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Items from The News, Navy News and Warship World are reproduced by kind permission of David Brown, Sarah Fletcher and Steve Bush respectively.  Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.


26 Jan 20 - A new 'Diver Chronicle' from Ginge Fullen

 

I must thank CD branch legend Eamon 'Ginge' Fullen QGM for sending me the sixth in his excellent series of illustrated chronicles of veteran Royal Navy divers in which he has captured so many memories.  His latest offering features Cris Ballinger BEM who joined the Royal Navy in 1959 but it also provides a well-researched chronology of deep diving in the RN from the first-hand accounts of many of those involved.  It is packed with a wealth of detail and illustrations, not to mention the familiar (and not so familiar) names of those RN and supporting MOD legends on whose shoulders stand those in today's CD Branch.  We are transported between RNPL's Deep Trials Unit at Alverstoke and its Canadian counterpart at DCIEM in Toronto; from Scottish lochs and Norwegian fjords to the warm waters of the Mediterranean, Florida, the Caribbean and California.  This book tells an epic story and truly lives up to the achievements it describes.

 

         

All six volumes of Ginge's chronicles to date should be available for sale from the RNCDA website's shop via www.rncda.com.

 

Cris Ballinger BEM

 

     

 

Fred Hilton:

 

     

 

Don Hodge:

 

      

 

Carl Massey:

 

      

 

Yorky Wilkinson:

 

      

 

Jim Cannon:

 

      

 


17 Jan 20 - Latest MSM and LS&GC awards

 

Congratulations to WO1(MW) Steve Harvey and CPO(D) Willie Sharp MBE on being gazetted for the award of the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM).  Fewer than 50 MSMs are awarded annually to Royal Navy Warrant Officers and Senior Rates.

 

Also, congratulations to PO(D) Nigel 'Pat' Patterson on being gazetted for the award of the 2nd Clasp to the Naval Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (LS&GC).

 


16 Jan 20 - Casting of Vernon Monument update

 

 

I am grateful to sculptor Mark Richards FRSS for these images showing the latest progress with the casting of the MCDOA-sponsored bronze one-and-a-quarter life-size Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument at the Morris Singer Foundry at Lasham near Alton in Hampshire (see entry for 11 Jan 20).

 

 

He says the green elements are wax sections being run up. The tubes, variously known as sprues or runners and risers, are to allow the bronze to flow and the air to escape.

 

 

     

 

 

The yellow elements are sections being run up, cut up and in the final stages of investment.

 

     

 

 

     

 

More information about the process here:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investment_casting

 


15 Jan 20 - Funeral of Lt Cdr Harry Parker MBE RN

 

MCDOA members Peter Waddington and John Staveley attended Harry's funeral in Dunfermline today and I am grateful to them for their respective accounts of the service (see entry for 8 Jan 20).

 

 

From Peter Waddington:

 

"Dear Rob,  

 

John Staveley and I both attended Harry Parker's funeral this morning, met up, and exchanged histories, and both made our number, chatted with and were welcomed by his sons.  We were the only MCDs there, the remaining large congregation being made up of Harry's extended family and friends, a large contingent from the RNA including Standard Bearer, and a few members of HMS Relentless Association, together with many of the regular congregation.  These last were obvious witness to the fact that Harry was well known to them, and as mentioned during the service was a pillar of this Church and of the local community. We were told in later conversation with one of the RNA contingent that Alan Bayliss had intended to be there but is currently in hospital.  

 

The service was a simple one of appropriate hymns and prayers, together with a eulogy presented by son Rev. Dr Nigel, which covered Harry's life, many interests and activities from childhood onwards, in family, RN service, local community and Church, tackling everything he touched with vibrant enthusiasm. It was alledged that he tended to treat his young sons like juniour ratings!  

 

I see that John has just sent you a more detailed summary, including the note that he will forward a copy of the eulogy when he receives it from Nigel, so I will leave it at that.  The attachment is a scan of the front cover of the Order of Service.  It was pointed out that the photo was taken on the occasion of their Golden Wedding anniversay, and shortly before his wife died.

 

 

Regards,

 

Peter"

 


From John Staveley:

 

"Rob,

 

A congregation of about 200 included representatives of the HMS RELENTLESS Association, of which Harry was First Lieutenant, and the Rosyth and West Fife RNA, who paraded their standard.  I am aware of MRUs, as it were, from Alan Bayliss, Dickie Wardrope, and Dougie MacDonald.

 

The service, led by the minister of the Parish Church of Townhill and Kingseat, included “The Lord’s my shepherd”, “Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us”, and “Now thank we all our God”, and readings from Psalm 107 (Some went down to the sea in ships) St Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, and St John’s Gospel.

 

One of Harry’s four sons, the Revd Dr Nigel Parker, delivered an eloquent and moving eulogy which covered his early life in Leeds, joining the Navy as a Boy, submarine training, promotion, and his transition to MCM etc.  On his retirement in 1973, the family settled in Dunfermline (when he started as RSO at CMCM) where he became deeply involved in the church, the community, and the Samaritans.  Apparently, he considered seeking ordination but was dissuaded by his wife who asserted that he would run his church like a ship.

 

At the family’s request, the naval contingent and church elders formed a guard of honour, as the organ played the Naval Hymn while Harry was borne out of the church."

 


14 Jan 20 - Gentlemen Who Lunch

 

The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole visited The Robin Hood at Rowlands Castle today and enjoyed a convivial lunch courtesy of our hostess Kelly who took this photo:

 

 

For the benefit of newcomers to this website, the three of us first met as single living-in members of HMS VERNON's wardroom mess in March 1973 and have tried to gather together most weeks since leaving the RN.

 


13 Jan 20 - HMS VERNON Minewarfare Heritage

 

On this day in 1940, Winston Churchill, accompanied by his wife 'Clemmie', paid a second visit to HMS VERNON as First Lord of the Admiralty (not First Sea Lord).  He wore the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House.

 

 

Churchill, who wasn't appointed Prime Minister until 10 May 1940, was concerned about German naval activity in the Baltic Sea and initially planned to send a naval force there but this was soon changed to a plan, code-named Operation WILFRED, to stop the shipment of Swedish iron ore to Germany by mining Norwegian waters.  This became linked with a separate plan, code-named Operation ROYAL MARINE, to send naval mines down the Rhine to destroy German pontoon bridges, barges and shipping further downstream.  Britain saw this as a way of striking back for the heavy damage and loss of life the Germans had inflicted with their magnetic mine, but the French vetoed the plan for fear that it would bring a wider German retaliation against them.  Owing to disagreements about mining, both in the war cabinet and with the French government, WILFRED was delayed until 8 April 1940, the day before the Germans launched their successful invasion of Norway.

 

Churchill had first visited HMS VERNON as First Lord of the Admiralty on 21 September 1939 when he had shown immense interest in the work of the Mining Department which also had responsibility for mine design, the development of mine countermeasures and naval bomb & mine disposal at sea and on land.

 

 


12 Jan 20 - A new book from Cdr David Bruhn USN

 

My sometime co-author David Bruhn, prolific author of books about naval warfare including the trilogy 'Wooden Ships and Iron Men' about US-built minesweepers (including some in RN service), has published a new book called 'Gators Offshore and Upriver - The US Navy’s Amphibious Ships and Underwater Demolition Teams, and Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers in Vietnam'.  This is a companion book to 'On The Gunline - US Navy and Royal Australian Navy Warships off Vietnam, 1965-1973' and contains material about the heroic actions of Royal Australian Navy clearance divers to thwart the efforts of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong swimmer-sappers to mine Allied vessels:

 

Book cover incorporating painting by Richard DeRosset, depicting a Viet Cong swimmer-sapper

mining attack  on the tank landing ship USS Westchester County (LST-1167), on

1 November 1968,  in which  the US Navy suffered its greatest loss of life in a single

incident, as a result of enemy action, during the entire Vietnam War.

 

Book Description

 

During the Vietnam War, 142 “gators” (amphibious ships) served in the combat zone.  As deeper-draft ships landed Marines on assault beaches by boat or helicopter, World War II-era tank landing ships operated on shallow, winding rivers.  Scores of minimal-draft vessels were required to support inland combat action beyond the reach of the cruisers and destroyers serving on the gunline offshore.  Therefore, dozens of “mothballed” landing ships were returned to service.  These “Ts” served as mobile support bases for river patrol boats and assault helicopters, and ran the rivers to deliver vital cargos to Allied troops, and other units of the “Brown Water Navy.”

 

Each day brought the possibility of ambush by the enemy concealed in dense jungle along the banks.  Most insidious were swimmer-sappers who used the chocolate-colored waters to hide their movements while placing explosives on vessels lying at anchor or alongside a pier.  One such attack against the Westchester County killed or injured many sailors and embarked soldiers.

 

This activity spurred Royal Australian Navy clearance divers being called into service.  Their inspections of thousands of ship hulls, rudders, and anchor chains, and heroic removal and rendering harmless of deadly ordnance they found, saved many ships and lives.

 

For those interested in learning about Sailors who fought “in country,” this companion to On the Gunline is the book you’re looking for.  One hundred and ninety photographs, maps, and diagrams; appendices; and an index to full-names, places, and subjects add value to this work.

 

Order your copy of David's latest publication from Heritage Books here:

 

Gators Offshore and Upriver - The US Navy’s Amphibious Ships and Underwater Demolition Teams, and Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers in Vietnam

 


11 Jan 20 - Casting of Vernon Monument update

 

 

I am grateful to sculptor Mark Richards FRSS for this image showing him checking the wax on the torso of one the divers from the MCDOA-sponsored bronze one-and-a-quarter life-size Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument (see entry for 21 Dec 19).  From here it finds its way into bronze at the Morris Singer Foundry at Lasham in Hampshire.

 

 

The real McCoy courtesy of Mick O'Leary's Diving-Watch.net.

 

Steve 'Taff' Livingstone and Gary 'Geoff' Hurst wearing original CDBA

 


10 Jan 20 - Arrangements for the funeral of Lt Cdr David John Baden Forsey MBE RN

 

The funeral of MCDOA member David Forsey will start at 1130 on Friday 7 February at St Michael and All Angels Church, Church Lane, Enborne near Newbury, Berkshire RG20 0HB (see entry for 29 Dec 19).

 

The committal and burial service will start at 1230 in the natural setting of Acorn Ridge, Redhill, Enborne near Newbury, Berkshire, RG20 0JN.  This is within sight of Beacon Hill and Watership Down.

