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

29 Dec 09 - Arrangements for the funeral of Sub Lt Arthur Douglas Russell MBE RNVR ('P-Party' 1572)


I have received this e-mail from Arthur Russell's son, Martin (see entry for 22 Dec 09):




Confirmed details for the funeral/cremation service for my father:


Tuesday 12th January 2010


14.30: Funeral Service at St Peter's Church, High Street, Shipton Bellinger, Tidworth, Hampshire, SP9 7UF.

St Peter's Church, Shipton Bellinger

15.15: Buffet Refreshments and memories at The Boot Inn, High Street, Shipton Bellinger, Tidworth, Hampshire. SP9 7UF.

The Boot Inn, Shipton Bellinger

15:45: Short Committal at Salisbury Crematorium, 1 Barrington Road, Salisbury SP1 3JB


(Please note the actual cremation service will be a very short and low key event involving a small number of folk – the bulk of the remembrance/celebration will take place in Shipton Bellinger at the church and then at the local pub.)  


You, and any other members of the RN Minewarfare & Diving community, would be most welcome to attend and celebrate Dad’s life with us – we’d be pleased to meet you. I have written to Ray Maries – I am now awaiting his contact back to me.




Martin Russell"


27 Dec 09 - Death of Cdr Francis 'Frank' Stanley Ward RN


It is with deep personal sadness that I must report the death of MCDOA committee member Frank Ward last night at Countess Mountbatten House in Southampton where he spent the last few days of his life.  Aged 56, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer earlier this year and underwent ten painful sessions of chemotherapy.  Despite this, he approached his inevitably early fate with little fuss and carried on with normal life as best he could.  However, none of us expected such an abrupt conclusion as this.


Now is not the time for a detailed eulogy about our very own 'Silver Fox' but, after having served in HMS Wasperton in Hong Kong, Frank went on to qualify on the 1977 LMCDO Course and was also a PWO(U).  He served in all manner of MCD and other warfare jobs and was the last Head of the Minewarfare Training Section at HMS Vernon before it finally closed its gates.  Like me, he was First Lieutenant of HMS Wilton but, perhaps most notably, he was the first Commanding Officer of HMS Sandown, the lead ship of the Sandown Class minehunters.  After a long stint with the Saudi Minehunter Project, he retired from active service and assumed responsibility for coordinating Naval Service charities as a pseudo-civil servant.  He was appointed Deputy General Secretary of the Royal Naval Association (RNA) at the beginning of this year and only retired when his illness proved too debilitating.


Frank was a highly regarded Honorary Secretary of the MCDOA for several years and remained an active committee member to the end.  He was also a passionate General Secretary of the RN Birdwatching Society (RNBWS).  More recently, he was Chairman of Trustees and Honorary Secretary of Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the Minewarfare and Diving heritage of HMS Vernon which formerly stood on the site. 


Frank was always at the centre of MCD matters, both professionally and socially.  He was someone who got things done and led others to achieve great things too.  It is difficult to imagine our community without him.  We offer his wife June and his daughter Clare our sincere condolences.  I can provide contact details for anyone who wishes to get in touch.  Funeral arrangements will be published when known.


Frank and June Ward in typical spirits at an

MCDOA Ladies Night


In Frank's own words, "Farewell, Shippers".


From MCDOA former Chairman David Hilton:


"Dear Rob,


It was a great sadness to hear of the recent death of Frank Ward.  I have known Frank for over 30 years – over the last 18 months we both worked in Semaphore Tower in Portsmouth Naval Base and often shared a dit or two during the day.  Just before Christmas he came into work with June; he was in good humour, I knew he was suffering from cancer but did not realise the severity – what a sad and sudden loss to us all.  At this time our thoughts and prayers go to June and family.  


Rob - no doubt I will see you at the funeral on Thurs 14 Jan.  As a mark of respect; I have arranged for Portsmouth Naval Base and ships alongside to half mast.  Thank you for all the good work you do on the MCDOA website.


Best regards,




From Mike Welford (LMCDO '72) in Australia:




Very sad New Year's news.  Your earlier message got blocked, and thus delayed, by a larger message which my satellite broadband could not handle so it was not until GSP rang me only recently and your message about Frank arrived that I became fully aware of the tragedy.   Graham Sharp Paul tells me that it was not generally known that Frank was ill so the suddenness seems to make it even worse.  While I did not know Frank very well, he certainly espoused those diminishing values of a sincere man with a good sense of humour. 


Reading the other good wishes I was also not aware of all his support to the Branch and it is now too late to thank him for that.  Could you convey Erica and my condolences to June and Clare?  It must be devastating to see someone so young parted from his family and like many others we realise that we must 'seize the moment' and enjoy life while we can.  We trust that all other members are fit and well with a better year in prospect.  


Best Regards,




P.S. Thank you again for facilitating our 'reunion' in May last year, Rob.  James and Rosa thought you guys were great and loved the pub meal, company and Mavin accommodation."


From MCDOA member Geoff Goodwin:


"Marnie and I were very saddened to learn about Frank’s death.  We knew about his illness as I had visited him in recent weeks so we were prepared but that does not make it any less sad.  It is particularly poignant that this should have happened at such a young age.  


Like many others I have known Frank for many years, being in the Mine Warfare Section when he qualified and then our paths crossed professionally and socially later during his time in Rosyth, when he was in command of HMS WILTON and SANDOWN and in the Saudi Project.  He was a highly knowledgeable and professional MCD and a pleasure to work with.  He had a great sense of humour and enjoyed a good gossip, often interjecting with that slightly naughty chuckle which was never far from the surface.  Supported by June, he was very hospitable – wherever Frank was, you were sure of a warm welcome.   


For me he was also a great friend and he will be sorely missed.


Geoff Goodwin"


From WO1(D) Andy Carss QGM:




Sad news indeed that Frank has passed away.  I didn't know him professionally but had the pleasure of meeting him whilst working on Project Vernon.  He came across as a true gentleman and possessed a passion for the project that was unrivaled.  We should not mourn his passing, but celebrate his life.


Andy Carss"


From MCDOA member Peter Waddington:




I have just returned to the frozen North from spending the festive season with family, to find your email giving the shocking and sad news of Frank Ward.  I also looked at the website and read the many messages of condolence, and for the first time came to appreciate just how widely he was loved and esteemed by a very broad cross-section of our community.


Having retired in 1983 and having subseqently been out of touch for a number of years, I did not know Frank as many of you did, meeting him for the first time when I belatedly "returned to the fold" in the form of the MCDOA.  I knew him therefore simply as a lively, friendly and very active member of the Association, who greeted me warmly on my first occasion of attending the annual dinner, and who subsequently always, and slightly to my surprise since he hardly knew me, greeted me by name and had a friendly word whenever we met.  I of course heard at the last AGM that he was undergoing chemotherapy, but got no impression that he was so gravely ill.  I therefore remember him as I last met him, at the 2008 AGM and dinner, when he was apparently well, and a kind and thoroughly vital "live wire", and this makes it so much more of a shock to know that he has left us.


I feel it would not be quite right of me to impose myself personally on a grieving family, to whom I am a complete stranger, but am sure you will pass on the condolences of all of us who liked and admired Frank, however briefly we knew him.


Regards and Best Wishes,


Peter Waddington"


From AORNFCD Chairman, former WO(D) Don 'Jimmy' Green:


"I am sorry that I am unable to attend the funeral but I will be thinking of you on the 14th.


RIP Frank.


Don Green"


From former CPO(D) Brian 'Troy' Tempest:


"Dear Rob,


Could you give my condolences to June as I will be up North as my mother is ill.  It seems all the good blokes have the worst luck for their health.  He will be missed by many, God rest his soul.


All the best,




From Cdre Gary Collier RNZN (LMCDO '78) in New Zealand:




Sad news indeed.  I didn't know Frank all that well but of course knew of him.  A sad loss to our community.


On a brighter note perhaps, happy New Year to you.  Keep up the good work.




From MCDOA member Martin Woolley serving in NATO C-IED Branch in Norfolk, USA:


"Hi Rob,


I have only this evening learnt the incredibly sad news of Frank’s passing.  Having been abroad in my NATO job in the USA since 2006, I was totally unaware of Frank’s illness, therefore the shock I received tonight has totally bowled me over!


The eulogies on the website from all over the world, spanning many different personalities, ages and experiences in life, consistently repeat the fact that he was a complete and utter gentleman who cared greatly for all those that he met.  I first met Frank after MCDO course in 1987 on joining BRONINGTON as First Lieutenant; at this time he was the Squadron Operations Officer of MCM 2.  For the young, over-confident and no doubt self-opinionated XO in his first MCDO post, Frank was a superb SOO and most importantly a great friend to all those serving in the Squadron.  He consistently provided excellent professional guidance, sound managerial advice and was always willing to give his time to help in any way that he could.


Whenever our paths crossed, Frank always showed genuine interest in my latest endeavors and encouragement for future plans.  I will miss him greatly and will be raising a glass in his honour tonight.


Would you please be kind enough to pass me the address of June in order for me to write her a suitable letter of condolence and to echo the words already written on our website – Frank was a damn good bloke and it has been a genuine honour and a sincere privilege to have worked with him and known him since 1987.


Yours aye,




From MCDOA member Alan Padwick OBE:


"Dear Rob,


Thank you for letting me know about Frank's death.  Sadly, I shall not be able to get to the funeral as it is the first day of term for the art class that I teach.  I shall be thinking of June and the rest of his family and of you all as you gather to remember an excellent and hard-working stalwart of our branch.




From MCDOA member Mike Kooner MBE:




Such sad news.  I last spoke with him 29th November and he was so upbeat, living with his illness in his normal casual stoic manner.  The pause in his treatments should have been a clue to me, but he brushed it off and was looking forward to "lots of things."  I am utterly devastated at the news.


A really fine man who I have worked with on several occasions, he was so busy and involved with so many different organisations that he will be missed by many.  


Please pass my condolences and regards to his family.


Best Wishes,




From Roger Baileff (LMCDO '83B MW Module):




Although never quite one of the MCD cloth, I am truly saddened to read of the death following illness of Frank Ward.  My abiding memory is of a man for whom nothing was too much trouble to help a fellow matelot, always complemented with a broad grin and a kind word.  He truly epitomised the expression "a nice bloke" as is obvious from the deserved and heartfelt testaments from all who knew him.


Thanks also for keeping me in the loop.


Kind regards,




From MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE on exchange with the US Navy:


"Dear Rob,


Please may I add my tribute to Frank to add to those of our brethren on the website.  My earliest memory of Frank is when he drove the very new HMS Sandown into Rosyth for the first time as her first Commanding Officer.  We worked together closely later on the Al-Yamamah Project and I shall always recall his great friendship as well as his superb sense of humour, which one needed in that job!  Sadly I never got to know June or Clare but I do pass on my condolences to them through this medium.  God bless you Frank.


Bob Hawkins"


From former WO(D) Chris 'Spike' Hughes in Qatar:


"Sorry to hear of the passing of Cdr Frank.  I had the absolute privilege of serving with him on board HMS Wilton, indeed, as a young CD3 I probably contributed to his premature silver locks!  As a Warrant, I was involved with the Saudi Project and again met up with Frank.  Totally agree with all the fine tributes...a true gent indeed.  I will certainly raise a glass of his favourite Red and, in his own inimitable words, wish him "Cheers Shippers!".


Spike Hughes"


From MCDOA member Dave Hunkin OBE:




I have just read the eulogies to Frank on the website which are a great tribute to him and his all too short time with us.  We have lost a great friend and Branch stalwart.  Frank always impressed me by the way he welcomed Kev Stockton and I into the Branch and, despite not ever working directly for him, he always made time for us ‘new boys’ either at the Dinner or around the bazaars.  He was a true gentleman.  


Dave Hunkin" 


From former MW1 (on RAN/RN exchange) at HMS Vernon in 1977, Vic Justice in Australia:




Sad news, what I remember most about Frank was his quiet sense of humour.  He tried to set me up once at the Ostend MW school – after some ten days there he asked me where the showers might be.  


My condolences to his family and friends.


Very best regards,


Vic Justice" 


From Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane AM, CSM, RAN:




Thank you for passing this news to me.  Graham Sharp Paul has been keeping me up to date on Frank’s progress although I have to say it was a shock to get this news  -  I had not been expecting this so quickly.  I have spoken to each of the RAN 1/77 MCDO Course members who trained with Frank in the UK during our MCM time and we will all be having a drink in the very fond memory of Frank Ward in the not too distant future.  He was certainly a stalwart of the MCD community both in the UK and in Australia and we will all miss him deeply.  The Aussies who trained with Frank would like to send something for the funeral so would appreciate your keeping me advised on any funeral arrangements idc.  I will stay in touch with Graham as well to get any updates from him.  


Russ Crane"


From Frank's LMCDO '77 course-mate Graham Sharp Paul in Australia:


"Hi Rob,


Belated thanks for your very nice note about Frank.


Frank kept his illness very quiet, so quiet in fact that I only found out about it early December from Keith Riches.  Talking to June after he died, she said Frank was emphatic all along that he was going to beat the cancer.  Knowing Frank's deep dislike of fuss, I think he did not want to bother anyone with something that was going to pass anyway.


Once Keith Riches found out about Frank's condition, he made a point of seeing him as often as he could and had been keeping me up to date.  Clearly Frank was not doing at all well; I was so concerned I made plans to fly to the UK at the end of January to see him for what was almost certainly going to be the last time. 


As it turns out, I was not pessimistic enough; I had no idea just how bad things actually were, how brutally fast the end would come.  It was a bitter blow to hear he had gone and that I had missed seeing him again by only a matter of weeks.  If only I had known earlier.


Frank was a good bloke. I will miss him.






From MCDOA member and Project Vernon Project Manager Dave Carey in Dubai:


"Hi Rob,


News of Frank’s passing was a real, emotional hammer blow, felt by many.  After enduring so much pain during months of chemo, he surely deserved a longer remission but stoicism, in spades, was simply not enough in the end: I had so hoped he had beaten the dreaded scourge but at least he was spared any further anguish.  How awful a shock for June and Clare...  


The eulogies posted on the MCDOA website are testimony to a great man, well loved and respected by all.  My small contribution is to admit that I cried a while for him, saying ”life just isn’t fair!  Not Frank!...”.  My own life is richer for having walked alongside him for a while, in several of his various roles, no more so than in the past three years, as we worked with others on the plans for the Vernon Monument.  


I’ll miss Frank’s wisdom, his wry humour, and his bad jokes, too.  And I promise we‘ll finish what we’ve started with Project Vernon, mate!


Cheers, “Shippers!”.  See you on the far side...  




From MCDOA member Hamish Loudon MBE:


"Hello Rob,


Please send me the address for June Ward.  My PC has been defective this past week and the machine has just been restored.  It really was a shock to learn about Frank as I didn't know he was ill.  Tragic really.  Frank was my deputy at CMCM  in 1979/80 and I knew him as the Diving Officer of HMS Abdiel when I was the Staff MCD for MCM 1. 


