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

31 Mar 13 - Gone!


The final remaining section of the former Avenger class MCMV USS Guardian, stranded on the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines since 17 January, was removed yesterday (see entry for 27 Mar 13).



Removal of stern of ex-USS Guardian by crane vessel M/V Jascon 25 and the aftermath

(US Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelby Sanders)


Postscript: On 1 April 2013, the US 7th Fleet website published this article announcing:


"The crew of Ex-Guardian (MCM 10) watched from the pier as USS Warrior (MCM 10) arrived at Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo (CFAS) March 27.  In an unusual crew-swap situation, the crew of Ex-Guardian will be transferred to Warrior and remain forward deployed to CFAS effective March 31..."


30 Mar 13 - Senior appointments for MCDOA members


According to today's Daily Telegraph, MCDOA member Jason Poole is to be promoted to Captain RN and commence Defence Attaché training with effect from June 2013.  MCDOA member Dave Bence is to be promoted to Acting Captain RN and be Deputy Commander, Commander Task Force 52 (CTF 52) based in Bahrain in succession to fellow MCDOA member Andy Elvin with effect from September 2013.


Congratulations to both members.


29 Mar 13 


STOP PRESS! Devizes to Westminster Canoe Challenge bid abandoned


I received this regrettable news from MCDOA Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson this morning:


"Dear Rob,


Hot off the press for when you get to your PC on Friday – the DW [Devizes to Westminster Canoe Challenge] organisers have imposed a major restriction on participation in this year's DW due to ‘extreme’ conditions – see  Note the 11th hour notification (yesterday for a potential rescheduled start by 09:00 latest tomorrow – impossible for us to achieve).  Immediate rapid response from myself and Andy is that we have been left with no option but to withdraw due to the criteria imposed by the committee re participation; we have assessed our matrix scores me making 11, and Andy making 10 (minimum to participate is 13) mainly on the fact that this is Andy’s first DW (along with our support team) and my second making it impossible for us to meet the criteria score of 13.  We have opted for a full refund which is the first time in the history that this has been offered, an indication of the poor organisation here by the DW management committee. 


We are naturally gutted to have got this close to the event having trained through often ‘extreme’ conditions (like paddling over flooded fields at Christmas plus nearly every lunch time up and down the lake!) for the past six months and feel a tad cheated.   We had even been up to Devizes with the support team to assess the portages and planned this whole evolution with military precision.


The sponsorship has been overwhelming and we have decided to complete a 24-hour ‘paddle’ on Horsea Lake to simulate the Devizes to Westminster race time and will put together a quick dit Friday morning to insert onto the fund raising page (date of event to follow as this will have to coincide with a live-in week for safety cover).  It will probably be very soon - probably 18-19 April.  I am sure if we cannot coincide with a Live-In Week, people would not mind coming down to the Island to support us through the night.  I am sure one day I will complete the DW – it’s my competitive sprit I just won’t let anything beat me!  I will let you know the detail very soon.  


Can I personally thank all who have sponsored us and if anyone wishes to withdraw their sponsorship, we would not be offended.  


Kindest Regards,




R D Watson

Lt Cdr MSc

Diving Standards Officer Navy"


I, for one, am perfectly happy to let my sponsorship stand.  Better luck next time, guys.


From MCDOA member Alan Padwick OBE on Saturday 30 March:


"Dear Rob,


I was out at the end of my garden this morning at 0630 and sat there for three hours waiting to cheer on our intrepid team.  I wish I had checked the website beforehand!



Never mind, Soapy and Andy.  You can certainly keep my sponsorship cash and good luck with the 24-hour Horsea effort.  I am sure all the training will have given you useful experience and I shall be at the bottom of my garden again next Easter, having checked our website first!  Just look out for the familiar ensign.


Alan and Sarah Padwick"


From MCDOA member Dave Hunkin OBE on Sunday 31 March:


"Hi Rob,


Please ask Alan to put his ensign back out.  My lad is competing in DW and he would love to see 'the firm's colours'.




Dave Hunkin"


SDU2 deals with bomb on board scallop trawler


The Shoreham Herald website contains this article describing a call out yesterday for Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with a 500lb bomb recovered by a scallop trawler off Beachy Head.



28 Mar 13 - Devizes to Westminster Canoe Challenge countdown: Only two days to go


Please give your generous support to this weekend's worthy endeavour by some big-hearted members of our diving community including MCDOA Secretary Soapy Watson, former WO(D) Andy Brunton MBE, CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming and ex-CPO(D) Stan Stanley. 


Sales of Project Vernon merchandise, such as its current 'cash cow' limited edition prints, earn significantly less than price tags suggest because the income is eroded by corresponding expenditure on production (high quality printing on artist's paper), mounting, framing, robust packaging and despatch to all corners of the world, albeit by volunteer staff.  However, every pound donated straight to the cause helps bring the Vernon monument to fruition that much faster and attracts an extra 25% in Gift Aid if registered.  Make your online donation to the Canoe Challenge here or donate to Project Vernon direct here.


Artist's impression of the almost twice-lifesize Vernon monument

in situ at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to commemorate

the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon


I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those serving and ex-serving members of our community who have sent me encouraging personal messages of support during the past few days, especially in view of our family bereavement.  Rest assured that I understand and respect your desire for discretion in certain cases.


Here is Soapy's announcement:




Lt Cdr Rich “Soapy” Watson Diving Standards Officer Navy and former WO(Diver) Andy Brunton MBE of Divex Southern Based facility are attempting to complete the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race on 30 - 31 March 2013.  At 125 miles and 75 portages, it’s the world’s longest canoe race.




We are using the challenge as a tool to raise money for charities of both Divex and the Royal Navy dive communities' choosing:


The Vernon Minewarfare and Diving Monument - This charity is raising funds to commission a statue of a clearance diver and mine to be erected in Gunwharf Quays, the former site of HMS Vernon which was the home of Royal Navy diving. The statue will pay tribute to all the personnel from the Diving and Minewarfare communities who were trained, based or served at HMS Vernon.


Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity - This charity exists to provide a better quality of life for serving and former Naval Service personnel and their families.




The Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon is one of the most demanding open-to-all endurance events on the planet.  It starts from Devizes along the Kennet & Avon Canal, to the River Thames and down to Westminster in the heart of London.  Those entering the non-stop race will be in their boats for around 24 hours with no breaks.


To find out more, visit:



Last year, Soapy and Chris Stephenson attempted the epic race but only managed to get to the 69 mile mark after 16 hours of continuous paddling - which was a great feat [even Steve Redgrave dropped out - see second entry for 12 Apr 12 in News Archive 38].  The main reason for this was that the kayak they had chosen was a heavy sea kayak.  It was pretty much like turning up to the Tour de France on a mountain bike.  However fit and strong you are, if you are competing against people in far lighter, quicker and more agile craft you would never complete the course.  Last year’s boat weighed in at 50kg and of course it sat deeper in the water - more drag, heavier to pull through the water and slower overall.



Left: 2013 Model Kirton K2 (20kg)

Right and below: Soapy and Andy training at Horsea Island



This year, Soapy and Andy will be supported by ex-CPO(D) Stan Stanley from the Divex Southern facility based at Horsea and CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming from Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).  The support team is key to the successful completion of this endurance event.  It meets the crew at arranged points along the course to feed and hydrate and encourage.  Soapy and Andy are very appreciative of the help of the support crew as without them you legally cannot compete in the race.


Christmas Leave training (Rutland Water 28 December 2012!!)




You can sponsor the team for the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race through Virgin Money Giving at:


Many thanks.


27 Mar 13 - Going, going, nearly gone


As illustrated by these photographs, the dismantling and salvage of the former Avenger class MCMV USS Guardian, stranded on the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines since 17 January, is all but complete (see entry for 12 Mar 13).



Bow and hull midsection of former USS Guardian being removed by crane vessel M/V Jascon 25

(US Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelby Sanders)


Postscript: On 30 March 2013, the Mail Online published this article covering the salvage operation.


26 Mar 13 - HMS Quorn’s divers 'at the sharp end' ahead of massive exercise


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the involvement of HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 8) and her divers in International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 13 (IMCMEX 13) in the Gulf with fellow divers, warships, aircraft and helicopters from 20 nations spanning four continents for two weeks in mid-May.  The article features MCDOA member Simon Kelly (CO), MCDO Alex Scott (XO), PO(D) Stuart Hibbs (Coxswain) and AB(D) Geraint Barnes. 



Above and below: HMS Quorn divers

(RN website photos) 




25 Mar 13 - Recent EOD incidents for Southern Diving Group


The Island Echo website contains this article describing an incident involving the discovery of a plastic replica hand grenade washed up on Compton Bay Beach on the Isle of Wight, presumably dealt with by Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).  The Torquay Herald Express website contains this article describing an incident involving a flare in a rock pool at Paignton in Devon, presumably handled by Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).  The Lynn News website contains this article describing an incident involving a torpedo compressed air flask found on the shore at Brancaster in Norfolk, reportedly handled by SDU2.  All the incidents occurred last week.


24 Mar 13 - News from HMS Cattistock


I am grateful to Lt Barry Crosswood RN, the Navigating Officer of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 2), for this update:


CATTastrophic Engine Failure


On transit across the Bay of Biscay, HMS CATTISTOCK was on her way to the Mediterranean in order to rendezvous with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2).  Early in February, the Bay of Biscay was a rough place to be for a mine countermeasures vessel (MCMV) and that took its toll on her engines with a CATTastrophic engine failure on her port main engine during the middle watch which left many pieces of metal floating within the engine, that shouldn’t have been there.  Swift reactions by a well worked up bridge team and marine engineering department prevented any further damage to the engine room itself or personnel in the vicinity of at the time of the incident.  


With the extent of the breakdown so severe the shaft was required to be locked, preventing the propeller from turning.  In a vessel the size of HMS CATTISTOCK and with such large propellers, this created a vast amount of drag, much like the effect of dragging an anchor along the sea bed.  Thus putting more strain on the starboard main engine.  


In the fighting spirit of the minehunting community, the entire ship's company fought hard to make it into HM Naval Base Gibraltar, a Forward Mounting Base. 



