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 Dec 10 - New Year Honours


Congratulations to CPO(D) William 'Willie' Sharp on his appointment as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Defence New Year Honours published today.  Among his other achievements, Willie was one of the members of Northern Diving Group (NDG) involved in the search for trapped survivors in the capsized oil rig support vessel Bourbon Dolphin in April 2007.  He also performed EOD duties in Iraq in 2008.


Congratulations as well to Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson CB, DSC on being appointed a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE).  Admiral Ibbotson is Deputy Commander-in-Chief Fleet (DCinC) and was the guest of honour at our annual dinner in November 2009.  A ships' diver for 25 years and a keen supporter of the RN minewarfare & diving community, he was awarded the DSC for his services while commanding the Hunt class minehunter HMS Hurworth during the first Gulf War.


Vice Admiral Richard Ibbotson with former MCDOA

Chairman Paul Jones at Association Dinner in 2009


30 Dec 10 - HDS Diving Museum update


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan has supplied this update on progress with the Historical Diving Society (HDS) museum at No. 2 Battery, Stokes Bay:  


"Dougie made it over from the IoW, despite the fog, carrying (on his bike) his latest bracket design for the 'pump' feature.  The pump is now nearly finished, apart from some small adjustments.  It will need to be plumbed into a diving suit in due course.  It would be nice if someone could donate a Siebe Gorman pump badge to adorn it. 




Dougie is also psyching himself up to replace the old rusty window hinges with nice new shiney brass ones.  With the additional support of John Dadd and Gavin Anthony, we also managed, not only to finish painting the 24 chairs, but also to give them a second coat. They look as good as new again. 



John Dadd erected the tower scaffolding in Bravo so we could inspect the hole in the ceiling.  This we have now achieved and await a dry spell, so there is no water running in, when we will attempt to seal it with polyurethane foam.


A future task is to go through the collection of artefacts we have now recovered from the Submarine Museum, inspect them, clean and french chalk them as appropriate, and store them safely.  Any ideas where we can get a quantity of french chalk (not talc)?


Gavin Anthony has dug up a complete set of a Normalair Garret rebreather in its own case, at QinetiQ, which hopefully we will be able to adopt.


The next sessions at the Battery will be MONDAY 3 January (not Sunday 2) and Sunday 9 January.


TASKS (29.12.10)




* Start cleaning and sorting exhibits

* Fill hole in ceiling with polyurethane foam

* Continue building "air pump"

* Fit brass hinges to windows (Dougie)

* Make two shelves for recesses

* Paint the 4-sided glass case (Bill Braithwaite)

* Continue recovering exhibits

* Make shelves for library book cases (Chris Murphy)

* Produce drawings for doors and windows in Bravo & archive room (Chris Murphy)

* Get planning consent for doors and windows

* Construct doors and windows in Bravo and archive room (Chris Murphy)


TOPSIDE (on dry days)


* Bitumen paint cracks in concrete above Bravo

* Level out soil

* Make/tidy paths on slopes




* Buy heating tubes

* Buy dehumidifier

* Install burglar alarm and smoke alarm (next year)




If you feel able to help in any way, please contact John via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.


27 Dec 10 - More publicity for Project Vernon

Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the promotion of Project Vernon at the British Military Tournament earlier this month (see entry for 6 Dec 10).


23 Dec 10 - HDS Diving Museum update


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan has supplied this update on progress with the Historical Diving Society (HDS) museum at No. 2 Battery, Stokes Bay:


"Thanks to Jim 'Tommo' Thomson (Hillhead) and Dougie Saunders (IoW), we made more progress yesterday. The four-sided glass cabinet has been wire-woolled and is ready for painting and most of the steel chairs have been repainted.




Please note also that both Jim and Dougie are now alternating exhibits. I only hope they are not too frightening for the children.




The chairs will be attacked once again (amongst other things) on Wednesday 29 December 2010 and Sunday 2 January 2011.




If you feel able to help in any way, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.


21 Dec 10 - 'Warm' welcome home for HMS Penzance


The RN website contains this article and the Navy News website contains this article describing last Friday's return of HMS Penzance to Faslane after her six-month deployment with Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1).


HMS Penzance

(RN website photo)


Postscript: On 24 December, the MOD website published this article containing the following statement by MCDOA member Steve Brown, HMS Penzance's Commanding Officer:


"Being part of NATO's Standing Mine Countermeasures Group was a real privilege," said Lieutenant Commander Steve Brown, Commanding Officer of Penzance. "The navies who were involved are among the best Mine Countermeasures nations in the world, and competition was very stiff to claim first place.


"The deployment was enormous fun and a hugely rewarding experience - our activities went a long way to making the seas safer.


"After doing an outstanding job for the past six months, it's good to get back home for Christmas and to be welcomed by family and friends.


"The crew has worked extremely hard and is ready for a well-earned rest. I'm sure they will enjoy the festive season."


Steve and Amanda Brown with their 21 month-old daughter, Isabella

(RN website photo)


20 Dec 10 - Authors requesting assistance


I have received requests for information from two authors working on books about naval officers who deployed from HMS Vernon to render safe bombs and mines all over the country during the Second World War, especially during the Blitz:


Established Australian author Robert Macklin, working in collaboration with his British co-author Peter Thompson, proposes to write two volumes.  The first of these will concentrate on his fellow countrymen Lt Hugh Syme GC GM* RANVR, Lt Cdr John Mould GC GM RANVR, Lt Cdr Leon Goldsworthy GC GM DSC RANVR; and Lt Cdr George Gosse GC RANVR.  The second will be directed more towards an international readership with emphasis on the towering figures of Cdr Charles Hamond DSO, DSC* RN and Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN among others.  Robert hopes to visit the UK in early March to perform detailed research and I will try to meet him then.


British author Peter Varey has almost completed writing the biography of Lt Peter Danckwerts GC MBE RNVR but requires specific information about his training on German magnetic land mines, e.g. GC and GD, and photos of the mines themselves.


If anyone believes they have information or photos of specific value to these authors, please contact me via my webmaster email address.


15 Dec 10 - Defence Secretary meets minehunter personnel in Bahrain


The Navy News website contains this article describing how Dr Liam Fox, the UK Defence Secretary, met ship's company members from HMS Pembroke, HMS Grimsby and HMS Middleton, three of the four RN minehunters deployed in the Gulf, on board the survey vessel HMS Enterprise in Bahrain recently.


Dr Fox on board HMS Enterprise

(Navy News photo)


14 Dec 10 - Awards and donations galore


Congratulations to MCDOA member Rory Armstrong for winning the Association of Royal Navy Officers (ARNO) Essay Competition for 2010.  The competition was judged by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Julian Oswald and Rory's essay, entitled 'The Deadliest Catch - Historical Ordnance Operations in the North Sea', will be published in the 2011 ARNO Year Book.  Rory wins a cash prize of £250 with a similar sum being presented to his parent wardroom.  However, as he is serving in Whitehall with no current affiliation to a wardroom, he has asked that the £250 be donated to Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon.  I am sure everyone will join me in thanking Rory for his thoughtful gesture.  Are you doing your fair share to help Project Vernon reach its target?


MCDOA member Mark Savage, CO of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), informs me that FDS has won this year’s COS(CAP) Naval Capability Trophy.  Members will remember that Major General Garry Robison CB RM, Chief of Staff (Capability) to the Commander-in-Chief Fleet, was our Guest of Honour at the MCDOA dinner this year but I'm sure this is purely a coincidence.  Mark also informs me that Fleet Diving Unit 2 (FDU2) is the winner of the 2010 Fleet Diving Unit Trophy.  Congratulations to all concerned.


12 Dec 10 - RN Clearance Diver nominated for Sun military award


Congratulations to PO(D) Jai 'Digger' Gardner on being nominated for a Sun 'Millie' award as described in this article on the Sun's website.  Jai led the RN team, comprising LS(D) Ian ‘Higgy’ Higgins, AB(D) Chris ‘Jumper’ Collins and AB(D) Les Cockerton, seconded to 49 Field Sqn (EOD), 33 Engineer Regt in Afghanistan from October 2009 to April 2010 as part of the Joint Force EOD Group (see entry for 17 Sep 09 in News Archive 27 plus second entry for 8 Oct 09 and entry for 28 Oct 09 in News Archive 28)


PO(D) Jai Gardner


The results of this year's awards will be announced on Wednesday and broadcast on ITV at 2100 on Friday 17 December but this is not the first time that members of the RN diving branch have featured in the Millies.  In 2009, the Joint Force EOD Group in Afghanistan, which included Jai's team at the time, was presented with the Judges' Award for Special Recognition (see second entry for 16 Dec 09 in News Archive 28).  In 2008, LS(D) Lee Duffy won the award for Most Outstanding Sailor or Marine and AB(D) Jamie Campbell scooped the Best Recruit award (see entry for 9 Jan 09 in News Archive 25).


Two other teams of RN divers have deployed to Afghanistan for EOD duties since Jai and his group returned.


11 Dec 10 - Death of ex-CD 'Jacko' Jackson


Various sources have reported the death last Saturday of 'Jacko' Jackson, a 1960s vintage clearance diver who served in the Far East.  Apparently, he died in hospital in Aberdeen as the result of a stroke suffered while offshore. 


According to Pat Stevens, Jacko's funeral will be held on Monday 20 December at 1330 at Gorleston Crematorium, Gorleston near Great Yarmouth, NR31 7JJ with a reception afterwards at the Parkhill Hotel, Oulton Village, Lowestoft, Suffolk. NR32 5DQ.  Jacko's wife, Rosemarie, has stated that people may send flowers if they wish.  Alternatively, donations can be made to the Cardiac Care Unit / Stroke Ward at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, or to the RNLI in Aberdeen.  Letters of sympathy and condolences may be sent to the home address: 83 Normanston Drive, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Suffolk.


We extend our condolences to Rosemarie, her three sons and their families on this sad occasion.


10 Dec 10


Another boost for Project Vernon


I was delighted to receive these glad tidings via MCDOA past-Chairman David Sandiford:




In another step towards commemorating the Royal Naval heritage of Gunwharf Quays, a presentation has taken place at Waitrose Supermarket in Southsea.  Their “Community Matters” programme assists local good causes and Waitrose customers very kindly donated the sum of £428 to help Project Vernon install a bronze statue dedicated to the heritage of the former HMS Vernon.  


In a short ceremony at Waitrose Supermarket, representative Mrs Theresa (Twig) Millman presented the cheque to Project Vernon trustee and Head of Fundraising David Sandiford and project supporter Irene Strange, widow of the late Albert Strange, a Naval Clearance Diver and member of the Bomb & Mine Disposal Team of the former naval establishment HMS Vernon.



Mrs Theresa (Twig) Millman (centre) presenting cheque to Project

Vernon trustee and Head of Fundraising David Sandiford and

project supporter Irene Strange


The Sculptor Les Johnson FRBS, selected from over a dozen applicants, has a long tradition of sculpting dynamic detailed figures and this monument will depict a contact mine, dragged from a shipping lane by a mine sweeper but snagged on an underwater obstruction on the sea bed.  To dispose of the threat, a Clearance Diver approaches the mine to place an explosive charge and detonate the weapon, preventing it from being a menace to shipping.  


For more information or to make a donation please visit the website:  


Project Vernon has expressed its appreciation to the Waitrose customers who have kindly supported this cause.


Postscript:  On 14 December 2010, the Portsmouth News published this article about the event.


Should auld acqaintance be forgot: Rear Admiral Bazlur Rahman, Bangladesh Navy


In June 1982, I relieved fellow MCDOA member Geoff Goodwin at HMS Vernon as the Long Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer (LMCDO) Course Training Officer, designated 'LTO'.  This was the year before the frequency of RN courses was doubled to two per year to satisfy the increased demand of the Hunt Class vessels then entering service.  The diving module of the RN course, for which CPO(D) Bob Oulds (later Ray Ramsay) and I were directly responsible, was conducted during the relatively mild weather of the summer term.  This left spare training capacity during the harsher autumn term and this was utilised to train students from overseas navies.  One can imagine the shock of deep diving at Falmouth in December for an individual coming from a country with a tropical or sub-tropical climate. 


Overseas LMCDO Course 1982


The Malaysian, Singaporean and Bangladeshi students on the 1982 Overseas LMCDO course were a particularly engaging lot and we all got on famously.  However, the Bangladeshi officer stood out among the crowd.  For a start, he had never dived before in his life but had been sent by his Navy while under something of a cloud, the details of which I won't go into here.  Nonetheless, the highly personable Lt Bazlur Rahman, immediately nicknamed 'Baz', stunned the training staff by performing the fastest lock gate swims at Horsea within a fortnight and giving his fellow students a good run for their money in theoretical and practical aspects of diving within the first month.  Baz went on to achieve the best results ever recorded for a student on the OLMCDO course and, in my opinion, he would have been a strong contender for the SofD trophy on most Brit courses.  He was grittily determined and endowed with a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humour.


Before Baz returned to his country, I told him that I expected him to become the C-in-C of his Navy or be court-martialled (again) and thrown out in the attempt.  In the event, Rear Admiral Bazlur Rahman (MCD), ndc, psc, BN retired from the Bangladesh Navy last year as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Personnel) and is now the Director General of the Bangladesh Department of Shipping.  I know because I stumbled upon this article on the Bangladesh Daily Star's website. 


I subsequently contacted Baz to congratulate him and was pleasantly surprised to receive this reply a couple of days ago:


"Dear Rob,


So nice to hear from you.  On the day you mailed me, i.e. 18 Nov, I was actually in London attending the IMO [International Maritime Organisation] Legal Committee meeting.  If I had seen the mail at that time, I could have visited you on the 20th as I was free on that day.  Anyway, I hope to meet you if I visit UK again.  


Thanks again for remembering me and the mail.  Hope to be in touch.


Best regards,




It would be delightful to see Baz again and I have asked him to to consider attending our annual dinner sometime soon.


Tragedy for WO1(MW) Wayne 'Pony' Moore and his family


I have received this sad announcement from former WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE, Head of Communications and Trustee of Project Vernon:


Dear All,


You may or may not be aware that WO1(MW) Pony Moore, the Chairman of the Mine Warfare Association (MWA), lost his youngest daughter Kirstyn in a car accident last Saturday.  Kirstyn was 18 and the youngest of three girls so you can imagine what Pony is going through at the moment.


Arrangements for the funeral have been finalised and Pony has expressed a wish that all donations from the RN should go towards Project Vernon in memory of his daughter.  His reasoning is that Kirstyn was extremely proud of Ponys' role in the MWA and thus Project Vernon and that this would be a fitting tribute to her.


MWA Vice Chairman Taff Reader is going to coordinate the receipt of local cash or cheque donations but I have asked that he point everyone to the Project Vernon website, specifically the donations tab.  A message can be left to ensure that Pony is informed of all those who kindly made a donation.  


Incidentally, Pony has expressed his wish that all other donations from friends and family are made to the local church in Much Wenlock.


Keep well,




Last August, Pony was one of the association heads who signed the Limited Edition prints of 'Vernon Creek' being sold to raise funds for Project Vernon.


MCDOA President Colin Welborn, Project Vernon trustee Mike Handford,

AORNFCD Chairman Don 'Jim' Green and MWA Chairman Wayne

'Pony' Moore at Gunwharf Quays in August 2010


I am sure that all members of the minewarfare & diving community will join me in expressing our deep condolences to Pony, his wife Gill and their surviving daughters Taryn and Robyn at this sad and difficult time.


Senior Commander visits Forward Support Unit in the Gulf


The RN website contains this article describing a visit by Cdre Tim Fraser, UK Maritime Component Commander, to the Forward Support Unit (FSU) looking after HMS Middleton, HMS Chiddingfold, HMS Grimsby and HMS Pembroke in the Gulf.


