30 Jun 15 - Fleet Diving Squadron at Guildford for Armed Forces Day
I am grateful to MCDOA member Ben Stait, CO Fleet Diving Group (FDG), for this report:
Fleet Diving Squadron set up their stall at Armed Forces day, Stokes Park, Guildford last Saturday (27 Jun). Tucked away amongst the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Marines, CPO(D) Frank Spencer 2IC FDU2, PO(D) Ian Shepherd and his gallant team put on a display of in-service diving, detection and EOD equipment. A modest stance that managed to attract their fair share of the 35,000 or so people who attended.
Merit goes to AB(D) Jamie Neeson who managed to grippo the PM and spin him some bomb disposal dits!
29 Jun 15 - SDU1 called to two suspected IEDs in Exeter
The BBC News website contains this article and the Mail Online this article reporting two suspected IEDs in Exeter, one near a school and the other near a mosque, currently being dealt with by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).
Postscript: The ITV News website subsequently published this article reporting that the suspicious packages, comprising two suitcases full of electical components and wiring, had been left in situ by an innocent 'local hoarder'.
28 Jun 15 - Opportunity to witness casting of RNCDA memorial bell
I am grateful to former CD Tony Sexton for this invitation (see entry for 28 May 15):
I wonder if you would kindly share with your members a date for the diary.
We will be casting the RNCDA Memorial Bell at the John Taylor Bell Foundry in Loughborough, Leicestershire on Thursday 9 July commencing at 1300 (approx). If anyone would like to join me to watch this, please email me at this address or call me on 01469 571612.
TradeMark First Ltd"
27 Jun 15 - Funeral of former PO(CD1) Len Fisher
Former WO(D) John Dadd has kindly sent me this message and photo after attending the funeral of Len Fisher in Eastbourne on Wednesday (see entry for 22 Jun 15):
Branch members joined family and friends at Eastbourne Crematorium on Wednesday June 24th 2015 to pay their last respects to Len. Len had lived in France for a number of years and passed away there after a long and hard fought battle with cancer. He was one of life's genuinely nice guys and, at his wake, many a dit and stories were related of his past glories in the branch.
Cris Ballinger BEM, John Dadd BEM, Eileen Fisher (Len's widow), Les Sharpe,
David 'Jim' Bond and Vic Humphrey BEM
26 Jun 15 - HMS Penzance destroys historical bomb in Gulf
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the location and destruction by HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 7) of a 1,000 lb bomb in the Gulf. The disposal took place following a five-day exercise with French and US counterparts designed to improve cooperation between the three nations. HMS Penzance then worked with the French units to find and blow up four pieces of historical ordnance scattered on the seabed. The article features the ship's Ops Officer Lt Matt Bryers and AB(D) Jake Connell.
The historical 1,000 lb bomb viewed through HMS Penzance’s Sea Fox camera
(RN website photo)
25 Jun 15 - SNMCMG1 disperses
Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1) has dispersed for its summer break after which it will re-form with different ships. The photo shows some of the fun and games involved including a traditional waterfight between the Swedish HSwMS Goteborg and the Polish ORP Mewa with HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3) following astern. In my day, the air was also filled with 2" signal pistol flares, other pyrotechnic whizz-bangs and potatoes and cabbages stuffed with thunderflashes although the personnel manning our MCR didn't appreciate the German CS gas that inflitrated the ship's ventilation system (see 'STAN's Navy - A Tale of STANAVFORCHAN' in the website's Dit Box).
24 Jun 15 - Latest RN EOD News
The following articles concerning Royal Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal have been published during the past 48 hours:
Torquay Herald Express: Royal Navy air station 'suspicious package' alert
Western Morning News: RNAS Culdrose reopens after suspicious package alert
Grimsby Telegraph: Navy team blows up mortar shell in resort
PO(D) Ross Halliday of Southern Diving Unit 2 at Cleethorpes beach
(Grimsby Telegraph photo by Rick Byrne)
23 Jun 15 - Wanted: Back issues of 'Buddyline', 'RN Diving Magazine' and 'Minewarfare & Diving Magazine'
'Buddyline' was the RN divers' newsletter published in HMS Vernon between 1983 and 1987. It was initiated and overseen by MCDOA founding Chairman David Sandiford (Diving Training Officer at the time) and edited by WO(D) John Dadd BEM (DIVO1 at the time). I hold the final issue published in January 1987. It has been scanned, converted into PDF format and can be read here:
If anyone would be kind enough to lend me other issues of 'Buddyline', or missing issues of the 'RN Diving Magazine' or the 'Minewarfare and Diving Magazine' (see Branch History page), I will scan them so that they, too, can be enjoyed by others.
22 Jun 15 - Funeral arrangements for former PO(CD1) Len Fisher
Former PO(CD1) Len 'Nautilus' Fisher passed away on 30 May. A keen sportsman and swimmer in his day, he served in the Deep Trials Team during the 1960s. He was a contributor to this website and his name appears in several areas.
Len Fisher (standing far left) on BCD 26 CD1s' Course with other notables such as
Carl Massey, Ray 'Dudley' North and the late Norman Slingsby and Neil Primrose
in December 1968
A funeral service will take place on Wednesday 24 June 2015 at 1345 in Eastbourne Crematorium's main chapel. Family flowers only please, but donations if desired to St Wilfrid's Hospice c/o Payne and Sons, 143 Seaside, Eastbourne, BN22 7NN. John Dadd has informed me that he will be attending with Les Sharpe and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.
From former CPO(CD1) Ray 'Dudley' North:
I was sad to hear of the passing of Len Fisher as I would have liked to have been at his funeral; we were friends in the RN. However, being in Cyprus I didn't hear about it.
The last time I met Len, I was a patient in Eastbourne hospital 1998/9. Len worked there and surprised me with visits.
The answer to the BCD 26 CD1 class photo was December 1968.
Ray (Dudley) North
P.S. Last month I was still getting the rubber on."
From former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM in Australia:
"The passing of Len Fisher was brought to my attention by an email received from Shiner Brassington a couple of days ago. I was rather devastated to hear of yet another old mate having crossed the bar, but unfortunately most of my good old CD Branch mates have managed to age at the same rate as myself and we have now moved into that precarious position.
I last saw Len and his wife Eileen way back in the year 2000 when I last visited the UK for a Divers' Reunion held at Whale Island. As one of my best buddies, Jim Quinn, had not been in attendance, I visited his house one evening a bit later in the week. While waiting for Jim to open his front door I was joined in the dark by two further visitors who turned out, much to my really pleasant surprise, to be Len and his wife who were over on a visit from their home in France. So, of course, a second Divers' Reunion suddenly got off the ground and we had a great time as I am sure you can imagine.
Very sadly I lost touch with Len by email and it was only after the death of Robert Adam just over two years ago that I sent a general broadcast to all ex-divers in my email address book informing them. Among the replies received was one from Len outlining the serious illness that he was undergoing with cancer and that the UK Health Service turned him down for treatment on account of his age. Len’s application for treatment to the French Health Service was met with deep surprise at the UK attitude and they then undertook surgery that gave Len at least two further years of life. Unfortunately, the attitude of the UK providers caused Len to shift back to reside in France and he and his wife had to run two homes, one in the UK and the other of course in France.
After Len left the RN he became engrossed in constructing and inventing prosthetic devices for invalids, and as far as I was aware he carried this out until he retired and moved to the French countryside, but was often popping back to keep in touch with where he came from.
As a final note I much regret “Len’s passing” and found him to be a great bloke with a superb sense of humour and a great and intelligent talker. I have given much thought and deep regrets to lost mates over the past few days and Len certainly came from among that group.
Rest well old chum you will remain long in my memory, and to Eileen I guess that I have some small idea of the pain that this has brought to you I will be with you at Eastbourne in memory.
21 Jun 15 - News from Steve Gobey in Australia
I am grateful to MCDOA member Steve Gobey for this update:
VMT for giving the pics of my visit to Topsy Turner an airing on the MCDOA Website [See second entry for 13 Jun 15]. Sally and I were royally looked after by Topsy and Yvonne.
Now on a brief visit to Sydney. No time to visit the RAN Diving School but luckily a nearby pub helped me get my minutes in!
Steve led the Royal Australian Navy's Clearance Diving Team 1 (AUSCDT1) while on exchange service in the mid-1970s. This photo shows him with the team at Cairns in North Queensland in 1975 during the filming of Mine on Channel Reef.
Steve Gobey (standing extreme right) with AUSCDT1 at Cairns in 1975
(RANCDA website photo)
20 Jun 15 - RN Diving Heritage - Sladen 'Clammy Death'
This website, as well as many books and other sources about Royal Naval diving in the Second World War, contains several mentions of the infamous Sladen 'Clammy Death' suit, more correctly called the Admiralty Shallow Water Diving Dress. The most recent reference on this page was in connection with British Chariot human torpedoes (see entry for 14 Jun 15).
Here is an excerpt from the fifth edition of the hugely authoritative Deep Diving & Submarine Operations - A Manual for Deep Sea Divers and Compressed Air Workers (Catherine Press, London: 1951) by Sir Robert H Davis, the erstwhile Managing Director of Siebe, Gorman & Co Ltd:
EXPERIMENTAL DIVING DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR
"Early in 1942 the Admiralty decided to develop in great secrecy and at very high priority, both the human torpedo and midget submarine (or X-craft). Both schemes were under the control of Admiral Sir Max K. Horton, K.C.B., D.S.O., then Admiral Commanding Submarines. To Siebe, Gorman & Co. Ltd. in conjunction wiih Lieutenant-Commander (now Captain) W. O. Shelford, R.N., Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus Instructional Officer H.M.S. Dolphin, and, later, Superintendent of Diving, H.M.S. Vernon, fell the task of developing and producing the special diving equipment required for these ambitious schemes. Such diving operations had never before been attempted on such a scale in this country.
Commander (now Captain) G. M. Sladen, D.S.O., D.S.C., R.N., fresh from his exploits in command of H.M. submarine Trident, was appointed in general charge of the "Human Torpedo" or "Chariot" (as it was known in the Royal Navy) scheme and Siebe, Gorman & Co. had the pleasure of many visits from this distinguished officer.
Early experiments soon showed that there were a number of unexpected problems with which to contend. The Admiralty Diving Committee, which had been formed under the chairmanship of Rear-Admiral R. B. Darke, C.B., D.S.O, Captain of the Fifth Submarine Flotilla, H.M.S. Dolphin, decided to establish the Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit with its headquarters at Siebe, Gorman & Co.'s works at Tolworth.
This Unit consisted of a team of experimental divers, with diving officers and instructors to supervise the diving, medical officers and laboratory assistants and secretarial staff. The Medical Officer was Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander K. W. Donald, D.S.C., M.D., R.N., who was later joined by Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander (now Commander) W. M. Davidson, M.B., B.CH., R.N. The whole was under the command of the Superintendent of Diving.