Once safely alongside HMNB Gibraltar, it was time for the tri-service logistics organisation to pull together and organise the arrival of a new engine and a team of specialist engineers, dubbed the ‘Tiger Team’ from both BAE Systems and Rolls Royce.  The ship’s own engineers prepared the engine for removal and made all possible advances for the change.  With the C-17 Globemaster aircraft in such high demand due to its great transport capabilities and the length of the runway at RAF Gibraltar, it was touch and go as to whether the engine would get to Gibraltar.



In an unusual series of events, the C-17 Globemaster arrived two days ahead of schedule leaving a complete engine change from flash-to-bang in a mere seven days; only two days longer than the same process takes in HMNB Portsmouth with such logistical anomalies as relying on the RAF to fly the engine into theatre.



This culmination of efforts from all three Services really highlighted the purpose and capabilities of HMNB Gibraltar as a Forward Mounting Base.


22 Mar 13


MCDOA member Al Nekrews decorated in latest Operational Honours and Awards


I was delighted to receive this message from MCDOA member David Hunkin OBE with regard to fellow member Al Nekrews:


"Dear Rob,


It is my great pleasure to inform you that it will be announced today that MCDOA member Lt Cdr Alan Nekrews RN has been awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for service in Afghanistan.  


Lt Cdr Nekrews & LS(D) Waghorn deployed to Helmand Province last year as our first High Threat IEDD Defeat team.  A huge achievement in itself, they subsequently had a difficult and demanding tour for much of which they were one of only two such UK teams in Theatre.  Al and ‘Waggy’ conducted numerous tasks across Helmand supporting coalition troops and Special Forces often at night, under significant operational pressure.  I have attached the citation that gives a real sense of the dangers these two faced on a daily basis stoically and in the finest traditions of the Branch:





Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Operator

Helmand Province, 25 May 12


Lieutenant Commander Nekrews was tasked to exploit the scene of an explosion that had injured a British soldier, investigating a blanket draped over a fence protecting a culvert on a key route.  On arrival, Nekrews deployed his Remotely Controlled Vehicle (RCV) which broke down in the harsh conditions, leaving him with no choice but to make a more dangerous manual approach in the face of the threat from further devices in the area.  Whilst conducting the initial stages of his approach to the blanket, Nekrews noted that it contained what appeared to be two devices linked by detonating cord.  He then took action to disrupt them remotely and then removed the blanket from the wire using the repaired RCV.  Believing the device to now be safe, Nekrews made a manual approach and discovered the complexity of the device was significantly greater than first considered as he was standing next to another entirely viable device.  Standing over the device, Nekrews acted immediately, reducing the threat by calmly continuing the task of rendering it safe.  The complexity of the task was such that the operation took 16 hours over two days.  A newly trained Advanced Operator, Nekrews was operating at the limit of his technical training and experience.  Working alone in temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius and under threat from further devices and insurgent attack, Nekrews bore the risk with stoic determination and courage, successfully neutralising and making the device safe whilst also facilitating intelligence collection to target those responsible.  This is just one example of the numerous devices he has disarmed on this demanding tour.


I am confident I can speak on behalf of the entire Branch in congratulating both Al and ‘Waggy’ on this tremendous achievement, an achievement that should be duly recorded in our Branch history.  


I also attach some photos of the team in Theatre:


Al, the Hairy Biker


Divers in the Desert


Lt Cdr Nekrews & LD Waghorn take a break


The four-man photo shows from left to right [I think Dave means from right to left]: LD Waghorn (No2), Lt Cdr Nekrews (HT Op), Sgt Simpson (ECM Op), Gunner Young (Infantry Escort).


A bad hair day for the team


There is significant pressure today on young MCDOs to ‘follow the path’ into the ops room as PWOs.  I hope this new and challenging alternative, carved by Al and ‘Waggy’, may offer those less taken with the idea of ‘life on a headset’ an alternative career in the cutting edge domain of high threat IEDD.  It would go a long way in maintaining the Branch’s influence and profile where it should be, with the best in Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal.  


Best wishes,  


David Hunkin OBE"




Further to my last, my sources tell me that LS(D) ‘Waggy’ Waghorn has been awarded a Commander in Chief’s Commendation in recognition of his work in Afghanistan also.


A fantastic result, it is easy to forget how important our No.2s are to us in these situations and this award reflects this.  Not only did Waggy provide Al his kit and drive the RCV, he was a sounding board, another opinion and was someone else watching Al’s back.  It’s also easy to overlook the emotional burden of watching your mate walk out of the ICP several times a day, never sure whether he will come back intact or even alive.  Not because Al and Waggy got on, but because before they deployed, Al owed Waggy £50 from a night out in Scandals!  


Great news and a good day for the Branch.




Dave Hunkin"


The Daily Telegraph website contains this article and the Royal Navy website this article covering Al's award.  There are bound to be several others.


I am confident that all members of our community will join David in congratulating Al and 'Waggers' on their outstanding achievements.


Postscript: The full list of operational honours and awards is now available on the Ministry of Defence website here.  Of particular note, the RN website contains this article describing how WO2 Liam Paul Stanley has been awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS) for engineering excellence while serving in HMS Ramsey.


From MCDOA member Geoff Goodwin:




Please pass on my very sincere congratulations and best wishes to Al Nekrews for his award of the QGM.  The courage and professionalism of our young men and women in Afghanistan cannot be overstated.  Even amongst these he stands as a shining example to all MCD officers, a credit to the Branch, the RN and, of course, his family.


All the best,




...and an OBE for non-MCD Andy Lamb


I have received this welcome message from MCDOA member Jim Byron DSC:




I have seen the article about Al Nekrews on the website but you would wish to know that Andy Lamb, the current Commander of the First MCM Squadron (MCM1), has also been appointed an OBE for his efforts.


I relieve Andy on 30 April (if I get over this damned pneumonia that is currently plaguing me!) when he moves down to Portsmouth as MCM2.


Kind regards,




As chronicled on the MCDOA website, Andy has previously commanded the Sandown Class minehunters HMS Ramsey, HMS Pembroke and HMS Shoreham on operations in home waters and in the Arabian Gulf.  I am sure that all members of our community will join me in congratulating him on his well-deserved honour.


21 Mar 13 - Morty Drummond's funeral


I am grateful for this report from MCDOA Committee member Norman Brookhouse who represented the Association at the funeral of fellow member Lt Cdr Geoffrey Mortimer 'Morty' Heneage Drummond RN (see entry for 6 Mar 13):




"The service was held at 1100 on Wednesday 20th March in St Faith’s Church in Lee on Solent.  Well attended by members of the MCDOA - namely Norman Brookhouse, Julian Malec, David Sandiford, David Burstall, Brian Dutton, John O’Driscoll, Jon Riches, John Coggins and David Edwards.  There were also many other retired naval officers who attended.


The service was conducted by Morty’s nephew Rev Geoffrey Fenton - a tribute was given by Morty’s daughter Caroline Ward - his son John read a poem by Elizabeth Hardy.  The naval hymn complete with the divers' verse by the late Lt Cdr Bill Filer MBE GM was sung.


Refreshments were served afterwards in the Bulson Hall next door to the church."


The Service included these words of the Divers' Prayer:


"Oh Lord, let us experience the closeness of you as we exalt in the glories of the sea;

Permit the upward spiral of our bubbles to form a silver pathway leading to heaven;

Let us share in peace the vibrant beauty of this waterworld with all creatures dwelling within;

Give us the wisdom not to destroy but to observe and study the birthplace of man;

Bring us safely to shore, Oh Lord, that we may tell others of the wondrous world below."


I am grateful to Morty's daughter, Caroline Drummond MBE, for sending me these words of the eulogy she delivered at the service:


"Thank you to everyone who is here to pay tribute to my father Morty.  I know that many of you have had to travel long distances to be here and it is a reflection on my father that there are so many loving friends and relatives here today.  


For those of you who don’t know me, though I’m sure you can tell by my features and the fact that I was known as Minnie Morte as a young child. I am his daughter, Caroline or CD.  


Devoted to all his family, particularly his wife, my mother Sally and my two older brothers, John and Charles, his two granddaughters Laura and Gabrielle, who gave him such joy, his sister Iris and her family and my late aunt Merelina as well as his in-laws Katya, Phil, James and Korry. He gave time and thought to everyone else, always before himself, with great love and support.  


Born in another century, back in 1920, my father saw, experienced and lived actively in every generation and timeline his long and full life crossed.  He never appeared baffled by the great changes over that time, through the great depression, the Second World War, rations, such huge changes in the Navy from HMS Reclaim, the last British warship to have sails and which he captained, to the deepest dives, a family life filled with travel and adventure, to a more recent time of less risk, technology and even mastering emails, he saw and was an active part in building a secure and happy present and future we take for granted.  


My father was a pioneer in the diving world.  He travelled to depths that none of us can even begin to imagine, taking risks and pushing the boundaries of experimentation in the underwater world, all in the name of our country and his inherent pride and honour, that of a true gentleman. 


As his children we were all hugely proud of our devoted father, with his love of the sea. He spent many hours and weekends sailing with us, teaching us to swim and instilling a sense of respect for others, as well as the power of the sea, yes we have all rowed back from the Isle of Wight!!  


He would do anything for us.  His dedication even meant that he was prepared to sleep on the pavement outside Buckingham Palace with me for the Royal wedding back in 1982.  


What is so lovely is his appreciation of the sea never went away, he was still carrying out trips with his four friends – all ex-Navy and Army and all deaf, until only a few years ago.  With a combined age of 297, an average age of 74 years old, this wrecking crew would cross the Channel and explore our coasts, on their various trips in pursuit of fun, and half pints of shandy!  Among several of his roles, my father would be the poet Laureate and he would always pen a ditti for the voyage!  Memories which we can cherish forever.  


His other hobbies included woodwork where he honed his great skills, demonstrating his patience  - ranging from his early days of wooden eggs, of which we have great collection, to some beautifully fine inlay work.  


He was a modest but hugely talented man.  There were some things that perhaps he wasn’t so capable of doing, but that didn’t stop him having a go and of course, this included singing!  But what he lacked in tune, he made up for in gusto.  


And that gusto spread right through to his fit approach in body and mind. Indeed, it was only a few weeks ago that my mother on hearing a bump in the bedroom went to check he was all right, only to find the door shut, the light on and my father face down on the carpet.  On finding him, alarmed, my mother said, Morty are you alright?  To which he replied, ‘just finishing off my press ups’.  


