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.

30 Mar 12 - Evacuation fears for 15,000 people after complete German wartime V2 Rocket found off British coast


In its typically down-played style, the Daily Mail has published the above headline to this article following up yesterday's call out for SDU2 to deal with a V2 rocket on the mudflats near Harwich in Essex.  Once again, MCDOA member Dan Herridge is featured.


Postscript: Dan Herridge is interviewed in the video accompanying this article on the Anglia TV website.


29 Mar 12 - SDU2 called to deal with WWII missile in Essex


The BBC website contains this article, the Portsmouth News this article and the Navy News this article describing a call out for Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with a Second World War missile, identified as a V2 rocket, discovered on coastal mud flats near Harwich in Essex.  The articles feature MCDOA member Dan Herridge, OIC of SDU2.



Above and below: World War II missile exposed on Essex mud flats

(RN photos)




28 Mar 12 - Two men (and a woman) in a boat


Holloway, the third member of the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio, was otherwise engaged yesterday so it was only two men in a boat for Dougout's first sail of the season.  Luckily, Barlow's partner Jill stepped into the breach so there were still three of us able to enjoy the unseasonably glorious weather out on the Solent.



Left: Hoole at the helm of Dougout

Right: Jill supports Barlow at the helm of Dougout

(Good job we were only drinking fizzy pop!)


After leaving the marina at HMS Excellent and pottering up to Gilkicker on a soldier's wind, we turned around and re-entered Portsmouth harbour before making our way up Haslar Creek to Hornet Sailing Club.



Left: Dougout sailing past the former HMS Dolphin

Right: The Spinnaker Tower and Gunwharf Quays, former site of HMS Vernon


The clubhouse at Hornet Sailing Club was the wardroom of the former MTB base, HMS Hornet.  After a convivial (and very reasonably priced) lunch, we looked in the room containing Hornet memorabilia and I took these photos of some splendid models of the Vospers-built Malaysian Brave Class fast patrol boat KD Gembita (P152) and MTB 379.




Above and below: Models of fast patrol boat and motor torpedo boat at Hornet Sailing Club




Like all the marinas in Portsmouth Harbour these days, Hornet was certainly full of boats and Dougout was not short of company.



The marina at Hornet Sailing Club



Left: The adjacent RN Submarine Museum's HMS Alliance

Right: Dougout with HMS Alliance in the background


En route back to Whale Island, I captured these images of some of the vessels alongside.



Left: The Army afloat in Haslar Creek

Right: The Marine Society & Sea Cadets training ship TS Royalist



Left: The veteran Type 42 destroyer HMS Liverpool (D92) awaiting final decommissioning this Friday

Right: The new Type 45 destroyers HMS Dauntless (D33), HMS Diamond (D34) and HMS Dragon (D35)


What a cracking way to start the sailing season.  Thanks Doug and Jill.


26 Mar 12 - Sport Relief at Gunwharf Quays


I had to share this event held in aid of Sport Relief yesterday at Gunwharf Quays, the former site of HMS Vernon. 


A flash mob by Portsmouth, Meon Valley, Chandlers Ford & Winchester Rock Choir

in aid of Sport Relief


25 Mar 12 - HDS Bunker and Diving Museum update


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in Gosport as the Society's library and repository for the Diving Museum's reserve collection and preparations to re-open the museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay for the new season:


John Bevan with the Museum's new 60" plasma display behind him


"The painting of the chambers ready for the Grand Opening is well underway thanks to John Dadd and Jim Thomson.  Despite venturing out in the blistering midday sun, they persevered and finished off one coat of undercoat on the 2,250 ft chamber on Saturday. 



John Dadd and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson painting the ex-RNPL Chambers at Stokes Bay


Another blisteringly brilliant day at the Museum today (Sunday).  John and Beryl Badger popped in from Cornwall, Mike Fardell and Liz from Reigate and Dougie Saunders from the Isle of Wight.  The shifty shingle-shifters executed a perfect military operation.  Shifty shifters included Mori Young, John Dadd, Jim Thomson, Rob Hoole and Barry Staite.  John Towse and Kevin Casey provided security cover.  The five bell plots are now ready.



Left: HDS Shingle Shifters take a well-earned break outside the Beachside Cafe

Right: The plots ready to receive five diving bells


Ann B plodded on in the Museum preparing the exhibits.  The 300 ft chamber has been wire-brushed, washed down and red-leaded ready for its undercoat.  Tomorrow (Monday) we will be slapping on the paint from about 1pm.




The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two of whom need to be on site at any time.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.


Postscript: From John Bevan on 27 March:


"Jim Thomson was today's star player and man-of-the-match breaking all records in the painting section.  Tomorrow the yellow top coat goes on the 300ft chamber.  If you are wondering why they are yellow, it's because John Towse dictates that they should follow the same colour coding as pipework and because the chambers can be filled with variable gases, they have to be yellow.  Anyway, they blend in nicely with the daffodils and greenery.


Ann has continued inside the museum all day today.  I'm still awaiting the removal date from the crane-man for the bells.






Post Postscript: From John Bevan on 29 March:


"Now come on, admit it!  Is this a beautiful sight or not?!  Also caught by the all-seeing camera are John Dadd and Jim Thomson fondling their creations!






24 Mar 12 - Military jamming of GPS likely during Joint Warrior


The BBC website contains this article announcing the possibility of GPS being jammed during the next Exercise JOINT WARRIOR.  The article features HMS Brocklesby.


23 Mar 12 - Operational Honours and Awards


Today's Operational Honours and Awards List is available on the MoD website here.


Lt Cdr Jim Byron, the MWO qualified Commanding Officer of HMS Brocklesby during Operation ELLAMY off Libya, has been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) but I do not know whether he is an MCDOA member.  The Portsmouth News contains this article which explains the circumstances of the award.


Lt Cdr Jim Byron DSC RN


MCDOA member Richard Talbot, the recent OIC of Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), has been awarded a Queen's Commendation for Bravery (QCB).  The Plymouth Herald website contains this article which explains the circumstances of the award.


Lt Cdr Richard Talbot RN


PO(D) Mark 'Jan' Cocking, the Cox'n of HMS Brocklesby during ELLAMY, has been awarded a Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS). 


WO2 (ETME) Jeremy Bean has been awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS) for keeping HMS Chiddingfold’s engines running in the demanding conditions of the Gulf.


Additionally, MCDOA member Andy Penfold, the Ops Officer of HMS Brocklesby during ELLAMY, has been awarded a Chief of Joint Operations (CJO) Commendation and MCDOA member Richard Hill has been awarded a CINCFLEET commendation for his work as OIC of the Fleet Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Unit (FUUVU). 


Warm congratulations to all recipients. I am grateful to MCDOA member Martin Mackey for providing some of the supplementary information.


22 Mar 12 - Bedknobs but no broomsticks


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article describing a callout for Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) to deal with a suspect hand grenade yesterday.  The article features PO(D) Nick McPherson.


Police and members of SDU1 inspect suspect hand grenade


21 Mar 12 - HDS Bunker and Diving Museum update 


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in Gosport as the Society's library and repository for the Diving Museum's reserve collection and preparations to re-open the museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay for the new season:




Five strange circles have suddenly appeared in the ground at No.2 Battery.  Despite multiple paranormal claims, it is far more likely that they were caused by John Dadd, Jim Thomson and Barry Staite.  Coincidentally, they have appeared in just the right places where we plan to install the five diving bells.  Wheels have been set in motion and I hope to be able to give you a date shortly for the beaming down of the five bells. 


We will need as many hands and spades as possible to do a quick shingle collection from the beach on Sunday morning (25th), to fill the five bell slots.  The operation will commence promptly at 0930 hours and we will need to do it as quickly as possible (nudge, nudge).  We will have my car and trailer there to do the transfer.  Sunday (25th) is also the HDS day at the Diving Museum.  Members have been invited to see the progress with the preparations of the exhibits.  HDS members will be arriving from 1000 hours onwards with a closing time of 1400 hours.


Work has already started on the outside exhibits.  The Chambers are getting a wirebrush-down and paint job.  Jim Thomson and Ann B have been hard at work.  It was such a nice day today I took a pic of the bay the same time.



Left: Ann Bevan and ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson preparing one of the two ex-RNPL chambers

for painting with the five positions prepared for installation of the diving bells visible beyond

Right: View of Stokes Bay from the top of No.2 Battery, home of the HDS Diving Museum


In the meantime, Ann has also been hard at work inside the Museum putting finishing touches to some of the displays.  The new 60-inch TV screen is now installed and running.  Alan Stillwell has been exercising his construction skills to good effect.  John Dadd has pulled some more strings in M&S and we have acquired a few more excellent quality manikins.


Nigel Phillips has done sterling work at the Bunker demonstrating what a real artist can achieve with a chain saw.  We've also removed masses of bramble and rubbish from the front so that it can now be viewed in all its majestic glory.  The natural beauty of this Listed Building will be enhanced even further with a bit of landscaping.  They really knew how to get the natural look out of concrete during the war.  We discovered a foxhole in the front and saw the fox make a break for it.  He came back again despite our having removed his cover.



Left: The HDS Bunker in The Avenue, Gosport as it was in November last year

Right: The HDS Bunker now revealed in all its "majestic glory"


BIG thanks to Mori Young for making this beautiful timepiece for us!   It is now hanging with pride in our library at the Bunker.


Mori Young's clock hanging in the HDS Library


Things will be moving fast at the museum from now on until we open on Saturday 7 April.  We will need a lot of help over the next few weeks so please join in if you can.  Please call John Dadd at 023 9260 2260 or 07802 785050 if you need to check on activities.


John B "


The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two of whom need to be on site at any time.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.


20 Mar 12 - Falklands 30: HMS Protector's divers replace ensign on HMS Ardent


After obtaining the permission of the Governor of the Falkland Islands, LS(D) 'H' Harvey of the Antarctic survey ship HMS Protector descended to the wreck of HMS Ardent on 13 March.  Owing to the ripping tidal stream and short diving window available, he was unable to take any photos but managed to secure a new ensign to the ship's structure.  He also dived on the wreck of HMS Antelope, also sunk during the Falklands conflict, and has kindly provided this photo of Protector's diving team with some sonar images of the wrecks of these gallant ships:


Chris Castanie (AB seaman waiting for baby Divers cse), LD H Harvey (HMS Protector),

LD Si West (SDU2), AB(D) Chris Severn (FDU3) and AB(D) Rocky Halbauer (FDU2)

on board HMS Protector

(My thanks to Si West for identifying these individuals)



Left and right: Sonar images of the wreck of HMS Ardent 


Sonar image of the wreck of HMS Antelope 


19 Mar 12 - Navy News


The March issue of Navy News, containing several items of MCD interest, can be downloaded here.  


18 Mar 12 - Paul Henke makes Kindle version of book available for free download


Former MCD officer Paul Henke


The Stirling Observer contains this article describing how MCDOA member Paul Henke, successful author of a series of thrillers about fictional retired MCDO Nick Hunter, has boosted sales even further by making his first book, A Million Tears', available for free download on Kindle.


To download Paul's book from the Amazon website for free (today only), click here.


17 Mar 12 - Project VERNON: Commemoration of HMS Vernon's Minewarfare & Diving Heritage



Although the relatively expensive framed Double Remarque prints of 'Danger at Depth' and 'Vernon Creek' sold out long ago, there are still lots of unframed and framed Limited Edition Prints of 'Danger at Depth' (£75 unframed) and 'Vernon Creek' (£50 unframed) available.  If you still regard this as expensive, remember that the aim of sales is to make money towards erecting a statue in Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which stood on the site until 1996.  You receive the pictures as a bonus.


Artist's impression of the almost twice life-size Vernon monument

when in situ at Gunwharf Quays


Special eligibility discounts of 10% on the prices shown for the standard LEP are applicable to (a) those who have purchased prints previously from Project Vernon or (b) are active, paid-up members of one of the supporting Associations (MCDOA, AORNFCD, MWA, RNCDA) or one of the affiliated organisations such as the Ton Class Association, RNA or British Legion which also qualify for the same 10% discount.


To view details and order online, click here:


Danger at Depth by John Terry FCSD



Vernon Creek by John Terry FCSD



Of course, you do not have to buy ANYTHING to donate to the Vernon monument.  Anyone can contribute via the donations page of the website here.  This way, Project Vernon not only receives ALL the money you pay (no matter how large or small the amount) but the Government also adds 25% in Gift Aid if you furnish the relevant details.


16 Mar 12


US Navy doubling its number of minesweepers in the Gulf


The Defense News website contains this article describing the US Navy's decision to send four more minesweepers and four more minesweeping helicopters to the Persian Gulf in the indeterminate future.


USS Scout detonating a simulated mine in an exercise

(US Navy)


Memorial Service for Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John 'Doc' Rawlins KBE, MA (Oxf), BB, BCh, FRCP, FFCM, FRAeS


Surg Vice Admiral Sir John Rawlins

(12 May 1922 - 29 Jul 2011)


I have received this announcement from MCDOA associate member Surg Cdr David Elliott OBE about the memorial service planned for diving medicine pioneer Sir John 'Doc' Rawlins (see several entries in News Archive 35):


"I have just heard from John's son Nicky that, on the day which would have been his 90th birthday, there will be a memorial service for John Rawlins at University College, Oxford.  This will be on Saturday, May 12th 2012, at 2:30.  It will be in their Chapel and will be followed by refreshments in the College Hall.


Please do forward this message to those who are not on my brief address list.  Nicky Rawlins asks that, if you wish to come, please do respond by e-mail to John’s youngest daughter, Juliet, via this email address or by letter to his older daughter, Caroline Sinclair, at 11, Sandford Road, Aldershot, GU11 3AE."


'Doc' Rawlins in typical form at the Divers'

Golden Jubilee Dinner Dance in 2002


15 Mar 12 - Telegraph obituary for Peter Cobby


As ever, I am grateful to Capt Peter Hore RN for agreeing to write this obituary for Lt Cdr Peter Cobby BEM RN which has appeared in the Daily Telegraph (see entries for 4 Feb 12 and 13 Feb 12 in News Archive 37).


Coincidentally, I received an unexpected visit from Peter Cobby’s grand daughter Lauren last night.  She was on her way home from work and delivered a bottle of 12 year-old Chivas Regal from her father Bruce as a token of his appreciation.  Lauren is the Chief MEA of HMS Dauntless and has offered to show me around the ship sometime next month.  I can’t wait.


A grateful webmaster with Lauren Cobby


Peter Hore has been extremely cooperative in writing tributes to members of our small community for publication in the Daily Telegraph.  In recent years, examples from his pen have included:


CPO(D) 'Darby' Allan


Lt Cdr John Bridge GC GM* RNVR


Lt Cdr 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM RN


Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR


Lt Cdr Ian Fraser VC DSC RD* RNR


Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John 'Jab' Harrison


Val Hempleman


Cdr Peter Messervy MBE GM RN


Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John 'Doc' Rawlins KBE, FRCP, FRAeS


Lt Cdr 'Robbie' Robinson MBE RN


Lt Arthur 'Bubs' Russell MBE RNVR


Lt Cdr Harry Wardle RN


Lt George Wookey MBE RN


Now Peter Cobby has joined this pantheon of inspirational characters who helped establish and sustain our enviable minewarfare and diving heritage.  These are the type of people we intend honouring with the Project Vernon monument but there were (and are) so many others, including the women comprising the MX Wrens who built special mine assemblies at HMS Vernon to fox the German minesweepers during the Second World War.


Dig deep and keep making contributions, as and when you can afford them, to Project Vernon here.  The Government will add 25% to each donation if you are a UK taxpayer and register your details for Gift Aid.


14 Mar 12


Channel Five programme about the Falklands War


Bernie Bruen on 'The Great Falklands Gamble: Revealed'


Last night, Channel Five broadcast 'The Great Falklands Gamble: Revealed' which featured MCDOA member Bernie Brüen MBE DSC.  For those who missed it, it is available to watch again here on Demand Five for the next 16 days.


60th Anniversary of the RN Clearance Diver Branch


Last Friday's dinner dance in the Royal Maritime Club to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Royal Navy Clearance Diver Branch was a tremendous success, mainly thanks to the initiative and organisational skills of former WO(D) Bob Oulds who made the whole thing possible.


Bob Oulds welcomes everyone


MCDOA members present included our Chairman Chris Baldwin, Brian Dutton with his wife Audrey, Dr John Bevan with his wife Ann and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole). 



