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 Jun 12


Armed Forces Day


Divers from the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth take the AFD flag

into the "Eddystone Reef" tank

(Picture: LA(Phot) Rob Gillies)


MCDOA member instrumental in erection of US diving monument


MCDOA member Paul Guiver, founder of Divers' Gifts and Collectables, has passed me the following update on the Mark V Monument Project which intends to erect a bronze figure of 'Jake', a diver wearing Mk V standard diving dress, at the US Naval Diving & Salvage Training Centre, Panama City:


"Hi Rob,


I thought I ought to share these with you as you've been following the progress.  These are the ceramic moulds 'shells' from the wax pieces which will take the bronze; due to start pouring next week. 





Above and below: Paul Guiver with some of the ceramic moulds for 'Jake'



When cool, this lot gets smashed off then it's all down to chasing out and buffing up prior to, welding together, more buffing, patina and waxing.  We are now four weeks ahead of schedule and well within budget.  All from the sales of miniatures (no donations) during the past 3 years and 8 months.


One of the 300 statuettes of Jake sold for $2,000 apiece

to fund the full-sized statue


I am currently in Panama City discussing the timeline for delivery and the unveiling weekend.  There is also some more work to be done on the granite base placed on the Quarterdeck of the Navy Diving & Salvage Training Center before it's ready to take 900 lbs of bronze hard hat diver!  Back up to Los Angeles next Monday to continue work with the foundry.  It's a passion being fulfilled with a drop of sunshine...  Not bad considering this time last year I had just had my stomach tube removed!


Paul on the plinth intended for Jake


Unveiling is on 26th October this year and George Bush x2 have been invited!  Twill be a weekend to remember...


Best regards,




29 Jun 12 - HMS Ledbury returns from six-month deployment


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Portsmouth News this article describing today's return of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 7) following her six-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).


HMS Ledbury entering Portsmouth harbour

(Royal Navy photo)


28 Jun 12 - Topsy Turner on RIMPAC



Former MCDOA Honorary Secretary David 'Topsy' Turner transferred to the RNZN in 2004 and I am most grateful to him for this, his latest update:


"Hi Rob,


I'm currently embarked in USS ESSEX after walking onboard last week in San Diego, just three days before we sailed for Hawaii and the start of RIMPAC.  For my sins (and from a cast of thousands) I'm the Chief of Staff to Commodore Peter Ellis, RCN (Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific - COMCANFLTPAC) who is CTF 176 Expeditionary Strike Group Commander of the Amphibious Task Force.


Held every two years by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), RIMPAC 2012 is a multinational maritime exercise that takes place in and around the Hawaiian Islands.  This year's RIMPAC exercise, the 23rd in the series that began in 1971, is scheduled from 27 June 27 to 7 August.  Twenty-two nations, 42 surface ships, 6 submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate.  Units from Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore, and the United States will participate. 


Military personnel from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Republic of Philippines, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom will also participate. The countries of Bangladesh, Brunei, Brazil, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka have been invited as observers.  RIMPAC is a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans.


This is the very first time that New Zealand has been invited to participate (non-nuclear issues with the US in the past have prevented our participation) and so we have responded with HMNZ Ships TE KAHA and ENDEAVOUR, a Rifle Company from the NZ Army, our Operational Diving Team, the Mine Counter Measures Team and a whole heap of staff officers in various positions ashore.  Getting the Chief of Staff position is quite a coup for NZ and so I'm grateful to have the support of some very bright staff officers who are keen as mustard to see that all goes well - I'm in good hands!


You'll see me here in the front row - the only Kiwi:



Above and below: CTF 176 Staff on board USS ESSEX

(Topsy Turner third from left in front row)



Yours Aye,




David Turner

Commander, RNZN

Chief of Staff

CTF 176"


BZ Topsy!  That certainly is a coup for you, your Navy and our shared Branch.


27 Jun 12 - Three Men in a Boat


Despite the generally inclement weather, the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole has ventured afloat in favourable conditions during its two most recent Tuesday get-togethers.  Like her crew, Barlow's yacht 'Dougout' is getting fairly long in the tooth but continues to perform admirably. 


Barlow at the helm, complete with protection for an annoyingly

athritic finger, while Holloway keeps a look out


Certain press reports are forecasting the closure of Portsmouth Dockyard (the bit that builds and refits ships) but at least the Naval Base remains relatively active, if less frenetic than in past years.  Last week, the Wales URNU (University Royal Naval Unit) P2000-type patrol and training vessel HMS Express was cutting a dash in the harbour between exercising in and around the Solent.



Bow and stern views of HMS Express with the Type 42 destroyer HMS York in the background


Ships alongside included the Port of Spain class offshore patrol vessels Amazonas and Scarborough.  BAe Systems originally built three of these ships for the Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard but they are now being sold to the Brazilian Navy.  Amazonas is due to be handed over this Friday while Scarborough has yet to be renamed and repainted.



Left: The Brazilian Naval Ship Amazonas (ex-T&T Coast Guard cutter Port of Spain)

Right: The as yet unrenamed Scarborough still in her T&T Coast Guard colours 


Also alongside was the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon. 



Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon


Yesterday, condiditions were not quite as pleasant as last week but the rain held off and I must confess to a certain feeling of schadenfreude as we passed Leach Building (Navy Command Headquarters) and I thought of all the staff officers beavering away at their desks.


Sea Cadets undergoing sail training off Whale Island

with Leach Building in the background


However, my wicked pleasure was soon diminished by the sight of the ships awaiting disposal on the other side of our yacht; just a handful of the many that have met their end over the past few years.


Part of 'Death Row' in Portsmouth harbour 


At least the Type 23 frigate HMS Kent is still in service although the Omani corvette Al-Shamikh was an incongruous sight around the corner from her.  She is one of three Khareef class vessels built in Portsmouth by BAe Systems for the Sultan of Oman's Navy.



Left: Type 23 frigate HMS Kent

Right: Khareef class corvette Al-Shamikh


Also of interest was Sir Donald Gosling's luxury motor yacht Leander berthed at Gunwharf Quays, the former site of HMS Vernon, spiritual home of RN minewarfare and diving.  Sir Donald was not only a seaman in the Leander class cruiser HMS Leander but he also served on the lower deck with Barlow.  He was recently appointed Vice Admiral of the United Kingdom, an honorific title bestowed in recognition of his generosity towards Naval Service charities.  He acquired his fortune by buying up bombed sites in London after the war and establishing NCP (National Car Parks).  Since the demise of the Royal Yacht Britannia, he has occasionally lent Leander to members of the royal family.


Sir Donald Gosling's motor yacht Leander at Gunwharf Quays 


Outside the harbour it was a different story with some less sophisticated craft on view.  We saw a particularly eye-catching ketch and Holloway found himself in a teeth-gritting (but short-lived) race against one of the Sunsail yachts.



Left: A lovely-looking ketch with No Man's Land fort in the background

Right: Holloway steels himself during a race with a Sunsail yacht 


During our return to harbour, we were passed by HMS Cattistock.  She appeared to be conducting some form of training serial with a pilot embarked.  I took off the RN ballcap I was given in a goody bag when I visited her in Poole last month (see entry for 15 May 12) and waved it furiously but received no acknowledgement.  Perhaps we will have to dip our ensign next time.




Above and below: HMS Cattistock entering Portsmouth



26 Jun 12 - Navy News


The June issue of Navy News contains several items of MCD interest and can be downloaded here.


25 Jun 12


Shell dealt with at RN Submarine Museum


The ITV News website contains this article describing the discovery of an unexploded shell this morning during work at the RN Submarine Museum in Gosport.  It was dealt with by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).


Members of SDU2 at RN Submarine Museum


Rockets dealt with by MCDOA member's EOD company


The Hartlepool Mail website contains this article describing the disposal of some rockets near the Teesside Offshore Wind Farm by contractors from MACC International Ltd, a commercial EOD company.  The article features MCDOA member Richard 'Glops' Lowther. 


23 Jun 12 - Ex-Sapper breaks world underwater record


He did it.  BBC News: Essex ex-Royal Engineer Mark Colman breaks underwater record


Mark Colman during a

rehydration break


What a star.  Donations can still be made to Veterans in Action via Mark's webpage:


21 Jun 12 - Ex-Sapper more than halfway through attempt to break world underwater record


This is what a diver's hand looks like after being immersed in water almost continuously for 60 hours:



The hand belongs to ex-Royal Engineer Mark Colman who is more than halfway through an attempt to break the world record for the longest submerged dive in a controlled environment at Sea Lift Diving in Kent (see entry for 23 Oct 11 in News Archive 36).  Further information about Mark's record-breaking attempt is available on this blog and his progress can be followed online via Krystal Radio broadcasting from its underwater studio here.


In November 2000, Mark tried to save the life of ex-CD2 Gary 'Dusty' Miller during a commercial diving job at Canary Wharf.  An account of the inquest, which features MCDOA member Dr John Bevan as the specialist diving consultant, is available on the BBC website here: Diver unlawfully killed.


Mark, a veteran of the first Gulf war, is raising funds for Veterans in Action which has helped him through some extremely difficult times as described here.  To sponsor him, see his charity webpage here:


20 Jun 12 - Award of LS&GC Medals


Congratulations to PO(MW) Marsden and AB(D)1 Binns on their award of the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (LS&GC) as announced here in the London Gazette.


