31 Mar 16 - RN MCMVs and CD team warm up for world's largest minehunting exercise
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing that two of our four Bahrain-based minehunters, plus members of the Fleet Diving Group (FDG), have participated in a four-day curtain-raiser for this year's International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) in the Gulf. Forces comprised the Type 23 frigate HMS St Albans and the minehunters HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) and HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 2) with their mother/support ship RFA Cardigan Bay plus the American minehunter USS Gladiator. The military tug USNS Catawba laid exercise mines for the hunters to find, neutralise or recover.
HMS Bangor leading USS Gladiator
(RN website photo)
Members of the Fleet Diving Group
(RN website photo)
RFA Cardigan Bay
(RN website photo)
The three week long IMCMEX 16 will start on 4 April and involve units from 30 countries including all four Royal Navy minehunters currently deployed in the Gulf.
27 Mar 16 - New book from Oscar King
'Oscar King' is the nom de plume of a former Royal Navy clearance diver who has enjoyed a successful and varied career in the British Special Forces and service with the American military and government (see entry for 17 Jan 16). His first book, Persian Roulette, is being turned into a film but he has now written a second novel called Moscow Payback which features his fictional protagonist, Harry Linley. It can be pre-ordered now.
This is a synopsis of Oscar's new 228-page paperback:
"In this second Harry Linley adventure it's payback time and revenge can be sweet if somewhat complicated... With her husband in prison Ivanna Delimkova unwittingly finds herself queen of his Russian cartel. And now all she wants is to get even with those who ripped them off. But this proves far from simple none of her targets are quite what they seem. Is mild-mannered Iranian pornographer Shaheen Soroush really the deadly killer everyone thinks he is? And as for his fortune where is it and can it be accessed? How come seemingly innocent former SAS officer Harry Linley is suddenly so wealthy?
Alluring Russian Oleana definitely knows more that she lets on but will that get her into trouble? Almost certainly. Can the clever Dubai detective Omar Shamoon find out once and for all what's really happening on his patch? And purring contentedly in the middle of all this is Bunny, a Persian cat presumed dead but very much alive.
Russian mobsters, ex-special forces operatives, Iranian secret agents, a British computer hacker, and a bumbling MI6 analyst with a knack for accidentally predicting the next international crisis, these are all the ingredients for a masterful and humorous thriller that races between the Gulf States, Singapore, Moscow, Iran, Bermuda and London...ending with a neat twist ready for the next book in the Harry Linley series."
26 Mar 16 - Geoff Goodwin raising funds for Project Vernon
I am sure all members of our minewarfare & diving community will join me in thanking MCDOA member Geoff Goodwin, former OIC of the Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre (JSASTC) and current Vice Commodore of Hornet Services Sailing Club, for raising funds for the erection of the Vernon Monument at Gunwharf Quays while racing in the Gosport Peninsula Charity Pursuit in his Contessa 32 yacht 'Wizard' on Saturday 21 May 2016.
Sponsor Geoff and his team on Virgin Moneygiving here:
Please dig deep and don't forget to add the Gift Aid which boosts your contribution by 25%. Regard it as an expression of your appreciation (or not) for my efforts with this website. Alternatively, do it as a tribute to the memory of recently departed former WO(D), keen sailor and staunch Project Vernon volunteer Stew 'George' Sissons, second right in this photo (see entry for 24 Mar 16):
25 Mar 16 - Naval EOD round-up
The North Devon Journal website contains this article describing last Monday's removal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a military shell from the Manor House in Lynmouth, Devon.
The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing last Tuesday's removal and detonation by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of an old bomb casing found in the Solent the previous Sunday during dredging operations to make room for the arrival of the new aircraft carriers.
In our international section, the Royal Australian Navy website contains this article describing deep mine clearance diving training conducted by the Huon class minehunter HMAS Gascoyne off Lord Howe Island.
AB Joshua Hilliard and AB Peter Dixon prepare for their final 60 metre dive, against
the dramatic backdrop of Balls Pyramid, adjacent to Lord Howe Island
(RAN website photo)
24 Mar 16 - Funeral of Stewart Sissons
Only once have I seen Portchester Crematorium more packed than it was for the funeral of former WO(D) Stew 'George' Sissons on Tuesday afternoon (see entry for 7 Mar 16). It would be easier to name members of the CD Branch over the age of 50 who were absent than present but MCDOA members in attendance included Doug Barlow, Mick Beale, Paul Guiver BEM, David Hilton MBE, Martyn Holloway, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole), Ian Morton, David Sandiford and Graham 'Tug' Wilson MBE. I also recognised branch stalwarts Cris Ballinger BEM, David 'Jim' Bond, Alan 'Donkey' Bray, Andy Brunton MBE, Neil 'Chris' Christie, Mo Crang, John Dadd BEM, Tony Devitt, Chris 'Paddy' Doonan, Bungy Edwards, Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM*, Steve Fitzjohn, Bob Fraser, Eamon 'Ginge' Fullen QGM, Don Green, Vic Humphrey BEM, Colin 'Scouse' Kidman QGM, Anthony 'Lawry' Lawrence MBE, Jim Lynch, Dhobey Lynes, Gerry Martin, Nelly Nilsson, Mike O'Meara, Bob Oulds QGM, Dickie Radford, Ray Ramsay, John 'YoYo' Ravenhall, Kev Scargill, Ted Setchell, Terry Settle MBE QGM BEM, Les Sharpe, Tim Sizer, Pete Still, Troy Tempest and Paul 'Yorky' Tudor among many, many others, some wearing naval uniform. It was also good to see former WO(MW) Robert 'Dixie' Dean MBE. I apologise to all those I have missed out but will be happy to add you to the list if you contact me.
Stew's casket, covered by a white ensign and floral tributes, was borne into the chapel with a guard of honour provided by members of the Ganges Association and the Royal Naval Association. After family members had entered, the rest of us followed to the sound of 'Immortality' by The Bee Gees. We were then welcomed by the Reverend Paul Miles-Knight who officiated during the service. We sang the hymn 'Morning has Broken' before the Rvd Miles-Knight delivered an address that included these words about Stew's career:
"Stewart was born on 16th August 1944 in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. His dad Sam and mum Grace lived in Hull and he had an older brother Barry. At 15 he joined the Royal Navy and was sent to HMS Ganges. After initial training, he joined HMS Centaur and then HMS Excellent as he was a Gunnery rating. His next ship was HMS Grantham(?) and he undertook his ships' divier course.
He married Jean in August 1966 and went to Singapore in HMS Hubberston in May 1967. His son Mark was born in September 1968 and he went with the squadron to Hong Kong in May 1969. After returning to the UK in December 1969, he went to HMS Vernon and his daughter Jane was born in December 1970.
In 1971, he undertook his Clearance Diving course. He was an instructor of diving for many years then in 1977 went with Jean, Mark and Jane to the USA to instruct at the EOD school in Indian Head, Maryland. While there he was promoted to Fleet Chief. They family returned home in March 1980. During the Falklands conflict In 1982, he was at Northwood as he said, "Directing traffic"!
He then spent a short time at Faslane in Scotland and came back to HMS Vernon to train foreign Naval personel. He ended his naval career working with the Sea Cadets.
He was never a very patient man and while in the States playing volleyball, he fell and broke a bone in his foot. It was put in plaster but after a couple of weeks he got fed up with it and sat on the stairs outside the apartment with a hacksaw and took it off. He also had a good business going with the foreign officers, who mainly came from the Middle East, in arranging for them to see a local doctor who performed vasectomies!!!"
We then said prayers including 'The Lord's Prayer' before singing the Naval Hymn 'Eternal Father'. After the Commendation, a Naval choir gave a rousing performance before the blessing and our departure. Most of the congregation reassembled in Portchester Social Club afterwards where I had the opportunity to speak with Stew's son Mark and daughter Jane.
Donations, if desired, in memory of Stewart may be sent to either Cancer Research UK or the Royal National Lifeboat Institution c/o Barrells Funeral Directors, "Lawnswood", 245 Fratton Road, Portsmouth PO1 5PA or 380 London Road, Waterlooville PO7 7TA.
(16 Aug 1944 - 7 Mar 2016)
From Stew's son Mark Sissons:
"Thank you Rob,
I think it's safe to say we gave Dad a great send off. He would have been proud to see so many diving faces old and new.
Jane and I are eternally grateful for what everybody has done for us.
Thank you again,
23 Mar 16 - Arrival in Portsmouth of SNMCMG1
As it was a pleasant if slightly misty morning, I wandered down to the Round Tower to help welcome the ships of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) to Portsmouth (see entry for 22 Mar 16). While waiting, I chatted to Judi Clacey whose boyfriend, Danny Fretwell, is the WEO of HMS Ramsey.
Before the group's arrival, there were many shipping movements including the departure of the P2000 Archer class patrol craft HMS Exploit, Birmingham University Royal Naval Unit's training vessel.
HMS Exploit leaving Portsmouth harbour
Eventually, the NATO ships entered harbour in succession, their ensigns at half mast as a mark of respect following yesterday's terrorist bombings in Brussels.
FGS Donau entering Portsmouth harbour
HMS Ramsey entering Portsmouth harbour
HNoMS Otra entering Portsmouth harbour
BNS Primula entering Portsmouth harbour
FGS Dillingen entering Portsmouth harbour
The group is expected to start leaving Portsmouth at 0900 on Tuesday morning.
Postscript: The Portsmouth News website has published this article covering the same story.
Above and below: SNMCMG1 ships berthed on South Railway Jetty in Portsmouth Naval Base
(Navy News website photos by PO(Phot) JJ Massey)
Post postscript: HNLMS Vlaardingen (Netherlands) entered Portsmouth harbour to join her sister ships of the group on the afternoon of Friday 25 March.
HNLMS Vlaardingen entering Portsmouth harbour
22 Mar 16 - SNMCMG1 arrives in Portsmouth tomorrow
The Portsmouth News website contains this article announcing the arrival of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) in Portsmouth tomorrow morning. The article features MCDOA past-Chairman David Hilton MBE, Base Services Manager of HM Naval Base Portsmouth. The group, comprising a German support ship plus minehunters from five different nations is due to spend six days in port and begin leaving at 0900 next Tuesday morning.
According to QHM Portsmouth's shipping movements, FGS Donau will arrive at Outer Spit Buoy at 0830, HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 7) at 0835, HNoMS Otra at 0840, BNS Primula at 0845 and FGS Dillingen at 0850 but HNLMS Vlaardingen is not mentioned.
21 Mar 16 - LCOCU diver query
I have been passed this query from Pam Mills regarding her father, LS Francis Box of LCOCU 17 (Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Unit 17):
"I wonder if you could help me. My father was a frogman with LCOCU 17 in WW2. Would you know what the following abbreviations would be for his swimming qualifications: NRIC DBID or it could be DBTD? The writing is faint on his service certificate.
I would appreciate any help.
If anyone can help Pam, please email me via my Webmaster address.
20 Mar 16 - Sad end for Bronington
I am grateful to Liverpudlian photographer Phil Owen for these images showing the sad plight of former HMS Bronington, the UK's last surviving example of the 119 wooden-hulled Ton class MCMVs. After several years of neglect following the eviction and demise of the Warship Preservation Trust collection, HRH the Prince of Wales' one-tiime Command finally sank at her berth in East Float Dock, Birkenhead on Thursday 17 April. If her fate wasn't sealed before, it certainly is now.
This YouTube video produced by Peter Emery, the then Centre Director of Gunwharf Quays, shows Bronington's shocking deterioration between 2004 (shortly after she was taken over by Peel Ports) and 2009:
I am sure that many of us have our favourite memories of HMS Bronington. Mine was teaching Prince Charles about 'chip butties' during an MCMG course in the Forth in 1976 while André de Toth was on board making Dangerous Game, a cinema documentary about minewarfare. André de Toth was a sinister-looking film director who wore an eye patch and a beret in the same mould as Ingmar Bergman. He was accompanied by a harassed-looking female PA with a clipboard and an oppressed cameraman whom he had to be dissuaded from streaming on an Oropesa float to capture a unique shot of the ship during sweeping operations.
This article from the February 1987 issue of Navy News features HMS Bronington in happier times:
19 Mar 18 - News from SNMCMG2 (Part 4)
I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Stanbury, currently the Principal Staff Officer (old-style SOO) of Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2), comprising SPS Tambre (ESP) and TCG Edremit (TUR) supported by the flagship TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha (TUR) with the NATO staff embarked, for these photos taken when the group entered the Montenegrin port of Bar yesterday in the course of Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR.
