30 Sep 11 - Another boost for Project Vernon
Ex-WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE, Trustee of Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which formerly occupied the site, has issued this report:
I attended the MW Association Monthly Dit Session last night in the WO & Senior Rates' Mess at HMS COLLINGWOOD which was dedicated to the efforts of the MW Charity Bike Riders. The session was also attended by Commodore Tim Lowe RN (Commodore MWS).
After a very amusing presentation on the event by WO Pony Moore, I was presented with a cheque for £1,500 for Project Vernon. The RN & RM Charity also received a donation of just over £2,400. There are some residue donations to be forwarded to us in due course...
There is already a plan for the riders to perform a tour of the SANDOWN Class towns and villages in 2012. I have offered the services of Project Vernon along the same lines as this year. More details to follow as things begin to firm up.
R Dean MBE
Trustee & Head of Communications
Unfortunately, I was too late to witness the ceremony last night but I arrived in time to meet the Commodore and enjoy the company of fellow MCDOA members Tim Curd, Bill Kerr and Ben Piper as well as other MW Branch stalwarts.
29 Sep 11 - MCDOA AGM, Operational Updates & Annual Dinner
The calling notices, application forms, programme, agenda and proxy voting form for these events on Friday 18 November 2011 are now available for download via the 'Forthcoming Events' page.
As usual, the operational updates, free lunch and AGM will be held at Fleet Diving HQ on Horsea Island. The operational updates should be particularly interesting this year with HMS Brocklesby’s clearance of mines off Misrata during the Libyan campaign, the activities of our four MCMVs stationed in the Gulf, several of our clearance divers deployed for Counter-IED operations in Afghanistan and an international exercise involving the Faslane-based NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) when the recovery vehicle locked on to a Russian submarine.
The Association's Annual Dinner will be held in the Wardroom of HMS Excellent on Whale Island. Cdr Paul Jones, our previous chairman, is still the Commanding Officer of Whaley, of course. After having remained static for as long as I can remember, the price of the dinner has increased by £5 to a still very reasonable £40 per head (£45 for guests). Before applying, please ensure that your standing order mandate is in effect for the updated annual membership subscription of £15. Although overnight accommodation in HMS Excellent is as tight as ever, the newly-refitted HMS Bristol is again available courtesy of her Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Naomi Storey RN.
This year we are very fortunate to have Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach KCB CBE FRAeS, the current Chief of Joint Operations, as our Guest of Honour. Earlier this month, he was appointed to become the first Commander Joint Forces Command with effect from December when he will be promoted to a four-star Air Chief Marshal.
Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach
As is our custom, we will also be marking the 25th anniversary of LMCDO '86A (Course Officer: Steve Field. Course Instructor: Ray Ramsay. Students: Simon France, Jon Cox (MW module), Bill Kerr, Mark Kessler, John Murphie, Jim Penman (RCN), Bill Scarth and Pete Williams) and LMCDO '86B (Course Officer: Steve Field. Course Instructor: Ray Ramsay. Students: Blair Cliffe, Ian Geraghty, Andy Healy, Alan Lindsay, Brian Mair, Jason Poole and Martin Woolley).
We will also be dining out any MCDOA members leaving the Service. If you are a leaver and wish to be dined out this year, please inform our Honorary Secretary Mick Beale in good time and advise him which version of glass mine or diver you would like as your 'gizzit'. Leavers must have been paid-up members for at least the past three years to dine for free but may pay for the privilege if they have joined the Association in the meantime.
This event is heavily subsidised by the MCDOA so only bona fide members and affiliates are eligible to attend and bring private guests. Check that the Standing Order covering your annual membership subscription is still valid and reflects the increased amount of £15 per year before applying or you will be disappointed. If you are not yet a member of the MCDOA but feel you are entitled to join, the necessary Application Form and Standing Order Authority (effective from the next 1 Jan) are available for download via the Membership section but you must also send a cheque for £15, payable to the MCDOA, to cover the current year.
I look forward to seeing everyone on the day.
From MCDOA member Martin Woolley:
"It is with great regret that I will be unable to attend this year's dinner/my 25th! I am still with the C-IED Integrated Product Team at NATO HQ Strategic Command Transformation in Norfolk USA. This coming week I have to be in Poland...
...I have looked at several different options but nobody is available to take my place. Therefore, I will sadly not be present.
Have a great evening!
From the previous MCDOA Honorary Secretary, Tony Griffiths:
I trust that this finds you and Lyn well and enjoying life to the full. Deb & I are both busy getting our cottage and garden in order (Deb would make Capability Brown proud!).
Sadly, I will be unable to make the dinner this year. Please pass on my apologies. I hope that you have a great evening.
From MCDOA member Cdr Charlie Wilson OBE:
MRU, I will be working down in Wales that weekend.
P.S. Thanks for the picture of Bill Kerr with hair!"
From Angie, wife of MCDOA member Lt Cdr Patrick Dowland RN:
I am afraid Patrick is unable to come. He went into QA for a pelvic X-Ray on August 4th having had a fall in the garden. No fracture was found, but he started having fits or spasms, and they can't find out the cause. He was in hospital for 5 1/2 weeks, and has now been home for seven weeks.
I will read your news to him as his not completely "Out of it". I hope the day goes well for you all. Patrick always enjoyed going to the events and I am he sure wishes you all the best.
Best wishes from Angie and Patrick"
From MCDOA member Cdr Dougie MacDonald:
Never was cut out to be an Easter Egg! And after all that I wil probably be in Scotland on Friday - Ho Hum, hope it goes well and say ta ta to Bill Scarth for me please.
From Cdre Dick Twitchen CBE (camp follower):
I give in. Am still MRU this year's dinner as I'm sailing that day for sea trials. In my absence please greet the friends by name and wish all the community all the very best for the coming year; better pass AVM Stu Peach my regards (he was DAWC when I was DMWC).
Hopefully next year (if I am invited!).
From MCDOA member Lt Cdr Darroch Woodward:
My regrets / apologies but have decided I am unable to attend MCDOA dinner... I was wavering but decision now made that I must visit my ageing parents in France that weekend when I pass back through UK from Muscat prior to flying onto home in Ottawa. It could be another year before I get a further chance to see them!
From MCDOA member Cdr Phil Ireland DSC:
Please accept my apologies for being unable to attend this year's dinner due to family commitments. I'm doubly disappointed not to be able to help mark the end of the careers of some good friends.
From MCDOA member Cdr Bernie Thompson:
Thank you for the hedzup for this year's thrash. Unfortunately I will be one of the 'missing' again. For the last three years my excuse has been that I couldn't make it back from Oman. This year, somewhat lamely, it's that I'm now in Kuwait and can't get leave or a warrant, let alone a pink chit from the current Mrs T. Nevertheless, I have very high hopes for next year.
Have a great dinner - as ever I am jealous of you all.
Commander Royal Navy
Directing Staff (Maritime 1)
Joint Command and Staff College
From MCDOA member Cdr Tim Hildesley OBE:
Much regret that I will not be able to make it this year, for the second year running. We have a clash as Jill and I have fallen into the habit of going to the Caribbean each year for the month of Nov. However, I hope you all have a great dinner which you should have as you have managed to catch an impressive Guest of Honour so well done for that.
From MCDOA member Cdr David Hosking MBE:
"Thanks Rob for keeping me in the loop - but MRU to attend the event. I hope it goes well.
Thanks again for all your support with Team Hallin earlier this year. I'm now busy looking at the next challenge to raise a little more money for Combat Stress. I'll keep you updated when the plans take more shape.
From Cdre Gary Collier RNZN:
Always good to get a bit of an update on what's happening in the MCD world. We're in a bit of shock in Godzone at the moment with yesterday's withdrawal of Dan Carter from the ABs [All Blacks] but we can still win it!
From MCDOA member Cdr David Hunkin OBE:
I can't find Micky Beale's email. Could you pse pass on to him that this year will be my leaving dinner? I was successful in getting redundancy and will be on to new stops in the New Year!
28 Sep 11
Recent events at the Historical Diving Society Museum
Yesterday, ex-CD1 Tony Devitt, the RN's Naval Staff Author responsible for diving publications, brought members of his NATO working group to the Historical Diving Society Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay where ex-WO(D) John Dadd and I gave the group a guided tour:
Back row: Cdr Warren Fridley (USN), Lt Cdr John de Ruiter (RNLN), CPO1 Chris Landry (RCN),
Mr Tony Devitt (FPGO HMS Collingwood), Cdr Ulrich Tschauder (German Navy),
Master Sgt Michael von Keyserling (US Army) and Master Chief James Costin (USN)
Front Row: Cdr Jorg Wichterich (German Navy), WO Jean Frederic Jacques (Canadian Army)
and Cdr Hubert Vatbois (French Navy)
"What a great all-round weekend! Saturday had 52 visitors and Sunday 59 visitors. The total is now 4,484!
Over the weekend our visitors included Miss Sue Mitchell, a direct descendant of William Mitchell, a famous diver from the 1800s who worked for the Port of London Authority. Also two retired divers and Mike Lennox, nephew of the legendary George Wookey.
We had a massive physical achievement digging in the seatings and placing shingle (see below) for the two DCCs (Deck Compression Chambers) due from Horsea Island soon. A massive thanks to all who laboured and sweated in the blazing sun to get that job done. Railway sleepers should arrive this Wednesday (28th) and then it will be a 'simple' matter of getting a crane and lorry organised."
Seatings for Deck Compression Chambers
These are the chambers, ex-Royal Naval Physiological Laboratory (RNPL), which are currently at Horsea Island awaiting relocation:
RNPL chambers currently at Horsea Island
Bombs detonated off Kent coast
27 Sep 11 - Navy News items
The September issue of Navy News contains these items of particular MCDOA interest:
Arrivals 6 - Departures 1: The comings and goings of HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Grimsby
Sea Change: RN Divers launching the Royal Mint's new £2 coin in style
Sandown sailors set for Scottish swim: MCM1 staff swimming the length of Loch Lomond (since completed)
Diverse attractions at Horsea Lake: CCF visit Horsea Island
26 Sep 11 - HMS Brocklesby visits Grimsby
The RN website contains this article announcing a visit to Grimsby by HMS Brocklesby starting on Wednesday. Brocklesby was involved in clearing mines off Misurata during the Libyan conflict (see first entry for 5 May 11 in News Archive 34).
HMS Brocklesby passing the Round Tower at Portsmouth
(RN website photo)
24 Sep 11 - Diving task for HMS Liverpool off Libya
I am extremely grateful to MCDOA member Simon Pressdee for this contribution:
Just a quick line from HMS Liverpool on patrol in the Central Med for the MCDOA website's Latest News.
Unusually for a destroyer, some diving related news! Liverpool recently conducted an emergency diving task in support of Operation Unified Protector to ensure the safety of a Humanitarian Aid (HA) vessel during the fall of Tripoli. The vessel had already been towed out of harm's way by Liverpool the previous night as rebels overran the capital but then had further bad luck when they lost all power again. Their predicament without power was to drift back towards land and an uncertain future! Their only option was to request urgent diving support from NATO which resulted in Liverpool's divers being tasked to assist.
Clearance Divers Lt Cdr Simon Pressdee, Lt Cdr Rich Talbot and AB(D) Steve Roberts were on hand to free the entangled machinery. Sterling work from AB(D) Roberts did the lion's share of the underwater task of clearing the propellers after freeing the fishing net which has fused around the stern gland. The HA vessel subsequently completed her mission providing essential emergency stores to the city and then recovered several vulnerable personnel to safety.
Unfortunately no underwater photos but a cheesy team phot instead!
HMS Liverpool's 'diving team' off Libya
HMS Liverpool remains on station…..
Lt Cdr RN
HMS Liverpool has been deployed for Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR off Libya since March and has been involved in several engagements with PGF (Pro Gaddafi Forces). I am sure that all members of our community join me in congratulating her ship's company and wishing them a safe return.
23 Sep 11 - HMS Bangor moves to the east
HMS Bangor off Brega in Libya
HNLMS Haarlem and HMS Bangor off Libya
HMS Bangor is commanded by MCDOA member Neil Marriott and has been deployed for Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR off Libya since early June. We wish him and his ship's company our congratulations and hopes for a safe and speedy return.
22 Sep 11 - Grenade drama evacuates Fareham police station
19 Sep 11 - A word or two from our Chairman
MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin has kindly provided me with this update for the website:
Mine Warfare & Clearance Diving Officers’ Association Situation Report
By Commander C M Baldwin Royal Navy
MOD Superintendent of Diving
"Dear MCDOA Members,
Having spent just over a year in post, I thought it timely for me to provide an update to the Membership on the state of the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Branches in 2011. As seems to have become the norm, the year has been characterised by a considerable amount of activity, which has seen all of the UK’s available MCM force heavily committed to frontline operations, with units either being deployed or working up for operations in both the Gulf and Libyan Theatres of Operations. As most of you will be aware, the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) reinforced the important role British MW expertise continues to play in global maritime operations and as a consequence, there are no current plans to reduce MM hull numbers and the requirement for Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) to deliver across all existing mission objectives has been confirmed well into the future. The only area where cuts were unfortunately required was in the deletion of the Fleet Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Unit (FUUVU) which will be disbanded, although we will retain the UUVs themselves and re-brigade this capability between the FDS and the Hydrographic Branch. Of course in the current economic climate nothing is certain, but one can scarcely conceive a more convincing argument for the requirement for a modern MCM capability, than that which saw HMS BROCKLESBY conducting live MCM operations, under fire, in the approaches to the Port of Misrata and her broader contributions in shaping the underwater Battlespace on behalf of the Joint Commander earlier this year.
Although heavily engaged in operations, the routine upgrading of our current MM force continues. Additional units are now tropicalised for operations in the Gulf, the first of the HUNT Class has commenced the major re-engine programme due to be undertaken between now and 2015 and all forward deployed units have seen a significant upgrade in FP measures, including additional weapons, ballistic protection and enhanced ammunition. Confidence in the Seafox Mine Disposal System (MDS) continues to grow, following the implementation of a series of measures designed to remedy some of its initial shortcomings and the weapon’s use in anger was recorded by BROC during operations off Misrata. To improve training the T-Variant of the weapon has been introduced and a User Group forum has been formed with other users to enable the routine exchange of information. Finally, the REMUS 600 has been taken to sea to continue de-risking the operation of large UUVs from afloat platforms, with one of the systems in service due to deploy to the Gulf on an MCMV in 2012.
For the Clearance Diving community, conversion training for Clearance Diving Life Support Equipment (CDLSE) has now ended with all Units fully operational with the new set. To date, the CDLSE has proved both effective and reliable and has drawn much positive comment from the users. Having had the benefit of diving in the set on the Staff Officers CDLSE familiarisation package, I was very impressed with its ergonomics and the ease of use. However, like all new pieces of equipment there have been some areas where we need to build expertise and to really get to know our equipment. We have had one incident this year where an O2 Add Valve appears to have failed with the diver at depth, resulting in a low PPO2 situation to occur. The investigation into this incident is ongoing and we are in discussion with the contractors DIVEX, to ensure that we fully understand the many strengths and few weaknesses of the CDLSE. For the immediate future, the NCHQ has commenced a programme to enhance our capability to conduct diving operations against influence mines, with changes to Conning Run procedures, the retirement of the ICOS line and sinker and the replacement of the ubiquitous PE4 filled 4lb pack, with a new PE7 filled stand-off weapon all expected into service over the next few years.
