30 Sep 16 - Dave Stanbury completes appointment as SNMCMG2 Principal Staff Officer
MCDOA member Dave Stanbury reports that Exercise OLIVES NOIRES 2016 has ended off Toulon and he has now completed his year-long tour as the Principal Staff Officer (Chief of Staff - old-style SOO) for Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2). He will soon be returning to the UK and a fresh challenge.
Staff and ships' officers of SNMCMG2 with Dave Stanbury second right
It's "Goodbye" to all this:
Standing NATO MCM Group 2 at sea
29 Sep 16 - Wartime bomb closes Gunwharf Quays
The BBC News website contains this article, the Guardian website this article and the Portsmouth News website this article (including video) describing how the discovery of a wartime German 500 kg bomb during dredging operations in Portsmouth harbour has forced the closure of Gunwharf Quays, previously the site of HMS Vernon, from 2300 tonight.
Members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) are expected to tow the bomb into open waters 1.5 miles east of the Isle of Wight around midnight to perform a controlled explosion in the early daylight hours of tomorrow.
Postscript: Apparently, the bomb was detonated at 0700 the following morning (Friday 30 Sep) but there was no plume because the bomb deflagrated instead of high-ordering.
MCDOA member Del McKnight (CO FDS) being interviewed on BBC TV
28 Sep 16 - Silver Sunday at the Diving Museum
SILVER SUNDAY - 2nd OCTOBER
We have consulted the oracle and the oracle says that we are going to see sunshine on Silver Sunday! What better way to enjoy it than a stroll along Stokes Bay and a free cuppa and cake at The Diving Museum for all our senior visitors. We are open from 11am to 4pm (best of the sunshine hours according to the oracle) and we would love to see you there. Do drop in.
This is the perfect opportunity to see ancient exhibits like John Dadd, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, Mike O'Meara and Les Rutherford and compare notes with them about diving gear they used during the last century.
27 Sep 16 - Dedication of Divers' Memorial Garden on Horsea Island
I am grateful to WO1(D) Steve Vernon, Chairman of the Royal Navy Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA), for this announcement and invitation:
Please accept my apologies for leaving this until the last minute but we were unsure if the project would be finished in time.
Over the last few months we have been building a divers' memorial garden at Horsea. We have been working to try and get it dedicated the same day as our AGM to avoid travel issues for people.
The dedication will commence at 1130 on Friday 7th Oct and will last approximately 30-40 mins then nibbles in our bar.
Can you be so kind as to advertise all are welcome. I will need the names of all those attending to gain access to Horsea so can I ask that anyone wishing to attend give their names to you and you pass to me no later than Wednesday 5th Oct.
Hope you can make it.
Anyone wishing to attend is requested to advise me via my Webmaster email address by Tuesday 4 October so I can pass Steve your name.
26 Sep 16 - ARCIMS to be trialled in UNMANNED WARRIOR
The Northrop Grumman Corporation website contains this article announcing that its unmanned mine hunting capability will be demonstrated during the Royal Navy`s forthcoming Exercise UNMANNED WARRIOR 2016:
"Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) will be participating in the Royal Navy's Unmanned Warrior exercise where it will demonstrate its unmanned mine hunting capability. The unmanned mine hunting element of Unmanned Warrior will feature Northrop Grumman's AQS-24B towed mine hunting sensor operated from an Atlas Elektronik UK ARCIMS Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV). The AQS-24B, which is a towed mine hunting sensor used by the US Navy, features the world's only high speed synthetic aperture sonar for mine detection, localisation and classification, and an optical laser line scan sensor for mine identification. The ARCIMS USV is a surface craft 11 metres long that will be operated via remote control while towing the AQS-24B through a simulated mine field..."
ARCIMS is the ATLAS Remote Combined Influence Minesweeping System that can also incorporate remote minehunting systems. It utilises the UK’s Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed (MAST), an unmanned surface vessel (USV) based on the innovative Bladerunner hull shape. This is operated by the RN's Portsmouth-based Maritime Autonomous System Trials Team (MASTT) (see entry for 16 Apr 14 in News Archive 46).
RN ARCIMS Trials Vessel 'Hazard' at speed in the Solent
(Royal Navy photo)
Thales’ Halcyon Unmanned Surface Vehicle, equipped with the company’s Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar, will take part in a number of mine hunting operations, designed to demonstrate the benefits of using autonomous systems in hostile environments, not least in keeping human crews out of harm’s way.
Thales Halcyon Unmanned Surface Vehicle equipped with the Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar
The Engineer: Battle stations: Autonomous systems readied for Unmanned Warrior exercise
Although UNMANNED WARRIOR 2016 is not planned to take place until next month (9 to 21 October), a two-week mission involving ten marine robots has already begun off the coast of northwest Scotland. Seven submarine gliders, including the ACSA SeaExplorer underwater glider, and three surface Wave Gliders will collect environmental data, feeding it back to the Royal Navy in real time. When UNMANNED WARRIOR has finished, the data will be made available to the wider scientific community:
ACSA SeaExplorer Underwater Glider
(Project Leader Yann Lepage)
The Engineer: UK’s largest ever marine robot fleet takes to the seas
25 Sep 16 - News from HMS Grimsby
Lt Cdr Will Blackett on board HMS Grimsby
(RN website photo)
I am grateful to Lt Cdr Will Blackett, Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6), for this update received via the Ton Class Association ((TCA). I write a column titled 'MCMV News' for the Associaton's bi-monthly newsletter 'Ton Talk'.
"I am delighted to introduce myself as the new Commanding Officer of your affiliated Ship, HMS GRIMSBY. You will be used to the fact by now that the RN operating model for Mine Countermeasures Vessels (MCMVs) involves regularly swapping crews across the Squadron; this means that we can maximise the time our Arabian Gulf units spend on task because we can move people to / from the Ship rather than needing to bring the whole Ship home every six months. I am in Command of Crew 6; Crew 5 under Lt Cdr Neil Griffiths have now departed and have now taken over HMS PENZANCE in the Gulf.
I am pleased to say that we will remain on board GRIMSBY for about a year - our rotation to the Middle East is not until June next year. In the meantime we have a busy programme ahead of us; for the last few weeks we have been operating locally to Faslane in order to conduct post maintenance trials and training (including a package of Operational Sea Training). Recently we took part in the Bournemouth Air Festival as part of a small taskgroup anchored off the beach and our most recent commitment was as Guard Ship to the Blyth Tall Ships Regatta. We are now heading out to the Baltic Sea to join the First Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group (SNMCMG1). We will remain part of the NATO task group for four months, operating mostly within the Baltic, before returning to the UK for Christmas. During our time in the Baltic we can expect to be tasked to clear historic ordnance as well as routine NATO reassurance visits to some of the Eastern Baltic nations. Next year we will operate mainly in UK coastal waters as we prepare for Gulf operations. We will hand the Ship over to Crew 3 in June when GRIMSBY will commence an in depth refit period in Rosyth.
All being well I aim to host an affiliates' day onboard the Ship in the early part of next year; it currently looks as though February works best in terms of programming. I will write again during the latter part of the Baltic Deployment and aim to declare a date for you to save.
In the meantime you can keep an eye on us via our page on the Royal Navy website, and if you wish to get in touch I would be delighted to hear from you - my postal address and email address are both at the top of the page.
W P Blackett"
Will Blacket underwent sea training in several MCMVs and was the Navigating Officer of HMS Hurworth 2007/8. As the PWO(A) of HMS Daring where he had previously served as OOW1 and Navigating Officer, he played a leading role in the provision of disaster relief and humanitarian aid to Philippine islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.
Will Blackett as the PWO(A) of HMS Daring in the Philippines in November 2013
(RN website photo)
24 Sep 16 - Roger Readwin appointed RNRU's new Director of Rugby
Capt Roger Readwin RN
Congratulations to MCDOA member Roger Readwin on being selected as the Royal Navy Rugby Union's new Director of Rugby as announced in this article on the RNRU website. Roger, the previous CO of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), was promoted Captain on 21 June this year and appointed Captain Mine Warfare and Patrol Vessels, Diving and Fishery Protection (Capt MFP).
"...In my opinion, Navy Rugby underpins the heartbeat of the
fighting spirit of our Naval Service – it develops team work like no
other sport, and has a tangible impact straight back into the
fighting ethos of our Royal Navy Warships and Royal Marine
Commandos. We must also create memories for our players, which they
will all look back on in the years to come, with pride and
23 Sep 16 - Simon Kelly assumes Command of HMS Westminster
NEW CO TAKES COMMAND
COMMANDER Simon Kelly today took command of HMS Westminster, the Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate.
In a short ceremony, Cdr Kelly assumed Command from Lieutenant Commander Chris L’Amie, the Senior Naval Officer, who has led HMS Westminster through her maintenance period. Lt Cdr L’Amie remains with the Ship as the Executive Officer and Cdr Kelly’s Second in Command.
Simon Kelly assuming Command of HMS Westminster
from Lt Cdr Chris L’Amie
(Royal Navy photo)
The ceremony took place on the decks of HMS VICTORY, in her day at the cutting edge of warship design. Two and a half centuries later, HMS Westminster follows in similar footsteps, now recovering from an extensive maintenance period, that has seen the installation of a brand new missile system, an upgraded combat computer and the updated search radar. The ship is now the Royal Navy’s most advanced submarine hunter.
On assuming Command, Cdr Kelly recognised the progress the Ship had made during the course of the maintenance period, “The impressive progress made so far in preparing HMS Westminster to return to sea is testament to the combined efforts of the Ship’s Company and BAE, our industrial partner. More work lays ahead, but Westminster is in an excellent position to return to the Fleet next year as the Royal Navy’s most capable frigate”.
Having already commanded both Sandown and Hunt class ships, Cdr Kelly is familiar with the opportunities that lay ahead for the Ship, “As a submarine hunting specialist, Westminster will undertake a period of sea trials and training to bring the Ship, the combat system and the crew together as an effective fighting unit. Once trained, we look forward to deploying to UK territorial waters and into the North Sea to deter any submarine threat. This is the area that Ship was designed to operate in and in which our previous namesake has won battle honours”.
I am sure that all members of our community will join me in congratulating Simon and wishing him the best of good fortune in his new appointment.
Postscript: On 13 October 2016, the Royal Navy website published this article describing HMS Westmister's preparation for operations :
22 Sep 16 - A meeting with the son of Lt Cdr William 'Bill' Bailey CBE DSC GM* RN
Since the George Medal (GM) was instituted by King George VI on 24 September 1940 in recognition of "acts of great bravery", approximatelty 2,200 have been awarded. However, only 20 or so bars to the GM have been awarded. Naval recipients have included:
AB William Henry Bevan GM* for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Assisted Sub Lt Wright deal with mine suspended over stage of London Palladium Theatre 11 May 1941.
Sub Lt (later Lt) John Bridge GC GM* RNVR for great gallantry and devotion to duty. Conducted bomb disposal work at Graving Docks, Falmouth, Cornwall on 17 May 41. Presented at same time as GC while he was a Temporary Lt RNVR assigned as Bomb Safety Officer at Plymouth.
Lt William 'Bill' Bailey DSC GM* RNVR for exceptional gallantry, skill and great devotion to duty, often in close proximity to the enemy, during mine-searching and clearance operations in the ports of Normandy and the Low Countries.
Lt (later Lt Cdr) Geoffrey John Cliff OBE GM* RANVR for mine disposal Belfast July 1942.
Lt George Douglas Cook GM* RCNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Mine disposal Haifa 26 July 1941.
Lt Bertram Henry Walter Fenwick GM* RNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Assisted Lt Cdr Wadsley conduct first rendering safe and recovery of a photo-electric cell booby-trapped G Type mine in Clyde area. Also rendered safe mine in third floor office of building adjacent to main telephone exchange in Liverpool 13 March 1941. Had to climb ladder and enter via window.
Sub Lt Frederick Ronald Bertram Fortt GM* RNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Mine disposal Nuneaton May 1941.
Cdr James Leslie Harries GM* RCNVR for exceptional gallantry, skill and great devotion to duty, often in close proximity to the enemy, during mine-searching and clearance operations in the ports of Normandy and the Low Countries.
Lt Denis James Patrick O'Hagan GM* RCNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Mine disposal Nuneaton May 1941.
Lt Howard Dudley Reid GM* RANVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Mine disposal Glasgow August 1941.
Lt Cyril Rowlands GM* RNVR for great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Bomb disposal Malta April 1942.
Lt George Henry Olaf Rundle GM* RCNR for mine disposal July 1942.
Lt Hugh Randall Syme GC GM* RANVR for the disposal of ten mines, including one that exploded when turned, at Primrose Hill, St John's Wood, London on 20 April 1941.
Lt Herbert Edgar Wadsley GC GM* RNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Participated in bomb & mine disposal London February to May 1941.
Lt James Kerr Woodrow GM* RNVR for gallantry, skill and inspiring devotion to duty in disposing of damaged ammunition in the magazines of HMS Thane Jan/Feb 1945 after she had been torpedoed. Lt Cdr Woodrow handled the first batch of damaged ammunition by himself in order to give confidence to his party.
Lt Edward Dutton Woolley GM* RNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Dealt with mine on third storey of flour mill in London's docklands October 1940 with AB Pearson. Fuze clock re-started twice but mine was rendered safe. Later conducted bomb & mine disposal in Malta.
Commissioned Boatswain Lord Joseph Henry Herbert Sheldon GM RN was a near miss. He assisted Lt Cyril Rowlands with bomb & mine disposal in Malta and was recommended for a bar to his GM but was killed and awarded a MID (Mention in Despatches) instead as the GM could not be awarded posthumously until 1977.
One of the most illustrious recipients of the GM and Bar was the late Lt William 'Bill' Bailey DSC GM* RNVR.
Lt William 'Bill' Bailey DSC GM* RNVR
I accompanied MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS) and founder of its diving museum, at a meeting with Bill Bailey's son Andrew in Southampton today. Andrew was visiting from his home in Portugal and had arrived on the train from London. We convened in the coffee bar across the road from the station. This was the first time I had seen Andrew since a 70th anniversary commemorative event I helped organise with Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN's son David and the late Noel Cashford MBE on board HMS Belfast in 2009 (see entry for 27 Nov 09 in News Archive 28).
Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) with John Bevan and Bill Bailey's son Andrew
Andrew wrote A Wartime Tribute to his father which can be found in the website's Dit Box. Before I dropped him off at the Boat Show, he passed over documents and photos featuring his father, some of which I hope to publish in due course. He also passed John Bevan his father's medals which will be exhibited in the Diving Museum at Stokes Bay along with those of his wartime comrades in Gibraltar, Cdr Buster 'Lionel' Crabb OBE GM RNVR and Stoker First Class Sydney Knowles BEM. Andrew also inscribed bound copies of his tribute to his father which he presented to John and me.
Left: Andrew Bailey with his father's medals
Right: Andrew Bailey inscribing a copy of his biography of his father
Medals of the late Lt William 'Bill' Bailey DSC GM* RNVR
Andrew also passed over the Commando dagger his father wore on mine clearance operations against the Italian frogmen at Gibraltar. The Fairbairn-Sykes (Second Pattern) Commando fighting knife issued between Aug 1941 and Oct 1943 will be displayed in the diving museum together with his medals.
Left: The Commando dagger worn by Bill Bailey on underwater operations
Right: Andrew Bailey's 'Wartime Tribute' to his father
Like most of the individuals listed above, Bill Bailey was trained at HMS Vernon and will be among the personnel celebrated by the Vernon Monument at Gunwharf Quays which now occupies the site in Portsmouth.
Postscript: The Bill Bailey memorabilia loaned by his son Andrew has been incorporated in the display at the Diving Museum featuring Lionel 'Buster' Crabb and Sydney Knowles, his wartime colleagues in Gibraltar. I photographed it in situ on Saturday 24 September.