NATO ships are patrolling the Mediterranean and monitoring shipping to deter, disrupt and protect against terrorist activity. Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR evolved out of NATO’s response to the terrorist attacks against the United States on 11 September 2001. Montenegro's government wants to join NATO as soon as possible, although the issue remains controversial among the country's 600,000 inhabitants. Members of the large Serbian community still resent NATO for its role in bombing Serbia in the late 1990s.
18 Mar 18 - Today's Operational Honours & Awards
Of further interest, Lt Cdr Andrew Brown has been appointed an MBE for his time as the CO of HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 8) in the Gulf from December 2014 to July 2015, and WO1 Alan Evans, the MEO of HMS Chiddingfold, has been awarded a QCVS. The Portsmouth News has published this article covering their achievements.
WO1 Alan Evans and Lt Cdr Andy Brown MBE RN
(Portsmouth News photo)
More information is available in this article on the Royal Navy website. Congratulations to all personnel listed.
17 Mar 16 - Adventurous training in Oman for sailors from HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Penzance
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing Adventurous Training, including mountain-biking, mountaineering and paddle-boarding, recently undertaken by sailors from Gulf-based HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 5 commanded by MCDOA member Steve White) and HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 4). The ships were in Muscat, Oman after transiting the Strait of Hormuz together.
HMS Chiddingfold astern of HMS Penzance
(RN website photo)
25 sailors enjoyed a day of climbing and jumping into the waters of Wadi Shab, a spectacular gorge about an hour and a half outside Muscat.
Wadi Shab in Oman
(RN website photo)
16 Mar 16 - Topsy Turner assumes Command of HMNZS Philomel
Former MCDOA Honorary Secretary David 'Topsy' Turner transferred to the RNZN in 2004 after almost 30 years in the RN. Since moving to New Zealand, he has been the RNZN's MCM Project Officer, SO MCM & OIC of the Operational Diving Team (ODT), Senior National Officer (SNO) and OIC of the Deployed Support Element (DSE) for HMNZS Te Mana during her Gulf deployment on Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, SO1 Operational Plans (J53) in the Joint Force HQ, CO of HMNZS Canterbury and most recently XO of HMNZS Philomel (see entry for 21 Nov 14 in News Archive 48).
I am grateful to Topsy for this update:
Just over three weeks ago I relieved Captain Maxine Lawes RNZN as the Commanding Officer of HMNZS PHILOMEL and Base Commander Naval Base Devonport. With a current contract terminal date of June 2018, I imagine that this could possibly be my last job but you never know; this a navy that just keeps giving so I'm not ready to slide into retirement just yet.
Cdr David 'Topsy' Turner RNZN assuming Command of HMNZS Philomel
I've not really had much of a chance to properly assume command as my father took a turn for the worst a couple of days later and managed to hang on until I got to his bedside in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary where he died 48 hours later. Dad's funeral is Thursday 17 March after which I will return to New Zealand and get on with my new post - thank goodness for a really outstanding Executive Officer and some great Heads of Department.
Yvonne & Topsy Turner
All is going well down under Rob and I make no secret of the fact that I'm a staunch All Blacks supporter!!
I am sure that all members of our community will join me in commiserating with Topsy over the loss of his father but also congratulating him on his new appointment and wishing him, Yvonne and their family continued success, health and happiness in their life in Godzone.
15 Mar 16
Award of LS&GC clasp
Congratulations to WO(MW) Joe Munro on being gazetted for the award of a clasp to his Long Service & Good Conduct medal.
Gentlemen Who Lunch
The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio ventured out today for its usual Tuesday gathering with Howard temporarily taking the place of Holloway for lunch at The Ship in Langstone followed by a walk along the foreshore in the spring sunshine and a further pint at The Royal Oak:
Langstone foreshore showing The Royal Oak and the old mill
Left: Barlow and Howard. Right: Barlow and Hoole
14 Mar 16
SDU2 detonates 'mine' in Stokes Bay
The Portsmouth News contains this article describing yesterday morning's disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a 'mine' in Stokes Bay near Alverstoke on the Solent.
(Portsmouth News photo)
Diving Museum to re-open for Easter
Speaking of Stokes Bay, the Diving Museum run by the Historical Diving Society (HDS) in No.2 Battery will re-open after its winter hibernation on Friday 25 March and every weekend and Bank Holiday thereafter until Halloween weekend 30 October. This month's newsletter can be downloaded here:
News from SNMCMG2 (Part 3)
I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Stanbury, currently the Principal Staff Officer (old-style SOO) of Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2), for this update:
SNMCMG2 PARTICIPATES IN ARIADNE 2016
(7-11 March 2016 off Patras, Greece)
SNMCMG2 led by Capt. Ramazan Kesgin (Tur-N), and currently composed of the two minehunters SPS Tambre (ESP) and TCG Edremit (TUR) supported by the flagship TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha (TUR) with the NATO staff embarked, has successfully completed its latest MCM exercise, ARIADNE 16, in the Gulf of Patras, Greece. The Group conducted MCM operations beside Greek naval, air and surface assets, along with a Romanian coastal minesweeper and observers from the UAE, Bulgaria, Egypt and Qatar.
Exercise planning and execution followed NATO procedures and tactics and the scenario developed for ARIADNE 16 was completely fictitious; bearing only coincidental resemblance to any real world situation. The MCM operations were planned and carried out in mined coastal waters and harbour entrances of Patras, Greece under the imminent danger of asymmetric threat.
The scenario, conducted in four major phases, was based in a conflict between the two bordering nations of 'Greenland' and 'Yellowland'; where one allied nation requested NATO intervention to avoid any further worsening of situation, to restore the freedom of navigation and to preserve safety and security at sea after possible minelaying activity carried out by its counterpart.
Exercise progress was initially hampered by poor weather conditions but units quickly recovered and gained momentum on day two. The conduct of operations ran smoothly with exploratory and clearance MCM ops being performed by MCMVs under an asymmetric threat environment. This realism resulted in a favourable scenario where SNMCMG2, Romanian and Greek units achieved full interoperability and cohesion over the course of the exercise.
The main goal of Exercise ARIADNE16, i.e. to enhance cooperation and improve mutual training and interoperability among participating units and staffs during MCM operations, was successfully achieved.
“SNMCMG2 was able to train, evaluate and further develop doctrine and tactics. It is always beneficial to exercise within a larger group of international units from the NATO alliance. Interoperability and cohesion were fully achieved during the exercise. It was a pleasure to participate in Exercise ARIADNE 16.”
13 Mar 16 - MWA Annual Dinner
The sun came out for the Minewarfare Association (MWA)'s annual reunion and dinner in Weymouth this weekend.
Attendees gathered at the Rembrandt Hotel on Friday evening and renewed acquaintances in convivial surroundings. Some of the 'renewing' carried on well into the small hours.
Saturday morning saw several of the ladies engaging in retail therapy or visiting locally-resident friends and relatives while their partners convened for the AGM.
In the afternoon, most of the fellahs took advantage of Benny Carroll's invitation to watch the Ireland v Italy 6-Nations rugby match at The Ming Inn which he has constructed in his back garden, complete with bar, TV and wifi.
Everyone reconvened at the Rembrandt Hotel in the late afternoon to watch the England v Wales rugby match on TV during which some fairly patriotic allegiances came to light on both sides; the close-fought English victory, combined with today's Scottish victory over France, means that England has clinched the 6-Nations championship as well as the triple-crown with next week's matches still to play. There was then just time to change before gathering for pre-dinner drinks in the bar.
A raffle and auction conducted by Pete Whitehead succeeded in raising over £600 for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to commemorate the minewarfare, diving and EOD heritage of HMS Vernon which previously occupied the site.
Congratulations and thank you to everyone involved in organising and executing this highly successful event. Next year's gathering will be held in the Portsmouth area.
12 Mar 16 - DEMS open day & social evening 23 April 2016
I am grateful to Robin Bennett, Honorary Secretary of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA enjoys a strong affiliation, for this invitation to attend an open day and dinner at the 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:
Sorry for the short notice, but we have only just got the details agreed. If you, or anyone else from the MCDOA or the CDs, would like to come for the visit (and the dinner), you would be most welcome. Accommodation is a little limited, and would be sharing a four-man block, but I'm sure we can squeeze a few in.
All the best,
I attended this event last year (see entry for 17 May 15 in News Archive 50) and can thoroughly recommend it.
My syndicate during last year's open day at DEMS
Further details can be downloaded here: DEMS Visit, Social & AGM – 23rd / 24th April 2016. The deadline for receipt of replies is 28 March 2016.
11 Mar 16
SDU1 deals with wartime 'shell detonator' in Newquay
The Cornish Guardian website contains this article and the Pirate FM website this article describing today's removal, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), of a Second World War 'shell detonator' found on Tolcarne Beach at Newquay in Cornwall.
Cornish Guardian website photos
Three days earlier, the Cornish Guardian website had published this article reporting that Army bomb disposal experts have been called out to a "suspicious object" found on Fistral Beach in Newquay.
HS Kallisto (formerly HMS Berkeley)
I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Stanbury, currently the Principal Staff Officer (old-style SOO) of Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2), for this photo of HS Kallisto, formerly HMS Berkeley, at Patras in Greece:
HS Kallisto at Patras
Dave's photo stirred some bittersweet memories. HMS Berkeley was the 12th of the 13 Hunt class MHSCs (Mine Hunter Sweeper Coastals) built for the Royal Navy. Thanks to John Bailey who commanded her still-completing predecessor, HMS Atherstone, my wife and I were able to attend her launch at Vosper Thornycroft in Woolston, Southampton on 3 December 1986 before the official announcement of my appointment as her first CO. In return, John asked to be invited along because he, like all the other Hunt COs, had missed the launch of his own ship.
Ashtray commemorating the launch of HMS Berkeley
After properly taking Command the following year and insisting that, among other things, she be fitted with a BMARC 30 mm cannon (instead of the Second World War vintage Bofors 40/60 fitted on her predecessors) to accompany her two 20 mm Oerlikons mounted on sponsons amidships, I commissioned Berkeley on South Railway Jetty in Portsmouth Naval Base on 14 January 1988. The ceremony took place in the presence of her sponsor Lady Gerken (accompanied by her husband Vice Admiral Sir Robert Gerken KCB CBE) and several veterans from her WW II namesake, the Hunt Class destroyer bombed and sunk during the disastrous Dieppe Raid in August 1942.
Above and below: Commissioning of HMS Berkeley at South Railway Jetty
(Didn't Mrs Webmaster look lovely?)
Ship's PR pamphlet
(Click to download)
I then led her through Part IV Trials and BOST before deploying to the Gulf in September 1988 for Operation ARMILLA ACCOMPLICE (later called CIMNEL) just as the Iran/Iraq Tanker War was winding down.
HMS Chiddingfold, HMS Cottesmore, HMS Herald, HMS Berkeley, BNS Crocus and HNLMS Urk
rafted up in the Gulf in 1988
I handed over Command and the best ship's company in creation to fellow MCDOA member and old friend Keith Riches shortly after our return to the UK in April 1989. Four years later, I was to relieve him in MCMD Division at DGUW(N) Southwell on Portland.
HMS Berkeley's ship's company at Jebel Ali, UAE in 1989
On a freezing cold morning in February 2001, my wife and I found ourselves back at South Railway Jetty for the handover of Berkeley to the Hellenic Navy; a prolonged ceremony that included Greek Orthodox Church priests sprinkling holy water all over the ship's decks and whacking her sailors with palm fronds. The ship's new CO, Lt Cdr Reymondos Salvetas of the Hellenic Navy, was a charming man who presented me with this keepsake:
Paperweight commemorating the transfer of HMS Berkeley
to the Greek Navy as HS Kallisto on 28 February 2001
10 Mar 16
It is wonderful to see MCDOA member Jason White wearing a brass hat for his new job in the Middle East. Only twenty years ago, we were serving together in MCMD Division at DGUW(N) Southwell on Portland where Jason was a 'Civil Serpent'.
Cdr Jason White QGM RN
In the meantime, MCDOA member Ian Morton has been conducting an inspection of ordnance around his occasional home in Plockton at Kyle of Lochalsh.
Ian Morton with Mk 17 mine and sinker
at Kyle of Lochalsh
Mk 17 moored mines and sinkers at Kyle of Lochalsh
Spotter's question: What mark sinker is shown?
HMS Middleton and HMS Bangor work with UAE ships
The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Naval Today website this article describing recent activities in the Gulf involving HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) and HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 2) with the German-built Type 332 Frankenthal-class UAE minehunters Al Hasbah (ex-FGS Weiden) and Al Murjan (ex-FGS Frankenthal). The article features AB(D) Bradley Chapman.