Professor J. B. S. Haldane acted as adviser on certain physiological matters, and carried out a number of experiments on himself and his colleagues.
The whole of Siebe, Gorman & Co.'s experimental plant and equipment, and the facilities of their factory were placed voluntarily and unreservedly by Sir Robert Davis at the A.E.D.U.'s disposal. Thus, in a very short time after its inception, the Unit was able to start a most comprehensive experimental programme.
The first need was the development of a lightweight suit for the "Chariots", with a breathing apparatus of no less than six hours endurance under water; this is described in detail later. The depth required was comparatively shallow, so it was possible to use oxygen apparatus on the regenerative principle..."
It was during this period that Cdr Geoffrey Sladen developed his diving dress. Designed for cold water operations, it was manufactured from lightweight rubberised twill laminate similar to that used for the Standard Diving Dress. It was insufficiently flexible to allow neck entry so the design incorporated a modified midriff consisting of a tubular skirt at the front to afford entry and exit. The skirt was made watertight by folding it concertina fashion and then clamping the folds between two tinned brass rectangular plates bolted tight at each end using wing nuts. The neck was tailored to incorporate a moulded rubber/twill hood with a manually operated exhaust valve fixed at the crown and, finally, a full facemask from the Salvus set was affixed to the front of the hood to make it watertight. Web adjustment straps were retained to permit individual fit. Later modifications to the dress included a rectangular perspex visor hinged at the top to enable the use of binoculars for beach reconnaissance operations. The ordeal of dressing and the discomfort of wearing it in the hot confines of a submarine where sweat completely drenched the wearer prior to a cold exit later earned it the nickname 'Clammy Death'.
I have scanned BR155B/44 - Instructions for Use and Maintenance of the Admiralty Shallow Water Diving Dress (Addendum to BR155/43 and BR 155A/43) and it can be read here. It will also be available via the Branch History section of the website. For those in the Portsmouth area, an example of the Sladen suit is held by the Historical Diving Society's museum at Stokes Bay and former WO(D) John Dadd BEM, one of the volunteer guides, is usually more than happy to provide a demonstration.
Cdr Sladen and AEDU achieved much success innovating new diving systems and hyperbaric practices while co-located with Siebe, Gorman at Tolworth in Surrey during the Second World War but this situation changed soon afterwards. This is another excerpt from Deep Diving & Submarine Operations by Sir Robert H Davis:
"...In 1946 the need for regrouping into a peace-time organization led to the transfer of the A.E.D.U. from Siebe, Gorman & Co.'s Tolworth Works to Portsmouth to join the Experimental Diving Establishment of H.M.S. Vernon. Thus ended, with regret on both sides, a partnership between the Royal Navy and a private firm, whose contribution to the successful conclusion of the Second World War was invaluable, and whose influence was felt in many theatres of war. It established, too, a basis for permanent experimental work to maintain the theory and practice of diving at a modern level, both in war and peace, since, although separated geographically, the two sides with their experimental organizations will, of course, continue to work together in the common interest of the diver and the nation."
19 Jun 15 - HMS Quorn brings down the curtain on BALTOPS 2015
Further to the previous entry, the Navy News website has published this article describing how HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3) brought down the curtain on this year's BALTOPS with a mine detonation demonstration. The featured sonar operators are AB(MW) Luke ‘Strawb’ Fields and AB(MW) Daniel Gardner and the ship supplying HMS Quorn in the bottom image is SNMCMG1's flagship FGS Donau.
All images courtesy of the Royal Navy.
Postscript: On 19 June, the Royal Navy website published this article announcing that, immediately after BALTOPS, HMS Quorn will participate in Kieler Woche (Kiel Week) with HMS Ocean, HMS Iron Duke, HMS Charger, HMS Example and HMS Ranger.
18 Jun 15 - FTRS vacancies of possible interest
The notification of vacancies for FTRS (Full Time Reserve Service) positions was updated on 15 Jun 15 and contains these minewarfare-related jobs:
VACANCY FOR AN OF3 OF ANY SPECIALISATION SERVING AS STAFF OFFICER OPERATIONS ON THE MINE WARFARE BATTLE STAFF IN UKMCC BAHRAIN – REF No 1822265
A vacancy has arisen for an OF3 (Lt Cdr or equivalent) of any Specialisation to serve as Staff Officer Operations (SOO) on the Mine Warfare Battle Staff on a rotational cycle in Bahrain and the UK on FTRS(FC) Terms and Conditions of Service (TCOS).
SOO is the senior N3 - 5 Staff Officer who is responsible for coordinating all current and future plans for MCM Operations for 24 hours and beyond for all aspects of the employment of the MW Force, including branches and sequels and all other contingency planning. This role will normally be filled by COS prior to deployment and thereafter or the SO3 HM when not on MCM Operations. SOO is also responsible for the cohesion of staff effort within the division particularly between the current Operations Cell and the Plans Cell within the N3 Division and between the N3 and N5 Divisions.
Accountable to the Chief of Staff his/her primary purposes are:
a. Primary Purpose.
(1) Organise and supervise N2 and the N3 watch keepers.
(2) To plan operations in accordance with the MW Commanders guidance.
b. Secondary Purposes.
(1) Manage the maintenance of the current MCM, OPFOR and neutral operational picture.
(2) Monitor the progress of assigned MCM Units in their tasks.
(3) Draft MCM Tasking for period 24 - 72 hrs.
(4) Chair the Current Plans WG.
(5) To provide mid and long term planning advice and direction to the MW Commander.
(6) To assess adequacy of current plans and modify or develop new plans as required.
His/her primary responsibilities are to:
a. Organise N3 augmentees into a watch bill that satisfies the demands of the exercise or operation.
b. Ensure that an accurate and up - to - date current operations picture is maintained by the watch keepers.
c. Ensure that the Operations Room state boards give an accurate and up - to - date summary of tasking of MCM Units and progress of tasks.
d. Ensure that the required records and reports are maintained to a high standard.
e. Draft, for COS’s approval, follow - on and foul - weather tasking for MCM Units up to 72 hours.
f. Plan (not task) MW Activities for the period 72 hours and beyond.
g. Ensure that the reports and records required from MCM Units are submitted in time and to a high standard.
h. Organise the Main Brief and Update Briefs as required by the Battle Rhythm.
i. Draft the MW Commanders Daily Direction and Guidance (D&G) signal.
j. Advise the Command of any events that impact on the assumptions or COAs within the Command Estimate.
k. To act as the Group Practice Programme (GPP) man ager.
l. Maintain close liaison with the planning staffs of superior commands.
m. Maintain the MW Commanders plan, adapting the plan to changing circumstances and ensuring that it continues to best support the MCC's plan.
n. Plan for the possible redeploym ent of the MWBS including the exit strategy and liaise with SO3 N4 ENG for planning the execution of the move.
o. Act as lead Staff Officer for Force Protection.
p. Review progress towards completion of plans and advise COS of predicted shortfalls.
q. To support the COS and act as the MWBS non - MW lead programmer (when outside of exercises or operations) liaising with outside agencies as necessary.
r. To coordinate and supervise the compilation of non - MW planning and programme signal and MWBS Lessons Learnt as directed by COS.
s. To review progress of plans and advise COS of any shortfalls.
t. To act as the Divisional Officer to all SR N3 Watch keepers when deployed.
FGen process, PDT and validation based in UK: 3 - 4 months prior to deployment.
Deployment based in Bahrain: 6 months.
Leave: 2 months on recovery from theatre.
Applicants should meet the following criteria:
Must either have been, or currently be, a OF3 of any specialisation
Either have been, or currently be, a OF3 of the Mine Warfare specialisation
Period of Service. The appointment is on FTRS( FC) TCoS for an initial period up to 2 years. Previous applicants need not apply.
Annual Salary and Leave. Pay will be between £48,449.76 and £58,025.04 per annum depending on increment level. FTRS personnel are eligible for annual leave and public holidays in accordance with JSP 760.
Allowances. FTRS(FC) provides a full package of allowances with the exception of removals allowance, CEA, LSAP, and HTD unless in Public Accommodation. Full details are available in the relevant JSPs which you should check before accepting a commitment.
A VACANCY FOR AN OR 7 OF THE WEAPONS ENGINEERING SPECIALISATION SERVING AS WEAPONS TRIALS MINOR WAR VESSELS 3 (MPH3) IN VICTORY BUILDING, HMNB PORTSMOUTH – REF No 1750718
A vacancy has arisen for OR7 of the Weapons Engineering specialisation to serve as the MPH3 in Victory Building, HM Naval Base Portsmouth on FTRS( L C) Terms and Conditions of Service (TCOS).
MCTA is the Royal Navy’s equipment capability assurance organisation. Led by a Captain RN, supported by 2 department commanders and a Band B2 civil servant, MCTA provides a range of maritime trials, assessment and assurance services in order to deliver independent capability assurance to the maritime domain of the MoD.
The Weapon Trials teams support the ‘Introduction into Service’ and ‘System Acceptance’ processes laid down in the Acquisition Management System (AMS) documentation and SSP53, and as expanded in BR 9463. They also make objective appraisals of the installation, capability and performance standards of weapons systems and equipment during and after combat system updates and platform upkeep periods. Maritime Force Capability Assurance is also supported by MCTA to provide the Commanding Officer and his team with a clearer understanding of the real time capabilities of their platform and also provide Navy Command further insight as to how each platform contributes to the overall effectiveness of a Task Group.
Accountable to the MPH SO3 the MPH 3’s purpose is to conduct maritime force capabilities assurance, inspections and trials in Minewarfare, patrol and Hydrographic (MPH) Vessels.
Must either have been, or currently be, a OR& of the Weapons Engineering specialisation
The following core competencies are essential:
a. Working Together (II)
b. Leadership and Development (II)
c. Communicating and Influencing (II)
d. Analysing and Use of Evidence (II)
e. Managing Customers and Suppliers (II)
f. Improvement and Change (II)
g. Planning and Managing Resources to Deliver Business Results (II)
The following are competencies are desirable:
a. Good communication skills and a working knowledge of IT systems
Period of Service. The appointment is on FTRS( L C) TCoS for an initial period up to 2 years.
Annual Salary and Leave. Pay will be between £34,720.32 and £40,638.00 per annum depending on increment level. FTRS personnel are eligible for annual leave and public holidays in accordance with JSP 760
Allowances. Under the FTRS(LC) TCoS there is no allowance package, however if Single living accommodation is required and is available this is generally at the non - entitled rate but can exceptionally be at the entitled rate. Full details are available in the relevant JSPs.
