30 Jun 08
Annual Divers' Reunion and Horsea Island Barbecue
Once again, Troy Tempest and Tony & Debra Griffiths deserve our heartfelt gratitude for organising the highly enjoyable reunion in the Royal Maritime Club on Friday night and the barbecue at Horsea Island on Saturday respectively. We were blessed with good weather for both occasions and the hog roast on Saturday was an inspiration.
I didn't get to speak with everyone who attended each event during the weekend but I managed the odd word with Dave Audoire, Basher Bates, Robin & Helen Bennett (RE BDOs' Club), Steve Bielby, John Dadd, Paddy Doonan and his guest Steve Brown, Jimmy Bond, Nick Carter, Albert Chapman, John Cobb, Brian & Audrey Dutton and their grandsons, Mick Fellows, Bob Fraser, Don 'Jimmy' Green, Tim Hadley, Gabby and Kay Haines, Ron Hartshorn, Vic Humphrey, Colin 'Scouse' Kidman, Dhobey Lines, Derek 'Maggie' Lockwood, Jim Lynch, Joe Maher, Ron & Margaret Maitland-Flanagan, original 'P' Party member Ray 'Brum' Maries and his grandson Martin, Gerry 'Pincher' Martin, Bill 'Jock' McGovern, Bob & Linda Oulds, Dickie Radford, Les & Helen Rutherford (ex-REDE), Ted Setchell, Terry Settle, Les Sharpe, Stew 'George' Sissons, Tim Sizer, Spike & Lez Spears, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson and his guest Richard Eastham, Graham 'Piggy' Trotter, Dave Tyzack, Spike Wheeler, Willy Wilkes and both Tug Wilsons. Sorry to all those I missed out.
|ANNUAL DIVERs' REUNION 27 JUNE 2008|
|HORSEA ISLAND BARBECUE 28 JUNE 2008|
Thanks to all those who helped Troy at the reunion and Tony and Debs at the barbecue with the organisation, setting up, serving food and drink, selling raffle tickets, arranging door prizes, running the horse-racing, 'Find the Treasure' competition and, perhaps most important of all, putting stuff away and clearing up the mess afterwards.
[Late News: The Horsea Island barbecue raised over £500 towards the Vernon Memorial project to erect a statue in Gunwharf Quays commemorating the Minewarfare and Diving heritage of HMS Vernon. Watch this space for more about this exciting initiative.]
From former FCPO(D) Dave Lott in Australia:
I am only sorry not to have been able to attend such a great turnout.
Thank you for an excellent coverage of the 2008 CD reunion and Horsea BBQ. As I slowly enlarged each photograph in turn I was pleased to be able to still recognise the craggy facial features of so many old mates. It was very reassuring to see that I am certainly not alone in being unable to avoid the aging process, though I was a little jealous of those who have managed to retain a considerable amount of their hair.
Dave (Mona) Lott
Horsea Lake closed to civilian divers
I am not yet aware of the background but, on a topical note, the following letter has appeared in today's issue of the Portsmouth News:
29 Jun 08 - More MCDOA Gentlemen Who Lunch
Phil Ireland lunched with fellow MCDOA members at Covent Garden in London on 24 June and has sent me some photos of the event. Those present included Mark Atkinson, Dougie Bell, Simon Bound, Keith Broughton, Steve Brown, Adrian 'Spanner' Dann, MCDOA Hon Sec Tony Griffiths, Phil Ireland, John Murphie (pre-meal drinks only), Jim Nisbet, David 'Doc' O'Connell, Jason Poole, Jason Scott and Peter Williams.
MCDOA members paint the town red
I gather that the restaurant is still finding errant bread rolls in odd nooks and crannies.
28 Jun 08 - Death of Terry Digges
Terry Digges at the helm of Aislig Bheag
I have only just heard the sad news of the death of MCDOA member Terry Digges from his daughter Corinne. Terry died on board his yacht Aislig Bheag off the west coast of Scotland on 15 June while sailing with some clients from Stornoway to Orkney. He suffered a heart attack owing to coronary artery atheroma and his death was quick, painless and peaceful. He was 59. His funeral was held at Clydebank Crematorium, North Dalnottar on 24 June.
Terry served in the Royal Navy between 1966 and 1976. Faced with the decision of whether to become a submariner or an MCD, he chose MCD and qualified on the 1970 LMCDO course. He served in various appointments including a stint in the Minewarfare Section at HMS Vernon while I was undergoing my own Long Course in 1976 and I well remember how much fun he was to be around at the time. At our annual MCDOA dinner in 2005, Terry and fellow members of his Long Course joined Alan Padwick, their Course Officer, to celebrate their 35th anniversary.
Members of LMCDO '70 at MCDOA Annual Dinner in Nov 2005
(Tim Paul, Tim Trounson, Alan Padwick (Boss), Terry Digges,
David Cartlidge and Martyn Holloway)
Terry Digges with Bill Kerr at
MCDOA Annual Dinner in Nov 2005
On leaving the Navy, Terry became a driving influence in the offshore oil and gas industry specialising in underwater explosives and was a manager at Halliburton's Jet Reseach Centre (JRC) based in Aberdeen. He regarded his most challenging task as the explosive toppling of the ill-fated Piper Alpha oil production platform in 1990. He was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Explosives Engineers (IExpE) and served as its President from 1989 to 1991; coincidentally, we both had articles published in the same issue of the Institute's journal in March last year. After leaving the explosives industry, Terry worked for Halliburton in Houston managing their SAP business systems integration project and then undertook similar work for Invensys in Boston and IBM in Sligo, Ireland. Terry was a qualified yacht skipper and instructor and he entered semi-retirement two years ago to run his own yacht charter business based on the west coast of Scotland. He was also a dedicated family man, a popular past-President of the Lions Club of Aberdeen and a keen golfer.
Terry was casevac'd from his yacht by a lifeboat and his family has asked for donations to be made to the RNLI in his memory. I will ask Soapy Watson, our Honorary Treasurer, to make a contribution on behalf of the Association in lieu of a floral tribute. The RNLI website contains several tributes to Terry accessible via this page which also provides the means for making donations in his memory. The Herald website also contains many tributes to Terry accessible from this page.
Terry leaves his wife Kathleen (Kay), daughters Corinne and Zoe and grandchild Tate. I am sure all members will join me in extending them our deepest condolences. I have contact details for Kay and Corinne if anyone would like to telephone or write personally.
Lt Terry Digges RN
(24 Nov 1948 - 15 Jun 2008)
27 Jun 08 - Fatality at Horsea Island
Paul Jones, MCDOA Chairman and RN Superintendent of Diving, has asked me to promulgate the following announcement:
"Personal from Superintendent of Diving
You may be aware that a fatality occurred during routine diving drills at Horsea Island on the evening of Tuesday 24 June. While the case is currently being investigated as required by Police/MOD protocols, I can report that AB(D) Christopher Johnstone (RNR) suffered what was later confirmed by the hospital to be a heart attack while preparing to continue a dive on SABA Mod 1. Despite the supreme efforts of the support team and the ambulance crew, he was declared dead later that evening.
As a recent member of our diving family, and relishing his role as part of a newly invigorated RNR Force Protection organisation, Christopher will be missed and our deepest sympathies are with his family and friends."
I can only add my own condolences.
26 Jun 08 - Paddy McAlpine selected for OF5 Command
It was announced today that MCDOA member Paddy McAlpine has been selected for OF5 (Captain RN equivalent) Command. Essentially, this makes him eligible to command anything in the Royal Navy that floats including Aircraft Carriers, Helicopter Carriers, Amphibious Assault Ships, the Ice Patrol Ship HMS Endurance and the new Type 45 Destroyer. He also becomes eligible to command NATO and RN Battle Staffs. Congratulations to Paddy on this fine achievement. We await his next appointment with interest.
My thanks to MCDOA members David Hunkin and Phil Ireland for this welcome news.
25 Jun 08 - HMS Shoreham to visit Aberdeen this week
(RN website photo)
20 Jun 08 - HMS Ledbury awarded Soberton Trophy
Congratulations to HMS Ledbury on being awarded the Soberton Trophy for her significant contribution to Fishery Protection around the UK coastline. The full story is available on the RN website here..