HMS Middleton and HMS Bangor in the Gulf
(RN website photo)
HMS Middleton handling dummy mines
(RN website photos)
Above and below: HMS Middleton preparing and launching SeaFox mine disposal vehicle
(RN website photos)
9 Mar 16 - Gentlemen Who Lunch
The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio, comprising Barlow, Holloway and Hoole, gathered at The Blue Bell in Emsworth yesterday for the first time since Barlow returned from his Caribbean cruise last week. They were joined for their regular Tuesday get-together by Hoole's son Gareth and next door neighbour Lez.
Left to right: Hoole Sr, Hoole Jr, Martyn Holloway, Lez Howard and Doug Barlow
8 Mar 16 - Arrangements for the funeral of former WO(D) Stew 'George' Sissons
Stew's daughter Jane has said "...if people want to donate money to either brain tumour research or cancer research again that would be lovely. Please insist people don't need to donate or do flowers. Just having them there to say goodbye is enough."
7 Mar 16
Death of former WO(D) Stew 'George' Sissons
Gerry 'Pincher' Martin has informed me of the death of 'George' Sissons, or Stew as he preferred to be known, apparently during his sleep at 1510 this afternoon. His health had been deteriorating, mainly owing to a brain tumour, since before Christmas (see entry for 5 Dec 15 in News Archive 52).
I will publish further information when known. In the meantime, I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our deepest condolences to Stew's family.
I have unearthed this Christmas card photo from 1982 when Stew (then universally known as George) was serving on the staff of CINCFLEET at Northwood as MCDOA member Hamish Loudon MBE's Assistant Fleet MCDO and toured CD and ships' diving teams conducting inspections:
This photo from 1987 shows Stew (standing second left) with his fellow members of Fleet Diving Unit 1, the Royal Navy's first MCT team, led by MCDOA member Bernie Bruen MBE DSC. This is probably how many of us would wish to remember him.
Even after retirement from the Royal Navy, Stew was still keen to do his bit. He was responsible for four of the cadet sail training dinghies attached to the sailing centre at HMS Excellent and was a staunch supporter of 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.
Stew also enjoyed getting together with his fellow ex-CD1s. Here he is at an AORNFCD reunion with Derek 'Maggie' Lockwood, Joe Maher and the late Gordon 'Hoppy' Hopewell (plus a photo bomb by Chris 'Paddy' Doonan in the foreground):
Some of us also knew of Stew's love for sailing 'Springtied', the yacht he kept in the marina at Whale Island.
MCDOA past-President Colin Welborn informs me that Stew was 'his' Coxswain with Jim Cook as XO in HMS Wilton in 1975. More recently, Stew had been looking after Colin's fox terriers.
From MCDOA member Paul Guiver BEM:
"R.I.P George, farewell and 5 bells to a shipmate and dive buddy! My sincere thoughts and deepest condolences are with your family."
News from HMS Chiddingfold
I am grateful to MCDOA member Steve White, Commanding Officer of HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 5) currently on Operation KIPION in the Gulf, for his ship's February newsletter which can be downloaded here:
6 Mar 16 - 35th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict
I have received the following appeal from former WO(D) John Dadd BEM:
As you know, next year is the 35th Anniversary of the Falklands War. The following article appears in the latest edition of the SAMA 82 Magazine.
"As Freemen of the Borough of Gosport, it is the intention of the Falklands Veterans Foundation, to arrange an event to exercise our right to parade through the town on Sunday 21st May 2017.
There will be a service of commemoration at 1100, followed by the parade and then a possible reception on completion."
To show an interest, please email as soon as possible firstname.lastname@example.org
To keep updated on progress of these events please check the website at www.falklandsveterans.org.uk
Gentlemen would you be kind enough to disseminate this info through your excellent websites. Let's see if we can get some of those shy unsung heroes out on parade.
See 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box.
5 Mar 16
SDU2 disposes of First World War shell on IOW
The IOW County Press website contains this article describing yesterday's removal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a wartime 14" long shell discovered on a building site near Cowes for disposal at Yaverland beach.
NDG detonates mortar bomb on IOM
The Manx Radio website contains this article describing Thursday's disposal, presumably by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG), of a suspected Second World War mortar bomb, discovered near Ramsey on the Isle of Man.
4 Mar 16
HMS Ramsey round-up
The Navy News website contains this article describing the recent activities of HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 7) with Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1) including a fortnight being assessed at the German Navy's damage control and combat school in the Baltic, being battered by North Sea storms and visits to Copenhagen, Lübeck, Neustadt, Rønne on the small Danish island of Bornholm and Amsterdam.
HMS Ramsey in the North Sea
(Navy News website photo)
MCDOA Northern Dinner
I am grateful to MCDOA member Richard 'Soapy' Watson for this message and photos from last night's MCDOA Northern Dinner in HMS Neptune's wardroom at Faslane. The event focused on celebrating the 50th anniversary of the inception of the Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer Sub-Specialisation and on dining MCDOA member Steve Brown out of the Royal Navy. Steve has just been relieved by his fellow MCDOA member Tony Hampshire as CO of the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG).
Hot off the press. A few photos of last night's Northern Dinner.
Welcoming speech by Tim Davey, Mr Pres for the evening
Farewell to Steve Brown on his retirement from the Service
Great evening with great food, drink and friends. Great speech by Mike Leaney MBE.
Mike Leaney's keynote speech
I think Bob Hawkins is sending the group photo.
Here are some of Bob Hawkins' photos:
Bob Hawkins flanked by WO(D)s Kev Wilkins and Wayne Grayson
Bob Hawkins and Roger Readwin
Group photograph of the diners
3 Mar 16 - News from SNMCMG2 (Part 2)
I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Stanbury, currently the Principal Staff Officer (old-style SOO) of Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2), for this second part of his update (see third entry for 2 Mar 16 for Part 1):
SNMCMG2 Participation in Exercise POSEIDON 16
Since the short Winter Dispersal period, SNMCMG2 has conducted an interesting but challenging Black Sea Deployment which also saw the Flagship and her MCMVs conduct the first Port Visit to the Non-NATO port of Batumi (Georgia) in three years.
During the Deployment, culminating in Exercise POSEIDON 16, SNMCMG2 was supported by the Flagship TCG Cezayirli Gazi HasanPasa (Tur), with the NATO Staff embarked, two Minhunter Coastal (MHC) SPS Tambre (ESP) and TCG Edremit (TUR), complimented by two Minesweeper Coastal (MSC) BGS Shkval (BGR) and ROS SLt Alexandru Axente (ROM).
Their participation in a short Bulgarian MCM Exercise, “Exercise POSEIDON 16”, was conducted through a number of shore-side MCM Workshops, held over 3 days, 20 to 23 February, in the Port of Burgas, Bulgaria. The execution of this training period was implemented during the Sea Phase, within Bulgarian Territorial Waters, from 24 to 26 February 2016.
Background of the Exercise: Exercise POSEIDON 2016 was a bilateral Bulgarian-Romanian naval MCM exercise. The Exercise has been conducted annually since 2002 and hosted by Bulgarian and Romanian navies on rotational basis. The Exercise Control Nation (EXCON) was Bulgaria represented by Bulgarian (BGR) Navy. For the 2016 execution, the main goal of the Exercise was to continue to focus on the conduct of operations in multinational framework. The desired end state of the Exercise was to improve the iinteroperability and training of participating units; whilst enhancing the skills and knowledge of personnel in a multinational environment.
Scenario for the Exercise: The POSEIDON 2016 (POS 16) exercise scenario was fictional, based on an emerging mine threat situation and designed only to support exercise aim and objectives, and which provided the exercise framework. The framework was laid upon a made-up situation developed over WW I and WW II Mining Operations in the South-western part of the Black sea. MCM operations were carried out in port approaches, traffic separation zones and in all other specified areas in order to eliminate risks for Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs), touristic sites and maritime industry.The overall threat for the Exercise was posed by the historical minefields remained in the Bulgarian Territorial Waters.
SNMCMG2: Led by Capt. Ramazan Kesgin (Tur-N), SNMCMG2 is currently composed of two Minehunters, SPS Tambre (ESP) and TCG Edremit (TUR), supported by the Flagship TCG Cezayirli Gazi HasanPasa (Tur) with the NATO Staff embarked; the group is now in transit to participate in MCM EX ARIADNE 2016, organised by the Greek Navy.
2 Mar 16
NDG divers identify German torpedo in Scapa Flow
The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the identification by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) of a Second World War German torpedo discovered during a sonar survey in Scapa Flow on Saturday (27 February). It is suspected that the torpedo was launched by U-47 which sank the battleship HMS Royal Oak on 14 October 1939 with the loss of 883 lives.
The article features MCDOA member Tony Hampshire, Commanding Officer of NDG.
MCM2 Crew 7 engineers awarded trophy
The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the award of the Fleet Efficiency prize for engineering excellence to the engineers of MCM2 Crew 6. The award recognised the work of the 18-strong marine & weapons engineering staff in arduous conditions for six months on board HMS Atherstone in the Gulf followed by HMS Cattistock in Portsmouth. Congratulations to all concerned.
MCM2 Crew 6 CO with ME & WE staff
(RN website photo)
In January 2014, MCM2 Crew 6 was presented with the Surface Flotilla Effectiveness Trophy for MCM for its operational achievements in 2013 (see entry for 20 Jan 14 in News Archive 45).
News from SNMCMG2 (Part 1)
I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Stanbury, currently the Principal Staff Officer (old-style SOO) of Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2), for this update:
SNMCMG2 Staff with Dave Stanbury standing fourth left
STANDING NATO MINE COUNTERMEASURES GROUP 2
NATO has two Standing Maritime Groups, which are often referred to as the NATO Reaction Forces (NRF), the first of the two Groups is composed of the SNMG1 and the SNMG2, and the second is composed of SNMCMG1 and SNMCMG2.
These Groups provide NATO with a continuous maritime capability for operations and other activities in peacetime and also in periods of crisis and conflict. They help to establish Alliance presence, demonstrate solidarity, conduct routine diplomatic Port Visits to various NATO and Non-NATO countries, support transformation and provide a variety of maritime capabilities to ongoing missions (like Operation Active Endeavor for instance).
The SNMCMG2 Group is a multinational, integrated maritime force made up of vessels from various allied countries. These vessels are permanently available to NATO to perform different tasks ranging from participating in Naval MCM Exercises, to actually conducting Operational Missions, including Historic Ordnance Disposal.
SNMCMG2 Current Composition: Led by Capt. Ramazan Kesgin (Tur-N), SNMCMG2 commenced 2016 comprised of the Flagship provided by Turkey, two Minhunter Coastal (MHC) from Spain and Turkey, and also two Minesweeper Coastal (MSC) from Bulgaria and Romania. After their short Black Sea Deployment where they saw action in Ex Poseidon 16; SNMCMG2 are re-deploying back into the Mediterranean to commence Ex Ariadne 16 and are now composed of only two Minehunters, SPS Tambre (ESP) and TCG Edremit (TUR), supported by the Flagship TCG Cezayirli Gazi HasanPasa (Tur) with the NATO Staff embarked. Over the last 8 months Captain Kesgin has led SNMCMG2 from 3 Flagships, TCG Barbaros, TCG Sokullu MehmetPasa and the current Flagship TCG Cezayirli Gazi HasanPasa, as well as Minehunters and Minesweepers from Allied Navies of France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.
SNMCMG2 History: Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) is a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Standing Mine Countermeasures Immediate Reaction Force.
From its activation in 1999 to 2001 Standing Mine Countermeasures Force in the Mediterranean (MCMFORMED), their theater of operations was designated to the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, but to be ready for use wherever NATO required. After this period SNMCMG2 was known as the Mine Countermeasures Force South (MCMFORSOUTH), between 2001 and 2005 and formed to operate in the Adriatic Sea as part of Operation Allied Force.
During recent times SNMCMG2 has comprised of up to eight mine hunters / mine sweepers supported by a Flagship from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom or the United States.
SNMCMG2 operates as an integral unit whether participating in exercises or conducting real world operational missions. It is employed primarily in the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas but, as required, will be available anywhere NATO requires it to deploy. Command of the force rotates annually among contributing nations.
SNMCMG2 Mission: “Freedom of Navigation - Safety and Security at Sea”
Like the other Standing NATO Maritime Groups, SNMCMG2 is to be continuously ready to provide maritime capability for operations and other activities in peacetime and in period of crisis and conflict.
Its main focus firmly on Naval Mine Countermeasures, the Group, with multinational assets, contributes to achieve several NATO strategic goals.
The first of these goals is Freedom of Navigation (FON).
During peacetime, whilst training hard, the group maintains a high level of effectiveness in order to enhance its readiness; so as to fulfil its NATO Immediate Response Force status and be able to provide Deterrence and Defence, Crisis Management, Maritime Safety and Security.