19 Jun 12 - Mine threatening North Sea pipeline to be removed remotely


The Scotsman website contains this article describing plans to remove a Second World War mine from the vicinity of an important gas pipeline 62 miles off St Fergus in Aberdeenshire using the Remote Explosive Ordnance Disposal System (REODS).  REODS was developed by Ramora UK which was founded by its Managing Director, MCDOA member Dave Welch.  According to former FCPO(D) Chris Jones. the photo that appears at the top of the article was taken c.1965 and the individuals are members of the Scotland & Northern Ireland Clearance Diving Team (SNICDT).  From left to right, the CDs were Frank Newman, Bungy Williams and Scouse Bolton and the CDO was Lt Cdr John Futcher MBE RN who later moved to Australia (see second entry for 1 Feb 12 in News Archive 37, second entry for 12 Jul 09 in News Archive 27 and entry for 24 Jun 09 in News Archive 26).


RN divers with beached M Mk1 moored mine


Ramora's REODS reminds me of CUTLET, the Faslane-based ROV used to recover mines and torpedoes from ranges around the west coast of Scotland during the 1970s.  It is now on display at the RN Submarine Museum in Gosport.


CUTLET at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum


18 Jun 12 - Award of Meritorious Service Medal


As ever, I am grateful to MCDOA member Phil Ireland DSC for advising me that WO1(D) Andy Carss QGM has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM).  Andy is currently working in Abbey Wood but was previously on the Diving & EOD capability desk at NCHQ.


Many congratulations to Andy on his well-deserved award.


17 Jun 12 - New book about Lt Peter Danckwerts GC MBE RNVR


Some months ago, I was approached by author Peter Varey who was researching a biography of wartime bomb & mine disposal officer Lt Peter Danckwerts GC MBE RNVR.  I am pleased to announce that Peter's book, 'Life on the Edge', has now been published and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in EOD and its history.


Front cover of Peter Varey's book


The first seven chapters of this 378-page volume contain a detailed description of Peter Danckwerts' induction into the RNVR in 1940 at the age of 23 and his subsequent role in rendering mines safe.  After initial training at the Joint Services Bomb Disposal School at RAF Manby near Louth, he was sent to HMS Vernon in Portsmouth to learn about specific threat mines before being cast into the thick of things in London.  In the latter part of 1940 at the height of the Blitz, Danckwerts, who had been less than six weeks in the Service, set out without orders and with incomplete equipment to deal with parachute mines endangering his district. He had never before touched a mine, except under instruction, but on one occasion he worked almost without rest for 48 hours and dealt successfully with 16 enemy mines. 


On another occasion he and a CPO (John Beadle) found two mines hanging from a parachute with their noses on a warehouse floor. Their footsteps started up the clock in one of them - they retreated - the clock stopped.  So they went on undaunted and dealt with the mine, knowing well that its clock was highly sensitive and could only have a few seconds left to run.  However, the then Sub Lt Danckwerts managed to withdraw the fuze before dealing with the other mine.  Later in the war he was transferred to bomb disposal work abroad and was wounded in a minefield in Sicily.  Following this episode he joined the Combined Operations headquarters in Whitehall.  The remainder of the book covers Danckwerts' post-war career as a world-renowned academic and chemical engineer. 


This is a cracking read with lots of entertaining snippets and illustrations.  For further information about the book and Peter Danckwerts and his fascinating family, see Peter Varey's website here.  To purchase the book online, see here on the website or order direct from Peter Varey (no cards) at 2 Petersfield, CAMBRIDGE CB1 1BB (Mobile: 07761 472068).


Hardback:   ISBN 978-0-9538440-1-2 for £28 (plus £3.99 P&P)

Paperback: ISBN 978-0-9538440-2-9 for £14 (plus £2.99 P&P)


From the author of 'Life on the Edge':


"Dear Rob,


Thank you very much for your continuing support.  




Peter Varey"


15 Jun 12 - Selections for Sea Command


I am grateful to MCDOA member Phil Ireland DSC for informing me that fellow members Lt Cdr Jim Byron DSC and A/Cdr Peter Laughton MBE are among the eleven warfare officers on today’s signal who have been selected by the SASB (Sea Appointments Selection Board) for command in the rank of Commander. 


Hearty congratulations to both of you and I hope your eventual appointments are everything you desire.


14 Jun 12 - HMS Penzance marks predecessor's sinking


The Royal Navy website contains this article, the BBC website this article, the Falmouth Packet website this article and the Cornishman website this article describing the participation of HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 7) in ceremonies in the Cornish town of Penzance to unveil a memorial marking the torpedoing by a U-boat of the Hastings Class sloop HMS Penzance off Iceland in August 1940.  All but 14 of her ship's company of 104 perished as the result of the attack.


The articles feature MCDOA member Alex Bush, the Commanding Officer of the current HMS Penzance.


Alex Bush and Sea Cadet Jack Knowles of TS Grenville with

members of the ship's company of the current HMS Penzance

(RN website photo)


13 Jun 12 - HMS Penzance commemorates Falklands 30 in Swansea


The ITV News website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 7) in a service in Swansea to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Falklands conflict.  The articles feature MCDOA member Alex Bush, the Commanding Officer of HMS Penzance.


12 Jun 12


SDU1 destroys German wartime mine off South Wales


The BBC website contains this article describing the disposal of a German wartime mine off Dale near Milford Haven on Tuesday, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).


HMS Ledbury destroys German wartime mine in Mediterranean


The Ministry of Defence website contains this article, the Daily Mail website this article and the Portsmouth News website this article describing the discovery and disposal of a German wartime mine off the coast of Sardinia by HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 7).  The articles feature MCDO Sean 'Central' Heaton (ship's XO), LS(D) Ben 'Duncs' Duncan and AB(D) Josh Spibey.



Left: SeaFox CCTV image of German GY moored contact mine

Right: LS(D) Ben 'Duncs' Duncan pictured with the mine

(MoD photos)


11 Jun 12 - HMS Penzance to visit Penzance


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing a visit by HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 7) to the Cornish town of Penzance from 7 to 10 June.  The articles feature MCDOA member Alex Bush, the Commanding Officer of HMS Penzance.  


10 Jun 12 - Another busy weekend


I am only just recovering from the annual RN Divers' Reunion at the Royal Maritime Club on Friday night and the Combined Association Barbecue at Horsea Island on Saturday.  I chose not to use my camera as much as usual but I was persuaded to take this photo at the reunion.  Les Sharpe has shrunk a bit since last year but MCDOA Honorary Secretary Mick Beale, Lawry Lawrence and Dave 'Jim' Bond seemed to be holding up fairly well.


Some of 'the boys' let down their hair


Three Superintendents of Diving were present at Saturday's barbecue at Horsea Island including Chris Baldwin, the current SofD and Chairman of the MCDOA.  A highlight of the afternoon was a performance by the 'Pompey Pluckers' who were joined by former SofD and founding MCDOA Chairman David Sandiford, his wife Pauline and MCDOA member Martyn Holloway.  The singalong included a rendition of Monty Python's 'I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Okay' by David Sandiford who also mentioned it was fortunate that the group didn't come from Fareham.


David & Pauline Sandiford and Martyn Holloway join

up with the Pompey Pluckers


The barbecue also gave me the first opportunity to show off Robin, my three-month-old grandson, to the Branch.


A particularly proud grandfather


As ever, many thanks to MCDOA Secretary Mick Beale and MCDOA Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson for organising the event and to former SofD and MCDOA Chairman Paul Jones and his wife Yvonne for running the bar.  We are also grateful to MCDOA member Paul Guiver for donating several fine prizes for the raffle.


While the rest of us were devouring our chicken drumsticks and sinking a few beers, pride of place must go to ex-CD Mike 'Pincher' Marten who completed 18 laps of Horsea Island (27 miles) in his wheelchair to raise funds for ex-CD Steve Briggs who is currently lying paralysed from the neck down in hospital after suffering a tragic accident.  We all gathered to see him crossing the finishing line marked by a nameplate from the sadly defunct Seabed Operations Vessel, HMS Challenger.



Left: The reception committee gets ready to welcome Pincher across the finishing line

Right: Close-up of the finishing line



Left: Pincher on the home straight after 27 miles

Right: Almost there as the crowd gives a big cheer


Time for a well-deserved beer from Mick Beale


So far, Pincher has raised over £2,500.  If you wish to sponsor him in his mission to support Steve Briggs in his hour of need, his fundraising page can be found here:


Steven Briggs Horsea Island Wheelchair Marathon


9 Jun 12 - Royal Navy bomb squad called to Hurstpierpoint


The Mid Sussex Times website contains this article describing a call-out for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with a grenade discovered by a 13 year-old boy in a field.


Grenade found by Harry Young 


8 Jun 12 - Possible 15" shell discovered at Eskmeals


The Carlisle News & Star website contains this article describing a call-out for Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) following the discovery of a possible 15" shell on the beach near Ravenglass adjacent to the Eskmeals Range in Cumbria.


7 Jun 12 - Death of 'P-Party' veteran Mike Connolly


I regret to report that Mike Connolly, a veteran of Second World War 'P-Party' 1572, had a stroke and died last night.  I was informed by his daughter Alicia and I have expressed my deep condolences to her and her mother Liz.


Liz and Mike Connolly at the RN Divers' Reunion in June last year


 For further background and pictures of Mike during his long diving career, see the second entry for 4 Mar 10 in News Archive 29.


Mike Connolly wearing standard dress

in West Africa after the war


5 Jun 12 - Busy weekend for MWs and Divers


Those watching the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames on Sunday will have noticed the prominent position of HMS Hurworth moored astern of the Royal Barge 'Spirit of Chartwell' at HMS President.



Above and below: Spirit of Chartwell with HMS Hurworth moored astern



In the meantime, members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) manned a display at this year's Whitehaven Festival as described on the Festival's website here.


NDG on display at Whitehaven Festival


NDG will also be participating in the Armed Forces Day activities at Scarborough on 23 June as described on the website here.


2 Jun 12 - WWII-era bomb discovered at Pink Floyd frontman's home


The MSN News website contains this article describing how members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) removed a wartime incendiary bomb from the home of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.