 

After the funeral, a reception will be held at The Craven Arms, Skinners Green Lane, Enborne, Newbury, Berkshire RG20 0HG.  If you would like to attend, please inform David's daughter Catherine via this email address so that she and her brother Paul can gauge numbers.

 

The family has asked for donations in David's memory to be made towards Project Vernon, the erection of a monument at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth celebrating the mine warfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously occupied the site.  This can be achieved online here:

 

Donate to Project Vernon

 

If you are a UK taxpayer, please consider completing and submitting this Gift Aid Declaration which adds 25% to your donation.

 

Postscript: Many thanks to MCDOA member Peter Waddington for his generous donation towards the Vernon Monument in David's memory.

 


9 Jan 20 - Closure of SETT

 

The Submarine Escape Training Tank at Gosport

 

The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Portsmouth News website this article announcing the closure of the Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT) at Gosport on the former site of HMS DOLPHIN.  Many members of our community will recall having performed free ascents from 100 ft, both with and without the benefit of submarine escape equipment, during various clearance diving courses.

 

Submariners inside the SETT at Gosport for the last time

(Royal Navy photo)

 


8 Jan 20 - Death and funeral of Lt Cdr Harry Parker MBE RN

 

     

Harry Parker as CO of HMS Dingley and the 51st Minehunting

Squadron's CD Team in 1962

 

HMS Dingley as fitted with MTG (Multiple Towed Gradiometer) in the mid-1960s

 

It saddens me to pass on this announcement from MCDOA member Harry Parker's son Nigel:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

I apologise that I had not let you know earlier of Dad's passing.  Do pass the word on through MCDOA and other networks you know of and who would appreciate knowing.

 

As you can see from this death notice in the Dunfermline Press, the funeral is not until next week.  The HMS Relentless Association has been in touch.

 

PARKER Peacefully at the Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline on Friday 20th December 2019, aged 91 years, Harry Parker MBE, ex-RN, proud member of Townhill Community and lately Whitelaw Court, husband of the late Mary, father to Simon, Martin, Timothy and Nigel and loyal family member to many more.

 

Funeral Service to take place in Townhill Church, Dunfermline 10.30am Wednesday 15th January, to which all are invited.  Private cremation to follow.

 

Family flowers only please but if desired donations to the Samaritans and Townhill Church on leaving the service.  

 

There are letters in Dad's files from those who speak of his professionalism, courage and wise tutoring of younger divers.  So much unknown to us as a family.

 

Yours sincerely,  

 

Nigel Parker (Rev Dr)

 

Son and next of kin."

 

Harry qualified as a CDO at HMS VERNON in September 1955.  He was awarded a MID (Mention in Despatches) in June 1957 "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the Operations in the Near East, October to December 1956" while serving in the tank landing ship HMS Lofoten which landed Royal Marines of 45 Commando during MUSKETEER, the Anglo-French amphibious operation to seize the Suez Canal after its nationalisation by Nasser.  Although Harry left the Royal Navy in 1973, he continued to work as Captain MCM's RSO (Route Survey Officer at Rosyth until superseded by fellow MCDOA member Alan Bayliss in 1993.  He was appointed an MBE (Civil Division) for his services in the 1993 Queen's Birthday Honours.

 

I am sure all members of our community will join me in extending our sincere condolences to Harry's family.

 


From MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald:

 

"Hello Rob,

 

I've only just picked this up and sadly I can’t get there in time. 

 

Harry and I worked together in Lochinvar Block and I learned a lot from him, and before in various ships of the MCM Flotilla.  His wry smile and knowing look summed up his experienced view on life and diving.  I shall miss his tutelage.

 

Best,

 

Dougie"

 


From former CPO(D) Mick Kester:

 

"Hi Rob,

 

Sorry to hear the sad news regarding the passing of Harry Parker.  He was my first Diving Officer / 1st Lt in the tank landing ship HMS MESSINA in Bahrain in 1963.  Under his leadership, our small diving team carried out various tasks in,and around the Gulf including screw and rudder changes and a heap of other repairs to Tank Landing Ships damaged during beach landings.

 

Harry was a great leader and inspiration to me and to many others.  It was Harry who recommended me for CD.

 

From left to right, this photo shows Harry Pickering (D3), Mick Wilson (CD3), me (Shallow Water Diver) and Harry Parker (CDO).

 

 

Best Regards,

 

Mick"

 


From MCDOA member Peter Waddington:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

I have just read your further piece of sad news re the passing of Harry Parker.

 

I never worked directly with Harry, but knew him as a friendly and sociable elder member of the branch, with whom I chatted at a number of social events, south and north; in more recent years the latter.

 

My only indirect connection with his work was when Captain MCM was still in command of HMS Lochinvar at Port Edgar, and I was based there in 1969/70 as XO of HMS Abdiel and MCM Staff Officer to MCM1.  These, as I remember, were either the very early days or the start of Harry's long term as "Mr Route Survey", and I remember speaking on MCM1's behalf at an MCM conference at HMS Vernon about the perceived paucity of the projected Hunt Class build in view of the vital need for continual update of route surveys to protect the approaches to our strategic ports in general, and Faslane in particular.  I remember also, at the conclusion of that talk, being fairly gently chided by the then MW Desk Officer at DNW, Cdr (later Captain) Garth de Courcy-Ireland, who made a pragmatic statement to the effect that "that is what we can afford, so that is what we'll get"!  

 

As one of the slowly dwindling northern reps of the branch, I intend to be at the funeral in Dunfermline next Wednesday.  

 

Regards,

 

Peter"

 


From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:

 

"Hi Rob,

 

Mike Gillam gave me the heads up regarding Harry.  When I was working for Joe Brooks in the Acceptance Trials Diving Equipment Group, Joe was also the Course Officer for a new intake of qualifying CDOs.  Harry was a member of this group as were Mike Gillam, Peter Roberts VC and Pat Christmas qualifying as a CD1.  There were others but they fade from memory.

 

As well as continuing trials on the MRO kit, Joe fully involved us with his CDOs' course.  We joined them in Joe's exciting exercises and second dicky work.  I don't think there was another course quite like it as Joe Brooks trained for war!!!  Ask Mike Gillam.

 

I never worked for Harry but met him several times during our time in the Branch.  He was a kind gentleman and passed on good advice whenever we met.

 

Rest in peace Harry,

 

Bob Lusty"

 


From MCDOA member John Staveley:

 

"Rob,

 

I’ve just seen your post about Harry Parker.

 

Having retired from NATO, we moved back to Scotland last September and are living in Kirkliston, near Edinburgh.  Having been a colleague of Harry in the Warfare Dept at COMMW, not to mention providing him with the results of countless route surveys before that, I plan to go to the funeral.  Do you know who else from the Scottish community I might expect to see there?

 

Thanks,

 

John"

 


From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:

 

"Many thanks Rob,

 

Although I never served with Harry, we spent some amazing months together on course in 1955 as directed by Joe Brooks!  After that, we occasionally met up from time to time.

 

I liked Harry.  We got on well together and I had great respect for him.

 

Looking forward to meeting up with you et al in March.

 

Yours,

 

Mike"  

 


7 Jan 20 - SDU2 deals with ordnance in West Sussex

 

The Spirit FM website contains this article reporting yesterday's disposal by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of ordnance found on Medmerry Beach near Selsey in West Sussex.

 


3 Jan 20 - Dan Herridge superseded as CO of HMS Shoreham

 

The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting that MCDOA member Dan Herridge has been superseded as CO of HMS Shoreham on Operation KIPION MCM in the Gulf with the relief of MCM1 Crew 6 by MCM1 Crew 4.  Dan and Crew 6 will now take over HMS Ramsey from MCM1 Crew 2 back in the UK.

 

Dan Herridge handing over Command of HMS Shoreham to Lt Cdr Pete Evans

(Royal Navy photo)

 


31 Dec 19 - Latest tweets

 

Click on the linked dates to see all associated photos and videos.

 

Royal Navy

 

16 Dec 2019 - As the big ships celebrate their homecomings, MCM1 Crew 6 and MCM2 Crew 4 quietly return to RAF Brize Norton after six months of operations in the Gulf on HMS Brocklesby and HMS Shoreham.  Welcome home, and Happy Christmas!

 

 

First Sea Lord (Adm Tony Radakin)

 

14 Dec 2019 - Two more ship visits today, to HMS Defender and HMS Blyth at sea.  Both have been busy on operations and will be away from families and loved ones at Christmas.  Thank you for your service, and thanks too to your families for their support.

 

 

COMUKMCMFOR (Commander UK Mine Counter Measures Force) embarked in RFA CARDIGAN BAY in Bahrain.

 

19 Dec 2019 - Home sweet home for COMUKMCMFOR.

 

 

HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 4)

 

1 Dec 2019 - Crew 4 have been working with our US Navy counterparts to bring the latest generation of autonomous underwater survey systems to the mine warfare world and inspire our sailors.

 

 

HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 1)

 

31 Dec 2019 - It may be hard to believe for such fine looking ships, but HMS CHIDDINGFOLD and her sisters are about to enter their FIFTH decade of active service in the RN!  Well done to our RN engineers and industry partners for keeping us ready to fight throughout!

 

25 Dec 2019 - Wishing you all, our friends, families and affiliates, a very merry "CHIDDMAS", and a prosperous new year.

 

19 Dec 2019 - The rainbow shining at the end of the gangway pretty well sums up our feelings about Christmas leave!

 

18 Dec 2019 - The Senior Rates have given their seal of approval to Christmas lunch... except one notoriously miserable customer, but we've seen to that.

 

17 Dec 2019 - Surface interval officially over for our clearance divers as they got back in the water today for the first time in a while.  If only the vis was always this good!

 

 

5 Dec 2019 - HMS Chiddingfold is now in the hands of Crew 1 after a successful handover from Crew 2 this week!  We’re excited to share our journey with you as we prepare Chid for deployment in 2020.

 

HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 3)

 

25 Dec 2019 - From everyone in HMS Hurworth we wish all our families, friends and followers a very merry Christmas We look forward to sending out tweets to you in the New Year!

 

13 Dec 2019 - It was a privilege to welcome on board members of the Team GB rowing squad.  Congratulations on your Olympic success - your medals are a bit bigger than ours!  Good luck with your training for Tokyo 2020.