HMS Ledbury off the Needles
(RN website photo)
Ledbury has now returned to full-time minewarfare duties. The Navy News website contains this article about her preparations to deploy to the Mediterranean as a member of Standing NATO MCM Group 1.
19 Jun 08 - Horsea Island as you've never seen it before
The Portsmouth News of yesterday and today contained these articles (18 June and 19 June) describing plans for the construction on Horsea Island of a new 36,000 seat stadium for Portsmouth FC together with a 10,000 capacity exhibition centre, residential development and shopping centre.
Proposed stadium and development on Horsea Island
(Portsmouth News website photos)
Proposed housing development along Horsea Lake
(Portsmouth News picture)
If the plans are approved, work will get underway next year and the stadium will be completed by 2012. Fleet Diving HQ and the Defence Diving School would have to move further along the lake to accommodate the project and would end up sandwiched between the stadium and the supporting development.
16 Jun 08 - Gallantry Medallists' League
A gentleman called John Balding has asked me to promulgate the following announcement:
I am a serving Army officer and the recently elected President of the Gallantry Medallists' League. The League consists of members who have been decorated at Level 2, i.e. DCM, CGM, GM, CGC, etc. One of my aims having taken over is to increase our membership. I have noted that we only have 3% of the George Medals ever awarded as members of the League. I acknowledge that the majority of these were awarded in 1941 and may not have survived until today. The net is a great place to uncover new routes into previously unchartered data banks and I have recently discovered new recipients that have never featured in our Register.
As an EOD person, I assumed the RN would have a “Divers” site and have spent the last hour scanning the WW2 recipients of various gallantry awards, etc.
It would be appreciated if you could at some point place a message on your site about the League and the fact that holders of level 2 awards are eligible to join. Once our fledgling web site is updated a link placed on your site would also facilitate your members being able to consider joining another association.
What are your thoughts on this? My military email address is above, phone is (mil) 94234 3346 or (civilian) 012 3551 3346.
Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.
13 Jun 08 - Update from HMS Shoreham
Lt Stuart Fletcher RN, the Navigating Officer of HMS Shoreham, has supplied the following update:
"HMS SHOREHAM is back in her home port and undergoing maintenance after a gruelling period of training to prepare her ship’s company for minewarfare operations.
Over the past two months SHOREHAM has worked hard to prepare for and complete a series of exercises and operational training periods off the West Coast of Scotland. Her first challenge was Joint Warrior, a NATO warfare course, alongside over 50 units from the navies, armies and air forces of countries including Turkey, Belgium, France, USA and Germany.
Joint Warrior provided an ideal opportunity for SHOREHAM to practice her mine hunting skills and hone her warfare teams before returning to her base port to embark on a period of Pre-Deployment Training (PDT) under the watchful eyes of the Flag Officer Sea Training staff at Faslane.
The training days (which could be expected to start as early as 0500!) included tuition and assessment in areas as varied as administrative management, fire-fighting, air defence, navigation, mine hunting, catering and damage control and pushed everyone onboard to the limits of their ability. However, SHOREHAM’s teamwork and professionalism pulled us through and led to the ship being assessed as Very Satisfactory overall.
With PDT over there was time for some training of a different kind, with eleven members of the ship’s company making the journey to Germany to take part in a Royal Navy Adventurous Training exercise codename “Bavarian Surprise” – see the photo gallery for the action snaps! As well as being fantastic fun, the exercise helped to build on and improve the teamwork, trust and self reliance essential in members of the Royal Navy."
12 Jun 08 - Update from HMS Hurworth
Tactical manoeuvring in the Norwegian Fjords
with Standing NATO MCM Group 1
(RN website photo)
Lt Will Blackett RN, the Navigating Officer of HMS Hurworth, has supplied the following update for May:
"Yet another incredibly busy month for the Happy H – and this time in new territory east of the Kattegat! HURWORTH reached the Baltic in the early part of the month, and went straight into the second period of live minehunting. The TG worked from Klaipeda (Lithuania) and spent ten days clearing WWII and Cold War ordnance from Lithuanian Territorial Waters. Perfect underwater conditions led to the destruction of torpedoes, bombs and mines – and the discovery of a tree, a baked bean tin, a train wheel and a bread crate! The question on most of our minds – what happened to the train?! Maybe it hit the tree!
Lithuania itself was a superb place to visit – another new experience for most of the ship’s company who definitely were not tempted by the extremely low cost of beer and food….! The ship is now taking part in an exercise with the Polish Navy which will last until the end of the month.
We all look forward to a brief visit to Poland, before heading west – and closer to home!"
11 Jun 08 - Former Aussie CD Mike Ey visits the UK
For the past few days, I have been hosting former Australian Clearance Diver Mike Ey at the start of his month-long visit to the UK. Mike is one of three brothers who were all CDs in the RAN. His brother Tony is the webmaster of the RAN CD Association but sadly his other brother, Dave, passed away last year. Both Mike and Tony served at different times with the RAN's CDT3 in Vietnam 1967-71 and Mike removed the first example of a Russian BPM limpet mine seen in the West from a ship at Vung Tau (full story here).
Mike Ey with Russian BPM limpet mine
in RAN CD Museum
During Mike's stay with me, I showed him some sites around Portsmouth including a few pubs, the Royal Armouries museum at Fort Nelson, more pubs, HMS Warrior 1860, another pub, HMS Victory, the Mary Rose, a pub, the RN Museum, Old Portsmouth, the Bat & Ball pub at Hambledon (the cradle of cricket), my sailing club at Thorney Island (which sells beer!) and Horsea Island. It is Mike's ambition to find the perfect pint of British ale and he has managed to narrow down the search fairly quickly. Did I mention we visited the Cricketer's Arms (a pub) at Berwick Village in East Sussex?
Left: Mike Ey with sculpture in Old Portsmouth commemorating departure of First Fleet to Australia
Right: Your humble webmaster Rob Hoole with Mike Ey and friend at Forest of Bere pub in Denmead
These photos show some highlights of Mike's visit to the Fleet Diving HQ and Defence Diving School (DDS) at Horsea Island on Tuesday 10 June:
Lt Tim O'Neill RN with Mike Ey outside Defence Diving School
Left: Tim O'Neill with Mike Ey outside pothouse at DDS, Horsea Island
Right: Paul Jones (Superintendent of Diving and MCDOA Chairman) with Tim O'Neill and Mike Ey
Left: Mike Ey outside Fleet Diving HQ at Horsea Island
Right: Mike Ey in foyer of Fleet Diving HQ at Horsea Island
Left: Mike Ey in stairwell of Bridge Building at Fleet Diving HQ
Right: Ldg Diver Mike Jacobs of FDU2 with Mike Ey at Fleet Diving HQ
AB(D) Mike Kay of SDU2 with Mike Ey at Fleet Diving HQ
Many thanks to Peter Greenwood (CO Fleet Diving Squadron), Chris Baldwin (CO SDG), Tim O'Neill (DDS). Ldg Diver Mike Jacobs (FDU2) and AB(D) Mike Kay (SDU2) for helping to make Mike's visit to Horsea Island so enjoyable.
8 Jun 08 - Jim Hewitt retires at last
Commander Chris Deere CN has asked me to post the following announcement about my fellow LMCDO '76 course member Jim Hewitt:
Lt Cdr Jim Hewitt retires from the CF after 42 yrs consecutive service in the CF and RN on 3 July 2008. He has not died but is going on to a civillian career and will continue to haunt us from there!!!
I will ensure they are included in the prestigious event...
Jim started off as a sailor in Canadian submarines, got himself commissioned, transferred to the RN, qualified MCD then served in several RN MCD billets before transferring back to the Canadian Navy where he filled several minewarfare billets and was often seen (and heard) at various NATO and other international conferences and meetings. I will be sending Chris my own stories about him.
6 Jun 08 - Appeal for help
Col Mike Brooke’s godson, Theo, suffers from a rare genetic condition of the retina called Leber's Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). He is now blind, and there is no treatment or cure - yet. Mike is preparing to sail a 19-foot Cape Cutter named “Theo’s Future” 1,500 nautical miles around Britain to raise money for the internationally renowned team at Moorfields Eye Hospital and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, who together are pioneering research and treatment for LCA. Last year, the team began the world’s first ever trial using gene therapy to treat LCA.