Crabb, Bailey & Knowles display at the HDS Diving Museum at Stokes Bay
20 Sep 16 - Gentlemen Who Lunch
The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole is still active although it has met at regular haunts in Emsworth of late. However, today's weekly gathering was spent further afield at the Horse & Groom in East Ashling, West Sussex. The trio was joined by Hoole's friendly next door neighbour Lez.
18 Sep 16 - Funeral of Lt Cdr Arthur John Futcher MBE RN
I am grateful to John's son Michael for this update following his father's funeral at St. Saviour's Anglican Church in Laidley, Queensland, Australia on Friday 16 September (see entry for 8 Sep 16):
"Apologies for the delay. Dad had his send-off on Friday which went very well indeed. It was a good turnout at the church, and the local Returned Services League (RSL) gave him a graveside guard of honour. A piper piped the pallbearers as they carried the white ensign-covered coffin to the grave. A very moving tribute indeed.
John's casket in the church
Left: John’s wife Kath and his two sons Tom (left) and Mike (right)
Right: Guard of Honour
I attach some notes taken partially from my eulogy for your information. Hopefully they will be of help.
Lieutenant Commander A J Futcher MBE MiD RN
John was born in 1928, the eighth of ten children. He had a poor but happy childhood growing up in the idyllic Hampshire countryside with his brothers, and stories of his boyhood adventures; stealing apples from the manor house, falling into ice ponds and burning hay ricks have passed into family legend.
In 1945, at the age of 17, John joined the Royal Navy. He was too young to see any action in World War II, and over the next few years he served out the first part of his apprenticeship in a variety of vessels including the last battleship ever built - HMS Vanguard - in which he served for the famous Royal Tour of South Africa in 1947. He also served in HMS Whitesand Bay, HMS Boxer and HMS Creole. As a young Leading Seaman, John was seeing the world and living the life, with it all in front of him. His quickness of mind and hard work allowed him to achieve steady promotion but his lack of a high-quality education was to stand against him getting to the front of the queue for training as an officer.
Then in 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea and the course of John’s life was to change irrevocably. At the outbreak of the Korean War John was serving in HMS Belfast in the Far East, and when General MacArthur called for volunteers to conduct raids behind enemy lines to destroy bridges, tunnels and so on, John volunteered immediately. He said he did this because he felt he could do a good job, and because he wanted to help his beleaguered comrades who were already struggling behind enemy lines. Little did he realise it at the time, but he was going to get a lot more than he bargained for before his part in the war was over.
On the 29th November 1950, John’s unit, 41 Commando, along with a substantial assault group was ordered north to reinforce a besieged US division pinned down in the tiny village of Hagaru-ri. No one had told his force, but the night before, the Chinese had allowed them to pass through. He awoke next morning to the news that they were surrounded by tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers and that the Chinese commander had vowed to annihilate every single one of them. It’s hard to fathom, but John recounts in his book this news was met with indifference more than fear by him and his friends as they were so confident in their abilities to handle any situation. What followed, however, was a nightmare.
The next morning John’s division was ordered to proceed as planned along a narrow road bounded by high mountains on both sides, filled with thousands of enemy soldiers. For about twelve hours John and his friends fought for their lives as the convoy proceeded at snail's pace through what became known as “Hell Fire Valley”. At one point one of John’s unit, a gentleman called “Sweeney” Todd, cried out “Futch! Futch! I’ve been hit." John had repeatedly to carry him to safety amidst intense enemy fire. It seems inconceivable how any of the unit could have survived, but a good few got through. John and “Sweeney” Todd were among them.
The days that followed stamped themselves indelibly into John’s psyche. The battles were intense and bloody, and the weather so cold you could neither dig a foxhole, nor eat your food without unfreezing it.
When he returned home, John was awarded a mention in dispatches for his bravery in the heat of battle, and as a result of a report from one of his commanding officers about his coolness and courage in the face of the enemy, he was recommended for a commission.
For the next few years John served in several naval ships and continued his officer training at a variety of on-shore training establishments, including HMS Hawke and the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, as he steadily moved up the ranks. They were fun times, and the serious side of the job was always balanced with a healthy dose of practical jokes and social activities of the liquid variety. Ships served in at this time included HMS Crispin.
By 1955 John had reached the rank of Sub Lieutenant and was serving in HMS Battleaxe stationed in Malta. One evening he was asked to go out on a blind date and found himself with a young WREN called Kathleen Geary. They hit it off immediately and marriage followed the next year. They didn’t waste any time, and almost nine months to the day after the wedding, his first son Tom was born.
After briefly flirting with the idea of joining the Fleet Air Arm, John decided to become a Clearance Diver, training at HMS Vernon, and serving in several ships including: HMS Tiree, HMS Dingley, HMS Shoulton and HMS Striker.
In 1964 John’s second son Mike was born and John, newly promoted to Lieutenant Commander, accepted the position of Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer for Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland. A more settled life ensued and the family was able to stay put in Scotland for several years as John travelled up and down the coast defuzing scores of unexploded World War II bombs and mines, many of which had washed up on beaches or were caught in fishing nets. For his services he was appointed an MBE – a fitting recognition of his bravery and professionalism.
In 1967 John led the Royal Navy diving team to search for the body of Donald Campbell, who had been killed trying to break the world water speed record on Lake Coniston. Campbell’s boat the Bluebird was found, but unfortunately owing to the murky conditions and the rudimentary equipment available, John’s team were unable to recover the body, but the team received high praise for their professionalism in conducting the search.
In 1968, at the age of 40, John retired from the Royal Navy to set up a lobster farm in the tiny fishing village of Kinlochbervie in the Highlands of Scotland. This was a risky venture and John received a huge amount of publicity initially as this type of thing hadn’t been attempted in the north of Scotland on this scale before.
In 1973 the family emigrated to Australia where John’s usual adventurous spirit allowed him to turn his hand to a variety of jobs which included managing a fish processing factory and the North Queensland Fish Board and even opening a fish and chip shop. By 1975 John had settled in Townsville, and soon landed his final and in many ways, his favourite job – as skipper of the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s research vessel, the Lady Basten, in which he served until retirement in 1992. It was a wonderful job to finish his career, taking scientists out to the Great Barrier Reef, and he was able to dive for pleasure which he hadn’t been able to do very often while in the Navy.
In retirement, John was practical about the problem of how to fill his day – he threw himself into planting and building projects around his house and land. He became a stage manager for his son Mike’s Theatre Company for a while, and he even did a small amount of extra work on film and television - until his agent ran off with his money!
In 2012 John was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and Parkinsons Disease and given only a few months to live. In typical John style however, he hung on stoically for four years so that he could complete his memoirs.
John and his wife Kathleen in hospital in July this year
Bill Smith the diver who had recovered Donald Campbell’s body in 2001, had inspired him to write his memoirs, and John decided to tackle it. So for the next three years, through sheer willpower, with his wife Kath’s unstinting support, and 18 months worth of chemo coursing through the bloodstream, John embarked on his final major task – to write the story of his life. The book is called “Futch” and has been published. It is a testament to not only the remarkable breadth of his life but to John’s sheer strength of will, optimism, tenacity and love for life.
Dust jacket of 'Futch' by John Futcher
Burstow's Funeral Care website contains this announcement:
FUTCHER, Arthur John Lieutenant Commander, MBE, Royal Navy
Late of Plainland and formerly of Townsville, passed away peacefully at Wesley Hospital on 28th August 2016 aged 88 years.
Beloved Husband of Kathleen. Dearly loved Father and Father-in-law of Tom and Anne; Michael and Helen. Loving Grandfather and Great-grandfather of William, Claire, Frankie and Jimmy; Ellian, Charlie, Oliver, Max and Josephine. Loved Brother of Allen and Victor.
Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend John's funeral, to be held at St Savior's Anglican Church, Ambrose Street, Laidley, service commencing at 10.30am Friday 16th September followed by interment at Laidley Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the RSL, Laidley, gift envelopes available at the church. "At Peace"
Lt Cdr Arthur John Futcher MBE RN
(23 Jul 1928 - 28 Aug 2016)
My announcement of John's death has sparked several tributes and other email exchanges about the early days of the MCD sub-branch which I have appended to the entry for 8 Sep 16. I have contacted Capt Peter Hore RN and am hopeful of an obituary being published in the Daily Telegraph.
Postscript: As the result of the email exchanges mentioned above, I have compiled nominal lists of QDD, CDO, MCDO and MWO courses, now available on the website here:
17 Sep 16 - Topsy Turner superseded as CO of HMNZS Philomel
Former MCDOA Honorary Secretary David 'Topsy' Turner transferred to the RNZN in 2004 after almost 30 years in the RN. I was his LMCDO course officer in 1983. 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 (from 20 Nov 2014) and then CO (from 26 Feb 2016) of HMNZS Philomel (see entry for 16 Mar 16 in News Archive 53).
I am grateful to Topsy for this update:
Just six months after taking command of HMNZS PHILOMEL and Naval Base Commander Devonport (we only have one base), I find myself in Hawaii in a brand new appointment for the New Zealand Defence Force. I am now thrilled to be the NZDF's Liaison Officer to the US Pacific Command (PACOM) in Honolulu which is where Yvonne and I will be for the next three years. I have office space in the NZ Consulute here in downtown Honolulu and split my time between PACOM and the various component commands spread across the island including of course the Pacific Fleet HQ at Pearl Harbour.
The UK Liaison Officer is Cdr Marcus Jacques who is known by quite a few of our senior MCDs including Paddy McAlpine, and of course Marcus has commanded a number of SRMHs [Bangor, Grimsby, Walney and Blyth] during his time in UK and out of Bahrain.
Please see attached a couple of photos from my Change Of Command Ceremony on 26th August.
I was taken by surprise when the parade broke ranks and honoured me by conducting the Navy haka as a sign of respect for a departing Commanding Officer. The haka is not an appointed, pre-determined or mandated occurrence; it is performed freely and without order so you can appreciate just how humbled I was. I have to say that it drove this seasoned sailor to shed the odd emotional and salty tear.
Needless to say Rob, just like Spidy Ince, please accept my apologies for not being able to make it to the dinner this year. I'll either be having surfing or golf lessons by then which is of course a great way of building relationships!!
I am sure that all members of our community will join me in congratulating Topsy on his new appointment and wishing him, Yvonne and their family continued success, health and happiness in Hawaii.
16 Sep 16 - HMS Middleton lifts for charity
While alongside in Bahrain on 14 & 15 September, ship's company members of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 6) surpassed their target to deadlift the weight of their ship by more than 128 tonnes in 12 hours.
HMS Middleton's deadlifting personnel in the Forward
Support Unit warehouse in Bahrain
Simultaneously, PO(ET) Rob Knott, the ship's DWEO and instigator of the event, made a valiant attempt to break the world record for the most weight deadlifted in 24 hours. This is currently held by Ian Atkinson of Warrington in the UK. Rob's personal target of 475,100 kg was 63% of HMS Middleton's total weight of 750 tonnes which would involve deadlifting 60kg nearly 8,000 times.
PO(ET) Rob Knott, DWEO of HMS Middleton
Rob Knott's daughter Isla was born at QA (Queen Alexandra hospital) near Portsmouth and treated for a cystic hygroma, a growth on the lymphatic nodes around the neck, The aim of the ship's efforts was to raise as much money as possible for Portsmouth Hospitals Charity and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC). You can help by donating online via this Virgin Money Giving webpage:
15 Sep 16
HMS Hurworth in Portsmouth
I was showing some visiting friends from the USA around Portsmouth harbour today and captured HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 1) alongside in the naval base. According to the RN website, she is currently undergoing maintenance and conducting sea-trials (see entry for 6 Jul 16).
HMS Hurworth alongside in Portsmouth Naval Base
HS Europa (formerly HMS Bicester) in Toulon
MCDOA member Dave Stanbury, Principal Staff Officer (old-type SOO) for Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2), has taken these photos of the former HMS Bicester, now HS Evropi (Europa) in the Greek Navy, arriving in Toulon.
David reports that her sweep gear is still fully operational but the PAPs are long gone.
14 Sep 16 - Fish & Clips quiz evening at the Diving Museum
What could be more traditional than a fish & chips supper? Even better with lashings of fun. So come and join us at The Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay on the evening of Saturday 24 September to join in the Fish & Clips quiz evening. Doors open at 1900 for a 1930 start. We'll show you clips from movies and then ask you cunning questions about them.
Hot and tasty Fish & Chips suppers will arrive half way through at about 2015. There will be a 'help-yourself' soft drinks bar (and you can bring your own choice of drinks if you like).
There will be teams of four but don't worry if you can't make a team... come along and join in and we'll make up teams to suit. The lucky winners will each win a bottle of Prosecco. All this for only £7. You can get tickets from the Gosport Tourist Information Centre or pay on the door on the night. Better than another evening of repeats on the telly!
Hope to see you there!
12 Sep 16 - Award for member of Northern Diving Group
The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG)'s award for 'Sailor of the Year' to LS(D) Scott McAllister. The award, presented by Commander Portsmouth Flotilla (COMPORFLOT) on board HMS Victory, was made in recognition of Scott's involvement in the safe removal of a large quantity of 30-year-old unstable quarry explosives from a locked outhouse near a primary school in a remote Scottish village.
Cdre Peter Sparkes (COMPORFLOT) presenting NDG's Sailor of the Year award
to Ldg Diver McAllister on board HMS Victory in Portsmouth Naval Base
(RN website photo)
11 Sep 16 - SDU2 deals with torpedo that closed Portsmouth harbour
The BBC website contained this article, the Portsmouth News this article and there was much other coverage in the national press reporting yesterday's disposal by members of Portsmouth based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of an unexploded torpedo. Its discovery resulted in the temporary closure of Portsmouth harbour and cessation of train and ferry services.
10 Sep 16 - Royal Engineers diver paralympian
I am grateful to MCDOA member Rory Armstrong for this notification:
Heads-up that former RE diver SSgt Micky Yule is probably competing on Saturday in powerlifting at Rio. Micky lost his legs in an IED event in Afghanistan a few years ago and is an inspirational chap.
9 Sep 16 - EOD in Scotland
NDG detonates a mine washed up on Aberdeen beach
(Picture: Kami Thomson)
On 5 August 2016, Navy Command provided this MOD response to a Freedom of Information request from the Aberdeen Press & Journal:
8 Sep 16 - Death of Lt Cdr Arthur John Futcher MBE RN
I have received this sad news from John Futcher's son Michael:
I’m writing to let you know that my father, former Royal Navy clearance diving officer Lt Cdr John Futcher MBE, passed away on 28 August and that some of your members may be grateful to know.
Dad served in Korea as a Royal Navy Marine Commando before serving with the RN as a clearance diver and on several RN ships including HMS Vanguard, HMS Belfast, HMS Tiree, HMS Dingley, HMS Shoulton, HMS Striker and others, before being appointed Bomb and Mine Disposal officer for Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland. He led the diving team that searched for Donald Campbell’s body in 1967, and was awarded the MBE for his clearance diving service a year later. He retired from the Royal Navy in 1968 and then moved to Australia in 1973 where he lived until his death.
In July this year my Dad published his memoirs “FUTCH” which is now in print and covers his life and career – it’s a great read. If anyone is interested in purchasing a copy they can contact me via this email address.
John Futcher at book launch in July 2016
I attach a photo of him with members of his clearance diving team taken in the 1950s.