This makes one determined to make the most of life!!  I'm still diving, looking after moorings in the NW.  I'm off to Brazil in February for the Soling class World championships, well I need some sunshine in the winter and someone has to go and represent the UK! 


Just preparing for the Hogmanay celebrations tonight.  Best wishes for 2010.






From MCDOA member Andy Elvin in Bahrain:


"Dear Rob,


Very sad news indeed, a true ‘Gentleman Diver’.


Andy Elvin"


From MCDOA former Vice Chairman Jon Riches in France:




How very sad and so sudden.  Though I never served with him, I always admired the way he went about the various appointments he was given.  A staunch supporter of the MCDOA and thoroughly reliable in all he did. 


You must feel his loss greatly as you worked closely with him on MCDOA business as well as being a close friend.  As a member of the Northern France Branch of the RNA, we were looking forward to working with him and especially the planning of the RNA Annual Conference which is being held at Oustreham in 2010.  To have had a MCD chum at RNA HQ would certainly have helped matters!!


I await details of the funeral.


Best wishes,




From MCDOA member Kev Stockton in Oman:




Thank you for informing us all of the sad news.  Having been on Loan Service for over three years, I was unaware of Frank's illness, therefore his death has come as a huge shock.  I have known "Uncle Frank" since the day I qualified as an MCDO and always looked forward to the yearly dinners so I could chat to him.  He was always full of life, happy, humorous, but more than anything he showed a genuine warmth and interest in me as a person and was a fantastic source of knowledge and advice.  My thoughts are with his family at this sad time and I know from now on there will always be something missing from the annual MCDOA get togethers.


Kev Stockton"


From Chief Executive of MUSC Chris Austen:


"Hi Rob,


Many thanks for sending this to me.  Very sad news.  Frank and I were in the same term at Dartmouth, same division and adjacent bunks.  I was best man at Frank and June’s wedding.


I will contact June and give her my condolences.


Best regards,




P.S. Here is a pic of Frank (centre), aged about 18 at Dartmouth."


Frank Ward (centre) as a cadet at BRNC Dartmouth


From WO1(MW) Wayne 'Pony' Moore:


"On behalf of all the members of the MWA, I would like to pass on our sincere condolences to both June and Clare.  I served at Vernon under Frank, a naval officer for whom I had the upmost respect.  He will be sorely missed by the Minewarfare and Diving communities.


Rest in peace Sir.


WO1(MW) W A Moore


Minewarfare Association"


From MCDOA member Phil Ireland DSC:




Terribly sad news about Frank.  Although we never actually worked together, from the day I joined our branch he was there as a friend always taking an interest and making time to chat.  I think the sheer volume of messages you have posted on the webpage indicate how much Frank was viewed as the quintessential MCDO and genuine nice guy whose influence was always positive and enriching.




From MCDOA member Chris Ashcroft:


"Hi Rob,


Very sorry to hear of Frank's passing.  I had not even realised that he was ill, though I did notice he was not at the dinner.  It is amazing and in this case quite sad how cut off we can sometimes be from events when we don't live in the heart of the community.  London is not so far from Portsmouth, but news is often slow to filter through.


Our Exec. Chairman at MUSC, Chris Austen knew Frank of old - I think he was best man at Frank & June's wedding, though it may be I have it the wrong way round.  I have already passed on the sad news to Chris and he asked if I could get contact details for Frank's family - could you oblige please so that we can pass on our condolences.


Very best wishes,




From MCDOA member and Frank's LMCDO '77 course-mate Chris Tarmey:


"Dear Rob,


Your sad message with the news of Frank’s death was forwarded to me by Keith Riches.  I shall write to June this evening before we head off to Portugal for a couple of weeks.  I expect that we will miss his funeral which is likely to take place before we get back 14 Jan.  This is a great pity as I would have liked to say a fond farewell to my course mate.  


I hope you and your family have a good New Year!


Best Regards,


Chris Tarmey"


From MCDOA Hon Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson:


"Hi Rob,


Just discovered the very sad loss of Frank.  It was a great shock.  In the short time that I knew him, he always contributed his great depth and knowledge on all manner of MCDO topics at our committee meetings.  He certainly ensured that our MCDOA accounts were always correctly presented and I will always be thankful for his kind advice.


Frank will be "deeply" missed!




Soapy Watson"


From MCDOA member Chris Meatyard:


"Hi Rob,


We're both so sorry to read this news, although you did mention in one of our phone calls (around the time that we lost Dave Ellis) that Frank had bowel cancer, so we knew that he was really unwell.


Love and best wishes from us both,


Chris and Chris"


From MCDOA member Nick Stanley:




Dreadful news.


Nick S"


From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:




Your news about Frank came as a great shock.  I did not know about his illness.  Having retired in 1971 and busied myself earning a living, miles from the sea.  I didn’t make contact with the MCDOA until the end of the eighties, or possibly later, I cannot now recall  - but I remember Frank Ward loomed large as one of my first points  of contact with the MCDOA.  I found him friendly, efficient and everything one would expect from an MCDO.  He was a great help to me and I am grateful to him for his efforts on behalf of those of us who left the service long ago but wanted to keep in touch.


Last year I underwent 35 sessions of radiotherapy for prostate cancer which is currently being kept at bay with three monthly hormone jabs and so I have some small experience of what Frank went through.  Please would you express to his wife and family my appreciation of what he did for me and those others who enjoyed our MCD experience in times long gone.  He was a great fellow and will be much missed.




From MCDOA member John Murphie:




Thank you for passing that very sad news, not an easy task, and one I do not envy you.  Frank and Topsy were particular mates, have you an email address for him?  I am not long screw drivering I promise but I have his e-mail address should you need it.


Best wishes to you and your family for 2010.




From MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald:




Sad news indeed of an old friend down.  Frank has left us with many warm memories and Topsy's recollection of life in CMCM's 'warfare shop' is spot on.  Frank's patience and humour prevented me from launching my PC through the office window on many an occasion and that was the least of his enormous personal contribution to both the Branch and the Association."


From MCDOA President, Captain Colin Welborn RN:




I knew Frank for over 30 years and am deeply distressed at his death; we were 'young' Lts together and grew up both in the Branch as individuals, with the normal dynamics socially and professionally, etc, but also as great friends up to the current moment.  When I left last year he was the first person I talked to about cutting the 'umbilical'.  Frank had that quiet exterior that masked that inestimable human quality - mettle - he had it in spades.  He also had courage, integrity, loyalty, commitment plus everyone trusted Frank - if he said - 'consider it done' - it was done.  To me he was like a knight of old - valiant, courteous and loyal; even in retirement from the Royal Navy he was never going to rest unburnished but wanted to shine in use.  We have lost a great man.  June and Clare have lost a great deal more but we will support them and they are very much in Jo and my thoughts and prayers.


Frank; we will meet again either in the Chain Locker (up there) or at the reunion you are probably already planning - please do not forget those sinners like me who will be 'down there'.  I am sure we can fix the T&S to join you one more time!


Good bye dear friend, it will be a long time before a man of your quality walks by.


Good night, at least you are free from pain.




From Jim Hewitt (LMCDO '76) in Canada:




Thank you for notice of Frank’s passing.  I will always remember his very helpful attitude as SOO MCM2 when I was CO of HMS WILTON.  I also contracted bowel cancer but the operation was a success.




From MCDOA member Clive Smith:




It is sad that we have lost one of our characters to this illness.  Frank was a true gentleman, who never had a bad word for anyone.  He will be missed.






From MCDOA member Steve Marshall DSC:


"Hi Rob,


I was very shocked to hear this very sad news.  I had no idea that Frank was sick.  My dad and I wondered why he was not at the dinner but did not ask you why.  Very sad news - he was a great friend of my dad - they worked together in MCM 2 and then in the Dockyard.


Best wishes to you and your family for the new year as well.




From MCDOA former Chairman Brian Mansbridge MBE:




Thank you for passing on the very sad news about Frank and your insight into his many attributes.  I was always aware of his keen eye for service and professional matters but your words reminded us of just how much he supported a variety of service associations and particularly the MCDOA for many years. 


Please keep us informed.


Yours Aye,


Brian Mansbridge"


From MCDOA former Hon Treasurer Kim Godfrey:




Diver down!


That is really sad news.  I served with Frank on several occasions and would like to send my condolences to June and Clare.  Please can you supply their address?  I would also like the opportunity to say my farewells at the funeral if possible.




Kim Godfrey"


From FOSNNI & Flag Officer Reserves, Rear Admiral Martin Alabaster:




Colin Welborn passed on your very sad e-mail.  The suddeness of this news is a real shock.  Could you keep me and Karen [PA] aware of funeral arrangements as I would very much like to be there.  I am abroad until Sun 3rd.


Martin Alabaster"


From former WO(MW) Lee 'Barney' Barnett BEM:


"I can only reiterate the comments and high esteem that my peers have already stated regarding one of the stalwarts of the MW and Diving fraternity.  My sincere condolences to Frank's family and may he find everlasting peace up there, be it the Diving Store, Bridge or Ops Room in the sky.


Barney B"


From former WO(MW) John 'Doc' Docherty:


"Frank was my boss when I was SMCMO to COMMW in 90-92.  He was instrumental in supporting me during my MBA studies and was one of the most quietly efficient bosses I ever had - I learned an awful lot from him.  Opening up Rob's sad message this morning was a real shock for me and it really brought home to me how lucky I'd been to work with Frank. My thoughts really do go out to his family for their loss.


Sleep well Frank."


From former WO(MW) Pawl Stockley MBE:


"Very sad news indeed.  My dealings with Frank spanned the old COMMW organisation at Lochinvar, Rosyth (aka Falty Towers).  I was his WOMW when we closed the Gunwharf MW School site and he continued in the MODSAP Castlewood House (London) job whilst I was in Saudi - an entertaining house guest when he came out to conduct business in the 'Magical Kingdom'. 


A man who rarely, if ever, had a bad word for anyone else...


Farewell Frank.




From former MCD Appointer Paul Wainwright:




I heard the very sad news of Frank's death from Mike Handford (next door neighbour) earlier today.  Would appreciate if you could let me know when/where the funeral is appreciating Xmas is worst time for these things to happen.


Best Regards,


Paul Wainwright"


From MCDOA member John O'Driscoll MBE:




Absolutely shocked to hear of Frank's demise.  What are funeral arrangements etc. please?


Very best wishes to you and yours for 2010.


Yours Aye,


John O'D"


From MCDOA Chairman and Superintendent of Diving, Cdr Paul Jones RN:


"As we can see by the small selection of the many comments and notes of condolence that the sad passing of Frank Ward has generated, it is clear that he meant a great deal to a lot of people and I hope that it is a source of comfort to June and Clare.


Short and sweet - Frank Ward was a man who had a super career but put a great deal back into the Royal Navy too.  He was generous and considerate (but didn't suffer fools) and was the voice of reason but somehow always won the argument! His judgement was invariably cool, calculated and (unsuprisingly) correct.  He was also enormous fun and I will miss him."


From MCDOA member and Frank's LMCDO '77 course-mate Keith Riches:




Thank you for your well-crafted words.  What sad news this is.






From MCDOA Hon Secretary Tony Griffiths:




Thank you for taking on the sad duty of kindly letting us know about Frank's passing.  Frank was truly a great character, always ready to offer his own time and the benefit of his sage advice, tempered with a special dry humour with which he brightened the lives of those fortunate to know him.  Always prepared 'to do the right thing', he was not only an inspirational figure in the Service (having taken HMS SANDOWN through her build and commissioning, but also a driving force behind the successful delivery and acceptance of the Saudi variant, the AL-JAWF Class) but also in our wider community, most notably as a principal catalyst, and long serving key official, of the MCDOA, but also as Secretary of the RNBWS.


Frank will be missed in many ways by us all and I am proud to have had the benefit of his guidance and the gift of his friendship.  I hope our collective thoughts provide some comfort to June and Clare.


Yours Ever,


Tony G"


From MCDOA member Bernie Thompson:




I didn't know Frank as well as you obviously did, so my thoughts are with his family and good oppos like yourself.


Keep your chin up, me old, and I hope 2010 brings you all you wish for.




From former WO(MW) Robert 'Dixie' Dean MBE:


"I am completely gutted by this very sad news.  A very respected member of the Diving and Minewarfare community. 


I considered Frank to be a very good friend and spent many happy times with him during his time as the CO of HMS SANDOWN when I was the CPO(MW) at DGUW(N) Southwell, during my time with the Saudi Project when he was the RN Commander based in Castlewood House, during our time as Trustees with Project Vernon and many other times during my RN Career. 


A great man who was an avid supporter of the Minewarfare Branch and, to coin a phrase, 'an all round good egg'.


Now at peace.  Our thoughts are with his family."


From MCDOA former Chairman Simon Nicholson:




Thank you for passing on this incredibly sad news.  I visited Frank just a few weeks ago and although he was very pale, thinner and slow in his movements I am surprised the end came so quickly.  Possibly a blessing for Frank but not for June and Clare.


Yours aye,




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


"This is too soon - far too soon for a husband, a father, a colleague and a friend to be taken from us all so abruptly.  I'm trying so hard to put together some appropriate words but it's simply just not working.  Frank was such a fine chap, a generous and endearing friend and someone who oozed so much character that even my children remember him!! 


I first really got to know Frank when we served together in Lochinvar Block in Rosyth for the then Captain MCM (Captain JCL Wright RN).  Frank helped me with all things geeky and computer focussed, things that I never really understood, but he just seemed to know what it was I needed to do.  But it was during the Saudi job that I really got to know Frank well.  He would regularly come to visit the team in Jubail and so would stay with us (as well as other team members in the Soha Oasis in Al Khobar).  Likewise, when I needed to return to UK I knew that Frank and June would always be the most welcoming couple you could wish for... there was always a good meal, many a good dit and a couple of drinks at their home in Stubbington. 


The last time I saw Frank and June was at Bertie Armstrong's house in Scotland when there was (I think) a sort of reunion for their course....what a night!!  I took over from Frank as the Secretary of our Association and I can tell you that it was one of the most professional turnovers I've ever had!  Frank certainly had the gift of keeping the most outstandingly accurate records.


Frank, if you're reading this on your decompresion stops whilst waiting to get into Diver Heaven then Yvonne, the kids and I just want you to know that you are one hell of a bloke and even though we didn't get a chance to say goodbye, we want you to know that you're seriously gonna be missed by a whole bunch of us you leave behind.


Yours Aye,




From MCDOA member Dave Hosking MBE:




I am most saddened indeed to read about the demise of Frank Ward.  I had a great deal of respect for him and, as a follow-on CO in HMS Sandown, I owed much to Frank for the systems that he had set up in the ship.  I am flying out to the Canaries later today to join a 12-man crew who are attempting to break the World Record for Rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.  As such, I shall miss Frank's funeral.  Please pass my deepest sympathies and apologises to June, Clare and the rest of the Ward family.






