31 Dec 12 - A message from author Howard Leedham
I am grateful to Lt Cdr Howard Leedham MBE RN for this unexpected response to the second part of the entry for 2 Dec 12:
Just a very quick line to say thank you so much for including a short description of my book “Ask Forgiveness Not Permission” on your association website. I was very impressed that your facts were 100% correct, (not a common occurrence elsewhere).
I am immensely proud to have commenced my rather unplanned and unconventional naval career as a Clearance Diver. I believe the challenges therein set the pace and bar for all that I subsequently achieved and I even proudly managed to maintain my diving currency right up to the day I left the Navy.
Congratulations on a very good website and I wish you and the fine men of your Association all the very best. As a former CD2 I am unfortunately, but rightly, not qualified to apply for membership, otherwise I would certainly do so.
My thanks again.
Howard Leedham MBE"
Howard has also drawn my attention to this Facebook page dedicated to his book:
In return, I have thanked him for his kind words and drawn his attention to the recently formed all-ranks RN Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA), including the necessary paperwork to apply for membership.
Howard Leedham with his 'private army' in the badlands of Pakistan
(Photo courtesy of Howard Leedham)
Postscript: I have subsequently received this reply from Howard:
Thank you for the quick response and, again, many thanks for the posting. Please feel free to distribute as you see fit and also if any former CD asks for my contact details, it’s fine for you to pass them on.
The book does have a Facebook page and I’ve already posted the link to your site there. At the moment it is rather UK-centric because the book launches in the USA next year, but so far so good on reviews and sales, and we are already in film discussions so let’s see.
I’ll certainly apply to join the RNCDA and thanks for the info.
It was nice to see a few old familiar faces on your site so it’ll be nice to touch base with some of the lads again.
Have a Happy New Year.
All the best,
30 Dec 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 WWII bunker in Gosport used as the Society's library and repository for the museum's reserve collection:
"Mrs Frances Knowles, widow of Sydney Knowles (Buster Crabb's diving partner), visited the Diving Museum on 29 December after having donated several of Sydney's personal items including his medals, diving knife, woolly hat, two paintings, his book and two copies of The Silent Enemy video.
Frances Knowles (centre) with ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, ex-FCPO(D)
John Dadd and MCDOA member John Bevan to her left
Frances had travelled from Spain to visit relatives in UK for Christmas and took the opportunity to call in. The items will be incorporated in a new Crabb display ready for next year's re-opening of the Museum.
Sydney accorded me the privilege of writing the foreword to his book, A Diver in the Dark. He died in Spain on 31 July and our good friend Capt Peter Hore RN was kind enough to write this obituary for the Daily Telegraph (also see entry for 29 Aug 12 in News Archive 39).
26 Dec 12 - CO of four MCMVs named one of Independent on Sunday's Great Britons
Congratulations to Cdr Sarah West RN on being selected as one of the Independent on Sunday's 101 Great Britons of 2012.
Sarah West as CO of HMS Shoreham
Sarah was selected for sea command in 2008 and commanded the Sandown class minehunters HMS Ramsey, HMS Penzance, HMS Pembroke and HMS Shoreham in succession between April 2009 and December 2011. Her time as CO of HMS Pembroke included eight-and-a-half months deployed in the Arabian Gulf and she is currently commanding the Type 23 frigate HMS Portland.
24 Dec 12 - MCM in The News
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the assumption of Command by MCDOA member Martin Mackey (MCM2) of the Bahrain-based UK MCM Force deployed in the Arabian Gulf on Operation KIPION (see entry for 21 Nov 12 in News Archive 40).
The same paper contains this article describing the presentation of medals by Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC RN, Fleet Commander and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff to two ship's company members of HMS Brocklesby for their part in Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR off the coast of Libya last year (see entry for 27 Nov 12 in News Archive 40).
Another Portsmouth News article, not available online, states:
|Sailors to tuck into Christmas meal at sea|
SAILORS on board five Portsmouth-based warships will be tucking into their turkey dinners at sea instead of at home this year.
Two Hunt class mine-countermeasure vessels, HMS Quorn and HMS Atherstone, are on maritime security patrols east of Suez.
The River-class patrol vessel HMS Clyde is in the South Atlantic along with Type 42 destroyer HMS Edinburgh.
And Antarctic patrol ship HMS Protector is surveying the continent.
The Royal Navy says one in seven sailors, Royal Marines and Fleet Air Arm ground crew will be on duty over the holidays - more than 4,800 men and women in total.
Lieutenant Emma, McCormick, who is based at the fleet headquarters in Portsmouth, is flying out to spend the festive period with her husband, Petty Officer Keith McCormick, who is the coxswain of Forward Support Unit 2 in the Gulf.
She said: `For me, making sure there's a bit of normality in our lives at Christmas is very important.
`I suggested hosting the rest of the guys for nibbles but it got lost in translation, so I'm now cooking for up to 26 which is a logistical nightmare - but probably quite fun.'
Postscript: The above article has since been published here by the Portsmouth News.
23 Dec 12 - Life Down Under
While we Brits have been suffering gloomy skies, torrential downpours and flooding over the Christmas season, retired MCD Officer Captain Garry Kennedy RAN has been celebrating his 60th birthday with his family by enjoying the underwater delights of Fish Rock Cave near Coffs Harbour in New South Wales.
Garry Kennedy (centre) with his daughter Sophie (left) and son Ben (right)
Garry behind Ben and Sophie on the right of the picture
Ever since his exchange job in the Minewarfare section at HMS Vernon during the early 1980s, Garry and his wife Glenda have remained friends with several MCDOA members and we offer them our best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
22 Dec 12
Merry Christmas from HMS Ramsey
HMS Ramsey in the Gulf
(Navy News photo)
The Navy News website contains this article listing the Royal Navy units on duty throughout the world over Christmas including our EOD/IEDD personnel in Afghanistan. The article features this photo of the XO of HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 5), one of our minehunters deployed in the Gulf along with HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 7), HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3) and HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6):
A watery "Ho, Ho, Ho!" ("H2O, H2O, H2O!"?)
from Ramsey's XO, Lt Olly Shepherd RN
(Navy News photo)
We wish all our personnel currently on duty overseas, and elsewhere, a safe and very merry Christmas.
2013 MCDOA Northern Dinner
MCDOA member Richard Osbaldestin has asked me to publish the following announcement:
"Sirs, Fellow MWs & Divers, Friends & Guests,
The 2013 Northern MCDOA dinner will take place in the Wardroom, HMS Neptune on Thursday 28 February. The Mess President for the evening will be fellow MCDOA member Cdr Phil Ireland DSC RN, Base Executive Officer & Wardroom Mess President and I am delighted to announce that the Guest of Honour is our very own and distinguished member Lt Cdr Alan Bayliss.
Dinner will be £35 per head for members and £40 per head for non-members which will include all food and drinks for the evening.
Accommodation within the Wardroom is very tight at the moment but I have managed to secure a small number of cabins. I will also endeavour to set up other accommodation around the base, although it may be somewhat austere. Once I have an idea of final numbers I will try to allocate the available accommodation to serving or ex-serving personnel on what I see to be a priority basis i.e. our more senior ageing brethren may get a normal bed, the more sprightly may be offered camp beds.
Please let me know as soon as possible in the New Year if you can attend and if you need accommodation so I can manage numbers.
I wish you and your families all the very best for the festive season and I hope to see as many of you as possible on the 28th.
R A Osbaldestin MSc, MBA
Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy
Commanding Officer Northern Diving Group"
The booking form can be downloaded here: Proforma - MCDOA Northern Dinner 2013
21 Dec 12 - RN Minewarfare Heritage: Some recollections of an MCD Schoolie
I am grateful to Lt Cdr Albert Thompson BA RN for sending me this account of his time in the MCD world during the 1970s:
It was good to talk to you last week; my thanks go to Alex Manning for passing me your telephone number.
I mentioned that I had recently come across the MCDOA website and its photo gallery and that I have a few photos that may be of interest.
When I was commissioned into the RN in 1968 as an Instructor Lieutenant, and after initial training at Portsmouth and RNC Greenwich, I was appointed to HMS Bronington of the 1st MCM Squadron at Port Edgar (HMS Lochinvar) for general duties. This gave me my first introduction to mine warfare, and, how uncomfortable the Tons were in heavy weather!
After a first shore assignment to HMS Daedelus at Lee-on-the-Solent, I was appointed to the Training Department at HMS Vernon in June 1971. Besides involvement with the AVITs (Audio Visual Integrated Trainers) in the TAS school, I was attached to the MCD school for MW theory instructional duties. This included taking on the role that Brian Schofield had been filling in respect of statistics and probability in mine sweeping/hunting theory, the maths of mine laying and the theory of explosives. During this tenure I was attached to the LMCDO course of 1971 that was passing through at the time. Those who suffered the engrossing statistical theory behind the probability of sweeping for acoustic and pressure mines were: Steve Gobey, Hamish Loudon, Chris Massie-Taylor, Norman Taylor and Julian Thomson. My decaying memory tells me the course officer was Mike Harwood.
Having left for the Instructor Officer's 'Long Course' (meteorology, oceanography, navigation et al), I returned for a second sojourn in Vernon, this time in the Oceanographic Section working again with Brian Schofield.
From my time involved with the MW world and instructing in Vernon, I was lucky/fortunate/privileged to be given the opportunity to experience many facets of mine countermeasures in some great company - from the attempts to degauss Bronington at Portland, to training sweeps in the Firth of Forth (day running from HMS Lochivar in various Tons), to visits to RNR units around the UK and overnight sleeper journeys from Paddington to South West Wales to visit RNAD Trecwn and the Mine Depot in Milford Haven.
Among the MCDOs who were on the training staff or working in the MCD section when I was in Vernon were Brian Dutton, Dan Nicholson, John O'Driscoll and Jon Riches. Besides Brian Schofield there were two other Vernon 'schoolies' involved in MW and CD who I had the great pleasure of getting to know: Sid Walton (a 'diving' schoolie who was much involved with instructional films) and Ralph Mavin.
Sadly, for me, whilst I can recall these names, I now have a poor recollection of the faces to go with them. Perhaps through the MCDOA website it may be possible to put some faces to a few of them?
I have a copy of the course photo of LMCDO '71's visit to EGUERMIN (Ecole de Guerre des Mines) in Ostend. I do recognise, right to left, Brian Schofield, first right, and Hamish Loudon, fourth from the right. I am sixth from the right at the back with glasses.
Left to right: Unknown Belgian officer, Mike Harwood, Julian Thomson, Chris
Massie-Taylor, Norman Taylor, Albert Thompson, Steve Gobey, Hamish Loudon,
Lt Stephen Weston USN, Pat Gale and Brian Schofield at EGUERMIN,
the Belgian-Netherlands Minewarfare School in Ostend, in 1971
Is Steve Gobey fifth from the right, Norman Taylor seventh, Chris Massie-Taylor eighth and Julian Thomson ninth from the right? Other than the Belgian officer on the far left, who are the others? I would very much appreciate it if you could help with identification. [By Webmaster: I have managed to identify everyone in the photo except the Belgian.]
I also have some coloured snaps of the Roedean School visit to Vernon in 1972 (?) with Roedean's lacrosse team being challenged by a scratch team from Vernon. [By Webmaster: Vernon's afiliation with Roedean School for Girls near Brighton had originated with the evacuation of several of the establishment's departments to the school during the Portsmouth Blitz of 1940/41. See Doug Barlow's 'The Angels Have Landed' in the website's Dit Box.]
I think one blurred pic is of Ralph Mavin endeavouring to press home an attacking move by dodging around the trees that lined the main drag.
I've attached scans of the cover and last page of the HMS Vernon Centenary booklet produced in 1972, with the final paragraph of the latter recording this momentous event.
My last dealings with Brian Schofield ('Mr Statistical Evaluation') were at the Maritime Warfare Centre on Portsdown Hill between 1997 and 2002 (my last job in the RN) when he came in as an occasional consultant for Route Survey Database work. I believe Albert is correct in his identification of individuals in the EGUERMIN photo. Here is the course photo of LMCDO '71 although Mike Welford actually qualified on LMCDO '72:
1971 Long Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers' Course (LMCDO '71)
I also have a copy of the Vernon centenary booklet Albert cites.
Responses to this article are appended below in reverse chronical order.
From Albert Thompson:
Many thanks to you and all who helped put the faces to the names in the LMCDO '71 photo at Eguermin, Ostend. It has certainly brought back good memories of HMS Vernon.
I intended to send the attached in time for Christmas along with my Season's Greetings. But somehow or other the business of being retired got in the way.
Menu from 1971 Wardroom Christmas Ball at HMS Vernon
Still managing to get in some sea time.
Albert Thompson - still at sea
So, belatedly, my Best Wishes to the MCDOA for 2013.
From MCDOA member Steve Gobey:
"Hi Rob et al,
Ah, the MW element of the LMCDO course! Happy days - Stat Eval, etc., involving big difficult sums but Albert did a grand job of making a dry subject fun and keeping a bunch of blokes who would rather be running around or blowing bubbles sane! I still chuckle about one warm afternoon with Albert doing his stuff at the chalkboard and the course trying to stay awake with varying degrees of success. Suddenly we were all brought back to reality with a bang as Norman Taylor slid off his chair and disappeared under his desk with a mighty crash! Albert had been struggling too, broke his chalk and wisely decided to call it a day and let us go and run around!
The visit to EGUERMIN, however, came as a welcome break from sitting in a classroom and Albert has got his identifications right. 'Emergency Mike' Harwood is next to the Belgique whose name escapes me but I seem to remember he was a 'Bon Oeuf'. Pat Gale came with us (second from right) having recently returned from exchange in the States. Next to him is Lt Stephen Weston USN, the exchange officer who joined our course for some of the MW time before going on to be SOO MCM4 in Port Edgar. We became good friends and still keep in regular touch. Over the years we have exchanged visits to each other's homes in Vermont and Bath. The last occasion was in 2010 when Stephen and his wife, Connie, did a bit of boating and pubbing with us in Bath! Must be time soon for us to go to Vermont.
Stephen Weston waiting for Gobey to buy him a pint in Bath
in July 2010
Left: Stephen Weston at the helm of Steve & Sally Gobey's narrow boat 'Frobisher'
on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Bath in July 2010
Right: Steve Gobey with Judy Taylor (left) and Norman Taylor with Sally Gobey (right)
at an LMCDO '71 'mini-reunion' at The Ram in Bath in September 2011
Another memory associated with the MW bit of our course was when I organised a caving trip to Priddy in the Mendips. Albert came with us and, like the man in the Remington advert, liked it so much that he bought a caving wetsuit and a house next to the Queen Victoria pub in Priddy and has lived there ever since! That's my version and anyway it makes a good dit! I've visited the pub a couple of times in recent years but Albert must have known I was coming and was away!
Well, I could ramble on ...... but I've got Christmas shopping to think about!
Best wishes to you all for a very Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year.
PS. For Albert - will keep trying to meet you in the Vic. Give me a shout if you're heading to Bath."
From MCDOA member Mike Welford in Australia:
I never got a photo of my ‘5 minutes’ on LMCDO ‘71. LMCDO ‘72 actually went to Roedean School to play them at lacrosse with our course of Ralph, myself, Mike Critchley, Keith (Fub) Edmonds, Brian Mansbridge and Dave Sandiford. I am not sure if we were at DEODS at the time and do not recall a return match at Vernon whether before or after our visit to them! Keith was the only person who knew how to play and due to him we nearly won.
I do see Pat in the EGUERMIN photo and Brian Schofield but cannot name the Belgian 2 and 1/2 nor the guy between Hamish and Pat. With the possibility of Steve Gobey looking a little like Tim Hildesley, I think Albert has them all.
Of the first lacrosse photo I would have said Ravin Mavin was in a red skirt, but the second shows he is in white shorts ‘bashing’ trees.
I am attending my term's 50th anniversary reunion at BRNC Dartmouth in September next year and if time permits, I will contact you again as for my last visit with Erica three years ago, my son James (which he still recalls with great pleasure though I am afraid he will not be with us) and Rosa.
Although he always denied it, I believe Ralph is a ‘term mate’ as I have a copy of the Navy List for Autumn 1964 that shows he was an Instructor Officer (Sub-Lieutenant) with Seniority of 18 Sept 1963 (the day I joined).
I returned last month from a week's diving in Niue (about 3,000 kms North of NZ) with visibility of 80 to 100 metres and 27 deg C and then this week at Bateman’s Bay where it was 18 deg C and visibility of 5 metres!! ‘Fraid I look a little ‘portly’ (one on the left driving the remains of a land rover) but truly it is the BCD, not my gut!!!!
I spoke to Graham Sharp Paul a fortnight ago and had hoped to see him also in Niue but Vicky had both knees operated on early this year. We were in the Philippines last year with him diving at Malapascua for a little under two weeks and 20 dips! [By Webmaster: See entry for 31 Dec 11 in News Archive 36]
From MCDOA member Dan Nicholson:
Good news that Albert has revealed all that history. He was ‘The Stats Man’ and well I remember being suitably baffled by a number of MCD Schoolies. I now know that the complicated mathematical processes we went through to get ‘a rough handful’ for an answer (runs per track, or whatever) was ideal work for a computer.