Many of the genetic defects that cause LCA have not yet been identified, and the team is desperate to find them all, so babies like Theo can get gene therapy early, making successful treatment much more reliable. It really is a race against time. A Light Scanner System would accelerate the team’s ability to screen for the defective genes by 100 times or more, but it costs £27,000. That’s £27,000 that the team does not have, and which Mike is determined to raise with your help.
You can sponsor Mike by clicking on www.justgiving.com/theosfuture. All donations will be ring-fenced for the Light Scanner System. Mike also has some crew spaces free for a couple of the legs. You can see what is available here:
5 Jun 08 - New Book about Cdr Edward Woolley GM* RNVR
For the past few months I have been assisting Frederick Galea, Honorary Secretary of the Malta War Museum Association, in researching a book about the wartime exploits of Cdr Edward Dutton Woolley GM* RNVR. Unusual for an Electrical Officer, Edward Woolley was one of the small band of HMS Vernon-trained RN, RNVR and RANVR officers belonging to the Admiralty's Land Incident Section which dealt with bombs and mines all over the UK during the Blitz in 1940. He was then sent to Malta where he not only rendered safe bombs and mines but also handled Italian human torpedoes and explosive motor boats. Owing to the particularly hazardous nature of his work he was decorated twice, receiving the George Medal and bar.
Front and back covers of 'Mines over Malta'
Frederick Galea has now published his book called 'Mines over Malta' and the introduction was written by your humble webmaster. It is richly illustrated with many of Woolley's own photographs and contains his own account of his activities, kindly donated to the Malta War Museum by his widow. The first part of the book covers his selection, training and work as a 'Render Mines Safe' Officer in Britain and includes many other familiar figures in naval Bomb & Mine Disposal at the time. The second part describes his work in Malta, ostensibly as 'Senior Electrical Officer Minesweepers', but actually plunged straight into handling the plethora of unexploded ordnance delivered almost daily by the Germans and Italians. Appendices contain copies of the graphic official reports and diagrams he submitted about individual incidents.
Inside front and back covers of 'Mines over Malta'
Written in a humorously self-deprecating style, this book is eminently readable and full of fascinating anecdotes and detail. I commend it to anyone with an interest in this period of history or in the art of bomb disposal. Woolley was an extremely courageous man and an inspiration to us all.
Copies of 'Mines over Malta' cost £11.50 each (plus £3.50 P&P) and can be ordered from Wise Owl Publications in Malta using the form available for download here.
P.S. Although I wrote the introduction to this book, I am not on commission.
4 Jun 08 - RN Diving Heritage
MCDOA member John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has relayed this photo from Keith Rouse showing his Shallow Water Diving Course [fore-runner of the Ships' Diver course] at Manoel Island, Malta in October or November 1956. Keith, the bearded diver standing on the left, was serving in HMS Dilston at the time and would like to know the identity of the others in the photo. Can anyone help?
Shallow Water Diving Course - Malta 1956
From former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott in Australia:
"Sorry Rob but I can't help, although from my Service History Sheet I qualified SWD at Manoel Island on Feb 4th 1955, I do not remember meeting, or even seeing, any Officer in charge of the Shallow Water Diving Training school. The POD1 (Steamer) Instructor during my time there was Petty Officer Black, later to run 'The Grave Diggers' pub in Portsmouth after his retirement. Although the course was in fact run by two D2's - L/Sea Walberton and Queripol. I do not know the Chief Diver in the photo.
Dilston as the name of a Coastal Minehunter does not ring any bells either. I honestly cannot recall any Coastal Minesweepers even being in the Med around that time. Extracted from my prized programme of May 1954 detailing the Queens first official visit to the Med upon her ascendancy to the throne, the 50 ships therein include those of the Med Fleet, the 2nd Minesweeping Squadron was in residence during my time and the ships of that squadron were HMS Recruit, Plucky, Chameleon, Rifleman and Sursay.
Sorry not to have been more help.
Dave (Mona) Lott"
From MCDOA member Brian Braidwood:
"Sorry Rob but this photo was a year before I did my SWDO course in Malta and I don't recall any of the faces in the photo.
From former CPO(CD1) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington:
"Hi there Rob and fellow corkheads,
I was performing in the team next door to the SWD School in 55/56. That is steamer [Qualified Deep Diver] CPO Darby Allan. I cannot recall the name of the Commissioned Gunner who ran the school.
Is that Tom Kissack top left??
From former CPO(CD1) Derek 'Maggie' Lockwood:
The photo of SWD course, the one on the right in the back row could be Bill Cornick.
Derek (Maggie) Lockwood"
3 Jun 08 - Horsea Island Barbecue
This year's Summer BBQ & Social will be held on Saturday 28 June. As usual the event is being staged outside at the South end of Horsea Island, commencing at 1600. In addition to a professional Hog Roast, there will be music, cash bar and other activities, including a treasure hunt for the children (big and small), tombola and traditional mess horse-racing, with all proceeds going to the Vernon Memorial Project. Rig will be casual and there will be a prize for the ‘best’ pirate outfit, as judged by the Committee (of good taste). All this for the excellent price of only £6 per head (£4 for children), inclusive of entry and first drink, so come along, wearing your pirate dress, and have a great afternoon.
To make sure that you don’t miss out on this once a year opportunity, please return the proforma available for download on the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area to our Hon Sec, Tony Griffiths, by 1200 on Sunday 22 June.
2 Jun 08 - MCDOA Ladies Night
Thanks to the usual efficient organisational skills of our Hon Sec, Tony Grffiths, the Ladies Night at Hornet Sailing Club on Saturday went like clockwork and was highly enjoyable. Those present included Doug Barlow and Jill Smith, David and Dorothy Bartlett, Roy Brook and Judith Mallinson, Brian and Audrey Dutton, Geoff and Marnie Goodwin, Tony and Debra Griffiths, Peter and Kay Hicks, Rob and Linda Hoole, Paul and Yvonne Jones, Chris and Christine Meatyard, Les and Helen Rutherford, Robin and Helen Bennett (RE Bomb Disposal Officers' Club) and Frank and June Ward.
The evening started with Buck's Fizz on the lawn overlooking the marina before moving into the clubhouse for a three course meal, flowing wine and cheeseboard, mints and coffee to finish. The staff were extremely attentive and everything was cooked to perfection. Coincidentally, the club had a hog roast on the same evening which was attended by MCDOA member Tom Chambers.
MCDOA Ladies Night diners mustered on the lawn at Hornet Sailing Club
Diners seated in the clubhouse
1 Jun 08 - Navy News Items
The June issue of Navy News is chock-full of items about minewarfare and clearance diving including the entire front cover and a double-page spread and full page article inside. It also contains an interview with the Commander-in-Chief Fleet, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, who spoke the following words of particular interest:
"...As for smaller ships, there is a decision to be made in the next year or so on the Mine Countermeasures Vessels. Developments in technology, including remotely controlled unmanned vehicles which can be operated from a variety of platforms, offer alternatives to the traditional minehunters. In the future there's lots of remotely controlled capability out there that could probably deliver some or all of the effect we currently get from 16 MCMVs - but do we want to lose them as a growing path for our officers, COs and crews?" the Admiral said. "It's a decision with far-reaching consequences and needs to be looked at carefully. We must not forget the wider role for these platforms in maritime security operations and presence."
Other MCD-related items include:
The front page picture of HMS Blyth framed by USS Scout and USS Gladiator in a sand storm in the Northern Arabian Gulf.
Operation Ardent Remedy - the Coalition mine clearance operation in the NAG involving HMS Blyth, HMS Ramsey, HMS Atherstone, HMS Chiddingfold, the Fleet Diving Squadron and the Fleet UUV Team (CPO(D) 'Bomber' Brown, PO(MW) 'Fingers' Dumbleton, LD Michael Jacobs and CPO 'Snipper' Gelder). It also features MCDOA members David Hunkin (CTG 158.2) and Chris Flaherty plus MCDO Al Nekrews and PO(D) Garth Spence.