In the Diving Standards Team (the old Inspectorate), we have been heavily involved with the safety management aspects of the CHALFONT project. This is the replacement capability for ALAMANDA and will have the flexibility to be used with any of the new ASTUTE Class SSN. Clearly a highly complex and advanced technology dependent piece of equipment, the key to the RN’s ability to operate it safely and effectively will be in the training provided to the end users. To achieve this and to de-risk the hazards of its use at sea, a training system, called the CHALFONT Shore Facility (CSF), has been built by BAE in Faslane. The principle users of the CSF will be the CHALFONT Diving Training Team, a group of Clearance Divers who will work for FOST and will be responsible for training frontline users in a safe and realistic environment, in preparation for seaborne operations. Divers from an expanded Fleet Diving Unit One will fulfil the role of casing divers on the system when deployed onboard a submarine.
The role played by divers in supporting this submarine based system has also been copied in another SM system, namely the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS). NSRS is a tri-national capability, designed to rescue large numbers of personnel from a disabled submarine at significant depth and under pressure and it achieved Full Operational Capability earlier this year. A number of safety reviews were prompted by a growing realisation that, while we all hope that the system will never be used for a real peacetime submarine emergency, if called upon to deliver a full system capability, the number of divers needed to operate the system would need to be significantly increased over the levels original envisaged and their training improved. With Project support, agreement has now been reached with both the French and Norwegian diving authorities to achieve the enhancements considered necessary, which will mean that should the NSRS be called out for a real emergency; the whole of Northern Diving Group would be deployed with the system, with CO NDG acting as the Senior Diving Officer. The rest of FDS and wider military diving community would then be used to ‘back-fill’ NDG’s priority commitments.
Whilst current activity has clearly reinforced the case for modern, effective and flexible MCM forces and generally kept everyone busy, work continues to develop our future MCM capability; a concept that will be underpinned by the use of remote off-board systems. Merged with the future Hydrographic and Patrol Capability, the Mine Warfare, Hydrographic, Patrol Capability (MHPC) project is designed to replace the HUNT, SANDOWN, SVHOs and RIVER Class vessels, with a common hull. To provide the MCM capability, a number of MCM Mission Packages (comprising of UUVs, USVs for both sweeping and weapon deployment etc) will be designed for both embarkation onboard and/or rapid deployment into theatre via airlift for operations from Coop . With the first ‘interim’ Mission Package due for delivery in the 2018-19 timeline, an operational demonstration from a HUNT Class MM is planned for 2013-15 after the platform’s upgrade with UUV, USV stowages, A-frame et al.
It is readily apparent that the Clearance Diving and Mine Warfare branches, the Mine Warfare & Clearance Diving Officers and the Mine Warfare Officers remain in high demand. However, with an aging population (I have to face it, I’m not as young as I used to be!) in both the Officer and Ratings’ cadres, I am concerned that our corporate knowledge and experience base could suffer in the near future and the Branch will need careful management by DNPERS in order for it to remain sustainable in both numbers and corporate knowledge. Currently over 55% of MCD Lt Cdrs will have left by 2015 and with a pre-existing shortage of Lts there appears to be a structural issue in the Officer corps and although less of an issue, there will be a similar reduction in the numbers of MCD qualified Commanders over the next four years. For obvious reasons in an era of redundancy and a shrinking navy, this is euphemistically called a ‘challenging set of circumstances’. However, as an indication of the realisation that Diver numbers need careful management, the MOD redundancy programme excluded both Divers and MCDOs and in addition, action is being taken to re-focus the EOD element of Clearance Diver training as unfortunately, the current Defence EOD Operators’ Course (DEOC), which is a key element of MCDO and CD career progression, has failed to achieve its objective of delivering a large number of EOD/IEDD qualified operators. It is hoped that a more staged approach will be resumed, allowing individuals to build up an understanding of conventional munition disposal before moving onto the more nefarious art of the IEDD operator. This will also be more effective in helping to fill the Maritime domain requirement for EOD capability.
In summary, this has been another busy year for serving members and there are a number of challenges to be overcome by the whole Mine Warfare community, not least with our continuing contribution to the Gulf, ongoing operations along the North African Littoral and the growing requirement for niche military capabilities to support the security effort for the 2012 Olympic Games. In many ways, the demand for the skills possessed by our Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving specialists have never been greater and with this unlikely to change in the near term, it reinforces the need for the UK to have a credible, efficient and effective Mine Warfare and Diving capability well into the future.
I hope to see as many of you as possible at this year’s MCDOA Dinner on Friday 18th November at HMS EXCELLENT and I am sure that the Guest of Honour, Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the Commander Joint Operations, will make an interesting and interested guest. I am also hoping that one or two foreign MW and MCD Officers who are attending the ABCANZ Conference during the same week will accept my invitation to join us as paying guests.
Significantly, Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach KCB CBE FRAeS, the Guest of Honour at our annual dinner, has been selected to become the first Commander Joint Forces Command (JFC) in December which will entail his promotion to Air Chief Marshal (See this article on the Ministry of Defence website). Watch this space for the calling notice and booking form.
17 Sep 11 - News from HMS Pembroke
Sub Lt Martyn Mayger, the Navigating Officer of HMS Pembroke, has kindly furnished this update which I have abridged for our purposes:
"Greetings from Bahrain!
A thousand apologies for not keeping you updated with what we are up to. I’m not sure if you are aware but we ‘crew swap’ every six months from ship to ship in our two MCM Squadrons. Because of that, it’s like starting from scratch every time you take on a new hull...
A quick run down – we are MCM1 Crew 1 (first of eight crews in the Faslane-based Sandown Squadron). Our last ship was BLYTH which we brought out of refit last December and worked up until handing her over to Crew 4 in April. After some pre-deployment leave, we flew out to the Middle East in June and took over HMS PEMBROKE from Crew 2 which is now back in the UK. It’s all very confusing!
There are four MCMVs based in Bahrain – all on three to four year stints before being swapped with a UK-based ship. Currently, it’s PEMBROKE, RAMSEY, MIDDLETON and QUORN. Our crew is due back in the UK to take over BANGOR early next year...
These are the photos Martyn included:
HMS Pembroke manoeuvring with HMS Ramsey
Left: HMS Pembroke leads HMS Albion and HMS Sutherland
Right: PHOTEX during Exercise SEA KHANJAR
16 Sep 11 - Bertie Armstrong speaks out
I was listening to BBC Radio 4 last night when I heard the dulcet hibernian tones of MCDOA member Bertie Armstrong. Bertie has been the CEO of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation since March 2005 and is frequently in the news. Yesterday, he was explaining the crucial role played by Scotland's fishing fleet in the country's economy as described in this article on the BBC website and how a reformed EU Common Fisheries Policy would have to take into account the effects of climate change in this article, also on the BBC website.
Bertie's son, David 'Stretch' Armstrong, is a serving MCD officer and member of the MCDOA Committee.
15 Sep 11 - HMS Walney's bell destined for Barrow Dock Museum
The North-West Evening Mail contains this article announcing the results of a poll in Barrow to determine the final resting place of the ship's bell belonging to HMS Walney (see entry for 26 Aug 11) which was decommissioned on 15 October last year. The article features MCDOA member Dave Bence, Commander First MCM Squadron, who will formally present the bell to the town on Tuesday at the Dock Museum.
13 Sep 11 - HMS Pembroke shows off in the Gulf
USS Gladiator (foreground) in company with HMS Pembroke
The National, Abu Dhabi’s English-language newspaper, contains this article describing some of the same events.
Lt Cdr Richard Hutchings, CO of HMS Pembroke
with Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt
12 Sep 11
Guiver the Diver cracks it!
Congratulations to MCDOA member Paul Guiver for completing yesterday's Bristol Half Marathon dressed as 'Bob the Builder'.
Left: On the way back into Bristol around the 7 mile mark
Right: Paul with his helpers at the Millennium Square in Bristol
You can still help Paul in his endeavour to raise money for the Somerset Unit for Radiotherapy Equipment (SURE) and the Devon based cancer charity FORCE, both of which helped him beat throat cancer, by going to his JustGiving webpage here:
HDS Diving Museum goes from strength to strength
The highly successful Gosport Heritage Open Days have been taking place over the past week and MCDOA member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), informs me that the Diving Museum at Stokes Bay did a roaring trade over the weekend with a previously unsurpassed 257 visitors on Sunday. This brings the museum's total number of visitors to 4,235 since it opened in June (not bad going for a niche attraction that is only open on weekends and bank holidays and is staffed entirely by volunteers). Word seems to be getting around.
The HDS also conducted a Historical Diving Walk around Gosport and ran two days of diving demonstrations at the Gosport Ferry Pontoon which included dressing the Mayor, Councillor Chris Carter, in standard diving dress:
The Diving Mayor of
Ex-CD1 Cris Ballinger informed me today that he is delivering a couple of articles for the museum on Friday and has me intrigued. If anyone else feels able to help with the museum in any way, including acting as a volunteer guide once in a while, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050. You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved.
9 Sep 11 - RN Minewarfare Heritage: HMS Appleton in Oman
Two months ago, MCDOA member Mike Loane sent me an enquiry after seeing 'HMS Appleton' painted on the rocks near where he was diving in Oman (see entry for 9 Jul 11).
HMS Appleton graffiti in Pee Pee Bay, Oman
I have subsequently received this response from Ken Harrow after an appeal for information was published in Ton Talk, the bi-monthly magazine of the Ton Class Association (TCA):
With reference to your request for information regarding APPLETON in the latest issue of Ton Talk, I was a young killick seaman and the Buffer of 'Apples'. At that time we used to carry out a lot of patrols in the Strait of Hormuz, often dropping the hook in various bays and inlets. The place you mention, I'm sure, is Khor Qwai, and at one time I believe there used to be an RN radio station there. I remember going there two or three times and thinking back I seem to remember a POME(M) Jan Nash going ashore to put the ship's name on the rocks, just like we used to do in Muscat!
I'm sure this is the answer. It's a pity the paint didn't last so long at sea but it's nice to know that the 'Apples' is "extant" in places other than Ton Talk.
HMS Appleton wearing a paying off pendant -
note the dhow funnel badge of the 9th MSS
The Ton Class minesweeper HMS Appleton was first commissioned on 23 March 1954. She was commanded by the Senior Officer 9th Minesweeping Squadron (9th MSS) based at HMS Sheba in Aden from September 1962 and then at HMS Jufair in Bahrain from January 1963 until October 1965 when she was placed in reserve at Gibraltar. HMS Jufair was in commission from 7 Nov 1955 to 15 Dec 1971 but is now home to the US Navy's Central Command (CENTCOM)). Appleton was recommissioned on 7 February 1967 and rejoined the 9th MSS at Bahrain until 24 March 1969 when she returned to the UK via South Africa. She paid off on 7 June 1969 and was sold on 24 September 1972 for break-up at Neath.
From MCDOA member Mike Loane:
"Dear Rob, Ken,
Thanks very much for putting the query out there - the internet (and RN Associations) truly are wonderful....
Ken, thank you very much indeed for taking the trouble to reply. I will hopefully be diving there again in October and will try to get a few better pictures for your memories! There is an Omani Military base very close to that area which might have been built on the site of the RN Radio Station you talked of?
All the very best,
From Ken Harrow, the original enquirer:
"Dear Michael, Rob, et al,
Thanks very much for your emails. Sorry for the late reply but I have been away and I'm just catching up on things.
Having a look on Google Earth, it appears that the Omani Base has been built on the site of the old RN station. A little research has revealed that the island is called Jazirat al Ghanam or Goat Island, which I now seem to remember, and a lot easier to pronounce!! Bill Wright's website, pbase.com/sanamu/ras_musandam_oman is very interesting and brought back memories.
Hope you enjoy your diving there, Michael, and I Iook forward to the photos.
All the best,
HMS Appleton off Goat Island, Oman
8 Sep 11
Ledbury filled with pride as townsfolk show their support
The Navy News website contains this article and the RN website this article describing the ship's company of HMS Ledbury exercising its right to the freedom of the historic town by parading through it during a six-day visit to the West Country (see second entry for 1 Sep 11).
HMS Ledbury's ship's company marches and parades in the town of Ledbury
(Navy News photos by LA(Phot) Nicky Wilson, RNAS Yeovilton)
From MCDOA member Steve Gobey, CO of HMS Ledbury in the early 1980s:
"...If I was only 10 years younger! Suddenly feeling my age after reading in the link that LEDBURY is now the RN's oldest serving vessel! Interesting to note that our narrow boat FROBISHER is the same age as LEDBURY and still going strong too!
Greetings from Abbingdon,
Al Nekrews and Scouse Fleming in Great South Run
The Portsmouth News contains this article describing the participation of MCDOA member Al Nekrews and CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming of Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) in the Great South Run on Sunday 30 October to raise funds for the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association (BLESMA) (See entry for 12 Aug 11).
Ian 'Scouse' Fleming and Al Nekrews
To sponsor Al and Scouse, go to their JustGiving webpage here:
7 Sep 11
Ian Geraghty finishes first leg of Clipper Round the World Yacht Race
The Portsmouth News contains this article describing the completion of the first leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race by MCDOA member Ian Geraghty (see second entry for 1 Aug 11). Ian's boat, Geraldton Western Australia, crossed the finish line at Rio de Janeiro in seventh place.
Ian on board Geraldton Western Australia at Ocean Village,
Southampton before the race started
(Portsmouth News photo)
Support 'Guiver the Diver'
The Chard and Ilminster News contains this article describing the participation of MCDOA member Paul Guiver in the Bristol Half Marathon this Sunday (11 Sep). He will be wearing a 'Bob the Builder' costume and raising funds for two charities that helped him beat cancer this year: the Somerset Unit for Radiotherapy Equipment (SURE) and the Devon based cancer charity FORCE.
Guiver the Diver as
Bob the Builder
Sponsor Paul in his gallant efforts on his JustGiving webpage here:
6 Sep 11
Royal Navy trio to train Afghan army in bomb disposal
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article adding more detail to yesterday's BFBS story.
Next MCDOA Committee meeting
Soapy Watson, our Honorary Secretary, has advised me that the next MCDOA Committee meeting will be held at Fleet Diving HQ at 1600 on Tuesday 11 October. Members with items for the agenda are requested to pass them to a Committee representative at least a week in advance.