Left: John Bevan, Donkey Bray (the older), John Dadd, Mike O'Meara and Chris Crask

Right: Michael Fellows and Rob Hoole


Other attendees included Vic Anderton, Dan Archer, Cris Ballinger, Beverley Bean, Hazel Bell, Jimmy & Ally Bond, Alan (Donkey) & Maxine Bray, Don (Donkey) Bray, Lewis (Bo) & Emma Bridges, Simon & Ann Carpenter, Alan (Nutty) Carr, Garry & Sam Clark, Rick McCabe, Chris & Denise Crask, John & Chris Dadd, Tony & Dawn Devitt, Chris (Paddy) Doonan, David & Emma Eccles, Mike Fellows, Terry & Janet Gosling, Ian & Colleen Gray-Taylor, Don & Evelyn Green, Kevin & Sandy Grigg, Mike Handford, Mike & Diane Harding, Mike Harrison, Ian Higgins, Glyn Holgate, Mike Horlock, Alan (Jacko) Jackson, Jess James, Paul Jeacock, Colin Kidman, Leveanne Knott, Harry (Aubs) & Sharon Aubrey De Lavenu, Paul (Dhobey) and Babs Lines, Rose Lyon, William & Julie Macdougall, Ted Mangion, Andy Marrow, Mike (Pincher) Marten, Richard & Laura Mathews, Amanda Mckenna, Sean (Jan) Mobley, Dave Moffat, Janet Morrison, Nellie Nilsson, Adrian & Julie Noble, Ray (Dudley) & Hazel North, Mike & Kate O'Meara, Bob & Linda Oulds, Chris Page, Neil Penny, Kevin Reynolds, Christopher Roddis, Eric Piper, Linda Pitt, John (YoYo) Ravenhall, Ian & Elaine Rigg, Pete & Susan Roberts, Russ Russell, Terry Settle, Jill Saddington, Tony Sexton, Garry & Jenny Sibbald, Stew Sissons, Tim & Lynn Sizer, Paul & Dian Smith, Peter & Sandra Still, Brian (Troy) Tempest, Jim (Tommo) Thomson, Graham (Piggy) & Ann Trotter, Steve Vernon, Mickey Wade, Gillian Walker, Darren & Emma Ward, Mike Webb, Ray (Spider) Webb, Peter Weldon, Dudley Woolnough, Sam (Dale) & Cindy Woolsey and Keith & Joanne Yates.


One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation to Chris Baldwin (Superintendent of Diving) of a framed piece of artwork by Alan 'Nutty' Carr listing most of the RN divers who have 'crossed the bar' in recent years:


Alan 'Nutty' Carr hands over his picture to Chris Baldwin


Alan also provided a cartoon which was auctioned off to raise funds for ex-CD Steve Briggs who is currently lying paralysed in hospital after a tragic fall.  The highest bid of £750 came from Mick O'Leary.  There was also a raffle which raised £545 for the Vernon Monument and I won a bottle of whisky (which I somehow lost again during the course of the evening).  MC duties were performed in grand style by Jimmy Bond.


More photos of the event can be seen on Flickr here but others are available to those who belong to the Ex & Serving Royal Navy Clearance Divers Group on FaceBook. 


For those who missed this opportunity to celebrate the 60th, a northern version will be held in the Senior Rates Mess of HMS Neptune at Faslane on Saturday 26 May 2012.  The Calling Notice and Booking Form are available for download here.  


13 Mar 12


SDU1 detonates relic grenade


The BBC News website contains this article with video showing the detonation by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a hand grenade found in the roof of a cottage at Churchtown, near Bodmin.


SDU1 bomb wagon at cottage in Churchtown


HMS Cattistock helps open bridge in Poole by Royal assent


The Navy News website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Cattistock in the official opening of the new Twin Sails Bridge at Poole by the Princess Royal (see entry for 8 Mar 12).


The Princess Royal boarding HMS Cattistock at Poole yesterday

(Navy News photo by LA(Phot) Maxine Davies, FRPU East)


12 Mar 12 - HMS Chiddingfold reaches major milestone


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the replacement of HMS Chiddingfold's Deltic engines with Caterpillar C32 Acert power plants during a year-long upgrade


HMS Chiddingfold having new engine plumbed while in dry dock

(RN website photo)


Shameless Plug:  As anyone would discover on reading the Ton Class Association's new book 'Last of the Wooden Walls', the trusty Deltic engine, also used in diesel railway locomotives, originated with German aviation but the Royal Navy became interested in 1944 and commissioned a study into a marine version.  A suitable power plant was developed in 1947 and produced by Napier from 1950 onwards. 



Left: Sectional view of a Deltic diesel engine.

Right: Advertisement for Deltic engines which replaced Mirrlees diesels

in most TON Class minesweepers during the late 1950s and 1960s


11 Mar 12 - MCDOA members undertake canoe challenge


I have received this message from MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson (see entry for 17 Feb 12 in News Archive 37):


"Hi Rob,


I have set up this page on virginmoneygiving for the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Marathon.  MCDOA member Chris Stephenson (first Royal Navy MCD officer on EOD duties in Afghanistan in 2010) and I will be raising money to divide equally between the Vernon Monument, the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity and the Naomi House Hospice.  


I would greatly appreciate your help.  Let's get the Vernon Monument moving.  If you give it as much publicity as possible that would be great.


Kind Regards,




Please give Soapy and Chris all the support they deserve.


10 Mar 12 - TCA Book Launch


Yesterday's launch of the Ton Class Association's new books, 'Last of the Wooden Walls' and 'Jacks of All Trades' (see entry for 7 Mar 12) in the Princess Royal Gallery of the RN Museum Library was hugely enjoyable.  Attendees included such grandees of the Minewarfare & Diving community as Minewarfare Association (MWA) Chairman Dixie Dean MBE and MW Operational Training Centre (MWOTC) instructor CPO(MW) Antony 'Pinta' Beer (Round Portsea Island swimmer and Round Britain cyclist last year in support of Project Vernon, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the RN & RM Charity as chronicled on this website). 


The 'old' and the 'bold': Dixie and Pinta


Despite having received his copies in the post last week, Dixie still spent considerable time looking at the books being sold by Stacey Edwards, a member of the RN Museum staff.  Fortunately, not everyone spent their time 'just browsing'.



Left: Dixie admiring Stacey's wares

Right: Stacey went on to make several actual sales 


Other grandees present included MCDOA members Capt Mark Durkin RN (Captain MFP) and Cdr Martin Mackey (Commander of the Portsmouth-based Second MCM Squadron), seen here chatting with Captain Mike Barrow CVO DSO RN (President of the Liss & District RNA) and John Soanes (Chairman of the TCA).


Martin Mackey, Mark Durkin, Capt Mike Barrow and John Soanes


Captain Barrow was the Commander at BRNC Dartmouth when I was a cadet and was the Captain of the County class destroyer HMS Glamorgan several years later during the Falklands war.  He had previously served as a midshipman in the light cruiser HMS Liverpool when MCDOA associate member Doug Barlow was a leading seaman and the late MCDOA member Tag Caisley MBE was an able seaman.  Doug Barlow was at yesterday's book launch, too, and is seen here shaking the hand of Andy Lamb (Commander of the Faslane-based First MCM Squadron) while MCDOA member Mark Durkin (Capt MFP) looks on.



Left: HMS Liverpool's rugby team in 1951 showing Mid (later Capt) Mike Barrow first in middle row,

LS (later Lt Cdr) Doug Barlow (fifth in middle row) and AB (later Lt Cdr) Tag Caisley (first in front row)

Right: Doug Barlow shakes hands with Andy Lamb while Mark Durkin looks on


Proceedings opened with a welcome from Peter Harrison, Project Manager for the production of 'Wooden Walls'



Left: Peter Harrison welcomes attendees

Right: Some of the attendees 


The launch included the presentation of books by Rear Admiral John Lippiett CB MBE (TCA President and Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust) to invited guests.  The first of these was Lady Anne Cox, widow of the late Vice Admiral Sir John Cox KCB, the TCA's founding President.


Rear Admiral Lippiett with Lady Cox 


Next it was the turn of Cdre Tim Lowe (Deputy Flag Officer Sea Training) and Cdre Tony Radakin (Naval Base Commander Portsmouth) to receive copies of the books.


Cdre Lowe, Rear Admiral Lippiett and Cdre Radakin


Books were also presented to Cdr Andy Lamb (MCM1), Cdr Martin Mackey (MCM2) and Capt Mark Durkin (CMFP).


Andy Lamb, Martin Mackey, Rear Admiral Lippiett and Mark Durkin

with their copies of 'Wooden Walls' and 'Jacks of All Trades'


Other books were presented to Lt Cdr Chris Dovey (National Chairman of the Royal Naval Association) and Mick Arnold MBE (Algerines Association).



Left: Rear Admiral Lippiett and Lt Cdr Chris Dovey of the Royal Naval Association

Right: Rear Admiral Lippiett and Mick Arnold of the Algerines Association


MCDOA member Bill Kerr (OIC MW Operational Training Centre at HMS Collingwood) was also present but it was particularly gratifying to see MCDOA member Capt Geir Gade RNoN who qualified on LMCDO '81 at HMS Vernon and is currently working on the NATO staff at Northwood. 



Left: Rear Admiral Lippiett presenting Capt Geir Gade RNoN with copies of the books

Right: LMCDO '81 course photo showing Geir Gade third from left in back row


Geir brought with him some members of the ALTA Preservation Group which mans, maintains and regularly takes to sea a former Royal Norwegian Navy minesweeper based in Oslo as a museum ship.


Geir Gade with members of the ALTA minesweeper

preservation group 


Later in proceedings, Geir exchanged plans of the ALTA for a TCA badge with TCA Chairman John Soanes.  Lt Cdr Svein Mogan RNoN (Rtd) also presented the TCA with a framed print of the ALTA.



Left: Geir Gade receives TCA badge from John Soanes.

Right: Lt Cdr Svein Mogan presents print of ALTA to TCA President R Adm John Lippiett.


Books were also presented to three Royal Marines representing Lima Company, 42 Commando which was involved with TON class patrol vessels in the Limbang Raid during the Indonesian Confrontation.  Sarah Fletcher, Editor-in-Chief of Navy News, also received copies of the books.



Left: Members of Lima Coy, 42 Cdo, Royal Marines with Rear Admiral Lippiett

Right: Rear Admiral Lippiett presents Sarah Fletcher with copies of the books


I was particularly pleased to meet Tony Hunt ATD VPRI, Vice President of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, who was present with his wife, Diana.  Tony had painted the pictures of HMS Alfriston which grace the front and back covers of 'Last of the Wooden Walls'.


Diana & Tony Hunt flanking a poster showing Tony's paintings


Apart from a thoroughly enjoyable lunch, other highlights of the event included exhibitions of model MCMVs by Dave Reith and David McNair-Taylor of the Surface Warship Association and Rex and Amanda Hunt.



Left: Dave Reith and David McNair-Taylor with their models of HMS Penzance, HMS Kirkliston

and HMT Sir Galahad with TCA member Barry Barnes in the foreground

Right: Rex and Amanda Hunt with their model of HMS Kellington


TCA Stores Officer Laurie Johnson was also on hand with his wife Sue and did a brisk trade in merchandise.  TCA member Tony Standish, several of whose paintings appear in 'Wooden Walls', was able to meet members of Lima Coy, 42 Cdo with which he had operated during the Indonesian Confrontation.



Left: Laurie and Sue Johnson manning the TCA's merchandise stall

Right: Tony Standish with Royal Marines from Lima Coy, 42 Cdo


Congratulations and a vote of thanks are due to TCA Honorary Secretary Peter Down who master-minded the launch.  It can only bode well for future sales of the books which have already exceeded expectations.


A full set of photos is available for viewing or downloading here.


9 Mar 12 - MCDOA Northern Dinner


I am extremely grateful to MCDOA member Kev Stockton, CO of the Northern Diving Group (NDG), for providing this account of the recent MCDOA Northern Dinner at Faslane:




I am happy to report that the MCDOA Northern Dinner on Friday 24 February was a complete success.  Despite a few late cancellations owing to ships' programme changes, 38 attended the dinner held in the Wardroom of HMS Neptune and presided over by MCDOA member Cdr Phil Ireland DSC (Base Executive Officer and HMS Neptune’s Mess President).  Our Guest of Honour was MCDOA member Cdr (Rtd) Bertie Armstrong [Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation for the past seven years] who gave a very light-hearted and funny speech.  It was also a proud event for him as he was able to have his son (MCDOA member Lt Dave Armstrong) and his daughter (Petty Officer Hannah Armstrong) along as his guests.  Other senior attendees included Cdre Mike Wareham (Naval Base Commander), Capt Jack Tarr OBE RN (Captain of the Base), Capt Mike Evans RN (COS MWS) and Colonel Alan Litster OBE RM (CO Fleet Protection Group).


It was also good to have along some of our elder brethren who, despite being in their seventies and eighties, always manage to come along and entertain us with their tales of yore.  It was also a pleasure to have along representatives from Divex, Northern Diver and Apeks.


The mess provided fantastic food and we were accompanied throughout by the HMS Neptune Volunteer Band.  We ended up, of course, with the traditional singalong led by our very own Bill Kerr and our guests certainly enjoyed standing on the mess chairs (under the watchful eye of Cdr Phil) blasting out a few verses of 'Blowing Bubbles'.  The event went on until the early hours and everyone eventually retired having had a wonderful evening.  A final thank you to the MCDOA for providing funding towards the dinner which was very much appreciated.


I have attached two photographs. The first is a pre-dinner group shot:


Back Row L-R: Lt Cdr Rich Osbaldestin, Capt (Int) Bob Officer, Lt Cdr (Rtd) John Law,

Lt Cdr Del McKnight, Mr Neil Tordoff, Mr Derek Clarke, Lt Rob Garner, Mr Bill Elrick,

WO(D) Karl Roberts, Cdr James Leatherby, Lt Mike Garner, Lt Rich Kemp, Lt Cdr Bill Kerr


Centre Row L-R: Mr Gavin Munn, Lt Cdr Matt Offord, Cdr Don Crosbie, Mr Iain Mcleod,

Lt Cdr (Rtd) Iain Leitch, Lt Cdr Steve Brown, Cdr Chris O’Flaherty, Lt Cdr Soapy Watson,

Lt David Armstrong, Lt Cdr Kev Stockton, Lt Guy Wadge, Lt (CN) Justin Wong


Front Row L-R: Lt Cdr Alex Bush, Lt (Rtd) Paul Henke, Capt Mike Evans, Lt Cdr (Rtd) Ken Kempsell GM,

Lt Cdr (Rtd) Alan Bayliss, Cdre Mike Wareham, Cdr Phil Ireland DSC, Cdr (Rtd) Bertie Armstrong, Capt Jack Tarr OBE,

Lt Cdr (Rtd) Hamish Loudon MBE, PO Hannah Armstrong, Lt Cdr (Rtd) Nigel Davies, Col Alan Litster RM. 


The second photo was taken because the opportunity arose for our Guest of Honour, a previous FOSNNI SOO, to have his picture taken with seven other officers who had completed an appointment as SMCDO to FOSNNI.  Cdr Bertie was 1 RO [First Reporting Officer] to three of the SMCDOs during his tenure.


L-R: Cdr Don Crosbie, Lt Cdr Rich Osbaldestin, Lt Cdr Matt Offord, Lt Cdr (Rtd) John Law,

Cdr (Rtd) Bertie Armstrong, Cdr Phil Ireland DSC, Lt Cdr (Rtd) Nigel Davies, Lt Cdr Kev Stockton.  


Thanks for your continued support and efforts into making the MCDOA such a proud association to be part of and look forward to seeing you more often when I take up my next role as Chief of Staff to the FDS in August this year.


Best Regards,




Northern Diving Group presented with the Diving Unit Effectiveness Trophy for 2011


In view of the above entry, it is entirely fortuitous that MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Soapy Watson has sent me this photo of MCDOA member Kev Stockton (CO of the Northern Diving Group (NDG)) being presented with the Diving Unit Effectiveness Trophy for 2011 by Cdre Steve Garrett OBE (Commodore Faslane Flotilla) on 7 March.  See this article on the RN website for further background.


Commodore Garrett presenting the Diving Unit Effectiveness

Trophy to Kev Stockton while members of NDG look on


8 Mar 12 - HMS Cattistock returns for Twin Sails Bridge celebrations


The Bournemouth Echo contains this article announcing a visit to Poole by HMS Cattistock this weekend to participate in the opening of the Twin Sails Bridge celebrations in the presence of the Princess Royal.


7 Mar 12 - Ton Class Association books


I have just taken delivery of my copies of the newly published Ton Class Association (TCA) book entitled 'Last of the Wooden Walls: An Illustrated History of the Ton Class Minesweepers and Minehunters' (edited by your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster) and its companion volume 'Jacks of All Trades: Operational Records of Ton Class Mine Countermeasures Ships'.  These tomes have been produced to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the TCA and will officially be launched at the RN Museum Library in Portsmouth Naval Base on Friday. 


Hoole - a very happy bunny


Do you have your copies yet?  See the second entry for 18 Feb 12 in News Archive 13 for further information.  Just to reiterate, all royalties from the sales of both books will be going to the TCA, not to any individuals.


6 Mar 12


Interview with Dave Welch of Ramora UK


The website contains this interview with MCDOA member Dave Welch, the Managing Director of the EOD specialist company Ramora UK.


NDG attends WW2 bomb scare


The Paisley Daily Express contains this article describing the attendance of members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) after Second World War memorabilia was found at the home of a newly deceased man in Johnstone. 


HDS Bunker and Diving Museum update


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in Gosport as the Society's library and repository for the Diving Museum's reserve collection and preparations to re-open the museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay for the new season:


"The bunker library is shaping up nicely!


Part of HDS Library in disused WWII bunker in Gosport


The RN section of the Museum is complete and will be followed by the Gosport Section.



Above: Ann Bevan supports John Dadd and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson

Below: Part of the reorganised RN Section of the HDS Diving Museum



The standard diver and commercial sections are ready and the new regulator display is complete.


Revamped display of regulators

in the HDS Diving Museum 


Great turn-out today!  John Dadd, Jim Thomson, Martin Marks, Mike Dear, Alan Stillwell, Ann and John Bevan.  A day off tomorrow (Wed) and a big day on Thursday (8th) from 1200 to prepare for the RN CD visits on Friday and Saturday.