My father was from a generation whose values are increasingly being lost, but the strength of his calm, strong character will be cherished as an example for us all to revere in our own lives demonstrated by so many of us being in this church today.  


There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe what a kind, loving, thoughtful, deeply religious, true and generous man he was.  And if only a small part of him has rubbed off on each of us it will make us all better people.  Thank you for all the kind words and memories that you have shared with my mother and us all in your letters and in being here today, they are great comfort during  this time.


Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.  


I am, was, and always will be very proud of my father.   


He will be sorely missed, but we must relish the fact that we were all so blessed to be able to share his happy and fruitful life and live with those valuable memories." 


MCDOA member Brian Dutton DSO QGM has informed me that the congregation also heard that Morty's father, Lt Cdr Geoffrey Heneage Drummond RNVR, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions supporting HMS Vindictive while in Command of ML 254 during the Second Ostend Raid in May 1918.  His likeness to Morty in the portrait on the first Wikipedia link above is startling.


Soapy Watson, our Honorary Secretary/Treasurer, has despatched a cheque on behalf of the MCDOA to Morty's chosen charity, Seafarers UK, via the funeral director in lieu of flowers.



Lt Cdr Geoffrey Mortimer 'Morty' Heneage Drummond RN

(13 Oct 1920 - 28 Feb 2013)


From Morty's daughter Caroline:


"Thank you for this – with all good wishes.


Caroline Drummond MBE" 


19 Mar 13 - 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 WWII bunker in Gosport used as the Society's library and repository for the museum's reserve collection:




We have been plodding away at refurbishing the Diving Museum over the winter.


Sparkling new railings and approach!


The railings around the external exhibits have been repainted in shiny black and the approach a dazzling white thanks to James Thomson and John Dadd [both ex-RN CDs].



Shocking orange bell!


The North Sea diving bell has been revitalised with a new coat of bright orange paint thanks to James Thomson and John Dadd.


New extension into the magazine!


We have opened up the first (“Bravo’) magazine as an extension to the Museum!  The extra space is now being prepared as a special “Gosport achievements” room thanks to Ann Bevan.  Ann is also preparing new signage throughout the Museum.  Here is her revised floor plan:



Extended electricity circuits!


Additional lighting and powerpoints have been installed in the magazine thanks to Ray Mabbs, Roy Gould and Paul Beard.


Rebuilt ‘Shifting Lobby’!


The Shifting Lobby where the artillery men changed before entering the gunpowder store has been rebuilt according to the classical design thanks to Barry Stayte, Dougie Saunders and Martin Marks.



HMS Reclaim Diving Bell rebuild!


The fourteen gas cylinders (Heliox and oxygen) will be installed shortly thanks to Gavin Anthony [an MCDOA Associate Member] and British Oxygen.


New Newtsuit exhibit!


The major new exhibit of the Newtsuit will be unveiled at our re-opening over Easter.  Thanks are due to Mike O’Meara [another ex-CD] and Subsea 7 for this million-pound investment in the Museum!



Oxygen booster pump!


John Dadd and James Thomson are also restoring an oxygen booster pump donated by Brian Bickell, ex-Royal Marine, and professional diver.


New Sydney Knowles exhibit!


Our Buster Crabb exhibit has been significantly enhanced by the display of personal items of Sydney Knowles BEM who died last year, including his medals, diver’s hat, knife, paintings and book.  Special thanks are due to his widow, Frances Knowles.


LR3 Diver Lock-out submersible!


We are in the deep discussions with the Royal Navy Submarine Museum to acquire the LR3 Vickers Diver Lock-Out Submersible which could happen any time now.


Royal Navy Diving Doctors course!


Following the recent success of a Royal Navy Diving Doctors Course from the nearby Institute of Naval Medicine, a vist to the Diving Museum is going to be included in their syllabus for their annual courses.  Thanks are due here to Gavin Anthony of QinetiQ.


TV coverage for the HDS and the Diving Museum!


BBC2’s Antiques Road Trip will be filming at the Diving Museum from 1330 on Sunday 19 May.  This will complement our recent BBC TV filming of 'Who Do you Think You Are?' with Sarah Millican in Whitstable Museum to be shown around September starring Gary Wallace-Potter and Peter Wingett not to mention Sky TV’s 'A League of their Own' starring John Smillie being shot this weekend in Elstree Studios.  John has also helped out in filming a TV advertisement near Preston.


Updated security audit!


Martin Marks has carried out a detailed security audit.  All Guides will need to familiarise themselves with the contents.


Gosport's Big Day Out - Sunday 2nd June 2013


We will be involved with a special rate of £1 per person for that day.


Thank you


Thanks to Dougie Saunders who has been braving the stormy Solent and gale-force winds on his bike to come over to the mainland and help with the refurb effort.


Also, thanks to John Towse who ran the gauntlet with about 60 eleven-year-olds at Portchester Primary School with a superb Powerpoint presentation on behalf of the HDS and Diving Museum.  Gavin Anthony kindly provided 23/77 heliox for the helium voice demonstration.


Re-opening date


We are in the final stages of preparing for our reopening on Good Friday, 29 March.  Please get in touch if you would like to join in our happy throng of Guides!


A hearty “WELL DONE!” to everybody who is helping to make the Diving Museum such a huge success!




The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site when it is open for business at weekends during the summer.  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.


18 Mar 13 - £100 million bomb disposal training facility opens


The Ministry of Defence website contains this article describing last Friday's official launch of the Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Munitions and Search Training Regiment (DEMS Trg Regt) at its new £100 million facility at St George’s Barracks in Bicester.  The new DEMS Trg Regt HQ has been eight years in the planning and replaces the previous facility at Lodge Hill in Kent, bringing together personnel from all three Services.


The article features this image of AB(D) Philip Rowland:


AB(D) Philip Rowland

(MoD website photo)


17 Mar 13 - Minewarfare Association Annual Dinner


Congratulations to MWA Chairman Robert 'Dixie' Dean MBE, Vice Chairman Peter 'Taff' Reader and Treasurer Pete Whitehead, among others, for organising such an enjoyable and well-attended dinner at the Royal Maritime Club in Portmouth last night as the culmination of the MWA's Annual Reunion and AGM weekend. 


Some of the MWA Dinner attendees gathering flying speed before the dinner


Wayne 'Pony' Moore regaling Pete Mills, Pete Whitehead and Alan 'Bomber' Mills

with yet another 'riveting' minesweeping dit


From my own point of view, it was wonderful to see so many old friends again, including some harking back to the early 1970s. 


Taff Reader mentioning the 6 Nations

rugby result, welcoming everyone and

mentioning the 6 Nations rugby result


MCDOA dual-hatted members present comprised John Bainbridge, Tim Curd with his wife Mannie, MCDOA past-Chairman Paul Jones with his wife Yvonne, Bill Kerr with his wife Caroline, Martin Mackey with his wife Fiona, George Turnbull with his wife Louise and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole).   Other attendees included Gary Abnett, Bagsy & Fee Baker, Ronnie (MWA Webmaster) and Nettie Barker, Lee 'Barney-Two-Ts' Barnett, Tony 'Pinta' Beer, Benny Bennion, Taff Bow, Phil & Sue Brace, Basher Briggs, Benny Carroll, Max Coffey, Peter Cooling, George & Lindy Coyle, Dixie Dean, John & Ellen Docherty, Steve Doyle, Ian 'Herman' Gearing and his wife, Gordon Gover, John & Kate Gunter, Steven 'Jumbo' & Dalma Hallissey, Jim Hawkins, John Hibbert and his guest Sue, Chris 'Charlie' Howe, Sean Keen, Andy Lamb, Jim McLeod, Alan 'Bomber' Mills, Pete Mills, Wayne 'Pony' Moore, DJ Moores, John 'Rattler' Morgan, Dave Payne, Paul 'Polly' Porter, Peter 'Taff' & Sue Reader, Dorian 'Simmo' & Julie Simmonds, Nigel 'Slim' & Tracey Sizer, Nick Smith, Jasper & George Stride, Jan Takel, Shelley Ward, Steve & Lorna Westby, Peter & Karen Whitehead and Ginge Wilcockson.  I apologise to those I have missed out but I will happily add your names to the list if you contact me.


Paul Jones, the outgoing CO of HMS Excellent, delivered a hilarious after dinner speech in which he described some of the colourful times he had shared with many of the assembled diners during the course of his naval career.  



Left: Dixie Dean welcoming attendees and promoting Project Vernon in a dignified manner

Right: Paul Jones mentioning the 6 Nations rugby result and setting the tone for the rest of

the evening (you know what he's like)


As customary on such MWA occasions, several hundred pounds were raised for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the Minewarfare & Diving heritage of HMS Vernon.  A specific raffle for a framed limited edition print of 'Vernon Creek' (get yours here) was won by Gary Abnett and I was joint-winner with Wayne 'Pony' Moore of a chaotic game of sponsored musical chairs organised by Antony 'Pinta' Beer (John 'Doc' Docherty has the photographic evidence).  I apologise to anyone I may have injured in the process.  In the general raffle, I was somewhat disappointed that the ladies who went up to select their prizes seemed more keen on the booze and chocolates than my own contribution of a Revell scale model of a Mk VII minelaying U-boat (complete with paint and plastic cement) but we all have our crosses to bear.


The ever-jovial Pete Whitehead presenting Gary Abnett with

his Project Vernon print of 'Vernon Creek' 


I was too busy meeting and chatting with old friends to take as many photos as usual but here are some featuring MCDOA members.  I have uploaded more to the MWA website.


MCDOA member Martin Mackey with his wife Fiona and John Gunter with

his wife Kate 


MW Branch pioneers Barney Barnett and Rattler Morgan with MCDOA member

Tim Curd and his wife Mannie 


MCDOA members John Bainbridge and Bill Kerr with Bill's wife Caroline


MCDOA member George Turnbull with his wife Louise and Ellen & John Docherty


MCDOA Vice Chairman Rob Hoole with Barney Barnett and Rattler Morgan


16 Mar 13 - A message from Angie Dowland


I have received this gracious message from Angie, wife of the late MCDOA member Pat Dowland (see second entry for 14 Mar 13):


"Dear Rob,


I and my family want to thank you and all the other MCDOA members for coming to Pat's Service of Thanksgiving.  It was good to see everyone again.  Also thank you for creating the website article about the service.