In 1973 I went to work with the US Navy’s airborne MCM Unit and, yes, they already had one; “The Wang” which was operationally proven in Haiphong harbour and the Suez canal! As ever, it was important to know the theory behind what the machine could tell you – and that completes the circle. Many thanks to Brian Schofield, Sid Walton, Brian Neville, Ralph Mavin and all the others – including Jake Linton RAN who very patiently taught stat eval to the USN MW course I completed in Charleston.
A very merry Christmas to you all,
From MCDOA member Martyn Holloway:
Interesting stuff though I have never met Albert. Having completed the '70 Long Course I was doing my thing at sea in Kedleston as MHCO and then Kellington as XO before returned to Vernon summer 1973 by which time Ralph was IOMCD.
20 Dec 12
HMS Blyth home from the Mediterranean
The Royal Navy website contains this article, featuring MCDOA members Martin Mackey and Tim Davey, and the Navy News website this article describing today's joyful homecoming at Faslane of HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2 commanded by Tim Davey). The ship has spent the past six months in charge of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean (see entry for 5 Dec 12).
HMS Blyth crewed by Santas as she approaches her berth
(RN photo by CPO(Phot) Tam Macdonald, FRPU North)
Lt Cdr Tim Davey RN being greeted by his daughters
(RN photo by CPO(Phot) Tam Macdonald, FRPU North)
We wish Tim and his ship's company a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year during their well-earned leave.
Dedication of Ouvry memorial plaque
This is a reminder about the dedication of a memorial plaque to pioneer bomb & mine disposal officer Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN at All Saints Church in Milford-on-Sea in Hampshire, 1145 for 1200, on Saturday 5 January.
If you plan to attend, please notify John Ouvry's son David as soon as possible. Details can be found in the entry for 26 Nov 12. David has now found a source of funds to cover the ensuing refreshments so donations are no longer requested.
Left: John Ouvry's son David and his wartime colleague, the late Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR,
flanking Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) beside Ouvry's mine on board HMS Belfast in July 2009
Right: John Ouvry's granddaughter, Lt Cdr Jan Ouvry QARNNS, with Yours Truly after the Ouvry
70th anniversary commemorative event on board HMS Belfast in November 2009
19 Dec 12 - Five 'Jingle' Bells from HMS Ramsey
The Royal Navy's page on Facebook contains this photo:
HMS Ramsey's divers set off for an early morning dip
(Royal Navy photo)
18 Dec 12 - HMS Penzance becomes latest minehunter to receive Rosyth revamp
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the arrival of HMS Penzance at Rosyth for a five-month refit. The ship has been taken over by MCM1 Crew 3 which brought HMS Pembroke back to the UK last summer after manning her for six-months in the Gulf.
HMS Penzance at Faslane
(RN website photo)
17 Dec 12 - Would-be bomber jailed for three years
The Banffshire Journal website contains this article describing how a resident of Banff in Scotland has been jailed for three years for making threats and possessing explosive substances in suspicious circumstances. At the time of his arrest in May, scores of family homes and businesses were evacuated and members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) were called in to search his house.
16 Dec 12 - News from Dave Hosking in Gibraltar
Cdr David Hosking MBE RN
I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Hosking, Skipper of the Team Hallin ocean rowing crew, for this update:
I thought you all might be interested in this summary and photos from our recent sea trial in Gibraltar.
Thanks for your continued support and interest in Team Hallin and have a great Christmas.
Team Hallin members Neil Ward and Stu Chamberlayne
sculling on the Eastern side of Gibraltar
with Dave Hosking in the background
Team Hallin is sponsored by Hallin Marine of Singapore which was founded by MCDOA member John Giddens in 1998. John has since sold the company to Superior Energy for £103.5 million but remains the Chief Executive. For news of Team Hallin's previous success crossing the Atlantic last year, see second entry for 8 Feb 11 in News Archive 33.
Regular readers will recall that Dave's daughter Sophie was a co-recipient of the gold medal for the women's coxless pairs at the 2012 Olympics (see entry for 11 Aug 12 in News Archive 39) and we wish Dave and his crew every success when they participate in the GB Row 2013 around Great Britain, starting on 1 June. They will be raising money for Combat Stress and you can support them by making a donation online here.
14 Dec 12 - Online diving magazines
Some weeks ago, British underwater photographer Mike Seares of In Depth Solutions invited me to trial the prototype iPad 'App' (application) for a new weekly interactive online diving magazine called iUnderwater. This is a mixture of informative text, vividly colourful photos and stunning video taken at dive sites around the world and the first four issues are now available for download from iTunes here for a PC or via iBooks for an iPad/iPhone. Click on the images below for details of their contents.
Doug Smith of Canada has now drawn my attention to an online publication called Depth Magazine of which he is the President/Editor. The Premier Winter issue is now available for download and the spring edition is due to appear on 15 March 2013. Click on the image below to register for your free subscription.
I thoroughly recommend both online publications to aficianados of recreational diving... and no, I am not on commission.
13 Dec 12 - Britain's little ambassador
MCDOA member Bob Hawkins recently took up a new post in Penang, Malaysia as the Lead Maritime Planner in Headquarters Integrated Area Defence System (HQ IADS) which executes the policies of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA). He has allowed me to publish this photo showing him preparing to give his HQ IADS 'Hail'.
Lt Cdr Bob Hawkins MBE RN
(Don't you love those empire builders he's wearing?)
11 Dec 12 - HMS Atherstone wins Iron Man Challenge in the Gulf
Back in September, personnel from HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6) competed against 34 other teams from UK, US, Japanese and French ships in the Middle East to win the first Annual IMCMEX Sporting Trophy in Bahrain (see entry for 1 Oct 12 in News Archive 40). The Royal Navy website now contains this article describing how members of HMS Atherstone's ship's company have beaten their counterparts from USS Gladiator in an Iron Man Challenge that took place in Bahrain on 23 November (see entry for 3 Nov 12 in News Archive 40). The article features MCDOA member Justin Hains (Commanding Officer of HMS Atherstone) and PO(D) John Carroll (Coxswain of HMS Atherstone) who organised the event.
Above and below: HMS Atherstone's Iron Man Challenge team including
Justin Hains third from right
(RN website photos)
The team from HMS Atherstone competed to raise money for the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC). So far they have raised nearly £1,000 but you can still show your appreciation for their efforts by donating via this webpage:
Virgin Money Giving: HMS Atherstone Charity Iron Man 70.3
9 Dec 12 - SDU2 deals with WW II shells at Orford Ness
The East Anglian Daily Times website contains this article describing the disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of two wartime shells found on the beach at Orford Ness in Suffolk on 6 December.
8 Dec 12 - News from Chris Deere
I am grateful to Cdr Chris Deere of the Canadian Navy for this update after I notified him that we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of LMCDO '88B, on which he undertook the MW module, at next year's MCDOA annual dinner:
I was so disappointed not to make this year's dinner. I had committed to an Air Canada pilots' golf tournament in Las Vegas thinking the dates would not conflict. Ooops! All that to say is "Bingo", when the dinner shifted right I was "hooped". By the way, I don't play golf very well and Pompey would have been my much prefered choice.
En tous cas, it's in the calendar for 2013 and [Jim] Penman is also targetting! I will try and bring a few more Canadians.
I am currently working here in Paris as the Liaison Officer to their Plans and Ops Centre (PJHQ equivalant). Fantastic for my last job in the Navy and only a train ride to the UK.
P.S. Thanks for your work and dedication to the MCDOA, especially including us Colonials. It is very much appreciated."
Sadly, I missed the fact that Chris was presented with the Canadian Order of Military Merit by David Johnston, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, in Ottawa a couple of years ago as described in this article on the Inside Halton website.
Chris Deere being presented with the Order of Military Merit
A good friend of the MCDOA since its inception, Chris was born in England in 1958 and his father served in the RAF. His family emigrated to Canada in 1968 and he lived in Georgetown, Ontario for the rest of his youth. He joined the Canadian Navy as a Maritime Surface Officer in 1979 before sub-specialising in clearance diving and EOD in 1986. In December 1988, he was posted on exchange with the Royal Navy for 3½ years. After completing the MW module of LMCDO '88B at HMS Vernon, he served as the Operations Officer of Rosyth-based HMS Brocklesby, then for 18 months as the First Lieutenant of HMS Dulverton (now the Lithuanian Naval Ship Kuršis) in which he deployed to the Arabian Gulf for mine clearance operations during and after the 1991 Gulf War.
Chris's range of appointments in the Canadian Navy has included Officer-in-Charge of the Fleet Attack Re-breather Diving Team, Staff Diving and MW Officer at Maritime Forces (Atlantic) Headquarters, Crew Combat Officer in HMCS Charlottetown, MW Tactics Officer at the Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre (CFMWC) encompassing the role of Canadian Head of Delegation to the NATO MW Working Group, Diving and Salvage Advisor to the Admiral at MARLANT Headquarters during Operation PERSISTENCE (the recovery of Swissair Flight 111), Commanding Officer of the Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic), Commandant of the Canadian Forces Fleet School (Quebec) and Canadian Navy Director of Diving Safety. Not to be outdone, his younger brother David was an F-18 fighter pilot in the Gulf War and his older brother Michael flew C-130 Hercules from 1981 to 1990.
7 Dec 12 - Jim Byron decorated by the Queen
The British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) website contains this article, including a video, describing Tuesday's investiture at Buckingham Palace of MCDOA member Jim Byron with the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) by HM the Queen. He was awarded the decoration for his courage and leadership as the Commanding Officer of HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 3 at the time) while clearing mines in the approaches to Misrata in Libya during Operation ELLAMY last year (see entry for 23 Mar 12 in News Archive 37). The video contains an interview with Jim in which he praised his ship's company effusively and he tells me that he had "a marvellous day".
Cdr Jim Byron RN being invested with his DSC by HM the Queen
6 Dec 12 - 'Diving sickness rises after naval ship sinks'
Bearing in mind that RN divers were involved in turning the Leander class frigate HMS Scylla into an artficial reef off Plymouth (link), I am grateful to former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott, longtime expatriate in Eden, New South Wales, for drawing my attention to this article on the Australian Broadcasting Company website which has the intriguing headline shown above.
5 Dec 12
HMS Blyth begins her 3,000-mile journey home for Christmas
Quite fortuitously in view of the preceding entry below, the Ministry of Defence website contains this article, the Royal Navy website this article and the Navy News website this article announcing the return of HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2) from her six-month deployment in the Mediterranean with MCDOA member Tim Davey, her Commanding Officer, in charge of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2). She should be back at Faslane, her base in the Clyde, in time for Christmas.
Above: HMS Blyth - Heading home with a bone between her teeth?
Below: The ship's company poses before leaving the NATO group in Aksaz, Turkey
(Navy News website photos)
LS(MW) Stuart Campbell nominated for Sun Military Award
The Sun's Miltary Awards (Millies) ceremony will take place tomorrow night at the Imperial War Museum in London and highlights will be broadcast by ITV1 at 2100 on Friday 14 December. The Sun website contains this article describing the inclusion of LS(MW) Stuart Campbell of HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2), commanded by MCDOA member Tim Davey. Stuart is among those nominated in the category of 'Outstanding Sailor or Marine'.
LS(MW) Stuart Campbell
The accompanying citation states:
"SEAMAN Stuart Campbell’s mettle was truly tested as his Royal Navy warship was approaching crucial inspections – and he was forced to work TWO jobs. The Chief Boatswain’s Mate helped keep HMS Blyth afloat by putting in 18-hour shifts after his boss fell ill. The Scot had to manage every aspect of the ship’s seafaring duties while overseeing a team of 25 for four months from January. Stuart, 24, of Wick, Caithness, said: “I wanted to do the best job possible – and the only way to do that was to work day and night.”
A couple of months ago, Stuart featured in this article on the John O'Groat Journal website. He is due to be promoted to PO(MW) in the spring and we wish him the best of luck whatever the outcome tomorrow night.
4 Dec 12 - Inauguration of Captain MCM (Bahrain)
Together with Dixie Dean (Chairman of the Minewarfare Association (MWA)) and John Soanes (Chairman of the Ton Class Association (TCA), I have received the following announcement from Cdr Martin Mackey RN, Commander Second Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCM2):
"Hi Rob, Dixie and John,
You would wish to be aware that the MCM community has just seen a bit of history being made with the establishment of the new post of Captain UK MCM (Bahrain) on 1 Dec 12. The first incumbent in the post is the newly promoted Acting Captain Andy Elvin Royal Navy. Currently serving as the Deputy Commander to CTF 52 (the US Gulf MCM Commander), Capt Andy is now dual-hatted with the additional responsibility of overseeing the UK’s Gulf MCM Force [see entry for 21 Sep 12 in News Archive 39].
To mark the occasion of Capt Andy’s inauguration, HMS QUORN hosted a small lunch reception on board on 2 Dec alongside Mina Salman, Bahrain. The accompanying photo was taken on her sweep deck. and includes from left to right: Lt Cdr Toby Shaughnessy RN (CO HMS SHOREHAM MCM1 Crew 4), Capt Glenn Allen USN (CTF 52), Lt Cdr Giles Palin RN (CO HMS RAMSEY MCM1 Crew 5), Cdre Simon Ancona RN (UKMCC), Capt Andy Elvin RN (Capt UK MCM (Bahrain) and DCOM CTF 52), Cdr Martin Mackey RN (COMUKMCMFOR and MCM2), Lt Cdr Justin Hains RN (CO HMS ATHERSTONE MCM2 Crew 6), Lt Cdr Jim Buck RN (CO HMS QUORN MCM2 Crew 3) and Lt Cdr Ben Stait RN (COS MWBS and MCM2). Other guests included Mrs Ancona and Mrs Elvin along with Capt Paul Minter RFA (CO RFA CARDIGAN BAY) and Cdr Don Crosbie RN (CO FDS) out in theatre doing some work with me.
As Capt Andy said on the day, ‘this is a significant moment in the branch’s history’. This is particularly so as the post has been created to be filled by an MCDO and is the only specialist Captain’s post for the branch in the RN today.
I am sure that all members of our community will join me in congratulating Andy Elvin on his promotion and wishing him and his team every success with this exciting initiative. It should be noted that Andy, Martin Mackey, Justin Hains, Ben Stait and Don Crosbie are all MCDOA members.
3 Dec 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:
"Here is a photo of Dr Phil Nuytten visiting the Diving Museum. He and his wife Mary came down at short notice from London specially to see the Museum and to check out our new exhibition of one of the Newtsuits he designed in 1979.
Phil Nuytten (left) with HDS museum officer Kevin Casey (centre) and
MCDOA associate member Gavin Anthony of QinetiQ (right)
Apart from designing the Newtsuit, Dr Phil Nuytten OBC LLD DSc, a Canadian, co-founded Oceaneering International Inc and was heavily involved in experimental deep-diving and the development of mixed gas decompression tables. In 1968 he was a member of the team that completed the first 600 foot ocean ‘bounce’ dives on ‘Project Nesco’, and in 1972 he wrote the protocol for ‘Deep Work 1000’, the first North American thousand foot saturation dive. These early projects helped set the international standards in use today. His involvement in underwater activities in virtually all of the world’s oceans has resulted in articles on his work in Reader’s Digest, Business Week, Newsweek, Time, Popular Science, Discovery, Fortune and Scientific American as well as dozens of diving and aerospace technical journals. Read more of his impressive biography here.
The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site when it is open for business at weekends during the summer. 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 December, the Portsmouth News published this article describing the arrival of the Newtsuit. John Bevan also informs me that ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson will be hosting a visit by RN divers at 1300 on Thursday 13 December, complete with media coverage.
2 Dec 12 - Intriguing new books with an MCD connection
Dorothy, wife of MCDOA member and fiction-writer Paul Henke (LMCDO '75), has sent me this announcement:
"Paul's new book Corruption is now out in paperback. We are also delighted to say that (at last!) Tears Until Dawn has been reprinted. It is now in the same format as the other three 'Tears' books and we are offering all four books for £25 as a great Christmas gift – signed and personalised of course.
Respective covers of hard copy and Kindle version of Corruption
Corruption is another Nick Hunter adventure - this time tackling fraud and corruption in the European parliament. A real page-turner.
To read our Christmas newsletter and find out what is happening with 'Tears 5' just click here
To order signed and personalised books for Christmas just log onto www.henke.co.uk or phone us on 01360 440013.
Best wishes from us both for a happy holiday season.
Dorothy and Paul"
As everyone knows, Cdr Nick Hunter RN is a retired MCDO who battles the baddies as the chief protagonist in TIFAT, The International Force Against Terrorism.
In a completely different genre, the 'Tears' books chronicle the trials and tribulations of three generations of the entrepreneurial Griffiths family which started off in lowly circumstances in the Welsh valleys and emigrated to the USA at the end of the 19th Century.
If you own a Kindle or iPad, I strongly recommend reading A Million Tears (the first volume of the Griffiths family saga) in e-book form as a taster. Paul tells me that it will be available to download for free via the Amazon website here on 26, 27 and 28 December.
Turning from fiction to fact, the Daily Telegraph website contains this article describing the achievements of Lt Cdr Howard Leedham RN who has just had his first book published. Titled Ask Forgiveness Not Permission, it chronicles his clandestine activities as the head of a private army in the badlands of Pakistan in 2003 while working for the US State Department.
