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


30 Sep 12 - Wartime mine detonated off Falmouth

 

The BBC website contains this article describing the detonation by Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a German wartime ground mine yesterday off Falmouth in Cornwall.  The article includes a video featuring PO(D) Sid Lawrence.

 

SDU1 bomb wagon on the scene

 

PO(D) Sid Lawrence being interviewed

 

German wartime ground mine on the seabed

 

Mine during detonation

 

The Falmouth Packet published this article and accompanying photos describing the discovery of the mine by scuba divers.

 


29 Sep 12 - NATO Libya medal for minehunter personnel

 

 

Today's Portsmouth News contains this article announcing the Queen's approval for the unrestricted acceptance and wearing by UK personnel of the NATO Non-Article 5 Medal with clasp OUP-Libya/Libye.  The medal recognises the service of those who took part in Alliance operations related to Libya from 23 March to 31 October 2011, including the ships' companies of HMS Brocklesby and HMS Bangor.

 

The article features an interview with MCDOA member Jim Byron who was awarded the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) in his role as Commanding Officer of HMS Brocklesby during the mine clearance operations off Misrata, Libya during Operation ELLAMY (see entry for 23 Mar 12 in News Archive 37).

 


28 Sep 12

 

Latest Operational Honours & Awards

 

According to the Operational Honours and Awards List published today:

 

MCDOA member Lt Cdr Jace Hutchison RAN has been awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS).  Although the London Gazette and other sources state that the award is "...in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in Afghanistan...", it is actually for Jace's service as XO of HMS Brocklesby off Libya during Operation ELLAMY.  Jace, who was on exchange with the RN for over two years, had already been awarded a CINCFLEET commendation for his services (see entry for 6 Oct 11 in News Archive 36).  He has now returned to Australia where I am reliably informed he is commanding the minehunter HMAS Huon.

 

Lt Cdr Phil Dennis RN has been appointed an Ordinary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) "...in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the field during the period 1 October 2011 to 31 March 2012".  He is not an MCDO but he commanded HMS Middleton for seven months in the Gulf.  Three months later, he deployed back out to the Gulf as CO of HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 1) which he had taken over at no notice during her OST.  Having already served on the UK's Maritime Component Commander's staff in Bahrain, this brought his total time in the Gulf region to 20 out of 36 months.  See the RN website article here:  Royal Navy Officer Awarded MBE For 14 Month Gulf Deployment

 

Lt Cdr Phil Dennis MBE RN

(RN website photo)

 

PO(D) Graeme Dickson (formerly Northern Diving Group and now HQ British Forces Gibraltar) has been awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery (QCB) for his disposal of 144 AW Grenades in Scrabster last year.

 

Additionally, PO(D) Si Crew has been awarded a Fleet Commander's Commendation for his deployment to Afghanistan as part of the EOD and Search Task Force during Operation HERRICK XIII (see second entry for 14 Feb 12 in News Archive 37).

 

Congratulations to all concerned.  I am grateful to MCDOA members Phil Ireland, Jim Byron and Kev Stockton for providing relevant background information and corrections.

 


Minewarfare & Diving in the spotlight

 

The RN website has published these news articles:

 

Reservist Divers Keeping The Thames Safe For The Olympics

 

The involvement of RNR divers Lt Adam Bolton, Lt Nick Foster, AB Tony Cassidy, AB Rob Powell and AB Jim Travers with members of Southern Diving Group (SDG) in the Olympics security operation.  The article also features MCDOA member John Beavis, the Commanding Officer of SDG.

 

     

RN and RNR Divers in action during Operation OLYMPICS

(RN website photos)

 

Clyde Mine Hunter Takes Command Of Mediterranean Task Group

 

The designation of Faslane-based HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2 commanded by MCDOA member Tim Davey) as the command platform of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) during her deployment in the Mediterranean.

 

HMS Blyth

(RN website photo) 

 

Lt Cdr Tim Davey RN 

 


27 Sep 12 - MCDOA promotion

 

I am grateful to MCDOA member Phil Ireland for advising me that fellow member Tony Watt, currently Commander Sea Training on the staff of FOST (Flag Officer Sea Training), has been selected for promotion to Captain with effect from April 2013 according to today's signal.

 

Cdr Tony Watt OBE RN

 

I am sure all members of our community will join me in offering Tony our hearty congratualtions.

 


23 Sep 12 - More members' updates

 

An update from Bernie Thompson in Kuwait and a Postscript from Bernie Bruen in France have been appended to the entry for 11 Sep 12.

 


22 Sep 12 - Families day for HMS Bangor

 

The RN website contains this article describing a families day for Faslane-based HMS Bangor before her ship's company (MCM1 Crew 1) deploys to the Gulf for six months.

 

HMS Bangor families day at Faslane

(RN website photo)

 


21 Sep 12 - Andy Elvin at the coalface

 

The US Navy website contains this article showing MCDOA member Andy Elvin in his role as the Deputy Commander of Task Force 52/Task Group 522.1 aboard Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) during International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012 (IMCMEX) in the Gulf region.

 

Andy Elvin briefing civilian media on board USS Ponce about

International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012 (IMCMEX)

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jumar T. Balacy)

 

USS Ponce during IMCMEX 12

 


20 Sep 12 - Class act from Pembroke-bound sailors

 

The RN website contains this article describing a team-bonding exercise for personnel about to join HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 8).

 

A 'Class Act' for HMS Pembroke personnel

(RN website photo)

 


19 Sep 12 - More members' updates

 

Updates from MCDOA President Paddy MacAlpine and MCDOA members Neill 'Dinga' Bell, Dave 'Spidey' Ince and Martin Mackey have been appended to the entry for 11 Sep 12.

 


13 Sep 12 

 

MCDOA Dinner

 

I have just received this update on accommodation from MCDOA past-Chairman Paul Jones (CO HMS Excellent):

 

“Unfortunately HMS BRISTOL is not an option this year (it has only been confirmed recently that the ship will be in dockyard hands / dead ship from 13 Nov until Feb 13 as they re-develop the waterfront and move her to her new berth 75 yards east of the current one!). 

 

The very few spare cabins that were available in EXCELLENT Wardroom have already been allocated but I am able to offer a few cabins in the Junior Rates accommodation block which are suitable for an overnight stay.  First come first served but I need the requirements by Mon 12th Nov.”

 

I have amended the entry for 11 Sep 12 and the Calling Notice accordingly.  As usual, I am also appending MCDOA members' responses to the invitation to the aforementioned entry.  So far I have heard from my old friend and LMCDO course mate Bernie Bruen in France and my old friend and former LMCDO course student David 'Topsy' Turner in New Zealand.

 


MCDO features in magazine

 

The current issue of Sainsbury's magazine contains this article about MCD Officer Catherine Ker.

 

Lt Catherine Ker RN

 


12 Sep 12

 

Newly-qualified RN diver follows in his father’s footsteps

 

The Portsmouth News contains this article describing the qualification of AB Liam Boardman as a Clearance Diver.  AB Boardman's father is also in the RN and serves at HMS Collingwood.

 

AB(D) Boardman receiving his certificate of qualification and diving log from

Cdre Mike Mansergh CBE of the Maritime Warfare School at HMS Collingwood

(Portsmouth News photo)

 


HDS Diving Museum update

 

MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and the refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in Gosport as the Society's library and repository for the museum's reserve collection:

 

"Gosport Heritage Days 6-9 September

 

Congratulations on a job superbly done by all who helped over the Gosport Heritage Open Days!  A grand total of 463 visitors were crammed through over the four days!  On top of that 11 people attended the Historical Diving Walk and 20 people visited the Bunker over two visits.  So the HDS can be really proud of our achievement!

 

HDS Bunker visitors during Gosport Heritage Days

 

DIVER DIGGERS

 

The RN trainee divers have done a great job as mentioned before. 

 

     

Left: HDS Bunker frontage after landscaping by trainee divers

Right: HDS Bunker frontage as it looked back in November 2011 

 

They will be renewing their attack on the Bunker next week: 17-19 September.   An attempt will be made to reduce the soil level further at the front after which the present plan is to keep it under control until we plant it up next year. 

 

THE ROYAL BRITISH LEGION

 

Our good friend Alan Stillwell organised a visit by Royal British Legion members today.  They were well behaved and very generous in their donations to the Museum.  John Dadd, Jim Thomson and Terry Nash provided the commentaries, being able to draw on their own considerable diving experience.

 

Gosport RBL members with museum volunteer guides

 

JohnB"

 

The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site at any time.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.

 


11 Sep 12

 

MCDOA AGM, Operational Updates & Annual Dinner

 

 

From our Honorary Treasurer, Richard 'Soapy' Watson:

 

"This year’s Association Dinner will be held in the Wardroom HMS EXCELLENT on Thursday 22 November with the kind permission of Col Mark Maddick RM, the Mess President.

 

Many of you will ask the question, “Why Thursday?”  The answer is that this year is the 60th Anniversary of the RN Clearance Diving Branch and your Committee felt it appropriate to invite a serving Senior Officer with a MW/Diving connection as our Guest of Honour to mark this milestone occasion.  Following extensive enquiries, we have been able to tempt Rear Admiral Simon Charlier, currently the Director (Operations) of the newly formed Military Aviation Authority, as our principal guest but he is otherwise engaged on the traditional Friday night.  Admiral Simon is a former Commanding Officer of HMS SHERATON (1989), Gunnery Officer of HMS STUBBINGTON (1979) and served as a Midshipman in HMS BRINTON.  His biography can be downloaded here.

 

Rear Admiral Simon Charlier

Rear Admiral Simon Charlier

 

The cost of the dinner remains at a very reasonable £40 per head (£45 for guests).  It will follow the traditional format commencing with pre-dinner drinks at 1930 followed by good food and refreshments and a hearty singalong to the musical accompaniment of the HMS Nelson Volunteer Band before retiring to the bar for a nightcap or two.  As well as toasting the 25th anniversary of the 1987 Long Courses, it will also be a great opportunity to meet up with many old friends and acquaintances.  Get your bids in early to avoid disappointment.  

 

The Annual Operational Update Brief and AGM will sandwich the traditional free lunch on the same day.  This is an ideal forum to catch up on current operations with guest speakers CO FDS, SO1 MCD Navy Command and SofD.  

 

Unfortunately, the Mess is full and HMS BRISTOL is not an option this year (it has only been confirmed recently that the ship will be in dockyard hands / dead ship from 13 Nov until Feb 13 as they re-develop the waterfront and move her to her new berth 75 yards east of the current one!).  The very few spare cabins that were available in EXCELLENT Wardroom have already been allocated but there are a few cabins in the Junior Rates accommodation block which are suitable for an overnight stay.  First come first served but I need the requirements by Mon 12th Nov.