Moreover, through the strongly consolidated NATO cohesion, SNMCMG2 visits Allied and non-NATO harbours also help to establish Alliance presence and solidarity, building robust mutual understanding and relationships with partner Nations.
1 Mar 16
Gentlemen Who Lunch
Doug Barlow is recovering from a bug picked up during his most recent cruise so he was unable to join his fellow members of the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio for their weekly gathering today. Fortunately, former WO(MW) Lee 'Barney Two Ts' Barnett BEM stepped into the breach and shared a few dits with Holloway and Hoole over an enjoyable lunch at the Denmead Queen in Waterlooville.
Martyn Holloway, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) and Barney Barnett at the Denmead Queen today
Barney has just returned from one of his trips to India. In 1964 he served with Doug Barlow as XO in HMS Clarbeston of the Vernon Squadron under the Command of the fearsome Lt Cdr (later Cdr) Clifford 'Jack' Ripper who interviewed me some years later for my DNSy security clearance.
HMS Pembroke undergoes pre-deployment training
The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting that HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 1) has been undergoing sea training prior to her deployment in April to relieve HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 7) with Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1) in the Baltic. HMS Pembroke was deployed with SNMCMG1 from January to April last year when she helped locate nine Second World War bombs, torpedoes and mines, and later went on to tackle a 500lb bomb in the North Sea.
HMS Pembroke on the Gare Loch at Faslane
(RN website photo)
29 Feb 16 - More details about former CPO(MW) George Burton's funeral
I have received this message from George's widow Melody:
"Thank you to everyone who has been in touch with me or has posted messages on my Facebook page.
George's funeral will be at 1:40pm on Friday 11 March at York Crematorium. This is slightly earlier than I originally posted. Initially I was so distraught that I didn't feel I could speak to anyone but close family. I've now realized that George, who was very gregarious, would like those who knew him to attend.
We will have a memorial service and wake for him on Aegina in Greece a little later in the year but, if you can make it to York on 11 March, please know that you will be very welcome.
If you would like to attend the funeral in York please could you let me know so I have an idea of numbers. I am collecting tributes, photos and cards to keep for our children and grand-children and will tell you where to send or email these in a day or two.
Family flowers only at the funeral please. If you would like to make a commemorative donation in George's memory I've set up a page where you can donate to one of his favorite charities - The Not Forgotten Association, which provides leisure activities for wounded and disabled service and ex-service personnel. Just follow this link and click Donate:
Thank you again for your kind thoughts. They help a great deal in coming to terms with my loss."
Melody's email address is here.
28 Feb 16 - End of an era in Falmouth
Ex-CPO(D) Cris Ballinger BEM informs me that 'Auntie Pat' Harding celebrates her 82nd birthday today and has decided to sell Rumours Wine Bar, the popular haunt of Royal Navy divers in Falmouth, after a tenure of almost 30 years.
Pat Harding and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) in August 2009
I am sure that all members of our community will join me in wishing Pat many happy returns of the day and a long and happy retirement.
27 Feb 16 - Arrangements for the funeral of former CPO(MW) George Burton
George Burton died in Intensive Care at York General Hospital early on Wednesday 24 February after battling pancreatitis. His widow Melody has posted this announcement and appeal on the 11th MCM Squadron's Facebook page;
"I am Melody, George Burton's wife. His funeral is on the afternoon of Friday 11 March at York Crematorium. I would welcome any of his old comrades who want to attend and it would be wonderful if someone was prepared to say a few words as well.
George and I married after he left the RN but I know his time in the Falklands left a lasting impression and influenced his life in many ways. Please feel free to contact me. It would be helpful if you could let me know if you wish to attend the funeral as I will need an idea of numbers.
I've also set up a page for donations in George's memory to the Not Forgotten Association. You can make a donation here:
Any volunteers please contact Melody via her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/aegeansailing
From Melody McKay Burton:
"I have seen a post in which you were asking about my husband, George Burton, who passed away on Wednesday. His funeral will be in York Crematorium on 11 March but there will be a memorial service and wake in Greece later in the year. George and I ran an RYA sailing school there for 15 years.
His experiences in the Falklands made a lasting impression on him and I would love it if someone could come to the funeral and/or memorial. Please can you let me know? Initially we intended to have just a few people there but numbers are growing rapidly so I may need to change the arrangements slightly.
Please pass this on to whoever you think would be appropriate.
Melody McKay Burton
Email address here."
From former WO(MW) Robert 'Dixie' Dean MBE:
"I met George only a couple of times but as Barney said in his missive, he was one of the characters of the Mine Warfare branch.
I will be travelling to the reunion on that day so will be unable to attend his funeral. However, we will all raise a glass in memory of George at the reunion.
RIP George. All gear stowed."
From Jan Pearcey:
I am sorry for your loss. George and I served together twice. The first time was in the very competitive 1st MCM Squadron based at Rosyth. He was in HMS Brinton and I was in HMS Gavinton. Our next tour of duty together was in the 11th MCM Squadron during the Falklands war.
A proud man I will remember with great esteem.
From former WO(MW) Lee 'Barney' Barnett BEM:
Sincere commiserations on the very sad loss of your other half. IF it is the same guy who I served with in the late 1970s/early 1980s, he was a star player. I remember him diving on a Coast Guard cutter in Campbeltown using Pussers 5665A fire fighting equipment to clear a fouled screw.(not designed to work under water). HMCG rewarded us pretty well (I was the one not in the water). We got a bottle each.
If I remember correctly, George worked on a fish farm off the West Coast after leaving The RN. He will always remain a stalwart in the memory bank.
Regret unable to say Goodbye up in York as previous commitments preclude this. Any further ????? gimme a call.
Barney Barnett x"
26 Feb 16 - Bad news
I intensely dislike publishing bad news but it does serve a purpose in keeping people informed. It seems to be a particularly sickly season this year.
It has been reported that former CPO(MW) George Burton, a resident of Greece, crossed the bar on Wednesday morning. Details of his naval career are sketchy but he was the Coxswain of HMS Northella, one of the five Hull trawlers taken up from trade, converted into minesweepers and deployed to the South Atlantic as the 11th MCM Squadron during the Falklands conflict. He was also on the permanent staff at HMS Camperdown (Tay Division RNR), served in HMS Brinton and was the Boatswain of HMS Hubberston.
Reportedly, former CPO Charlie Zammit, a resident of Malta, crossed the bar yesterday. He served in HMS Caunton in the Vernon Squadron and was the Buffer at HMS Dryad in the mid 1970s.
The health of former WO(D) Stew 'George' Sissons, who has been in the Wisteria Lodge hospice in Horndean with a terminal illness since November, has now deteriorated to the point where he is no longer able to receive visitors.
Former CPO(D) Bill McGovern has been at home suffering from heart and respiratory problems for some months. He has now been admitted to Monklands Hospital in Airdrie where he is seriously ill. Troy Tempest and I have his contact details if anyone would like to get in touch. I gave him a call this morning and Albert Chapman and Kevin 'Ginge' Reynolds were due to see him later today.
From ex-MEM1 Mick Creasey who served with FCDT from 1974 to 1976, now resident in Spain:
(Hi. Can you please pass this on to Bill McGovern.)
Sorry to about your ill health and I thought these photos will bring back some good memories. They are from Suez where I remember one evening on the Nada [Egyptian vessel provided by the Suez Canal Authority as a support platform] having a few drinks. You and Penny Penington were have one of your frequent heated verbal discussions when you leapt up and kicked a deck cleat and nearly broke your toe. The discussion was forgotten as you were too busy nursing your toe.
Also on a very rough ferry crossing from the UK to France you went off to the loo only to return with your nose pouring with blood. It transpired the loo seat had fallen on your nose while you were throwing up. Oh happy days.
Hope this cheers up your day.
25 Feb 16
HMS Chiddingfold takes a Bahraini Coast Guard officer to sea
The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting that Bahrain-based HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 5 commanded by MCDOA member Steve White) has hosted First Lieutenant Abdullah Mohammed Albinkhaleel of the Bahraini Coast Guard on board for a few days that included his birthday which was celebrated in style.
Also see entry for 24 Feb 16.
Happy birthday to us
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer Sub-Specialisation. Celebrate wisely.
The first proper 'Long MCD Course' rather than a CDO course or MW
The first proper 'Long MCD Course' rather than a CDO course or MW conversion
Particular congratulations to MCDOA members Ed Thompson, Alan Padwick, Jon Riches, John Ludgate, Mike Bull, John Lang and John Coggins. Course officer Pat Dowland, another MCDOA member, crossed the bar in February 2013.
24 Feb 16 - News from HMS Chiddingfold
I am grateful to MCDOA member Steve White, Commanding Officer of HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 5) currently on Operation KIPION in the Gulf, for sending me this photo of himself with visiting fellow MCDO member Kev Giles of the Maritime Warfare Centre. Kev was Chiddingfold's Commanding Officer 20 years ago (1996-7).
Kev Giles and Steve White on board
HMS Chiddingfold in the Gulf
Steve has also provided a copy of his ship's January newsletter which can be downloaded here:
23 Feb 16 - Army Navy rugby at Twickenham
Time is running out to book your places on the MCDOA coach to the Army Navy rugby match at Twickenham. If successful, this will become an annual event.
Cheques are to be made payable to “MCDOA” and sent to Mark Shaw, our Honorary Secretary, at:
Sec - MCDOA
Mark says that currently there is no limit on the number of guests a member can bring. Also, he will be opening up the tickets to non-members of the MCDOA on 1 March to ensure all places are sold.
See you on the coach.
22 Feb 16 - RN Minewarfare Heritage: Wartime evacuation of HMS Vernon - Addendum
Chris Henry researched and wrote Depth Charge (Royal Naval Mines, Depth Charges & Underwater Weapons 1914 -1945). He and I first met around 15 years ago when he became the Curator of the Explosion Museum of Naval Fire Power at Priddy's Hard, Gosport and I was Chairman of the Friends of the Museum. This passage, taken from pages 143 to 146 of his book, is particularly relevant to yesterday's entry below:
In 1939, the Mine Design Department was still at HMS Vernon at Portsmouth, but the massive increase in staff - both civilian and naval - meant the department had to move to an office block on Commercial Road in Portsmouth. These offices were particularly vulnerable to air attack and the Luftwaffe were determined to bomb Portsmouth out of existence. Certain sections of the Mine Design Department were therefore moved away from the town to Leigh Park House, about 2 miles from Havant. This house no longer stands but it was, until 1959, part of what is now Staunton Park. The Leigh Park estate is best known for the work of Sir George Staunton, who had purchased it in 1820 and lived there until his death in 1859. The dispersal of staff was planned, because the branch of the Mining Department known as Vernon (M) was sited at nearby West Leigh House and the naval staff of HMS Vernon responsible for the trials section of the Mine Design Department travelled widely to stations around the united Kingdom. Part of the unit was placed in West Leigh Cottage.
By 1941 administrative facilities had been established at West Leigh Cottage, new trials areas had been set up on Loch Long in Dumbartonshire - at the head of the loch, at Arrochar, and at its mouth at Baron's Point, where mines were tested - and in 1942 a ground mines facility was established at Weston-super-Mare. The need to experiment, manufacture and test weapons led to all sorts of outstations being set up. At Weston, by 1943 the base at Birnbeck Pier on the north side of the town was used for all mine-dropping tests by the Aircraft Torpedo Development Unit. This facility was later moved to the airfield at RAF Locking, about 3 miles south of Weston. Parts were manufactured at Fareham [Hinxman's Garage?], close to Gosport, and German mines were examined at a disused quarry on Butser Hill, near Buriton, 15 miles north of Portsmouth.
The examination of German weapons and the process of trying to predict their operation brought a whole new dimension of work to Vernon and its associated units. A reorganization meant that officers were in charge of a British and allied mine section and a German mines section. A further officer was required for all trial work. The enemy mining section was responsible for the recovery and disarming of German mines and practising these procedures. In addition they were to:
• create instructions for carrying out disarmament;
• create confidential handbooks on disarming foreign weapons;
• instruct others in the disarming of mines;
• take charge of examination and stripping of German mines at Butser Hill, Buriton;
• deal with all mines washed up within Portsmouth Command.
This was a great deal of work for such a small staff and quite often the lines between the two departments were blurred.
