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.

31 Mar 10 - Website feedback


The MCDOA website currently receives around 18,000 visits per month and generates many fascinating queries and comments which I do my best to answer.  Here are some examples from March:


Received on 28 March:


"Dear Rob,


I was a baby tiff, first draft in Sept 1969 to HMS Forth in Singapore.  The attached picture shows us passing Red House jetty. 


HMS Forth passing Red House Jetty, Singapore in 1969


Ten of us, all fresh out of training, were drafted to HMS Forth and it had been arranged that everyone would be sent to the diving tender Datchet for work experience.  Each of us had a one month slot.  I got the story that government cutbacks meant the engines were skimped on when she was being built.  To save cost, she was fitted with Graymarine engines found in storage in Sembawang dockyard.  Apparently there were about six or so of these engines.  As they had been in storage (I don't know for how long or their original age), some problems arose.  When one failed they simply got another out of store.  When Pete Mcbride's turn came to go on Datchet, we all thought what a lucky git as she was going off on a jolly up the coast somewhere.  One of the engines on that jaunt had water pump problems and they returned, cutting short the trip.  Apparently, some of the rubber components, or maybe the hoses, had perished and failed in service.


Whilst alongside a Bar boat [By Webmaster: probably BARFOIL] one night, we pitched and rolled like buggery but we got on board her for a shower and cleanup.  The Bar boat had RN officers, CPO & PO, with local Singaporean crew I seem to remember.  The chap who was engine room - a huge Sikh complete with turban.  Nearly every one of us had some sort of problem occur whilst in Datchet!!  It's so long ago that I cannot remember more.  Can't find any photos of Datchet either.  I remember watching the divers training.  Clad in wetsuits and fins, they ran out along Red House jetty then into the water, swam along to where Datchet was, back onto shore, then doubled along the muddy shoreline back to Red House before starting over again.  Not my idea of fun!!




Dave (Nobby) Clark"


I sent Dave this reply:


"Hello Dave,


Thanks for getting back to me.  I love hearing dits like yours, especially when they involve old naval bases and divers.  I was 32 years in the RN but never got out to the Far East - one of my biggest regrets.


As you can see from the piccies on the MCDOA website (see entry for 8 Dec 08 in News Archive 24), DATCHET looks in pretty good shape these days.  It was our Chief Tiff on the Plymouth CD Team who told me that her original engines were meant for once-only use in landing craft. The Plymouth CD team was forced to accept VERNON’s DATCHET in exchange for IXWORTH c.1978 and I inherited her when I joined the team in early 1980.  I saw IXWORTH again (and subsequently blew her up) after I rejoined VERNON as the MCD officers’ course officer in mid-1982.


Best wishes,




Received on 27 March:


"With regard to your request for the identities of persons in the two photographs shown, I would like to point out that I was the Petty Officer centre rear rank in the second photo.  I was Petty Officer Roy Falk, Diver 2nd Class, acting as diving instructor for Shallow Water Diving Classes.  On my right is Able Seaman Holdsworth, on my left is Mechanician Franz Lia, Maltese Navy.  Front row: Chief Petty Officer 'Darby' Allan, and Lt George Foster RN.


RN Diving School, Malta c.1956-57


I trust this information is of use to you,




Roy Falk"


I sent Roy this reply:


"Hello Roy,


Thank you for setting the record straight.  I have added the text of your e-mail to the entry for 29 Nov 05 in News Archive 12.   If you type “Manoel” into the search box on the MCDOA website’s Home Page, you will find other articles and photos regarding the Med Fleet CD Team and Diving School in various other News Archives.  If you have any stories and/or photos you’d like to send me, I’d be delighted to publish them.


Best wishes,


Rob Hoole"


Received on 20 March via the Project Vernon website:


"I am in possession of an extract from a Portsmouth Temporary Memoranda Notice Board Issue that mentions on 17th March, 1951 the H.M.S. Vernon received a report that a civilian diver at Margate was in trouble.  In item 4 it states that the conduct of all officers and ratings in this incident was exemplary and one of the ratings who assisted was C.V. Starley, P/JX..130813, Petty Officer (Diver 1). We have a couple of badges also.


Could you please give me any information on this diver?  Also a newspaper cutout on the Dunedin survivors is also in our possession. We have no idea where these came from.


Thank you,


Irene Kelman

South Australia"


I sent Irene this reply:


"Hello Irene,


Thank you for your enquiry.  The following announcement was published in an RN diving magazine in 1951:


Commander-in-Chief's Commendation


On Saturday, 17th March 1951, Senior Commissioned Boatswain (QDD) [Qualified Deep Diver] C.W. Chadwick RN of HMS Vernon [an RN Base in Portsmouth] received a report that a civilian diver at Margate had contracted severe compressed air illness involving an ache across the lower chest and complete paralysis of of the legs and abdomen.  As no recompression chamber was carried in the ship involved and knowing that there would probably be a delay in the provision of the necessary facilities held by the civil authorities, Senior Commissioned Boatswain Chadwick immediately arranged for HMS Vernon's recompression chamber to be at readiness and for the patient to be brought by ambulance to HMS Vernon.


Commissioned Boatswain (QDD) E.W.J. Gordon RN was then locked into the chamber with the patient and remained there tending to him under pressure in a most cramped and uncomfortable position for a period of over fourteen hours.  As a result of these exertions, Commissioned Boatswain Gordon himself eventually suffered compressed air illness and had to remain a further twelve hours under pressure, a total time of twenty-six hours.  Senior Commissioned Boatswain Chadwick remained in charge of the treatment for the whole twenty-six hours.


The civilian diver is now recovering in hospital and he would undoubtadly have died were it not for the efficient way in which his decompression was carried out.  I commend Senior Commissioned Boatswain Chadwick and Commissioned Boatswain Gordon for their devotion to duty.


The conduct of all the officers and ratings concerned in this incident was exemplary and, of them, the names of the following ratings who assisted are particularly deserving of mention:-


W.R. Marsh, P/J.113464, Petty Officer (Diver 1)

C.V. Starley, P/JX.130813, Petty Officer (Diver 1)

A.J. William, P/JX.140902, Petty Officer (Diver 1)




26 April 1951


According to the Dunedin Society Website, Leading Seaman C. Starley was one of 67 survivors when the cruiser HMS Dunedin was torpedoed by U-124 off Freetown, West Africa on 22 November 1941 with the loss of 419 lives in particularly horrific circumstances; I commend the website's History page to you.  Regrettably, I have no more information about Starley but I have blind copied this to some other people who may be able to help.


Best wishes,


Rob Hoole"


I then received this message on 22 March:


"Dear Rob,


Thank you for the information about the ex-Dunedin rating - I have passed it on to the Dunedin Society and, perhaps more importantly, to our known four surviving survivors.  Off the top of my head, the only constructive information I have is that his name will be on the Dunedin Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas where there is a plinth to the 419 who lost there lives in Dunedin, and also a plate that lists the 72 survivors (five of whom died the night they were picked up by the Lykes Line's Nishmaha).




Chris Broadway

Dunedin Society"


I received this on 7 April:


"Hello Rob,


Chris [Broadway] has forwarded me this interesting trail which originated in S. Australia.  Actually his computer was down and I didn't receive it until 11 days later.  I was most interested but let me first say that I am so glad that through the enquiry you discovered HMS Dunedin Society and the website.  Only formed nine years ago, and what has come out of it is amazing after all this time and everyone is so appreciative of all that we have discovered.  We are like one big family.  Unfortunately for us, Stuart Gill as you may have seen is out in Melbourne as Consul-General and has another two years to go, so hasn't really the time for updates.


I hadn't heard of your 'Vernon Monument' project and was very interested to look up details on your websites.  I have known HMS Vernon since the 1930s and of course the now Gunwharf Quays and the Customs House pub, so will follow the development with interest.  A very worthwhile and well deserved Memorial, and lovely design.  I now live in Petersfield and a friend just called in so I showed it to her, as her father was the Commander at Vernon in 1939, she was pleased to see it too! (As it happens I visit the 89 year old daughter of the late Admiral of the Fleet Sir Algernon Willis, who in 1936/7 was the Captain of Vernon.  She is an Admiral's widow too, (MacDonald) and she loves to talk about past days in the Navy so will be interested to know about this too).


However, this mail is about Cecil Starley, survivor of HMS Dunedin.  I didn't know he was a Diver, but did know through research that he emigrated to Adelaide in 1953 (died 1965).  It was just amazing to have an enquiry from Aussie about him as I am helping Frances Davies, a member of our Society to discover facts about him out there.  I therefore sent on the email trail to her and we have spoken on the phone about it.  Consequently Frances has now emailed Irene and had a reply today.  She is over the moon with the contact so they will now be able to help each other.  We are at present trying to trace Cecil and Joan's son Max, but Irene thinks he went America.  She has sent photos of the badges.  I wonder how she knew to contact Dixie Dean?  Would there be anything about Cecil in Naval records here (besides the account of the bravery on 1951) if he was attached to a Diving unit at Portsmouth?  


All this came about as Frances was brought up in an orphanage, and only in the last couple of years she has been trying to discover her roots with a genealogist.  She found she had a half sister Joan who was married in 1939 to Cecil Starley and marriage certificate told her he was serving in HMS Dunedin.   Hence she found our website and got in touch and attended our Reunion last summer up at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas.  As I am a genealogist too, I have been helping her with the Australian quest ever since, getting in touch with the Naval Assns etc.   So you will see what an interest this has all been and thank you for your part in it.


Best wishes,


Anne Randall

(Daughter of Lt Cdr R M H Sowdon, 1st Lt HMS Dunedin. - sadly lost after the sinking)"


Received on 19 March:


"Dear Lt Cdr Hoole,


I'm researching a book about the English war artist Eric Ravilious, whose painting 'Dangerous Work at Low Tide' is a record of the second successful clearance of a World War II German parachute mine, on Whitstable Sands, in early 1940. You can see the picture here:



I would be very grateful if you can shed light on one or two aspects of this painting. I'm particularly intrigued by the equipment - the long wooden paddles or spades, and the barrels. Can you tell me what these were for? Or perhaps suggest someone who might?


With best wishes,




James Russell"


I sent James this reply:


"Hello James,


Thank you for your fascinating query.  It has me beaten apart from the suspicion that the oars were meant to prevent the barrels, probably used as flotation devices, from rolling away on the tide.


I am copying this to veteran wartime RNVR bomb and mine disposal officer and author Noel Cashford MBE who may be able to shed further light.


Best wishes,


Rob Hoole"


I subsequently received this helpful contribution from Chris Ransted, author of 'Bomb Disposal and the British Casualties of WW2':


"Hi Rob,


I was looking at your site the other night and saw the inquiry from James Russell re the 'Dangerous Work at Low Tide' painting.  There is an account of the work on that mine in the book 'Of Mines and Men' by Lt Cdr G.A. Hodges G.M. V.R.D., R.N.R.  Notice that it refers to problems with the flotation casks.  [By Webmaster: See Chapter IV of 'Of Mines and Men' - Finding the Answers: Three visits to Whitstable - recommended reading.]


You have a good weekend - Sun is suppose to shine!




I forwarded this information to James and he then sent this expression of gratitude:


"Hi Rob,


Thank you so much for sending these pages. What a fascinating story, and well told as well. I will of course credit you and Chris for your help  - would you like me to mention MCDOA?






I responded with this:


"Hello James,


Yes please and do credit the MCDOA with a mention of the website if possible.   I have had a blinding glimpse of the obvious and realised that the oars were simply to facilitate the portage of the heavy casks across the sands by the sailors.  Otherwise, they would have been extremely unwieldy to carry.


Best wishes,




Received on 18 March:


"Hi Rob,


I am still at it with my book and will send you a link to my web page soon.  However I came across, in my searches, the fact that X-Craft crew were trained as divers too.  One thing led to another and after reading Max Shean's Book 'Corvettes and Submarines', I decided to include the Aussies who had participated in the X-craft world in my book.  After a bit of ferreting around I found one still with us, Kenneth Briggs DSC, who was a crew member and diver and won his DSC for cutting the telecommunication cables between Saigon and Hong Kong and Saigon and Singapore...  He retired as a LEUT in 1945 and is now 87 years old.  His nephew Peter Briggs rose to RADM and ran the RAN Submarine Force.