John Futcher with members of his
CD Team during the 1950s
John Futcher is mentioned several times on this website including the RN Diving magazines in the Branch History section but see particularly the entries for 4 Mar 15 in News Archive 49 and 19 Jun 12 in News Archive 38, the second entry for 12 Jul 09 in News Archive 27 and the entry for 24 Jun 09 in News Archive 26. He was awarded a Mention in Despatches as a Leading Seaman on 18 May 1951 for "gallant and distinguished service with 41 Independent Commando (Royal Marines) in operations in Korea". This was for his part in the late-1950 battle for the Chosin Reservoir. "I'll never forget Chosin," he said. "The temperature ranged from minus 20 to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit." He also took part in the landing at Inchon in 1951.
John Futcher examining a beached M Mk1 moored mine with Frank Newman, Bungy Williams and
Scouse Bolton of the Scotland & Northern Ireland Clearance Diving Team (SNICDT) circa 1965
He was appointed an MBE as a Lt Cdr in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1967 As CO of the diving tender HMS Dingley, he was best man for fellow CDO David Lermitte, CO of Dingley's sister ship HMS Brenchley.
John Futcher (right) as David Lermitte's best
man in the mid-1960s
HMS Dingley in the mid-1960s
I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our sincere condolences to John's wife Kathleen, his son Mike and other members of his family.
From MCDOA member Harry Parker MBE:
"Good evening David,
If I had opened my e-mails sooner I could have invited you to drop in on your way north yesterday. I hope you are having a happy visit.
Attending the Annual Dinner is an attractive idea but my mobility is deteriorating rapidly and it would already be a toil of a pleasure. Thanks to Rob and the website I feel in close touch with you all and I delight in all the news.
Thanks especially to all who have provided the recent lists of qualifying CDOs; what a gallery of happy memories they conjure up.
Cheerio, Good luck, God Bless all.
From MCDOA member David Burstall:
Thank you very much for all your continued input - and my thanks also to you Mike and John. You are all way ahead of me and it reminds me how very limited is my memory.
I apologise for not having been any more help than all the rest of you, but I am most impressed with the results, and have now had an opportunity of going through your brilliantly displayed archives. And your 'In Memoriam' recital reminds me of how very mortal we all are. And it's sad to note that a very large number are all younger than me: Brian Braidwood, Denis Selwood, Tim Trounson, Johnny Futcher, David Lermitte, Willy Thorniley. And you have a very impressive list of attendees for the Annual Dinner coming up.
Harry - Do you think that you and I should attend in the next year or two just to show that there are extant and still around some CDOs from the 1950s intake? I expect we would both need zimmer frames to help carry our 5561A's. It's a long way to come from Dunfermline to Pompey for a night out. But I fly up to Inverness regularly to see my son's family who live on the Scoraig peninsular near Ullapool, and am going up there in two days' time (Sunday night).
From MCDOA member John Lang:
There are a few people you come across in life that you never forget. Futch was one of those. I joined him in 1967 in Safeguard as Diving Training Officer whilst he was running the bomb squad. I remember him leaving me in charge whilst he searched for Bluebird. We had exciting times and lots of fun.
Great guy with a sense of humour. Loved serving with him. He left the navy whilst I was with him on Safeguard going off to start his lobster farm.
"The March 1956 issue of the RN Diving Magazine (Vol 4 No.1) contains this passage:
THE ARMCHAIR DIVER
Cold work for you active chaps. Now that the thaw has set in let's see what's happened in the Diving World.
We must of course remember the passing of Lt.-Cdr. MacLean-Foreman and convey our deep sympathies to his family. The funeral, with full Naval Honours, took place from Haslar Hospital on Friday, 10th February. The bearers were diving officers—all personal friends of Mac. The cortege and field guns crews carriage were from the Diving Personnel. Mac's diving career was briefly Lochinvar; M.F.V. 1609; 51st Flotilla; H.M.S. Brenchley; A.S.R.M., Poole…”
Temp Sub Lt I. D. Maclean-Foreman was appointed as a Bomb Safety Officer for duty outside the Admiralty on 20 March 1944. A 1945 issue of the Navy List contains an entry for A/Lt Ian Dennis Maclean-Foreman RNVR, HMS Copra, seniority 5 Dec 1944. HMS Copra was the RNVR base at Largs.
According to the London Gazette of 14 Nov 1947, he was promoted from A/Lt to Lt RN on 5 Dec 1944. He is reported as having died as a Lt Cdr RN on Saturday 4 February 1956 while appointed to HMS Pembroke.
From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:
In the early days, when a diving school was associated with each station, most had a small S/M escape tank run by DSEA (Davis S/M Escape Apparatus) divers. I have a recollection that MacLean-Foreman was in that bracket.
I copied the Table with all your inputs & posted it to David Edwards. He does not “do” e-mails and I cannot think of another way of getting his important input.
When he replies, Marjorie will read and I will insert his As & As, keeping you all informed, of course.
From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:
I remember MacLean-Foreman and hearing of his early death but never really knew him. However I do recall one story I was told about him that, for some unknown reason has come into my mind. Apparently, he was entertaining his wife aboard his team’s diving tender (Dipper, Diver, Dingley???) when one of the team thought he’d liven up proceedings by dropping a lighted thunderflash down the funnel into the fireplace in the compartment below decks where they were sitting. The resulting explosion covered him and his wife in soot and made him exceedingly cross – understandably so.
That was the story told to me by someone who thought it exceedingly funny but whether it was true or the result of some CD’s vivid imagination, I know not. Perhaps you may remember the occasion. Whatever, it was a sad day when we heard of his death.
From MCDOA member Harry Parker MBE:
"Dear Mike, David. John, Rob,
Thanks for stirring the rusty old memory.
Does anybody know the background of Lt Cdr Maclean-Foreman? I relieved him in charge of CDT(Amphibious) in 1955 at ASRM Poole; I met him only once briefly in RNH Haslar where he was dying of cancer.
From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:
VMT your responses & inputs.
Mike’s memory is clearly razor sharp. He is also a prolific scribe, a speedy typist or uses Dragon (Nuance) Naturally Speaking. I regret my eyes prevent me following suit.
Stupidly I forget Morry Drummond, the only old Etonian CD ever.
As your As & As come in, I am trying to alter the treble so as to keep up to date. Please continue.
Re meeting. David & Jane used to visit Bristol a lot and we are less than twoi hours drive from Cheltenham. Would you please consider coming here for lunch? Whilst we “chew the fat” the girls could go to Clarkes Village for superb retail therapy, as an example.
From MCDOA member David Burstall:
"Hello, and Bravo Zulu, you two for your remarkable memories.
I can only comment that to the best of my recollection Peter Roberts joined my CDO class some way into it and was back-classed - presumably to join Harry, Mike & Co as you suggest. We had both fallen foul of the redoubtable Willy Wyvil, our course instructor, who did not like young upstarts like me, nor Peter who had better gongs than he had. He was determined to fail us both and we were equally determined to resist - but therein lies another tale, to be told on another day. Suffice it to say that Willy had a wonderful time together with his killick (Vic Humphrey?), and two AB CD3s chasing me around Horsea Lake and the floating dock, in, on and under the water.
From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:
"Well done John. You have remembered many more
details of the early days than I knew; I will try and add to them.
My acquaintance with Clearance Diving started in 1954 when I was the office boy in the Algerine class minesweeper HMS Recruit, leader of the 2nd MS Squadron, then part of the of the Med Fleet. The Med FCDO Pip Piper and his team led by Sam Stanley, took passage with us for a fleet exercise. I was sufficiently impressed by the team to the respond to the AFO inviting applications to join the branch. I was also the ship’s diving officer on the strength of a one week midshipman’s diving acquaint course in Malta some four years earlier. My CD suitability was tested on a run ashore in Malta conducted by Pip Piper and Morty Drummond on his way home from the Far East with another MSO Squadron. I must have passed.
The first FCDO Med had been John Dickenson with the fearsome Jock Gribbon as his CD1. The stories about their exploits in the Manoel Island Nissan huts were still being told. The one I recall was of the detonator and short fuse being lit and thrown into the team’s mess hut with a shouted warning to jump clear!
I thought that David had been on the course earlier than ours from which Peter Roberts had been back-classed to us. My memory of Peter was on the celebratory run ashore in Southsea on the successful completion of our course when he attempted to climb a lamppost. Certainly Pat Dowland had been on a previous course as I relieved him in February 1956 as Diving Officer of the Isles Class coal burning trawler HMS Flatholm to complete the special survey of the Mersey from the Manchester Ship Canal out to the Formby Light vessel including all the docks. A year later the ‘powers that be’ decided that this survey was no longer required and we were left alongside in Devonport, our home port to where we had returned for the Easter leave period 1957, with nothing to do. It was here that I was phoned by Jackie Warner and asked if I was prepared to go to Iran to start a Diving School. I remember saying that I was prepared to go anywhere to leave a ship with no purpose.
I flew to Iran in the summer of 1957 and stayed for a year although the original plan was for only a six month tour. So, in mid-July 1958 I was in Teheran for a week staying with the air attaché, Group Captain Pelly-Fry, and writing my final reports prior to my return home by train from Iraq for which I had received prior approval. I had this idea of going into the booking office at Baghdad Railway station and asking for a single to Waterloo.
On the morning of 14th July 1958 the air attaché’s driver reported Radio Cairo’s story of bloody revolution. "They are always talking about bloody revolution," said the air attaché, "...but I will just check it out with with HE." Sir Roger Stephens said much the same, it was just Radio Cairo talk but he rang back 10 minutes later to say that a revolution had taken place in Iraq and King Faisal had been assassinated as had his Prime Minister Nuri al-Said. I was then co-opted onto the diplomatic staff and sent to the border to assist any Brits escaping the revolution – but there were none. So my plans to return home by train came to nought. I mention this story to confirm my recollections as being in the right year.
You ask when the two 'Mr Macs' became CDOs. The original Mr Mac (McLanachan), must have qualified way before I did because during my time in Willcove running the international course in late 1955, he took over temporarily from Stuart Honour to allow Stuart to have some leave. This led to the occasion when Mr Mac called to me over the adjoining wall between our cabins asking if I was on for a ‘run’. I cleaned into my ‘dog robbers’ and he turned up in shorts and plimsoles (no trainers in those days); he was a hard man. I have heard similar stories about him from others but it certainly happened to me. Don McLauchlan qualified later.
I thought Arthur Checksfield was an Upper Yardman who did a full CDOs course. I’m not sure of Phil White’s background; perhaps he came the D/P route in which case he would also have had to do a full course. Certainly Pete Cobby and Nutty Carr Became CDOs through SD Promotion, but I imagine that Peter Messservy, the ‘Battling Bosun’, would also have had to have done a full CDO’s course.
That’s all for now – ask me another
From MCDOA member David Burstall:
Congratulations, John, on a fantastic memory and the production of a pretty accurate record. I can't fault it except to state that I think Pat Dowland qualified before me and not after. I can't comment on Philip White, whom I relieved in my first job after qualifying, in HMS Annet - surveying Southampton seabed. At the same time Pat Dowland was in another Isles Class trawler surveying the depths of Mersey, I can't recall the name.
From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:
"Dear Rob & David.
Rob is very kind and much appreciated for all he does for the Branch. Before I become completely senile, I will try to make a table of CDO Courses, their dates and names as far as I can remember. As I am now nearly blind, please forgive typos, etc. No doubt others will corrct me and add their own knowledge. I hope Rob will then have a better record of the early days of our great Branch and the men who made it.
1951 - Foundation of C.D. Branch by John Crawford,
Jackie Warner, Bill Filer and CPO(D) Sam Stanley (bringing in remnants of
'P' Parties (e.g. Gordon Gutridge). Most decisions were made in the
bar of the South Queensferry Hotel, e.g. gas mixtures/depth ratios (suspect
1952 - 7 March. Official CD Branch launch by AFO. First CDO Course. John Dickenson (later I Diving), Tony(?) Babcock, 'Pip' Piper, Joe Brookes, Dave Lambert, Al Cuthbert (RAN).
1953 - Eric Gash, Frankie Franklin, Harry Wardle, ?, ?
1954 - Stuart 'Jazz' Honour, Jim Neil and Guy Worseley.
1955 - First Course: Harry Parker, Mike Gillam, Henry Wilson and Peter Roberts (back-classed). Second Course: David Burstall and Peter Robertson (second chance).
1956 - David Edwards, Phil Hawke (RAN), Pat Dowland, ?.
1957 - Johnny Futcher, David Lermitte and Bill Thorniley.
1958 - Len Graham (RAN), Tony Johnson-Newell, Mike Hodgson and John Grattan.
Arthur Checksfield and Phil White [later Philip
Balink-White OBE] only did the B&MD part of the CDO Course (D/P
Peter Messervey, Peter Cobby and John 'Nutty' Carr became CDOs through SD promotion?
How and when did Don McLauchlan and 'Mr Mac' McLanachan become CDOs? Can David Edwards, wth his superb memory, help with some answers?
Small stainless steal plaques were mounted on the wooden panelling on the left of the left corridor off the foyer of Vernon’s Wardroom. These were engraved with each CDO Course and the names of officers who had qualified in the order of passing. I was top of my course and I seem to remember counting those men ahead of me. There were 18 officers so this table needs considerable correction: but at least it is a start.
From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:
"Many thanks Rob for keeping me in touch and for what you do for us. Johnny Futcher’s names rings a number of bells but no precise memories – but I would like to obtain a copy of his book.
Sorry, John, to learn of your health problems but glad that that you are still in good heart. Fortunately, my prostate cancer was treated early some eight years ago and my dodgy heart valve replaced with no further complications. Old age does have its problems but life is still worth living.
Harry – good to hear from you - have many happy memories of our course - remember the Cherbourg Race?
David, we must get together sometime. Harry Parker and I were on the same CD course that started, as I recall, in May 1955 together with, among others, Peter Roberts who had been back classed from your course. Joe Brookes was our course officer, Hoppy Hopewell our Instructor with our good friend Bob Lusty as ‘second dickey’. I had to leave the course before our Bomb Disposal time as I was told to run the first, and, to my knowledge only, International CD course at HMS Defiance. The course comprised four Dutchmen, two Portuguese, a Norwegian and a Pakistan Bosun with Bungy Edwards as the Instructor assisted by Taff Davey.
HMS Defiance was the home of TAS and Diving training in the West Country that had taken place in three old hulks sold for scrap just before our arrival. So the school was moved up the hill on the Cornish side of the Tamar into a strange collection of wartime huts with a recompression chamber, a diving tank but no main drainage. The school was not fully recognised by naval stores and so the First Lieutenant, little Alfie Crossley, ran a small market garden, the sale of produce from which supported the purchase of lightbulbs, cleaning gear and the like. Course members were accommodated across the water in the barracks and Stuart (Jazz) Honour, West Country B&MDO, and I were the only members of the Wardroom living in.
The School’s Commanding Officer, Sam Seymour, lived alone in a small house nearby and was wont to wander about the camp in the late evening on a sort of unofficial ‘Rounds’. On one occasion he came across a couple of the lads.
’What are you doing?’ he said.
‘Digging,’ they replied.
‘What for?’ he asked.
‘Corned beef,’ they replied.
Do you remember, in those far off days, divers received an allowance of corned brief and ships biscuits as recompense for their difficult and dangerous duties. These enterprising fellows were storing theirs until they could take them home where they were much appreciated in that post-war period of austerity. Ever after they were known as the Cornish corned beef miners; being Clearance Divers, they were forgiven.
I eventually did my Bomb Disposal course with the Royal Engineers at Broadbridge Heath in January 1956.
From MCDOA member David Burstall:
Rob - Once again many thanks for keeping us in touch, and I echo Harry's sentiments about your dedication to this website. It keeps on producing gems that I had entirely forgotten about.
Harry - I had not realised that Peter Roberts was on your course. I think he must have joined you after Willy Wyvil had persuaded Eric Gash that he needed more time. He had actually joined my course half way through it so it was not easy for him to catch up. The course before me had Pat (Froggy) Dowland and Philip White on it and possibly Peter Messervy, but I cannot be sure.