Much of the work at West Leigh House was in section T2, which has great relevance to the story of the depth charge and the mine. Allan Pilledge, who had spent some of his youth in Singapore, came to Portsmouth in mid-1939 with his father, a dockyard worker. In 1942 he entered West Leigh House as an Assistant Experimental Officer and joined T2, the section that tested mining and depth-charge equipment and components. The section was housed in the old stables. It had a small office close by and an old workshop, which was used to create models and test rigs so that tailor-made engineering items could be manufactured. The connection with HMS Vernon was such that a small office was kept there for people from West Leigh House, when they were on sea trials or using the mining tank. Mr Pilledge described this as follows:
This tank was a cylinder about thirty feet in diameter and some sixty feet deep, filled with water, 'which had a platform suspended on wire ropes which could be raised or lowered to any depth. It had originally been built to check the operation of mine sinkers during the development of buoyant mine designs but proved really invaluable for a multitude of jobs including, I think some of the early underwater swimmer suits.
North view of HMS Vernon's Mining Trials Tank circa 1955. Built in 1921, it survived as a diving trials
tank and home of the 'Dunker' helicopter underwater escape trainer until demolished in 1998
South view of HMS Vernon's Mining Trials Tank circa 1962 showing the airlock, halfway
up the structure, which was used to trial the underwater laying of mines
The Head of T2 section was Arthur Mitchell who, like many of the staff, was employed on a temporary basis, for the period of the war only. Mitchell had been a schoolteacher in his pre-war days. One of the more famous inhabitants was the Chief Scientist, P M Blackett, who won a Nobel prize for his work on nuclear fission. In 1943, the future Sir Robert Boyd joined the Admiralty Mining Establishment at West Leigh House, where he was given strong encouragement by scientific colleagues such as Harry Massey, David Bates, Tom Gaskell, John Gunn and Francis Crick. There were three depth-charge experts in this section: Jack Taylor, Jimmy Simms and Sydney Robinson. The design office had a J M Kirkby, based up at Leigh Park House. It can be seen that there were many intellectual as well as practical scientists at West Leigh or Leigh Park House.
One of the people included in this reorganization was Jack Taylor, a chip off the old block who naturally ended up working for the Admiralty. Both Herbert Taylor and his son had been involved in a motor engineering business between the wars. As a former member of staff at West Leigh House told the author: 'I recall he was sharply aware that his father had not been rewarded after the first war as perhaps he should.' Jack Taylor took over the role of depth-charge pistol expert that Herbert had carried for so long. In Mr Pilledge's view, 'Like his father, I think he was full of ingenious ideas and had a good engineering brain'.
It seems that Jack Taylor became less and less involved in depth-charge work as time went on, and more and more involved with demolition work, some perhaps inadvertent:
I can certainly verify that at the end of the war Jack was doing work on cutting things open with shaped charges using the then new plastic explosive. This was very much up Jack's street, though he got himself into quite a pickle when he tried to burn out the explosive in a partly opened charge case, which ended in a low-grade detonation that sprayed the Weston-super-Mare neighbourhood with gobbets of flaming TNT.
Herbert Taylor, now an old man, was still working on designs at Leigh Park House and spent at least some of his time working on demolition and X-craft side charges. According to Edward Wadlow, a former worker at Leigh Park House:
The largest room served as a conference room and doubled as dining room for the senior staff. Rooms on the first floor were allocated to the Superintendent, Captain Riley, and to his assistants, Commander (later Captain) Lane and Commander Nicholls. Various members of the civilian staff were housed on the first and second floors, with the drawing offices mainly on the ground floor. The purchasing staff, and those responsible for instruction manuals, were on the first floor, while the canteen was located near the one-time kitchen, with the telephone exchange upstairs in one of the rooms at the upper rear of the house.
Many of the staff who were working on projects frequently had to travel, between England and Scotland for example. One such project was the northern mine barrage, which extended along an underwater ledge to Iceland and continued across the Denmark Strait to Greenland. This necessitated an extended mining effort at Kyle of Lochalsh, initially under Admiral Wake Walker, a very stern commanding officer, but later under Admiral Robert Burnett.
HMS Vernon (M), as it became known, was a place of unusual characters; of necessity it was important that creative, able people were drafted into the department. At the time, Alan Pilledge was a junior rating serving at Leigh Park House. He described the place as full of 'crackpots, prima donnas, and misfits'. It seems that this was a standard way of engaging able people - to allow them their head as it were. HMS Vernon had future Nobel Prize winners and a whole host of unusual characters who would not have fitted into a purely military background.
Their work was very varied and often included the manufacture of components as well as sea trials. Most of these were carried out at Spithead and they could be lively affairs:
We did sea trials at Spithead, not that far from Ryde Pier, using an elderly steamer, based in HMS Vernon, which was capable of laying out a long trot and of laying mines and retrieving them. Typically we tested the capabilities of new or altered designs and components to withstand the concussion of the explosion of the next mine in the row [often known as countermining]. On occasion a trial required a buoyant mine to be' laid and left for a while. On recovery, the sinker was opened with some caution for it was a favourite hiding place of conger eels, and a big eel in a bad temper needed watching.
The scale of work at the Mining Department continued to expand. The needs of new projects and the demand for training could only be met by the use of skilled civilians and reserve officers in a training as well as working role. Minesweeping training was moved to HMS Lochinvar on the Firth of Forth, but because the departments had been so dispersed a special section at the Admiralty was created and led by Captain J S Cowie. His book Mines and Minesweepers is full of insights into the arcane world of the mine. As part of this reorganization, a team of scientists was brought to Leigh Park House to work on acoustic and magnetic mines. Of Taylor's role there in this period, Poland says:
Among those responsible in this enlarged area was H J Taylor, who had been involved in the development of the depth charge in the First World War. He was still designing underwater firing mechanisms which could not be countermined, and concentrated on relays and explosive devices to be used in beach clearance.
21 Feb 16 - RN Minewarfare Heritage: Wartime evacuation of HMS Vernon
On 6 August 1940, part of a booby-trapped German GC ground mine exploded in the Mining Shed at HMS Vernon (now Gunwharf Quays), killing five investigation personnel.
Worse was to come for on the night of 10 March 1941, one of several bombs that fell on HMS Vernon destroyed Dido Building, killing a hundred naval and civilian personnel; 40 others were dug out from the debris. Certain sections of HMS Vernon were therefore evacuated to areas less prone to being bombed. HMS Vernon was badly bombed again but not before practically all of the important branches had been safely evacuated.
HMS Vernon bomb damage August 1940
Above and below: HMS Vernon bomb damage January 1941
HMS Vernon bomb damage January 1941. The Mining Tank had been built in 1921. During
the raid, a bomb passed through the lift shaft and exploded above 'Princess Margaret', a
wooden shed built for the Mine Design Department in about 1936, completely wrecking it.
Much of the Torpedo School, including the Electrical Department, was evacuated in May 1941 to Roedean School for Girls at Brighton which became HMS Vernon (R). Allegedly, bell pushes on the dormitory bulkhead were labelled ‘Ring for Mistress'. When an overspill occurred, some sections were moved to St Dunstan's Home for the Blind at Ovingdean near Hove as well as other premises nearby. The illustrated accounts on these pages are particularly informative:
HMS Vernon (R) at Roedean School for Girls, Brighton
Commander John Ouvry DSO RN found an ideal location in a limestone quarry at Buriton near Petersfield where enemy mines could be burned out and investigated. This was nicknamed 'HMS Mirtle' in recognition of its function as a Mine Investigation Range.
HMS 'Mirtle' enemy mine investigation range at Buriton near Petersfield
Other Vernon departments and sections were evacuated to Havant, Purbrook, West Leigh, Stokes Bay, Hove, Dartmouth/Brixham, Helensburgh, Edinburgh and Port Edgar. In August 1940, some staff were evacuated to Clarence Pier and then to the Alberta Hotel and the Royal Albert Yacht Club in January 1941 when that was bombed. Staff from Building 21 (Vulcan) moved to the Lennox Garage in Southsea and Hillside House in Purbrook in January 1941 while the Mine Design Department's workshop moved to Hinxman's Garage in Fareham. When Dido Building was destroyed in March 1941, surviving staff moved to join others at East Leigh House near Havant.
Also in August 1940, some sections of the Mine Design Department, comprising mostly civilian scientists and engineers, first moved to chemistry labs and classrooms at Portsmouth Grammar School in Old Portsmouth, then in October of the same year to a tall glassy office block next to the Commercial Chambers which was hardly suitable as a refuge from the Luftwaffe. They then moved out of the city altogether to the countryside between Havant and Rowlands Castle. In the meantime, Commander 'M' (Cdr Geoffrey Thistleton-Smith RN) and the remaining uniformed personnel went too, leaving as few as possible at Portsmouth. The Scientific and Trials section of the Mine Design Department was established at Leigh Park in what is now the Staunton Country Park and its surrounding area. The main Design Department found a home at Leigh Park House (using its ornamental lakes for experimental purposes, often involving explosive charges) while much of the technical work was performed at West Leigh House and in its outbuildings. Commander 'M' and his immediate staff occupied nearby West Leigh Cottage.
There is now little evidence of Leigh Park House, West Leigh House or West Leigh Cottage but they have always intrigued me. Leigh Park House was demolished in 1959 but it had been an impressive edifice and the stone terrace and steps leading down to the ornamental lakes still survive.
The now demolished Leigh Park House overlooking the still-present ornamental lakes
in Staunton Country Park near Havant
Trial of Chariot human torpedo warhead in ornamental lake
at Leigh Park House
To the best of my knowledge, Leigh Park Cottage no longer exists but I was aware that West Leigh House was used as an outstation of HMS Vernon as recently as November 1954 when Lt Cdr Gordon Gutteridge RN, Officer-in-Charge of the Clearance Diving Trials Team assigned to the Admiralty's Underwater Countermeasures and Weapons Establishment (UCWE) at West Leigh House near Havant, issued this report on trials of a modified Motor Submersible Canoe (MSC) otherwise known as a 'Sleeping Beauty'. In May 1957, Lt Cdr Gordon Gutteridge was appointed an OBE, Lt Cdr Mark Terrell and Lt Charles Heatley were appointed MBEs and PO (later Lt Cdr) Peter Cobby, LS Peter Alderton and AB Eric Harris were awarded the BEM "for gallantry and skill in rendering safe a German mine underwater and in darkness in the West India Dock, London on 26th January 1957". These individuals are all listed as serving at UCWE. UCWE's Clearance Diving Development Trials Team (CDDTT), also referred to as the 'experimental team', maintained a base at HMS Vernon until moving to Horsea Island in 1956. It was led by Lt Cdr Peter Roberts VC DSC from 1957. When UCWE was subsumed into the new Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establshment (AUWE) organisation at Portland in 1960, the CDDTT moved to AUWE Bincleaves where it shared its identity with the Portland CD Team aka 'FOST Divers'.
I turned to the National Archives website and it revealed this information:
"The Admiralty Underwater Countermeasures and Weapons Establishment originated in the Mining Department formed in the Admiralty in 1915. In 1919 it became the Mine Design Department at HMS Vernon, where it remained until 1939. The Department was dispersed during the Second World War, and reconstituted in 1946 as the Admiralty Mining Establishment at Leigh Park, Havant. In 1951 it became the Admiralty Underwater Countermeasures and Weapons Establishment. It closed in 1959 when underwater research was concentrated at Portland. It undertook research into the design, location and neutralisation of mines, and into torpedoes and other underwater weapons."
I then received this useful piece of information from an individual called Chris Westcott:
"West Leigh House was part of the Plessey site off Bartons Road, West Leigh. The building where I worked was said to be built over a 'torpedo pond' at that time. It could be where these were tested. When I first worked there, it was certainly cold enough to be the remains of a pond."
A few days ago, a lady called Pat McFaul informed me that her husband's late father was one of those awarded the BEM for his services in the Mining Department at HMS Vernon during the war. I was able to point her to this entry in the London Gazette where CPO William James McFaul of HMS Vernon was awarded the BEM in the 1946 New Year Honours. She then showed me this remarkable piece of memorabilia:
British Empire Medal with letter from King George VI received by
CPO William James McFaul of HMS Vernon's Mining Department
I was then delighted to receive this email from Pat McFaul's husband Jim:
CPO William James McFaul, my father, was a CPO in the Torpedo branch and left the Royal Navy before the war but remained at HMS Vernon as a civilian (I think he might have been associated with the mining tank from this time). He was recalled for the war and served in the Experimental Mining Section.
I can remember him telling me that he started dismantling a German mine in the mining shed but was called away. His colleague took over and was killed when it exploded (I think this must have been P.O. Fletcher). I do not know of any specific reason why he was awarded the BEM but I surmise it was for ‘Services to Mine Warfare’.
I’ve unearthed a photo. I don’t have any details but I’d guess it was taken outside the mining shed at HMS Vernon. My father is in the centre of the rear row (is his cap badge meant to be that far off centre?).