Thanks to John Dadd, the Diving Museum at Stokes Bay will be open from 1200 to 1500 on both Friday 9 and Saturday 10 March specifically for people attending the CD Branch's 60th Anniversary Dinner this weekend.  It is due to re-open for normal business 7-9 April and then every Saturday and Sunday plus bank holidays until 28 October. 


The museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two of whom need to be on site at any time.  If you would like to take part, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way. 


5 Mar 12 - Two NDG members feature in trial of Celtic football club manager bomb threat suspects


The Scottish Daily record contains this article featuring MCDOA member John Keenan (on exchange from the Royal Canadian Navy) and LS(D) Bob McCann, both members of Northern Diving Group (NDG).  This article on the RN website is also relevant.


3 Mar 12 - SDU2 blows up live shell at Browndown


The Portsmouth News contains this article describing Thursday's disposal of a live 4.5" shell on the beach at Browndown by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2). 


2 Mar 12 - MWA Southern Dit Session


Last night's southern area monthly Dit Session of the Mine Warfare Association (MWA) was held at The Crown in Fareham.  There was a good turnout including MCDOA members Mike Boal, Rob Hoole, Bill Kerr and Martin Mackey.  Some semblance of order was maintained by MWA Chairman Dixie Dean MBE.  It was particularly good to see Taff Reader and Taff Davies there on St David's Day.




1 Mar 12 - Thanksgiving Service for Alan Noonan


I am grateful to MCDOA member Steve Gobey for this account of the Service of Thanksgiving for MCDOA associate member Alan Noonan at St Margaret Mary's Catholic Church in Plymstock yesterday (see second entry for 16 Feb 12 in News Archive 37):


"Hi Rob,


As promised, here is my account of Alan Noonan's funeral in Plymstock yesterday.


Alan was the ace project manager to the end - and beyond.  The weather was beautiful, there was a pub to muster in right opposite the church and a submarine that was due to enter Pompey and would have prevented David Hilton from attending was delayed so that he could be there!  There was a good turn out of MoD, Divex and MSI colleagues and an old friend from Alan's FAA days. MCDOA members David Hilton and Steve Gobey, together with ex-WO(D) Graham 'Tiny' Petrie, represented RN Clearance Diving.


The service commenced with the cortege arriving to the music of Susan Boyle's 'How Great Thou Art' and was followed by an address by Father Jamomir Wilczak, prayers, readings and the hymn 'The Lord is My Shepherd'. For the Eulogy, younger family members bravely delivered moving tributes to Alan's early and family life, followed by Derek Clarke delivering a tribute to his professional life and summarising the many tributes paid to Alan on the MCDOA website.  After the hymn 'Amazing Grace' and a reading, the cortege departed to Westlife's 'I'll see you again' for a family burial at the Drake Memorial Park just to the north of Plymstock.  


The family then kindly welcomed us all to The Staddon Heights Golf Club.  Alison expressed their appreciation for the attendance of so many of Alan's work colleagues.  With a fantastic view over Plymouth Sound, good food and beer, and all the people you would need for a Project Progress Meeting, it was a fitting send off for Alan.


I'm sorrry not to have taken any photos but David and Graham had to leave shortly after the service and I didn't get the chance to get the full complement together.  Hopefully my attempt to attach a scanned copy of the front page of the Order of Service will work!  


Yours Aye,




Thank you Steve.  It is good to hear that Alan was sent off in such fine style.  Our deepest sympathy goes out to Alan's partner Joan and other members of his family.


Alan William Noonan

(1942 - 2012)


29 Feb 12 - Thanksgiving Service for Kay Haines


The East Chapel at Bournemouth Crematorium was crammed today for the Service of Thanksgiving for Kay Haines, wife of ex-CD1 George 'Gabby' Haines (see entry for 10 Feb 12).  Apart from Yours Truly (Rob Hoole), MCDOA member John Grattan OBE was present along with his wife Marjorie and ex-CD1s Derek 'Maggie' Lockwood and Dudley North who was accompanied by his wife Hazel.


Mourners entered to the sound of 'How Deep is your Love' by the Bee Gees before a welcoming introduction and prayers by the Revd Debbiw Godefroy who officiated throughout the service.  She then gave a bible reading (1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (But the greatest of these is love)) which was followed by Mark Haines and Joanne Mackie (née Haines) providing affectionate reminiscences of their mother.  Joanne mentioned her particular gratitude for all the messages of sympathy sent by divers via the MCDOA and RN CD websites, saying they they had been a great comfort to the family.  We then heard an address by Debbie Godefroy before singing 'The Lord's my Shepherd', the only hymn.  Debbie then led the congrgation in Prayers, the Commendation and Committal before giving the final Blessing.  The congregation then left to the sound of 'My Way' by Frank Sinatra.


A reception was held at the Miramar Hotel on the cliff overlooking Bournemouth where I took this photo of Gabby with Maggie Lockwood (John and Marjorie Grattan had left after the service):


Maggie Lockwood and Gabby Haines


Once again, we extend our deep condolences to Kay's husband Gabby, their son Mark, daughter Joanne, grand-daughter Evie and their other family members and close friends on their sad loss.


Kay Gloria Haines

(27 Mar 1938 - 8 Feb 2012)


27 Feb 12 - Formation of the RN Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA)


The RN Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA) is a newly formed organisation intended to:


a. Maintain contact between serving and former members of the Service and providing social gatherings for them.

b. Foster esprit de corps, comradeship and the welfare of the Service and perpetuating its deeds.

c. Preserve the traditions of the Service including the practice of understatement, humility and modesty.

d. Perpetuate the memory of those members of the Service who have died in the service of their country.

e. Promote the gatherings and the exchange of information between serving and former members of the Service.


The RNCDA will comprise former and serving Clearance Divers (CDs) and Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers (MCDOs).  The founding RNCDA Committee consists of the following individuals in accordance with the Association's Constitution:


President:  Cdr Don Crosbie RN (Commanding Officer, Fleet Diving Squadron)

Chairman:  WO1(D) Steve Fitzjohn

Vice Chairman:  Lt Cdr Al Nekrews RN

Secretary & Membership:  WO1(D) Steve Vernon

Treasurer:  Lt Cdr Mick Beale RN

Committee Member (serving CPO(D)):  CPO(D) John Ravenhall

Committee Member (serving PO(D)):  PO(D) J Stewart;

Committee Member (serving LS(D)):  LS(D) R Throupe

Committee Member (serving AB(D)):  AB(D) L Causer

Committee Member (former serving):  Vic Anderton

Committee Member (former serving):  Graham Wilson


The membership fee is a one-off payment of £25, payable by cheque, cash or bank transfer.  Relevant documentation can be downloaded here:


RNCDA Constitution (1).doc


RNCDA Membership Letter.doc


This all-ranks association is complementary to the MCDOA, rather like the Mine Warfare Association (MWA), and I have applied to join it.  I urge you to do the same.  As long as the MCDOA is able to retain its own identity and objectives, not to mention fill a wardroom at its annual dinner, the RNCDA poses no threat to its viability as a separate organisation.


26 Feb 12 - Navy News


The February issue of Navy News, containing several items of MCD interest, can be downloaded here.  


25 Feb 12 - Crafty kit


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the presentation by Ultra Electronics Sonar Systems of a SeaFox mine disposal vehicle, as used by Hunt and Sandown class minehunters, to the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth.


Project director of the New Gallery, Matthew Sheldon, left, and

curator Richard Noyce with the SeaFox underwater vehicle

(Portsmouth News photo)


24 Feb 12 - Arrangements for the funeral of Alan Noonan


MCDOA associate member Alan Noonan's step-daughter Alison has announced the following arrangements for his funeral (see second entry for 16 Feb 12 and appended tributes):


"This is a group email to all Alan's friends just to let you know the funeral arrangements.  I hope we have managed to contact everyone previously and you were all aware of the sad news. 


Alan William Noonan


Sadly passed away at Derriford Hospital on 15 February 2012 aged 69.


Beloved partner to Joan. “Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day, unseen, unheard but always near, still loved, still missed and very dear.”


Dearly loved by Julia & Rob, Paul & Sharon, Alison & Phil, Rikki, Jemma, Danny & Caden {Your little Buddy): “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, shows me Grandad where you are.”


Your loving brother Ray & Eileen, sister Linda & Brian, and all the family: “God has you in his keeping we have you in our hearts.”


Funeral service at Margaret Mary's Catholic Church, Quarry Park Road, Plymstock, Plymouth on Wednesday 29th February at 1pm.  Family flowers only please.  Donations if desired to Cancer Research UK or the British Heart Foundation c/o The Co-operative Funeral Care, 72 Pomphlett Road, Pymstock PL9 7BN.  Tel No: 01752 482900.


Burial at Drake Memorial and then a gathering at Staddon Heights Golf Club.  All Welcome!!  We would love to hear from you especially if you could attend, in the first instance please email


Many thanks,




P.S. if anyone knows of anyone else who knew Alan that has possibly have not heard, the family would very much appreciate this information being forwarded on."


I have sent a message of sympathy to Alison.  Regrettably, I am committed to attending another funeral in Bournemouth on the same day but I am sure that sufficient of Alan's friends and colleagues will be present to give him the send-off he deserves.


From Alan's stepdaughter Alison:


"Thank you so much for your email and everything you have done for us in publishing the funeral arrangements, etc.  It is so comforting to know that Alan was so highly thought of and had so many friends who were also work colleagues.  We will definitely look at the website. 


Sorry that you are unable to come to the funeral.  It would have been nice to have met you.  However, you are welcome to visit any time if you are ever down this way.


Kind regards and a big thank you again,




MCDOA past-Chairman David Hilton has informed me that MCDOA associate member Derek Clarke, Managing Director of DIVEX, will be delivering a eulogy at Alan's funeral.  MCDOA member Steve Gobey has informed me that he will be attending Alan's funeral, too.


23 Feb 12 - Promotions to Lt Cdr


I am grateful to Soapy Watson, our Honorary Treasurer, for advising me that the following MCDOA members have been selected for promotion to Lt Cdr with effect from 1 October 2012 according to today's signal:


Rory Armstrong

David Armstong (son of MCDOA member Bertie)

Ross Balfour

Chris Flaherty

Dan Herridge

Charlie Wheen

Steve White


MCDO Ed Black was also on the signal but I am unsure whether he is an MCDOA member.


Warm congratulations to everyone on the list.


22 Feb 12


Kev Stockton flies to Italy in grim but vital Costa Concordia mission


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how MCDOA member Kev Stockton, Commanding Officer of the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG), is flying to Rome today for multi-national discussions about the best way to recover the remaining bodies trapped in the luxury liner Costa Concordia.


Lt Cdr Kev Stockton RN


Postscript: I have since been informed that Kev accompanied MCDOA members Don Crosbie (CO of the Fleet Diving Squadron) and Richard 'Soapy' Watson (Chief of Staff for the Fleet Diving Squadron) to this international meeting.


Promotions to Warrant Officer


The heartiest of congratulations to CPO(MW) Joe Munro of the Mining Team, CPO(D) Alan 'Knocker' Knowles of FDU3 and CPO(D) John 'Yo-Yo' Ravenhall of SofD's staff on their provisional selection for promotion to WO1 with a CPD (Common Promotion Date) of 31 March 2013.  MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Soapy Watson passed me the good news this morning.


HDS Bunker and Diving Museum update


This is an amalgamation of recent updates from MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), about the 'self-help' refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in Gosport as the Society's library and repository for the Diving Museum's reserve collection and preparations to re-open the museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay for the new season:


"On Tuesday 21 Feb we collected an office desk, set of drawers, chairs and other bits courtesy of Martin Marks.  We also collected a steel cabinet, an office cupboard and more wood (for construction) courtesy of Ray Ramsay.


We have now moved the HDS library and archives into the Bunker thanks to the efforts of Nigel Phillips and Ann Bevan.   The items are still boxed and will need sorting, checking etc, but not necessarily in that order.   Kevin Casey and I picked up some office furniture from Portsmouth for the Bunker.


Please take a moment to enjoy and admire the craft of the chippies at the Bunker!  One is the new workshop and the other is the start of the storeroom shelving.  Artisans responsible are John Dadd, Jim Thomson and Martin Marks.



Left : Workshop

Right: Store Room


We have been donated a 60-inch (yes, 60-inch) plasma screen by Ann and Adrian Bevan (nephew). 


For information, the following people have helped to get us this far, giving a total of about 580 man-hours of effort (please let me know if I've missed anybody):


Peter Baldry

Paul Beard

Ann Bevan

John Bevan

John Dadd

Mike Dear

Mike Fardell

Martin Hill

Rob Hoole

Barry Jackson

Malcolm Janiec

Ray Mabbs

Margaret Marks

Martin Marks

Graham Mellors

John Millerchip

Nigel Phillips

Kim Shipp

Barry Stayte

Alan Stillwell

Jim Thomson

John Towse


Well done and thanks to all who have helped!


Our efforts will shortly be diver-ted to refurbishing the Museum, ready for opening on Saturday, 7 April.  I hope to get TV coverage of the arrival in March of diving bells from Cornwall and the Submarine Museum.


Today, 22 Feb, was possibly the last full day at the Bunker before we start on the Museum.  Building more shelves in the store room was the high priority and there was a lot of sorting, tidying and arranging of furniture to do.  More storage shelves have gone up thanks to John Dadd and Jim Thomson. Pics also of the new office and the current situation of our library.



Left: Store Room

Right: Books and archives for the Library


The Office


I am awaiting a call from Hampshire County Council at Winchester in the next couple of days to say what book-shelving they have available for us and then we can go there and help ourselves.


Things will start moving fast now to get the Museum re-arranged.


John B."


The Diving Museum at Stokes Bay is due to re-open 7-9 April and then every Saturday and Sunday plus bank holidays until 28 October.  It relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two of whom need to be on site at any time.  If you would like to take part, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.


21 Feb 12 - HMS Grimsby to visit Inverness


The Highland News contains this article announcing a visit by HMS Grimsby to Inverness for five days starting Thursday 23 February.


20 Feb 12 - Topsy Turner meets an old friend on Exercise BOLD ALLIGATOR


I have received this marvellous update from former MCDOA Honorary Secretary David 'Topsy' Turner who transferred to the RNZN in 2004:


"Hi Rob,


Following closely behind Soapy's dit regarding Exercise BOLD ALLIGATOR [see entry for 9 Feb 12], please find attached a couple of photos taken during my three weeks on board USS WASP where I was part of the NZDF contingent gaining some amphibious operations experience.



Left: Topsy at the controls of an LCAC (Landing Craft, Air Cushion) - the fans were off!!!

Right: Topsy on the landing beach with an LCAC in the background


It was particularly great to meet up with 'Sir Paddy' who popped aboard to visit the UK contingent during one of the many VIP Days. 


Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC (MCDOA President & COMUKTG)

with Topsy in the Flag Mess on board USS WASP 


Funnily enough he sat next to my boss (Cdre John Martin RNZN) at the Flag Officer lunch where they established their credentials as oppos of mine.  'Sir John' was on my PWO course back in 1988 (with fellow MCDOA member John Murphie) and Paddy and John rubbed shoulders during their time as Staff Officers at BRNC Dartmouth.  It really is an amazingly small world - we should all look forward to having 'Sir Paddy' as our President where there is absolutely no doubt he will do an outstanding job, not unlike those exceptional officers in whose footsteps he follows.


Yours Aye from Down Under (and just beyond Aus!),




Thank you Topsy and BZ!  Mind you, I expect you had a bloody good LMCDO Course Officer back in 1983.   


19 Feb 12 - Ex-CD Tony Groom on TV tonight


Ex-Clearance Diver Tony Groom, Falklands veteran and author of 'Diver' and 'In2Deep' (see his website here), features in a TV programme being re-broadcast on the History Channel at 2200 tonight. 


Ex-CD Tony Groom expounding (expanding?) on Boyle's Law


The programme, titled 'Fatal Pressure', is an episode of a series called 'Underwater Universe' and deals with the efforts of scientists, divers and other underwater explorers to overcome the physical and physiological effects of pressure while plumbing the seas ever deeper.  For those unable to catch the programme on TV, it is also available to watch online on YouTube here.


18 Feb 12


In ship shape and ready for celebrations


Today's Grimsby Telegraph contains this article describing the current visit of HMS Grimsby to Grimsby.  It features AB(D) Dave Pearce, a native of Lincolnshire.


Did you serve in a TON class MCMV?



The A4-sized hardback book 'Last of the Wooden Walls: An Illustrated History of the Ton Class Minesweepers and Minehunters' (160 pages) may now be ordered via Amazon here for £23.74 or Waterstones here for £24.99 but can still be obtained via Halsgrove Publishing here for the pre-publication price of £19.99 (instead of £24.99). 



The A4-sized paperback 'Jacks of All Trades: Operational Records of Ton Class Minesweepers & Minehunters' is a volume of 120 pages.  Published privately by the Ton Class Association (TCA), it will be launched as a companion volume to 'Wooden Walls' and contains the operational history and a photograph of each TON that served in the Royal Navy plus a summary of the 37 TONs that were transferred to other navies.  It is available via Amazon here or Waterstones here for £9.99 but is still available at the pre-publication discounted price of £9.49 (inc p&p) if ordered directly from: TCA Stores Officer, Lawrence Johnson, 4 Downham Close, Cowplain, Hampshire PO8 8UD.  Cheques should be made payable to 'Ton Class Association'.


Both books will officially be launched at the Royal Naval Museum Library in Portsmouth Naval Base on 9 March 2012 to mark the 25th anniversary of the TCA so offers end soon.  All royalties from the sales of both books will be going to the TCA, not to any individuals.