Jake Linton"


I sent Jake this reply:


"Hello Jake,


Thank you for informing me about this.  I know that Sub Lts K.M. Briggs RANVR and A.K Bergius RNVR were Shean's divers in XE-4 for Operation SABRE, the cutting of the Saigon-Singapore cable.  Westmacott's two divers in XE-5 (Sub Lt D.V.M. Jarvis and Lt B.G. Clarke, both RNVR) for Operation FOIL, the cutting of the Saigon-Hong Kong cable, spent 96 hours trying to free their craft from whatever she had grappled.


Two other divers (Lt D. Carey RN and Lt B. Enzer RNVR - spelled 'Enser' in Capt Fell's book) had previously been lost during practice cutting operations on a disused telegraph cable in Hervey Bay, QLD. If it is of any interest, I have the following books relating to X and XE-craft operations:


'The Sea our Shield' by Captain W.R. Fell RN (who masterminded Operations SABRE and FOIL)

'Frogman V.C.' by Ian Fraser

'Above us the Waves' by C.E.T. Warren & James Benson

'By Sea and By Stealth' by Burke Wilkinson

'The Frogmen' by T.J. Waldron & James Gleeson

'Underwater Warriors' by Paul Kemp

'Suicide Squads' by Richard O'Neil

'The British Submarine' by Cdr F.W. Lipscombe OBE, RN


Do let me know if I can help in any way.


Best wishes,




Received on 11 March via the Project Vernon website:


"The existence of Project Vernon has come to my notice and I should be most grateful to know if members of the RNVR who trained at HMS Vernon at the beginning of WWII in Land Mine Disposal are to be included in the memorial.  My father was Acting Sub-Lieutenant Greville Westmacott McClinton in 1940, he trained at King Alfred and Vernon and subsequently was awarded the George Medal for his work in Land Mine Disposal in and around London.  Any information you can provide would be most welcome.


Sally Carter (Mrs)"


I sent Sally this reply:


"Hello Sally,


David Carey has been kind enough to introduce me to you.  For my sins, I am also the Vice Chairman & Webmaster of the RN Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers' Association (MCDOA).


If you go to the MCD Branch History section of our website and look at 'WW II Awards for RN Diving and Bomb & Mine Disposal', you will see that your father is already listed. As a Render Mines Safe Officer (RMSO), he was 'gazetted' for the award of the George Medal on 23 Jan 1941 "for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty".  You can find the original entry for this award in the London Gazette online here.  A publication called 'Seedies' at the Naval Historical Branch in Portsmouth Naval Base mentions that he rendered safe a parachute land mine during a particularly hazardous operation in London on 15 Oct 1940. 


I am blind copying this to a few friends who may be able to cast more light on your father's wartime activities.  He certainly epitomises the inspirational heritage we are striving to celebrate with the Project Vernon monument in Gunwharf Quays.


Best wishes,


Rob Hoole"


Chris Ransted, one of those I had blind copied on my e-mail, then provided this elaboration:




Have you got the book 'Softly Tread the Brave'?  There is a chapter that is a detailed account of Cdr Mould and your father working on a mine in a field near Sole Street in Kent.  I believe it was Mould's first mine and he was overseen by your father.  They then went on to work on a mine in another field at Meopham that exploded while having the explosives burnt out.  Your father is mentioned elsewhere in the book saying he had dermatitis - a common complaint from handling explosives.  I can copy the chapter for you if you don't have it.  The book is out of print but copies can usually be found on


The only other mention I know of off hand is from the book 'Dragons can be Defeated' which lists George Medal holders - saying he was awarded the medal for working on a mine in St James Park, London 15th Oct 1940 with Ord Seaman Thomas Douglas Novis.


Do you happen to have any photos from your father's time in the Navy?  Be nice to put a face to a name.




Chris Ransted"


I followed up Chris's e-mail with this explanation:


"Hello again Sally,


Chris Ransted is the author of 'Bomb Disposal and the British Casualties of WW2'.  I had not thought to look in 'Softly Tread the Brave' which is a somewhat 'dramaticised' biography of Australian naval bomb & mine disposal officers Lt John Stuart 'Mouldy' Mould GC, GM, RANVR and Lt Hugh Randall Syme GC, GM*, RANVR.  It was written by Ivan Southall and I have scanned and attached the chapters (Room with Three Doors - London and The Smell - Kent) Chris mentions.


The chapters also mention Lt Cdr Gilbert Ernest Stubbs GM, RNVR.  I had the privilege of meeting his son Gerald soon after his father's death in Oct 2005.  Gerald passed me many of his father's wartime photos and I published a few of them in the second entry for 23 Oct 2005 in 'News Archive 12' of the MCDOA website.  Your own father may well be pictured among the others I have in my possession.  I live in Waterlooville just north of Portsmouth.  If we are in convenient proximity to each other, perhaps we could meet sometime?


Best wishes,


Rob Hoole"


Sally sent this in response:


"Dear Rob,


You will, I hope, have received a copy of the message I have just sent to David Carey, in which I expressed my regret for not having responded sooner to your extremely welcome messages, but I have only just returned from Portugal.


I am so thrilled to have made contact with you, David and Chris and will do anything I can to support the Project Vernon Monument.  I had no idea that a book such as 'Softly Tread the Brave' existed and am so grateful to receive extracts from it; I found reading the details of the rendering safe of the mines fascinating, as my father was unwilling to go into detail, even in the 1960's, of what he thought might still be classified information, and I found it very moving.  I am hoping to be able to obtain a copy of this book, and of anything else which you or your colleagues may know of that would feature my father.  


As you will see from my message to David, I have my father's medals and I plan to pass them on to my eldest Grandson, who is only six now, in due course.  I have copies of the London Gazette but do not know how to access 'Seedies' - perhaps you can advise?   You kindly suggest meeting and I should be absolutely delighted to do so.  I live in London and it would be very easy to drive to Waterlooville whenever it might be convenient for you.  Perhaps it would be possible to include David and Chris as well?  I would gladly bring all the information I have regarding my father's wartime activities, including the typed account I got him to dictate in the 1960's, plus photographs, medals and various bits of memorabilia.  I have had a look at the MCDOA website News Archive 12 but the pictures are too fuzzy for me to tell if my father is there.


I really am so grateful to you for getting in touch with me and I look forward to meeting you.


With best wishes,




Received on 9 March:


"Hallo Rob,


Can you help?  I have received an enquiry asking for information about the service of Frank W Noble.  A colleague has checked old Navy Lists and found the following information:


I think FW Noble was a wartime officer who probably joined as an RNVR rating at the outset of war.  He was promoted to S/Lt (Special Branch) in 1941 and appointed to HMS Badger in late 1941.  The Navy List says Badger was a parent ship (base) in Harwich.  He is down as being borne for duties on confidential books.  Seems like he was there until 1945 when he was appointed to HMS Byrsa on the staff.  Byrsa was in the Med and may have been in Italy as there is reference to people borne for duties in Leghorn.  I suspect he was de-mobbed as a Lt(Sp) RNVR in late 1946 or early 1947 as he has disappeared from the Navy List by Oct 1947.  He then reappears as a Lt Cdr RNVR with a seniority of Dec 1952.


I now write to ask if you can provide any information about HMS Badger and HMS Byrsa (wartime naval HQ in Harwich -- I found a ref in Wikipedia) and HMS Byrsa which seems to have been the wartime naval base in Naples.


Any information will be welcome.




John Pressagh

London Flotilla"


I sent John this reply:


"Hello John,


According to 'Shore Establishments of the Royal Navy' by Ben Warlow:


HMS BADGER: Parkestone Quay, Harwich. Minesweeper Base. NOIC ordered to post 27.8.1939, name selected 1.9.1939. Commissioned 13.9.1939. Paid off 21.10.1946. Overflow became HMS BUNTING (qv) 2.1940. Also used by 4th MTB Flotilla pre 6.1940 (became BEEHIVE (qv)). Reserve Fleet accounting base 1.4.1946. Nominal Depot Ship: Motor Boat EPPING ex LNER 13.9.1939 - 12.1.1940 then Yacht WESTWARD 12.1.1940 to 10.1946.


HMS BYRSA: Castelmara / Naples, Italy. RN Base (Port Party Naples - Naval Party 864) Transferred from Bougie by 10.1943, then to Naples 12.1943. Accounts closed and transferred to ST ANGELO (Malta) 31.12.1945. Paid off at Naples 1.4.1946. C-in-C Med's Flag hoisted 9.7.1944 ex-HANNIBAL, carried to FO Naples by 10.1945.


Hope this helps.


Best wishes,




Received on 3 March:


"Dear Rob,


A while back you expressed an interest in the book I was researching on Army bomb disposal in Malta in World War II.  I'm pleased to let you know that the book is about to be published by the History Press.  'UXB Malta' is currently available to pre-order from


If you'd like to know more about the background to the book, please visit my blog on


Thanks for your interest.  I'd be glad to know what you think of the book.




Susan Hudson"


I sent Susan this reply:


"Hello Susan,


Thank you for this.  I hope my contacts proved useful.


I have pre-ordered a copy of ‘UXB Malta’ and will publicise it on our Association’s website after its launch.  Good luck with your sales.


Having noted an entry by ‘bdmalta’ on the Hard EOD Café website forum, I assume this is you and that Lt George Carroll RE was your father.  You must be very proud.   Incidentally, I hope you have read Frederick Galea’s fascinating book ‘Mines Over Malta’ about the wartime bomb & mine disposal work of Cdr Edward Woolley GM* RNVR.


Best wishes,




Susan sent this in response:


"Dear Rob,


Thanks for your kind words and well spotted: G D Carroll is indeed my father.  I started out wanting to find out more about his WW2 service and found there was a whole story to tell about BD Malta.  I appreciate you circulating details of the book to other interested parties.


I am also writing to invite you to be a guest at the launch of ‘UXB Malta’.  The event will be an informal reception at the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham at 1130 hrs on Tuesday 11 May - the 70th anniversary of the formation of RE Bomb Disposal.   Please let me know if you're able to come.


With best wishes,


Susan Hudson"


30 Mar 10 - Message from Chris 'Spike' Hughes in Qatar


I am grateful to ex-WO(D) Spike Hughes, with whom I first served in the Plymouth CD Team in 1980, for sending me this news snippet and photo:


"Hi Rob,


During their recent visit to Qatar, I had the privilege of being invited on board HMS Atherstone and HMS Chiddingfold.  I am pictured looking a little the worse for wear (the morning after the night before and just finished diving)  with MCDOs Trev Orton, Jase Dawson and Mark Northcote.  Although it was a nostalgic visit, especially being my first time on board any type of RN Ship/Establishment since leaving the Service in 2006, it was a nice feeling not having to sail at 0600 the next day!


Thanks for the hospitality guys... wishing you fair winds and following seas.


Spike (I've now recovered) Hughes"


Trev Orton, Spike Hughes, Jase Dawson and Mark Northcote


29 Mar 10 - Funeral of former CPO(D) Tony 'Willie' Wilkes


It was standing room only at the funeral of Tony 'Willie' Wilkes today (see entry for 14 Mar 10) with family, friends and members of various naval associations all in attendance.  Those representing the CD Branch included Donkey Bray (Senior), John Dadd, Taff Davey, Paddy Doonan, Mick Fellows, 'Uncle Bill' Filer with the late Jackie Warner's daughter Claire Harris, Bob Fraser, Gabby Haines with his wife Kay, Mike Handford, John Hendrick, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole), Vic Humphrey, Chris Jones, Colin 'Scouse' Kidman, Derek 'Maggie' Lockwood with his wife, Ted Setchell, Les Sharpe, Tommy Steel, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, Graham 'Piggy' Trotter and Jim Tyzack. 




Members of the HMS Ganges Association formed a guard of honour as the casket arrived in the hearse and two standard bearers from the Association flanked the catafalque throughout the service.






Mourners entered the chapel to the sound of Bette Midler singing 'The Wind Beneath my Wings' before Sylvia Corke, who conducted the service, gave the opening address.