5 Sep 11
More CDs deploy to Afghanistan
The BFBS website contains this article describing the fourth deployment of RN clearance divers to Afghanistan for EOD duties in the past two years. Good luck to CPO(D) Kev Amaira, PO(D) Simon Crew and LS(D) Martin Platts of Portsmouth-based Fleet Diving Unit 2 (FDU2).
CPO(D) Kevin Amaira at Horsea Island
(Note this photo is for PR purposes only and does not necessarily
show the kit worn to perform live tasks)
Libya action for Naval diver at sea
4 Sep 11
Noel Cashford's final book
Noel Cashford with MCDOA members Peter Greenwood
and Si Leightley plus other members of the Fleet Diving
Squadron on board HMS Belfast in November 2009
My old friend Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR, veteran wartime bomb & mine disposal officer and author, has featured several times on this site. He passed away on 15 January of this year and the Daily Telegraph subsequently printed this obituary. The penultimate paragraph refers to the posthumous publication of Noel's fifth book, Courage Beyond Duty. This book has now been launched and Noel's widow Brenda has been kind enough to send me a copy which arrived yesterday.
Front cover of
Courage Beyond Duty
Like Noel's previous four books, Courage Beyond Duty is a collection of his own experiences and accounts of other, mainly naval, EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) operations both during and after the Second World War. It is not as polished as previous titles owing to the untimely death of Noel and the temporary illness of his wife Brenda who collated and typed his notes. However, it is still a cracking read. It not only sheds new light on some exploits Noel recounted in previous books but also contains many new stories with references right up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. MCDOA members and others in the naval minewarfare and diving community will recognise the names of most of the personalities involved.
I thoroughly recommend the book to anyone with an interest in naval and military EOD. It has a cover price of £9.99 and can be ordered online, along with Noel's other books, from ALD Printers here (see both pages).
NDG deals with unexploded shell at Tentsmuir
NDG deals with suspect device in Cumnock
The Daily Record website contains this article describing a call-out for members of the Northern Diving Group (NDG) after a mob smashed windows at a house in Cumnock, Ayrshire.
3 Sep 11 - Loch Lomond Charity Swim by MCM1 Staff
I was delighted to receive this announcement today from MCDOA member Dave Bence, Commander of the Faslane-based First Mine Countermeasures Squadron:
"Dear friends and family,
We did it, with a little help from all those who donated, and no one did doggy paddle!!
Thursday the 1 Sep was the chosen day and the weather was perfect. As I dived in at 0600 to start off the challenge, there was not a ripple on the Loch's surface, and it was cold. Twelve and a half hours and 22 miles later we arrived at Lomond shores everyone having done their fair share of the swimming. We arrived to a lone piper surrounded by 'canine partners' friends, families and supporters from the Squadron. It was a brilliant day and we are near our target of £5000. The day was not just about the swimmers but the entire team providing support afloat and from shore, only eclipsed by the fantastic work of 'Canine Partners, whose dogs transform the lives of those less able. Great achievement.
So a big THANK YOU to those of you who have donated. If you want to see a little footage of the swim go to the link below, and watch this news clip for 2 Sep, second news story in [minute 01:50]; if not I have attached a couple of photos.
I have captured a few blurry frames from the video clip to add to Dave's photos:
Online donations may still be made to MCM1's chosen charity here:
2 Sep 11 - Tag Caisley's funeral
Yesterday's service of thanksgiving for Tag Caisley at Portchester was well attended and MCDOA members included our President Colin Welborn, Vice Chairman Rob Hoole, committee member David Edwards and his wife Deidre, Dougie MacDonald (wearing his MCA 'vice admiral' shoulder straps under his jacket), Brian Dutton, Peter Hicks, Norman Brookhouse and his wife Rita, Doug Barlow and his partner Jill Smith (who attended school in Southsea with Tag's widow Enid), Ian Morton, Brian Dutton and John O'Driscoll. Non-members John Hendrick and Gerald 'Pincher' Martin were also present.
The congregation entered the chapel to the organ accompaniment of Judith Williams playing Bach's Cantata 208 (Sheep may safely graze) before the officiating chaplain, the Reverend Colin Noyce, pronounced the opening sentences and introduction. We were then treated to a wonderful rendition of Speak Softly Love (better known as the theme from 'The Godfather') sung by Carol Kewley, one of Tag's fellow professional choristers. There followed the prayers of penitence and the traditional reading of John Chapter 14 verses 1 to 6 (In my Father's house are many dwellings).
The following tribute to Tag was paid by John Ross who, with his wife Fran, was a neighbour of Tag and Enid on an adjacent barge called Jason at Bursledon, the scene of many good times:
"I have been asked by the family to speak about my dear friend Tag.
Born in 1932, Tag all his life had a goal or challenge. He joined the sea scouts, and then decided the Navy was for him. He took the train from Rugby to Coventry and signed on to become a boy seaman. This was unknown to his mother at the time. He did not even have enough money for the transport home and had to walk back to Rugby.
He realised he had reached his first goal when he became a Naval Officer in Dec 1953. He had already met Enid by then and they married in 1954. They had three children: Susan, John and Karen who died in 1998.
Tag spent a lot of time at sea visiting many parts of the world. He specialised in diving and bomb & mine disposal - enjoying the challenge as usual!! He spent 35 years in the Navy and was appointed an MBE. Tag and his family had enjoyed the life and eventually settled in Bedhampton. However, this first chapter in his life came to a close.
He worked for Ferranti for eight years and during this time became interested in singing and joined the Portsmouth Players. Tag eventually sang in many operas which I am sure some amongst you will remember. Bel Canto Opera had very happy memories for Tag - particularly their productions of La Traviata. He gave up singing when he was 65, another chapter over.
There was another challenge to come. The children had left home; their house was quite large, and he persuaded Enid to sell the house and they bought a Dutch barge. He redesigned the interior and had four very happy years in Bursledon on the River Hamble; during which time they became friends with Fran and me. We had many parties with the odd glass or two. Tag was very fond of saying "It's a long ship!" which meant of course we all had a refill.
The time came for them to leave for France and, after one or two attempts, they made it. Friends thought they were mad to attempt this at 65 years of age. They stayed twelve years on the barge having a wonderful retirement travelling the canals and again making wonderful friends, having the odd glass with the natives. Fran and I had two fun visits on the canals with them; they were indeed very special times. The time to leave France came when Enid refused to jump off the boat to moor! They left Tag's beloved barge Plover and another chapter was over.
Recently, they purchased their new home in Burpham House. Becoming established ashore once more gave them a lot of pleasure. However,the biggest joy of all was the arrival of grandchildren Ellie and Eric, the children of John and Heidi. Tag is not known for his sentimentality; however these children stole his heart.
The last year was very tough for Tag with constant visits to his doctor and stays in hospital. He showed courage and tenacity and never complained, well not much, but I am sure Enid has her own take on that. During these past months, Fran and I have witnessed Tag and Enid suffer as Tag's illness progressed towards his death. Today I am sure you will all want to join me in giving our heartfelt condolences to Enid, the children and the grandchildren.
Personally I have found it a privilege to have known Tag; he was a good man and a good friend. Enid will say, "Life with Tag was never dull and he will be remembered with great love."
After prayers, the congregation sang Eternal Father (the Naval Hymn). There followed the Committal and Blessing before we left the chapel to the sound of Va Pensiero (the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi's Nabucco). Several of us then mustered at Lysses House Hotel in Fareham for a bite to eat and a toast to Tag's memory.
Farewell Tag. Don't be too hard on the celestial choir. I can hear your wonderful voice leading the after dinner singing even now.
Lt Cdr Horace 'Tag' Caisley MBE RN
(16 Jan 1932 - 13 Aug 2011)
1 Sep 11
Death and funeral of ex-CD Steve 'Taff' John
Steve 'Taff' John
I have received this sad message from MCDOA Treasurer, Richard 'Soapy' Watson:
Could you please publish this on our website and on the RN
Steve was a very good oppo of mine and we were AB(D)s in HMS Hurworth during the first Gulf War in 1991. A very funny and great friend he will be missed by all of us! The BBC News website contains this article which describes what happened last weekend.
A brief resumé:
|9 Sep 1985||Steve “Taff” John joined the RN.|
|9 May 1986||Qualified Ships Diver.|
|19 Dec 1986||Qualified AB(D).|
|Jan 1987||Hong Kong Team.|
|1988||Fleet Team. Awarded a Commendation for the recovery of Sea Dart missiles from the damaged magazine of HMS Southampton.|
|1989 to 1991||HMS Hurworth. One of the few divers who has dived on both live buoyant and ground mine in a theatre of war.|
|Jul 1991||Left the RN to pursue a career in commercial diving in various parts of the world.|
The funeral will be held on Tuesday 6 Sept 2011 at 1515 at
Parc Gwyn Crematorium, Narberth, Pembrokeshire. Family flowers only.
Donations to Help for Heroes via
It would be great to see serving and ex-serving members there.
For further details, contact me on 079 8055 2710 or Mickey Raine on 077 3069 4536.
I am sure all members will join me in extending our sincere condolences to Taff's family, friends and colleagues.
HMS Ledbury visits Bristol
Only a month after a visit by HMS Cattistock (see third entry for 1 Aug 11), the Bristol Evening Post website contains this article announcing that HMS Ledbury is in Bristol for six days and will be open to the public on Sunday 4 September. The RN website contains this article covering the same event.
HMS Ledbury arriving in Bristol
31 Aug 11
Japan, US and UK in Joint Minesweeper Exercises
I am grateful to MCDOA President, Captain Colin Welborn RN, for drawing my attention to this article on the Japan Security Watch website describing a forthcoming exercise in the Gulf involving Japanese, US and UK mine countermeasures forces.
Japanese minesweeper JDS Tsushima
(US Navy photo)
Gentlemen Who Lunch
It is some time since the MCDOA's very own 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Doug Barlow, Martyn Holloway and Rob Hoole forayed into the countryside to seek out new pubs for the benefit of fellow members. To help set matters right, yesterday found us visiting the village of Amberley in West Sussex. This happens to be where Barlow's elder daughter Carol (a teacher) and son-in-law Peter (a retired airline pilot) have spent the past four years renovating their beautiful home.
After touring Peter and Carol's house and garden and admiring their impressive handiwork, our trio accompanied Peter to the nearby pub. This was The Black Horse, a large but pretty building with a sheltered if somewhat neglected beer garden tucked behind it.
The Black Horse at Amberley, West Sussex
This delightful country pub has a chequered history but is now under new ownership. It is traditionally appointed and has a small but tasty range of ales. Holloway was driving so I chose the Hop Back Summer Lightning which is fairly strong at 5% ABV while he plumped for the Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter at 4% ABV. Green King IPA (3.6% ABV) was also available on the pump. Having more conservative tastes, Barlow opted for the John Smith's keg bitter but he did buy the first round.
The bar menu contained a good selection of reasonably priced meals, even more so when we saw the size of of the portions. I chose a sandwich of prawns in Marie Rose sauce on wholemeal bread for less than £6 while Holloway ordered one with tuna. Having a smaller appetite, Barlow asked for a child's portion of scampi and chips. The well-filled one-and-a-half round sandwiches were made from chunky slices of bread and accompanied by beautifully cooked chips and a green salad while Barlow's child's portion must have been designed with a particularly well-built infant in mind. We all tucked in with gusto. Surprisingly, the pub was all but deserted throughout our sojourn.
Peter and his father-in-law Barlow with Hoole and Holloway
A little later, we were joined by Peter and Carol's son Will and then by Carol herself with her black labrador puppy, Molly.
Carol, Will and Peter with the adorable Molly (see below)
After a most enjoyable meal, we returned to Peter and Carol's house for a farewell coffee before boarding Holloway's car to head back to our respective abodes. The photos below are for all those who remember uncompromising rugby referee Holloway as a roughty-toughty clearance diver and booming boatswain Barlow as the terrifying scourge of the seven seas.
Left: A besotted Holloway with the adorable Molly
Right: Barlow's partner Jill gets her hands on him
The Black Horse at Amberley is well worth a visit and is awarded four mines/diving helmets out of five on the MCDOA's Good Pub Guide scale of excellence.
30 Aug 11 - HMS Bangor 'really making a difference' off Libya
The Navy News website contains this article and the RN website contains this article describing the recent good work of HMS Bangor off Libya. Bangor is commanded by MCDOA member Neil Marriott and the articles feature PO(MW) Steven ‘Stirling’ Moss and AB(D) James Oakley.
One of the Mk 44 miniguns on board HMS Bangor off Misurata
28 Aug 11
Navy News items
The August issue of Navy News contains these items of particular MCDOA interest:
Engineers' vital MCMV support: The work of the Forward Support Units (FSUs)
News from the Chiddingfold, Leconfield & Cowdray Hunt
I am grateful to our President, Capt Colin Welborn RN, for drawing my attention to these wittily-written and well-illustrated articles on the Chiddingfold, Leconfield & Cowdray Hunt website:
Colin says he doesn't subscribe to Horse & Hound but he has recently got back in the saddle. I'm quite partial to the Fox & Hounds myself.
27 Aug 11 - News from MCM1
I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Bence (Commander First MCM Squadron) for this contribution:
I am fairly poor at providing updates on myself or indeed the First MCM Squadron. Tempo is fairly high and July and August saw four of my seven hulls in JOAs [Joint Operational Areas] and five of my eight crews committed to operations.
Whilst my staff and I are currently the on-call MWBS [Mine Warfare Battle Staff], as things stand PEMBROKE and RAMSEY (MCDOA member Alex Bush in Command) are in the Gulf and BANGOR (MCDOA member Neil Marriott in Command) is off Libya. In fact, I am typing this email from Valetta where I have just come out to visit Neil's team - just enjoyed a dive too! I probably can't say any more than that but I have attached a couple of photos.
HMS Walney decommissioning cake
Left: Prince Harry flanked by MCDOA members Mark Durkin (Capt MFP) and Dave Bence (MCM1)
Right: Prince Harry (Commodore-in-Chief Small Ships & Diving) with Dave Bence
Prince Harry presenting Op TELIC
medals to 1MCM personnel
World War II German GN ground mine found in the entrance to
Loch Ewe during Exercise JOINT WARRIOR earlier this year
HMS Bangor alongside HMS Ocean off Libya
Even with all the operational activity, I along with five others are swimming the length of Loch Lomond (23 miles) in a relay on 1 September in aid of the charity 'Canine Partners'. This poster provides details and the webpage for donations is at www.justgiving.com/mcm1:
Anyhow, I hope you are well and I hope to send you some more photos soon.
26 Aug 11
HMS Walney's bell to be given a new home
The North-West Evening Mail website contains this article describing a poll conducted by Barrow Borough Council to determine where the bell of the decommissioned minehunter HMS Walney should be displayed.
HMS Walney's bell in Barrow
Postscript: The North-West Evening Mail printed this follow-up on 5 September 2011.
Bomb Squad rush to Sidmouth auctioneers
The Sidmouth Herald website contains this article describing a call-out for Southern Diving Unit 1 to deal with an iteme of ordnance discovered at an auction house in Sidmouth.