 

12 Dec 2019 - Practice = Precision = Protection.

 

6 Dec 2019 - Another awesome photo of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and HMS PRINCE OF WALES from a Spitfire.  Just wow!  Can you spot us berthing in 2 Basin?

 

 

4 Dec 2019 - Lovely evening to get in the dive boat.

 

4 Dec 2019 - The mighty HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH sighted off the port bow.  Welcome home!

 

3 Dec 2019 - Tuesday training - gunnery!  Mine Warfare ratings have a variety of roles.  Here is just one of them.  3000 rounds per minute.  150 in 3 seconds.

 

2 Dec 2019 - At the beginning of a new month we recognise the hard work and effort that has gone in to making the past month a success.  Well done to these two chaps who went above and beyond this November!

 

HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 8)

 

19 Dec 2019 - Merry Christmas to our families, friends and fantastic followers.  Looking forward to a busy 2020 from MCM2 Crew 8.

 

 

HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 5)

 

11 Dec 2019 - 1/2.  Always great to be able to recognise our people for the great work that they do.  Today ET(CIS) Milne was awarded “Sailor of the Quarter” for going above and beyond as we brought PEMB out of refit and back to the Fleet.

 

11 Dec 2019 - 2/2.  Cdr MCM1 [MCDOA member Steve White] was also able to present PO(CIS) McEwan with his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, awarded for 15 years of loyal service, before we got stuck into tea and cake ahead of our Christmas Lunch.

 

 

HMS Ramsey (MCM 1 Crew 2)

 

10 Dec 2019 - The Crew 2 Christmas Lunch.

 

 

MASTT (Maritime Autonomous System Trials Team commanded by MCDOA member Dave Stanbury)

 

24 Dec 2019 - To all those deployed on Operations, or on Duty (including the Blue Light Services), in advance of tomorrow’s Christmas Day, in the UK; MASTT wish you all, a very Merry Christmas.

 

18 Dec 2019 - “Bring out the....” Seriously, “Can the USV be operated in a CBRN environment?”  “Yes, it would appear so!”.  A THALES employee demonstrates his ability to complete full boat checks, start up, manual and remote operations of the Trials Vessel Artemis.

 

17 Dec 2019 - Homeward Bounders!  THALES Trials Vessel Artemis, returns from an acceptance test for alongside tests in glorious Devonshire conditions.

 

16 Dec 2019 - A common question...  “Why do unmanned vessels (USVs) have windows?”.  Well obviously to be able to see inside.  Acceptance ongoing....

 

 

13 Dec 2019 - 1PBS and RNMB Hazard at high tide, Portsmouth, at lunchtime today.

 

9 Dec 2019 - The Sail Loft chimney was a bit small for this gift, from the tower of power (NCHQ arranged) but still, it must be Christmas!  A new toy, for the RN Sweep Demonstrator Team.  This Combat Support Boat (CSB) will act as a support boat during the Cold Wx Trials, in Canada, next month.

 

5 Dec 2019 - Delighted to host the Hydrographic Trials Team (HECLA) at MASTT, this week during the MASTT/WILTON/HECLA Training Week.

 

2 Dec 2019 - The new MASTT Christmas Angel.  “While shepherds watch'd their flocks by night/All seated on the ground/The Angel of the Lord came down/He commanded ‘Get turned too, you lazy Swab’/And glory shone around” (as did the decks).  While the OIC is away the JRs will play!!

 

HMS King Alfred

 

19 Dec 2019 - Our Carol Service was a chance to say “thank you” to two unit veterans: CPO Swindell with 41 years Royal Navy & Royal Naval Reserve service & CPO Christie with 48 years regular & reserve service.  Both have displayed exceptional fitness in field gun & Navy diving.  Thank you both!

 

Maryla Ingham

 

12 Dec 2019 - Another sad goodbye today to [MCDOA past-Chairman] Cdr David Hilton MBE who leaves the Service tomorrow after 55 years in the Royal Navy and 18 years in HMNB Portsmouth.  You can see by the last picture taken at the PWLS commissioning that everybody knows David and he will be sorely missed!

 


29 Dec 19 - Death of Lt Cdr David John Baden Forsey MBE RN

 

 

I regret to announce that MCDOA member Dave Forsey crossed the bar yesterday morning at the age of 86 as the result of a fall.  He emailed me only last week to confirm his attendance at the unveiling of the Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument at Gunwharf Quays next March.

 

Dave joined the Royal Navy at HMS ST VINCENT in 1949 at the age of 15.  He specialised as a Boy Telegraphist at HMS GANGES then went on to serve in the cruiser HMS SWIFTSURE (1950-51), the Algerine class minesweeper HMS JASEUR (1952), on various occasions at the Signals Schools at HMS PEMBROKE and HMS MERCURY, on the staff of Flag Officer Mediterranean Fleet (1954), the destroyer HMS CHEVRON (1954), HQBF HMS TAMAR (1956-57), the sloop HMS STARLING (1958) and the cruiser HMS BERMUDA (1960).  He was commissioned as a Sub Lt in June 1962 and his subsequent appointments included RNC Greenwich (1962), the frigate HMS TENBY in the Dartmouth Training Squadron (1963), HMS MERCURY (1964-66), BRNC Dartmouth (1966-68), HMS VERNON where he qualified as an MCD officer in 1968, the Ton class patrol vessels HMS HOUGHTON (1969) and HMS MAXTON in Hong Kong as 1st Lt (1969-71), HMS NEPTUNE as OIC Faslane CD Team (1972-73), the Ton class patrol vessels HMS WOLVERTON as CO (1975) and HMS BEACHAMPTON in Hong Kong as CO (1976), HMS COCHRANE as OIC SNICDT (1977-78), HMS VERNON as OIC of the Fleet CD Team (1979-81), HMS VERNON for Captain Underwater Trials & Acceptance (1982-83), and DNOR in the MOD (1984-88).  He left the Royal Navy in 1988 having been appointed an MBE in the 1983 Queen's Birthday Honours.

 

MCDOA members Dave Forsey (XO HMS MAXTON) and John Lang (XO HMS KIRKLISTON)

hosting disabled children in Hong Kong in 1968

(Photo courtesy of John Lang)

 

Dave Forsey as OIC Fleet Clearance Diving Team at HMS VERNON circa 1980

(Photo courtesy of Tony Groom)

 

A keen supporter of the MCDOA, Dave celebrated the 50th anniversary of his 1968 LMCDO course with his course officer Peter Waddington and fellow students Bob White MBE and Mike Emary at our annual dinner last year (see entry for 24 Nov 18 in News Archive 64). 

 

LMCDO '68 course members Dave Forsey MBE, Mike Emary and Bob White MBE with

their course officer Peter Waddington at HMS EXCELLENT in November 2018

 

Dave's delightful wife Kathy, to whom he was married for almost 57 years, died nearly seven years ago (see second entry for 20 Apr 13 in News Archive 42).

 

      

Left: Dave & Kathy Forsey after their wedding on 2 June 1956

Right: Dave & Kathy Forsey at an MCDOA Ladies Night in HMS NELSON on 2 June 2006

 

I will publish funeral details as and when they become available.  In the meantime, I am sure all members of our community will join me in extending our sincere condolences to Dave & Kathy's son Paul, daughter Catherine and their respective families and close friends.

 


From Lt Cdr John Pressagh RD RN/RNR:

 

"Hello Rob,

 

I have just read the sad news of Dave Forsey's death.  He was the regulating staff officer at Dartmouth when I was a third year Sub Lt. 

 

I did my first dive in the River Dart probably in Nov 1967 as his buddy   It was freezing cold with nil visibility and my ears hurt.  We dived down to a mooring chain, found a defective shackle, returned to the surface and dived again to repair the shackle.  When we were half way back to Sandquay he used to jump overboard and swim the remainder. 

 

I saw him in the MOD later. He was one of the good guys.

 

John"

 


From MCDOA member Mike Emary:

 

"Dear Catherine,

 

Judy and I were sorry to hear that your Dad had died.  Please accept our deepest sympathy.

 

He was a wonderful man and I was proud to be his buddy on the MCDO course.  We spent many hours swimming up and down Horsea Island Lake attached to each other by the buddy line.  I was so glad that he, Bob White, and I were able to attend the MCDOA Dinner last year and so celebrate the 50th anniversary of us passing out. 

 

I don’t suppose you remember but we were in the same married patch in Ainsdale Road all those years ago  

 

Judy and I would very much like to be at the funeral on the 7th February.  Rob Hoole has kindly sent me the details.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Mike and Judy Emary

 


From MCDOA member Chris Meatyard:

 

"Dear Rob, 

 

Am so sorry to read this news.  Dave was my Boss on SNICDT when I joined the Team in 1977 as Boss 2/Staff EOD officer, until he was relieved by John Belchamber in 1978.  He was always calm, steady and supportive, a great Boss to have, especially as I was straight out of the LMCDO 76 `box' and in my first Branch job. 

 

There was a serious incident in my first few months (some may remember) where I countermined a torpedo warhead too close to Pittenweem, causing damage and consternation ashore and much annoyance in FOSNI HQ (MCDO Capt Arthur Checksfield was FOSNI's Chief of Staff).  Dave must have been given a very hard time by Arthur about this (as I was) but he didn't deflect it downwards and remained calm and supportive throughout.  I remember him saying "You win some, you lose some, just don't lose too many", and these words have guided me ever since. 

 

A lovely man, and really sad loss.

 

Rest in peace Dave.

 

Chris"

 


From MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald:

 

"Hello Rob,

 

What desperately sad news.  I don’t think that I ever saw Dave without a smile on his face. 

 

My condolences to his family.

 

Dougie"

 


From former WO(D) Terry Settle MBE QGM BEM:

 

"Hi Rob,

 

I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of Dave’s death from his son Paul.  It was only a couple of days before Christmas that Mags and I met up with Dave and his daughter Catherine for lunch and a catch-up at his home.  Dave was in fine fettle and was looking forward to being with his family over the Christmas period.

 

I first met Dave in the 1970s when he was the boss of the Faslane team.  From that time on, he and his family have been lasting friends.  He acted as Mags' father and gave her away at our wedding.  He is also Godfather to my eldest, Jamie.

 

He was one of the finest bosses you could ever wish to serve under.  I had the privilege to serve with him again in SNICDT in the 1980s.  I’ve not known anyone to have said an adverse word about him.  He was highly respected by all team members who were lucky enough to serve with him.