Mike - That's an excellent photograph of you and the FEFCDT in 1962.
Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team 1962
Back row: Peter 'Brum' Fowles, Doc Campion, Brian Martin, Simon Russell, Tansy Lee,
Dolly Dolan, Harvey Sumner, Vic Humphrey, Gilbert Bartholmew and Tom Fisher (ME)
Front Row: Mick Roberts, Mike McCall (POME), Bob Atkinson, James Majendie,
Mike Gillam, Brian Fawcett, Tom King and Stan Templeton
I was pleased to identify at least half of the team who carried over after I relieved you. To my regret I never kept any photos at all, as I wasn't into photography in those days. So I rely heavily on this website.
From MCDOA member Harry Parker MBE:
"Thanks, Rob, and greetings to the rest of you (assuming this daft machine has done what I tell it for a change).
John Futcher and I never served together but our paths crossed several times in cheerful fashion. Sorry he has gone; the stream of us across the bar seems to flow faster.
David - Mike Gillam, Henry Wilson, Peter Roberts, Midshipman Whiston RNVR, P.O. Pat Christmas and I began our CD course early in 1955. I forget whether you were earlier or later.
I am still in Dunfermline, standing by to move to a smaller dwelling (close by). Enjoying being in touch with old friends through Rob`s splendid website. What a grand job you make of it.
Cheerio for now. God bless all of you.
From MCDOA member David Burstall:
"Hello Rob, Michael and John,
Many thanks to you all for keeping me informed about the death of Johnny Futcher. I was well aware of his various exploits over the years but our paths had never crossed, so I cannot really say that I knew him well (my loss). I was sorry to hear of his declining health owing to cancer - it's a really dreadful affliction and seems to take more and more of us. I regret I am unable to help with any memorabilia about him.
Michael Futcher - you have every reason to be proud of your Dad and his achievements - and the important memories are those of the times when he was fit and well and sorting the world out, rather than his poor health in his declining years. He did very well to publish his memoirs before his death - putting pen to paper (or fingers to computer keyboard) takes a great deal of dedication and self discipline.
Rob - What news of Harry Parker? I believe he was on the long CDO course after me but before the one with David Lermitte and Johnny F. Perhaps he qualified at the same time as David (Bush) Edwards? Or does he pre-date me? I was on a course on my own until I was joined by submariner Peter Roberts VC, circa 1955/1956.
From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:
I am sorry to hear the sad news about Johnny Futcher. There are few left of his vintage in the Branch, a sad feeling for those of us remaining.
From ex-CD Pate Gallant (see entry for 17 Aug 16):
I am sad to hear about the passing of Lt Cdr John Futcher.
I was in his team when we searched and found Donald Campell's Bluebird in Lake Coniston in 1967. I brought up his seat belt harness that was still attached to the bulkhead by one bolt. The rest had been ripped out with the bolts still attached. Also the attachments that went into the quick release were all bent back. He must have been thrown out with quite a force.
I am enclosing a paper cutting of that time. I think it was from the Daily Mirror printed in Manchester.
Postscript: As the result of the email exchanges above, I have compiled nominal lists of QDD, CDO, MCDO and MWO courses, now available on the website here:
6 Sep 16 - Divers complete 500 kilometre run and swim to help prostate cancer sufferers
The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the completion of a charity fundraising event by 43 members of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) at Horsea Island (see entry for 18 Aug 16). They each completed 25 circuits totalling 100km in the water and 400km on land.
5 Sep 16 - Death of former LS(D) Peter 'Brum' Fowles
I am grateful to ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson for this sad news:
I have just heard from ex-CD Vic Humphrey that our old pal Peter (Brum) Fowles has passed away. Vic and Brum were in the FECDT in 1963 when I did my Free Divers course. Then Brum and I were in Guz as killick 3's in 1965. Cris Ballinger joined us as a new Ships Diver.
Brum went into the security service on leaving the RN. A good diver and a good bloke. RIP mate.
This photo of the FECDT (Far East Clearance Diving Team) in 1962 shows Brum Fowles standing far left:
Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team 1962
Back row: Peter 'Brum' Fowles, Doc Campion, Brian Martin, Simon Russell, Tansy Lee,
Dolly Dolan, Harvey Sumner, Vic Humphrey, Gilbert Bartholmew and Tom Fisher (ME)
Front Row: Mick Roberts, Mike McCall (POME), Bob Atkinson, James Majendie,
Mike Gillam, Brian Fawcett, Tom King and Stan Templeton
Brum had this letter printed in the December 2009 issue of Navy News about his experiences in Northern Ireland in 1958/9:
In 1960, Brum was a member of the Home Station Clearance Diving Team led by MCDOA member John Grattan and embarked in HMS Dingley of the 51st Mine Sweeper Squadron based at HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar on the south shore of the Forth. He was present when the team moved to its new home at HMS Vernon where it eventually became the Fleet Clearance Diving Team.
In 1962, Brum was a member of the surprisingly large ship's diving team, led by MCDOA member Mike Gillam, on board the Antarctic survey ship HMS Protector and enjoyed an eventful deployment.
After HMS Reclaim had completed searching for wartime mines in Seydisfjord in Norway in 1963, Brum was tasked to retrieve a souvenir from an oil tanker sunk in the harbour. The bridge was 20 fathoms from the surface and he returned with a binnacle cover which was promptly "pounced upon by the Boss, wheeled away, and never again seen". During one of the six weekends Reclaim spent alongside in Santa Cruz in Tenerife in 1964 while conducting deep diving trials, members of the ship's company watched the only bull fight of the period. It was reported that they had difficulty though, in distinguishing 'Brum' Fowles from the bulls.
2 Sep 16 - An article of possible interest
From the National Interest website:
Here is an extract:
“Sea mines, one of the oldest weapons in the naval inventory, are often the cheapest and most available form of anti-access/area denial weapons to a vast number of maritime nations,” said retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jerry Hendrix, director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security. “Even if their budget will not allow them to purchase high-end missiles or aircraft, most maritime nations can afford to sink any number of mines off their coast in order to dissuade another power from approaching their shores.”
To make matters worse, sea-mines are not only cheap and deadly, they are also vexingly difficult to find—even with modern equipment as the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG-59) discovered during the first Gulf War in 1991. The multi-billion dollar Aegis cruiser was severely damaged by a pair of Italian-made MN103 Manta sea-mines that cost only a few thousand dollars. Earlier, a First World War-era mine nearly sank the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 during the Iran-Iraq War.
However, technology might be on the verge of making the lives of Western sailors safer. Drones will allow the U.S and allied naval forces to counter the threat without directly putting their lives in jeopardy. Northrop Grumman announced recently that it will be participating in the British Royal Navy's Unmanned Warrior exercise where the American defense giant will demonstrate its unmanned mine hunting capabilities. During the exercise, Northrop will show-off its AQS-24B towed mine hunting sensor, which will be operated from an Atlas Elektronik UK ARCIMS Unmanned boat...
1 Sep 16 - Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum!
Your humble webmaster was even more grateful than normal this morning when he received a bottle of Pusser's Rum for having written the 'Jackpot' letter in this month's Navy News (see entry for 19 Jul 16):
September Navy News 'Jackpot' letter
Just in the nick of time from the look of things:
31 Aug 16
HMS Brocklesby receives new engines
The Navy News website contains this article describing the replacement of the Deltic diesel engines in HMS Brocklesby with new fuel-efficient Caterpillars. She is being refitted in the ship hall at Portsmouth Naval Base previously used by BAe Systems to build blocks of the Type 45 destroyer and the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers (see entry for 14 May 2016 in News Archive 54).
Above and below: HMS Brocklesby being refitted in the ship hall at Portsmouth Naval Base
(Navy News website photos)
HMS Grimsby & NDG visit Blyth for North Sea Tall Ships Regatta
The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the presence of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6), members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG), HMS Tyne and HMS Explorer at Blyth in Northumbria over the bank holiday weekend for the four-day North Sea Tall Ships Regatta. There was also representation from HMS Sultan with three veteran helicopters (a recently-decommissioned Search-and-Rescue Sea King, a Lynx and a Gazelle) as well as the Tyneside RNR Division at HMS Calliope.
HMS Grimsby dressed overall
(RN website photo)
Northern Diving Group display
(RN website photo)
HMS Ledbury acts as Guardship for Dartmouth Regatta
HMS Ledbury acting as Guardship for the Dartmouth Royal Regatta
(RN website photo)
Postscript: HMS Ledbury is back alongside at Portsmouth and I took this photo of her earlier today. Launched in December 1979, she is doing pretty well for her age.
HMS Ledbury alongside at Portsmouth
30 Aug 16 - News from Simon Bound QGM
I am grateful to MCDOA member Simon Bound (LMCDO '88B) for this update:
I hope all is well. I wanted you to know that the website is excellent. A lot of very good material for members and interested third parties. I know this takes a good deal of work, much of it unnoticed!
Greetings from Greenwich, CT. This is our fifth year in the USA and no regrets. Two of my boys are applying to the US Naval Academy, so we hope to continue the tradition this side of the Atlantic!
Simon Bound and sons in the USA
Simon Bound and family in the USA
29 Aug 16 - Box ticked for Webmaster's abseil
'Tis done. The MCDOA's adopted charity (The Vernon Monument) will benefit by at least £4,500 and the RNRMC by at least £500 but I am hoping for more donations in sponsorship when people see these photos. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Are there any offshore barons out there who have HMS Vernon to thank for getting their foot on the ladder?
The best bit was the surprise of being met at the bottom by all three of my children, my grandson and their wonderful friends plus MCDOA member Doug Barlow and his wife Jill, MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton and his wife Gunhild, ex-MW Ian 'Herman' Gearing and his wife Katy with their children, ex-CD Chris 'Paddy' Doonan, and many others.
The Hooles: parents, children and grandson
The Norton family
Doug & Jill Barlow flanked by my son Gareth (left) and his friend Graham (right)
The ensuing party in the Slug & Lettuce was fantastic until most of the youngsters left to resume their places at the Victorious Festival on Southsea Common.
Thank you to all those who have helped me reach an overall total of £4,450 so far. I implore the rest of you to sponsor me too, if only in baffled amusement or amazement. My fundraising page will remain open until 28 November 2016 to sweep up any latecomers. If you haven't already contributed, please act now. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Don't forget the Gift Aid which boosts your donation by 25%.
Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
28 Aug 16 - It's today!
Today is the day I risk my neck to raise funds for the MCDOA's adopted charity (The Vernon Monument) and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC). My overall total currently stands at a gratifying £4,212.50 but with your help I would like to get a bit closer to my outrageously ambitious target of £10k.
I am extremely moved by the kind donation from Cheryl Brassington Edwards in memory of her late father, ex-CPO(D) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington.
Yours Truly with Michael 'Shiner' Brassington (left) in 2009 and with his widow Coralie (right)
after his funeral last October
I am also touched to have received a donation from a sibling of Lt Thomas 'Ned' Kelly in his memory. As killick divers, Ned (who died aged 42 in September 2001) and Charles 'Charlie' Anthony Smithard (who died aged 27 in January 1983) were second dickies for LMCDO courses in the early 1980s with Ray Ramsay as Chief Instructor and me as Course Officer. There are memorials to both of them hidden away on Horsea Island but the Vernon Monument will act as a publicly visible tribute to all who have paid the ultimate price while serving in minewarfare, diving and bomb & mine disposal roles.
Ned Kelly's memorial plaque on a building at the top end of Horsea Lake
Memorial to Charlie Smithard, commissioned by former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM*,
outside the Defence Diving School on Horsea Island
The engraving on the upper plaque mounted on the memorial to Charlie Smithard states:
ERECTED BY THE CLEARANCE DIVING
BRANCH R.N. TO THE MEMORY OF
LEADING SEAMAN DIVER CHARLES SMITHARD
LS(D) SMITHARD SERVED WITH DISTINCTION
IN THE FALKLANDS CAMPAIGN, ONLY TO DIE
TRAGICALLY IN A ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENT
ON JANUARY 18th 1983
The engraving on the lower plaque mounted on the memorial to Charlie Smithard states:
15 in SHELL FROM THE WRECK OF
HMS VANGUARD WHICH SANK IN
SCAPA FLOW 7th JUNE 1917. RECOVERED
BY CLEARANCE DIVERS 7th JUNE 1975.
"THE EMBLEM OF EXPLOSIVE ORDNANCE DISPOSAL"
A KILLICK ANCHOR
"THE EMBLEM OF THE LEADING SEAMAN"
Front cover of a personal notelet from
Charlie's mother Marie
RIP Shiner, Ned and Charlie.
The statistics show that around 47,000 internet users access this website each month. So far, only 55 people have contributed to my fundraising campaign. Where are the rest of you? If you have not done so already, please sponsor me in my endeavour today or as soon afterwards as you can manage. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. My fundraising page will remain open until 28 November 2016:
26 Aug 16 - Webmaster's fundraising abseil for the Vernon Monument this Sunday
Only two days until my abseil down the Emirates Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quays to help raise funds for the Vernon Monument (see entry for 8 Aug 16). I would like to thank my fellow divers and members of our close-knit MCM community plus family and friends who have helped me raise almost £4k to date. I still need £6k to reach my outrageously ambitious target so please keep donating. As my chemistry teacher used to say, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
Fittingly, Gunwharf Quays (where there is already an Army monument) was previously HMS Vernon, the Royal Navy's alma mater of minewarfare, diving and bomb & mine disposal. Not only will this monument celebrate our community and its achievements; past, present and future, but it will also act as a permanent eye-catching reminder to the 8 million people who visit Gunwharf Quays each year that this work carries on to this day.
Artist's impression of world-renowned Australian sculptor Les Johnson FRBS's
near twice life-size 14-ton Vernon Monument in situ at Gunwharf Quays
The Vernon Monument is the MCDOA's single adopted cause but please be generous whether you are an Association member or not. Every donation brings us closer to our target. If you haven't sponsored me already, please do so via my fundraising webpage. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If eligible, don't forget to add the Gift Aid which boosts your contribution by 25%.
10% of my proceeds will go to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) which has been so supportive in the past. Thank you in anticipation.
23 Aug 16 - Awards of LS&GC medal and clasps
CPO(MW) T. F. J. Briggs on being gazetted for the award of a clasp to his Long Service & Good Conduct medal
LS(D) D. W. Cooper on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal
LS(D) S. A. Smyth on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal
LS(MW) M. Newbold on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.
22 Aug 16 - John & Ann Bevan's barbecue and related forthcoming events
Here is John in uncharacteristically subdued clothing. Beyond the fence is INM (Institute of Naval Medicine), centre of excellence for much pioneering work in naval diving medicine and environmental physiology.
Unfortunately, ex-CDs John Dadd and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson and MCDOA member and former Sapper diving officer Les Rutherford were busy looking after 'the shop' (the nearby Diving Museum) and arrived too late to be included in the photos.
In March 1970, John Bevan and his RN Scientific Service colleague Peter Sharphouse established a new deep diving record at Alverstoke's RNPL (RN Physiological Laboratory) DTU (Deep Trial Unit) at Haslar when they spent 10 hours at a simulated depth of 1,500 feet of seawater (457 metres of seawater). This dive was 300 feet beyond the predicted maximum of around 1,200 fsw (366 msw) and was described by American colleagues at the time as “a hyperbaric moon landing”. HMS Reclaim’s divers participated in the trials and later applied the lessons learned, and decompression tables developed, during their open water saturatation diving operations (see HMS Reclaim - A World Record-Breaker in the website's Dit Box).