Sylvia then read a poem dedicated to Tony by his children, Michelle, Susan and Rob:


Our Father's Garden


Our Father kept a garden.

A garden of the heart;

He planted all the good things,

That gave our lives their start.

 He turned us to the sunshine,

And encouraged us to dream:

Fostering and nurturing the seeds of self-esteem.

And when the winds and rain came,

He protected us enough;

But not too much because he knew

We would stand up strong and tough.

His constant good example,

Always taught us right from wrong;

Markers for our pathway that will last a lifetime long.

We are our Fathers garden,

To him we will be true.

Thank you Dad for tending us,

And just for being you.


Sylvia followed this with a eulogy to Willie which described his life and career in the Royal Navy and in the commercial diving industry.  She has kindly provided me with a copy which is available here; do read it.  This was followed by a tribute to Willie by his son Rob.  The congregation then paused in thought to the sound of Eva Cassidy singing 'Somewhere over the Rainbow' which was followed by a second address by Sylvia.  This was followed by The Lord's Prayer and Sylvia's rendition of the poem, 'Feel No Guilt'.


Memories of The Heart


Feel no guilt in laughter,

He knows how much you care.

Feel no sorrow in a smile

That he's not here to share.


You cannot grieve forever,

He would not want you to.

He'd hope that you would carry on

The way you always do.


So talk about the good times

And the ways you showed you cared.

The days you spent together,

All the happiness you shared.


Let the memories surround you,

A word someone may say

Will suddenly recapture

A time, an hour, a day.


That brings him back as clearly

 As though he were still here,

And fills you with the feelings

That he is always near.


For if you keep those memories

You will never be apart

And he will live forever

Locked safe within your heart


During the committal, a bugler sounded 'The Last Post' and 'Reveille', both note perfect.  Sylvia then thanked those who had helped Willie in his final days, especially his partner Maureen, the district nurses and the nurses who cared for him at The Rowans Hospice.  Mourners left the chapel to the sound of a medley of wartime songs including 'Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag' and 'We'll Meet Again'.



Most of us then went on to The Seagull to raise a glass or two in Willie's memory and exchange a few yarns.  I had the chance to meet many of Willie's relatives, including those of his ex-wife June, and took these snaps:



Left: Chris Jones, Maureen and John Hendrick

Right: Les Sharpe, ?, Maureen, Rob Hoole, Gabby Haines and Ted Setchell


Gabby Haines, Rob Hoole, Les Sharpe, Tommy Steel

and Derek 'Maggie' Lockwood


Graham 'Piggy' Trotter, John Dadd

and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson


The family has asked that donations in lieu of floral tributes be sent by cheque payable to The Rowans Hospice c/o: Lee Fletcher Funeral Services, 95 High Street, Cosham, Hampshire PO6 3AZ.  I am sure that everyone will join me in extending our condolences to Maureen and to Willie's family on their loss. 


It is strange to think that less than a year has passed since I met with Willie and Maureen at Lee-on-the-Solent Tennis Club in much happier circumstances for a celebratory lunch with 'Uncle Bill' Filer (see entry for 30 Apr 09 in News Archive 26).


Left to right: Bill Filer, Hoppy Hopewell, Claire Harris, Rob Hoole, Maureen Wilkes and Willie Wilkes

Bill Filer, Hoppy Hopewell, Jackie Warner's daughter

Claire Harris, Rob Hoole, Maureen and Willie Wilkes

in April 2009


Farewell Willie.  Rest in peace.  I, for one, will miss your warmth, humour and friendship enormously.


Anthony 'Willie' Wilkes

(22 Jun 1938 - 28 Feb 2010)


27 Mar 10 - Update from HMS Cattistock


The following letter has been received from Lt Cdr Charles Maynard, the Commanding Officer of HMS Cattistock:


"After a period of relative quiet I am delighted to be writing to you and introducing myself as the new Commanding Officer of HMS CATTISTOCK. My crew and I joined the ship just over a month ago in Portsmouth having returned from leave after our 6 month operational deployment to the Gulf. Jim Byron and his team flew out to Bahrain in early January and took over HMS CHIDDINGFOLD from my crew; so essentially we have swapped ships but the process, as you might expect, is not as straightforward as it sounds. In the meantime CATTISTOCK has been quietly waiting in Portsmouth for her new crew to arrive and we are now busy readying for sea. I have been in Command since December 2008 and CATTISTOCK is my third Hunt and although I appreciate it can't be easy keeping up with the comings and goings of Captains and crews we are very much looking forward to refreshing our excellent and enduring affiliations with the Ton Association.


Our Crew is MCM2 Crew 5, more commonly known as the `Five Star' Crew and we certainly shall be ensuring that CATTISTOCK is kept at that standard. Many of my team have served in CATTISTOCK previously and have been very keen to return to the ship and renew our long standing ties. Our programme has CATTISTOCK in the UK this year conducting a variety of training and MCM operations. In addition we shall be participating in a high profile visit to London, taking part in Navy Days in Portsmouth at the end of July and supporting the Hartlepool Tall Ships Festival in August. I am also looking at programming an Affiliates Sea Day in the early part of the summer.


Yours aye,


Charles Maynard"


26 Mar 10 - Molly Rimington MBE


Wednesday's Daily Telegraph contained this obituary for Molly Rimington (née Shakespear) who died on 17 January.  She was a formidable woman who served with distinction as a WRNS rating and officer during the Second World War.  Her uncle, Captain D W Boyd RN (later Admiral Sir Dennis Boyd KCB, CBE, DSC), was the Captain of HMS Vernon from 21 Apr 1938 to 30 Nov 1939 and features in this excerpt:


"...On Sunday September 3 1939 she caught an evening train to Portsmouth. It was the first night of blackout and there were no lights on the train; but as it stopped at each station she saw the red glow of cigarettes smoked by pensioners leaving the city. In Portsmouth with her large suitcase, she was given a lift by two Royal Marines officers, getting into their car before realising they were drunk.


They drove through the gates of HMS Vernon without stopping and drew up outside Vernon House with a flourish, just missing her uncle who was setting out to search for her. On the Monday Molly Shakespear started as a Wren Writer, and when a German magnetic mine was recovered from the mud at Sheerness and brought to Vernon, she spent many hours taking shorthand notes and minutes of secret meetings..."


While at HMS Vernon, Captain Boyd (Molly's uncle) tried his best to secure funding from the Naval Staff to research and develop counter-measures against magnetic mines as these were correctly forecast to pose a serious threat after the declaration of war against Germany.  According to 'The Torpedomen - HMS Vernon's Story 1872 to 1986' by Rear Admiral Edmund Nicholas 'Nico' Poland CB, CBE:


"...Thoroughly frustrated, he framed in his office the reply to his frequent requests for more resources with which to perfect magnetic sweeps:


As this form of sweep is only required in wartime, it need not be developed in peace time


This would have near-tragic consequences."


Incidentally, Vernon House was the Captain's residence located just inside the back (south) gate of HMS Vernon until destroyed in a bombing raid on 9 March 1941.  Captain (later Rear Admiral) Brian Egerton (Captain Boyd's successor) was wounded in the raid and subsequently moved into Donegal Lodge, the Chaplain's residence located just inside the main gate.  This remained the Captain's residence until 1986 when HMS Vernon was decommissioned as an independent establishment.


Vernon House in the late 1930s


Unless I'm mistaken, Molly's son John (Captain J A Rimington RN) was the MCD appointer as a Lt Cdr in the mid 1980s.


25 Mar 10 - Presentation of Firmin Sword of Peace to NDG


The Firmin Sword of Peace was first instituted as the Wilkinson Sword of Peace in 1966.  It is awarded each year to the unit of the UK's armed services judged to have made the most valuable contribution towards establishing good and friendly relations with any community at home or overseas.  MCDOA member Jason White QGM, CO of Northern Diving Group (NDG), informs me that the Sword of Peace for 2008 was at last presented to NDG on 8 March (see entry for 8 Jan 10 in News Archive 29).  The ceremony took place at Faslane where FOSNNI (Rear Admiral Martin Alabaster) said that he was very proud to be able to hand it over to such a small group of personnel. 


Jason White with Rear Admiral Alabaster


About half the Group managed to gather in one place, something of a record with teams on the road, training and in Afghanistan (PO(D) Jai Gardner).  COMPORFLOT (Commodre Rupert Wallace) attended as well as several MCDOA members, most notably Lt Cdr Andy ‘Sharkey’ Ward who was CO NDG 2006 - 2008.  The sword will be placed in a display case within NDG, alongside the citation.



VIPs with members of Northern Diving Group


Andy 'Sharkey' Ward, Jason White, Firmin representative,

Peter Greenwood and Cdre Wallace


Although NDG was awarded the sword for 2008, Jason says it reflects the wide range of work that the branch is conducting across the board; SDG or FDG would have been equally deserving recipients.  He believes that, as a branch, "we can all be proud of this award as we are all involved in the activities that were recognised by the award’s board."  Just to remind people, here is the citation:




Throughout 2008, the Northern Diving Group (NDG) established itself as a humanitarian ‘force for good’ in Northern England and Scotland through its work and close relationship with many local communities and organizations.  The Group’s main activities which contributed to these areas were Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and diving in support of Search and Rescue (SAR) or the Police. These tasks saw NDG personnel in constant contact with the community they serve, noting that they are often the only Military personnel that some of the more remote Scottish communities regularly encounter.    


Based at HM Naval Base Clyde, in Faslane Scotland, the Group consists of 45 Royal Navy Clearance Divers and Engineers who are responsible, as part of the Fleet Diving Squadron, for the provision of specialist support to the Royal Navy and Civil Authorities.  Their key roles are worldwide Diving and Underwater Engineering support to HM Ships and Submarines based at Faslane and Military Aid to the Civil Authorities for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Search and Rescue (SAR) in Northern England and Scotland.  NDG maintain a team of experienced EOD Divers at 30 minutes notice to move 24/7, ready to respond to any EOD or SAR task they may be called upon to perform.  During the last year alone, 13 fishing vessels required support from NDG due to trawling dangerous explosive items up in their fishing nets, and numerous callouts to dispose of ordnance washed up on public beaches or estuaries.  Although these duty calls are part of the unit’s core tasks, it was their breadth and contribution to the wider community that stood out as noteworthy.    


NDG also showed a broad commitment to the small communities around Scotland that they meet and interact with during the completion of their military tasks.  In particular, the Group has a long standing commitment to the memorial and surviving crew of HMS ROYAL OAK, which sank in Scapa Flow in the Orkneys.  Since the end of WW2, Royal Navy Divers from NDG have supported the annual Remembrance Ceremony, by changing the ships Ensign or placing the ashes of recently departed survivors inside the wreck, so they can be reunited with their departed shipmates.  NDG teams also participate in school fêtes, as well as attending sub-aqua clubs and fishing regattas to inform and educate the community about the various explosive hazards that can be found under the sea or on the beaches around UK.  They are also actively involved in various charity events, including the Edinburgh Marathon and Port William Inshore Rescue Service.    


Although only a relatively small group, NDG has played a vital role in establishing extremely strong links with the maritime and local communities in Northern England and Scotland throughout 2008.  Much of the humanitarian contribution that Northern Diving Group has provided was due to the hazardous nature of their EOD, SAR or core daily Diving work.  This coupled with their continued good relations with the Police, Coast Guard, Lifeboats and Fishing associations, often within small isolated communities, marks them out as worthy recipients of the Firmin Sword of Peace for 2008.


On another note, the 70th ensign from the wreck of HMS Royal Oak, which was presented to the Group by Princess Anne, is now in a display case within NDG and Jason promises to send some pictures of the ensign, plaque and crest next week. 


24 Mar 10 - News from HMS Walney


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




The Baltic deployment for HMS WALNEY as part of the Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) gathers pace as the Sandown Class minehunter transits further into the Baltic.  The start of the month of March was initially spent in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, before heading out to conduct mine clearance and multi-threat exercises with the SNMCMG1 ships together with ships from the Danish, Swedish and German Navies.  Although Mine Hunting conditions proved difficult, WALNEY’s crew were typically relentless in their efforts to find and dispose of the exercise mines in the area off Denmark.  On completion of the exercise, the ships split into two groups for the final war game, before SNMCMG1 said goodbye and headed south through the Great Belt bound for Gdansk in Northern Poland.  The transit to Poland unfortunately didn’t provide too many opportunities to take in the Baltic coastline as thick fog prevailed during the two and a half day transit.    