 

I have contacted several local hotels regarding group discounts; the rates provided are however nowhere near as competitive as the advance booking price offered through the Internet: Premier Inn, Solent Port currently offering Double/Twin Rooms for £49 per night; Market House Tavern £45/night; and Inn Lodge £50/night.  I would therefore strongly encourage travellers to make an advance Internet booking, or impose on the hospitality of any friends in the local area.  

 

To ensure that you do not miss out on this great evening please complete and return the linked application, ensuring that it reaches me before 16 November 2012.

 

Kindest Regards,

 

Soapy"

 

The calling notices, application forms, programme, agenda and proxy voting form for these events are available for download here and via the 'Forthcoming Events' page.  Serving and ex-serving WO(MW)s and WO(D)s are thoroughly welcome to attend at the 'guest rate' of £45.

 

As is our custom, we will be marking the 25th anniversary of LMCDO '87A (Course Officers: Jon Chapple/Nigel Butterworth. Course Instructors: Ray Ramsay/Nobby Clarke.  Students: Adrian Blakey, Pete Dearling, Richard Hill, Adrian Letty, Paddy McAlpine [our current President] and Tony Silva) and LMCDO '87B (Course Officer: Jon Chapple.  Course Instructor: Ray Ramsay.  Students: Jim Acton (RIP), Dave Bate, Phil Burrell, Chris Davies, Kev Giles, Ian Hogg, Andrew Todman and Ian Willcox).

 

      LMCDO '87A at the start of its Minewarfare module      LMCDO '87B at the start of its Diving Module

Left: LMCDO '87A at the start of its Minewarfare module

Right: LMCDO '87B at the start of its Diving module

 

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 Treasurer Soapy Watson 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.  

 

This exceptional move from Friday to Thursday should enable more serving members to attend the dinner without encroaching on their weekend leave.  I look forward to seeing as many as possible on the day of the race.

 


From MCDOA member Dave Hunkin:

 

"Hi Rob,

 

Please accept my apologies for the dinner this year.  Being a Thursday I really cannot spare the time off work (Thurs PM to travel down and Fri am to travel back).  At least on a Friday night it only affected one working day not two and one can normally bunk off a few hours early on a Friday.  I do hope this won't become the norm?  To be honest, I find the rationale (seagoers not wanting to lose their weekend) a little limp.  It's our annual dinner for heaven's sake - once a year, the gathering of the clan.   

 

Anyway, have a great night and hopefully I will make it next year,

 

All the very best,

 

Dave Hunkin"

 


From MCDOA member Phil Ireland DSC:

 

"Rob,

 

Please accept my apologies for being unable to make it to the dinner next week due to family commitments; have a great night.

 

Regards,

 

Phil"

 


From MCDOA member Ian Richardson:

 

"Rob,

 

Thank you for the invite.  Unfortunately for the first time in several years I will be away for the dinner.  I am on PDT to go to Afghanistan the week after the dinner.  Please keep me on the dist list as I will make a massive effort for next year.  I also look forward to seeing your phots from the night when you put them in the website.

 

Many thanks,

 

Ian

 


From MCDOA member Bernie Thompson in Kuwait:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

A quick line to say I'm sorry that I won't be able to make it to this year's dinner and to add my thanks for all the hard work you do on our behalf.

 

I'm still out in the sand.  After a hugely enjoyable three years in Oman, where I had the good fortune to be the RNO SofD in the quiet moments when I wasn't at sea doing my sea training role, I'm now in the Kuwaiti staff college being hugely entertained each day by the students and this bonkers country in general.

 

Bernie Thompson (front and centre?) conducting desert recce in Kuwait

 

It really doesn't do to get maudlin but I would have liked to be with you all to mark the 25th anniversary of LMCDO '87B.  When I was bedding in as SOO MCM2, Jim Acton and Colin Welborn were just along the Sail Loft corridor providing patient and helpful mentoring.  I still can't believe Jim's not around but I know that Chris Davies, Kev Giles and the other '87B stalwarts will do him proud on the night and that you'll all raise a glass to the boy.

 

Anyway, as Arnie would say - 'I'll be back'.  Next year the Tommos will be back in Blighty, it will be my last MCDOA dinner in uniform, the 25th anniversary of '88B and (insha'allah) Lt Peter Thompson (currently on Long Course) will be joining us sporting his newly-earned specialist badge.  Book the re-sus cubicle and defibrillator now - it's going to be an epic.  Have a great evening.  I'll be thinking of you all.

 

Kind regards,

 

Bernie"

 


From MCDOA member Martin Mackey:

 

Martin Mackey (right) with MCDOA past-Chairman Dave Hilton

in Portsmouth Naval Base at the end of last month

 

"Hi Rob,

 

It is with much regret that I will not be able to attend the dinner this year as I will be deployed in the Gulf on OP KIPION.  I’ll be doing my bit for Gulf MCM for the second time as the Commander of the UK’s MCM Force working with the UK’s MCMVs deployed out there and, on occasion, commanding US MCMVs as well.  The UK’s MCM commitment in the Gulf remains undiminished and the shift to a permanently deployed Mine Warfare Battle Staff is just one example of what we are doing.  

 

I did have the pleasure of knowing our guest speaker for a brief period when he was in command of HMS SHERATON; I was navs in HMS HUBBERSTON.  His Gunnery Officer was one SLt Don Crosbie RN who made the mistake of allowing me to ply him with alcohol one evening whilst alongside in Lorient, France.  The aim of getting Don socially confused was to ensure that he would not notice when I slipped away from the wardroom to grab the ship’s RAS flag.  I’m sure Admiral Charlier will recall his words when, during an Armed Team Sweep that SHERATON was conducting with HUBBERSTON a few days later, his Killick Bunting returned to the bridge to report that he could not find their RAS flag.  I don’t know the actual discussion that went on because I was watching from a distance, but I do recollect that Lt Charlier did not look very impressed as our Killick Bunting joyfully hoisted their Sheraton Hotel flag up our main mast for the serial.  SHERATON’s bridge team’s ire was firmly aimed in Don’s direction.  Anyway, they sought retribution later on, but that’s another dit.  

 

I hope that you all have a fantastic evening and I’ll be thinking of you.

 

Regards,

 

Martin

 

M C Mackey

Commander Royal Navy

CO 2nd MCM Sqn"

 


From MCDOA President Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC, Commander UK Task Group (COMUKTG):

 

Paddy McAlpine

 

"Dear Rob,

 

Thank you for this fulsome note.  Very frustratingly, having waited all this time for my Course to enjoy their 25th anniversary, I find myself in a deployable appointment and will be away in BULWARK for this dinner.  I can hardly believe the timing.  I hold faint hope that the programme will change.

 

I'll write a fuller message to SofD closer to the date and relate some memories and secrets about '87A. 

 

As ever,

 

Paddy"

 


From Neill 'Dinga' Bell in Australia:

 

Neill 'Dinga' Bell on board USS George

Washington in July 2009

 

"G'day Rob,

 

Hope this message finds you well and in great health.   Congratulations on the 60th.  I am positive it will be a great night and I will reminisce on the many shared experiences with the 'RN' team over my years of service as a CD.

 

I actually think I used Stubbington during sea training in '79 so your guest speaker may well remember the fun we had in the Firth of Forth!!  I still have the non-magnetic diver's knife that the team in Gavinton presented me with hanging behind me in a place of pride in my study.

 

Hope it is a great night and I will try to get this message posted on our new web site just uploaded this weekend.

 

www.rancd-association.com/HOME.html

 

Neill"

 


From MCDOA member Dave 'Spidey' Ince in Australia:

 

Dave 'Spidey' Ince with MCDOA past-Chairman Chris Ameye

in Afghanistan in September 2010

 

"G'day Rob,

 

I'm afraid I'm going to give you the usual excuses and MRU for the Annual Dinner.  I'll be doing command supersession at the time so I believe it is a reasonable reason.

 

This as good a time as any for a brief update on the Inceys in Oz.  I'm just coming to the end of two years based in Cairns driving an Armidale Class Patrol Boat, or boats in this case.  As you can imagine, it has been great fun and has allowed me a break from all things diving and minewarfare.  After 27 years of solid muppetry and CD'ing I needed a change.  However, I'll be back to the diving world in the New Year as DCOMMCD and COS at the Diving Group HQ in Sydney, driving a desk and polishing my bum.  I guess it comes to us all in the end, but I'm not complaining after my run of jobs ;)

 

I've had my fair share of adventures at sea rounding up illegal fishermen and illegal immigrants.  Perhaps the icing on the cake was the shadowing and interdiction of a yacht smuggling in cocaine from South America.  It was the fourth largest haul in Aussie history.  The rounding up of illegals has been less satisfying.  We've become a bit of a grey water taxi service in the last 18 months.  The boats generally get just south of Indonesia and call in a Mayday on their iridium phones, knowing full well that the good old RAN will be there to 'rescue' them.  One lot called a distress because they were all seasick, poor dears!  Still, I get a good deal of satisfaction destroying the dilapidated boats after the fac.  I only wish they'd authorize us to use a few 4lb packs!   50 cal and HE 25mm generally does the trick though.

 

The family are all well, although Julie is a bit fed up with me effectively spending 8 months of the year away, so she is looking forward to me handing the keys on and returning to Sydney.  Our youngest, Luke, spent a gap year in Navy last year having a 'suck and see'.  I managed to secure him a draft to a fellow MCDO's patrol boat.  He even earned an operational service medal for his short stint, being in the right place at the right time!  He thoroughly enjoyed his time but plans to join the fire service now.  He works in a local bar and is living with us in Sydney whilst he applies.  Our eldest, Brent, deploys to the sand pit in just over a week.  He is a Rock Ape equivalent and will be providing security to the Aussie C130s in and out of the Ghan for the next 6 months.  I'm happy in the knowledge that Brent's job will be a lot safer than mine was over there, although the increase in attacks by rogue Afghans is a worry.

 

Talking of Afghanistan, the tale of my adventures there will soon be published.  I'm currently in negotiation with the MOD to use that MCT, red smoke, LARV wearing, 9mm pistol wielding photo of me, which is the final delay for the book going to print.  The irony is that I got in trouble with the SBS when the photo was originally taken when I was OIC FDU1.  At the time they were convinced it was the front cover of a book I'd written!  Ha ha.  I'll be happy to get the photo published in the centre section if I can get around the Crown copyright; it is about time I claimed it back.  The story is also interspersed with dits from my time in the RN, and how I eventually came to be in a land-locked country as part of the Aussie navy.