I shall be attending St Faith's Church on 20th of March for Morty's service.


Thank you again for your help.


Best Wishes,




15 Mar 13 - A dynamic duo


My eye was caught by the name of BAe Systems' Type 45 programme director, responsible for the delivery of the Royal Navy's newest destroyer, HMS Duncan, in this article on the Portsmouth News website and this article on the Glasgow Evening Times website.  It is Jennifer Osbaldestin and it transpires that she is married to MCDOA member Richard Osbaldestin, Commanding Officer of Northern Diving Group (NDG).


Richard says:


"...Jennifer is one of us anyway, an ex-MWO who qualified in 1998.  Formerly Jennifer Gibson, she was Ops of HMS Penzance and XO of HMS Pembroke before leaving the RN in 2002 after an 8-year commission.  It just so happens that she married a diver along the way!!"


BAE Systems' UK programme director Angus Holt with

Jennifer Osbaldestin, Type 45 programme director

(Glasgow Evening Times website photo)

BZ to both of you.


14 Mar 13


A hauling down message from Martin Mackey


MCDOA member Martin Mackey has promulgated this announcement:


Cdr Martin Mackey RN


"Dear All,


I would like to take this opportunity to let you know that I leave the post of Commander Second Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCM2) this afternoon.  I start my new job in the MOD's operations directorate as one of the lead planners for the UK's Counter-Terrorism and Resilience division next Monday.  I will be handing over the command reins to Commander Andy Lamb who is currently MCM1.  He will be providing a command over-watch of the Sqn whilst he acts as both MCM1 and MCM2 before taking up permanent residence in this post at the beginning of May.


It has been a real pleasure to be in command of the Second MCM Squadron as well as the UKMCMFOR on OP KIPION in the Gulf.  A busy couple of years has seen the UK’s MCM community retain its hard won reputation on the international stage and continue to deliver on the frontline around the UK, the Med and in the Gulf.


Thank you for the support that you have given me and the crews in the Second MCM Squadron.






We wish Martin all the best in his new appointment.


Pat Dowland's funeral


The Service of Thanksgiving for the life of MCDOA member Pat Dowland, held at Crofton Old Church in Stubbington on 12 March (see second entry for 1 Mar 13), attracted a respectable number of family, friends and members of organisations with which he was associated.  MCDOA members present included Dr John Bevan, Norman Brookhouse, John Coggins, David Edwards, Cyril Lafferty, Julian Malec, John O'Driscoll, Alan Padwick, Jon Riches and David Sandiford as well as your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster (Rob Hoole).  Other attendees included Morty Drummond's recently bereaved wife Sally plus Irene Strange (widow of PO(D) Albert Strange) and Edda Rea (widow of MCDO Lt Cdr Jackie Rea RN) whose husbands had both worked with Pat on CD teams, as well as Jackie and Edda Rea's son Peter.


The Service was conducted by the Revd Stephen Girling, Vicar of Crofton Parish, and started with the hymn 'Morning has Broken'.  This was followed by a tribute read by the vicar, which described how Pat was raised by his Australian father and South American mother before joining the Royal Navy at Dartmouth at the age of 13.  He started as a submariner before becoming a clearance diving officer and serving in a range of shore and seagoing posts including appointments in Malta and the USA.  He also met and married Angie with whom he had four children: Terry, Tessa, Caroline and Peter.  In turn, they provided him with five grandchildren.  On leaving the Royal Navy, he worked offshore for BP, spending the last two years in Scotland.  After his retirement, he pursued his interest in sailing and was an active member of his local Conservative Association.  He also researched his family tree which eventually led to a reunion attended by 230 relatives at Wagga Wagga in Australia.


The vicar then read Ecclesiastes 3 verses 1 to 14 (To every thing there is a season) before using it as the basis for his Address.  The congregation then sang 'The Lord's My Shepherd' and said Prayers before singing the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father).


After the Blessing, most of the congregation decamped to the Osborne View, overlooking the Solent at Hill Head, to partake of the buffet and raise a glass in Pat's memory.


Soapy Watson, our Honorary Secretary/Treasurer, has despatched cheques on behalf of the MCDOA to Pat's chosen charities, The Alzheimer's Society and The Friends of Crofton Old Church, via the funeral director in lieu of flowers.


Lt Cdr Patrick Francis Dowland RN

(31 Oct 1930 - 16 Feb 2013)


13 Mar 13 - Double presentation for former exchange RAN MCD officer


I am grateful to MCDOA member Jim Byron DSC for drawing my attention to this article on the Royal Australian Navy website.  It describes the presentation of the QCVS (Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service) and the NATO Medal for Service on Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR in Libya to Lt Cdr Jace Hutchison RAN by Commander Australian Fleet (Rear Admiral Tim Barrett AM SCS RAN) on 28 February.


Lt Cdr Jace Hutchison RAN, CO of HMAS Huon, being presented with the QCVS

by Commander Australian Fleet on board HMAS Huon

(RAN website photo) 


Jace received these awards in recognition of his service, while on exchange with the RN, as XO of HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 3 at the time) during Operation ELLAMY, the UK name for the Libyan campaign (see entry for 28 Sep 12 in News Archive 39).  He had already received a CINCFLEET Commendation (see entry for 6 Oct 11 in News Archive 36).  Jim Byron was awarded the DSC for his service as Brocklesby's CO during the same operation (see entry for 7 Dec 12 in News Archive 40).


Coincidentally, the hard work and high standards achieved by the crew of HMAS Huon under the leadership of Jace Hutchison during 2012  was recognised with the presentation of the Rushcutters Shield.  Commander Australian Fleet, together with Commander Mine Hunter Patrol Boat Force (Captain Bob Plath RAN), presented the Shield to the ship’s company alongside their base at HMAS Waterhen.


Commander Australian Fleet presenting HMAS Huon and her ship's company

with the Rushcutters Shield alongside at HMAS Waterhen

(RAN website photo)


Congratulations to Jace and his fine ship's company.


Also see the entry for 2 Sep 10 in News Archive 31.


12 Mar 13 - Ex-USS Guardian salvage operations


As can be seen, the dismantling and salvage of the former Avenger class MCMV USS Guardian, stranded on the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines since 17 January, has continued apace (see entry for 3 Mar 13).  It is believed that her hull will be cut into three sections for recovery and removal after her systems and equipment have been extracted.


Ex-USS Guardian reduced to a sorry state

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelby Sanders)


Aerial view of the US Navy-contracted vessel Jascon 25 alongside the

contracted tug  Archon Tide while dismantling ex-USS Guardian

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson Bomjardim)


Photos are constantly updated on the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) website here.


11 Mar 13 - HMS Protector's divers in Antarctica


The Royal Navy website contains this article (including video) and the Navy News website this article describing the recent activities of HMS Protector's diving team during their deployment in the Antarctic.  The articles feature LS(D) Chris Hayes, HMS Protector’s diving team leader.  Royal Navy photos by LA(Phot) Arron Hoare.





10 Mar 13 - MCDOA Northern Dinner photos


MCDOA member Phil Ireland DSC has kindly sent me this message regarding the MCDOA Northern Dinner held in HMS Neptune's wardroom on 28 February:




Here's a link to all the photos from the northern dinner on 28 Feb: 


Click here to view 201302-MCDOA(N) Dinner


Alan Bayliss gave us some hilarious dits from across his long career from boy seaman at HMS GANGES in 1954 through to hanging up his uniform as a Retired Officer 49 years later.  Worthy of note, Cdre Richard Moore and Lt Cdr John Staveley made the trip especially because Alan was our Guest of Honour. 


I was delighted to host this dinner in particular as it was my last formal duty as Wardroom Mess President HMS NEPTUNE before leaving the base the following day.


Best Regards,




9 Mar 13 - HMS Ramsey ‘clean and happy’ after divers scrub unseen parts


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how divers, including MCDOA member Ben Stait (Chief of Staff to Cdr UK MCM Force based in Bahrain), have been performing some 'spring cleaning' underneath HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 1).


MCDOA member Ben Stait in HMS Ramsey's 'moonpool'

(RN website photo)


Senior admiral thanks Gulf minehunters’ crucial shore-side support team


The Royal Navy website also contains this article describing the gratitude shown by Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Philip Jones for the ongoing efforts of the UK MCM Support Team in Bahrain.


UK MCM Support Team in Bahrain

(RN website photo)


8 Mar 13 - RN minehunters support UK trade at Gulf Defence Exhibition


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 7) and HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 1) in the Naval Defence Exhibition (NAVDEX ), part of the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX 2013) in Abu Dhabi (see entry for 27 Feb 13).


HMS Ramsey personnel at IDEX

(RN website photo by LA(Phot) Maxine Davies) 


6 Mar 13 - Funeral arrangements for the late Lt Cdr Geoffrey Mortimer 'Morty' Heneage Drummond RN


The funeral of MCDOA member Morty Drummond, who passed away on 28 February (see entry for 1 Mar 13 with appended tributes), will be held at 1100 on Wednesday 20 March at St Faith's Church, Victoria Square, Lee-on-the-Solent, PO13 9NF followed by refreshments in the adjoining Bulson Hall.  The congregation is requested to wear Naval/Diving or Regimental ties rather than black ties. 


It is also requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations are made to Seafarers UK care of the Funeral Director:


A.H. Freemantle

Funeral Directors

46 South Street



PO14 4DY


Tel: 01329 842115


The following format is suggested:


"To the memory of Lt Cdr Geoffrey Mortimer Heneage Drummond RN


Please find enclosed a cheque for the sum of  £........ to the memory of Morty Drummond in aid of Seafarers UK.  I am a United Kingdom taxpayer intending tax to be reclaimed on the enclosed donation made under the Gift Aid scheme.


Yours faithfully,


Persons Full Name


Address including post code

Tel no.


Date......................   Signed............................................."


Regrettably, I will be attending a close relative's funeral on the same day but MCDOA Committe member Norman Brookhouse has kindly agreed to represent the Association.  It transpires that Morty was his "snotties' nurse" (midshipmen's training officer) in the light cruiser HMS Sheffield in 1955!


5 Mar 13 - HMS Pembroke visiting Glasgow tomorrow


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the arrival of HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 8 commanded by MCDO Matt Moore) in Glasgow tomorrow for a short visit.