Howard Leedham joined the Royal Navy as an Ordinary Seaman in 1977. What the Telegraph article fails to mention, or so I am reliably informed by ex-CD1 Ray 'Spider' Webb, is that he was initially a member of the Clearance Diver branch and qualified as a Leading Diver before being commissioned and subsequently joining the Fleet Air Arm as a helicopter pilot. As a Lieutenant, Leedham was appointed an MBE in 1988 and awarded a Mention in Despatches in 1991 for his services in Northern Ireland. He left the RN as a Lieutenant Commander in 1997 after an exchange appointment with the US Marine Corps.
1 Dec 12
MWA Southern Area Christmas Dinner
A small, select group of MWA 'southern monthly dit session' members sat down to Christmas dinner in Fareham last night. The event was made somewhat poignant by the fact that the late Taff Davies (see entry for 23 Nov 12 in News Archive 40) had also booked to attend and we raised a glass in his memory. Dual MCDOA members comprised Tim Curd and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole), both 'old ships' from HMS Minerva's eight-month West Indies deployment in 1975 when he was my assistant diving officer (Tee-Hee). Other attendees comprised Dixie Dean, Taff Reader, Pete Whitehead and John Gunter. We all go back a few decades together and the evening was extremely convivial although Pete and John's 'Movember' moustaches proved a little disconcerting (at least to me ).
Clockwise from front left: Pete Whitehead, Tim Curd, Dixie Dean, Yours Truly
(Rob Hoole), John Gunter and Taff Reader
News from HMS Cattistock
I am grateful to MCDOA member Simon Kelly, the Commanding Officer of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 8) for this update:
Lt Cdr Simon Kelly RN
"I am sorry to say that this letter will be my last to you for the foreseeable future; MCM2 Crew 8 are due to hand over HMS Cattistock at the end of next week in preparation for our deployment to the Arabian Gulf, and the ship will be taken over by our counterparts from MCM2 Crew 2. However, before that I wanted to give you a last update on our recent activities. We have now returned to Portsmouth following a highly successful three months based in Faslane on the West Coast of Scotland, conducting operational training and exercises, including the world's largest multinational joint forces exercise - Joint Warrior 12. During this time we proved ourselves in mine warfare, surface warfare and security operations, and worked closely with forces from a number of allied navies to ensure that we are able to coordinate complex operations efficiently. We left Scotland at the beginning of November having proven that Cattistock and Crew 8 are more than ready to defend the nation's interests around the world.
Our journey south was hampered by strong winds and heavy seas from the Atlantic - a potentially damaging situation for the world's largest plastic ship - so we sought shelter for 48 hours in Dublin before carrying on to the South Coast. Upon arrival in Portsmouth the ship was immediately overrun by engineers making the most of a short maintenance period before the handover to ensure that Cattistock remains in top fighting condition. Once Crew 2 have settled in they will be preparing for a deployment as part of the UK's commitment to NATO forces in Europe, so it is vital that the ship is kept at the high standard that we have achieved during our training.
Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce my successor, Lt Cdr Steve Higham, and his team, MCM2 Crew 2. They have recently brought HMS Middleton back from the Middle East and are therefore in an ideal position to take Cattistock on her next deployment, and I'm sure Steve will be in touch with you in the near future to introduce himself personally and let you know more about Cattistock's next adventures! I regret that during my short time in Cattistock we have been unable to meet personally, but want to thank you again for your continued affiliation and support for the Ship and her Crew.
I am sure that all members of our community will wish Simon and his ship's company every success during their forthcoming deployment in the Gulf and a safe return.
30 Nov 12 - MCDOA President in the spotlight
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the impressive achievements of the UK’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) as its six-month COUGAR 12 deployment in the Mediterranean draws to a close. The article features MCDOA President Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC, Commander UK Task Group (COMUKTG). Here he is during a visit to HMS Northumberland earlier this month:
Paddy McAlpine with the CO of HMS Northumberland - Wet dip, Paddy?
(RN website photo)
29 Nov 12
SDU1 divers in 'Swan Lake'
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing some ecological assistance provided by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1). The article features LS(D) Ade Morris, AB(D) Stuart Farden and AB(D) Jaki Chan.
RSPB member Gordon Miller being briefed by LS(D) Gordon Miller
and AB(D) Stuart Farden
(RN website photo)
Our men in the Middle East
I am grateful to MCDOA member David Carey, Project Manager of the Vernon Monument campaign, for this photo showing him with fellow member Grenville Johnson MBE and former WO(MW) Tony Mulrain BEM at a recent function in the United Arab Emirates.
David and Tony standing behind
Funeral of John Belchamber
I am grateful to MCDOA member Julian Malec for this report of Tuesday's funeral of fellow member John Belchamber (see entry for 19 Nov 12):
John’s memorial service was (as you know) held in Birse and Feughside Parish Church on Tuesday 27 November. A cremation service had been held earlier in the day with only the family present. The weather was cold and rainy.
I estimate about 200 people were in church, you have the names of most of the RN people, but also Lt Cdr Martin Dane who was John’s CO in HMS Shavington in 1968 (?) and there may have been others. (Hamish Loudon was very smart in uniform). The place was packed with local friends of John and Janie and the family. The service was conducted by a Church Counsellor, Christine, who knew John and the family very well, and she painted a fine word picture of him, which was brought to life by two other of his friends, Robin and Richard, who shared their personal anecdotes and memories. Septic tanks and outflows therefrom, and barbeques in the rain seemed to be regular features in John’s life, together with a recognition of his courage and humour when in adversity, as when he nearly blew his leg off, disposing of a box of electric detonators.
After the service we met in the Potarch Hotel about five miles from the church, for soup and sandwiches and a tot of whisky and drinks. At the Potarch Janie asked me to propose a toast to John, I attach a copy of what I said. We left at 1630 for the plane south, but the party continued, till nearly midnight. It was a fitting send-off for a good friend.
This is the transcript of Julian's words after the service:
"Just a year ago I was pleased and proud to be asked by the family to propose the toast to John at his 70th birthday party. It was a tremendously good party, which John, and those of us fortunate to be there, greatly enjoyed. John was really the life and soul of the evening. All his life John really enjoyed partying. Now in a few moments I will be proud but very sad to propose a toast, but this time to the memory of John. This toast is much more difficult than the job a year ago, you see, then, I knew what to do, and also because the speakers in church were so good, they have told you nearly all of the stories. Christine and Robin and Richard all spoke so well and really gave us marvellous verbal pictures of John.
I was friends with John for 53 years, since 1959 when he and I were Cadets at the Naval College at Dartmouth. In 1969 together we joined the Royal Navy’s Minewarfare and Diving Officers’ Course in Portsmouth. That course cemented our friendship which continued until he died, and also gave us a direction which, for both of us, led to marriages and our families. John was my Best Man when Margy and I were married, and soon after, John and Janie married in Newcastle on 2 Oct 1971, forty one years ago. They celebrated their ruby wedding a year ago.
Some time ago John had to do his annual diving medical. He stood in front of the Doc who said, “According to this chart of weight against height, you are nearly a stone overweight”.
"No," said John. “You are reading it the wrong way. I am six inches too short for my weight”.
"OK," said the doc. "It is up to you. Either way will do, but see me again in a month, either lighter or taller.”
We visited John and Janie in 1997. John was sad to hear our dog had died and we were not planning to replace him. “You must have a dog” he said. We drove 500 miles back home. As we arrived, the phone was ringing. It was John “We have found you a dog – a black Labrador bitch. She will be put down if you do not have her.” No pressure then. I said “Where is she? “In Banchory” he said. “How can we get her?” I said. “That is your problem” he replied. The dog lived for another seven years and gave us huge pleasure.
How greatly he will be missed, by Janie and by Emily and Hamish, Sarah, and Rosie and Fraser and their families, and by John’s sisters, Jane and Jenn, and by those of us, his friends, who were privileged to know him. We cannot fathom the depth of the grief of the family, but we stand with them to remember him and support them.
At his birthday party last November I said nice things about John to John, and I meant them. John was a fine husband, father and brother, who had a large circle of friends throughout the world, all of whom held him in very high regard. We all admired his courage in the face of difficulty and always liked his sense of humour which only rarely deserted him. In the words of one of our diving course from 43 years ago, “John was a thoroughly nice bloke”. All our lives were better for knowing him.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in a toast: John Belchamber – we will not forget you."
I am also grateful to MCDOA member Hamish Loudon MBE (an old CO of mine in HMS Vernon's diving tender HMS Laleston) for his report:
The Branch was represented by Nigel Davies, Chris Massie-Taylor, Norman Taylor, Jules Malec and myself. There may have been more who I did not sight amidst the very large gathering.
It was a very moving and at times amusing service with many tales of both the naval and civilian activities of John. The standard diving helmet was on the altar and it was the sort of send-off that would have earned John's approval!! He was obviously well loved and respected within the local community.
At the post-service gathering, Jules made an excellent speech and proposed a farewell toast to John. On a personal note, I would urge you to continue the plea for branch members to attend these events in uniform as it is very much appreciated by both family and friends.
I hope that is the last MCDO funeral for a considerable time!!!!!!!!
I heartily endorse Hamish's sentiments. Rather poignantly, I have stumbled upon this article in the Aberdeen Press & Journal of November 2009 in which John spoke as a patient undergoing treatment for lung cancer.
Postscript: Since publishing the above reports, I have discovered that ex-CD1s Johnny Friar, Terry Settle MBE QGM and Terry Gosling attended John Belchamber's funeral too. Johnny Friar has kindly allowed me to reproduce this photo:
Messrs Friar, Settle and Gosling after John Belchamber's funeral
28 Nov 12
Funeral arrangements for ex-CPO(MW) David 'Taff' Davies
I have received this email from Christine Rumsey, a friend of Taff's family (see entry for 23 Nov 12):
As discussed on the telephone, I would be grateful if you would forward this on Sue's behalf to Pete Reader who will hopefully pass it on to those he thinks should know but especially:
Many thanks for your help and thanks to Pete Reader too. I know Sue is very grateful.
This is Sue's announcement:
David John Davies (Taff)
Mine Warfare Royal Navy
"It is with great sadness that I have to let you know that Dave passed away, peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday 20 November. He will be greatly missed by all his family and friends.
The funeral will take place on Wednesday 05 December at 10.15 a.m at:
Colwyn Bay Crematorium
Bron Y Nant Cemetery
Flowers or donations in respect of Dave to the Royal British Legion and the RNLI via:
J.E.Davies and Son
I have actioned Christine's request and passed my sincere condolences to Sue.
Nice 'High Order' for SDU2
The Ministry of Defence website contains this article and the Royal Navy website this article describing the safe extraction and detonation by Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of a Second World War German GC influence ground mine trapped in the teeth of a dredger's drag head off the coast of Kent on Monday.
The tricky disposal operation was conducted by CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming, LS(D) Lewis Watson, AB(D) Peter Birse and AB(D) Josh Spibey.
Well done to all concerned. I am sure this is not the last we have heard of this remarkable achievement.
Postscript: The Portsmouth News published this article covering the same story on 5 December 2012. Scouse was also interviewed on Radio Solent and his interview can be heard again for a limited period from minute 19:40 here.
27 Nov 12 - Fleet Commander honours minehunters
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit to HMS Chiddingfold by Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC RN, Fleet Commander and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff. The Fleet Commander, a former Commanding Officer of HMS Cattistock, also presented medals to two ship's company members of HMS Brocklesby for their part in Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR off the coast of Libya last year.
Lt Mike Rydiard RN, navigator of HMS Brocklesby, receiving his
NATO Op UNIFIED PROTECTOR medal from Admiral Zambellas
(RN website photo)
26 Nov 12 - Dedication of Ouvry memorial plaque
John Ouvry's son David has asked me to publicise this invitation:
DEDICATION OF MEMORIAL PLAQUE TO COMMANDER JOHN OUVRY DSO RN
FAMOUS WAR HERO
AT ALL SAINTS CHURCH, CHURCH HILL, MILFORD-ON-SEA, HAMPSHIRE
SATURDAY JANUARY 5th, 2013, 11.45 for 12 NOON
Commander John Ouvry was a self-effacing naval officer who, at the outbreak of the second world war, had unique knowledge of mine warfare and of rendering mines safe. His most critical action was in November 1939, when he and his team made safe Hitler's secret weapon, the magnetic mine, which was gravely threatening our sea lanes. Revealing this mine's secret allowed appropriate countermeasures to be taken. John Ouvry's widely recognized legacy in rendering mines and other explosive devices safe continues to this day. It has been the wish of another distinguished wartime mine disposal veteran and later author, Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR, to have a permanent memorial to John Ouvry in the church where he and his wife Lorna worshipped for many years. Sadly, Noel Cashford died in 2011, but his wish has now been realised.
You are cordially invited to the dedication of John Ouvry's memorial plaque at All Saints Church, Milford-on-Sea, on Saturday January 5th 2013. The service will be led by the Vicar, The Reverend Dominic Furness, and will last about 30 minutes. After the service, you are invited to join us in the adjacent church hall, where light refreshments will be served. RSVP, with your email address, to:
Address: 36 Longfield Drive, Amersham, Bucks HP6 5HE
Telephone: 01494 724639
We would be very grateful if you could let us know soonest whether you can come, so we can cater accordingly. It would be helpful if those coming could make a voluntary contribution on the day of, say, five pounds towards the costs for the day. Copies of Noel Cashford’s last book, 'Courage Beyond Duty', published posthumously, and which has a chapter featuring John Ouvry, will be available for sale after the service.
John Ouvry died on 19 February 1993 and his funeral was held at All Saints' Church in Milford-on-Sea where I was privileged to meet his wartime comrade-in-arms, the late Lt Cdr Roger Lewis OBE DSO RN. I was among the group that attended from HMS Vernon and David Ouvry has since passed me this photograph he took after the reception:
Chris Thompson*, Rob Hoole*, Dan Nicholson*, Julian Malec*, CPO(MW) 'Pinky'
Preston and George Turnbull after the wake for John Ouvry in February 1993
I intend representing the MCDOA at the dedication of the memorial plaque on 5 January and hope I will be in good company.
25 Nov 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:
"Here are some more action shots of the Newtsuit arrival and rebuild at the Diving Museum:
Thanks to the good planning by Subsea 7’s Vice President (Mike O’Meara) and expert assistance from Subsea 7’s divers Kevin Casey and Orhan Akca and Dive Technician Bruce McKenzie (flown down specially from Aberdeen), the whole process of dis-assembly at Greenwich and re-assembly in Gosport, went like clockwork. Additional support was provided by Gary Wallace-Potter, James Thomson, John Dadd, Terry Nash, John Millerchip and Dougie Saunders (IoW).
Amazingly, there were no bits left over! Ann and I watched from a safe distance and recorded the historic event for posterity. It took us one hour and ten minutes to dismantle the Newtsuit and place the component parts on pallets for transport. Guess how long it took to re-assemble?
I just had to share this picture with you. This is visitor Nigel Bellamy on our last opening day this year! We have his permission to use it.
24 Nov 12 - MCDOA Operational Updates, AGM and Dinner follow-up
Once again, the events of last Thursday left some lasting memories for those MCDOA members and guests who participated. The day started in the Reclaim Room at Fleet Diving Headquarters on Horsea Island with the usual highly informative and often entertaining briefs, all provided by MCDOA members. After the usual reunions over coffee and biscuits and a welcome from our Chairman Chris Baldwin, Chris Davies gave a presentation on the RN minewarfare & diving equipment programme.
Left: Chris Baldwin
Right: Chris Davies
Attendees for the operational briefs and updates
Mark Atkinson then spoke about minewarfare operations including the RN's important contribution in the Gulf. He was followed by Don Crosbie who gave an update on diving and EOD operations including the recent achievements of our divers in Afghanistan. CPO(D) Alan 'Knocker' Knowles then showed us some of the hardware in current use including the new kit supplied for Very Shallow Water diving operations.
Left: Don Crosbie
Right: CPO(D) Knocker Knowles
After the customary fish and chips for lunch (even though it was a Thursday), members re-convened for the AGM. Respects were paid to the memories of MCDOA members Tim Trounson, Noel Cashford, Bruce Mackay, Maurice Cocker and John Belchamber who had all crossed the bar since our previous gathering a year ago.
Cdre Paddy McAlpine, currently commanding the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) in the Mediterranean, was re-endorsed as the Association's President and all Association officers were re-elected without opposition. I will publish the minutes of the meeting when they become available but one important item to note is that the committee will be happy to entertain requests for subsidies towards gatherings of MCDOA members in remoter parts of the world. Next year, we will return to holding our AGM and dinner on Friday with a provisional date of 22 November.
The day's events culminated in the Annual Dinner in HMS Excellent's wardroom which, once again, was filled to capacity. It was especially good to see so many serving and retired WO(MW)s and WO(D)s present as well as our friends from the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club. Maître d'Hôtel Richard Croughan and his staff were their usual cheerful and ever diligent selves and the members of HMS Nelson's Volunteer Band played their hearts out.
In a remarkably successful change to our usual routine, Captain Mark Durkin took the chair as our absent President's representative and Chris Baldwin acted as 'Mr Vice'. Between the starter and the main course, Chris paid tribute to the two courses celebrating their 25th anniversary. Between the main course and pudding, he toasted our leavers and Richard Hill subsequently responded on behalf of both groups before the port was served.
