Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you realise that as President of the Mary Rose Trust for gracious me - 35 years I hate to say, it is a marvellous opportunity, at last, to come and see what in those days we never quite imagined would be possible.
When I think back to the days of diving on the ship out in the Solent in the most impossible conditions; it was like - I remember trying to describe it it was like swimming in a kind of lentil soup. You couldn’t see anything, I think anyway, until it was practically in front of your nose. It was very difficult to orientate yourself to where anything was in relation to the ship and the artefacts that were there. But what I could never get over is the sheer expertise of the archaeologists operating under water able to map everything and record everything and actually photograph everything so that when you like at it now, these days, it is truly extraordinary that they have managed to rearrange everything where is should be and how it should be placed.
And then of course I remember and perhaps others may have forgotten that the day came to try and raise the Mary Rose and the only way you could do it was by borrowing an enormous floating crane on a barge and this crane was in huge demand around the world as you can imagine and I think it cost about £250,000 a day to use this machine so we just had a very, very short moment and you can imagine that with the Solent tide, the tidal widow is very short. And I remember sitting on the boat while the crane was in position over the wreck and people were saying "isn't it too difficult and we can't fix this and we can't fix that", I said "Listen: this crane is going to disappear to the other side of the world and you'll never get it back. We've just got to get this wreck out!" Fortunately, we did. And I have never forgotten as it came out there was the most almighty crunch as the chains on the ship dropped and I thought "oh, it's all my fault now!" I thought it had gone! Anyway, fortunately we prevailed and I think it was worth taking the risk because now we have this truly remarkable example of a Tudor warship which is unique and we all felt that at that time how unique she was, chiefly of course because of the astonishing artefacts which she contained and I think that maybe the thing which fascinates and astonishes so many visitors who probably think they are just coming to look at the hull of the ship and when they see the sheer extent of the artefacts and how they demonstrate the lives of people in those days and the terrible problems and diseases which people had - the suffering must have been terrible on top of taking on the French at the same time - it does provide, I think, a wonderful history lesson.
So ladies and gentlemen really what I wanted to do today more than anything else was to express the warmest possible appreciation to all the staff here, those whom, going round the exhibits today, quite of lot them have been 35 years with this Trust, and I've met them from time to time and we're always getting older and balder, but they have done all the work on conservation, storage, planning, keeping the timbers going, and eventually drying them out. These are people who have made all this possible together with the wonderful generous funders and donors and Heritage Lottery Fund who have given so much money and indeed such support all the way through this major project together with many of those whom we have met today whose support, again, has made it possible. I promise you, without them we would be nowhere. Also the various key supporters on the committee, the Admiral's group and goodness knows who else who have really given so much effort for all this; to them and of course to the Chairman and Chief Executive John Lippiett - an old friend of mine from the Navy we used to both command mine sweepers together- he was much better at it than I was but it's so marvellous to see him here after 11 years now having made such a difference to this entire venture.
So ladies and gentlemen it is a great British achievement and I hope that this exhibition here and this ship will give pleasure, enjoyment, interest and new knowledge in interpreting our past to so many people from around the world. This is a really great achievement and many, many congratulations to all those involved.