Forward Support Unit in Bahrain

(RN website photo)


9 Dec 10 - Navy News items


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

8 Dec 10 - In2Deep by Tony Groom


Former CD Tony Groom has kindly sent me a review copy of his new book, In2Deep.  Having been among the first to enjoy Diver, the highly colourful and successful account of his experiences in the Falklands conflict and afterwards in the world of commercial diving, I suspected his new offering would be entertaining.  However, I was unprepared for this engaging and well-crafted thriller that had me gripped from the start.



Tony Groom and his highly entertaining books


The hero (or perhaps more accurately the anti-hero) of In2Deep is a former Royal Navy clearance diver called Nick Carter who has a jaundiced view of authority, discipline and inconvenient aspects of the rule of law.  A hard-bitten rogue who is forced to endure considerable pain and hardship as events unfold, he is by no means cast as a superman.  Instead, he is a realistically flawed character who becomes the victim of circumstances.  Despite his reluctance to become involved in anything 'official', his gritty determination to seek redress and recover a precious item that has been stolen from him eventually leads to the downfall of the villains of the piece.


The overall theme of this well-written story is definitely salty, as are the characters and dialogue.  Set in the Mediterranean, it incorporates familiar locations and dramatic action including diving for treasure, single-handed sailing, high seas piracy, international terrorism and an underlying love story that provides the catalyst for the hero's actions.  I won't reveal too many details of the swift-moving plot but its development includes parallel threads that twist and turn but come together cataclysmically in the final chapters.  The climax is a vividly described anti-terrorist operation that involves a panoply of UK Special Forces and other units, including some of Nick's old naval diving buddies.  Despite employing all the modern gadgetry and technical wizardry at their disposal, the outcome is nail-bitingly uncertain right up to the end.


Perhaps an unintended message of the book is the lifetime bond formed between individuals like RN divers who have shared good and bad times together, often in hazardous situations.  Stimulated whenever the need arises, this can achieve wonders (shameless plug for Project Vernon .  Incidentally, I would like to thank Tony publicly for kindly donating copies of Diver to Project Vernon to sell at its promotions.)


Buy it for Christmas!


In2Deep will appeal especially well to a naval and military audience which can identify with its characters and situations but it should also prove popular with any general reader who enjoys a cracking good yarn.  There is still time to put it on your Christmas present list.  If ordered via Tony's website at, he will provide a suitable inscription on request.


7 Dec 10 - First female diver makes history in the Navy's Clearance Diving Branch


The newly restored RN website contains this article describing Lt Catherine Ker's achievement in becoming the first woman to qualify as a Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer (see entry for 12 Nov 10).



Lt Catherine Ker RN

(RN website photo)


6 Dec 10 - The Royal Navy at the British Military Tournament


Over the weekend, the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), the Historical Diving Society (HDS) and Project Vernon repeated the formula that proved so successful this summer at Portsmouth Navy Days by putting on a combined display in the exhibition hall surrounding the arena at Earls Court during the British Military Tournament.  Apart from the naval uniforms worn by members of the Combined Cadet Force from Wellington College who performed the field gun runs, this was the only sign of any non-Army presence at this sell-out event and aroused considerable interest.


The Project Vernon team was led by Head of Communications and Trustee ex-WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE.  On Saturday, he kindly provided MCDOA members David Sandiford and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) with a lift from Portsmouth to Earls Court where we rendezvoused with MCDOA member Keith Broughton at around 0830 before setting up our stand.



Left: Keith Broughton, Dave Sandiford and Dixie Dean discuss arrangements

Right: The Project Vernon stand displaying information and merchandise


The members of the Fleet Diving Squadron and the Historical Diving Society arrived a little later and we soon had our act together.



Combined Project Vernon, HDS and FDS Display


Although the first show in the arena did not start until 1430, members of the public started arriving at 1100 and we were quickly surrounded by people enjoying the spectacle of an HDS diver wearing standard dress performing underwater knife-fighting (among other activities) with an FDS diver wearing modern closed-circuit breathing apparatus.  The display was definitely a crowd stopper.  Many children had their photos taken in front of the display tank or wearing one of the range of ancient and modern diving helmets.  The odd splash of water aimed at onlookers caused considerable merriment.



Children pose for photos in front of FDS and HDS divers in the display tank



Some of the crowd that stopped to watch


I lost track of the familiar faces who stopped to talk but Don 'Jimmy' Green, Chairman of the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD) had organised a coach (which unexpectedly transpired to be a double-decker bus) to bring several visitors from Portsmouth.  Many others who had served at HMS Vernon, in the MCM Flotilla or elsewhere in the RN MW and Diving community also came up and made themselves known.


Exhibitors were not permitted to collect donations but the Project Vernon team chatted with interested attendees, sold merchandise and handed out around 400 newsletters and leaflets before and after the 1430 performance, during the interval, and again before the 1930 performance.  We hope the Project's website shows a spike in the statistics and a subsequent boost to the online kitty.


The same routine was followed on Sunday but MCDOA member Martyn Holloway and Project Vernon Trustee & Treasurer ex-WO(D) Tony Devitt in lieu of David Sandiford and Rob Hoole.


5 Dec 10 - MW & Diving Community Carol Service cancelled


MCDOA President Colin Welborn has informed me that the MW & Diving Community Christmas Carol Service in support of Project Vernon planned for Wednesday 8 December at St Barbara's Church, HMS Excellent and ensuing mulled wine & mince pies in the Senior Rates' Mess has been cancelled owing to insufficient support.  I have thanked him for taking on the organisation of this event, including the pre-purchase of all the drink and victuals, which proved so successful last year.


2 Dec 10 - Publication of new book about HMS Dasher


The author John Steele has notified me of the publication of 'The American Connection to the Sinking of HMS Dasher'.  This is John and Noreen Steele's fourth book about HMS Dasher and I put them in contact with MCDOA member Duncan Bridge and ex-CPO(D) Ozzie Hammond.  Duncan and Ozzie have since provided John with their accounts of a dive on the wreck of this escort carrier from the RN saturation diving vessel MV Seaforth Clansman in January 1982 (see entry for 15 Sep 2010 in News Archive 31).  This was probably the first dive on Dasher since she mysteriously exploded and sank within five minutes with the loss of 379 lives in March 1943.  The aircraft carrier lies upright on the seabed in the Firth of Clyde about half way between Ardrossan and the Isle of Arran. 



As a token of his gratitude, John has kindly agreed to donate £1 to Project Vernon for each sale made to members of the RN minewarfare & diving community via his website (  To facilitate this, please annotate your online order with the word "Vernon" before despatch.


John and Noreen Steele survey

the scene of the tragedy


1 Dec 10 - Appeal for guides for HDS Diving Museum at Stokes Bay



I have received this appeal from Dr John Bevan, MCDOA associate member and Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS):


"In the relative warmth of the museum (a generous 10 degrees Celsius), John Dadd and Jim Thomson have succeeded in painting the subsea animation theatre, painting the antique wooden table, filled/sealed the gaps around the windows, and finished off staining the lectern.  I include the updated task list for info.  There's not much left to do!



HDS Diving Museum at No. 2 Battery, Stokes Bay in the current snow 


TASKS (30.11.10)




* Loosen windows (they jam; need planing))

* Make decent top for projector trolley

* Clean and paint projector trolley

* Clean chairs (wire wool etc)

* Make two shelves for recesses

* Final brush-down of walls and ceiling (Sunday 12th Dec)

* Start installing exhibits (Monday 13 Dec)

* Brush and vacuum Bravo, Charlie and Delta

* Refurbish the 4-sided glass case (Bill Braithwaite)

* Make shelves for library book cases (Chris Murphy)


TOPSIDE (on dry days)


* Bitumen paint cracks in concrete above Bravo

* Level out soil

* Make/tidy paths on slopes

* Cut back gorse bushes (hard stalks)

* Make cowling for 'chimney' on Bravo & two drain grills (Simon Millerchip)




* Buy heating tubes

* Buy dehumidifier

* Install burglar alarm and smoke alarm (next year)


Sunday, 12th December is the next session and is the final session before the arrival of exhibits!  13-15 December look definite for the move of Sub Museum material.  The initial wave will be the library books.  So all supporters should muster at my place at 10am and we will go on from there.  I think we now have enough transporters for the job, namely:


Jim Thomson - estate car

Nigel Phillips - Range Rover

Gary Wallace-Potter - van

Barry Jackson has kindly offered a 30ft removals truck but I think that would be a bit over the top.


We'll have to have another glass of Champers to mark the occasion!


It will be around 4-5 months before we open to the public but I would like to get a feel for who might be available for manning the Museum when open to the public.  The plan at present is to open for May Bank Holiday - 29 April to 2 May.  If there is sufficient support, we could open every weekend after that.  Alternatively, we could aim to open just on special holidays etc. Depending on interest, we could consider opening for the summer holidays.


In order to be open to the public, we would need a minimum of two "Museum Guides" (or any other title you prefer) at any one time.  Opening times could be, say, 11am to 4pm, or any other preferred times.  We would need to set up a duty roster well in advance.  So the purpose of this email is to ask you if you would be interested in being on a list of possible Museum Guides.  When I have a reasonable number of names, we can have a meeting to discuss the arrangements.






So far, the list of volunteer guides comprises:


Gavin Anthony

John Bevan

John Dadd

Roger Forster

Rob Hoole

Margaret Marks

Martin Marks

Stew 'George' Sissons

Jim 'Tommo' Thomson

John Towse


If you feel able to help in any way, please contact John via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.


30 Nov 10 - British Military Tournament at Earls Court 4 & 5 December


Next weekend, members of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), the Historical Diving Society (HDS) and Project Vernon will be exhibiting at the British Military Tournament at Earls Court in London.  The Project Vernon Team, led by Communications Director and MWA member Dixie Dean MBE, will include AORNFCD member Tony Devitt and MCDOA members Keith Broughton, Martyn Holloway, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) and David Sandiford.  There will be displays of diving in historical and modern day military diving equipment.  Please come along and lend your support.


29 Nov 10 - Team Triton renamed Team Hallin


John Giddens


I am delighted to note that MCDOA member John Giddens, Founder & Chief Executive of Hallin Marine based in Singapore, is now sponsoring MCDOA member David Hosking's team in its attempt to break the World Record for the fastest ever recorded row across the Atlantic Ocean next month (see second entry for 9 Nov 10).  As a result of John's generosity, 'Team Triton' has been renamed 'Team Hallin'. 


Team Hallin with David Hosking second from right


John and David were both members of LMCDO '83A (along with MWO Roger Baileff and MCDOs Nigel Butterworth, Chris Sherman and Charlie Wilson) with Ray Ramsay as Chief Instructor and Yours Truly as Course Officer. 




The newly renamed Team Hallin is raising funds for Combat Stress and you can donate via its JustGiving webpage here or make out a cheque to 'Combat Stress' and send it to David c/o 15 Wilton Crescent, London, SW19 3QY.


28 Nov 10 - HDS Diving Museum update



MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this situation report about the Diving Museum being established at No. 2 Battery at Stokes Bay in Hampshire:


East side entrance of No. 2 Battery at Stokes Bay


"Despite the snow and the wind, another useful day today!  This weather also happens to be excellent for dehumidifying the Battery.  Dougie cycled over from Ryde, IoW again (with a little help from the Fascat).  Tommo came all the way from Hedge End and John Dadd made it across at least 100 yds of heavily defended terrain.  Martin and Margaret Marks brought up the western flank from Lee on the Solent whilst Gary and Vincent Stroud descended from the north of Alverstoke.


The polyfilling has been completed in the Subsea Animation Theatre and it's ready for a second coat of white paint.  The lectern has been shod with felt shoes and fitted with a proper book-ledge.  The Archive Store (ex-cartridge store for guns 9 & 10) has been fitted out with filing cabinets and chests of  drawers.  Scaffolding, etc has been moved from Bravo to Delta to make room for artefacts currently stored in the Submarine Museum. Bravo to Delta has been swept and vacuumed again.  Yet another sack-full of dust has been got up.  As the place dries out, the dust is being released.


The gorse bushes were attacked by Strouds Senior and Junior despite the snow storm!  A significant advance has been made in the direction of Lee-on-the-Solent. 


We are getting close to the installation of exhibit material.  As soon as it can be organised, we will be moving in.  The next sessions will be Wednesday, 1st Dec.  Nothing over the weekend (HDS event at Earls Court Military Tattoo and committee meeting in London).   Wednesday 8th and Sunday 12th.  Possibly other days when we hope to move material in from the Submarine Museum (watch this space) and garages up and down the country.






* Polyfill and paint the inside of the small 'escape' room, second coat

* Refurbish the 4-sided glass case (Bill Braithwaite)

* Start installing exhibits Polyfill around one electric socket

* Brush and vacuum Bravo, Charlie and Delta

* Make base for Lectern legs

* Make shelves for library book cases (Chris Murphy)


TOPSIDE (on dry days)


* Bitumen paint cracks in concrete above Bravo

* Make a cowling for the 'chimney' on Bravo and two drain grills (Simon Millerchip)

* Level out soil Make/tidy paths on slopes

* Cut back gorse bushes (hard stalks)




* Buy heating tubes

* Buy dehumidifier




It's good to see that ex-CDs John Dadd and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson are still in the vanguard of volunteers.  If anyone else would like to help, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  Volunteers normally muster at 1000.


27 Nov 10 - Testimonial to Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR


Noel Cashford is a veteran wartime Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer and prolific author of books about EOD (see 'Book List') whom I am privileged to count as a dear friend, along with his delightful wife Brenda.  Some of you will have met him at the Ouvry 70th anniversary commemorative event on board HMS Belfast last November (see entry for 27 Nov 09 in News Archive 28).


As described in this article on the BBC News website seven years ago, Noel was instrumental in the erection of a memorial at Mundesley-on-Sea in Norfolk honouring the 26 Royal Engineers bomb disposal personnel who lost their lives while clearing World War II landmines from Norfolk's cliffs and beaches between 1944 and 1953.  The Mundesley Landmine Clearance Memorial now comprises a 10ft high 500kg German bomb casing on a granite base provided by the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Unit at Wimbish in Essex.


Mundesley Landmine Clearance Memorial


I have just received this message from Noel:


"Dear Rob,


I thought you might like to see the testimonial to Brenda and me from the Norfolk committee.  It was presented to us on Tuesday following the wreath-laying service at Mundesley-on-Sea on 14 November.  


Although I had driven to Norfolk on Sunday the 7th, I was still not well enough to do my duty of MC and had to consult the local doctor.  On Tuesday, seven of the committee came to Brenda's sister's house at Brundall and made the presentation as a surprise - as indeed it was (Brenda was in on the secret and was made to swear she would not divulge the coming visit or reason).


Brenda confesses that she broke the promise in part as she thought seven people descending on a small bungalow would prove too much of a shock.  She did not reveal the reason but said they all wanted to see us as we had not managed to get to Mundesley.  The news of the impending visit caused ruffled feathers anyway as Brenda's sister was in a panic about cups, biscuits etc.  At 90 years old she does not like sudden changes in her routine. 


The testimonial is mounted in a nice bronze frame and we thought it may interest you.


Yours aye,


Noel & Brenda"


This is the testimonial presented to Noel and Brenda by the Norfolk Landmine Memorial Committee:



I am sure that all members will join me in congratulating Noel and Brenda on this well-deserved award and wish Noel better health very soon.