Left: Chris Baldwin paying tribute to the anniversary courses and leavers
Right: Richard Hill speaking on behalf of the anniversary courses and leavers
After the Loyal Toast, MCDOA member Bernie Bruen joined the Bandmaster to play one of Bernie's evocative compositions.
Bernie and the Bandmaster performing their duet
We then enjoyed the usual singalong. During the rendition of 'Bubbles, several diners broke with tradition by standing on the tables instead of their chairs so that all that appeared in the viewfinder was the bottoms of those nearest the camera (seriously not worth photographing, believe you me!).
Top and bottom tables singing 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles' in the traditional manner
After the singalong, Captain Durkin rose as though to intoduce our Guest of Honour. You can imagine my amazement when, instead, I was summoned to be presented with a superb memento from the Association comprising a framed photograph depicting ex-CPO(D) Joe Maher and me wearing old CDBA in Falmouth in 1976 with many members' tributes penned around the border. Thank you to everyone concerned.
Left: Mark Durkin rising to speak
Right: Your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster being bowled over
Mark Durkin then introduced Rear Admiral Charlier, our principal guest, who proceeded to deliver a rousing speech that made us all feel extremely good about ourselves.
Rear Admiral Charlier speaking out
Once again, special thanks are due to MCDOA associate members Derek Clarke of DIVEX for standing the cost of the port and Alan Hares of Solent Divers for providing the glass mine and diver 'gizzits' for the leavers.
After we rose from dinner, a plaque was presented to the Association by Robin Bennett, the Secretary of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated. Soapy Watson had presented REBDOC with a Fleet Diving Squadron badge when we attended their Spring Lunch in London earlier this year.
Robin Bennett presenting a Sapper Bomb Disposal plaque to Soapy Watson
Can you tell how delighted we are?
There were also the traditional group photographs in the bar which my son Gareth took this year. For some strange reason, our Guest of Honour insisted on being allowed to try on the diving helmet.
Rear Admiral Charlier flanked by MCDOA members
Ted Mangion 'crowning' the Admiral
According to David Sandiford, the raffle in aid of Project Vernon raised £1,070 so thank you to everyone who bought tickets. The framed limited edition prints of 'Danger at Depth' and 'Vernon Creek' were collected on the night, as was a set of eight whisky tumblers engraved with US Navy diving logos which was kindly donated by Julian Malec. However, the following prizes remain unclaimed and will be available from David Sandiford until the end of the year, after which they will be retained for some future occasion:
|Prize||Ticket colour/Batch||Ticket number|
|Dinner for Two at Becketts Wine Bar & Bistro||Pink AC823990||26|
|Bottle of St Emillion||White AC822334||261|
|Bottle of Baileys||Yellow AC822334||212|
|Bottle of Grouse||Pink AC823990||93|
|Botlle of Dows Finest Reserve Port||White AC822334||258|
|Bottle of Lambs Navy Rum||Salmon AC812243||354|
|Bottle of Bells Whisky||Yellow AC822334||217|
As ever, well done and thank you to our Honorary Treasurer, Richard 'Soapy' Watson, for organising such a sucessful programme of events. Here are some more photos of the evening.
Postscript: I have since received these photos from Andy Todman, a member of LMCDO '87B which celebrated its 25th anniversary at the dinner:
Left: LMCDO '87B 'Fab Four' comprising Chris Davies, Andy Todman, Phil Burrell and Kev Giles
Right: HMS Middleton 'Old Boys' comprising Andy Todman, Keith Riches and Phil Burrell
23 Nov 12 - Death of ex-CPO(MW) David 'Taff' Davies
I regret to announce the death of former CPO(MW) Taff Davies, a stalwart member of the Minewarfare Association (MWA). He died of a suspected heart attack at home on the morning of Tuesday 21 November.
Taff was among the first instructors I recruited at HMS Vernon in 1989 to train the initial ships' companies of the Saudi minehunters Al Jawf and Shaqra, based on our own Sandown Class. We not only worked together on the Saudi Project for the next four years but kept in touch until the present day.
Taff Davies with Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) at an MWA Dit Session in July 2012
I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our sincere condolences to Taff's wife Sue.
22 Nov 12
Crown Prince of Bahrain visits HMS Atherstone
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit by His Royal Highness Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Kingdom of Bahrain, to HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6) in Bahrain on 20 November. The article features the ship's Commanding Officer, MCDOA member Justin Hains.
The Crown Prince of Bahrain being briefed by MCDOA member Justin Hains
Surprise in the loft sparks full-scale bomb alert in Rosyth
The Courier website contains this article describing the removal of two wartime German hand grenades from a Rosyth recycling centre by members of an Army bomb disposal unit.
The grenades, which were examined using a bomb disposal team robot
(Courier website photo)
21 Nov 12
New team takes charge of Royal Navy's Gulf-based minehunter force
The Ministry of Defence website contains this article and the Royal Navy website this article describing the supersession of Cdr Andy Lamb RN (MCM1 - Commander of the Faslane-based First Mine Countermeasures Squadron) and his staff by MCDOA member Martin Mackey (MCM2 - Commander of the Portsmouth-based Second MCM Squadron) as the Bahrain-based Commander of the UK MCM Force deployed in the Gulf on Operation KIPION.
Andy Lamb (MCM1) and his staff (left) and Martin Mackey (MCM2) and his staff (right)
on board the incoming Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) RFA Cardigan Bay
(RN website photo)
During his tenure as Commander of the UK MCM Force, Andy Lamb has exercised tactical command of UK and US minehunters, US Navy riverine combat boats, a US Navy EOD (Explosives Ordnance Disposal) mobile detachment and a team of Royal New Zealand Navy divers.
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 had a remarkably successful day at the NMM [National Maritime Museum] in Greenwich yesterday! Under the expert supervision and guidance of Subsea 7's Mike O'Meara, the Newtsuit was dismantled to man-handlable pieces and placed on pallets in just over one hour!
The plan is for it to travel down to the Diving Museum this Friday, 23 Nov. We still don't have an ETA, so stand by!
The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer workers and guides. 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 don't have to be an HDS member to get involved.
STOP PRESS: "The Newtsuit is now scheduled to arrive at the Diving Museum in Stokes Bay at 1300 hrs, Friday 23 November (in pieces, on pallets). Mike O'Meara will be in charge of the transfer into the Museum and the re-assembly. John"
20 Nov 12
HMS Blyth leads NATO exercise in Turkey
The Ministry of Defence website contains this article and the RN website this article describing the participation of HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2) in some multi-national exercises towards the end of her six-month deployment in the Mediterranean. The Faslane-based ship is the current command platform for Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) and the article features MCDOA members Tim Davey (Commanding Officer) and Charlie Noonan (First Lieutenant).
HMS Blyth performing an evolution in the Mediterranean
(MoD website photo)
HMS Blyth with other ships of SNMCMG2 alongside in Izmir, Turkey
for Exercise NUSRET 12 in the Aegean
HMS Blyth is due to return home in time for Christmas.
Divers from SDU2 perform VSW clearance off Albania
The RN website contains this article describing Exercise ALBANIAN LION, a major two-week exercise involving British and Albanian naval forces around the southern Albanian port of Vlorë. The article mentions 16 "frogmen" from Portsmouth-based Fleet Diving Unit 2 (FDU2), embarked in RFA Mounts Bay for the past two months, performing Very Shallow Water (VSW) survey and mine clearance operations ahead of an amphibious assault.
The exercise was the second major workout for the Response Force Task Group (RFTG), the Royal Navy’s rapid reaction force, on its Cougar 12 deployment in the Mediterranean. It is under the overall command of MCDOA President Commodore Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC, Commander United Kingdom Task Group (COMUKTG).
19 Nov 12
Arrangements for the funeral of John Belchamber
Julian Malec informs me that there will be a private family cremation in Aberdeen on Tue 27 Nov and a funeral service (for all to attend) at 1300 on the same day in Finzean Church. This will be followed by a reception in the local hotel. I believe this church to be the Birse & Feughside Parish Church (AB31 6BP) at Finzean near Banchory in Aberdeenshire but I am sure Julian will put me right if I am wrong.
This photo was taken by Julian and shows John in May 2010 at a reunion held to celebrate their 50th Anniversary of joining BRNC Dartmouth:
John Belchamber in May 2010
Among his other appointments, John was OIC of the Rosyth-based Scotland & Northern Ireland Clearance Diving Team (SNICDT) in the late '70s/early '80s (pre-NDG) and can be seen in this c.1980 photo kneeling on the deck at the rear on the right with fellow MCDOA member Alan Bayliss (Boss 2) sitting opposite him on the left:
Members of SNICDT c.1980
(With acknowledgement to ex-CD1 Johnny Friar standing second left in the foreground)
I am appending tributes to John to the entry for 18 Nov 12 as I receive them.
MCDOA Annual Dinner Attendees
The book for Thursday night's Dinner in HMS Excellent has now closed and the final list of attendees comprises:
|Guest of Honour
Rear Admiral Simon Charlier
Director (Operations), Military Aviation Authority
Lt Cdr Richard Hill RN
Lt Cdr Paul McDermott RN
|Other Members and their Guests
(Host's name in brackets)
WO(D) Dan Archer
Lt Cdr David Armstrong RN
Lt Cdr Rory Armstrong RN
Cdr Chris Ashcroft RN
Cdr Mark Atkinson RN
Cdr Chris Baldwin RN
Lt Cdr David Bartlett RN
Mr Dave Berry
Lt Cdr Steve Brown RN
Lt Keith Broughton RN
Lt Cdr Bernie Bruen MBE DSC RN
Mr Andy Brunton MBE (Watson)
Cdre Phil Burrell
Lt Cdr Alex Bush RN
Capt Adrian Cassar RN
Lt Colin Churcher MBE RN
Mr Derek Clarke
Mr Bill Cornick (O'Driscoll)
Lt Ben Costley-White RN (HMS Cattistock)
Mr Mo Crang (Wilson)
Lt Cdr Mike Critchley RN
Cdr Don Crosbie RN
Cdr Tim Cryar RN (Cassar)
Cdr Chris Davies RN
Lt Pete Davies RN
Mr Dixie Dean MBE
Lt Cdr Brian Dutton DSO QGM RN
Mr Simon Edwards (Broughton)
Cdr Andy Elvin RN
WO(D) Steve Fitzjohn
Lt Cdr Chris Flaherty RN
Capt 'JJ' Forbes RE
Sub Lt Matt French RN (HMS Cattistock)
Lt Cdr Kev Giles RN
Lt Cdr Richard Gobey RNR (Gobey)
Lt Cdr Steve Gobey RN
Lt Cdr Kim Godfrey RN
Mr Doug Godsman (Clarke)
Cdr Geoff Goodwin RN
Mr Sam Hall (Poole)
Cdr Alistair Halliday RN (Cassar)
Lt Cdr Stu Harper RN
Lt Cdr Dan Herridge RN
Lt Cdr Peter Hicks RN
Mr John Higham (Broughton)
Cdr David Hilton RN
Lt Ian Hogg RN
Lt Cdr Martyn Holloway RN
Mr Chris Honga (Poole)
Mr Gareth Hoole (Hoole)
Lt Cdr Rob Hoole RN
Maj David Hough RE
Mr John Hurst (Forbes)
Lt Nathan Isaacs RN
Cdr Paul Jones RN
Lt Cdr Simon Kelly RN (HMS Cattistock)
Mr Tony Knight
Cdr Chris Lade RN
Lt Cdr Bob Lusty RN
Lt Col Peter MacMullen MBE IG (Crosbie)
Mr Ted Mangion (McDermott)
Lt Cdr Alex Manning RN
Cdr Brian Mansbridge MBE RN
Lt Cdr Neil Marriot RN
Lt David Marshall RN (Marshall)
Mr James Marshall (Marshall)
Lt Mike Marshall RN
Lt Cdr Steve Marshall DSC RN
Capt Chris Massie-Taylor OBE RN
Lt Cdr Ralph Mavin RN
Cdr Chris Meatyard RN
Lt Cdr 'Doc' Morris RN
Lt Ian Morton RN
Lt Cdr Al Nekrews RN
Mr Adam Neil (Neil)
Mr Oliver Neil (Neil)
Cdr Simon Neil RN
Mr Toby Neil (Neil)
Mr Steve 'Peggy' Neil (Watson)
Mr John Newman (Morton)
Mr Joe Newton (Godfrey)
Mr Toby Nightingale (Critchley)
Lt Cdr John O'Driscoll MBE RN
Cdr Chris O'Flaherty RN
Lt Cdr Tim O'Neil RN
Lt Cdr Richard Osbaldestin RN
Mr Danny O'Sullivan (Jones)
Lt Ben Piper RN
Lt Col Christine Platt QARANC
Cdr Jason Poole RN
Lt Cdr Simon Pressdee RN
Mr Mathew Reed (Broughton)
Cdr Keith Riches RN
WO(D) Karl Roberts
Lt Cdr Peter Robinson RN
Lt Cdr Stuart Robinson RN
Cdr David Sandiford RN
Cdr Mark Savage RN
Lt Al Scott RN (HMS Cattistock)
Cdr Jason Scott RN
Lt Seal RN
WO1 'Jez' Simpson (Wilson)
WO(D) Tim Sizer
Lt Chris Stephenson RN
Lt Cdr Kev Stockton RN
Lt Cdr Rich Talbot RN
Lt Matt Teare RN (HMS Cattistock)
Lt Andy Todman RN
Lt Cdr Howard Trotter RN
WO(D) Steve Vernon
Lt Cdr Ben Vickery RN
Lt Cdr Peter Waddington RN
Mr Jim Wallace (Marshall)
Cdr David Watson RN (Holloway)
Lt Cdr Richard 'Soapy' Watson RN
Capt Colin Welborn RN
Lt Cdr Charlie Wheen RN
Lt Cdr Steve White RN
Lt Cdr Graham 'Tug' Wilson MBE RN
Mr Shep Woolley (Sandiford)
Lt Col Paul Youngman RE
* LMCDO '87A 25th Anniversary celebrants shown in red
* LMCDO '87B 25th Anniversary celebrants shown in green
Please bring plenty of spare cash as the opportunity will be used to raise funds for the MCDOA's chosen charity, Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwarf Quays in Portsmouth to commemorate the naval heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site. David Sandiford will run a raffle, the main prizes of which will be framed limited edition prints of 'Danger at Depth' and 'Vernon Creek'. John Terry, the artist, worked in the Portsmouth Illustrators' Group on the fifth floor of Crease Centre in HMS Vernon during the 1970s/1980s and eventually ended up as Head of Fleet Publications & Graphics before retiring a couple of years ago.
Limited Edition print of 'Danger at Depth
by John R Terry FCSD
Limited Edition print of 'Vernon Creek' by John R Terry FCSD
We will also have other prizes such as dinner for two at Becketts Restaurant, several bottles, etc. Attendees who can might like to provide a prize to support the project. David will be putting in a bottle of malt. The plan is to sell tickets at £10 per strip or three strips for £20. The draw will take place immediately after dinner and should go quite quickly.
Artist's impression of the Vernon Monument in situ
N.B. The normal 'ease springs' rules are relaxed at our functions solely for the benefit of elderly members who would otherwise be deterred from attending. This is not carte blanche for anyone to leave the table (apart for the official photographer ) for any reason without the permission of 'Mr President'. In all other respects, normal mess dinner protocol should be observed and it is the responsibility of hosts to ensure that their guests are briefed accordingly.
See the entry for 11 Sep 12 in News Archive 39 for further information.
18 Nov 12
Death of John Belchamber
MCDOA member Julian Malec has related this sad news:
I am extremely sorry and sad to report that our good friend John Belchamber died this morning, Sunday 18 November at 0910. He was just 71.
I have no other details yet but will tell you when I know them.
MCDOA member John Belchamber was a student on LMCDO '69 which celebrated its 40th anniversary by holding a reunion at Gunwharf Quays on the former site of HMS Vernon, as described in the entry for 15 Jun 09 in News Archive 26. Fellow MCDOA member Bruce Mackay, his course Boss, died only last month.
From ex-CD Nick Pietrafesa:
"Great man as Boss 1. My mother tells the tale of when we went down to the Tyne on a mine job. Anyhow, we stayed at my parents' house and, in the morning, me telling them how he likes his brekkie and can you pop out and get the Telegraph/Times, etc., and my mother saying "Are you sure he is not royalty?" "NO, he is the Boss, so serve him first with the papers.
From MCDOA member Geoff Goodwin:
I was very saddened to hear of the death of John Belchamber. I met John many times over the years but the very first time was in the DLG, HMS HAMPSHIRE, my first ship, where he was a brand new Sub Lieutenant and I was an equally brand new Ordinary Seaman. He was the supervising officer for the Young Seamen’s mess of which I was a member. I remember thinking at the time that he was one of the few Officers onboard who addressed me as an equal (which I definitely was NOT) and generally treated us youngsters with respect. As I was an aspiring Upper Yardmen he was also a great role model. I think he had a good time and was sometimes in trouble, although, you will understand that, the Captain did not consult me personally at the time. He became the Ship's Diving Officer and earned even more well-deserved respect from the Ship’s Company. He supervised my aptitude test for Ship’s Diver in the Stores Basin, Singapore and therefore set me on the path to becoming an MCDO.