The closing date for applications is 26 June 2015. Further information about these and other FTRS vacancies of possible interest can be found at:
17 Jun 15 - HMS Quorn conducts mine detonation demo in Baltic
The US Mission to NATO has tweeted this image of HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3) conducting a mine detonation demonstration during BALTOPS in the Baltic (see entry for 9 Jun 15). She is currently assigned to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1)
16 Jun 15 - HMS Bangor passing through Gibraltar
I am grateful to local photographer Daniel Ferro for these images of HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 8) arriving at Gibraltar on 10 June and departing on 12 June. This may be the first time I have seen bridge wing awnings rigged on a Sandown while underway.
15 Jun 15 - 11th MCM Squadron reunion in Hull
By all accounts, last weekend's reunion, including a service in Holy Trinity Church, of personnel of the 11th Mine Countermeasures Squadron (11th MCM Sqn) held in Kingston-upon-Hull, home of the trawlers taken up from trade from which it was hastily constituted for the Falklands conflict in 1982, was a great success (see entry for 7 May 15) The trawlers were manned mostly by crews from Rosyth-based Ton class MCMVs.
I am expecting a report from MCDOA member Martyn Holloway, the squadron's Senior Officer, but here are a few images in the meantime courtesy of reunion organiser Jon Major. They include Martyn (extreme right in the first two photos and behind the lectern in another) and the MCDOA's own wandering minstrel, Bernie Bruen MBE DSC, playing 'The White Flag over Stanley' on his fiddle.
Attendees are believed to have included Mick Atkinson, Rob Bishop, Bernie Bruen, Peter Eastman, Eric Fraser, Simon Gaskin, Bob Geddes, Fergus Gillanders, Richard Goldstone, Jeremy Greenop, Alf Harding, Andy Hargreaves, Austin Hendren, Colin Lindsay, Martyn Holloway, Martin (Dai) Kent, Jon Major, Alex Manning, Jim McIntosh, Pony Moore, Jan Pearcey, Andy Smith and Charlie Watts.
14 Jun 15 - RN Diving Heritage: Chariot human torpedo off HMS Vernon
The entry for 8 May 15 included an image, kindly provided by former CPO(D) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington, showing post-war Chariot human torpedoes in a shed at Horsea Island. I am now grateful to ex-CD Peter Gallant for sending me this rare image captioned "Two-man Frogman Chariot minus the warhead, carrying out trials in harbour off HMS Vernon - 1951." The masks were deliberately prominent to cope with the increased pressure of water when facing forward with the submerged chariot moving ahead at speed.
Most photos show the iconic British Chariot Mk I but this appears to be the uprated Chariot Mk II in which the divers sat back to back inside a cockpit with a detachable sliding perspex canopy. It was designed by Cdr S M Terry RN in October 1942 and manufactured by Stothert & Pitt, crane makers at Bath in Somerset. This photo was possibly taken during the same trial:
From the website of the incomparable Underwater Heritage Trust based at Eden Camp at Malton in North Yorkshire:
Streamlined for more speed and economical propulsion.
Crew sit inside back to back.
A larger warhead.
Better controls all contained in the driver’s cockpit.
Depth gauge, air gauge, clock and compass.
Guard wire over the cockpit protecting occupant’s head.
Length: 30 ft 6 in (9.3 m)
Diameter: 2 ft 6 in (0.8 m)
Max height: 3ft 3 in (1 m)
Weight: 5,200 lb (2,359 kg) with warhead
Armament: 1,000 lb explosive charge (weight 1,500 lb – 680 kg)
Max speed: 4.5 kt (8 km/h) @ 655 rpm
Range: 5-6 hours at full speed
Depth: 600 ft (183 m)
Operational depth: Limited to 30 ft (9 m)
Number built: 30
Built by Stothert and Pitt (Crane Makers) at Bath. Painted with a metal primer then covered with olive green Bitumastic manufactured by Wailes Dove Bitumastic Ltd.
The charioteers tended to wear the Mark II Sladen 'Clammy Death' suit incorporating an attached rubber helmet with a hinged oval visor that could be opened to enable the use of binoculars. In the Chariot Mk II, this was worn in conjunction with the Mk IV (Detached Cylinder) closed circuit rebreather, an adaptation of the Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus (DSEA). This provided the diver with an auxiliary oxygen supply from cylinders mounted between the seats inside the cockpit thus obviating the need to wear bulky cylinders on his back which could have impeded his egress. A quick release connection on the chariot's 'dashboard' enabled him to switch to breathing from his own single oxygen bottle mounted beneath his breathing bag.
13 Jun 15
Queen's Birthday Honours
Congratulations to CPO(MW) Thomas 'Tam' Mitchell Dewar RNR (Assistant Route Survey Officer 2001 to 2007) on being awarded the Queen's Volunteer Reserves Medal (QVRM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours published today. The London Gazette entry can be found here.
RN website photo
This appears on the SAM FM website (link):
...As well as the Regular personnel, Royal Naval Reservist Chief Petty Officer Tom Dewar will receive the Queen's Voluntary Reserve Medal for his dedication to the Service in a career spanning four decades. Of those, nine were in Regular service while he has spent 34 years with the RNR.
CPO Dewar is the Divisional Officer at HMS Dalriada - the Royal Naval Reserves base in Greenock - and was singled out for his reliability, high professional standards, leadership and professionalism. His citation said CPO Dewar has 'provided invaluable expertise in mine warfare while deployed on exercises with the RN and NATO and ensured a recent move for the Dalriada headquarters was completed successfully, galvanising the unit and acting as a tower of strength'.
CPO Dewar, 60, whose day job is working for Transline driving Royal Mail trucks, said: "I am of course delighted with this award, but feel very humbled because other people have taken time out from their busy lives to say nice things about me by putting me forward for this award - it is somewhat overwhelming.
"The RNR has always felt like an extended family to me, whereby you know everything about your shipmates and help is only 'an ask' away. When things are tough they gather round and help you through the dark days and when the good times arrive they party with you. Friendship is continuous, I remain in regular contact with a shipmate I met on my second ship in 1974 which is great."
The full list of military honours and awards can be read here.
MCDOA members abroad
From MCDOA member Steve Gobey in New Zealand:
Topsy and Yvonne [Turner] are kindly hosting Sally and me during our current visit to the Antipodes!
Hope all well with you and yours Up Top.
In the meantime, MCDOA founding chairman David Sandiford and his wife Pauline appear to be enjoying themselves in Barbados.
12 Jun 15 - Lunch with some MCDOA Falklands veterans
I thoroughly enjoyed lunch today with fellow MCDOA members Bernie Bruen MBE DSC (my old buddy and LMCDO '76 coursemate) and Martyn Holloway (one of my fellow members of the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio) in the Blue Bell at Emsworth.
We then visited MCDOA member Doug Barlow (the third member of our NQTLOTSW trio) and his wife Jill at their cottage up the road. Unfortunately, a spot of rain forced us to retire from the garden to resume drinking our tea indoors.
Bernie has come over from France and will be accompanying Martyn to Kingston-upon-Hull tomorrow (Saturday) to attend a weekend reunion of the 11th Mine Counter Measures Squadron (see entry for 7 May 15). This squadron comprised five Hull trawlers hastily converted for minesweeping and manned by TON class MCMV crew members in 1982. They sailed 8,000 miles to South Georgia and the Falklands in the South Atlantic where they performed many acts of derring-do in atrocious conditions, including clearing the Argentinean mines in the approaches to Port Stanley, before coming home safe and sound. Martyn was the squadron's senior officer and Bernie leapt into the water to capture one of the swept mines for subsequent exploitation (see 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box).
Doug didn't join us at the pub because he is still recovering from an illness he picked up during his cruise around the British Isles last week.
From ex-CD Rick McCabe:
Please pass on my regards if possible. Not sure if it was at the same time or not but I had the pleasure of working with you, Martyn and Bernie on the Guz team [Plymouth Clearance Diving Team]. Some great memories."
[By Webmaster: Bernie relieved me on the Plymouth CD Team in April 1982, just in time to head south for the Falklands conflict as OIC FCDT3. Martyn ran the Plymouth CD Team in 1984/5.]
From former WO(D) Chris 'Spike' Hughes in Qatar:
"Ditto for me Rob. Indeed Rick, I think we were there (during two different drafts), at the same time.
I take it that you were all given leave for the day from your respective retirement homes, Rob. "
11 Jun 15 - SDU1 deals with German 1kg incendiary used as doorstop
The Exeter Express & Echo website contains this article describing yesterday's removal, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), of a Second World War incendiary used as a doorstop.
10 Jun 15 - 'Last of the Wooden Walls' back in print
I was delighted to discover that Last of the Wooden Walls - An Illustrated History of the TON Class Minesweepers and Minehunters is now back in print. The first run, published in 2012, sold out within months and it has only been available since then as a Kindle e-book. I know this left many people disappointed because they told me at the time.
This A4 format 160-page hardback, containing a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales, was produced to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Ton Class Association (TCA). It costs £24.99 and can be purchased online from Halsgrove the publisher here.
9 Jun 15 - HMS Quorn leaves Gdynia for BALTOPS
The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article announcing that HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3), in company with the helicopter landing platform HMS Ocean and the Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke, has left Gdynia in Poland to start this year's Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) (see entry for 29 May 15). This is the largest NATO maritime exercise of the year and the RN ships will be operating with other NATO land, sea and air units from Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the USA and NATO partner nations Finland, Georgia and Sweden.
HMS Ocean with half of the MCMVs involved in BALTOPS 2015
(RN website photo)
8 Jun 15 - New Royal Navy complex in Bahrain to open on 15 June
The Albawaba website contains this article announcing that the expansion of the UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) complex in the Juffair district of Bahrain has been completed a month early and will open on 15 June (see second entry for 28 Apr 14 in News Archive 46). The complex cost £5.8 million and comprises a new headquarters and an engineering and logistics facility for the in-theatre Forward Support Unit.
VIPs, including Commodore Keith Blount (COMUKMCC) and Armed Forces
Minister Mark Francois MP at the site in April last year
Also see entry for 4 Sep 13 and linked entries in News Archive 43. I would appreciate any photos of the new complex likely to be of interest to our readership.
7 Jun 15
Minewarfare & Diving well represented at HMS Collingwood's Open Day
I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with my three-year old grandson yesterday at HMS Collingwood's Open Day. The weather was glorious and it was as busy as I've ever seen with an unprecedented range of attractions for the entire family. As has become routine, the Defence Diving School (DDS) stand was co-located with that of the Historical Diving Society (HDS) and members of both organisations worked together to operate the hand pump and dive in the display tank wearing vintage standard dress and the state-of-the-art Clearance Diver's Life Support Equipment (CDLSE). I had the pleasure of chatting with MCDOA Membership Secretary Dave Stanbury of DDS and MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan (Chairman of the HDS) among other familiar figures in our community.