From MCDOA member Julian Malec OBE:


"Dear Rob,


How very sad.  I liked Frank greatly and always admired his energy and concern for others.  Thank you for letting us know.    


With best wishes.






From former CPO(MW) Ray 'Stan' Standley:


"A tragic loss to both the Minewarfare and Diving communities alike.  Frank was undoubtedly one of my most respected Jimmies/Skippers during my time in Wilton.  My thoughts are with June and Clare on this sad occasion, particularly at this time of year.


Rest in Peace Frank.  I'll never forget you."


From MCDOA former Hon Treasurer Dave 'Spidey' Ince in Australia:




Another sad day in the history of the MCD Branch.  I (like many) have fond memories of Frank.  It was an honour to have served in the same Navy as him!


Yours aye,


David Ince" 


From MCDOA past-President, Commodore Richard Moore:


"Dear Rob,


I received your message with great sorrow and offer sincere condolences to June and Frank's family.  I hope that it will be possible to attend the funeral and I await the details.  Frank was a man blessed with a genuine sense of humour and fortitude which made him very effective at work and a splendid companion.  A courageous officer who will be sorely missed.






From MCDOA member Tim Curd:




This is very sad new indeed.  I only heard that Frank was seriously ill at this year’s MCD dinner and to have him hang up his fins so soon afterwards is a terrible shock.  Like most of you, I have known Frank for a very long time - over 30 years.  We have routinely exchanged Christmas cards but, geographically displaced and out of the main stream, I have probably only seen him once or twice a year at best for the last decade or so.  However, in the naval community – and in the diving fraternity in particular – that was all that was needed to maintain a lifelong connection and friendship, built on those intense, heady and exhilarating days as young bloods soon after qualifying as MCDOs.  It’s hard to take on board that he has gone.  


We will be writing to June and Clare soon but, in the meantime, if those of you who are closer identify anyway I can help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  Rob, I’d be most grateful if you could keep us posted about funeral arrangements."


From MCDOA member Steve Gobey:




Not the news I wanted to see when I checked my e-mails tonight but thank you for your kindness in letting the bretheren know.  Sally and I have fond memories of Frank and are deeply saddened.


Our thoughts are with June and Clare and contact details will be much appreciated.  We will all miss him.


Best regards,




From MCDOA former Chairman Chris Ameye:




What a terribly sad end to the year and such a loss - as you said I cannot imagine our community without him.  Frank was highly respected by all; a good man with a fabulous sense of humour and a staunch supporter of the Association.  He will be sorely missed.


My thoughts are very much with June and Clare at this very sad time.




From Gerry Kelly (LMCDO '76) in Australia:


"Dear Rob,


Very sad to hear of Frank's passing.  Please pass on my condolences to his family when you have the opportunity. I remember him as one of life's Gentlemen.


All the best to you and yours over this Christmas and New Year holiday.  Hope you are all surviving the harsh weather we are seeing reports about. All well with the Kelly's in Australia. Enjoying my retirement from Navy and my grandchildren.


Stay safe and healthy.






From MCDOA member Paul Guiver BEM:




Thank you for informing me of this sad news.


Frank was one of the branch characters I looked up to in my earlier ‘bubble head’ years.  He was an asset to the diving & minewarfare community; giving his support right to the end!   He will always be remembered as one of the good guys!


Please can you forward details of where I can send a personal card to his family.


Best regards,


Paul Guiver"


From MCDOA member Ian Morton:




Sad news at this time of year.  Can we have the home address please to get a card off?  Thanks for keeping us informed.


All the best for the New Year.


Yours aye,




26 Dec 09 - Navy News Items


 The January 2010 issue of Navy News contains this bumper crop of items of MCDOA interest: 

HMS Atherstone refuels from USNS John Lenthall

(Navy News photo by LA(Phot) Stuart Hill) 


25 Dec 09 - From your humble webmaster


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers.



22 Dec 09


Death of Sub Lt Arthur Douglas Russell MBE RNVR ('P-Party' 1572)



Left: Sub Lt Arthur Russell MBE RNVR

Right: Sub Lt Russell adjusts 'P-Party' diver's facemask


I have received the following sad messages during the past 24 hours:




I don’t know if you keep records of individuals who have previously served in the units covered by your website (and I have no way of accessing the members only section) but there may be some surviving members of your organisation who might have known my father, Arthur Douglas Russell who served in a 'P-Party' during the war.  He has sadly, today, passed away leaving a wife and three surviving children.  


He has an entry on your site as follows:


RUSSELL, Arthur Douglas

Sub Lt RNVR  ‘P’ Party 1572

15 May 45


Port Clearance - Appointed MBE for gallant and distinguished service in mine-clearing operations in enemy-held ports during the invasion of Normandy and the Low Countries.  


I have only just discovered your website following my unsuccessful attempts to track down a copy of the book, 'Open the ports: The story of human minesweepers' by J. Grosvenor in which, I believe, my father is specifically mentioned.  I have managed to extract some really interesting and informative general information about his time in the service from your website – he wasn’t a great one for talking about his wartime experiences - so thanks very much.


I would greatly appreciate it if you have any specific accounts that mention him and/or any pictures that include him whether you could send them through to me.


Thanks in advance.


Martin Russell"



"Dear Lt Cdr Hoole,


I am very sorry to tell you that my father, A.D. Russell MBE (Sub-Lt, P1572), died yesterday, 21st December 2009 at 3pm, after a long illness.  


He was appointed as an MBE for using an American Thermit unit to destroy a ground mine in the Albert basin of Antwerp docks, in - I think - 1944.  This technique was designed to burn away the charge under water without exploding it - a theory that did not always work in practice.  There is a short account of this episode in 'Open the Ports' (p134) by Grosvenor and Bates (1956).  


Before being commissioned into the RNVR, he had volunteered for the Navy (his father was a career Navy man) and served in HMS Largs as a motorboat coxswain, among other things.  


As a boy, he was a schoolboy ABA boxing champion of Great Britain.  After the war he trained as an English teacher, ending his career as Head of English at Amesbury County Secondary Modern School where he inspired generations of children with a love of poetry and drama - as well as achieving quite phenomenal GCE results.  


I think people of his generation were very special, not just in what they accomplished, but also in the modesty and dignity with which they accomplished it.  I only know the little I do about his wartime career because I read up on it; he very rarely talked about it himself.  Anyway, he is greatly missed.  


Can I send my best wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy new year to you and all members of the MCDOA.  


Wth much respect and admiration for the work you do.


Yours sincerely,


Simon Russell"


I deeply regret that I was unaware that Arthur Russell was alive until yesterday, especially as I am in contact with Honorary AORNFCD member Ray 'Brum' Maries, a surviving member of 'P' (Port Clearance) Party 1572.


Rob Hoole and Ray 'Brum' Maries BEM

Rob Hoole with Ray 'Brum' Maries BEM

at the 2008 RN Divers' Reunion


According to 'Open the Ports' by J Grosvenor & Lt Cdr L M Bates RNVR, Arthur Russell started his training in underwater clearance techniques at the short-lived HMS Firework near Barrow-in-Furness where training had moved from HMS Volcano at Holmrook Hall, also in Cumberland, in mid-1944.  In October that year, 'P-Party' training was moved again, this time to HMS Vernon (D) at Brixham in Devon (the 'D' indicated the unit's accounting base at Dartmouth) where Russell completed his course.


'P-Parties' had been deployed to France immediately after D-Day but 'P-Party' 1572 was deployed to Belgium under the Command of Cdr James Leslie Harries OBE GM* RCNVR in October 1944 to join 'P-Party' 1571 which had been clearing the harbour at Antwerp since its liberation on 6 September.  Hard fighting carried on around the city for several months afterwards and the enormous docks and harbour had to be searched and cleared of any mines, underwater demolition charges and booby traps left by the retreating Germans.  Nearly a hundred minesweepers were involved in clearing the sea approaches and estuary alone.  Such was the scale of the clearance operations that a third 'P-Party', 1573, was required in November.


As far as Arthur Russell's involvement was concerned, 'Clear the Ports' has this to say:


"...In the Albert Dock they had a little luck.  Besides the usual collection of small demolition charges, they found a ground mine.  This was dealt with by Russell, who had joined Party 1572 after completing his training.  He destroyed the mine by use of an American Thermit unit, which burned it underwater without exploding it.


Russell had had experience of this method during some trials in Chichester Harbour a few weeks earlier.  It is a method which can be used only when (a) it is not required to recover the mine or (b) when a possible detonation would cause serious damage.  The Thermit unit is aimed to destroy the main charge of a mine without detonation, but there is always a risk that the mine will detonate after all.


Russell was subsequently awarded the M.B.E. for his work on this mine.


It was at Antwerp that 'P-Parties' had, off duty, their only fatal casualty - A.B. Brunskill*, who had the bad luck to be killed in a cinema when it received a direct hit from a rocket..."


* This was actually AB William BRUNSKELL P/JX 273286 of 'P-Party' 1571 (Odyssey) who died on 19 Dec 1944 after a V2 had hit the Cinema Rex in Antwerp on 16 Dec.


Our sincere condolences go to Arthur Russell's widow, Molly, his surviving sons Simon and Martin, his daughter Mary and his eight grandchildren.


By ex-'P-Party' diver David Shane:


"Hi Rob,


Nice to talk to you today and I should be grateful if you would pass on to Sub Lt Arthur Russell's family my sincere condolences.  The weather and the caution of age prevents my attending his funeral but as a member of P Party 1571 working with 1572 in Bremen at the end of the war, I can recall him with affection, even though he tried to get us to knock each other silly in the boxing ring.  I am not surprised that he became a successful teacher; sincerity was one of his virtues that I remember.


Best regards,


David Shane"


Remembrance Service for Lt Walter Erskine Prior RNVR


As last year, I travelled to Aldwick near Bognor Regis today for a Service of Remembrance for Lt Walter Erskine Prior RNVR.  Exactly 64 years previously, Walter Prior was killed while attempting to render safe a moored mine on the beach at Aldwick.  The service was held near the spot where he met his untimely end on 22 December 1945 at the age of 23.  It was conducted by the Revd Canon Dr Lawson Nagel, Vicar of Aldwick, and attended by Nick Gibb MP, local councillors, representatives of the Royal Naval Association and the Royal British Legion and others.  Wreaths were laid by District Councillor Mr Don Ayling (Chairman of Arun District Council) and by me on behalf of veteran wartime bomb & mine disposal officer and author Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR, a contemporary and colleague of Walter Prior.  Sadly, Noel was unable to attend because his wife, Brenda, is currently ill and we wish her a speedy recovery.


District Councillor Mr Don Ayling

and Mrs Ayling



Royal British Legion standard bearers



Standard bearers and and some of the attendees


Nick Gibb MP, the Revd Canon Dr Lawson Nagel and

Carol Wiseman (Chairman of Aldwick Parish Council)

with her husband 


     Plaque commemorating death of Lt Walter Erskine Prior RNVR

Left: Plaque commemorating the death of Lt Walter Prior RNVR with today's wreaths

Right: Close-up of memorial plaque 


Beach at Aldwick where Lt Walter Erskine Prior RNVR met his death in December 1945 

Adjacent beach where Lt Walter Prior RNVR

was killed in December 1945


A reception was held afterwards at the Aldwick Parish Council offices.  Walter Prior has no surviving relatives and I would like to express my deep appreciation on behalf of the MCD Branch to everyone involved in helping to keep his memory alive.


19 Dec 09 - HMS Quorn returns home


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the return of HMS Quorn to Portsmouth after her five-month deployment on both sides of the Atlantic.


HMS Quorn back at Portsmouth

(Portsmouth News photo)


17 Dec 09


Diving at Gunwharf Quays


The following article appears in the December issue of Sport Diver, the PADI Diving Society's official magazine:


Dive into a Shopping Centre


The article describes how The Dive Connection, based in Portsmouth, is using what was once Vernon Creek for recreational diving.  This is where minehunters, minesweepers and diving tenders berthed in the days of HMS Vernon but it is now part of the marina, shopping, leisure and residential development known as Gunwharf Quays.  Coincidentally, this is also where it is planned to erect the Project Vernon monument to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon.


Artist's impression of Project Vernon monument


HMS Quorn returns to Portsmouth tomorrow


The RN website contains this article announcing the arrival at Portsmouth tomorrow (Friday 18 Dec) of HMS Quorn after her five-month deployment on both sides of the Atlantic.  Her ETA at Outer Spit Buoy is 1000.


Members of HMS Quorn's ship's company in New York

Members of HMS Quorn's ship's company in New York

(Navy News website photo)



16 Dec 09


HMS Walney to go in latest Defence Cuts


Rather poignantly in view of the entry for 13 Dec 09, the Navy News website contains this article announcing that HMS Walney, commissioned in 1992, is to be a victim of the latest Defence cuts.  This means that only seven of the 12 Sandown Class minehunters built for RN service will survive although 20 were originally planned.  The eight Hunt Class minehunters remaining of the original 13 built will stay in service for the time being but the early disposal of HMS Walney will reduce the number of RN mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) to 15 in total.  The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) mandated a requirement for 22 MCMVs (reduced from the previously planned 25) as recently as 1998.


Joint Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group receives Sun Military Award


Congratulations to the Joint Force EOD Group in Afghanistan for being presented with the Judges' Award for Special Recognition at last night's Sun Military Awards (Millies).  PO(D) Jai ‘Digger’ Gardner, LS(D) Ian ‘Higgy’ Higgins, and AB(D)s Chris ‘Jumper’ Collins and Les Cockerton are all currently serving in the Joint Force EOD Group with 49 Field Squadron (EOD) (see entry for 17 Sep 09 in News Archive 27 plus second entry for 8 Oct 09 and entry for 28 Oct 09 in News Archive 28).


13 Dec 09


News from HMS Walney


I am grateful to Lt Marc Taylor RN, Navigating Officer of HMS Walney, for this update:




It has been a busy month for MCM1 Crew 1 in HMS WALNEY.  After sailing to conduct weapon training in the Clyde areas, the Sandown Class Mine Hunter headed south to operate with our larger friends off the coast of Plymouth.  The transit south was influenced greatly by the typical winter weather.  With gale to storm force winds predicted it was imperative WALNEY sailed round Lands End before the weather deteriorated.  Making good a top speed of twelve knots, it seemed that we would miss the worst of the bad weather as we headed towards the Lands End Traffic Separation Scheme.  With Wolf Rock Light House in sight the weather worsened and it was a race against the inbound Storm Force 10.  Sadly on exiting the Traffic Separation Scheme and heading east WALNEY lost that race!  As we sailed towards the shelter of Falmouth Bay, we experienced winds of up to 60 knots together with a high following sea.  It seemed even the much larger members of the Merchant Shipping community shared our plight as when we reached Falmouth Bay some twenty ships were already at anchor there gaining shelter from the storm force winds.  Safely in the Bay after a bumpy three hour transit rounding Lands End, WALNEY anchored and waited for the winds to abate before continuing her transit to Plymouth.  