HMS Pembroke returning to Faslane in August 2012 after three years

in the Arabian Gulf

(RN photo by LA(Phot) Paul Halliwell) 


4 Mar 13 - Promotions to Warrant Officer


Congratulations to CPO(MW) Chris Bamber (MCM2) and CPO(D) Dave Slade for being named on the latest signal for promotion to Warrant Officer.


3 Mar 13 - USS Guardian salvage operations


The Philippine Inquirer website contains this article describing progress made to date with the dismantling and salvage of the Avenger class MCMV USS Guardian, stranded on the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines since 17 January (see entry for 6 Feb 13).


A US Navy diver moves damage control equipment and other materials

on board USS Guardian

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelby Sanders)


US Navy sailors transfer loose gear from USS Guardian to a rigid-hull

inflatable boat (RHIB) as part of ongoing salvage efforts

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelby Sanders)


Sailors from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 and US Navy contracted salvage crew

members from the M/V Jascon 25 safely remove the exhausts funnel structure from

 USS Guardian, a milestone in the dismantling process

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson Bomjardim)


The US Navy contracted vessel M/V Jascon 25 and its salvage crew guide the

second deck level of USS Guardian on to the deck of the vessel

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson Bomjardim)


USS Guardian with upper half of superstructure, funnel and mast removed

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelby Sanders)


More photos here.  The US 7th Fleet website contains this article announcing that USS Warrior (MCM 10) will deploy to US 7th Fleet Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in Sasebo, Japan, to replace USS Guardian (MCM 5).  The US Navy will conduct a formal decommissioning ceremony for USS Guardian in Japan on 6 March.


Postscript: The US Navy website contains this article describing the decommissioning ceremony for USS Guardian held at the Sasebo Navy Base in Japan on 6 March 2013.  Click on the article's main image to see a sequence of photos of the event.


2 Mar 13 - Gulf minewarfare exercise


The MoD website contains this article, the Royal Navy website this article and the Navy News this article describing a recent MCM exercise in the Gulf.  The exercise involved three of the UK’s four Gulf-based minehunters (HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 8), HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 1) and HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 7)), their Royal Fleet Auxiliary mother ship (RFA Cardigan Bay) and two Royal Navy frigates (HMS Northumberland and HMS Monmouth) linking up with US forces for eight days. 


The articles feature MCDOA member Pete Davis, AB(D) Phil Barham and AB(D) Thomas Long of HMS Atherstone and contain some stunning photos.


RN divers from HMS Atherstone and Fleet Diving Unit 3 conducting a 'casualty' recovery

(RN website photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jumar T Balacy, US Navy)


Divers returning to RFA Cardigan Bay

(Navy News photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jumar T Balacy, US Navy)


Postscript: On 6 March, the Plymouth Herald website published this article covering the same story.


1 Mar 13


Death of Lt Cdr Geoffrey Mortimer 'Morty' Heneage Drummond RN


I am sorry to have to report this so soon after Pat Dowland’s demise on 16 February but MCDOA member Morty Drummond died yesterday afternoon at the Queen Alexandra Hospital near Portsmouth following a short illness.  His wife Sally and son John (an ex-submariner Cdr) were chatting with him until just before he died peacefully.  I am in communication with John and have passed my condolences on behalf of our community.  Funeral arrangements will be publicised as they become available.


Morty's name and face are sprinkled around the MCDOA website quite liberally for all sorts of reasons. Just type 'Drummond' into the search box on the Home Page to see what I mean.  He was a staunch supporter of MCDOA events and this photo shows him in typical form with two of his contemporaries in the wardroom bar at HMS Excellent after our annual dinner in 2001.


Doug Barlow, David Edwards and Morty Drummond at the MCDOA Annual Dinner

in HMS Excellent's wardroom in November 2001


Together with his fellow MCDOA member, the late Franky Franklin, Morty was a member of the first ever CDO course.  It started at HMS Lochinvar in May 1950, even before the formation of the Clearance Diver branch in February 1952.  From what I can piece together, Morty then headed up the Diving Section at HMS Vernon until 1953 when he joined the Algerine class minesweeper HMS Jaseur of the 6th Minesweeper Flotilla (6th MSF) at Singapore.  He sailed for the UK in company with other ships of the flotilla in 1953, arriving home in 1954.



Left: HM Ships Lysander, Magicienne, Michael, Maenad and Jaseur alongside at Saigon in Nov 1953

Right: Morty Drummond (third from right in front row) on board HMS Jaseur at Malta in 1954


For his next appointment, Morty was the Diving Officer (and eventual Commanding Officer) of the Royal Navy's Deep Diving and Submarine Rescue vessel HMS Reclaim where he was instrumental in the late MCDOA member George Wookey's world record-breaking dive to 600 feet in Sørfjorden, Norway on 12 October 1956 (see 'HMS Reclaim - A World Record-Breaker' in the website's Dit Box).  In October 2006, Morty and his wife Sally were invited to attend the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this historic event (see entry for 16 Oct 06 in News Archive 16).


Morty Drummond and Ron Maitland-Flanagan with George & Patrice Wookey

in front of the commemorative plaque at Sørfjorden in Norway in October 2006


Between March 1958 and May 1960, Morty was the Officer-in-Charge of the RAN Diving School at HMS Rushcutter near Sydney.


Morty Drummond (extreme left) at RAN Diving School, HMAS Ruchcutter c.1958


Morty Drummond (sitting right) at RAN Diving School, HMAS Rushcutter c.1958


In May 2006, Morty was reunited with pioneering Australian Clearance Diver Cdr Jake Linton BEM RAN (see 'A Clearance Diving Experience' in the website's Dit Box) when Jake and his wife Anne paid a visit to the UK.


Morty Drummond and his wife Sally at their home with Jake Linton, pioneering

Australian CD and Patron of the RAN Clearance Diver Association, in May 2006


I saw a fair bit of Morty and am particularly fond of this photo showing one of our get-togethers at Lee-on-the-Solent Sailing Club in April 2010 as guests of the late MCDOA member 'Uncle Bill' Filer.


Morty Drummond flanked by the late Jackie Warner MBE DSC's daughter

Claire and her partner's mother Maggie on his right and Yours Truly

(Rob Hoole) and the late 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM on his left in April 2010


In July 2011, Morty and Sally were present at the formal opening of the HMS Reclaim conference facility at Fleet Diving Headquarters on Horsea Island and drew the ticket for the 'star prize' in a raffle held in aid of Project Vernon.


MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Soapy Watson shuffling raffle tickets

ready to be drawn by Morty and Sally Drummond in July 2011


I am sure that other members of our community can fill in some of the many gaps in my knowledge about Morty's life and career.


From MCDOA member Dave Forsey:


"Sad to hear of Morty's passing.  We served together in HMS Jaseur in the Far East - I was a Telegraphist at the time - and friends thereafter.


Regret unable to be at his funeral.


Dave Forsey


From MCDOA member Cyril Lafferty:


"Dear Rob,


The recent news of Morty's death has triggered some memories. 


My first job after qualifying as a CDO was as the Diving Officer of HMS Reclaim.  I arrived on board in Teneriffe on the day that President Kennedy was shot, and the day after my second son was born [22 November 1963].  I relieved Lt John Wilson and we were hosting Morty Drummond and the Experimental Diving Unit which included CPO Mona Lott.  The Captain was Lt Cdr Peter Simpson, our doctor was David Elliott and our Chief Diver was Pat Christmas. 


We were conducting deep HeO2 dives.  I personally only completed a work-up dive to 300 ft but the others achieved 450 ft (I may be wrong on that as I know we were aiming for deeper).  The ship moored in very deep water, about 1,000 ft, and because of strong winds she would wander around within the moor and the depth could vary greatly.  Pat Christmas, always a great ideas man, took a leaf out of the trawler fishing business and fabricated a mizzen sail which we hoisted on our after derrick mast.  The wind now held the ship over to one side of the moor without it bouncing back and we could guarantee clear water beneath the keel. 


Just before I joined the ship, Morty and David Elliott decided the divers had all been working too hard for too many days without a break and they needed some relaxation that did not involve the wine bars of the island.  They hired a coach and organised a trip up the 12,000 ft Mount Teide.  On the way up, several of the divers who had completed deep dives experienced very painful joint pains.  David found a monastery just off the road with its own infirmary and he was able to obtain pain-killing drugs to ease their pain during their return journey. 


The following year, we repeated the trials off Monaco and we all reached 600 ft dives for a one-hour bottom time.  During my 36-hour decompression in the tiny chamber, with no facilities other than a bucket and a packet of Pastilles, we were visited by Jacques Cousteau's doctor who was doing similar deep trials with animals.  We were very proud of our achievements and our procedures.  He brought us down to earth.  David, a fluent speaker of French, heard him whisper to his colleague, "Mon dieu, we don't make our goats live like that."


When I finished my decompression, I was informed that our First Lt had been taken ill and had been flown home and I was now both First Lt and Diving Officer.  A couple of years later, CPO Derek (Knobby) Clarke and I were seconded to the USN to take part in the SEALAB III experiment together.  We did a saturation chamber dive to 750 ft and we both supervised a dive to 1,000 ft.  We also trained Philipe Cousteau and the astronaut, Cdr Scott Carpenter, in the use of our semi-closed HeO2 rigs.


Later when I was CO of HMS Reclaim, I resurrected Pat Christmas's sail and I would hoist it during our entry or departure of Portsmouth.  This co-incided with the first of the fuel crises and one of the TV news channels showed us leaving harbour and claiming that it was the Admiralty's latest method of saving fuel.  They backed this claim up by showing doctored photos of a nuclear sub and an aircraft carrier under full sails.  I was not the most popular ship's Captain with Admiralty!


All the best,




From MCDOA member David Burstall:


"Hello Rob,

Thank you very much for keeping me/us informed of these sad events.  I've known Morty for many years both in and out of the Navy and always thought him to be indestructible, so I was very saddened to learn of his death having been totally unaware that his health was failing. 


I shall certainly be attending his funeral - and that of 'Froggy' Dowland who joined the branch at the same time as me in 1954/5.  We both had similar appointments to start our diving careers, me in 'Annette' and Froggy in another Isles class trawler studying ground mine behaviour on the seabed.  I was very interested to read about Morty's early career a great deal of which I was unaware of.  He has always been a quiet but stalwart supporter of the branch and he will be sorely missed by us all.