 

My very best to all those who know me and have a fantastic Branch 60th Anniversary celebration.

 

Yours Aye,

 

David

 

D. P. INCE

LCDR

CO ARDENT FOUR (Embarked HMAS BUNDABERG)

 

P.S I noted the increase in membership fees and think I may owe you £5 for this year's subscription!"

 


From MCDOA member Bernie Bruen MBE DSC in France:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

I am sorry to be unable to attend this prestigious and important Dinner, it being the 60th anniversary 'n all, but at about that time I shall be expeditioning from my home in central France to the Taibilla Mountains in southern Spain in my 36yr old Lomax, built while I was on the '76 LMCD course.  Sadly, I am unable to afford to do both.

 

However, please pass my best wishes to all gathered there and wish them a happy 60th.

 

Aye,

 

Bernie UXB"

 

Photo of car with Bernie saying, "Hello, everybody!"

 


Postscript received from Bernie on 24 Sep 12:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

With regards to my last and the 60th anniversary dinner: I shall be attending after all as I reckon it to be too significant to miss.  I shall be staying with Chris Meatyard, who will be coming with me - or the other way round.  So, disregard my previous e-mail and please book me a ticket and one for Chris.

 

This is, of course, providing I do not get lost in the Spanish Alps in October.

 

As always,

 

Yours aye,

 

Bernie" 

 


From MCDOA former Secretary David 'Topsy' Turner in New Zealand:

 

Topsy (right) with Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC (MCDOA President

& COMUKTG) in the Flag Mess of USS WASP earlier this year

 

"Rob,

 

Please offer my apologies for being unable to attend the dinner this year.  I am however at HMS COLLINGWOOD 17 - 28 Sep on the MWAR course but hanging around until 22 Nov might get noticed by my boss!

 

If you get an opportunity in the margins of the dinner, please pass on my very fond regards to Admiral Simon.  We both joined Dartmouth at the same time in 1978 and we were fortunate enough (for me probably more then him) to be in Cunningham Division where we had an absolute ball... ask him about his guitar playing prowess and teaming up with Topsy to sing 'The Streets of London' at a Cunningham Performing Arts Evening (involving some beer I imagine!).  I have watched his career from a distance (and more recently from a different hemisphere) and have nothing but admiration and respect for a great statesman and leader. 

 

Have a wonderful dinner Rob and who knows, perhaps another time.

 

Yours Aye,

 

Topsy"

 


Navy’s Gulf-based ships prepare to join massive mine warfare exercise

 

The RN website contains this article and the Navy News website this article announcing that our four minehunters currently deployed in the Gulf will be participating in a major international exercise called IMCMEX 12.  The articles also describe a visit to HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 5) by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.

 

HMS Ramsey’s sailors explain the Seafox mine disposal system to Mr Hammond

HMS Ramsey’s sailors explain the Seafox mine disposal system to Mr Hammond

(Navy News photo by Lt Richard Davies, UKMCC)

 

Postscript: On 12 September, the Portsmouth News published this article covering the same story.

 


10 Sep 12 - A chip off the old block

 

The Portsmouth News contains this article describing the passing out of ex-Clearance Diver Jim Carlin's son James at HMS Raleigh, the Royal Navy's new entry training establishment.

 

Wendy & Jim Carlin flanking their son James after his initial training

Wendy & Jim Carlin flanking their

son James after his initial training

 

Many congratulations to you all.

 


7 Sep 12 - MWA Monthly Dit Session

 

There was a particularly good turnout for this month's Southern Area 'Dit Session' of the Minewarfare Association (MWA) held last night at the Still & West in Old Portsmouth, mainly because it provided an ideal opportunity to pay farewell to CPO(MW) Antony 'Pinta' Beer who is leaving the Maritime Warfare School at HMS Collingwood to run the Mining Team in Scotland.  We wish him well and welcome his relief, Mo Morris, who was also present.

 

MWA members congregate outside the Still & West in Old Portsmouth

 

MCDOA dual-members comprised Martin Mackey, Bill Kerr, Mike Boal and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole).  Other MWA members included John Gunter, Westy Westbrooke, Gemma Moore, Soapy Watson, Bunny Warren, Foggy Foggin, Pete Whitehead, Andy Strickland, Mo Morris, Simmo Duggin, (Simmons), Taff Reader, Bagsy Baker, Chris Christian, Gordon Gover, Stirling Moss, Gilly Gilmore, Pinta Beer and Chris Bamber.

 


5 Sep 12 - HMS Middleton's glorious homecoming (Part Two)

 

As promised in the entry for 31 Aug 12 in News Archive 39 which featured attendant MCDOA members, here is an account with some more photos of last Friday's return to Portsmouth of HMS Middleton from her three-year deployment in the Gulf.  

 

Guests arrived at the Naval Base via Trafalgar Gate where we were greeted and checked off by an efficient team of Second MCM Squadron personnel before embarking in a shuttle bus which took us to No.2 Basin to await the ship.  It was a gloriously sunny day and there was something of a carnival atmosphere, helped by the issue of an HMS Middleton teddy bear to anyone who wanted one (like me ).

 

Waiting at Trafalgar Gate to board the shuttle bus

Waiting at Trafalgar Gate to board the shuttle bus

 

Reception team issues teddies and embarks guests on shuttle bus      My HMS Middleton teddy bear mascot

Left: Reception team issues teddies and embarks guests on shuttle bus

Right: My HMS Middleton teddy bear mascot

 

At the jetty, a grandstand had been erected for spectators and a refreshment van was in attendance. 

 

The crowded grandstand on the jetty      Rustic Catering mobile snack bar

Left: The crowded grandstand on the jetty

Right: Rustic Catering mobile snack bar

 

Musical entertainment was provided by the Rochdale Music Service Band and the Middleton Musical Society Choir directed by the Revd Graham Marshall.  The Middleton Musical Society is celebrating its 240th anniversary this year. 

 

The Rochdale Music Service Band and the Middleton Musical Society Choir

 

Above and below: The Rochdale Music Service Band and the Middleton Musical Society Choir

 

The Rochdale Music Service Band      Middleton Musical Society Choir

 

At last HMS Middleton hove into view as she entered No.2 Basin and then approached her berth. 

 

HMS Middleton entering No.2 Basin      HMS Middleton entering No.2 Basin

 

Above and below: HMS Middleton entering No.2 Basin and berthing alongside

 

HMS Middleton berthing alongside in No.2 Basin

 

First off the ship was Lt Cdr Steve Higham, the Commanding Officer, clutching a bouquet of flowers for his wife Cassandra who was waiting patiently with their daughter Georgina.

 

Middleton's Commanding Officer reunited with his wife and daughter      Middleton's Commanding Officer reunited with his wife and daughter

Middleton's Commanding Officer reunited with his wife and daughter

 

There was also a proposal from MEM Keith Williams to his girlfriend Nicola Griffiths-Hayes who obligingly accepted.  

 

A waterfront proposal accepted      A waterfront proposal accepted

A waterfront proposal accepted

 

There was then a general exodus from the ship.

 

Lots of emotional reunions on the jetty      Lots of emotional reunions on the jetty

 

Above and below: Lots of emotional reunions on the jetty

 

Lots of emotional reunions on the jetty      Lots of emotional reunions on the jetty

 

LS(MW) Michael Richardson with his twins, Amber and Daisy            LS(D) Gavin Speer with his wife Christa and baby son Jayden 

Left: LS(MW) Michael Richardson with his twins, Amber and Daisy

Right: LS(D) Gavin Speer with his wife Christa and baby son Jayden 

 

LS(D) Gavin Speer's family including wife Christa, son Jayden, mother Carol, brother Steffan, sister-in-law Emma and niece Isabella

LS(D) Gavin Speer's family including wife Christa, son Jayden, mother Carol,

brother Steffan, sister-in-law Emma and niece Isabella

 

Once on board, I re-encountered the family of MCDOA member Andrew Kent, the ship's Ops Officer.  They had come from South Wales and we had sat together on the shuttle bus.

 

Andrew Kent with his wife, parents and family

Andrew Kent with his partner Stevie, children Ethan, Zak and Marley

and parents Lynda and Keith

 

I also met AB(D) Matthew Luxton and his dad Ian, mum Caron, sister Hayley, brother Jack, Nan Doreen and Grandad Peter.  He was standing in as duty Chef.

   

AB(D) Matthew Luxton and his family

AB(D) Matthew Luxton and his family

 

I also chatted with two of the MWs preparing the ship for leave.  Oddly enough, the Boatswain was too shy to have his picture taken.

 

AB(MW) 'Dicky' Davies with LS(MW) Michael Richardson 

AB(MW) 'Dicky' Davies with LS(MW) Michael Richardson 

 

All too soon, it was time to depart but before we did, I persuaded someone to take this photo of members of the Ton Class Association (TCA) members under whose auspices I had been invited:

 

Ton Class Association members on board HMS Middleton 

Ton Class Association members on board HMS Middleton 

 

Leaving the ship

Leaving the ship

 

I would like to thank the Commanding Officer and ship's company of HMS Middleton for the opportunity to share in this joyful occasion and wish them all a thoroughly enjoyable leave with their loved ones.

 


4 Sep 12 - Trainee Clearance Divers lend a hand

 

The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how RN CD trainees from HMS Collingwood have been helping to landscape the ground around the Historical Diving Society's WWII bunker in Gosport which has been acquired for use as a library and repository for the HDS Museum's reserve collection of artefacts.

 

Sailors with John Bevan (far right) and the organisers, LS Dave Mainstone

 and, in the wheelbarrow, LS Jo Downie, take a rest from their hard work

(RN website photo)

 

MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and the refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in Gosport for use as a library and repository for the museum's reserve collection:

 

"VISITORS

 

A quieter weekend this time, coming up to the end of the school hols.  Saturday: 34 and Sunday: 26.  We did however have some great VIPs visit us.  Diver Petty Officer ARTHUR SMITH RN Retd, aged 90 year, one of the few survivors of the sinking of HMS Royal Oak at Scapa Flow in 1939 was a real gem and overflowing with stories.  Dr Tom Hennessy, the brilliant RNPL decompression table man and a diving buddy of THE Falco, also called by.