SDU2 Bomb Wagon at David Gilmour's mansion in East Sussex


1 Jun 12 - Honour for WW2 bomb expert


The Worcester News website contains this article describing the presentation of the Queen's Commendation for Bravery (QCB) to MCDOA member Richard Talbot by Admiral George Zambellas, the Fleet Commander.


Admiral Zambellis with Richard Talbot


31 May 12


Combined Association Barbecue at Horsea Island


Soapy Watson, our Honorary Treasurer, has asked me to advise that he is off on leave for a week but Mick Beale, our Honorary Secretary, will be handling applications for the Combined Association Barbecue at Horsea Island on Saturday 9 June in his absence.  Tickets will be left in envelopes at the main gate on the day of the race.  See the Forthcoming Events page for further details.


HDS Diving Museum update


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


"We had a successful regional meeting of the Association of Diving Contractors (ADC) today with eleven attendees.  Another Diving Supervisor underwent his ADC examination at the ARP Bunker.  A healthy donation is expected.


Regional meeting of the Association of Diving Contractors


The external exhibits looked good in the sunshine thanks to the super paint job by ex-RN CDs John Dadd and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.


HDS Museum external exhibits


HDS 5-star historical member Jim Hutchison is to be interviewed by BBC1 on board HMS Belfast at 1300 on Sunday 3 June.  Not to be missed!


Rob Hoole with Jim Hutchison at

Portsmouth Navy Days in 2010


We had a special guest VIP visit last Thursday when Prof Peter Bennett visited from the USA.  He was most impressed with the Museum and made a $1,000 donation!


Last weekend was very interesting.  The hot weather brought out the crowds to Stokes Bay but numbers were low on Saturday (25).  This improved on Sunday (75) although attendence was no doubt helped by making entry free. 


Simultaneously, the HDS exhibited very successfully at the Old Gaffers Festival in Yarmouth, IoW.  The exhibits included items from Dougie and Trevor from the IoW and Peter and Cheryl Wingett from England.  


HDS display at the Old Gaffers Festival 


Trevor got First Prize for his entries in the chocolate cake and strawberry and cream tea cakes competition (again!).


Trevor produces his chocolate cake 


John Towse, Adrian Barak and Jenny Logan (plus me) provided moral support.


Adrian Barak and John Towse dress a

young paddler


The previous weekend at the museum was quiet but I'm not sure why. 30 on Saturday and 37 on Sunday. There must have been something good on the telly.  We had a crutch strap donated by 'Donkey' Bray.  It made our day!  Mike O'Meara is continuing with his efforts on our behalf to point the Newt Suit presently in the NMM in our direction later this year.  


On the evening of Wednesday 27 June, the Diving Museum will be hosting visitors from all over the world for a BBQ.  About 100-200 university graduates and undergraduates will be coming along. They will be entrants in the SUBRACE (manpowered u/w racing) at QinetiQ Haslar.  Details can be found here.  Please let me know if you would be interested in officiating.  The BBQ, etc., will actually be held at the Bayside Cabin but it will be in conjunction with the Diving Museum.  If you want to see any of the racing events at QinetiQ, please let me know.




The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three 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: This was venerable HDS member Jim Hutchison being interviewed by Fearne Cotton on board the museum ship HMS Belfast during the BBC's coverage of the rain-soaked Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on 3 June 2012:


Fearne Cotton with 90 year-old veteran diver Jim Hutchison

on board HMS Belfast


30 May 12 - Departure of HMS Atherstone


I wandered down to the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth this morning to pay farewell to HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6) as she left for a three-year deployment in the Gulf.  It was still hazy but the sky was blue and there was a good atmosphere with families and press looking up harbour for a first glimpse of the ship.


Well-wishers gathering on the Round Tower


Among the people I bumped into was Sarah, wife of MCDOA member Justin Hains, the CO of HMS Atherstone.  She was accompanied by her two daughters, parents-in-law and an uncle.


Sarah Hains with family members


I also encountered AB(MW) Josh Beale's parents Kevin and Jill together with his brother Mark, sister Verity and fiancée Jessica.


The Beale family awaiting first sign of HMS Atherstone 


I then spotted the familiar sight of the Welsh dragon under the control of the family of AB(D) Daniel Mullens.  Dan's parents Carl and Paula, brother Marcus and Uncle Dick & Auntie Sian had come from Port Talbot.


The Mullens family from South Wales 


At long last, HMS Atherstone hove into view from out of the mist and the crowd gave her a tremendous cheer as she passed.


Here she comes... she is...


...and there she goes


God speed to her and to all who sail in her over the coming months.


Postscript: The Portsmouth News has since published this article and the Navy News this article describing Atherstone's departure.  The MoD website has also published this article featuring MCDOA member Justin Hains and pointing out that Faslane-based HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 4) left port on Monday, also bound for the Gulf.


28 May 12 - HMS Brocklesby Completes Phase One OST


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the completion of Phase One Operational Sea Training (OST) by HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 3).  Her ship's company will deploy to the Middle East on Operation KIPION later in the year.


26 May 12 - Helston recycling centre fake bomb probed


The BBC website contains this article describing the discovery of a fake bomb at Helston recycling centre which was dealt with by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).


25 May 12 - Recovery of HMS Coventry's Cross of Nails


Ex-CD1 Clive 'Windy' Gale has been interviewed by BBC Radio Coventry & Warwickshire about the recovery of classified materials and the Cross of Nails from HMS Coventry by Naval Party 2002 embarked in MV Stena Seaspread (Operation BLACKLEG).  This formed part of coverage of the 50th anniversary of the building of the new Cathedral and the coincidental 30th anniversary of the sinking of the ship on the same date (25 May) during the Falklands war in 1982.  A recording of the interview in MP3 format can be heard here


Windy has also been interviewed by BBC Radio Midlands for a programme about the sinking of HMS Coventry but he does not know when it will be broadcast.


Postscript: The BBC News website has published this article covering the same subject.  It includes part of Windy's interview and newly released footage of the salvage operation.


NP 2002 diver exiting bell during Operation BLACKLEG

(BBC website)


21 May 12 - Another end of an era


I am grateful to MCDOA member Alan Padwick OBE for this update:


"Dear Rob,


It may interest the several MCDOA members who have also been (or are still) narrow boaters that Sarah and I have finally sold the 'Queen of Sheba'.  She left Devizes on a lorry this morning, 21 May 2012, 19 years and 11 days after we first set out in her.  Her new owner will keep her at Barrow-on-Soar, north of Leicester.  We decided the time had come as I was finding the maintenance and the paintwork a bit of a chore and in any case we have been to every part of the inland waterways, mostly several times, covering over 17,000 miles and nearly 10,000 locks in the last 19 years.




She gave us enormous pleasure, not only tranquil cruising but also sailing the Bristol channel from Bristol to Sharpness and the other way round, with the excitement of 7 knot tidal streams; enduring three weeks trapped in flooded countryside as the Thames raced by at 5 or 6 knots after the 2007 July storm (actually a delightfully peaceful experience); and even spending an afternoon high and dry on a sandbank off Goole following an abortive attempt to rescue another narrow boat who went on first.



It already feels very strange to know we shall not be doing all that stuff again but we have tremendous memories of every corner of the waterways, from Lancaster and Ripon, over the Pennines and through long tunnels, to Llangollen and Cambridge and through the heart of London several times on the Thames and the Regents Canal (It is actually as bad as having old family dogs put down but I am sure we shall adjust!).


I left the Navy in the depths of the last recession (1993) when 53 year old naval officers bore very little significance in the shrunken jobs market - so we blew my gratuity on this big adventure.  And now I have got some of the money back with thoughts of a big trip in a camper van.  North Norway by road instead of sea is very tempting.




Alan Padwick

(Superintendent of Diving 1983 to 1986)"


From MCDOA member Brian Mansbridge MBE (also a former Superintendent of Diving):


"Dear Alan & Sarah,


A sad day indeed, and quite a similar story to ours except our travels were only six years or so.  We anticipated hiring on the canals overseas but then for us grandchildren started to arrive and have kept us busy in different ways, although all the family had a holiday hire on the Broads only last week in a riverside cottage, but recognising that young children get a bit bored with the confines of a boat we only had one for a day.



Our current energy is spent on a new house at Lee-on-the-Solent with a fine sea view and enough space to put up all the family during visits.


We wish you well and for all your future travel plans.


Wendy & Brian"


20 May 12 - Navy News


The May issue of Navy News, containing several items of MCD interest, can be downloaded here.  This photo appears on page 39:



18 May 12 - Fleet Engineering Efficiency Award for HMS Ramsey


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the award of the Fleet Engineering Efficiency Award to the marine engineering and weapon engineering departments of HMS Ramsey for their outstanding work during a recent challenging deployment to the Gulf.


THE ME and WE Departments of HMS Ramsey

(RN website photo) 


17 May 12 - HDS Diving Museum update


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






At Gosport's Mayorial swearing in ceremony today we had the wonderful surprise of being the FIRST recipients of a new Award Scheme introduced by the outgoing Mayor, Councillor Chris Carter.  The ceremony was attended by HDS Diving Museum representatives Kevin Casey and Ann Bevan who accepted the Award on all our behalves.


HDS Museum Officer Kevin Casey and Ann Bevan with

Councillor Chris Carter and the award


In his address, The Mayor highlighted three of the best achievements in Gosport during his twelve months in office:


1st: The establishment of the Diving Museum by the HDS

2nd: The establishment of a reference library in the ARP Bunker by the HDS

3rd: The Discovery Centre in Gosport


Well done and thank you!




16 May 12 - Crew change for HMS Bangor


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the latest crew change for HMS Bangor, veteran of last year's Libyan campaign. 


15 May 12 - A day on board HMS Cattistock


Yesterday, I was one of four Ton Class Association (TCA) members invited to spend a day on board HMS Cattistock at Poole.  The other members were Peter Harrison, Jerry Nunn and Ronald Wills BEM.