17 Feb 12 - Soapy Watson trains to be a 'Paddler'


MCDOA Honorary Treasurer (or should I say 'Treasure'?) Richard 'Soapy' Watson, Chief of Staff of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), has sent me this announcement:


"Hi Rob,


Just to let you know about this year's 'MAD' (mid-life crisis) challenge I am undertaking with another MCDOA member.  Lt Chris Stephenson (ex-OIC FDU 3 and about to start PWO course) and I will be taking on one of the longest canoe races in the UK.  The Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race is a 126 mile marathon navigating the Kennet & Avon Canal and tributaries of the Thames before following the River Thames to finish opposite the Houses of Parliament just downstream from Westminster Bridge.  There are 77 portages along the way. 



The event is over the Easter weekend starting at Devizes at 0700 on the morning of Saturday 7 April.  Being total novices, we have very quickly progressed from a standard canoe to a K1 racing canoe.  We have been training every day at Horsea in the K1s and our aim is to progress to the two-man K2 next week.  With classic 'Can do attitude', we intend to complete this feat in or around 24 hours.


I will keep you updated with some photos as we progress through the weeks.  If any members are willing to act as a support crew to R/V at points to feed and water us, it would be very helpful.


We intend to raise money for the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) and Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a moument at Gunwharf Quays commemorating the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which formerly stood on the site.  I will set up a Just Giving account and post later next week.


Kind Regards,




This explains what Soapy was doing with Mark Shaw (OIC FDU2) in San Diego last week.



If anyone can help Soapy and Chris in their worthy enterprise, please email Soapy via this address.


16 Feb 12


Latest LS&GC Awards


Congratulations to WO1(D) Andy Carss, CPO(D) Bob Hope and CPO(D) Willie Sharp MBE on being awarded the clasp to the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (LS&GC) for 30 years of undetected crime.  The full list of awards dating 14 February 2012 is available on the London Gazette website here.


Death of Alan Noonan 


This is turning out to be a severely sickly season.  I received the following sad news from MCDOA member David Hilton last night:


"Dear Rob,


Barry Axford from Portland called me this evening to inform me that Alan Noonan died today - dreadful news and the sad loss of a very great friend and supporter of military diving.  You remember we all worked together at ARE Portland / Southwell; he was an excellent supporter of the Clearance Diving Branch and a particular good run ashore.  We will all miss him.  


Could you please put this sad loss of Alan on both the CD1 and MCDOA websites.  Not sure when his funeral will be, but no doubt in the Plymouth area.  


Sorry to pass on this sad news. Our thoughts must be with his partner, Joan, and his family at this dreadful time.




As David says, he and I worked with Alan Noonan in the MCMD Section at DGUW(N) Southwell on Portland as Naval applicators in the mid-1990s before the general move to Egdon Hall in Weymouth and eventually Abbey Wood near Bristol.  MoD civil servants often get a bad press but Alan was one of the best.  The RN Diving branch had no greater champion in system procurement.  This is why he was later offered, and accepted, associate membership of the MCDOA and attended several of our functions.


After retiring from the MoD in April 2002, Alan spent 21 months travelling, playing golf, performing half-hearted DIY and gardening to the point where he felt he was starting to vegetate.  Some people take to early retirement like a duck to water but not him.  Fortunately, MCDOA associate member Derek Clarke, the Managing Director of DIVEX, contacted him in the latter part of 2003 to see if he was interested in a one-off job of six to eight weeks' duration.  Alan accepted Derek's offer with alacrity and commenced work in January 2004.  His primary role was as the DIVEX Project Manager for the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS)'s Transfer Under Pressure (TUP) System, a subcontract from Rolls-Royce, the Prime Contractor.  The TUP System provides the interface to the Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV) and comprises a number of deck decompression chambers and associated support containers (air, oxygen, environmental, etc.) fulfilling all the needs of the rescuees (see entry for 24 Jan 12).


Alan's secondary role was as a documentation engineer on the Astute submarine project.  He was kept very busy and was away from home a lot but he and his partner Joan had lived that way for years so there was no conflict.  While in Aberdeen, Alan saw a lot of MCDOA member Martin Jenrick who also worked for DIVEX.  He also worked with MCDOA member John Burden who became a virtual resident at DIVEX in his role as Rolls-Royce NSRS TUP System Manager.  In June 2007, Chris Ameye (then MCDOA Chairman and Superintendent of Diving) led a team to witness a demonstration of the NSRS TUP arrangements as part of the safety acceptance process (see entry for 29 Jun 07 in News Archive 18) and Alan was captured in this photo:


NSRS Control Room with Alan Noonan

standing at the back in shirt-sleeves


Alan left DIVEX in May 2009.  Late last year, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.  He started a five-month course of chemotherapy in November 2011 and was hopeful of getting together with David Hilton and Barry Axford for a drink in the Cove pub on Chesil Beach at Portland sometime in the New Year.  Sadly, it was not to be. 


I am sure all members of the RN Diving community will join me in extending our deepest sympathy to Alan's partner, Joan, and to his family  I will publish details of any funeral arrangements when they are made known.


From MCDOA past-Chairman Chris Ameye:




I have just learnt of Alan’s passing; how very sad.  Alan was a fervent supporter and true friend of our community and I have very fond memories of working with him during the NSRS project.  His work at the MoD and latterly at DIVEX was instrumental in the success of a number of programmes that remain with us to this day.


My thoughts are very much with his family at this time.


As ever,




From MCDOA member Steve Gobey:


"Dear Rob,


I have just seen the news about Alan.  How very sad


He told me about his illness in his card at Christmas and we exchanged a couple of emails in January.  Typical Alan, he was always upbeat and positive.  I worked (and played!) with Alan from 1994 until he retired from the MoD at Abbey Wood.  I echo the sentiments expressed in the other tributes on the MCDOA website.  He was a great colleague and a good friend.


Yours Aye,




From engineering consultant Peter Williamson (to Derek Clarke, MD of DIVEX):




I was very sad to hear that Alan had died this week. I have known Alan since about 2000 when he was still working at Abbey Wood and latterly we worked closely together in Barrow-in-Furness, Aberdeen.  We even had the odd trip to Cape Town together.  Our work together was in relation to the NSRS TUP System and other diving related systems for the Astute programme.  As well as being a valued work colleague, I considered Alan to be a very good friend.  Alan had a very positive outlook on life and at work he was a resourceful, reliable and trusted colleague.  As a friend, I could not have wished for better.


My thoughts are with Joan and Alan’s family at this sad time.






From Dixie Dean MBE, Chairman of the Mine Warfare Association (MWA):


"Hi Rob,


I was very saddened to hear of Alan's passing.  Very sad news indeed.


I had the pleasure of working in the same organisations as Alan on two occasions: once at DGUW(N) at Southwell when I was a CPO(MW) on the Sonar 2093 Trials Team and the other when I was the Mine Warfare Naval Applicator at Abbey Wood.  Alan was a well respected member of the MCD procurement team in both of those organisations and was always in the thick of things.  He was highly respected by his counterparts, peers and colleagues in both industry and the MoD (uniformed and civilian).  His opinion on the over-burdening procurement bureaucracy was well known but he never let that get in the way of reality.  One of the best, most effective Project Managers I have ever known.


I also had the pleasure of a beer or three with Alan at the odd social event which was always 'a great run ashore'.  He and [WO(D)] Ted Morrison could always be found close to the source of ale and both were a huge amount of fun to be with on those nights.  No one was safe from a litlle bit of leg-pulling by Alan and Ted.


My thoughts and best wishes to his family.


Best regards,




From MCDOA member John Burden:


"Am devastated by the news of Alan's death.  At sea at the moment with NSRS on the way to Norway.  I spent many happy times during the build of the TUP system at Divex with him and Peter Williamson...


So sad!  I will miss you Alan.




From MCDOA associate member Chris Chapman, Alan's one-time boss in the MoD:


"Hi Rob,


Sad news indeed.  Can I add a few words on Alan?


He was a committed and professional procurement manager.  Nothing would stand in his way in order to deliver 1st class diving and combat swimming to the RN, RM and RE on time.  A rare talent indeed in our somewhat burueaucratic procurement system.  A hardworking colleague who will be missed. 


Bye Alan.






From MCDOA associate member Derek Clarke, Managing Director of DIVEX:


"Hi Rob,


As someone who worked closely with Alan over many years, and considered him a good friend, I am hugely saddened to hear of his untimely passing this morning.  Mine, and the thoughts of all Alan’s colleagues at Divex, go out to Joan and family.


I’ve been thinking back and I must have first met Alan in 1989 or thereabouts when he was working in Southwell or possibly Egdon Hall, Weymouth.  He was leading the procurement of what eventually became the 2CCC contract for the Type A and Type B chambers we won some years later.  These chambers are still in service today.  I knew Alan as a client but I grew to know him as a friend and someone who definitely lived life by my old school motto, “work hard, play hard” and it was impossible not to like him hugely.  He was always on the side of the end user, the diver, working tirelessly to secure the best outcome, not necessarily for the Ministry but always for the diver - that always struck a chord with me.  Alan was the main POC for subsequent procurements for CDBA and LEBA(MG) and numerous other requirements having relocated to Abbey Wood.


Some time after his retirement we were only too pleased when Alan agreed to join Divex in 2004 to undertake the Project Management of the TUP system for NSRS.  He had now turned from gamekeeper to poacher, a role he was especially adept at.  Alan eventually remained with us for some five years, far beyond both our original expectations, providing untiring support for what was an extremely challenging project, both technically and commercially.  The eventual success of the NSRS TUP owes much to Alan’s dogged determination to do it right!  


Barry Axford made us aware of Alan’s failing health last year but this news is no less saddening.  I will always respect Alan for his great work ethic and his joie de vivre, and remember his ruddy complexion and the sparkle in his eye - he’d have made a great buccaneer in a previous life.






From MCDOA past-President Colin Welborn:




Very very sorry to hear about Alan.  I came to know him well during my time in the MoD in the mid-90's, etc., and he could not have been more supportive.


If you are happy, I will pass this on to the RM Corps Secretary as Alan was also pretty fundamental in providing the RM with equipment, particularly SDV.






From MCDOA member Andy 'Sharkey' Ward:


"Hi Rob,


Very sad to see the passing of Alan Noonan.  I got to know him when I was CO NDG and about to take on operation of the NSRS (I’m in the picture looking intently at the screen and trying to understand things!) but Alan was always very positive, helpful and extremely friendly.  When that pic was taken I remember thinking ‘how are we going to make this work for Naval diving’ but we did, thanks to a lot of help and assistance from Alan.


As a civilian supporter of Naval diving, they don’t get much better.  A sad loss indeed.




15 Feb 12


Two 'mortar-like' items found on Cleethorpes beach


The Grimsby Telegraph website contains this article describing the arrival of members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) yesterday to deal with two mortar bombs found on the beach at Cleethorpes.


A message from Bruce Cobby, son of the late Lt Cdr Peter Cobby BEM RN


"Good morning Rob,


The entire family would be most grateful if you would post a thank you for all the kind messages sent to the website and for the personal emails received.  And a special thank you to Lt Cdr 'Hamish' Loudon MBE and the team from the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group for attending the funeral service, and not forgetting Kev Stockton for arranging the Faslane team's presence.


And finally, many thanks to you Rob for all your kind words and all your efforts on the website and behind the scenes.


Best regards,


Bruce & Family"


See the entry for 4 Feb 12 with appended tributes and the entry for 13 Feb 12.  Also watch out for a possible obituary for Peter Cobby in the Daily Telegraph during the next few weeks.


Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club Spring Lunch


I have received this kind invitation from Robin Bennett, the Secretary of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated:




Please circulate this invitation round your members.  We have the Deputy Commander 29 EOD & Search Group giving an update and would be delighted to see any MCDOA members.


All the best,




The lunch will take place on Saturday 21 April in the Officers’ Mess, 221 Field Squadron (EOD) (V), Hudson House, Bromley Road, CATFORD, London, SE6 2RH (courtesy of the Officer Commanding and officers).  The calling notice and booking form can be dowloaded here:


 REBDOC Spring Lunch 2012 (PDF 344 KB)


14 Feb 12


HMS Grimsby pays namesake town first visit in five years


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing a visit by HMS Grimsby to her 'home town' of Grimsby for five days starting Friday 17 February.


HMS Grimsby

(RN website photo)


A Clearance Diver's story from Afghanistan


MCDOA Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson, Chief of Staff for the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), has passed me a copy of the most recent EOD and Search Task Force Newsletter.  It contains this highly entertaining article written by PO(D) Si Crew while serving in Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK 15 which started in October 2011:


Lash Vegas Bound….. By PO(D) Si Crew


"With the main RIP [Relief In Place] complete and the RSOI [Reception, Staging and Onward Movement] training cut back to two days a week, it wasn’t the greatest of surprises to hear that I was going to be farmed out for a while and my days of watching the ‘Coffee Shop’ construction were numbered.  My summons to see the OC T&M Sqn came quicker than expected.  The brief was short and to the point, I was to pack forthwith and head up to Lashkar Gah to look after the ‘Bombs side of life’.  What this actually meant I didn’t have clue but I decided any questions might display signs of uncertainty, so I promptly left before the Boss could change his mind and consider anyone else for the job.  Having never been to Lashkar Gah I took the fact that it was affectionately known as ‘Lash Vegas’ as a very positive sign indeed.  This however did play havoc with my packing plans and after much deliberation I decided that to make room for my DJ (I’d heard this was the preferred evening dining attire in LKG) my secondary pillow was just going to have to stay in Bastion.


As the helo swooped down to the HLS [Helicopter Landing Site] at Lashkar Gah I glanced out of the porthole from my seat and noted it was much smaller than I had anticipated.  I was met at the Helipad by SSgt ‘Smudge’ Smith who wasted no time in giving me the guided tour.  Due to the total lack of swim-up bars and late night gambling dens it instantly became apparent that ‘Lash Vegas’ it wasn’t and I can only assume that this was named by someone who was actually overwhelmed by a sandy volleyball pitch and the odd splash of colour in the well-tended flower beds.  If anyone knows this person, please ensure they try and get out more.  My new accommodation was sited right next to the HLS, so trying to adjust to sleeping with ear defenders on and getting up after each Osprey landing to hammer in some extra tent pegs meant I endured a restless first night’s sleep.


So it was early the next morning as I was still chiseling the sleep from my eyes that I found myself sat in Lashkar Gah Provincial Police HQ staring at somebody who resembled Hagred from the Harry Potter movie dressed in an Afghan police uniform.  Our interpreter ‘Baz’ (who would later manage to surprise me on a daily basic with his endless supply of tragic cardigans) took care of introductions and my reason for being here started to fall into place.  The man sat opposite me was the AUP's (Afghan Uniformed Police) sole EOD operator and with his merry team covers IED/EOD incidents in and around the Lashkar Gah area.  My brief was to continue with the ISAF mentoring programme for him and his team.


PO(D) Si Crew (far right) with members of AUP EOD team 707(1) in Afghanistan


Looking back over the last two months that I have now been here with AUP EOD team 707(1), I can honestly say that every day has brought a new challenge for myself and the Protected Mobility (PM) group (Initially led by Cpl ‘Sam’ Cochrane and more recently Cpl ‘Dave’ Little and his team).  Ranging from a report of an IED that turned out to be someone’s packed lunch left at the main gate (the AUP Operator actually ate them as he returned to the ICP!), responding to not only ANSF reports but also ISAF 10-Liners and compound clearances.  Numerous bulk demolitions have also been conducted, with the team recently deposing of nearly 1 tonne of homemade explosives as a result of numerous operations over the Christmas period.  So all in all, so far, it’s been a busy and in hindsight, a very rewarding job."


BZ to Si and to all other members of the RN Clearance Diver branch deployed with ISAF in Afghanistan. 


As the result of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, I have ascertained that up to 19 October 2011, at least 8,591 Operational Service Medals (OSMs) and/or clasps have been awarded to Royal Navy personnel and 8,123 awarded to Royal Marines personnel for service on Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan in some form or another since 11 Sep 2001.  This comprises a total of 16,714 Naval Service awards altogether.  Many of the affected personnel, especially RMs, FAA and medics, have been deployed three, four or more times.  That's not bad for the smallest of all three services which only just tops 35,000 personnel and has a fleet of ships, submarines, aircraft and other units (like CD teams) to man, maintain and operate as its core business.


13 Feb 12 - Thanksgiving Service for Lt Cdr Peter Cobby BEM RN


MCDOA member Hamish Loudon MBE, one of my COs when I served in HMS Vernon's diving tender HMS Laleston 1973-75, travelled from Fort William to Inverness on Friday and graciously represented the Association at the Thanksgiving Service of his old friend Peter Cobby.  He has kindly passed me this account:


"Hello Rob,


It was a small, quiet "Family & Friends" affair and I was so pleased to see the uniformed contingent from Faslane.  The team were a superb advert for the RN and the Branch.  There was another RN uniform there, Peter's granddaughter, a CPO (Marine Artificer) from HMS Dauntless.  A very switched-on young lady.



Northern Diving Group (NDG) contingent comprising WO(D) Karl Roberts, PO(D) George Gow,

AB(D) Stewart Bailey and AB(D) Scott McCallister with Hamish Loudon in right hand photo


There was a very pleasant reception back at Munlochy, on the Black Isle, where Peter lived in a house adjacent to the family.  It was clear that many people were not aware of Peter's impressive achievements until the eulogy was read out at the funeral service.  Clearly Peter was a very modest person!   The many emails from members of the Branch were very much appreciated by the family.