Members of SDU1 remove ordnance from the scene
25 Aug 11 - Sailors should take a Long Look at a spell Down Under
The Navy News website contains this article describing Exercise LONG LOOK, the long-running exchange programme involving the RN, RAN and RNZN. It features Northern Diving Group's AB(D) Simon Lund, currently on exchange with the RAN.
AB(D) Simon Lund prepares to inspect the hull of HMAS Newcastle
in the warmer waters of Sydney Harbour
(Navy News photo by LA(Phot) AJ Macleod)
24 Aug 11 - French clearance divers rescue a trawler
Something out of the ordinary but I stumbled across this article on the French Navy website. It describes this morning's rescue of the fire-stricken trawler 'Lambada' 19 nm off the Ile d'Oleron by Brest-based French clearance divers operating from their support vessel 'Styx'.
22 Aug 11 - HMS Grimsby's homecoming
The MoD website contains this article featuring MCDOA member Dave Bence (Commander First MCM Squadron), the RN website contains this article and the Navy News website contains this article describing Friday's return of HMS Grimsby to Faslane after her two-and-a-half year deployment in the Gulf.
HMS Grimsby returns to Faslane 19 Aug 2011
(Navy News photo by POA(Phot) Ian Arthur, RNR Air Branch)
Welcome back to everyone and enjoy your well-deserved leave.
20 Aug 11
Death and Funeral of ex-CPO(MW) Alan 'Albert' Hilton
Alan 'Albert' Hilton in 1982
A few days ago, Julie Vasey advised me of the death of her partner, Alan Hilton, on Sunday 7 August while he was travelling in Spain.
I have now been informed that Alan's funeral will take place on Tuesday 30 August. The service is at 1300 in East Hardwick Church, East Hardwick village, Pontefract. Burial will then be at South Kirkby Cemetery, Moorthorpe. A wake will be held from 1500 (approx) at the Kyte Hotel, Darrington (01977 600661). If you are able to attend, please advise MWA Chairman Dixie Dean MBE via this email address.
I am sure all members will join me in extending our sincere condolences to Julie on her loss.
Hunt class minehunters feature in 'Horse & Hound'
I have been passed this article titled 'Sweeping the Seas' published in the latest issue of Horse & Hound. It describes the links between the Hunt class minehunters and the hunts visited last month by the MW Riders when they pedalled 1,200 miles around the country for charity:
The article mentions several members of the RN minewarfare community including WO(MW) Wayne 'Pony' Moore, CPO(MW) Anthony 'Pinta' Beer and MCDOA members Ben Stait and Ben Piper.
19 Aug 11
Funeral of Lt Cdr Horace 'Tag' Caisley MBE RN
Enid Caisley has advised me that Tag's funeral will take place at Portchester Crematorium at 1100 on Thursday 1 September. I will be among those representing the Association.
I have started appending tributes to Tag to the entry for 17 Aug 11.
Daily Telegraph obituary for Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John Rawlins KBE, MA (Oxf), BB, BCh, FRCP, FFCM, FRAeS
As ever, I am grateful to Capt Peter Hore RN for agreeing to write this obituary for Sir John Rawlins, President of the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD) and the Historical Diving Society (HDS), which appeared in today's Telegraph.
Surg Vice Admiral Sir John Rawlins
(12 May 1922 - 29 July 2011)
18 Aug 11 - HMS Chiddingfold's homecoming
MCDOA member David Sandiford joined me on the Round Tower this morning to welcome the Hunt class minehunter HMS Chiddingfold and her current ship's company (MCM2 Crew 5) back to Portsmouth after her three-and-a-half year deployment in the Arabian Gulf. Apart from having been Superintendent of Diving and co-founding Chairman of the MCDOA, David was also Chiddingfold's first Commanding Officer.
The ship was piped into harbour by Larry Cunningham, a resident of Old Portsmouth who once spent four days on board an aircraft carrier as a soldier and delights in adding some spectacle to such occasions.
Welcome home to everyone on board the 'Cheery Chid'. Enjoy your well-deserved leave.
While at anchor at Spithead, the ship featured on last night's BBC TV's South Today programme and I was able to capture these screenshots:
Don't forget that HMS Chiddingfold's ship's company has been running, cycling and rowing the distance from the Gulf to Portsmouth and is still collecting for its chosen charity, The Prostate Project. Donations are still being accepted at:
It should not be forgotten that the Sandown class minehunter HMS Grimsby is returning to Faslane tomorrow after a similarly long deployment in the Gulf.
17 Aug 11 - Death of Lt Cdr Horace 'Tag' Caisley MBE RN
I regret to report that MCDOA Committee member David Edwards has informed me of the death of MCDOA member Tag Caisley on Saturday 13 August.
Few will forget Tag conducting CWTA inspections of our MCMVs or leading the singing with his rich baritone voice, engaging in hilarious repartee with the RM band master or displaying his sparkling wit after our dinners in HMS Vernon and at other venues following the formation of the MCDOA.
I have expressed our sincere condolences to Tag's widow, Enid, and will publish further details when available.
Cruiser HMS Liverpool's rugby team 1950/1 at Malta
with AB Tag Caisley extreme left in front row
(A/PO Doug Barlow sitting extreme right in second row)
1967 Long MCD Course and MW Conversion at HMS Vernon
with Lt Tag Caisley RN extreme right in front row
MCDOA Past President Cdre Richard Moore taking coffee with
Lt Cdr Tag Caisley during MCDOA AGM at Fleet Diving HQ in 2002
From MCDOA committee member Martyn Holloway:
Very sad news indeed with the passing of 'Tag' Caisley of whom I have many fond memories. His leading of the sing song choir at mess dinners probably remembered best by most.
As a newly qualified MCDO and harrassed fish boat First Lieutenant in 1971, I first met Tag when he visited to dust off the 193 Sonar after refit. Quite clearly we were not ready and after some huffing and puffing he relaxed and guided us all through the necessary HATS & SATS with characteristic humour and good nature. His positive and friendly approach to getting things done was a classic lesson in man management that I have never forgotten.
A few years later while serving on exchange with the US Navy as a junior Lieutenant I happened across a memo that announced Tag's impending visit to Charleston for a NATO meeting. I sent him a picture post card offering pool side accommodation in my bachelor pad ashore away from the sterile BOQ. A few days later I was summoned to the office of Commander Mine Warfare Command in the form of Rear Admiral Roy Hoffman where his Chief of Staff had just handed him a signal from HMS VERNON that said 'PERSONAL FOR LT HOLLOWAY RN. YR 21C PC WMP.'
Unaccustomed to the brevity of the signal, where the USN always deemed it essential to write volumes, Admiral Roy demanded to know the meaning of this coded message and why it had been addressed to me personally, a most junior member of his staff and a foreigner to boot. After taking a moment to decipher Tag' s cryptic note I was able to put the Admiral at his ease. Thereafter he would often quote the example as to why the Royal Navy often seemed to have the edge on the USN. Needless to say Tag's visit went without a hitch and we took the opportunity to catch up and enjoy much of what Charleston had to offer. I have enjoyed his friendship ever since.
I shall miss Tag greatly, his untimely death is a sad loss to us all. He was one of the great characters of his time and I am proud to have known him.
From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:
Thanks for the email. Sorry to hear about Tag. He introduced singing to mess nights. Unfortunately, I will be in Italy on 1 Sept. I hope for a good turnout.
From MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald
I have been sitting here trying how to describe Tag. His wit, grit, voice, humour and drive were unique. But that does not paint the real picture - a great man with a great sense of occasion. I can't put it in words sadly.
16 Aug 11 - News from HMS Chiddingfold
I am grateful to Lt Peter Davis, the Operations Officer of HMS Chiddingfold, for this update which he is happy for me to publish:
I am writing to you from the Cheery CHIDDINGFOLD, which is currently sat at anchor in Spithead 2 awaiting her cue to return to her old base port.
It has been more than three and a half years since CHID last passed through the gap and exited Portsmouth Harbour in Jan 2008. I must admit that she is looking tired and ready for the refurbishment that will commence on completion of leave . Apologies to any former XOs who may catch a glimpse of us as we enter, but we have been strictly directed NOT, repeat NOT, to carry out cosmetic painting before our return for a major painting package (not that you ever encouraged that anyway!).
CHID is to be the first Hunt Class to receive an entirely new engine plant to replace the Paxman Deltics that have carried the flotilla so far over the past 30 years (and a good few Ton Class before that, I hear you say). A number of other areas of the ship will also receive a welcome overhaul and “refit” although the ship will remain “in Fleet time” with MCM2 Crew 5 supporting the work.
Sadly our Command team will also be changing as Lt Cdr Charles Maynard will hand over the reigns to Lt Matt Brock as Senior Naval Officer once we return alongside and I will be moving up the bed to try and fill Matt’s shoes as XO on completion of XO Desig course in December. Matt and I, like the rest of Crew 5, will be in need of the respite afforded by the maintenance package in order to recover from the epic amount of rowing, riding and running we have conducted on the way back in order to support Prostate Cancer. The team has done an amazing job and it was very pleasing for us to watch the oldest member of the ship’s company (and one of the strongest contributers), CPO(MEM) Sharkey Ward, row the final metres to complete the challenge in Biscay. We are still avidly collecting for this worthy cause so please visit the website at www.justgiving.com/hmschiddingfold-challengehome.
In writing to the MCDOA website at this late stage in our deployment (and my career as an MCDO), I do feel rather remiss. Having qualified in 2008/9 and rejoined the Squadron as an Operations Officer direct from course, I have enjoyed an interesting ride for the past two and a half years. Having tasted small ship life previously as a bright eyed Gunnery Officer in the days of Sweeping and Fishery Protection, I was somewhat surprised to return, after brief sabbaticals in Iraq and Joint Intelligence, to a very different environment. The most striking difference being the permanent presence of the UK MCM flotilla in Bahrain and the amount of time that individuals from the MCM Squadrons spend there.
Bahrain has a sounding resonance for me personally. During this deployment I very sadly lost my father-in-law, Lt Cdr Nick Humphrys, to his battle with cancer. Unfortunately, owing to the current operational cycle and being away from home for more than 18 out of the past 24 months, I was unable to talk to him at length about his time in the Royal Navy, which spanned some 30 years, before he died. However, being in Bahrain gave me great heart, as it was there, in 1969 that Nick began his naval career as a young YO in the Ton Class, HMS YARNTON.
The Op KIPION MCM units, as we are now known, do not fall under a single Squadron organisation as the 9th MCM Squadron did back then. However, we do still share the same waters and while a much larger American cousin may have replaced HMS JUFFAIR, I take great solace that I am carrying on the family trade and treading the same sand. I would be greatly interested to hear from any former 9MCM or HMS JUFFAIR personnel as I believe that the current generation of “Desert Muppets and Divers” would be interested to know they are by no means alone in having to spend time in “Arab Pompey” as it is colloquially known. Any valuable photos or personal accounts would be received with very great interest.
Peter H Davis"
Peter informs me that Chiddingfold has an ETA of 1000 at Outer Spit Buoy on Thursday morning before entering Portsmouth harbour as announced in this article in the Portsmouth News. I will be on the Round Tower with my camera to help welcome her home and would be glad of any company.
15 Aug 11 - Canadian Navy to become 'Royal' again
I hope our Canadian friends are as pleased as we are about the decision to reinstate the Royal Canadian Navy:
Canadian naval officers had their executive curl restored on 11 June last year.
13 Aug 11 - Ex-RFA to be named after last WW I veteran
The Sydney Morning Herald website contains this article describing the renaming of the recently transferred RFA Largs Bay as HMAS Choules in honour of the late Claude Choules who served in both the RN and the RAN. As the acting torpedo officer at Fremantle, Claude Choules disposed of the first German mine to wash up on Australian soil during WW II near Esperance on Western Australia's south coast.
Claude Stanley Choules
(3 Mar 1901 - 5 May 2011)
12 Aug 11 - Forthcoming charitable events
This year's BUPA Great South Run is being held in Portsmouth & Southsea on Sunday 30 October. MCDOA member Al Nekrews and CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming of Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) will be running the course in full bomb disposal kit to raise funds for the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association (BLESMA). Their online sponsorship page can be found here.
Ian 'Scouse' Fleming and Al Nekrews
Ex-CPO(MW) Dorian 'Simmo' Simmonds will be participating in the Great South Run once again to raise funds for the Crohn's in Childhood Research Association (CICRA). His 14-year-old daughter Neve is a sufferer and he will be accompanied on this occasion by his younger son Leigh. Their online sponsorship page can be found here.
Simmo and Neve
Last but not least, ex-MW Wayne 'Ronnie' Barker, webmaster for the Minewarfare Association (MWA), will be walking 28 miles from Tamworth to Selly Oak on Saturday 3 September to raise money for SSAFA Forces Help. Among other things, this supports the Norton Homes providing short term accommodation for families visiting injured loved ones at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham. His group's online sponsorship page can be found here.
Please give these members of the RN minewarfare & diving community the support they deserve.
11 Aug 11 - HMS Middleton shows what she can do in the Gulf
HMS Middleton firing her 30mm cannon in the Gulf
(Navy News photo by Lt Gary Turner, UKMCC)
10 Aug 11 - News from HMS Grimsby
Lt Cdr Antony Crabb, the Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby, has kindly provided this update:
"I write to provide you with the latest news regarding your affiliated ship's most recent activities, recognising that it has been some time since I last wrote in early February 2011. As ever, the ship has been extremely busy, and the crew has been active in ensuring the ship is able to meet the requirements of the intense programme in the Persian Gulf. The period has been dominated by a series of operational tasks, visits and exercises including a number of firsts. The ship joined other Royal Navy units in exercising with the United States Navy, the Omani Navy and other regional counterparts, whilst visiting Iraq, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
In early April, the ship joined HMS CHIDDINGFOLD and RFA LYME BAY for the transit to the Northern Arabian Gulf before proceeding up the Khawr Abd Allah with HMS CHIDDINGFOLD for a short visit to Umm Qasr, Iraq. Both ships entertained UK, US and Iraqi VIPs, whilst also employing the visit to continue ongoing training initiatives with the Iraqi Navy. For the crew it was an opportunity to re-visit 'old-friends' from a similar visit in early 2009.
On return from the Northern Arabian Gulf, HMS GRIMSBY joined a collection of UK, US and regional counterparts mine-hunting vessels for an exercise in the Central Arabian Gulf under the auspices of the US MCM Command in the region. Exercise ARABIAN GAUNTLET was the first test for the crew working with Coalition units, and was a successful confirmation of the ship's mine-hunting capacity. Almost immediately on completion of this first exercise, the ship once again joined RFA LYME BAY for the transit outside the Persian Gulf to Oman, for the Royal Navy of Oman's (RNO) Exercise KHUNJAR HADD. The transit east of the Strait of Hormuz represented the first time HMS GRIMSBY had left the Gulf since early 2009. Although not focussed on minehunting, the exercise was an excellent opportunity to work with the RNO across a broad spectrum of warfare areas, and afforded the ship's dive team an opportunity to visit some spectacular dive sites.