It was a rare sight for Devonport to see a Sandown Class Mine Hunter, but for the Ships Navigating Officer, Lt Marc Taylor, it was the chance to spend some time at home.  As for the rest of the Ship’s Company, it was time to recover after a busy and somewhat uncomfortable time at sea in the inclement weather.  WALNEY was in Devonport to take part in a ‘Thursday War’, where the Devon and Cornish Coast is transformed into a mass of Ships and Aircraft all taking part in the simulated UN defence of ‘Brownia’ from those tyrants in ‘Gingeria’!  WALNEY led the German Frigate NIERDERSACHSEN and the Type 23 Frigate HMS ST ALBANS through the simulated mine field before being ‘bounced’ by Hawk aircraft posing as Ginger fighter bombers.  After successfully completing her task and admiring the array of Ships and aircraft taking part, including the Aircraft Carrier HMS ARK ROYAL, the Faslane based MCMV headed further south to the Channel Islands for her three day visit.  Once again the weather gods were not kind to WALNEY and for three VIP guests onboard it was an early introduction to life onboard a Small Ship when the weather is not being kind!   


Arriving in St Helier in Jersey on the morning of Friday 4 December was a special moment for WALNEY’s Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Marcus Jacques, who hails from the Island.  With family and friends welcoming the ship into St Helier harbour under the watchful eye of the regional commander, Commodore Jamie Miller, there was no small pressure on WALNEY’s Captain to safely drive her alongside with style!  More than 40 guests were welcomed onboard during the evening to view the capability of the Sandown Class MCMV and to get an insight from the Ship’s Company on life in the Royal Navy.  Throughout the weekend stay some 600 visitors were welcomed onboard, with local school children from Victoria College taking a keen interest as some would get the opportunity to sail with the ship on her transit to Alderney.  Unfortunately, the weather turned on us once again as we sailed, with many of our younger guests struggling to find their sea legs.  The roller coaster that is a Sandown Class MCMV in any significant sea state was soon over for some of our land-loving guests as WALNEY entered Braye Harbour in Alderney.  It was the first time a Royal Navy Ship had been alongside in the most northern of the Channel Islands in over a decade.  The Harbour Commission are constructing a new purpose-built jetty and it was WALNEY who had the privilege to be the first ship to use it.  The weather ensured it was a lively four-hour stopover before heading north to Portsmouth, with the gangway party fully exercised throughout.  


The visit to the Channel Islands was thoroughly rewarding.  The hospitality, friendship and enthusiasm for the Royal Navy from the islanders of both Jersey and Alderney was very humbling.  On leaving the Channel Islands, Lt Cdr Marcus Jacques commented, “This has not only been a very personal and rewarding visit for myself but it has also re-affirmed the strong and deep rooted ties the Royal Navy has with the Channel Islands”.   


WALNEY now has the chance to reacquaint herself with her former home at 2 Basin in Portsmouth Dockyard from where, after a couple of days of Gunnery drills, she will head north again to Faslane and the opportunity to take some well-deserved Christmas Leave.  Fingers are firmly crossed that the weather gods turn a blind eye for our transit home!


Christmas card from HMS Chiddingfold's divers


HMS Chiddingfold's Diving Element


MCDOA member Lt Al Nekrews RN, First Lieutenant of HMS Chiddingfold, has sent this Christmas card on behalf of MCM 2 Crew 5's diving element, currently serving on board the ship in the Gulf.


12 Dec 09


Project Vernon Carol Service


Many thanks to MCDOA President, Captain Colin Welborn RN, for organising Thursday night's highly enjoyable Carol Service in St Barbara's Church, HMS Excellent.  Just under a hundred people of all ages and backgrounds sang their hearts out and enjoyed seemingly inexhaustible supplies of mulled wine, orange juice and mince pies in the Senior Rates' dining hall on completion.  Lessons were read by Simon Nicholson, Doug Barlow, Kate Welch, Rob Hoole and Paul Jones.  Thanks also to the Revd Tim Wilkinson RN for officiating in such an upbeat and entertaining manner.


The Phoney War of 70 years ago


This article about countering the German mining menace in 1939 has been reprinted from the Daily Telegraph of 12 Dec 1939: 


11 Dec 09 - SDG members complete charity 'Iron Man' challenge


SDG Iron Man Team


MCDOA member John Beavis, CO of the Southern Diving Group (SDG), informs me that he and other SDG members completed a 24-hour Iron Man distance Triathlon yesterday in aid of Against Breast Cancer.  Click on the following link to read about their participation in this daunting event and donate to their worthy cause.


10 Dec 09 - Quorn Goes Out With A Bang


The RN website contains this article and the Navy News website contains this article describing the disposal of a wartime mine by HMS Quorn in the Kattegat during DANEX 09.


WW II UK Mk XXV snagline moored mine

detonated by HMS Quorn

(Navy News website photo)


9 Dec 09 -  Don Crosbie Swims for Charity


I have received the following e-mail from MCDOA member Don Crosbie, Senior Naval Officer Northern Ireland.  Please give it the attention he and his appeal deserve.


"In an attempt to shed some pounds before Christmas and raise some money along the way, I have been participating in the Aspire Channel Swim.  This entailed swimming 22 miles in 12 weeks (1416 lengths of a 25 m pool) but I got bored and decided to swim back again completing 44 miles (2832 lengths). Before you ask, no, I didn’t lose any weight!  


ASPIRE is a charity that assists people with spinal cord injuries with the goal to provide the support needed to take them from injury to independence.  Each year approximately 1,200 people receive such injuries and I know from personal experience the devastating effect that this can have (my niece, Phoebe, was left paralysed following a road accident).  I also know what the huge difference that bespoke assistance and equipment can make. 


To find out how ASPIRE provides this assistance please have a look at their website:  It would be great if you could help me to help them by donating a small amount to my just giving page.  You can do this by following the link below.


Many thanks for your help,




8 Dec 09 - 'Gentlemen Who Lunch' attend the TCA's Portsmouth area Christmas party


The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Doug Barlow, Martyn Holloway and Rob Hoole joined fellow MCDOA members Brian Dutton and Bob Lusty plus AORNFCD (Association of RN First Class Divers) member Les Sharpe at the Ton Class Association (TCA) Christmas Lunch at the Royal Maritime Club in Portsmouth today.



Left: Doug Barlow with Bob Lusty

Right: Brian Dutton with Martyn Holloway


MCDOA members' table

(The noisy one!)



Left: Les Sharpe (in red jacket) with his guest Jackie

Right and below: Other TCA revellers




Warm thanks to TCA member Chris Green who, coincidentally, lives in Gunwharf Quays on the former site of HMS Vernon, for organising this hugely enjoyable event. 


7 Dec 09 - Navy News items


 The December issue of Navy News contains these items of MCDOA interest:

5 Dec 09 - Willie Wilkes discharged from hospital


I visited ex-CD1 Tony 'Willie' Wilkes in hospital on Tuesday (see entry for 29 Nov 09 in News Archive 28) and it appears that his cancer is seriously advanced and widespread.  He was fairly fatalistic about his condition but in remarkably good spirits considering his circumstances and sent his warm regards to all his friends.  He was discharged on Thursday and is now back at home; I had a chat with him earlier today.  I'm sure we all have Willie and his supportive partner Maureen in our thoughts and prayers.


2 Dec 09 - RN Diving Heritage: Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team (FECDT)



Some weeks ago, MCDOA member Mike Gillam sent me this e-mail:




I have been digitising a mass of family slides and other photos from years long past and have come across the attached photos of the Far East team from 1962 (including school and B&MD unit) in glorious technicoloured shorts that might be of interest.  The faces are all familiar after all these years but some of the names escape me.  However I do recall Bob Atkinson, Tom King, Vic Humphrey, Harry Harrison, Frank Vaughan, Albert Drain, Stan Templeton, James Majendie and POM(E) Pat Roberts.


I also have some better photos (b&w) of the team's raising of an ammo dump in the Johore Strait, if you are interested.






I have asked Mike to send me his other photos but in the meantime here are those he has already provided.  Any more names on offer?




Above and below: Far East Fleet CDT at HMS Terror, Singapore in 1962

including Lt James Majendie RN



Ex-CD1 Leo Whelan has also sent me these photos of the Far East CD Team in 1963-5.  It includes pictures of the first diving inspection of the wreck of HMS Repulse in 1965 and the placing of a white ensign on it (see full story here).


Leo Whelan


Jonno the 'Harley Bike Man'


On the beach at Pulau Tioman

Back: Ginge Turton, Pincher Martin (Brum), Trevor Gibson

Middle: Dave Coote, Bungy Edwards (Boy Seaman on board HMS Repulse), Ginge Bishard, Lt Cdr David Burstall

Front: Jock Allardyce, Stafford Cripps, Jesse James


Leo Whelan has a bath at Pulau Tioman


Harry Harris and Scobie Williams


MFV 164 alongside at Mersing in Malaya.

Scobie Williams (wearing hat) and his team of locals cleaning ship



Scobie Williams above and Leo Whelan below



Lt Cdr David Lermitte, Peter Gallant (wearing old-style SABA) and Leo Whelan

on board MFV 164 


Leo Whelan, Jasper Peters and Pete Gallant


Back: RAN CD Billy Burrows and David Lermitte. Front: Jesse James



Left: Harry Harris and Scobie Williams (having a kip)

Right: Stafford Cripps, Ginge Turton and Leo Whelan



White ensign ready to be secured to the wreck of HMS Repulse 


Back: Jock Elder, Jonno, Scobie Williams, RAN CD

Front: Ginge Turton, Dave Coote, 2 x RAN CDs, CPO(CD1) Alan Jones RAN


Leo Whelan with white ensign ready to be secured to wreck of HMS Repulse


(Ensign after being placed on wreck of HMS Repulse)


David Lermitte and Billy Burrows RAN with HMS Barfoil in background


Front: David Lermitte

Back: Piggy from HMS Ajax, ?, Fred the PO Stoker

plus three RAN CDs and 'Skid' Marks in blue


HMS Barfoil


Leo Whelan on board MFV 164 with HMS Barfoil in background


Leo Whelan does a spot of fishing


Peter and Piggy



Above and below: Whale Shark



Leo Whelan, Pete Gallant and Vic Humphrey


Piggy from HMS Ajax, Pete Gallant and Vic Humphrey with RAN CD in middle


MFV 164 back alongside at HMS Terror in Singapore


Shortie Ayres, MCDOA member Tim Trounson, Scobie Williams and Vic Humphrey

on Kota Tingy Rd on way home


CPO(CD1) Alan Jones RAN, Pete Gallant and Jesse James in Kluang, Malaya  


Leo Whelan, RAN CD, Pete Gallant, Jesse James and another RAN CD 


Thanks, Bob and Leo, for this fascinating slice of RN clearance diving history. 


Postscript 1:  MCDOA member Frank Ward's wife June informed me shortly after this article was published (and around the time of Frank's death) that her father, Lt Cdr William Pearce RN, was the Commanding Officer of HMS Barfoil 1963-65 when these photos were taken.  June was a teenager living with her family in Singapore at the time.


Postscript 2: I received this e-mail from CD Stu 'Russ' Russell on 4 August 2010:


"Dear Rob,


I was trying to find a photo of my dad when he was on the Far East diving team and was led to your web site by Google.  It wasn't the actual photo that I was searching for; instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find this new one.  I couldn't believe I'd found it.  Below is the photo which I am referring to.



Far East Fleet CDT at HMS Terror, Singapore in 1962


My dad is the second from the left in the picture, with the red and white shorts.  His name is Simon Russell, however I think he was known as 'Jock'.  He left the mob in '65 (the year I was born) and is still alive and kicking. I look forward to showing him this blast from the past at the weekend.  Somehow I think it'll make him laugh. 


It's another name to the photo and I hope it's of some use. 


I myself am presently on FTRS as a PO(D) at DEODS (DEMSS South) [Defence Explosives, Munitions and Search School], due to start on the Saudi project at DDS in March.


Great work, many thanks,


Stu 'Russ' Russell"


1 Dec 09 - Navy News covers Ouvry Commemorative Event


The Navy News website contains this article describing last Thursday's event on board HMS Belfast (see entry for 27 Nov 09 in News Archive 28) to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN first rendering safe a German 'GA' magnetic mine at Shoeburyness on 23 November 1939.


30 Nov 09 - Funeral of Corporal Loren Marlton-Thomas RE


The funeral of Corporal Loren 'Loz' Marlton-Thomas of 33 Engr Regt (see entry for 25 Nov 09), killed by an IED in Afghanistan, will now take place on Tuesday 8 December.  All other details remain the same.


See this article on the Blackpool Gazette website for further information about events on the day. 

29 Nov 09


Willie Wilkes seriously ill in hospital


Ex-CD1 Tony 'Willie' Wilkes is seriously ill in Queen Alexandra's Hospital at Cosham after having been diagnosed with advanced cancer on Friday.  I spoke with him on the phone yesterday and he told me that his condition is inoperable but he expects to undergo chemotherapy.  Although he sounded understandably groggy after having had visitors, he was lucid and seemed prepared for any eventuality.  I intend taking his old friend, MCDOA Honorary Life Member 'Uncle Bill' Filer, to visit him sometime during the coming week.


Willie Wilkes at the 2008 Divers' Reunion


I am sure that all members of the Branch will join me in expressing our best wishes to Willie.  If you would like to send him a card or letter, address it to:


Mr A Wilkes

Ward E8

Queen Alexandra Hospital

Southwick Hill Road






I can supply Willie's mobile number to anyone who would like to contact him in the meantime.


Project Vernon Carol Service 10 Dec 09




This is a gentle reminder that the Project Vernon Christmas Carol Service will take place in St Barbara’s Church, Whale Island on Thursday 10 December followed by mince pies and mulled wine in the Senior Rates' dining hall afterwards; cost £10 per head.  The ulterior aim of the event is to kick Christmas off by meeting up with like-minded friends in order to raise some money for Project VERNON.  Over 80 tickets have been sold to date but there are still plenty available.


To ensure that you don’t miss out on this marvellous evening please complete and return this application to the event organiser, our President Capt Colin Welborn RN, as soon as possible.  It is an all-ticket event and none will be available on the night.  Go on, what have you got to lose (apart from a tenner or two)?  Bring your friends and neighbours like I'm doing.


Project Vernon 'Danger at Depth' prints


Speaking of Project Vernon, I received my customised Double Remarque (DR) print of John Terry's dramatic painting, 'Danger at Depth', at the MCDOA annual dinner and I am thrilled with it.  Exceptionally where any of my naval memorabilia is concerned, Linda has given it pride of place in our dining room without any prompting from me.