 

     

Left: Arthur Smith with volunteer museum guides ex-FCPO(D) John Dadd and ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson

Right: Arthur Smith and Dr Tom Hennessy with volunteer museum guides

 

Ann Bevan hosted a group of young wives and infants on Friday which was a great success and brought in a donation of £20.  Various HDS members will be staying in Alverstoke on Saturday evening and we plan to dine in the Anglesey Hotel in the evening, if anyone wants to join in.

 

GOSPORT HERITAGE OPEN DAYS

 

These are Thursday-Sunday this week.  Please see roster and make sure we have good cover.  I'll be in and out as I'm also doing a Historical Diving Walk, Bunker visits, HDS Book Meeting and Committee Meeting.

 

THANKS to Martin Marks for getting the Helium Unscrambler unit working with authentic recordings.

 

THANKS to Gavin Anthony [MCDOA associate member] for the donation of old RNPL docs and pictures."

 

The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site at any time.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.

 

Postscript: On 5 September, the Portsmouth News published this article covering Arthur Smith's visit to the museum.

 


1 Sep 12 - SDU1 call-out for a boiler on the beach

 

The 'This is Cornwall' website contains this article describing a call-out for Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) to deal with a suspected piece of ordnance on a beach near St Ives in Cornwall  The object transpired to be a ship's boiler.

 


31 Aug 12 - HMS Middleton's glorious homecoming (Part One)

 

Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing this morning's homecoming of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) from her three-year deployment in the Gulf.

 

HMS Middleton entering No.2 Basin this morning

 

I took many photographs of this joyful occasion in Portsmouth Naval Base and will endeavour to publish a fuller article next week focusing on ship's company members, their relatives and surrounding events.  In the meantime, here are some familiar members of the reception committee to whet people's appetites:

 

MCDOA past-Chairman David Hilton flanked by Cllr Frank Jonas (Lord Mayor of Portsmouth)

and Cdre the Hon Michael Cochrane OBE (Commodore Portsmouth Flotilla)

 

Rear Admiral David Steel CBE (Naval Secretary) with MCDOA past-Chairman David Hilton

and MCDOA members Martin Mackey (Cdr Second MCM Squadron) and Mark Durkin

(Captain Minewarfare & Patrol Vessels, Fishery Protection and Diving)

 

MCDOA member Ben Stait (Chief of Staff to Cdr Second MCM Squadron)

 

Postscript: The RN website has published this article covering HMS Middleton's return and this article covering the arrival of HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 3) at Faslane.  The Navy News website has published this article which covers both arrivals.

 


Navy News

 

The Navy News website is completing the digitisation of issues as far back as June 1954 and they can be accessed here.  Just click on each button sequentially for the relevant decade, year and date. 

 

I have now included the Navy News website on the Links page.  The August issue is already available and I will no longer be announcing new editions as they appear each month.

 


Intended MCDOA gathering in London

 

MCDOA member Andy 'Sharkey' Ward is working in the square mile and would like fellow members in the London area to contact him with a view to arranging an informal gathering in the near future.  In accordance with precedent, the evening would comprise a beer and curry night, location t.b.c. but probably somewhere reasonably central, perhaps Covent Garden.   He would be very happy to take suggestions.  

 

He has the email addresses of some members but has misplaced the contact details of others, especially those still serving.  If interested, please contact him via this email address

 


30 Aug 12 - HDS Diving Museum update

 

MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and the refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in Gosport for use as a library and repository for the museum's reserve collection:

 

"VISITORS

 

Visitor numbers are building steadily. 11th: 80 12th: 52 18th: 93 19th: 70.  Seriously good numbers over the Bank Holiday weekend: Saturday - 61; Sunday - 76; Monday - 91.  The roster needs some support for this coming weekend.  On Saturday we also have the Annual Diver's BBQ at JB's.  The feeding frenzy is scheduled for 5.30pm.  So there may be some juggling of guides during the preparations.

 

We are expecting a historical diver coming down from London on Saturday 1 September. This will be Arthur Smith (90 years old) one of whose claims to fame is that he was one of the few survivors from the sinking of HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow in 1939!

 

VIP VISITOR

 

We were honoured with a visit by Cdr Bill Norton RN (Rtd) on Saturday.  Bill kindly donated his book and reports collection to the HDS.

 

MCDOA member Bill Norton with volunteer

museum guide, ex-FCPO(D) John Dadd

 

FRIDAY 31st

 

An experimental visit by "Toddlers and Mums" is scheduled for 10am on Friday 31st August.

 

NEW EXHIBIT

 

This is our new "Touch Screen" exhibit which was developed by Ann Bevan. 

 

Dougie Saunders with interactive

touch screen monitor

 

It provides pictures, text and videos of a host of historical diving subjects.  Observant members may recognise the familiar profile of Dougie Saunders who cycled over from the IoW to help us out last Saturday.

 

BUNKER BASH

 

We have been lucky to be given the services of ten RN Diver recruits who have been digging for Britain and the Bunker to level the front 'garden'.  Mike Fardell and Nigel Phillips have also been providing massive support.

 

GOSPORT HERITAGE OPEN DAYS

 

6-9 September are the Gosport Heritage Open Days.  Free public access is given to many of Gosport's older establishments over this period.  The Diving Museum in No.2 Battery will be included, as will our WW2 Bunker.  John Bevan will also be doing a Historical Diving Walk.  By coincidence, Saturday 8th will be an HDS Book Meeting at John Bevan's and the Bunker and Sunday 9th will be an HDS committee meeting at John Bevan's.

 

JohnB."

 

The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site at any time.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.

 


29 Aug 12

 

Daily Telegraph obituary for Sydney Knowles BEM

 

As ever, I am indebted to Captain Peter Hore RN for agreeing to write this obituary for Sydney which appeared in today's Daily Telegraph (also see entry for 25 Aug 12).

 

Peter has been extremely cooperative in writing tributes to members of our small community for publication in the Daily Telegraph.  Examples have included (in alphabetical order):

 

CPO(D) Stephen 'Darby' Allan

 

Lt Cdr John Bridge GC GM* RNVR

 

Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR

 

Lt Cdr Peter Cobby BEM RN

 

Lt Cdr 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM RN

 

Lt Cdr Ian Fraser VC DSC RD* RNR

 

Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John 'Jab' Harrison

 

Val Hempleman

 

Lt Cdr Bruce Mackay RN (added 18 Oct 12)

 

Cdr Peter Messervy MBE GM RN

 

Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John 'Doc' Rawlins KBE, FRCP, FRAeS

 

Lt Cdr 'Robbie' Robinson MBE RN

 

Lt Arthur 'Bubs' Russell MBE RNVR

 

Lt Cdr Harry Wardle RN

 

Lt George Wookey MBE RN

 


ECA PAP RCMDS listed on eBay

 

I have received this intriguing email:

 

"Dear Webmaster,

 

I would guess your members could be interested in PAP no 310 we have on eBay on a 7-day auction:

 

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=200812441920&ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT

 

 

The ROV is currently located near Southampton for collection.  Let me know if you have any questions.

 

Best regards,

 

Rohan

 

Rohan Mak M.Sc. (Applied Fish Biology)

Managing Director

Zebrafish Management Ltd.,

tel: +44 (0) 780 858 4375

fax: +44 (0) 1962 717518

www.zmsystems.co.uk"

 


28 Aug 12 - HMS Middleton Returns From Three-Year Gulf Deployment

 

The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the return of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) to Portsmouth this Friday from her three-year deployment in the Gulf.  I will be among those welcoming her in the Naval Base and will report back in due course.

 

HMS Middleton

(RN photo)

 

HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 3) will be returning from the Gulf to her base at Faslane on Friday morning, too. 

 


27 Aug 12 - 'Jake' nearing completion

 

MCDOA member Paul 'Guiver the Diver' has made the following announcement concerning 'Jake', the Mark V Monument he has been commissioned to provide for the US Naval Diving & Salvage Training Center (NDSTC) in Panama City, Florida:

 

 

Paul Guiver (right) with 'Jake'

 

"In this image you will note that all the bronze parts have been temporarily spot-welded together - notice the gaps.  This allowed me an opportunity to inspect the statue prior to 'metal chasing'.  Detailed metal chasing takes several days, and on something this scale, weeks depending on how many people are working on it.  Each part was disassembled after this image was taken so that the foundry could continue the process.  Stainless steel bars will be welded up through the insides of the legs (supported by armatures) and protruding out through the boots.  These 'spigots' allow the statue to be fixed into the base serving as supports.  The final stage is 'Patination' - The bronze casting is heated with a torch and chemicals are applied using a brush, giving that traditional bronze colour that you see on the statuettes.

 

Please note this image is the last to be posted prior to the unveiling; allowing for an element of suprise on the day!  More info here:

 

http://www.facebook.com/MarkVMonument"

 


26 Aug 12 - SDU2 participation in Great South Run

 

CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse Fleming of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) has announced that he will be raising money for BLESMA, the limbless veterans charity, by wearing Standard Diving Dress in the BUPA Great South Run.  Other participating members of SDU2 will be wearing diving kit through the ages including DSSCCD, CDBA, CDLSE and SABA.

 

Scouse will 'run' five miles on Friday 26 October, four miles on the Saturday and the final mile on Race Day (Sunday 28 October) so as to cross the finishing line with the rest of the team.  Sponsor him via his JustGiving webpage here.

 


25 Aug 12 - Obituary for Sydney Knowles BEM

 

I am grateful to Peter Dick, Editor of the Historical Diving Times (the journal of the Historical Diving Society), for allowing me to publish this collaborative obituary for pioneering clearance diver Sydney Knowles BEM who died in Spain on 31 July (see entry for 2 Aug 12):

 

Sydney Knowles during WW II 

 

"Commenting on the death of his close friend Petty Officer Ben ‘Dinger’ Bell, Sydney Knowles told a story from their time together at Gibraltar in late 1942 and early 1943 clearing charges from the bilge keels of vessels at anchor in the Roads:

 

"One day, I was about to dive and was sitting in the launch when ‘Dinger’ had a very lucky escape from death.  As he was about to enter the water in search of mines, an explosion took place on the bilge keel of the ship immediately below him.  His cool response to the action was, 'At least that’s one less to look for.'"

 

Sydney James Knowles was born in Preston, Lancashire in 1921.  According to his autobiographical book, A Diver in the Dark, he had an unhappy childhood that eventually led to him joining the Royal Navy.  He served in a variety of vessels prior to World War II and 1940 saw him being wounded in what he later termed a ‘destroyer skirmish’ off Trondheim, Norway.