The one lesson I took away from the day was that the British public still have a great admiration for the RN and our uniform should be seen in public more often.  I was able to report that the Underwater Center at Fort William was still going strong (Sat courses fully booked this year) and was a fitting memorial to Peter.






P.S. I can't find my Divers Tie, hence the "Blackfoot Squadron, 6th MSS" tie in the photograph.  Who do I send a cheque to for a replacement tie?"


I think the MCDOA can stand Hamish a tie for attending Peter Cobby's service on our behalf and I will ask Soapy Watson, our Honorary Treasurer, to make it so.  Thanks also to MCDOA member Kev Stockton, CO of NDG, for arranging the presence of the divers in uniform and thanks to the divers themselves.


Lt Cdr Peter Cobby BEM RN

(16 Apr 1929 - 2 Feb 2012)


12 Feb 12 - Falklands 30


Today's Sunday Mail contains this article in which Rear Admiral Chris Parry CBE reproduces extracts from his forthcoming book, 'Down South: A Falklands War Diary'.  I have several reasons for drawing attention to it: 

  • Chris Parry was one of my bosses at the Maritime Warfare Centre and I admire him a lot.

  • Chris Parry's father was the late-lamented MCDOA member John Parry and I admired him a lot.

Cdr John Jenkyn Parry OBE PhD RN

(7 Aug 1929 - 18 Oct 2006)

  • Chris Parry was the highly popular guest of honour at our MCDOA annual dinner four years ago, shortly before he resigned from the Royal Navy.

Rear Admiral Chris Parry at the MCDOA Annual Dinner

in HMS Excellent on 16 November 2007

  • Chris Parry's Wessex helicopter severely damaged the Agentinian submarine ARA Santa Fe which, according to his diary, ended up "flopping alongside the British Antarctic Survey jetty and the Grytviken whaling settlement on South Georgia" where it later displayed a piece of graffiti applied by MCDOA member David 'Doc' O'Connell MBE.  David, embarked in HMS Endurance at the time, led a five-man team of ships’ divers which spent three weeks clearing hazardous explosives and other materials from the submarine before re-floating her so that she could safely be towed out to sea and sunk.

ARA Santa Fe displaying Dave O'Connell's graffiti

alongside the jetty at Grytviken, South Georgia

  • Chris Parry was the Flight Observer (FLOBS) of HMS Antrim on board which FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM, LS(D) Garry Sewell and AB(D) Nigel Pullan of FCDT 1 (commanded by MCDOA member Brian Dutton DSO QGM) dealt with an unexploded Agentinian 1,000 lb bomb which had passed through the Sea Slug missile magazine and lodged in the heads.  The fuze had been damaged so any attempt to render the bomb safe was useless.  While still under air attack and with considerable difficulty, the clearance divers and ship’s staff carefully manoeuvred the bomb through a hole cut in the flight deck and lowered it into deep water.

11 Feb 12


NDG responds to Glasgow 'bomb seige'


The Daily Record has published this article describing the participation of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) in the 8-hour seige of a Glasgow city centre restaurant last night following reports that a man told staff he had a bomb strapped to his back.



‘Just another day in the office’ for bomb team in Littlehampton


The Littlehampton Gazette has published this article describing an EOD task performed by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) on 1 February.  The article features MCDOA member Dan Herridge (OIC of SDU2) and LS(D) Jan Priddle.


Jan Priddle and Dan Herridge on

the beach at Littlehampton

(Photo - Littlehampton Gazette)


10 Feb 12 - Death of Gabby Haines' wife Kay


I am sorry to bring yet more bad news but those who have made a habit of attending RN Divers' reunions and joint-association barbecues at Horsea Island are sure to remember the regular presence of ex-CPO(D) Gabby Haines and his lovely, bubbly wife Kay.  Regrettably, Kay died from a sudden heart attack at home in the early hours of Wednesday 8 February. 


Gabby and Kay Haines (left) enjoying themselves at the

Horsea Island barbecue in June 2011



Left: Kay Haines flanked by Gabby and ex-CPO(CD1) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington in June 2009

Right: Kay Haines (centre) talking with Linda Hoole in June 2008


I have spoken with Gabby and his daughter Jo to express my deep sorrow for the unexpected loss of such a wonderful wife and mother and am I so glad that I gave Kay an affectionate kiss and a cuddle the last time we met.  Her funeral will be held at 1400 on Wednesday 29 February at Bournemouth Crematorium (Strouden Avenue BH8 9HX).


From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Rob,


We have known Gabby and Kay Haines since our Med Team days, 1965-8, and Marjorie was probably the first non-family or medical person their daughter Jo ever met soon after she was born.  Kay's sudden departure has come as a dreadful shock and she is a great loss to many people; including the other wives of the Med Team who have remained steadfast friends to this day.


Kay was a truly bubbly lady who always considered others before herself.  She fought through a horrific dose of cancer and although losing her hair, she never lost her determination to win and her wonderful sense of fun and humour.  At the same time she ably supported and encouraged Gabby who suffered his very own rough patch - what a marvellous couple they are.  I write "are" deliberately; having experienced "a through death" myself and re-reading Henry Scott Holland's lovely words concerning death.  


When one of us passes on you normally put notices from friends and divers onto the MCDOA website and they are greatly appreciated by all of us.  Very rarely are wives mentioned because they often hide themselves under the bushel of their husband.  Kay was such a wonderful person that I would ask you to make an exception in her case.


Most non-CDs. would regard us as a pretty chauvinistic, if not brutal, part of the RN.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We may play down some of the rougher aspects of our diving careers but without the support of our lovers we could never have succeeded when and where we did.  They backed us come hell and high water and never saw the necessity to run to the welfare people when the going got tough.  As an essential part of the Team they supported each other as well as their men - and Kay was a superb example of this caring and love.


She is sadly missed.


Yours aye,




9 Feb 12 - FDU2 completes Exercise BOLD ALLIGATOR 2012


MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson has passed me this illustrated account of an exercise just completed by members of Fleet Diving Unit 2 (FDU2) with the US Navy:


"FDU2 has been training and exercising over the last three weeks in San Diego as part of BOLD ALLIGATOR 2012.  This large-scale exercise took place on both the East and West Coasts and a geo-representation of the East Coast MCM battle-space was transposed onto the West Coast.  The exercise involved some 30 ships from the USA and allied nations.  FDU2 was practicing its VSW (Very Shallow Water) capability with the US Amphibious Force Pacific.


 Left to Right: AB(D) Humberstone, Lt Cdr Soapy Watson,

PO(D) Peers and AB(D) Rushton about to lay a training shape

prior to the start of the exercise


USS Comstock (LSD-45) prior to the exercise


VSW training


Lt Mark Shaw de-briefing after a training dive


OIC and CPO(D) Smith discuss operations during an AUV

training mission


FDU2 was working with Mobile Diving Unit One based at Point Loma near San Diego to conduct VSW missions from their Forward Operating Base (FOB) on board USS Comstock.  It was a great training opportunity for the two nations to work together using AUVs and divers to clear boat lanes.


FDU2 recovery drills with a US 11m RHIB


US 11m RHIBS transporting FDU 2's Inshore Raiding Craft (IRC)


Two FDU2 divers in CDLSE about to commence a VSW mission


C2 (Command & Control) was run from USS Comstock and headed by UMCM Cdr Muriano from Mobile Unit Six (Keg Busters) and Lt Cdr Soapy Watson (COS FDS HQ) was the DUMCM.  Lt Mark Shaw (OIC FDU2) led a team of 10 divers which was able to complete all operational capability tasks required to continue FDU2 force generation.  The divers were also working with Mobile Mammal Systems (MMS) during the exercise enabling them to confirm the AUV contacts with high levels of confidence.



Above and below: MMS (in the tent) being moved out of the

well deck of USS Comstock



After returning to the UK on 8 Feb 12, FDU2 will start its OP OLYMPIC training to support security operations in Weymouth for the duration of the Olympic Games."


Apparently, that wasn't the only exercising Soapy was doing in San Diego:


Had all the pedalloes been taken?


Sadly, a US Navy EOD diver died on 26 January during preparations for the same exercise while working from HMCS Summerside off South Carolina on the East Coast as described in this article in the Ottawa Citizen.  Our condolences go to the family, comrades and friends of Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2nd Class Petty Officer Taylor Gallant, 22, of Kentucky.


8 Feb 12 - HDS Bunker update


MCDOA member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the 'self-help' refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in The Avenue, Gosport as the Society's library and repository for the Diving Museum's reserve collection of artefacts:


"Our library is taking shape! 



Thanks to Rob Hoole's website, Ray Ramsay (ex-CD1) now Estate Manager at Fareham Reach Trading Estate, has come up trumps with construction material.  Don't you just have to marvel at those doors!?  John Dadd has done a great job hanging them.



We have also received a large quantity of 3/4-inch ply, 8 x 4 sheets and planks courtesy of Ray Ramsay.  This will be used to build shelving for the storage room and a workbench in the workshop.




Further action on this project will take place from 1100 on Friday 10 Feb 2012.




If you feel able to help in any way, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved.


7 Feb 12 - 60th Anniversary of the RN Clearance Diver Branch


This year marks the 60th anniversary of the RN Clearance Diver (CD) Branch which was formed on 7 March 1952 under the auspices of Admiralty Fleet Order 857/52 although 'Divers (C)', including stoker mechanics, had existed previously.  To celebrate this milestone, two events are planned:


Fri 9 Mar 2012.  All-ranks Diamond Jubilee Dinner at the Royal Maritime Club, Portsmouth.  Organiser: Former WO(D) Bob Oulds.  Time: 1915 for 2000.  Dress: Black tie.  Cost: £40 per head.  Calling notice and booking form available for download here.  Deadline for receipt of applications and deposits 28 Jan 2012.  Deadline for receipt of final payments 28 Feb 2012.


Sat 26 May 2012.  All-ranks Diamond Jubilee Reunion with buffet and live entertainment in the Senior Rates Mess at HMS Neptune, Faslane.  Organiser: WO1(D) Kev Wilkins.  Time: 1900 - 0100.  Dress: Smart casual.  Cost: £35 per head.  18 holes of golf at The Carrick, Loch Lomond will also be available on the same morning.  Calling notice and booking form available for download here.  Deadline for receipt of applications and cheques 20 Apr 2012.


See the Forthcoming Events page for further information about these and other functions.


6 Feb 12 - RN Diving Heritage: HMS Reclaim


Regular readers of this page will be aware that Peter Cobby had a long association with the Royal Navy's deep diving and submarine rescue vessel HMS Reclaim (see HMS Reclaim, A World Record-Breaker in the website's Dit Box).  MCDOA member Morty Drummond commanded HMS Reclaim in the mid-1950s and his son Charles has sent this message:


"Dear Cdr Hoole,


I went through some photos of Reclaim with my father over Christmas.  The first one is in Malta and the others are from Taormina in Sicily in 1956.  We thought they would be of interest to you.  As far as I know Reclaim was the last sail in the Royal Navy, making the ship more stable and adding a knot to the speed.


Kind regards,


Charles Drummond


Yacht Esprit de Papillon

Beaulieu Sur Mer



P.S. My father is a well 91-year-young in the throes of moving to Lee-on-the-Solent.  I have copied these photos to John Bevan."


These are the photos Charles provided:


HMS Reclaim at Malta




Above and below: HMS Reclaim off Taormina in Sicily in 1956



5 Feb 12 - Arrangements for the funeral of Lt Cdr Peter Cobby BEM RN


I have received this email from Peter Cobby's son Bruce:


"Dear Rob,


Many thanks for your speedy reply, kind words and for forwarding my email to others.  I have already received some very kind and moving messages which I have forwarded to my brother and sisters.  It is nice to know how highly regarded Dad was as he rarely spoke about himself or his lifetime achievements.


The service is planned for 1130 on Friday 10th February at Inverness Crematorium.  We have asked for family flowers only.  Anybody wishing to make donations to Dad's chosen charities should forward them to John Fraser & Son, 17-29 Chapel Street, Inverness, IV1 1NA.  The charities are Highland Hospice and St Dunstan's.


I'm beginning to feel a bit guilty for choosing a photo featuring American divers on your website and therefore, maybe you'd be interested in the attached photos.




Thanks again & best regards,




As I receive tributes to Peter, I am appending them to the entry for 4 Feb 12.


4 Feb 12 - Death of Lt Cdr Peter Cobby BEM RN


I received this sad news this morning:


"Dear Sir,


The following might be of interest to some of the older member of your website.  My father, ex-clearance diving officer Lt Cdr Peter Cobby, died peacefully on 2 February after several months of illness.  If you'd like to post a photo, I have always liked the attached photo which was taken in the USA during an officer exchange in the early 1970s:


Pete Cobby with US Navy divers at Little Creek, Virginia




Bruce Cobby"


As a Petty Officer, Peter Cobby was awarded the BEM for gallantry and skill while assisting Cdr Gordon Gutteridge OBE, Lt Cdr Mark Terrell MBE and Lt Charles Heatley MBE render safe a German mine underwater and in darkness in the West India Dock, London on 26 January 1957.  LS Peter Alderton and AB Eric Harris were also awarded BEMs for the same operation.  If you use the Freefind search facility on the Home page of the website, you will find several other references to Peter.  He lived near Inverness and I often called upon him to help answer queries about our Branch history.  I will miss his deep specialist knowledge and sage advice.


This article from the August 1972 issue of Navy News describes the completion of a simulated 1,000 ft cold water dive performed by Pete Cobby (pictured left) and others at the Deep Trials Unit (DTU), Alverstoke and gives a flavour of his achievements.



I have passed Bruce my sincere condolences on his loss and asked him to apprise me of any funeral arrangements in due course.


From ex-CD David Eaton:


Hello Rob,


Will you please pass on my deepest sympathy to Bruce and all the family members on the death of their father Pete Cobby.  I was very lucky to have served with Pete when he was a PO in the Clearance Diving Development Trials Team way back in 1953(?)  and the boss was Lt Cdr Mark Terrell.  Pete was a quietly spoken person and every one admired his manner and actions with in the team.


Should Bruce like a photograph of his father taken many years ago I will gladly email one to him.


Yours Sincerely,


David Eaton


From MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton in Spain:




I have been out of contact for a while and have only opened up my PC today.  I am therefore astern of station in responding to the sad news of Peter's passing.  I spoke with him just after Christmas so I was aware that he was not in good shape but, typically, he made light of his illness and promised to drop me a line.  Please give my belated but nonetheless sincere condolences to his family.  It is many years since I saw Bruce, before he moved up North.


If I may add a little to what has aready been said, particularly so eloquently by John Grattan, Peter's contribution to diving and EOD was enormous, for many years in the RN and USN and later in commercial activity.  Many of us benefitted from his knowledge and experience, in training, at DEODS, in Reclaim, in his time with the USN, the Saturation diving and trials team, the UTC at Fort William and the subsequent work with Shell in UK and in Norway. 


On a personal basis I experienced the goodwill he had established within the USN when I relieved him at short notice and took the Sat team to Panama City where we experienced the wonderful rapport he had established with the diving fraternity in the USN, and the high regard in which he was held.  All of this made our work there so much easier.  His later work at Fort Bill was greatly appreciated by graudates of the training centre who I met working in many countries and the expertise which he brought to all the Shell and Norwegian operations was invaluable.  It was an honour to have worked with him.  I have never met anyone so knowledgeable, so steady and calm yet modest and so honourable.




From MCDOA member Brian 'Jumbo' Jervis in the USA (to Bruce Cobby):


"Dear Bruce,


I am deeply sad to hear of your and our loss.


Your Dad brought me as a young rating into the CD Branch with a test dive I will never forget at HMS Terror, Singapore in 1961 when we were together in HMS Eastbourne.  He was a great inspiration to a newby like me, who has since long retired.


Jumbo Jervis"


From ex-CD Gerald Morris:


"There are few of us old timers left alive and I was sorry to read about Peter crossing the Bar.  The Reclaim went into the Thames after my ship HMS Flatholm left for ordnance work around St Nazaire.  My very sincere condolences to his family.



diver 338l"


From MCDOA member Bob Lusty (to Bruce Cobby):


"Dear Bruce,


Sorry to hear of your dad’s demise.  As you know he was a highly respected Clearance Diver.  I worked for Peter in the early days of the Branch and followed him in two of his last diving appointments.  I relieved him as Diving Officer in HMS Reclaim and on exchange with the US Navy in Little Creek, Virginia.  You were there with your sisters and mother.  I personally know all the people in the photograph and it brings back good memories.  Thank you.


Bob Lusty"


From MCDOA associate member Doug Barlow (to Bruce Cobby):


"Dear Bruce,


I was very shocked and saddened to hear of your father, Peter's passing away.


My mind goes back to those long ago days when Peter joined our Boatswains qualifying course in 1958.  He shared relevant seamanship, navigation and other subjects with us but occasionally disappeared to undertake specialist diving bits.


After promotion we spent many years as family neighbours in Cowplain.  Peter was always the same unruffled friendly and helpful character and I am very privileged to have known him.  


I'm thankful that I had a last opportunity of meeting Peter back in the summer and thank you Bruce for driving him all the way down from Scotland  


Goodbye and God bless, Peter.  Thanks for the many happy memories.


Doug Barlow"


From ex-CD1 Bill McGovern:


"This is such sad news.  Pete was a true gentleman and will be sadly missed by all who knew him.  My thoughts are with his family at this sad time.