26 Nov 10 - Daily Telegraph obituary for Darby Allan


I am extremely grateful to Captain Peter Hore RN for agreeing to write this obituary for ex-CPO(D) Stephen 'Darby' Allan which appeared in today's Daily Telegraph.  I hope it will be some small consolation to Karen, Sarah, David and the rest of Darby's family for their dreadful loss (see entry for 6 Nov 10).


Darby with Iraqi LUGM 145 mine in Kuwait during first Gulf War


25 Nov 10 - Lady Halifax to visit HMS Hurworth


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing a visit to HMS Hurworth tomorrow (Friday) by Lady Halifax who launched the ship in 1984.


24 Nov 10


MCDOA Northern Dinner 2011



MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE has asked me to publish this announcement:


"I’m pleased to confirm that the Northern MCDOA Dinner to be held on Friday 25 February 2011, coinciding exactly with the 45th anniversary of the founding of the MCD branch, has been made a sponsored event under the terms of the contract with Babcock.  This means that the cost of the dinner will be substantially less than it would be otherwise.  I don’t have an exact figure yet but I’m hoping that it will cost no more than £25-30 per head, including wine and port.


I reiterate that, although this dinner is held under the banner of the MCDOA, it is in fact a full-blown HMS NEPTUNE Mess Function and, as such, any paid-up mess member has the right to attend (thus it follows that neither do any attendees need to be paid-up members of the MCDOA).  Actually, I welcome this so we can share our heritage with the numerous Submariners and Marines that populate the mess.  However, I predict that few outside of our community will stay back on a Friday to join in – I’m easy either way.  Importantly though, the senior MCDOs in HMNB Clyde are keen for this to be the flagship event for the MCD and MW community in HMNB Clyde and Cdr Dave Bence, Cdr MCM1, is particularly keen that all the wardroom officers (not just the MCDOs and MWOs) serving in the MHCs that might be alongside should come along to ‘their’ annual dinner. 


Northern Diving Group, now led by Lt Cdr Kev Stockton, will be heavily represented as usual along with those in FOST MPV, operational sea training allowing.  There are a few random MCDOs and MWOs in HMNB Clyde coming along as well, myself included!  Furthermore, we’re encouraging our RNR brethren who have had the MW qualification to attend, led by Cdr Duncan Ross.  Given the practice by FPGRM of inviting RM WOs into the mess for official functions, our own WO(D) and WO(MW) serving here shall be invited also. 


Lastly but not least, the success of the dinner hinges on a good number of our Scottish/Northern based veterans attending: Bertie Armstrong; Uncle Alan [Bayliss]; Harry Parker; Ken Kempsell GM; Paul Henke; Nigel Davies; Hamish Loudon; John Burden just some of the usual suspects.  Indeed, there are several ‘southerners’ coming up and I’m hoping these might include, for example, Captain MFP, CO FDS, CO EXCELLENT among other worthies I’m sure.


Please register your interest by emailing me at this address.  When I’m less busy I’ll publish a form for people to fill in with menu options, etc.


Yours Aye,




Project Vernon prints

Fellow MCDOA member Martyn Holloway was kind enough to deliver my Project Vernon Double Remarque (DRE) framed print of 'Vernon Creek' yesterday and I am absolutely delighted with it. 


DRE print of 'Vernon Creek'


The painting depicts the busy waterfront of HMS Vernon during the 1970s with RN and RNR Ton Class minesweepers and minehunters, diving tenders and PAS boats bustling around just as I remember.  Artist John Terry FCSD has also done a superb job of adding a bespoke sketch of Vernon's wardroom frontage and another of the main gate, both of which are included in the price.  The signatures of former First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, Rear Admiral Roy Clare, Rear Admiral John Lippiett and MCDOA member Doug Barlow, all MCMV COs in their time, add a particular cachet.


This print will invoke many happy memories for me and my wife, Linda.  She has already assigned it pride of place in our hallway and it will complement my Project Vernon print of 'Danger at Depth' perfectly. 


DRE print of 'Danger at Depth'


Have you bought your prints yet?  They come in a range of versions and prices but remember that the aim of their sale is to raise funds for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a statue at Gunwharf Quays commemorating the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.  See here on the Project Vernon website for further details about purchases.


23 Nov 10


Memories of Malta


I am grateful to Denis Darmanin in Malta for this email:


"Dear Sir,


I’m a former diver with the Armed Forces of Malta (1974-1980) and was one of the team who, back then, had repaired the derelict Diving School at Manoel Island to be re-used as our base.  Although our main instructors were from the Italian Navy, I commenced my career under the specialist team of Royal Engineers.  I had also worked with the Fleet Clearance Diving Team that was sent to Malta in the late 1970s to clear mines and bombs from the Parlatorio Wharf area when the No. 6 Dock was to be constructed on the site.  


Hailing from Vittoriosa, most of my former family members had served in the Royal Navy, including my late father who had spent all the war at sea.  I was also a civilian instructor with T.S. St. Paul – Sea Cadets (Malta) at (Fort) HMS St Angelo.


Having said all this, I have since acquired three group photos of divers who had served at Manoel Island.  One is an original, while the other two are copies that were sent to me by e-mail, origin unknown.  However, I’m willing to share them with you for posterity on your website.


In the photo titled RN MFCDT, the second from left, seated, is Charlie, a Maltese whose surname I’ve forgotten.  There was also another, Joseph Ciantar, but he was sick on the day the photo was taken.


I’m also enclosing another photo in which I’m standing first on the right, taken about 1976 on the Diving’s School’s jetty.  The school is still in use by the Armed Forces of Malta’s EOD Unit, which includes the Army’s divers.  It is to move from there once the redevelopment of the island reaches that part of the shore.


Should you need any assistance from here, feel free to contact me.  Kindly acknowledge me should you use the photos.  


Kind regards,


Denis A. Darmanin

(Valletta – Malta)"


Here are the photos Denis has sent, some of which have already appeared on the MCDOA website.  The photo below was originally published in the entry for 29 Nov 05 in News Archive 12. 


RN Diving School, Malta c.1956/7  


The next photo was also published in the entry for 29 Nov 05 in News Archive 12.  On 19 Jan 2007, I was contacted by John Raisey who had qualified as a Shallow Water Diver (SWD) at Manoel Island in 1958 while serving in HMS Striker.  He informed me that the Petty Officer standing at the back was Ken Peake, his course instructor.  However, on 29 Mar 2010, a correspondent called Roy Falk informed me that he was in fact the Petty Officer standing at the centre of the rear rank.  As a Diver 2nd Class, he had acted as the instructor for Shallow Water Diver courses.  Able Seaman Holdsworth was standing on the right and Mechanician Franz Lia, Maltese Navy, was on the left.  Chief Petty Officer 'Darby' Allan and Lt George Foster RN were seated in the front row. 


RN Diving School, Malta c.1956/7


I don't think I've published this photo before:


Med Fleet CD Team August 1958 with Maltese diver

Charlie Portelli seated second from left


This photo wasn't sent by Denis but it is another that shows the Med Fleet CD Team in 1958.  It appears in the entry for 10 Jun 10 in News Archive 30 and in ex-FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott's excellent book, 'A Corkhead's Chronicle'


Med Fleet CD Team Christmas card 1958 


Denis has also sent this photo showing the Armed Forces of Malta’s EOD Unit on the Diving School’s jetty on Manoel Island c.1976.  Denis is standing first on the right. 


Armed Forces of Malta’s EOD Unit around 1976  


I have been in touch with Denis and he has sent me this photo of himself marching with the veterans during last year’s Remembrance Day parade at the Floriana War Memorial in Malta:


Denis Darmanin at Floriana Remembrance Day parade in 2009 


Denis informs me that he is a collector, researcher and illustrator of uniform buttons and spends his spare time playing with his toys, writing articles, sketching or corresponding with collectors everywhere.  Earlier this year, he completed writing a book about Pembroke, the town in Malta which was a former British military establishment; mainly St George’s, St Andrew’s and St Patrick's Barracks.  He donated the book to the Pembroke Local Council and residents and the Council has published it, supposedly to be distributed per household.  He has also written numerous articles on military Malta for the journal of the Military Historical Society (UK), of which he has been the only Maltese member for close to 30 years.  His latest research is on Lt Cdr William Ewart Hiscock GC, DSC, RN, a wartime bomb and mine disposal officer in Malta.  Ironically, he and his wife were killed in their house during an air raid on Malta on 15 February 1942.


News from Sydney Knowles


I have received an update from Sydney Knowles BEM, wartime and post-war diving companion of Lionel 'Buster' Crabb and author of 'A Diver in the Dark'.  Sydney lives in Coin in Spain and I have abridged his email for publication here:


"Dear Rob,


I am keeping well but am having great difficulty in walking.  I enjoy attending the Coin branch of the RBL and I am their Vice President.  We had a wonderful Remembrance Service on the 11th of the 11th with over 170 members attending, including the Mayor of Coin and his deputy.  We enjoy great patronage from the town and its officials.


Next year will be the Royal British Legion's 90th year and it will also be my 90th birthday so a party is being arranged.  I have attached a photo from last year's service.  This year I had to use a wheelchair.  The years are taking their toll.


Our kind regards to you and your family,


Sydney and Frances"


Here is Sydney on Remembrance Day last year: 


Sydney Knowles at Coin Remembrance Day service in 2009


I am sure all members will join me in wishing Sydney and Frances good health and a fabulous 90th birthday party next year.


22 Nov 10 - What a weekend!


I trust that those members who attended Friday's operational updates, free lunch and AGM at Horsea followed by the annual dinner at HMS Excellent are now well on the road to recovery.  It was marvellous to see so many people enjoying themselves and we owe a tremendous vote of thanks to all those involved in the organisation and execution of these events.


Several members attended the operational updates on Friday morning and began by catching up with each other over a cup of coffee.




Those pictured above and below include Gavin Anthony, MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin, David Bartlett, Brian Braidwood, Mike Critchley, Tim Curd, Pat Dowland, Brian Dutton, David Edwards, Mike Emary, Mike Gillam, Steve Gobey, Stu Harper, Peter Hicks, Martyn Holloway, Rob Hoole, Mike Kooner, Bob Lusty, Martin Mackey, Brian Mansbridge, David 'Doc' O'Connell, Peter Robinson, David Sandiford, Tim Trounson, Peter Waddington and MCDOA President Colin Welborn.




After a welcoming address by Chris Baldwin, some highly informative briefs were given by Martin Mackey (our man in the Ministry), Mark Savage (CO Fleet Diving Squadron), Mark Atkinson (CinCFleet), Stu McAlear (Defence Diving School) and Mark Durkin (Captain MFP).  The audience was left with the impression that the MCM Flotilla, Fleet Diving Squadron and Defence Diving School are still in relatively good shape following SDSR owing to the key capabilities they bring to our armed forces on a daily basis.  These range from the provision of EOD operators in Afghanistan to the significant presence of MCMVs in the Gulf as well as our contribution to national and NATO forces elsewhere.  The future bodes well owing to the adoption of much new hi-tec MCM and diving equipment and a relatively stable manpower plot. 




The session was rounded off with a question and answer period during which some fairly candid facts and opinions were offered by the speakers.



Members then broke for a drink in the bar before enjoying the customary Friday fish & chips in the dining hall.









Members reconvened after lunch for the AGM.  Sadly, Tony Griffiths is standing down after seven years as our Honorary Secretary and we all owe him a tremendous debt for his painstaking and often frustrated efforts to provide us with a full social programme including ladies' nights, Horsea Island barbecues and, of course, the AGMs, operational updates and annual dinners.  Thank you, Tony, for all your hard work while holding down such a demanding full-time job with the Saudi Project.  Mick Beale has kindly offered to take over the reins and he was duly elected along with Chis Baldwin as our Chairman, Rob Hoole as Vice Chairman, Richard 'Soapy' Watson as Honorary Treasurer assisted by David Armstrong for membership duties, and Martyn Holloway and David Edwards as other committee members.  David Edwards expressed his intention to stand down after this year.


MCDOA Committee for 2010/11


The AGM also re-endorsed Captain Colin Welborn RN as our Honorary President although he has expressed his wish to stand down when someone more actively involved in RN affairs can be found.


Perhaps the main decision made by the AGM was to raise the annual membership subscription to £15.  It has remained at £10 since the Association was founded in 1991 but inflation has taken its toll.  All full members and associate members are requested to amend or replace their previous Standing Order Authority for the new amount of £15 from 1 January 2011.  The form with the correct amount can be downloaded via the 'Membership' page and it contains the sort code and account number for those who intend amending their standing order using online banking.  The meeting also approved the donation of £1,000 to Project Vernon, this being the rough proceeds from the summer barbecue on Horsea Island.


The evening dinner, held in the Wardroom of HMS Excellent courtesy of the Mess President, Cdr David Vanderpump RN, was the usual 'tame' affair...




















...until the singing started, led as enthusiastically as ever by Keith Broughton! 



Bandmaster Colour Sergeant Steve Green BMus(Hons), LRSM, AMus TCL, RM was conducting HMS Nelson's Volunteer Band for the last time and we wish him well for the future.  He and the band were given a thoroughly well-deserved standing ovation after their performance. 








Maître d'Hôtel Richard Croughan and his supporting staff joined in as usual and particularly enjoyed singing our signature tune, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", as did everyone else. 










Thankfully for the MCDOA's previous Chairman, Paul Jones who is now the CO of HMS Excellent, the chandeliers survived for another year.  Our new Chairman, Chris Baldwin, then welcomed all of the guests and paid tribute to service leavers Chris Lade, David Griffiths and Tony Griffiths.  He also greeted Steve Field, Course Officer for LMCDO '85A & '85B, LMCDO '85A members John Bainbridge, David Griffiths and Tom Russell and newly joined MCDOA member Andy Johnstone-Burt of LMCDO '85B, all celebrating the 25th anniversary of their courses.  Chris also welcomed Les Johnstone FRBS (the sculptor selected to create the Project Vernon monument), Lt Col Tony de Reya RM (SO1 ISTAR COMATG) and the large contingent from the Royal Engineers including members of the RE Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) and the current CO (Lt Col Simon Bell RE) and a previous CO (Lt Col Mike Brook OBE RE) of 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) with which many of our divers have worked in Afghanistan.  Chris Lade then replied on behalf of the leavers. 



Left: Chris Baldwin welcomes our guests

Right: Chris Lade speaks on behalf of the leavers 


Major General Garry Robison CB RM, Chief of Staff (Capability) to the Commander-in-Chief Fleet, then gave a glowing tribute to the RN minewarfare and diving community and its work and proposed a toast to the MCDOA. 


Maj Gen Robison butters us up


Members and their guests then retired to the bar where this group photo was taken.  Unfortunately, a wide angle lens wasn't available.



Chris Baldwin and Yours Truly on Radio Solent 


As if there hadn't been enough excitement for one weekend, Chris Baldwin and I promoted Project Vernon and reviewed the newspapers on Nick Girdler's show on BBC Radio Solent on Sunday morning as described in the entry for 19 Nov 10.  A recording of our segment of the programme can be heard here.


Rob Hoole and Chris Baldwin with Nick Girdler

in the BBC Radio Solent studios in Southampton


Horsea Island features in FHM video


The FHM magazine website contains this video showing a visit by one of its reporters to the Defence Diving School (DDS) on Horsea Island.  The video also features members of the Historical Diving Society (HDS) Working Equipment Group using standard diving dress.


20 Nov 10 - More coverage of Catherine Ker


During yesterday's MCDOA Operational Updates and AGM at Fleet Diving Headquarters, Horsea Island was swarming with reporters and photographers covering Catherine Ker's achievement as the first woman to qualify as a Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer (MCDO).  Today's Portsmouth News contains this article which also features MCDOA member Tom Russell, CO of the Defence Diving School (DDS).