The final exercise of the period was with United States Navy mine-hunting vessels in the bi-annual Exercise SHAMAL. Challenging both nations' mine-hunting forces in the testing conditions, HMS GRIMSBY once again proved her resilience and achieved credible results. Throughout, HMS GRIMSBY has proved the most capable minehunter amongst the UK force in the Persian Gulf, with consistently outstanding results in all exercises, high readiness rates through diligent maintenance of equipment, and crucially, the upbeat 'can-do' attitude of her crew. A final, short, maintenance period and series of weapon and machinery trials were the final requirements before HMS GRIMSBY sailed from Bahrain for the final time on 28 Jun, to begin the long six-thousand mile journey towards the UK. HMS GRIMSBY handed over to her sister ship HMS RAMSEY. As expected, the crew's morale is high as the ship's bow is turned towards home; the crew has been away since Dec 2010, and the ship departed the UK in late 2008.
This letter affords me the opportunity to introduce the next Commanding Officer of HMS GRIMSBY. Lt Cdr Giles Palin RN will assume Command on 3 August 2011, and have the honour of returning the ship to her home port of Faslane. I am sure he will do his utmost to keep you apprised of the ship's programme and successes. Additionally, I am hopeful that he will benefit from an opportunity to visit Grimsby in early 2012 and re-kindle the links that have been stretched whilst the ship has been in theatre for these three years.
After a successful three years in the Gulf, the ship's bow is once again turned towards home.
Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy
9 Aug 11 - Minewarfare Charity Riders Sniff Out Hunts
The RN website contains this article describing the MW Charity Ride completed last month by staff from the Minewarfare Operational Training Centre (MWOTC) at HMS Collingwood (see entry for 28 Jul 11).
MW Cyclists entering Gunwharf Quays,
the former site of HMS Vernon
Donations can still be made online at MW Charity Riders' Fundraising Page.
8 Aug 11 - CO of HMS Shoreham to command HMS Portland
Lt Cdr Sarah West RN
Congratulations to Lt Cdr Sarah West, the current CO of HMS Shoreham, on being selected for promotion to Commander and being appointed in Command of the Type 23 frigate HMS Portland from April next year.
7 Aug 11 - Minehunters muster in Malta
I am grateful to MCDOA member Martin Mackey (Commander Second MCM Squadron) for this contribution:
Just returned from a three day visit to HMS CHIDDINGFOLD (MCM2 crew 5) on her journey back home from the Gulf. I flew out to Valetta, Malta, last Thursday where I met up with the ship and her ‘playmate’, HMS GRIMSBY, at the end of what had been a very successful period of post-Op KIPION ‘decompression’. Coincidentally, HMS BANGOR, with MCDOA member Neil Marriott in command, was also alongside for a short stand-off from OP UNIFIED PROTECTOR – the NATO title for the Libyan war. I took the opportunity to catch up with him, the new, just joined CO, of HMS GRIMSBY, Giles Pallin, and CHID’s soon to be outgoing CO, Charles Maynard. All three had different stories to tell. The following day CHID and GMBY sailed from Valetta to continue their journey home with a slight detour to drop me off in Cagliari, Sardinia, on Saturday afternoon.
During my time on board, crew 5 were working hard on their Run, Ride, Row Home Challenge. On leaving the Gulf, they set out to run, ride and ride the length of the trip from the Gulf to Portsmouth, a journey of 6200 miles using their on board exercise machines. I helped them out with a mere 21km of running and riding, but, with a final concerted effort, they should achieve their aim by the time they return home. They are raising money for Prostate Cancer. Whilst I know that members have been giving money towards other charities and Project Vernon, but if you would like to donate, their justgiving website is:
Attached are a few pics.
Alongside Valetta, Malta, 4 August 2011. HMS CHIDDINGFOLD
alongside with HMS GRIMSBY outboard. HMS BANGOR astern
HMS CHIDDINGFOLD sails Valetta, 5 August 2011
‘homeward bounders’ with MCM2 embarked
6 Aug 11 - Times obituary for Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John Rawlins
The Times has published this obituary for Sir John Rawlins (see entry for 30 Jul 11). In a life that saw the receipt of many honours and awards for outstanding work that spanned myriad medical and scientific fields, these excerpts are of particular interest:
"John Rawlins was internationally recognised as one of the pioneers in aviation medicine, diving research and operations...
While working at the London Chest Hospital, he became liable for National Service and was assigned to the navy in May 1947. According to Rawlins, it was after a particularly riotous mess dinner that he inadvertently volunteered for a course in aviation medicine, a field new to him and one which, linked to his diving, was to become a life-long enthusiasm.
Appointed to the carrier Triumph in the Mediterranean, he never missed an opportunity to gain first hand experience of carrier-borne flying operations and their considerable hazards. He took up spear-fishing while in Malta and, adapting the equipment designed by Jimmy Hodges, an ex-midget submarine colleague, he built his own compressed-air diving equipment. This incorporated a hydrostatically controlled “demand valve”, the design of which was copied into the navy’s first swimmers’ air breathing apparatus some five years later...
In 1958 he was attached to the Royal Naval Physiological Laboratory to work on diving research, including preliminary studies into the long term effects of saturation diving using rats and various gas mixtures. He returned to the IAM and worked there until 1964 when he was selected as the navy’s Man of the Year and awarded the Erroll-Eldridge Prize for his notable contributions to flight safety and health. Promoted to surgeon commander, he was appointed to the carrier Ark Royal for three years as the medical and diving supervisory officer, also captaining the ship’s judo team. This was followed by three years exchange service with the US Navy’s medical research institute at Bethesda, Maryland, where he worked on thermal protection for deep diving with particular attention to the Sealab III programme...
After his naval career, Rawlins worked mainly in the field of underwater technology. Besides his numerous fellowships, he was a director and chairman of a number of companies, including Deep Ocean Technology Inc, Trident Underwater Engineering (Systems) and Medical Express. His diving expertise was recognised by the award in 1995 of the Reg Vallintine Award of the Historical Diving Society of which he was President and the Colin McLeod award of the British Sub-Aqua Club with its honorary life membership. He was much in demand as a lecturer and presented technical papers to various groups in the UK, France, Sweden, Japan and the USA..."
5 Aug 11
Jordan visit for Royal Navy minehunters as ships swap places in Gulf
The RN website contains this article and the Navy News website contains this article describing a visit to Aqaba in Jordan by HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Grimsby. The minehunters were relieved last month by HMS Quorn and HMS Ramsey respectively after completing three years in the Gulf.
HMS Grimsby manoeuvring with Jordanian patrol boat
(Navy News photo)
Navy divers help commemorate Mary Rose anniversary
The BBC website contains this article, the Ministry of Defence website this article and the Portsmouth News website this article describing how the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) has helped the Royal Mint create a floating commemoration to mark the 500th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Mary Rose. It features MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson, Chief of Staff of the FDS.
FDS divers positioning the floating replica of the £2 coin
over the Mary Rose wreck site in the Solent
4 Aug 2011
News from HMS Quorn
This update has been received from Lt Cdr Phil Dennis RN, the Commanding Officer of HMS Quorn:
"Hello from HMS Quorn,
I hope this letter finds you well after what has been several busy and challenging months on board for all of the ship's Company. First and foremost as the ship's new Commanding Officer I would like to take this opportunity to formally introduce myself and welcome you to the latest news instalment from your affiliated unit.
I joined the ship at the beginning of April 2011 and have settled in well with, what has proven to be, an enthusiastic and welcoming ship's Company. I joined the Royal Navy in April 1995 and served in HM ships Brazen, Sheffield and Leeds Castle prior to undertaking Fighter Controller training. Following appointments in both HMS Newcastle and HMS Illustrious, I then served as one of the Staff Warfare Officers at Fleet Operational Sea Training at Devonport. Later appointments included positions as the Gunnery Officer, and later the Operations Officer, in HMS Lancaster as well as the Air Warfare Officer, and then Senior Warfare Office, back in HMS Illustrious. Prior to joining the Second MCM Squadron, I spent 6 months as the Deputy Staff Officer Operations in Bahrain supporting the 11 RN units in theatre and a short spell at Northwood as part of the Fleet Operations Staff. I previously commanded Quorn's sister ship, HMS Middleton, in the Arabian Gulf in 2010.
Since our last update letter, Quorn has completed her training programme in preparation for our deployment to the Gulf. We sailed from Portsmouth on 15 May in good weather and with a fantastic turnout from friends and family to wave us off at Round Tower, arriving in the heat of the Arabian Gulf after a two month transit. As one of the four MCM Vessels based in the Arabian Gulf, HMS Quorn will now operate for the next three years conducting maritime security operations and training with the UK's regional partners and coalition nations. Quorn's presence in the Gulf is key to operational requirements and will provide both a valued and necessary service in its three years of operational duty.
The programme leading up to deployment has been a very busy one in preparation for the rigours of operating in this environment. The ship and her Company were tested to their limits with a demanding six week training programme under the watchful eye of Operational Sea Training staff at Fastens in Scotland. This training is essential and tests the capability of the crew to ensure that we are able to deal with any situation which may arise on board. March was therefore fully consumed with fake wars, Imaginary bombings, aggressive terrorist attacks and the perpetual fires. floods and casualties. The crew's reactions were first class and much was learnt from the training, subsequently enabling Ouorn to achieve a firm pass at OST.
En route to the Gulf we have enjoyed several port visits, enabling us to maintain our operational capability by embarking fuel, food and stores, and also affording the crew the chance to seethe sights and sample the local culture. Our transit through the Mediterranean saw the ship conducting maritime security operations in support of NATO, monitoring the required Merchant traffic and disrupting unlawful use of the maritime environment.
A short fuel stop was carried out in Gibraltar and although it was only for ten hours, most of the crew managed to get ashore with some even taking part in the infamous 'rock run'. A visit to Malta gave the crew an opportunity to have some additional time off and view the sights of this beautiful and historic city; the entrance to the Grand Harbour at Valletta in Malta being particularly impressive. An additional aim for the visit was to re-affirm the very strong links between Malta and the United Kingdom and the Royal Navy in particular. In mid June, HMS Quorn began the long transit through the Suez Canal and down the Red Sea. Despite being a difficult transit for the upper deck gun crews due to the sweltering heat, this has afforded the crew an opportunity to acclimatise to the hot temperatures that they are now experiencing in their new operating base, with daily temperatures at times exceeding 45 degrees Celsius.
Despite reports of pirate activities, the transit was quiet with HMS Ouorn and HMS Ramsey acting together to monitor the activities of small vessels and reach the port of Djibouti safely. Upon leaving Djibouti, we began our transit to Salalah for a brief fuel stop before making our way to Muscat. Following this, the ship made its way to Fujairah for a final stop before finally arriving in Bahrain on 7 July.
On a final note. I look forward to my time onboard HMS Quorn and will endeavour to keep all affiliated parties fully up to date with the ship's movements, operations and training. I am immensely proud of the crew and the ship and I am sure that Quorn's good name will continue for many years to come.
Thank you for your continued support of the ship and her Company."
News from HMS Cattistock
This update has been received from Lt Cdr Adam Northover RN, the Commanding Officer of HMS Cattistock:
"...I will be handing the ship over in early August to Lieutenant Commander Steve Higham. Rest assured I'm leaving her in very capable hands...
The crew is currently carrying out their final preparations for Operational Sea Training (OST) in October before deployment to the Gulf in the New Year. This period involves a variety of training serials such as Main Engine Space fires, Navigation and Seamanship evolutions such as coming to a buoy to put the crew through their paces.
Closer on the horizon are routine engine trials and detached dive serials this week off the coast of Cornwall which will lead us up nicely to one of the the most challenging pilotages the crewand I will have ever carried out for our visit into the heart of Bristol up the River Avon this weekend. We are very excited to be part of the Bristol Harbour Festival (Friday 29 July to Monday 1 August) in one of the most historically significant maritime centres in the country. The ship will be at the forefront of the event when we host ship Open to Visitors weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps you can join us!
A final thank you. I've very much enjoyed my time in Command of YOUR ship and wish you all the best for the future. Steve Higham will be in touch very soon."
3 Aug 11 - HMS Cattistock at the Bristol Harbour Festival
I am grateful to MCDOA member Steve Gobey for this contribution:
Good to see Martin's pictures of CATTISTOCK arriving in Bristol on the MCDOA website [see third entry for 1 Aug 11]. Sally and I were there to witness her arrival and departure too! I was the 'Pontoon Marshal' for three pontoons of narrowboats, cruisers and yachts on the opposite side of the harbour. A very busy but enjoyable weekend and a lovely cruise on the River Avon from and to Bath.
CATTISTOCK looked very smart and impressive in the harbour and seeing her brought back fond memories of my LEDBURY and BRECON time but Sally soon reminded me that nostalgia is a thing of the past and I should concentrate on my narrow boat command and Harbour Festival duties! Unfortunately these, and the crowds, prevented me from popping round to say hello.
Attached are the views from Narrow Boat FROBISHER of her arrival and departure.
A couple of days at home now to catch up on domestics then it's off up the canal in the other direction to the Thames for a couple of months. We hope to find Dan and Chris Nicholson later in the year somewhere 'up north' but that will have to be by camper!
Hope all's well at your end.
2 Aug 11 - Combined Cadet Force units visit DDS
MCDOA President Captain Colin Welborn RN (the Royal Navy's Chief of Staff for Youth) has kindly sent me this message and the appended news item:
Sorry it's been quiet on this bearing. The cadets' visit to DDS and the FDS was an outstanding event at a time when the training and operational tempo is massive. It just shows the quality of our people who continue to deliver so much and actually change individuals' lives. It is easy to say 'sorry we are busy' but for the cadets it was a life-enhancing visit. They saw dynamic organisations and it was the highlight of their summer.
COMBINED CADET FORCE UNITS VISIT DDS
Divers from the Defence Diving School (DDS) hosted members of various Combined Cadet Force (Royal Navy) units from around the country on 12 and 13 July 2011. Forty cadets, aged between 13 to 18, visited Horsea Island as part of their annual summer camp based at HMS Excellent. The cadets were introduced to diving training and learned about different diving courses, diving equipment used and had the opportunity to try on some gear under the supervision of AB(D) Rimmer. A tour of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) concluded their visit, where they were hosted by LS(D) Lacy and had the opportunity to see bomb disposal equipment, meet serving personnel and learn about operations in which RN divers can expect to be employed.
AB(D) Rimmer introduces cadets to OSDS
The annual CCF(RN) summer camp is designed to give cadets a wide variety of experience and practical activities with a nautical theme. This year, there was a drive for more interface with serving personnel, to give them a real incite into Service life. They also had tours of the Portsmouth based Type 23 frigate, HMS Westminster, and conducted practical fire fighting at HMS Excellent. Their visit to DDS was an enjoyable experience and one of the cadet camp’s highlights.