Bill McGovern"


From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Bruce and Rob,


Your emails bring me very sad news - the passing of Peter Cobby is the end of an era, the life of a true gentleman and a very old friend.  He was, I think, the first CD rating to be commissioned as an SD Officer although I first met him during the Suez crisis in 1956 when he was an acting Petty Officer.  We became friends when he returned to Vernon in 1958, and eventually became business partners many moons later.  He was always a rather private person and not given to extremism with probably only his beloved Peggy knowing his innermost thoughts.  He was not given to hyperbole nor criticism knowing that his actions and presence was all that was needed to show what a super man he was.


In the early days he stood out as a calm and completely professional CDO with a rather different approach to life to many of the more piratical of his contemporaries.  In those days the Branch won numerous accolades, medals and commendations but was far too often brought into disrepute by really silly little incidents of bad behaviour, usually ashore.  I know that this was the one and only issue that drove Peter mad with anger and frustration.  We became closer and closer friends when he brought teams out to Malta on several occasions between 1965 and 1968 to conducted numerous diving trials together - he stayed with us at home during several of those visits; probably the most memorable being when he and George Wookey stayed together, which was a hilarious riot!


In fact we did not serve together until I relieved Peter Messervy in HMS Reclaim in 1968 when Peter was the Diving Officer.  Without doubt he was an outstanding man in every possible way and we achieved numerous firsts during that time.  Just before I joined he had successfully raised the crashed Air Lingus "Viscount" to the surface off the infamous Tusker Rock on the SE corner of Ireland.  We used the curvo-linear technique to deal with a German "G" mine lying off the detached mole in Portland for which we received a C-in-C's commendation; during a self maintenance period we were summoned up to Coulport and wrote the rendering safe procedure of the Polaris Missile; we searched for (using only diver's ears and hands) and found the R.N.'s only experimental Mk 44 torpedo lost in over 400 foot of water in Loch Long; we successfully completed the 1968 Decompression Table trials; we recovered several crashed helicopters; etc etc.  They were very happy and satisfying days and remain precious memories for all those who took part whatever their rank.  At the same time he was a great run ashore oppo and we shared many wonderful occasions.


We both became disillusioned and sad when it became obvious that the RN was never going to replace Reclaim and resigned at about the same time.  He was snapped up to be the head of the Deep Diving School at Fort William and they could not have chosen a better qualified or more competent man.  I once took the President of the U.S. "Innerspace" Corporation (Terry Billingsly who then held the world "sat" record of 182 days) to the School and he could not believe that pupils were actually placed in "Sat" during their expensive course.  He considered it to be the premier and most advanced diving school in the world - he was right and this was largely due to Peter Cobby and the team he led.


When I founded Fathomline Ltd in 1978, with considerable City of London financial backing, it was obvious that I could not do so without the professional and personal partnership of Peter.  He agreed to make the running with me and resigned from Fort William: gaining considerable amusement that they re-hired him later on to complete a particular programme.  We then invited Harry Wardle to join us and tendered to Shell/Esso for the whole of their programme for the planned multi-functional service vessel for the North Sea.  Needless to say Fathomline won and Peter spent the next five years starting the programme in Glasgow, then building the £70 million vessel in a Finnish Yard and finally working her up before handing her over to Shell.  Having had a very good run, Fathomline closed shop in 1988 and Peter and Peggy moved back to Scotland; settling in the Black Isle.  Sadly we never met up again.  What a man - he will be sadly missed by so many.


Yours aye,




From ex-CD1 Tom Norman:


"My sincere condolences to the family of Lt Peter Cobby.  I served as Chief Diver in HMS Reclaim whilst he was i/c Diving 1967 - 1968 but also in 1951 after completing the CD3 course in HMS Lochinvar when he was a young Killick.  I always found him to be a pleasant and efficient person at all times.


Rest in peace."


From MCDOA member Bryan Barrett in the USA (to Bruce Cobby):


"Dear Bruce,


I am so sorry to hear of the death of your father, Peter Cobby.  I knew Peter well going right to back to when I qualified as a CDO in 1965, and then especially when he and I were the two CDOs on exchange duty with the US Navy in the early 1970s.  He was tremendously well thought of by the US Navy diving community and did such a lot to establish the great working relationship that existed between our services in those early days of saturation diving.  He was admired and respected by everyone who worked with him as an incredibly competent, thoroughly good guy.


I will pass on the sad news of his passing to his many friends here in the States.


Yours sincerely,


Bryan Barrett"


From ex-CD1 Cris Ballinger:


"Peter was one of those people you thought would live forever.  I served with him and for him.  He was a great inspration to me and is sadly missed.  My condolences go to his family.


If possible, please inform me of the funeral details.


Cris Ballinger"


From MCDOA member Ed Thompson MBE (to Bruce Cobby):


"Dear Bruce,


Just received the sad news of your dad.  May I tender my condolences.  Your father was not only "one of the best", he was "THE BEST".  I feel myself fortunate to have known him as a friend and colleague.  The world is a sadder place this morning for me.  


Yours aye,


Ed Thompson"


From ex-CD Dave Hitchens


"I was sorry to read about Pete Cobby.  I served in HMS Reclaim with him 1968-69.  He was a good officer and a good diver.


Dave Hitchens"


From ex-CD Colin 'Foggy' Goff:


"My sincere condolences.  I was in HMS Reclaim in 1969 when Peter was the CDO.  It was an honour to have served under him.  I only met him once after that, I think at the deep dive centre at the NHC in Aberdeen.


RIP Pete."


From MCDOA member Jim Bladh in the USA:


"Sorry about Peter crossing the Bar.  I was the first exchange officer to the RN.  As such I had the unique experience of going to sea in HMS Reclaim with Peter Messervy, Peter Cobby and Bob Fraser.  Peter helped me tremendously qualifying as Diving Officer in Reclaim.  He will certainly be missed.


Warmest personal regards to all,


Jim Bladh

LCDR USN (ret)" 


3 Feb 12 - David 'Tanzy' Lee


I have received this request from ex-CD Pete Gallant:


"Hallo Rob,


Would you kindly put this on the CDs' website.  I was with Dave (Tanzy) at Safeguard diving school, Rosyth in 1966 and in HMS Nurton in 1967.  Lt Alan Padwick was our diving officer.  This photo shows Dave and me (Dave has the beard): 


Dave 'Tanzy' Lee and Pete Gallant at the Belsen

Concentration Camp memorial


We worked together diving in Egypt for Solus Schall before he lost his life. I have sent Martin photos and information on the above years. Can anyone fill in the years between? Many thanks.


Best regards,


Pete Gallant"


"Dear Peter Gallant,


I am not sure if you know me but I am sure you knew my dad David Lee or 'Tanzy' as he was known in the Navy.  Richard Conway passed on your email address to me as I have been trying to locate fellow mine clearance diving colleagues of my late father so they could share what memories they have of my dad during his years in the Royal Navy.   As I was only 18 months when he passed away, I sadly have no memory of him.


Last September I came into the possession of a photograph of the Royal Navy diving team that searched for Donald Campbell and Bluebird.  Through my research on the internet I have so far got in contact with Lieutenant Commander John Futcher and George Porter.  It was George who gave me your name as on the photograph there are only first names.  I hope that you will be able to share your recollections of my father and any stories you have.


Yours sincerely,


Martin Lee"


If you can help Pete and Tanzy Lee's son, please email me via my webmaster address.


From ex-CPO(D) Cris Ballinger:




I served with Tanzy in the Rosyth team 67-68.  I do have a couple of photographs which I can send on if you would like. My wife visited me while I was there and Tanzy and his wife very kindly put us up for a couple of weeks.  We both made PO while we were there, in the days when our rank arms were different to our diving arms.  I wish I could remember more for you.


Bearing in mind we weren't ruled by health and safety we were all expected to take risks and get the job done and as I remember Tanzy he really was totally fearless, and no job was too difficult.  The team consisted of Macrae-Clifton (chief), Tug Wilson, Leo Whelan, Cris Ballinger, Tony Curtis, Pete Edge, Ed Cassidy, Eric Southworth, Pablo Welsh, John Smith, are those that spring to mind and sadly a good many of them have passed on.


I was in America when I heard that Tanzy had died and didn't know he had left the Navy.  Sorry I can't be of more help.




2 Feb 12 - SDU1 to help clear net from wreck of HMS Scylla


Last month, the BBC News website contained this article explaining how it would cost up to £20,000 to clear a fishing net from the wreck of the Leander class frigate HMS Scylla, sunk as an artificial reef off Whitsand Bay, Plymouth in 2004.  Today's Plymouth Herald contains this article stating that members of Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) are being brought in to assist with the work.


1 Feb 12


HMS Brocklesby rewarded for her Libyan mission


The RN website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing the award of the James Acton Mine Warfare Efficiency Trophy (named in memory of MCDOA member Jim Acton killed while on duty in Turkey during the 1999 earthquake) and the Surface Fleet Efficiency Pennant to HMS Brocklesby by Rear Admiral Duncan Potts (Rear Admiral Surface Ships) and MCDOA member Capt Mark Durkin (Captain Minor War Vessels and Fishery Protection (CMFP)).


Rear Admiral Potts addresses the ship's company of HMS Brocklesby

(Navy News photo by LA(Phot) Darby Allen, FRPU East)


Congratulations to all involved.


Where is David Lermitte?


I have received this request for help from ex-CDO Lt Cdr John Futcher MBE RN who lives in Plainland, Queensland in Australia (see entry for 24 Jun 09 in News Archive 26 and second entry for 12 Jul 09 in News Archive 27):


Lt Cdr John Futcher MBE RN 


"Hallo Rob,


I am trying to locate ex-CDO Lt Cdr David Lermitte.  We both qualified CDO together and we have maintained contact ever since.  We did not receive a Christmas card from him this last year and all efforts to contact him have failed.  We phoned his home number but the person who answered the call said that the phone number was no longer David's.  He told me that David's wife Susan had been put into hospital and that David had fallen from a ladder and badly injured and was also put into hospital.  His house had been sold and that the telephone number reallocated and he had no further information he could give us.  


If you have any information Rob regarding the condition and whereabouts of David or his wife or any family member it would be greatly appreciated.  I was best man at his wedding many moons ago.


I would like to join the MCDOA and will do so as soon as possible.


Best regards,




David Lermitte is not a member of the MCDOA but if you can help John with his query, please email me via my webmaster address.


From MCDOA member David Burstall:




Thanks for your email re David L (known in our family affectionately as "Lermitte-the-Termitte" after he had relieved me as FCDO, FEF in 1964).  I am indeed sorry to hear of his and Susan's various mishaps.  The only contact I have for him is a very old address. 


It was good to see you again and Alan P and Bruce M at Tim's Thanksgiving Service.  What a stalwart supporter of his community he had been and such a good example to us all.  Tim Trounson was my "winger" in the Far East Fleet CD Team having relieved Dennis (the Menace) Selwood in 1963.


I must attend the annual MCD dinner this year before I lose complete touch with everyone.






From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Rob,


It is very good to hear of Kath and 'Jonny' again as they disappeared over the horizon so many moons ago.  Thank you so much for including me in your exchange of emails.  I relieved Jonny as CO of HMS Dingley (David Lermitte was CO of HMS Brenchley at that time) in May 1959.  Later, after Jonny retired from the RN, I greatly admired their pioneering work in lobster faming near Cape Wrath.  They were the very first and set the pace for a whole future industry which is one hell of an achievement in anyone's language.  All sorts of rumours filtered back from Oz and I am so pleased that they are still around and thriving.  I wonder what happened to Tom and how he is?


Sadly I have also lost touch completely with David and Susan Lermitte.  I am sorry to hear that David had another ladder accident.  Many years ago he slipped on a ladder and in grabbing some wire mesh succeeded in amputating one finger!  I can only guess that David Edwards or Mike Gillam will now have contact.


All these names conjure up memories from the long distant past of The Branch.  What happy days they were, too.  Please let me know if and when you do find them plus their up to date news.


Yours aye,




31 Jan 12 - Defence firm takes the plunge at new Gosport test site


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the opening of QinetiQ's Diving and Hyperbaric Test Centre last week.  The article features MCDOA associate member Gavin Anthony, QinetiQ’s principal consultant for diving.


The diving tank at QinetiQ's new test facility at

Haslar Marine Technology Park

(Portsmouth News photo by Paul Jacobs)


30 Jan 12 - Opening of new Diving & Hyperbaric Test Centre at Haslar




Unfortunately, a family bereavement prevented me from attending the official opening of QinetiQ's new Diving & Hyperbaric Test Centre by Cdre Henry Parker at Haslar last Wednesday but Chris Baldwin, MCDOA Chairman and Superintendent of Diving, has kindly sent me these photos:


Line up that includes MCDOA member and HSE Chief Inspector of Diving

Chris Sherman (second left), MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin (fifth left)

and MCDOA associate member Gavin Anthony (third right)


Cdre Parker with MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin just astern of him

(plus ex-WO(D) Andy Brunton MBE in the background if I'm not mistaken)


My invitation to the opening contained this useful history:


"The Royal Naval Physiological Laboratory (RNPL) was formed 1942 in the then HMS Dolphin, to investigate the physiological aspects of man underwater.  The following year it moved to Peel Cottage, on Clayhall Road, Gosport, before moving to the Alverstoke site south of Fort Road, Gosport in 1962.


In parallel to the work of RNPL the Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit (AEDU) was formed in 1943 at Tolworth in Surrey to look at the engineering aspects of diving equipment.  Following a brief period in Brixham it was moved in 1945 to HMS Vernon in Portsmouth, now known as Gunwharf Quays, where it remained until being co-located with the physiological research on the Alverstoke site in 1988.


Record breaking fundamental research was conducted on the Alverstoke site into blast effects on divers, submarine escape and rescue, diving breathing apparatus, diver thermal protection, diving decompression and significantly identifying the maximum pressure (i.e. maximum diving depth) that a diver could withstand.


The main man rated facilities on the Alverstoke site in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were a 100m rated riveted compression chamber that was transferred from the Peel Cottage site, a 690m rated High Pressure Chamber Unit (HPCU) and the 360m rated Deep Trials Unit.  These chambers were used to help identify saturation diving techniques, now used extensively in the North Sea oil industry, and to define the depth limits of diving.  The ability of divers to ‘go deep’ on helium was demonstrated, with the scientific studies progressing through a series of new depth records; the last world depth record achieved on the Alverstoke site was 660m on 28 Oct 1980.  These facilities have been closed down with the chamber from Peel Cottage and the world record breaking HPCU chamber now exhibited at the Diving Museum located in No. 2 Battery at the west end of Stokes Bay [By Webmaster: See entry for 2 Nov 11 in News Archive 36].




From the 1980s to the co-location of the diving and hyperbaric capabilities with the hydrodynamic capabilities on the Haslar site in 2009, many new facilities were established on the Alverstoke site i.e. Submarine Escape Simulator (SES), Life Support Systems Laboratory (LSSL), Experimental Diving Tank (EDT) and the Hydrostatic and Extreme Temperature Tank (HETT).  These facilities have been extensively used to support the development and testing of RN submarine escape and rescue systems, diving equipment and decompression procedures.  Under a Maritime Strategic Capability Agreement (MSCA) with the MOD the facilities have now been moved to the Diving and Hyperbaric Test Centre (DHTC) on the QinetiQ Haslar site.


The Alverstoke and Haslar sites progressed through a series of MOD research establishment names (i.e. AMTE, DRA and DERA) before being re-born into the private sector as QinetiQ in 2001.  The new company is a science and technology powerhouse formed from the major part of DERA and continues to offer on the Haslar site unique knowledge and expertise in maritime related technologies including hydrodynamics, propulsion, atmosphere control, diving and submarine escape and rescue.


Recently the Haslar teams have joined experts based all over the UK to form QinetiQ Maritime, bringing together the survivability, structures, shock testing, noise and vibration capabilities from Rosyth and the in-service support services from QinetiQ’s Ranges cross the UK."



29 Jan 12 - Thanksgiving Service for Lt Cdr Tim Trounson MBE


Around 150 people were present in the Minster Church of St Denys at Warminster yesterday for MCDOA member Tim Trounson's Thanksgiving Service (see entry for 29 Dec 11 in News Archive 36).  Apart from me, MCDOA members present included our Hon Secretary Mick Beale (in uniform), David Burstall, Bruce Mackay and Alan Padwick OBE, the latter three accompanied by their wives.  PO(D) Gerry Mulholland and LS(D) Nick Kershaw, both members of FDU1, also attended in uniform, much to the pleasure of Tim's family.


The service was conducted by the Rector, Harvey Gibbons, supported by Assistant Curate Nick Brown and Associate Priest Carol Owen.  Kerry Bishop provided musical accompaniment on the organ.  Mourners entered the church to a medley of songs from musicals before the opening prayers.  We then sang the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father) before Tim's friend Col Tim Hoggarth, the Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Musicians, read the Lesson (Revelations 21: verses 1 to 7 - And I saw a new heaven and a new earth).  Tim's younger son Jonathan then gave a glowing tribute to his father in which he described life around the world as a member of Tim's family in which rugby, football and cricket predominated.  I had no idea that Tim had been the prime mover in so many social, civic and charitable organisations.


We then listened to a rendition of Howard Godall's 'Lacrymosa' (Do not Stand at my Grave and Weep) before launching into 'I Vow to Thee My Country'.  A second address was then given by Ben Hawkins who had known Tim since they were childhood friends (when Tim had shot him) and fellow pupils at prep school before entering the Royal Navy at Dartmouth together.  Prayers were then said, including the Lord's Prayer, before we sang 'Thine be the Glory'.  The service ended with another prayer, the Commendation, a rendition of John Rutter's 'A Gaelic Blessing' and the final blessing.