19 Nov 10 - SofD and Yours Truly on Radio Solent


MCDOA Chairman and Superintendent of Diving Chris Baldwin and I will be promoting Project Vernon and reviewing the papers on Nick Girdler's show on BBC Radio Solent between 0930 and 0950 on Sunday morning.


In November 2005, Nick enlisted the support of the Defence Diving School (DDS) and Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) in an attempt to broadcast his entire show underwater in the tank from Horsea Island. 


Nick Girdler before he entered the tank



The tank outside Broadcasting House in Southampton


He wasn't able to move around to warm up but he managed an hour and a half before he became too disorientated owing to the murky water and had to abandon his attempt.  However, his achievement still stands as a British record. 


He's in there somewhere!


18 Nov 10


NDG assists police investigate mysterious explosions in Scotland


The STV website contains this article describing the police investigation of mysterious explosions near Loch Lomond with assistance provided by the Northern Diving Group (NDG).


Website anomalies


Currently, some images and links on the MCDOA website are not functioning correctly because the Royal Navy website is undergoing essential maintenance.


A significant donation to Project Vernon



I was delighted to receive a copy of the following letter today from David Ouvry, son of the late Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN, to MCDOA President Colin Welborn:



See the entry for 27 Nov 09 in News Archive 28 for further background.  This makes another £410 towards achieving the Project Vernon aim of erecting a monument in Gunwharf Quays commemorating the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.  Quite by chance, John Ouvry's grand-daughter, Lt Cdr Jan Ouvry, is attending tomorrow night's MCDOA annual dinner. 


HMS Blyth to visit Blyth during weekend of 27/28 November


I am grateful to Lt Martyn Mayger RN, the Navigating Officer of HMS Blyth, for this update:


"Lt Cdr Des Donworth has taken Command of HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 1) as she comes out of a prolonged refit in Rosyth Royal Dockyard, Scotland.  After extensive works which have lasted the majority of the year, the ship is a hive of activity as she conducts trials alongside and at sea.  Mechanical trials are coming to a close following a period day running in and out of Rosyth and the Forth.  In addition, the ship has recently tested her weapons out at sea in particularly challenging weather conditions typical for the North Sea at this time of year. 


Come the 25th November, Blyth will be transiting to her namesake town of Blyth for that weekend, in order to celebrate her return to active duties.  Following this visit, the ship will make her way 'over the top' of Scotland in order to conduct various MCM and sonar trials in the Kyles before returning home to Faslane in early December.  The ship will them continue with trials up to the Christmas period, when the Ship's Company will be released for some time at home before rejoining in the New Year, ready to take on the challenges that await them."


Navy News items


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

17 Nov 10 - Historical Diving Society Congress weekend


Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Historical Diving Society (HDS) Congress, Dinner and AGM at The Queen's Hotel in Southsea.  I had already warmed the bell on Friday by hosting three Danish ex-service delegates at lunch in the Wardroom, HMS Excellent where we were given VIP treatment thanks to the generosity of the Commanding Officer, former MCDOA Chairman Paul Jones (see first entry for 8 Nov 10).


Among the many familiar faces present from the world of service, commercial and sub aqua diving was MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan  (founding Chairman of the HDS and author), BSAC co-founder and author Reg Vallintine, former RN diving medicine specialist Dr David Elliott OBE, ex-MCDO John Hendrick and ex-CD Mike O'Meara.  However, I felt particularly privileged to talk with Cdr Robert 'Bob' Maloubier DSO of the French Navy who gave a highly entertaining first-hand account of underwater derring-do in North Africa during WWII and afterwards.


Bob Maloubier flanked by John Bevan

and Reg Vallintine


The prizes for the raffle that followed Saturday night's dinner included an unframed print of Project Vernon's 'Danger at Depth' kindly donated by Mike O'Meara.


HDS Congress Raffle Prizes


Non-HDS UK delegates departed on the morning of Remembrance Sunday after which we held the AGM including the two minute silence.  Some HDS UK members then drove to look at progress made with the diving museum in No. 2 Battery at Stokes Bay.


16 Nov 10


SDU2 deals with bomb in Plymouth


The MoD website contains this article describing the disposal by Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a Second World War bomb found in Plymouth city centre.  The article features MCDOA members John Beavis (CO SDG) and Richard Talbot (OIC SDU1) as well as WO(D) Robin 'Rick' Rickard.


Diving gear being prepared

(MoD photo: LA(Phot) James Crawford)


MCDOA Annual Dinner attendees


The final list of attendees for the Annual Dinner in HMS Excellent on Friday 19 November comprises:


Guest of Honour

Major General Garry Robison CB RM

(Chief of Staff (Capability) to the Commander-in-Chief Fleet)

Official Guests
Mr Les Johnson FRBS
Vernon Monument Sculptor
Mr Mike Handford
(Trustee, Vernon Monument)
Service Leavers
Cdr Chris Lade RN
Lt Cdr David Griffiths RN (LMCDO '85A)
Lt Cdr Tony Griffiths RN
Other Members and their Guests
(Host's name in brackets)
David Armstrong
Mark Atkinson
John Bainbridge (LMCDO '85A)
Chris Baldwin
David Bartlett
Richard Battrick
Mick Beale
John Beavis
Lt Col Simon Bell RE (Mark Savage)
Lt Robin Bennett RE
Angus Benton
Mr Dave Berry
Mr David 'Jim' Bond (Mick Beale)
Col Mike Brooke OBE RE
Keith Broughton
Mr Mo Crang
Mike Critchley
Mike Curd (Tim Curd)
Tim Curd

Colin Churcher
Maj S Cooke RE
Chris Davies
Mr Robert 'Dixie' Dean (Colin Welborn)
Lt Col Tony De Reya RM (Mark Savage)
Mark Durkin
Brian Dutton
David Edwards
Mr Simon Edwards
Mike Emary
Mr Chris Field
Steve Field (LTO LMCDO '85A & '85B)
Chris Flaherty
Capt JJ Forbes RE
Lt Col Bob Freeman
Ian Geraghty
Kev Giles
Mike Gillam
Steve Gobey
Alex Goddard
Mr Harry Godfrey (Kim Godfrey)
Kim Godfrey
Peter Greenwood
Mr Alan Hares
Stu Harper
Bob Hawkins
Peter Hicks
Martyn Holloway
Rob Hoole
Maj George Horton RE
Maj David Hough RE
Andy Johnstone-Burt (LMCDO '85B)
Paul Jones
John Keenan
Bill Kerr
Mr Tony Knight
Lt Cdr Paul Koerber RAN
Bob Lusty
Martin Mackey
Mr Ted Mangion
Brian Mansbridge
Stuart McAlear
Paul McDermott
Pat McQueen
Doc Morris
Ian Morton
Al Nekrews
John Newnham
David O'Connell
Chris O'Flaherty
Sean O'Reilly
Lt Cdr Jan Ouvry QARNNS (Colin Welborn)
Mr Garry Pascoe
Mr Andrew Pearce
Matt Prosser
Roger Readwin
Ian Richardson
Peter Robinson
Stuart Robinson
Tom Russell (LMCDO '85A)
Maj Les Rutherford RE
David Sandiford
Mark Savage
Lt Beach Seakins RN
Jason Scott
Mr Dean Simpson
Mr Tim Sizer (Tug Wilson)
Lt Cassie Staveley RN (John Staveley)
John Staveley
Jason Steele
Kev Stockton
Tim Trounson
Art Tucker
Peter Waddington
Richard 'Soapy' Watson
Colin Welborn
Mr Alan Wight
Graham 'Tug' Wilson
Steven Woodhead
Chris Young


15 Nov 10 - Repatriation and Funeral of Sapper William Blanchard


Robin Bennett, the Honorary Secretary of the RE Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated, has passed me the following:


Friday 05 November 2010

From operations in Afghanistan, the repatriation of:

Sapper William Bernard Blanchard (39), 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (EOD), Royal Engineers

Sapper Blanchard, a Territorial Army soldier, died from a gunshot wound while dealing with a suspect IED as part of the Counter IED Task Force, in Nahr-e Saraj (North), Helmand Province, on 30th October, 2010.

Service veterans and members of the public turned out in the following “stations of vigil” to pay their respects to the fallen as the cortege made its way on the 47 mile route from the point of arrival at RAF Lyneham to the John Radcliffe Hospital at Oxford. .

Wootton Bassett - Town Centre (1625)

This report from Duncan Wostenholm, RMA

The body of Sapper Blanchard passed through Wootton Bassett while family and friends, colleagues and townspeople paid silent tribute.

Councillor Mary Champion, Mayor of Wootton Bassett, accompanied by her consort Mr Bert Davey were present. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Budden, the Commanding Officer of his regiment, accompanied by WO1 (RSM) Gray Brook led a detachment of more than 50 uniformed personnel. 32 riders of the Royal British Legion Bikers attended and looked after the family on their arrival.

19 standards were paraded: Royal British Legion - Lambourn, Hungerford, Leyton, Dursley & Cam, Swindon, Stratton St Margaret and Merthyr Tydfil. Association standards included Royal Engineers (Bomb Disposal) Bath & West Wilts and Tonbridge Wells; RAF Corsham and Calne & District, Royal Berkshire Regiment, Parachute Regiment, Aden Veterans, Korean Veterans, Royal Regiment of Wales and the 1st Warsash Sea Scouts.

Gable Cross Police Station - On the A420 just east of the junction with the A419 (1645)

This report from Jim Semple, RAFA

The cortege pass through at 1645 hrs. In attendance were two Association standards: The Royal Engineers - Swindon and the RAF Lyneham Old Boys. 16 service veterans were with us and 36 members of the public. Also attending were 42 police officers from the Wiltshire Constabulary and the salute was ordered by Inspector Anthony Ducker.

At the Road Bridge - B4000 over the A420 between Shrivenham and Highworth (1650)

Report by Elaine Ware, on behalf of Derrick Jeans, RAFA

Ten members of the public and Don Allen, the Chairman of the Shrivenham Branch of the Royal British Legion accompanied District Councillor Elaine Ware to pay their respects to Sapper Blanchard. All traffic on the A420 came to a halt as the cortege passed slowly by.

United Kingdom Defence Academy - at the Watchfield Roundabout on the A420, adjacent to the UKDA. (1653 hrs)

Report by Jim Hawkins, RMA

Five Royal Marines veterans from Poole, Southampton and Guildford and their wives attended the roadside, plus our veteran friends from the Royal Berkshires, Royal Artillery and the Korean War. Standards of RMA Poole and Guildford were paraded.

Also attending were Air Commodore Marcus Witherow RAF Regiment (Retd), Lt Col and Mrs Donaldson, Captain Phil Burrill Royal Navy, Major Claire Heighington RMP, Wing Commander Hayler RAF and family, Sub Lieutenant Charles Barker RN, Carol and Wilf Tranter, Will and Sarah Barker, Derek Warren, Francisco Barrio, Eric Ridley, Laurie Ann Owens and Graham and Jessica Banfield.

The salute to the cortege was led by Major Ben Hawkins, Royal Engineers and ordered by WO1 Mark Hannington, The Mercian Regiment, the Academy RSM.

Many thanks to PCs Tony Turner and John Prismall of the MOD Police for their assistance in traffic control.

Folly Hill Lay-by - east of Faringdon on the A420, just north of the A417 junction (1710)

This report by Joy Blake

Our “vigil” at the Folly Hill lay-by, well attended by almost 70 people, was a “milestone” in our repatriation meetings, as this was the 86th time we had met and to receive the 200th serviceman from the Armed Forces killed in action and returned to home soil.

Despite the miserable and dark evening, it was a most moving time for us to show our respects, as the soldier passed through with the cortege at 5.10 pm. The hearse with its coffin and flowers bedecked from Wootton Bassett still holding on top of the hearse which, with the interior lights, illuminated the Union flag through the windows, all added to the reverence of such a sad occasion.

Once again, many veterans turned out, wearing their berets and medals, and we welcomed Major Malcolm Sperrin, Royal Army Medical Corps who joined with us. As well as local townspeople we were joined by many from towns and villagers surrounding Faringdon. The standards paraded were the Union flag, Royal British Legion Faringdon, Bampton, Highworth, Shrivenham and Wantage and the Association standards of RAF - Carterton and Brize Norton, and the Royal Navy Veterans, Wantage.

John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford - near Anthony Padua Parish Church, Headley Way.

This report from John Walker RDG

We here at the Final Turn stood true and strong to honour the above soldier.

There were 8 Royal British Legion standards paraded: Islip, Littlemore, Headlington, Chalgrove, Wheatley, Kidlington, Kidlington Womens Section, and Bicester. There were two Association standards: The Royal Navy & The Royal Marines (Oxon), Canal Zone (Oxon) and the banner of The Royal Dragoon Guards.

There were 45 veterans in berets and 35 others from all three services. The Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Oxford, Mr Ian Insham and the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Mr John Goddard also attended. Thames Valey police were out in force, doing their normal duties, as well as lining the route with us. David Reeves, who also puts up information for the public at various points, we thank for being with us a good while now. Many of the Oxford public were there. Over 150 were with us at the Final Turn and many more at the bottom of the hill and on the ring road. Mary from the church helped us as did John, who had put up the half-masted Union flag. We also thank them for helping to put away all the catering items, which they do on all these occasions. The weather was overcast and cold. The cortege passed us by at 174 5 hrs.


Compiled by PH (Duty Scribe)

On behalf of the Royal Marines Association.

Should any member of the RN minewarfare & diving community wish to attend the funeral of Sapper William Blanchard of 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (EOD) in Portsmouth Cathedral on Monday 22 November, please inform me so that I can pass Robin their details for onward transmission to the RSM.


Postscript:  I am pleased to say that our President, Captain Colin Welborn RN, represented the MCDOA at Sapper Blanchard's funeral service in Portsmouth Cathedral on 22 November.


12 Nov 10 - First female RN MCDO qualifies


She's done it.  Lt Catherine Ker RN has become the first woman to qualify as an RN Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer (MCDO) as described in this article on the Wave 105 website (apart from the fact that she's not a "Navy rating" and one or two other inaccuracies). 


Catherine Ker being briefed for a dive

(Navy News photo)


Many congratulations to Catherine for this remarkable achievement and welcome to the Branch.


Postscript:  The Navy News website published this article on 16 Nov 10.


11 Nov 10


Lest we forget


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

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

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

We will remember them.



Remembrance Day tribute by HMS Penzance


I am grateful to Lt James Wallington-Smith RN, Navigating Officer of HMS Penzance, for this press release:


"Today on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2010, the Ship’s Company of HMS Penzance paused for two minutes to remember the servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in war.  Despite the grey and rainy weather reflecting the sombre mood of the day, all forty-one men and women who make up HMS Penzance’s Ship’s Company gathered on the upper deck to mark the two minute silence.  Lieutenant Commander Steve Brown, the Commanding Officer, highlighted the importance of the event and remembered two of the decisive naval actions of World War 2; the sinking of the battleship HMS Royal Oak, and the famous raid on the dry dock at St Nazaire by Royal Marine commandos and HMS Campbeltown.  Petty Officer (Mine Warfare) ‘Chewy’ Untulis said he was “very proud to be part of the small ceremony in HMS Penzance today remembering those that died so that we may live.”


The day was a sad one for HMS Penzance for other reasons though, as the ship had originally planned to be in her affiliated town of Penzance for the Remembrance weekend.  Various events had been organised but the autumnal weather conspired against us.  The rough seas and gale force winds in the English Channel not only kept the NATO group stormbound in Cherbourg for the last ten days, but also stopped HMS Penzance from being able to make the crossing back from to Penzance.  She instead made the short ‘hop’ to Rouen with the rest of the Group.  