Rob Hoole's Double Remarque print of

'Danger at Depth' by John Terry FCSD


I am extremely grateful to Head of Fleet Publications & Graphics, John Terry, who created the original painting and has organised the production and framing of these works entirely voluntarily.  He has made a fantastic job of adding the badges of most of the MCD-related ships and units in which I served.  These comprise HMS Vernon, HMS Berkeley, HMS Laleston, HMS Wilton, the Third MCM Squadron (3MCM) and the Plymouth Clearance Diving Team (PCDT).  Had I thought about it more, I might have asked him to include DGUW(N) at Portland but strictly speaking this was not an RN unit.  John and I first met when he worked in the Fleet Graphics Pool in HMS Vernon in the 1970s.  He painted the murals depicting the development of mining and MCM in the foyer of Creasy Building which are now displayed at the Maritime Warfare School at HMS Collingwood.


We owe a debt of gratitude to MCDOA member Martyn Holloway and AORNFCD member Mike Handford.  As members of the Project Vernon Organising Committee, they have taken on the onerous task of packaging and despatching prints of 'Danger at Depth' to purchasers all over the world.  This task has not been as simple as it might seem, especially in chasing pledged payments and researching the most economical means of delivery in order to keep down costs against the Project.  A vote of thanks is also due to those travellers who have acted as unpaid couriers to far corners of the world.  Incidentally, is anyone bound for the Cocos Islands (located halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka) in the near future?


Only two of the original ten DRs are left in stock and I understand that one of these is probably earmarked.  However, 11 of the  25 Artist's Proofs (AP) and several of the 215 Limited Edition (LE) prints, framed or unframed, are still available.  Go to this page on the Project Vernon website to order your own prints.


28 Nov 09 - Media follow-up for Ouvry Commemorative Event


The Royal Navy website contains this article about last Thursday's event on board HMS Belfast.  The London SE1 website contains this article, the BBC News website contains this article including a video and the ITN website contains this article including video clips.


I have been informed that the Navy News website will contain an illustrated article on Monday or Tuesday which will also be printed in the January issue.


27 Nov 09 - Ouvry 70th Anniversary Commemorative Event on board HMS Belfast


Cdr John Garnault Delahaize Ouvry DSO RN

Cdr John Garnault Delahaize Ouvry DSO RN


Yesterday's lunchtime reception to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN first rendering safe a German 'GA' magnetic mine at Shoeburyness on 23 November 1939 was more successful than I ever imagined, thanks to the enthusiastic support of so many organisations, former colleagues and friends. The event was organised by John Ouvry's son David, WW II veteran RNVR bomb & mine disposal officer and author Noel Cashford and Yours Truly.  We are extremely grateful to Brad King, the director of the Imperial War Museum's cruiser HMS Belfast moored at Tower Bridge, for allowing us the use of such a fitting venue for the occasion.  Two days before Ouvry's feat, the ship was mined and put out of action for three years.  She now has Ouvry's mine on display.


HMS Belfast on the Thames    

Left: HMS Belfast on the Thames

Right: Ouvry's mine displayed on board HMS Belfast 


The Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) set up a display on HMS Belfast's quarterdeck showing their own example of a 'GA' mine with a vintage 'S' Set of mine disposal tools, CDBA diving apparatus and other paraphernalia.  I am extremely grateful to serving MCDOA members Peter Greenwood (CO Fleet Diving Squadron), John Beavis (CO Southern Diving Group), Andy 'Sharkey' Ward (SOO Fleet Diving Squadron) and Si Leightley (OIC Southern Diving Unit 2) together with Robin 'Rick' Rickard (WO(D) Southern Diving Group) and the rest of the team for their efforts in making this possible.


Cdr Peter Greenwood (CO FDS), Lt Cdr John Beavis RN (CO SDG)

and Lt Si Leightley (OIC SDU2) with CPO(D) Kev Amaira (2IC SDU2),

AB(D) Dave ‘Mac’ McNamara (SDU2), AB(D) ‘Shelly’ Shell (SDU2) in a dry suit,

WO(D) Robin Rickard (WO(D) SDG) and LS(D) ‘Cags’ Lacy (SDU2)


LS(D) 'Cags' Lacy, Lt Si Leightley, Lt Noel Cashford RNVR, AB(D) 'Shelly' Shell,

Cdr Peter Greenwood, CPO(D) Kev Amaira and AB(D) Dave 'Mac' McNamara



SDU2 Display and Noel Cashford with MCDOA member Peter Greenwood


Noel Cashford briefs schoolchildren


The well-attended reception was held in the ship's junior rates' dining room.  As guests arrived, they were greeted by HMS Belfast staff members Janice and Chloe and invited to sign the visiors' books before being offered a glass of wine.


Janice and Chloe greet a young member of the Ouvry family


As people gathered, it soon became apparent that the event had attracted an interesting range of individuals.



Left: Rob Hoole, Cdr Dmitry Bogachev (Russian Assistant Naval Attaché), ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson

and HMS Belfast Association member Ron Yardley.

Right: Former Second Sea Lord, Admiral Sir James Eberle, with John Ouvry's grand-daughter,

Lt Cdr Jan Ouvry QARNNS.



Left: MCDOA members Doug Barlow and Richard 'Soapy' Watson with former First Sea Lord, Lord West of Spithead.

Right: Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD) Chairman, Don 'Jimmy' Green, with David Ouvry .



Left: Councillor Brian Smith, Mayor of Southend-on-Sea, with his wife Lynn and chauffeur.

Right: Ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, MCDOA member Ian Morton with AORNFCD member Mike Handford, EOD Technical

Information Centre (EODTIC) Custodian Sandy Sanderson and MCDOA members Rob Hoole and Martyn Holloway.


Jan Ouvry with Naval Historian

Cdr Alastair Wilson RN



Left: AORNFCD member Mike Handford, Andrew Bailey (son of Lt Bill Bailey CBE, DSC, GM*, RNVR)

and Mine Warfare Association (MWA) member Robert 'Dixie' Dean MBE.

Right: MCDOA members Tom Russell, Andy 'Sharkey' Ward, Chris Ameye and Richard 'Soapy Watson



Left: Ouvry family members minus David.

Right: Chris Ransted, author of 'Bomb Disposal and the British Casualties of WW2',

with his partner Karen Nicholls (left foreground).


HMS Belfast Association member Lt John Harrison RN,

on board when the ship was mined on 21 Nov 1939,

with Jan Ouvry


Incidentally, there is an opportunity to buy a rare copy of Chris Ransted's authoritative book here on e-Bay until 10 December.  The presentations started with an introductory welcome from Brad King, Director of HMS Belfast.  John Ouvry's son David then laid out the format of the presentations and provided a few personal memories of his father.



Left: David Ouvry, Noel Cashford and Brad King

Right: David Ouvry provides an insight into his father's character and achievements 


Noel Cashford then provided an impassioned tribute to his old colleague and mentor, John Ouvry, and explained the importance of his feat for the survival of Britain in 1939.  His words attracted the particular attention of the assembled media and other guests.  He also introduced the invited descendants of wartime naval bomb & mine disposal officers Lt Bill Bailey CBE, DSC, GM*, RNVR, Cdr Edward Obbard DSC, GM, RN and Cdr John Ouvry DSO, RN.



Noel Cashford explains the desperate state of affairs in November 1939

and the significance of John Ouvry's feat




Above and below: Listening audience including (below right): Andrew, son of Lt Bill Bailey CBE, DSC, GM*, RNVR;

Vincent, son of Cdr Edward Obbard DSC, GM, RN; and David, son of Cdr John Ouvry DSO, RN







MCDOA member Peter Greenwood, CO of the Fleet Diving Squadron, then presented an illuminating history of Royal Navy Bomb & Mine Disposal capabilities and achievements since the Second World War and described how the ethos of Ouvry's legacy has been inherited by current Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel serving in the UK and such places as the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, Bosnia, the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.



Peter Greenwood stresses the importance

of Ouvry's legacy to today's EOD personnel


Before people broke for food and more wine, Yours Truly gave Project Vernon a plug.  Dixie Dean had planned to give a fundraising presentation about the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon (John Ouvry's base) which formerly stood on the site but, by this time, the sandwiches had arrived and people were too hungry and talkative to give it the attention it deserved.  However, Dixie still managed to rustle up the odd contribution. 



Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) plugs Project Vernon  


Mike Handford signs up Andrew Bailey

as a Project Vernon donor


MCDOA attendees comprised Chris Ameye, Chris Baldwin, Doug Barlow, John Beavis, Keith Broughton, Kim Godfrey, Peter Greenwood, Committee member Martyn Holloway, Vice Chairman Rob Hoole, Martin Mackey, Ian Morton, Tom Russell, Si Leightley, Andy 'Sharkey' Ward and Honorary Treasurer & Membership Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson.  AORNFCD attendees included Chairman Don 'Jimmy' Green, Mike Handford, Robin 'Rick' Rickard and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson while MWA attendees comprised Chairman Wayne 'Pony' Moore and Robert 'Dixie' Dean.  Sadly, AORNFCD member David 'Jimmy' Bond arrived too late to witness proceedings owing to an unfortunate string of rail and road accidents foiling his planned journey from Falmouth.  Just for a bit of fun, here's a picture you won't see too often:


Jan Ouvry and Rob Hoole 


Overall, this was a wonderful occasion with many reunions of old friends and much press coverage promoting the MCD Branch.  I would like to thank everyone concerned.  On a final note, here are some remarkable items from John Ouvry's scrapbook passed to me by his son David.


Naval Bomb & Mine Disposal Officers in 1943 showing Cdr John Ouvry DSO, RN with Sub Lt Boyd Salmon RNVR;

Lt Ernest Ruttle MBE, RANVR; Lt Stephen Wilkinson RN (Mentioned in Despatches);  Lt Thomas Gray MBE, RNVR;

Lt Cdr Herbert Wadsley DSC, GM*, RNVR; Lt George Goodman MBE, GC, RNVR; and Lt Leon Goldsworthy GC, DSC, GM, RANVR


Scrapbook entry for Lt Cdr Leon Goldsworthy GC, DSC, GM, RANVR


Cdr John Ouvry DSO, RN with crashed Heinkel (He 111) bomber


25 Nov 09 - Funeral of Corporal Loren Marlton-Thomas


Robin Bennett, Secretary of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which we have an informal affiliation, has forwarded the following announcement regarding the funeral of Cpl Loren Marlton-Thomas of 33 Engr Regt (EOD) who was killed by an IED last week in Afghanistan (MOD website link). 




Below are the details for the funeral of 'Loz' Marlton-Thomas.  A detailed Admin instruction will follow in due course.  Please spread the word.  There is a memorial service planned for the New Year for those unable to attend the funeral which will allow the Regiment and local community to pay their respects along with the family.  Dates and timings to follow in due course.


It is with regret that 33 Engr Regt (EOD) announce the death of Cpl Loren Marlton-Thomas who passed away on Sun 15 Nov 09.


1.       Funeral details.


a. The Funeral will take place on Mon 7 Dec 09 [N.B. Now changed to Tue 8 Dec].


b.  The Church Ceremony will commence at 1200hrs and will be held at the following church:


St Joseph's RC Church

Woodlands Road


Lytham St Anne's


FY8 4E


c. A burial will follow the church service for all those wishing to attend and will commence at 1330hrs at the following crematorium:


Lytham Park Cemetery & Crematorium

Regent Avenue

Lytham St Anne's




d.  The wake address for those wishing to attend is:


Clifton Arms Hotel

West Beach

Lytham St Anne's




e. Dress for the funeral will be No 2 Dress, Belts, Medals and leathers (no swords) with black armbands worn on the left arm (less the bearer party), or suits with, black, Corps or Regimental tie.


2.       At the request of the family, anybody wishing to make a donation is asked to send all monies C/O: WO1 (RSM) J Spreadborough RE, 33 Engr Regt (EOD), Carver Barracks, Wimbish, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 2YA.  Cheques made payable to Central Bank 33 Engr Regt.  Please ensure the cheque is marked clearly on the reverse Injured Soldiers Fund.


3.       Parking will be extremely tight at the Church and the Cemetery therefore I ask that all make the effort to park in various other car parks near to the locations.  More advice on suitable locations will be circulated in due course.


4.       Anyone wishing to attend the Church Service, Cemetery and wake are kindly requested to contact the undersigned by phone on 078 8670 4509 ASAP in order for sufficient catering to be provided.


5.       Further information or queries should be directed to the undersigned who is OIC funeral.




J Spreadborough


33 Engr Regt (EOD)"


As many of you know, some of our clearance divers are working with 33 Engr Regt (EOD) in Afghanistan at the moment (See entry for 28 Oct 09 in News Archive 28).


24 Nov 09 - News from HMS Walney


I am grateful to Lt Marc Taylor, Navigating Officer of HMS Walney, for providing this update:




It’s all change once more for HMS WALNEY with MCM1 Crew 1 now the new residents onboard the Sandown Class Mine Hunter, following their successful OP TELIC MCMV deployment in HMS GRIMSBY.  After eight weeks alongside whilst crews handed over, WALNEY was soon back in the thick of it with a busy and varied programme.  Successful accreditation by Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) Staff to allow Crew 1 to navigate digitally saw the last of paper charts on the bridge; a significant change for some who had navigated on paper for the last twenty years!  With little respite we were then joined by four International Officers for navigational training within the confines of the Clyde.  It was a vast change of scenery for the International Officers hailing from Kenya, Chile, Lebanon and Nigeria respectively.  Fortunately, the autumnal Clyde weather was kind (if a little cool) and all International Officers were able to fulfil their training requirements and pass their course.  The programme continued with several new additions to the Mine Warfare Branch embarking to conduct their first training at sea.  The MCMG, as it is known, is designed to give tailored and specialist training to those within the Mine Warfare field, whether a brand new AB or those who have achieved promotion to the next Rate and are taking up new positions and responsibilities within the branch.  The MCMG week was typically busy for HMS WALNEY, but also rewarding as her new crew brushed off the cobwebs after post-deployment leave and consolidated their professional skills together with enhancing their teamwork after the arrival of several new faces to the crew.  


HMS WALNEY has been alongside at HMNB Clyde for the last five weeks conducting essential maintenance in preparation for the forthcoming programme.  Following the prerequisite engineering trials, WALNEY will transit south to Devonport in order to participate in a Thursday War and the chance to work with the larger ships of the Royal Navy.  Every Thursday the south coast of England (typically off the Cornish coast) turns into a hectic and exhilarating war zone for both the Royal Navy and visiting ships keen to take advantage of the first class training expertly administered by FOST.  WALNEY’s task will be to guide many of these units out to sea and ensuring they avoid those nasty simulated mine fields off Plymouth.  Once the war is over (normally just in time for afternoon standeasy!) the programme will continue for WALNEY as she heads further south to the Channel Islands.  For the Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Marcus Jacques RN, it will be a very special moment.  Born and raised in Jersey prior to joining the Royal Navy back in 1989, this will be his first opportunity to return with his own platform.  “I am very fortunate to be given the opportunity to take my ship into Jersey and it has always been an ambition of mine since joining.  The people of Jersey and indeed the Channel Islands have always been very supportive of the Armed Forces and, personally, I have a debt of gratitude for the support I was shown during the last two Gulf Wars".   