Cadets visit Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2)
1 Aug 11
Mine clearance in and around the port of Misrata
HMS Bangor off Misrata July 2011
Project Vernon volunteer Jennifer Tankard has drawn my attention to this video on NATO Channel TV showing the operations of HMS Bangor off the port of Misrata in Libya. It features MCDOA member Neil Marriott (Bangor's Commanding Officer) and PO(MW) Paul Garland.
Neil Marriott on Bangor's bridge
Ian Geraghty and the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race
Good luck to MCDOA member Ian Geraghty who is competing on board Geraldton Western Australia for all eight legs of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. The fleet set off from Southampton today under the watchful eyes of HMS Illustrious. The Portsmouth News published this article about Ian's preparations last month and another featuring him today although it is not available online.
HMS Cattistock arriving in Bristol
I am grateful to MCDOA member Martin Mackey (Commander Second MCM Squadron) for forwarding these photos of HMS Cattistock arriving in Bristol last weekend for the Harbour Festival with the University Royal Naval Unit (URNU) patrol boats HMS Raider and HMS Tracker.
HMS Cattistock with the Clifton Suspension Bridge
spanning the Avon Gorge in the background
Left: HMS Cattistock turns in the river
Right HMS Cattistock shapes up to berth with HMS Raider and HMS Tracker already alongside
The turn in the river was certainly tight and, as Martin remarked, you don't often see an MCM vessel with a CBD (Constrained by Draught) shape hoisted!
31 Jul 11 - Charity Swim around Portsea Island
A phenomenal amount of time and effort went into yesterday's successful charity swim around Portsea Island (only the third time in recorded history) by members of the Royal Navy's minewarfare & diving community and a brave 12-year-old girl. On top of his busy day job, MCDOA Secretary Mick Beale not only trained for the event in the evenings but also researched previous swims, planned the route and timings to take environmental factors into account, liaised with umpteen authorities to obtain clearances, mustered a team of swimmers and safety numbers and then participated in the event himself.
Similarly, MWA Chairman and Project Vernon trustee Dixie Dean completed all manner of risk assessment forms, put together an impressive display, designed new brochures and had them printed, organised a prime location at Gunwharf Quays and then raised a band of volunteers to man it. He even provided them with individual name tallies. Special mention must also go to Jennifer Tankard who has no connection with the RN minewarfare and diving community whatsoever but still lends her professional PR skills and gives up much of her time out of sheer generosity. She spent much of the day manning the Project Vernon stand.
Others have the much easier task of just finding a few coppers to donate to the worthy causes promoted by this event. This can still be achieved online via the team's JustGiving webpage here:
Fundraising was conducted at Gunwharf Quays by members of Project Vernon and Southern Diving Unit 2. The day started early with the erection of displays alongside the pond (formerly Vernon Creek) before the crowds arrived:
Left: Project Vernon's stand incorporating one of the Mk 17 moored mines on permanent display
Right: Project Vernon volunteers comprising Martyn Holloway, Brian Dutton, Tony Devitt,
David Sandiford, Rob Hoole, Stew 'George' Sissons and Taff Brady (Dixie Dean took
the photo and Mike Handford was also around somewhere)
Left: The SDU2 display included two vehicles, bomb disposal equipment and diving sets
Right: The SDU2 team comprised AB(D) Ozzie Osborne, PO(D) Daisy May, AB(D) Akkers Atkins,
LS(D) Bagsy Baker and AB(D) Andy Waller
The day started off overcast with a slow build up of people but the SDU2 display was soon attracting interest.
Robotic CCTV-equipped PackBot in operation
Familiar faces soon started turning up to lend their support and throw a few notes and coins in the bucket.
Left: Graham 'Piggy' Trotter flanked by Rob Hoole and Dixie Dean
Right: Piggy Trotter and Mike Harding, fellow students on CD2 course in 1971
Ray 'Spider' Webb, Rob Hoole and Tony Devitt
The firing of the noonday gun brought everyone and everything to a brief standstill.
Firing of the noonday gun
Familiar people continued to drop by.
Left: AORNFCD President Don 'Jim' Green and his wife chat with David Sandiford and Stew Sissons
Right: Paul 'Jay' Jeacock and his son Tom with David Sandiford
Among the visitors attracted to the SDU2 divers was a hen party which had started off early but intended partying through the night at 'Tiger, Tiger'.
Left: SDU2 display attracting a steady stream of visitors
Right: Bride-to-be Cath Stedman is swept off her feet
Then the Royal Marines turned up.
Her Majesty's Band of the Royal Marines, Portsmouth
Cystic Fibrosis Kids of Portsmouth, one of the charities being supported, then set up shop alongside the Project Vernon stand and we had our first sight of 12-year-old Cystic Fibrosis sufferer and prospective Paralympic swimmer Ella Hamza who was due to swim the last five miles with the team from Gunwharf Quays to their starting point in Eastney.
Ella flanked by her Godmother Jane L'Enfant
from Jersey and Rob Hoole
On the waterfront, I also bumped into former Vice Chairman of the Ton Class Association (TCA) Chris Green and his wife Dulcie. Chris and Dulcie live in Gunwharf Quays but are moving to Kent soon. However, Chris still intends organising the local TCA group's annual Christmas lunch in the Royal Maritime Club. I also saw swimmer Mick Beale's wife Val with their son Shaun, daughter Shannon and swimmer John Beavis's wife Katy.
Left: Chris and Dulcie Green
Right: Shaun, Shannon and Val Beale with Katy Beavis
It was now about 1430 and the swimmers at last hove into view level with HMS Warrior and heading down harbour. I found out later that they had gone up Langstone Harbour on the flood but then had to wait while the tide dropped sufficiently for the supporting kayaks and RIBs to pass under the bridge at the top end of Eastern Road. After swimming past the Hilsea Lines, they had been spat out at Tipner before swimming around Whale Island and past North Corner Jetty on the ebb tide at a speed of 6.5 knots according to the GPS on board one of the support boats. They must have been body-surfing!
By now, Ella was fully prepared to enter the water and couldn't wait to join the swimmers.
Ella dressed to enter the water
Simultaneously, a good crowd had gathered at the railings to cheer the team on and encourage Ella in her endeavour.
Left: Crowds man the railings to cheer the team as it arrives
Right: Ella and her mother Vanessa watch the swimmers arrive
Even the Royal Marines Band delayed its departure until the last minute and came down to the waterfront. As a special salute to the swimmers, it played 'Heart of Oak' before marching off.
The Royal Marines Band plays 'Heart of Oak' on the waterfront in honour of the swimmers
The swimmers entered the lee of the marina where they trod water for a while before being joined by Ella.
The first of the swimmers enter the marina
Swimmers and support boats in Gunwharf Quays marina (is that Martin Jenrick in one of the kayaks?)
Ella enters the water to the applause of the onlookers
Ella was then invited by the Portsmouth News and RN photographers to pose with the team.
Ella surrounded by John Beavis, Jim Bond, Pinta Beer, Mick Beale,
Soapy Watson, Scouse Vernon and Dave 'Stretch' Armstrong
The swimmers continued treading water while waiting for four ferrry movements to conclude before the Queen's Harbourmaster temporarily closed the harbour to further traffic so the team could exit the entrance in safety. The formation was led by MCDOA member Mark Savage, CO of the Fleet Diving Squadron, in his boat 'Gracie'. He carried Ella's Godmother, Jane, while Ella's mother, Vanessa, was driven to Eastney to greet the swimmers at the finish line.
Swimmers and support boats wait for the 'all clear'
Mark Savage in 'Gracie' with his family and Ella's Godmother Jane
Having waved the swimmers farewell, the SDU2 and Project Vernon teams returned to the job of handing out leaflets and collecting money. Even more familiar faces appeared.
Left: Venerable expat MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton and his grandson Jack
Right: Mo Crang with Project Vernon project manager Dave Carey and Martyn Holloway
Left: Former MCDOA Treasurer Graham 'Tug' Wilson with Ian Morton
Right: Stew Sissons and Dave Sandiford flank Nathan and his mum
At around 1630, we heard that the swimmers had successfully made it ashore at Eastney and we started packing up at 1700, but not before Daisy had treated his lads.
Left: Daisy May gets them in before putting Wheelbarrow away for the night
Some people couldn't wait to hit the bar.
Mo and Tug supervise from aloft
Eventually, swimmers, support teams and family members congregated in the Old Customs House pub, the former administration building of HMS Vernon, for some well-deserved refreshment.
Drinks and congratulations all round (Well done, Pinta! You have good reason to smile.)
At this point I became rather tired of taking pictures so you'll have to imagine the rest. However, hearty congratulations to everyone concerned. I hope I have shown something of the time and effort expended by so many of the minewarfare and diving community to make this occasion such a success. Once again, on behalf of the RN & RM Charity, Project Vernon and Cystic Fibrosis Kids of Portsmouth, all I ask is that you recognise the work that went into it by making an online donation via the team's JustGiving webpage here:
Postscript: MCDOA Honorary Secretary and event organiser Mick Beale has asked me to promulgate the following message:
Just a quick email to thank everyone involved in the Portsea Island swim. It was an awesome achievement by all the swimmers but was only made possible by all the help from you guys, specifically the Kayakers and safety boat crews who did a magnificent job ensuring the event was conducted safely. Huge thanks to Dixie and the Vernon Project team for organising the Gunwharf Quays events and of course to SDU 2 for giving up their Saturday to provide a magnificent display of EOD and Diving equipment. I would also like to thank CFK Portsmouth for coming out in force and helping to raise awareness of all of the charities, especially Vanessa and of course her little star swimmer Ella. Thanks to Roger Davies AQHM and Nigel the Langstone Harbourmaster for their advice, assistance and allowing us permission. Finally, to everyone who supported the event and who gave so generously to the charities.
I estimate we have made around £3,000 in total but there are loads of sponsor forms that were dished out at the CD1s' social and plenty that have been downloaded from the websites. Please can you collect in any money you have raised and forward it to Dixie Dean along with the sponsor forms so we can claim the gift aid. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Vernon Monument Fund’ and then Dixie will divide it up and pass on the percentages to CK kids and RNRMC. Soapy and I will, of course, accept collected money and pass on to Dixie if you wish:
Please forward sponsorship forms, cheques and money to:
Mr R Dean MBE
30 Jul 11 - Funeral of Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John Rawlins
I have been passed this announcement by Sir John's son-in-law, Gus Sinclair (see entry for 27 Jul 11):
"Dear friends around the world,
It is my very sad task to tell you that Johnnie passed away on Wednesday afternoon. He was peaceful and chose his own time to leave us.
Despite the old cliché, the family is bereft, even we knew this was inevitable: but he had had a most marvellous life: a proud father and example to four lovely children, a loving and very involved grandfather to seven grandchildren and a doting great-grandfather to his two great-grandsons.
He was a great carer, mentor and friend to many, many people from all walks of life and infinitely generous with his time, counsel and practical help. We shall all miss him dreadfully.
The funeral will take place at St Mary the Virgin in Holne village at 11.30 on Friday 5th August and there will be a Memorial Service a little later in the year, probably in Oxford, as a fitting way to celebrate a lovely man and his many achievements.
Very many apologies for the tardiness of this, but as with all material things my computer decided to crash comprehensively so I have no e-mail.
Sir John helps MCDOA member Tug Wilson hand
out raffle prizes at the 2006 RN Divers' Reunion
I have also been passed this additional biographical information by Peter Dick, the editor of the Historical Diving Times:
"Invited to become The Historical Diving Society’s first President at the 1994 AGM, Sir John had already presented a fascinating talk to members on his work into underwater aircraft ejection systems. Over the ensuing years he served the Society well, both at home and abroad.
Sir John had a long and distinguished career in diving and diving research. He joined the RNVR shortly after WW2 and served for 2-1/2 years in the aircraft carrier HMS Triumph in the Mediterranean during which time he designed and built a diving apparatus and taught himself to dive. In 1951 he transferred to the RN and was appointed to the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine where he was responsible for the development of the Mk IV Anti-G suit, the Mk I Aircrew Protective Helmet and the Aircraft Carrier Flight Deck Communications System. In 1956 he commenced work on the problems of escape from sinking aircraft, which entailed underwater seat-ejections achieving through-water velocities in excess of 34ft per second and culminating in the development of an automatic escape system for RN aircraft.
After three years as Principal Medical Officer of the Aircraft Carrier HMS ARK ROYAL he was seconded to the US Navy for work on thermal protection of divers in the Man-in-the-Sea Program. On returning to the UK he commanded the Institute of Naval Medicine from 1975, and became Medical Director-General of the Navy in 1977.
On his retirement in 1980, he became President of the Society for Underwater Technology and Chairman of Deep Ocean Engineering Inc., Trident Underwater (systems) Ltd, and Director of Diving Unlimited Ltd.
Honours and awards included the MBE, OBE, KBE, various national and international medals, prizes and Fellowships, Royal Navy’s “Man of the Year” in 1964 and recipient of the Nobel Award of the Institute of Explosive Engineers in 1987.
He is was an Honorary Fellow of University College, Oxford, a Research Fellow of the University of Lancaster and an Honorary D.Tech. of Robert Gordons University, Aberdeen."
I am sure everyone will join me in extending our sincere condolences to Sir John's son Nicholas, his daughters Caroline, Juliet and Sarah and their respective families and close friends.
29 Jul 11
HMS Cattistock in Bristol this weekend
HMS Cattistock visits Bristol for Harbour Festival - 29 July 2011 -
Three of a kind! A trio of Royal Navy warships sails in to support Bristol Harbour Festival and is open to members of the public | Mature Times
MWA Southern Dit Session
What lacked in numbers was made up in quality last night when a few members of the Minewarfare Association (MWA) gathered at The Crown in Fareham for their monthly 'dit session'. My thanks to the delightful 'Team' (surname Leader but no relation to Paul) for taking this photograph:
John Gunter, Dixie Dean, MCDOA members Tim Curd & Rob Hoole,
Pete Whitehead and Bob Mitchell smile for the camera
Southern area MWA dit sessions take place in the Portsmouth area on the last Thursday of each month with the venue announced on the MWA website. Last month, it was held on board HMS Victory where MWA member Alan 'Bomber' Mills is one of the guides.
28 Jul 11 - Completion of MW Charity Ride
There was a marvellous atmosphere yesterday afternoon at Gunwharf Quays, the former site of HMS Vernon, when the MW cyclists crossed the finish line to complete their gruelling tour of the 13 English and Welsh towns and villages affiliated with the Hunt Class minehunters. They were greeted by Cdre Tim Lowe (Commodore of the Maritime Warfare School at HMS Collingwood), family members and representatives of Project Vernon and the RN & RM Charity for which the team was raising funds.
Project Vernon was represented by MWA Chairman Dixie Dean MBE, MCDOA founding Chairman Dave Sandiford and his wife Pauline, and MCDOA Vice Chairman Rob Hoole. The RNRMC was represented by Daniel Jagger and Hilary Jakes. MCDOA member Ian Morton was also present.