Of course this was incredibly disappointing for the Ship’s Company, given the planning and preparations that had been made for the weekend.  However, the ship is hoping to visit her affiliated town soon, when conditions may be more favourable.  In the meantime, the ship remains with the NATO group, carrying out historical ordnance disposal operations (HODOPS) in the English Channel area.  Sadly, unexploded First and Second World War mines still pose a serious threat to merchant shipping and fishermen, and make HMS Penzance’s presence in the area all the more worthwhile.


They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.


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

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

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

We will remember them.


They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England’s foam.


For the Fallen

Laurence Binyon (1914)"


HMS Penzance is commanded by MCDOA member Steve Brown.


CINCFLEET Commendation for HMS Brocklesby warrant officer


Today's Portsmouth News contains the following article describing the presentation of a Commander-in-Chief Fleet Commendation to WO Phil Maw, the Marine Engineering Officer (MEO) of HMS Brocklesby:



9 Nov 10


New Chief of the Defence Staff visits HMS Ramsey


This photo, showing the new Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) in the Operations Room of HMS Ramsey during his recent visit to Faslane, appears in this article on the MOD website.


CDS (General Sir David Richards) in HMS Ramsey's

Operations Room


HMS Ramsey is commanded by MCDOA member Alex Bush.


Team Triton's world record Atlantic row attempt


MCDOA member David Hosking MBE has asked me to publish this appeal:


"Dear fellow MCDOA members,


Next month I am hoping to lead a team of six (Team Triton) in an attempt to break the World Record for the fastest ever recorded row across the Atlantic Ocean: the current record stands at 33 days 7 hours and we are hoping to make the 5,200km crossing from the Canaries to Barbados in under a month.  Our boat is called 'Triton' and she is a lightweight purpose-built fast ocean racing machine.  We have three sculling positions and our sculls/oars will never stop moving for the entire month - each crew member will scull for 2 hours on followed by two hours off for the whole voyage.  You will be able to monitor our progress by following the regular update of the satellite tracker on our website.  


We are hoping to raise a significant amount of money for our charity 'Combat Stress' - please consider whether you can afford to donate a few pounds to this very worthy cause. You can donate via our justgiving webpage at or at or you can send me a cheque [made out to 'Combat Stress' and addressed to: 15 Wilton Crescent, London, SW19 3QY].


Many thanks in anticipation,


David Hosking

LMCDO Course '83A"


Team Triton: Dave Hosking second from right


Dave is the skipper of this crew and became a World Rowing Champion in 1980 with the GB Lwt VIII team.  He also rowed across the Atlantic in 38 days as the navigator of the 12 man Britannia III crew in January 2010.


Postscript: I am delighted to note that MCDOA member John Giddens, Founder & Chief Executive of Hallin Marine, Singapore, is now sponsoring David's team which has been renamed 'Team Hallin'.


HMS Penzance to visit Penzance this weekend


The BBC website contains this article announcing a visit by HMS Penzance to Penzance this weekend to support the town's Remembrance Sunday events.  The article features MCDOA member Steve Brown, the ship's Commanding Officer.


HMS Penzance 


Postscript: Sadly, HMS Penzance's visit was subsequently cancelled owing to inclement weather.


Funerals of Corporal David Barnsdale RE and Sapper William Blanchard RE


Robin Bennett, the Honorary Secretary of the RE Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated, has advised me of the following:


The funeral of Corporal David Barsdale of 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD), killed in action in Afghanistan on 19 October, will take place at St Peter and St Paul Church, Tring, HP23 5AE from 1115 on Thursday 11 November.


The funeral of Sapper William Blanchard of 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (EOD), killed in action in Afghanistan on 31 October, will take place at Portsmouth Cathedral, St Thomas’s Street, Old Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO16 8NE from 1230 on Monday 22 November.


Calling old Reclaims


HMS Reclaim off Spit Sand Fort


MCDOA Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson, SOO of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), has passed me this appeal for HMS Reclaim memorabilia:


"Hi Rob,


Having spoken to CO FDS, we are contemplating naming the FDS conference room the 'Reclaim Conference Room'.  This is a similar project to the 'Vernon Conference Room' at DDS and I wanted to ask whether any members had any interesting memorabilia that could be displayed.  


I have had Reclaim's side name board re-varnished and chromed.  The eagle, which I believe belonged to Reclaim, is currently in the foyer at FDS.  I just wondered if anyone had the true story on how it came into existence?  I have heard stories about it being acquired from the ex-German vessel Deepwater after the war.  It would be good to get the true dit.  


I am also trying to put a bit of a montage on a print together from when Reclaim featured in the 'Dr Who' TV series in the 1970s; something to do with sea monsters although, of course, I was just a very small lad then.  However, I seem to remember Pete Still telling me a dit about this!   I also wonder where her ship's bell went.  


I will invite MCDOA members who have served with her to the opening of the room nearer the time when I get the room sorted.  


Kind Regards,




HMS Reclaim had a distinguished career as a deep diving support and submarine rescue ship.  For further information, see 'HMS Reclaim - a World Record Beater' in the website's Dit Box.


8 Nov 10


Lunch with Danish ex-service divers in HMS Excellent this Friday


I am hosting three Danish ex-service divers for lunch in HMS Excellent's wardroom this Friday.  They are all fellow delegates to the Historical Diving Society's annual Congress and Dinner taking place at the Queen's Hotel in Southsea on Saturday and AGM on Sunday.  My guests comprise:


Cdr Finn Linnemann RDN, a former CO of the RDN Clearance Divers

Cdr Paul Erik Christensen RDN, the former CO of an RDN mine depot and workshops

Sven Erik Jørgensen, a former member of the Danish Army Engineers Corps


MCDOA member Paul Jones, the CO of Excellent, has kindly taken the necessary action for our presence but he can only stay for pre-lunch drinks owing to other commitments.  If any other members are in the area at the time, I would welcome their company provided they make their own administrative arrangements.


Postscript: I subsequently received this letter of thanks from Paul Erik Christensen:



Volunteers required for Project Vernon stand at British Military Tournament



Former WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE, Minewarfare Association (MWA) member and Project Vernon Trustee, has secured a stand co-located with the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) and the Historical Diving Society (HDS) to sell Project Vernon merchandise at this year's British Military Tournament at Earls Court over the weekend of 4 and 5 December.  This is a fabulous opportunity to promote Project Vernon and take a significant step towards achieving our goal of erecting a statue at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site. 


If you are willing to give up a day over that weekend to help man the stand, please let Dixie know soonest but before Friday 12 November so that he can make the necessary arrangements and forward names to the organisers.  He can be contacted via this email address or on his mobile (077 6899 7624).  Please don't leave it all to the usual few hard-pressed people.


7 Nov 10


Ex-CDs Tony Groom & Stan Bowles to talk about the Falklands conflict on BBC TV


Episode two of BBC1 TV's Remembrance Week series will feature ex-CDs Tony Groom and William 'Stan' Bowles recalling their bomb disposal experiences as members of FCDT1 during the Falklands conflict in 1982.  The programme is due to be screened at 0915 on Tuesday 9 November.


For further background, see 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box.


Postscript: This clip is now available here on iPlayer from minute 16:08.


HDS Diving Museum update


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan has supplied this update on progress with the Historical Diving Society (HDS) museum at No. 2 Battery, Stokes Bay:


"The second coat went down on the floor today!  We achieved this in record time thanks to having three teams of painters (one roller plus two cutter-inners each) at work, not only simultaneously, but also contemporaneously!  Photographic evidence is attached showing the combined teams enjoying their well-earned glass of champagne (photo courtesy of Ann Bevan, all rights reversed).


Diving Museum Floor Painting Party

(minus Ann Bevan who took the photo)


Thanks for the artwork go to: John Millerchip, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, Nigel Phillips, Ann Bevan, John Dadd, Stew 'George' Sissons, Shirley Mumford, Mike O'Meara and Kevin Casey.


We have lots of floor paint left over so, if the second coat has 'gone off' by tomorrow morning, we are going for a third coat!  This means that the floor will be OK for traffic by the following Sunday when the HDS AGM attendees are invited down. 


Nigel Phillips also brought his special drain-clearing kit along, cleared two drains from the topside gun emplacements and discovered a secret 'drain' with defunct electric cables which could be one of the sources of water ingress.


The landscaping party has now cleared the weeds from the forecourt paths, administered weed-killer and topped the cracks up with sand, as well as cutting back the undergrowth.


Chris Murphy is going to help us with the building of the library partition.  Measurements have been taken.  Watch this space.


Vacuum Cleaner mystery: By the way, there is a vacuum cleaner brush and an extension black plastic tube left behind and Nigel Phillips' vacuum brush and a chrome tube have been picked up by mistake.  Could the owner of the large red vacuum cleaner please check what he's got?




6 Nov 10 - Darby Allan's funeral


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing yesterday's funeral of ex-CPO(D) Darby Allan.  As the item states, the service was extremely well attended, mostly by serving and retired members of the RN Diving Branch.  In fact, it was the largest gathering I have seen since the Branch's 50th Anniversary reunion at Portsmouth Guildhall in 2002.  It was particularly good to see so many in uniform, including personnel who had travelled from SDG in Plymouth and NDG in Faslane.


To the best of my knowledge, these divers were present but I would be glad to add the names of any I missed in the crowd: Vic Anderton, Dan Archer, Dave Armstrong*, Brian 'Ash' Ashworth, Cris Ballinger, Kev Barratt, Mick Beale*, John Beavis*, Chris Betts, Blamps Blampied, Jim Bond, Donkey Bray (the younger), Andy Brunton, Jim Carlin, Andy Carss, Cheesey Cheeseman, Chris Christie, Dave Cowling, Mo Crang, John Dadd, Roger Davies*, Tony Devitt, Chris 'Paddy' Doonan, Bungy Edwards, Mike Evered, Mick Fellows, Steve Fitzjohn, Chris Flaherty*, Ian Fleming, Nige Froude, Ginge Fullen, Windy Gale, Tony Groom, Yorky Haran, Stu Harper*, Bob Hayter, David Hilton*, Glyn Holgate, Paul Holland, Rob Hoole*, Kelvin 'Jess' James, Mark Jones, Paul Jones*, Colin 'Scouse' Kidman, Andy Kirby, Chris Lade*, Lawry Lawrence, Andy Lonsdale, Jim Lynch, Andy Marrow, Pincher Marten, Daisy May, George McCarthy, Shaun 'Mac' McKeever*, John Meekin, Sean Mobley, Alan 'Spud' Murphy, Al Nekrews*, Dan Nicholson*, Mick O'Leary, Mike Openshaw, Bob Oulds, Jess Owen, 'Sharky' Ward Peers, Eric Piper, John 'YoYo' Ravenhall, Robin 'Rick' Rickard, Karl Roberts, Dean Rushforth, Stu Russell, David Sandiford*, Mark Savage*, Sid Seabrook, Tony Sexton, Stew 'George' Sissons, Tim Sizer, Ken Smith, Spike Spears, Martin Spiers, Stan Stanley, Sully Sullivan, Troy Tempest, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, Graham 'Piggy' Trotter, Yorky Tudor, Rex Turnbull, Andy 'Sharkey' Ward*, Ray 'Spider' Webb, Jason White*, Kev Wilkins and Graham 'Tug' Wilson*. 


I have also seen expressions of regret from the following divers unable to attend the service: Matthew Ashbridge, David Bateman, Jimmy Bond, Steve Booker, Gavin Bains, Chris Barkham, Steve Booker, Steve Boughen, Cliff Coulson-Bonner, Harry Cripps, Terry Dearlove, Tom Devaney, Ian Devine, Alan Dickman, Ben Duncan, Alan Dickman, Johnny Friar, Des Fuller, Taff Galsworthy, Kim Godfrey*, Willem Jean-Paul Gradidge, Wayne Grayson, Don 'Jim' Green, Paul Guiver*, Bob Hawkins*, Mark Holroyd, Andy Hornsby, Dave Ince*, George Kennair, Nick 'Lippy' Kershaw, Spike Hughes, Lee Jackson, Paul 'Jay' Jeacock, Joe Kissick, Yorky Knowles, Paul Leader, Stewart Lloyd, Mike Loane*, Simon Lund, Shaun Marston, Simon Marston, Peter McHugh, Dave McKenna, Sean Meleady, Dave Moffat, Nick 'Taff' Morse, Alan 'Dolly' Parton, Darren Powell, Jonnie Ramshaw, Neil Rennie, Ian Rowe, Chris Rumming, Alan Garven Scott, Danni Sorbi, Chris Stenton, Clive Sturdy, Carl Thomas, Bob Thompson, Micky Wade, Harry Wallace, Richard 'Soapy' Watson*, Anthony Watt, George Willmer and Kev Winwood.


(* MCDOA member... I hope!)



Mourners dissemble at the Seagull


Many divers mustered at the Seagull in Portchester for a quick stiffener before wending their way up the hill to the Crematorium where they entered the chapel to the sound of 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot' by UB 40.  Owing to the large numbers present, there were more people standing than sitting.  Darby's casket, covered in a white ensign and floral tributes, was borne to the front of the chapel before a welcoming address was given by Felix Muscat who has associations with the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for which Darby was working when his life was taken so prematurely.



Mourners assemble at the Crematorium


Darby's casket being borne into the chapel 


Darby's son David and daughter Sarah then gave a moving tribute to their father, explaining how lively things had been when he was around and how he had inspired them never to accept second best in life; anything was possible if they tried hard enough.  As children, they had even learned to regard sandwiches filled with lobster, crab and scallops as completely normal fare.  Darby's lifelong friend and comrade, Sully Sullivan, then delivered his own tribute.  This described the many aspects of Darby's life and career including his worldwide travels performing naval duties, his infectious sense of fun, his fund of black cat dits and his selfless dedication to his family, friends and colleagues.  Finally, Lou McGrath, the Chief Executive of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), paid tribute to Darby's humanitarian work over the past four years in having saved the lives of ordinary people in the Congo, Lebanon and Sudan by making their environments safer.  He also spoke of testimonials he had received for Darby and his work from high-ranking officials in the UK and US governments and organisations such as the UN. 


The congregation than sang the Naval Hymn, 'Eternal Father', acompanied by Sarah's father-in-law Paul Taylor at the organ.  Darby's wife Karen then expressed her thanks to everyone who had attended and invited them to continue celebrating Darby's life in true diver fashion at Portsmouth Rugby Club.  Darby's mortal remains were then committed and the congregation said the Lord's Prayer.  Mourners exited to the sound of Meatloaf's 'Bat out of Hell'.


The wake at Portsmouth Rugby Club was a crowded, noisy and joyous affair.  A continuous slide show on a large screen showed the wide extent of Darby's activities during his life and career.  Midway through the proceedings, port glasses were distributed and filled.  Sully Sullivan then proposed a toast to Darby which was echoed enthusiastically by all those present.


On behalf of her family, Sarah has asked me to thank all members of the RN diving community who attended Darby's funeral and to express her particular gratitude to the Christies and the Sullivans for their staunch support during the past few days and their help in organising events.  I know that everyone will join me in extending our heartfelt condolences to Darby's family and in wishing them the strength to cope with the months and years that lie ahead.


Stephen 'Darby' Allan

(15 Jul 1958 - 15 Oct 2010)


Donations in Darby's memory may be made to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution or to Cancer Research UK.  Please send cheques payable to your chosen charity to: Co-operative Funeral Directors, 157 Fratton Road, Portsmouth, PO1 5ER.


Look out for a possible obituary in the Daily Telegraph over the coming weeks.


5 Nov 10 - New book from Tony Groom


Ex-CD and Falklands veteran Tony Groom, author of the highly successful 'Diver' in which he recounted his experiences in the Royal Navy and in commercial diving, has now written a novel called In2Deep.  He received a proof copy from his publisher yesterday.