Later on, when I navigated HMS LALESTON and then joined the Branch I met him often and I always thought how little he had changed – always friendly, always approachable and sense of humour that was always just beneath the surface, just like that Sub Lieutenant I had first met in 1965. His passing is a tragic loss.
From MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE in Singapore:
So sad to hear of John Belchamber's demise. I have very fond memories of John both at the Northern Dinners and earlier when I was a young whippersnapper 2i/c on SNICDT in the mid-80's, where John was well remembered and respected by the guys on the team that had served with him.
Please pass on my condolences to his family and apologies for not being able to attend the funeral.
From ex-CD1 Cliff Coulson-Bonner:
"Respects and RIP"
From ex-CD Mark Griffiths:
"Sad news. He was one of the most placid but respected bosses I have had the pleasure to serve. My thoughts and respects go to his family.
Rest in peace boss (SNICDT)"
From MCDOA member Jon Riches:
Julian Malec passed me the very sad news of the death of John Belchamber after a long illness. I first met John in Malta when I was Squadron MCDO to the 7th MCM Squadron and the 'Jim' of HMS WALKERTON. John was the 'Jim' of SHAVINGTON. Martyn Holloway has told of the fun time we all had at that time. I particularly remember 1st Lts' meetings which each ship took its turn to host. Drink was wobbly coffee and conversation was limited to where the party was that night. Needless to say John was a very enthusiastic participant!
I saw much of him over our subsequent careers and always enjoyed meeting up with him. His MCD Course was a particularly lively one which gave much concern to the Commander of HMS VERNON at the time and Jimmy James our Mess Manager! I would come back late at night from a deployment with the Western Fleet CD Team to find the corridor outside my cabin strewn with the results of the latest run ashore by John's course. Great fun!!
His death is a very sad loss. I count myself very fortunate to have met and served with such a fine man. Always positive, enthusiastic and cheerful, he was also extremely professional in all that he did. During his long sickness he showed quite outstanding fortitude and stoicism plus an intense determination to try and overcome his problems.
My thoughts are with Janey and his family. They also showed amazing strength during his illness.
From MCDOA member Chris Meatyard and his wife Christine:
"Hi Rob and Julian,
Many thanks for letting us know the sad news. We knew John, Janie and the family quite well in the late 70's/early 80's (Janie is Caroline's Godmother) until geography took its toll. I think Alan may have relieved me as SEODO on SNICDT.
Chris & Chris"
From former WO(D) Terry Settle MBE QGM BEM:
I am so very sorry to learn of the tragic news of the passing of John. I have been totally unaware that John had been ill. If I had known, I would surely have called in to see him during my many visits North. We had lots to reminisce. John was my boss when I was the chief of SNICDT. He was truly a brilliant Boss 1, much respected by all members of his team. He let John Friar and me off the reins, giving us his trust to get on with the job. There are so many happy memories of SNICDT times.
John will be dearly missed. He was a true gent. My thoughts are with Janie and daughters. I fully intend be at the funeral service next Tuesday.
From MCDOA member Martyn Holloway:
I was deeply saddened to hear of John's death. John was First Lieutenant of HMS SHAVINGTON in the 7th MSS (Malta) when I first met him in 1968. He was kind and helpful to Midshipmen and through him I was introduced to mine sweeping and the camaraderie of the 'Tons'. We had a superb Captain in the form of Martin Dane and these two characters were a unique combination and excellent role models for any young aspirant. Mondays were admin days and we day-ran Tuesdays to Thursdays, always stopping for hands to bathe at some point and usually anchoring somewhere for lunch. Friday was maintenance day and preparation for the weekend when, if you were duty ship on Sundays, you embarked friends and family members, sailed with one watch ashore and visited the Russian Mediterranean Fleet having a quiet Sunday at anchor on the Hurd Bank. Life in the sunshine was busy when it needed to be and rarely without humour. Nothing was ever serious for very long; when the Captain was working late in harbour and would receive the inevitable 'What time are you coming home darling?' phone call, John would lead us in chinking glasses and singing as though the party had been going for hours.
Within two days of joining I was keeping my own bridge watches, a real wake-up call for a 20 year-old. On going to relieve John for the afternoon watch one day when the ship was pottering around the Mediterranean, I found the open bridge deserted. There was no lookout and the wheel house team had no knowledge of his whereabouts so I sent a member to search the ship albeit discretely in case he had been caught short or something. Waiting on the bridge for the results of the search, I worried he might have fallen overboard and a few minutes later when he could not be found, summoned the courage to call the Captain to say I could not find his OOW. I then became aware that a bulge in the canvas awning overhead had just moved!
On another occasion the ship was on exercise as an 'Orange' intelligence ship with the 'Blue' USS ZELLARS detailed to ride us off and away from the carrier that we had been following. John took great delight in allowing the ZELLARS to get close before turning towards and inside her turning circle to the imagined consternation on board one of the United States' finest. Eventually, after several days of close quarter manoeuvring, we became quite friendly and our constant proximity resulted in an impromptu RAS to receive much needed bread, milk and very welcome ice cream. Yet the looks of disbelief from the other end of the heaving line when our German Shepherd 'Chokka' wandered onto the forecastle to relieve himself against the guard rail has remained an enduring memory. After ten days at sea and water rationing, not a stitch of clean uniform was available and I recall John piping our colleague wearing a broad smile, a rugby shirt, shorts and his officer's cap.
I helped John conduct the seaman department annual stock muster and to complete the dreaded Form S.126. As the list of missing stores was large, John searched hard for a reason to explain a missing grease gun until, with sudden delight, he hit on the phrase 'Lost overboard while greasing the Molgogga', convinced that 'Storsey' would have no idea what a Molgogga was.
John was then a Ship's Diving Officer and, along with two of the seamen, would occasionally leap into the water to get time in underwater. All three subsequently became Clearance Divers and gave me the notion too. My all too brief introduction to wooden ships and men of steel, engineered in the main by John, left a lasting impression that set the tone and course of my career thereafter. Many years later when our paths would cross both professionally and socially in Rosyth, I felt lifted on each occasion.
I am a much better person for having known John Belchamber, a man whom I respected hugely and I will miss him. His positive outlook to life and wonderful sense of humour were truly inspirational. My thoughts of course are with Janey and their family.
From ex-CD Brian Mulrooney:
"A great Boss 1 (SNICDT) and a nice man who will be sadly missed. My deepest sympathy to his wife and family."
From MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald:
Belch, Bayliss and Loudon were my introduction to the Branch - nough said - I am deeply saddened.
From ex-CD1 Perry Mason:
"My deepest sympathy to John's wife and family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Perry and Cath"
From ex-CD1 Paul Leader:
"An excellent Man & Boss 1 (SNICDT). RIP."
From ex-CD John Greenwood:
"Respects to a true gent and his family. Never met him in the mob, but worked for him at Clearwater."
From MCDOA member Brian Dutton DSO QGM:
When I saw the title of your email I realised that the earlier news concerning John, and which you have kept us to date with, made us aware of the inevitable early end to his life. This does not make it any easier to read when it happens and I am so sorry to read of John's passing. I will remember him for his infectious sense of humour at all times.
From MCDOA member Hamish Loudon MBE:
This is very sad news indeed. I should be able to attend the funeral. Hope the Faslane team can send some reps.
From ex-CD1 John 'Johnny' Friar:
So very sorry to hear about John Belchamber. He was my boss in SNICDT and I worked for him when he had the company Clearwater. I was only showing his picture to my wife yesterday, the one at the 40th reunion.
Thoughts are with Janie and his daughters. Would appreciate any information on arrangements."
From MCDOA member Ralph Mavin:
I am forwarding this message I received from George Arnoux just in case you have not received it from your extensive info. network.
Very sad to hear. Liz and I knew John socially when he lived in Portchester. Professionally I had great fun on a couple of trips for RNR floorsweeps and minewarfare games in Ostend - a cracking messmate.
From: Georges Arnoux
Date: 18 November 2012 17:13:59 GMT
Subject: Diver Down
John Belchamber died peacefully at home today after a long fight with cancer. His immediate family were with him and he will be sadly missed.
Anyone for the Skylark?
The Old Glory Steam & Vintage Preservation website contains this article describing how members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) succeeded in raising the motor cruiser Skylark IX, one of the 'Little Ships' of Dunkirk, from the River Leven at Balloch on 18 October after a two-day operation using pumps and flotation bags.
This story was previously covered in this article on The Herald website but I missed it at the time. It appears that this venerable boat, which plucked 600 exhausted Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in the face of Nazi invasion, is still looking for a permanent home.
Skylark IX in happier days
Royal Navy EOD unit called to deal with shells found in Gosport
The Gosport Times contains this article describing the discovery of several shells in an empty unit in Gosport High Street on Friday. They were subsequently declared non-hazardous, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).
17 Nov 12 - New books of particular Minewarfare & Diving interest
With suggestions for Christmas presents in mind, I recently took delivery of a copy of ‘One False Move’, Robert Macklin’s book about the Australian RMS (Render Mines Safe) officers who were among the most highly decorated of the Second World War. It is thoroughly engrossing. As yet, only a Kindle e-edition is available from Amazon but I was able to order a hard copy version (albeit a 368-page soft-back) online from Booktopia in Australia via this webpage.
I have also enjoyed reading ‘Life on the Edge’, Peter Varey’s recent biography of British RMS officer Lt Peter Danckwerts GC MBE RNVR.
Last but not least comes ‘Navy Divers’ which Gregor Salmon published last year to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the RAN Clearance Diver Branch.
Each of the above books acknowledges the pioneering mine exploitation work of Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN and his wartime colleagues at HMS Vernon and is highly recommended. I am delighted that my research leads and personal introductions have borne such good fruit (see entries for 20 Dec 10 in News Archive 32 and 24 May 11 in News Archive 34) and extend my thanks to everyone who gave the authors their cooperation. I am only saddened that neither veteran RMS officer and author Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR (an MCDOA associate member) nor his wife Brenda survived to witness the fruition of their assistance.
From Robert Macklin, Australian author of 'One False Move':
"Many thanks, Rob.
I do appreciate your very kind words. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to write the book. And this weekend (Armistice Day) there's to be a 'celebration' of it at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney where I'm to be introduced by former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer (who is related to one of the heroes). My address is on 'Bravery in War, Peace and Politics.'
From Peter Varey, author of 'Life on the Edge':
Thank you very much for your continuing support.
From Chris Ransted, author of 'Bomb Disposal and the British Casualties of WW2':
Thanks for the heads up on the One False Move book. Much appreciated. Will be on my Xmas list.
From Dr Geoff Mason. Personal Chair in Chemical Engineering at Loughborough University:
"Thank you, Rob, for keeping us all informed of what is going on at an exciting time in terms of books coming out on the early days of the magnetic mine. If any of you haven't found it yet, there is a preview of "One False Move" at http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=twCckrHwRKkC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false and it gives a tiny fragment of the text and several photographs. All rather mouth watering, which I presume is the intent. A pity that the book is so hard to access in the UK.
Even the Google fragment is interesting - and I am sure that the whole book is more so. However, I do not think that Ruhlemann had much to do with the design of the M1 mine firing unit. I thought that much of the work was under the guidance of Dr Bestelmeyer and the units were manufactured by Hartmann & Braun of Frankfurt. There is an account by Bauermeister in Marine Rundschau of which I attach a crude Google Translate version and it doesn't mention Ruhlemann. The photograph with the long spring shows, from left to right, the hydrostatic switch that released the primer (primer driven by the long spring), the retaining ring for the bomb fuze, the bomb fuze (hard to make out which type. 24A, 34A or 34B at the image resolution), the retaining ring for the hydrostatic release switch and a piece of gear that I do not recognise which looks like a "puller" of some kind. It looks like it might fit over the bomb fuze threads. Could it be a device for pulling recalcitrant fuzes - if so one might expect it to be remote controlled, which it doesn't appear to be. If it could be pressurised then it could be a combined fuze gag and puller. Anyway, its not part of the mine.
Congratulations to Robert Macklin for uncovering much new material and to Rob for his MCDOA website which has led to such fruitful interactions.
From Steve Venus, webmaster of Bomb Fuze Collectors.net
Nice to hear from you. I hope you are well.
I've just read Peter Varey's book, 'Life on the Edge'. It's excellent and well written. The other book I will look out for and see if it will be available for my Kindle Fire (which is harder to understand than bomb and mine fuzes). I will keep you informed.
I did notice the other day that several hits on my web site were through your web site. Thanks.
16 Nov 12
MCDOA website 10 years old today
Today is the 10th birthday of the MCDOA website. It has continued to grow in popularity throughout its existence and currently receives hits from over 18,000 unique host servers per month, many of which (e.g. the MoD's) are shared by several users. For the I.T. geeks among you, last month saw 882,250 requests for files (including pages and images) with 36,663 distinct page hits and 28.09 gigabytes of data downloaded by individuals in 109 different countries or territories.
From MCDOA member David 'Topsy' Turner in Australia:
Well done to you mate for keeping the website going from strength to strength over the past 10 years. As I have always said, if it wasn't for you I don't think we would have as strong and as social officer cadre as we enjoy today, even though there are many miles and generations that separate us all. Keep up the great work.
Media award for keen supporter of the RN Minewarfare & Diving Community
Many of the news articles featured on the website during the past ten years were written by Richard Hargreaves while he was Defence Correspondent of the Portsmouth News or, more recently, as the wide-roaming News Editor of Navy News and the RN Website. Early examples of his output included this article of 5 December 2002 about the future of the Hunt class minehunters and this article, one of a series he wrote on board RFA Sir Galahad in March 2003 about the mine clearance of the Khawr abd Allah (the approach to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr) during Operation TELIC. Throughout this time, I have regarded him as both a friend and a colleague.
Richard has been a staunch proponent of the Royal Navy in general and the MCD Branch in particular. It is therefore entirely fitting that he was presented with the Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award by HRH the Princess Royal at the Annual Maritime Media Awards Dinner at the Institute of Directors on Wednesday night and I am delighted for him.
HRH the Princess Royal presenting the Desmond Wettern Media Award
to Richard Hargreaves
(RN photo by LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins)
The dinner was also attended by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope GCB OBE, and last year’s winner, BBC Defence Correspondent Caroline Wyatt. I am sure that all members will join me in congratulating such a stalwart supporter of our community.
From Richard Hargreaves, News Editor of Navy News and the Royal Navy website:
Many thanks - bit of a shock to find it all over Facebook. I've not said a word about it - never really been one for self-promotion. I'm very grateful that I didn't have to give a speech; the written word is much more my thing!
All the best.
15 Nov 12
News from Topsy Turner in New Zealand
I am grateful to MCDOA member David 'Topsy' Turner for this update and accompanying photos:
Just thought I might ask if you could pass on my apologies for not being able to attend the AGM and dinner this year. Last year was easily achievable with having the ABCANZ Diving and EOD Conference during the same week (well done to Chris Baldwin for masterminding that one) [see entry for 5 Oct 12] but this one is simply not gonna happen. The meeting is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and it's just a tad too far even for a jet-setting type like myself.
I say that because I've just had two weeks at HMS COLLINGWOOD attending the Maritime Warfare Course which was just perfect. It was great to catch up with some old muckers like Kevin Giles who was also on course, and Bob Hawkins and Steve Marshall who I managed to meet up with whilst Bob was on his 'farewell tour' with Trish prior to his departure for Malaysia. Yvonne and I have already booked some time in with them both as it's in our backyard so to speak. Then two weeks ago I went to HMAS WATERHEN to visit the RAN Diving School. The Diving Training Officer is LTCDR Russ Crawford who many of us will remember when he was on the MW staff at HMS VERNON
Whilst spinning a few dits with Russ, who should walk in the office but Taff (I've retired but not really) Sweeney. He was in great form and looks very well on his combined service of 50 years (24 years RN and 26 year RAN) [see entry for 19 Apr 12 in News Archive 38].
Talking about Australia, up until recently I was the Chief of Staff to our Maritime Battle Staff and am delighted to tell you that LTCDR Yvonne Gray joined the staff in October as the Staff Officer Under Water Warfare. Yvonne had just spent the last two years or so on exchange from the RN with the RAN where she had been working in the PWO Training Faculty. Some of our readers may remember Yvonne back in 1997 when she became the RN's very first female Mine Warfare Officer before which she was the Navigating Officer of HMS WALNEY. After MWO course, Yvonne joined HMS BRIDPORT as OPSO and then in 1999 joined HMS CROMER (my old command) as XO (another female first). In 2003 Yvonne did her pre-PWO training in HMS IRON DUKE where she had many fond memories of our very own Bob Hawkins and highlights a particularly good trip around Key West. Yvonne is already proving to be a great asset to the staff and I know she will do very well in the RNZN.
By the way, I took command of HMNZS CANTERBURY last week just to round out a very busy time for me [see entry for 12 Nov 12].