Fortunately, the fog lifted as WALNEY approached the Polish coastline and made for an uneventful transit into Gdansk Harbour.  The Polish City proved popular for the ship's company, with many stepping ashore to take in a city steeped in modern history.  The Second World War had its origins in Gdansk when the first German guns were fired from the sea on Westerplatte, a small fort guarding the approaches to Gdansk harbour.  A memorial service was held on our arrival and several members of the ship's company attended to show their respect to the defenders of Westerplatte, where a handful of Polish soldiers held off the German invaders for several days before finally being overwhelmed by superior numbers.  Among the attendees of the service were members from the Federal German Ship Passau, who has recently joined SNMCMG1.  With Polish and German sailors standing side by side, it aptly showed solidarity between the NATO force, and the desire to eradicate previous differences but also never to forget those who lost their lives in defence of freedom.  For Gdansk, Solidarity is a common term, for the rise of the Solidarity movement in Gdansk during the early 1980’s under the guidance and leadership of the inspired Lech Walensa was a pivotal factor in self governance for Poland and ultimately was the catalyst for the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.  


History lesson aside, the stay in Gdansk was brief but rewarding for all.  MCM1, Commander David Bence RN [MCDOA member], also visited HMS WALNEY to see the good work that she was doing, and sailed with her as she left Gdansk to conduct further MCM Operations in Polish waters.  Operating off the Polish coastline and the port of Hel was quite apt for WALNEY as she suffered engineering problems that forced her to retire from the exercise prematurely and proceed to the port of Warnemunde near Rostock in North East Germany.  With our SNMCMG1 colleagues arriving a day later, there was time to socialise while alongside. The Dutch minehunter HMNLS MIDDELBURG hosted a karaoke night, and proved that already known fact that the majority of the British sailors cannot sing!  



Warnemunde is a picturesque fishing town, albeit quite seasonal which meant that it couldn’t be viewed to its full potential.  However after some good time spent ashore and postcards sent, WALNEY heads back to sea to conduct more operations as part of SNMCMG1.  The force will have to defend itself from German aircraft, simulated mines and deal with internal damage control scenarios as the ships are put to the test off the German coast.  With the deployment almost approaching the half way mark, HMS WALNEY looks to cement those relationships with her NATO counterparts and to show that when it comes to MCM, there’s no better ally to have than the Royal Navy.


23 Mar 10 - Operational Honours and Awards


The latest list of operational honours and awards was published on the MOD website here on 19 March.  MCDOA member Phil Ireland has drawn my attention to the fact that Cdr Henry Merewether, who was awarded the QCVS, was the Cdr First MCM Squadron (MCM1) and deployed as the MW Battle Staff Cdr for the TELIC MMs for much of 2009.


Congratulations also to LS(D) Carl Thomas on the award of the QCB "for bravery in risking his life several times in an attempt to stop flooding of the engine room on HMS Endurance on 16th December 2008" as described in paragraph 37 of the Board of Inquiry Report here.


20 Mar 10 - SDU2 deals with bomb in cupboard


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the disposal by Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of a wartime German incendiary found in a cupboard in Southsea.


19 Mar 10 - Gentlemen Who Lunch


Yesterday, the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole had the pleasure of being hosted for lunch by our Association's President, Capt Colin Welborn RN.  This took place at his delightful country estate, Welborn Towers, somewhere in the South of England.  Holloway was duty driver and, after negotiating winding country lanes, we eventually arrived at the imposing gates of Colin's mansion to be confronted by a sophisticated yet discreet security system including dogs.  Having given his staff the day off, Colin welcomed us at the door himself.  Much to our surprise, we discovered that he had not only prepared the meal personally but had invited some of the local landed gentry to join us for our meal.  These included ex-policeman Mike, his Merchant Navy stepson Rhys and retired pilot Chris.


Colin Welborn in normal guise


After breaking the ice with some aperitifs and convivial small talk, we sat down in Colin's scullery (I suspect the banqueting hall was undergoing restoration work) for a hearty bowl of vegetable broth and warm crusty rolls.  'Chez Welborn' was turning out to be a bistro with a difference.  The company was delightful and our conversation soon turned from the usual naval subjects to sorting out the problems of the world.  Our appreciatively emptied bowls were replaced with plates and we helped ourselves to a meaty pie and seasonal vegetables, probably grown by one of Colin's tennant farmers or harvested from his walled kitchen garden.  I meant to ask Colin whether he had shot the game himself but thought better of it.  Anyway, the dish was well-seasoned and tasted delicious.


The groaning board at Welborn Towers

Hoole, Barlow, Welborn, Holloway and Rhys James


Plenty of wine flowed and, before we knew it, Colin had the cheeseboard out and poured us cups of freshy-brewed aromatic coffee.  I took the opportunity to step outside for a breath of filter-tipped fresh air and sneaked a look at some of the livestock in the paddock at the rear of his stately pile. He certainly won't go short of eggs in a hurry.  All too soon, we realised that the hours had passed and Colin probably had affairs of state requiring his attention.  We made our excuses and, after thanking him profusely, stepped carefully over the piles of discarded bottles and made our exit past the ever-watchful security.  As Holloway drove us back down the long, sweeping, tree-lined drive, we couldn't help thinking how lucky we were to have such a cordial and generous-hearted President; definitely a Grade 'A' bon oeuf


I would recommend 'Chez Welborn' to anyone and have awarded it an unsurpassed four and a half mines (or diving helmets) out of five on the MCDOA website's Good Pub Guide scale of excellence.  Ah well, back to beans on toast next week.


16 Mar 10 - CDO '65 Reunion


I have received the following message from MCDOA member Bryan Barrett in the USA:


"Hi Rob,


I just got back from UK having spent a wonderful weekend with John O’Driscoll and Mike Stewart – the only other surviving members of the 1965 CDO course. John O’D had managed to dig out a couple of photos of the divisions/ceremony at the end our course. The current photo of the course you have on the MCDOA website was taken at the start of the course and includes four who did not make it through the course to the end.


Hope all is going well for you,


Best regards,





Left: Bryan Barrett, the late Tony Shepherd, Mike Stewart and John O’Driscoll MBE

Right:  John O'Driscoll MBE, Mike Stewart, Bryan Barrett and the late Tony Shepherd


Thanks very much, Bryan.  A fine body of men if ever I saw one. 


15 Mar 10 - Prestige appointment for Adrian Cassar


Congratulations to MCDOA member Adrian Cassar on his latest appointment to the UK Maritime Component Command, as published here in The Times:


"Captain A. P. F. Cassar, Royal Navy, to be Deputy UK Maritime Component Commander, in succession to Acting Captain M. R. Titcomb, OBE, Royal Navy, with effect from July 2010."


14 Mar 10 - Arrangements for the funeral of ex-CPO(CD) Tony 'Willie' Wilkes


The funeral of Willie Wilkes, stalwart of the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD) who passed away on 28 February, will take place at 1100 on Monday 29 March at Portchester Crematorium.  A gathering will be held afterwards at the Seagull.


Willie Wilkes at 2008 RN Divers' Reunion


From ex-FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott in Australia:


"G'day blokes,


I stumbled across this old shot taken during the '600 feet for one hour' bounce dive trials that took place from HMS Reclaim off Toulon in the South of France in April 1965.  As you can see, no expense was spared to make these dives the success they turned out to be. The photo, taken in Reclaim's very modern Diving Control Flat, shows Willie Wilkes POCD2 (RIP) talking to Fred Node of AEDU who was the underwater TV specialist. You can't help but notice the large black 'computer' to one side of Willie and Fred.


HMS Reclaim's Dive Control Centre in April 1965


I am shown running the dive schedule sitting at the (also very modern) four-legged dive control table and was well-equipped with two stop watches (in case one failed), a diving schedule, a cup of coffee and the obligatory wheel valve spanner.  This wheel spanner was a well designed multi-purpose tool.  It was used to force the next pair of divers into Reclaim's open-bottomed diving bell, to keep other people quiet, and for breaking into the grog locker if things got hectic during the dive.  I also think the delightful sound of Vera Lynn's voice was coming in over the tannoy speaker located near my head, something about "We'll Meet Again".


Yes, those were the days my friends.  Pity that we didn't often realise how much we were enjoying them at the time.


Dave 'Mona' Lott

(with two original valves and two lumps of leather)"


13 Mar 10 - Warship takes centre stage at London show


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing a visit to London by Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Cattistock.


12 Mar 10


MCDOA Ladies Night at Hornet Sailing Club 8 May 2010


The calling notice for this event is now available for download here and on the 'Forthcoming Events' page.  Last year's dinner was an unqualified success so do give this your support.  You are sure to be among friends.


Last year's Ladies Night


‘Guiver the Diver’ Retires


Last night saw Lt Cdr Paul Guiver BEM (affectionately known as ‘Guiver the Diver’) complete his 32+ years in the RN with a leaving run in Southsea.  It was well attended by fellow MCDOA members Bob Hawkins, ‘Soapy’ Watson, Paul Jones, Chris Flaherty and Paul McDermott plus ex-shipmates including Dan Archer, ‘Yo-Yo’ Ravenhall, ‘Yorkie’ Harran, Steve Fitzjohn and ‘Knocker’ Knowles serving at Horsea Island.  There were even such ‘blast from the past’ oppos as Ted Mangion (flew his own plane down from Sheffield!), Roy New and Andy Pearce.  Paul now intends to spend more time promoting his long established business Diver's Gifts and Collectables and we wish him all the best for the future.  


11 Mar 10


German WW II mine blown up in Weymouth Bay


The BBC website contains this article and some nice video describing today's disposal of the German ground mine found in Portland harbour on Tuesday (see first entry for 10 Mar 10).  It features CPO(D) 'Kas' Kasapi of SDU1.


See also this article on the RN website and this MoD video on YouTube.



Members of SDU1 and the mine they detonated in Weymouth Bay

(RN website photos)


News from HMS Walney


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




MCM Crew One, embarked on HMS WALNEY, continues within its role as part of the Standing NATO MCM Group One (SNMCMG1).  The NATO force, headed by the Polish ship Kont Admiral Czernicki, has continued to work hard together, in order to maintain the safety and security of the high seas. 


HMS WALNEY has experienced freezing conditions, gale force winds, ice and rough seas but this has left her ship’s company unperturbed as they continue with the Beneficial Cooperation mine hunting mission.  After many false alarms the reality of the task was suddenly apparent as HMS WALNEY found its first mine.  A stark reminder of a previous time as a WWII mine packed with 500lb of explosives lay 25 metres below the surface.  The divers were quickly mobilised, and sent down to lay a 4lb pack of explosive on the mine in order to detonate it in a controlled manner.




HMS WALNEY has recently welcomed a new Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Des Donworth Royal Navy, formerly of HMS BLYTH, also a Sandown Class Mine Hunter.  Lt Cdr Des Donworth RN commented that he is ‘very proud to take command of HMS WALNEY and her crew during this very exciting and professionally rewarding deployment.’ 


While, within a NATO force it has also seem prudent to put our seamanship and warfare skills to the test.  Having conducted numerous Officer of the Watch manoeuvres, towing exercises, gunnery firings and simulated attacks from both the air and sea, this NATO force has proved itself a capable and compatible unit.  The German Mine Hunter FGS PASSAU has now joined the force and so SNMCMG1 is now five strong with five different Navies represented.




HMS Walney exercises her guns



While ashore the ship’s company have made full use of their free time, managing to enjoy the delights of the Six Nations, while also enjoying the splendour of our last port, Copenhagen.  So far this NATO deployment has proved to be immensely challenging but also very enjoyable.  The Royal Navy ethos of work hard, play hard has been put to the test and this looks set to continue as HMS WALNEY continues with her Baltic deployment.


TOWEX with BNS Aster


HMS WALNEY now heads to Poland after completing a multi-national exercise off the Danish Coastline with German, Swedish, Danish, Belgian, Dutch and Polish forces all taking part. The transit south into the Baltic Sea has provided some breathtaking scenery, although dense fog that has lined the route south has hampered this somewhat!