 

One of the many dits that comes to mind is during the Faslane days.  The team on invite {wife unaware} would muster at the Forsey house at some unsociable early hour on the  many occasions we had successfully completed a 2 – 3 day and night nuke screw change.  His wife Cathy would happily cook up a full Irish breakfast and his three lovely kids would serve this up to us reprobates.  Most of us were still dressed in dry bags or filthy undersuits.  The Boss would produce a case or two of Tennants and a bottle of whisky that he always procured from the boat on which we had been working.  Fully fed and longing for bed as the sun was coming up, we would leave the officers' marriage patch ensuring the submariners knew the divers had visited by the sounding off Five Bells on the two tones.

 

Like many others, I will miss Dave dearly.  Five Bells old buddy.

 

Terry Settle"

 


From MCDOA member Martyn Holloway:

 

"Rob,  

 

What desperately sad news concerning the loss of David Forsey. 

 

I first encountered him in 1967 at BRNC Dartmouth where he performed the duties of the Regulating Officer, his formal demeanour often giving way to show warmth and good humour that was indeed a rarity in those hallowed halls.  Then of course he was ‘the boss’ in the Vernon Minewarfare Training Section in the early '70s where he allowed his staff a lot of rein and always with good humour. 

 

A delightful man to know and work for who got the best out of people and valued their friendship.  He was a branch stalwart who will be sorely missed.  

 

Martyn"

 


From MCDOA member John Lang:

 

"Hi Rob,

 

Totally devastated by Alan Padwick’s news.  It seems like only a couple of weeks since Dave and I were chatting at our Association's dinner on Whale Island.

 

Having worked together for two years in the Hong Kong MCM squadron between 1969 and 1971, we became very close and remained close friends.  I am so pleased to have caught up with him at the MCDOA dinner.  He was a man for whom I had the highest respect professionally but he was also the greatest run ashore pal you could wish for.

 

Living in Northumberland I am going to find it nigh but impossible to attend his funeral, save to say that I will never forget him and the good times we had together.

 

Yours,

 

John Lang"

 


From MCDOA member John O'Driscoll MBE:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

I am writing to add my condolences to those of the other members of our Branch.

 

I first met Dave shortly after he joined the branch and helped him to celebrate the lottery win of a brand new Volvo.  He was gifted not only as a Naval Officer but also with a wicked sense of humour, always sending me birthday greetings with an appropriate comment regarding senility etc.  He will be greatly missed.

 

I will, of course, attend the funeral if I possibly can.

 

Yours aye,

 

John"

 


From Dave's bereaved daughter Catherine:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

Sincere thanks for your incredible tribute for Dad on the MCDOA website.  It is wonderful.

 

Quick question.  Is it possible for me to read the tributes and comments from people that are posted and how do I access them please? 

 

I will, of course, let you know Dad's funeral arrangements once my brother and I have the details. 

 

Kind regards,

 

Catherine Chinery"

 

By Webmaster: I have responded to Catherine direct.

 


From former WO(D) Ray Ramsay:

 

"Good afternoon Rob,

 

The passing of Dave is devastating news.  He was a true gent who will be missed by many people.  The finest “Boss” with whom I had the honour to serve.

 

I have attached a photo, remembering the good times.  It was taken during a Fleet CD Team “mission” on Bermuda in 1980/81.  

 

 

Yours Aye,

 

Ray"

 


From MCDOA member Mick Beale:

 

"It is of great sadness to hear of the passing of Lt Cdr Dave Forsey, my ex-boss of the Fleet Clearance Diving Team in 1981.  He was a gentleman and an excellent officer who we were proud to serve with.

 

I was fortunate to have met him briefly in 1976 whilst at school in Hong Kong with his son Paul when Dave was the CO of Wolverton and Senior MCDO in Hong Kong.  It was from meeting people like Dave and others on the Hong Kong team at the time that inspired me to join up as a Clearance Diver.

 

Five Bells, Boss.  RIP.

 

Mick Beale"

 


From MCDOA member Bob White MBE:

 

"Hi, Rob,

 

Many thanks for letting me know.  Not good news. 

 

Bob"

 


From MCDOA member Jon Riches:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

So very very sad to hear the news about David Forsey.  He had an excellent career in the RN and the Branch and was very highly regarded. 

 

He and I served together in Vernon and again in the MOD when he was on the Staff of DNOR and I was in DNW.  Most nights after work before returning to our digs we would retire for a few pints (Guiness in his case) at the Shades pub in Whitehall.  Apart from his taxing professional duties he also found time to run a very popular bar in DNOR which supplied many RN Officers in the building.  During his time in the MOD he was instrumental in making sure we had the best equipment. 

 

A very experienced and professional man with whom it was a pleasure to work.  His impish sense of humour was a tonic if things were not going well.  He was a good chum and I am so pleased to have met him and to have been able to work with him during my time in the RN.

 

I have passed on my condolences to Catherine.

 

Best wishes,

 

Jon"

 


From MCDOA member Alan Padwick OBE:

 

"Hi Rob,

 

Just read the piece about Dave on the MCDOA website.  You have done a first class job of putting it together so swiftly and comprehensively.

 

Yes, it is a big shock.  Dave and I had many happy interactions over the years, too often involving alcohol!

 

We shall probably meet at the funeral.  It all depends on my operation, the date of which keeps drifting.

 

<snip>

 

Alan" 

 


From MCDOA member Peter Waddington:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

I was deeply saddened to read your email this evening about Dave Forsey's sudden and unexpected passing.  He was, as you will be aware, the "star" of the course I ran in 1968, and along with Tim Hildesley, also sadly no longer with us, one of its outstanding personalities.

 

Although we never subsequently served together, he was, as you say in your entry on the website, a keen supporter of the MCDOA, and, as such, regularly attended the annual dinner, where we met and updated each other on our various activities.

 

I last met him at the 2018 anniversary dinner, as witnessed by your photograph on the website.  He was on his usual good form at that event, and of the four of us I would have said that he was one of the fittest, so it was a surprise to read in your email that he was of late under some form of care.  

 

I did not know his family, and am unlikely to be able to attend his funeral, but naturally join you in the joint condolences which you will be conveying on behalf of the association, and, if you get a chance, would be grateful if you would pass on my personal condolences as a friend and his former course officer.

 

Regards,

 

Peter" 

 


28 Dec 19 - New Year Honours and other commendations

 

Congratulations to MCDOA member Justin Hains on being gazetted for his appointment as an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the New Year Honours released today.  Last year, Justin completed a 12-month deployment on board HMS Enterprise as the Commander of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean (see entry for 6 Feb 18 in News Archive 61).  He currently leads the MCM Capability Delivery Team at NCHQ (Navy Command Headquarters) on Whale Island.

 

MCDOA member Justin Hains MBE with MCDOA President Roger Readwin on board

HMS Enterprise in the Black Sea in February 2018 

 

The full list of RN & RM Honours and Awards is available on the Royal Navy website here:

 

The list of Naval Service recipients in full

 

I am grateful to Cdr Andy Jones, CO of the Royal Naval Reserve Minewarfare Branch, for informing me that Lt Cdr Richard Bicknell RNR (currently on FTRS in Northwood on the Standing Joint Commander's Staff) has been awarded a Second CJO (Chief of Joint Operations) commendation for his work on Operation KIPION MCM in the Gulf.  He was deployed last year as the N3N5 (Ops) on the staff of MCDOA member Steve White (COMUKMCMFOR).  The award of one CJO commendation is an achievement in itself but the award of two is remarkable.

 

I am sure that all members of our community will join me in congratulating both worthy individuals on their achievements.

 


21 Dec 18 - Casting of Vernon Monument update

 

 

I am grateful to sculptor Mark Richards FRSS for these images showing that moulding and casting of the MCDOA-sponsored bronze one-and-a-quarter life-size Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument is continuing apace at the Morris Singer Foundry at Lasham in Hampshire (see entry for 9 Dec 19).

 

 

         

 

         

 

 

 


20 Dec 19 - Merry Christmas from Project Vernon

 

Project Vernon, the MCDOA-sponsored campaign to erect the monument at Gunwharf Quays commemorating the heritage of HMS Vernon, which previously occupied the site, and celebrating all personnel - past, present and future - involved with mine warfare & diving, wishes all members of our community a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

 

 

The one-and-a-quarter life-size bronze scupture, created by Mark Richards, is due to be unveiled on Wednesday 25 March.  Our various contributions to date have paid for the statue but we need to keep the pennies rolling in to cover the unveiling ceremony, maintenance, insurance, lighting, signage and clever facilities to tell the full story of what it represents (we even have Portsmouth University on the case).  Make a direct donation here or purchase merchandise (e.g. new design polo shirts and statuettes) here via the Project's online shop.  Another good way to donate is to buy PV tickets for the Portsmouth Lottery here for as little as £1 per week.  The Project receives at least half the income.

 


19 Dec 19 - RN Effectiveness Awards

 

 

Hearty congratulations to MCM1 Crew 3 (HMS Grimsby) for winning the MCM Effectiveness Trophy and to runner-up MCM1 Crew 8 (HMS Bangor) as well as MCM2 Crew 6's CD Element (HMS Cattistock ex-HMS Ledbury) for winning the Fleet Diving Unit Trophy.  Congratulations also to COMUKMCMFOR's N2 Cell in Bahrain which won the Fleet Intelligence Trophy and to MCM2 Crew 6 as runner-up for the Communications Trophy.

 

The full list of awards can be seen in this article on the RN website.

 


18 Nov 19 - CPO(D) Neil 'Chris' Christie retires

 

Our best wishes for the future to Chris Christie on his departure after 48 years regular & reserve service.  He is seen here being presented with a framed badge of HMS King Alfred, the RNR unit in which he has served for the past few years, by Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Admiral Sir Philip Jones KCB ADC DL, the former First Sea Lord.

 

 

This was Chris in action last month at HMS King Alfred, the RNR unit at HMS Excellent on Whale Island.

