Mary Rose 'sank because Spanish crew did not understand orders'

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Forensic examination of the crew's skulls, which were found next the 16th century wreck in The Solent, has revealed that Henry VIII's flagship was mainly crewed by foreign sailors, thought to be either mercenaries or Spanish prisoners of war.

Historians have always believed that the warship sank when it performed a sharp turn during a battle with the French in July 1545 and heeled so steeply that water flooded through the open gun ports.

But the new theory suggests that the gun ports may only have been open because the crew spoke little English and did not understand orders to close them as the ship's commander, Admiral George Carew, took evasive action.

The crew's foreign origins would also help to explain Admiral Carew's enigmatic final words, shouted to another ship, that his men were "knaves I cannot rule".

The theory has been put forward by Professor Hugh Montgomery, of University College London, whose research team was given access by the Mary Rose Trust to the remains of 18 crewmen.

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