Alex McKee's Home Page

About me

About the Mary Rose - and book list

Picture Gallery


Hi! I'm Alex. I live in Southampton in the South of England. My main interests are I.T. (especially computer conferencing, A.I. and multi-media), Social Science, Reading, Classical Music & Kayaking.

We have the New Forest about 5 miles away from here. A great place for seeing Forest ponies, deer and cattle roaming free, taking Sunday walks or mountain bike rides & indulging in cream teas (Chateau de Pain in Southampton and the Old Bakery in Beulieu are my current favourite cafes). Some of the pubs are also very pleasant (the High Corner Inn, the Royal Oak at North Gorley and the Anchor Blue at Bosham are some of my favourites) and the Christmas lights in Lyndhurst are really worth seeing. Lymington is a great place to catch a ride on the spring tides down to the Needles.

The Isle of Wight & the Needles are also about 15 miles away. Hurst Castle and the Needles provide tide races that can be quite exciting for kayakers. The tides run at over four knots on a spring tide. There is a pleasant stop en-route at Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight, with its multi-coloured sands and a cliff-top cafe with panoramic views of Alum Bay & the Needles.

The Purbeck Hills lie to the West providing some more scenic & recreational country with some sites of historic interest including Corfe Castle, Old Harry rocks, Lulworth Cove, Kimmeridge Bay, Durdle Dor, Portland & on to Lyme Regis & beyond. The coastline extending on down beyond Swanage contains rocks full of fossils & has long stretches of sea cliffs that are riddled with caves, provide few escape routes for canoeists and some more tide races.

The rivers Stour & Avon drain into Christchurch harbour & have short navigable sections, yes, with cafes, one out on Hengistbury head and the other up at Iford Bridge.

The ancient city of Salisbury and Stonehenge are only about 50 miles away.

We often get surf nearby and the river Dart is only 120 miles away. The river Frome is worth paddling during or shortly after heavy rain. The Itchen in Southampton is worth a visit, particularly at Woodmill where the wier and sluice provide some white water. The Hamble also has some sluices one of which is safe enough to play on, the scenery higher up is excellent at high tide and the Horse and Jocky pub up at Curdridge welcomes Kayakers and canoeists as does the Jolly Sailor at Swanick. It is a good location for kayaking.

Recent History, Underwater Archeology & King Henry VIII's Flagship Mary Rose

PICTURE GALLERY - click on an image to jump to a larger version

Royal VisitPortraitBSAC Special Branch:-number 551On Tog Mor
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*** Good News! Please note - ***

I am pleased to say that things have changed; the information below is no longer accurate dad is now getting his share of the credit at the site. The original diving team are not yet, but it looks as though the intention of the people now running the operation is to set the record straight so I expect this will happen soon. A.M.

We expect to start interviewing the original diving team about their experiences later this year. If you have any burning questions you would like them asked about the project please e-mail them to me at alex.mckee@solent.ac.uk.


My father, with the aid of his research team on Project Solent Ships re-discovered the Mary Rose, King Henry the VIII's flagship. This early part of the history of the Mary Rose's re-discovery in recent time, is usually omitted from the credits at official functions and scant recognition is given to Dad and his diving team for their dedication and effort in the early pioneering days of the project. The pioneering period when the some of the experts consulted laughed them off as over-enthusiastic dreamers actually lasted several years and they paid the costs themselves as well as giving their time freely. He told me some of the experts even started to call him mad McKee when they complained about him asking them to help because wood usually gets eaten up completely by marine worms inside of 200 years around the U.K.. I remember his exasperation after they had dived extensively summer after summer and found what they viewed as ample evidence only to be rejected again. I remember too how the weather, tides, and danger worried him and how one of his diving friends was nearly killed. But the apparently endless lack of sponsorship continued despite good evidence in the form of artifacts and examples of wooden wrecks surviving many centuries under the sea in the form of the Vasa in Sweden. Although a few companies (I.B.M., B.P., Avon & Wier Pumps if I remember correctly) did provide some assistance quite early on it was some years later, when a large iron gun with "Mary Rose" cast into it was raised, that they finally started to get some real support from a large number of sources. Thanks all the same folks. As the saying goes "better late than never" & it is really looking good today.

Below is a photograph of HRH Prince Charles visiting the project team.

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Maritime Interests, Scuba-Diving & the British Sub-Aqua Club, Wrecks, Excavation, Decay & Preservation

To banish any doubts regarding his long-term interest and scholarship in things maritime and sub-aquatic one only has to check out the titles of some of his books such as 'The Golden Wreck', 'Farming the Sea', 'History Under the Sea', 'King Henry VIII's Mary Rose' and 'How We Found the Mary Rose' (book list). I am fairly certain that the publication dates of some of these books even pre-dates Project Solent Ships let alone the formation of the Mary Rose Special Branch which pre-dates the Mary Rose 1967 Committee. I will check and find out the publication dates. A quotation from one of them is appropriate "In 1965, when McKee first persuaded the Southsea Branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club to adopt a search for the Mary Rose as its project for the year, the ship barely rated a mention in the history books.". He also worked on the remains of a Saxon Church near the Nab tower about four miles South of Hayling Island some years before his Mary Rose project.

It seems rather churlish in view of these facts & the additional fact that despite having educated himself after serving in the armed forces during the war & having written some 30 books on documentary history should not have recieved an honorary Doctorate for his original research (this find was unique & large with regard to the new knowledge it provided about Tudor England especially the weapons used & also made a significant contribution to methodology in Underwater Archaeology which was in its infancy at the time) that made the project happen while at least one other person did.