More recently, John has been the prime mover behind the establishment of the HDS Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and its associated Library in a disused civil defence bunker in Gosport. He is a prolific author and has written about the enigmatic Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE GNM RNVR.
The next event at the Diving Museum is an evening talk with something for everyone interested in local history. It's about Portsmouth-born author Percy Westerman who wrote naval/military themed stories based in Portsmouth, Southsea and Gosport. There will also be a rarely seen silent movie of one of his books made by Walsall Sea Scouts.
'Haunted Harbour and Other Ripping Yarns' is an illustrated talk by Nigel Gossop about Percy Westerman's life and works. It will be held on Saturday 27th August starting at 1800 and should finish at about 2030. All this AND a party atmosphere with drinks and nibbles at The Diving Museum. And all for only £6!
Get your tickets at The Tourist Office or here via the HDS website:
20 Aug 16
Turkish MCMV in search for missing Georgian military divers
I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Stanbury, Principal Staff Officer (old-type SOO) for Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2), for this email:
This article may be of interest to some of your readers!
Marine experts from Turkey are the latest international players to get involved in a search and recovery operation of two Georgian soldiers who went missing two days ago during a deep sea training dive in the Black Sea off Georgia’s west coast. A vessel from Turkey’s Coast Guard Service with nine crew on board entered Georgian marine space yesterday afternoon, and is already participating in today’s search and recovery for the two missing soldiers.
Meanwhile a larger ship from the Turkish Navy is expected to arrive in Georgian territory tomorrow morning to assist in the search, announced Georgia’s Ministry of Defence today. The larger ship is equipped with special sonar and camera equipment used to record the contour of the sea floor and detect items in deep water, and on board are personnel who are trained for such operations.
The missing Georgian soldiers have been named as Corporal Iago Sharadze and First Class Private Giorgi Nanetashvili. The pair were undergoing mandatory diving training within the scheduled maritime special course in the Gonio region but failed to surface after the planned dive. The training exercise took place on Monday morning...
Let's pray they turn up safe and well.
RAN personnel in the Battle of the Atlantic
I am grateful to MCDOA member Brian Dutton DSO QGM for this email:
"I thought this article from a friend of mine in Australia is of interest as a couple of Aussies (maybe more) were in X-Craft and one certainly had a dive without diving suit as it had been lost in the X-Craft.
...Not all Rushcutter graduates remained in the escort forces. Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander) Max Shean, RANVR, for example, saw action in submarines. After spending 15 months on convoy duty in the North Atlantic, Shean volunteered for ‘special and hazardous service’ manning the Royal Navy’s ‘X-Craft’ midget submarines. In September 1943 he participated in Operation SOURCE, which aimed to destroy Tirpitz while anchored in a Norwegian fjord. Six X-Craft were towed by ocean-going submarines to the operation area, but Shean’s X-9 being towed by HMS Syrtis, parted its tow and disappeared with her three-man passage crew. Shean, who was aboard Syrtis at the time, was sent into the water to clear the fouled line from Syrtis’ propeller. With his diving suit lost in X-9, Shean had to dive into the frigid Arctic waters wearing overalls weighted with steel bars, but completed the task successfully.
Shean went on to command X-24 during Operation GUIDANCE in April 1944; a solo raid on an important floating dock in Bergen Harbour, Norway. X-24 was towed to the drop-off point by HMS Sceptre, commanded by another Australian-born officer, Lieutenant (later Vice Admiral Sir) Ian McIntosh, RN. The final approach required X-24 to negotiate a passage of some 40nm through patrolled waterways protected by two minefields and torpedo nets. After successfully entering the busy basin Shean and his crew set 24-hour time-delayed charges on their target and made their way back out to the rendezvous with Sceptre. Upon their return to Scotland they discovered that poor intelligence and incorrect charts had led them to set their charges on an enemy ammunition ship instead of the dock. This did not, however, diminish X-24’s remarkable feat. The attack was deemed a success and Shean was awarded the DSO for his leadership...
19 Aug 16 - New crew for HMS Chiddingfold in the Gulf
The Navy News website contains this article announcing that MCM2 Crew 3 has taken over HMS Chiddingfold from MCM2 Crew 5 in the Gulf. The article features AB(D) Brad Hayes, AB(MW) Andy Holmes and AB(MW) McNamee.
Above and below: MCM2 Crew 3 taking over HMS Chiddingfold at Mina Salman in Bahrain
(Navy News photos)
18 Aug 16
Captain MFP visits MCMVs in the Gulf
MCDOA member Roger Readwin has taken over as Captain Mine Warfare, Fishery, Diving and Patrol vessels (Captain MFP). The Royal Navy website contains this article describing his recent visit to Bahrain where he presented awards to personnel serving in HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 6) including CPOET(ME) ‘Buck’ Rogers, LS(MW) ‘Singles’ Smith, AB(MW) ‘Julie’ Andrews, AB(D) ‘Dutchy’ Mulholland and AB(D) ‘Spence’ Crane.
Roger Readwin presenting RNRMC Sailor of the Month award to LS(MW) ‘Singles’ Smith
and AB1 MW qualification badge to AB(MW) 'Julie' Andrews
Roger Readwin presenting AB1 Diver qualification badges to AB(D) 'Dutchy' Mulholland
and AB(D) 'Spence' Crane
FDS divers to perform Horsea Lake circuits for charity
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing that 40 members of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) will perform a six-hour marathon stint of 1,000 standard trainiung circuits at Horsea Island to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK. The event will take place on Wednesday 31 August and involve each diver performing 25 circuits totalling 2½ kilometres in the water and the equivalent of 10km on land making a grand total of 100km swum and 400km run for the entire team.
Online donations may be made via:
17 Aug 16 - Spanish reunion for ex-CDs Pete Gallant and Robin 'Harry' Neave
I am grateful to Pete Gallant for drawing my attention to this article on the Costa Blanca's Round Town News website describing his June reunion in Spain with fellow ex-CD Robin 'Harry' Neave.
Pete and Harry served together on the Portland Clearance Diving Team in 1962-63. This was their first meeting since then as they served in different locations during the rest of their time in the Branch. Pete lives in the Jalon Valley in Spain while Harry and his wife Maureen live in Melbourne, Australia.
Here is the text of the article:
Heads above water
SPECIALIST ROYAL Navy mine clearance divers Peter Gallant and Robin ‘Harry’ Neave enjoyed meeting on dry land for a rare catch up. Both served in a naval diving team based at Portland Harbour in Dorset in 1963 – Peter now lives in Jalon and Harry in Melbourne. However, with Harry visiting family in Spain, there was an opportunity for the former comrades to meet.
Both were trained in bomb and mine disposal – dealing with suspect devices washed up on the coast or caught in fishing nets, as well as other underwater duties. When ships visited Portland, their team would attach dummy limpet mines to hulls to help train the crew’s own divers in the art of searching for explosive devices after dark.
After the Dorset posting, Peter went to the Far East to help clear Japanese munitions dumped in the sea between Singapore and Malaya at the end of WW2, Harry was stationed in Malta dealing with unexploded bombs in the waters around the Mediterranean island during the war. And following their Navy service, Harry worked for a diving company recovering gold bullion from the wreck of HMS Edinburgh sunk on its voyage to Russia; Peter dived for oil companies operating around the world.
Pete Gallant and Robin 'Harry' Neave on the Costa Blanca in Spain
This photo shows members of the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team, including Pete Gallant wearing old-style SABA, on board MFV 164 in 1965 while conducting the first diving inspection of the wreck of HMS Repulse (see The Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team by Mike Gillam in the website's Dit Box).
Lt Cdr David Lermitte, Pete Gallant (wearing old-style SABA) and Leo Whelan
of the Far East Fleet CD Team on board MFV 164 in 1965
This photo shows the Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team, including Harry Neave sitting second right, on Manoel Island in Malta circa 1968-69 (see entry for 7 Jan 16 in News Archive 53).
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
From Pete Gallant on 21 August:
It was great meeting old friends after all this time. We are both well into our seventies and have done quite a lot with our lives since leaving the Royal Navy.
We had plenty of yarns to catch up with. Our time in the Navy was a very good background for the jobs I had before final retirement. I had originally joined up as a Royal Marine Musician. After I transferred to the Navy and got into the Diving branch, I never looked back and still keep in touch with some of my old diving mates.
Your article was well put together with both our photos from our Navy time, Since you published it on the MCDOA website's Latest News page, I have been contacted by Mike Lambert who was in the Portland team at that time,
With best wishes for your abseil,
15 Aug 16 - SDU2 deals with mortar bomb at Droxford
The ITV website contains this article describing Saturday's recovery, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a mortar bomb dug up in a back garden at Droxford in Hampshire.
14 Aug 16 - RN Minewarfare & EOD Heritage: Lt-Cdr Charles Graham Tanner GM RNVR
I am grateful to Ed McFarlane for the following email and photo:
I saw this tablet in Farnham churchyard mentioning the above and his father and found your entry for him on your site.
Thank you for maintaining your online memorial to so many.
From the MCDOA website's list of WW II Awards for RN Diving and Bomb & Mine Disposal in the Branch History section:
HMS President (London)
20 Apr 43
RMS/BD - GM awarded for gallantry and devotion to duty. Mine disposal Thames Oct to Nov 42.
DATE OF DEATH
|22 Sep 1943||GM awarded for gallantry and devotion to duty. Mine disposal Thames Oct to Nov 1942. Killed with FOURACRE while attempting to render safe two unexploded G type mines from wreckage of a crashed Dornier Do-217 at Out Newton, Yorkshire. Aged 35. Buried Tilford (All Saints) Churchyard near Farnham, Surrey.|
I have thanked Ed for his kind words and photo. The Vernon Monument will constitute a more tangible memorial to our forebears (and much else) and Ed has graciously made a donation to our Association's adopted cause via my Spinnaker Tower Abseil fundraisng page.
13 Aug 16 - HMS Middleton defeats RAN frigate at football in the Gulf
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 6) has beaten HMAS Perth 8-1 at football in Bahrain. The article features LS(MW) Eddie Edmondson who scored one of Middleton's two hat-tricks and LS(MW) Ashley Stone who helped organise the match.
HMAS Perth and HMS Middleton football teams
(RN website photo)
12 Aug 16 - SDU1 detonates mortar bomb at Saundersfoot
The Wales Online website contains this article, including video, describing Wednesday's disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a mortar bomb on the beach at Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire.
11 Aug 16 - False alarm for SDU2 at Lepe
The Southern Daily Echo website contains this article describing yesterday's call-out for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with an item of suspected ordnance on the beach at Lepe in the New Forest. The object turned out to be part of a car engine
10 Aug 16
Gentlemen Who Lunch
The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole enjoyed lunch yesterday at the Anglesey Arms in the village of Halnaker near Goodwood in West Sussex.
This pretty country pub keeps Bowman ales. I supped 'Swift One' and Barlow drank 'Lapwing' while Holloway settled for the 'Young's'. There is also a comprehensive menu of good food.
The main beer garden at the rear, including a pétanque court, is large and beautifully manicured while there is a delightful smaller garden at the front. We sat outside and took full advantage of the day's glorious sunshine.
As we were leaving, I struck up a conversation with a couple playing pétanque who turned out to be Simon Lightfoot and his friend Gill. Simon is the son of the late Cdr Chris Lightfoot, a naval contemporary who died only four days after I last saw him in a wheelchair at the funeral of MCDOA member Tim Hildesley in May this year (see entry for 25 May 16 in News Archive 54). Chris had suffered for some years from Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a terminal condition. He served in HMS Shoulton 1976-77, HMS Abdiel in 1988 and was Commander Fishery Protection between 1996 and 1997. He left the Royal Navy as the Base Commander at Portsmouth and Wardroom Mess President at HMS Nelson in 2002.
Rob Hoole, Gill, Simon Lightfoot and Martyn Holloway
Ride & Dive in Gosport
9 Aug 16 - Funeral of Edward John Towse
St Mary's Church in the grounds of Porchester Castle was packed yesterday for John's funeral (see entry for 23 Jul 16). Apart from members of his family, mourners included many of John's friends associated with Southsea BSAC, the HDS (Historical Diving Society), the Mary Rose Trust and Portchester Sailing Club. MCDOA members included HDS Chairman Dr John Bevan and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) as well as former CD1s John Dadd BEM, Clive Egginton, Mike O'Meara and ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.
We entered the church to the sound of Elgar's Nimrod played by the Band of HM Royal Marines, Portsmouth. The casket, draped in a red ensign and covered with floral tributes, was then borne in and place in froint of the altar. Revd Mark Williams, the church's curate, then welcomed attendees before saying an opening prayer. This was followed with a lusty rendition of the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father).
This tribute was then paid by David Wells, one of John's nephews:
JOHN TOWSE 1934 - 2016
John was a wonderful uncle and friend to all who knew him but to us his nieces and nephews, and all our children he was just John.
He drove our mothers, his sisters, to distraction as he always turned up to all family gatherings late for his meal just as everyone finished, but his arrival always heralded tales of chaos & laughter and was awaited with excited anticipation as he would always bring the most interesting presents.
But as the family spread further afield, for our children a visit to Portchester was always exciting - they loved coming down with the hope of spending time with John. You never knew what adventures you might have:
A trip out on the boat - which always meant being late for tea!
Windsurfing lessons - sometimes in the back garden!
Nothing was too much trouble for John when it came to family, and all of us loved and appreciated that
He took both of his sisters under his wing once they were living alone, helping them move into adjoining houses to his, where they competed for his attention to the extent that he had to eat Sunday dinners on alternate weeks with each to keep them happy! He was at their beck and call, and was always there for them, though not necessarily straight away - especially if the tide was right!
Spending time in his company was happily anticipated and guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.
He was hugely instrumental in bringing us face to face with part of our history.
An intelligent, funny man, with a love for life. A natural raconteur to whom weird & crazy things regularly seemed to happen. He has left an amazing legacy with the Mary Rose, but he has also left a huge gap in our hearts.
He spent many hours over a long period researching family history, and was also instrumental in co-producing a photographic history of Portchester - the place he lived his whole life. He was also involved in rebuilding the Lych Gate we have all just walked through.
John always had a love of the sea and he joined Portchester Sailing Club as a Junior where he learnt to sail under the leadership of Cdr Bill Hammond. In 1954, John was one of the first members of Southsea BSAC and he quickly became its secretary. He had a passion for diving which dominated his life.
Sadly, he suffered from Alzheimers in his last few years but was very well looked after by carers from Access Care, in particular Vusa and Salim who was with him at the end.
The last of the Towse family in Portchester after around a century of the family living in the same small terrace - and the end of an era. So many happy memories.
As he would have said, "John Towse OUT"...but never forgotten
Neil Wycherley, Reader at St Mary's Church, then led the congregation in prayers before the Commendation and Blessing. We then followed the casket out of the church to the sound of the Naval Hymn played by Captain J R Perkins and the Band of HM Royal Marines.
The family and close friends attended the Committal and Cremation at Portchester Crematorium while others waited for them to join us at Portchester Sailing Club adjacent to Portchester Castle.
If you wish to make a donation in memory of John, please make cheques payable to the 'Mary Rose Trust' and send c/o Taylor & Wallis Funeral Directors, 125/127 West Street, Portchester, Fareham, Hampshire PO16 9UF.
Edward John Towse
(14 Apr 1934 - 21 Jul 2016)
8 Aug 16 - Webmaster's abseil for the Vernon Monument and RNRMC
I am immensely grateful to the two serving and eleven ex-serving MCDOA members plus two ex-serving CDs and two ex-serving MWs who have appreciated my labours on this website sufficiently to sponsor me over the past month for my abseil in support of our Association's adopted cause (the Vernon Monument) and the RNRMC (see entry for 31 Jul 16). I hope other members of our extensive minewarfare & diving community feel similarly and will act accordingly. Every bit helps and Gift Aid will boost any donation by 25%.