Having sailed from Jersey, WALNEY will be most fortunate to visit Alderney and have the honour of being the first warship to berth alongside their newly constructed pier at Braye Harbour.  With winter storms continuing to batter the UK, all eyes are on the weather over the coming weeks to ensure a comfortable passage for our guests and crew alike.


23 Nov 09 - Operational Updates, AGM and Annual Dinner


Despite his busy globe-trotting day job on behalf of Her Majesty, our Hon Sec Tony Griffiths organised an extremely successful programme of events on Friday in his usual efficient manner.  The morning's Operational Updates presented at Fleet Diving HQ by serving MCDOA members Paul Jones (SofD), Mark Atkinson (MCD SO1 NAVCOM), Martin Mackey (Cap AW MW), Soapy Watson (MWS DDS DTO(N)) and Peter Greenwood (CO FDS) spanned the full range of Minewarfare and Diving activities over the past year and provided a valuable insight into current equipment and future plans.



Left: Paul Jones, our Chairman, gives a welcome address

Right: Mark Atkinson tells it like it is 


Martin Mackey

'Our Man at the Ministry' 



MCDOA members being brought up to speed with Operational Updates


Soapy runs through CDLSE


After the traditional Friday lunch of free fish & chips, the AGM proceeded in a similarly businesslike manner.  Colin Welborn was again endorsed as our President and all Association officers were re-elected with Mick Beale kindly volunteering to understudy Tony Griffiths as Hon Sec prior to taking over next year.  Our membership remains healthy and is rising steadily as is our bank balance.  Members dwelt on those who have crossed the bar during the past year and were given a progress report on Project Vernon and social events planned for the forthcoming year.  Significant dates include:


Thu 26 Nov 09:  Ouvry 70th Anniversary Commemorative Event on board HMS Belfast  
Thu 10 Dec 09: Project Vernon Carol Service at St Barbara's Church, HMS Excellent 
Tue 4 May 10: MCDOA Committee Meeting
Sat 15 May 10: MCDOA Ladies Night at Hornet Sailing Club
Sun 13 Jun 10: Combined MCDOA, AORNFCD and MWA Barbecue on Horsea Island
Fri 19 Nov 10: MCDOA Operational Updates and AGM at Fleet Diving HQ, Horsea Island
Fri 19 Nov 10: MCDOA Annual Dinner at HMS Excellent.

From the Service Dinners section of The Times dated 21 Nov 2009:

Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers’ Association
  Vice-Admiral Richard Ibbotson, CBE, DSC, the Deputy
Commander-in-Chief Fleet, was the principal guest at the annual
dinner of the Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers’ Association
held on Friday, November 20, in HMS Excellent. Commander Paul
Jones, Superintendent of Diving for the Royal Navy and chairman
of the association, presided and Lieutenant Commander Rob
Hoole proposed the loyal toast.


As usual, the highlight of the day was the Annual Dinner in HMS Excellent with around 135 attendees, ten more than our previous record.  It was good to see so many illustrious guests, including a strong contingent from the RE Bomb Disposal Officers' Club, plus sons and sons-in-law and re-uniting members of LMCDO '65, LMCDO '84A and LMCDO '84B.



Left: LMCDO '84B members Clive Rogerson, Steve Marshall, Jon Chapple, Peter Greenwood and Chris Ameye

Right: RE BDOs' Club members JJ Forbes, Stephen Woodhead, David Hough, Michael Warr and Robin Bennett


The scene is set


My son Gareth and I certainly enjoyed ourselves, as did the top table...



Left: Hoole Junior and Senior

Right: The top table blows bubbles


After one of the best meals I can remember, Keith Broughton and Jon Cox led the singalong with their usual gusto...



Broughton & Cox leading the singing


HMS Nelson's Volunteer Band played their hearts out and even the staff joined in...



Left: HMS Nelson's Volunteer Band

Right: Some of HMS Excellent's Wardroom Staff


Vice Admiral Ibbotson, our Guest of Honour, then gave a candid but rousing speech that went down extremely well...


Vice Admiral Ibbotson holds forth


As for everyone else, here are some photos taken by my son on the night:




On behalf of all members and their guests, I would like to express our gratitude to our Guest of Honour, Vice Admiral Ibbotson; our Maître d'Hotel, Richard Croughan and Chef de Cuisine Mark Stockwell together with their highly efficient and friendly staffs; and to Bandmaster Colour Sergeant Steve Green BMus(Hons), LRSM, AMus TCL, RM and his marvellous players.  I would also like to thank Cdr Simon Howell MA, RN for his kind permission to use his mess.  Unfortunately, illness prevented him from joining us on the night.


See you all again next year.


21 Nov 09 - Website functionality


The website has been offline for the past 48 hours owing to an enforced change of server by our hosting company.  Regrettably, the new 'improved' server turns out to be incompatible with the functionality of the Members Only area so this will remain unavailable until the issue has been resolved.


20 Nov 09 - The Phoney War of 70 years ago


This article about the German mining menace in 1939 has been reprinted from the Daily Telegraph of 20 Nov 1939:



This article is particularly relevant in view of our Ouvry 70th Anniversary commemorative lunchtime reception on board HMS Belfast on Thursday 26 November.  These ships were victims of the German 'GA' magnetic mine and HMS Vernon-based Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN, assisted by CPO Charles Baldwin DSM, was the first to permit its secrets to be unlocked after rendering one safe on the mudflats at Shoeburyness on 23 November 1939.  HMS Belfast herself was mined on 21 November 1939 and put out of action for three years so it is fitting that Ouvry's mine is displayed on board her.


18 Nov 09 - News from HMS Ramsey


I am grateful to Lt James Wallington-Smith, Navigating Officer of HMS Ramsey, for this update:




For the ship’s company of HMS RAMSEY, the time spent in Rosyth has been a chance to take leave, undertake professional courses, and of course take in the local sights whether by mountain bike or by dinghy.  A busy programme looms on the horizon for the Sandown Class Mine Hunter as she prepares to head back to sea and the operational environment, so for the thirty-seven strong ship’s company it is all about the present – ensuring everyone is refreshed, motivated and ready to take on the challenges that await.


Scotland, as always, provides an abundance of things to do and excite; led by LET(ME) Taylor, the majority of the ship’s company took to the hills for a mountain biking excursion while CPO(MW) Burridge and Lt Taylor opted for the more tranquil life of sailing on the Firth of Forth thanks to the amenities of the local Sea Cadet Centre.  More traditional sport was also enjoyed as RAMSEY’S football team entertained HMS DAUNTLESS in the Navy Cup in Rosyth, and entertained was about right as the visitors came away with a 6-1 victory although the score line was rather flattering to the Type 45’s team.


HMS Ramsey emerges from the Syncrolift at Rosyth

HMS Ramsey emerges from the Syncrolift at Rosyth


As October came and went, Scotland put the freezers on but HMS RAMSEY emerged from hibernation in the blue sheds of Babcock Marine.  Boasting a fine new lick of paint and the refurbishment of her upper deck, she looked great in the autumnal sunshine.  Back in the water without fuss, the focus is now on getting her ready to head back to sea, contractor work is due to be finished by mid November with the ship’s company moving back onboard shortly after.  After trials and proving everything works, RAMSEY will soon be back in the hands of the FOSTies as the west coast of Scotland turns into a war zone once more… all to look forward to!


HMS Ramsy back in the water at Rosyth

HMS Ramsy back in the water at Rosyth


As this update was posted, three members from HMS RAMSEY returned to the Isle of Man for Remembrance Sunday in Ramsey.  The turn out from the people of Ramsey was nothing short of remarkable, with young and old lining the streets around the cenotaph to remember those who have done so much for this country. The people of Ramsey care about their armed forces, the sacrifice that was made by so many and the continued sacrifices made by those who serve their country today, HMS RAMSEY is proud to be their Ship. 


17 Nov 09 - 2009 Annual Dinner attendees


The final list of attendees for the dinner in HMS Excellent on Friday 20 November comprises:


Vice Admiral Ibbotson in more familiar apparel

Guest of Honour

Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson CBE DSC

(Deputy Commander-in-Chief Fleet)

Official Guest
CPO(D) Sean 'Mel' Meleady
Service Leavers
John Law
Jonathan Lee
Other Members and their Guests
(Host's name in brackets)
Chris Ameye (LMCDO '84B)
David Armstrong
Lt Col Roger Armstrong RM (Colin Welborn)
Rory Armstrong
Chris Ashcroft
Mark Atkinson
Chris Baldwin
Doug Barlow
Bryan Barrett (LMCDO '65)
David Bartlett
Mick Beale
John Beavis
John Belchamber (LMCDO '69)
Holly Bellingham (Keith Broughton)
Dave Bence
Maj Robin Bennett RE
Dave Berry
Dr John Bevan
Keith Broughton
Phil Burrell
Kevin Casey (John Bevan)
Jon Chapple (LMCDO '84B)
Colin Churcher
John Clarke (Mike Stewart)
Jon Cox
Cdr Rex Cox (Don Crosbie)
Don Crosbie
Tim Curd
John Dadd BEM (Tug Wilson)
Chris Davies
Robert 'Dixie' Dean MBE (Colin Welborn)
Mark Durkin
Brian Dutton (LMCDO '69)
David Edwards
Simon Edwards (Keith Broughton)
Neil Ellis (Jason White)
Capt J J Forbes RE
Dave Forsey
Kev Giles
Lt Richard Gobey RNR (Steve Gobey)
Steve Gobey
Harry Godfrey (Kim Godfrey)
Kim Godfrey
Geoff Goodwin
John Grattan
Tony Griffiths
Nick Gwatkin
Alan Hardwick (Chris Baldwin)
Alan Hares
Cliff Hares
Stu Harper
Sean Heaton
Dan Herridge
Peter Hicks
John Higham (Keith Broughton)
Tim Hildesley
Richard Hill
Gareth Hoole (Rob Hoole)
Rob Hoole
Maj David Hough RE
Paul Jones
David Keogh (Mike Stewart)
Simon Kelly
Tony Knight
Chris Lade (LMCDO '84A)
Dean Ledger (Tom Russell)
Si Leightley
Bob Lusty
Dougie MacDonald
Martin Mackey
Lt Col Peter MacMullan IG (Don Crosbie)
Julian Malec
Alex Manning
Brian Mansbridge
Sub Lt David Marshall RN (Steve Marshall)
James Marshall (Steve Marshall)
Mike Marshall
Steve Marshall (LMCDO '84B)
Chris Massie-Taylor
Ralph Mavin
Stu McAlear
Lt Cdr Steve Moorehouse RN (Don Crosbie)
Ian Morton
Colin Murray
Steven 'Peggy' Neil (Soapy Watson)
Simon Nicholson
John O'Driscoll (LMCDO '65)
Chris Flaherty
Mike O'Meara (John Bevan)
Ben Piper
Eric Piper (Ben Piper)
Simon Pressdee
Lt Col Rembrandt Posthumus RMNL (Brian Mansbridge)
Richard Purssell (Steve Marshall)
Ian Richardson
Jon Riches
Keith Riches
Peter Robinson
Stuart Robinson
Clive Rogerson (LMCDO '84B)
Tom Russell
Les Rutherford RE
David Sandiford
Mark Savage
Lt Beach Seakins RN (Colin Welborn)
Tim Sizer (Tug Wilson)
Lt Ash Spencer RN (Simon Pressdee)
Ben Stait
Peter Stevenson (Paul Jones)
Mike Stewart (LMCDO '65)
Robert Stewart (Dave Berry)
Sqn Ldr Andy Thayne (Jonathan Lee)
Tim Trounson
Cdre Dick Twitchen CBE (Colin Welborn)
Ben Vickery
Peter Waddington
Michael Warr (Maj David Hough RE)
Richard 'Soapy' Watson
Colin Welborn
Darren West
Alan White (Colin Welborn)
Jason White
Steve White
Graham 'Tug' Wilson
Iain Wood
Steven Woodhead (J J Forbes)
Lt Cdr David Wright RN (Richard Hill)
Mike Wright JP (Les Rutherford)


MRUs: Angus Benton, Dave Carey, Don Cranefield, Morty Drummond, Mike Gillam, Paul Guiver, Bob Hawkins, Martyn Holloway, Dave Hunkin, Dave Ince, Keith Mabbot, Richard Moore, Clive Smith, Ed Thompson and Mike Welford.


See second entry for 26 Sep 09 in News Archive 27 for further details.


Postscript: MCDOA member Mike Stewart has sent me this e-mail regarding certain of our guests:


"Hello Rob,


Following on from our last chat, you asked for a brief comment on some of the older rogues attending the MCDOA dinner in addition to the 1965 Long Course.  Tony Griffiths was most positive about my inviting two guests, both of whom directly relate to the EDINBURGH project in 1981.


David Keogh, CBE [previously elected an associate member of the MCDOA] was the Government representative on the operation.  He was known on board as 'The Man with Many Hats' because he covered for MOD(N), the War Graves Commission, the Dept of Trade & Industry and the Foreign Office (?)


John Clarke was the project manager for OSA who provided the two vessels for the search & recovery phases.  A former RN Surveyor and Ship's Diver, he managed all the research & log analysis undertaken by Racal Decca and ran the search operation.  He is justly credited with locating the wreck in less than 24 hours in an area the size of Greater London.


Mike O'Meara (former PO(CD1) and Senior LST with me in Strongwork Diving) was the Diving Superintendent for the Edinburgh and my right hand man.   


I still deliver talks on the EDINBURGH bullion recovery which was executed in 1981 and remains a World Record in human endeavour  (800ft - Barents Sea).  As you may recall, my role was to mastermind the diving operation & lead the expedition. 92% of the five tons of gold was recovered.  


Look forward to seeing you on the 20th.


Go well,




16 Nov 09 - Paul Jones meets Paul de Gelder


MCDOA Chairman Paul Jones has supplied this message:


"At a recent ABCANZ meeting, the delegates from five countries were privileged to hear a first hand acount from AB(CD) Paul de Gelder RAN on the Feb 09 shark attack in Sydney harbour that caused him to lose his lower right leg and right hand.  He delivered a brief (with pictures!!) of the events leading up to the attack, the attack itself and the road to recovery afterwards.


It is difficult to put into words how absolutely impressed we were with his determination to succeed, his astonishing recovery and his Aussie sense of humour in the face of adversity - it was a truly inspirational encounter with a top bloke.  I am sure the RN will be delighted to hear that he has returned to his job within his chosen branch, is enjoying his diving and is looking forward to pursuing a great career with the RAN. We wish him the very best."


AB(CD) Paul de Gelder with MCDOA Chairman Paul Jones

AB(CD) Paul de Gelder RAN with

MCDOA Chairman Paul Jones


See entry for 26 Feb 09 in News Archive 25 for further background.