David Burstall"

From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:


"Hi Rob,


Sorry to learn the sad news about Morty who I remember as being a great source of help and wise advice for all my time in the branch.  We first met in 1954 on a run ashore in Malta where he stopped off during his return home with the 6th MSF (Mine Sweeper Squadron).  It was then that he and Pip Piper encouraged me to apply for the Long CDO Course.




From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:


"Hi Rob,


It was a shock to hear that Morty has passed over the bar so close to Pat's demise; two Gentlemen of the Branch who will be sadly missed.  From Morty's point of view, there couldn't have been a better way to go than chatting to the end with Sally and John.


Morty was a quiet officer but well known to all the divers in Vernon in 1954.  He was responsible for organising the first Divers' Dinner held in Southsea which became an annual event with Steamers [deep divers] and Corkheads [clearance divers] having a great time together.  I still have my invite to that gathering somewhere in my ditty box.


I never served under Morty but got to know him later in life as he attended most MCDOA dinners.  I also enjoyed a couple of days sailing in the Solent with him.  Pat was there too.


Morty's Australian team worked with us (the Far East Diving Team under Arthur Checksfield) in 1960, together with the American UDTs [Underwater Demolition Teams].  We sailed from Hong Kong to Thailand in USS Cook to survey the beaches to aid the US during the Vietnam War.  Unfortunately, Morty couldn't join us.


Morty will be sadly missed by the people with whom he came into contact.  It is members that started the Branch in 1952, like Morty, who laid the foundations for the great Branch we have today and who remember their brothers on these occasions.


Bob Lusty"


From former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM in Australia:


"G'day Rob,


I thank you for your email with the report of Morty's last battle.  Could you please append this to the tributes and thank you for handling my contribution to Pat Dowland.  Yet another great gentleman passes from our midst.


I well recollect Morty from days, long since passed, at work in the Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit; days probably remembered as one of the most exhilarating times in my career.  The bosses, Commander Hannan followed by Lt Cdr Jackie Warner, were both supported very ably by Morty as their number two.  They and the civilian AEDU boffins (who were forever inventing new items to be trialled by the unit's divers) ensured that we were kept flat out and underwater.


Morty was also the Diving Officer in charge of Reclaim's diving deck when we were completing the 600ft by one hour bounce dives series, and he had carried out these duties with the similar build-up trials that had preceded this final stage of the experiments.  His expertise was second to none.  A quiet, non-assuming Officer who was a pleasure to have known and served under.  May you rest in peace.




Dave L (Mona)"


From MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton in Spain:




Very sorry to learn of the passing of Morty.  I enjoyed talking to him last at the commisioning of the Reclaim room.  He was always a Gentleman.


Belated regrets, too, for Patrick Dowland.  I did not know him well in the Service but cooperated on some projects when he was in BP and I was in Shell.


Re Bill Marshall's enquiry on my whereabouts, thanks for bringing him up to date, although I must confess that I do not remember him!


Your pics reminded me that I haven't been in touch with Jon Cox for a while.  Time to give him a bell.  Meanwhile we are both well here in Andalucia.


Regards to your good lady wife,


Yours Aye,




From MCDOA member Jake Linton BEM, Patron of the RAN Clearance Divers Association:


"Dear Rob,


Morty Drummond came to the RAN Diving School when Clearance Diving was in its infancy and he provided a steady and wise hand during his period as OIC between 29 March 1958 and 31 May 1960.


RAN Diving School Christmas 1958 - OIC Morty Drummond with Alistair Cuthbert on

his right and Dave Lambert on his left (two ex-RN CDOs transferred to the RAN)


Morty and Sally were a stabilising influence in our fledgling years and, although pre-deceased by many of the friends they made here, I am sure if there is an afterlife they are up there waiting.  Some may be down there but that's a different story.


Those of us that are left mourn his passing and send our most sincere condolences to Sally and their family.


I obviously won't make it to the funeral but would consider it a great favour if you could reach out to Sally for Anne and me.


Kind regards (United and Undaunted)


Yours Aye,


Jake Linton"


From MCDOA member John Lang in Alnwick:


"Hi Rob,


Regret I won't be able to make it.  It's just too far from up here.


All the best,




From MCDOA member John Coggins MBE:


"Hi Rob,


Trust you and yours are keeping fit and well.  Thank you once again for managing such a really wonderful web site.


Morty lived round the corner from us for many years.  We both knew Morty well and indeed know Sally well.  We lost contact when they moved last year.  Please can you let us know Sally's current address.


Looking forward to seeing you, at both the current funerals.


Best wishes,


John Coggins"


[By Webmaster: I have passed Sally's address to John.]


From Charles Drummond (Morty's other son) in France:


"I know you are in contact with John, but I would like to thank you for your kind words about my father.  I spent a few days with him in Lee 10 days ago and was so lucky to have seen him well and full of stories.




Charles Drummond

Yacht Esprit de Papillon




From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Rob,


The dreadful news gets worse day by day; but those of us who are out in the sticks are so grateful to be kept in touch by you.


Morty was one of the quietest Members of the Branch in its entire history.  I think he was also the only old Etonian who ever braved the Branch.  He was a true Gentleman and was always so ably supported by Sally.  The "Peter Pan" syndrome coursed through their veins as neither of them seemed to age.


When I qualified he was one the Gods of the Branch and had already achieved so much to make Clearance Diving respectable amongst the wider R.N.; no mean feat I can assure the younger Members!!  His achievements were never properly recognised because the last thing he would ever do would be to make any publicity for himself.  However he was always available for a quiet word of encouragement or advice to newly qualified C.D.O.s which included me on several occasions.


Oh dear, what a very sad day.


Yours aye,




Funeral arrangements for the late Lt Cdr Patrick 'Pat' Francis Dowland RN


The funeral of MCDOA member Pat Dowland, who passed away on 16 February (see entry for 17 Feb 13 with appended tributes in News Archive 41), will be held at 1415 on Tuesday 12 March at St Edmunds (Crofton Old Church), Lychgate Green, Stubbington PO14 3HA and afterwards at The Osborne View Pub & Restaurant, Hillhead Road, Fareham PO14 3JP. 


MCDOA member Brian Dutton DSO QGM has advised me that the family has requested donations to charity in lieu of flowers.  The chosen charities are The Alzheimer's Society and The Friends of Crofton Old Church via the funeral directors: Churcher and Tribbeck, 16 Stubbington Green, Stubbington, PO14 2JG.  The MCDOA will make an appropriate donation in Pat's memory.


28 Feb 13 - Triumph and Tragedy


I am grateful to MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin for alerting me that the following MCDOs and MW Officer have been selected for promotion to Lt Cdr with effect from October this year:


Lt J R Hunnibell (BRNC)

Lt N J Isaacs (FDU3)

Lt D Mason (MCM2 Crew 2)

Lt P G McQueen (DDS)

Lt G M J Powell (HMS MERSEY)

Lt M A Shaw (FDU2)


Congratulations to all concerned.


The bad news is that three US Navy divers have lost their lives this week.  One SEAL was lost off Hawaii and two divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (MDSU2) were lost at the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG).  Until last year, the CO of this unit was Chris Baldwin's opposite number in the US Navy and Chris has sent him condolences on behalf of the UK military diving community.  


The KHON2 TV website contains this article describing the loss of the US Navy SEAL.  MCDOA member Darroch Woodward has drawn my attention to this article on the Virginian Pilot website and ex-CD Colin 'Foggy' Goff has drawn my attention to this article on the Sub Sea World News website covering the deaths of the two divers at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.  Also see this article on the Fox News website.


I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our condolences to the families and friends of US Navy SEAL Matthew John LEATHERS, PO 1st Class James REYHER and PO 2nd Class Ryan HARRIS.


27 Feb 13 - RN minehunters at Abu Dhabi International Defence Exhibition


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit by Vice Admiral Philip Jones CBE, Fleet Commander (CINCFLEET's newer title) and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff to the Abu Dhabi International Defence Exhibition (IDEX 2013) on 20 Feb 2013.  The article features the minehunters HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 7) and HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 1) which are taking part in the NAVDEX part of the exhibition.


Vice Admiral Jones visiting HMS Shoreham in Abu Dhabi on 20 Feb 13

(RN website photo by LA(Phot) Maxine Davies)


26 Feb 13 - Tim Sizer in Oman


MCDOA member Graham 'Tug' Wilson has sent me this welcome message about his erstwhile partner in crime, former WO(D) Tim Sizer:


"Hey Rob,


Kev Stockton asked me to send this photo of a suntanned Tim Sizer in his new job with the Omani Naval forces.


Tim Sizer in Oman






Graham Wilson MBE MIExpE

Senior UXO Consultant

Maritime Asset Security and Training (MAST) Ltd

Malta "


Thank you Tug and well done Tim.  It looks as though the Sultan of Oman's Navy is suiting you nicely (which is probably just as well the way Pompey are playing at the moment).


25 Feb 13 - SDU1 deals with hand grenade in Plymouth Park


The Western Morning News website contains this article describing the discovery last weekend of a hand grenade in Central Park, Plymouth and its subsequent disposal, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).


Hand grenade being recovered


24 Feb 13 - Down Under reunion of two MCDOA members


MCDOA member 'Brad Vincent', author of Far From Breaking Waves - A Sailor Cast Adrift in Afghanistan (see entry for 13 Feb 13) has sent me the following photo of his reunion with fellow MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE who dropped in to see him in Australia last week.  I have doctored the image to protect the guilty.


Bob Hawkins with 'Brad Vincent' and copies of his new book


I have nearly finished reading my copy and can assure you that it is a cracking story.  If anyone thinks it might be too diver-orientated, note that 'Brad' also describes his early career in the RN as a MW rating.


22 Feb 13 - SDU1 deals with grenade in Poole


The Daily Mail website contains this article describing Wednesday's detonation by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a Second World War hand grenade found by a puppy on the beach at Canford Cliffs in Poole, Dorset.


Grenade being prepared for detonation


21 Feb 13 - Unexplained devices turn out to be fake bombs


The Herald Express website contains this article revealing that the suspicious devices investigated by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) in Torquay on Monday were actually dummies used by the airline industry for training purposes (see fourth entry for 19 Feb 13). 