Tony Groom with a proof copy of his new book


Tony's new book is due to be launched on 21 November.  It can be ordered via and he has promised to sign copies obtained in this manner.


4 Nov 10


News from HMS Shoreham


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Antony Crabb, Commanding Officer of HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 5), for providing this update which I have abridged to suit this forum:


"Following the hugely successful and thoroughly enjoyable visit to Shoreham-by-Sea in July, the ship returned to Faslane for a brief maintenance period and then much needed summer leave prior to undertaking the taxing autumn programme in preparation for the crew's deployment to the Gulf.


The first hurdle after the summer break was a five-week period called Basic Operational Sea Training (BOST), under the watchful guidance of Flag Officer Sea Training's staff in Faslane.  BOST marked the formal assessment of several months of training, preparation and sheer hard work by the crew in preparing for operations.  BOST challenges the crew in everything from extinguishing onboard fires to operating with helicopters in a peace-time scenario, to preparing the ship for conduct in a hostile environment, and culminates in tackling our core role as a minehunter.  The training comes thick and fast and I am pleased to report that we have progressed well and that Shoreham and her ship's company have performed admirably.


Without so much as a dwell of two marching paces, the ship then sailed to participate in Joint Warrior 102, a two-week exercise off the northwest coast of Scotland involving land, sea and air assets from a range of NATO countries.  Despite horrendous weather initially, the ship achieved some key milestones, including a successful Replenishment at Sea with RFA Fort George to transfer fuel, and a live gunnery firing to qualify the new Gunnery Officer prior to our deployment to the Gulf.


Finally, the ship was called at short notice to assist with the widely-publicised incident with HMS Astute.  The ship is now alongside in Faslane, where she will remain until January 2011, undertaking maintenance and in preparation for handover to the new crew (MCM1 Crew 4).  My crew (MCM1 Crew 5) will soon be heading home for some well deserved leave, then departing for the Gulf before the New Year and will remain on operations in HMS Grimsby.


HMS Shoreham's next Commanding Officer will be Lt Cdr Sarah West RN, assuming the role in mid-December although not stepping aboard until January.  She and her team have been in the Gulf for the past eight months and are looking forward to joining.


On behalf of MCM1 Crew 5, I wish to thank you for your ongoing support for HMS Shoreham.  It has been a pleasure to command her."




Another boost for Project Vernon


Today's Portsmouth News contains a charming story describing the presentation of a donation of £50 (not £30 as described in the article) towards Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays commemorating the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which formerly stood on the site.  The cheque was presented to MCDOA member Mick Beale and CPO(D) John (YoYo) Ravenhall by Audrey Currie who was brought up on Horsea Island, the current home of Fleet Diving Headquarters and the Defence Diving School.



Incidentally, MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin and I have been invited to discuss Project Vernon and review the papers on Nick Girdler's show on BBC Radio Solent between 0930 and 0950 on Sunday 21 November.


HMS Ramsey to visit Dundee this weekend


The RN website contains this article announcing a visit by HMS Ramsey to Dundee this weekend to support the City of Discovery’s Remembrance Day events.  The article features Ramsey's Commanding Officer, MCDOA member Alex Bush.


Lt Cdr Alex Bush RN


Sad Days for the Sappers


According to Robin Bennett, the Honorary Secretary of the RE Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated, Friday 5 November will be a sad day for the Sappers as well as our own community mourning the loss of Darby Allan at Portchester.  The funeral of veteran wartime Bomb Disposal Officer Lt Alan Jobling RE, who served with 6 & 16 Bomb Disposal Companies, Royal Engineers, will be held at Luton Crematorium at 1430.  About half an hour later, Sapper William Blanchard of 101 (City of London) Engr Regt (EOD), who was killed in action in Afghanistan last Saturday, is due to be repatriated through Wootton Bassett.  He was from Gosport.


Robin has also notified me that the funeral of Major Mike Pugh RE will take place at Kent and East Sussex Crematorium, Benhall Mill Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN2 5JJ at 1400 on Tuesday 16 November.  Mike was Sandy Sanderson's predecessor as Custodian of the EOD Technical Information Centre (EODTIC) at Chattenden.  Family flowers only but donations to Cancer and Heart Research Charities would be appreciated.  We extend our sincere condolences to his wife Carole and other family members, friends and colleagues.  Please contact me if you would like to send Carole a message or for other information about the funeral service and its aftermath.


MCDOA Poppy Sellers


I am grateful to Keith Broughton for sending me this photo showing MCDOA members doing their bit to sell Royal British Legion poppies in London.


MCDOA members Martin Mackey, Chris O'Flaherty,

Tony Watt and Keith Broughton shake their buckets


3 Nov 10 - HDS Diving Museum update




MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan has supplied this update on progress with the Historical Diving Society (HDS) museum at No. 2 Battery, Stokes Bay:


"We made such good progress today (Wednesday) with the cleaning, that we decided to go for it and start the floor painting!




We have now successfully put one coat of the special paint down - and the museum looks fantastic!


The plan is now to put down the second coat on Saturday. It is likely we will have a little paint left over, so we will probably use it up as a third coat on the principal working areas on Sunday.


Simon Millerchip called in today to measure up the "chimney" and he is going to make us a special metal cowling for it, as well as two drain covers for the gun decks, up top.


Special thanks to today's team: Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, John Millerchip, Nigel Phillips and Kevin Casey.  Guest star appearance by Mike O'Meara.


We were also visited today by two Gosport Borough Council reps, and reps from the Gosport Discovery Centre, the Gosport Society and the Palmerston Forts Society.




Ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson wields

his paint brush


Alpha Chamber showing newly painted floor


1 Nov 10 - HDS Diving Museum update



MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan has supplied this update on progress with the Historical Diving Society (HDS) museum at No. 2 Battery, Stokes Bay:


East side entrance of No. 2 Battery at Stokes Bay


"Fantastic progress (see photo below)!  All of the display boards are up and painted. The forecourt has been landscaped. Saturday and Sunday saw the following supporters toiling away: John Millerchip, John Dadd, Jim Thomson, Martin Marks, Margaret Marks, Kevin Casey, Nigel Phillips and Ann Bevan.


An increasing number of the public are showing an interest in our activities and actively encouraging us to pursue our project.  I will hire an industrial vacuum cleaner next to make the final preparations for floor painting - after which we can start installing exhibits!!!!


This coming week is a bit hectic for me so the next sessions will be: Wednesday 3 November and Saturday & Sunday 6 and 7 November.  The task list at present is:


1. Outside: weed-killer path and add sand

2. Move heavy glass cases into rough position (to save moving over painted floor)

3. Paint steel door, south end, green

4. Brush down ceiling and walls where fungus had loosened limewash

5. Brush on liquid fungicide over affected areas

6. Brush and vacuum floor

7. Paint floor

8. Drink Champagne


The floor painting will require at least four people (2 pairs).  Each pair works from opposite ends towards the entrance in the middle.  One person mixes the two-part paint (using electric drill/paddle) and keeps roller tray topped up and cuts in paint around edges with brush, second person applies paint with roller.  Two coats required, 24-hours between coats. Ready for walking on, 24 hrs later.  Ready for normal/heavy traffic within 7 days.


I can taste the champagne already!





Alpha Chamber of HDS Diving Museum in October 2010


As can be seen in the photos above, the previously dark and dank main chamber of the museum has now been cleared of clutter, dehumidified and had electric lighting and power sockets installed.  Loose, powdery limewash has been removed from the brickwork and this will now be left to breathe for two years before being re-coated.  Compare with the photos below taken back in August (see entry for 22 Aug 10 in News Archive 31) although the camera flash gives a somewhat false impression of brightness:



Alpha Chamber of HDS Diving Museum in August 2010


I hope MCDOA members and others will respond to John's appeal for help during the forthcoming week.  If you are available, contact him via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  Volunteers normally muster at 1000.


31 Oct 10 - MW & Diving Community Christmas Carol Service


This year's RN minewarfare & diving community Christmas Carol Service, organised by Capt Colin Welborn RN, will start at 1900 in St Barbara's Church at HMS Excellent on Wednesday 8 December.  As last year, it will be followed by mulled wine and mince pies in the Senior Rates' Mess.  The cost is £10 with under-16s free and all proceeds will be donated to Project Vernon


This is an all-ticket event and none will be available on the night.  Application forms are available for download here and via the Forthcoming Events page.  Tickets may also be obtained from Cdr Paul Jones (the CO of HMS Excellent) or Capt Colin Welborn at Jago Rd in HM Naval Base, Portsmouth.  Alternatively, give Colin Welborn a call on 078 1033 8189 and he is prepared to come to you.  Bring your family and friends to this highly enjoyable event and start the Christmas season in the company of old mates.


(For divers, note that St Barbara's Church contains the diving helmet in which many a young paddler, including all three of mine, were christened in St Adjutor's Chapel in HMS Vernon.)


30 Oct 10 - An Army tribute to ex-CPO(D) Stephen 'Darby' Allan


I am grateful to Robin Bennett, Honorary Secretary of the RE Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated, for passing me these tributes to the late ex-CPO(D) Stephen 'Darby' Allen whose funeral takes place on 5 November:




Rob Orr is one of our members who is now serving with the Australians and sent the following for onward transmission to the RN CD fraternity, as you can see below.  Please also pass on the sincere condolences of the REBDOC.


Yours aye,






I am in the UK on Australian Army business this week, and heard on the radio of the death of Stephen "Darby" Allan, a former RN CPO(D) from the Portsmouth area. 


Chief Allan (better known simply as Darby Allan) was in Hong Kong for much of the 1990s as the head of the RN's military diving team (one of the articles makes mention of this).  He has a soft spot for QGE [Queen's Gurkha Engineers] and its divers, and as the Unit Diving Office for 67 Gurkha Independent Field Squadron QGE 1994 - 1996, I had a lot of dealings with him.  He and his team were incredibly supportive, enthusiastic and welcoming of QGE divers, and we had an excellent relationship throughout my time in HK.  I understood that this relationship has been similar before I arrived, and continued right up until the point QGE left HK. 


Darby Allan was a big man, both physically and in character, and you could not help but like and respect both his plain speaking and actions, whilst admiring and enjoying his hospitality and good humour.  He left a big impression on all QGE military divers, and the team was a much better capability for both knowing him and being part of his fraternity. QGE military diving in HK owes him a lot.


I do not have contact with the RN CD fraternity, but believe that one of you does.


I would be very grateful if you would pass on both my personal, and also on behalf of all QGE military divers with whom he came in contact with, to Chief Allan's family and friends, as well as the RN CD fraternity.


Regards to one and all,


Rob Orr"


Postscript: Ex-LS(D) John Stoddart, Darby's killick in Hong Kong from 1991 to 1994, tells me that he informed some of the old RN locally employed ships' divers in Hong Kong of Darby's demise.  CPOMEA Billy Wong subsequently sent him these photos of their Buddhist tribute to Darby:






What a wonderful gesture.


29 Oct 10 - A webmaster's indulgence


One of the few perks I enjoy as your webmaster is the ability to share my immense pride in my wife Lin, a teacher, for having addressed a chronic deficiency in adult literacy education.  Steps along Readwell Road is a series of 48 books she has developed for adult learners working at entry level of the Adult Core Curriculum/Functional Skills.  I am also as pleased as Punch with my son Gareth for having created the striking artwork on the covers and the supporting website that went live last week.




28 Oct 10 - Upgrade For Royal Navy Minehunters Powers Ahead


The Defence Professionals website contains this article describing the programme to upgrade the propulsion systems of Hunt Class minehunters.


27 Oct 10 - Minehunter crew celebrates


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the minehunting successes of HMS Brocklesby (MCM 2 Crew 3) during the recent Exercise JOINT WARRIOR although her diving element is given most of the credit.


Mine recovery

(Portsmouth News photo)


23 Oct 10 - Our dad's legacy will live on, says son of brave diver


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article featuring tributes to Darby Allan by his daughter Sarah and son David.


Sarah and David

(Portsmouth News photo)


22 Oct 10 - Arrangements for the funeral of ex-CPO Stephen 'Darby' Allan


The funeral service for Darby Allan will take place at Portchester Crematorium near Portsmouth at 1300 on Friday 5 November followed by a wake starting at 1400 at Portsmouth Rugby Club, Norway Road, Hilsea.  According to Darby's daughter, Sarah, it has rapidly become evident that the previously selected venue was too small to accommodate all of the attendees expected.


21 Oct 10


MCM Update Post SDSR


I am delighted in the circumstances to publish this update from MCDOA member Martin Mackey, the Above Water Warfare (Minewarfare) Capability Manager in the Ministry of Defence:




A 'good news' story for the MCDOA website.  


The UK’s internationally renowned MCM capability has been retained following the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).  We have not suffered any cuts to our platform numbers (or, more importantly, the MCM capability our people deliver) which remains at 15 (following the decommissioning of HMS WALNEY).  By 2020 the SDSR expects the numbers of the Hunts and Sandowns to be 14 and reducing thereafter as the ships reach their planned Out of Service Dates.  By that time the MCM, Hydrographic and Patrol Capability (MHPC) project - which is now up and running and was briefed at last year’s MCDOA Op Update session - will seek to introduce replacement capabilities over the coming years.   


Based on our assessments so far, unmanned vehicles will be at the heart of our future MCM capability.  Operated at stand-off ranges and off-board, they will be hosted primarily in dedicated steel hulled ships.  Additionally, they could also be delivered by other vessels of opportunity as well as being operated from harbours and jetties (something we are already doing).  The MHPC project aims to transition old to new over a number of years and the work that we are currently doing with the in-service Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) (REMUS 100 (VSW) and REMUS 600 (Recce)) and also the demonstrator Unmanned Surface Vehicle will help us to achieve this transition.  This will ensure that once complete, around the middle of the next decade, the UK’s MCM capability will look very different.  


In addition to the 15 MCMVs, the Fleet Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Unit (FUUVU) and Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) have also been retained post-SDSR and remain core elements of the MCM capability.  FUUVU and FDS are already routinely operating UUVs which is enabling the RN MCM community to be in the vanguard of this new approach to conducting MCM.  In addition, there is an ever closer relationship being built with the HM community – they also emerged from the SDSR in a strong position.  This arrangement is based on the fact that both communities conduct survey tasks and by working together we can deliver greater efficiencies and, ultimately, better products that will enable the warfighting MCM missions to be conducted more safely and swiftly.   


The UK’s experience and expertise in the use of off-board, unmanned systems is globally acknowledged and there is considerable interest being placed on the small but dedicated teams of people who are becoming, dare I say it, international experts in this field.  By using the unmanned systems in our current MCMV fleet, primarily the Hunt Class, as well as HM ships, we are able to de-risk the transition to the future.   So, whilst SDSR may be seen in many quarters as bad news for the RN, the UK’s MCM capability has emerged in a strong position with our contribution to enabling national and coalition maritime operations recognised at the highest level.  


I will be providing another brief at this year’s MCDO Op Update session where I will give more detail on the way ahead for MHPC including a piece on a growing international relationship that is likely to see us working more closely with a partner nation on the assessment and procurement of future MCM capabilities.  






M C Mackey

Commander Royal Navy

Mine Warfare Desk Officer



RN Divers receive Afghanistan campaign medals



MCDOA Treasurer Soapy Watson, SOO of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), has passed me these photos taken at the award of Operational Service Medals to RN divers and others who returned in mid-September from performing EOD duties during Herrick 12 in Afghanistan.  The ceremony took place last Friday (17 October) at 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) Royal Engineers headquarters at Wimbish.