14 Nov 09 - Julian Macrae-Clifton's funeral


Peter Gallant has kindly sent me this photo of ex-RN divers who attended Mac's funeral in Spain yesterday:


George Porter, Alan (Blood) Reid, Peter Gallant and Dick Conway

George Porter, Alan (Blood) Reed, Peter Gallant

and Richard Conway


13 Nov 09 - Places available for Ouvry Commemorative Event


Phil Ireland and Mark Atkinson have been forced to pull out of attending this lunchtime event on board HMS Belfast on 26 November so there are still two MCDOA sponsored places available.  If interested, please contact me via my Webmaster address and supply address and phone number so I can arrange despatch of invitations.


12 Nov 09


 Funeral arrangements for Julian Macrae-Clifton


Alf Slingsby informs me that Mac's funeral will be held at 1200 tomorrow at La Siesta Church just outside Torrevieja on Spain's Costa Blanca (see entry for 10 Nov 09).  His ashes will be brought back to Scotland next year and his family will let Alf know details nearer the time.


Let's all spare a quiet thought for Mac tomorrow at 1100 GMT (1200 Costa Blanca time).


HMS Bangor Remembers


The RN website contains this article describing how HMS Bangor conducted a Remembrance Service in the North Sea yesterday to remember those have who served and who have given their lives in the service of their country.


HMS Bangor Remembers the Passing of the World War One Generation

HMS Bangor remembers the passing

of the World War One generation

(RN website photo)


11 Nov 09 - Sydney Knowles' new book


The Olive Press, Andalucia's 'Number One News Website', contains this article about Sydney Knowles who has just written 'A Diver in the Dark' describing his experiences as Lionel 'Buster' Crabb's naval diving partner during World War Two and long afterwards (see entry for 17 Oct 09 in News Archive 28).



10 Nov 09


Death of ex-CPO(CD1) Julian Macrae-Clifton


Former CPO(D) Alf Slingsby has informed me that Julian 'Mac' Macrae-Clifton passed away at 0230 this morning.  By way of a tribute, I can do no better than quote the citation accompanying his award of the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct (QCB) on 1 July 1969:


“Awarded for great courage, unusual initiative, cool judgement and exemplary devotion to duty.


Chief Petty Officer Macrae-Clifton served with the Scotland and Northern Ireland Command Explosive Team for four years, during which time he performed many hazardous tasks in an exemplary fashion.  On two occasions, he displayed particular courage, coolness and skill.  


On 11th October, 1968, he was required to dispose of a mine which had been sucked into the shoe of the Dutch suction dredger WILHELM STEAD, while operating in the entrance of the river Humber.  Weather conditions were poor, with a gale blowing from the South East.  He started work on board the dredger shortly before midnight and found that the mine was slightly crushed, and held fast in the suction pipe.  He unhesitatingly decided to remove the primer-detonator assembly before attempting to extract the mine.  Having taken the precautions of ensuring that all other personnel were as far away as possible, and that the dredger had boats in the water, he proceeded to render the mine safe.  This involved a long process of carefully cleaning rust and corrosion from the primer-detonator tube, and was finally finished about two hours later.  


Chief Petty Officer Macrae-Clifton's decision to render the mine safe before moving it involved great personal risks while minimising the the danger to others, and exemplified his great courage and high sense of duty.  


Again, on 3rd December, 1968, he was required to dispose of a mine which had been landed on the Fish Market quay at Peterhead.  The primers and detonator were still fitted, the cast filling was intact but becoming more unstable as the mine dried out.  The prime-carrier had been damaged, and he decided that it was too dangerous to try and render the mine safe where it was.  With assistance from RAF Buchan, he guarded the mine overnight, keeping it damp with rags.  In the morning he accompanied the mine to a disused airfield three miles away and exploded it; the subsequent crater was about thirty feet across and fifteen feet deep.  He had been with the mine for over eighteen hours, a period of increasing danger as the weapon dried out.  


In both these incidents, Chief Petty Officer Macrae-Clifton showed great courage, unusual initiative, cool judgement and exemplary devotion to duty. 


In recognition of this service, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second has been graciously pleased to award Her Commendation for Brave Conduct to Chief Petty Officer Macrae-Clifton."


Mac was also awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) on 22 May 1972 following seven years' service in SNICDT. 


We extend our sincere condolences to Mac's widow Anne and to other members of his family.  I have asked Alf to keep us posted on any funeral arrangements.


Almost a record-breaking passage for HMS Quorn


The Navy News website contains this article about the return of HMS Quorn from across the Atlantic.  I must confess to alerting the journalist to the fact that this was not a record-breaking distance for a Hunt (see second entry for 4 Nov 09), thus the amended headline and reference to the passage of her sister ships, HMS Brecon and HMS Ledbury, to the Falklands via Ascension in 1982.


9 Nov 09 - News from HMS Middleton


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Richard Goldstone, the Commanding Officer of HMS Middleton, for providing this update:




I took over as CO in August and since that time we have completed some important trials with SEAFOX, the latest remote controlled mine disposal system, undertaken a three week period of training with FOST Faslane as well as completing vital pre-deployment tasks such as noise and magnetic ranging.  We are now in dock receiving vital upgrades prior to the ship heading out to the Gulf in the New Year. The unit will likely be based there for up to three years but the crews will change every 6-7 months or so.  Lady Jennifer Blaker, the ship's sponsor who launched her 24 years ago, will be visiting in December once we flood up.  I will endeavour to ensure that you are kept up to date with events, notably our passage as a singleton unit out to the Gulf.


My short time with the Squadron has already taught me that these ships do not keep a low profile and run an exceptionally busy programme be it work in the Gulf, with NATO or conducting numerous tasks around the UK.  The crews who rotate around them also work just as hard and often called upon to backfill operational vacancies as they arise – so I shall spread the word amongst other COs to raise the profile.


Keep up the good work,




Richard Goldstone

Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy

Commanding Officer



8 Nov 09 - Lest We Forget



They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.



7 Nov 09 - Ramifications of Lionel 'Buster' Crabb operation


This article published on the BBC website yesterday is particularly relevant to the release of 'A Diver in the Dark', the new book by Lionel 'Buster' Crabb's naval diving partner, Sydney Knowles BEM:


CIA files reveal Cold War leader's anger



5 Nov 09 - Ginger Bryant's standard diving dress presented to DDS



Arthur Quantrill 'Ginger' Bryant BEM

(6 Jun 1921 - 15 Jan 2008)


Former CPO(CD1) Arthur Quantrill 'Ginger' Bryant (known to his family as 'Tony' for some unfathomable reason) joined the Training Ship T.S. Arethusa as a 13-year old boy in 1935 and entered the Royal Navy at the age of 15.  On 25 November 1941, he was among the 450 survivors when the battleship HMS Barham capsized and blew up in spectacular fashion after being torpedoed off Alexandria.  861 other men lost their lives.  Originally a Gunnery branch rating, Ginger transferred to the Diving branch after the war and in 1962 he was awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) in the Queen's Birthday Honours for salvage work in the Suez Canal and general EOD duties.  After retiring from the Royal Navy in 1966, Ginger was involved with a company producing underwater vehicles before ending up as the landlord of 'The Willows' public house in Cressing near Braintree in Essex.  He died in January last year.  MCDOA member and Commander Second MCM Squadron Dave Hunkin kindly carried Ginger's ashes with him on the flight to Sicily and the ashes were scattered over the wreck of HMS Barham in February by HMS Chiddingfold's diving team while on passage to the Gulf.  See entries for 19 Jan 08, 29 Jan 08, 8 Feb 08 and second entry for 29 Feb 08 in News Archive 21 for further details and photos.


For 15 years, Ginger displayed his standard diving dress in the pub he ran.  During an informal ceremony today, members of his family presented it to the Defence Diving School (DDS) for display in its main conference room, inaugurated as the 'Vernon Room' on 20 February 2007 by the Commodore of the Maritime Warfare School (MWS). This event was organised by MCDOA Hon Treasurer and Diving Training Officer (Navy) Soapy Watson and the XO of DDS, Jacqueline 'Jack' McWilliams.  After introductions, Soapy provided a tour of DDS including a look at Horsea Lake.  As the Chief of Horsea Island during the late 1950s, Ginger had a white horse on which he used to patrol the site.  After the tour of DDS, attendees returned to the Vernon Room for refreshments before Soapy delivered a presentation about the RN Diving Branch today.


Ginger Bryant's family view Horsea Lake     Soapy Watson describes today's RN Diving Branch

Left: Ginger Bryant's family view Horsea Lake

Right: Soapy Watson describes today's RN Diving Branch


Ginger's daughter then presented Ginger's diving artefacts to Soapy Watson and Jack McWilliams and some photos were taken for the family album.


Ginger's daughter Jackie Parrish presents his diving artefacts to Jack McWilliams (on behalf of DDS) flanked by Ginger's grandson Chris Ward and Soapy Watson     Members of Ginger's family with your humble webmaster

LEFT: Ginger's daughter Jackie Parrish presents his diving artefacts to Jack McWilliams (on behalf of DDS)

flanked by Ginger's grandson Chris Ward and our own Soapy Watson

RIGHT: Ginger's family members with your humble webmaster

(Left to right: Marilyn Bryant, Michael Bryant, Hannah Bryant, Jackie Parrish née Bryant, Chris Parrish,

Chris Ward, Dorothy Bryant, Rob Hoole, Patricia Bryant and Wendy Ward née Bryant)


Ginger's diving suit was presented as well and it is hoped to have the entire ensemble worn by a mannequin for future display.


Ginger Bryant's helmet, weights, boots and knives

Ginger Bryant's helmet, weights,

boots and knives


I would like to thank Jack McWilliams for allowing this joyful occasion to occur and Soapy Watson for organising it with his usual aplomb. 


4 Nov 09


HMS Middleton - First MCMV trained in CDLSE


According to MCDOA member Soapy Watson of the Defence Diving School (DDS), HMS Middleton has become the first MCMV to be trained in Clearance Diver Life Support Equipment (CDLSE).  With the final deep dives of the three week conversion course carried out from the diving tender SD Moorhen in the Kyle of Loch Alsh under the instruction of Defence Diving School CDLSE Course Instructor PO(D) ‘Smudge’ Smith, this will give HMS Middleton a 60m diving capability when her team deploys to the Persian Gulf in early 2010.  HMS Middleton will reach Initial Operating Capability (IOC) when the ship and her team complete a 60m dive in theatre next year.  The pictures show Middleton's team with PO Smith on completion of their 60m dives. 


HMS Middleton CDLSE qualifiers   HMS Middleton diving team post CDLSE training

Left: PO(D) Smith, Lt Charlie Wheen (OPS) and AB(D) Penney with

Lt S Mckeever (CDLSE Course Officer)

Right: Lt Ben Piper, Lt Charlie Wheen, PO(D) Nobby Clark, LD Bungy Edwards,

AB(D)1 Steff Lawrence, and AB(D)2’s Whitney and Penney


Postscript: The RN website published this article about Middleton's achievement on 18 Nov 09.



HMS Quorn on passage from Bermuda to Spain


The RN website contains this article describing the passage of HMS Quorn from Bermuda to Spain after visiting the USA with Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1).


HMS Quorn moves into close formation with HDMS Thetis, BNS Lobelia, ENS Sakala and HNLMS Urk

HMS Quorn moves into close formation with HDMS Thetis,

BNS Lobelia, ENS Sakala and HNLMS Urk

(RN website photo)


The RN website article includes this sentence in the final paragraph:


"After the longest single transit ever made by a Hunt class ship, Quorn made landfall in the afternoon of the 25th of October and went alongside El Ferrol Naval Base in the early evening, the weather still balmy and showing no signs of the approaching rough weather..."


I regret having to quash Quorn's claim to fame but MCDOA member Tony Rose (HMS Ledbury's CO at the time) has advised me that her sister ships HMS Brecon and HMS Ledbury, in company with their support vessel RMS St Helena, exceeded her transit distance on each leg of their passage from Portsmouth to the Falklands via Ascension Island in 1982.  According to Google Earth, the relevant distances are:


Bermuda to La Coruna: 2,725 nm

Portsmouth to Ascension: 3,745 nm

Ascension to Port Stanley: 3,380 nm


I have advised the RN website's webmaster accordingly.


3 Nov 09 - Taff Sweeney clocks up 48 years of Service


The Australian Navy News website contains this article describing how Dennis 'Taff' Sweeney (LMCDO '79) has accumulated 24 years of service in the RN and another 24 years in the RAN.  Good on you Taff.


Lt Cdr Dennis 'Taff' Sweeney RAN


I swear he has more hair now than when he transferred!


1 Nov 09


Navy News items


The November issue of Navy News contains these items of MCDOA interest:

Website statistics


Having exceeded 16,000 visits for the first time during September, the MCDOA website has received 18,823 visits during the month of October, an average of 607 per day.  Internet surfers in at least 54 countries scored a total of 835,630 hits on individual pages, files and images and downloaded more than 21,600 megabytes of data. 


30 Oct 09 - Muppets & Bubbleheads - The Movies!


I am grateful to Ronnie Barker, webmaster for the Mine Warfare Association (MWA), for drawing attention to this YouTube video about RN Mine Warfare (MW) specialists:



YouTube also contains this video about RN Clearance Diving (CD) specialists: 



Note that the PAP 104 'yellow submarines' have now been replaced in the RN by the much smaller SEAFOX remote operated vehicles (ROVs).


28 Oct 09 - Divers bound for Afghanistan


Portsmouth News front page 28 Oct 08


Today's Portsmouth News has a front-page splash and this article inside describing the deployment of RN clearance divers to Afghanistan for EOD and IEDD duties (see entry for 21 Oct 09).  It features MCDOA member Pete Greenwood plus PO(D) Jai ‘Digger’ Gardner (see entry for 17 Sep 09 in News Archive 27 and second entry for 8 Oct 09), LS(D) Ian ‘Higgy’ Higgins, and AB(D)s Chris ‘Jumper’ Collins and Les Cockerton.


AB Les Cockerton and his bride Sue on their wedding day in Portsmouth in April 2009

AB Les Cockerton and his bride Sue on their

wedding day in Portsmouth in April 2009

(Portsmouth News photo) 


27 Oct 09 - Memorials at Horsea Island


Following on from the articles about the acts of remembrance performed in Scapa Flow by HMS Penzance and HMS Bangor for HMS Royal Oak (see entry for 14 Oct 09) and HMS Vanguard (see entry for 23 Oct 09) respectively, former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE*, DSC, BEM has sent me this message:




Raising the ensign on the Royal Oak and Vanguard was a fairly regular event for the Rosyth-based Scotland & Northern Ireland CDT in the early '60s and '70s and the news of Bangor’s crew raising a white ensign and laying wreaths on the wreck of HMS Vanguard in Scapa Flow reminded me of a small project that I undertook many moons ago.