My photos were taken towards the end of the afternoon as people were leaving and fail to reflect the intense public interest shown earlier in the day when it would have been impossible to get a clear shot of the stands. Well done to all those who made the event such a success.
They're still out there, you know
This time, they are ours.
6 Jun 15 - Vernon Monument fundraising dinner at RNC-RAYC
Artist's impression of the near twice-lifesize 14-ton
Vernon Monument in situ at Gunwharf Quays
Kudos to MCDOA member Mike Critchley, ably supported by David Sandiford (MCDOA Founding Chairman), Dixie Dean MBE (Mine Warfare Association Chairman) and Dennis 'Taff' Brady (Association of RN First Class Divers) for organising and running such an excellent dinner last night at the Royal Naval Club & Royal Albert Yacht Club (RNC-RAYC) in Portsmouth. The event raised several thousand pounds towards the Vernon Monument.
It was particularly good to see Sean Sweeney MBE (Centre Manager of Gunwharf Quays) along with Mike Handford and Troy Tempest (Vice Chairman and Honorary Secretary respectively of the AORNFCD, David 'Jimmy' Bond (AORNFCD), Jon Cox, Brian Dutton and Chris Tarmey (all MCDOA), Sue Anderson (widow of ex-CD Peter Anderson - founder of Southern Sports, later Peter Anderson Sports, in Southsea), and many other staunch supporters of Project Vernon plus their respective wives, husbands and partners. Shep Woolley was as entertaining as ever and there were some great sing-alongs. It all made for a thoroughly enjoyable, if somewhat raucous, evening.
Here are some images that, I hope, capture the spirit of the occasion:
The raffle run by Dixie and Taff raised £300. In the more lucrative auction, I narrowly outbid Jimmy Bond to secure this stylised enamel representation of the Vernon Monument, the first in a new line of merchandise soon to be marketed on the Project Vernon website.
A big thank you to all the donors (and bidders) for their generosity.
5 Jun 15 - More HDS museum news
Thanks to all its supporters and the families who have voted for it, the Historical Diving Society's museum at Stokes Bay has been shortlisted among the top 20 of the most family-friendly museums in the UK out of more than 800 museums nominated. It was also the only museum in Hampshire to make the list.
The Telegraph Family Friendly Award is still on and the list of 20 is to be whittled down to six as judged by the families and children who visit the museum. To find out more about the 'Kids in Museums' programme, visit kidsinmuseums.org.uk. To find out more about The Telegraph's Family Friendly Museums Award, visit telegraph.co.uk/museumawards.
Following the success of the HDS museum's last Walk & Talk (see entry for 21 May 15), it is now going to be a regular Sunday fixture. Costing £4 for adults and £3 for seniors and children (under 5s are free), it includes an entertaining and informative tour of the museum followed by a stroll around Stokes Bay to soak up some local history with Terry Hinckley.
4 Jun 15
HMS Ramsey to visit Liverpool this weekend
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing that HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 2) is due to arrive in Liverpool this Friday (5 June) for a four-day visit coinciding with the International Mersey River Festival. She will berth at Canning Half-Tide Dock and be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday between 1030 and 1630 with last entry at 1615.
HMS Ramsey in Gibraltar 21 August 2014 while en route from the Gulf
(Photo courtesy of Daniel Ferro)
MCM1 Crew 2 is currently manning HMS Ramsey having sailed her back from the Gulf in August 2014. The ship has recently emerged from refit in Rosyth where a number of her systems have been upgraded. Following trials to prove all of the weapon systems and machinery, Crew 2 will prepare for operations between now and December before flying out to man HMS Bangor in the Gulf for another six-month deployment.
MCDOA member Steve Brown, Commanding Officer of the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG), has also advised me that some members of his team will man a static display near HMS Ramsey's berth. He cannot spare many from their normal standing duties as others are deploying to St Helena to survey the wreck of RFA Darkdale, sunk by a U-boat during the Second World War, deal with her unexploded ordnance and polluting materials and assist in other ways to facilitate the safe completion of the island's first airport and all this will entail for activities such as eco-tourism.
A day with a D-Day veteran
Your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster had a splendid time yesterday in the company of D-Day veteran Ted Bullock and his ex-RN pal Dave Wilson from Berwick-on-Tweed. After rendezvousing at our house for morning coffee, I drove them to the Still & West in Old Portsmouth where we enjoyed a lunchtime pint together.
We then visited the D-Day Museum in Southsea, the first time either of my guests had experienced it. Both of them were mightily impressed.
After a refreshing cup of tea in the new restaurant in Southsea Castle, it was back to our house for a superb dinner cooked by Mrs Webmaster. I then delivered them to the Continental Ferry Port to catch the 2200 ferry to Caen. They will be participating in the D-Day commemorations in Normandy during the forthcoming week under the watchful eye of my good friend Tenno Dogger, founder of the Deep Respect Association (see entry for 30 Jun 14 in News Archive 46).
Gentlemen, it was a distinct pleasure to be in your company.
Postscript: For accounts of RN minewarfare and diving activity during the Normandy landings, look in the website's Dit Box for 'Operation Neptune: The Minesweeping Operation 5-6 June 1944' and 'Operation Neptune: Frogmen - The First Men Ashore on D-Day'.
Post postscript: Sadly, Ted Bullock passed away quietly at home in Berwick-upon-Tweed on 10 October 2016.
3 Jun 15 - HMS Quorn clears historical minefields
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3) has spent the past fortnight clearing historical minefields off the coast of Estonia during Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2015. She is currently attached to Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1) and the article features James Oxley (her XO & Minewarfare Officer - MCDOA membership status unknown) and AB(D) Adam Whittingham. The group has identified almost 200 mines during the ten day period, successfully destroying 38, three of which were claimed by HMS Quorn. The remainder posed no danger to shipping.
All images are from the RN website.
2 Jun 15 - Minewarfare & Diving magazines now online
I was actioned at the MCDOA's last committee meeting to scan my collection of Minewarfare & Diving (MAD) magazines and make them available via the website as I recently achieved with the RN Diving magazines. This task is almost complete and the MAD magazines may now be accessed in pdf format via the appropriate archive in the website's Branch History section.
If anyone can supply missing issues or lend me a complete or near-complete collection of 'MINE' and/or 'BUDDYLINE' magazine, I would be delighted to add them to the website as well.
1 Jun 15 - Paddy McAlpine leaves post in style
Commodore Paddy McAlpine CBE ADC, the MCDOA's President, completed his term as Commodore Portsmouth Flotilla (COMPORFLOT) today and was given a fine send-off. Personnel manned ship before he took the helm of the patrol boat HMS Trumpeter from No. 2 Basin in Portsmouth Naval Base to Chichester where he was collected and driven home in a Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) EOD vehicle.
Paddy will probably need to undertake the odd course, acquaint and briefing before shipping his second star as a Rear Admiral and assuming his NATO role in Portugal in July (see entry for 18 Mar 15 in News Archive 49).
30 May 15 - SDU1 deals with pyros on Isles of Scilly
The Scilly Today website contains this article describing the disposal, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), of some abandoned marine flares on St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly today. The team flew in on a helicopter from RNAS Culdrose.
29 May 15 - HMS QUORN to participate in Allied Shield Baltic exercises
BALTOPS is an annual maritime and amphibious warfare exercise led by the US, taking place in the Baltic Sea and around the coast of Poland. Beginning on 5 June, it will involve nearly 4,500 personnel, 47 ships and 49 aircraft from 17 nations including a 700-strong amphibious landing force. The exercise will practice a range of capabilities including anti-surface, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures and amphibious landings. The forces will include HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3) as a member of Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1).
Postscript: The Royal Navy website published this article on 5 June covering the same events.
28 May 15 - News from Tony Sexton
Former CD Tony Sexton has asked me to publicise the sale of limited edition prints of this drawing of a diver wearing Diving Set Self-Contained Clearance Diver (DSSCCD) which replaced its close relative, the old Clearance Diver Breathing Apparatus (CDBA), circa 1985 according to my log.
This drawing was executed with graphite pencil on A3 Bristol Board by Kevin Hayward following a photo shoot at Horsea Island. Unframed individually signed and numbered prints are reserved initially for sale to serving and former Royal Navy Clearance Divers with any not sold then being offered to interested parties. They cost £40 each and all profits are bound for the Royal Navy Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA). If interested, complete and submit this form.
Tony has also advised me that he and some of his RNCDA buddies have raised enough money to commission a memorial bell for the new mess on Horsea Island. It would be sounded on the passing of any Royal Navy diver of any rank irrespective of whether they are a member of any association. The bell is due to be cast next month and a suitable date will be chosen for its formal handover to the mess. Here is an artist's impression of the completed item:
26 May 15 - DDS Divers in Nigeria
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a recent training mission to Nigeria by a team from the Defence Diving School (DDS) at Horsea Island. The article features MCDOA former Honorary Secretary Mick Beale and LS(D) Gavin Speer.
RN website photo
23 May 15
HMS Middleton proves a star attraction in Shetland
HMS Middleton alongside Victoria Pier in Lerwick, Shetland
(Shetland Times photo by Dave Donaldson)
Postscript: The Royal Navy website published this account of HMS Middleton's visit on 1 June. It features AB(MW) Thomas Allison.
SDU2 deals with ordnance on the Isle of Wight
The Island Echo website contains this article describing the detonation of an unexploded piece of ordnance at Yaverland Beach near Sandown on the Isle of Wight yesterday evening, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).
22 May 15 - Vote for the Diving Museum in the Community
The Historical Diving Society's museum at Stokes Bay has been nominated for a grant from the insurers, Aviva, for its work with the community in Gosport. Please give it a chance to win by voting for it. Only 10 days are left.
The Diving Museum was successfully submitted for consideration by Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, one of several ex-RN CD volunteer guides (spot former WO(D) John Dadd BEM in the images above). Read more details and vote on the Aviva Community Fund's web page here:
21 May 15 - Forthcoming HDS museum event
20 May 15 - HMS Middleton visiting Shetland
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing that HMS Middleton (MCM 2 Crew 2) will arrive at Lerwick in the Shetland Islands tomorrow morning to start a five-day visit. The ship will be open to the public from 1000 to 1600 on Friday.