HMS Cattistock alongside the Town Quay at Poole


We were joined by other affiliates including residents of the village of Cattistock.  On arrival, we were ushered into the Senior Rates mess where we were hosted by WO2 Ian 'Harry' Harrison, the mess president.


Left: TCA member Peter Harrison with Cattistock residents Peter Long and Roma Rowland

Centre: Cattistock residents Margaret Long and Parish Councillor of 30 years Ian Anderson

Right: TCA member Jerry Nunn with Cattistock resident Neil Rowland, TCA member Ronald Wills

and ship's MEO Harry Harrison


While we enjoyed a morning coffee, I was given some friendly flak by the ship's coxswain, PO(D) Nick Frost.


Ship's Coxswain, PO(D) Nick Frost


Inclement weather stymied plans to go to sea so we stayed alongside.  Nonetheless, we were treated to a comprehensive tour of the ship plus a busy programme of static displays and drills, all executed in an impressively professional fashion.  Our tour started with the engine room, generator space and ship's control centre.  We were also able to thank the Leading Chef for a tasty lunch during our look at the galley.     



Left: A look at the Deltic diesel main engines, soon to be replaced by Caterpillar ACERTs

Right: Leading Cook Brown talks food and menus


We were shown around the bridge by Lt Andy House, the incoming navigating officer, before being taken down to the sweepdeck where LS(D) John Pearson and his team showed us examples of the ship's diving sets and the compression chamber.



Left: Incoming navigator Andy House explains the bridge layout

Right: A look at the ship's diving gear


We were then given a demonstration of the SeaFox mine disposal vehicle which has two variants; the re-usable inspection vehicle and the expendable clearance vehicle.



Demonstration of SeaFox mine disposal system


PO(MW) John Aylett, the Ops Room Supervisor, then introduced us to Sonar 2159 and the NAUTIS 3 combat management system in the operations room before we finished off on the forecastle where Cattistock villagers Roma Rowland and Margaret Young had fun at the controls of the 30mm mounting. 



Left: PO(MW) John Aylett explains the Ops Room systems

Right: Roma Rowland picks her target


Before we departed, TCA member Peter Harrison presented the Commanding Officer of HMS Cattistock with copies of the TCA's 25th anniversary publications Last of the Wooden Walls and Jacks of All Trades.  In return, Andy Higfham gave him a ship's badge. 



Andy Ingham and Peter Harrison exchange mementos 


I would like to thank Andy Ingham, our liaison officer Jacob Ball and all the other members of HMS Cattistock's ships' company for their kind hospitality during our visit.  Nothing was too much trouble and I wish everyone a happy time before deploying to the Gulf again for the second time in as many years. 


12 May 12 - A busy day in the Gosport area


Falklands 30


Yesterday morning saw me at the Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower in Gosport where I listened to a series of personal reminscences related by naval veterans of the Falklands War.  These were cleverly stiched together and accompanied by video and still photographs to mark the war's 30th anniversary.  The picture below shows the group of speakers afterwards but my camera flash was not really powerful enough to cope with the gloomy surroundings.  A better quality photo should appear in an article in the Portsmouth News on Monday.  Unfortunately, Cdre Jamie Miller had left early and Surgeon Captain Morgan O'Connell FRCPsych is hidden behind others but Minewarfare Association (MWA) member John 'Hydra Joe' Erskine can be seen second left in the front row.


Some of the speakers at the Falklands 30 event at the

 Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower in Gosport


Postscript: The Portsmouth News has since printed this article about the event.


Mayor of Gosport's reception at the Diving Museum


Last night found me at the Historical Diving Society's museum in No.2 Battery, Stokes Bay for a party hosted by Councillor Chris Carter (the outgoing Mayor of Gosport) and his wife Julia.  Councillor Chris has been a staunch supporter of the Diving Museum since its inception two years ago.  No.2 Battery is particularly close to his heart because his great-grandfather was accomodated on the premises as a member of the battery and died there but not before his great-grandmother gave birth to his grandfather there too.


HDS Museum Officer Kevin Casey with Cllr Chris Carter 


Chris Carter was kind enough to invite the museum's volunteer guides to his party so a couple of alterations were made to the  decor in his honour: 


Spoof newspaper article


Specially commissioned 'blue plaque'


A variety of other guests attended the party and seemed to enjoy the ambience of the museum:



The party in full swing at the HDS Museum 


Even the Dräger compression chamber saw some unusual occupants:



A guest tries out the Dräger 'one-woman' chamber 


It was particularly good to bump into the above lady's brother Steve Emm, an ex-Royal Engineer diver who spent four years as an instructor at the Defence Diving School (DDS).  He was over from his new home in Sydney, Australia to attend the Army Navy rugby match.


Ex-Sapper Steve Emm between ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson

and Chris Carter, the outgoing Mayor of Gosport


Councillor Chris rang the bell originally from HMS Diver, one of HMS Vernon's diving tenders, and gave an effusive speech thanking everyone for attending and describing his family's association with No.2 Battery.  He also proposed a toast to the Diving Museum.



Pray silence for The Mayor



Chris Carter gives a Mayoral hauling down speech while Julia, his Mayoress, looks on


A raffle held during the evening raised a useful sum of money for the Mayor's chosen charities: the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) and Young People & the Vulnerable in Gosport.  After his guests had departed, he and Julia stayed for a quiet nightcap with the museum volunteer guides.  The line-up below comprises MCDOA member Dr John Bevan (HDS Chairman and ex-RNPL record-breaking diver), Julia Carter (Mayoress of Gosport), Ann Bevan (HDS Museum Designer), Kevin Casey (Museum Officer), ex-FCPO(D) John Dadd BEM, Hazel Casey, Councillor Chris Carter (Mayor of Gosport), MCDOA member Gavin Anthony (RNPL Physiologist) and John Towse (ex-RNPL Scientist).  Yours truly was behind the camera and museum volunteers ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, Roger Forster and Martin Marks had departed earlier.



Museum volunteers enjoy a farewell nightcap with

the Mayor and Mayoress


10 May 12 - Combined Association Summer Barbecue at Horsea Island


MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson has asked me to publish this announcement:


"Summer is nearly here and as the great space heater in the sky gets closer (hopefully) our thoughts turn to heading outdoors to gather with friends and colleagues to enjoy some fine fare, accompanied by a cool glass of amber nectar.  Thankfully the perfect opportunity is again at hand with our combined Annual BBQ and Summer Social on Saturday 9th June at Horsea Island.  Our Bar-B-Que chef will be Jack from the Galley.  


The intention is to again enjoy an informal outdoor family orientated afternoon/evening which, in addition to a good old-fashioned barbeque with accompanying refreshments, will include a tombola, Giant Jenka, Giant Connect Four and, of course, the chance to meet-up with old friends and their families.  Dress will be casual and there will be a prize for the ‘best’ t-shirt, as judged by Soapy.  Car parking will be available in the car park adjacent to the Training Area at the Southern end of the lake.  Please bring all your family, but just keep an eye on your kids near the side of the lake as I don’t really want to exercise my life guarding skills-however a full risk assessment will be carried out (as ever).  


All this for the excellent price of only £10 per head, inclusive of the first drink; so come along, in your t-shirt, and have a great afternoon in the knowledge that you will also be supporting an excellent cause, with all profits raised on the day going toward the Vernon Monument Project.   


To make sure that you don’t miss out on this once a year opportunity please contact myself, or Lt Cdr Mick Beale RN (Mob: 07879667719)/Email: DSEA-DMR-DSON@MOD.UK at Fleet Diving Headquarters for tickets, or download, complete and return this proforma by 1000 on 7th June 2012.    


Looking forward to seeing you there,




The sun always shines at this event.  Help swell the numbers by bringing your friends for a fun (and cheap) afternoon by the water's edge.


9 May 12 - HDS Diving Museum update


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




Despite every attempt by the weather to dampen enthusiasm, we have been enjoying excellent visitor numbers.  Over the Bank holiday weekend we had 51, 53 and 79 visitors respectively.  I think our target of 10,000 visitors this year is attainable.


We are getting an increasing number of visitors who have made the journey specially to see the museum, including travellers from Australia, Norway, Sweden and Guernsey!  We are also getting more and more VIP-type visitors.  Over the weekend we have received senior representatives from QinetiQ, Haslar and the Admiralty Institute of Medicine and Bob Fraser of Fraser Diving, Singapore (retd).


We have had dowsers and ghost hunters, so we can honestly say we are catering for everyone, dead or alive! 


Guides over the weekend included Jim Thomson, Dougie Saunders (IoW), John Millerchip, John Dadd, John Towse, Barry Stayte, Gavin Anthony and Ann Bevan.




We have received a 1970s AGA full facemask with regulator from Lars Gustafson (Sweden), some 1970s/80s SCUBA gear in mint condition (via Gavin Anthony), a Siebe Gorman pipe from Surg Cdre Jim Sykes (Retd) and several specialist items from Gavin Anthony.  We are most grateful.




Thanks to the efforts of Mike Fardell and Nigel Phillips, the HDS Library is now 95% up on the shelves. The photo below shows what the high speed shutter can achieve by freezing the two of them in time, as they sped around sorting out the books and files.  We've discovered that we could do with a few more shelves and filing cabinets so we will be returning to the Hampshire County Council store soon, I hope.


Mike Fardell and Nigel Phillips in HDS Library


We even held a successful Powerpoint lecture there for the visiting Norwegian/Swedish party.


HDS Library rigged as a Lecture Room




The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three 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.


8 May 12


Suspected explosive device found off Suffolk coast


The BBC News website contains this article describing a call-out for an RN EOD unit to deal with suspected ordnance off Covehithe in Suffolk.