My abseil down the Spinnaker Tower in Gunwharf Quays, formerly HMS Vernon, takes place three weeks from today. In the meantime, here is some more minewarfare & diving heritage the Vernon Monument will help celebrate, besides reminding people that such work continues to this day:
The Algerine class minesweeper HMS Fly streaming her Oropesa sweep
(developed at HMS Vernon) off Italy in 1943
A beardless Yours Truly (wearing beret) helping to stow the MM (Magnetic Minesweep) Mk 11(L)
loop on board the HMS Vernon-based Ton class minesweeper HMS Lewiston in 1976
HMS Vernon divers in miscellaneous rebreathers in front of the now
demolished farmhouse on Horsea Island during the early 1950s
6 Aug 16 - Qualification of two new Clearance Divers
The Salford Online website contains this home town story describing the qualification of AB Martin Bosson and the Halesowen News website contains this home town story describing the qualification of AB Mitchell Bowen as Clearance Divers. The articles feature MCDOA members Andy Woollven (CO Defence Diving School (DDS)) and Simon Pressdee (Diving & EOD Capability).
Si Pressdee presenting certificate of CD qualification to AB Martin Bosson
Si Pressdee presenting certificate of CD qualification to AB Mitchell Bowen
5 Aug 16 - FDU2 helps clear Baltic of Second World War ordnance
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of Portsmouth-based Fleet Diving Unit 2 (FDU2) in the month-long Exercise OPEN SPIRIT in and around the port of Klaipeda in the Baltic. They found 20 contacts, two of which proved to be wartime mines. The exercise also involved the Lithuanian minehunters LNS Skalvis (ex-HMS Cottesmore) and LNS Kuršis (ex-HMS Dulverton). The article features MCDOA member Rob Tristram, OIC of FDU2.
Members of FDU2 operating in the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda
(RN website photo)
4 Aug 16 - Former RFA Diligence for sale
The UK Government website contains this Ministry of Defence Notice of Sale of the former RFA Diligence. The ship, built as MV Stena Inspector, was classed as a forward repair ship and often supported MCMVs, most notably in the Gulf. This photo shows, from left to right, MCDOA past-Chairman Brian Mansbridge MBE (CO HMS Cottesmore), Capt Richard Guy RFA (Master of RFA Diligence), Paul Baker (CO HMS Chiddingfold) and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole - CO HMS Berkeley) on the jetty in Mina Raysut, Oman in 1989 with RFA Diligence as a backdrop.
For those interested:
2 Aug 16 - SDU2 detonates shell in Kent
The Kent Online website contains this article describing yesterday's disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of an unexploded shell at Sandgate near Folkestone in Kent. The shell had been buoyed overnight owing to the incoming tide.
1 Aug 16 - MCDOA AGM, Operational Updates and Annual Dinner (Redux)
This year’s association dinner will be held in HMS Excellent’s Wardroom on Friday 18 November 2016. We are adopting an international theme this year and the committee is attempting to confirm Cdre Nils 'Eric' Wirstrom USN, the current CTF 52/COMCMRON FIVE in Bahrain, as our guest speaker. We have also extended invitations to ABCANZ (AUS, GBR, CAN, US, NZ) EOD and Diving delegates who are being hosted in the UK during the preceding week.
The evening will follow the traditional format commencing with pre-dinner drinks in the bar at 1900 followed by food and refreshments and a hearty sing-song to the musical accompaniment of HMS Nelson's Volunteer Band before retiring to the bar. The dinner is open to members of the association and their guests only. If a non-member wishes to attend the dinner who is eligible to join the association (serving or retired), then they will be asked to complete the membership process prior to being offered a place at the dinner. WO1 (D/MW) are also welcome to attend as a guest of a member.
Last year's dinner featuring your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster's prominent bald spot
(More in the entry for 25 Nov 15 in News Archive 52)
The cost of the dinner will be £45 for members and £50 for guests. This will include a four course meal, wine, and as usual the association will put a health kitty behind the bar. JFD UK has again kindly offered to provide the port for the evening. MCDOA members of at least four years' standing who are leaving the Service will be dined out for free. Please make yourselves known to Mark Shaw, our Hon Sec.
Accommodation has been reserved in HMS Excellent's transit block so please indicate on your application form if you require a bunk.
On 25 February 1966, the combined Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer sub-specialisation was formed and we will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. We will also be feting LMCDO '66, the first full MCD course, which comprised Course Officer Pat Dowland (d.16 Feb 13) and students Mike Bull, John Coggins, Bill Grady, Bob Harrison, John Lang, John Ludgate, Alan Padwick, Jon Riches, Ed Thompson and Ivan Whatley.
We will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of LMCDO '91A which comprised Course Officer Al Trevarthen, Course Instructor CPO(D) John 'Tiny' Timms and students Tim Ash (MWO), Alex Bush, Richard Cowley, Steve England, Neil Holden, Henry Mark CAF (MWO - already CDO), Ambrose McDonough, Richard McMillan RAN (MWO), Chris O'Flaherty (who, for medical reasons, actually qualified on LMCDO '91B), Paul Papalia RAN (MWO - already CDO), Jim? Perron CAF (MWO) and Mark 'Doc' Savage. The MW module Course Officer was Paul Davey and the MW Instructor was the late CPO(MW) David 'Taff' Davies (d.21 Nov 12).
LMCDO '91A MW module
We will also celebrate the 25th Anniversay of LMCDO '91B which comprised Course Officer Al Trevarthen, Course Instructor CPO(D) Dave 'Mo' Morris and students Angus Benton, Chris Baldwin, David Foster, Tony Griffiths (MWO), John Herriman, Chris O’Flaherty, Steve Powell (MWO) and Darroch Woodward. Regrettably, I do not have a course photo for the MW module. Can anyone provide one?
Last but not least, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of MWO 1/91 which I believe was the first standalone MWO course not part of a particular LMCDO course. According to MCDOA member Martin Mackey who went on to qualify as an MCDO on LMCO '93B, MWO 1/91 comprised himself and his fellow MCDOA member Jonathan Lee plus four officers who had already qualified as CDOs in Australia: Lt Jay Bannister RAN, S/Lt Mick Edwards RAN, Lt ‘Spudy’ Hamilton RAN and S/Lt Bryan Parker RAN. The Course Officer was RAN/RN transferee Paul Davey and the Course Instructor was the late CPO(MW) David 'Taff' Davies (d.21 Nov 12).
The AGM and operational update brief will be held earlier in the day at Bridge Building, Horsea Island. Lunch will be provided in the Horsea Island Officers and Senior Rates Mess from 1200 with the update brief and AGM starting from 1315. Members are encouraged to attend this important serial and make your voices heard to the committee. Note that there will be no morning proceedings this year.
Payment for the dinner can be made by cash, cheque or online bank transfer. Please ensure our Hon Sec receives hard or soft copy application forms.
The closing date for applications is Friday 4 November 2016 or earlier if all spaces are taken.
The calling notice and booking form are available for download here or via the Forthcoming Events page:
From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:
"Many thanks Rob for the advance notice of the Annual Dinner that I am particularly sorry to miss as I well remember the 1966 Long Course that took place during my tenure as IDiving. I remember them well.
We have made arrangements to be in Malta on that day without having remembered that it was just 50 years ago that the course took place in the same year that M was added to CD. We will raise a glass to them and all who dine with them on 18th November.
From MCDOA ex-Treasurer Dave 'Spidy' Ince who transferred to the RAN in early 2007:
The usual MRU from me. I am still living large on a South Pacific island practicing blowing bubbles.
We return to Australia in January next year and I commence XO desigs (big ships) in February. Then it's off to do a two year stint on our ocean droggy boats based out of Cairns. At least we are used to the topical climate now. Many years ago I did some extra Fleet time in HMS Herald and ended up on Operation CIMNEL in the Gulf. I think the appointer's initial plan was to get me away from MW and CD business for a while. Fail. Anyway, I am not sure what the peace loving droggies will think of a MCD XO, it hasn't occurred in the RAN before! I just hope there isn't a young subby on board who behaves like I did back then ;) Now that would be karma!
Please pass my very best to the merry gathering.
Dave Spidy Ince"
31 Jul 16
An appeal from your Webmaster
At 1600 on Sunday 28 August, I plan to abseil down the 170 metre (560 ft) Emirates Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, to raise money for the Vernon Monument and the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC). I entreat all readers of this website to support me in this endeavour by contributing via my Virgin Money Giving webpage. Don't forget to claim the Gift Aid which boosts your donation by 25%.
Owing to the small size of our minewarfare & diving population and the coincidental downturn in the economy, Project Vernon was always going to be more of a marathon than a sprint but I am in it for the duration. It needs people to give, and then keep giving. Members of our community who are not actively fundraising, donating or encouraging others to donate have no valid excuse for criticising the time it is taking for our monument to reach fruition. That said, we are now in the home stretch as shown by the graphic below. To reach our target, we only require about 25 more donors as generous as some of us 'pensioners' but every single payment helps reduce the outstanding amount.
Gunwharf Quays, where the monument will be erected, was previously HMS Vernon, the Royal Navy's alma mater of minewarfare, diving and bomb & mine disposal. The Vernon Monument is intended to celebrate this heritage and act as a reminder to the annual footfall of 8 million visitors that this work carries on to this day. In a sense, 2016 is HMS Vernon's centenary year as a shore establishment because it is 100 years since the first unit, the Mining School, came ashore into Vulcan (as it was then named) from the floating establishment of hulks moored in Portchester Lake.
The George Cross is the equivalent of the Victoria Cross but is awarded to civilians and military personnel who have displayed conspicuous bravery "not in the face of the enemy." During the Second World War, HMS Vernon was the core training establishment and base of naval personnel awarded 23 George Crosses (as many as the Army and RAF put together) and at least 134 George Medals (including 16 bars) for bomb & mine disposal (including minesweeping) on land and at sea. Countless other medals, Mentions in Despatches and King's Commendations for Bravery were awarded to personnel associated with HMS Vernon for naval minelaying, minesweeping, diving and bomb & mine disposal while hundreds of other personnel were appointed OBEs and MBEs in the military lists.
Since the Second World War, personnel associated with HMS Vernon, its ships and diving teams have been awarded at least one Distinguished Service Order, 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, 69 British Empire Medals (including one bar), 14 Queen's Gallantry Medals and 35 Queen's Commendations for Bravery among other honours and awards for gallantry, in naval minewarfare, diving and EOD operations from the waters of the North Sea, Mediterranean, South Atlantic, Arabian Gulf, South China Sea and the Gilbert & Ellis Islands to the badlands of Iraq and Afghanistan. This legacy continues today, every day of the week.
No single monument or memorial exists to celebrate these individuals or commemorate the minewarfare, diving and EOD heritage of HMS Vernon. The Vernon Monument, designed by world renowned Australian sculptor Les Johnson FRBS and chosen by an all-ranks committee of serving and retired minewarfare & diving personnel after an exhaustive and transparent competitive process, will be the first and a fitting tribute. Please give it all the support it deserves, and then some.
Many an offshore industry 'baron' was given his start thanks to HMS Vernon's Diving School so how about the odd day's pay as a small token of appreciation?
Above and below: HMS Vernon's diving training facility at Horsea Lake in the early 1950s
HMS Vernon's diving training facility at Horsea Lake in the early 1950s
Diver in old CDBA (O2) at Horsea Island in the early 1950s
Diver in old CDBA (Mixture) at Horsea Island
in the early 1950s
Here is something special for the MCM community. How about demonstrating your gratitude for the training that enabled you to survive to tell the tale on such occasions?
Sweepdeck activity - HMS Dartington October 1966
Left: HMS Yarnton in the North Sea circa 1960
Right: HMS Sheraton in the Taiwan Strait circa 1970
HMS Cattistock in rough weather
It is 14 years since I founded this website, principally for MCDOA members but also for the benefit of the wider naval minewarfare, diving and EOD community and anyone else interested. The website is now accessed each month by about 50,000 unique servers worldwide. This means that even more people are looking at sections of it, if not necessarily the 'Latest News' page. Entire sections have even been plagiarised by unscrupulous authors and other webmasters.
Q. Will I regard your response to my appeal as a measure of your appreciation for this website and assisting people 'behind the scenes'?
A. You bet.
Q. Will your response to my appeal encourage me to continue expending my enthusiasm, time and effort on these activities?
A. I sincerely hope so. We shall just have to wait and see.
Thank you if you have read this far. Over to you.
28 Jul 16 - SDU2 deals with unexploded shell in Shoreham harbour
The Shoreham Herald website contains this article describing yesterday's disposal by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of an unexploded wartime shell picked up by the dredger 'Arco Dee' off Selsey.
26 Jul 16 - Award of LS&GC medal
Congratulations to PO(D) A Bryant on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.
23 Jul 16 - Death of Edward 'John' Towse
John Towse (second left) at the MCDOA's Annual Dinner in the Wardroom, HMS Excellent
on 16 November 2007
The Portsmouth News website contains this article announcing yesterday's death of John Towse. He was suffering from pneumonia and passed away in Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham at the age of 82.
Apart from re-discovering the wreck of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's flagship which sank off Southsea Castle in 1545, with Alexander McKee in May 1965, John was a founder member of the pioneering Southsea branch of the BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club) and became its Secretary in April 1954, only two years after the BSAC was established. This article, published in the December issue of Navy News the same year, describes the club's significance during John's early tenure:
Swimming (Published in Navy News in December 1954)
MAN IS a curious animal. He is inquisitive and forever delving into the mysteries of the unknown: exploring the Amazon rain forests; conquering Everest; and investigating speeds above that of sound. All evidence of man's enquiring nature.
It is with this same feeling at the back of their minds that a few underwater swimming clubs have been formed in Great Britain in the last couple of years. For a considerable time, underwater investigation has been limited by the equipment required for a suited diver—lines to the surface. a constant air supply, and the limited mobility of the diver himself. The invention of the Aqualung by Commandant Cousteau, of the French Navy, has opened up a vast field for free underwater exploration. The diver is as free as a fish and can penetrate to depths of 150 ft. with ease. Depths of over 400 feet have been achieved in serious scientific investigation.
In the Portsmouth area three clubs are at present functioning. The first of these is a branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club with headquarters in Southsea. The B.S.A.C. was formed in 1952 and now has branches all over the country and connections with several similar organisations overseas. In the Isle of Wight the Three Fathoms Club operates and this also has a branch in Gosport.
In April of this year the first naval club was formed in H.M.S. Coilingwood. The club has some 40 members and has built up a variety of equipment in the short time it has been running. Funds have limited the club to one Aqualung, but ex-Service Salvus equipment and German submarine escape Dräger units have been obtained. The use of the latter equipment is strictly limited, since pure oxygen can be dangerous at depths of more than 30 ft. The secretary of the Collingwood Underwater Swimming Club (Instructor Lieut. Berry) would be pleased to provide any information for those interested. T. P. B.
Left: Siebe Gorman Salvus
Right Dräger (Draeger) submarine escape apparatus
John worked with MCDOA honorary life member Lt Cdr 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM and world deep diving record-breaker and MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan (who achieved a simulated depth of 1,500 fsw (457 msw) in 1970) at RNPL's DTU (the Royal Navy Physiological Laboratory's Deep Trials Unit) at Alverstoke from September 1966 to April 1989. As the head of the hyperbaric facilities, he was a familiar figure for many of HMS Vernon's divers and was one of the overseers when I was a guinea pig during the 90 metre Trimix trials at DTU in 1979.
John was also prominent in the Historical Diving Society (HDS) and one of the leading lights behind the establishment of its diving museum at Stokes Bay on the Solent. Here are some photos showing his general association with diving history and the development of the HDS Diving Museum at Stokes Bay and its library in Gosport.