17 May 15 - DEMS Visit
Yesterday, I enjoyed a visit with members of other military associations to the new Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Munitions and Search (DEMS) Training Regiment facility at Bicester near Oxford which has replaced DEODS (Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal School) at Chattenden in Kent. I saw many old RN and Army friends during a day that included a tour of the site and practical demonstrations in glorious weather, all culminating in a reunion dinner plus presentations and a charity auction in the bar. It was particularly good to see fellow MCDOA member Maj Les Rutherford RE, a diver and EOD operator who served on the staff of the Royal Engineer Diving Establishment (REDE) after it moved from Marchwood to HMS Vernon in 1985 and eventually combined its diver training with that of the RN to form the Defence Diving School (DDS) at Horsea Island in September 1995.
Fellow RN attendees comprised Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM* and Colin 'Scouse' Kidman QGM although I had hoped that more of our Minewarfare & Diving community would take advantage of this rare opportunity (see entry for 6 Mar 15 in News Archive 49):
Mick Fellows, Colin 'Scouse' Kidman and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole)
I also renewed acquaintance with John 'JJ' Forbes, his son Michael and his son-in-law Steve Woodhead. All three are members of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC), with which the MCDOA is affiliated, and have attended several of our annual dinners.
Michael Forbes, John 'JJ' Forbes, Yours Truly and Steve Woodhead
After a brunch of bacon and sausage baps with refreshments of our choice, we were given the customary brief by the RSM. We were then welcomed by the CO and split into syndicates for our tour of different stands and demonstrations.
Left: A brief by the RSM
Right: My syndicate (one of five on the day)
The Open Day included practical demonstrations, exhibits and displays, each the work of the instructional staff. I was asked not to photograph certain things so you won't find them here:
Mannequin dressed for search in hazardous environment
Left: Wheelbarrow Mks 1 to 5
Right: Wheelbarrow Mks 6 to 7A
The Memorial Wall listing tri-service EOD fatalities since
the beginning of the Second World War
Tri-service EOD personnel honoured and/or decorated since
the end of the Second World War
Above and below: Part of the EOD Timeline featuring the significant role played by HMS Vernon
Display of Naval Service core values
Above and below: Search dog demonstrations
I'm not sure what this was doing here but I couldn't resist taking a shot:
A forlorn-looking Sea Harrier
This is where we were accommodated overnight:
The evening's festivities included dinner, presentations, a charity auction and many lively conversations over much beer.
Here is 'JJ' with the ten pound note I gave him to enable his winning bid of £125 to the Felix Fund for one of the two 'BD 75' cakes commemorating the 75th anniversary of Royal Engineers bomb disposal. We ate the other one!
'JJ' Forbes with my tenner
I would like to express my appreciation to Robin Bennett, Honorary Secretary of REBDOC, for ensuring our RN contingent was invited and to the CO, RSM, PMC of the WOs & Sgts Mess and the instructors of DEMS for their warm hospitality and for making our visit so memorable.
14 May 15 - MCDO Promotions
I am grateful to MCDOA member John Craig for notifying me that fellow members Si Pressdee (CO MCM1 Crew 6 which returned in January from manning HMS Atherstone in the Gulf and is now manning HMS Cattistock) and Ben Vickery (Deputy Commander Sea Training) were among those on today's signal selected for promotion to Commander with effect from 30 June 2015. Katharine Armstrong, wife of MCDOA member Rory Armstrong, was on the same list.
Warm congratulations to all those selected.
12 May 15 - Lord Mayor of Portsmouth spends day at sea in HMS Middleton
The Royal Navy website contains this item describing how HMS Middleton (MCM 2 Crew 2) has hosted Cllr Steven Wylie, the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, during a sea day in the Solent. The article features Ops Room Supervisor PO(MW) David Carbery.
Lord Mayor of Portsmouth manning HMS MIddleton's 30mm
(RN website photo)
9 May 15 - MCDOA presents prints to new mess on Horsea Island
Yesterday's MCDOA Committee meeting at Fleet Diving Headquarters on Horsea Island had a full quorum
MCDOA Committee left to right: Cdr Mark Atkinson (Chairman), Lt Cdr Peter Davis (Hon Treas),
Lt Cdr Rob Hoole (Vice Chairman), Lt Cdr Graham 'Tug' Wilson MBE, Lt Dave Stanbury
(Membership Sec), Lt Cdr Martyn Holloway, Lt Cdr Mark Shaw (Hon Sec)
After the meeting, the MCDOA's Chairman presented framed prints of Danger at Depth and Vernon Creek by the late artist John Terry FCSD to be hung in the new Horsea Island Senior Rates and Officers Mess. The originals of the prints were commissioned by Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to celebrate the Minewarfare & Diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously occupied the site.
Cdr Mark Atkinson (SofD & MCDOA Chairman) presenting prints on behalf of the MCDOA to Cdr
Chris O'Flaherty (CO FDS) in the presence of Lt Cdr Sean 'Central' Heaton (OIC FDU2),
Lt Cdr Peter Davis (MCDOA Hon Treas) and Lt Cdr Rob Hoole (MCDOA Vice Chairman)
The MCDOA has presented identical prints to the Wardroom, HMS Excellent which, thanks to the kindness of a succession of mess presidents, has been the splendid venue for our annual dinners in recent years.
For information about becoming a member of the mess at Horsea Island (open to serving personnel and veterans), see this page on the RNCDA website.
MCDOA Honorary Secretary Mark Shaw has asked me to point out that he has the following MCDOA merchandise for sale:
Email him via this address for further details.
8 May 15
Daily Telegraph obituary for Lt Anthony William Charles 'Lofty' Eldridge DSC RNVR
Early in 1942, submariner Commanders Geoffrey Mainwaring Sladen (of Sladen 'Clammy Death' diving suit fame) and William Richard Fell commenced training with Chariot two-man human torpedoes in Horsea Lake. Initially, a wooden mock-up of a Chariot, nicknamed 'Cassidy', was towed up and down the lake by a small motor boat. On 6 May 1942, Lt P C A Brownrigg RNVR was the first Chariot casualty when he failed to surface after a routine dive. Chariot training was moved to Scotland a couple of months later.
I am grateful to former CPO(CD1) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington for providing this photo of Horsea Lake showing the noses of two Chariots poking out of the shed on the moored pontoon.
Horsea Lake showing Chariot Shed and floating pontoon jetty centre of picture
Historical RN Diving Magazines now available on website
I have scanned my collection of RN Diving Magazines, published in HMS Vernon between 1951 and 1970, converted them into pdf files and uploaded them to the website. They can be accessed via the 'RN Diving Magazine Archive' in the website's Branch History section. The pdf files are 'searchable' but this makes them relatively large and downloading may take some time. Please be patient.
The magazines should provide older members of our community with a trip down Memory Lane including some familiar names, ships, organisations, equipment and even advertisements. I hope they will provide younger members with an insight into the heritage of Royal Navy diving during a period when it reigned supreme throughout the world. There is also much to interest our US and Commonwealth colleagues.
7 May 15 - 11th MCM Squadron reunion in Hull 13-14 June 2015
6 May 15 - Award of LS & GC medals
Congratulations to WO1(D) Karl Roberts and CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming on being gazetted for the award of the Clasp to the Long Service & Good Conduct (LS & GC) medal.
5 May 15 - SDU2 detonates shell on beach at West Wittering
The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing yesterday's disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a wartime shell found on the beach at West Wittering in West Sussex.
1 May 15
Brighton bomb scare teenager cautioned
The Brighton Argus website contains this article describing how a 17-year-old youth has been handed a caution after entering a Brighton station with a rucksack full of chemicals. Members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) were called to the incident when it occurred on Friday 13 March.
Story of the 'Blackfriars Bomb' added to website's Dit Box
MCDOA member Colin Churcher MBE has kindly sent me a short personal account of his disposal of the German Second World War bomb discovered under London's Blackfriars Bridge on the River Thames in February 1968.
Colin's story, titled 'The Blackfriars Bomb', has now been added to the website's Dit Box.
30 Apr 15
NDG advises on beached exercise mine
The BBC News website contains this article following yesterday's discovery of an exercise moored mine on the beach at Ardrossan in the Firth of Clyde. It was due to be collected by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG).
SDU1 attends hoax device incident in Exeter
As this article on the BBC News website indicates, the incident reported yesterday and attended by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) involved a hoax device discovered in a garden in Bramley Avenue, Exeter. The device transpired to be "not viable and not dangerous".
29 Apr 15 - SDU1 called to incident in Exeter
The Torquay Herald Express website contains this article describing an incident yesterday evening when members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) were called to investigate a "suspicious item" at the rear of a property in an Exeter street.
28 Apr 15
HMS Pembroke returns to Faslane
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the return of HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 4) to Faslane last Thursday after her four-month deployment with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1).
HMS Pembroke returning to Faslane last Thursday
(RN website photo)
RN Diving Heritage: The Diving Magazine
I am experimenting with scanning issues of the RN Diving Magazine, published in HMS Vernon between 1951 and 1970, and converting them into pdf files. Here is Vol.1 No.2, the second issue ever published:
RN Diving Magazine: Vol I No 2 (October - December 1951)
Also see the first and final issues of the magazine:
RN Diving Magazine: Vol I No 1 (July - September 1951)
RN Diving Magazine: Vol 16 No 3 (September - December 1970)
The files are large so download may take some time.
27 Apr 15 - Tasks undertaken by UK EOD/IED teams during the past three years
The Daily Mirror website contains this article revealing that, since 2012, UK EOD teams have undertaken 1,864 tasks involving reported improvised explosive devices (IEDs), of which 50% were false alarms, and 5,402 tasks involving Second World War explosives.
...A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “Bomb disposal teams in the Armed Forces regularly put themselves in dangerous environments to protect the public.
“We have around 250 personnel, including three Royal Navy bomb disposal teams, on short notice standby to respond immediately to callouts across the UK 24/7.”...
Do not ask me why the Daily Mirror has chosen to illustrate its article with a photo of US forces training Ukrainian National Guardsmen. My thanks to ex-CD Perry Mason for this link.
26 Apr 15 - ANZAC 100 commemorations in the Far East
Two MCDOA members helped mark ANZAC Day in the Far East yesterday.
Lt Cdr Bob Hawkins MBE RN represented the Royal Navy at the ANZAC 100 Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass followed by a Remembrance Service at Kanchanaburi Cemetery. Both locations in Thailand are associated with the infamous Japanese 'Death Railway' linking Thailand with Burma.
Cdr Clive Coombes RNZN laying a wreath on behalf of the New Zealand
Defence Force at the Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass
The catafalque party departing at the end of the Dawn Service
at Hellfire Pass
Above and below: The British High Commission Defence representatives
Flt Sgt Tam McDonald RAF and Col Chris Luckham OBE PWRR with
Bob Hawkins before and after they changed for the
remembrance service at Kanchanaburi Cemetery
At Kanchanaburi Cemetery, Bob laid a wreath at the request of the UK's Defence Attaché in Thailand, Col Chris Luckham OBE PWRR, whose pre-amalgamation regiment was the Royal Hampshires. The 2nd Bn Royal Hampshire Regiment landed 800 men at Gallipoli from SS River Clyde and only three of them returned. Chris Luckham's wreath commemorates the poignant fact that out of 7,580 Royal Hampshires who perished in the Great War, 2,000 were lost at Gallipoli.