20 Feb 13


Funeral of veteran diver Jim Hutchison


The funeral of veteran diver Jim Hutchison (see first entry for 5 Feb 13) will take place on 7 March 2013 at the Garden of England Crematorium Sheppey Way, Bobbing, Near Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 8GZ.  


After the committal, there will be a reception at the Commissioner's House in the Historic Dockyard at Chatham to celebrate Jim's life.  Chatham Dockyard was Jim's home port and a fitting place for his final send-off.


If you would like to attend Jim¹s funeral, please let his son Peter (who took over from his father as Managing Director and Senior Diving Supervisor of Medway Diving Contractors Ltd in 1976) know by email at this address.  He will be sending official invitations to everyone who wishes to attend.


Jim Hutchison being interviewed by Fearne Cotton on board

HMS Belfast during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

River Pageant on the Thames 3 June 2012


Dits wanted about Lt Cdr Ralf Dreimanis RCN


I have received the following request:




Below is a retirement message for a Lt Cdr Ralf Dreimanis, who was on exchange with the RN around 1991 as OIC of FDU3.


I pass it on without knowledge if he is a member of the association but thought if he had been on exchange to FDU3 in 1991, some of your members may know him.  


If there are any comments or thoughts to be made I would be happy to pass them on - or via this email address.




Martyn Reid

Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy – C4I Tactics / Capitaine de Corvette Royal Navy – Tactique C4ISR

Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre / Centre de Guerre Navale des Forces Canadiennes
















Royal Navy sharing minewarfare expertise with US Navy


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how British minewarfare experts are sharing their expertise with their American colleagues in the Gulf as the US Navy follows the Royal Navy’s lead by introducing its own mini-submarine, SeaFox.  The article features LS(MW) Mark Titman of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 1).


LS(MW) Mark Titman with SeaFox on board HMS Atherstone

(RN website photo) 


19 Feb 13


PO(D) Gerry Mulholland bound for Afghanistan


This item was spotted on the back cover of Soldier magazine and reported elsewhere on the web:



I am sure that other members of our community will join me in wishing Gerry a successful deployment and safe return.


Latest Clearance Diver aspirant


The Derbyshire Times website contains this article announcing the successful passing-out from HMS Raleigh of CD candidate Richard Allen of Chesterfield.


Clearance Diver candidate Richard Allen


We wish Richard the outcome he deserves on his course.


News from HMS Cattistock


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Steve Higham RN, the Commanding Officer of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 2) for this update (see entry for 4 Feb 13):


"Hello again from HMS CATTISTOCK.


Having recently returned from the Arabian Gulf in HMS MIDDLETON, Crew 2 and I are fortunate enough to come back to our 'spiritual home' and prepare for another deployment.  You will know that it has been some time since HMS CATTISTOCK deployed on operations outside the UK and this has presented a significant number of challenges.  I am delighted to say that the hard work of the HMS CATTISTOCK team, and the numerous organisations that support us ashore, has paid dividends and the ship has now deployed for a three month period as the UK's Maritime Commitment to NATO.


This period will see HMS CATTISTOCK deploy for three months as part of the Standing Mine Counter Measures Force, a team of ships which exists permanently in order to keep the waterways of the Mediterranean safe for all lawful users.  The tasks that this team can be called upon to perform are as varied as they are important - from disposal of legacy ordnance (the Mediterranean was heavily mined during the Second World War and such munitions can can continue to cause trouble today) to responding to unforeseen regional developments such as the mining of the Libyan port of Benghazi in 2011.  HMS CATTISTOCK will not only be an integral part of this task force, but will actually take command of it - the Royal Navy being chosen to provide the lead ship.


The ship sailed on 4 Feb 13, despite the extremely bad weather, and conducted Maritime Security Operations en route to Gibraltar before meeting up with the rest of the group in Crete.  We have a number of exercises and operations planned and I look forward to updating you on how HMS CATTISTOCK is faring over the coming months...


I hope we will hear from you whilst we are away - mail will always find us and any sort of news from home never fails to to boost morale.  In the meantime, I would like to thank you for your continued support.


Yours aye,


SWJ Higham

Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy

Commanding Officer



HMS Cattistock alongside in Gibraltar


'Unexplained Device' found in Torquay


The ITV West Country website contains this article, including videos, describing yesterday's investigation of a suspicious device found in the back garden of a house in Torquay.  The incident involved a "Royal Navy Bomb Squad", presumably members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).  As shown in one of the videos, the team deployed its CUTLASS unmanned Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) vehicle which entered operational service last year.


RN bomb disposal vehicle arriving at scene of incident in Torquay


RN bomb disposal vehicle at scene of EOD incident in Torquay


CUTLASS unmanned EOD vehicle being deployed


18 Feb 13 - Identification of mine RSP team


Ex-CD Perry Mason was curious to know the identities of the individuals in this photo:


Mine RSP Team - A mystery no more


The answer was supplied by former FCPO(D) Chris Jones who kindly informed me that the photo was taken c.1965 and the individuals were members of Flag Officer Scotland & Northern Ireland's 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).


17 Feb 13 - Death of Lt Cdr Patrick 'Pat' Francis Dowland RN


I was saddened to receive the following message this morning from Angela, wife of longstanding MCDOA member Pat Dowland:


"Dear Rob,


I have some very sad news to tell you.  Pat died on the morning of Saturday 16th February.  It was unexpected, although he had deteriorated in the last few weeks.  He had a chest infection and was having antibiotics for it.  He had also been having trouble swallowing, was being difficult to feed and losing a lot of weight.  Ironically the Doctor came the previous day and found him in general good health, except that the chest infection had not cleared up completely.  His quality of life has not been good, being bed-bound for 18 months and unable to speak, so maybe it is a blessing.  He enjoyed going to the MCDOA events when he was able to.


Best Wishes,


Angie Dowland"


I have telephoned Angie to offer my condolences and willingness to help in any way I can.  The funeral is likely to take place in the Fareham area and I will publicise arrangements as soon as they are available.


Among Pat's many appointments in the Branch, he was the Course Officer for LMCDO '66.


1966 Long Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers' Course (LMCDO '66)


The last MCDOA events he attended before the decline in his health were the Operational Updates and AGM in November 2010.  Here he is having a lunchtime drink with fellow 'Fathers of the Branch' in the bar at Horsea Island.


Pat Dowland (left) with fellow 'Fathers of the Branch' Dave Bartlett, Bob Lusty,

Peter Hicks, Mike Emary and David Edwards in November 2010


From MCDOA member Jon Riches:




Just to let you know I have been in touch with Bill Grady, a fellow member of the 1966 LMCDO Course.  I don't believe he is a member of the MCDOA.  He was very sad to hear of Pat's death and has fond memories of him as our Long Course Officer.  He is not well having various ailments one of which limits his mobility such that he will not be able to make Pat's funeral. 


Bill lives in Lincoln having moved from Cowplain some years ago.  I have told him about the MCDOA website ao that he can see the other tributes to Pat.


Best wishes,




From MCDOA member Cyril Lafferty to Bob Lusty:




It's a long time since we have been in touch and I hope all is well with you.  Pat was good to both of us during our times at BP and it is sad to hear of the hard times he has endured over the last year or two.


<remainder snipped>


All the best,




From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:


"Hi Rob,


Saddened to read your message from Angie regarding Pat.


I first saw Pat in 1954 when alongside HMS Annette in Plymouth.  Annette had just finished surveying Liverpool docks, a rough job over the winter in Clammy Death, S.9s poor.  Pat and I next met in the USA on exchange with the US Navy.  We enjoyed the work and had some good runs ashore.


Pat left the RN in the late 1970s and I followed shortly afterwards.  We worked for BP, running its underwater operations.  We had a great time and a most satisfactory second career.


When retired, we spent some pleasant times in my boat visiting the French Channel ports and enjoying the restaurants and bars.


God bless Pat.


Bob Lusty"


From MCDOA member John O'Driscoll MBE:


"Hi Rob,


So sad to hear the news about Pat.  He was my boss in Plymouth 1968/9.  I had the Bomb and Mine Disposal Unit and during the inevitable mishaps that sometimes upset the general public he was always supportive and encouraging.  I liked and respected him enormously.


A thoroughbred Diving Officer and a gentleman to boot.


Yours Aye,


John O'Driscoll"


From MCDOA member John Lang:


"Hi Rob,


Sorry to hear the news about Pat.  Please pass my condolences to Angela.


No doubt the dits will start rolling in.  As my course officer in '66 we were in Falmouth doing deep diving training.  We were a bit of a lively bunch and I seem to remember we upset Pat one morning prior to leaving for the diving area.  The upshot was that he ordered us to  jump off the jetty and swim to the diving area.  We duly set off leaving Pat and Tom King to follow us in the MFV.


It was apparent to us after about ten minutes that they were having problems starting the MFV.  At that we decided to make a dash out into the Carrick Roads.  It's quite surprising how fast a bunch of fit guys can swim together.  Falmouth started to disappear into the distance as we got out into the Carrick Roads.  Eventually we sighted the MFV approaching in the distance.  Pat must have been having a dicky fit at the thought of explaining how nine prospective MCDOs had gone missing somewhere in the English Channel.  We all thought it a huge joke but it took Pat until the evening after a few pints of beer to come round to our way of thinking.  I seem to recollect that we were not ordered to jump off the Falmouth pier again.


Great days.


John Lang"


From former FCPO(D) Chris Jones BEM:


"Hi Rob,


My condolences go out to Angela and other family members of the late Pat Dowland.   I served under Pat in the MFCDT (Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team) c.1959-60 and again in 1963 when he was Boss of AEDT (Admiralty Experimental Diving Team).   We both took part in the 500 feet trials at Tenerife.  I enjoyed both occasions."


From former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM in Australia:


"G'day Rob,


Sad times are with us again.


Firstly I would like to also express my deepest condolences to Angela and any other family members of the late Pat Dowland.  I had the pleasure to serve under Pat when he was the Boss of the Mediterranean Fleet Team after he relieved Lt Cdr Franky Franklin in late 1959. 


In remembrance of those days, now long since past and never to be forgotten, I have attached a photo from Christmas 1959 when we were joined by the members of the Med Fleet Diving Training School.