10 Mar 10


German mine found in Portland Harbour


The BBC website contains this article and the Dorset Echo website contains this article describing the discovery of a wartime German mine in Portland harbour yesterday.  Divers from Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) are expected to dispose of it sometime tomorrow if the weather has abated.


Portland mine


RN Divers' Social on board HMS Warrior 12 June 2010


The application form for this prestigious event, open to all-ranks of the RN Diving Branch, is now available for download here and from the 'Forthcoming Events' section.


HMS Warrior 1860


Wanted - Old items of naval uniform


Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth plans to exhibit a WW II MGB and a HSL (see Portsmouth News article here) over the summer season.  They are appealing for items of RN uniform including officers' and ratings' black caps, white roll-neck sweaters (submariners/coastal forces) and duffle coats, etc., so that re-enactors can look the part as crew members.  GQ Management has pledged to make a donation to Project Vernon in return for any items contributed.  Please check your loft, wardrobe, trunk, kitbag or old pusser's suitcase and e-mail me via my webmaster address if you can help. 


HSL 102 and MGB 81 at speed in the Solent


9 Mar 10 - Navy News Items


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

8 Mar 10 - Volunteers needed for Project Vernon promotion in Portsmouth


I have received the following message from WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE:


"Dear All,


As you may be aware, we have been offered an area at the forthcoming SCC 150 Anniversary event at Gunwharf Quays 1st & 2nd May 10 by Peter Emery, the Centre Director of Gunwharf Quays.  We have accepted this very kind offer from Peter and will be staging another promotional event to raise awareness of Project Vernon and to raise some more funds/donations etc.  


The last event in Gunwharf was very successful and great fun.  We raised over £900 in donations, sales of raffle tickets plus Mike H sold a couple of prints.  The most important aspect of that weekend was the fact that the profile of Project Vernon was raised in the public eye with support for the project being voiced in all quarters.


The aim of this e-mail is to ask for volunteers to man the stand and help raise the profile of the project, sell some Project Vernon Draw tickets and generally be on hand to answer any questions from the public.  A couple of hours either in the morning or afternoon on either or both days would be brilliant.  It is going to be a very full-on weekend with plenty of activities being arranged for the Sea Cadets Corps and will be a perfect opportunity to raise the profile of Project Vernon even further.  


I understand that TS Royalist will be there as will an RN warship (yet to be named) and much much more.  Initial discussions with GQ Management suggest that we may well have an area at the Waterfront so we will be in the thick of it.  


I am hoping to arrange a meeting of minds once I have spoken with GQ Management and staff and sorted the detail.  I will promulgate a date soonest and would ask for as much assistance as is possible.   If you can spare a few hours over that weekend please let me know. 


If you know of anyone else that may be interested in helping out but is not included on this e-mail please feel free to forward to them.  I will of course keep you posted on developments as and when they happen.


Maintain Momentum!


Best regards,

Dixie Dean


R Dean MBE

Trustee & Head of Communications, Vernon Monument

07768 997624"


Serving and retired MW and Diving branch members in the Portsmouth area are requested to give this their serious attention.  All it will cost is your time and the last such event was a lot of fun (see entry for 26 Jul 09 in News Archive 27).  If you can spare a few hours, please contact Dixie so he can make up a 'watchbill'.



Project Vernon promotion at Gunwharf Quays last July




6 Mar 10 - Arrangements for the funeral of ex-CPO(D) Brian Hutchinson


The funeral of Brian Hutchinson, who passed away on 3 March, will be held at Penmount Crematorium, Truro, Cornwall at 1300 on Monday 15th March 2010.


From MCDOA member Mike Kooner MBE:


"Hello Rob,


So sad to hear about Brian Hutchinson.  I would be grateful if you pass my condolences to his family.


Although I have not seen Brian for many years, we worked together in the RN Saturation Diving and Trials Team, salvage operations in the South Atlantic and Diving Training in HMS VERNON.


When he served as a CPO(D) he was without doubt one of the strongest men I have come across.  One large gas bottle under each arm certainly speeded up the loading process and motivated the troops!  As a dive supervisor, or diving buddy, you could not ask for a nicer man.  "Big Brian" with his wealth of knowledge, wicked sense of humour and tenaciousness was always watching your back and looking after his divers.


Best Wishes,




5 Mar 10


Another RN Bomb Disposal Team deploys to Afghanistan


The RN website contains this article describing the deployment of four RN Clearance Divers to Afghanistan for EOD duties with 21 Field Sqn (EOD) of 33 Engineer Regt (EOD), Royal Engineers.  The team comprises PO(D) Ward ‘Sharky’ Peers, LS(D) Lee Jackson, AB(D) Phil Brierley and AB(D) Ian Rowe.  Another team of four RN Clearance Divers has been serving in the Joint EOD Group in Afghanistan while attached to 49 Field Sqn (EOD) of 33 Engineer Regt (EOD) since October as described in this article on the MOD website.


RN EOD Team bound for Afghanistan

(RN website photo)


Come back safe, guys.


Southampton WW II bomb blown up in the Solent


The BBC website contains this article describing the disposal of a wartime bomb found in Southampton.  It was rendered safe by the Army (RE or RLC depending on the information in the text or the photo caption) before being removed and blown up in the Solent by Royal Navy divers from Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) as described in this article on the Southern Daily Echo website.  The article features MCDOA member Al Nekrews, CPO(D) Kev Ameira and AB(D) Stu Ricketts.


Bomb discovered in London Road, Southampton


Postscript:  WO(D) Andy Carss has pointed out that this was a truly joint operation.  The RLC was initially tasked for ID and C&E.  The RLC then passed it to the REs who performed the RSP.  The REs then passed it to the RN for disposal at sea.


4 Mar 10


New medical centre opens for Navy divers


The Portsmouth News website contains this article and the Royal Navy website this article describing the transfer of the RN's Hyperbaric Medicine Unit from the now defunct Royal Hospital Haslar in Gosport to St Richard's Hospital in Chichester.  The facility was re-opened by Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Fleet, who was Guest of Honour at our annual dinner last November.


Vice Admiral Ibbotson opens hyperbaric facility

(Portsmouth News photo by Alan Hutchings)


RN Diving Heritage - Ex-'P-Party' diver Michael Connolly


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting Mike Connolly, veteran diver of 'P-Party' 1572 (see third entry for 26 Feb 10).  His wife Liz kindly laid on a delicious lunch at their home near Weybridge where we were joined by their daughter Alicia. 


Mike and Liz Connolly at home 


Mike is now 85 and I was captivated by his tales of clearing the harbours of western Europe in 1945/6 and his subsequent career in commercial diving.  After the war, he was awarded the Sea Gallantry Medal for rescuing crew members from a crashed RAF Sunderland flying boat on fire off Southend.  These photos are from his wartime album:



Left: Mike Connolly with AB John 'Pincher' Martin who was awarded the

DSM, BEM and two Mentions in Despatches for mine disposal.

Right: Linesman with Mike Connolly in Sladen 'Clammy Death' (Holland 1945).


Mike Connolly with fellow 'P-Party' 1572 divers

Pincher Martin and Charlie MacDonald



Left: Mike Connolly on board MFV 1037

(HM Diving Tender Craftsman Holland 1945).

Right: Mike Connolly in Mine Recovery Suit (MRS) with Pincher Martin.



Left:  Mike Connolly's Certificate of Qualification for diving in Admiralty Pattern 'Salvus',

Vernon MRS (Self-Contained), 'P-Party' Equipment and Standard Service Dress. 

Right: Mike Connolly's Certificate of Qualification for maintaining RN Standard Diving

Equipment, Sladen Equipment and Mine Recovery Suit Equipment.



Post-war Mike Connolly being dressed in

Standard Diving Dress in West Africa


Three Men back in a Boat


Regular readers may be pleased to hear that the MCDOA's own 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole put Barlow's yacht 'Dougout' back in the water at Whale Island last Saturday.  She is now resplendent in a new coat of anti-fouling paint following her winter sojourn ashore.  Our thanks to Marina Manager Brian Witts and our 'greenie' chum Captain Dean Molyneaux for their help with this evolution.  We also provided Stew 'George' Sissons with a tow to the berth for his boat 'Springtied'.  The previous week, we had seen MCDOA member David Griffiths at the sailing centre where he was helping to train CCF cadets.






3 Mar 10


Divers Down


I regret to report that ex-CPO(D) Tony 'Willie' Wilkes passed away on Sunday 28 Feb and ex-CPO(D) Brian Hutchinson passed away this morning.  Funeral details will be published when known.


News from HMS Shoreham


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Antony Crabb RN, the Commanding Officer of HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 5), for providing this update:


"Since I last wrote, we have spent a considerable time supporting a range of trials including support to the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) and a continuing trial with the Royal Navy's Mine Disposal System.  Both trials took the ship to the north west of Scotland and Kyle of Lochalsh, near the Skye bridge, has become a second home.  HMS Shoreham's support to the divers enabled the teams to complete their training with new equipment and to reach the new maximum depth of 60 metres.  Our own divers will not receive the training until later this year but the team is enthusiastic about this new equipment and the deep diving capability.


Work with the Mine Disposal System, SeaFox, has been labour-intensive and quite repetitive but I am pleased to report that we have progressed well and that Shorham and her ship's company have performed admirably.


Looking to the near future, we will be following quite a varied programme, including underwater strategic reconnaissance around Britiain, supporting the training of both Royal Navy officers and international officers from Qatar, and some maintenance for the ship.  With the crew looking to deployment in the Middle East towards the end of the year, we are ramping up our own training ahead of the visit to Flag Officer Sea Training's organisation in the summer.


Further ahead, I can confirm that we are to return to Shoreham-by-Sea in July.  Details are still being determined by the RN's Regional Liaison Officer but, when dates and and a programme are available, I shall keep you informed.


Finally, I would like to invite affiliates to the Faslane Flotilla Affiliates Dinner on Wednesday 5 May.  The meal is an opportunity for you to meet some of the ship's company and for us to host you at a formal Mess Dinner along with affiliates of other ships.  The meal will be in the Wardroom at HMS Neptune, Faslane, Scotland which will be a considerable journey for you.  However, I can assure you that it will be an enjoyable evening if you choose to attend.


I look forward to hearing from you.


Antony Crabb" 


2 Mar 10 - MCDOA Northern Dinner


Matt Offord informs me that this year's Northern Dinner will be held in the Wardroom, HMS Neptune at Faslane on Thursday 6 May.  Further details will be promulated when known. 


27 Feb 08 - Minehunting ships to get new view of the ocean with 'Recce'


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the entry into RN service of the REMUS 600 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Mine Countermeasures Reconnaissance Unmanned Underwater Vehicle, otherwise known as 'Recce'.  It features MCDOA member Kev Giles.


26 Feb 10


RN Minewarfare and Diving Heritage


The following photos were published in the Portsmouth News on Wednesday 24 February.  The picture on the left will be familiar to those who served in HMS Vernon before its transformation into Gunwharf Quays.  The picture on the right shows huge towers being manufactured ashore during the First World War.  Only one of these, Nab Tower, was ever towed into position and sunk as one of a planned series stretching across the Channel.  It has since been used as the subject of countless compass bearings by warships approaching and leaving Portsmouth.  I remember being told at Vernon, perhaps by George Turnbull, that it was one of several intended command centres for arrays of galvanometers (magnetic sensors) to be used in conjuction with controlled minefields to detect and destroy U-boats attempting to transit the Channel.  This is the first confirmation I have seen.


Photos from the Portsmouth News

(Courtesy of Paul Costen of Waterlooville)


More RN Diving Heritage


The MCDOA website generates many e-mailed queries and requests for help each week but I was particularly delighted to receive this one today:


"How amazing to see this photo of my father on your site.  I am doing family history and lost my father [Thomas Fredrick Murray] when he was only 40 but knew he trained under Buster Crabb.  He is the man first on the left.  I also saw the photo of him with Buster Crabb.  He was based at HMS Stag in Port Said where he conducted bomb and mine disposal, salvage and general diving.  I am still getting over the surprise.  Amazing!