The wreath Bob Hawkins laid to commemorate the 7,580 officers and men of
the Royal Hampshire Regiment who fell in the Great War
At about the same time, Lt Cdr Dave Ince RAN (formerly RN) acted as Master of Ceremonies at a remembrance service in Tonga.
Dave Ince acting as Master of Ceremonies for the ANZAC 100 ceremony in Tonga
A photo montage of Dave Ince flanked by his sons Brent (left) and Luke (right),
both serving in the Australian Defence Force
In the photo montage above, Dave's elder son Brent is wearing his Afghanistan service medals and Australian Defence Medal (after four years' service) while his younger son Luke is wearing his Operational Service Medal for Operation Resolute (border protection). Dave is wearing a mix of all the above plus his RN GSM (Op Harling and Gulf) and QE Jubilee medals on his left breast. On his right breast, he is wearing the NI GSM and LS&GC medal his father earned during 33 years of service.
25 Apr 15 - SDU2 recovers "potentially explosive devices"
The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing a call-out last Tuesday for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with a rucksack containing hundreds of bullets and three wired devices wrapped in plastic. The rucksack was in the garden shed of a house belonging to a Royal Marines veteran in Leigh Park near Portsmouth.
24 Apr 15 - Vernon Monument Fundraising Dinner on Friday 5 June
I am delighted to publish this announcement (see entry for 11 Apr 15):
The Trustees of The Vernon Monument Fund are pleased to announce their next major fundraising event. All proceeds will go to Project Vernon towards the installation of the Vernon Monument in Gunwharf Quays:
Event: Vernon Monument Fundraising Dinner
Venue: The Royal Naval Club & Royal Albert Yacht Club (RNC-RAYC), 17 Pembroke Road, Portsmouth, Hampshire PO1 2NT (Opposite “The Pembroke” pub).
Date: Friday 5 June 2015
Time: 1900 to 2330
Dress: Black tie
Cost: £60 per head
Tickets are on sale on the Vernon Monument website via:
More details (e.g. menu and programme of events) are available on the Vernon Monument website via the link above. Come along and make it a night to remember.
See you there. Admittedly, you could eat cheaper at a Harvester but that wouldn't be nearly as salubrious, much less help the Vernon Monument reach fruition (or be as much fun ).
23 Apr 15
Death of French wartime agent and combat diver Bob Maloubier
The Daily Telegraph contains this obituary for Bob Maloubier MBE DSO, an extremely brave SOE agent during the Second World War and co-founder of the French SDECE (now DGSE) counter-intelligence service's combat diver unit in 1952 (see second entry for 5 Jun 14 in News Archive 46). He died in Paris on 20 April aged 92.
Bob Maloubier flanked by MCDOA member & Historical Diving Society Chairman
Dr John Bevan and HDS Secretary Reg Vallintine at the annual HDS gathering
in the Queen's Hotel, Southsea in November 2010
Already a holder of the UK's DSO (Distinguished Service Order), Bob was invested as an Honorary MBE (Ordinary Member of the Honourable Order of the British Empire) by the Queen during her state visit to France last year for the 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings:
The Queen investing Bob Maloubier DSO as an Honorary MBE
at the British Embassy in Paris on 5 June 2014
May issue of Navy News
Next month's Navy News should prove interesting to our community if the front page is any indication:
HMS Brocklesby on front page of Navy News
NDG called to incident in Dunoon
The Dunoon Observer & Argyllshire Standard website contains this article describing how members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) were called to an incident in the Castle Street area of Dunoon yesterday.
22 Apr 15 - New book featuring the history of HMS Vernon
Mrs Webmaster and I attended a reception last night to launch an impressive new book titled 'Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth' subtitled 'The history, architecture, conservation and development of a remarkable miltary site'. The reception was held in the Aspex Gallery in Vulcan Building at Gunwharf Quays and I was grateful to be acknowledged by Michael Underwood, its author, as one of those involved in its research, particularly with regard to the site's existence as HMS Vernon. Also present were MCDOA co-founding Chairman David Sandiford and Minewarfare Association (MWA) Chairman Dixie Dean MBE as well as the Mayor of Portsmouth and many other dignitaries plus representatives of Land Securities and Berkeley Homes who were responsible for the current site's development. The book was available to purchase at the launch with, exceptionally, £2 per copy being donated to the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC).
I believe this richly illustrated 192-page paperback does justice to the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon during its 70-year occupation of what has been an important military and naval site in Portsmouth for over three centuries. Priced £12.99, it will soon be available for purchase online from Waterstones here or via Amazon here. Alternatively, it is available over the counter now from the Guest Relations Suite located in Central Square, Gunwharf Quays; see details here.
21 Apr 15
11th MCM Squadron reunion in Hull 13 & 14 June 2015
MCDOA committee member Martyn Holloway was the Senior Officer of the 11th MCM Squadron comprising five Hull trawlers (HM Ships Cordella, Farnella, Junella, Northella and Pict) taken up from trade, converted into minesweepers and sent south for the Falklands conflict. Read their extraordinary story in 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box.
I am grateful to Martyn for the following photos and announcement regarding a special reunion of 11th MCM Squadron personnel and their supporters in June:
"Without these ships the reinforcement of 3 Commando Brigade in East Falkland in 1982 would have been delayed unacceptably. These two ships and their three sisters cross-decked the 5,000 men of 5 Brigade and 1,200 tons of stores at South Georgia in 36 hours. In the Falklands, they inserted and re-supplied Special Foces patrols, carried out a potentially dangerous 'guinea pig' influence task and, finally, cleared the sea minefields off Port Stanley using EDATS rigged as double oropesa.
The ships may be gone but the men who manned them are getting together to talk about it. Join them if you will in Kingston-upon-Hull 13/14 June 2015 (14 June is 'Falkland Islands Liberation Day'). Details may be found on the Mine Warfare Association's website or the 11th MCM Squadron's Facebook group page."
Bomb disposal team called to deactivate ‘bomb’ in garden of Bideford home
The North Devon Gazette website contains this article describing yesterday's removal of a bomb from the front garden of a Bideford home by "bomb disposal experts", possibly members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).
20 Apr 15
David and Dorothy Bartlett celebrate their Diamond Wedding Anniversay
Warm congratulations to MCDOA member David Bartlett MBE and his wife Dorothy on the occasion of their 60th wedding anniversary. Your humble webmaster and his wife were privileged to be invited to their surprise celebration party organised by their married children (Dawn, Andy and Dennis) in the clubhouse at Southwick Park Golf Course on Friday night and it was a hugely uplifting affair. We had also attended their Golden wedding anniversary which was covered by the Portsmouth News in this article owing to David's auspicious naval career (see entry for 21 Apr 05 in News Archive 10). This time, David and Dorothy received a congratulatory card from HM the Queen.
HMS Quorn departs Portsmouth to join SNMCMG1
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing today's departure of HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3) from Portsmouth to replace HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 4) in Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) at Glasgow. She will then deploy with the force to the Baltic region for three months of exercises and Historical Ordnance Disposal off Northern Europe.
HMS Quorn departing Portsmouth today
(RN website photo)
Postscript: On 21 April, the Navy News published this article covering the same event.
Mine Countermeasures, Survey and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) in Port Clearance and Amphibious Operations
The thought-provoking Think Defence website has published an interesting analysis of MCM and EOD in Port Clearance and Amphibious Operations with some eye-catching illustrations and I commend it to you. In a former life at the Maritime Warfare Centre (MWC) before it moved from high atop Portsdown Hill, I was proud to champion this capability and liaise with CINCFLEET, COMAMPHIBFOR / COMATG, DSTL, QinetiQ, etc., acquire funding, sponsor the trials, perform the OA (Operational Analysis) and write the report that supported the procurement of equipment for RN MCM units and diving teams conducting amphibious operations including VSW (Very Shallow Water) and Surf Zone (SZ) clearance; I therefore have my own views. I am also grateful to the desk-drivers who have kept us informed of progress during the operational updates at our annual MCDOA gatherings on Horsea Island although Chatham House rules prevent them from being repeated elsewhere.
The relevant Think Defence posts are at:
Although the Think Defence blogger tends to disparage the Royal Navy's role, personnel, capabilities and achievements as a rule and attracts those similarly minded, the introduction to his post (as a year ago in a similarly informative Unmanned Mine Countermeasures Update) contains these uncharacteristically complimentary words:
"...Minesweepers are an enduring image of the battle against mines but the last combined influence sweep system deployment was in 2005. The MCDOA provides a great look at this, click here to view. The Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officers’ Association has a wealth of great information about the subject in general and you can lose many hours on their great website..."
19 Apr 15 - HMS Middleton in RNR Live Event at HMS President next Saturday
HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) will participate in the Royal Naval Reserve Live Event alongside HMS President (commanded by MCDOA member John Herriman) on the Thames in London next Saturday (25 April) and will be open to visitors from 1000 to 1600. Tickets are free but going fast. See here on the Eventbrite website for booking details:
18 Apr 15 - New book about Second World War pioneer of EOD techniques
I was delighted to hear today from Kerin Freeman in New Zealand (although she started off in Southampton) that her book about the Earl of Suffolk and his 'Holy Trinity' of civilian bomb disposal operatives during the Second World War has been published at last. I have been assisting her research for the past five years and it is wonderful to see her project reach fruition. Apart from the Earl's many other achievements, he pioneered the techniques of trepanning bombs and mines and steaming out and burning their explosive content.
Charles Henry George Howard (otherwise known as Jack), 20th Earl of Suffolk, 13th Earl of Berkshire, GC FRS led a relatively short but eventful life. Born on 2 March 1906, he attended the Royal Naval College at Osborne until the age of 15 then quit Radley College in 1923 to join the windjammer Mount Stewart as an apprentice officer. After his return from a round the world voyage, he was commissioned into the Scots Guards but was later asked to resign by his superiors because of his "wild ways". In 1926 he returned to Australia where he first worked as a Jackaroo and later owned a large farm jointly with Captain McColm, who had been Master of the Mount Stewart. In 1934, he married Chicago-born ballet dancer Mimi Forde-Pigott with whom he later had three children. He enrolled at Edinburgh University, graduating three years later with a first-class honours degree in Chemistry and Pharmacology. In his early twenties, the Earl was made a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh. The Nuffield Institute of Medical Research at Oxford University then offered him a research post in the area of "explosives and poisons". As Liaison Officer for the British Department of Scientific and Industrial Research during World War II, the Earl of Suffolk and his colleague Major A V Golding were subsequently posted to Paris.