The disposal of tonnes of ordnance in Iraq by MCDOA member Jason White, CPO(D) Willie Sharp and Diver 1 'Screech' Whiting of Southern Diving Group.
Gunnery practice by HMS Ledbury featuring AB(MW) 'RF' Fay.
The disposal of a WWII German 1,000lb bomb off Felixstowe by Southern Diving Group.
A letter about the severance of SSP(D).
25 May 08 - Good homes wanted for ex-RNPL goats
The goats used for decompression trials by the RN Physiological Laboratory (RNPL) at Alverstoke for many years, and more recently by QinetiQ, are currently being looked after by the Buttercups Goat Sanctuary in Kent. Their website contains this appeal for foster homes.
23 May 08 - SDU1 involved in aftermath of failed bomb attack in Exeter
The Daily Mail website contains this article describing the involvement of an EOD team from Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) following yesterday's failed bomb attack at the Giraffe restaurant in Exeter.
SDU1 Vehicles at the scene in Exeter
22 May 08 - Memories of Bob Pilling
For those who remember the late-lamented MCDO, Bob Pilling, I have received this message from his son Marcus. I had contacted him after seeing his name appear on another website.
Many thanks for your kind words.
Life is a funny thing you know. My mother and father divorced when I was thirteen so Dad (Bob) was not around too much although we were stationed with him in Hong Kong as a family when he served in HMS Sheraton. Those times are imprinted vividly in my memory.
Through the 80s and 90s, when he was retired from the Navy and living in Jacksonville, I got quite close to him. He always had that wistful look in his eye when I asked about his time in the Navy. I think he loved diving and the "Tons" in particular and had only the best/fondest of things to say about all those times.
Ref me - Well I am 46 and live in Southsea now. I am not connected in any way to the services but not for the want of encouragement from Bob when he was around. A few names for you that you are aware of I am sure: Pincher Martin is my Godfather. When young, I used to spend time visiting Les Maynard in Hayling Island. Also, Donkey Bray only lived around the corner in North End.
You asked me if there was a message for any of his old mates out there. Well, I am certain he would want to wish them all well and have a gin with them.
From my point of view I would love to hear any "stories of old" or photos of him, etc., throughout his time as I do not have much in the way of these and I guess that is why I trawl the web sites. He is one of the guys in the photo of the Far East Fleet diving team in the 1950s.
I would really appreciate it if you could pick something out of that lot to put in your next news section. You are welcome to put my e-mail address in if you wish. I have included a story sent to me ref my dad exhibiting one of his skills!
Many thanks in advance.
Marcus has forwarded this entertaining story he received about his father:
I am very sorry to hear that your father has passed away in 2000 and you and the rest of your family have my deepest sympathy.
I did part of my “Midshipman’s time” in HMS Bronington and shared a very small cabin with your father so I guess I got to know him quite well for a brief period of time in 1975. Despite our rank and age difference, he was very kind to me and forgiving of the stupid mistakes that my lack of experience cause me do.
He was already divorced by then although I think the experience was still quite raw but, although I was only 20, I was the only other “unattached” member of the Wardroom so we would quite often go for a drink together in one of the pubs around South Queensferry where we were based, or further a field when we were either on patrol or working away from the base.
As you know your father was a Clearance Diver as well as being the First Lieutenant of Bronington (the Captain was called Harry Bates) and a well respected man in the Navy. Bomb and mine disposal never appealed to me as I am not brave enough but I found out one evening in Plymouth that the training could have its own advantages. Your father and I had gone to the Plymouth Sailing School (aka 'The GX' and really nothing more than a pay-to-enter bar). In theory, ratings were excluded by the management and, as you might guess, this often caused an argument at the door.
On this particular evening the club received a bomb warning at about 2200 just after your father and I had arrived. Much to our mutual consternation, instructions to evacuate the Club were given by the local Police. This wasn’t to your father's liking so he whipped out his ID card and introduced himself as Lt Pilling of the Plymouth Bomb and Mine Disposal squad and offered to search the premises for any explosive devices. This proved fine and the management saw it as a quick way to get the place open again with minimum damage to the takings if it turned out, as they expected it to be, a hoax carried out by a rejected matelot. On the other hand, if it was genuine then who better to deal with the situation? All this was fine until, without any warning, he introduced me as his assistant and asked for everyone else to vacate the premises. I wasn’t sure about this and certainly didn’t want to become another IRA statistic at the tender age of 20. Anyway, I should have known better because it turned out that my job was to get behind the bar and pour the beers while your father had a quick look round. We then had the place to ourselves for a very relaxed half hour or so during which time we downed more free beer than was good for us in such a short time. Your father then “re-opened” the Club and we earned the eternal gratitude of the management and, more importantly, free drinks for both of us for the rest of the week.
I remember that in Bronington he had the bottom bunk and I had the top one in a very cramped cabin – he read a lot of Wilbur Smith books and smoked quite heavily which was guaranteed to make me feel queasy if the sea was rough. One of my jobs was to wake him up when he had fallen asleep and set fire to his sleeping bag (we all had sleeping bags as life was pretty basic on a Ton class in those days). If ever you get to Birkenhead and see Bronington which is now a museum ship, his cabin was the second one on the starboard side just forward of the Captains cabin. I would quite like to see it again myself one day. We were all quite lucky that he didn’t burn us all to death I know I have a photograph somewhere, as I said before it is only of the ship; which from memory was alongside in Scheveningen in Holland. It might take a couple of days as I will also have to master the scanner technology before I send it.
Once again I am very sorry to hear your news because as you can see I spent a few funny evenings with your father and both liked and respected him.
Please e-mail me via my webmaster address if you would like contact details for Marcus or Clive.
21 May 08 - Photos from Operation TECATE
MCDOA member David Hunkin has kindly supplied some more spectacular pictures taken during the recent mine clearance operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf (RN website link). They include a toast to WO(MW) Pawl Stockley on his last Op before retirement (although 'young' Gareth should still be around). Pawl formed an essential part of the Forward Command Element based in HMS Chiddingfold during the early phases of the operation.
To reassure members that the Branch spirit hasn't changed, the Manta exercise ground mine shown was laid by the US Navy but then they couldn't find it for two days. HMS Chiddingfold subsequently located it with Sonar 2193 within 38 seconds and decided to decorate it before returning it to the Americans!
|Task Group 158.2||HMS Blyth in
Khawr Abd Allah
|HMS Ramsey in close||GPS spot dive in
Khawr Abd Allah
|REMUS UUV operator
|Col Dashti KN
hands with Dave Hunkin
|Farewell toast to
WO(MW) Pawl Stockley
|Dive search KAA
|REMUS launch||US Exercise Mine -
if lost, contact the RN!
|Dave Hunkin briefs
|Full audience for a brief||Sonar image of shark||Sonar image of sunken
|Sonar image of sunken
20 May 08 - Topsy Turner promoted
MCDOA member Bob Hawkins, currently on exchange with the US Naval Mine and Anti-submarine Warfare Command (NMAWC), informs me that MCDOA member David 'Topsy' Turner was promoted to Commander RNZN earlier this week, albeit 'acting' for the time being. Topsy commanded the RNZN Operational Diving Team (ODT) after transferring from the RN four years ago but is presently the Senior National Representative and OIC of the New Zealand Deployed Support Element in Bahrain.
Many congratulations to Topsy and Yvonne on this welcome news.
19 May 08 - New book from Noel Cashford
I am most grateful to the MCDOA's good friend Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR for sending me a copy of his newly published book, BANG. It is a pot-pourri of significant incidents involving explosives but it also refers to the EOD exploits of many RN, Army and RAF figures.
Front cover of BANG
Familiar wartime naval Bomb & Mine Disposal personnel mentioned include British, Australian and Canadian operatives such as Lt Bill Bailey DSC GM* RNVR, CPO Charles Baldwin DSM, Lt John Bridge GC GM* RNVR, Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE GM RNVR, CPO Reginald Ellingworth GC, Lt Anthony Firminger GM DSM RNVR, Lt Percy Grant GM RNVR, Lt Cdr Geoffrey Hodges GM RNVR, Lt George Goodman MBE GC RNVR, Lt Cdr George Gosse GC RANVR, Cdr Gordon Gutteridge OBE RN, Cdr James Harries OBE GM* RCNVR, Sub Lt Donald Kirkland MBE RNVR, Cdr Edward Obbard DSC GM RN, Sub Lt Ronald Orr GM RNVR, Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN, Lt Cdr Dick Ryan GC RN, Lt Ronald Saull GM RNVR and AB Maurice Woods GM.