We then sauntered down the road to the Weymouth Arms, Tim's favourite watering hole, where I took this photo of the Fleet Diving Squadron representatives:


Gerry Mulholland, Nick Kershaw and Mick

Beale outside the Weymouth Arms


Tim's sons Stuart and Jonathan and daughter Emma had arranged a splendid reception with a buffet and drinks in the pub and I managed to capture this photo of the serving RN contingent with Stuart and Jonathan: 


Mick Beale, Stuart Trounson, Gerry Mulholland, Jonathan Trounson

and Nick Kershaw inside the Weymouth Arms 


Finally, here is a rare photo of Yours Truly with fellow MCDOA members Alan Padwick, Bruce Mackay and David Burstall.


Rob Hoole, Alan Padwick, Bruce Mackay and David Burstall


Our Treasurer Soapy Watson has arranged a donation from the Association to the RNLI in memory of Tim.  Once again, we extend our sincere condolences to Tim's family on their sad loss.


28 Jan 12 - A letter from the Gulf


I am grateful to MCDOA member Martin Mackey for this topical update:


"Hi Rob,


I thought you might like to see this photo taken last night (27 Jan) in Bahrain outside Andy Elvin’s front door.  Andy and Joy kindly invited the UK and US MCMers over to their house for curry and drinks.   A number of familiar faces can be seen.  Bob Hawkins arrived recently and took over from Damian Slattery in the SO2 MCD job on the US MCM CTF 52 staff working with Andy Elvin who is the deputy commander.  Some of that team are in the photo.  Present also is Dennis Chawira who took over from Rory Armstrong as the SO2N5 MCM on the UKMCC staff.  Your’s truly is the UK’s MCM Force commander, a role I took on from Dave Bence 23 Oct 11 and will keep until mid-May. 


The MCM2 Mine Warfare Battle Staff (MWBS) is out here for exercises embarked in RFA LYME BAY (some of whom are in the photo).  Steve Brown (DCST FOST MPV) is over doing a review of training.  Members of the US ships as well as HM Ships MIDDLETON and RAMSEY are also there.  A really good mix of people who work very well together demonstrating the close relationship that we enjoy whilst we deliver what we all know is the ‘jewel in the crown’ capability.



This other picture was taken last November on the jetty in Bahrain and comprises all four crews and the MCM2 MWBS who were deployed for a UK/US/Japanese MCM trilat exercise.  All the crews have changed over since the photo.  For those interested to know what the large blue hoses are, they blow cold air into the ships when they are alongside.  Not required at the moment though because it is pretty cool.  I had a bit of ‘cold water shock’ today when I went for a dive in a wet suit for a ship’s hull survey on HMS QUORN.  You just don’t expect it to be cold out here, but it is. 



So, all is well with the UK’s MCM force in the Gulf, but we watch the news with keen interest.






27 Jan 12 - Death of Canadian CDO Chuck Edwards


I have received this information from MCDOA member Mike Kooner MBE:


"Hello Rob,


I have just heard the sad news about Charles 'Chuck' Edwards from his wife Beverly.  He passed away in early November 2011 and was cremated, with his ashes scattered on his beloved lake next to his house.  


You may recall Chuck was on exchange from the Canadian Navy to the RN in UK at the Experimental Diving Unit during the early 1980s.  He worked with me in VERNON and during the COVENTRY salvage operations.  We have remained good friends over the years and I was so shocked to hear the news of his death of a massive stroke at the age of 60.  He lived such an active and full life; hiking, touring, working for the mail, hauling heavy bags around (just to keep fit), tree felling, etc., and participating fully in the outdoor life and enjoying the beauty of Nova Scotia   


I know he was well thought of by the VERNON diving community as well as members of the RNSD&TT.  I would be grateful if you let both our members and those of the CD association know of this sad and unexpected loss.


Best Wishes,




I certainly remember Chuck and I am sure that all members of the RN diving community will join me in extending our sincere condolences to his wife Beverly and the rest of his family on their tragic loss.


From MCDOA member Graham 'Tug' Wilson MBE:




Sad to hear about Chuck.  I was on the Sat Team with him as a LD and we did the Coventry together.  We were in the second dive along with Stevie Clegg (who was the victim of the famous Superlite 17 explosion), Ray Suckling, Chris David (who was evacuated early after another massive explosion), Dickie Daber and Harry Harrison who was awarded the QGM during that dive.  So I have some fond memories.




26 Jan 12 - Thinking to the finish


The RN website contains this article describing the imminent exchange of MCM2 Crew 2 of HMS Atherstone at Faslane with MCM2 Crew 8 which has been manning HMS Middleton in the Gulf for the past seven months.


HMS Middleton in the Gulf

(RN website photo)


25 Jan 12 - SDU2 deals with unexploded shells in Essex


The Southend Echo website contains this article describing the disposal of unexploded shells on the beach at Leigh-on-Sea in Essex by members of Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).


Coincidentally, Leigh-on-Sea is the home of the Essex Yacht Club which has the former minehunter HMS Wilton as its clubhouse.  I was her First Lieutenant 1977-79 and was able to provide the club's Commodore with some useful technical advice two years ago when the ship's sonar trunk, now used as a sewage tank, sprang an embarrassing (and distinctly smelly) leak.


The former HMS Wilton as the clubhouse of Essex Yacht Club

at Leigh-on-Sea


24 Jan 12 - Submarine Rescue System is put through its paces


The Ministry of Defence website contains this article and the Royal Navy website this article describing Exercise MASSIVEX, a recent three-day trial of the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS).  The articles feature MCDOA member Kev Stockton, Commanding Officer of the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) which provides attendants in the decompression chambers during rescue operations.


Members of Northern Diving Group testing one of the

giant NSRS decompression chambers

(RN website photo by LA(Phot) Ben Sutton)


NSRS Submarine Rescue Vehicle (SRV)

(RN website photo)


23 Jan 12 - HMS Ledbury at Gibraltar


I am grateful to local photographer Daniel Ferro for kindly allowing me to publish these images of HMS Ledbury in Gibraltar on 14/15 January while en route to join Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean (see entry for 10 Jan 12).  Her visit coincided with that of HMS Daring bound for the Gulf.






22 Jan 12 - Stormy weather behind spate of finds, says head of bomb disposal unit


The Tayside Courier contains this article featuring MCDOA member Kev Stockton, Commanding Officer of the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG), being interviewed about recent discoveries of unexploded ordnance north of the border.


Detonation of unexploded ordnance on Montrose beach

on Sunday 15 January 2012


20 Jun 12 - Pony Moore's dining-out 


Last night, many members of the Minewarfare Association (MWA) (plus several others who have yet to part with the £12 annual membership fee) gathered in Fareham to dine WO1(MW) Pony Moore out of the Royal Navy.  Apart from Yours Truly, MCDOA members present included Tim Curd (who had to depart early), Chris Davies and Bill Kerr.  After gaining flying speed in a pub, our group migrated to an Indian restaurant down the road where we were invited to occupy a very long table.  Exotic fare was eaten, myriad beverages were drunk and certain people, including Pony's boss Bill Kerr, made valedictory statements, some of them complimentary.


A long way to pass the salt


During the course of the evening, Pony was presented with an engraved crystal decanter and matching set of glasses.  He then gave a moving farewell speech in which he expressed his pride in having been a member of the MW Branch (although it was revealed that he had previously been a Gunner and a Regulator!) and his appreciation for all the good friendships he has developed over the years.  He has promised to stay in touch with his roots and we wish him well in his future career 'outside'. 


WO1(MW) Pete Mills presents Pony with his crystal decanter

and glasses


Well done to 'Pinta' Beer and Taff Reader for organising this joyful event.  More photos of proceedings are available on the Flickr website here.


19 Jan 12 - High Threat IEDD role in Afghanistan for RN Clearance Divers


It is an open secret in the Branch but the RN website contains this article and the Navy News website contains this article announcing the qualification of MCDOA member Al Nekrews and LS(D) Craig Waghorn in the High Threat (HT) Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD) role.  They will be deploying to Afghanistan to work with the RLC's HT IEDD teams in due course.


LS(D) Craig Waghorn and Lt Cdr Al Nekrews

(RN photo by LA(Phot) Gaz Weatherston)


RN Clearance Divers have deployed to Afghanistan in an EOD role since 2002 but this is the first time they will work with the RLC in an HT IEDD capacity.  Many congratulations to both individuals for achieving the extremely demanding standards required.  Stay safe.


Postscript: The Portsmouth News published this article on 20 January.


18 Jan 12 - Pembroke’s crew raise the ship – and £1,300 to boot


The RN website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing how ship's company members of HMS Pembroke in the Gulf lifted the equivalent weight of their ship in two hours to raise funds for the RN & RM Charity and Pembroke House.


HMS Pembroke's charity weight-lifters

(Navy News photo)


The physical challenge is over but the fund-raising continues.  Donations can still be made via:


17 Jan 12


MSMs for Andy Strickland and Sid Lawrence


Many congratulations to WO1(MW) Andy Strickland and PO(D) Tim 'Sid' Lawrence on their award of the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM).  The latest Naval Service recipients are listed in the London Gazette here.


On 13 January 2012, the RN website published this article describing the award of the MSM to Sid Lawrence, currently serving as a Diving Officer’s Course Instructor at the Defence Diving School (DDS) in Portsmouth.


PO(D) Tim 'Sid' Lawrence


John Bevan's radio interview about the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia


MCDOA member John Bevan's interview on the BBC (see postscript to entry for 16 Jan 12) about the difficulties and hazards likely to be experienced by the divers searching for survivors trapped inside the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia can be heard again on iPlayer for the next seven days as the first item in 'The World Today' here.


16 Jan 12 - HDS Bunker update


MCDOA member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the 'self-help' refurbishment and conversion of a WWII bunker in Gosport as the Society's library and repository for the Diving Museum's reserve collection:


"Alan Stillwell and John Towse complete the kitchen!


Today our new kitchen was commissioned!  The units, work-tops and sink unit came from Kevin Casey and John Towse.  The construction and plumbing was by Alan Stillwell, assisted by John Towse.  Ray Mabbs and the Electric Department Team installed the electrics.  I made the tea.



Left: Alan Stillwell in the kitchen 

Right: John Towse and Alan Stillwell


The kitchen in all its glory 


John Towse also built a kitchen unit which has been placed in the 'Office'.  John Dadd has bricked up an insecure window.  Martin Marks and Jim Thomson have boarded up window spaces.


Various small jobs remain and we do need a couple of doors and shelving.  I have a meeting with Hants County Council soon to see if they have any library furniture to spare. 


Coming soon


Re-arranging the Diving Museum exhibits.  Ann Bevan has computerised the layout in 3-D and optimised the distribution and layout.  Stand-by for further exciting announcements!


Here are some pics following the BIG MOVE on Thursday 12 Jan!  Thanks to Barry Jackson's Bourke's Removals and a hearty gang including (but not limited to) Ray Mabbs, John Millerchip, Graham Mellors, Paul Beard, Martin Hill, Rob Hoole, John Dadd, Alan Stillwell, John Towse, Ann Bevan, Jim Thomson and Bourke's employees Kim Shipp and Malcolm Janiec for the huge effort of humping the kit into the truck and back out again at the Bunker.



Left: Bookcase carcases but few shelves in the Lecture Room/Library

Right: The Office



What was previously the toilet 


The Reading Room 


Wish list


Hardwood shelves for book cases (905mm x 282mm)

Worktop for work bench

More carpeting

Two doors for lecture room/library

Short bannister

Clothes hooks for cloakroom  


More chances to join in the fun at the Bunker on Wednesday 18 and Saturday 21 Jan from 1100 each day.




If you feel able to help in any way, please contact John via this email address or call him on 07802 785050.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved.    


Postscript:  I happened to be listening to the BBC World Service in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning (17 Jan) and heard John Bevan being interviewed as Chairman of the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT)'s Diving Committee about the difficulties likely to be experienced by the divers searching for survivors trapped inside the capsized cruise liner Costa Concordia:


Guardian 17 Jan 2012: Costa Concordia: divers blow holes in cruise liner


15 Jan 12 - RN Diving Heritage: Hall Rees submarine escape helmet


A few days ago, I spotted this message on the World Naval Ships Forums website:


"I have a submarine (RN) escape helmet from about 1910/1911 that we found when I was a small boy and we knocked the outside lav down (we have no idea how it got there in the first place, although the village [Noss Mayo] was popular with naval officers based at Devonport).



I offered it to the Submarine Museum and initially they wanted it, but have now changed their minds saying they already have one in better condition.  So I'm now not sure what is best to do with it.  Any ideas?"


I immediately identified the object as a Hall Rees helmet which is described in this excerpt from the fifth edition of 'Deep Diving & Submarine Operations' by Sir Robert H Davies, the Managing Director of Siebe, Gorman & Co Ltd of London (London: St Catherine Press Ltd, 1951):


In 1904 Siebe, Gorman & Co, Ltd, acquired the rights in "Oxylithe", a special preparation of sodium peroxide invented originally by the French savant, Professor George Jaubert.  This chemical, when breathed upon, gives off oxygen and at the same time absorbs the carbon dioxide of the expired air.  In 1907 two British naval officers, Captain (afterwards Admiral) S. S. Hall, C.B.E., and Fleet-Surgeon O. Rees, M.D., in collaboration with Siebe, Gorman, designed the apparatus illustrated in Fig. 507, in outward form like the original Siebe open helmet, or hood, and jacket, and in which "Oxylithe" in a metal container was employed as the air regenerating medium.


The fact that "Oxylithe" dispensed with the use of compressed oxygen for the main supply of this gas probably influenced the authorities in adopting the apparatus, and it was installed in submarines of the British Navy, and, to a smaller extent, in those of several other navies.  It will be seen that the jacket is fitted with two small cylinders of compressed air (Fig. 510), or oxygen - the larger for keeping the the water inside the hood down to a safe level, the smaller for inflating a buoyancy chamber inside the jacket when the wearer reached the surface, so that he could safely open the window of his helmet and breathe fresh air without risk of sinking.  The original apparatus had a flexible hood, but it was feared that the escapee arriving at high speed at the surface might come in contact with some obstacle and injure his head; it was therefore decided to substitute the metal headpiece. 


Hall Rees submarine escape helmet


Another method, where air-locks were not installed, was the provision of pipes (Fig. 509) connected to the vessel's compressed air service, to which flexible tubes were attached, each tube being fitted, at its free end, with a lever valve.  In practice, when the water reached about halfway up the helmet jacket, the valve was pushed up under the jacket and then opened, the issuing air keeping the water down to a safe level. 


This apparatus, with the diver wearing weighted boots and belt, was also used as a shallow water diving-dress...


The entire apparatus is shown here when configured as a shallow water diving dress:


Hall Rees apparatus configured for shallow water diving


I have since put the owner of the helmet, an individual called Chris Shepherd, in contact with MCDOA member Dr John Bevan, the Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS).  As a result, Chris has kindly consented to have this significant piece of naval diving history exhibited in the society's Diving Museum at Stokes Bay on an open-ended basis.  Once former FCPO(D) John Dadd and ex-CDs Jim 'Tommo' Thomson and Mike O'Meara have polished it up, I am sure it will make a superb addition to the RN section when the museum re-opens in the Spring.


14 Jan 12


Falklands 30


The latest newsletter from Maritime Books contains this announcement:


"In 2012 it will be 30 years since the Falklands conflict took place.  To mark this anniversary the Fleet Air Arm Museum is planning a new exhibition which will not only look again at the events of the spring and summer of 1982 but also tell the stories of those who served in the conflict, the families they left at home and the experiences of the Falkland Islanders.


To help present the human side of this military campaign as clearly and effectively as possible they need to have those personal stories - the voices of individuals on whom the conflict had the greatest impact.  They are asking if you are interested in:


a) providing one abiding memory you might have of the conflict - this might be to do with the military campaign itself or it might be something not directly connected to military operations but that is indelibly linked in your memory to the period of the conflict; 


b) being recorded so that your reminiscences are added to our oral history archive but might also be used in the exhibition; and  


c) letting them know of any objects or material of interest they might have from that time that you would be willing to loan to the museum for the duration of the exhibition (about 1 year) 


If any of you would like to be involved in this exhibition in this way then if you would contact Susan Dearing, in the first instance by email at, she would be very pleased to hear from you."


Let's make sure that the achievements of the Minewarfare & Clearance Diving branch (see The Forgotten Few of the Falklands in the website's Dit Box) are properly represented.  Over to you.


Navy News


The January issue of Navy News, containing several items of MCD interest, can be downloaded here.  


13 Jan 12 - Appointment of MCDOA President as Aide-de-Camp to the Queen


Commodore Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC


I was delighted to receive this welcome news from MCDOA President Paddy McAlpine today:


"Dear Rob,


Happy New Year.  


Thank you for announcing my new appointment as COMUKTG on the MCDOA Website [see entry for 15 Nov 11 in News Archive 36].  I had another bit of good news today; I've been appointed as an Aide-de-Camp to HM The Queen.  I'm utterly delighted with the way my career is panning out and could not have foreseen any of this.  All I wanted to do when I joined the Service was to become a Clearance Diver - everything else is a bonus!






To the best of my knowledge, Paddy is the first ever MCD officer to be appointed an ADC to the Queen.  I know that all MCDOA members, and many others in our community, will join me in extending him our warmest congratulations on this singular honour.