Mining Department staff at HMS Vernon during or immediately after the war
In the original hi-res scan, some cap ribbons have ‘HMS Vernon’ on them but others just have ‘HMS’ so would this make it just post-war?
Post-war my father returned to civilian life but once again remained at Vernon as chargehand of the mining/trials tank. He remained there until his retirement in 1964. I have some pictures of his presentation parade if these are of any interest.
I have happy memories as a lad, around 1960, of visiting my father at work in the ‘tank’ and being fascinated by the equipment there. He died in 1979.
Re West Leigh site and the pond: There is a very useful online facility in the National Library of Scotland for referencing old maps to the modern equivalent. As you can see, both the house and pond are gone.
Source: West Leigh then and now
There was a picture of West Leigh House in the Evening News:
Admiralty Underwater Countermeasures and Weapons Establishment staff
in front of West Leigh House, Havant
This scan taken from OS Map SU 60/79 revised 1982 is pretty much as I remember the location when I joined Plessey in 1966. I think the buildings were still as they were when Vernon was there. Did they leave in 1957-58? I can remember my father helping to clear the site.
The White House is just above the ‘W’ in works. The ‘E’ shaped building below the ‘W’ was building 50(?) and was nicknamed the Kremlin. I believe this was so-named as there was a cold war crisis when it was being built. I’ve only just realised the connection between the White House and Kremlin… it’s only taken 50 years for the penny to drop!
The small building at the end of the track below the ‘g’ in West Leigh was building 31(?) which I believe was the non-magnetic lab in Admiralty days.
I hope this is of some interest to you.
At long last, my curiosity has been satisfied.
20 Feb 16 - Memories of HMS Laleston at sea
Continuing from the entry on 15 Feb 16, I have scanned and enlarged these images of HMS Laleston, HMS Vernon's diving tender, conducting a light line transfer sometime in 1974 with the similarly open-bridge HMS Glasserton belonging to the then Portland-based (funnel badge trident pointing down instead of up) Third MCM Squadron.
19 Feb 16 - RNR Diving Branch at London Dive Show
Well done to the members of the Royal Naval Reserves Diving Branch who put on such a good show at the London International Dive Show (LIDS) last weekend:
Left to right: AB Greg Anthony, LS Rob Powell, Lt Cdr Stu Robertson, PO Tim Pearce,
LS Matt Williams and AB Grant Thornes
Download and read more about the Branch here: RNR Diving Specialisation
18 Feb 16 - HMS Grimsby returns to her base port
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the return to Faslane on 12 February of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 5 commanded by MCDOA member Neil Griffiths). She was last in Faslane on 26 June last year when she sailed to join Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1) for a deployment that involved several exercises (during which she detected more than 15 historical mines) and included visits to Kiel, Brest, La Coruna, Rota, Cartagena, Lisbon, Vigo, Brest and London. She spent the Christmas and New Year period at Portsmouth.
HMS Grimsby coming alongside BNS Godetia at anchor
(RN website photo)
17 Feb 16 - Bomb drama in Plymouth
BREAKING NEWS - The Plymouth Herald website contains this article describing an incident involving a 'suspicious device' in a residential area of Plymouth. A street has been cordoned off, residents have been evacuated and personnel from Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) are in attendance.
Postscript: The police revealed that there were no arrests following last night's incident and the devices were found to be 'not viable'.
16 Feb 16 - HMS Bangor exercises with Saudi minehunter in the Gulf
The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing the participation of the Type 23 frigate HMS St Albans and the Sandown class minehunter HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 2) in exercises with Royal Saudi Naval Forces ships including the Al Jawf (modified Sandown) class minehunter HMS Al Jawf in direct support of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Combined Task Force 152 in the Gulf. This is of particular personal interest because I set up and ran the the operational training for HMS Al Jawf's initial ship's company between 1989 and 1992 at what had been HMS Vernon.
HMS Al Jawf leading HMS Bangor through a mock minefield
(Navy News photo)
HMS Al Jawf in company with HMS St Albans
(Royal Navy website photo)
After two days of joint exercises, the Bahrain-based HMS Bangor entered the King Abdul Aziz Naval Base with her Saudi sister HMS Al Jawf and her ship's company was treated to some nomadic hospitality in the Saudi desert.
HMS Bangor ship's company enjoying some nomadic hospitality in the Saudi desert
(Navy News website photo)
Postscript: On 17 February, the Portsmouth News published this article covering the same story.
15 Feb 16 - Memories of HMS Laleston at Oban
Continuing from yesterday's entry, I have scanned and enlarged these images captured in 1974 while HMS Laleston was operating off the west coast of Scotland, mainly around Oban although we also visited Fort William, Tobermory, Port Askaig, Kyle of Lochalsh, etc. Laleston conducted diving training for HMS Vernon and day-ran from Falmouth in the summer and Tarbert, Loch Fyne or Oban (where we could always find a lee with the required depth of water) in the winter. At the weekends, we were left to our own devices and visited wherever we wanted.
Beard growing competition: Yours Truly aka Rob Hoole (NO), Richard Belfrage (XO),
Russ Brownridge (CORRO) and MCDOA member Hamish Loudon MBE (CO)
14 Feb 16 - Memories of HMS Laleston at HMS Vernon
I served as the Navigating Officer of HMS Laleston, HMS Vernon's diving tender, from 1973 to 1975. While clearing out the loft recently, I stumbled upon some tiny black & white contact prints from this period which were never enlarged. I have been able to scan and enlarge these among several others:
Maintenance Jetty at HMS Vernon in 1974
For comparison, this was Maintenance Jetty with HMS Deepwater, the floating Diving School, alongside circa 1955; note the quadruple torpedo tubes on the edge of the quarterdeck which were fully operational and used for practical instruction:
Back to my photos from 1974:
Above and below: HMS Laleston coming alongside Vernon Creek in 1974
HMS Vernon wrens with our bunting-tossing RO1(T) on HMS Laleston's bandstand in 1974
More to come in due course.
13 Feb 16 - Publicity for Project Vernon
Artist's impression of the Vernon Monument
in situ at Gunwharf Quays
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article publicising the honours and awards earned by HMS Vernon-associated personnel in minewarfare, diving and EOD during the Second World War and since. It explains the rationale behind the Vernon Monument at Gunwharf Quays which is intended to celebrate the minewarfare, diving and EOD heritage of HMS Vernon which previously occupied the site.
Aerial view of HMS Vernon in October 1981
To mark its 15th anniversary, Gunwharf Quays has commissioned Michael Underwood to undertake a series of historical tours over the coming week as described in these articles in the Portsmouth News:
11 Feb 16 - New CO for Northern Diving Group
Tony Hampshire (left) and Steve Brown
(Royal Navy website)
Congratulations and best wishes for the future to both our members.
10 Feb 16 - NATO deployments for MCMVs and a Fleet Diving Unit
The UK Government website contains this article and the Independent website this article announcing that three minehunters are each to be assigned for four months this year to a Standing NATO MCM Group (probably SNMCMG1 which already contains HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 7)), to operate in the Baltic, North Atlantic, North Sea and the Mediterranean. Also, a Fleet Diving Unit will participate in Exercise OPEN SPIRIT in Lithuania and Exercise NORTHERN CHALLENGE in Iceland.
Additionally, the Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke will be deployed in the Baltic from January to July and a Type 45 destroyer will be assigned to NATO Standing Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) from October to November.
9 Feb 16 - RN divers help kick off ‘real heroes’ week
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of RN divers in a demonstration at Court Lane Infant School, Cosham in Hampshire to launch the ‘Real Heroes are All Around Us’ event. The article features PO(D) Stuart Hibbs and LS(D) Dale Magnus.
PO(D) Hibbs explaining CDLSE diving set (left) and CUTLASS and PackBot EOD ROVs (right)
(RN website photos)
6 Feb 16 - Clyde Naval Base Oil Spill Exercise
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing an oil spill contingency exercise at Faslane on Tuesday 9 February to test its planning and response. I like it because it includes this image of Sandown class minehunters:
SANDOWNs at HM Naval Base Clyde
(RN website photo)
5 Feb 16 - David Hilton organising gun salute
The Royal Navy's Facebook page contains an article announcing that a 21-gun salute will be fired from Fort Blockhouse on Saturday 6 February to mark the 64th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne. MCDOA past-Chairman David Hilton MBE, the Base Services Manager at Portsmouth, is quoted as saying:
“It is tradition for the Royal Navy to mark important anniversaries of the Royal Family in this way. Also in keeping with tradition, the ships alongside in the Naval Base will be “dressed overall” with colourful flags stretching the entire length of the ship.”
David is no stranger to such ceremonial. He supervised this 21-gun salute from Fort Blockhouse to mark the 61st anniversary of the Queen's reign in 2013 (see third entry for 5 Feb 13 in News Archive 41):
3 Feb 16
UK/US MCM exercise in Gulf
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 5 commanded by MCDOA member Steve White), HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 2) and Portsmouth-based Fleet Diving Unit 3 (FDU3), accompanied by their 'mother ship' RFA Cardigan Bay, in a mine countermeasures exercise in the Gulf with the American MCMV USS Gladiator. All images from the RN website.
2 Feb 16 - HMS Ramsey joins SNMCMG1
The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article reporting that HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 7) has joined the other MCMVs of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) in Kiel. Her deployment with the NATO Group will begin with a series of exercises near Copenhagen.
View from HMS Ramsey's bridge while transiting the Kiel Canal
(RN website photo)
HMS Ramsey arriving in Copenhagen
(Navy News photo)
1 Feb 16 - An evening with a legend
Legendary RN diver and world record-breaking adventurer Eamon 'Ginge' Fullen QGM and I enjoyed one of my wife's four-alarm chilis and catching up with each other at our home tonight. Ginge is currently undertaking a First Aid refresher course as part of his RNR commitment but he also participated in the 2016 MASSEVEX exercise involving the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) in Faslane last month (see entry for 23 Jan 16).
Ginge Fullen (right) sharing some of his historical images with Yours Truly (Rob Hoole)
Check out this link:
Also see the entry for 1 Mar 15 in News Archive 49 for MCDOA member Dave Ince's highly entertaining illustrated account of conquering the inactive volcano of Kao, Tonga's highest mountain, with Ginge last year.
27 Jan 16 - Award of second clasp to VRSM
Congratulations to MCDOA member Mike Boal on being gazetted for the award of the Second Clasp to the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal (VRSM). This signifies 20 years of undetected crime in the RNR. As an MWO of longstanding, Mike may be remembered most recently for his FTRS service on the UK Minewarfare Battle Staff in Bahrain.
26 Jan 16 - Advance Australia Fair
Happy Australia Day to all our mates down under.
23 Jan 16 - NATO Submarine Rescue System 2016 MASSEVEX
I am grateful to MCDOA past-Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson for this update on the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS):
Just to keep you up to date on a few RNR activities.
Steve Brown, Commanding Officer of Northern Diving Group (NDG), headed up the 2016 MASSEVEX exercise in Faslane this week. The whole system was supported by the three nations of UK, France and Norway. It was great to see all the different elements such as divers, submariners, medics and JFD personnel working in harmony to deliver a very successful Submarine Rescue Exercise.
The Royal Navy Diving Reserves team consisted of seven personnel all who have now completed the necessary operational performances to be able to work towards manning up Reserves Diving Unit Two (RDU 2), part of the Reserves Diving Group which supports FDS in NSRS. We intend to have 12 Reservists on high readiness for the system in the near future. RNR Diving reservists will ensure a continuity of SQEP for the TUP system of NSRS.
May I send my thanks to Steve Brown for all the great work he has done during his Command of NDG and welcome and congratulate Tony Hampshire on his new command of NDG.
22 Jan 16 - Parliamentary Questions about Hunt class propulsion
From Hansard (see entry for 17 Dec 15 in News Archive 52):
Mrs Madeleine Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether the 2010 contract for £15 million with BAE Systems for the replacement of propulsion systems in the eight Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels is still to be completed by October 2016; and if he will make a statement. (Asked on 13 January 2016.)
Mr Philip Dunne: To date, work to replace the propulsion system on four of the Hunt Class mine countermeasures vessels has been completed with the fifth due for completion later this year. Due to changes applied to the ships upkeep programme combined with the need to address emerging engineering issues, work on the remaining three vessels is now scheduled for completion by late 2019. (Answered on 18 January 2016.)
Mrs Madeleine Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many Hunter (sic) Class mine countermeasures vessels have completed their re-engineering; when he expects all eight to be completed; and if he will make a statement. (Asked on 13 January 2016.)