Thank you,


Jean Clare"


RN Diving Team in Haifa 1947


This photo appears in the entry for 23 Oct 08 in News Archive 24 and was supplied by ex-'P-Party' diver David Shane.  From her e-mail address, it appears that Jean now lives in Australia and I have put her in touch with David.


Even More RN Diving Heritage


I received this e-mail last week:




Please could you let me know on behalf of my father Michael Connolly if there are any surviving members of P1572 [P2 underwater mine and disposal unit WW2].


Yours sincerely,


Alicia Connolly"


Alicia supplied her father's telephone number and I have since had a long conversation with him.  He was trained as a 'P-Party' diver at Brixham in 1944 and subsequently joined 'P-Party' 1572, clearing ports in France, Holland and Germany. I have put him in touch with Ray 'Brum' Maries, whom he remembers from the same team, and ex-'P-Party' 1571 diver David Shane.  He has several photos of those times and I hope to visit him soon to borrow and scan them for the website. 


25 Feb 10 - Personal from MCDOA Chairman, Cdr Paul Jones RN (Chairman Project VERNON)






Last year the 2009 Summer Draw raised £3,300 for the Project VERNON Funds and this year we are hoping to double or even treble that figure.  Lots of fantastic prizes have been donated and include free holiday Villa rentals in Cyprus and Rhodes, ladies and gents diving watches, pairs of tickets to top London attractions, cross channel ferry ticket for car plus family and many more (full list can be found on  



Villas in Rhodes and Cyprus


Tickets only cost £2 - so why not buy a book of five for a tenner and significantly increase your chances of winning as well as making your contribution to this fantastic project.  Ticket sales are already underway amongst the frontline MCMVs and the generous souls at Horsea Island are contributing too.  Let’s really widen the net and get these tickets out there.  This year we have the support and endorsement of Help for Heroes who will receive a donation of 5% of all monies raised (and next year we will be looking at one of our naval charities).  The draw will be made on August Bank Holiday (30 Aug 2010) and all winners will be notified.  


Books of tickets are available from the Chairman – pse contact him at:


Project VERNON Raffle

c/o Fleet Diving Squadron HQ

Bridge Building

Horsea Island


PO6 4TT  


Or simply request books of tickets via (provide your address / contact telephone number and numbers of books of 5 required).  You can either request tickets for yourself or why not offer to sell a number of books to friends / workmates as a distributor (you will be sent books / sales grid / advertising posters).  There will be a prize for the best ticket distributor.  





By Webmaster: I also have tickets and will be gunning for you when I see you.


24 Feb 10 - HMS Walney operating off Lowestoft


The Eastern Daily Press website contains this article describing the clearance of wartime ordnance off Lowestoft by HMS Walney.


23 Feb 10 - REMUS 600 enters RN service


The MOD website contains this article describing the entry into RN service of the REMUS 600 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Mine Countermeasures Reconnaissance Unmanned Underwater Vehicle, otherwise known as 'Recce'.  The article features MCDOA members Paul Guiver and Kev Giles.



(MOD photo)


19 Feb 10 - News from HMS Walney


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




It's been a busy time for MCM Crew 1 embarked in HMS WALNEY.  A short notice change of programme would see the Sandown Class Mine Hunter join NATO’s Standing Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1).   



After returning from Christmas leave it was back to business.  WALNEY had two weeks to prepare for a five month deployment to join the NATO force at the beginning of February.  A packed programme consisting of training at sea together with preparing materially and logistically for the forthcoming deployment concluded with WALNEY sailing on 1 February under the badge of NATO.  The expected winter weather was surprisingly kind as the MCMV left the Clyde and headed south into the Irish Sea, it was certainly an improvement on the last time WALNEY rounded Lands End back in November last year.  Training continued on the transit south and included a Gunnery serial on entering the South Coast Exercise Areas, all upper deck weapons including the 30mm cannon were proved successfully.  The first stop was Portsmouth, albeit briefly, to obtain further stores and fuel. It would be the last taste of home till the end of June, although the Ships Company were looking forward to seeing new ports, conducting live Mine Clearance Operations and working with various countries as part of SNMCMG1.




Due to ice build up in the Baltic area, the NATO force transited west through the Kiel Canal and met WALNEY off the Dutch Coast.  Several days of training continued, with various communication and ship-handling exercises designed to enhance teamwork and understanding between NATO ships.  The force itself is headed by the Polish Ship Kont Admiral Czernicki, and consists of a Dutch, Belgian and of course British Mine Hunter – although the multinational flavour is due to be enhanced again in the upcoming weeks and months.  The first port of call for WALNEY now united with SNMCMG1 was Den Helder, home to the Netherlands Navy. 




The time alongside has been spent forging relationships with Polish, Dutch and Belgian sailors – both in a professional sense and on the football pitch!  For WALNEY, after much speculation concerning her future, it is a welcome privilege to join SNMCMG1.  The next five months will provide the Ship's Company with challenges, opportunities and new friendships – not to mention some cold weather as the group heads towards the Baltic.


17 Feb 10 - HMS Middleton departure delayed


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the delayed departure of HMS Middleton.  A further announcement will be made when her new sailing date is known.


15 Feb 10 - Minehunter heads to Gulf for security role


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing tomorrow morning's departure of HMS Middleton for the Gulf.  It features AB(D) Paul Whitney.


14 Feb 10 - Publicity boost for Project Vernon


Artist's impression of Project Vernon monument at Gunwharf Quays


The Navy News website contains this article providing an update on Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to commemorate the Mine Warfare and Diving heritage of HMS Vernon which once stood on the site.


How much do you value all the lifelong friendships and treasured memories you have acquired in the world of minewarfare and diving?  If you wish to help leave a permanent legacy of these for all to share, contribute generously here online via the Project Vernon website.


13 Feb 10 - HMS Middleton gets new lick of paint


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the application of 'go-faster' paint to HMS Middleton.  The RN website covers the same story here.


HMS Middleton returns to sea for the first time

since October

(RN website photo)


As the Portsmouth News article states, Middleton is due to leave Portsmouth for the Gulf at 1030 on Tuesday 16 Feb and we wish her and her rotating crews a safe and enjoyable deployment.


11 Feb 10 - Daily Telegraph obituary for Sub Lt Arthur Douglas 'Bubs' Russell MBE RNVR ('P-Party' 1572)



I am most grateful to Captain Peter Hore RN for agreeing to write this obituary for Arthur Russell, published in today's Daily Telegraph (see entry for 14 Jan 10 in News Archive 29).


10 Feb 10


Our man Dann


Adrian Dann

(Portsmouth News photo)


Today's Portsmouth News contains this follow-up to Monday's rescue at sea of Adrian Dann (LMCDO '89B).


The lifeboat next to Adrian Dann's

sinking boat

(Portsmouth News photo)


Navy News Items


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

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


Be sure to check the obituaries in tomorrow's Daily Telegraph (see entry for 14 Jan 10 in News Archive 29). 


8 Feb 10


Fisherman rescued after boat sinks off the Isle of Wight


The subject of this article in today's Portsmouth News will be familiar to several MCDOA members.


Bad luck 'Spanner'.  Glad to hear you are alright.


Suspect IED callout for SDU2


Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) appears to have been involved in this story in the same paper.


4 Feb 10 - Chris Ameye meets Russ Crane


MCDOA former Chairman Chris Ameye has kindly sent this message:




I have just returned from Sydney where I met Vice Admiral Russ Crane.  I took the opportunity to give him an account of Frank's funeral and passed on the very best wishes of our community for which he was most grateful.


As ever,





Vice Admiral Russ Crane, AM, CSM, RAN became Chief of the Royal Australian Navy on 8 July 2008.  As older members will remember, he undertook the Minewarfare module of LMCDO '77 at HMS Vernon after having qualified as a CDO at HMAS Penguin.  He occupied the RAN exchange billet in the Minewarfare Section at Vernon between 1981 and 1983 and has always been a staunch supporter of the MCDOA.

30 Jan 10 - Lady who launched HMS Middleton returns 27 years later


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing yesterday's visit to Portsmouth-based HMS Middleton by Lady Jennifer Blaker who launched the ship in 1983.


Lady Blaker boards HMS Middleton

(Portsmouth News photo) 


29 Jan 10 - Gentlemen Who Lunch


Continuing the MCDOA website's occasional Good Pub Guide, our 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole called into the Fox & Hounds just outside the village of Denmead in Hampshire last Tuesday for its regular weekly get-together.  Barlow and Hoole had visited it in the Spring and were keen to introduce Holloway to its delights.


The Fox & Hounds at Denmead 


This pub enjoys pleasant views across open countryside including the back of Portsdown Hill.  Inside, there is a cosy L-shaped bar area containing a cheery open fire and an 'inner sanctum' dining area.  It is well-appointed throughout with little cluttering bric-a-brac although the walls hold many framed pictures of local historical interest.  It is everything a country pub should be and exudes a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere...



Interior of Fox & Hounds 


... although the Gents lavatory is 'pants'.


Sign on Gents' door at Fox & Hounds


Our hosts were the pub's licensees, Stephen and Ginnette Paul.  They were most hospitable and enjoyed a yarn or two with us before Ginny had to take her dog for a walk.



Our friendly hosts, Steve and Ginny Paul


Bitters on draught include Fullers HSB (Horndean Special Bitter brewed locally by Gales Ales until London-based Fullers bought the company and closed it down a couple of years ago), Fullers London Pride, Ringwood Best Bitter and Broadside brewed by Adnams of Southwold.  After our host kindly provided an unsolicted sample glass of London Pride, Barlow and I chose to drink this while Holloway went for the Ringwoods.  A good range of draught lagers, stouts, and ciders is also available.  The extensive menu features several types of home-made pie involving beer and even the fried fish is cooked in beer batter.  There are also snacks and the paninis looked particularly good.  In order to avoid the hazard of drinking on an empty stomach, Holloway and I chose paninis filled with steak and onions which came with fried potato wedges and a substantial salad garnish, very reasonably priced at £4.75.  Barlow bought a bowl of chips for £2.50, realising too late that the other dishes came with deliciously golden fried potato wedges that he could have pinched instead.


The pub has a lively programme of evening entertainment including live music, quizzes and other types of social nights.  Before we left, we took position for our customary group photo and Barlow and Holloway realised they had nothing left in their glasses.  As can be seen, Yours Truly had to provide a token drop or two for the sake of the picture.



Left: When Barlow offered to buy us a last pint of beer, I stupidly expected one each.

Right: Martyn Holloway, Rob Hoole and Doug Barlow take their positions for a photo call.


We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this charming country pub and will return sometime soon.  I have awarded it a highly creditable 4 1/2 mines (or diving helmets) out of five for its various attributes.


28 Jan 10 - This year's Northern Dinner deferred


This year's MCDOA-subsidised Northern Dinner, normally held at Faslane on the Friday nearest 25 February, the anniversary of the formation of the MCD Branch in 1966, is being deferred (most likely to 29 Apr or 6 May) owing to diary clashes and the unavailability of several potential attendees.  It will be organised by MCDOA member Matt Offord of FOSNNI, ably assisted by CO NDG and SWO MCD FOST as required.  An announcement will be made when details are known so watch this space.


27 Jan 10 - Update from Bob Hawkins in the USA


MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE, on exchange with the US Navy at NMAWC, has kindly sent this update and is happy for it to appear here:


"Dear Rob,


Great speaking to you on skype the other day; yes, you were my very first skypee!  I promised you an update and some pics for the website.  Enclosed is a picture of me receiving the (US) Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal from my 2-Star Rear Admiral Frank Drennan, Commander Naval Mine and Anti-submarine Warfare Command (NMAWC), into which the old COMINEWARCOM was subsumed in October 2006, three months after I arrived in Texas on exchange.  I shifted to San Diego in Jan 2008 and have had two very happy years in the 'unreal' environment of San Diego, California; now it's time to shift back to reality.  My relief in NMAWC is the very able Lt Cdr Jason Mullen, late CSO to MCM1.