Incidentally, Paddy features in this article on the RN website describing meetings between Britain’s amphibious force commanders and their European counterparts to discuss major exercises that will see the Royal Navy committed from the Arctic to the Mediterranean in 2012.


12 Jan 12 - The Historical Diving Society's 'Big Move'



Today saw the 'big move' of the Historical Diving Society (HDS)'s reserve collection and other paraphernalia from the Diving Museum at Stokes Bay to the newly refurbished ex-WWII bunker in The Avenue, Gosport which is destined to become the HDS's Library and repository for extraneous artefacts.  The move took two trips in Barry Jackson's 30-foot removals lorry.



Left: Barry's lorry waiting outside the Diving Museum

Right: Barry in his lorry


Loading the lorry started off easily enough with several crates of gear and odd h.p. gas bottles but larger items like bookshelves and cabinets posed more of a problem negotiating the main door of the museum.



Left: Loading the lorry starts easily enough

Right: Larger items prove more difficult


After a while, John Bevan's wife Ann brought us all some cups of tea and coffee from the Bayside Cabin next door, bless her.  Apart from Barry Jackson, our working party comprised Paul Beard, Ann Bevan, Martin Hill, Rob Hoole, Malcolm Janiec, Ray Mabbs, Graham Mellor, Kimm Shipp and ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.  We were joined later by former FCPO(D) John Dadd who had missed the emailed OPORDER but was alerted by his wife who had spotted our activity while passing.  Before moving off for our first trip, we had a team photo taken with Ann providing the eye candy.



Left: A tea-break for the team (Yours Truly was behind the camera)

Right: Ann poses with the team (Bourke's or Berks?)


At the bunker, HDS Chairman and MCDOA member Dr John Bevan was waiting to supervise the stowage of items from the museum.  The lorry soon arrived and unloading began in earnest.  John thought it prudent to inform Gosport police that the lorry would be spending some time parked in the restricted area outside the adjacent school so Barry Jackson gave him a telephone number off the top of his head.  However, when the phone was answered, it transpired that the Gosport branch of Boots the Chemist wasn't that interested.



Left: John Bevan and the team await the arrival of the lorry

Right: There it is! 



Left: Unloading begins

Right: John Dadd and John Bevan stacking some of the crates 


It was then back to the museum for the second load.  Ann wanted some of the exhibits moved around and inevitably some horseplay occurred.



Left: A tricky customer is made to come quietly

Right: An impromptu trial of the Dräger one-man chamber


It was then back to the bunker again to unload a second time.



Above and below: Surplus artefacts and furniture in their new location

although there is still considerable sorting out to be done




Ex-RNPL staff members John Towse and John Bevan

looking satisfied with the end result 


There will be more opportunities to join in the fun at the Bunker on Sunday 15, Monday 16, Wednesday 18 and Saturday 21 January from 1100 each day.  Watch this space for news of further HDS Museum working days needing your help if you live in the Portsmouth & Gosport area. 


11 Jan 12 - RN Minewarfare Heritage: CPO(Ops)(MW) Wilfred Phillips BEM RNR


CPO(Ops)(MW) Wilfred Phillips BEM RNR


A couple of days ago, I received this email concerning the above individual and his award of the BEM (British Empire Medal) in the 1983 Queen's Birthday Honours:


"I see you have my husband on your listing of Post WW II Awards for RN Minewarfare, Clearance Diving and EOD but without any information.  I have the citation and any other details you may like.  Please let me know if you would like me to e-mail the details to you.


Ann Phillips"


I informed Ann that I would be delighted to receive any further information about her husband and she sent back this reply:


"Hello Rob,


I have attached some photos in case you want to use them.  The citation reads:


During his 29 years service with the RN & RNR Chief Petty Officer Phillips has served with an enthusiasm and attention to detail that have been an inspiration to those around him.


From serving as Chief Bosun's Mate in the Division's Tender as a junior Leading Seaman he rapidly progressed to serve as Coxswain. 


For many years he has been the mainstay of shooting activities in the Division leading to notable successes in intercommand, RNR leagues and at Bisley.


He is a County coach for shooting, which is another indication of his willingness to give of his own time to instruct others.  A cheerful & dependable Senior Rate who has put considerably more effort into the RNR than that required by the normal commitment.  A most worthy recipient of a decoration in recognition of his efforts.


Wilfred Phillips receiving his BEM from Vice Admiral

Sir David Brown KBE at HMS Flying Fox in 1983


He first joined Severn Division (RNVR as it was in those days) on 21st Jan 1954 until he finished his apprenticeship & was called for National Service.  He was in the RN from 4th Nov 1957 until 31 May 1959.  He trained at Vernon and served aboard HMS Carysfort as a TAS rating from 4th Mar 1958 until 13 Jan 1959.  He then transferred to HMS Scarborough until 28th Apr 1959.  He then came back to Bath & rejoined HMS Flying Fox at Bristol until 17th Oct 1990. 


Wilf is still alive although with a few health problems.  I don't mind if you feature him in your Latest News page.  By the way, the RN connection still survives in the family.  Our eldest son, Ian, is now a Commander currently serving in Kabul!   Two of our other children also joined the Forces, although the RAF!  (My Dad served in the RAF in WWII).  Clare was also in Afghanistan with Ian in the summer, although in Camp Bastion.  She is a Chief Tech.  Andrew was an Armourer injured in the first Gulf war and unfortunately is now a War Pensioner.


Let me know if you feature Wilf.




I have now amended Wilf's entry in the Post WW II Awards for RN Minewarfare, Clearance Diving and EOD section of the website and informed Ann accordingly.


10 Jan 12 - Tearful farewell as HMS Ledbury is first navy ship to leave in 2012


The Portsmouth News contains this article describing yesterday's departure of HMS Ledbury for a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  The article features the last-minute pierhead jump of clearance diver Tom Hilder from Horsea Island to replace an injured member of the ship's company.


9 Jan 12 - HMS Ledbury opens the Royal Navy’s account for 2012


The Portsmouth News website contains this article, the RN website this article and the Navy News website this article announcing today's departure from Portsmouth of HMS Ledbury for a six-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  She is due to pass the Round Tower at around 1530 this afternoon.


Fair winds and calm seas to LED and her ship's company.


HMS Ledbury exiting 2 Basin in Portsmouth

(Navy News library photo by LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins)


7 Jan 12 - Progress report on Historical Diving Society's bunker



HDS Chairman and MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan has provided this progress report on the Second World War bunker in Gosport, destined to become the Historical Diving Society's (HDS) library and winter repository for perishable artefacts from the Diving Museum at Stokes Bay:


"I attach a few pics of the Bunker as of yesterday.  The Kitchen is presently under construction (thanks to Alan Stillwell) and more carpeting is expected soon from Barry Jackson.  The naming of the rooms is provisional. 






Left: Cloakroom

Right: Store 1



Left: Library

Right: Reading Room 


We are especially proud of the new hand rail donated and installed by John Dadd.  It's the second thing you can do with an old boat-hook!  What have you got in your loft/garage that would be useful in the Bunker?!


Handrail on steps leading down

into bunker 


A detailed survey was carried out by Mike Fardell and Nigel Phillips on Thursday and I'm delighted to report that it met with their approval.


Next playtime is Sunday 8 Jan at 1000 then 10, 12 and 15 Jan.  At 1000 on Thursday 12 January, the BIG MOVE will happen.  Barry Jackson is kindly providing a 30-foot removals truck to help us move the stored material from the Museum to the bunker.  This will involve carrying bits out of the Museum, loading them on the truck and unloading them at the bunker.  Many hands make light work!  So hope to see you there if you can spare the time.  We now have lots of kitchen components donated by Kevin Casey and John Towse.




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


Incidentally, members of the Historical Diving Society's Northern Working Equipment Group will feature in tomorrow's episode about diving in BBC2's fascinating TV series To Boldly Go which can be viewed again here on iPlayer until 2200 on Sunday 22 January 2012.  The programme description states:


"Doctor Kevin Fong sets out to discover how unsuited human biology is to living on much of the planet - and how we have developed the technology to let us survive there.


In this first programme, about how to survive underwater, Dr Fong escapes from a sinking helicopter, walks through a tank of sharks in an antique diving suit and intentionally gives himself nitrogen narcosis.


We have one fundamental problem with water - we can only survive under its surface for as long as we can make one breath of air last. But the way our bodies respond can dramatically alter how long we can make that breath last - a fact graphically demonstrated by Kevin's attempt to escape from the Royal Navy's helicopter escape trainer. As it is plunged into the water and turned upside down, the body's response is to activate its fight or flight response, preparing it for sudden action, but limiting the time he can hold his breath to just 25 seconds. It's long enough to make it back to the surface - but only just.


Travelling to Egypt, Kevin meets Sara Campbell - a champion free-diver, who can hold her breath for over five minutes and dive to depths of nearly 100m. However, to really explore the depths, we need to turn to technology. In an aquarium in Cheshire, Kevin tries one of the oldest diving technologies - a 'Standard Dress' diving suit - with brass helmet and boots. These suits allowed divers to work deep underwater for long periods of time - but they came with a downside - a terrible industrial disease that saw divers coming to the surface contorted or paralysed. To demonstrate its causes, Kevin climbs into a decompression chamber to subject himself to the sort of pressure divers experience." 


This entertaining and informative programme contains some fabulous underwater photography and is highly recommended.


6 Jan 12


Royal Navy’s Gulf presence is key to global trade says Defence Secretary


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the Defence Secretary's pledge to maintain a continued RN presence east of Suez to keep the sea lanes open for trade with particular regard to the Strait of Hormuz.  The article features the four-strong force of RN minehunters based at Bahrain for the past five years, currently the Sandown class vessels HMS Ramsey and HMS Pembroke and the Hunt class vessels HMS Middleton and HMS Quorn.


Two Sandowns in the Gulf

(RN website photo)


As the Commanding Officer of the then brand new Hunt class MHSC HMS Berkeley (now HS Kallisto in the Greek Navy) deployed in the Gulf on Operation ARMILLA ACCOMPLICE at the tail end of the Iran-Iraq 'Tanker War' in 1988/89, I feel a certain déjà vu about the current situation.  These are some of the House of Commons written answers on Defence recorded in Hansard on 10 November 1987


Commons Sitting of 10 November 1987 Series 6 Vol. 122

Oral Answers to Questions




3. Mr. Hardy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many minesweepers or mine countermeasure vessels are immediately available for service within British territorial waters.


Mr. Ian Stewart: There are currently 40 mine counter measures vessels, including minesweepers, in service with the Fleet of which 33 are operational or engaged in preparing for service or trials or training.  Except for the four Hunt class MCMVs attached to the Armilla patrol, all these 33 vessels are available for NATO and national tasks within European waters in the normal way.


Persian Gulf


14. Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied with the arrangements for co-operation between the Royal Navy and other Western navies in the Gulf.


Mr. Ian Stewart: Satisfactory arrangements have been developed, both locally and between capitals, for co-operation.  Although the Royal Navy's Armilla patrol remains a wholly national operation, the United Kingdom is committed to close co-ordination with other Western navies also working to preserve international freedom of navigation on Gulf waters.


31. Mr. Andy Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Royal Navy's mineclearing operations in the Gulf.


Mr. Ian Stewart: Four Royal Navy mine countermeasures vessels with afloat support arrived in the Gulf area in mid-September.  They have carried out mine clearance operations at Fujairah, where they detected and destroyed five mines [laid by Iran], and off Dubai.  They are currently involved in a further mine clearance operation off Qatar.


34. Ms. Primarolo: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the number of British units and ships currently serving in the Gulf area and their length of service there to date.


Mr. Ian Stewart: It is not our general policy to give details of the operational deployments of Royal Navy ships.  However, I can say that there are currently three destroyers-frigates, four mine counter-measures vessels and their afloat support in the area of the Gulf.  Royal Navy ships have been serving in the area as part of the Armilla patrol since 1980; the MCMVs supporting the patrol arrived in the area in mid-September.  Although there are no British military units currently in the Gulf area, a number of loan service personnel are serving in various countries in the region.


Armilla Patrol


47. Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many merchant ships the Royal Navy's Armilla patrol has accompanied through the Straits of Hormuz since the start of the current year.


Mr. Ian Stewart: Up to the beginning of this month, the Armilla patrol has accompanied approximately 300 British merchant ships through the Straits of Hormuz this year.


A book called 'No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf' by Bradley Peniston describes the events of the period in vivid detail.  These include the Iraqi air-to-surface Exocet attack on the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate USS Stark on 17 May 1987, the mining of the US-flagged supertanker Bridgeton during Operation EARNEST WILL on 24 Jul 1987, the capture of the Iranian minelaying landing craft Iran Ajr on 22 Sep 1987, the mining of the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts on 14 April 1988 and the subsequent retribution exacted by US naval forces on Iranian forces and infrastructure during Operation PRAYING MANTIS on 18 April 1988.


The Iran Ajr after her capture by

US Marines on 22 Sep 1987


NDG deals with 'bombs' found at farm in Scotland


The Kilmarnock Standard website contains this article describing the disposal of two items of unexploded ordnance found on a farm near Symington in South Ayrshire by members of the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG). 


5 Jan 12 - SDU1 gets ready for the Olympics


The Plymouth Herald contains this article describing the involvement of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) in the security operation for the 2012 Olympics and features OIC Lee Beeching, CPO(D) Mike Kasapi and PO(D) Mac McPherson.  In fact, this task will keep much of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) even busier than usual between June and September this year.


1 Jan 12 - A 'hauling down message' from Lt Cdr Paul 'Taff' Sweeney RANR


Lt Cdr Paul 'Taff' Sweeney RANR


I sent Taff Sweeney an email to congratulate him on his 50 years in naval uniform; 24 years RN and 26 years RAN (see entry for 28 Dec 11) and asked him for a few words for his friends 'back home'.  He has been kind enough to send this reply:




Thank you for your email.  As the festive season draws to an end, I am trying to catch up with all my unanswered messages after my farewell on Friday the 9th of December 2011.  The occasion will remain with Maggie and me forever as a day which, while unexpected, was greatly appreciated.  Admiral Russ Crane as MC did a great job.  However, three hours of stories and presentations, including extracts from my 'Blue Jacket', raised a few eyebrows.


Taff being presented with one of several mementos of his service


With regard to my combined service in uniform, I remember joining HMS GANGES Annex on 2 January 1962 aged 15 (birthday 3 October 1946).  However, my Service Record shows me signing up on 8 January 1962, one week later.  I continued service until Friday 3 January 1986, joining the Royal Australian Navy on Saturday 4 January 1986 at Australia House in London.  I have continued full time service without a break and will retire on 8 January 2012 (50 years and one day of continuous service).


As for a Hauling Down Message, well, here goes:  After serving continuously for 50 years in the Royal and Australian Navies (45 as a Clearance Diver) my body tells me that it is time to retire.  Although in my heart I would like to stay, a Clearance Diver's job in any Navy is for young men.  The close friendships and many acquaintances I have made will never be forgotten and, hopefully, I will be able to recognise past acquaintances when bumping into them as Maggie and I travel the world.  After leaving HMS Ganges, I was fortunate to serve in the  Mediterranean for two years as a Junior Seaman in a Ton Class Minesweeper.  This one posting taught me the basics of Seamanship and how to be an effective sailor, traits that have served me exceptionally well especially during my CD2, POCD and MCDO Courses.  Marrying a Chief Dental WREN as a Leading Seaman (together now for 42 years), completing my Clearance Diving Courses and graduating from Britannia Naval College were the highlights of my RN career.  Three Flag Officer commendations for Diving and EOD jobs and serving in at least eight or nine Ton Class MCMV's from Junior Seaman to Lieutenant comes a close second.


Maggie and Taff Sweeney flanked by Lt Cdr Russ Crawford and

VA Russ Crane who both served as exchange officers in the

Minewarfare Section at HMS Vernon during the 1980s


After completing a three-year exchange with the Royal Australian Navy at the RAN Diving School HMAS PENGUIN in Sydney as the Diving Training Officer, the attractions of this marvellous country were enough to entice us back to Australia and a new lease on life.  Command of HMAS PROTECTOR and periods as Officer-in-Charge of the RAN Diving and Leadership & Management Schools made the transition definitely worthwhile.  One posting overseas to the Pacific Island of Samoa for 12 months gave both Maggie and me a new outlook on life that will forever remain with us.  My last few years have been as 2I/C of the RAN Diving School where, hopefully, I have contributed a little to improving the quality of Clearance Divers graduating at all levels while overseeing the design and re-build of the Diving School at HMAS PENGUIN.


Farewell to all.


United and Undaunted!


Lieutenant Commander D.P. Sweeney (Taff)



Postscript: I am grateful to MCDOA member Cdr Jake Linton BEM RAN for drawing my attention to these wonderful photos of Taf'f's retirement ceremony on the RAN Media Library website.


Post Postscript: I have managed to unearth this old photo of LMCDO '79 from among the dust in the attic.  See if you can spot Taff and identify his fellow course members, one of whom is a past-President of the MCDOA:


'Vintage' photo of LMCDO '79 at HMS Vernon


Highlight the contents of the box below with your cursor to see names:


Left to right: Bill Chambers, Tim Curd, Gordon Stamp (sitting), Andy Ryan, Sven Kalvoe (RNoN), Allan Rankin (sitting - later RAN),
Colin Welborn, Taff Sweeney (later RAN), Colin Dodd (sitting), Neill 'Dinga' Bell RAN)



Back to top


News Archives