 

 


17 Dec 19 -  Latest EOD incidents

 

16 December - WW2 Bomb Discovered on Somerset Beach

 

16 December - 200 metre cordon set up on Somerset beach after bomb found

 

15 December - Coastguard called after Second World War bomb found on Kilve beach

 

6 December - Unexploded Second World War Torpedo Forces Closure of Orkney Islands Airport

 

4 December - Bomb disposal experts called to Orkney following discovery of second torpedo

 

3 December - Bomb experts heading to Scapa Flow torpedo warhead

 

2 December - Bomb disposal teams head to Orkney after Scapa Flow ‘WWII warhead’ discovery

 

2 December - Dad finds huge unexploded bomb while clearing out garden

 

29 November - Police and Royal Navy bomb squad called to Plymouth home

 

3 November - Off-duty reporter discovers 'smoking' Second World War bomb on South Hams beach

 


14 Dec 19 - MWA Southern Area Christmas Dinner

 

Five joint MCDOA/MWA members (Bob Hawkins MBE, Martyn Holloway, Rob Hoole, David Sandiford and John 'George' Turnbull) attended last night's hugely enjoyable Mine Warfare Association (MWA) Southern Area Christmas Dinner at the Royal Maritime Club.  Other attendees included Lee 'Barney' Barnett BEM, Nat & Joanne Coles, Jim Hawkins, Allan & Pete Mills, Peter 'Taff' Reader and Peter Whitehead.

 

Many thanks to Taff Reader for organising the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 


13 Dec 19 - David Hilton retires

 

MCDOA past-Chairman Cdr David 'Jan' Hilton MBE leaves the Service today after 55 years in the Royal Navy.  For the past 18, he has been on extended service as the Naval Base Services Manager at Portsmouth (see entry for 14 Jun 14 in News Archive 46).

 

As can be seen from the accompanying photo taken at the commissioning of HMS Prince of Wales on 10 December, everybody knows David and he will be sorely missed.

 

David Hilton (centre) at the commissioning of HMS Prince of Wales on 10 Dec 2019

 

I am sure all members of our community will join me in wishing David and Marion a long and happy retirement. 

 


11 Dec 19 - Gentlemen Who Lunch

 

Fellow member of the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine Trio' Martyn Holloway and I had an enjoyable lunch at the Royal Oak in Langstone yesterday with James Rowledge. 

 

Rob Hoole, James Rowledge and Martyn Holloway at the Royal Oak in Langstone

on Tuesday 10 Dec 2019

 

In 1982, Martyn led the five minesweeping trawlers of the 11th MCM Squadron to the Falklands and back as senior CO in HMS CORDELLA, manned mostly by members of HMS UPTON’s ship’s company.  James is the son of the late Lt Cdr Mark Rowledge who commanded HMS JUNELLA, manned mostly by members of HMS BICKINGTON’ ship’s company, in Martyn’s squadron.  Mark later commanded HMS SOBERTON but died prematurely in May 1990. 

 

For further background, see 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box.

 


10 Dec 19 - Latest LS&GC awards

 

Congratulations to WO1(D) Kevin Wilkins on being gazetted for the award of the 2nd Clasp to the Naval Long Service & Good Conduct Medal and to PO(MW) D. J. Watson, LS(D) R. A. Haigh, LS(MW) T. J. Purslow and LS(D) M. C. Taylor on being gazetted for the award of the Naval LS&GC medal itself.

 

Good to see Project Vernon trustee WO1(D) John 'YoYo' Ravenhall's name has been corrected, too.

 


9 Dec 19 - Casting of Vernon Monument update

 

 

This image, courtesy of sculptor  Mark Richards FRSS, shows that moulding of one of the MCDOA-sponsored Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument's divers, in preparation for bronze casting, has begun at the Morris Singer Foundry at Lasham near Alton in Hampshire (see entry for 29 Nov 19).

 

 

Big, isn't he?

 


8 Dec 19 - Minewarfare & Diving Heritage: Lt Cdr Peter Scawen Watkinson Roberts VC DSC

 

Only 23 Victoria Crosses were awarded to Royal Navy personnel throughout the entire Second World War and Peter Roberts, who crossed the bar 40 years ago today at the age of 62, was one of them.  Although he was a wartime submariner, he qualified as a Clearance Diving Officer at HMS Vernon in September 1955.  On the course's celebratory run ashore in Southsea, he attempted to climb a lamp post. 

 

This photo shows Peter sitting second right with other members of Vernon's diving community.  They were at the home of the late MCDOA member Lt Cdr 'Uncle Bill' Filer GM MBE who is sitting on Roberts' right. 

 

 

This photo shows Peter Roberts and his wife with Bill Filer.

 

 

Peter Roberts went on to lead the Home Station Clearance Diving Team as CO of HMS Dingley, an inshore minehunter then attached to HMS Lochinvar at Port Edgar but transferred to HMS Vernon in December 1959, before serving on Vernon's acceptance trials staff at the Underwater Countermeasures and Weapon Establishment (UCWE) at Leigh Park (see entry for 9 Oct 19 in News Archive 68) and at the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment (AUWE) at Southwell on Portland Bill.  He ended his naval career as OIC of the CD Team based at HMS Drake.

 

Further information at vconline.org.uk/peter-s-w-roberts-vc/4588054806.

 


7 Dec 19 - HMS Vernon Heritage: The Waterfront

 

The Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument, due to be unveiled on Wed 25 March 2020, will stand proudly in Pool B at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, on the site previously occupied by HMS Vernon, in an extension of what was once Vernon Creek.  Here are some historical images of HMS Vernon's waterfront, including Vernon Creek, from when it was a hive of activity including the comings and goings of her vessels which ensured there was always a stimulating whiff of salt air about the establishment.

 

     

Left: Plan of HMS Vernon in August 1940 with Vernon Creek highlighted

Right: Gunwharf Quays (formerly HMS Vernon) today courtesy of Google Earth

 

Training in Diving, Demolitions and Minewarfare, along with Naval Control of Shipping and, for a time, Seamanship, continued on the site of HMS Vernon at Portsmouth even after it ceased to be an independent command on 31 March 1986 and was renamed HMS Nelson (Vernon Site).  In 1987, the establishment was renamed HMS Nelson (Gunwharf) and briefly became Headquarters for the Commandant General Royal Marines before his move to permanent accommodation at HMS Excellent on Whale Island.

 

In November 1995, Minewarfare training was shifted to the School of Maritime Operations (SMOPS) HMS Dryad at nearby Southwick and subsequently to the Minewarfare Operational Training Centre at the Maritime Warfare School in HMS Collingwood across the harbour from Portsmouth.  Diving training, together with the Superintendent of Diving, the Fleet Diving Headquarters, the Fleet Clearance Diving Team and the Portsmouth Area Clearance Diving Team moved into new accommodation on Horsea Island in Portsmouth Harbour on 1 September 1995 and the old Vernon establishment closed its gates for the last time on 1 April 1996.

 

This was HM Trawler VERNON (ex-STRATHCOE), tender to HMS Vernon for minelaying trials between 1924 and 1938, berthed outboard of HMT KATE LEWIS (another of HMS Vernon's pre-war minelaying tenders) and the monitor HMS TERROR astern

 

 

Here was HM Trawler VERNON (ex-STRATHCOE) with controlled mines embarked.  Controlled minefields used a combination of sensors and cables and could be actuated remotely from a shore station.

 

 

Here are cables for controlled minefields prepared for laying on board launches alongside HMS Vernon circa 1938.

 

 

This is HMS Vernon's mining tender SKYLARK being re-christened VERNON on 9 Dec 1938.  Her name was changed to VESUVIUS in Apr 1941 owing to "difficulties with the postal arrangements".  She was launched at Portsmouth Dockyard on 15 Nov 1932, sold on 5 Jul 1957 and broken up in Feb 1958 at Pollock Brown in Southampton

 

 

Members of HMS Vernon's Auxiliary Company in picket boats during the Second World War.  They also manned vessels conducting experimental minesweeping trials.

 

 

Here are some of HMS Vernon's boat party Wrens coming alongside Marlborough Pier during the Second World War.

 

 

Here is another photo of HMS Vernon's boat party Wrens on Marlborough Pier during the Second World War.

 

 

HMS Vernon's Wrens marching past the Admin Block (now the Old Cutstoms House pub) during a parade for King George VI on 16 November 1944.  The crane on Maintenance Jetty can be seen in the background.

 

 

In May 1948, HMS Vernon bade farewell to Capt Hughes-Hallett beside Vernon Creek.

 

 

 

This was HMS Vernon's triumphant sailing team on a pontoon in Vernon Creek circa 1949.

 

 

...and this was HMS Vernon's sailing team beside Vernon Creek circa 1950.  The Admin Building containing the Captain's offices is in the background.  It is now the Old Customs House pub in Gunwharf Quays.

 

 

These show HMS Vernon's Vernon Creek and Maintenance Jetty circa 1955 with the floating diving school HMS DEEPWATER alongside.  Note the torpedo tubes used for training purposes on the corner of Maintenance Jetty.  DEEPWATER was the ex-German seaplane tender and experimental torpedo boat WALTER HOLTZAPFEL, brought back from Hamburg as a war prize in 1945 by Captain Bill Shelford, the RN's first Superintendent of Diving.

 

 

 

Lt (later Lt Cdr) Doug Barlow and your humble Webmaster Sub Lt (later Lt Cdr) Rob Hoole sailing one of HMS Vernon's bosun dinghies in Portsmouth harbour in 1973.

 

 

HMS Vernon's Principal Photographer Maurice Pavey took this photo of Vernon Creek in March 1974 from the roof of Creasy Centre on the occasion of HMS LALESTON's post-refit inspection by MCM2.  LALESTON was Vernon's diving training tender at the time and your humble Webmaster was her Navigator.  Ships of the RNR's 10th MCM Sqn were berthed on Maintenance Jetty ready for VERMEX and the ships on Marlborough Pier belonged to STANAVFORCHAN.

 

 

My photo, taken from HMS LALESTON, of her TON class sister MCMVs (Mine Countermeasures Vessels) CROFTON, LEWISTON and HUBBERSTON alongside Maintenance Jetty at HMS Vernon (now Gunwharf Quays) in 1974.

 

 

My photo, taken from HMS LALESTON, of vessels alongside Maintenance Jetty at HMS Vernon (now Gunwharf Quays) in 1974. They include the diving training tender FDT DATCHET and the TON class MCMV (Mine Countermeasures Vessel) HMS STUBBINGTON.

 

 

My photo, taken from the open bridge of HMS LALESTON, of Vernon Creek in 1974.

 

 

A competitor returning to HMS Vernon from the second Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race on 24 March 1978.  HMS Vernon was the start and finish of the first race (1973-74) and the second race (1977-78);  I remember the parties well!  The third race included a South African competitor and the politics of the time prevented the Royal Navy's involvement so it started and finished at Camper Nicholson's in Gosport.  The competition was renamed the Volvo Ocean Race in 2001 but from 2019 it will be known simply as The Ocean Race.

