and CS ironclads.
Each group of men on the ship served a specific gun. They messed next to their gun. Thus we can see here the dinner table of the men with their 68 pound gun in the background.
1858 2-band Enfields to use in case of boarders.
I would have wanted this room. Everything I need is here. A bed, a dresser, a bookshelf...and a 68 pounder gun.
From here we move on to the HMS Victory. It was on this very ship that Lord Nelson died during the battle of Trafalgar.
The Mary Rose center is still under construction. You could see some objects brought up from the wreck on display. The wreck itself, which was recovered largely intact, is in a room constantly kept wet in order to keep the deterioration of the wood down until it can be put on display. They believe that by 2012, the public will be able to go and see the wreck on display in a pool. By 2020, it will be able to be seen in dry dock. By 2025, people may even be able to go aboard it.
Portsmouth is a brilliant little city to visit. The dockyards are great and their is a shopping mall nearby for those not interested in seeing the ships. The best part of my trip had to be being on the Victory with a group of students from the Royal Naval College and a school group from France. There was a moment that went something like this:
(French group walks by generally bored with the tour of the ship)
Naval Student: (nudges his friend) Mate, I have this odd need to get in their faces and say "SCOREBOARD!" How did the Battle of Trafalgar taste!?
Me: (Begins laughing hysterically)
It was a day to remember. That is for sure.
Tomorrow: My journey takes me to Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. This will be my fourth country to visit during this week.