My sister Cornelia says he had a longer-term strategy still and his brother Colin says that he was already interested in the Solent wrecks in general and the Mary Rose in particular as a child.

Project Solent Ships & the Mary Rose Special Branch

His fellow original project members have written the following epitaph to put on his grave stone in an effort to compensate for the apparent official conspiracy of near silence -

"This stone, recovered from the bed of the Solent by members of the Mary Rose Special Branch, number 551, of the British Sub-Aqua Club, is dedicated to the memory of Alexander McKee OBE, whose initiation of the Project Solent Ships 1965 led to his discovery of the Mary Rose, Flagship of Henry VIII, and its eventual recovery from the Solent."

Below is a photograph of a portrait of dad painted in oils by a very talented friend of mine:

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Alice my wife.
Because dad died in 1992 aged 72 this potrait was painted from an old passport photograph.

Martyn Heighton the new Director of the Trust has arranged for it to be put on display in the museum from around Easter 1998.

Notice some of the original team in the background picture, some of his books on the bookshelf & the location of the wreck on the picture of the Solent.

Percy Ackland one of the original team said "Even when a gun was found loaded and ready to fire with a shot up the spout, one expert said it was balast and that four hundred year old wood discovered on the site was just drift wood and the age was a coincidence."

Don Bullivant also one of the original team said "Project Solent Ships was Mac."

Below are a couple of photographs of some of the original team taken on the day the Mary Rose broke the surface of the sea for the first time for over 400 years.

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It is interesting to note that while he eventually got an OBE for his services another member of the trust (not from the original team) got a CBE. How come the divers can give credit where it is due while some parts of the establishment cannot?

Some Important Questions

I have some important questions for the managers on the project both then and now. I do not think that they will answer them but maybe I can shame them into putting this right.

Why were the ORIGINAL diving team cut out of the project by insisting on all volunteers committing themselves to ever longer periods of time, which these gainfully employed people could not afford, first four days, later seven days and eventually three months? Why indeed where they patronisingly referred to as "the scubies"?

Why at the raising of the Mary Rose was Alexander McKee not invited by advance ticket onto the giant salvage crane Tog Mor?

Why did the media tell the public that Alexander McKee was watching the raising of the Mary Rose at home on television, when he was IN FACT at the site (but not on the giant crane Tog Mor) in the same old fishing boat, with the same skipper, still at half price owing to the skipper's good will and the with same intrepid team that had worked with him from the very start of the project?

Why was there no response on Tog Mor to radio calls from our fishing boat?

I heard the C.O. of the Royal Engineers on the project, Colonel Chitty, when he heard that the media had been mis-informed, had to order his men to stop work before Dad was finally invited on board, why was that?

Below is a photograph taken aboard the giant crane Tog Mor later on the day the Mary Rose was raised. From left to right it features me (in the green hat), my sister Cornelia (who worked at the Mary Rose site many times, Dad (the man himself!), Mum (who did most of the translations from French & German for Dad's books) & my brother Thomas (who has incidentally, won medals at the Special Olympics). Also a big "Thank you!" to Colonel Chitty for getting us there.

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Why were media calls for the old diving team intercepted and replied to by members of the Mary Rose Trust?

I hear that a second Mary Rose Special Branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club was soon created despite avowals to the impossibility of this. Why was that? Was it to dilute the significance and influence of the first?

How can people trust the management version of any history to do with this project when the early days of it have been so partially reported and distorted? Just how old does a history have to be before it is likely to get impartially interpreted?

Why is it that Alexander McKee's vision, tenacity and wide ranging knowledge (read his books if you doubt this) which in any other context, such as commerce or industry, especially one that succeeded like this one did, would have been hailed in such words as those above, are instead, on one of the rare occasions that credit is given to him, insultingly summed up on the Mary Rose web page as -

"The search for and discovery of the Mary Rose was a result of the magnificent obsession (my italics) of one man, the late Alexander McKee."?

Here is a link to the page in question where you can check it out for yourself.

Note: the link above is now unobtainable owing to a server change & the text has also been modified.

I was told that one voluntary worker was very embarrassed one day to discover that the arthritic old gentleman who had just queued quietly for over an hour and paid for an entry ticket was in fact the man who had started the project off and was the inspiration behind the team who did the ground work. I wonder how the V.I.P.'s associated with the project, the companies who sponsorred the project, the other workers including volunteers on the project and the media representatives associated with the project, feel about this apparent supression of credit where credit is due to both Alexander McKee and his original self-funding volunteer team of the Mary Rose Special Branch number 551 of the British Sub-Aqua Club, knowing that without their ground breaking dogged perseverance in the face of doubt and mockery there would never have been any Mary Rose museum, no time capsule of priceless and largly unique artifacts, nor even any paid employment on the project?

Things to come - my mother's, my sister Gabriella's, my brother Thomas's and the rest of the members of the one and only, yes folks, the original Mary Rose Special Branch recollections. Watch this space as the untold history of the Mary Rose unfolds.

Here is a link to the Mary Rose Home Port page where you can check out the Historical and Archeological value of the project on one the hand and the conspicuous lack of appropriate credits to the project initiators and the original pioneers on the other.

You are visitor number to my home page since 2 Feb 1998.

This page was created on 14th January 1996, and is maintained by Alexander McKee. It was last updated on 28 November 2003. You can e-mail me by clicking here.


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