 

 

Navy News reported the commissioning of HMS BRECON, the first of the Hunt class MHSCs (Mine Hunter Sweeper Coastals), on Maintenance Jetty at HMS Vernon on 18 December 1979.

 

 

A happy couple (MCDOA member Doug Barlow's younger daughter and son-in-law) leaving Vernon Creek.

 

 

Here is a Hunt class MCMV berthed at the Gunwharf Quays marina (what was once HMS Vernon's waterfront) in May 2010.

 

 

 

My version of the print titled 'Vernon Creek' painted by the late John Terry FCSD for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to celebrate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.

 

 

The print features HM Ships BRONINGTON, SOBERTON and FITTLETON off HMS Vernon during the mid-1970s and copies are available via the Project Vernon website at www.vernon-monument.org.uk/shop.  Statuettes and polo shirts depicting the monument's new design are also being sold to help cover the cost of the unveiling ceremony plus maintenance, insurance, signage, lighting and a clever facility (an 'app' and associated website being developed with the University of Portsmouth) to educate the annual footfall of 8 million at Gunwharf Quays about everything and everyone the monument represents.  The monument is due to be unveiled on Wednesday 25 March 2020.

  


6 Dec 19 - Latest awards and promotions

 

A Chief of Joint Operations’ Joint Commander’s Commendation has been awarded to LLog(Wtr) L P Newton (ex-UKMCC, now MASTT LWtr):

 

“Leading Logistician (Writer) L P NEWTON (currently serving in MASTT) - in recognition of his performance as the N1 Leading Writer, United Kingdom Naval Support Facility, Bahrain.”

 

 The following Warfare Branch specialists have been selected for SUY (Senior Upper Yardman) promotion:

 

WO1(D) RAVENHALL (COMPORFLOT)

 

CPO(D) ELLIS (SDU2)

 

CPO(MW) NELSON (MWS COLLINGWOOD)

 

The following Warfare Branch specialists have been provisionally selected for promotion to Petty Officer:

 

LS(MW) J F BARLOW (MCM2 Crew 2)

 

LS(MW) B J FURNEL (MCM2 Crew 8)

 

LS(MW) R S MCKINNEY (MCM1 Crew 4)

 

LS(MW) G C MILES (MCM2 Crew 1)

 

LS(MW) O RICKMAN (MCM2 Crew 5)

 

LS(MW) R WOOD (MCM1 Crew 6)

 

Hearty congratulations to all concerned.

 


5 Dec 19 - HMS Vernon Heritage: The Wardroom

 

Here are some photos of HMS VERNON's Wardroom (Officers' Mess) through its history.  Otherwise known as Ariadne Block, building work started in 1922 and was completed about 1925.  It was built on the site of the Old Gunwharf armoury.  The sub-lieutenants' north wing, adjacent to the Portsmouth Harbour railway line, was added in late 1938.  The roof was damaged by German incendiaries during a bombing raid on the night of 8/9 April 1941 and the east wing was badly damaged by the blast of a land mine (common use of a parachute sea mine) on 17 April 1941.

 

In 1932, HMS Vernon was visited by the First Lord of the Admiralty, not to be confused with the First Sea Lord.  The photo shows the central block and west wing of the wardroom in the background.  The group is standing next to the figurehead of HMS Ariadne after which the wardroom building was named.  The ship was one of the hulks comprising HMS Vernon afloat before it moved ashore to the Gunwharf in 1923. Read more of the story at www.vernon-monument.org.uk/history.

 

First Lord of the Admiralty visiting HMS Vernon on 26 April 1932.

Left to right: Cdr Phillips, Captain Tillard, the First Lord and Admiral Waistell

all of whom were Torpedomen trained at HMS Vernon

 

The First Lord appears to be wearing the uniform of an Elder Brother of Trinity House which Winston Churchill chose to wear when First Lord too.  Monsell Bolton Meredith Eyres-Monsell, 1st Viscount Monsell, GBE, PC, was born in 1881 and was First Lord of the Admiralty from 1931 to 1936.  He was MP for Evesham from 1910 until 1935 but had first served as an officer in the RN at the turn of the 20th century.  He also served in the RN with distinction during the First World War and again during the Second World War when he reached the rank of Cdr.  He died in 1969.  Google him for more detail.  He had quite a life.

 

This was HMS Vernon's wardroom central block, east wing and garden circa 1933 with the elm tree still standing tall and proud.  Donegal House, the adjacent building, was still occupied by the Chaplain but was taken over by the Captain when Vernon House, his own official residence, was destroyed in the Blitz.  Vernon's main gate and guardroom (still in existence) are to the right of Donegal House.

 

 

HMS was Vernon's wardroom garden in September 1936.  Note the blown-over elm tree which was hollow and flooded the roadway with water. Donegal House, the adjacent building, was originally occupied by the Chaplain but was taken over by the Captain when Vernon House, his own official residence, was destroyed in the Blitz.

 

 

 

This was HMS Vernon's wardroom garden in May 1937.  Vernon's main gate and guardroom (still in existence) are to the right of Donegal House.

 

 

This was HMS Vernon's wardroom east wing and garden in the Summer of 1938 after landscaping by Lt Philip Colomb RN (see second entry for 28 Apr 06 in News Archive 14).  Vernon's main gate and guardroom (still in existence) are to the right of Donegal House.  The domed clock tower of Portsmouth's Guildhall can be seen top left.  The building was gutted when bombed on 10 January 1941 and the cupula (dome) was never replaced.

 

 

This is a plan of HMS Vernon in August 1940.

 

 

VERNON's role in the Dunkirk evacuation from ‘HMS Vernon 1930-1955’ published by the Wardroom Mess Committee (pp.32-33):

 

"The evacuation of Dunkirk produced intense but controlled activity in Vernon, and every possible boat was manned for the job.  The newly-installed loudspeakers in the Wardroom block, now regarded by some as a mixed blessing, were then a great asset. The Commander oscillated between the east ante-room and the hall and called out officers as the boats were reported ready from the pier-head or as requests were received for officers from the Commander-in-Chief.  The mess caterer, John Canty, and his storekeeper kitted them up with haversacks of bully beef and biscuits, pusser's dirk [seaman's clasp knife], cigarettes and matches, and with water-bottles and revolvers.  Some who accepted a pusser's dirk unwillingly said afterwards that it was the most useful thing out of everything they took.

 

In the hall porter's office was a young Leading Seaman, too young to have even his first badge.  He was qualifying for L.T.O. and swotting at his manual, quite unmoved.  As the Commander threw messages at him - 'I want to speak to So-and-so' - he put down his manual, looked up the officer's card in the index, dialled his home number, gave the message, and went on reading.  At intervals he interrupted his studies to broadcast.  A message that would have taken some sorting out without the broadcaster was a signal from the Commander-in-Chief calling for an R.N.R. with an Extra Master's ticket.  This was broadcast, and within about two minutes there were six in the hall.

 

The revolving light-tight door at the Wardroom entrance paid for itself that night, as things could be controlled in a calm, fully-lit hall instead of in a windy blackness.  Meanwhile, the Chief Routine Officer was collecting crews in Warrior Block in much the same manner. 

 

The establishment was almost cleared.  Some manned Vernon's boats and tenders and set off for Dover via Newhaven, some joined the port organisation for manning Dutch skoots at Poole, the Long Course were rushed to the beaches.  At the time they were learning Fire Control at Whale Island.  They returned to Vernon by boat in the dinner hour and were issued at the pier-head with sandwiches for twenty-four hours and a revolver.  Then off to Lee and thence by Albacores to Hawkinge.  That evening they were briefed at Dover as beach-masters to take charge of embarkation from the beaches east of Dunkirk.  They sailed after dark in destroyers and landed by motorboat soon after midnight, to start a very hectic and strenuous few days.  There were some consolations - one or two got a new uniform suit out of the affair and all avoided the Low Power exam.

 

Vernon's ratings from Bincleaves manned a Dutch skoot and the mobile torpedo discharge vessel Bloodhound also set out from Bincleaves [Weymouth].  It is difficult to say exactly which of Vernon's power boats got as far as Dunkirk, as the official accounts differ; it seems that at least two did.  The longest list gives two diesel torpedo recovery boats, one steam picket boat and two petrol power boats. 

 

Very soon afterwards Vernon, and notably the Long Course again, was involved in the attempt to evacuate the 51st Division from St Valery.  A number of demolition parties were instructed and kitted up in Vernon, for despatch to Continental ports.  One of the last of these was led by Commander C. D. Howard-Johnston, an A/S specialist who was later to cement the connection by becoming Captain of the Vernon T.A.S. School.  His party embarked in the Wild Swan and set off for St Malo with eight tons of explosive.  They were invited to find their own way back and were provided with £300 in notes for the journey across (occupied) France.  They eventually returned via a very distracted Channel Island.

 

The collapse of France and the threat of invasion brought the war closer to Vernon's doorstep.  At Portsmouth, Vernon was made responsible for a section of the port defences from the Dockyard Main Gate to Clarence Pier.  Sentries were re-disposed with a special eye to parachutists.  `Pencil' plans were made for destroying the cranes and jetties at Vernon Creek but no charges were ever laid, as the risk from fools meddling and from air raids always remained greater than that of invasion.  Vernon's demolition parties toured the south coast laying charges in many piers and jetties.  Some of these were at once removed by the military, owing to a temporary misunderstanding."

 

From ‘The Torpedomen – HMS Vernon’s Story 1872-1986’ by Rear Admiral Edmund Nicholas 'Nico' Poland (pp.166-170):

 

"...At Ramsgate were the drifters Lord Cavan, Silver Dawn, Fisher Boy, Jacketa and Formidable,under the command of Lieutenant Commander A J Cubison, waiting for orders to recover German ground mines by trawling.  They were commanded by Royal Naval Reserve skippers, all fishermen from the Hull and Grimsby deep sea fishing fleets.  Each ship had a crew of ten; a mate, a chief engineer, cook, signalman, four deckhands and two stokers.  The name Formidable had been reserved for the new aircraft carrier under construction and the name of the drifter was changed to Fidget, much to the annoyance of the skipper.