Left: Noel Cashford (lower left) with bomb rendered safe in Dover Harbour 1948
Right: Noel Cashford today
Featured post-WWII naval personnel include LS(D) Peter Alderton BEM, PO (later Lt Cdr) Peter Cobby BEM, MCDOA member Lt Cdr Brian Dutton DSO QGM RN, FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE* DSC BEM, AB(D) Eric Harris BEM, Lt Charles Heatley MBE RN, Lt Cdr Mark Terrell MBE RN and CPO(D) Graham 'Piggy' Trotter DSM.
Like Noel's previous books, All Mine!, All Theirs! and Ticking Clock!, BANG (ISBN 1901587711) is published by ALD Print of Sheffield. It costs £8.95 and can be purchased direct from Noel by downloading the order form here and sending it to:
21 Castle View Drive
18 May 08 - Mine Clearance in Northern Gulf (Operation TECATE)
MCDOA member David Hunkin has kindly provided this press release about recent MCM operations off the coasts of Iraq and Kuwait:
Coalition Nations Clear Mine Danger Areas in Arabian Gulf
(From Combined Maritime Forces Public Affairs)
MANAMA, Bahrain – During the past several weeks, Mine Countermeasure forces from Coalition navies have conducted operations to survey and clear Mine Danger Areas (MDAs) of the Northern Arabian Gulf.
At the invitation of the Iraqi and Kuwaiti Governments, the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy have been working together with the Kuwaiti and Iraq navies to ensure sea lanes are clear for mariners operating in the northern Gulf.
“Our work is directly supporting the future success of both Iraq and Kuwait by improving access to their ports and sea-lanes,” said Cmdr. David Hunkin, Commander of the Royal Navy’s Mine Warfare Battle-staff. “The navies of Kuwait, Iraq, the United States and the United Kingdom have worked hard together over the past few months and we have built very close working relationships. Each nation has brought their own expertise and equipment, and we have melded them together into an effective coalition Mine Countermeasures Task Group.”
The ultimate aim of the operation is to re-designate the MDAs as Former Mined Areas, making them safer for the maritime community. By offering an increased level of confidence to the region’s mariners using the Khawr Abd Allah (KAA) to ports in both Iraq and Kuwait.
Under the command of Hunkin, the operation used mine-hunters from both the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy; Mine Clearance Diving Teams from the Royal Navy, U.S. Navy and Kuwaiti Navy; and a specialist Royal Navy unit operating REMUS Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV).
In addition, the Iraqi and Kuwaiti navies contributed patrol boats, and elements of the Iraqi Department for Border Enforcement helped monitor areas and provide force protection. “This has been a terrific operation and a great example of Coalition effort, of nations working together for a common cause,” said Deputy Task Group Commander, Cmdr. Scott Evertson.
“This operation is leading to a greater sense of security in the region, for merchant seaman and fisherman alike. Ultimately this work forms part of the comprehensive economic regeneration for Iraq in particular and the Northern Arabian Gulf in general.”
The areas searched during this operation were the remnants of the MDAs created in 1991 and 2003 where Iraq laid, or was suspected of laying, anti-invasion minefields. A considerable mine clearance effort was previously conducted where 1,300 mines were previously destroyed. However, very shallow areas remained inaccessible for the past 17 years. Using the very latest in mine warfare technology, the Coalition has searched these remaining areas in an effort to declare them Former Mined Areas.
“It has been great to see some new equipment being used for the first time, a clear demonstration of the significant investment that nations have made in Mine Countermeasures technology over recent years,” said Hunkin. “When the Mine Danger Areas are re-designated, every sailor on this mission can be proud that they have made an enduring and positive contribution to the security of the region.”
The operation required more than 200 dives and over 100 remotely operated submersible vehicle runs; all areas have been subjected to an extensive search
This operation took 3 months to plan and execute and at its conclusion will ultimately ensure the area is safe for surface navigation.
Such operations are testament to the high degree of international cooperation and the modern equipment that each nation now possesses. It also demonstrates the willingness of Coalition partners to conduct combined operations in support of the economic regeneration and stabilization of the region, illustrating the commitment to maintaining the freedom of navigation on the seas.
Coalition forces in the North Arabian Gulf conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO), which help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity.
RN MCMVS in the Khawr Abd Allah
Left: Minigun aimer with Hunt and Sandown Class MCMVs in background
Right: HMS Blyth with USN Avenger Class MCMVs USS Scout and USS Gladiator in sandstorm
Sonar 2193 operators in HMS Chiddingfold
Left: REMUS UUVs ready for deployment
Right: Lowering REMUS transducer
Left: Deploying REMUS UUV
Right: Diver reports well
Watch the birdie!
The end result
15 May 08
Promotions to Commander
Congratulations to MCDOA members Don Crosbie and Chris Flaherty on their selection for promotion to Commander on today's signal. Congratulations also to non-MCDOA member (why not?) John Craig on his selection and commiserations to those who were unsuccessful on this occasion. My thanks to MCDOA member Phil Ireland for this information.
Bomb detonated off Burnham-on-Sea
The Burnham-on-Sea website contains this article describing the disposal of a bomb earlier this week by members of SDU2. It is well illustrated and features WO(D) Robin 'Rick' Rickard and PO(D) Keith Satchwell.
SDU2 Pinzgauer at Burnham-on-Sea
14 May 08 - Appeal for information about WW II Ship Survivors
I would be grateful for any help with the following request:
"I have been in contact with the people at Navy News, who suggested that it might be worth me contacting your organisation, as I am carrying out some research for a BBC documentary about the River Thames. During this show, we will be featuring several known wreck sites that are due to be investigated by the PLA this summer. Of these, four are ships known to have been sunk by mine or German bombing during the war, and we are exploring avenues for telling the story of this aspect of the war.
What is of interest to us is that these ships were requisitioned civilian vessels adapted for military use. We have good records for the wrecks themselves, but are hoping to find out more about the crews of these ships and, ideally, find some living descendants of the crews. It's a long shot, but your organisation may just have records of these ships and their crews, and may know more about them. The ships are:
HMS ASH – Fishing trawler/Minesweeper ‘Tree-class’; sunk by mine June 5th 1941
HMS AISHA – Steel yacht used as harbour defence patrol craft; sunk by mine 11th October 1940
HMS AMETHYST (AKA Phyllis Rosalie) - steel trawler used as anti-sub ship; sunk by 24th November 1940
SS LETCHWORTH – commercial cargo vessel (collier) sunk by aerial bombing 1st November 1940 during trip from Blythe to London
If you feel you may be able to help, I would very much like to hear from you.
Very best wishes,
'Thames' Touch Productions
01225 48 46 66"
9 May 08 - Royal Navy MCMVs lead mine clearance operations off Kuwait and Iraq
The Janes Defence website contains this article describing the leading role played by RN minehunters in mine countermeasures (MCM) operations off the coasts of Kuwait and Iraq. It features MCDOA member David Hunkin, the current Commander of Task Group 158.2 comprising 22 ships from four countries.
8 May 08
Royal Navy Clearance Divers lead EOD operations in Iraq
The Navy News website contains this article describing the leading role played by RN clearance divers in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) operations in Iraq. It features MCDOA member Jason White of Southern Diving Group (SDG) with CPO(D) Willie Sharp and Diver 1 'Screech' Whiting of Northern Diving Group (NDG). See entry for 28 Mar 08 in 'News Archive 21'.
Postscript: I am grateful to Richard Hargreaves of Navy News for sending me this photo of CPO(D) Smith and LS(D) Jacobs of Fleet Diving Unit 3 taking a break near Basra before the British drawdown in southern Iraq in early 2009:
FDU3 members rest their legs in southern Iraq
in early 2009
New Appointment for Adrian Cassar
MCDOA member Adrian Cassar has been appointed Assistant Director Information Operations Capability Development within the Directorate for Targeting & Information Operations, in the rank of Captain, with effect from 4 August 2008.