Left: OSM recipients on parade at Wimbish

Right: PO(D) Ward 'Sharkey' Peers with MCDOA member Mark Savage (CO FDS)



Left: PO(D) Ward 'Sharkey Peers

Right: LS(D) Lee Jackson


LS(D) Lee Jackson and PO(D) Ward 'Sharkey' Peers

with family members and WO(D) Dan Archer


AB(D) Ian Rowe and AB(D) Phil Brealey also received medals but were absent for the photos. 


Tributes to Darby Allan


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article containing tributes to ex-CPO(D) Stephen 'Darby' Allan and featuring MCDOA Honorary Secretary (desig) Mick Beale, SofD's Diving Standards Officer:


Darby Allan

(Portsmouth News photo)


The BBC also covers Darby's death in this article.


20 Oct 10


More about the death of Darby Allan


Ex-CD Tony Groom has drawn my attention to this article in the Sudan Tribune which explains the circumstances surrounding the death of ex-CPO(D) Stephen 'Darby' Allan in South Sudan last Friday (see entry for 15 Oct 10)


Meet your committee


The MCDOA Committee met yesterday at Fleet Diving Headquarters on Horsea Island for the first time under the acting chairmanship of the new Superintendent of Diving, Chris Baldwin.  A full agenda included a review of events during the past six months, detailed arrangements for next month's AGM & Dinner and the programme for the forthcoming year.  We were joined by Mick Beale who is gradually taking over the reins from Tony Griffiths as Honorary Secretary, and Charlie Wheen of FOST(MPV) who will be helping Bob Hawkins organise the annual Northern Dinner at Faslane on Friday 25 February.  Wendy from the FDHQ registry kindly took this photo of us:


MCDOA Committee Members

L to R: Rob Hoole, Soapy Watson, Charlie Wheen,

Chris Baldwin, Dave Armstrong, Mick Beale, Tony

Griffiths, David Edwards and Martyn Holloway


Much was discussed that will affect the 263-strong MCDOA membership and fellow travellers so please make every effort to attend the operational updates, free lunch and AGM at Fleet Diving Headquarters on Friday 19 November.  Further details are available on the Forthcoming Events page.


19 Oct 10 - News from Northern Diving Group


I am grateful for this contribution from MCDOA member Jason White, CO of the Northern Diving Group (NDG):


Lt Cdr Jason White QGM RN


"Dear Rob,


Firstly, we’re all shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of Darby Allan.  Darby was my course Chief, it was his fault I got through and entered the Diving Branch! and we have felt his loss hard up in NDG.  We all intend to pay our respects and are looking out for news of the funeral.  Please pass on our condolences if you have the ability to do so.  I think we all thought that he, of all people, was indestructible.   


Secondly, NDG have just had a Base Open Day to raise awareness of the Diving Branch within HMNB Clyde.  It also allowed us to do a couple of small charity evens.  The day itself was a huge success and we managed to pass the diving message to all from the kids in the crèche to the Captain of the Base. 


Jason White with Lt John Keenan CN

and the Faslane Naval Base Creche


The group set up a dive tank, engineering demos and EOD stances; my abiding memory of which was the young Royal Marines attempting grid sprints in a Bomb Suit.   


LS(D) Chris Betts


As part of the day, we conducted a ‘Big Brew Up’ coffee morning, with cakes supplied by the NDG Admin girls, Cathy and Donna, the NDG Cleaners, May and Cathy, as well as the crèche.  In all, they raised £256.50 for SSAFA.  Personnel were also encouraged to throw change to the diver in the tank who, with varying degrees of success, would attempt to catch it.  At the end of 12 hours in the tank, the divers recovered £149.50 in loose change which we intend to pass to Project Vernon.  I have enclosed some pictures from the day, including one with Lt John Keenan RCN and L(D) Chris Betts.


Since then, NDG have done the annual Royal Oak trip, on which I realised I was probably conducting my last ‘operational’ dive in the RN.  With the new rules, it is very unlikely I’ll ever be allowed to dive mixture again for any real purpose.  I am now preparing to hand over NDG on 2 Nov to Lt Cdr Kev Stockton RN.  I will be dreadfully sorry to leave for PWO course but we all have to grow up sometime.  I will miss the MCDOA dinner as I will be on Pre-PWO training in sunnier climates; however, I look forward to one-day making it back to a diving job and an MCDOA dinner!


Replaced White Ensign from HMS Royal Oak


Many thanks for all your support over the last few years,  


Jason White"


Strategic Defence & Security Review (SDSR)


Your humble webmaster had his 15 seconds of fame on ITV's News at Ten last night promoting the interests of the Royal Navy (and of the country!) on the eve of the SDSR announcement.  Just as well it was yesterday as words fail me today.  Among other critical capability being lost, the mine countermeasures flotilla is being cut to just 14 minehunters, eight fewer than SDR mandated only 12 short years ago.  Apparently, this is called "Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty".


Yours Truly in 'Rent-a-Quote' mode

(albeit unpaid)


18 Oct 10 - HMS Walney decommissioned


The Ship's Company of HMS Walney with the

Mayor of Barrow-in-Furness and his wife

(RN website photo)


After a short stay of execution (see entry for 16 Dec 09 in News Archive 28) during which she fulfilled a highly productive deployment with Standing NATO MCM Group 1, the RN website contains this article describing the decommissioning of HMS Walney at Faslane last Friday (15 October).  It features AB(MW) Clark Middlehurst, the youngest crew member at 20 years old.



 HMS Walney departs the Clyde

(Navy News photo by LA(Phot) Ben Sutton)


I would like to take this opportunity to express my particular gratitude to Lt Cdr Des Donworth and Lt Marc Taylor, respectively the Commanding Officer and Navigating Officer of HMS Walney during the past few months, for keeping us so well informed about their ship's activities.  I am sure you will all join me in wishing them every success in their future careers. 


The loss of Walney means that only seven of the original 12 Sandown Class minehunters now survive in RN service although 20 were originally planned.  The eight surviving Hunt Class minehunters of the 13 originally built will stay in RN service for the time being but the early disposal of HMS Walney reduces the overall number of RN mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) to 15.  The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) mandated a requirement for 22 MCMVs (reduced from the previously planned 25) as recently as 1998.  We have yet to see what effect the 2010 Strategic Defence & Security Review (SDSR) will have on the force.


Postscript: The Navy News published this article describing the decommissioning of HMS Walney on its website on 19 October 2010.


15 Oct 10 - Death of ex-CPO(D) Stephen 'Darby' Allan


I regret to report that ex-CPO(D) Darby Allan was killed as the result of an explosion while clearing land mines on Kapoeta Airstrip in South Sudan at 1630 (local) today.  I know that everyone in our close-knit community will join me in extending our condolences to his wife Karen and the rest of his family, friends and colleagues.


Darby was the Diving Module Instructor for LMCDO Course 02 in September 2000 and LMCDO Course 03 in December 2000 when Richard Cowley was the Course Officer.


CDO Course 02 in Sep 2000


CDO Course 03 in Dec 2000


My most striking memory of Darby was in 1999 when he took the late Frank Ward, Sean O'Reilly and me (all MCDOA members) for a conversion course on the new-type CDBA.  This was about three years before he left the RN from the Defence Diving School.  I'll never forget the look of relief on his face when I surfaced from my 80m dive at Kyle of Lochalsh but he was extremely impressed that I was bang on my ascent time.  I had to confess that I had not risked using much suit inflation (I had the 'squeeze' to prove it) and had literally hauled myself up the shot hand over hand.


Tony Groom has kindly provided this photo showing Darby front and centre among members of the Fleet Clearance Diving Team (FCDT) who performed the disposal of wartime Japanese and US ordnance on Funafuti in the Gilbert & Ellice Islands in the South Pacific in 1977.


FCDT members on Funafuti in 1977


Darby was a larger than life character with a heart of gold.  We will miss him.


14 Oct 10 - Christmas Carol Service


MCDOA President Colin Welborn infoms me that he is planning a Christmas Carol Service in St Barbara's Church at HMS Excellent on Wednesday 8 December at 1900.  As last year, it will be followed by mulled wine and mince pies in the Senior Rates' Mess.  Tickets will be available from 1 November and monies will be donated to Project Vernon.  Watch this space for further details.  


13 Oct 10 - Ton Class Association Annual Reunion weekend in Torquay


Fellow MCDOA member Doug Barlow, his partner Jill and I attended the annual reunion of the Ton Class Association (TCA) in Torquay last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  MCDOA member Peter Hicks was also there with his wife, Kay, and ex-CD1 Spike Wheeler and ex-CPO(MW) Sam Cook were in typically good form.  In all, around 250 members and their wives or partners were present. 


The programme for Friday night involved an informal meal followed by a disco.  At the other end of the hotel complex, some of us enjoyed listening to ConChord, a big band from East Grinstead whose members (including some charming females) were dressed in WWII American GI uniforms.


The AGM on Saturday afternoon revealed the healthy state of the Association, its membership, its finances and its wide-ranging programme of activities.  I gave Project Vernon a plug, passed out leaflets and tried to sell some prints of 'Danger at Depth' and 'Vernon Creek' but what with raffles, collections for the Mary Rose 500 Appeal and the sale of TCA merchandise, the competition for people's money was intense.



Left: The TCA AGM in full spate.  Right: Some of the merchandise for sale


The Saturday night dinner was preceded by a rum issue.  First in line was the guest of honour, Commodore Steve Kirby, a former CO of HMS Stubbington and Cdre of the Maritime Warfare School at HMS Collingwood before he retired in June this year.  He reminded me that I had been one of his lecturers at HMS Vernon in the 1970s when he was a Sub Lt on OW/X courses.



Left: The White Ensign Club of Exeter prepares for 'Up Spirits'

Right: Commodore and Mrs Kirby draw the first tot


After an excellent meal, Cdre Kirby gave a cracking speech without notes that involved much humour and emphasised the close family-like relationship that exists between all those who served in Ton Class minesweepers and minehunters.  He pointed out that life in these ships has left an indelible impression on tens of thousands of naval personnel.  Afterwards, TCA President Rear Admiral John Lippiett presented framed prints of Project Vernon's 'Vernon Creek' to two TCA members for their selfless service to the Association: Tony Quick for establishing and maintaining strong affiliations with many ships and villages bearing the names of Tons and Barry Barnes for ensuring that copies of the TCA's bi-monthly magazine, Ton Talk, have been despatched to all 1,300 of its members without fail for the past several years.



Left: Commodore Steve Kirby holds forth

Richt: Rear Admiral John Lippiett adds a few words



Left: Tony Quick receives a framed print of 'Vernon Creek' for services rendered

Right: Barry Barnes receives his print for services rendered


Dinner was followed by some lively entertainment and the traditional raffle in aid of the Association's charities.


Sunday found us being coached to Plymouth for a leisurely tour of the Barbican and Hoe before embarking in a pleasure boat for a trip up the River Plym, around the harbour, up the Hamoaze and into the River Tamar.  The weather was splendid and there were many opportunities for ship-spotting.  Even the Portsmouth-based Hunt Class minehunter HMS Quorn was alongside.



Left: The new Plymouth Aquarium

Right: Plymouth Hoe and Smeaton's Tower 



Left: MV Plymouth Sound - our 90-strong party filled the top deck

Right: Fort Bovisand, home of the Joint Service Sub-Aqua Diving Centre (JSSADC)



Left: Now defunct Maritime Headquarters (MHQ) Mount Wise where many Staff MCDs have laboured

Right: Clarence Yard Victualling Depot



Left: Type 22 frigate HMS Campbeltown

Right: Dutch Landing Platform (Dock) HNLMS Rotterdam



Left: Type 23 frgate HMS Argyll

Right: Ocean survey ship HMS Scott, shortly to depart for the Antarctic



Left: Type 23 frgate HMS Westminster

Right: Type 22 frigate HMS Chatham



Left: German air defence frigate FGS Sachsen

Right: Nuclear hunter-killer submarine HMS Sceptre 



Left: Landing Platform (Dock) HMS Albion

Right: Nuclear hunter-killer submarine HMS Talent 



Left: HMS Quorn with a German coastal submarine

Right: Tamar road and rail bridges


12 Oct 10 -  Navy News items


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

7 Oct 10 - "Cutting minehunters would be disastrous for freedom of seas"


With the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) on its agenda, much depends on today's deliberations of the National Security Council (NSC).  Putting aside concerns about the retention of other RN capability for the moment, today's Portsmouth News contains this article about the requirement to preserve the UK's primacy in mine countermeasures (MCM).


6 Oct 10 - News from HMS Penzance


I am grateful to Lt James Wallington-Smith RN, the Navigating Officer of HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 6), for the following update.  HMS Penzance is commanded by MCDOA member Steve Brown.


Lt Cdr Steve Brown RN 


"At the end of August, SNMCMG1 [Standing NATO MCM Group 1] spent a week in the Baltic town of Neustadt, Germany.  This is the home of the German Navy’s fire-fighting and damage control training establishment, so the ship’s company spent their time embroiled in numerous fires and floods.  Thankfully, these were all for exercise! 




Several sports competitions were organised by our hosts, and the most successful of these was the swimming relay in which PENZANCE’s team came away with first place.  


On completion of the week’s training, the group made the short trip across the bay to proceed up-river to the mediaeval city of Lubeck.  Although the group were only there for the weekend, the ship’s company made the most of their time by participating in guided tours of the historic city and visiting the many museums and attractions on offer.  


Upon leaving Lubeck, the group turned north to head for Turku, Finland, to participate in Exercise Northern Coasts 2010.  This port city is situated within the second biggest archipelago in the world, known appropriately as the ‘Archipelago Sea’.  Composed of 42,000 islands, the confined nature of the waters made navigation challenging but rewarding, particularly when carrying out the evolutions which had been planned for us such as RAS (replenishment at sea) approaches.


As with other exercises that PENZANCE has participated in, the focus of her tasking was the location of drill (practice) mines laid by the exercise control.  This tasking is usually allocated in the form of a shipping route or area which is suspected to have been mined by the enemy, and requires PENZANCE’s specialised capabilities to clear.  A secondary role is the deterrence afforded by the sight of a NATO reaction force operating close to the coastline in plain sight, giving the enemy something to consider before launching into an offensive action.  



Of course, once PENZANCE is in the correct area she has to complete her mine counter-measures tasking within a certain time, and this necessitates the ship being able to operate for twenty-four hours a day.  To do this, the ship’s company are divided into two defence watches, and every six hours the watches change over, so that the other can rest.  Although this means that sleep is limited for all concerned, it fosters a competitive spirit between the two watches and allows the tasking to be completed as soon as possible.  


PENZANCE distinguished herself once again in Finland, by finding a live WW2 Russian mine while taking part in the exercise.  Although the mine was disposed of by another unit, PENZANCE located the weapon and for that the ship’s company were justifiably proud.  A link to the Northern Coasts 2010 article on the Finnish Defence Forces website can be found here:


Thanks to HMS Penzance, one mine less in the Baltic



Having completed the training phase of Northern Coasts 2010, the SNMCMG 1 group turned around and left the Baltic, bound for Glasgow and Exercise Joint Warrior.  Although continuing to operate under the NATO flag, PENZANCE and her ship’s company feel rightly proud as they lead the group through their home waters to Glasgow."


5 Oct 10 - MCDOA Dinner: Service Leavers


Tony Griffiths, our Honorary Secretary, has ascertained that the following MCDs are possible leavers entitled to be dined out at this year's dinner on 19 November:


Richard Battrick

Rob Cornick

Peter Greenwood

David Griffiths

Paul Guiver

Bill Kerr

Steve Kirkby

Chris Lade

Mike Samways

Bill Scarth


As pointed out in the fourth entry for 17 Sep 10, leavers must have been paid-up members of the MCDOA for at least the past three years to qualify for a free meal but may pay for the privilege of being dined out provided they have joined the Association in the meantime and informed our Honorary Secretary.  Bona fide members wishing to be dined out this year are requested to inform Tony Griffiths ASAP and advise him which version of glass mine (MWOs) or diver (MCDOs) they would like as their 'gizzit'.