 

From there he first entered the Mediterranean as a Stoker (First Class) in the destroyer HMS Laforey and was on board when she joined a convey en route from Halifax, Nova Scotia to the tiny beleaguered island of Malta.  He spent the next six days of the ten day voyage at his action station in the ammunition room while the convoy came under sustained aerial bombardment.  This was followed by time in the Indian Ocean, a naval action off the coast of Africa and two other Malta convoys.

 

In August 1942, he again found himself in Gibraltar as a Stoker about to go on his third convoy to Malta.  This was the famous Operation Pedestal convoy which comprised fourteen merchant vessels, including the gallant tanker Ohio, protected by thirty-four naval vessels. Only five merchant vessels were to arrive safely while the Navy lost seven warships including a carrier and four cruisers.  It was at Gibraltar that Sydney Knowles volunteered for diving duties: ‘The reason I volunteered was because I had completed three Malta convoys, seen many men die and had got that horrid feeling that the next trip, Operation Pedestal to Malta, would be the end of me.  So I took a job that was offered ashore in Gib.  I had no idea that I was jumping out of the frying pan into the fire’.

 

Merchant ships lying in the Roads off Gibraltar were under continuous underwater attack by Italian divers and Gamma swimmers, working covertly from the adjacent Spanish shoreline and mounted on human torpedoes from the tanker Olterra, alongside in the port of Algeciras across the bay.  They attached charges to the bilge keels of vessels, some set to explode within a short time and others, primed by a small propeller, well into their voyage which gave the impression of submarine attack.  Thus, the bottom of vessels had to be continually searched by allied divers and any charges removed on a continual basis at daybreak.  Sydney Knowles joined the Underwater Working Party that had been formed under the then Lt. Lionel Crabb.  Petty Officer Bell was its only qualified diver and he showed them how to maintain and repair the DSEA (Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus) that they used.  They dived in swimming trunks and wore oversized plimsolls (tackies or sneakers US) with chunks of lead in the toes which, according to Sydney: '...were hardly the ideal swimming gear (as they) caused us to swim upright with a laboured dead-foot breast stroke.  Cdr Crabb and I first obtained fins from the bodies of Lt Visintini and Petty Officer Magro, who were killed during a two-man human torpedo attack on Gibraltar.’

 

Their mess was in Jumper’s Bastion, with their hammocks slung next to one another from which, as Sydney recalled, they swung down to the floor when called to action stations, ‘… then on to our Butchers' bikes, the front basket filled with diving gear as, with cycle bells ringing furiously, we sped down Main Street to the port and our diving launch…  This method of transport may sound crazy, but that is exactly how it was.’  

 

Sydney left Gibralter in May 1943, along with Cdr Crabb, bound for Naples on an RN landing craft.  Scrounging an American 6x6 lorry from the Allied HQ in Caserta, they loaded up their diving gear, RMS (Render Mine Safe) tools and whatever food they could find, before heading north with a roving commission to clear mines and bombs from any ports that the American 5th Army could use to land supplies on the west coast of Italy.  

 

In Rome, Sydney visited the Vatican together with Crabb, and enjoyed the last night’s sleep in a real bed for a number of months.  Having started north again, they soon found themselves being torn off a strip by a senior officer, as their 6x6 was flying the white ensign.  At one point they even found that they were leading an armoured brigade towards Florence where they had information that the two man torpedoes and all the diving gear used by the Italian Decima Mas (10th Flotilla) were assembled there.  They finally managed to locate the factory and discovered stores but, unfortunately, they found none of the Italian dry diving suits.  This meant they had to continue diving in swimming trunks.  There were other adventures in the city, including being arrested by American Military Police who did not recognise their uniform or accent and were suspicious of a 6x6 lorry loaded with American C rations, their only food supply.        

 

After Florence they went north again towards Leghorn, which had not yet fallen into Allied hands.  Being just a few miles south of La Spezia, which was still the HQ of the Italian swimmers and assault craft operators who had not surrendered when Italy capitulated, it was realised that when it did shipping entering would be open to attack.  Preparing themselves for a repeat of their time in Gibraltar, the pair parted company with the American Intelligence Collecting Unit, under Lt Tony Marsloe USN, with whom they had been travelling.  

 

Fighting was fierce around them so they camped in an olive grove until the city fell to a partisan attack.  Once into the port, they began searching and clearing mines etc., both on the surface and underwater.  This was not a pleasant undertaking as the city was still under German shell fire.  One morning, answering a knock at the door of the villa where they were billeted, Sydney found an Italian by the name of Gianni Vago who asked whether he could be given a diving job.  Amazingly, he was an ex-member of the 10th Flotilla that had previously attacked British shipping in Gibraltar.  The two hit it off immediately and were to remain lifelong friends. Shortly after Lt.Ventorini appeared at the villa and, after security clearance, both joined the growing team.  It was November and Crabb and Sydney were still in swimming trunks although Vago had retained his old rubber suit.  All they had were the DSEAs which Vago hated so he disappeared and reappeared shortly after with two superior Italian 10th Flotilla oxygen sets that allowed them to stay even longer underwater.  Leghorn was to be a repeat of Gibraltar with continuous bilge keel searches, small charges thrown into the water and enemy swimmers being captured.   

 

The Battle of Leghorn over, it was north yet again to Viareggio and La Spezia where they rendered safe more mines and enjoyed real food and ice cream from kindly Japanese American troops.  Then a Dakota ride to Marseilles to continue their work in the southern French ports.  In Sète they had to explode a heavy, booby-trapped mine placed in the port entrance, after which Crabbe entered hospital suffering from jaundice and exhaustion while Sydney was joined by Sub Lt Bull.  They carried on searching and clearing ports almost to the Spanish border, a painful experience in cold water and still had no diving suits.  However, on finally making it back to Leghorn he was greeted by Vago with a belated Christmas present, a two-piece Italian diving suit complete with pure silk one-piece underwear. 

 

He eventually returned to Leghorn and the Villa Banti by fishing boat.  It was back to dawn dives, clearing limpet mines from American liberty ships, then a period with a British mine disposal unit in Genoa.  From here he made a trip to the island of Elba where he succumbed to oxygen poisoning at around 50ft while searching for a mine.  Fortunately he floated to the surface and survived.  They later found that there had been no mine.  Sydney later found himself in Venice with Crabb, where there were more mines in the canals.  Then the war was over.  

 

After the war, Sydney teamed up with Crabb and a team of divers from HMS Vernon to search for a near three-hundred-and-fifty-year-old Spanish Armada wreck at Tobermory in Scotland on behalf of the Duke of Argyll.  The pair also conducted a clandestine mission under the Russian cruiser Sverdlov anchored in the Solent in October 1955.  In April 1956, Crabb was lost on a covert dive in Portsmouth harbour beneath the Russian cruiser Ordzhonikidze that had brought Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev and Premier Nikolai Bulganin on a diplomatic mission to Britain.  Did Sydney join him on that last fateful dive?  Perhaps we will never know for sure.

 

Sydney Knowles probably provided his own eulogy, when a few years ago he was asked how he had first learned to dive in Gibraltar, after volunteering in August 1942:

 

‘Lt Crabb slung a DSEA at me, “Turn that valve on the bottle when you want to breathe, and follow me” he said.  That was my introduction to diving and I loved it.’ 

 

Sydney Knowles died on 31st July at Malaga in Spain where he had spent his later years.  He leaves a widow, Frances.

 

        

Sydney Knowles BEM

(3 Sep 1921 - 31 Jul 2012)

 

I passed our community's condolences to Sydney's widow, Frances, and received this in return:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

Everything has happened so suddenly.  On Friday the 13th of July Sydney felt unwell so I called the ambulance.  He was taken to the University Hospital in Malaga for tests and they discovered he had a urinary infection.  On the 14th, he was transferred to the Hospital Pasqual in the centre of Malaga.  They then discovered he had diabetes, high blood pressure and a heart complaint.

 

On Friday the 20th he was sent home with lots of tablets to take.  I, of course, believed that with loving care and the comfort of his own home he would recover but that was not to be.  On Tuesday the 31st at 10.30 in the evening, he passed away.

 

The funeral service was held on Friday the 3rd of August here in Coin and was attended by our local branch of the Royal British Legion.  Sydney was proud to be their Vice President and many friends attended, both English and Spanish.  The service was conducted in both languages.  His coffin was draped with the Royal Navy Ensign, his red wool diving hat and diver's knife were placed on the coffin with his medals and his book.  The British Legion Standard was lowered and The Last Post was sounded.   The hymn Eternal Father was sung and, as the coffin left the chapel, a boatswain's call piped.

 

His body went for cremation and his ashes will later be interred in his first wife's grave at the English Cemetery in Malaga as burials are no longer allowed there.  At a later date I will have his name inscribed on the headstone.

 

We had a very happy time together, although not long enough.  I have lots of happy memories and I was so proud to be married to a LEGEND.  I have had so many emails telling me how much people appreciated what he did for his country and how he gave his time to all who wanted to hear his incredible story.

 

Very kind regards,

 

Frances"

 

Copies of Sydney's book, 'A Diver in the Dark', can be obtained online from Woodfield Publishing here.  Alternatively, complete the form available for download here and send it to Woodfield with a cheque.  The Foreword was written by Yours Truly.

 

 


23 Aug 12 - Wartime incendiaries discovered in Plymouth

 

The BBC News website contains this article describing the discovery, and subsequent disposal, of two German 1 kg incendiaries in a garden in Plymouth.  The article features PO(D) Sid Laurence of Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).

 

PO(D) Sid Laurence with the incendiaries

 

Postscript: The 'This is Plymouth' website has since published this article covering the same story and featuring Lt Ross Balfour RN, OIC SDU1.

 


22 Aug 12 - Nautical shots show off wealth of history

 

The 'Remember When' section of the Portsmouth News contains this article showing a photograph of Royal Navy divers undergoing initial training in a tank at HMS Excellent in 1907 or 1908.  The photo also appears towards the beginning of Siebe Gorman's Deep Diving and Submarine Operations by Sir Robert Davis.

 

Diving Tank at HMS Excellent c.1907

 

Siebe Gorman & Company presented the tank to the Royal Navy c.1900.  It was re-erected at HMS Vernon for underwater cutting and welding instruction after the Second World War and veteran Historical Diving Society member Jim Hutchison once told me that he remembered being trained in it.

 


19 Aug 12 - Babcock starts work on HMS Grimsby

 

The Babcock website contains this article describing plans for HMS Grimsby's six-month Support Period (Docking) (SP(D)) whch is just starting at Rosyth.  The support period is the first Sandown class refit to be undertaken under the Surface Ship Support Alliance (SSSA) Class Output Management (COM).