John Bevan with John Towse at a presentation about the Deane brothers
in Lee-on-the-Solent on 22 June 2010
John Towse with HDS Museum volunteers including ex-CDs John Dadd BEM,
Mike O'Meara and Clive Egginton on 22 August 2010
Above and below: John Towse at the arrival of chambers outside the HDS Museum on 2 November 2011
John Towse in the HDS Museum with volunteers including ex-CDs John Dadd BEM
and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson on 2 November 2011
John Towse with John Bevan at the new HDS library in Gosport on 12 December 2012
John Towse with his Octopush co-founders
John Bevan and Frank Lilleker in September 2012
For further background, see the second entry for 14 Nov 07 in News Archive 20 although there are more photos of John and his activities dotted all over this website.
John Towse (third right) at the presentation of HMS Boxer's ensign to
the Isle of Wight's Shipwreck Museum at Arreton on 15 September 2007
John Towse in one of the chambers at the HDS Diving Museum on 2 November 2011
John's funeral will be held at St Mary's Church in Portchester at 1130 on Monday 8 August.
19 Jul 16 - The solution to a riddle
This letter appeared in last month's Navy News:
I responded with this email:
I saw your letter enquiring about HMS Diver on page 29 of the June issue of Navy News. I am attaching the same photo published in NN but captioned with the names of the crew members depicted, including your late father. The photo appeared in a Christmas card sent by HMS Diver sometime between 1954 and 1956 and I am attaching an image of the front cover too.
HMS Diver was launched on 7 April 1943 as C.28, a German boom defence and mining tender. She was acquired by the RN as a war prize in 1945 and commissioned as HMS Diver in 1948. She had a team of clearance divers embarked and served as a Mine Location Vessel, attached to the 1st Minesweeping Experimental Flotilla (and later the 50th Minesweeping Flotilla) based at HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar on the south side of the Forth. Sometime around 1960, she was sent to Singapore where she was employed as a diving tender by the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team until her sale in 1971. There is more about her Far East service here. As you can see from one of the attached photos, she certainly was not a frigate.
Sadly, another of the crew members in the photo, Acting Petty Officer Diver (later Lieutenant) Alan J ‘Nutty’ Carr, died in April this year. Ironically, his death notice appears in the same issue of Navy News. Please see the entries for 21 Apr 16 in News Archive 54 and 29 Nov 15 in News Archive 52 of the MCDOA website for greater detail.
You can also find many mentions and photos of the late Lt Cdr ‘Uncle Bill’ Filer MBE GM RN (the Commanding Officer of HMS Diver in the middle of the front row in your dad’s photo) if you type “Filer” into the search box on the website’s Home page (or anything else you wish to find for that matter). I had the privilege of knowing him right up to his death in January 2011 and I am enclosing a photo showing us during a lunchtime gathering at Lee-on-the-Solent Sailing Club in April 2010. Bill is sitting far right and I am sitting next to him.
Please don’t hesitate to call me if you would like to talk.
A few days later, I was delighted to receive this reply:
Thank you so much for your email and wonderful photographs. I am sorry I've taken my time emailing you back but I don't check my emails as often as I should.
I had a few tears reading your email as I didn't know that my dad was part of a mine clearing team. He always told me he was an engineer so if he actually had anything to do with the mines I will never know. He did let slip once that he used to deep sea dive in the helmet and boots as seen in the Christmas card picture but that's the only information I ever managed to squeeze out of him. We know he went to Singapore only because he had some photographs also India.
I have had quite a response to my letter so far. I've had emails from as far as Canada with information about HMS Diver and it seems she played a vital role in mine clearance and was well thought of.
I was born in 1957 and I know Dad left the Navy soon after so he would have been on the ship 1954-56. He joined the Navy on leaving school and didn't want to leave but Mom made him as she didn't want to live in naval quarters.
You will be pleased to hear we had his ashes scattered at sea a few weeks ago. As we are lucky enough to live in Cornwall, the Padstow lifeboat skipper offered to take us all out to the mouth of Padstow Estuary. It was a very emotional day but Dad would have loved it.
I was sorry to hear that Lt Cdr Filer had passed away. It was his grandson's letter to the Navy News that prompted me to write in the first place.
'Nutty Carr' must have been a real character. I loved his nick name.
I will pass all this information on to my family so thank you once again.
Very best wishes,
18 Jul 16 - Award of Meritorious Service Medal
17 Jul 16 - Veteran 'P' Party diver Ray 'Brum' Maries seriously ill
I am sad to report that Ray 'Brum' Maries is seriously ill. According to his grandson, Mike, he is in Birmingham Heartlands Hospital after having fallen at home five times during the past three weeks. Each time, he has required paramedic attention. Ray has severe osteo-arthritis in his right hip as well as other medical issues.
Your humble Webmaster (Rob Hoole) with Ray 'Brum' Maries
in June 2008
Ray was awarded a Mention in Despatches "for good services in mine clearance and mine disposal operations in NW Europe" while serving in 'P' Party 1572 immediately before the close of the war with Germany and in the months that followed. To the best of my knowledge, he is the only surviving 'P' Party member following the demise of David Shane of 'P' Party 1571 (see first entry for 20 Aug 14 in News Archive 47), Mike Connolly of 'P' Party 1572 (see entry for 7 Jun 12 in News Archive 38), John Home-Douglas of 'P' Party 1571 (see entry for 24 Apr 12 in News Archive 38) and Arthur Russell MBE of 'P' Party 1572 (see entry for 22 Dec 09 in News Archive 28).
I am sure all members of our community will join me in extending Ray our best wishes for a speedy recovery.
12 Jul 16 - RN Minewarfare Heritage: BYMS 2211
I have received this query:
"Your mine sweeping web site shows a picture of BYMS 2211 in dry dock during World War II. There are two sailors in the picture and I believe one of them was my father.
Is it possible to forward this e-mail to Commander Davies' family to see if they have any more pictures or information?
BYMS (British Yard Mine Sweeper) 2211 in dry dock in Holland in 1945
See the second entry for 20 Jun 06 in News Archive 14. I have forwarded David's request to the late Cdr Davies' grandson Martin.
11 Jul 16 - Looking for Brian 'Bill' Bailey
I have received the following enquiry:
I have for many years been trying to trace Brian `Bill` Bailey and recently received a photograph from 1955 which pinpoints him to a Clearance Bomb Disposal Course in June of that year. Is it possible that HMS Vernon still has additional details about `Bill` which may help me with my search? I appreciate that it is a long time ago but any information would be very gratefully received.
Thank you and kind regards,
Helen's photograph shows a class of CD Basics, wearing HMS Vernon cap tallies, at the Joint Services Bomb Disposal School at Broadbridge Heath near Horsham in West Sussex in June 1955 with some of the individuals identified.
Back row: Les Maynard, Derek 'Del' Rowe, Yorky Wilkinson, Bob 'Jock' Adam, Dinah Shore
Front Row: Bernard Edward 'Donkey' Bray, Bill Bailey, Philip Le Cornu, Dutchy Vanderson
(Edited in light of information received.)
Can anyone help fill in the gaps? The photo shows the late CPO(CD1) Bernard Edward ‘Donkey’ Bray BEM*, father of more recently retired CD Alan ‘Donkey’ Bray, who died in March 2008 (see entry for 12 Apr 08 in News Archive 22) rather than Donald 'Donkey' Bray who is still around. Robert Muir Keir ‘Jock’ Adam passed away in June 2013 (see entry for 28 Jun 13 in News Archive 42).
From former CDO Les Maynard:
Ref the CD3s' Course at the Joint Services Bomb Disposal School at Broadbridge Heath: Derek Rowe is second from the left in the top row. Philip Le Cornu is second from the right in the bottom row.
Ref Brian 'Bill' Bailey: Bill left the Service and went to work with a diving firm in Southampton - Strongwork I think! Then he moved up to Scotland to another diving and civil engineering company; I believe it was called Reed & Malec [Diving Division founded by MCDOA member Harry Wardle who died in 2007 - see entry for 17 Sep 07 in News Archive 19]. When I last saw Bill in 1972, he was a senior manager with the company.
Yorky Wilkinson is still above the grass living in Deal in Kent. I had a crimbo card from him last year.
The Donkey Bray in the picture passed away about three years ago as I understand it. He was known as 'Little Donks'.
I hope this helps,
From former FCPO(D) David 'Mona' Lott BEM:
"G’day Rob and hello Helen,
A blast from the long distant past, where do the years go?
This was the class before mine that finished in December 1955 so I knew these CDs quite well. I am sure that Les Maynard will also be able to fill you in as he is the only remaining member that I know from that class who still survives and now resides in Western Australia.
Most of the names you have are correct but the second from left in the back row is Derek (Del) Rowe and the third from the left in the front row is Le Cornu, first name forgotten.
The first bloke on the left in the front row is Donkey Bray (the younger) BEM and bar who worked with me as a CPO CD1 in the Fleet Team and retired to work with Bill Filer in the Deep Trials unit. He died some 8 to 10 years ago.
I have a vague recollection of Bill Bailey starting a small aviation business in Scotland after he left the RN, but I have not heard of him since. Dutchy Vanderson served on Dingley when I was the buffer and was a good friend of ex-CD1 Derek 'Maggie' Lockwood who I believe is still around and may have some more details.
As I said at the start this is all from a considerable time ago. Sorry that I can’t be of much more help.
Regards and many thanks for the memory jog.
Dave (Mona) Lott
Postscript: I have received this message from ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson:
Hope all good for you.
Thank you for posting the picture for Helen Armstrong during her search for her father Brian ‘Bill’ Bailey. Other initial contacts were: Len Smith (Chief CD1); Tom Norman(Chief CD1 also my qualifying instructor 1964 - ECD 29) who worked for Strongwork, he put the search on the way to South Queensferry; then Stu Grainger (CD1) who was contacted at Dalmenny. He and I worked offshore together. On answerphone, being asked if he knew Bill (which he did not), his wife Ann then said (you couldn’t make this up), "He used to live next to Dalmenny Station." Also for info. Dave (Mona) Lott who replied to your request, was my instructor on ECD 28, which I came off with an injury.
Here is a copy of the letter Helen sent after contacting Bill.
Thanks to you, I know I have now found Bill. Googling around this week led me to a Bill Bailey in Dalgety Bay (over the Forth Road Bridge). Information showed that he was married to someone called Alison and was born in 1936 - this all sounded about right. One bit of information seemed strange - that he had been in airfield management?
Meanwhile, I also contacted the MCDOA about HMS Vernon and sent the photograph you provided me with. I had wondered if they had any other records which might help me. Rob emailed back some days ago and said, "Sorry, HMS Vernon was wrapped up several years ago and no records remained." Today he emailed me because he had put the picture you provided on their Latest News page and there had been responses. Dave Lott in Australia confirmed that Bill had moved to Scotland and `started an aviation business`. This obviously matches with Bill in Dalgety Bay.
I did write to him on Tuesday - 80% sure it was him. Without the power of the internet and kindness of strangers like you I wouldn`t have got this far. Now I will have to see if he responds to my letter.......
I have just had a long conversation with Brian so we are in touch and I am rather shaken!!
Thank you Tommo and very best wishes,
10 Jul 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 this email and his ship's June newsletter, comprising an overview of 2015, which can be downloaded here:
"Sirs, Ma’ms, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is our final newsletter of the deployment and the last from me in Command as I move onto West Battery in Whale Island when I return.
A huge thank you to you all for making the past 18 months such an adventure and incredibly professionally satisfying. To everyone we met in Ledbury during our triathlon challenge, thank you for your hospitality and I’m glad your recent WW I Centenary commemorations, which we discussed last year, was such a success.
To the members of the RNA Chichester, I look forward to seeing you again in the autumn, and to all the Sunday School children at St Mary’s Church, Chiddingfold, thank you very much for your ‘good luck’ card and I will hopefully meet many of you at your Patronal Festival and BBQ in September.
Lieutenant Commander S J White Royal Navy
MCM2 Crew 5 - Leading the Hunt"
I am sure that all members of our community will join me in thanking Steve for his informative updates and wishing him and his ship's company the best of good fortune in whatever challenges lie ahead.
9 Jul 10 - MCDOA members exercise NSRS
I am grateful to MCDOA member Del McKnight for allowing me to publish these photos of the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS), including the Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV), during an exercise.
Del has informed me that this was the culmination of several weeks at sea for the NSRS team including a dive in excess of 600 metres to prove the system. The exercise also involved MCDOA members Tony Hampshire, Damian Slattery and Simon Pressdee.
MCDOA member Kev Stockton has also contributed this photo of himself in the SRV during a deep dive exercise in 2011 when he reached a depth of 613 metres by gauge.
8 Jul 16 - Sign up for the Vernon Heritage Conference at Gunwharf Quays
On the final stretch
A Vernon Heritage Conference is to be held on Friday 23 September in the Aspex Gallery occupying part of Vulcan Building in Gunwharf Quays, the former site of HMS Vernon. Apart from promising to be a thoroughly entertaining event for all interested in our minewarfare & diving heritage, it will also raise funds for the Vernon Monument and the RN & RM Charity (RNRMC). It will be sponsored by Land Securities (who own Gunwharf Quays), the Society of Underwater Technology (SUT) and the RNRMC among other organisations.
|1500||Delegates arrive at the ASPEX Gallery, Gunwharf Quays; VIP delegates meet our keynote presenters and receive preferential seating.|
|1520||Commander John G.D. Ouvry DSO RN, by his son David
"COMETH THE HOUR, COMETH THE MAN" Sometimes in history, just occasionally, in life and death struggles between nations, the acts of individuals tip the balance, make a critical difference to the outcome. Examples in more recent naval history are Sub Lt Barnes seizing an Enigma machine from a sinking U-boat, or Lt Moffatt crippling the Bismarck with a torpedo from his Swordfish. And then there was the bravery of Lt Cdr John Ouvry in November 1939, when he disarmed a German magnetic mine in the mudflats of the Thames estuary to reveal its secret and enabling us to neutralise this deadly weapon that was threatening to throttle our sea lanes and haemorrhage the very life blood of our nation. From 1939, Ouvry was Head of the Enemy Mining Section at HMS Vernon. By experience, training and temperament, he was perfectly placed to play this key role. For the rest of the war, he was up against it, either at the business end or passing on his expertise to the next generation of sailors. This talk brings to you the character and actions of John Ouvry - quiet, calm, diffident, quite a Foyle character - a man to whom, with his brave colleagues, the nation owes a great debt and whose legacy is with us today.
Dr Albert Beaumont Wood OBE DSc, by Mike Underwood,
author of “Gunwharf Quays” and conservation architect during the
redevelopment of HMS VERNON site into Gunwharf Quays.
Known as “A B Wood”, he was a brilliant British physicist who became Chief Scientist at HMS Vernon. He made significant contributions in underwater acoustics - ASDICS/sonar - through two world wars. He gained his OBE at Vernon for investigating enemy mines.
Commander Lionel “Buster” Crabb OBE GM RNVR, by
MCDOA associate member Dr. John Bevan,
author of “What Really Happened” and Chairman of the Historical
Diving Society (HDS). As a member of the RN Scientific
Service, John also set a new world record in 1970 by diving to a
simulated depth of 1,500 ft in the Deep Trials Unit (DTU) at RNPL
Alverstoke. Much more recently he was responsible for
establishing the HDS Diving Museum at Stokes Bay.
Cdr Crabb was a retired Royal Navy frogman and MI6 diver who vanished during a reconnaissance mission around a Soviet cruiser berthed at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1956. What really happened?
|1750||Cheese & Wine reception followed by a raffle & auction of exclusive Project Vernon-related merchandise and collectibles with all proceeds going to the two charities.|
Long-term followers of this website will be familiar with the significance of each of the subjects in Royal Navy minewarfare & diving history, as well as the speakers who will provide further insight into their character and achievements.