 

With the situation at Dunkirk deteriorating rapidly, Cubison was instructed to stand by to assist in the evacuation.  Armitage, the second-in-command, was under orders to return to Vernon but he contrived to remain with the flotilla, particularly as it seemed unlikely that the little ships would be able to make more than one visit to the b eaches. They had been given the job of acting as ferries between Dunkirk harbour and the larger ships lying in the approaches.  At 1630 on the afternoon of 28 May the flotilla, led by the Lord Cavan, sailed from Ramsgate and proceeded at full speed towards Dunkirk where it arrived at 2200.  As they approached the flames of burning buildings and ammunition dumps illuminated the night sky.  Inside the harbour all was quiet, although wreckage littered the entrance.  As soon as each drifter had embarked one hundred and fifty men from the East Mole, they tried to transfer the troops onto larger ships in the roadstead.

 

In the dark and confusion it only proved possible to transfer a few loads.  Cubison decided that it would be best to take the soldiers direct to Ramsgate.  The drifters left Dunkirk at 0230 and arrived at Ramsgate without further incident.  There the ships were cleaned and refuelled and, with the exception of Lord Cavan which had remained at Dunkirk, the four drifters were ready to sail again at 0500, accompanied by the 80 foot echo-sounding yacht Bystander.  They were back at Dunkirk by 1030, by which time many more fires were blazing and the air was thick with smoke from burning oil.  Armitage, in charge of the four drifters and the yacht, was surprised to find no sign of other shipping and, with the sound of small arms fire from the harbour, concluded that the Germans must be in possession of the port.  Alongside the East Mole was a troopship which Armstrong approached in the Fidget to get news of the situation.  The troopship's electric bells were ringing, there was no sign of life and she was sinking.  In the absence of other ships, Armitage decided to lead his little force into the harbour.  Securing alongside the jetty, he stepped ashore to find the mole littered with equipment and suitcases but the whole place was deserted, except for the armed boarding vessel King Orry whose crew informed him that there had been a severe bombing attack; the destroyer Grenade had been hit, she was burning fiercely and the sound of small arms fire was caused by her ammunition exploding. 

 

The Captain of King Orry, which had been badly damaged, was anxious to escape but no sooner had she cleared the harbour in the strong running tide than she rolled over and sank.  Bystander picked up thirty-two of her crew and with fifty soldiers already embarked, made her way back to Ramsgate.  By now the drifters were waiting at the inner end of the mole anxious to embark as many soldiers as possible before the ebbing tide grounded them.  There was no sign of life, so Armitage decided to land and find the Army.  Before long he found an officer and asked for a thousand men as quickly as possible, but they only drifted down the mole in small parties.  The whole business seemed interminably slow.

 

Armitage remarked: “At a time like this knowledge of the Taoist philosophy of indifference is an advantage, nothing more can be done so you are free to sit on the sandbag and stare at the scenery.”

 

After what seemed a lifetime, the loading was completed.  Surprisingly, there were no accidents, although it had been necessary for soldiers with full kit to climb down ladders from the top of the mole to the wheelhouse of each drifter.  The soldiers, weakened by lack of sleep, could hardly make the descent but the sailors rallied round and the tired men were half rolled and half lifted from the wheelhouse roof to the deck.  From time to time bombing caused delays, but the drifters suffered no damage and by 0230 on Thursday 30 May the last ships were away, each carrying 180 soldiers.

 

If it had not been for the unintentional but sustained efforts of a friendly destroyer to sink Fidget, the return journey to Ramsgate would have been without incident.  When scarcely a mile out of Dunkirk in the narrow western channel, a fast moving destroyer was sighted dead ahead at no great distance.  Since Fidget fully loaded could not make more than six knots little could be done to get out of the way.  Armitage ordered a turn to starboard in accordance with the rule of the road, sounded his siren and flashed a light but it was to no avail; the destroyer ploughed down upon her.  At the last moment, fearing that Fidget was going to be cut in half, Armitage rang down full speed astern.  The destroyer struck a glancing blow with the side of her bow, causing the drifter to bounce down her side.  The soldiers remained remarkably calm, except for two who jumped overboard and were later recovered by the destroyer.  To Armitage's surprise Fidget suffered little damage but it might have been much worse.

 

The drifters reached Ramsgate at 0900, where they disembarked their passengers.  There was now no time to consider a plan of campaign; each ship began to act independently and by 1800 they had sailed again for Dunkirk where they arrived at 2330.  On that last evening of the evacuation Armitage found that the harbour was full of large ships and as it seemed that the drifters might cause confusion, he ordered them to proceed to the beaches.  In the darkness and without lights, taking soundings until they were as close inshore as possible, they steamed slowly east as far as La Panne.  There was still no sign of life till they were halfway on their return leg when they heard shouting coming from the shore.  Fidget anchored and lowered her boat, but having been badly maintained, it filled and sank, but they found and secured an empty skiff.  Armitage and one member of the crew rowed ashore where they found a solitary soldier who said there were about forty others nearby.  Only seven at a time could be embarked in the skiff and it was a difficult task to relaunch it each time.  It was made harder by occasional shells which dropped too close for comfort.  The long row back with a strong cross tide running proved too hazardous and Armitage decided to abandon the skiff and to find some more practical way of embarking the waiting soldiers.  Fidget was, however, not the only ship of the evacuation force which was in trouble.  Armitage soon came upon the Eastbourne beach excursion boat Enchantress which, having no charts on board, had found its way from Dover by following a tug.  Her captain kept close to Fidget but Armitage lost sight of her and she was later sunk.

 

 On finding no more soldiers for evacuation during the night, Armitage concluded that the operation was over, but with daylight he met a large motor barge which he asked to stand by and help him load Fidget with troops from the beaches.  By 0600, large numbers of men were sighted standing patiently in the water.  The German shelling was comparatively ineffective in the area but enemy aircraft made occasional bombing runs.  Most of the noise was caused by the pom-pom fire from the destroyers.  Armitage kept Fidget in just sufficient depth of water in the ebb tide, sending the barge in on the end of a grass line attached to Fidget's winch.  As soon as the barge was full it was hauled off, secured and the men disembarked.  The instructions from the Naval Officer In Charge (NOIC) at Ramsgate had been that the drifters should limit their loads to about one hundred men, but by this time Armitage knew that they could carry twice as many and on this occasion he took on the whole barge load which was a little over three hundred.  This was undoubtedly the limit and reluctantly he had to send back a number of men who had swum out whilst loading was taking place.

 

Armitage remarked that: “They were amazingly philosophical about it and went back with cheerful comments on the wetness of the water.”

 

Fidget made her way slowly back to Ramsgate, arriving there at 1400 on the afternoon of Friday the 31st.  Armitage took pity upon a Colonel of the Highland Light Infantry whom he had found sitting drying out his trousers.  He took him to the wheelhouse and gave him a tot of whisky.  A year later Armitage ran into him again, by which time he was a Brigadier.  He told Armitage that the wife of a brother officer who had been on board had had a daughter shortly after returning and had insisted on her being christened Fidget.  It was as well that the drifter's name had been changed from Formidable!

 

Fisher Boy, Jacketa and Fidget were ready again for another trip to the beaches, and at nine o'clock next morning they were away again.  Silver Dawn had dropped out with a smashed propeller, having lost a blade on some wreckage in Dunkirk harbour, but the skipper had managed to get her back with over three hundred men on board.  In addition to the three drifters, Armitage had collected three large motor boats commanded by Royal Naval Reserve officers.  By now the drifters had perfected their method of embarkation using grass lines; and the new officers, who had not been to the beaches before in their boats, were instructed in their use.  Things turned out differently.  Ten miles short of Dunkirk, the drifters came upon a large troopship, Scotia, lying on her side and burning after five direct bomb hits.  A destroyer which had gone alongside signalled the drifters to close in, but as they approached the wreck the German aircraft returned to machine gun the troops in the water, most of whom were French.  The drifters set about picking them up, the ships' companies jumping onto the upturned boats and wreck­age to pass lines around those of the wounded who were unable to help themselves.  When the last survivor had been recovered the drifters returned to Ramsgate in company with the homeward bound evacuation force.  The journey was punctuated by attacks by enemy bombers, but their bombs fell harmlessly into the sea. 

 

The heroic action of the Vernon drifters was now at an end.  The official figure of troops brought off by the four vessels was four thousand and eighty-five.  The record for a single trip was held by Silver Dawn with three hundred and twelve.  Lord Cavan, which had stayed in Dunkirk was sunk by shell fire, but Cubison and his crew returned safely.  The crews had acquitted themselves tirelessly and gallantly under trying conditions, even though towards the end they had found difficulty in keeping awake.  There had been no time for relaxation as, despite the calm weather, there had been a great deal of sickness amongst the soldiers so that when in harbour the time had been spent in cleaning ship, refuelling and carrying out repairs.

 

Throughout the whole operation the crews remained keen for another trip, none more so than the cooks who succeeded in producing tea and food for the majority of the soldiers.  This meant victualling over one hundred men from a galley equipped for twelve.  Vernon could be rightly proud of its drifters and their crews.  Cubison, Armitage and the skippers had shown that their skills were not confined to the business of mine recovery, and the seamen had shown a great deal of ingenuity in adapting the meagre resources available to the task of evacuating soldiers from the harbour and the beaches at Dunkirk.

 

The fall of Dunkirk was followed by an attempt to evacuate the 51st (Highland) Division from St Valery.  Craft from Vernon were involved in this operation on 11 and 12 June 1940 but fog intervened and, before the ships could make the harbour, the Germans had reached the cliffs to the south and the beach was under direct fire.  Now all that was left was for Vernon demolition parties to visit the remaining continental ports to destroy stores and dock installations.  A party under Commander CD Howard-Johnston, a future Captain of Vernon, embarked in the sloop Wild Swan for St. Malo with eight tons of explosive.  After completing their demolition tasks they escaped via the Channel Islands just ahead of the advancing Germans..."

 

Vernon House and, beyond it, Marlborough Lodge at HMS VERNON during the late 1930s.  Portsmouth Guidhall can be seen in the distance.  Vernon House was built in 1877 and used as the Captain's house until badly damaged in the Blitz.  It was demolished in May 1941.  In the meantime, the Captain moved into Donegal House previously occupied by the Chaplain.  Marlborough Lodge was built in 1877 and originally named Ordnance House.  It was used as the Commander's house until damaged during the Blitz.  It was demolished in August 1941.

 

 

 

This was HMS Vernon wardroom's central block, east wing and garden in January 1941 after 'landscaping' by the Luftwaffe. 