 


17 Aug 12

 

Minehunters take part in historical celebrations

 

From the Royal Navy's FaceBook page:

 

Royal Navy minehunter HMS Middleton has sailed into Malta while on her way home to Portsmouth following three years in the Gulf.

 

HMS Middleton entering Grand Harbour in Malta

 

HMS Middleton and sister ship HMS Pembroke visited the island as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Malta convoys – and in particular Operation Pedestal - where minehunters played a vital role.  Following a month-long transit from Bahrain that saw the ships brave the choppy waters of the Indian Ocean and race to the rescue of a stricken cargo ship – the ships' companies hosted the reception for the celebrations in Valetta’s Grand Harbour. 

 

Following the celebrations, the Commanding Officer of HMS Middleton, Lieutenant Commander Steve Higham, said:

 

“It is a huge honour to be here on the 70th anniversary of Operation Pedestal. The courage, resilience and fortitude shown by the people of Malta and the dedication, sacrifice and commitment of the members of the Royal Navy who contributed to that success are keen reminders of the bond between the Service and Malta.

 

“The ship’s companies of HMS Middleton and Pembroke are delighted to be here to support the commemoration.  We have enjoyed sharing the experiences of those veterans, and discussing with them the roles and commitments of today’s Royal Navy."

 

Under Operation Pedestal more than 23,000 Royal Navy and merchant sailors sailed from Gibraltar during August 11-15 1942 to carry vital supplies to Malta which has been bombed into near submission.  They battled against a fearsome enemy onslaught of 21 submarines, 23 E-boats and 540 aircraft.  More than 350 service and merchantmen lost their lives and only five merchant ships made it to Valetta – the most famous of which was the SS Ohio.  She had been bombed so badly by enemy fighters that her back was broken and she was in danger of sinking.  But she was supported into port by [the destroyers] HMS Ledbury and HMS Penn on either side with HMS Rye acting as a stabilizer at the stern.  Despite the best efforts of the Italian and German attacks 30,000 tonnes of cargo reached the islanders, including aviation fuel for Spitfires based on the island. 

 

The First Sea Lord Sir Admiral Mark Stanhope also attended the ceremony and said:

 

“We lost four warships, damaged five more and out of 14 merchant ships only five got through – but they were a critical five and key to the survival of Malta.  The Navy was at sea, in the air and under the sea, because it was vital we got these supplies through”

 

As part of the celebrations – of which eight Royal Navy and Royal Marine veterans attended – Malta’s Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi unveiled a large black anchor at a special ceremony as a symbol of the courage shown by the islanders and the convoy. 

 

The following day Admiral Stanhope visited the minehunters alongside in Grand Harbour, and thanked them for their efforts in the Gulf.

 

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, on board HMS Pembroke

 

Addressing the ships' companies, he said:

 

“I wanted to thank you and give you just recognition for what you have done and what you do every day.

 

“You are returning home after an extended deployment after doing something that is absolutely critical for defence by exercising your minehunting skills regularly in the Gulf.  Your work is part of ensuring free and safe passage of the seas and that is commendable.”

 

On board HMS Middleton he presented Marine Engineering Officer, Warrant Officer Steve Hickman with his Meritorious Service Medal which recognises 22 years of continuous exceptional service.  He also gave the Logistics Department an Admiral’s Commendation for their hard work and commitment in providing top class catering for a series of high profile events.  Along with these presentations eleven individuals were awarded Herbert Lott Citations, recognising their contribution above and beyond the call of duty in the Arabian Gulf.

 

     

Left: Recipients of awards with their certificates on board HMS Middleton

Right: The First Sea Lord leaves HMS Pembroke 

 

Postscript: The RN website has since published this article and the Portsmouth News this article describing the same events.

 


Award of LS&GC Medals

 

Congratulations to CPO(MW) Taff Crandon on his award of the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (LS&GC) as announced here in the London Gazette.

 


16 Aug 12 - Royal Engineers learn ocean diving in Helmand desert

 

The Ministry of Defence website contains this article describing how our Sapper friends are teaching soldiers how to dive in a tank at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

 

Sapper Boyle (left) and instructor Captain Mick Stewart diving at Camp Bastion

(MoD photo)

 

Postscript: On 17 October 2012, the Daily Mail published this article covering the same story.

 


14 Aug 12 - HMS Blyth heads up Black Sea exercise

 

The MoD website contains this article and the RN website this article describing the participation of HMS Blyth in POSEIDON, an international muti-threat exercise in the Black Sea.  HMS Blyth is the UK member of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG 2) and the articles feature MCDOA member Tim Davey, her Commanding Officer. 

 


13 Aug 12 - Star quality

 

I spotted this photo on the Royal Navy's FaceBook page.  It looks like PO(D) David 'Daisy' May of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) front and centre:

 

Members of HMS President and Southern Diving Group with Jason Statham

 and Dolph Lundgren in support of the Premier of Expendables 2

at the Empire Leicester Square this evening

(RN Photo)

 


11 Aug 12 - A message from David Hosking MBE

 

MCDOA member David Hosking has sent this message regarding his daughter Sophie, co-recipient of the Olympic gold medal for the women's coxless pairs (see second entry for 4 Aug 12):

 

"Thank you all for supporting Sophie over the last few years - we and she, really appreciated it particularly those who were able to get to Dorney to see her race.

 

Sophie is now enjoying life in the Olympic Village and has made a couple of new friends today - see attached photos!!

 

David"

 

     

Left: Sophie Hosking flanked by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge

Right: Sophie Hosking with Prince Harry

 

For anyone unaware, Prince Harry happens to be Commodore-in-Chief of Small Ships and Diving.

 


10 Aug 12 - Portsmouth firm blows up sea mine near North Sea gas pipe

 

The Portsmouth News has published this article describing the disposal of a troublesome sea mine by Ramora UK (see entry for 19 Jun 12 in News Archive 38).  The article features MCDOA member David Welch, Ramora's Managing Director. 

 


9 Aug 12

 

Grenade discovered at Hayling Island holiday park

 

The Portsmouth News contains this article describing the disposal of a wartime grenade found on Hayling Island, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).

 


Depth charge trawled up by fishing boat off Isle of Bute

 

The RNLI website contains this article describing the disposal by Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) of a wartime depth charge trawled up by a fishing vessel in the Clyde.  The team also had to clear a fishing net fouling the boat's propeller.

 


8 Aug 12 - All change in Bahrain during big turnaround for minehunting forces

 

The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the changeover of our permanent MCM forces in the Gulf. 

 

HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 3) and HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) have been relieved by HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 4) and HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Justin Hains) respectively while MCM2 Crew 4 of HMS Quorn and MCM1 Crew 6 of HMS Ramsey have been relieved by MCM2 Crew 3 of HMS Brocklesby and MCM1 Crew 5 of HMS Grimsby, their respective counterparts in the UK.

 

HMS Atherstone leads HMS Shoreham and the Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond

(RN website photo)

 


7 Aug 12 - Award of Meritorious Service Medal

 

Congratulations to WO1(D) Andy Carss QGM on being gazetted for the award of the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) on this page of the London Gazette (see entry for 18 Jun 12 in News Archive 38).

 


6 Aug 12 - More promotion success

 

MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald informs me that fellow member Jason Poole has been selected for promotion to Captain.  I am sure that all members will join me in offering Jason our hearty congratulations.

 

Chance encounter between Jason Poole

and MCDOA past-Chairman Paul Jones

at an MCDOA Ladies Night at Hornet

Sailing Club in 2009 

 


From MCDOA member Jason Poole:

 

Rob,

 

Thank you for your kind words.  Yes, I am in the pool which is great, but have to await a job before I am bona fide!

 

Perhaps the stars will align ahead of the MCDOA dinner in November when we can share a beer!

 

Cheers,

 

Jason

 


4 Aug 12

 

Promotion success

 

Congratulations to MCDOA member Phil Burrell on being promoted to Commodore and appointed Head of Training & Education with Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Personnel & Training) with effect from September.  My thanks to Martyn Holloway for first bringing this to my attention.

 

Captain Phil Burrell Royal Navy

 


From MCDOA member Phil Burrell: 

 

"Rob,

 

Many thanks for publishing news of my forthcoming promotion on the MCDOA website.  It was appreciated greatly. 

 

I start as Head of TESRR (Training, Education, Skills, Recruiting & Resettlement) within the MOD on 20 Aug 12.  Looking forward to the new role enormously.  It shows that if you hang around long enough, something might happen!  

 

Many thanks too (and once again) for all of the work that you do on behalf of the MCDOA and, in particular, for all that you publish on our website.  I look at it regularly and always enjoy the updates.  You may recall that we exchanged e-mails as I sought to establish a TM Association.  We are now up and running (and modelled very much on the MCDOA) with the TMIOA with our website at:

 

www.TMIOA.co.uk

 

Hope to see you at this year’s dinner, which is the 25th anniversary of my course (LMCDO '87B).  

 

All the very best,

 

Phil

 

P M Burrell

Capt RN

Head of Support

UK Defence Academy

Shrivenham"

 


Olympic success

 

It was marvellous to see Lt Pete Reed RN win a gold medal as a member of the Men's Coxless Fours but it was also good to see MCDOA member David Hosking's daughter Sophie win gold with Katherine Copeland in the Women's Coxless Pairs.  Congratulations to all concerned.

 

Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking 

 

As this article in the Daily Telegraph intimates, David won a gold medal for rowing as a Sub Lieutenant in the light eights at the 1980 world championships.  Last year, he briefly held the transatlantic rowing record as a member of Team Hallin sponsored by MCDOA member John Giddens (see second entry for 8 Feb 11 in News Archive 33).

 


3 Aug 12 - Ministry of Defence plans new wave of unmanned marine drones

 

The Guardian website contains this article describing MoD plans for the increased use of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) in maritime operations.  It highlights the SeaFox mine identification and disposal system used by our minehunters and includes comments by MCDOA member Kev Giles and Rear Admiral Chris Parry (son of the late MCDOA member John Parry) who was the Principal Guest at our annual dinner in 2007.

 

Postscript: Today's Daily Telegraph contains this article covering the same story and featuring MCDOA member Kev Giles.

 


2 Aug 12

 

Death of Sydney Knowles BEM

 

I was immensely saddened to receive this message today from Frances, wife of pioneering clearance diver Sydney Knowles BEM:

 

"Dear Rob,

 

Just a quick email to inform you that Sydney passed away on Tuesday the 31st of July.  His health had been failing for some time and he had been confined to his wheelchair for two years; not the life he wanted.