Bob Hawkins after being presented with his Navy and Marine Corps Commendation

Medal by Rear Admiral Frank Drennan USN, Commander Naval Mine

and Anti-submarine Warfare Command (NMAWC)


I return to the UK on 30 January, start CO's (desig) at COLLINGRAD on 1 February and take Command as CO Faslane Patrol Boat Squadron and CO HMS PURSUER on 15 March. 


Se y'all soon.


Warm regards and aye,




Hearty congratulations to Bob all round on his award and new appointment.


26 Jan 10 - Advance Australia Fair




Happy Australia Day to all our mates down under.  While we are at it, let's spare a thought for those Aussies who were so heavily decorated for their Second World War bomb & mine disposal deeds in the UK and elsewhere, especially during the Blitz of 70 years ago this year.  Such individuals included:




Lt Cdr Geoffrey CLIFF OBE, MBE, GM*, RANVR







Lt Cdr Alan McNICOLL GM, RAN (later VA Sir Alan McNicoll KBE, CB, CBE, GM, RAN)







Let's also remember all the RN >< RAN MCD transferees during recent years, e.g. the late Jack Birkett OBE, Angus Crampton-Smith, Paul Davey (the only one to travel in this direction), Dave ‘Spidey’ Ince, Andy Johnston-Burt, Gerry Kelly, Bill Lampard, Allan Rankin, Graham Sharp Paul, Tony Silva, Andy ‘Shakey’ Stevens, Taff Sweeney and Mike Welford plus, of course, those Aussie MCDs who served on exchange in the MW Training Section at HMS Vernon including Mike Angus, Neill ‘Dinga’ Bell, Sid Brown, Russ Crawford, Hec Donohue, Vic Justice, Garry Kennedy and Doug 'Pony' Moore.  There was also somebody called Russ Crane.  Does anyone know what became of him? 


As you will all be aware, Australia Day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove on 26 Jan 1788, the hoisting of the British flag there, and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia.  Two years ago I had the opportunity to show visiting ex-RAN CD Mike Ey the sculpture commemorating the First Fleet's departure from Portsmouth on 13 May 1787.



Ex-RAN CD Mike Ey (left) and webmaster Rob Hoole (right) in June 2008 with sculpture

in Old Portsmouth commemorating the departure of the First Fleet to Australia


Incidentally, there's a nice picture of AUS CDT1 on the RAN CD Association's website here.


Postscript: See this topical article in today's Portsmouth News.  The late Peter Anderson, ex-CD and proprieter of 'Peter Anderson Sports' (later 'Southern Sports') in Portsmouth was an extremely active sailing member of Frères de la Côte, the organisation mentioned in the article (see entry for 6 Mar 07 in News Archive 17).


25 Jan 10 - Britain at War covers Ouvry commemorative event


I am grateful to Martin Mace, the Editor of Britain at War magazine, for sending me a copy of the January issue and allowing me to reproduce this article covering the Ouvry commemorative event on board HMS Belfast on 26 Nov 09 (see entry for 27 Nov 09 in News Archive 28):



23 Jan 10 - SDU1 detonates wartime incendiary in Devon


The Sidmouth Herald website contains this article describing the disposal of a German 1 kg incendiary at West Hill near Ottery St Mary in Devon by Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).


19 Jan 10 - The return of HMS Ramsey


The Navy News website contains this article about the emergence of HMS Ramsey from refit at Rosyth.


HMS Ramsey ready for sea duty

(Navy News photo)


18 Jan 10 - Cold snap?


For those balking at the recent cold weather and the idea of diving in Norway in February, here are some pictures of Horsea Lake in January 1963:






16 Jan 10


FDU 2 - First operational team achieves 60m in CDLSE


I have just received this rather breathless message from MCDOA Hon Treasurer, Richard 'Soapy' Watson, head of the Fleet Diving Squadron's Clearance Diver's Life Support Equipment (CDLSE) training team:


"Hi Rob,


Just got back from Kyle and thought I would let everyone know!


Fleet Diving Unit Two (FDU 2) has today completed the final phase of its three-week CDLSE conversion course. This took place in the Kyle of Loch Alsh where all divers qualified to 60m and supervisors were converted to this equipment. The Defence Diving School (DDS) is training all Mine Countermeasures Vessel (MM) teams and the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) is training Fleet Diving Group (FDG) teams.  As the Serco Diving tenders (Moorhen and Tornado) are being used by DDS on career courses and their CDLSE training, FDS had HMS Shoreham tasked to cover the Deep Diving Phase.  Shoreham's Commanding Officer and ship's company were extremely helpful and hospitable over the period and made the whole diving phase a real enjoyment to all.  The recent snow made Kyle look more like Norway although the water temperature was a balmy 8°C, a lot warmer than on the surface!


FDU 2 now has a UK diving capability to 60m and will have a 60m capability in the Persian Gulf, where CDLSE will be forward deployed, by February 2010.  With the recent reconfiguration of FDU 2/3, all diving tasks have been taken on by FDU 2 while FDU 3 is deployed on Operation HERRICK.  CDLSE will replace the ageing LEBA (Mixed Gas) for Very Shallow Water (VSW) operations and will be used in Mine Investigation & Exploitation (MIE) and MCM operations.  FDU 2 is due to deploy to Norway in February with CDLSE and this will be the first time the equipment has been used in such cold conditions although CDLSE was tested under QinetiQ scientific supervision during trials and proved very reliable.






AB(D) Humberston surfaces after his first 60m

CDLSE dive while PO(D) Si Crew supervises

with HMS Shoreham in the background


FDU 2 team with FDS training team headed by

Soapy Watson and CPO(D) Sean 'Mel' Meleady


Postscript: Someone's been reading my mail.  The RN website published this article on 18 Jan 10.


Invitation to attend presentation of Firmin Sword of Peace to NDG on 8 March 2010


MCDOA member Jason White QGM, CO of the Northern Diving Group (NDG), informs me that Rear Admiral Martin Alabaster (FOSNNI & Flag Officer Reserves) will present the prestigious Firmin Sword of Peace (formerly the Wilkinson Sword of Peace) to NDG on Monday 8 March 2010 (see entry for 8 Jan 10).  The ceremony will commence at 1400 in the new Wardroom at HMS Neptune, Faslane.


Jason would like to invite a few representatives of the MCDOA, particularly ex-NDG, CSBCDU or SNICDO members, to this event and the ensuing celebration.  If you wish to attend, please e-mail him at this address and furnish your name, contact details and former connection with the team.


15 Jan 10 - Funeral of Cdr Francis 'Frank' Stanley Ward RN


Instead of listing those who were at Frank's service of thanksgiving at Holy Rood church in Stubbington yesterday (see entry for 4 Jan 10), it might almost be simpler to list those who weren't.  Apart from Frank's wife June, daughter Clare, mother Jean, sisters Sara and Margaret, father-in-law Bill plus many other relations, attendees included over a hundred friends and colleagues.  Most senior among the naval personnel present were Vice Admiral Sir David Dobson KBE (President of the RN Birdwatching Society (RNBWS) of which Frank was General-Secretary), Vice Admiral John McAnally CB LVO (President of the Royal Naval Association (RNA) of which Frank was Deputy General-Secretary), Rear Admiral Martin Alabaster (FOSNNI & Flag Officer Reserves as well as Chairman of the RNBWS), Commodore Adrian Nance OBE (Chairman and CEO of Wings like Eagles), Commodore and Mrs Graham Johnston (former COMMW), and the Venerable John Green CB QHC (Chaplain of the Fleet, Director General Naval Chaplaincy Service and Archdeacon for the Royal Navy).


Our own MCDOA senior officers present included Surg Cdre Jim Sykes (former Medical Director of the Institute of Naval Medicine (INM)), Captain Chris Massie-Taylor OBE (past-President of the MCDOA) accompanied by his wife Sue, and Captain Paddy McAlpine OBE (CO of HMS Daring).  Other MCDOA members I saw all too briefly included Chris Ameye (MCDOA former Chairman), Bertie Armstrong, John Arrow (MCDOA former Chairman), Mick Beale, John Coggins MBE, Tim Curd, Chris Davies, Roger Davies, David Edwards (MCDOA committee member), Steve Field, Steve Gobey, Kim Godfrey (MCDOA former Hon Treasurer), Geoff Goodwin accompanied by his wife Marnie, Tony Griffiths (MCDOA Hon Treasurer), Stu Harper, Tim Hildesley MBE, Richard Hill, David Hilton (MCDOA former Chairman), Martyn Holloway (MCDOA committee member),  Paul Jones (MCDOA Chairman), Bill Kerr, Mike Kooner MBE (MCDOA former committee member), Bob Lusty, Julian Malec OBE, Steve Marshall DSC and his father Mike, Chris Meatyard, Ian Morton, Simon Nicholson (MCDOA former Chairman), Sean O'Reilly, Jon Riches (MCDOA former Vice-Chairman), Keith Riches and his wife Carrie, Les Rutherford, John Staveley (who had flown in from Naples despite considerable airport disruption) with his daughter Cassie (now a Sub Lt RN), and Dave Wright.  Unfortunately, Captain Colin Welborn RN (MCDOA President) was snow-bound in the West Country but sent his apologies and condolences.  Also, Dougie MacDonald was away on MCA business in France but was represented by his wife, Pat.


Notable non-MCDOA members included Mike Potter (former Sec to CMCM) and his wife and daughter, Paul Wainwright (former MCD appointer) and Brian Witts (inestimable Gunnery Officer, RNBWS committee member, curator of HMS Excellent's artefacts and manager of the Whale Island marina).  There was also a stalwart team from the RN Mine Warfare Association (MWA) led by Dixie Dean MBE and comprising Paul Campbell (who travelled from Bristol), Alan 'Bomber' Mills and me, of course, in another of my hats. Tony Devitt was also present on behalf of the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD).  I know I have left out many others but I wasn't taking notes.  Please feel free to tell me if I have failed to list your presence and I will put matters right.


Thanks to David Hilton, colours of ships and establishments in the Portsmouth area were half-masted for the duration of the service which was conducted by the Revd Richard Poll RN, the incumbent at St Anne's church in Portsmouth Naval Base.  Organ accompaniment was provided by Janice Barley.  The ceremony commenced with Frank's casket, covered in a union flag, being borne into the church by four pall bearers.  The Chaplain then recited the Sentences, Welcome and Bidding Prayer before we all launched into the hymn 'Lord of all hopefulness'.  Christine Burberry then read Psalm 23 before the Chaplain rendered the Address.  This concentrated on Frank's unremitting service to others, right up to the time of his death.  Frank's daughter Clare then read the lesson (John XIV: 1-6 - "In my Father's house are many mansions...").  This was followed by a moving tribute to Frank by his LMCDO '77 course-mate and longtime friend, MCDOA member Keith Riches.  Keith started by quoting my valedictory and some of the many heartfelt messages on this website.  He also recounted some personal memories provided by MCDOA past-President, Chris Massie-Taylor, who was Frank's boss on the Saudi Minehunter project.  These related to Frank's love of gadgets, his sense of fun and his ardous exploration of the Arabian Empty Quarter desert with his colleague, Ian Stobie.  Keith rounded off his tribute with a description of Frank's many qualities with some of his own memories of good times with him.  These included the occasion of them conquering a Munro on the morning following a 'rather demanding' MCDOA dinner at Faslane the night before. 


The congregation then launched into an enthusiastic rendition of the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father) after which the Chaplain led the Prayers of Thanksgiving, the Lord's Prayer and the Naval Prayer.  The service concluded with the singing of 'Guide me, O Thou Great Redeemer' before the Commendation.  The 'Last Post' was then sounded brilliantly by Cpl Bugler Alaine Shakespeare and Bugler Ross Tomkins of the Band of HM Royal Marines, HMS Collingwood, and the congregation observed a minute's silence before the sounding of 'Reveille'.  The buglers flanked Shipmate Mick Kieran, the Deputy National Standard Bearer of the RNA who had travelled from Coventry where he is the the RNA branch Secretary.  There then followed the Blessing before Frank's casket was borne outside for burial in Crofton Cemetery.


After the service, mourners attended a reception at the back of the church and many reunions were enjoyed during the consumption of food and refreshments.  Memories were exchanged about Frank and expressions of condolences were expressed to June, Clare and other members of his family.  A few of us then wended our way to the Red Lion pub along the road from the church to toast Frank's memory in traditional fashion.