There should also be an opportunity to meet Andrew Bailey, son of the late Elect Lt William 'Bill' Bailey CBE DSC GM* RNVR. Bill Bailey, who was trained at HMS Vernon like Ouvry and Crabb, was awarded the GM (George Medal) for his underwater work in the Mediterranean where he preceded and overlapped Crabb in countering the Italian Chariot raids on shipping anchored at Gibraltar. He was awarded the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) for port clearance operations from June to September 1944 and a bar to his GM for "exceptional gallantry, skill and great devotion to duty, often in close proximity to the enemy, during mine-searching and clearance operations in the ports of Normandy and the Low Countries" as OIC of 'P' (Port) Parties 1502 and 1574.
Lt 'Bill' Bailey CBE DSC GM* RNVR and in 'P' Party diving dress
In a sense, 2016 is HMS Vernon's centenary year as a shore establishment because it is 100 years since the first unit, the Mining School, came ashore, into Vulcan as it was then named, from the floating establishment in Portchester Lake.
This conference is an event not be missed and is for two causes dear to our hearts. For further information including ticket sales, visit the Project Vernon website here:
Vernon Heritage Conference: 23 Sep 2016
Postscript: Regrettably, this conference has now been cancelled owing to lack of support.
7 Jul 16
HDS Diving Museum Newsletter
This month's Historical Diving Society (HDS) museum newsletter can be downloaded here:
Gentlemen Who Lunch
The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine Trio' of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole was out and about this week on Wednesday owing to Barlow having been fitted with his latest hearing device on our more usual Tuesday. Barlow's new hearing aid, costing the equivalent of a small country's GDP, includes a remote microphone cum transmitter like those worn by TV presenters. The microphone is either worn by an interlocutor or placed strategically (e.g. the middle of the table) from where it wirelessly broadcasts sound direct to Barlow's earpiece.
This week, our trio visited The Victoria Inn in the picturesque South Downs village of West Marden in West Sussex.
This pretty country pub, set back from the narrow road, has a large beer garden at the front. There was considerable overspill parking on the road outside but we managed to find space in the relatively small car park.
There is also a pleasantly sheltered hardstanding adjacent to the building's main entrance which is where we chose to sit.
Inside, the bar was the focal point from which several unfussy rooms radiated. All areas seemed fresh, airy and well-appointed.
The pub keeps three real ales, all brewed locally. We decided on the Goldmark Phoenix (ABV 4.1%) described as "A fiery amber brown ale with hints of caramel and toffee, finished with a smooth bitter ending." It is brewed at the Goldmark Brewery in Arundel, West Sussex but we could also have chosen Dark Star Hophead (ABV 3.8%) described as "An extremely clean-drinking pale golden ale with a strong floral aroma and elderflower notes from the Cascade hops." which is brewed at the Dark Star Brewery in West Sussex or Listers Best Bitter (ABV 3.9%) described as "Traditional ale but triple hopped. Full flavoured, balanced and moreish with a caramel finish." which is brewed at the Listers Brewery, Ford in West Sussex. We did not regret our decision as our beer tasted delicious. Coincidentally, the drayman arrived to remove the empties and restock the cellar while we were there.
The pub also has an extensive menu of reasonably priced meals and the 'light bites' on the bar menu surprisingly include calamari & chips. Holloway plumped for a hand cut ham & English mustard baguette while I chose a prawn & Marie Rose sauce baguette. To celebrate Barlow buying the first round, Holloway and I clubbed together to buy him a portion of chips.
While we waited for our food, Barlow and Holloway launched into a round of colourful jokes, some of which involved the risqué antics of Australians and kangaroos. I dissolved into a fit of the giggles when it suddenly occurred to me that these might be overheard by any little old lady within range who was wearing a hearing device similar to Barlow's. When they arrived, our baguettes, baked on the premises, were generously filled and accompanied by a salad garnish with French dressing. Barlow's chips, contained in a wire basket, were perfectly cooked; crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside and tasting wonderful. Our food was served by Rory and Donna who were polite, efficient and friendly.
Somehow, this delightful country pub had escaped our attention during the 14 years we have been conducting our relentless research on behalf of the MCDOA. Now that we are aware of its existence, I am sure we will be back. It is awarded a creditable 4.5 diving helmets (or mines) out of 5 and is highly recommended for a visit by anyone in the Portsmouth/Chichester area.
6 Jul 16 - HMS Hurworth exercises with Merlin
The Royal Navy website contains this article describing exercises in the English Channel involving HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 1) and a Merlin Mk 2 helicopter from 824 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose.
RN MInewarfare & Diving Heritage: Transatlantic deployments
Twenty years ago, the Hunt class MHSCs HMS Berkeley (now HS Kallisto in the Greek Navy) and HMS Chiddingfold plus the Sandown class MHCs HMS Bridport (now EML Ugandi in the Estonian Navy) and HMS Cromer (now the harbour training ship Hindostan at BRNC Dartmouth), supported by Forward Support Unit 01 embarked in MV Italica, crossed the Atlantic to participate in Exercise PURPLE STAR 96 (29 April to 19 May 1996) as described in these articles from the May 1996 and July 1996 issues of Navy News.
Two articles from the July 1996 issue of Navy News
As one of the articles describes, the ships passed many historic sites including Mount Vernon which had a connection with 'Old Grog' after whom HMS Vernon was named as Wikipedia explains here:
"...when Washington's older half-brother, Lawrence Washington, inherited it, he changed its name to Mount Vernon in honor of Vice Admiral Edward Vernon, famed for the War of Jenkin's Ear and capture of the Portobelo, Colón. Vernon had been Lawrence's commanding officer in the British Royal Navy. When George Washington inherited the property, he retained the name."
Hunts had already crossed the Atlantic in 1985 when HMS Brecon (now a static training ship at HMS Raleigh), HMS Chiddingfold, HMS Cottesmore (now LNS Skalvis in the Lithuanian Navy) and HMS Dulverton (now LNS Kuršis in the Lithuanian Navy) visited the US eastern seaboard as described in this article from the August 1985 issue of Navy News:
These photos were taken at the time:
HMS Brecon on the Anacostia River after visiting the Washington Navy Yard in 1985.
The US Capitol building is visible in the background
HMS Brecon and HMS Cottesmore (foreground) approaching the confluence of the Potomac
and Anacostia rivers at Hains Point after visiting the Washington Navy Yard in 1985.
The National Airport is visible in the background
HMS Brecon and HMS Cottesmore approaching Fort Washington on the Potomac River
in 1985 after visiting the Washington Navy Yard
The most recent transatlantic deployment of RN MCMVs was Exercise AURORA in 2004 when the Hunt class MHSC HMS Middleton and the Sandown class MHCs HMS Pembroke, HMS Sandown (now EML Admiral Cowan in the Estonian Navy) and HMS Walney (now decommissioned), supported by RFA Sir Bedivere (now NDCC Almirante Saboia in the Brazilian Navy), participated in Exercise RAPID ALLIANCE. They paid visits to the Azores, Bermuda, Norfolk Virginia, Boston, Halifax Nova Scotia and St John's Newfoundland.
From the Jul/Aug issue of Warship World (see entry for 27 Jun 2004 in News Archive 6).
RNR MCMVs have also crossed the Atlantic for MAPLEHAUL deployments to the eastern seaboard of Canada. In 1973, the long gone Ton class MSCs HMS Venturer (HMS Hodgeston) of Severn Division, HMS Curzon (HMS Fittleton) of Sussex Division, HMS Solent (HMS Crofton) of Solent Division and HMS Mersey (HMS Pollington) of Mersey Division, accompanied by the tanker RFA Brown Ranger, visited St John's in Newfoundland, Halifax in Nova Scotia and Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island for the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Reserve Forces.
In 1985, the River class MSFs HMS Carron, HMS Dovey and HMS Waveney visited St John's in Newfoundland, Sydney and Halifax in Nova Scotia, Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island and Shediac in New Brunswick to coincide with 75th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Navy.
From the August 1985 issue of Navy News:
5 Jul 16
SDU2 detonates cannon shell
The BBC News website contains this article and the Dorset Echo website this article (both including video) describing today's disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a cannon shell discovered in sand dunes at Knoll Beach in Studland Bay.
Team Wizard in the Round the Island Race
I am grateful to MCDOA member Geoff Goodwin for this message:
Wizard took part in the Round the Island Race 2016 as planned.
Some 1,500 boats registered to start, of which over 300 retired because of the weather conditions, being on the very edge of what might be considered safe for some smaller craft. We experienced winds up to 30 knots (some others reported gusts of 45!) which resulted in a hard bash down the Western Solent against a choppy sea, with the tide driving us at speeds over the ground of 9 knots, adding to the forecast wind. Our low freeboard ensured that we were kept cool by frequent sea water drenchings. Wind over tide conditions south of the Island became increasingly uncomfortable towards St Catherine’s Point, with a heavy stern sea , a few breakers and still plenty of breeze. Despite the usual long leg with wind astern, very few boats hoisted spinnakers because of the difficulty with steering in the 2-3 metre swell (somebody reported 4-5 metres) and high wind. This was followed by the beat against tide along the northern shores of the Island, which at least provided respite from the earlier sea states, and with everyone trying to get the right balance between keeping clear of shallow water (eg Ryde Sands), maintaining a decent boat speed and staying out of the flooding tide.
Wizard finished in 833rd position with a time of 9:34:33. In our Contessa 32 class of 27 boats we came 16th and 9 sister Contessa 32s didn’t complete the course.
Before the start of the race my aim was to improve on last year’s time but after an hour’s sailing I revised that aim to a) complete the course and do it safely and b) have a happy crew at the finish. Both were achieved. At the end of a day during which many MAYDAY and PAN PAN PAN messages were overheard (including: a number of “man overboards”, dismastings, a smashed/lost rudder, blown out sails, groundings, various injuries and other damage and one sinking) we were pleased to finish just feeling a tad weary!
We raised £625 for Project Vernon. Many, many thanks for your generous sponsorship!
This makes a total of about £1,800 raised for the Vernon Monument by Geoff and Team Wizard within the past two months. Congratulations and many thanks on behalf of the minewarfare and diving community which will be immortalised in public when the Vernon Monument is erected.
Possible work for the brethren
I am grateful to MCDOA member Kim Godfrey for this message:
I appreciate the website is not a job board but the project I am involved in will be an iconic UK one with a specific requirement for the types of people that the MCD cadre produce. We have just been offered full funding and are now starting the design and planning phase before we build the biggest indoor pool (50m long, 40m wide and with a 50m deep section) in the world. Supporting it will be hyperbaric and hypobaric chambers and an R&D section looking at space flight physiology. The plan is to open within the next 18 to 24 months.
As the Diving Director I’ve started to look at building the diving team and initially looking for ex-CD’s (preferably) who also have recreational/AT instructors and supervisors (e.g. SADS) diving qualifications. This would be ideal for someone just leaving, just left or has left but with the rights ongoing qualifications.
More info on the project at: www.blueabyss.uk
3D vision can be seen at: http://www.blueabyss.uk/index.php/dive-into-the-blue-abyss
My contact details are below for those interested.
Director Diving and ROVs
+44 (0) 7721 036 730
Blue Abyss Diving Limited
4 Jul 16 - Chris 'Paddy' Doonan's abseil down the Spinnaker Tower
It was such a fine day yesterday that Mrs Webmaster and I drove to Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, previously the site of the Royal Navy's minewarfare & diving alma mater HMS Vernon, to witness ex-clearance diver Chris Doonan abseil down the 170 metre (560 ft) Spinnaker Tower for The Rowans Hospice (see entry for 3 Jul 16).
The Rowans fundraising team checking in
Above and below: Chris Doonan abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower
Also present to witness Chris's achievement was MCDOA former Honorary Secretary Mick Beale, no stranger to raising money for good causes himself.
Mick Beale at Gunwharf Quays
It was also good to see MCDOA committee member Graham 'Tug' Wilson MBE and his fellow Pompey FC supporter Tim Sizer at an adjacent table outside the Slug & Lettuce.
Tug Wilson and Tim Sizer lunching al fresco at Gunwharf Quays
Well done Chris for smashing his £1,000 charity fundraising target by almost £200.
3 Jul 16 - It's today! Sponsor Chris 'Paddy' Doonan
Ex-CD Chris 'Paddy' Doonan
Well-known ex-clearance diver Chris 'Paddy' Doonan is due to abseil down the Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quays, formerly HMS Vernon, at 1500 this afternoon. He is performing this feat to raise money for The Rowans Hospice. Please lend him your support by attending or, more importantly, sponsoring him here:
2 Jul 16 - It's today! Sponsor Geoff Goodwin
MCDOA member Geoff Goodwin
In May this year, MCDOA member Geoff Goodwin raised £1,260 for the Vernon Monument when he won the Gosport Peninsula Charity Pursuit trophy in his Contessa 32 yacht ‘Wizard’. Now he is at it again in today's Round the Island Race:
Following our success in the Gosport Peninsula Charity Pursuit in WIZARD we are planning to take part in the 2016 Round the Island Race. We are seeking sponsorship to raise funds for the same charity, Project Vernon.
In the hours leading up to the D-Day landings, Royal Navy divers cleared 2,000 bombs, mines and other obstructions from the approaches to the beaches. Without this work there would have been many more casualties and the landings might not have been successful. Following on from this, these diving teams cleared the explosive ordnance from the ports of Europe making them safe for shipping which enabled the resupply of allied invasion forces across the continent.
The Royal Navy has continued this work, clearing the seabed and beaches in every theatre of war since 1945, including: Suez, following the Arab/Israeli wars of the 1960s and 70s; the Falklands in 1982; during and after two Gulf Wars and in Afghanistan. They have carried out many other operations in the UK and worldwide at the same time and since. The discovery of World War II weapons and other explosives off our coasts is still a frequent occurrence.
There is no statue to commemorate this work, nor any memorial to those who lost their lives. The Vernon Project aims to put this right by erecting a statue on the site of the old HMS VERNON (now Gunwharf Quays) where these personnel were trained and based.
Please give generously at:
To find out more about Project Vernon visit:
During the 1970s, Geoff was the First Lieutenant of HMS Laleston (where we briefly served together in 1973) and HMS Bossington, both based at HMS Vernon. In 1982, I relieved him as LMCDO Training Officer in HMS Vernon whereupon he assumed Command of HMS Wolverton in Hong Kong. MCDOA members of a certain age may remember him allowing us to use the wardroom at HMS Dolphin for our annual dinners when he was the establishment's Commander in the mid-1990s, despite the risks to the chandeliers!
Please dig deep and don't forget to add the Gift Aid which boosts your contribution by 25%.
Watch the race live and track the GPS position of Geoff's Contessa 32 'Wizard' via this website. This was his position at 1057:
1 Jul 16 - HMS Pembroke to escort MS Queen Elizabeth into Liverpool
The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing that HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 1) will escort the 90,000 ton Cunard cruise liner MS Queen Elizabeth (not QE2 as the article states) from the Bar Light into Liverpool's Cruise Liner Terminal tomorrow, arriving at 0715. The ships previously encountered each other in the Baltic early last month (see entry for 14 Jun 16 in News Archive 54).
HMS Pembroke will berth at Canning Half-Tide Dock until Tuesday and will be open to the public from 1100 until 1600 on Sunday. She will host local schools and colleges on Monday as well as Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service.
HMS Pembroke open to visitors while in Liverpool for the 70th anniversary of the
Battle of the Atlantic in May 2013 (See entry for 24 May 13 in News Archive 42)