 

On the 13th of July he was admitted to hospital and after two days transferred to another hospital.  He was discharged on Friday the 20th of July and spent his remaining days at home where he wanted to be.  The funeral is tomorrow Friday, the coffin draped with the Royal Navy ensign and full honours paid by our branch of the Royal British Legion of which he was proud to be Vice President.

 

Very kind regards,

 

Frances"

 

 

A recent photo of Sydney Knowles

at his home in Spain

 

Sydney Knowles enjoyed a long association with the legendary Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE GM RNVR with whom he first dived in Gibraltar in 1942 when Allied ships were being attacked with limpet mines by Italian Decima Mas divers on human torpedoes.  He dived with Crabb again to clear ordnance around Venice later in the war and in underwater spying missions after the war.  He also dived with Crabb to search for the Spanish galleon known to have sunk in Tobermory harbour.

 

Lionel 'Buster' Crabb with Sydney Knowles in Gibraltar

during the Second World War

 

Sydney wrote an autobiographical account of his life and career called A Diver in the Dark and I was honoured when he invited me to provide the foreword.  I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our deepest condolences to Frances and other members of Sydney's family. 

 


Royal Navy diver honoured for saving 1,000 lives in Afghanistan

 

The Daily Mirror contains this article describing how LS(D) Martin Platts of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) has been given an outstanding achievement award by Brigadier Patrick Sanders (Task Force Commander for Herrick 15) for teaching Afghan National Army bomb disposal operators how to neutralise IEDs and for clearing bombs for patrolling NATO troops.

 

LS(D) Martin Platts

 

I am sure that all members of our community will join me in offering Martin our hearty congratulations on his achievement.

 

Martin Platts with his certificate

and IEDD equipment

 

Postscript: The MoD website contains this article, the RN website this article and the Portsmouth News this article covering the same story.

 


1 Aug 12 - MCMVs in the news

 

The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how HMS Middleton and HMS Pembroke, returning from their Gulf deployment, have provided protection for a disabled merchant ship drifting in the Gulf of Aden.  It also contains this article describing the return to the water of HMS Chiddingfold after an eight-month refit which included a major upgrade.

 

 

     

Left: MV New Delhi Express from HMS Middleton

Right: HMS Chiddingfold and her ship's company in dry dock

(RN website photos)

 

Postscript: The MoD website contains this article describing HMS Chiddinfold's return to the water.

 


30 Jul 12 - Shells discovered in Sheerness Harbour

 

The BBC News website contains this article and the Kent Online website this article describing the involvement of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) in two EOD incidents at Sheerness over the weekend.

 


29 Jul 12 - HDS Diving Museum update

 

MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and the refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in Gosport as the Society's library and repository for the museum's reserve collection:

 

"We have received a donation of £15,000 from the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT) for maintenance and upkeep in recognition of our efforts to date.  Naturally, we are extremely grateful.

 

Thanks to a break in the rain, the number of people visiting the museum is creeping up.  There were 54 visitors last Saturday plus another 7 from Gosport Ghost Club (and yes, they did make contact!!).  A full report is expected in due course.  Sunday saw 62 visitors.  So far, the attendance statistics are roughly the same as last year.  A repeat visit by pupils from Bay House School was a great success thanks to John Dadd and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.  About 150 kids survived with no casualties.  Other visiting groups have included the Palmerston Forts Society, the Gosport Beavers (Scout Group), the Society for Underwater Technology, the Royal British Legion and a course of RN diver trainees.

 

Gosport Beavers being shown around the museum by Ann Bevan

 

Volunteer museum guide, ex-FCPO(D) John Dadd, shows RN diver

trainees around the Royal Navy section of the HDS museum

(More photos here)

 

The museum has also seen a visitor of a different kind.  Check out this video on YouTube.

 

Ann Bevan with a curious visitor at the HDS Museum

 

Throughout the coming week it is intended to remove the bank of soil surrounding the disused ARP bunker in Gosport housing the HDS Library and to landscape the area.  Work starts at 1000 tomorrow and 14 RN diver recruits from HMS Collingwood have been enlisted to help.  The Headmaster of the adjacent Alverstoke Junior School is kindly allowing the the topsoil to be deposited in the school grounds about 100m from the Bunker.  The HDS team so far consists of:

 

John Bevan - 2 spades/shovels, 1 pick axe, 1 wheel barrow, 1 small trailer

Jim Thomson

Nigel Phillips - 3 spades/shovels, 1 medium trailer

 

We will need shovels/spades for the 14 RN recruits.  Watch this space!

 

JohnB"

 

The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site at any time.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.

 


28 Jul 12 - Paul Jones lends a hand

 

Today's Portsmouth News contains this article which describes the presentation of a cheque to the Cystic Fibrosis Kids of Portsmouth (CFK) charity.  The article features former MCDOA Chairman Paul Jones who passed over the cheque as Commanding Officer of HMS Excellent.

 

Paul Jones hands over a cheque to the Cystic Fibrosis Kids of Portsmouth

(Portsmouth News photo)

 

Members may remember that 12-year-old cystic fibrosis sufferer Ella Hamza joined members of the MW and Diving branches for the final leg of their swim around Portsea Island to raise funds for CFK last year (see entry for 31 Jul 11 in News Archive 35).

 


27 Jul 12 - MWA Southern Area Monthly Dit Session

 

I spent an extremely pleasant evening at The George on Portsdown Hill last night with fellow members of the Minewarfare Association (MWA).  Apart from Yours Truly, other attendees included fellow MCDOA members Steve Brown, Tim Curd and Bill Kerr plus Taff Davies, Dixie Dean, John 'Hydra Joe' Erskine, Taff Reader and Pete Whitehead.

 

Left to right: Joe Erskine, Steve Brown, Dixie Dean, Taff Reader, Bill Kerr,

Tim Curd, Pete Whitehead, Taff Davies and Rob Hoole

 


26 Jul 12 - Bob Hawkins recognised by US Navy

 

Hearty congratulations to MCDOA member Bob Hawkins for being awarded the US Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (Gold Star in lieu of a second award) in Bahrain.  He left the staff of COMCMRON FIVE today after "seven hard-working yet enjoyable months" and is now set to spend three years in Penang.

 

Bob Hawkins receives his certificate of award from Cdre Glenn Allen USN,

Commander Mine Countermeasures Squadron 5 (COMCMRON 5), CTF 52

 


25 Jul 12 - Three Men in a Boat

 

The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole took to the water in the good ship Dougout yesterday.  After leaving the marina at HMS Excellent, they turned left outside Portsmouth harbour and driven more by the tidal stream than the wind, the eventually beached Dougout on the rising tide at at Southsea so they could scrub off all the weed that had accumulated on her bottom since she re-entered the water in February.

 

     

Left: Hoole at the helm

Right: Hoole and Barlow exchange a word

 

     

Left: Barlow and Hoole take the waters

Right: Barlow and Holloway enjoying themselves

 

Dougout kedged to the beach 

 

     

Left: Westward view towards Southsea Pier

Right: Eastward view towards Eastney

 

HMS Kent, HMS Dragon and HMS Illustrious alongside the wall

 

    

Left: The Sultan of Oman's Naval Ship Al-Shamikh

Right: HMS Mersey, HMS Endurance and HMS Lancaster

 

HMS Lancaster with the decomissioned HMS Ark Royal in the background 

 

Dougout back alongside the jetty at HMS Excellent 

 

Glorious weather.  Glorious day. 

 


24 Jul 12 - Change of guard with UK and multi-national MCM Force

 

The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the presentation of a commemorative painting to Cdre Glenn Allen USN, Commander Mine Countermeasures Squadron 5 (COMCMRON 5), CTF 52, by the four outgoing Commanding Officers of the UK MCM Force as they prepared to return their ships and crews to the UK after nearly eight months deployed in the Gulf.

 

MCDOA member Andy Elvin (attached to CTF 52) and Andy Lamb (MCM 1) flanked

by COs of UK MCM Force ships and the painting presented to Cdre Allen

(RN website photo)

 


23 Jul 12 - Ian Geraghty returns from year-long Clipper Race

 

The Portsmouth News contains this article describing the return of the yacht Geraldton Western Australia after finishing sixth in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.  It features MCDOA member Ian Geraghty who has crewed throughout the 45,000 mile 12-month race.

 

Geraldton Western Australia berthed at Ocean Village in Southampton

with Ian third from left

(Portsmouth News photo) 

 

Congratulations, Ian, and welcome home. 

 


22 Jul 12 - Navy News

 

The July issue of Navy News contains several items of MCD interest and can be downloaded here.

 


21 Jul 12 - Mary Rose £2 coin

 

Today's Portsmouth News contains this article about the million Mary Rose £2 coins which have just entered circulation to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the raising of the ship.  It features the photograph below showing members of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) surrounding a huge floating replica of the 1,511 gold and silver coins produced to mark last year's 500th anniversary of the ship's maiden voyage (see second entry for 5 Aug 11 in News Archive 35).

 

 

FDS divers positioning the floating replica of the £2 coin

over the Mary Rose wreck site in the Solent last year

 

 


20 Jul 12 - HMS Cattistock visiting Bristol this weekend

 

The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the four-day visit of HMS Cattistock to Bristol this weekend to support the Harbour Festival.

 

HMS Cattistock arriving in Bristol for the Harbour Festival last year

(RN website photo)

 


19 Jul 12 - Minehunter crews return from the Gulf

 

The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the return to the UK on 11 July of MCM2 Crew 4 of HMS Quorn and MCM1 Crew 6 of HMS Ramsey from their lengthy deployments in the Gulf.

 

The ships remain in theatre based in Bahrain.  I believe MCM2 Crew 3 has taken over HMS Quorn and MCM1 Crew 5 has taken over HMS Ramsey.

 

Lord Astor being shown a SeaFox mine disposal vehicle

on board HMS Quorn

(RN website photo)

 


17 Jul 12 - A familiar face greets the Olympic torch in Gosport

 

Friends and colleagues of former FCPO(D) John Dadd BEM might enjoy this article published in today's Portsmouth News.

 

John Dadd greets the Olympic torch

(Portsmouth News photo)

 

I am grateful to former WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE for bringing this to my attention.

 


16 Jul 12 - Warship World articles of interest

 

 

The current issue of Warship World contains several items of MCD interest including: 


14 Jul 12 - "US deploys underwater drones to hunt for Iranian drones"

 

The Daily Telegraph has published this article with the astonishing headline above.  It describes the delivery of more SeaFox mine identification and disposal vehicles to US Navy MCM forces in the Gulf.  Although the article acknowledges that SeaFox is also used by the Royal Navy, it fails to mention that the UK has maintained a continuous presence of four minehunters (equipped with SeaFox) in the Gulf since 2006.