Sparks fly as bomb is detonated


The ITV Meridian News website contains this article, including video, which describes the disposal of a marine marker on the beach at Littlehampton yesterday, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2)


(ITV Meridian photo)


Postscript: The Littlehampton Gazette website contains this article describing the same incident and featuring PO(D) John O'Brien.


Post Postscript: On 9 May, the Portsmouth News published this article describing the same incident.


7 May 12 - Funeral of Sapper Connor Ray


Robin Bennett, Secretary of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated, informs me that the funeral of Sapper Connor Ray, 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), will take place in Newport, South Wales on Friday 11 May at 1330. 


Sapper Ray of 3 Troop, 49 Field Squadron (EOD) died of wounds sustained during an IED strike in Afghanistan (see entry for 20 Apr 12).  If anyone is able to represent our community at his funeral, please email Robin via this address and he will advise the Regiment.


6 May 12 - HMS Vernon ship's badge


Duncan Vincent, the proprietor of Galloway Angling in Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland, has sent me this image of a cast metal ship's badge in his possession and is curious about its provenance:



This design was used by HMS Vernon until replaced by the more familiar arm and trident in, I believe, 1961.  According to 'The Torpedomen - HMS Vernon's story 1872-1986' by Rear Admiral Edmund Nicholas 'Nico' Poland CB, CBE, this was the year the A/S (Anti-Submarine) school at HMS Osprey closed down and all A/S training was transferred to HMS Vernon.  I suspect the badge in question was mounted on one of the diving boats or other tenders that might have been broken up at nearby Cairn Ryan.  Does anyone have any other ideas where it might have come from?  


5 May 12 - Bomb squad explode torpedo-like object on beach


The Exmouth Journal website contains this article describing the disposal, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), of a torpedo-like cylinder found on a nearby beach. 


I have my suspicions but any other

guesses about the identity of this?


4 May 12


Latest promotion signal


I am grateful to MCDOA member Phil Ireland for informing me that the following branch officers have been selected for promotion to Commander on this week’s signal:


A/Cdr Andy Woollven RN, DEODS

(shown centre in 2005 while commanding HMS Brocklesby) 



Left: Lt Cdr Ian Berry MBE RNR, formerly SOO SNMCMG1

Right: Lt Cdr Jim Byron DSC RN (shown in 2011 while commanding HMS Brocklesby)


Andy and Ian are longstanding MCDOA members and I hope I persuaded Jim to apply for membership a couple of weeks ago.  Hearty congratulations to all of you on your well-deserved selection. 


Falklands Day at Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower


The Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower at Gosport is organising a Falklands Day on Saturday 12 May.  This will be completely free for all visitors, although advance booking is recommended.  Standard charges will apply for entrance to the museum galleries, but will be free to veterans wearing their Falklands medal and half price for their families.  More information can be found on the museum's website here or by downloading this poster:


Remember the Falklands (pdf file)


Marc Farrance, the museum's Visitor Services Officer, is still keen to hear from any Falklands veterans who would be willing to talk with visitors informally.  Please email him at this address or call him on 023 9250 5600 if you can help.


3 May 12 - All-Ranks RN Divers' Social


Just a reminder that this year's all-ranks RN Divers' Social, sponsored by the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD), will be held at the Royal Maritime Club, Portsmouth on Friday 8 June.  The cost is £10 for non-AORNFCD members and guests.  The booking form is available here and the deadline for applications is 10 May so that numbers can be forwarded to the Club.


2 May 12 - New building at Rosneath to be named after Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN


The MOD Degaussing facility at Rosneath is home to the magnetics signature archive (all historical ranging data) and the new analysis centre (where the range data is processed to create End of Ranging Reports).  I have been informed by Stuart Watts, the Head of Site, that the QinetiQ-run site is undergoing significant expansion and it is intended to commission a new building in memory of Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN who rendered safe the first German magnetic mine at Shoeburyness in November 1939 (link).  Apparently, Ouvry's key role in enabling the boffins at HMS Vernon to develop countermeasures to this menace is highlighted during magnetics induction training. 


Stuart is seeking mine memorabilia for display in the main entrance to the new building to help promote the service provided to the platforms and regular MOD visitors to the site.  I have drawn his attention to HMS Belfast, which has Ouvry's mine on display, and have put him in touch with John Ouvry's son David and grand-daughter Jan.  Can anyone else help with supplying hardware or other memorabilia?  Sadly, the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower at Gosport has nothing available but I have suggested RNAD Crombie.  Any other ideas?


1 May 12 - Topsy Turner and John Giddens in Auckland


Former MCDOA Honorary Secretary David 'Topsy' Turner transferred to the RNZN in 2004.  We last heard from him earlier this year when he was embarked in USS Wasp for Exercise BOLD ALLIGATOR off the Atlantic Coast of the USA where he bumped into MCDOA President and Commander UK Task Group (COMUKTG) Paddy McAlpine (see entry for 20 Feb 12 in News Archive 37). 


Today, I was delighted to receive the following update from Topsy which describes his reunion with fellow MCDOA member John Giddens, Founder and Chief Executive of Singapore-based Hallin Marine:


"Hi Rob,


I thought you might like to see a photograph of John and me when he made a flying visit to Auckland last week.  John had recently toured New Zealand with his family, but not in the conventional sense.  He has a most magnificent flying machine ( which he piloted himself around both the north and south islands of my adopted and beautiful country. 


John Giddens' TBM 850 (allegedly the world’s fastest single turboprop aircraft)


Needing to return to Singapore to attend to some work matters, he left the aircraft in Auckland until returning for it last week with his business partner as in-flight company.  John and Mike were generous and fun hosts indeed and treated Yvonne and me to a fine dining experience at the Euro Restaurant on Princes Wharf, Auckland.  It was a great to meet up with John after not bumping into each other for some considerable years, and we were not so batty that we couldn't recount and regale each other with a couple of diving dits about other friends and colleagues.


Topsy and John in Auckland


On a separate note - I am on the lookout for any Lt/Lt Cdr MCDO searching for adventure and experience in the southern hemisphere.  We are looking at a challenging gap in our MCDO specialisation as Commanding Officer of the Operational Diving Team which needs to be filled, and followed with other opportunities within the RNZN thereafter.  If anyone (age no barrier within reason!) is interested then contact me at"


Sure beats sanitising MW publications for overseas courses in Creasy Centre, eh guys?


30 Apr 12 - Naval bomb & mine disposal hero of Malta remembered


Mines over Malta front cover      Mines Over Malta back cover

Front and back covers of 'Mines over Malta' 


Historical author Dr Geoff Mason has kindly sent this message drawing my attention to this article which he instigated in the Loughborough Echo on 20 April:


"Hi Rob,


I visited Malta a short while ago and bought 'Mines Over Malta', which I have found really good.  There is quite a detailed account of an M2 multi-needle firing unit from a moored magnetic mine which he [Cdr Edward Woolley GM* RNVR] dismantled.  The old reports have come out very well. 


I saw Frederick Galea and he said that sales were not going well so I offered to get a plug in our local paper.  Woolley was a local lad.  It is quite hard to buy the book in the UK though.  They should put it on Amazon.  However, the local paper ran the story today, so it's news and I'm letting you have a copy. 


The University Archivist who I know from when I worked there was interested to know about him.  I may chase up his relatives if I get time.  Loughborough Carillon, which is also a war memorial, is going to run a short piece in their Newsletter.




Geoff attached a scan of the original article, showing accompanying photos, which can be downloaded here.  Also see the entry for 5 Jun 08 in News Archive 22.


Postscript: From Frederick Galea, author of 'Mines over Malta':


"I have been in touch with Mark Anthony Vella (WISE OWL publisher here in Malta).  He agrees to accept £15 per copy of the WOOLLEY book, post paid to a UK address.  Therefore anyone wishing for a copy should forward a cheque for £15 made payable to 'Wise Owl Publications' and within a short time he’ll receive his copy via the post. 


Please address orders to:  


Wise Owl Publications

59, Levels 1 & 2,

Main Street,

Rabat RBT1012



Tel: (00 356) 2145 3303




Make sure that your mailing address is included.


Thanks again for your help … much appreciated.  




Frederick Galea"


Alternatively, use the order form available for download here.


29 Apr 12 - HDS Diving Museum Update



Your humble Webmaster was on guide duty at the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay on Saturday.  MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the weekend:




Ten Scandinavian HDS members visited Gosport and Portsmouth 27 to 30 April and had a busy schedule.  The group comprised Børre Børretzen, Per Ragnar Jensen, Bjørn Kahrs, Kari Kleivan, Torstein Langgård, Stein Stavdal Paulsen, Kjell Olav Thune, Arild Vangen and Fleming Widell from Norway and Lars Gustavsson from Sweden.  Their itenerary included a tour of the Diving Museum, a trip to the new Deane Memorial in Holy Trinity Church (pictured), a lecture in the HDS Library, a tour of Kevin Casey's book collection and a visit to the RN Submarine Museum, all in Gosport. 


Scandinavian HDS members visiting

Deane Memorial in Gosport


This was followed with the attractions of Portsmouth Naval Base (Mary Rose Museum, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior) and a "William Walker" guided tour of Winchester Cathedral!  The packed schedule was sprinkled with social gatherings in the The Lightship and various bars and restaurants in Portsmouth.  Several generous donations of diving equipment and publications were very kindly made to the Museum.  The drought, gales, rain and floods all added a distinctive flavour to this character-building exercise.




The museum had a surprise visit by a group of divers from Guernsey on Saturday.




Despite the wind, rain, floods and drought, we managed a very reasonable 40 visitors on Saturday (28th) and a modest 33 on Sunday (29th).  Shop sales were very high with the Scandinavians almost clearing us out!  We have also been honoured with visits by several VIPs including Commodore the Hon Michael Cochrane (Commander Portsmouth Flotilla) and Surgeon Commodore Jim Sykes (MCDOA member and former Medical Officer-in-Charge at the Institute of Naval Medicine (INM)) as well as notable divers and relatives of historical divers.