Following his return to the UK from some adventures in France involving the evacuation of 35 eminent nuclear scientists, the world's entire stockpile of heavy water, £4 million's worth of industrial diamonds and 600 tons of precious machine tools as the German invaders advanced, the Earl worked for the Ministry of Supply as a Research Officer learning how to defuze bombs of new and unknown types. The Earl then led an unexploded bomb detachment in London during the Blitz. The detachment comprised himself, his private secretary Beryl Morden who recorded his actions while he rendered bombs safe, and his chauffeur Fred Hards. They called themselves "the Holy Trinity" and they became famed for their prowess in detecting and successfully tackling thirty-four unexploded bombs with "urbane and smiling efficiency." Tragically, they were all killed on 12 May 1941 when a 250 kg bomb, supposedly rendered safe by others some time before, exploded at a 'bomb cemetery' on Erith Marshes in Kent. Jack Howard was subsesquently awarded a posthumous George Cross while Beryl Morden and Fred Hards were awarded commendations "for brave conduct in Civil Defence".
This image of the dust jacket provides more information about the book and its author:
Kerin's well-illustrated 224-page hardback can be ordered online from Pen & Sword here at an introductory price of £15.99 plus p&p:
17 Apr 15 - FTRS vacancies of possible interest
Several FTRS (Full Time Reserve Service) vacancies of possible interest have become available including these:
A VACANCY FOR AN OF3 OF ANY SPECIALISATION SERVING AS STAFF OFFICER OPERATIONS ON THE MINE WARFARE BATTLE STAFF IN UKMCC BAHRAIN – REF No 1822265
A vacancy has arisen for an OF3 (Lt Cdr or equivalent) of any Specialisation to serve as Staff Officer Operations (SOO) on the Mine Warfare Battle Staff on a rotational cycle in Bahrain and the UK on FTRS(FC) Terms and Conditions of Service (TCOS).
SOO is the senior N3 - 5 Staff Officer who is responsible for coordinating all current and future plans for MCM Operations for 24 hours and beyond for all aspects of the employment of the MW Force, including branches and sequels and all other contingency planning. This role will normally be filled by COS prior to deployment and thereafter or the SO3 HM when not on MCM Operations. SOO is also responsible for the cohesion of staff effort within the division particularly between the current Operations Cell and the Plans Cell within the N3 Division and between the N3 and N5 Divisions...
A VACANCY FOR AN OF3 OR OF4 OF THE WARFARE SPECIALISATION SERVING AS THE OIC UK MARITIME TRADE OPERATIONS DUBAI – REF No 1669260
A vacancy has arisen for an OF3 or OF4 of the Warfare specialisation to serve as the OIC UK Maritime Trade Operations Dubai on FTRS(FC) Local Foreign Service Terms and Conditions of Service (TCOS). UK contribution to regional freedom of navigation, primary point of contact for all merchant shipping transiting the MEJOA, conducts liaison and reassurance role on behalf of UKMCC Bahrain/ NCHQ...
A VACANCY FOR AN OF3 OF ANY SPECIALISATION SERVING AS THE SO2 FORCE DEVELOPMENT IN NCHQ PORTSMOUTH – REF No 1732731
A vacancy has arisen for an OF3 of any specialisation to serve as the SO2 Force Development in NCHQ Portsmouth on FTRS(HC) Terms and Conditions of Service (TCOS).
Following the Levene report on Defence Reform, the MOD has undergone Defence Transformation which includes the transfer of responsibilities from MOD Head Office to Front Line Commands, and Navy Command in particular. As part of reorganising itself to meet this increased responsibility, Navy Command has strengthened its conceptual and force development process by setting up a Force Development team. This team will be primarily responsible for producing a single coherent Navy Command view of the future maritime force beyond 2020.
This post will be looking at alternative options for future ships, air platforms and capabilities, and will influence the decision making that will shape the future maritime force.
The team will work with the Defence Strategic Force Development processes (through DCDC / JFC and Head Office) providing a coherent Navy input, ensuring an appropriate understanding of current and future maritime capabilities. Furthermore it will take the outputs of the strategic/operation level Head Office force development, and develop the operation/tactical understanding for the maritime environment. This should provide the context for the Capability Planning process and a mechanism to assess the effectiveness of the Capability Management Plan. It will be a vehicle for engagement with other Commands and promote a common understanding of capability requirement where capabilities delivered by different Commands must all come together coherently to deliver the optimal output. Concepts developed by DCDC and endorsed through the Head Office should lead to the development of solutions within the Maritime environment (through the Genesis options process)...
The closing date for applications is 30 April 2015. Further information about these and other FTRS vacancies of possible interest can be found at:
16 Apr 15 - Funeral of Anthony William Charles 'Lofty' Eldridge DSC
I am grateful to MCDOA member John Herriman for this announcement:
I’ve just been made aware of the funeral of Lt 'Lofty' Eldridge, who was the last surviving wartime charioteer, and who led a successful operation to attack Japanese merchant ships in Phuket harbour during WW2. He was awarded the DSC I believe.
The only reason I know is because my Padre, Fr Tom Pyke, in HMS PRESIDENT is taking the funeral service tomorrow at Watford Crematorium – he regards it as a singular honour to be asked to lead the service.
I couldn’t see anything on the website announcing the sad passing of one our wartime heroes and thought I’d bring it to your attention – deserves our recognition and admiration.
Trust all well.
With best regards,
Commander John Herriman RNR
Anthony 'Lofty' Eldridge died on Monday 13 April. I have ascertained that his memorial service will take place tomorrow at 0920 in the North Chapel of West Herts Crematorium in Watford. This article published in The Independent on 14 April is also relevant:
Anthony Eldridge (right) with his grandson Brendan Currie
Sub Lt (later Lt) Anthony 'Lofty' Eldridge RNVR was gazetted for the award of the DSC on 6 March 1945. He and Petty Officer Sydney 'Butch' Woollcott, later awarded the DSM, had manned the human torpedo HM Chariot Tiny in company with HM Chariot Slasher in an attack on the Italian liners Sumatra (4.859 tons) and Volpi (5,292 tons) at Phuket, north of Penang, on 28 October 1944. Both chariots returned to the submarine HMS Trenchant where their crews were able to watch as their respective targets exploded and sank.
15 Apr 15 - Remembrance Service for Ian Gray-Taylor
Ex-CD Terry Gosling has asked me to publish this announcement:
"There will be a remembrance service for Ian at the Treetops Hotel, Aberdeen on the 23rd April at 1400. All welcome."
The Aberdeen Press & Journal contains this article which includes the following photo and passages:
Memorial service arranged for former Aberdeen diving boss
"A memorial service will be held this month for a top north-east diver who died just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. Ian Gray-Taylor, the former boss of the Aberdeen-based National Hyperbaric Centre, emigrated to Gran Canaria with his wife Colleen last year. But their new life in the sun was cut tragically short, after Mr Gray-Taylor went to the doctor complaining of a sore stomach, and was told he had oesophageal cancer. He died just a month later, on February 25...
Mr Gray-Taylor’s 40-year career in the offshore industry began after he left the Royal Navy – where he worked on bomb and mine disposals – and moved to Aberdeen to take on a job as a commercial diver with Comex. He later became operations manager at the National Hyperbaric Centre. Mr Gray-Taylor eventually set up his own company, IG-T Drilling, carrying out work for oil and drilling companies across the globe – including Las Palmas...
Anyone wishing to attend the memorial service should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org."
I will publish any tributes sent to me via my webmaster email address.
From former MCDOA Honorary Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson:
On behalf of the NHC [National Hyperbaric Centre], I would like to pass on our condolences. Our thoughts are with the family.
Richard Soapy Watson
Global Training Manager
From ex-CD Terry Gosling
The diving industry offshore and inshore are full of 'illustrious' ex-CDs. The training we obtained in the RN and the 'drive' that that training gives you, ensures success. G/T was one of many success stories. I have personally helped a number of ex-CDs into employment, most of whom are now at the top of their profession. Let's hope that future generations of RN divers will do as well!
Hope you are well?
14 Apr 15 - SDU1 removes ordnance from Swansea Bay
The South Wales Evening Post website contains this article describing the removal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of an artillery shell discovered by a walker on the sands at Brynmill in Swansea Bay in South Wales.
13 Apr 15 - Forthcoming book describing the history of Royal Australian Navy diving
MCDOA member Cdr Edward 'Jake' Linton BEM RAN, Patron of the Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers Association (RANCDA), has collaborated with fellow ex-MCDO Cdre Hector 'Hec' Donohue AM RAN to write a 430-page book titled 'United and Undaunted - The First 100 years'. It is due to be launched by Grinkle Press in September this year to coincide with the 60th Anniversary of the completion of the first RAN CD Course. This is the accompanying announcement:
United and Undaunted - The First 100 Years
This unique and comprehensive story of diving in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) spans its entire history.
From its beginnings in 1911, the gallant service of its members in two World Wars, the evolution to a specialist Clearance Diving Branch in 1951 and the exemplary service of clearance divers in many parts of the world since, this tale is a must read tome for those who have served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and for naval and military historians.
The book will be particular interest to past and present members of the RAN Clearance Diving Branch because its chapters examine the evolution of the RAN Diving School, the exploits of many in aircraft and ship salvage and their operational service during the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, East Timor and significant Defence Cooperation Explosive Ordnance Disposal activities in many countries.
Of particular importance, this extensively illustrated history recounts for the first time the personal recollections of many in the RAN Clearance Diving Branch who have taken part in more recent ADF operations. These personal accounts arise from the service by RAN Clearance Divers in Middle East deployments focusing on boarding parties; counter- improvised explosive device operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the clearance diving involvement with counter terrorist activities.
Jake, an Able Seaman on the RAN's first Clearance Diver course in 1955, has described his own illustrious MCD career in 'A Clearance Diving Experience' in the MCDOA website's Dit Box. His service included several associations with the Royal Navy and US Navy including courses and exchange posts in both countries.
Hec Donohue also had an illustrious MCD career and will be known to older MCDOA members through his own associations with the Royal Navy and US Navy. When working as the General Manager (Mine Countermeasures) of Australian Defence Industries (ADI), he wrote a very informative book titled 'Mines, Mining and Mine Countermeasures', published by ADI in association with the Royal Australian Navy in 1994. These are the tatty front and back covers of my own well-thumbed copy:
12 Apr 15 - RN MInewarfare & Diving Heritage: HMS Shoulton 50 years ago
This anonymous update from the divers conducting trials with the 'new' Sonar 193 on board HMS Shoulton was published in the Spring 1965 issue of the RN Diving Magazine:
Greetings - and a few lines to prove that we in the mine-hunter still survive and are still able to write despite certain rude remarks from the Editor. Considerable changes have taken place in recent months during which time the ship has migrated from the flesh pots of South Queensferry to the arms of our 'alma mater' [HMS Vernon] and the purlieus of Portsmouth, had her ship's company reduced by about one third and suffered three changes of managing director.