7 May 08 - The continuing adventures of Three Men in a Boat
The MCDOA’s ‘Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine’ trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole celebrated the arrival of some Spring sunshine yesterday by conducting SATs (Sea Acceptance Trials) of Barlow’s yacht Dougout, proudly resplendent in new paintwork, new sails, new rigging and a fresh coat of anti-fouling. This was Dougout’s first sail of the season and Holloway and Hoole had an MCDOA committee meeting to attend during the dogs. We therefore decided to potter up Fareham Creek on the last of the flood tide to allow for an early return.
As we left the marina at Whale Island, a stiff breeze sprang up so we were forced to put a reef in the main sail and half furl the jib. Despite the gusting wind, we observed a helicopter flying around the harbour while towing a huge banner displaying the design of the new away shirt of Portsmouth FC, complete with revamped club crest. I learned later that the banner was subsequently spread out on the flight deck of HMS Ark Royal while she hosted Pompey’s manager and team members prior to their appearance at Wembley for the FA Cup Final against Cardiff on 17 May.
New Pompey FC away shirt flies over Portsmouth
On our way up harbour, we passed the three sad-looking Type 42 destroyers HMS Cardiff, HMS Glasgow and HMS Newcastle awaiting their fate on the reserve ship moorings.
Left: HMS Newcastle and HMS Cardiff
Right: HMS Glasgow
On reaching the tranquil water at the top of Fareham Creek, we anchored for lunch in the shelter of the trees surrounding Cams Hall Golf Club and in sight of the Roundabout Hotel railway bridge.
Hoole, Barlow and Holloway at anchor in Fareham Creek
For a moment, it looked as though Holloway was over-reacting to the prospect of being becalmed indefinitely when he produced what looked like a bottle of urine but it turned out to be some of Barlow’s home-made wine.
HMS Quorn ammunitioning
4 May 08 - Naval Review
The latest edition of the Naval Review contains a detailed article by Cdr John McGregor RN (Cdr(E) of HMS Fearless and SMEO to COMAW) about the removal of bombs from RFAs Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad during the Falklands conflict. There is also a letter from Cdr John Prescott Thomas RNR RD* about the preparation of the minesweeping trawlers of the 11th MCM Squadron for operations in the South Atlantic. Both contributions were in response to my recent article commemorating the 25th anniversay of the conflict, 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands', which can also be found in the website's Dit Box.
3 May 08 - Annual Divers' Reunion
The application form for this year's all-ranks RN Divers' Reunion, to be held on Friday 27 June in the Royal Maritime Club, is now available for download on the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area.
2 May 08 - 2007 AGM Minutes
The minutes of the 15th MCDOA AGM held on 14 November 2007 are now available for download in the Members Only area.
1 May 08 - Navy News Items
The following MCD-related items from the May issue of Navy News include:
The disposal of historical ordnance by HMS Hurworth featuring MCDOA member Chris Davies (Cdr SNMCMG1) as well as PO(D) Tim Hall, LD Richie Throup and AB(D) Skin Rudkin of HMS Hurworth.
The end of Fishery Protection duties for HMS Quorn.
Successful deep sea trials of the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS).
30 Apr 08
MCDOA Ladies Night 31 May 2008
The calling notice and booking form for the Ladies Night at Hornet Sailing Club in Gosport on Saturday 31 May is now available for download on the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area.
Bomb Disposal off Felixstowe
The Anglia TV website contains this video and the Felixstowe TV website contains this video summarising the events of the past few days. They include final remarks from MCDOA member Chris Baldwin (CO SDG) and WO(D) Robin 'Rick' Rickard (SDU1). The Ministry of Defence website contains this article. I am grateful to MCDOA member Paul McDermott, SOO of the Fleet Diving Squadron, for providing these images.
Left: REMUS sonar image of bomb
Right: Bomb detonated on 29 April 08
Despite the many problems encountered along the way, particularly the atrocious diving conditions, the task was eventually brought to a successful conclusion by a good team effort. Well done to all those concerned.
New Diving Jewellery
Left: Boxed RN CD Cufflinks
Right: RN CD Brooch
RN CD Cufflinks
MCDOA member Paul Guiver who runs Divers' Gifts has furnished me with some samples of his latest range of divers' jewellery based on the newly adopted logo of the Fleet Diving Squadron. The range comprises:
RN CD Cufflinks (Boxed) - £11.50
RN CD Cufflinks (Unboxed) - £8.99
RN CD Brooch/Pin - £3.50
P&P will be £1.00 and all items will be delivered in a padded envelope. Orders can be placed either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 079 8683 9208. Further information is available on Paul's website at www.diversgifts.com.
29 Apr 08 - Bomb Disposal off Felixstowe
The team has relocated the bomb using the REMUS AUV this afternoon and the Anglia TV website contains this video and the Felixstowe TV website contains this video of the bomb's detonation at 1940 local.
28 Apr 08 - Bomb Disposal off Felixstowe
The latest news from Anglia TV is available here. It includes an interview with MCDOA member Chris Baldwin, CO of the Southern Diving Group (SDG) comprising Plymouth-based SDU1 and Portsmouth-based SDU2, who has now arrived on scene.
The Felixstowe TV website has added these videos (see entry for 24 Apr 08) chronicling ongoing attempts by members of SDU1, SDU2 and NDG to recover the wartime German 500 kg SC bomb lost after being towed off the beach at Felixstowe. The operation is now in its eighth day.
27 Apr 08
News from HMS Shoreham
I am obliged to Lt Stuart Fletcher RN, the Navigating Officer of HMS Shoreham, for supplying this update:
"HMS SHOREHAM has returned from a well-earned period of Easter leave and will have to hit the ground running in order to meet a busy programme. The ship has two major training exercises on the horizon, and the preparations are well underway. The first of these is Exercise Joint Warrior, a major multi-national operation involving land, sea and air forces off the North West coast of Scotland. This will involve over 60 sea, land and air assets and SHOREHAM will make up part of an 11-ship mine hunting element under the command of a Dutch mine hunting battle staff.
Following hot on the heels of this will be a period of Operational Sea Training with our sister ship HMS WALNEY. Both ships have spent the past few months conducting internal training and maintenance in preparation for this major assessment. During the assessment the ships will be fully tested in their primary role as mine hunters but will also practise other capabilities including reactions to a variety of scenarios, from fires and floods to airborne and water-borne attacks on the ship. SHOREHAM’s team is firmly focused on the forthcoming operational deployment later in the year."
Bomb Disposal off Felixstowe
The latest news from Anglia TV is available here.
26 Apr 08 - Bomb Disposal off Felixstowe
Day six of this saga and the bomb has not been relocated. The latest news from Anglia TV is available here.
25 Apr 08 - Bomb Disposal off Felixstowe
The latest chapter of this saga is available on the Anglia TV website here.
24 Apr 08 - Bomb Disposal off Felixstowe
The Felixstowe TV website contains these videos chronicling ongoing attempts by members of SDU1, SDU2 and NDG to dispose of a wartime German 500 kg SC bomb off Felixstowe. The operation is now in its fourth day.
The Anglia TV website contains this exclusive video (link) of yesterday's diving operations including an interview with PO(D) Dave Moore of SDU2. This morning's coverage by Anglia TV included this interview with WO(D) Robin 'Rick' Rickard of SDU1. In view of the media attention being given to this operation, it is good to see someone who looks and sounds as professional as Rick in front of the camera.
23 Apr 08
Funeral arrangements for ex-CD Derek 'Dan' Neave
The funeral of Derek Neave (see entry for 22 Apr 08) will take place at 1400 on Tuesday 29 April at Basingstoke Crematorium, and afterwards at the Wykeham Club, Andover. The family will be pleased to see any of Derek's old comrades and friends. Those who intend to be present are requested to contact Derek's son-in-law, Jeff Hammond, by e-mail or call him on 077 7155 1284.