As Keith Riches lamented at the end of his eulogy:


"Frank’s untimely death creates a void and we shall all miss him, though none more than June and Clare.


So long shipmate."


Cdr Francis 'Frank' Stanley Ward RN

(24 Aug 1953 - 26 Dec 2009)


14 Jan 10 - Funeral of Sub Lt Arthur Douglas Russell MBE RNVR ('P-Party' 1572)


I representated the RN minewarfare and diving community at Arthur Russell's funeral on Tuesday (see entries for 29 Dec 09 and 22 Dec 09) and received a warm welcome from members of his family.  Despite the inclement weather that prevented many from travelling, St Peter's church in the delightful village of Shipton Bellinger near Tidworth was packed to the rafters.


St Peter's Church, Shipton Bellinger


The service of thanksgiving was conducted by the parish vicar, the Reverend Stuart Kersley, with organ accompaniment provided by his wife Chrystalle.  Mourners entered to the sound of Chopin's 'Nocturne No 3 in B Major' before the vicar recited the Opening Sentences and Introduction.  This was followed by everyone reciting Psalm 91 ("He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High...") and the Vicar giving the Collect.  Arthur's daughter Mary Ayers then read the lesson (John XIV: 1-6 - "In my Father's house are many mansions...") before the vicar gave the Address.


Arthur Russell's sons Simon and Martin then provided successive tributes to their father.  Simon described his father's life, interests and talents including his sporting prowess.  He was the ABA schoolboy boxing champion of Great Britain in 1933, the Junior Champion in 1936 and pursued this and tennis into his later life.  Arthur became a sailor in the RNVR and served in HMS Largs from 1940 to 1943.  He was then commissioned and trained as a 'P-Party' diving officer in which capacity he was appointed an MBE for his underwater bomb & mine disposal achievements in 1944/5.  After the war, he became a teacher.  Simon also described his father's flair for drama which he shared with his wife Molly, his musicality, his love of reading and writing prose and poetry, his debating skill, his courage, his righteousness, his leadership and his persuasive skills; all traits mirrored in his eight grandchildren.  Martin then followed by describing the painful effects of Alzheimer's Disease, both on sufferers and on those who love them.  Poignantly, he related how he had played chess and scrabble with his father during his final months, often without being recognised, but he also gave accounts of some lighter moments from his father's earlier life.  There was his fanaticism for DIY and carpentry, despite his devil-may-care attitude.  Whenever a neighbour passed while he was using a hedge trimmer, he would lean back and stroke his hair as he started chatting, completely neglecting the machine in his hands as it severed the power cable for the umpteenth time.  Then there was the occasion he walked over a cliff at Cromer while reading a paperback.  Above all there was his love for his family but everything changed dramatically after he developed the Alzheimer's that eventually took his life.



Left: Arthur Russell as ABA schoolboy boxing champion

Right: Arthur Russell as a sailor in the RNVR


After a rendition of 'Guide me, O Thou Great Redeemer', Arthur's wife Molly read an extract from John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress' ("Death where is thy sting?") with passion and tenderness before Arthur and Molly's eight young grandchildren (Hope, Issy, Jack, Joel, Josh, Kate, Sarah and Will) lined up at the front of the church and individually recited a series of prayers.  We then said the 'The Lord's Prayer' and sang 'Dear Lord and Father of mankind' before the Vicar read the Commendation, Committal and Blessing.  Finally, we listened to the third movement of Beethoven's 'Emperor's Concerto' as Arthur Russell's coffin was borne out of the church for transit to Salisbury Crematorium.


Mourners then trudged through snow and slush to the Boot Inn next door for a reception.  Here, I was able to extend our condolences to Arthur Russell's family members and meet many of his friends, teaching colleagues and former pupils in extrememly convivial surroundings.  I also found out much more about Arthur Russell's life and service to his community. 



The roadway to the Boot Inn


Arthur Russell's son Simon, wife Molly,

daughter Mary and son Martin


I wish I'd had the privilege of knowing him.



13 Jan 10


Southern Diving Unit 1 Charity Ironman


Rich Talbot, Officer-in-Charge of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), has kindly sent me this account of the charity Ironman event performed by members of Southern Diving Group HQ and SDU1 (see entry for 11 Dec 09):


Southern Diving Unit 1 Charity Ironman


On Wed 9 Dec 09, Southern Diving Group (SDG) Headquarters and Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) undertook its annual charity event in support of the Royal Navy and Royal Marine Charities and Breast Cancer.  The event was based around the Ironman Triathlon which encompasses a 3.8 km swim, 180 km cycle and 40 km run.  The objectives were:


a. For as many Unit personnel as possible to either complete the full distance individually or as a team within a 24 hour period




b. To achieve enough total distance to circumnavigate the SDG's Area of Operations (AOO) of approximately 1,020 miles of coastline.


Within the allotted 24 hour period, the unit amassed some 2,215 miles, easily enough to circumnavigate the entire AOO of the SDG.  Of the 20 participants, 12 men completed the entire distance (3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride and 40 km run) as a solo effort, with the remainder completing the full distance as a team.  This extraordinary effort has undoubtedly tested the men and engendered the team ethos which was clearly already present.  Of note, not a single man had ever attempted this distance before, especially not overnight in deepest darkest Devonport.    


Over £3,000 has been raised to date for the above charities.


SDG Ironman Team


Click on the following link to donate to their worthy causes.


Cadets get a taste of life in the Royal Navy


The Navy News website contains this article featuring HMS Penzance and HMS Bangor.


Sailors on HMS Bangor, as seen from HMS Penzance,

during demonstrations for CCF cadets at Clyde Naval Base

(Navy News website photo) 


12 Jan 10 - Magazine article about RN Explosive Ordnance Disposal


MCDOA member Peter Greenwood, CO of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), has kindly forwarded me this article, entitled "Royal Navy EOD", which he wrote for the November 2009 issue of 'Pennant', the magazine of the Forces Pension Society.  He adds:


"...The only change is at the very end in that Willy Sharp removed himself from the HT IEDD [High Threat Improvised Explosive Device Disposal] course but we are still looking at getting someone through this course this year."


11 Jan 10 - Royal Navy Minehunters Look Ahead to 2010 in the Arabian Gulf


The RN website contains this article featuring the activities of HMS Atherstone, HMS Chiddingfold, HMS Grimsby and HMS Pembroke in the Gulf.


HMS Chiddingfold in company with HMS Monmouth

(RN website photo)


8 Jan 10 - Good news about Northern Diving Group


The RN website contains this article describing the disposal of a UK exercise ground mine by the Northern Diving Group (NDG).  It features MCDOA member Jason White, Commanding Officer of NDG.


Fishing boat owner Robert Thomson, Chief Petty Officer Lee Yates

and Able Seaman Diver Adam Coates, who dived to the mine and

set the explosive charge, in front of the Emma Jane alongside

at Port Seton at low tide

(RN website photo)


Tasks like this epitomise the work of the Northern Diving Group, the latest recipient of the Firmin Sword of Peace (formerly the Wilkinson Sword of Peace).  The citation states:




Throughout 2008, the Northern Diving Group (NDG) established itself as a humanitarian ‘force for good’ in Northern England and Scotland through its work and close relationship with many local communities and organizations.  The Group’s main activities which contributed to these areas were Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and diving in support of Search and Rescue (SAR) or the Police. These tasks saw NDG personnel in constant contact with the community they serve, noting that they are often the only Military personnel that some of the more remote Scottish communities regularly encounter.  


Based at HM Naval Base Clyde, in Faslane Scotland, the Group consists of 45 Royal Navy Clearance Divers and Engineers who are responsible, as part of the Fleet Diving Squadron, for the provision of specialist support to the Royal Navy and Civil Authorities.  Their key roles are worldwide Diving and Underwater Engineering support to HM Ships and Submarines based at Faslane and Military Aid to the Civil Authorities for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Search and Rescue (SAR) in Northern England and Scotland.  NDG maintain a team of experienced EOD Divers at 30 minutes notice to move 24/7, ready to respond to any EOD or SAR task they may be called upon to perform.  During the last year alone, 13 fishing vessels required support from NDG due to trawling dangerous explosive items up in their fishing nets, and numerous callouts to dispose of ordnance washed up on public beaches or estuaries.  Although these duty calls are part of the unit’s core tasks, it was their breadth and contribution to the wider community that stood out as noteworthy.  


NDG also showed a broad commitment to the small communities around Scotland that they meet and interact with during the completion of their military tasks.  In particular, the Group has a long standing commitment to the memorial and surviving crew of HMS ROYAL OAK, which sank in Scapa Flow in the Orkneys.  Since the end of WW2, Royal Navy Divers from NDG have supported the annual Remembrance Ceremony, by changing the ships Ensign or placing the ashes of recently departed survivors inside the wreck, so they can be reunited with their departed shipmates.  NDG teams also participate in school fêtes, as well as attending sub-aqua clubs and fishing regattas to inform and educate the community about the various explosive hazards that can be found under the sea or on the beaches around UK.  They are also actively involved in various charity events, including the Edinburgh Marathon and Port William Inshore Rescue Service.  


Although only a relatively small group, NDG has played a vital role in establishing extremely strong links with the maritime and local communities in Northern England and Scotland throughout 2008.  Much of the humanitarian contribution that Northern Diving Group has provided was due to the hazardous nature of their EOD, SAR or core daily Diving work.  This coupled with their continued good relations with the Police, Coast Guard, Lifeboats and Fishing associations, often within small isolated communities, marks them out as worthy recipients of the Firmin Sword of Peace for 2008.


MCDOA member Peter Greenwood, the Commanding Officer of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), wrote this to me last September, before notice of the award was made public:


"I have just been informed by NAVSEC that NDG have been awarded the 2008 Firmin Sword of Peace due to the significant contribution to ordnance disposal, diving, search and rescue and in supporting the local and wider communities in Scotland.  The units has done much to project a positive image of the Royal Navy and establish itself as a force for good.   A formal DIN announcing this will be promulgated in due course with full details of the award ceremony.   I would like to formally offer my congratulations to all at NDG for their hard work in achieving this award but particularly to the current CO, Lt Cdr Jason White, and to the previous CO, Lt Cdr Andy Ward, for an outstanding job, it is a tremendous achievement for the Group, for the Squadron and importantly for the Branch – BZs all round." 


4 Jan 10 - Arrangements for the funeral of Cdr Francis 'Frank' Stanley Ward RN


The funeral of MCDOA member Frank Ward will be held at 1300 on Thursday 14 January 2010 at Holy Rood Church, Stubbington, Hampshire PO14 2AS.  This will be followed by a burial service at 1400.  A reception will be held at the church on completion of the funeral service.  Family flowers only.  June would prefer others to make donations to Macmillan Cancer Support in Frank's memory and I have asked Soapy Watson, our Hon Treasurer, to make a donation on behalf of the MCDOA in lieu of our normal floral tribute.  Alternatively, donations may be made to Macmillan Cancer Support care of:


Churcher & Tribbeck Funeral Directors

16 Stubbington Green




PO14 2JG


Tel: 01329 664444


Holy Rood Church, Stubbington


Several more tributes to Frank have been appended to the entry for 27 Dec 09


1 Jan 10 - David Hunkin on New Year Honours list


Hearty congratulations to MCDOA member Dave Hunkin on being appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Year Honours.  He has just been relieved by MCDOA member Andy Elvin as Deputy Commander Task Force 52 (CTF 52) in Bahrain.  The full list of Honours for Service personnel and defence civilians can be found here on the MOD website.


From Dave Hunkin:




Many thanks for your kind words on the website regarding my OBE.  It was a huge surprise and led to an even merrier New Year than usual!  I am also pleased that it is recognition of the Branch out and about doing its proper business.  With Afghanistan receiving so much coverage these days, it’s all too easy for both ‘Joe Public’ and some parts of the RN to forget that the CDUs and MCMVs are also out there, right now, either conducting live operations or being held at very short notice to do so.   


Best wishes for 2010 and I look forward to catching up soon JFHQ permitting!


Dave Hunkin OBE"



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