Cdr Sean Stewart RNZN handing over the traditional Maori mere to Topsy
Topsy receiving his commissioning order and pendant from Rear Admiral Tony Parr RNZN,
Chief of the Royal New Zealand Navy
Topsy addressing his new ship's company
Topsy and his wife Yvonne with their son Harry and daughter Jenni
Two years in command will see me through to 57 and within 15 months of my contract but to be honest I'm hopeful of an extension which will see me through to the grand age of 60 and then who knows??
SDU2 deals with suspect bomb
The Portsmouth News contains this article describing how work at the Whiteley shopping development in Hampshire was halted when a digger unearthed a bomb-shaped object. It was subsequently identified as a car alternator and removed by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).
The 'bomb' found in Whiteley
(Portsmouth News photo)
14 Nov 12 - HMS Pembroke remembers in Campbeltown
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how MCM1 Crew 8 of HMS Pembroke, commanded by MCDOA member Matt Moore, participated in the Remembrance Sunday ceremonial march, wreath laying and church service in Campbeltown while sheltering from the weather.
HMS Pembroke's ship's company marching off to Remembrance ceremonies
(RN website photo)
13 Nov 12 - Long Service & Good Conduct Medal awards
Congratulations to WO(D) Dan Archer and CPO(MW) J Cowan on being gazetted for the award of the LS & GC. The relevant page of the Supplement to the London Gazette can be viewed here.
12 Nov 12 - Topsy Turner assumes Command of HMNZS Canterbury
Cdr David Turner RNZN
I am grateful to MCDOA member Phil Ireland for advising me that former MCDOA Honorary Secretary David 'Topsy' Turner assumed Command of HMNZS Canterbury on 1 November, as indicated by this CO's Biography on the Royal New Zealand Navy website. His 9,000 tonne Sealift and Amphibious Support Vessel is the first (and largest) of seven new ships built for the RNZN under Project Protector.
The Mult-Role Vessel (MRV) HMNZS Canterbury (L421)
Here is Topsy sitting front and centre at the start of his LMCDO Course at HMS Vernon in 1983 with a certain individual as his Long Course Officer standing on the extreme right:
Long Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers' Course '83B
As can be imagined, I am thrilled by this news and am sure that all members of our community will join me in wishing Topsy every success in his new appointment.
11 Nov 12 - Lest we forget
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
|Robert Laurence Binyon|
10 Nov 12 - News from HMS Shoreham
I am grateful to Lt Cdr Toby Shaughnessy, the Commanding Officer of HMS Shoreham, for this update:
"Greetings from Bahrain, in the Arabian Gulf, HMS SHOREHAM's current home for the foreseeable future. Much has elapsed since I last wrote to you, the highlights of which I shall attempt to update you on, hopefully without running the risk of dragging on unduly.
As I write, my team, MCM1 Crew 4, is nearing the end of its time aboard HMS SHOREHAM and is carrying out all the requisite preparations for handing over responsibility of the ship to Crew 7, commanded by Lt Cdr Mark Hammon. They are set to relieve us in mid-December and will write to introduce themselves in due course.
Following an extensive pre-deployment work-up package throughout early 2012 in and around Faslane and the north, SHOREHAM sailed from the UK at the end of May and embarked on her six thousand mile voyage out to the Arabian Gulf. Stopping only for fuel, ports of call included Lisbon, Gibraltar, Malta, Souda Bay (Crete), Safaga (Egypt), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Djibouti, Salalah (Oman), Fujairah (UAE), Dubai (UAE) and finally arriving in Bahrain in late summer. As has now become the norm for mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) making the long trip east or west, and to provide some mutual support on the long voyage, we transited out in company with the Portsmouth based Hunt Class MCMV HMS ATHERSTONE, (herself conducting a relief voyage to the Gulf), after a rendezvous off Cape Trafalgar.
During a 10-day period alongside in Souda Bay, the ship was put through a final set of equipment trials ensuring full Command confidence in all of our kit prior to our transit south through the Suez Canal at the end of June. Upon departing the Red Sea and entering the Gulf of Aden we were obliged to endure the seasonal South West Monsoon, known locally as the `Khareef', which made for an uncomfortable couple of weeks of transit as be burrowed through some fairly challenging conditions with waves as high as 5+ metres. All in all it was a welcome relief to turn north around the tip of the Arabian Peninsula and into the Gulf of Oman.
On 17 July, we formally took over duties as one of the four permanently deployed UK MCMVs in the Middle East, following a brief handover in Fujairah from our returning sister ship HMS PEMBROKE. This marked an important milestone for SHOREHAM as assuming this duty requires the ship and her crew to be at perpetual high readiness for contingent operations for the entire period she is deployed, whilst executing a busy operational schedule of exercises, wider regional engagement and weapon training to maintain our fighting edge. One such event as you may have seen in the media of late was our recent participation in an International Mine Counter Measures Exercise (IMCMEX), the largest of its kind ever undertaken. IMCMEX involved the navies of over 27 nations and saw us working directly alongside our American counterparts as well as the Type 45 Destroyer HMS DIAMOND and our Gulf Based support ship, RFA CARDIGAN BAY.
Working with our international partners often poses additional challenges derived from differences in national doctrine but also provides the opportunity to benefit from a fresh perspective on seamanship, bridge and force protection evolutions as well as our core mine hunting business. It is a key part of what we do. This exercise once again proved the ability of the myriad navies who have ships based in the Gulf to work in conjunction to ensure the continued freedom of navigation for all mariners using these waterways whilst allowing us to get to know the officers and sailors of the ships with whom we share jetty space alongside in Bahrain.
When not exercising, we spend the majority of the time at sea, as ever over the horizon away from public view, conducting national business within this key maritime domain. The environmental conditions are always extreme with plenty of sand and dust in the air, and average temperatures that vary between the high 40s°C in the summer months to a mere 36-38°C as I write today. As you may imagine, this puts an enormous strain on both man and machine that requires constant adaptation. Our return to the UK by air in December will certainly be an abrupt shock to the system!
In early September another particular highlight for the crew came in the form of our Commanding Officer's Week, a week-long operational stand down for the crew that was spent alongside in Dubai. Many of the crew took the opportunity to fly families out and/or spend a few days off the ship in hotels ashore, providing a welcome break from the high operational tempo of the deployment. Today, we are back alongside in our established Forward Operating Base in Bahrain, conducting some planned maintenance, before returning to sea at month's end for more operational tasking.
Whilst my crew is now entering the last weeks of its seven-month deployment and looking forward to Christmas leave at home with our families, your Ship, SHOREHAM, is to be stationed in the Gulf for several years to come. During this period several crews from the MCM1 Squadron in Faslane will serve in her for six to seven month deployment tours, including my own team, Crew 4, who will return to her late next year, less than a year after we left. Unusually, many of us have been with SHOREHAM for a considerable time now (for some a period of nearly two years), rare in our normal pattern of rotation within the squadron, and most have developed a deep sense of pride and ownership of her as a consequence. When we leave, we shall miss her greatly, not least for getting us here in one piece over those thousands of miles, but for what she continues to deliver so effectively. I will certainly highlight this feeling to Mark when he relieves me in December, and gently remind him he is just `borrowing' her until my return next year.
Your Ship has and continues to behave impeccably and continues to directly contribute to the very frontline of UK maritime security and operations. Our ties ashore are important to us as a Crew, and whilst it is not possible to engage with our affiliates everyday, your continued support is of the greatest importance to us, as it shall be for those who follow and serve in this excellent ship.
I am sure that all members of our community will join me in wishing Toby and his ship's company a safe and pleasant return to the UK after yet another operational deployment in the Middle East.
9 Nov 12 - US Navy replacing minehunting dolphins with underwater robots
The Huffington Post (UK) website contains this article describing plans for the US Navy to replace its Marine Mammal System (MMS) minehunting dolphins with Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs). Regular followers will be aware that US Navy MCM forces in the Gulf took delivery of SeaFox mine identification and disposal vehicles in July, thus following the lead established by the Royal Navy several years ago (see entry for 14 Jul 12 in News Archive 39). Like the Royal Navy, they also operate the REMUS family of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs).
US Navy bottlenose dolphin equipped with
a tracking device in the Arabian Gulf
(US Navy photo)
8 Nov 12 - HMS Middleton visiting London
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the arrival of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) alongside the Imperial War Museum's HMS Belfast in London for a busy programme during the Remembrance weekend.
HMS Middleton making a sternboard on HMS Belfast
(RN website photo)
I hope members of HMS Middleton's ship's company take the opportunity to look at Ouvry's mine on board HMS Belfast (see entry for 27 Nov 09 in News Archive 28).
Postscript: The Portsmouth News published this article on 9 November covering the same story.
7 Nov 12 - MCDOA Annual Dinner reminder
Richard 'Soapy' Watson, our Honorary Secretary/Treasure, has asked me to remind members about our Annual Dinner in HMS Excellent on Thursday 22 November. Numbers are already approaching the 100 mark so book now to avoid disappointment. He also advises me that a few more cabins are available in the Junior Rates' mess for those requiring overnight accommodation. Sadly, the Wardroom is fully occupied and HMS Bristol is unavailable this year.
Click on the links in the red banner at the top of this page for further information.
6 Nov 12 - HDS Diving Museum update
The weekend of 27/28 October was supposed to be our last for the season and we had 23 on the Saturday and 39 on the Sunday. However, we remained open just one more weekend to cover the school half-term and managed 17 on Saturday and 32 on Sunday. The grand total (except for special openings to come) for 2012 is therefore 4,687, call it 4,700 in round numbers.
DIVE SHOW, BIRMINGHAM
The Dive Show exhibition was another great success. Numbers looked very healthy and John Towse distributed lots of our leaflets around the stands. Many people said they intended to visit next year.
COMING SHORTLY TO THE DIVING MUSEUM
Saturday 17 November - IoW Divers
NEWTSUIT atmospheric diving suit
Tuesday 20 November - one NEWTSUIT courtesy of Subsea 7 will be arriving mid-to-late afternoon from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. The NEWTSUIT will be arriving in pieces to make it easier to carry into the museum:
Torso upper half
Torso lower half
We will need some extra hands at the Diving Museum to hump the bits inside. Then we will have to work out how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Please let me know if you can lend a hand to help with the move from the transport into the Museum. I can let you know nearer the time exactly what time it will all start happening. The NEWTSUIT will be a major attraction for next year and we are deeply indebted to Subsea 7 for this magnificent exhibit.
HDS CONFERENCE & DINNER
Saturday, 10 November in Birmingham. Presentations will be on the salvage of the German fleet at Scapa Flow, the diving history of Spain and France and William Walker, the "Winchester Diver". Come and join in this fabulous extravaganza!
Details from Mike Fardell: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Friends of the Royal Naval Museum and HMS Victory have booked a visit for Thursday, 25 April 2013 at 1030. They are then lunching at Bayside Cabin.
RN CDs are visiting on Saturday 18 May 2013
Thanks to Richard Newton for the donation of two pristine Normalair masks with the U/W accessory. These are in mint condition.
HDS Museum's Normalair masks
A massive thanks to Barry Stayte who has reconstructed the Shifting Lobby in Bravo Magazine. This is all part of the new plan to recreate the magazine layout. Public access as far as the end of the connecting corridor to view the magazine will be permitted. For Health and Safety reasons, we regret that no real gunpowder will be stored there.
THE ANN PLAN
Ann has a plan for re-arranging some of the exhibits over the winter. Any and all help will be very much appreciated.
WELL DONE AND A HUNDRED THOUSAND THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT THIS YEAR AGAIN!
The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer workers and guides. 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 don't have to be an HDS member to get involved.
5 Nov 12 - Sailors reunited with ship
HMS Chiddingfold's ship's company crossing the brow
(Portsmouth News photo)
3 Nov 12 - HMS Atherstone picks up American gauntlet for Iron Man Challenge
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how six ship's company members from HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6) will compete against their American counterparts from USS Warrior in a gruelling endurance event in Bahrain on 23 November (see entry for 31 Oct 12).
HMS Atherstone's team will comprise her Commanding Officer (MCDOA member Justin Hains), Executive Officer (MCDOA member Jason Dawson), Gunnery Officer (Lt Chris Musgrove), Coxswain (PO(D) John Carroll), PO(MEM) Steve Shaw and AB(D) Dan Mullens. They will be raising funds for the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) and can be sponsored via this webpage:
Virgin Money Giving: HMS Atherstone Charity Iron Man 70.3
2 Nov 12 - SDU1 attends bomb scare in Plymouth
The Plymouth Herald website contains this article describing Wednesday's discovery of a suspicious package in Drake Circus shopping mall in Plymouth. The incident was attended by members of Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) who identified the 'package' as a fire prevention device.
1 Nov 12 - HMS Chiddingfold springs back to life
HMS Chiddingfold's ship's company belatedly splicing the mainbrace
to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee
(RN website photo)
31 Oct 12 - HMS Atherstone to take part in Gulf 'Iron Man' Challenge
MCDOA members Justin Hains (CO of HMS Atherstone) and Jason Dawson (XO of HMS Atherstone) will join four other members of MCM2 Crew 6 in an epic challenge to raise funds for the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC). On 23 November, they will vie with another team from the American minehunter USS Warrior in a gruelling Half Iron Man (70.3) event at the Naval Support Activity (NSA) in Bahrain. HMS Atherstone recently won the first Annual IMCMEX Sporting Trophy in competition against teams from 30 other countries (see third entry for 10 Oct 12).
HMS Atherstone's victorious IMCMEX 12 sports team in Bahrain with Head of
UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC), Commodore Simon Ancona RN
(RN website photo)
1.2 mile swim
56 mile cycle
13.1 mile run
The event promises to be a real test of grit and endurance, especially given the heat and their busy programme at sea which seriously limits the training which can be undertaken - but as they say no pain, no gain!
Lt Cdr Justin Hains - CO
Lt Jason Dawson - XO
Lt Chris Musgrove - GO
PO (D) John Carroll - Coxn
PO (MEM) Steve Shaw - ERPO
AB (D) Dan Mullens - Diver
Team members have a real mix of experience, some being seasoned triathletes and some enthusiastic newcomers to the field of endurance sports.
The team is hoping to raise as much as it can for the RNRMC which has been increasingly busy in recent years given the high tempo of naval operations on land and at sea. To find out more about the amazing work they do in support of the men and women of the naval services please visit their website at: https://rnrmc.org.uk.
The team will also be raising funds on the day for a local charity, the RIA Centre in Bahrain, which provides educational facilities for children, many with learning difficulties.
Any support will be greatly appreciated by the team and their charities, and will help them to contribute to these very busy organisations who do so much to support others.
Support the team with your donations via this webpage:
Virgin Money Giving: HMS Atherstone Charity Iron Man 70.3
30 Oct 12 - Long Service & Good Conduct Medal awards
Congratulations to PO(MW) P E Garland, PO(D) Nige Froude and LS(D) Stuart Hibbs on being gazetted for the award of the LS & GC. The relevant page of the Supplement to the London Gazette can be viewed here.
29 Oct 12 - SDU1 disposes of mortar bomb in Totnes
The BBC website contains this article, including a video, describing the retrieval by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a mortar bomb found in a skip at a recycling centre in Totnes, Devon.
SDU1 bomb wagon at the scene of the incident
28 Oct 12 - Great South Run (Part III)
There was a fantastic atmosphere at today's BUPA Great South Run involving 25,000 participants (see entries for 26 Oct 12). I captured these images of CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming in standard diving dress taking a breather around 100 yards short of the finishing line before he completed the final stretch of the ten mile course in company with other members of Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) wearing a variety of historical RN diving dress:
I am proud to say that my son Gareth also completed the course, albeit less encumbered than Scouse. Here he is after the race with his two sisters, Carolyn and Katy, both of whom have done their bit by running for charity in the past.
You can still demonstrate any appreciation you may feel for the time and effort I put into maintaining the MCDOA website by donating to Gareth's carefully chosen charity, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, via this webpage.
27 Oct 12 - RNCDA Inaugural Dinner
Congratulations and special thanks to Richie Throup and everyone else involved in organising last night's highly successful inaugural dinner dance of the embryonic RN Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA) at the Marriott Hotel in Cosham. MCDOA dual-members in attendance included our Chairman Chris Baldwin, Al Nekrews, Pete Davis (and their gorgeous wives) plus Yours Truly (Rob Hoole). The photos below provide a flavour of the occasion.
Membership of the RNCDA is open to serving and ex-serving RN clearance divers of all ranks and is available for a one-off payment of £25. For further details, contact the Membership Secretary WO(D) Steve Vernonat Fleet Diving Headquarters. Application forms and other documentation may be download via the entry for 27 Feb 12 in News Achive 37.
26 Oct 12
Great South Run (Part I)
The Heart FM website contains this article describing the participation of CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) in the BUPA Great South Run wearing full standard diving dress (see entry for 4 Oct 12). Although the main race is not until Sunday, Scouse is running the first part of the course through Portsmouth & Southsea today and tomorrow. Here he is trudging through Portsmouth Naval Base earlier today with PO(D) Dave 'Daisy' May riding shotgun in the support vehicle:
Scouse Fleming starts his lonely walk
Great South Run (Part II)
As your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster, I don't often ask personal favours but every once in a while, one of our three offspring does something to make Linda and me feel particularly proud. This time, it is the turn of our son Gareth who is participating in this weekend's Great South Run to raise money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, the only UK charity solely dedicated to research into blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. This cause is especially close to our family's hearts at the moment.