Following the tragic road accident death of L/S (D) Charlie Smithard in his new car, a present from his parents after returning from extemporary service in the Falklands conflict in 1982, I arranged for Alf Slingsby BEM (Chief of the SNICDT) to send me one of the many 15 inch shells that we had recovered from the wreck of Vanguard as a lifting bag recovery exercise, to the SofD building in Vernon, where I got the engineers in the then AEDU workshops to bolt a killick anchor onto it for a couple of packets of fags. The shell was painted black and the anchor light grey.


The intention was to place the structure on the foreshore on the Selsey Bill peninsula by Charlie’s home as a lasting monument from his many friends and family (the anchor being the insignia and the killick the naval term for the Leading Hand; the shell denoting B&MD).  However, local planning authorities made life too difficult and the monument was placed with a brass tally explaining its history outside the diving school on Horsea Island.  I hope that it is still there and not in some brass box and that someone still polishes the brass plate now and again!


Mick Fellows"


I have assured Mick that his memorial to Charlie still stands outside the main entrance to the Defence Diving School (DDS) on Horsea Island as shown here:


Memorial to LS(D) Charlie Smithard outside the Defence Diving School

Memorial to LS(D) Charlie Smithard

outside the Defence Diving School


Upper plaque on Charlie Smithard memorial outside DDS     Lower plaque on Charlie Smithard memorial outside DDS

Left: Upper plaque on Charlie Smithard memorial

Right: Lower plaque on Charlie Smithard memorial


At the time of Charlie’s death in 1983, he was one of my two 'second dickies' when I was the LMCDO course officer.  As Charlie’s DO, I met his parents at their garden nursery in Birdham and at HMS Vernon while sorting out the service admin and helping to arrange the funeral.  I still treasure a book about submarines from Charlie’s collection which contains a nice note of appreciation written by his mother, Marie.  Charlie had graduated from agricultural college before joining the RN and was due to take over the nursery business eventually although he was also a keen dinghy sailor.


Coincidentally, the other LMCDO course 'second dickie' in 1983 was LS(D) Ned Kelly who later became MCDOA member Lt Ned Kelly.  Most members will know the sad fate that befell him in 2001, several months after collapsing during a dive in Horsea Lake and lapsing into a coma from which he never recovered.  This memorial plaque is located at the top end of the lake:


Memorial plaque for Ned Kelly on Horsea Island

Memorial plaque for Ned Kelly on Horsea Island


We will remember them.


23 Oct 09 - HMS Bangor pays her respects at Scapa Flow


On 9 July 1917, a total of 843 men perished in a magazine explosion on board the St Vincent class battleship HMS Vanguard at Scapa Flow and there were only two survivors in what was the Royal Navy’s worst ever accident.  The RN website contains this article describing ceremonies on 12 October during which HMS Bangor laid wreaths and placed a fresh ensign on the wreck.


HMS Bangor near East Cardinal Buoy in Scapa Flow

HMS Bangor near East Cardinal Buoy in Scapa Flow

(RN website photo)


22 Oct 09 - XO of DDS raises £5,000 for charity


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing how Lt Cdr Jacqueline McWilliams, the Executive Officer of the Defence Diving School (DDS), has raised £5,000 in aid of Cancer Research's breast cancer awareness campaign.  Although the headline erroneously describes Jacqueline as a "naval Diver", she is in fact a Mine Warfare Officer (MWO) and has served in minehunters as the Ops and XO and in the Minewarfare Training Element of the Maritime Warfare School at HMS Dryad.


Alison Munsie, left, and Lt Cdr McWilliams

Alison Munsie, left, and Lt Cdr McWilliams

(Portsmouth News photo)


21 Oct 09 - Divers head to the desert to tackle bombs


The Navy News website contains this article describing the deployment of RN Clearance Divers to Afghanistan for EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and IEDD (Improvised Explosive Device Disposal) duties.  It features MCDOA member Pete Greenwood plus PO(D) Jai ‘Digger’ Gardner (see entry for 17 Sep 09 in News Archive 27 and second entry for 8 Oct 09), LS(D) Ian ‘Higgy’ Higgins, and AB(D)s Chris ‘Jumper’ Collins and Les Cockerton.



AB(D) Les Cockerton, LS(D) Ian Higgy Higgins,

PO(D) Jai 'Digger' Gardner and AB(D) Chris ‘Jumper’ Collins.

(Navy News website photo by LA(Phot) Chris Browne)


Ian 'Scouse' Devine has pointed out that he and fellow CDs Chris Rumming and the late Dougie Stewart deployed to Afghanistan in 2002.


20 Oct 08 - Ton Class Association gives boost to Project Vernon



Paul Jones, our Chairman, is also the Chairman of Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the mine warfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon.  He has received a generous donation of £370 from the Ton Class Association (TCA) which constitues half the proceeds from the raffle at its recent reunion in Southport.  The Project Vernon committee would like to express its deep gratitude to the TCA for this kind gesture.


17 Oct 09 - New book by ex-RN diver


Sydney Knowles

Sydney Knowles


Sydney Knowles BEM, now living in Spain, performed clearance diving operations with Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE, GM, RNVR and Lt Bill Bailey CBE, DSC, GM*, RNVR (see entry for 29 Aug 09 in News Archive 27) at Gibraltar and elsewhere in the Mediterranean during the Second World War.  He also dived with Lionel Crabb in particularly interesting circumstances after the war.  Sydney has written an account of his experiences for which I helped him find a publisher through the good offices of Capt Peter Hore RN, author of the naval obituaries in the Daily Telegraph.


Sydney Knowles in 1950

Sydney Knowles in 1950


Sydney has just sent me this message:


"Dear Rob,


My book has now been published and a signed copy will be on its way to you in due course.  Please click on the attachment for details.


Kind regards,


Sydney and Frances Knowles" 



The order form for Sydney's book, 'A Diver in the Dark' published by Woodfield, can be downloaded here or it can be ordered online here.  See also this website containing excerpts from Sydney's book.  The MCDOA is mentioned in the foreword which was written by Yours Truly.


15 Oct 09 - Tribute on board HMS Penzance


The RN website contains this article with more photos of yesterday's Remembrance Service for those lost on board HMS Royal Oak at Scapa Flow 70 years ago.


14 Oct 09 - Princess Royal embarked in HMS Penzance for HMS Royal Oak ceremony


The Times online website contains this article describing today's ceremony, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Royal Oak at Scapa Flow, during which the Princess Royal laid a wreath from HMS Penzance, commanded by MCDOA member Steve Brown.  The BBC website has added this article and the Sun website has added this article.



The Princess Royal on board HMS Penzance


13 Oct 09 - Minewarfare & Divers' Middle East Dinner (MADMED) after action report


MCDOA member Dave Hunkin has sent me this account and photos of the MADMED held in Bahrain on 2 October and is happy for it to appear on this page:




The inaugural Minewarfare & Divers’ Middle East Dinner (MADMED) was held in Bahrain 2nd October.  As many will not be able to attend this year’s annual MCDOA Dinner at HMS EXCELLENT, it was decided to hold a Middle East version in Bahrain and it was a great success.  


Divers from all over the region attended including Dave Carey who flew in from Dubai and Bernie Thompson and Kev Stockton who flew in from Oman.  Unusually, all the RN minehunters were alongside and so there was a 100% turn out from the ships.  


Whilst most traditions were followed, MADMED decided to add their own slant on dinners past; Dave Hunkin acted as the ‘Diver Supervisor’ (Mess Pres) for the night ably assisted by Al Nekrews as his ‘Second Dickie” (Mr Vice).  Grace and the Loyal Toast were dispatched in traditional order however in order to welcome the XOs and Ops Officers to the MCDOA, they were afforded the privilege of remaining seated throughout the dinner.  All other guests rotated after each course thus ensuring maximum social interaction.  Those who forgot to take their place names or glasses with them frequently ended up with a ‘surprise menu choice’ and a suitable fine from the Second Dickie.  Fines were also issued liberally for foul language, rubbish jokes and insulting the Second Dickie which carried on a pace until fines shifted from wine to Champaign!  


The dinner had a truly international flavour with Jerry O’Regan and Zach Scheets from the US EOD community present and Daniel Reuter, an MWO in the German Navy, who is currently serving with CTF52 in Bahrain.  


One of the aims of the evening was to welcome (and bully!) the young Lts into joining the MCDOA and Dave Carey gave an emotional speech on the history of the Diving & Minewarfare Branches.  How any young man could have refused to join is beyond me – if only they’d stayed awake to hear it!  An auction followed where a limited edition print of ‘Danger at Depth’ was auctioned to raise money for Project Version.  Around a £1000 was raised on the night which was absolutely outstanding and the painting will become MADMED property to be hung on the wall at future dinners.  


Then came the singing!  Fortunately as the Second Dickie had resorted to fining just about anyone for just about anything, all were suitably oiled and the Elite Resort & Spa in Bahrain echoed to the traditional anthems of Spanish Ladies, Hearts of Oak and finished, of course, with Bubbles.  Rumour has it that the ‘international officers’ had their fingers crossed during Rule Britannia but it didn’t seem to stop them joining in with gusto.  


Mess rugby was narrowly avoided due to concerns over potential breakages but this didn’t stop some of the young MCDOs keeping up many of the more traditional antics that have been missing from the dinners in Portsmouth in recent years.  Doc Morris’ impression of a fox ‘having a relationship’ with an owl was truly a sight (and sound) to behold as was a rather bizarre table-crawling incident!  


In the event, I think we can safely say that standards were achieved:  Much money was raised, much singing was had and sore heads were a plenty the next morning.  It is hoped to hold a similar event next year as, whilst 22 did turn out, at least another 10 offered their apologies which suggests it would be worthwhile taking forward. Our thanks go to the MCDOA for a generous donation to those members present.  


I am sure all who attended MADMED would like to pass on our best wishes to those lucky enough to attend this year’s dinner at HMS EXCELLENT.  Whilst you may have Admiral Ibbottson and a band, we had Dave Carey and Ian Berry’s truly awful rendition of Drunken Sailor.  Beat that! 


MADMED in BAHRAIN 2 Oct 2009 
Back (l to r): Dave Wright, Dave Hunkin, Bernie Thompson, Doc Morris, Dudley Molster, Jerry O’Regan, Tony Hampshire, Tox Howe, Kev Stockton, Dave Carey, Ian Berry, Daniel Rueter, Tom Worley, Al Nekrews, Neil Marriott.
Front (l to r):
  Zach Scheets, Nathan Isaacs, Morgan Macdonald, Alex Scott, Rob Bishop, Dave Louis.
Tox Howe & Alex Scott discuss the finer points in life whilst Neil Marriott is in full flow.  ‘Second Dickie’ Al Nekrews clearly has the measure of Dave Wright’s dits.   Grace by Alex Scott at which others politely laugh.  
Al Nekrews going ugly early – good boy!   Tox Howe struggling to read.   After only two glasses of water Nathan Isaacs is smashed.   Ian Berry in full flow, Daniel Reuter asleep (he’s no fool!).  
Tony Hampshire has just found out that he has to pay for the night whilst Kev Stockton is clearly going to punch Ian Berry for yet another rubbish dit.  Hunkin brown-nosing his boss.  Nathan Isaacs making his dad and his dad’s mate feel wanted.  Another rubbish dit from Dave Carey and Tom Worley’s not impressed. 


12 Oct 09 - HMS Penzance to help remember HMS Royal Oak losses


The Scotsman website contains this article describing how HMS Penzance, commanded by MCDOA member Steve Brown, will embark HRH Princess Anne on Wednesday 14 October to lay a wreath at Scapa Flow over the wreck of the battleship HMS Royal Oak, torpedoed exactly 70 years previously with the loss of 833 lives.


8 Oct 09


SDU1 blows up lobster


The Daily Mail contains this article about the sad demise of Lionel the Lobster, blown up off Swanage yesterday during an EOD job.  In its own inimitable style, the BBC initially reported it as the work of an Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit from Portsmouth (see here for article and video) but the Plymouth Herald got it right in this article by identifying the Royal Navy's Southern Diving Group (SDG).


Postscript: The RN website now contains this article.


Swanage Mine 7 Oct 09     Mine blown off Swanage by SDU1 on 7 Oct 2009

German wartime mine blown off Swanage by SDU1 on 7 Oct 2009


Navy Diver to counter IED threat in Afghanistan


The RN website contains this article featuring PO(D) Jai 'Digger' Gardner  who has been seconded to 49 Field Sqn (EOD), 33 Engineer Regt from the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) for operations in Afghanistan (see first entry for 17 Sep 09 in News Archive 27).  The MOD website contains this article with the same theme but which describes the Royal Navy Diving Branch as "...a small specialisation of the Mine Warfare Branch".  So now you know.


PO(D) Jai Gardner

PO(D) Jai Gardner

(RN website photo)


7 Oct 09 - Return of MCM1 Crews 1 and 5 from the Gulf


The RN website contains this article describing the recent return to Faslane from the Gulf of 80 personnel who have been manning HMS Grimsby and HMS Pembroke since February.


Returned crews gathered on the deck of HMS Walney

Returned crews gathered on the deck of HMS Walney

(RN website photo)


6 Oct 09 - News from George Buntrock III USN


Those around HMS Vernon in the mid-1970s may recall Lt George Buntrock III USN, then on exchange with the Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit (AEDU).  George was definitely a social asset in the mess and cut a flamboyant figure around town in his BMW which stood out owing to its colourful Hawaiian license plates. 


Doug Barlow, Martyn Holloway and I recently managed to track George down in Texas and I will publish an edited personal update, based on his e-mailed responses, in the Members Only area soon.  In the meantime, an online album containing recent videos and photos of George with his family and friends is available at:


Doug Barlow and George Buntrock flank Brenda (a nurse) in Vernon Creek, HMS Nelson     George Buntrock and Doug Barlow with Brenda in a Bosun dinghy in 1976

Doug Barlow and George Buntrock with Brenda (a nurse)

sailing a Bosun dinghy from Vernon Creek in 1976


George and Melody Buntrock with friends Charlie and Pia

Still afloat - George and Melody Buntrock (right)

with friends Charlie and Pia in 2007


1 Oct 09


HMS Brocklesby's Clearance Divers help launch Special Edition stamps


The RN website contains this article describing how divers from HMS Brocklesby helped launch the new set of Royal Mail stamps depicting naval uniforms  (see second entry for 17 Sep 09 in News Archive 27).  The article features LS(D) Ross Binns, AB(D) Luke “Rocky” Halbauer, AB(D) David “Bos” Boswell and PO(D) Ken Smith (Coxswain) of HMS Brocklesby but LS(D) Max Steelson and AB(D) Christian Millington of the Fleet Diving Squadron also participated.


Fears over mustard gas at beach


The BBC News website contains this article describing how two members of an Army bomb disposal team were treated in hospital after developing symptoms consistent with exposure to mustard gas after disabling a shell at Whiteford Sands last Thursday.  Has the Army been poaching?


Navy News items


The October issue of Navy News contains these items of MCDOA interest:


Back to top


News Archives