 


12 Jul 12 - MW and Diving support for the 2012 London Olympics

 

Following yesterday's article below, MCDOA member John Beavis, the Commanding Officer of Southern Diving Group (SDG), has sent the following message:

 

"Rob,

 

Please forgive, but just a short note for now, hopefully to add a little flavour to the Olympics fact sheet, as advertised earlier!  As the note alludes, elements of the FDS, principally SDG, are deploying to provide a niche contribution to the Home Office led Olympic Security plan. 

 

The planning and training phase is now complete.  Although this has been largely down to the efforts of the SDG team, especially Lts (and soon to be Lt Cdrs) Ross Balfour (OIC SDU1) and Dan Herridge (OIC SDU2), I should stress this has been very much a "Wholeship" evolution to get us to the start line!

 

As you'd imagine, there has been broad engagement and collaboration with an array of agencies over the last 2-3 years.  These have included the Metropolitan Police Service, Dorset Police, 29 EOD and Search Group, 11 EOD Regiment RLC, 539 ASRM and of course within the Fleet Diving Squadron, to name but a few!  This should give a feel for the breadth and size of the Operation that will see Inter-Service and Inter-Agency come together simultaneously, on a unique Operation and with unique challenges!

 

So why are we there?

 

With the clear intent to support the Home Office, we have tasked to bring to bear the Royal Navy Clearance Diver's niche maritime search and UW EOD skill set to bolster existing assets and contingency plans.  This will see us working very much hand in glove with the SO15 Explosive Officers in London, and Dorset Police in Weymouth and Portland. Equally, north of the border our sister Area Diving Group, NDG, will be supporting the overall contingency with counter-IED support to key venues on key dates.  Of note, both Area Groups have already provided similar cover to the Olympic Torch Relay.

 

The "Wholeship" theme runs throughout, and none more so in terms of resource.

 

To meet this broad and challenging mission, further divers from FDU2 and the RNR will also deploy to Portland and London respectively whilst, from a MW perspective, elements from the Fleet Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Unit (FUUVU) will operate in both to facilitate rapid underwater search using the REMUS AUV system.  Needless to say, this has been an immensely rewarding process for all involved.  Many key inter service and agency relationships have been forged, and indeed friendships made, across the diving, EOD and broader "Blue light" communities.  I'm confident that these will not only bear fruit for the purpose of this Operation but also, I hope, on a more enduring basis for the future.  Either way, I am absolutely confident that the mutual dit spinning and comparing of kit will continue; long may it last!

 

As I write, the teams have now deployed, departing in great spirits, eager to meet the mission, and ready to support the Government's objective to deliver a safe and successful games.  I will endeavour to forward you more detail, and hopefully some phots, as time and tempo permit.

 

In the interim may I thank you once again for all your good work on the website, and on a broader note, and in this year of national celebration, wish Team GB well in 2012; Go for Gold!

 

All the best.

 

Yours Aye,

 

John Beavis

Lieutenant Commander RN

Commanding Officer

Southern Diving Group"

 

Thank you, John.  Your input is much appreciated and I'm sure we all wish those involved in this operation the best of British and some-well deserved, if rather belated, summer leave when the Olympics and Paralympics are over.  Who knows, perhaps the weather will have improved by mid-September?

 


11 Jul 12 - Southern Diving Group and the Olympics

 

The Ministry of Defence has issued several fact sheets explaining the Royal Navy's role in providing security for the 2012 London Olympics including this one featuring the First Patrol Boat Squadron and the Southern Diving Group (SDG):

 

RN Fact Sheet

 


10 Jul 12 - SDU2 detonates WWII bomb off Deal

 

The BBC website contains this article, the Royal Navy website this article and the Portsmouth News website this article following up yesterday's news of an item of ordnance dredged up near the entrance to Dover harbour.  The item, described as a WWII German 500 lb bomb, was towed out to sea and detonated this morning by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).  The articles feature MCDOA member Dan Herridge (OIC of SDU2) and PO(D) Dave 'Daisy' May.

 

Bomb detonation off Dover

(RN website photo)

 

Postscript: The Navy News website has since published this article describing the same event.

 

A member of an RN EOD team prepares his kit for a dive

(Navy News photo)

 


9 Jul 12 - Portsmouth explosives experts called to harbour

 

The Portsmouth News contains this article describing a call-out for an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team from Portsmouth, presumably Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), to deal with an item of ordnance dredged up near Dover harbour.

 


6 Jul 12

 

HMS Cattistock tasked to search for missing RAF aircrew

 

The Portsmouth News contains this article describing how Portsmouth-based HMS Cattistock has been tasked to search for the aircrew missing since two RAF Tornados crashed into the Moray Firth on Tuesday.

 


Bomb alert at Barton's Point

 

The Kent Online website contains this article describing the discovery of artillery shells on mudflats off the Isle of Thanet yesterday.  They were detonated by a Royal Navy bomb disposal team, presumably Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).

 

Artillery shells found off the Isle of Thanet

 


4 Jul 12 - FDS members splice the mainbrace

 

Following the recently issued direction from Her Majesty the Queen for the Naval Service to ‘splice the mainbrace’ in recognition of the RN’s continuing work and to celebrate Her Diamond Jubilee year, HMS Excellent was out of the blocks quickly and conducted a traditional issue of the ‘tot’ in the Navy Headquarters.  Shown here are a few members of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) ensuring the mainbrace was well and truly spliced with the Commanding Officer HMS Excellent, Cdr Paul Jones (a previous MCDOA Chairman).  The traditional rum issue was served by senior members of the Gunnery Instructors' Association.

 

MCDOA past-Chairman Paul Jones and members of the Fleet Diving Squadron

splice the mainbrace

 


3 Jul 12 - HMS Middleton joins search for Timmy MacColl in Dubai

 

The BBC website contains this article, the Portsmouth News website this article and the Daily Record website this article describing how divers from HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) have joined the search for LS Timmy MacColl who disappeared while en route back to HMS Westminster after a run ashore in Dubai on 27 May.

 


2 Jul 12 - HMS Blyth leaves for six-month deployment

 

The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Daily Record this article (including several photos) covering Friday's departure of Faslane-based HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2) for a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  The articles feature MCDO Tim Davey, her Commanding Officer.  Have you joined the MCDOA yet, Tim?

 

Postscript: The MoD website has since published this article covering the same event. 

 


1 Jul 12 - HDS Diving Museum update

 

MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and the refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in Gosport as the Society's library and repository for the museum's reserve collection:

 

"Saturday 9 June was fairly slow, with the weather not really helping.  BUT .... Wait for it! ....... Sunday 10 June was the "Gosport Big Day Out" and we had ... 790 visitors!!  Yes - 790 visitors!!  There were up to 75 people in the Museum at any one time!  Martin Marks, Mike Dear, John Dadd, Hazel Casey and Ann Bevan were flat out coping with crowds!  A BIG thank you to them for their incredible effort.  

 

On Friday 22 June, the Diving Museum hosted 25 children aged 9-12 and 19 teachers from Alverstoke Junior School including some French, Spanish and Polish kids.  It was an international gathering called "Around the World: A Race for the Environment" and they have built a 'King Neptune' along the same lines as the mermaid we had last year, i.e. made from rubbish washed up on the beach.  Tommo was able to practice his German on the Poles and his French on the Spanish.  It was a most successful event and we were complimented enthusiastically by the Headmaster of the Alverstoke School which, coincidentally, is our neighbour at the Bunker.

 

Bay House School has requested a return visit to the Diving Museum on 9, 10 and 12 July.  Their requested subject is, where possible: Buster Crabb - the cold war - events leading up to the Crabb dive - equipment he might have used.  They anticipate four groups of about 15 kids per day between 1120 and 1220.  They have asked especially if John Dadd and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson can repeat their acts!

 

We only had 26 visitors on Saturday 23 June and 20 on the Sunday.  We are still investigating why it was so quiet.  The whole Stokes Bay area was very quiet as well for some reason and the weather was not bad at all.  However our total up until this weekend was quite healthy, standing at 1,163 visitors.

 

On Wednesday 27 June, we hosted about 100 graduates, QinetiQ engineers and Senior industry representatives. This was a break for the competitors from Canada, USA and UK who were fighting it out underwater at the European International Submarine Races in the Ocean Tank at QinetiQ Haslar.  [The BBC covered the event here and the Portsmouth News covered the event here.]

 

The British entry from Bath University in the

European International Submarine Races

 

Speakers and judges included representatives from Heriott-Watt University, BMT Defence Services Ld, Reson Inc, James Fisher Defence, QinetiQ, MoD, Lloyds Register, Ultra Electronics, Rolls Royce, Atlas Elektronik and the Royal Navy.  The questioning of the Guides was at a slightly higher level than usual!

 

           

Left: HDS museum guide John Dadd (ex-FCPO(D)) at back

Right: HDS museum guide Kevin Casey in centre

 

         

Left: HDS museum guide Jim 'Tommo' Thomson (ex-RN CD) on right

Right: HDS Museum Guide Gavin Anthony (ex-RNPL diving physicist) on left

 

     

Left: HDS museum guide Roger Forster on left

Right: HDS museum guide Martin Marks on left

 

     

Left: HDS museum guide Hazel Casey in centre

Right: HDS museum guide Margaret Marks on right

 

Last weekend was very reasonable as weekends go. Attendance on Saturday was 54 and with 34 on Sunday.

 

We were visited by two officials from Gosport Borough Council during the week. We had invited them to consider assisting us in repairing the roofs etc to make them waterproof.  GBC have stated they will give us full support for any grant application.

 

Thanks go to Terry Nash for his skilled workmanship in recommissioning the lights inside the model Siebe Gorman TUP chamber and bell system.  It's made a huge difference and really shows off the amazing workmanship in building the models in the first place.  Thanks also to John Dadd who has been wielding the paint brush again and tidied up parts of the exhibits.  The outside exhibits are a real treat to see. 

 

All seven P&O cruisers are doing a sail-past on Tuesday 3 July complete with a Red Arrows fly-past!  It's all part of the 175th anniversary of P&O so we plan to experiment with opening between 1900 and 2100 to see if the crowds might like to pop in while they are down here.

 

Due to the clash with the Weymouth Sea Food Festival next weekend, we will need special support at the Museum.  Please keep an eye on the Roster.

 

JohnB"

 

The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two of whom need to be on site at any time.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.

 


 

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