This is in the process of being repainted, John Dadd and Jim Thomson being easily identifiable as the painters by their white undercoat.




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.


27 Apr 12 - Testing times for Atherstone as she prepares for Gulf mission


The RN website contains this article describing the preparation of HMS Atherstone for her forthcoming deployment to the Gulf.  This has culminated in her being among the 30 ships participating in Exercise JOINT WARRIOR for the past fortnight including her sister Hunt class minehunter HMS Brocklesby and the Sandown class minehunters HMS Grimsby, HMS Shoreham and HMS Blyth.


A Mk 44 Minigun aimer on board HMS Atherstone

(RN website photo)


26 Apr 12 - LS&GC Medal for PO(MW) Nobby Clark


Congratulations to PO(MW) R J 'Nobby' Clark on the announcement of his award of the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal (LS&GC) here in the London Gazette on 24 April 2012.


25 Apr 12 - World War 2 hero laid to rest at sea by HMS Ledbury


The RN website contains this article describing the committal at sea of the ashes of Petty Officer Charles Henry Walker by Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Ledbury off Malta on 18 April.


Committal of ashes by HMS Ledbury

in the Mediterranean

(RN website photo)


HMS Ledbury is currently deployed in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Minecountermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  Petty Officer Walker was serving in her Hunt Class destroyer namesake on a Malta convoy during the Second World War when he performed an act of bravery that earned him the Albert Medal, the equivalent of the Victoria Cross.


24 Apr 12 - Death of 'P-Party' diver John Home-Douglas


David Shane, ex-member of wartime 'P-Party' 1571, has informed me of the death of John Home-Douglas with whom he served in the same port clearance parties in Bremen and Haifa.  John was 85 when he succumbed at his home near Guadalajara.  He emigrated to Canada in 1948 before retiring and settling in Mexico during the 1980s.


Less than two years ago, John sent me an autobiographical email which I published in the entry for 22 Jul 10 in News Archive 31 together with some photos of his unit in Haifa with the legendary Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE GM RNVR and Lt Bill 'Jacko' Jackson RANVR.  The entry for 23 Oct 08 in News Archive 24 is also well worth reading.


John leaves a wife (Collette) and three children.  I am sure all members of the RN minewarfare & diving community will join me in extending them our sincere condolences.


Postscript: On 21 June 2012, the Toronto Globe & Mail website published this obituary for John Home-Douglas:


John Home-Douglas by his son, Pierre Home-Douglas


Father, ex-frogman, businessman, builder.  Born Aug. 25, 1926, in Rothéneuf, France, died April 21, 2012, in Vista del Lago, Mexico, of prostate and bone cancer, aged 85.


John spent the first seven years of his life in Brittany, France.  A rich uncle paid for him to go to boarding school in England after his father ran off with the family maid.  He never saw his father again.


John attended Mount St. Mary’s College, a Jesuit-run school near Sheffield where English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once taught.  At 17, he joined the Royal Navy and served as a frogman in the last year of the Second World War.  He swam under ships and in harbours looking for mines and explosives. He later recalled conditions in cities such as Bremerhaven, Germany, where the water was so polluted and filled with detritus from the war that he couldn’t see his hand in front of his mask and had to feel his way around.


After the war, he continued his diving activities in the Middle East, serving alongside Lionel (Buster) Crabb, who later caused an international incident after disappearing in mysterious circumstances under a Soviet ship in the 1950s.


In 1948, John emigrated to Canada, to Vancouver, with his fiancée Peggy Birkett, to escape the rationing and dreariness of postwar London.  Neither of them knew a soul in Canada.  They arrived with a couple of suitcases each.  John was unemployed for eight months, while Peggy got a job at the Vancouver General Hospital.


Eventually, John found employment pumping gas.  He then was hired to set up window decorations for Imperial Tobacco.  For the next 23 years, he moved up through the ranks at Imperial, eventually serving as vice-president and president of one of its subsidiaries, Editel Productions.


He had two sons, Rod and Pierre, and a daughter, Susan.  In the 1970s, John and Peggy divorced and he married Colette Potter.


After John retired in 1982, they divided their time between Mexico and Vermont, where John built a 2,300-square-foot house by himself, including foundations, wiring, plumbing, roofing, kitchen cabinets.  When Puerto Vallarta grew too big for their liking, they moved inland to Ajijic, where John loved the climate and the expat Canadians and Americans he met.  He did, however, admit to missing his scuba diving in the Pacific, including the solo night dives he occasionally made.


After selling the Vermont home in 1990, John and Colette lived full-time in Mexico.  John joined the Chapala Country Club and spent countless hours playing the 18-hole golf course.  People who knew John were invariably impressed by his dynamism and zest for life.  He loved entertaining friends with good wine and food.  He was a garrulous, high-spirited individual, whose mantra could well have been carpe diem.


His Skype account contained the simple, heartfelt words, “Life is shorter than you think.  Make the most of it.”


23 Apr 12 - REBDOC Spring Lunch


MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson and I were given a warm welcome by members of the MCDOA's affiliated organisation, the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC), at their Spring lunch in Catford on Saturday.  The food and service were exemplary, as was the company.


Lunch was followed by a talk given by Lt Col Jez Earnshaw, Deputy Commmander 29 EOD & Search Group, after which Soapy presented the REBDOC's Chairman, Lt Col Jim Castle MBE, with a Fleet Diving Squadron badge in his capacity as FDS Chief of Staff.


The Chairman of REBDOC receives an FDS badge from Soapy


Soapy then provided an informative presentation about the various roles and activities of the Fleet Diving Squadron which opened a few eyes before I described the historical links between the the Sappers and the RN minewarfare & diving community.



Left: Soapy provides a relaxed Powerpoint brief about the FDS

Right: I'm not quite sure what I'm doing here... surrendering?


I am extremely grateful to Robin Bennett, the Secretary of REBDOC, for the kind cooperation he has shown our Association over the years and I look forward to seeing more of him and his fellow members at future MCDOA functions.


22 Apr 12 - WW2 shell found near Brockenhurst


The New Forest network website contains this article describing last Wednesday's disposal by Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of a mortar bomb discovered near Brockenhurst.


21 Apr 12 - Suspected torpedo blown up at sea


The Ayrshire Post website contains this article describing yesterday's disposal by members of the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) of a suspect torpedo trawled up off Troon.


20 Apr 12 - Death of Sapper Connor Ray, Royal Engineers


Sapper Connor Ray of 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD)

(MoD website photo)


I was especially sad to learn that Sapper Connor Ray of 3 Troop, 49 Field Squadron (EOD), 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) has succumbed to wounds sustained during an IED strike in Afghanistan as described in this article on the Ministry of Defence website. 


Throughout its existence, the RN Clearance Diver Branch has had a particular affinity with the Army's Royal Engineers.  After all, it was Colonel Pasley's Sappers from the School of Military Engineering at Chatham who trained the first Royal Navy divers at HMS Excellent in 1844 and CDs have worked with RE EOD units around the world including Afghanistan today.  The RN Minewarfare Branch should also have an affinity with the Sappers because the Royal Engineers’ Corps of Submarine Miners was responsible for the laying and maintenance of controlled minefields off major UK ports for much of the 19th Century.


For these reasons, I am confident that all members of the RN minewarfare & diving community will join me in extending our sincere condolences to Sapper Ray's family, friends and comrades and I will be expressing these sentiments when I accompany Richard 'Soapy' Watson, our Honorary Treasurer, to London tomorrow for the annual Spring lunch of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated.


19 Apr 12


Unexploded war bomb is found in Petersfield garage


My thanks to MCDOA past-President Colin Welborn for drawing my attention to this article in the Portsmouth News describing a call-out for Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with a live mortar shell in Petersfield on Tuesday.


SDU2 Bomb Wagon at the scene


A message from Down Under


I have received these kind words from POCD Kevin Grinham of the Royal Australian Navy regarding the farewell paid to ex-RN MCD Taff Sweeney after 50 years in uniform (see entry for 1 Jan 12 in News Archive 37)




I just wanted to pass on a thank-you to yourself and all the other MCDOA members who contributed information, photos and stories for LCDR Dennis 'Taff' Sweeney's retirement late last year.  I have just received some images of the day [available here] and I was hoping you could post them, along with my sincerest gratitude.  As you will see, many photos were sent, which enabled us to put together a great photo presento.


CPOCD Simon Danson presents photo montage to Taff Sweeney


The whole day went as follows:- Taff was brought up to the Dive School in a Zodiac towed by current course members, where he was met on the beach by Maggie (wife), then OIC LCDR Russ Crawford, and CIO LEUT Paul Darcey.  Around 100 past and present members provided him with a guard of honour into the dive school where he was greeted by former Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane [an MCDOA member].  Vice Admiral Crane spoke of Taff's career and fond memories they shared, before Russ Crawford, Paul Darcey, RNCD Association members, HMAS Penguin XO, CPOCD Simon Danson and I all passed on congratulations, stories, presentations and warm wishes to Taff and Maggie for their retirement - as well as apologies to Maggie who now has to put up with him full time.


Taff Sweeney being hauled ashore in style


The following presentations were made:


Letter from the Governor General of Australia, in appreciation of his combined service to the RN and RAN

Letter from the Fleet Commander of the RAN, in appreciation of his service, and congratulations for his 50 year continuous service (only the third in ADF history to do so)

Plaque on behalf of HMAS Penguin

Plaque of behalf of the RNCD Association

Photo Collage

MK17 Kirby Morgan Diving Helmet on behalf of the Branch members

Flowers for Maggie


Messages were read from home and abroad (MCDOA members).  Taff said a few words before we all enjoyed a BBQ and some (many) beverages, culminating in a fantastic day and a well-deserved send-off to an inspirational Branch member.  