Mr Philip Dunne: To date, work to replace the propulsion system on four of the Hunt Class mine countermeasures vessels has been completed with the fifth due for completion later this year. Due to changes applied to the ships upkeep programme combined with the need to address emerging engineering issues, work on the remaining three vessels is now scheduled for completion by late 2019. (Answered on 18 January 2016.)
21 Jan 16 - Award of LS&GC medals
Congratulations to LS(D) Alan 'Lofty' Lofthouse on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal.
20 Jan 16 - HMS Bangor personnel run Bahrain Half-Marathon
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of 21 members of the newly arrived ship's company of HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 2) in the Bahrain Half-Marathon on 8 January. They succeeded in raising £2,478.75 for their chosen charity, Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s). The first member of the team to cross the finishing line was AB(D) Charlie Dutton.
HMS Bangor's Bahrain Half-Marathon Team
(RN website photo)
HMS Bangor's JustGiving fundraising page can found here: HMS Bangor - MCM1 Crew 2's Bahrain Half Marathon page
19 Jan 16 - Diving Museum achieves more stellar success but needs your vote
Following its shortlisting as one of the Daily Telegraph's top six family-friendly museums in the UK last year (see entry for 12 Jul 15 in News Archive 51), the Diving Museum, run by the Historical Diving Society (HDS) in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay, has just achieved two more significant successes.
Firstly, MCDOA member Dr John Bevan, HDS Chairman and the driving force behind the museum's establishment, has been chosen by Gosport Borough Council as its nominee for VisitEngland's 'Tourism Superstar' of 2016, a national competition involving the Daily Mirror and social media. While John is not comfortable with the 'superstar' label because the museum is very much a team effort, he hopes that people will turn a blind eye to this aspect and think of this as a major publicity opportunity.
John Bevan outside the Diving Museum
John making his pitch in a video
Please click on this link and vote for John to help put the Diving Museum on the map:
Daily Mirror: Vote NOW for VisitEngland Tourism Superstar 2016
Secondly, Museum Officer Kevin Casey has managed to secure a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund as described in this press release:
A Victorian Gun Battery wins Heritage Lottery Fund support
The Historical Diving Society (HDS) has received £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards an exciting project, to assess the work and costs required to restore No 2 Battery, on Stokes Bay in Gosport. The work is planned to start late January and be completed by June.
The building is in a deteriorating condition so structural consultants with experience of ‘At Risk’ listed buildings will be engaged to produce a report on its condition and what is required to carry out full restoration. If restored, No 2 battery will need to be self-supporting, so cultural, heritage and marketing consultants will be engaged to help the HDS develop a plan to give the building a sustainable future use. It is hoped to develop it into the National Diving Museum, thus preserving Gosport’s and the countries’ rich diving heritage as well as preserving its historical importance as part of the defences of Portsmouth Harbour.
The HDS was formed 25 years ago and is an all-volunteer registered charity. It was founded to preserve all aspects of diving heritage for future generations. Gosport is an important part of that heritage, as John Deane the co-founder of the diving helmet lived in the town for many years and sold the first commercial diving helmet in the world to a local merchant. As No 2 Battery is in sight of where the Royal George and the Mary Rose both sank and John Deane having dived on both, it is an ideal location to house such a museum.
The Battery was built in 1861 as part of Palmerston’s Folly (a defensive system of forts to protect the Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth Harbour) and its preservation is important as it is the only remaining battery of 5 from the Stokes Bay lines.
Kevin Casey, the HDS Museum Officer said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident the project will help us establish a much better picture of the amount of work and funding needed to totally restore No 2 Battery back to its former glory.”
Kevin Casey (near left) taking a break with 'Yours Truly' and other museum
volunteers at Stokes Bay in March 2012
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk@heritagelottery.
For further information, please contact:
The Historical Diving Society
023 9252 0426
17 Jan 16 - Former CD's novel to be filmed
'Oscar King' is the nom de plume of a former Royal Navy clearance diver. He has drawn my attention to his first novel: Persian Roulette:
"After a successful and varied career in the British Special Forces and service with the American military and government, Oscar King now works in the financial sector in London and the Middle East. When not working or adventuring, King writes. Having previously written military non-fiction for Bene Factum, he has now successfully turned his hand to fiction. Persian Roulette is the first of three novels in the Harry Linley series."
This is a synopsis of Oscar's 337-page paperback, also available in digital format for Kindle:
"In the midst of the global financial downturn, listless financier and ex-special forces officer Harry Linley accepts the seemingly innocent task of spending a week house-sitting for a friend. By the end of the first night, however, two men are dead on the kitchen floor. A handful of disparate international strangers find themselves subsequently entangled in a web of deceit, sex and murder amongst the glittering towers of Dubai, with a seemingly unstoppable chain of miscommunication threatening to bring them all to ruin. At the heart of all this chaos: a beautiful, white Persian cat. This hilarious, mile-a-minute thriller provides a sharp-eyed satire of our globalised world, in which those who shout loudest, shoot fastest and spend most always try to come out on top."
'Oscar' informs me that his novel has now been signed for filming and he is working on the screenplay of his previous book, a non-fiction work published under a different name. He has another novel coming out in the next few weeks.
14 Jan 16 - MCDOA Northern Dinner 3 March 2016
I am grateful to MCDOA member Tim 'Castro' Castrinoyannakis (OIC Northern Diving Unit Two (NDU2)) for this announcement:
"Sirs, Fellow Divers, Friends & Guests,
The 2016 Northern MCDOA dinner will take place in the Wardroom, HMS Neptune on Thursday 3 March, celebrating the Golden Anniversary of the formation of the MCD Branch on 25 February 1966 and its first long course. The Mess President and your host for the evening will be Cdr Tim Davey RN MCM1 Squadron Commander, we are hoping to be announcing/confirming our guest of honour over the next few days.
Dinner will be £30 per head for members and £35 per head for non members which will include all food and drinks for the evening. Payments can be made by cheque or Direct Debit (in which case email me separately). The night is sure to entail fine cuisine, ample grog, live music and some awful singing and shenanigans. Accommodation within the Wardroom is very tight at the moment due to the continuous but necessary refurbishment, however it is looking promising and Lt Cdr Nathan Isaacs is hard on the case. Failing that, some more austere arrangements (camper beds etc) can be made.
I would also like to thank the Association which has approved some funding towards our entertainment and as such our costs are kept as low as possible. I encourage those of you who are not members to consider the benefits of joining and of other upcoming events.
If numbers and interest are suitable, I will be also endeavour to arrange a tour of NDGs facilities followed by unofficial drinking with some of our keen divers and salty Senior Rates prior to the dinner. Please let us know if you would be interested.
Please find attached proforma for the evening and let me, or Nathan know as soon as possible if you can attend and if you need accommodation so we can manage expectations and numbers.
Undoubtedly I will have missed a number of members and friends outside of the branch; please pass this on as you see fit outside of the dist list.
13 Jan 16 - SDU1 recovers artillery shell in Efford
MCDOA Honorary Secretary Peter Davis (OIC SDU1) and
two other members of the unit with the recovered shell
10 Jan 16 - SDU2 deals with hand grenade found in Isle of Wight garden
The Isle of Wight County Press Online website contains this article describing the recovery by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of a corroded wartime hand grenade discovered in the garden of a house at Newport on the Isle of Wight.
9 Jan 16 - Vacancy for Full Time Reserve Service Position (Updated 8 Jan 2016)
The latest Vacancies for Full Time Reserve Service Positions contain this job specification:
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 Commander's 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 th e 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 tha t 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) manager.
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 redeployment 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. Basic pay will be between £ 49,423.98 and £59,191.32 per annum depending on increment level. Recruitment and retention payments are not always available to Reservists on FTRS. Details are available in the relevant JSP which you should check before accepting any commitment. FTRS personnel are eligible for annual leave and public holidays in accordance with JSP 760.
Allowances. FTRS(FC) provides a full allowance package; details of all allowances for FTRS are available in the relevant JSPs which you should check before accepting any commitment.
8 Jan 16 - Dates for the diary
Thursday 14 January 2016
Capt William Alexander CEng FIET FIMechE RN
(18 May 1936 - 30 Dec 2015)
Funeral of Capt Bill Alexander RN, popular Commander of HMS Vernon from 1979 to 1981, who died in hospital on 30 December after a short illness. The service will start at 1030 at St Thomas Anglican Cathedral, Old High Street, Portsmouth and be followed by a reception in the Royal Naval & Royal Albert Yacht Club, Pembroke Road, Portsmouth. No flowers please but donations, if desired, to the British Lung Foundation via this page at JustGiving.
Bill Alexander was 16 when he joined the Royal Navy at BRNC Dartmouth in 1961 and spent 39 years as a Weapons Engineering officer. After leaving the RN in 1990, he spent eight years working for British Aerospace. Between January 2000 and April 2014, he was a Board Trustee of the RN Museum and was a council member during the formation of the National Museum which was formed by bringing the RN Museum together with the Fleet Air Arm Museum, the Royal Marines Museum and the Submarine Museum. As the grandfather of six children, he became a Volunteer Reading Helper at Southsea Infants School in 2000 and a governor in 2003 with specific responsibility for Health & Safety. He was also a member of the Resources Committee.
Thursday 3 March 2016
MCDOA Northern Dinner in the wardroom of HMS Neptune at Faslane. Presided over by Tim Davey (MCM1), this will celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the formation of the MCD Branch on 25 February 1966 and its first long course. The dinner is open to all officers within HMS Neptune but is predominantly aimed at serving MCDs, MW Officers, CD and MW Warrant Officers and all members of MCMV Wardrooms. Food, wine and entertainment are still under review but the cost should be no more than £30 per head. This event is being organised by Tim 'Castro' Castrinoyannakis (OIC of Northern Diving Group's (NDG) Unit 2 (NDU2)) and he hopes to arrange a tour (maybe to include an MCMV) and pre-dinner drinks in NDG for those interested. Further details and a booking form should be available next week. In the interim, Steve Brown (CO NDG), Nathan Isaacs (FOST MPV) and Castro will be happy to answer any questions posed via this email address.
Friday 11 to Sunday 13 March 2016
Minewarfare Association (MWA) Annual Reunion weekend at the Hotel Rembrandt in Weymouth. Special concessionary accomodation rate available until the end of January. Booking details via the events page on the MWA website and the MWA's Facebook page.
Saturday 30 April 2016
MCDOA coach to Army Navy rugby match at Twickenham. If successful, this will become an annual event.
Cheques are to be made payable to “MCDOA” and sent to Mark Shaw, our Honorary Secretary, at:
Sec - MCDOA
Saturday 14 May 2016
Evening reunion in Portsmouth to mark the 25th Anniversary of the 1991 Gulf War (Operation GRANBY/DESERT STORM - see here for some relevant Minewarfare & Diving dits). This event is being organised by MCDOA former Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson (AB(Diver) HMS HURWORTH 1991). Contact him via this email adddress if interested in attending or contact him or me via Facebook to be added to the relevant 'Event' page.
Details of these and other events of interest are available on the website's Forthcoming Events page.
7 Jan 16 - Royal Navy Diving Heritage: The Med Fleet CD Team on Manoel Island, Malta in 1968
I am grateful to Derek Shea, son of the late ex-CD David Shea, for this email and images of Manoel Island, the base of the Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team in Malta:
Attached are a couple of MFCDT pictures from 1968/9. I'm afraid I can't put many names to the faces other than in the first attached team pic: Dave Shea third from left in back row, Mick Curtin seventh from left in back row and John Dadd second from left in front row.
Back row: LEP (Locally Employed Personnel), LEP, Dave Shea, Errol Flynn, Robbie Roberts,
Ken Bryant (ships diver), Mick Curtin, LEP, LEP.
Front row: LEP, John Dadd, Alf Slingsby, John Parry, Dave Bartlett, Darky Newman,
Harry Neve, Dudley North
In the second team pic the only other name I can add is Alf Slingsby far right in the back row.
I've also attached a few photographs of the base from my recent visit in May last year.
Above and below: Manoel Island in May 2015
I've got loads more including interiors. Let me know if anyone is interested in seeing them. I won't attach too many for now.
Please feel free to publish these pictures to the site if you feel they may be of interest to your members. Perhaps they might be able to put a few more names to faces.
This article by the late MCDOA member Cdr John Parry OBE (see entry for 22 Nov 06 in News Archive 16), OIC of the Med Fleet CD Team at the time, was published in the Summer 1968 issue (Vol 15 No 2) of the RN Diving Magazine. It is contemporaneous with the photos of the MFCDT provided by Derek:
News from the Med
Having taken over from John Grattan in March, I feel that it is time our readers were brought up to date on the Malta Clearance Diving Team, and also, to let you know what the team has been up to during the past few months.