Strangers rally round to help Spike Spears
Spike with his wife Lesley, right, and daughter Hazel
and her husband Alan Fenn with their children Madison, 11 months,
and Jessica, three, at the David Lloyd Leisure Centre, Port Solent
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the attendance of prospective bone marrow donors at Port Solent yesterday (see entry for 15 Apr 08). I heard Spike on Radio Solent's Julian Clegg programme yesterday and again this morning when he said he was especially pleased that Paul Jones, our association's chairman and MoD Superintendent of Diving, put in an appearance. Unfortunately, many of the divers at Horsea were away on a protracted bomb disposal job near Felixstowe, as described in this article featuring CPO(D) 'Dan' Archer on the RN website and this article on the BBC website.
22 Apr 08 - Death of ex-CD Derek 'Dan' Neave
Former FCPO(D) Dave (Mona) Lott in Australia has relayed the following e-mail:
My name is Jeff Hammond, I am Derek's son-in-law. Unfortunately I have to inform you that Derek passed away this morning [21 Apr]. He was diagnosed with a lung problem over the last month or so and was moved into a local hospice last Tuesday. He deteriorated over the weekend and passed away quickly. Pauline and his daughters were with him at the time.
A funeral is planned for next week in Basingstoke. If you would like to contact me my UK mobile is 077 7155 1284. I will also check for new mail messages on this mailbox belonging to Derek.
Thanks and regards,
Dave Lott has added the following information:
"My first introduction to 'Dan' was when I was sent to the inshore diving vessel HMS Brenchley in February 1956. As a Leading Seaman CD2, Dan was in charge of the 51st Minesweeping Squadron's diving team and conducted all diving operations under the eye of the now deceased Lt Guy Worsley RN [later Superintendent of Diving]. There is a photo of Dan on page 60 of A Corkhead's Chronicle."
The photo from Dave's book is reproduced below.
Derek 'Dan' Neave (extreme left) with members of the 51st MSS
Diving Team on board HMS Brenchley in 1956
I am sure all members of the RN diving community join me in extending our deep sympathy and condolences to Derek's widow Pauline and other members of his family.
Just for interest, the picture below (also courtesy of Dave Lott) shows the 51st Minesweeper Flotilla's diving team embarked in HMS Brenchley c.1954/5. Formed in 1951, this flotilla was based at HMS Lochinvar at Port Edgar on the Forth. At various times, other ships of the flotilla included HMS Aveley, HMS Brearley, HMS Brinkley, HMS Burley and HMS Chailey. Their sister ship, HMS Dingley, was the Home Station Clearance Diving Team tender based at HMS Vernon.
51st MSF Diving Team on board HMS Brenchley c.1954/5
(Back: Jim Cook (later MCDO), Jock Stewart and Terry Malpass
Middle: Lt Cdr I D McLean-Foreman RN and Peter Cobby BEM (later CDO)
Front: Albert Drain with Mine Recovery Suit (MRS) helmet)
Ley Class inshore minehunters were fitted with the Multiple Towed Gradiometer (MTG) minehunting system. Pen recorders alerted the operator of any significant magnetic anomaly (minelike contact) and he could then deploy a buoy by remote control to mark the location for investigation by divers embarked in the accompanying tender.
21 Apr 08 - HMS Hurworth in The News
The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing the disposal of wartime ordnance in the North Sea by HMS Hurworth and features MCDOA member Chris Davies, the current Commander of Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1).
20 Apr 08 - Looking for Bruce Mackay
MCDOA member Julian Malec OBE is organising a 40th anniversary reunion of the LMCDO '69 course next year but has been unable to trace Bruce Mackay, the course officer. If anyone knows of Bruce's whereabouts these days, please e-mail me via my Webmaster address or ask him to contact me.
16 Apr 08 - End of an era for HMS Quorn
15 Apr 08 - Ex-Clearance Diver 'Spike' Spears needs our urgent help
Spike Spears with daughter Hazel and
granddaughters Jessica and Madison
Yesterday's Portsmouth News contained this article about ex-Clearance Diver David 'Spike' Spears. He and many others are in urgent need of bone marrow donors to help them deal with incurable multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer. There are several procedures to obtain the necessary bone marrow, all of which are short-term and free of any after-effects apart from a short period of soreness and fatigue, rather like a blood donation (see here). Service personnel are not precluded from donating as long as their operational circumstances permit. The hard copy version of the Portsmouth News website article contains this heart-warming addition:
The following information is significant, particularly for those in the Portsmouth area. The check for tissue-match only involves a blood test.
14 Apr 08 - News from HMS Hurworth
I am grateful to Lt Will Blackett RN, the Navigating Ofiicer of HMS Hurworth, for providing this update:
HMS HURWORTH UPDATE MAR 08
HURWORTH has had an eventful time throughout March with the main focus on continued development of Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Operational Capability. During the first fortnight the Task Group joined the Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG) and the Danish Navy for their annual training exercise ‘Danex’. This entailed a comprehensive period at ‘war’ – and the MCM platforms were required to clear the Kattegat of over 50 drill mines to provide the bigger units with a little more room to engage the ‘enemy’. The two-week exercise was frustrated by defects and poor weather but nonetheless proved to be enjoyable and highly successful. The visit to Aarhus (Denmark) mid way through the exercise provided an opportunity to recover and prepare for the busy programme following.
On completion of Danex, HURWORTH and her NATO companions made swift passage to Copenhagen (Denmark) for an extremely enjoyable weekend which also included two days of Ship Open to Visitors.
The next period saw a 48 hour transit out of the Kattegat and through the Kiel Canal as the group headed for the North Sea and Wilhelmshaven (Germany) for a 10 day regional engagement visit and a programmed period in the German Navy tactical simulator in Bremerhaven.
Over the course of the week, the Ship sent a number of personnel to Bremerhaven on a daily basis in order to assist in the development of surface warfare tactics. The facilities in Germany were excellent and a good level of training was achieved. The extended period alongside also allowed a few fortunate personnel to take advanced leave. HURWORTH is now back at sea and preparing for an operational period of Historic Ordnance Disposal in the North Sea oil fields.
Hurworth destroying historical ordnance in the North Sea in April
during Operation Beneficial Cooperation 08
13 Apr 08 - Wartime mine detonated off Somerset
(from BBC website)
12 Apr 08 - Funeral of former CPO(CD1) Bernard 'Donkey' Bray BEM*
CPO(CD1) Bernard 'Donkey' Bray BEM*
(14 Oct 1935 - 29 Mar 2008)
Portchester Crematorium was packed with family, friends and other well-wishers yesterday for the funeral of Donkey Bray (Snr). Naval divers in attendance included Alan 'Donkey Jnr' Bray, Steve Fitzjohn, Sean Meleady and Jim Lynch (all in uniform) as well as MCDOA members Martyn Holloway and Rob Hoole plus John Dadd, Paddy Doonan, Tony Groom, Gabby Haines, Mike Handford, Ron Hartshorn, Hoppy Hopewell, Vic Humphrey, Jacko Jackson, John Malham (with Yvonne), Gerry 'Pincher' Martin, Mick O'Leary, Mick Openshaw, Willy Owen, Dickie Radford, Ray Ramsay, Pete Roberts, Les Sharpe, Stew 'George' Sissons, Spike Spears, Troy Tempest, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson and Willy Wilkes. Tony Groom joined those in uniform to act as pallbearers for the casket draped in a white ensign. Floral tributes at the foot of the catafalque were provided on behalf of Donkey's family, the Association of RN First Class Divers and the MCDOA.
We entered the chapel to the sound of 'Rule the World' by Take That. After a welcome address by funeral director Danny Brooks, we sang the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father) before Danny provided the eulogy. He explained the service would be semi-secular as Donkey, or 'Beb' as he was known to his family, had not been a particularly religious person although he was deeply spiritual in other ways.