I pass on my sincerest thanks and appreciation to all MCDOA members for all their contributions.  The day would not have been as successful without them and Taff was considerably moved by the sentiments and well wishes.  I would particularly like to mention Rob Hoole who provided invaluable informaton and contacts to MCDOA members.  


Yours Respectfully,


POCD Kevin Grinham


RAN Diving School"


18 Apr 12


Royal Navy divers to explore Foyle wreck


The BBC website contains this article announcing that Royal Navy divers (Northern Diving Group or a minehunter?) are to investigate a wreck discovered in the River Foyle near Londonderry in Northern Ireland.


Side scan sonar image of unidentified wreck in River Foyle

(Mallow Search & Rescue)


Postscript: According to this article published in the Belfast Telegraph on 27 April 2012, the sidescan sonar 'contact' is merely a well-defined indentation in the riverbed.


Navy News


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


17 Apr 12


HDS Diving Museum update


The stone dedicated to the memory of John Deane and his wife Agnes was laid at Holy Trinity Church in Gosport yesterday morning (see entry for 11 Apr 12).  The ceremonial unveiling will be performed by Councillor Chris Carter, the Mayor of Gosport, on Saturday 12 May.



Above and below: Deane memorial stone at Holy Trinity Church in Gosport



Followers of this site who remember Chris Shepherd's appeal for a suitable home for the early 1900s vintage Hall Rees submarine escape helmet (see entry for 15 Jan 12 in News Archive 37) will be pleased to learn that he has now passed this significant piece of RN diving heritage to the Historical Diving Society for display in the museum at Stokes Bay. 


Chris Shepherd with Hall Rees helmet

and weight at HDS Diving Museum


Here is the helmet on display in its rightful place:


Hall Rees helmet joins the display of oxygen rebreathers


MCDOA member and HDS Chairman Dr John Bevan has drawn my attention to this wonderful YouTube video of a 1916 production of '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea'.  There are some particularly fascinating sequences showing Hall Rees apparatus being used underwater between minute 44 and minute 54.  The video contains appropriate background music but, as John says, don't have nightmares! 


Jules Verne's '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' (1916) - Full Movie


Postscript:  On 18 April, John Bevan provided this update:


"The final move of the bells to the Diving Museum was accomplished today by Boarhunt Recovery with the help of John Dadd, James Thomson, Kevin Casey and Ann Bevan. 


John Dadd, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson and Kevin Casey

take delivery of HMS Reclaim's bell at HDS Museum


We now have a world-class display of outside exhibits including the Neufeldt & Kunhke armoured diving dress (the "Iron Man"), a wet bell, a 1,000 ft observation bell (ex-RN), the HMS Reclaim bell (the first TUP bell in the world), a North Sea commercial diving bell (ex-Oceaneering), a 650 m world record breaking experimental diving chamber and an historical WW2 experimental diving chamber.




'Seven Bells' at HDS Museum, Stokes Bay


Here is HMS Reclaim's diving bell surrounded by cylinders of compressed gas as it appeared when in operation:


HMS Reclaim's diving bell in operation


RN EOD Team attends bomb hoax in Winchester


The Winchester Daily Echo contains this article describing how a Royal Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team, presumably from Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), attended a bomb scare at Winchester Crown Court yesterday. 


16 Apr 12 - Project Vernon meets Wet Picnic 


Project Vernon capitalised on the finale of the six-month Depth Charge project, organised by the Winchester-based Wet Picnic theatrical group, by manning a stand at Gunwharf Quays, formerly the site of HMS Vernon.  Following a trawl of the RN Minewarfare & Diving community, volunteers who gave up all or part of their weekend comprised MCDOA members Mike Critchley, Brian Dutton, Rob Hoole, Bill Kerr, Mike Kooner and David Sandiford plus Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD) members John Dadd and Mike Handford.  We are also grateful to PO(MW) Nobby Clark of the Minewarfare Operational Training Centre (MWOTS) at HMS Collingwood for bringing along a SeaFox mine disposal system UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle) to add to the display.



The Project Vernon stand awaiting the arrival of the day's first customers


PO(MW) Nobby Clark with the SeaFox UUV



Left: PO(MW) Nobby Clark explaining SeaFox to John Dadd and an interested passer-by

Right: Ex-RN Diver Mike Burns with David Sandiford



Left: Nobby Clark, Brian Dutton and John Dadd

Right: David Sandiford chats with MCDOA member Tim Hildesley



Left: Mike Handford and his grandson Jack

Right: David Sandiford, Mike Critchley and Mike Handford with Jack


On Sunday, David Sandiford ambushed one of the Wet Picnic street performers as he 'strolled' through the shopping mall.  Dressed to represent Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE GM RNVR, the focus of the theatrical group's project, he wore diving dress supplied by the Historical Diving Society (HDS) Museum although we had to advise him that he was wearing his fins on the wrong feet.



Wet Picnic strolling player is given a Project Vernon leaflet


Wet Picnic's Sarah-Jane Prentice creating a 'word trail'

describing Lionel 'Buster' Crabb's links with HMS Vernon


The Wet Picnic performance culminated in a procession, led by troupe members carrying banners and flags, which included a chorus intended to summon the spirit of Crabb.  This ended with a spectacular aerial display in which an actor suspended from the waterside crane performed an interpretation of Crabb's final dive as he was slowly lowered to the water.



Colourful banner depicting Lionel 'Buster' Crabb 



Left: The procession sets off through the shopping mall

Right: The 'wailing chorus' en route to the waterfront




Above and below: At the waterfront, the Wet Picnic player, helped by his alter ego in uniform, performs

his aerial artistry as Lionel 'Buster' Crabb making his final dive









Sincere thanks to David Sandiford for organising the Project Vernon effort and to the handful of volunteers who manned the stand over the two days.  The team distributed more than 300 brochures and took over £130 in donations.  We are also grateful to Peter Emery, the Centre Director at Gunwharf Quays, and his staff for all their friendly cooperation and assistance.  This included providing the mobile retail unit and moving the Mk17 moored mine and sinker into position.


13 Apr 12


Learning about Gunwharf Quays’ naval past


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the past week's 'Depth Charge' events organised by the international theatre company Wet Picnic "to celebrate Gunwharf’s history as the naval mine warfare and diving establishment HMS Vernon" (see entry for 10 Apr 12). 


Nicole Oliver on holiday visiting Gunwharf Quays

with her Royal Navy diver made out of clay

(Portsmouth News photo by Sarah Standing)


Interestingly, the Depth Charge workshops "will conclude with a ‘flash mob’ at 2pm on Sunday, which will see dozens of divers appear across the shopping and leisure centre for an hour." 


The grand finale will take place from 1500 on Sunday but please note that a team from Project Vernon will be present at Gunwharf Quays between 1000 and 1600 on Saturday and Sunday.  We are unlikely to have another opportunity for fundraising like this for the foreseable future and volunteers are still needed to help man the stand.  If you are available to lend a hand for a morning and/or afternoon, please contact David Sandiford via this email address ASAP.


Book Review



James Daly is a Portsmouth historian who runs the extremely informative and thought-provoking Daly History Blog which contains well-researched articles and analysis of military history and contemporary news events.  He has recently produced a book titled 'Portsmouth's World War Two Heroes - Stories of the Fallen Men and Women'.  This illustrated 144 page paperback, ISBN 978-0-7524-4351-3, is published by The History Press which kindly sent me a copy for review.


The book is based on a poignant premise because each one of the individuals featured died during the Second World War, often agonisingly close to its end and after having survived incredible danger earlier in its course.  These individuals not only include personnel of the main three services but also comprise members of the Merchant Navy, the NAAFI and the women's services.  Wherever possible, the author provides background details of the subjects including their precise association with Portsmouth and the age at which they died.  Their stories span a range of campaigns across the globe but also feature some casualties of war in Portsmouth itself.


A recurring theme is the almost routine bravery displayed by the subjects of the book and James has obviously taken great pains to research these 'ordinary people who performed extraordinary deeds' (as the saying goes).  As is fitting, he covers the Royal Navy first and begins by devoting considerable space to the life and bomb & mine disposal exploits of HMS Vernon-based CPO Reg Ellingworth who was awarded the George Cross posthumously.  Ellingworth was killed with Lt Cdr Richard Ryan RN, also awarded the GC posthumously, when a German parachute mine suspended from the roof of a house in Dagenham detonated unexpectedly as the pair approached it.  This was after Ellingworth and Ryan had not only rendered safe countless mines but also enabled the recovery of the first intact GC mine from a German aircraft which had crashed at Clacton.


Full of fascinating detail, this book is engaging from cover to cover.  The way in which the author manages to bring alive such a wide variety of characters and their deeds makes it eminently readable and a valuable acquisition for anyone with a general interest in naval & military history and with Portsmouth in particular.  I learned about some rarely described aspects of the war and thoroughly recommend it.  My only criticism is that the typeface is rather faint for my ageing eyes and made it difficult to decipher the text in anything but bright light.  For this reason alone, I am awarding it 4.5 instead of 5 mines/diving helmets out of 5.


The book can be ordered online direct from the publisher here for £11.69 or via Amazon here for £8.44.


12 Apr 12


HMS Middleton finds a baker's dozen in the Gulf


The Navy News website contains this article, the MoD website this article and today's Portsmouth News this article describing the participation of HMS Middleton in a 10-day MCM (mine countermeasures) exercise with US Navy units in the Gulf during which she found 13 exercise mines.


HMS Middleton with a US Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon

minesweeping helicopter

(MoD photo)


Soapy and Chris’s weekend paddle


MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Richard 'Soapy' Watson has passed me this account of his participation in the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race with fellow MCDOA member Chris Stephenson last weekend (see entry for 17 Feb 12 in News Archive 37).