Contrary to what many people think, the team is still based at Manoel Island, and in recent months the work load has increased tremendously. As a result, the team have done a great deal of travelling and undertaken a variety of diving jobs. We spend a good deal of time away from Malta on NATO exercises and, so far this year, have been to Italy and Crete with Greece and Turkey yet to come.
Other diving tasks have taken members of the team to Cyprus and Tobruk. In Malta itself, the E.O.D. task is far from finished. Very rarely does a day pass when our searching does not produce some form of unexploded ordnance. Amongst items found last month were a 4,000 lb German 'Satan' and two German buoyant mines: a GZ and a GT.
Another task that takes up much of our time and effort is the removal of shells, depth charges and the like from the wrecks in Grand Harbour. At present, we are working on the wrecks of two destroyers near the harbour entrance and, although work on one is nearly finished, the other will keep us busy for some time.
In the sporting field, we have decided that we shall compete at football and volleyball. Our first football match was played last week against one of the minesweepers and we ran out winners by 4-1. Volleyball, we have tended to play amongst ourselves, but as we have constructed our own pitch next to the store, there is ample opportunity to play.
It is generally well-known that the future composition of the team is under review but, whatever decision is taken on this issue, there remains plenty of work to do in Malta and we hope that it will continue to be complemented as a Fleet Team.
The present team is as follows:
Lt Cdr Parry
PO CD1 Slingsby
PO CD1 Newman
PO CD2 Neave
PO CD2 North
PO CD2 Dadd
LS CD2 Shea
LS CD2 Flynn
AB CD2 Curtin
AB CD2 Roberts
AB ShD Bryant
Among other places on the website, articles and images featuring Manoel Island can be found in the entries for:
29 Nov 05 in News Archive 12
14 Dec 07 in News Archive 20
4 Jun 08 in News Archive 22
12 Sep 09 in News Archive 27
31 Mar 10 in News Archive 29
23 Nov 10 in News Archive 32
23 Jan 13 in News Archive 41
7 Jul 13 in News Archive 43
Also see this You Tube clip from the Rank series 'A look at Life' which was filmed in 1969 during Derek's dad's time in the MFCDT. The late MCDOA member John Parry OBE (father of Rear Admiral Chris Parry CBE), Tug Wilson and John Dadd BEM also feature in the clip.
Members of the MFCDT diving in Grand Harbour, Malta
John Dadd tending the divers
John Parry (the Boss) preparing to dive
From MCDOA member Tony Rose OBE:
I trust you are well. Happy new Year!
A few names for you on the first Team photo:
Back Row: 4th from left is Erroll Flynn.
Front Row: POME ? then John Dadd, Alf Slingsby, John Parry, Dave Bartlett, Darkie Newman, Harry Neve, Dudley North.
On the final pic, the cleaner looking building on the left was the Shallow Water Diving School where I qualified in early 1957 as a SWD (Shark Wrestler [actually Shallow Water Diver]) with UBA [Underwater Breathing Apparatus] on 1.5 lpm O2 when George Wookey was the OIC. I have forgotten the name of my Instructor who was a CPO D1. I was serving in HMS DIANA (Daring Class Destroyer) at the time as a Junior Seaman and was in the Ship's Diving Team having qualified prior to carrying out "Gun Running" Patrols off Cyprus.
Lt Cdr Phil White [later Cdr Philip Balink-White] was the Boss of the MFCDT and CPO Brian Fawcett was the Team Chief. That's where I first met characters like Yorky Wilkinson, Dave Audoir, Charlie Chapman, Jim Cook, Nobby Clarke etc - Happy Days! I believe that pyramid shape at the back was part of the perimeter wall of HMS PHOENECIA.
Take care Rob. Keep up the good work.
From MCDOA member David Bartlett MBE:
Many thanks for your emails ref Malta. My initial reply has been covered by the many interesting replies that you have received but if you need any more info on the names, please let me know.
To follow on from John Parry's article; I took over from John in early 1969 and we eventually moved to St Angelo with a reduced team to carry out the same tasks as highlighted in John’s article (except for NATO work). One operation that stands out was when a German buoyant mine was discovered by a Maltese yachtsman trying to free his anchor in a creek close to St Angelo. It was in a high state of erosion and it was decided to lift it (lifting bag) and tow it out clear of the island. This was highlighted on Malta TV and radio (as all serious EOD work was) and an area around the creek was evacuated. The tow was successfully completed and we were accompanied by a flotilla of small boats preparing to gather all the fish that came to the surface after the explosion.
I was relieved by Bill Grady in August 1970. He had the unfortunate task of running the organisation down as Don Mintoff, the President of Malta at that time, decided that he did not want the British troops on the island.
List of ordnance dealt with 1968-1970:
Bombs,mines and other un-exploded missiles: 300
Ordnance from sunken wrecks: 3,000
Land ordnance: 300
Dorothy and I visited Malta in the 1990s and visited Manoel Island. We were entertained by the Maltese Army Diving Unit who had set up their HQ in the premises we once occupied. Not very good viewing now.
I would like to wish all the Divers and Staff who were present in Malta during that time a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year.
From former WO(D) John Dadd BEM:
John Parry listed the members of the 1968 MCDT in his article. This is to put names to faces in case you don't recognise any of them.
The picture has some locally employed personnel (LEP) on it.
FRONT ROW from left to right: LEP, John Dadd, Alf Slingsby, John Parry, Dave Bartlett, Darky Newman, Harry Neve, Dudley North.
BACK ROW from left to right: LEP, LEP, Dave Shea, Errol Flynn, Robbie Roberts, Ken Bryant (ships diver) Mick Curtin, LEP, LEP.
Our biggest job during my time in the team was the removal of ordnance from the wreck of HMS Jersey, loaded with shells, torpedoes and depth charges. She was in Malta as part of Force K, a newly formed destroyer flotilla. The flotilla had been at sea trying to intercept a supply convoy on passage to Tripoli from Augusta and a return convoy to Italy. When entering Malta with other ships with Force K after a fruitless search, she detonated a mine laid in the entrance of Grand Harbour by aircraft the previous night. HMS Kelly, Kelvin and Jackal had entered harbour before her and were marooned inside for some days before the wreck could be cleared. She was then blown apart by depth charges in an attempt to give a decent depth of water in the main channel.
We first became aware of her after sighting three Maltese divers in a daihso continually diving in the same spot, which roused our curiosity. Alf Slingsby decided to investigate what was attracting their interest, as they were obviously 'brassing", and discovered a smashed destroyer full of unexploded ordnance which would need clearing.
The team then surveyed the wreck and John Grattan, the boss at the time, submitted his report to Flag Officer Malta and the team were tasked to clear the ship of all ordnance. Tricky job being in the main shipping channel, however, we toiled for months on end under the hot Mediterranean sun (someone had to do it!) on a challenging, interesting and rewarding job.
From former CPO(D) Alf Slingsby BEM:
Just looked at the MCDOA site. Malta holds a lot of memories for me and it was great to see so many familar faces.
Most of the wreck removal was done with John Grattan as Boss 1 and Mike Stewart as Boss 2. I am still in contact with John Grattan who has not been keeping too well.
Will look in my photo collection to see what I have.
From former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM:
Please excuse the delay but I have been very busy consoling many old divers' ghosts that were resurrected by the publication of the recent photos of the old RN Diving Section at Manoel Island. They really brought back a mass of great memories from what was now a long time ago (1958-61) and, probably without knowing it at the time, the best diving years of my life.
I was very saddened to see what was left of this pristine hub of activity where so much unexploded ordnance from WW2 was dealt with throughout the islands of Malta. Yes, Malta took a severe punishment but that's how she got the George Cross added to her name!
Looking at the team photos I can only recognise the following from team photo no 1: Rear row 4th from LHS is AB Errol Flynn (deceased) with whom I served in HMS Dingley in 1962. Front Row 2nd from left John Dadd, Alf Slingsby (CD1), John Parry (Boss), Dave Bartlett 2/ic, my old 1955 CD3 classmate Frank Newman (CD1), then comes Harry Neave (now resident Victoria, Oz) and RHS is Dudley North.
My apologies to Derek Shea for not recognising his father Dave. Although we shared the building with the Portsmouth BMD team during my time in the Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit, our jobs also kept us very much apart.
As I said in a previous email, I had vague recollections that the team that attended the German crash site had come from the Portsmouth B&MD team but I cannot add anything further.
Dave L (Mona)
From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:
I recognise a few faces but the only ones I can put a name to are John Parry in the centre and PO Newman, who was in the FECDT 1960-62, immediately on John’s right in one picture and second on left in the other. However it was sad to see Manoel Island in such a state of disrepair.
I attach a couple of photos I took a few years ago when it was being used by the Malta Defence Force divers.
Manoel Island in 2008
From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:
My first impression is the extraordinary amount of Petty Officers in one team. I recognise most of the front row in the first picture starting with John Dadd second from left followed by Alf Slingsby, John Parry, David Bartlett, Darky Newman and Harry Neave. In the second picture all the above Petty Officers have gone leaving only Darky Newman, to the left of John Parry, as Senior team leader.
Hope this might help to fill in some blanks.
From MCDOA member Dan Nicholson:
About the time I joined the branch. Apart from knowing JP [John Parry] and John Grattan well, I have no background on any of the sailors. And, I never visited Malta!
6 Jan 16 - HMS Middleton liaises with Djibouti Navy and Coast Guard
HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) departed Portsmouth for the Gulf on 9 November (see entry for 9 Nov 15 in News Archive 52) and called into Gibraltar on 14 November (see second entry for 18 Nov 15 in News Archive 52). The Portsmouth News website contains this article reporting that she was recently in Djibouti at the mouth of the Red Sea where members of her ship's company shared their seafaring knowledge with their local counterparts.
Sub Lt Adam Beesley chatting through the art of coastal navigation
(Portsmouth News website photo)
Postscript: On 7 January, the Royal Navy website published this article covering the same story but with more images.
5 Jan 16 - Award of LS&GC medals
Congratulations to WO(D) John 'YoYo' Ravenhall on being gazetted for the award of the clasp to the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal and to CPO(MW) Sean Slee and PO(MW) David 'Foggy' Foggin on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal.
4 Jan 16
Royal Navy Diving Heritage: Cold War salvage of Soviet Yak-28 in Lake Haval, Berlin (continued)
I am grateful to Derek Shea, son of the late ex-CD David Shea, for this email (see second entry for 2 Dec 15 in News Archive 52):
More than happy for you to use any or all of my e-mail exchanges with Bert in order to assist with your article. Obviously I can't add anything to the narrative other than to confirm that my late father David Shea was definitely one of the RN team involved and is the nearest rating unpacking the kit in Bert's photograph. I can also confirm that he was with the Portsmouth Bomb and Mine Disposal Team at the time.
From the MCDOA site it looks as though PO White was the OIC. It would be great to identify the remaining members of the team and maybe uncover some more photographs. As I've said in my previous e-mails with Bert, I have researched the incident thoroughly and read everything I could find including the documents at the National Archive. I was always a bit disappointed that there was very little mention of the Navy's involvement.
The recent contact with Bert has been really wonderful. He has provided me with more details of the Navy's involvement and of course the photograph for which I am really grateful, thanks Bert. I look forward to reading the article in due course.
On a different note Rob, I was in Malta in May last year and managed to obtain access to the old MFCDT / RN Diving School site on Manoel Island. Dad was in the MFCDT from 1967-69. I myself was born in the David Bruce RN Hospital, Mtarfa in 1968. I've got a set photographs of the base which you are more than welcome to publish on the site if they are of interest to your members. I also have MFCDT pictures on Manoel Island from 1967 to 1968 as well as pictures of the hospital.
Many thanks for the contact.
Kindest Regards and Happy New Year,
I am still striving to acquire the relevant photos from Derek or Bert and will publish them when received.
From Derek Shea:
Attached are the photographs that Bert kindly sent me. My dad, Dave, is the nearest rating unpacking the gear. You can see the face mask and rebreather of the CDBA set in the foreground.
I also found this You Tube clip from the Rank series 'A look at Life' which was filmed in 1969 during my dad's time in the MFCDT. Tug Wilson and John Dadd are also in the clip. I'll forward the Malta photographs in due course,
SDU2 called to deal with hand grenade on Isle of Wight
The IOW Radio website contains this article describing a call-out for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to inspect a hand grenade recovered by police from the garden of a property in Newport on the Isle of Wight.
1 Jan 16 - Arrangements for the funeral of former FCPO(D) Robert 'Dutchy' Holland
A memorial service will be held for Dutchy at 1500 on Tuesday 5 January at the Magnolia Funeral Home, 811 South Magnolia, Magnolia, Texas 77355.