We learned that Bernard Edward Bray was born in Blackwood, South Wales in 1935 and left school at the age of 15 to join the Royal Navy. After initial training as a Boy Seaman at HMS St Vincent in Gosport, he qualified as a diver at HMS Vernon before serving in the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. He married Doreen, his childhood sweetheart, in 1955 and he was drafted to the Mediterranean Fleet CD Team in Malta in 1956. While in Malta, he played divers in both the Royal Navy and the Italian Navy for the filming of "The Silent Enemy", the wartime story of Lt Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb RNVR starring Laurence Harvey in the lead role. Donkey and Doreen's first son, Lee, was born in 1957. Donkey then served in the USA for a year and second son, Alan (Donkey Jnr), was born in 1959. On his return to the UK, Donkey worked at HMS Vernon and his daughter, Loraine, was born in 1961. He subsequently served in Singapore, Portsmouth, Chatham, Portland and Portsmouth. In 1972, he was one of the Fleet CD Team parachuted into the sea during the QE2 bomb scare in mid-Atlantic and helped search her hull for explosive devices. In 1973, Donkey helped clear wartime explosive ordnance from Grand Harbour at Valetta in Malta and was subsequently awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his exceptional service. In 1974, he helped clear the Suez Canal during Operation Rheostat for which he was awarded a bar to his BEM.
Donkey left the Royal Navy in 1975 but worked for some months at the Deep Trials Unit, Alverstoke before joining Strongwork commercial divers at Aberdeen in 1977 to work offshore. He was lucky enough to leave the Piper Alpha platform just before it suffered a massive fire and explosion in 1988 and just missed being involved in the explosion at King's Cross underground station in 2006. In 1990, Donkey bought a caravan and travelled the country with Doreen between pursuing such retirement activities as DIY projects (at which he was a perfectionist) and drinking Alan's home brew. This led to several amusing incidents. Donkey was particularly proud of the fact that Alan followed him to become a CD in the Royal Navy and Lee became a Warrant Officer in the Army.
Donkey developed Alzheimers in 2001 and entered Gosport War Memorial Hospital in October 2007. He was given exceptionally good care by the staff but finally succumbed on 29 March of this year. Danny ended his eulogy by reading 'What is Dying?' by Bishop Brent. The congregation then sang part of the old Bachelors' hit, "I Believe" before the farewell and committal while we sang the 23rd Psalm. We then departed to the sound of 'Apache' by the Shadows. Many of the mourners then went on to the Crofton in Stubbington to drink to Donkey's memory and share a few dits. I chatted with Doreen and passed on my condolences on behalf of the Association. Overall, I think we gave Donkey the send-off he deserved and I hope Doreen, Lee, Alan and Loraine realise how much we appreciate having known him as a member of our Branch and as our friend.
9 Apr 08 - Latest Bridge Card
The April 08 Royal Navy Fleet Bridge Card is now available via the 'Web Links' page.
8 Apr 08 - News from HMS Middleton
I am obliged to Lt Rob Corcoran RN, Navigating Officer of HMS Middleton, for providing this update:
"Adaptability has always been key to the working ethos of HMS MIDDLETON’s ship’s company. Following the successful NATO deployment in the second half of 2007, the ship found itself out of the water for the first three months of the year to undertake an SSP(D) (Ship’s Support Period (Docking)). This provided a new challenge of completing a significant maintenance package, including shaft refurbishment, a new state of the art Mine Disposal System, upgraded Air Conditioning Plants, a new computer network, and fitting of the Warship Automatic Identification System.
During what has replaced a traditional ‘upkeep’ docking period, the ship worked with a number of organisations including Flagship Support Limited and Superintendent Fleet Maintenance in order to adopt a new streamlined engineering process where work is programmed on a rolling basis and the ship remains ‘live’ throughout her life.
Despite comprehensive planning, the weather proved to be one element that could not be pre-booked and resulted in an initial delay to the docking in January. However, with positive and pro-active support from all partners, MIDDLETON was soon back on track. Being out of the water presented a rare opportunity to see the under belly of the ship which was found to be in a relatively good state for a ship of her age.
As she enters the next phase to regenerate Operational Capability, a series of tests and trials are being conducted to provide confidence in her systems. Following a period of Easter leave, the ship’s company will return to take the ship back to sea to prove the Mine Disposal System (generally referred to as Seafox) off the coast of the UK. Seafox provides a significant capability enhancement which is able to dispose of a wide range of mines. Much smaller than the old ‘yellow submarines’ the Hunt class have used for the last 20 years, it has its own sonar and a detailed camera to locate mines before detonating using a shaped explosive charge in the nose. The system is already in use in the Royal Navy with HMS CHIDDINGFOLD achieving the first live firing earlier this year.
MIDDLETON will continue to regain operational tempo through a series of exercises culminating in Basic Operational Sea Training in Faslane in June. The ship’s company will be put through their paces over a six week period in a variety of different scenarios to challenge and improve working practices. Before they get down to some serious training however, the ship will be returning to visit their affiliated town of Middleton via the Manchester Ship Canal where she will be alongside from 16th – 18th May. During this time the ship will open to visitors and welcoming some old friends on board before her passage north.
The ship’s company will also be waving goodbye to their current Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Steven Holloway, who is moving over to take command of HMS CATTISTOCK. He will be relieved by Lieutenant Commander Mark Thompson on 8 April.
7 Apr 08 - Death of Lt Cdr Miles Patrick Chapman RN
MCDOA committee member David Edwards has informed me of the death of MCDOA associate member Miles Chapman. Miles was a TAS officer who worked for many years in the Torpedo Trials Team (later CWTA) in HMS Vernon during the 1960s and early 1970s. His funeral will take place at Portchester Crematorium on Wednesday 9 April at 1330 and David has agreed to represent the Association.
6 Apr 08 - Further Adventures of Three Men in a Boat
At 0730 yesterday, the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole mustered at the Sailing Centre on Whale Island to set about returning Barlow's yacht Dougout to the water ready for the new sailing season. She had spent the winter ashore and was now sporting fresh anti-fouling paint and new rigging although her mast still had to be re-stepped. Also on hand to help were occasional sailing companions Dean Molyneaux (a serving WE Capt RN) and David Bates (not 'Digger' - this one's a retired Schoolie Cdr).
Barlow, Molyneaux and Holloway hold 'O Group' meeting
Tractor manoeuvres 'Wise Lift' trailer into place before Dougout
is driven past Fleet HQ while Bates looks on
Dougout on her way
Left: Holloway & Molyneaux share a jar of Vaseline after stepping the mast
Right: Dougout back in her element
With Dougout safely back at her berth in the marina, who should turn up but former WO(D) Stew 'George' Sissons (I still can't help thinking of him as 'George') who was also having his boat put back in the water. I hadn't seen him for several years and he told me he has been busy teaching diving in the Red Sea and in Plymouth. He is also responsible for four of the cadet sail training dinghies at Whale Island. I helped him return his boat to its berth in the marina which was just as well. Problems with the coupling between his engine and newly fitted shaft and propeller meant we had to resort to a tow from marina manager Brian Witts (retired Lt Cdr Gunner) to get us alongside his berth.
Left: Barlow, Holloway and Sissons
Right: Stew 'George' Sissons with his boat Springtied
Watch this space for more seaborne tales from the MCDOA's three men in a boat.
3 Apr 08 - Funeral of Donkey Bray Snr
Donkey Bray Snr at the wheel last year
(Photo courtesy of Donkey Jnr)
The funeral of the late CPO(CD1) Bernard 'Donkey' Bray BEM* will take place at Portchester Crematorium on Friday 11 April at 1430. All are welcome. Black ties optional. No flowers (except from Diving Associations) but donations in lieu to Alzheimer's UK Research Education & Care, Freepost RRGK-ZXJT-LGLY, London, SE1 3YA or on the day to Donkey Jnr.
A wake will be held afterwards at The Crofton pub in Stubbington and Donkey Jnr would like to know numbers so he can organise food. If you plan to attend, please inform Troy Tempest (Secretary of the Association of RN First Class Divers) at email@example.com or telephone 013 2984 7951 by Wed 9 April.
2 Apr 08 - Navy News Items
The following MCD-related items from the April issue of Navy News include:
A deployment for the Northern Diving Group (NDG) to Gibraltar featuring MCDOA member Andy 'Sharkey' Ward.
The scattering of the late CPO(CD1) Ginger Bryant's ashes by HMS Chiddingfold.*
A gunnery shoot by HMS Chiddingfold.
* The Braintree & Witham Times has also published this article about Ginger Bryant.
1 Apr 08 - RN Divers Discover Lost City of Atlantis
The latest issue of the International Archaeological Times contains the following article describing how RN divers may have stumbled on the remains of the fabled lost city of Atlantis. Well done Soapy Watson and the LMCDO course!