Gareth before starting the run
If you would like to demonstrate your appreciation for the time and effort I put into maintaining the MCDOA website and fielding all your emails and telephone queries, then please consider making a donation via this webpage. Provided Gareth survives the run, he will be able to thank you in person when he accompanies me to next month's MCDOA Dinner as my guest.
Postscript: The Portsmouth News contained this coverage of Scouse Fleming's efforts on 27 October.
22 Oct 12 - HDS Diving Museum update
The weekend of 13/14 October was quiet by normal standards with 32 on the Saturday and 26 on the Sunday. Particularly interesting visitors included Pat Baker from Australia, Bob Abery from the USA, Nigel Kelland (ex-Sonardyne director, ex-BP scientist, ex-Mary Rose diver/surveyor) and Malcolm Grier, ex-Siebe Gorman toolmaker.
The weekend of 20/21 October was better with 44 on Saturday and 33 on Sunday before the wind and rain dampened the three o'clock rush. Interesting visitors included a family with close Buster Crabb connections .
The total number of visitors this year currently stands at 4,576 so we are slightly down on last year's figure. Considering that we offered free entry for several months last year and the visit of the aircraft carrier USS George W Bush boosted figures by a few hundred, I think that the numbers are quite respectable. Bookings for the Diving Museum next year are already starting to come in! Friends of the Royal Navy Museum are visiting on 22 April 2013.
LAST WEEKEND OF THE YEAR!
This coming weekend will be the last for the season so come and join in the celebrations!
Ann will of course have lots for us to get on with over winter! The Newt Suit arrival is still on schedule for 21st-ish November. Bravo Magazine is to be refurbished as a visitor attraction and Barry Stayte has been commissioned to rebuild the "Shifting Lobby" in the magazine. This is where the gunners changed their clothing before entering the gunpowder/cartridge store.
Just to make things more interesting, here is a message from Ann Bevan, the power behind the throne!
There are a few things that I think we could do over winter, many of which require only effort, not money.
1. POSSIBLY repaint some or all of the large North Sea Bell. Perhaps just the orange part? Weather dependant.
2. Put more shingle on the weed mat (the foxes keep pulling it up so I think we need to cover it a bit more deeply)
1. Move Gosport section out to where the Russians are
2. Move Russians and Yanks into Gosport Room
3. Relocate Buster Crabb info
4. Decide what to do with the space where the TV was. Keep the small TV here? Set up a projector (suspect this will be very difficult)?
5. Put a static poster display here (Buster Crabb)?
6. Small jobs: paint the silver ring in the Bell display; and the gold bar; put the Dingley Crest with the other naval crests; repair broken tube heater bracket (commercial diver section). Create cage for tube heater; treat anything that is crumbling/going mouldy.
7. Terry refurbs other door to glass cabinet to make sure it is safe to open fully.
8. Get touch screen fixed and working properly
History of the Battery section: (this area will be largely unsupervised so we’ll keep exhibits simple and unbreakable / untouchable)
1. Move all our stuff out of our ‘tools’ room into the next large room - or further down if we have the energy (Throw out anything we don’t need; I may take the bricks if no-one wants them)
2. Add signage along concrete corridor leading to the magazine.
3. Repaint back of the steel door in concrete corridor
4. Purchase materials (wood and paint) for the shifting lobby (benches, hooks, door). Barry has kindly offered to build everything we need.
5. Get lanterns for the lantern recesses
6. Add electrical points for: light in the shifting lobby; lights in Barry’s models (and possibly also the lanterns) Add mirror backs to the lantern recesses (to stop people seeing into the main room and to reflect more light back into the magazine)
7. 2 rope barriers + wall hooks
8. Move Barry’s models into the new History of the Battery section and find a use/exhibit for the new alcove (children’s colouring desk?)
9. Make posters for the History of the Battery and put on the walls
If anyone wants to add/change anything, please just say.
The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer workers and guides. 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 don't have to be an HDS member to get involved.
20 Oct 12 - SDU1 deals with suspicious package in Truro
The 'This is Cornwall' website contains this article and the Falmouth Packet website this article describing a call-out yesterday for members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) to deal with a suspicious package in the centre of Truro, Cornwall. The package turned out to be a camera inside a plastic lunchbox.
19 Oct 12 - A message from the daughter of former SofD Guy Worsley
Cdr Antony Guy Worsley OBE RN was based at HMS Vernon as SofD (Superintendent of Diving) from 1972 to 1983 and I distinctly remember him dominating 'the diving helmet end' of the wardroom bar each lunchtime with other giants of the RN diving world such as Bill Filer, Robbie Robinson, Alan 'Shiner' Wright, Wilf Dodd and Jackie Warner. As a Lieutenant, he was awarded a Mention in Despatches in the 1950 New Year Honours "in recognition of services in Operational Minesweeping since the end of the War." As a Commander, he was appointed an OBE (Ordinary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the 1979 Queen's Birthday Honours.
I hope that you will not object to this email but I was passed your address by Seafarer Books. I recently purchased your book ‘Diver’ at RNAS Yeovilton Air Day and wanted to write to thank you for it. My father was a Royal Naval clearance diver who went on to become Superintendent of Diving. He would have been in post during the time about which you were writing. Unfortunately, he had a massive stroke when he left the Navy in 1984. I was 9 and then he passed away when I was only 21.
I never really asked enough questions about his 40-year career and he didn’t volunteer a great deal once he was out so I have very little information about him beyond a sketchy outline of where he was and when and that has massive gaps. I know that your diving experience was probably very different to his as, by the time I came along, he was mostly behind a desk. But your book has helped me to understand at least something of the experiences that he might have had once he made it out of hard hats and into scuba, saturation and clearance diving. I am also aware enough to understand that each experience of war and conflict is different. My friends who have been through Afghanistan and Iraq have taught me this, but your description of the Falklands has again taught me a little more about what he might have faced in WWII, Korea and the various other ‘conflicts’ that he got caught up in as well as some of the ‘nicer’ work. I know he also spent time in Funafuti for example.
Guy Worsley (standing third from right) with members of the Fleet Clearance Diving
Team including Tony Groom (kneeling centre) on the Funafuti Atoll, Tuvulu
in Polynesia during Operation HEMICARP in 1977
I have no idea if you ever came across him during your time but I recognise a number of the names in your book. Mick Fellows kindly came to my father’s funeral along with some of the other divers but I am ashamed to say that with all that was going on, I don’t remember all of their names. In fact, when we turned up at the church we found that they had brought with them a diving helmet as a surprise for us as well as a white ensign for the coffin – we were told not to ask where they got it!
Another thing I understand now – his sense of humour. Whilst he did not go out to the Falklands himself, the few stories he told to me were not of his work but what ‘his’ divers achieved there. I recognised some of them in your book. I grew up hero worshiping the teams who worked on UXBs in ships' magazines while all hell broke loose around them. I am sure it is not important but he was immensely proud of the Fleet Clearance Team.
Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for the book. It was a fascinating read quite apart from the personal connections and I hope you do not mind the message.
If anyone would like to help Claire fill in some of the gaps in her knowledge of her father, please email me via this address.
18 Oct 12 - Telegraph obituary for Lt Cdr Iain 'Bruce' Mackay RN
Much sooner than expected, I am grateful as ever to Capt Peter Hore RN for agreeing to write this obituary for MCDOA member Bruce Mackay which appeared in today's Daily Telegraph (see entry for 16 Oct 12).
17 Oct 12 - Dive on wreck of wartime tanker
The MoD website contains this article, the RN website this article and the Navy News website this article describing the inspection by HMS Protector of the wreck of RFA Darkdale which was torpedoed by a U-boat off the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic in October 1941 with the loss of nearly all hands. The articles feature LS(D) Chris Hayes.
Union Flag laid on the wreck of RFA Darkdale by HMS Protector's divers
(Navy News website photo)
The Ministry of Defence website contains this article providing further background.
16 Oct 12 - Funeral of Lt Cdr Iain 'Bruce' Mackay RN
There was a strong turnout for today's funeral service of MCDOA member Bruce Mackay at the Mendip Crematorium in the rolling Somerset countryside near the pretty village of Croscombe and we were blessed with fine weather. Apart from Bruce's many other friends and relatives, MCDOA members present included Doug Barlow, Brian Dutton, John Grattan, Peter Hicks, Martyn Holloway, Rob Hoole, Richard 'Glops' Lowther, Julian Malec, Alex Manning, Ian Morton, Dan Nicholson, John O'Driscoll, Alan Padwick and Jon Riches. Other familiar faces included ex-CDO Gerry 'Pincher' Martin, ex-CPO(D) Dusty Miller and ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson. Richard Lowther passed me apologies for absence on behalf of Graham Shaw, his fellow student on LMCDO '69 under Bruce's tutelage.
Bruce's casket, draped in the white ensign, was borne into the sunlit chapel to the accompaniment of organ music played by Alison Bower. Alistair Glanvile, the Reader, then welcomed everyone to the thanksgiving for Bruce's life and we sang the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father Strong to Save) before the traditional reading of John 14:1-6 and 27 (In my Father's house are many dwelling places (mansions)).
MCDOA member Julian Malec then provided this moving eulogy:
"Lieutenant Commander Bruce Mackay and I first met 43 years ago, in June 1969, in Gunwharf Shopping Centre Portsmouth, which, in those different days, was the proud naval establishment HMS Vernon, home of Navy Diving and Minewarfare. Bruce was Officer-in-Charge of the 1969 Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officers' Course of which I had just become a member. In time, he and I became friends. I am deeply honoured that Cynthia has asked me to speak today. In a talk of a few minutes, it is not possible to do justice to the life of a man so this is an inadequate and brief synopsis of Bruce’s life and career.
Bruce was born on 19th November 1934 in Peshawar in what is now Pakistan where his father, an RAF Group Captain, was based. Bruce had a brother and two sisters. He went very early to boarding school in England and, in 1950 when he was 15, he enlisted in the Royal Navy and joined HMS Ganges as a Boy Seaman. His talent was quickly spotted and he was selected from his peers to be a Boy Instructor. In the words of his friend Pincher Martin, “right little Hitlers they were too”. Gordon Miller, one of his colleagues at Ganges over 60 years ago, is here today.
Bruce was selected for Officer Training in 1957 and was promoted to Lieutenant in February 1960. He qualified in Clearance Diving in 1963 under his Course Officer, Lt Cdr Stuart Honour. The course could not have been too taxing for Bruce had the time to meet girls in Portsmouth, one of whom he courted and married. Cynthia and Bruce were married in 1963, 49 years ago. Tim Trounson, who died late last year, was their Best Man.
Bruce served in HMS Flockton and HMS Houghton, and as Commanding Officer of HMS Dingley running the Home Station Diving Team. In 1966 he became CO of HMS Iveston and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in February 1968.
Bruce’s career was extremely varied. He served in HMS Terror in Singapore and as the Officer-in-Charge of the Scotland and Northern Ireland Bomb Disposal Team. He must have got home some of the time for Cynthia and Bruce had four daughters: Belinda, Louise, Sally and Fiona. They all went wherever he went so at different times they lived in houses in Singapore, Liverpool, Dunfermline and Indian Head, USA, and sometimes in their own home in Widley.
For two years Bruce was Commanding Officer of HMS Dee, the training ship of the Royal Naval Unit of Liverpool University, and he later worked for three years at the United States Naval Surface Warfare Centre in Indian Head, Maryland, USA investigating underwater explosives. Bob Hawkins says that, “years later, Bruce was still remembered there for his work and the way he conducted it”.
In the Falklands War he went south in HMS Intrepid where, among other jobs, he conducted a most hazardous mission. In a very small vessel, he and his crew had to tow highly magnetic and noisy steel rods through the waters of Teal Inlet to see if the Argentines had laid any magnetic or acoustic mines. It requires no imagination to understand the danger to the people doing the minesweeping, and their great courage in carrying out the job. For this action he was mentioned in dispatches. He came home and his career took him back to Portsmouth, where he worked for Captain Weapon Trials until he retired in 1991.
The family moved to Shepton Mallet in 1993, and then in 2009, even further west to Westbury-sub-Mendip. Away from the Navy, Bruce was very handy in making things. David Burstall remembers that when Bruce, as a young single officer, stayed with them he made toys for the Burstall children. Bruce played a lot of sport when he was young, including rugby for the Navy, and he was good at most sports. Cynthia tells me that this attribute has been inherited by their grandchildren. He loved gardening, and really enjoyed making his own strong beer and wine. Cynthia says he never threw anything away, so his sheds were always full of everything.
Bruce’s last years were made very hard by lung and heart disease, and life was tough for him, and for Cynthia, and for the family looking after him. I never heard him complain. He died on October 8th in his own bed. How he will be missed, by Cynthia, and their daughters and their families, and by those of us, his friends, who were privileged to know him. We cannot fathom the depth of the grief of the family, but we stand with them to remember him and support them.
Finally, again in the words of Pincher Martin, “Bruce was as straight as a die and was the most honest and trustworthy man I have ever met, - and that is saying something for a diver”.
Bruce, we will remember you."
After prayers, the congregation sang I Vow to Thee, my Country before three of Bruce's granddaughters read verses from Rudyard Kipling's If. The Reader then conducted the Commendation and Committal before delivering the Blessing to bring the service to a close. After listening to the sound of the Military Wives' Choir singing Wherever You Are, many of the mourners repaired to the George Inn in Croscombe to raise a glass or two in Bruce's memory whereupon I took the following photos:
Martyn Holloway, Peter Hicks, Dusty Miller, Jon Riches, Pincher Martin,
Ian Morton and Alex Manning
Left: Martyn Holloway, John Riches, Peter Hicks and Ian Morton flanking Julie who fed us admirably
Right: Dan Nicholson talking to Martyn Holloway with Alan and Sarah Padwick in the background
Peter Hicks, Brian Dutton, Pincher Martin and Richard Lowther
Whenever I write accounts focusing on the subjects of these sad occasions, I am deeply conscious of being unlikely to do the same for those left behind who are equally deserving of our attention, love and respect. All I can do is express my sympathy and extend my inadequate condolences for their loss. With this in mind, I invite other members of our community to spare a thought for Cynthia and the rest of Bruce's delightful family at this difficult time. He has left an enviable legacy.
Lt Cdr Iain 'Bruce' Mackay RN
(19 Nov 1934 - 8 Oct 2012)
Tributes to Bruce are appended to the entry for 8 Oct 12. There is also the possibility of an obituary in the Daily Telegraph during the forthcoming weeks.
15 Oct 12 - Rare opportunity to buy book about HMS Vernon
Maritime Books is currently advertising The Torpedomen - HMS Vernon's Story 1872 - 1986 on its website. This 415-page book by Rear Admiral Edmund Nicholas 'Nico' Poland CB CBE, priced £29.50, is seldom available for sale and I recommend it to any aficionados of the alma mater of Royal Navy minewarfare and diving.
Front cover of my well-thumbed
copy of 'The Torpedomen'
The author died at the age of 95 on 10 March this year.
14 Oct 12 - 25th Anniversary Reunion of the Ton Class Association
Fellow MCDOA member Doug Barlow (accompanied by his partner Jill) and I have just returned from a most enjoyable 25th Anniversary reunion weekend of the Ton Class Association (TCA) in Torquay and we would like to express our appreciation and congratulations to all involved in its organisation and execution.
Left: Your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster sporting his MCDOA cummerbund
Right: Doug Barlow collecting his tot courtesy of The White Ensign Club of Exeter
At Saturday night's formal dinner, the TCA's President, Rear Admiral John Lippiett CB MBE, provided a round-up of the TCA's successes to date, including the publication of Last of the Wooden Walls - An Illustrated History of the TON Class Minesweepers & Minehunters and Jacks of All Trades - Operational Records of TON Class Minesweepers & Minehunters. The guest of honour, Commodore Laurie Hopkins, then delivered a hilarious speech complete with impressions of the characters involved in his dits. He served in several Ton Class MCMVs and was responsible for HMS Brinton's adoption of the famous banana mascot when he assumed Command of her in 1975. I remember the occasion well because I was serving in HMS Jaguar at Chatham at the same time and we became 'chummy ships' while Brinton was almost derelict in dry dock. Cdre Hopkins and his First Lieutenant, Roger Ainsley (who went on to become a Rear Admiral), even RPC'd our wardroom in a striped roadmenders' tent on the jetty to reciprocate our 'open door' hospitality.
Left: Rear Admiral Lippiett giving his state of the nation address
Right: Commodore Hopkins wowing the audience
Rear Admiral Lippiett then presented a certificate and copy of the Vernon Project's painting 'Vernon Creek' to Bill Pollington who had been selected TCA Member of the Year for organising a highly successful group visit to Malta in May to mark the island's 70th Anniversary of Operation PEDESTAL.
Bill Pollington receiving the trappings of his award from Rear Admiral Lippiett
Next year's TCA reunion weekend will be held in Southport.
12 Oct 12 - Spotlight on RN minehunters
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the conclusion of the latest Exercise JOINT WARRIOR which includes the following photo of the minehunters HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 7), HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 8), HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 1) and the Type 23 frigate HMS St Albans off the coast of Scotland:
HMS Penzance followed by HMS Cattistock, HMS Hurworth and HMS St Albans
(RN website photo)
11 Oct 12 - MCDOA past-Chairman spotted with Mayor (No, not Boris!)
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit to HMS Excellent by Councillor Frank Jonas, the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth. The article also features MCDOA past-Chairman Paul Jones, the Commanding Officer of HMS Excellent.