The cyclists from the Minewarfare Operational Training Centre (MWOTC) at HMS Collingwood comprised MCDOA members Bill Kerr and Ben Piper plus Pony Moore, Pinta Beer, Joe Lyons, Gemma Moore, Chris 'Lee' Bamber and Alan Bradley. The support team comprised Taff Reader and Nobby Clark. Of note, CPO(MW) Pinta Beer is also joining the divers in their charity swim around Portsea Island on Saturday.
Left: David and Pauline Sandiford prepare the finish line while Dixie goes to greet the Commodore
Right: Even the late-lamented aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal put in an appearance
Above and below: The cyclists start arriving
MCDOA member Bill Kerr takes
a well-earned breather
Commodore Lowe chats with Gemma Moore
Left: Support Team member Taff Reader is congratulated by Dixie Dean
Right: Congratulations all round
Left: Pinta Beer and his family (he's swimming around Portsea Island on Saturday, too!)
Right: MCDOA member Ben Piper & Co (I think)
Commodore Lowe with team members and their families
Congratulations to everyone concerned. The team and their worthy charities can still be sponsored via the link below. Go on, you know they're worth it:
27 Jul 11
Death of Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John Rawlins, KBE, MA (Oxf), BB, BCh, FRCP, FFCM, FRAES
I regret to report that MCDOA member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has advised me of the death today of Surg Vice Admiral Sir John Rawlins, pioneer of Naval diving medicine, BSAC Honorary Life Member, President of the HDS and President of the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD). He was 89.
In May 2002, I took this photo of Sir John in typical form at the dinner dance held in Portsmouth Guildhall to mark the Golden Jubilee of the RN Clearance Diving Branch:
Look out for an obituary in the Daily Telegraph over the coming weeks. I will publish any further details as I receive them.
Formal opening of Reclaim Conference Suite at Fleet Diving HQ
It was good to see so many familiar faces last night at the formal opening of the Reclaim Conference Suite by MCDOA member Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE (DFOST and the senior diver in the Royal Navy) at Fleet Diving Headquarters. Those associated with HMS Reclaim included MCDOA members Surg Cdre Jim Sykes (Diving Trials), Morty Drummond (ex-CO), John Coggins (her last CO) and his wife Rae, Bill Norton (ex-Diving Officer), founding MCDOA Chairman David Sandiford (Navigator and Diving Officer) and his wife Pauline, and Bob Lusty (ex-Diving Officer) as well as CD1s Pete Still, Taff Thomas and Donkey Bray (all ex-Reclaim divers). The late CPO(D) Albert Strange was represented by his widow, Irene.
Also present were MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin (Superintendent of Diving), MCDOA Vice Chairman & Webmaster Rob Hoole and MCDOA Secretary Mick Beale (Diving Standards Officer) along with personnel from the Fleet Diving Squadron including MCDOA Treasurer Richard 'Soapy Watson (Chief Staff Officer FDS) and MCDOA members Mark Savage (CO FDS), John Beavis (CO SDG), Al Nekrews (OIC SDU2), Dan Herridge (OIC SDU2 (desig)), Chris Flaherty (OIC FDU1), Mark Shaw (OIC FDU2) and Chris Stephenson (OIC FDU3). CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming (SDU2) and CPO(D) Tim Hall (FDU1) were also present.
Above and below: The guests settle down
Soapy Watson opened the proceedings by reading an account of HMS Reclaim's extraordinary achievements (see 'HMS Reclaim - A World Record-Breaker' in the Dit Box). He then showed a 10 minute video clip from an episode of 'Dr Who' filmed on board HMS Reclaim in which Jon Pertwee was lowered over the side in her diving bell only to have disappeared when the bell was recovered. Paddy McAlpine then spoke a few words before unveiling a commemorative plaque.
Left: Soapy relates the history of HMS Reclaim
Right: Paddy McAlpine unveils the commemorative plaque
Attendees then enjoyed a cheese and wine buffet while renewing old links, swapping yarns and viewing the memorabilia Soapy has put on display.
Left: Soapy fixes the draw with Morty and Sally Drummond looking on and Bill Norton in the background
Right: Dave Sandiford, Jim Sykes and John Coggins and his wife Rae hope for a prize
Left: Still hopeful of a prize in the raffle
Right: Mick Beale, Pete Still and Soapy Watson
Left: Taff Thomas and Pete Still share a joke
Right: Bob Lusty, Rob Hoole and Bill Norton
Left: Irene Strange flanked by Mick Beale and Soapy Watson
Right: Irene Strange and Rob Hoole
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and Soapy deserves our immense gratitude for taking the initiative in the first place and then putting everything together.
Royal Navy divers can’t keep up with 12-year-old Ella!
MCDOA Honorary Secretary Mick Beale has drawn my attention to this article in today's Portsmouth News which describes the participation of 12-year-old Cystic Fibrosis sufferer Ella Hamza in the charity swim around Portsea Island on Saturday.
Ella Hamza, front, with MCDOA members Mick Beale, John Beavis,
Richard 'Soapy' Watson and Chris Stephenson
(Portsmouth News photo by Steve Reid)
Show your support for the team by donating online via the JustGiving webpage here.
25 Jul 11
MW Charity Riders
Former WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE (Project Vernon Trustee and Chairman of the Minewarfare Association (MWA)), heard yesterday from the charity cyclists including MCDOA member Bill Kerr (OIC of the MW Operational Training Centre). They had left Hurworth in County Durham and were on their way to Brocklesby in Lincolnshire. Despite some really foul weather they were still on schedule (see second entry for 18 Jul 11).
The reception at each of the towns/villages to date has been exceptional and they have been made to feel very welcome. Donations continue to roll in and they are on target to make a tidy sum for Project Vernon and the RN & RM Charity (RNRMC).
The cyclists will arrive at Gunwharf Quays at 1300 on Wednesday 27 July and cross the finish line at the crane adacent to Vernon Pond. They will be met by Cdre Tim Lowe (Commodore of the Maritime Warfare School at HMS Collingwood) and representatives from Project Vernon and the RNRMC.
If you are available and can spare an hour of so, please go along to Gunwharf Quays and welcome the riders in. Even better, demonstrate your appreciation for the team's efforts in a more useful way by donating to their worthy causes online here:
If you wish to donate to Project Vernon direct, it now has its own online Virgin Money Giving charity webpage here:
SITREP on the HDS Diving Museum at Stokes Bay
"We had our 3,000th visitor today!! :) We were busy at the time and I missed getting a picture :(
Today Ann Bevan had one of her construction purges and Hazel Casey went into a cleaning frenzy. So we have suspended another Video TV housing, installed lights in a camera exhibit case and hung up a RN dry suit to the sweet refrains of a hammer drill. Our thanks go out to Paul Couch for donating a two-piece RN dry suit, two C-Type hoods, a blue cotton undersuit and a RN full face mask.
John Dadd has acquired a retired M&S manikin so there will be another wrestling match soon with the familiar smell of burning rubber.
Visitor numbers were healthy at 41 and 44 over this weekend. Interesting visitors included several ex-RN and civilian divers. Encouragingly, more and more visitors are arriving having made a special journey to see the museum.
Ex-CDs John Dadd and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson
brief school party about the Buster Crabb affair
Don't forget we now have our own website which Gavin Anthony is keeping right up to date: www.divingmuseum.co.uk
The museum's website is well worth checking out.
24 Jul 11 - Promotion for Andy Woollven
I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Hunkin, Middle East Regional Officer at Northwood, for this news about fellow member Andy Woollven:
This announcement won't make a signal and I thought that the Branch should know that, against some stiff competition, Andy Woollven has been selected for promotion to Cdr as the next Chief of Staff to the Joint Service EOD Command at Andover. He will leave the Appointers' shop early to take up his new post in September.
This is great news for a man long over due recognition for his sterling efforts. I know he will eat this job for breakfast. Huge congratulations Andy from all at JFHQ.
I am sure all members will join me in offering Andy our congratulations on his fine achievement.
23 Jul 11 - Mighty O fills up a not-so-old Bangor
The Navy News website contains this article describing the recent activity of HMS Bangor off Libya. The article features MCDOA member Neil Marriott (Bangor's Commanding Officer) and includes this striking photo of her divers inspecting HMS Ocean's hull when the two ships rafted up for a RAS (Replenishment at Sea).
Bangor's divers inspect one of Ocean's propellers
21 Jul 11
MW Rating is Top Navy Recruit
The Redditch & Alcester Standard contains this home town story describing how Trainee Warfare Specialist Matthew Redfern was presented with the Captain's prize and medal after becoming one of the first to undergo a newly enhanced basic training course at HMS Raleigh.
AB Matthew Redfern
Navy News items
The July issue of Navy News contains these items of particular MCDOA interest:
20 Jul 11
Disposal of wartime mine off Clacton
The BBC News website contains this article (including a video clip), the Portsmouth News website this article, the MoD website this article, the RN website this article and the Navy News website this article describing the disposal of the wartime German ground mine eight miles off Clacton yesterday.
Mine detonated off Clacton
The articles feature MCDOA member Al Nekrews, OIC of Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2). CPO(D) Ian Fleming and LS(D) Matt Baker also receive mentions.
Lt Cdr Al Nekrews RN, OIC SDU2
Publicity for Portsea Island Swim
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article publicising the charity swim around Portsea Island on Saturday 30 July. It features MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson.
Have you shown your support for these Diver and MW Branch stalwarts and their worthy charities yet? Every little counts, especially with Gift Aid, and you can donate online here.
Mike Wignall and Thames Sailing Barges
MCDOA member Mike Wignall is researching a book and has drawn my attention to this website: Thames Sailing Barge Racing
Dr Mike Wignall
BBC coverage of new Diving Museum at Stokes Bay
MCDOA associate member and Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), Dr John Bevan, has drawn my attention to this article on the BBC website including an audio slideshow for which he provides the narration.
19 Jul 11 - Wartime German ground mine detonated off Clacton
After four days of Gale Force 8 conditions during which a mine dredged up eight miles off Clacton in Essex was left in a known position, the weather abated sufficiently today for members of Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to detonate it as described in this article on the Clacton Gazette website.
18 Jul 11
Divers and MW Charity Swim around Portsea Island
Donations may now be made online for the Portsea Island Charity Swim by RN Divers and MWs on Saturday 30 July.
Mick Beale, John Beavis, Richard 'Soapy' Watson,
Steve Fizjohn and John 'Yo-Yo' Ravenhall
in training for last year's Windermere swim
Support the team's efforts for the Mayor of Portsmouth's chosen charity Cystic Fibrosis Kids of Portsmouth (CFK), the RN & RM Charity (RNRMC) and Project Vernon on their JustGiving webpage here. Come along and see the Project Vernon stand at Gunwharf Quays on the day too.
Of note, CPO(MW) 'Pinta' Beer is participating in the events shown above and below. Well done Pinta!
MW Charity Riders
They start off tomorrow!
Eight members of staff from the Minewarfare Operational Training Centre (MWOTC), HMS Collingwood are cycling between all of the towns affiliated with Hunt Class MCMVs (past and present). The planned route is approximately 1,200 miles long and the cyclists hope to arrive in Gunwharf Quays (the former location of HMS Vernon in Portsmouth) after a week of hard riding.
MW Charity Cyclists including MCDOA member Bill Kerr,
Officer-in-Charge of the MWOTC
The riders will be raising money for the RN & RM Charity (RNRMC) and Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon. Both worthwhile causes have been extremely supportive of this venture which can be followed on twitter and facebook.
The team's itenerary is:
19 July: Cattistock
19 July: Dulverton (Stay overnight)
20 July: Berkeley
20 July: Brecon (Stay overnight)
21 July: Ledbury
21 July: Atherstone (Stay overnight)
22 July: Middleton (Stay overnight)
23 July: Hurworth (Stay overnight)
24 July: Brocklesby (Stay overnight)
25 July: Quorn
25 July: Cottesmore
25 July: Bicester (Stay overnight)
26 July: Chiddingfold (May stay overnight)
The riders would be delighted to see any ex-HUNT crew members at the villages/towns/Hunts along the way should anyone live nearby. To sponsor the team online, go to its Virgin Money Giving webpage here.
HMS Albion mothers Middleton in the Middle East
HMS Middleton alongside HMS Albion
(Navy News photo by LA(Phot) Luron Wright, HMS Albion)
17 Jul 11 - Reunion of the 1969 Long MCD Officers' Course (LMCDO '69)
MCDOA Committee member Martyn Holloway has sent me this message:
Dan Nicholson has given his permission for this photo to be placed on the MCDOA website. It is of course an informal gathering of the 1969 Long MCD Officers' Course at Dan's house in Poole on Wednesday 14 July 2011. From the left are former CPO(D) 'Dusty' Miller (Course Instructor), Brian Dutton, Richard 'Glops' Lowther, Bruce Mackay (Course Officer), Dan Nicholson, Julian Malec and William 'Limpets' Lampard.
Sadly, John Wiseman was away on holiday and John Belchamber was unable to travel.
Members of the 1969 LMCDO Course 42 years later
The last time members of the course got together was to celebrate their 40th anniversary (see entry for 15 Jun 09 in News Archive 26).
16 Jul 11 - Death of Cdr David Edwards RN
This is not Cdr David Edwards the MCDOA member but his namesake who had a significant role in the development of mine countermeasures at the beginning of the Second World War. Today's Daily Telegraph contains this obituary but its author, Captain Peter Hore RN, has kindly sent me this unexpurgated version to publish here:
"Commander David Edwards, who has died aged 92, helped pioneer countermeasures to German magnetic mines and to release a convoy from the Seine in May 1940.
Edwards was a newly-made sub lieutenant in the inchoate Electrical Branch, when he was sent to the torpedo school at HMS Vernon, Portsmouth where he was the youngest member of the team led by the scientist and future Nobel prize-winner, Francis Crick. Crick, who had a personal vendetta because a German bomb had destroyed his laboratories, was working on the design of magnetic and acoustic mines and their countermeasures.
Edwards soon found himself visiting the ports of Britain to fit degaussing equipment, which reduced ships’ magnetic ‘signatures’, to requisitioned fishing boats and to newly-built ships.
In May 1940 he was sent to Lowestoft to fit new minesweeping equipment to two fishing vessels, Resparko and Revello. After a day of sea trials, Edwards was sent in Resparko, manned by her peacetime fishermen and one naval signalman, to Dover. At midnight he was met by Rear Admiral (later Admiral Sir) Frederic Wake-Walker, who as Rear-Admiral (Minelaying) was coordinating technical measures to deal with German magnetic mines. Wake-Walker gave Edwards charts and sealed orders and told him to proceed to Le Havre, where the French Navy was trapped in harbour by a mines which had been laid from the air.