 

 

This was the farewell dinner in HMS Vernon's wardroom for Admiral Sir William Milbourne 'Bubbles' James, GCB (CinC Portsmouth) in September 1942.

 

 

Here is a plan of HMS Vernon in 1955.

 

 

These photos of HMS Vernon's wardroom were taken during the drought of 1976.  The lawns used to be covered with marquees for summer balls.

 

 

 

 

 

The dining room in HMS Vernon's wardroom, modelled as the saloon of a wooden ship, was laid up for 'The Last Supper' in 1985. The poop deck and wheel were from HMS MARLBOROUGH, one of the hulks used when HMS Vernon was still afloat before moving ashore to the Gunwharf in 1923.  The establishment was shrinking thus making a separate mess no longer viable.  Communal lunchtime facilities were used thereafter with the ship’s company accommodated overnight in nearby HMS Nelson or HMS Excellent.

 

 

HMS Vernon ceased as an independent command on 31 March 1986 although it survived under other guises until its eventual closure on 1 April 1996.  Captain David Husband OBE RN posed for this photo with his officers and senior civilian staff in front of HMS Vernon wardroom's east wing and part of Donegal House on 31 March 1986 when the establishment ceased as an independent command.  It was renamed HMS Nelson (Vernon Site) with a Commander as OIC.  The wardroom had closed the previous year. The establishment was renamed HMS Nelson (Gunwharf) in 1987 but its gates closed for the last time on 1 April 1996 to make way for the development of Gunwharf Quays. 

 

 

This was demolition of the central block of HMS Vernon's wardroom being conducted circa 2000. 

 

 


1 Dec 19 - Unveiling of Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument

 

 

The unveiling ceremony for the Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument is planned for Wednesday 25 March 2020 at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, hopefully to be conducted by a VVIP.

 

Priority for invitations is being given to significant fundraisers and organisations that have supported Project Vernon, i.e. the MCDOA, MWA, AORNFCD, TCA, RNCDA and RANCDA.  Supporters will be added to the list if they submit their name, title, postal address, email address and a convincing case for consideration via the Contact Form on the PV website's Home page.  The deadline for applications has been extended to 31 December 2019.

 

www.vernon-monument.org.uk

 

So far, the event organiser has compiled a list of several hundred people with more requests flooding in daily so you can imagine the funds still needed to cover the cost of catering, seating, security, etc.  Our various contributions to date have paid for the statue but we need to keep the pennies rolling in to cover the unveiling ceremony, maintenance, insurance, lighting, signage and clever facilities to tell the full story of what it represents (we even have Portsmouth University on the case).  Make a direct donation or purchase merchandise via the Project's online shop:

 

www.vernon-monument.org.uk/donate

 

www.vernon-monument.org.uk/shop

 

Another good way to donate is to buy PV tickets for the Portsmouth Lottery for as little as £1 per week.  The Project receives at least half the income:

 

www.portsmouthlottery.co.uk/support/the-vernon-monument

 

 


30 Nov 19 - Latest tweets.

 

Click on the linked dates to see all associated photos and videos.

 

Royal Navy

 

23 Nov 2019 - Welcome home HMS Cattistock!  The ship has returned to Portsmouth after working with NATO in the Baltic.

 

 

COMUKMCMFOR (Commander UK MCM Force in Bahrain for Operation KIPION)

 

12 Nov 2019 - For those who leave never to return, for those who return but are never the same, we will remember.

 

HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 4)

 

24 Nov 2019 - No matter the weather in the Gulf, HMS BROCKLESBY is always ready.

 

 

23 Nov 2019 - Working together with our international partners as part of IMX19, our MCM Force has gained valuable experience.

 

14 Nov 2019 - Led by the Japanese 5th Minesweeping Division in JS BUNGO, the IMX19 MCM Force is a truly international force training together.

 

14 Nov 2019 - International Maritime Exercise 19 kicked off in style.  The Mine Hunting Force in formation, ready to start work.

 

HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 2)

 

27 Nov 2019 - Preps are all in place for a mess dinner onboard CHIDDINGFOLD to mark the departure of Captain MFP, even with a roaring open fire!

 

 

24 Nov 2019 - CHIDDINGFOLD has arrived safely back in Portsmouth after successfully completing Operational Sea Training in Scotland.  Crew 2 are ‘Ready to Deploy’.

 

19 Nov 2019 - Not your average day in the office... The team finesse their gunnery skills prior to deploying!

 

13 Nov 2019 - The storms have finally passed; straight back into action.  Perfect conditions for CHIDDINGFOLD’s divers to practice mine clearance operations.

 

HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 3)

 

28 Nov 2019 - If we have a man overboard, the swimmer of the watch is our primary recovery method.  We train to be quick and safe!  Lovely day for it.  Bit cold mind - 8 deg C sea surface temp.

 

27 Nov 2019 - Portsmouth is somewhere over the rainbow!

 

26 Nov 2019 - Tuesday training for Officers of the Watch - how to fire flares.

 

20 Nov 2019 - Congratulations to our very own Chief Petty Officer Riley who won the MCM2 Squadron award at the Merchant Tailor Company Ladies & Affiliates Awards Night.  Well done for your contribution to the crew & squadron!  BZ!

 

19 Nov 2019 - Mine Clearance diving in the Royal Navy takes courage and commitment and is hugely rewarding.  See the team begin work!

 

18 Nov 2019 - Monday Morning navigation training in company with the Sea Cadets UK.  An excellent way to start the week!

 

14 Nov 2019 - After a busy few days of training & assurance, a fantastic team effort has helped us on our way.  These chaps put in a particularly sterling performance.

 

10 Nov 2019 - It was a privilege to pay our respects at the Remembrance Sunday service in our affiliated town.  Thank you for your welcome and hospitality.

 

 

7 Nov 2019 - An excellent November day to be out on the ocean wave!  For one member of our crew it was his first day at sea in a pusser’s grey.  Not your average first day at work!

 

7 Nov 2019 - ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’  Michael Jordan

 

6 Nov 2019 - The hard work, professionalism and dedication of our engineers is essential and ensures HMS Hurworth is ready to fight and win.

 

5 Nov 2019 - We hope you enjoy Bonfire Night. But do stay safe!  For us, a fire at sea is no fun so in the Royal Navy we train hard so we can keep ourselves and the ship safe.

 

4 Nov 2019 - Here we are on Monday morning getting reacquainted with some of our damage control and fire fighting equipment and procedures.  These core sailoring skills help keep us safe at sea.

 

HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 8)

 

12 Nov 2019 - It was great receiving so many thank you messages from the children at Lovington School!  Thank you for your pictures, they are now proudly displayed on the bulkhead in our refit office.

 

7 Nov 2019 - Members of Crew 8 headed to Somerset yesterday to deliver an interactive presentation to the children of Lovington School.  Both children and Crew had a great day!

 

 

5 Nov 2019 - Thank you Poppy Legion for the opportunity to sell poppies in London.  Members of Crew 8 spent Thursday at City Thameslink station and the generosity of the public was fantastic.

 

HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 5)

 

25 Nov 2019 - Thank you to the outgoing CO of HMS Grimsby for sending us this picture of PEMB in the Clyde last week.  Anyone know the name of village in the background?

 

 

20 Nov 2019 - Gone fishing.  Another SEAFOX run successfully completed as we train the next batch of mine warfare officers and ratings.

 

HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 6)

 

19 Nov 2019 - HMS SHOREHAM enjoyed the chance to host our friends from Princess of Wales Royal Regiment for a day at sea where we showed them some basic damage control capabilities.

 

11 Nov 2019 - At the going down of the sun, HMS SHOREHAM Remembers.

 

10 Nov 2019 - HMS SHOREHAM had the privilege to host the Chelsea Pensioners on board for lunch after our Remembrance Sunday Service.

 

 

4 Nov 2019 - This week we had the honour of welcoming dignitaries and guests on board as part of BIDEC 2019 in Bahrain.  We had the opportunity to showcase our equipment and the capabilities of the Royal Navy.

 

MASTT (Maritime Autonomous System Trials Team commanded by MCDOA member Dave Stanbury)

 

6 Nov 2019 - Winter Solstice.  MASTT are delighted to have General Dynamics and their Bluefin 9.  MASTT are again busy, preparing and integrating the AUV with our military ops boat - Hazard.  Of particular interest is the Solstice SSS and it’s comparison to our current SSS.

 

 

HMS King Alfred

 

23 Nov 2019 - This afternoon our potential recruit day visitors are getting a chance to learn about the Royal Naval Reserve Diving branch.  A branch that offers both a physical & mental challenge, reservist diving has a proud history, especially in WWII, and supports Royal Navy operations today.

 

 

Navy Lookout

 

12 Nov 2019 - HMS Hurworth enters Portsmouth this morning after participation in ex Joint Warrior and training in Scottish waters.

 


29 Nov 19 - Casting of Vernon Monument update

 

 

I am grateful to sculptor Mark Richards FRSS for these images showing that casting of the bronze one-and-a-quarter life-size Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument is continuing apace at the Morris Singer Foundry at Lasham in Hampshire (see entry for 16 Nov 19).

 

 

         

 

 


23 Nov 18 - MCDOA Operational Updates, AGM & Dinner: After Action Report

 

We had some exremely illuminating operational briefs (thanks to all concerned for your valuable time), a productive AGM and another grand MCDOA Annual Dinner in HMS Excellent's wardroom last night.  We owe Ben Brown, our Hon Sec, a huge debt of gratitude for the time and effort he put into organising events.

 

 

     

 

     

 

         

 

 

 

     

 

     

 

 

     

 

 

 

     

 

In among all the singing, we also dined Jason Poole out of the Royal Navy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

     

 


16 Nov 19 - Casting of Vernon Monument update    

 

 

 

I am grateful to sculptor Mark Richards FRSS for these images showing that casting of the MCDOA-sponsored bronze one-and-a-quarter life-size Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument has begun at the Morris Singer Foundry at Lasham in Hampshire.

 

 

         

 

         

 

         

 

This image shows Mark and foundry staff with some of the Project Vernon volunteers when they visited the foundry back in the summer (see entry for 17 Jul 19 in News Archive 67).

 

 


15 Nov 19 - Latest LS&GC awards

 

Congratulations to CPO(D) Leslie Cockerton and PO(D) Craig Waghorn on being gazetted for the award of the Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (LS&GC).

 


11 Nov 19 - Lest we forget 

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

  Robert Laurence Binyon

 

 


 

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