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The Master Gunner

The Mary Rose was one of the first English ships designed just as a warship. She carried a battery of heavy guns that could damage enemy ships

Who was he?

In his late 30s and 1.63m tall (5ft 4in), this man was found carrying a gunpowder flask and a call (whistle), wearing a jerkin with the Cross of St George on it.

He could have been the captain of a gun crew or the Master Gunner. His neck bones had degenerated and the base of his spine had compacted, perhaps due to years of hauling guns or lifting powder chambers. He had terrible teeth, with 11 having been removed during his life.

Large guns

The guns of the Mary Rose were ready to fire deadly stone and iron shot at an enemy ship. The Mary Rose carried two kinds of big guns.

Bronze guns

Weighing up to 2.5 tons, these were loaded from the front. They are called muzzle-loaders. These guns could fire an iron cannon ball over a mile, but were only accurate at much closer range.

All the bronze guns were decorated and some had the maker’s name on them. They also had lifting rings in the shape of lion’s heads, dolphins and mermen on them. These guns were very expensive to make and were decorated to show they belonged to Henry VIII.

Iron guns

Iron guns were made in the same way as a barrel, with metal staves held together by iron rings. They were not as strong as bronze guns, and could not shoot as far.

The iron guns were loaded in a different way from the bronze guns. They had a breech chamber at the back that was taken out, using the lifting rings, to be filled with gunpowder. Every iron gun had two of these chambers, so the gun could be loaded and fired quickly.


Not all of the guns on the Mary Rose were large – a list of the guns on board the Mary Rose in 1545 says there should have been 50 handguns on board.


A drawing of a Tudor hand gun

Only one complete gun was found by the divers. Parts of seven others were found on the wreck.

These guns were muskets, and the complete one was probably made in Italy.


A gunshield from the Mary Rose

Gunshields were a strange weapon, a wooden shield with a gun fixed in the middle.

Henry VIII’s guards were issued with them, but the gunshield was a very clumsy weapon and soon vanished from history!


A hailshot piece

The hailshot piece is a rectangular hand gun. The gun would have been rested against the side of the ship making the gun stable to use. It would fire small iron squares, called ‘dice shot’.

The hailshot piece was not in use for long, as the rectangular barrel was weak, so the gun would start to split and eventually explode!

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