As Resparko approached Le Havre she exploded some 8 or 9 mines on her way into harbour, where Edwards found that the French had no means of sweeping magnetic mines and had already lost several ships. He assumed responsibility for sweeping the approaches to the harbour and clearing a channel to release ships penned up in the Seine. Edwards described what happened next:
“During one of our sweeps around the main harbour, the tail of our special cable sweep managed to tie itself round one of the many buoys in the harbour and we were locked in one position, with the possibility of setting off a mine. I, with a seaman, set off in a boat to endeavour to free the cable; this proved an impossible task and the only solution was to chop through the special electrical cable and then rescue the tail section. This I did with the ship’s axe and freed the minesweeper. Then I recovered the important tail section which later was brought ashore and rejoined to the main cable by a French electrical jointer from the local power station.
“In another hairy episode, we found ourselves drifting without our degaussing protection, having just exploded a mine close to the ship, causing the steam driven electrical generator to cut out. The shock had upset the engine governor and the engine was racing away at high speed. The crew realised the danger of drifting over a magnetic mine without our protective degaussing system functioning, so boats were lowered, and most of the crew left the ship.
“I with one rating, went down to the engine room and replaced the governor, which had come apart, and we slowly got the engine and the generator back in service. We picked up the crew and continued our patrol, a close shave!”
After a week, when an important convoy was able to sail from the Seine, Edwards returned to HMS Vernon to continue work on the acoustic mine.
David George Edwards was born at Walthamstow on September 5, 1918, and won a scholarship to Bancroft’s School in 1930, shortly before his father died. At Bancroft’s he spent many hours building wireless sets and in his last term was asked to demonstrate the use of the cathode ray tube for a science exhibition. This led to the offer of a five year apprenticeship at the London Power Company, which was in the process of standardizing the supply voltage of electricity and concentrating generating capacity at a small number of large, new coal-fired power stations.
Edwards rose at 4.30 am, worked from 7.30 am until 5 pm and studied at night school for the equivalent of an electrical engineering degree, and volunteered for the Royal Navy.
Edwards established a reputation for completing with conspicuous success difficult jobs, which for others of less ability, tact and good humour would have proved insurmountable. After Vernon he spent two years in Bougie, North Africa, before being recalled to prepare ships for the Normandy landings.
Postwar Edwards worked at the Admiralty’s radar research establishment at Malvern. In 1954 he was appointed to the Loch-class frigate HMS Cardigan Bay in Hong Kong, employed as guardship at Hong Kong and off Korea, and on anti-piracy patrols Borneo and Indonesia, and in training the Malayan RNVR.
Edwards was promoted to commander in 1956, and spent eighteen months on the staff of the Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers before being appointed to Washington to work with the US Navy on the purchase of Phantom jets for the RAF and the Royal Navy. He returned to the Admiralty at Bath and worked on as a civilian until his final retirement in 1971. He lived quietly at South Stoke, Somerset, gardening and saving up for a number of cruises.
Edwards, who died on died on May 1, 2011, married first in 1942 Mary Hillman who died in childbirth in 1948. He married second Gillian Creese in 1949, who survives him with their two sons and a daughter of the first marriage. Another daughter predeceased him in 1999."
Cdr David Edwards RN
(5 Sep 1918 - 1 May 2011)
14 Jul 11 - Participants in Charity Swim around Portsea Island
Mick Beale has passed me the names of the swimmers intending to circumnavigate Portsea Island on Saturday 30 July (see entry for 12 Jul 11). Group 1 will comprise MCDOA Secretary Mick Beale, ex-CD1 Dave 'Jim' Bond, MCDOA member John Beavis and CPO(D) Steve 'Scouse' Vernon. Group 2 will comprise CPO(D) John 'Yo-Yo' Ravenhall, MCDOA Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson, MCDOA member David 'Stretch' Armstrong and CPO(MW) 'Pinta' Beer.
At least two kayaks and a powerboat will accompany each group for safety. Don't forget we are also manning a stand at Gunwharf Quays throughout the day for Project Vernon, one of the charities being supported by the swim.
Postscript: Donations can now be made online via the team's JustGiving website page here.
13 Jul 11 - CINCFLEET presents Fleet Diving Squadron with Naval Capability Trophy 2010
CINCFLEET, Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE, visited the Fleet Diving Squadron at Horsea Island, Portsmouth on Friday to present the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) with the Naval Capability Trophy 2010. The FDS was announced as the Trophy winner in December 2010.
“This has been the first opportunity this year to get the majority of team together for the presentation” said Cdr Mark Savage, Commanding Officer Fleet Diving Squadron. “Our busy operational programme and high op tempo are a consequence of the Fleet Diving Squadron’s current commitment to operations and the relevance of our capabilities to Defence."
CINCFLEET presenting trophy to MCDOA member Mark Savage, CO of the FDS
The Fleet Diving Squadron comprises seven Diving Units based in Portsmouth, Faslane and Devonport that are all held at high readiness in their respective roles. These roles include support to Special Forces, provision of IED Disposal operators to Op HERRICK, Very Shallow Water Mine Countermeasures support to amphibious operations, UK Military Aid to the Civil Authorities for EOD in UK, and underwater maintenance and repair of ships and submarines which is saving the MOD hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.
The citation, which was read as part of the award ceremony, included the extract “Busy, highly motivated, but rewarded with challenging work across the full spectrum of operational diving, underwater engineering and explosive ordnance disposal tasks, the Fleet Diving Squadron continues to go from strength to strength. Their positive approach to taskings and willingness to take on new and ever more diverse operations in support of both Naval and joint requirements both afloat and ashore, from the ice of Norway to the deserts of Afghanistan, while continuing to deliver against all their existing commitments, marks them out as worthy recipients of this year’s Naval Capability Trophy”.
The CO commented, “2010 was an outstanding year for Fleet Diving Squadron and 2011 is continuing in the same vein. I am delighted to receive this trophy on behalf of the Fleet Diving Squadron in recognition of our recent operational and capability development successes. The Diving Units are justifiably proud of their work and what they have achieved – I am immensely grateful for the hard work and commitment the Team have displayed.”
Postscript: The Portsmouth News published this article about the award of the trophy on 14 July 2011.
12 Jul 11
Publicity for Charity Swim around Portsea Island
The Cystic Fibrosis Kids of Portsmouth (CFK) website has published this article announcing the sponsored swim around Portsea Island by RN divers on Sat 30 July (see entry for 9 Jun 11). The swim is being organised by MCDOA Honorary Secretary Mick Beale.
Work starts on new Sea Survival Training Facility at Horsea Island
The MoD website contains this article announcing the start of work on a £2.4 million sea survival training centre at Horsea Island.
Cdre Tim Lowe, Commodore Maritime Warfare School located
at HMS Collingwood, in the cab of a crane at Horsea Island
(MoD website photo)
11 Jul 11
Vice Admiral Russ Crane AO CSM RANR accepts MCDOA Honorary Membership
Vice Admiral Russ Crane AO CSM RANR
According to our Constitution, Honorary Membership of the MCDOA may be bestowed on individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the objectives of the Association or to the activities of the MCD and MW Officer community. To date, the Association has only conferred this ultimate mark of respect on three individuals: Surg Capt Ramsay Pearson RN, the late Lt Cdr 'Robbie' Robinson MBE RN and the late Lt Cdr 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM RN.
Following the last AGM's approval of my proposal to bestow Honorary Membership on Vice Admiral Russ Crane RAN, the then Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, I am delighted to report that he has sent this positive response to our Chairman's formal invitation:
“Thank you for your letter of 16 May and kind invitation to become an Honorary Member of the Association. As a former student and later exchange instructor at HMS VERNON, I feel especially honoured by your invitation and accept with much pleasure.
You may be aware that I recently handed command of the Royal Australian Navy to Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, AM, CSC, RAN, who had previously been serving as Deputy Chief of Joint Operations. I am delighted that he has succeeded me and have no doubt in our Navy’s future under his leadership.
I hope that in future years I will be able to join the Association for its annual dinner, although unfortunately an existing engagement prevents my attending this year.
With best wishes,
RH Crane AO CSM
Vice Admiral, Royal Australian Navy Reserve”
Wartime mine dealt with off Skomer
The BBC News website contains this article and the Western Telegraph contains this article describing the disposal of a wartime sea mine near Skomer Sland off the Welsh coast, presumably by Plymouth-based SDU1.
10 Jul 11 - An unexpected donation for Project Vernon
I recently answered a query from website viewer Peter Dainty concerning his late uncle, William John Barber, who was awarded a Mention in Despatches for helping to clear the Scheldt Estuary of mines in late 1944 while serving as a Seaman in the motor mine sweeper MMS 57. Peter has subsequently sent me an unsolicited donation for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site. I am most grateful for this unexpected gesture of appreciation and will pass it to the project's Treasurer, Tony Devitt, when I next see him.
9 Jul 11 - A question from Mike Loane
Can anyone help MCDOA member Mike Loane with this query about HMS Appleton?
I hope you are well? First a big thank you for your tireless efforts with the website, it is a fantastic source of information within the Community, please keep up the good work!
I am working in Abu Dhabi as a Military Advisor, a challenging but rewarding job which keeps me honest (to a degree....). I do see fellow Association Members from time to time, Grenville Johnson is my Boss here and Dave Hunkin is a regular visitor. I met up with Chris Ashcroft last week, he has been out here on and off for a month or two. Kev Stockton also popped in for a family visit prior to returning to UK with his family. We have a reasonable sized house and the fridge is always well stocked if any other members are passing through.
Anyway, three weeks ago I was lucky enough to go diving with family and friends in the Northern Islands off the Musandam Peninsula, Oman. It is a truly beautiful area and almost unspoilt. The area we dived was just about as far north as you can get before the Islands finish (next stop Iran!). One of the dive sites is known to local dive guides as "Pee Pee Bay" and featured the writing on the rocks as photographed below. The text says "HMS APPLETON 1968?" and there is other text (Jan or Jam) but unfortunately the photo is not too clear on that. My initial assumption was that the bay would have made a perfect banyan spot for a pusser's grey. Would you know of anyone within either our bretheren or the TCA that may be able to shed some light on how and why the text came to be there? The Dive Guide said she had been told that the ship's heads were defective and the ship's company relieved themselves there but to be honest I can't see much mileage in that; surely Jack would have just gone over the side (so to speak). I reckon it more likely that the Pee Pee refers to the PP of Appleton?
HMS Appleton graffiti in Pee Pee Bay, Oman
If you or any others could throw some light on the situation I will set the dive guide straight on my next trip up there.
All the very best,
8 Jul 11 - RN Diving Heritage: Sladen Suit
I am grateful to ex-CD Pete Gallant for sending me this image of CPO Vic Oliver, a renowned member of HMS Reclaim's diving team in 1951. I have forwarded the image to MCDOA Treasurer Soapy Watson for possible display in the new Reclaim Conference Suite at Fleet Diving Headquarters on Horsea Island.
Vic Oliver in Salvus ANS
Contrary to the caption, Vic appears to be wearing the front-entry Sladen 'Clammy Death' suit as part of the Salvus ANS (Admiralty Neck Salvus) shallow-water diving dress. DSEA (Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus), shown below in the form of the Siebe Gorman rebreather, looked quite different.
Sladen suit with Siebe Gorman
rebreather based on DSEA
7 Jul 11 - Dagger drawn by task force in Gulf
HMS Middleton with HMS Sutherland's Lynx helicopter
(Navy News photo by LA(Phot) Keith Morgan, FRPU East)
6 Jul 11
A message from 'Guiver the Diver'
As regular visitors to this website will know, MCDOA member Paul Guiver has been battling cancer over the past few months (see entry for 23 Jan 11 in News Archive 33). He has asked me to post this good news:
"I would like to thank you all for your well wishes and kind words. The support from old colleagues, friends and family has been overwhelming and has been a key element to keeping me going through some fairly ‘harsh’ times to say the least!
The good news is I have made a 'remarkable' recovery during the past few months and I now feel up to giving something back to all those who have helped me. So, in true traditional 'Guiver the Diver' style I am planning to run (well er..jog) the Bristol Half Marathon this September in a 'Bob The Builder' outfit! Why as Bob you may ask? - It will get attention and awareness of my aim and besides, running in a diving suit has already been done!
My ‘justgiving’ web page can be found at the following link: http://www.justgiving.com/PaulGuiver-BobtheBuilder
Once again thank you so much!
Paul, this is brilliant news I hope you receive the sponsorship you deserve.
SDU2 deals with mortar bomb on Isle of Wight
5 Jul 11 - Some living diving heritage turns up at the HDS museum
MCDOA associate member John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society, has sent me this message regarding a weekend visitor to the newly opened diving museum at Stokes Bay:
We had Eric J Kite in to the Museum today. 90 years of age. An ex-RN Artificer Ordnance and hard hat diver who ran a team of divers helping to lay the PLUTO pipelines across to France after D-Day! His team included Able Seaman Bruce Balfour (Scottish), Leading Seaman Hartnel (a cockney), Petty Officer Seaman William Rush (from Haywards Heath) and John Slater (a Royal Marine). And this he gave me from memory! He lent us a few pictures to copy. We also took a pic of him.
I¹ve also had a telephone call from Alec Noble, son of the late Eric Noble who dived with Crabb. His jobs included diving on a crashed Canberra bomber in the channel. He worked out of Stokes Bay. Alec will be calling in to the Museum in a week or two.
4 Jul 11 - HMS Brocklesby back home
A little over a month ago, these were the views of the beseiged port of Misrata in Libya from the bridge of HMS Brocklesby:
This morning, Brocklesby arrived home in Portsmouth and I was joined on the Round Tower by MCDOA member Andy 'Sharkey' Ward and his son Tom to help welcome her back.
Sharkey and Tom
Brocklesby had picked up family members at Plymouth en route and they joined their loved ones on the upper deck in glorious sunshine as she entered Portsmouth Harbour. Although it is not clear in the photos, a black flag showing a mine over crossed bones was flying from one of her port halyards. As she passed the Round Tower, a voice on her loud hailer was heard to say, "Any excuse for a day off, eh Sharkey?"
The main reception committee was waiting at No. 2 Basin inside the Naval Base. This included the ship's company of HMS Cattistock (right) which gave Brocklesby three rousing cheers.
HMS Brocklesby entering No. 2 Basin
(Navy News photo by LA(Phot) Jenny Lodge, FRPU East)
Welcome back everyone. Have a good leave and congratulations on a job well done.
Postscripts: I am grateful to MCDOA member Martin Mackey, Commander Second MCM Squadron (MCM2), for sending me this addendum:
Spotted you on Round Tower today - kept myself in the background. Here's a photo of BROC's unusual flag which I took from the bridge wing as we came into the berth. The reception looked fantastic from the ship. It was a privilege to be on board for her homecoming.
Meridian TV coverage: Safe Passage
Daily Mirror: HMS Brocklesby crew welcomed home after tour of Med
HMS Brocklesby’s captain recounts Libyan drama on the ship's
return to Portsmouth
MoD website: HMS Brocklesby returns from Libya mission
RN website: HMS Brocklesby - 'the jewel in the crown' of the Navy's mission off Libya - home safely