In spite of these factors, the last year has presented a busy and varied life during which we claim that we have managed to leave our mark and hope that we may have performed a useful service now and again. In addition our technical boys have proved their worth and have continued to keep our equipment working. For the benefit of those who have not yet encountered a mine-hunter, the days of 30 foot circular searches are receding when we are told that the marking error is 2 yards, that means 6 feet, (see the advantages of higher education), and if the error is more than three yards that is a bad run and it is time for the 'Ops' room to start again. The only disadvantage being that a 5 minute dive is poor recompense for having been in a rubber bag for 5 hours.
Over the time our excursions have taken us to Lerwick, Invergordon, Port Edgar, Esjberg, Den Helder, Flushing, Brest, Caen, Brixham and Portland, and at times we have tried to educate divers from Plover, Dingley, Miner III, Reclaim and the Plymouth Deep Team. In addition we have sought swimming aircraft off Lossiemouth, Great Yarmouth and in Torbay. We even managed to find and destroy a G.C. in Sandown Bay (and get sour looks from the B. and M.D. team in Pompey on our return to harbour after a very creditable bang). We have also tried to initiate our successors in the gentle (or should I say - patient) art of mine-hunting, after all they will man the conversions and we do appreciate that they must be good imitations even if there is only one Shoulton.
As far as the future is concerned the buzz is that we shall be invited to pay off soon so that our hull may be returned to some dockyard for conversion to who knows what. When that time comes all we ask is that the radiators' crew move one tiny pace to the left and allow their seagoing confreres to get at the coffee boat (black, two sugar, please!).
As we now know, HMS Shoulton was subsequently fitted with pump jet propulsion resembling an outboard motor and recommissioned on 5 April 1967 as Senior Officer 3rd MCM Squadron based at Portland for trials of new equipment.
HMS Shoulton fitted with her 'outboard motor' and wearing the Portland
3rd MCM Squadron's trident badge (tines pointing down) on her funnel
11 Apr 15 - Forthcoming Vernon Monument Dinner
Artist's impression of the Vernon Monument
in situ at Gunwharf Quays
The next major fundraising event for Project Vernon is a dinner to be held at the Royal Naval Club & Royal Albert Yacht Club (RNC-RAYC) in Pembroke Road, Old Portsmouth on Friday 5 June. Further details will follow soon but the gala evening will include well-known entertainer Shep Woolley and his band, auctions, raffles, sea shanties and tots of rum.
Tickets will be available online soon via the campaign's website at www.vernon-monument.org. Early bird bids for tables from Vernon-trained personnel or Vernon-based Ton crews are especially welcome by name of the ship or team in which you served. Keep your diary clear and watch this space.
10 Apr 15 - Jones and Mulrain reunited
I am grateful to MCDOA past-Chairman Paul Jones for allowing me to publish this photo showing him reunited with former WO(MW) Tony Mulrain BEM when he and his wife hosted Tony and his family at their villa in Cyprus earlier this week. Paul reports that they "had a great night (and morning) of dit-spinning with wives looking on aghast!"
Tony Mulrain and Paul Jones in Cyprus
Paul and Tony served as SOO and Squadron Chief respectively on the staff of Commander First MCM Squadron (MCM1) between 1995 and 1997 and then as Ops and WO respectively at the HQ in Bahrain for Operation ARABIAN GAUNTLET in 2001.
I worked with Tony on the Saudi Minehunter Project training team in Vernon from 1989 to 1990 and remember waving at him on board HMS Atherstone from HMS London's Lynx while flying overhead with SNOME (Senior Naval Officer Middle East) during the first Gulf War in 1991. Tony was subsequently awarded his BEM. On 12 October 2005, Tony was on board HMS Ledbury off the Isle of Wight where we witnessed the last conventional minesweeping operation in the Royal Navy (see entry for 12 Dec 05 in News Archive 12):
Tony Mulrain on board HMS Ledbury
in October 2005
More recently, Tony was spotted with MCDOA members David Carey (one of my students on LMCDO '83B when I was LTO) and my old LMCDO '76 course-mate Grenville Johnson MBE at a British Legion Remembrance Day function in Dubai in November 2012 (see second entry for 29 Nov 12 in News Archive 40):
David Carey and Tony Mulrain standing behind
Grenville Johnson in Dubai in November 2012
9 Apr 15 - Big bang for Stan's Navy
I could not resist these photos from Standing NATO MCM Group 1's (SNMCMG1's) Facebook page showing the detonation of a wartime German LMB (GC) ground mine by divers from BNS Lobelia during the recent clearance of historical ordnance off Cherbourg.
Above and below: Detonation of wartime German GC ground mine off Cherbourg
(Photos by BNS Lobelia)
HMS Pembroke off Cherbourg while attached to SNMCMG1
(Photo by Cdr Peter Bergen Henegouwen RNethN, Cdr SNMCMG1)
8 Apr 15 - "There will be a short intermission."
For a variety of reasons, I have not touched the website for a fortnight. Even so, it was accessed by 43,687 different IP addresses in March, only just down from its peak of 44,112 in February last year.
I will endeavour to update the 'Latest News' page retrospectively over the next few days. Thank you for your patience.
7 Apr 15 - New book from David Bruhn
The latest book from prolific author Cdr David Bruhn USN is titled We Are Sinking, Send Help!. Although it focuses mainly on the work of the US Navy’s tugs and salvage ships in the African, Mediterranean, and European theatres during the Second World War, it also lists and describes the activities of RN minesweeping and clearance diving forces tasked with clearing the waters off the coast of Normandy for the D-Day landings as well as the port of Cherbourg and its approaches.
The book's jacket shows a painting by distinguished marine artist Richard DeRosset depicting the rescue tug USS ATR-1 alongside the British light cruiser HMS Spartan after she had been hit by a glider-bomb that blew a hole in her hull and set her aflame off Anzio. She sank shortly afterwards.
Spartan Death Throes off Anzio by Richard DeRosset
Your humble Webmaster had a hand in researching the book and was honoured to be invited by David to write one of its two forewords:
David & Nancy Bruhn with Linda & Rob Hoole
in San Francisco last October
This substantial 388-page paperback costs $33 (£22 approx) plus p&p and can be ordered via the Heritage Books website here. As chronicled on this website, David has also published these books which include US-built BYMS (British Yard Mine Sweepers) transferred to the RN:
This section of David's website lists US Navy units and personnel (including minesweeping helicopter crewmen, explosive ordnance disposal divers, underwater demolition team divers, minesweep sailors, minelayer sailors and minemen) awarded a Navy Cross, Silver Star or Bronze Star medal and other bestowments for heroism; it includes several of the citations:
6 Apr 15 - UK selects Atlas Elektronik UK for MHC sweep
The Janes Defence website contains this article announcing that the Ministry of Defence has awarded a £12.6m three-year contract to Atlas Elektronik UK to deliver a prototype unmanned surface vessel (USV)-based minesweeping system under the first phase of the Mine Countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) Sweep Capability project. The MHC Sweep Capability is intended to reinstate an influence minesweeping capability in Hunt class MCMVs. The previous Combined Influence Sweep system, comprising acoustic and magnetic influence sweeps, was retired in 2005.
Atlas Elektronik UK's MHC Sweep Capability solution based on its proprietary
USV-based ARCIMS system
(Atlas Elektronik UK)
2 Apr 15 - HMS Pembroke remembers the loss of HMS Isis
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a wreath-laying service held by HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 4) on 26 March over the wreck of the destroyer HMS Isis, believed mined off Normandy on 20 July 1944.
The article features PO(D) Les Cockerton whose great-grandfather, Ordinary Seaman Henry Mannerings, was serving on board when she sank. Contrary to what's stated in the article, no enemy bombers or manned torpedoes were involved and not all hands were lost. There were 45 survivors according to the Admiralty but the names of the casualties are engraved on plaques in Portsmouth Cathedral. See this article on the Portsmouth Memorials website for more information including names and survivors' accounts.
From the normally respected Naval History.net:
17th July 1944
Sailed from Portsmouth for interception patrol off French coast.
20th July 1944
Sunk whilst on patrol off Normandy. 15 of ship's company were killed [most other caualties were listed as missing presumed killed] and survivors spent several hours in the water.
(Note: Contrary to WARSHIP LOSSES IN WW2 by D Brown. Admiralty correspondence in July 1944 records ship was not at anchor. Loss was likely to have been due to a mine or torpedo. Another source records that it was a German NEGER midget submarine but U-Boat Archivist Klaus Mattes indicates that NEGER craft had ceased operations on 17th July.)
21st July 1944
21 survivors rescued by HM Fleet Minesweeper HOUND but one later died. The Admiralty List of survivors contains 45 names. Some were rescued by US Navy Rescue Cutter and taken to the US Headquarters Ship PRESIDENT WARFIELD before going to a US Field Hospital. For details see MEMORIES OF HMS ISIS – 50 YEARS ON prepared by Tony D Jupe for The ISIS Survivors Association and held at Enfield Public Library Local History Unit).
The same website provides the official list of casualties on this page.
1 Apr 15 - Amateur divers find long-lost nuclear warhead
The World News Daily Report website contains this article describing the discovery of a thermonuclear bomb by Canadian scuba divers off the coast of Georgia in the USA. It puts finding the odd hand grenade into perspective.
"...When I saw the inscription saying that it was a Mk-15 nuclear bomb, I totally freaked out. I caught Chritina by the arm and made signs to tell her we had to leave. We made an emergency ascent, went back to shore and then we called 911."
Rapidly understanding the gravity of the situation, the 911 operator contacted every possible emergency service, including the coast guard and the military, leading to the deployment of more than 20 ships and 1500 men in the area. Using the GPS coordinates given by the couple, they rapidly located the powerful 3.8 megaton bomb.
An unmanned submarine was sent to determine the condition of the bomb, before explosive experts were sent to disarm it. Fortunately, the thermonuclear weapon produced in 1955 seemed in sufficiently good shape for a team of Navy seals to try to defuse it. They successfully deactivated the warhead after hours of strenuous work, allowing the rest of the bomb to be moved. The delicate recovery operation took more than 48 hours, but the bomb was finally recovered and transported to Mayport Naval Station in Florida. A full set of tests and analysis will now be performed on the warhead to evaluate its actual state and the possible ecological and health hazard that its presence in the bay for 50 years could represent...