"Many thanks to everyone who supported/sponsored Chris and me on the Race.  We both knew it was going to be an epic event, especially as we had the only ocean sea kayak in the race (30kg heavier than the K2s which everyone else had).  It was hard work maintaining 4 miles an hour and after 63 portages and 69 miles at Marlow, totalling 16 hours and 43mins of nonstop paddling, Chris's back gave in and it would have been silly to go any further.  We are very rightly proud of our achievement and hopefully you will continue to support us in this sponsorship.  I have told people on the Virgin giving site that if sponsors feel that they want their money back I can arrange through the three charities to reimburse you.


Sir Steve Redgrave retired at the same point in 16 hours 35 mins, proving this is not your average endurance event.  It is the longest canoe race in the world! 


The route of the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race


I would especially like to thank Mick Beale [MCDOA Honorary Secretary] and ex-WO(D) Andy Brunton of DIVEX who supported us through the race and kept us on the straight and narrow by keeping us full of food and water!  It was especially good having Andy there.  The last time he was screaming at me was on my Baby Diver's course back in 1985 when he was one of the PO(D) course instructors.  This made me even more determined to succeed. 


Andy Brunton briefing Soapy and Chris prior to the race start



Left: Soapy and Mick Beale prior to the start of the race

Right: Soapy and Chris at 0700 at the start of the race

(Note K2 racing kayak already in front of the yellow ocean kayak)


Thanks to Chris for having to listen to my dits along the race and for being such a good team mate.



Soapy and Chris portaging a canal lock



Portaging with a mouthful of banana 


Not wanting to be beaten by this event, Soapy will return to the Devizes to Westminster race next year in a K2 racing kayak (lighter and a lot faster average 6 miles an hour) where his determination to succeed should enable him to complete the 126 miles.


Thanks for all of your support.  Even though we did not complete, hopefully we have still raised nearly £1,200 for the charities.




You can still show your appreciation for Soapy and Chris's valiant efforts to raise money for the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC), the Naomi House Children's Hospice and Project Vernon.  Go to this page on the virginmoneygiving website.


Postscript: The Western Daily Press published this article on 9 April:


Sir Steve Redgrave pulls out of Devizes to Westminster canoe race


11 Apr 12 - HDS Diving Museum update


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


"Our first weekend of the season has been a great success following last Saturday's ceremonial opening by Gosport's Mayor (Councillor Chris Carter) and his wife Julia.  He spent over an hour viewing the exhibits and these photos were taken by duty-cameraman John Towse:



Left: John Bevan, Julia Carter, 'Iron Man' and Councillor Chris Carter

Right: Julia Carter 'tends' her husband Chris in standard dress


Visitor numbers were high so I hope we will achieve the target of doubling our visitor numbers this year - 10,000.


Saturday - 105

Sunday - 143 (including Commodore the Hon Michael Cochrane OBE (Commodore Portsmouth Flotilla) together with his family)

Monday - 51 (despite the pouring rain!)


Our Duty Roster website is looking a bit thin next weekend.  Please let me know if you are having any difficulty getting on to the website.


There are now two belle bells and an Iron Man at the Diving Museum.  Boarhunt did a great job for us. 


Diving bells and Iron Man arriving at HDS Museum on Thursday night


There were a few surprises.  One was the discovery that the yellow observation bell was about a ton heavier than it should be - because it was full of water!  There must be a cheaper way of importing Cornish water!  Arrangements are in hand to transfer two more diving bells from the RN Submarine Museum to No. 2 Battery in the next week or two - watch this space.




Above and below: Two diving bells formerly at the Maritime Museum at Charlestown in Cornwall now

situated in their permanent location at the HDS Museum alongside ex-RNPL Compression Chambers

(Photos by Roger Forster and John Bevan)



Thank you to those who turned up to take on the Herculean task of man-handling the Neufeldt & Kuhnke 'Iron Man' atmospheric diving suit into the Museum.  It was a bigger challenge to move than we anticipated, largely because the supporting frame is so heavy.  We have two options remaining.  First, crane it over the railings and place it alongside the bells or Second, wait to see if the Royal Engineers can get it into the Museum.  If the crane arrives before the REs, then option one will be taken.  Otherwise, we will await the opinion of the REs.


Iron Man formerly at the Maritime

Museum at Charlestown in Cornwall

(Photo by Roger Forster)


A special memorial stone to John Deane and his wife Agnes is due to be laid at Holy Trinity Church in Gosport on the morning of Monday 16 April, weather permitting. 


Plinth awaiting installation of

memorial stone for John Deane


A ceremonial unveiling of the stone will be performed by the Mayor of Gosport, Councillor Chris Carter, on Saturday 5 May."


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: On 12 April, the Portsmouth News published this article describing the Mayor's re-opening of the Diving Museum.


10 Apr 12 - Vernon extravaganza at Gunwharf Quays this weekend



This weekend, Gunwharf Quays and the Winchester-based Wet Picnic Theatre Company will come together again to create an exciting afternoon performance for all the family (see entry for 6 Dec 11 in News Archive 36).  The 'Depth Charge' project events will culminate in an explosive finale starting at 1500 on Sunday 15 April when a grand procession will parade around Gunwharf Quays. 


"Focusing on the mystery of Commander 'Buster' Crabb, a missing post World War II Royal Navy diver, this parade will end with a beautiful aerial performance from the crane on the waterfront (by Cafe Rouge).  With daytime activities for the children and treasure trails for all the family, Sunday promises to be a fun day out for everyone."


Wet Picnic's Depth Charge finale at Gunwharf Quays last December


To accompany this event, Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays commemorating the Minewarfare & Diving heritage of HMS Vernon which formerly stood on the site, will have a stand at Gunwharf Quays over the weekend too.  If you are willing to help man the stand for a morning and/or afternoon, please contact David Sandiford via this email address.


Incidentally, Bob Oulds has counted up the proceeds from last month's dinner dance celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the RN Clearance Diver Branch and will be passing nearly £300 to the Vernon Monument project as a result.  The latest Project Vernon newsletter can be downloaded here.


9 Apr 12 - Time out for your Webmaster


Mrs Webmaster and I have just returned from an Easter break with friends in Snowdonia so regular followers of this page will have noticed an interruption in coverage.  However, I will be filling the gap retrospectively over the next day or so.  These photos, all taken within a few hundred yards of our isolated farmhouse cottage, provide a flavour of our experience (and the Easter weather):



Left: Rented farmhouse cottage

Right: Scene above the roof of rented farmhouse cottage


Your webmaster on the Snowdonia Trail



Left: Cader Idris behind rented farmhouse cottage

Right: Gwernan Lake in the Snowdonia National Park


Even in the graveyard of the ruins of a little Methodist chapel on a remote hillside, one can discover a Royal Navy connection.  This is the headstone of Capt Robert Gwillym Lewis-Jones CBE RN, a Fleet Air Arm Electrical Engineer officer who co-ordinated the military participation in the Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarvon Castle in 1969.  He was appointed a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1969 and was High Sheriff of Gwynedd between 1991-92.


Headstone of Captain Robert Gwillym Lewis-Jones CBE RN


8 Apr 12 - Huge explosion as experts detonate large WWII mine


The BBC website contains this article describing yesterday's disposal of a German Second World War GC ground mine in the Thames Estuary by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).  The article features MCDOA member Dan Herridge, OIC of SDU2.


Mine explosion plume in the Thames Estuary


Postscript: The RN website published this article on 10 April.  As well as describing the incident above, it recounts the disposal by members of SDU2 of a 1,000lb Allied bomb off Margate on the same day.  The article features MCDOA member Dan Herridge (OIC SDU2) and PO(D) John O'Brien, also of SDU2.


6 Apr 12 - Minewarfare Association Annual Reunion


By all accounts, the Annual Reunion and AGM of the Minewarfare Association (MWA), held in Sterling last month, was a roaring success.


Attendees gather at the 2012 MWA reunion in Sterling


To see more more photos of this and other MWA events plus much more, you will have to be a member to access the website.  Join here.


5 Apr 12 - Iron man diving suit will be unveiled at Gosport museum


The Portsmouth News contains this article announcing the unveiling of a German pre-WWII Neufeldt & Kuhnke 'Iron Man' atmospheric diving suit at the Diving Museum at Stokes Bay on Good Friday.  The article features MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS)


Neufeldt & Kuhnke 'Iron Man' atmospheric diving suit

(Portsmouth News photo)


4 Apr 12 - HMS Bangor spends Easter in her namesake Northern Ireland town


The RN website contains this article describing a visit by HMS Bangor to her namesake town in Northern Ireland over Easter.


HMS Bangor

(RN website photo)


3 Apr 12 - Minehunters shrug off storms to continue their Gulf mission


The RN website contains this article describing the inclement weather currently being encountered by HMS Ramsey, HMS Middleton, HMS Pembroke and HMS Quorn, together with their support ship RFA Lyme Bay, during their deployment in the Gulf.


HMS Ramsey and HMS Pembroke in the Gulf

(RN website photo)


2 Apr 12 - Divers safely remove remains of V2 rocket off Essex coast


The BBC website contains this article (including a video) describing the successful removal of remnants of a Second World War German V2 rocket from the mudflats near Harwish by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 and Royal Engineer Sappers from Wimbish-based 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (EOD).


SDU2 divers recover German V2 rocket motor

(RN website photo)


 The article features MCDOA member Dan Herridge, OIC of SDU2.


Lt Dan Herridge RN, OIC of SDU2


SDU2 divers recover German V2 rocket motor

(BBC website screen capture)


Postscript: In October 2014, I saw this pristine example of a V2 rocket motor in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum at McMinnville in Oregon:




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