Part of webmaster's 'feel good' trinket collection


Other MCDOA members are requested to bring this notification to the attention of those listed above.


4 Oct 10 - MCDOA Narrow Boat Flotilla


Steve Gobey has kindly sent this account of his encounters with fellow MCDOA members Peter Robinson and Alan Padwick on The Cut:


"Hi Rob,


Recently returned home after a very enjoyable summer's boating in NB [Narrow Boat] FROBISHER.  In August, I joined forces with Peter Robinson in NB CATBELLS for a 'team sweep' up the Kennet & Avon Canal to the Thames and the Inland Waterways Festival at Beale Park near Pangbourne.  Senior Officer Narrowboats, Alan Padwick's mooring was empty as we passed but a couple of days later we came across him in NB QUEEN OF SHEBA moored up and enjoying the sunshine by Widmead Lock near Thatcham (always thought it was a strange place for RN CBs to come from!).


Alan's wife Sarah kindly took on the Phot duties and recorded the muster of the Western K&A based squadron of the MCDOA NB FLOTT!  If I'd known there was to be a photocall that day I'd have put on my boating rig Nos 1s!


Looking forward to catching up with you and others again at the AGM/Dins.


Best Regards,






Left: Alan Padwick, Steve Gobey and Peter Robinson

Right: Steve Gobey, Alan Padwick and Peter Robinson


Also see 'Divers on the Cut' in the Dit Box.


2 Oct 10 - Words from our Acting Chairman


Cdr Chris Balwin RN


Chris Baldwin, acting MCDOA Chairman pending our AGM next month, has passed me these introductory words:


"No doubt some of you will be wondering just who the hell I am so I have sent this introduction/CV to Rob to post on the website.  I thought it appropriate for me to introduce myself to the MCDOA and to express my view on the current and future state of our specialisation. 


When Commander David Sandiford congratulated me on being awarded the Superintendent of Diving’s Trophy in the summer of 1992, never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be lucky enough to be appointed as the Superintendent of Diving myself one day.  A member of LMCDO '91B along with Angus Benton, Dave Foster, John Herriman, Colin Hitchcock, Chris O’Flaherty and Darroch Woodward, I had spent my formative years in HM Destroyers EDINBURGH, NEWCASTLE and GLASGOW, and as an XO in HMS JERSEY.  On completion of course, I joined HMS INVERNESS, under the Command of Charlie Wilson OBE, as XO.  We seemed to spend the majority of our time as Kyles of Lochalsh Guardship, conducting a protracted Part IV Trials programme.  The Sonar 2093 towed body was up and down like a very expensive yoyo and the less said about the durability of the PAP’s fibre optic cables the better!  Nevertheless, as always, the people provided the diversion from the toil and tedium of a trials programme.  Characters like Les Allen, Rob Giles, Steve ‘Steamy’ Window, (LD) Norman Jobbins, (Coxn) Alex Norris, (AB) Al Reilly and Jai Gardener (recently returned from a superbly well handled OPTOUR in Afghanistan) certainly helped to make life onboard a lot of fun.  


From INVERNESS I went to relieve Kim Godfrey at FDU1, which was a real privilege and quite easily the most enjoyable job I ever had as a Lieutenant.  My team was full of experienced CDs like Kev Barrett, (WO) Steve Strange, the Ginges (Fullen and Russell), (WO) Dan Archer, Johnny Meakin, (WO) Scouse Vernon, (Lt Cdr) Soapy Watson, Si Marston, (CPO) Rex Turnbull, George Rennie, Abbo Richardson, Karl Roberts and of course the unforgettable, late Dougie Stewart, to name but a few.  At this time, CO FDG was Stuart Harper and, with SofDs Brian Mansbridge then John Arrow, I was witness to the epic move from Gunwharf to Horsea Island.  Some members of the MCDOA may remember that I was Honorary Treasurer throughout this assignment but I hope this won’t be held against me as I have always paid my subs!


Spending just over three years in the seat, it was a real shock going back into the General Service for PWO training and subsequently as an MCD PWO(A) in HMS MARLBOROUGH.  Having said that, I gained invaluable experience in the Surface Fleet, the highlights being the seizure of 10 tonnes of cocaine in the Caribbean and the following year (2000), providing assistance to USS COLE after she was attacked in Aden.  It was probably a long time since an RN warship had sailed into a foreign harbour at Action Stations, with Command weapons loaded, under peace time conditions!  The lessons were not forgotten and I used that experience to formulate the basis for the FOST Maritime EOD Force Protection Exercise scenario I produced more recently as CO SDG.   MARLBOROUGH was also the first time I came across MCD PWO wannabe Del McKnight, and MCDO wannabes Ben Stait and Mark Northcote.   


After my PWO tour I went back to MWS, firstly at DRYAD, later COLLINGWOOD as MWTAC and then SWO MCD.  This instructional role meant first undertaking Athe dvanced Mine Warfare Course and thereafter being the Advanced MW Course Instructor.  It was great to be back in the MW community with Steve Field, Tom Russell, the Hills (Nigel and Richard), Neil Holden, Paul McDermott and Jonathan Lee who I relieved.  Being an MCD PWO, I was then moved into the Tactical Procedures Group (TPG) and given the Type 23 simulator in COOK Building as the simulator instructor for Team Training events.  Again I spent an enjoyable three years in MWS, visiting the NATO MW School every term with AMW, staying at the aptly named Hotel Bero in Ostend, as well as keeping my hand in as a PWO instructor.  I also got to go to the Canadian MW School in Quebec as a guest lecturer and in my spare time completed a Project Management MSc at Portsmouth University. 


Finally, I had the phone call from the appointer,  Phil Ireland, who said something along the lines of, “You had better sit down before I tell you’ve been SASB’d! ”  Another phone call followed shortly after and I was asked if I wanted to join HMS CORNWALL as the XO, before doing the XODC as her programme had been amended and an XO was needed for a short appointment.  It was a no-brainer and I joined the ‘Fighting 99’ in August 2004.  This short tour was going swimmingly well until our return to Devonport, four weeks after I had joined.  The first weekend back in base port we had a fatality onboard.  It later transpired that the person concerned had been unknowingly suffering from a medical condition.  Such is the nature of the world we live in that I spent the next two and three quarter years, along with the CO, OOD and Duty PO, being the subject of a CPS investigation.  


I have to admit this whole issue continued to play on my mind during my next assignment to HMS MANCHESTER as XO in May 2005.  Nevertheless, contrary to my expectations, I thoroughly enjoyed my time as X in a destroyer, particularly as I was given conduct quite a bit and also because once again the people onboard were such a great bunch.  Sadly, I was in this post when the demise of the Ships’ Divers was announced and I watched with concern as the Surface Fleet’s understanding of our diving capability evaporated before my eyes.  


Rapidly running out of time in the promotion stakes, I was also into my third year in SASB assignments with the pay clock about to make the option of going into an out of Spec assignment an expensive one.  It was my great fortune therefore, that the post of CO SDG was vacant after Tom Russell had been promoted out of it earlier in 2007.  I felt that getting back into the MCD world proper, as a PWO-trained Lieutenant Commander was a great opportunity.  Joining under Peter Greenwood’s Command, I was able to utilise my knowledge of the Fleet’s lack of diving and EOD awareness, together with my background in MW and Special Forces ops,  to help in the development of the Maritime EOD Force Protection operating procedures, which had been born out of the Trafalgar 200 event.  Furthermore, I was blessed with a highly experienced and committed team in SDU1 and SDU2.  I have already mentioned Mark Northcote, boss of SDU1, his opposite number in SDU2, Simon Leightley is now deployed to Afghanistan, having been relieved in January by Al Nekrews.  I could not have succeeded in SDG without the help of WO ‘Rik’ Rickard, Chiefs Ramshaw, Smith and Ameira and the rest of the boys. 


Unfortunately, my favourite SO2 assignment was short-lived, as Chris O’Flaherty gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse and asked me to relieve him as the Career Manager (Appointer for the older members) in December 2008.  I didn’t say no and so for the last 18 months the MCDO and MWO cadre has been subject to the wild and wacky career plans I’ve developed for them in the West Battery wing of Navy Command HQ.  I will remain in this post dual-hatted, until relieved by Andy Woollven in October.


This brings me to the state of the plot itself.  At the time of writing the serving strength of the Lieutenant  (SO3) to Lieutenant Commander (SO2) MCD and MWO cadre stands at 123.  There are 64 SO3s and 59 SO2s.  The MCD / MW liability (number of jobs) is slightly smaller than this which would seem to imply that we are overborne at both ranks.  However the picture is far from being that simple because the vast majority of SO2s are employed in non-Branch jobs, primarily in PWO assignments.  It is no better in the SO3 pool because the small overbearing does not account for those officers in other non-specialist assignments to which I nevertheless have to contribute people.  This includes such things as PWO training, RN Leadership Academy staff or recruiting officers, for all of which we need high calibre individuals.  An overall shortage of Warfare Lieutenants is exacerbating the problem, meaning that there is an amount of internal competition for new blood for each of the Warfare sub-specialisations.  It is challenging to find the right person at the right time for the right job.  


The significant MCM Force presence in the Gulf is placing big demands at all levels of the cadre.  In particular, MCD PWOs are in great demand both in and out of specialisation.  It is quite apparent that the quality of MCD and MW officers is readily apparent to promotion and commission transfer boards, resulting in a good chance of promotion for the officers of the MCD/MW cadre.  The frequent deployment to operational theatres is generating a corps of young MCD and MW Officers with a significant amount of operational experience and must stand us in good stead for the future.  How the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) will affect the liability of the plot is unknown at present and a number of difficult choices are going to have to be made.  However, I suspect that the ongoing Defence-wide drive to develop EOD and IEDD operators will mean that the requirement for MCD Officers will remain largely unchanged.


One further item of interest to MCDOA members will undoubtedly be the decision taken by the Navy Board to open the CD specialisation to female Officers and Ratings.  This decision mirrors that already taken by Canada, the US and New Zealand.  One female officer is progressing through the LMCDO course and a few enquiries from female ratings have been received.  While it is doubtful that there will be a significant number of females attempting to become MCDs or CDs, I suspect that a small number will reach the standard expected at selection and will succeed on the relevant Qualifying Course.  The entry standards in terms of physical fitness levels are gender neutral, with no reduction being permitted for female candidates.  I believe that such a move is to be welcomed, as we must always be able to select from the best and therefore we need access to the widest possible pool of candidates.  I am sure this will be a topic of much discussion among MCDOA members.


The SO1 cadre is less of an issue, as the vast majority of the MCD Commander strength are PWOs and in the future the promotion of an MCD only Commander, while a possibility, is unlikely.  The route to promotion to SO1 in the Warfare Branch is via PWO and then, after gaining the necessary Command Qualifications,  SASB1 assignment as either an FFDD XO or an MCMV Commander.   The current MCM Force disposition means that when possible, the SASB2 assignment of MCM Squadron Commander will be an MCD PWO. 


This brings me up to when I assumed the post of SofD in July 2010.  I can already see why, even though I have been in the post for just about three months, my predecessor Paul Jones believed it to be the best job that he has had in the RN.  Although it is primarily a safety management role, there is clearly a wider remit as the MOD’s Diving Authority and I am very much looking forward to exploring this.  In the meantime I am trying to come up with some new initiatives to fund the Vernon Monument Project and on this subject I watched in awe as the Windermere Swimming Team completed their epic event in glorious sunshine last weekend.  All those involved are to be congratulated and I hope that MCDOA Members did their bit to sponsor those involved which was in aid of both Help for Heroes and Project Vernon. 


I hope that this has not been too much of a ramble and at least gives members an idea of where I have come from as a MCDO.  Naturally, I am hoping to meet as many of you as I can in November at the MCDOA's AGM and Dinner, but for those who cannot make it, I wish you all the best.


Five Bells."


Latest MWA Dit Session


Here are some snaps of MWA members who gathered for a monthly 'dit session' at The Ship Anson in Portsmouth on Thursday night:



Left: Taff Davies and Bagsy Baker.  Right: Bagsy Baker and Rob Hoole



Left: Bob Mitchell and Dixie Dean.  Right: Dixie Dean and Pony Moore



Left: John Gunter, Bill Kerr and Pete Whitehead.

Right: ?, Taff Reader, Andy Strickland and Taff Owen


1 Oct 10


Bob Hawkins married today


Bob and Trudy Hawkins


Many congratulations to MCDOA member Bob 'The Dog' Hawkins who was married at Helensburgh Register Office today.  We wish him and his childhood sweetheart Trudy our best wishes for a long and happy life together.


RN Divers complete Windermere swim


Windermere swimmers

(Photo courtesy of Chris Page)


MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson has kindly sent me this account of last weekend's swim in Windermere to raise money for Help for Heroes and Project Vernon:


"As previously reported, nineteen swimmers consisting of Clearance Divers, a Royal Marine, Army personnel and civilians completed the 10.5 mile swim of Windermere (largest lake in England).  Weather conditions could not have been better on Saturday 25 Sep 10 and the sun shone on the righteous.


The swimmers were broken into smaller teams of three to five depending on fitness.  Each team was supported by kayak volunteers, without whom none of the swimmers would have been able to complete the feat owing to their to their continuous support, feeding and watering!  The team of swimmers assembled at Water Head Public Jetty in Ambleside at the northernmost end of Windermere at 0800.  One safety boat was provided by the MD of Northern Divera and another by DDS.


The swim was pretty much due south to Fell Foot, the National Trust Sailing Jetty at the other end of the lake.  At around 14 degrees C, the water temperature was a little cooler than everybody was expecting (or was used to) but the sea state was 1;  perfect conditions apart from the cold!


The first group of nine swimmers started at 0915 followed by the second group of ten at 0940.  There was no race intended; the aim was purely to complete the swim.  However, times ranged from a monumental 5 hours 10 mins to a very cold 8 hours.  It was remarkable that everyone completed this swim as the British Open Water Society normally expect to lose three people in every five during their annual event.  The prolonged exposure to cold water proved a problem with only a few of the swimmers.  A special mention must go to the oldest swimmer, 62 year-old ex-CPO(D) Dave ‘Jimmy’ Bond.  Having had only three months of training, he put in an awesome effort and finished in a commendable time alongside his old 'twoosie', Micky Beale.  


CPO (D) John “YoYo” Ravenhall was responsible for organising the event which ran on rails the whole day.  A sterling effort was made by all in order to raise money for The Vernon Project and Help for Heroes with an estimated £9,000 being pledged for equal division between the two charities."




The team comprised MCDOA members David 'Stretch' Armstrong, Mick Beale, John Beavis, Chris Flaherty and MCDOA Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson plus serving/ex-serving CDs John 'YoYo' Ravenhall, Steve Fitzjohn, Knocker Knowles, Chris Greenaway, Jay Hogg, Matt Prosser, Rex Turnbull, Jonathan 'Chuck' Norris, Sean 'Screech' Dunstan, Steve Vernon, Jumper Collins, Dave 'Jimmy' Bond and Graham Ribbons.  Tony De Raya, Paul Higgins-Drysdale, Phil Standen and Simon Moore also participated.  Congratulations to all concerned.


You can still show your appreciation for the team's efforts and help support their cause by going to the Bmycharity page here:


Royal Navy Clearance Divers Swim Windermere



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