Lord Mayor of Portsmouth with
Paul Jones in background
10 Oct 12 - HMS Pembroke receives a lift after Gulf exertions
HMS Pembroke in the submarine shed at Faslane
(Navy News photo)
HMS Grimsby reaches milestone in £3.9m overhaul
HMS Atherstone proves small ships fight hardest
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how the ship's company of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Justin Hains) has competed against 34 other teams from UK, US, Japanese and French ships in the Middle East to win the first Annual IMCMEX Sporting Trophy (see entry for 1 Oct 12).
HMS Atherstone's victorious team
(RN website photo)
Postscript: The Royal Navy website published this article on 10 October announcing that HMS Atherstone will be taking part in an ‘Iron Man’ challenge against USS Dextrous later in the year.
9 Oct 12 - Funeral arrangements for Lt Cdr Iain 'Bruce' Mackay RN
Bruce’s funeral service will be held at the Mendip Crematorium, Old Wells Road, Croscombe, Wells, Somerset BA5 3RR at 1200 on Tuesday 16 Oct. A wake will be held at The George Inn in the centre of Croscombe about a mile north of the crematorium. The village of Croscombe lies on the A371 between Shepton and Wells. All are welcome and I will attend on behalf of the MCDOA.
Bruce's widow Cynthia has asked Julian Malec to speak about Bruce. If anyone has any pieces about his life that he might include, please email him at this address or telephone him on 01489 892414.
8 Oct 12 - Death of Lt Cdr Iain 'Bruce' Mackay RN
Bruce Mackay as a young Lieutenant
Gerald 'Pincher' Martin has passed me the sad news that MCDOA member Bruce Mackay died in his sleep during the night. He had been ill for several years and I last saw him in January at Tim Trounson's funeral when he was in a wheelchair with a ready supply of oxygen, tended as ever by his lovely wife Cynthia. However, he still had the mischievous glint in his eye and impish sense of humour for which he was renowned.
Rob Hoole, Alan Padwick, Bruce Mackay and David Burstall
in the Weymouth Arms at Warminster in January this year
Bruce was on the Long CDO Course (before the M was added) in 1963 with Cyril Lafferty, Ted Stratton and Tony Sanee. Their Course Officer was the redoubtable Stuart Honour MBE and their Chief Instructor was Ted Butler. Bruce had previously served in HMS Dingley, one of the Ley class inshore minesweepers converted into diving tenders.
In turn, Bruce was the Course Officer for LMCDO '69. He was present at the reunion held at Gunwharf Quays, the site of HMS Vernon, to mark its 40th anniversary in 2009 (see entry for 15 Jun 09 in News Archive 26).
LEFT: LMCDO '69 in 1969
Back row: Terry Jones, John Wiseman, Julian Malec, Liam Donaldson and Brian Dutton
Front Row: Dan Nicholson, R J Murphy, Dusty Miller (Course Instructor), Bruce Mackay (Course Officer), Bill Lampard, Richard Lowther and John Belchamber
RIGHT: LMCDO '69 in 2009
Back Row: John Wiseman, Julian Malec, Liam Donaldson and Brian Dutton
Front Row: Dan Nicholson, Dusty Miller, Bruce Mackay, Richard Lowther and John Belchamber
I will publish any further information as I receive it. In the meantime, I am sure all members of our community will join me in extending our deep condolences to Bruce's wife Cynthia and the other members of his family.
From ex-CD1 Jock Adam:
"I have just heard the tragic news of the passing on of Bruce. I was his C.D.1 in the Home station Clearance diving team and what a good boss he was. I would like to send my great sympathy to his widow and would appreciate any contact addresses that you have.
I hope to see you all at the the Divers' Dinner in June 2013.
All the best,
Bob (Jock) Adam"
From MCDOA member John O'Driscoll MBE:
Just got the sad news about Bruce. He was a great messmate whom I first met in 1963 as a lowly Midshipman. The long CDO's course were held in awe by us Shallow Water Divers but he always had time to listen and advise. He was one of the guys who encouraged me to apply for the Long Course and, when I qualified in 1965, he was one of the first to congratulate us (only four made it). Many happy memories over the years. He will be missed but always remembered with a smile.
From MCDOA member Alex Manning:
I'm so sorry to hear this. Bruce and I were Down South together in '82; we were both in INTREPID for most of the time from Ascension onwards and I helped him with preparing and trialling his "baby", the (in)famous AMSS Mk 1.
A lovely man; nothing fazed him and his Mention in Despatches was the least he deserved.
Regards back, and in sorrow,
From former FCPO(D) Michael 'Shiner' Brassingtom:
It's too far for me to travel to Bruce's farewell. Please tell the family I've done my usual celebration of a colleague's life by paying for an eye operation in the third world.
From MCDOA member Mike Emary:
Thanks for the info. MRU owing to another funeral on the same day.
My regards to the gathering.
From MCDOA member Alan Padwick OBE:
I was greatly saddened to hear from you that Bruce had died. Last time I saw him was at Tim Trounson's funeral in January. Though I was shocked to see how much he was already suffering, I thought him a lucky man to have the devotion of Cynthia. We had a pleasant pint together in memory of Tim.
I first remember interacting with Bruce back in November 1968 (as recorded in my diving log). We dived together in Horsea Lake to test a swimmer delivery vehicle designed by the Admiralty Materials Laboratory, a sort of torpedo on which we lay either side. It had manual controls of hydroplanes, a crude "windscreen" and some sort of acoustic navigation system. It was good fun but not very practical.
After Bruce had been course officer of the 1969 MCD course, I took over from him for the 1970 course. We had an extended and pleasant turnover during that winter and spring and I learned to respect his views and to enjoy his sense of humour over the rest of our careers.
Let us know when you hear about his funeral.
From MCDOA member Tim Paul MBE:
A sad loss. Bruce was at Sea Trials at the start of the Falklands war. As the appointer, I lifted him to CINCFLEET to go minesweeping at one of the possible invasion sites with a brand new (then) trials rig. He was Mentioned In Despatches for his sterling work in the South Atlantic.
Hope all is well with you and yours.
From MCDOA member David Burstall:
Thank you so much for the very sad news about Bruce Mackay. What a stalwart chap he was. And thank you too for the excellent photographs you sent. I had entirely forgotten about the joint picture taken at Tim Trounson's funeral.
Seeing these old snaps reminds me jut how old I am. I left the Navy the year that Brian Dutton qualified under Bruce Mackay as course officer. I was in the 1955 long course with one other trainee - Peter Roberts VC. He was a submariner who was awarded his gong for heaving a bomb out of the submarine casing in about 1942. My course officers were Jackie Warner, Eric Gash and CD1 - Willy Wyvill - a very potent and fearsome mix. I wonder if there are any archive photographs taken - if you could locate them I would be very grateful.
I would also welcome news about Bruce's funeral arrangements when you have them, together with Cynthia's address. Sorry to burden you with all these chores.
From MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE:
So sad to hear of Bruce's passing. I remember him well as a 'legend of the Branch' when I first qualified in 1982, and I recall that quite late on in his career he was our exchange officer in Indian Head as our American cousins were still talking about him when I went out there in 1987.
From former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM*:
"Scouse (Colin Kidman) and I are extremely sad to hear the unfortunate news of Bruce Mackay “Crossing the Bar”. He was my boss in the Scottish bomb team during the busy but enjoyable mid-sixties and we served together again in somewhat more harrowing times during the Falklands conflict. One of the respected gentlemen of the branch, he will be sadly missed by all who had the pleasure of meeting him.
Five bells Bruce – rest in peace - You did your bit!
From MCDOA member Julian Malec OBE:
I have just heard from Cynthia Mackay that Bruce has died. He was nearly 79. He had been ill for a few years with dreadful breathing difficulties which led to heart problems. He died in his own bed at home. I last spoke on the phone with him 10 days ago.
Bruce was a Ganges Boy. Among many other things he did, during the Falklands War he towed bar magnets behind an LCVP in an attempt to sweep any Argentinean mines (ex UK?). This was an extraordinarily brave act, for had he actually found a mine the consequences for him and those with him might have been disastrous.
Bruce was our 1969 Diving Course Officer. I shall remember him with admiration always.
Cynthia will tell me the date/time of his cremation.
By Webmaster: Bruce was awarded a MiD (Mention in Despatches) for his deed involving the hurriedly-developed AMSS Mk1 (Assault Minesweeping System Mark 1), as described in 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box.
5 Oct 12 - ABCANZ 2011 delegates
From MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin:
I have just received some photos and one includes the attached picture from last November's ABCANZ [America, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand information exchange programme] meeting which the UK hosted. As you may remember, a number of the ABCANZ delegates attended the MCDOA Dinner. You will see MCDOA members Dave 'Topsy' Turner RNZN, Angus Benton and Micky Beale and I thought it might be of interest.
ABCANZ 2011 delegates on the brow of HMS Victory
This year’s venue for ABCANZ is Halifax, Canada again in November.
C M Baldwin
Commander Royal Navy
Ministry of Defence Superintendent of Diving"
Some of the ABCANZ 2011 delegates who attended last year's MCDOA dinner
4 Oct 12 - SDU2 team to run in Great South Run
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article, including a video, which announces the participation of CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming with other members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) in this year's BUPA Great South Run (see entry for 26 Aug 12). Other members of the team comprise MCDOA member Lt Cdr Dan Herridge (OIC of SDU2) plus AB(D) Todd Fox, LS(D) Toby Jones, AB(D) Steffan Lawrence, PO(D) John O'Brien, AB(D) Steve Roberts, AB(D) Joe Smith, AB(D) Josh Spibey and LS(D) Simon West.
Scouse Fleming (centre) with other members of SDU2
The event will take place on Friday 26 October and the 10-man team will be wearing various diving sets 'through the ages'. It is aiming to raise £5,000 for the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association (BLESMA). Please be generous with your donations via the JustGiving webpage here:
3 Oct 12 - HDS Diving Museum update
The weekend of 22-23 Sep was relatively quiet with 36 visitors on Saturday (sunny) and 27 on Sunday (wet and windy). An especially interesting visitor was Bob Mackay, Chief Engineer on Seaforth Clansman when she was under charter to the RN and ran aground on the west coast of Scotland with eight divers in saturation. They were obliged to undertake a hyperbaric evacuation, the only incident of its type in UK waters.
Another VIP visitor was Frank Lilleker whose claim to fame is that he was one of the handful of people who invented Octopush (Underwater Hockey) back in 1954 at Southsea BSAC. It is to his credit that the game is now played internationally and Southsea are UK champions! Google "Octopush" if you are interested.
John Bevan & John Towse with
Frank Lilleker (in wheelchair)
On the immediately following Monday, we had a great time amusing the Gosport 7th Cubs! Twenty Cubs were sorted into three groups and John Dadd, Jim Thomson and Terry Nash paraded them around the Museum. The climax came with the attempt on the world record dry suit dressing time. With two ex-Clearance Divers to assist the brave Cub, the World Record was only narrowly missed. The Cubs were adequately tired by the end of the session and the Guides were completely exhausted!
Former FCPO(D) John Dadd with Cubs at HDS Museum
Cub being dressed in Underwater Swim Suit (UWSS) at HDS Museum
Ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson with Gosport 7th Cubs at HDS Museum
Last Saturday we hosted a group led by GBC Tourism Officer, John Gibbs. They are also visiting all the other major tourism attractions around Gosport so it was important for us to put on a good show! Feedback received so far has been extremely positive.
BUNKER BREAKING NEWS
The RN trainee divers who have been breaking their backs digging out the Bunker have now completed their project! The ground at the front of the Bunker is leveled and the Junior School behind have very kindly taken the tons of soil that were removed. The plan now is to blitz the ivy, bramble and weeds that are expected to pop up, with weed killer for the rest of the year and then to plant the ground with appropriate plants next year. We could do with some 'hard core' to establish a drain-away at the front if you happen to have any lying around.
Mike Fardell has spent several days sorting out the RN records in the Reference Library. He has now completed an Index of the documents held. This is just the first shot in a long campaign ahead to catalogue all the books and archives held. We are very conscious of the fact that we are privileged to hold a unique and invaluable archive.
Mike Fardell in HDS Reference Library
We thank Subsea 7 and ex-CD Mike O'Meara for the latest acquisition at the Diving Museum - a complete, refurbished Mark I SLS (Secondary Life Support) system. This is the semi-closed circuit bail-out breathing set introduced by necessity in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea because the regulations there required a longer endurance bail-out set than the twin cylinder, open circuit set used in the UK sector. It has since been mounted with the Krasberg return line helmet. Valued at £2,500, it has been generously donated to the Museum by Subsea 7. Also in the picture, not being part of the exhibit, is Mike with his new knee.
Ex-CD Mike O'Meara with SLS Mk I
Sometime during the period 19-23 November, we will be bringing the Subsea 7 Newtsuit down to the Museum from the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich courtesy of Bourkes Removals. The approximate ETA will be 1300-1400.
Newtsuit atmospheric diving suit
The details are:
Measurements of aluminium frame for the suit: 1220 x 1220 x 1500mm
Very approx measurements of suit: 2330 x 1220 mm
Approx weight: 350 Kg
See this beauty at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newtsuit
We hope to have been able to split it into three parts to make it more manageable. I'll let you know as soon as we know the exact date of the transfer. On that day, we will need lots of pairs of hands to manhandle it into the Museum. Watch this space!
PRESENTATION ON THE AMPHIBIOUS TANK DEPLOYED AT STOKES BAY
On Thursday 1 Nov, The Friends of Stokes Bay will host an illustrated talk by Stuart Burgess on the development of the Duplex Drive amphibious tank and the 79th Armoured Division training schools at Fritton Lake and Stokes Bay with many photos on Stokes Bay (some previously unseen from a private collection) plus two short films including one on Stokes Bay. All are taken during or just after WW2.
Date: Thursday 1st November
Time: 7.00pm for 7.15pm start
Location: The Parish Centre, Green Road.
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.
2 Oct 12 - Advice sought about MCM hovercraft
From MCDOA past-Chairman Brian Mansbridge MBE:
Since living in Lee-on-the-Solent, I have been devoting some of my spare time helping at the Hovercraft Museum having been the MCDO Staff/Trials Officer for the Hovercraft Unit in the late '70s. One of the current projects is to return the BH7 craft (the main platform for minesweeping and mine hunting trials) to a more original state.
Part of this process is to remove the sonar trunk as the transducer and receiver cabinets were all removed on decommissioning. Unfortunately the craft and museum archives fail to reveal the details of the fit and the sonar work was after my time with the unit... so is there anyone out there in the MW community who worked on the craft/mine hunting trials that could give us some insight? It would be a far cleaner removal if we knew where to start the cuts?
BH7 Hovercraft configured for minehunting with prominent 193 sonar trunk
If you can help Brian (or know someone who can), please email me via my Webmaster address.
1 Oct 12
End of massive international MCM exercise in Middle East
The MoD website contains this article, the Royal Navy website this article, the Navy News website this well-illustrated article and the Stars & Stripes website this article summarising IMCMEX 12, a massive international mine countermeasures exercise that has just concluded in the Gulf region (see second entry for 11 Sep 12 in New Archive 39).
HMS Shoreham leads American minehunters USS Sentry, USS Devastator
and USS Dextrous through the Strait of Hormuz
(MoD website photo by PO (Phot) 'Simmo' Simpson)
The minehunters HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 4), HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Justin Hains), their support ship RFA Cardigan Bay (all based in Bahrain) and the new Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond plus the UK Mine Warfare Battlestaff made up the UK’s input to the exercise which saw around 3,000 sailors from 30 nations, including the USA, Japan, New Zealand, Yemen, France, Italy, Jordan, Australia, Canada and Norway, work together across around 1,000 miles of ocean.
HMS Shoreham leading USS Sentry, USS Devastator and USS Dextrous plus
HMS Diamond and RFA Cardigan Bay through the Strait of Hormuz
HMS Shoreham hosted divers from New Zealand and the USA and, despite having the smallest ship’s company (around 45) in the tournament.
A US Navy diver attached to HMS Shoreham using a hand-held sonar
to locate a practice mine in 22 metres of water
(MoD website photo by PO (MTO) Chris Weissenborn RNZN)
Left: AB(D) Grant Henderson with a ‘casualty’ by HMS Shoreham’s chamber
Right: SeaFox mine disposal UUV being prepared for deployment
Congratulations to the ship's company of HMS Atherstone which, despite having the smallest ship's company (45), walked away with the inaugural IMCMEX trophy having proved overall masters of swimming, football, volleyball and basketball.
Postscript: The Portsmouth News published this article, covering the same story, on 6 October.
The first Royal Navy Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA) Dinner will take place on Friday 26 October 2012 at the Marriott Hotel, Portsmouth, with proceedings commencing at 1930 and carriages for 0100. The evening is open to all current members of the Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA) and their respective partners.
The cost of the evening is £35 per head which includes:
3 Course Diner, Wine and Coffee
Entertainment by a DJ
Various Raffle Prizes