Mediterranean Fleet CD Team and Malta RN Diving School staff in 1959

Back row: Max Attard, Ben Gunnel, Chris Jones, Dave Lott, Jan Gardner, Dixie Dean,

Jock McKenzie, John Hendrick and unknown Maltese PO Stoker

Front row: Bill Cornick, Donkey Bray, Dave Lardner, Lt Jackie Rea, Lt Pat Dowland,

Lt Jim Grace, Jerry Locke, Ron Hartshorn and Peter Power


Sadly, Pat's departure makes it at least seven that I know in the photograph who have relinquished their earthly forms.


Finally I would like to say that Pat was a great boss who managed a smile where many wouldn't, even when he was dealing with us reprobates at our worst.  They were great days.


With my deepest respect,


Dave Lott (Mona)


From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Rob,


What very sad news as another stalwart of the 'old Branch' goes on his final dip.


Pat and Angie were at HMS Lochinvar when I was driving HMS Dingley and the Home Station Clearance Diving Team in 1959.  They were both very supportive of relatively new divers and their wives, which included us.  Together they were the life and soul of every decent party and played the fullest of roles in the Wardroom.  


Professionally, Pat provided quiet and sensible guiding advice, particularly when things went wrong, which seemed to be the norm up there.


We never served in the RN together but in those days there were so few of us that it was most unlikely that one ever did.  However we saw quite a lot of each other when he was British Petroleum's Diving manager and I was in a BP subsidiary, Strongwork Diving International.  His wisdom and calmness never left him which is why he was such a great success.


Pat and Angie: lovely memories which will never fade - thanks a million for the pleasure of knowing you.


Yours aye,




From MCDOA member Jon Riches:




How very sad.  Pat was our Long Course Officer in 1966.  He had the difficult task of steering our course through a totally new syllabus being as it was the first MCD Long Course.  The old and bold of the CD Branch were not exactly welcoming to this new development!   He had infinite patience with us, a spirited bunch of young officers.  Quiet and unassuming, he guided and looked after us well.  After the course I only came across Pat occasionally but it was always good to see him.


I await details of his funeral arrangements.  My thoughts and sympathy are with Angie and family.




15 Feb 13 - SDU2 deals with flare found in East Anglia


The Norfolk Eastern Daily Press website contains this article describing yesterday's disposal of a phosphorous flare at Blakeney National Nature Reserve, presumably by Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).



13 Feb 13 - A new book by a longstanding MCDOA member


A former Honorary Treasurer of the MCDOA who transferred to the Aussie MCD world some years ago has turned his hand to writing.  He has recently published an autobiographical work called Far From Breaking Waves - A Sailor Cast Adrift in Afghanistan under the pseudonym of Bradley Vincent.  It is based on his deployment to Afghanistan in 2008/09 as the Chief Exploitation Leader C-IED based in Kabul although the narrative also covers his career in the RN which eventually led him to that landlocked country. 



Some of you will already know who Brad Vincent is.  Some of you will quickly recognise him if you read the book.  There is a clue to his identity on the front cover.  Unfortunately, the website does not ship outside Australia where he now lives.  However, if you are interested in obtaining a copy elsewhere, send him an email via this address and he will do his best to oblige. 


Brad informs me that his book will also be available on iTunes and Kindle in the near future.


12 Feb 13 - SDU1 deals with grenade in Boscastle


The 'This is Cornwall' website contains this article describing how members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) dealt with a hand grenade in the North Cornwall village of Boscastle yesterday.


SDU1 Bomb Wagon in Boscastle


8 Feb 13 - Further lease of life for TON Class minesweeper


The Ton class minesweeper launched as HMS Packington (M1214) in 1958 at Harland and Wolff in Belfast has seen several reincarnations.  Completed on 21 May 1959, she was commissioned as SAS Walvisbaai at HMS Diligence on the Solent in September of the same year and sailed to Simon's Town where she served in the South African Navy until being decommissioned in September 2001.


Former HMS Packington as SAS Walvisbaai


In June 2003, she was purchased by the Walt Disney film company and sailed to Gibraltar where she arrived in August.  After a radical rebuild as a 'research vessel' which included fitting a helicopter pad, she was renamed RV Belafonte and sailed to Anzio in Italy to star with Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, Jeff Goldblum and Anjelica Huston in the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, loosely based on the activities of Jacques Yves Cousteau and the converted minesweeper RV Calypso (ex-BYMS 2026).


Former HMS Packington as RV Belafonte


In 2006, she sailed from Malta to Dubai for a six-year period of restoration and upgrading.  She is now based at Abu Dhabi as the luxury motor yacht MY Mojo, complete with swimming pool, waterfall feature and tropical plants.  Further information, including some stunning photos of her opulent interior and exterior, can be seen on the website here.  Her story also features in the current issue of the Ton Class Association's newsletter Ton Talk.


Former HMS Packington as MY Mojo


7 Feb 13 - HMS Bangor to visit Fishguard


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing a visit by HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 5) to Fishguard in Wales from 12 to 15 February.


HMS Bangor

(RN library photo)


6 Feb 13


US Navy reveals plans for dismantling USS Guardian


The Stars & Stripes website contains this article, including a lengthy video, describing the US Navy's plans for dismantling the Avenger class MCMV USS Guardian, stranded on the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines since 17 January (see entry for 1 Feb 13).


Screen capture of USS Guardian dismantling animation

(Stars & Stripes website)


Postscript: The Defense News website has published this article reporting that the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency awarded a $24.9 million contract to SMIT Salvage, Singapore on 1 February to provide support for the emergency response and recovery operations for the 1,300-ton USS Guardian (MCM 5) grounding on Tubbataha Reef, Sulu Sea in the Philippines. 


EOD incidents near Chepstow and Bournemouth


The BBC News website contains this article, including a video, and the Forester website this article about the disposal of an artillery shell on the shore at Beachley Point near Chepstow in South Wales by PO(D) Mark MacPherson and AB(D) Wesley McKibbin of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).


AB(D) Wesley McKibbin of SDU1

with recovered shell


The Bournemouth Echo website contains this article, including a video, describing the recovery of a mortar bomb from a garden at Holton Heath, Purbeck in Dorset.  Presumably, this incident was also dealt with by a member of SDU1.


Postscript: On 9 February, the Daily Mail published this article covering the incident at Holton Heath.



5 Feb 13


Death of a diving legend


I am sad to report the death in the early hours of this morning of veteran naval diver Jim Hutchison after suffering a mild stroke last month. 


A stalwart member of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), Jim began diving in the Royal Navy at the age of 16 and served in the Second World War and the Korean war.  As a Leading Seaman in the cruiser HMS Belfast, he was awarded a Mention in Despatches in May 1952 "...for distinguished service in operations in Korean waters".   He also recovered a body from a crashed RAF Bristol Brigand bomber in Singapore harbour.


After leaving the Royal Navy, Jim founded Medway Diving Contractors Ltd, a civil engineering company which has remained busy in the Medway/Thames area (and indeed further afield) ever since.  He was 86 when he stopped performing daily displays in standard diving dress at Whitstable in 2008 as featured in the same December 2006 episode of the BBC series 'Coast' in which MCDOA member Jason White QGM was seen surveying the wreck of the ammunition-laden SS Richard Montgomery off Sheerness.  Jim performed around 54,000 dives during his lifetime which must be some kind of record. 


Here is one of my favourite photos.  It was taken in front of the HDS stand at Portsmouth Navy Days in 2010 (see second entry for 2 Aug 10 in News Archive 31).  As you can see by Jim's beret, he was also a WW II Arctic convoy veteran.


Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) with veteran

diver Jim Hutchison in August 2010


UK MCM Force greets its new Commander in Bahrain


The Royal Navy website contains this article which includes the photo below showing the ship's companies of HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 1), HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member Ben Vickery), HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 8 commanded by MCDOA member Simon Kelly) and HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 7) on the jetty in Bahrain to greet Cdr Jim Buck RN who has just superseded MCDOA member Martin Mackey as Commander UK Mine Counter Measures Force (Cdr UKMCM Force).


Rear: Ships' Companies of HMS Ramsey, HMS Atherstone, HMS Quorn and HMS Shoreham

Centre rank : Members of Fleet Support Unit 2 (FSU2)

Center front rank: Mine Warfare Battle Staff

Front: Chief of Staff - MCDOA member Lt Cdr Ben Stait RN (left) and Cdr MCM2 - Cdr Jim Buck (right)



Left: MCM2 with ship's company of HMS Ramsey

Right: MCM2 with ship's company of HMS Shoreham


21 Gun Salute for HM the Queen


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article which demonstrates that MCDOA member David Hilton, Base Services Manager for Portsmouth Naval Base, is helping to keep traditions alive with the firing of a 21-gun salute to mark the 61st anniversary of Queen Elizabeth the Second's reign.


Gun salute being fired from Fort Blockhouse (formerly the home of HMS Dolphin)

(Portsmouth News photo)


From MCDOA associate member Doug Barlow:




Looking at the saluting gun photo.  In the 1960s, I was Cdr's Assistant at HMS Dolphin.  The guns were to be fired so, I in my No.5s and the sailors in their No.1s got on with it.


One thing wrong.  I stood downwind and got mouthfuls of smoke.  I had to cough every time before yelling "Fire!".


Health and safety what?




4 Feb 13


HMS Cattistock sails for the Mediterranean


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Portsmouth News this article describing today's departure of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 2) from Portsmouth to start a four-month deployment with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean.  


Clay Target Charity Competition


Robin Bennett, the Honorary Secretary of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated, has drawn my attention to a clay target shoot at the Defence Academy, Shrivenham on Saturday 13 April in aid of the Felix Fund Bomb Disposal Charity.  Click on this image for details:



3 Feb 13 - EOD incidents at Ayr and Troon


The Ayr Advertiser website contains this article describing an EOD incident on the beach at Ayr on 24 January, presumably dealt with by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG).


RN Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel on the beach at Ayr


On 17 January, members of NDG appear to have attended an incident at nearby Troon as reported in this article on the Ayr Advertiser website.


2 Feb 13 - Responses to 'Some recollections of an MCD Schoolie'


I have just added a note of thanks from Albert Thompson for the many responses to his recollections as an MCD Schoolie at HMS Vernon in the early 1970s.  See the appendages to the entry for 21 Dec 12 in News Archive 40 but note that they are published in reverse chronological order.


1 Feb 13 - USS Guardian saga makes the UK national dailies


The Daily Mail website contains this article and the Guardian website this article describing the plight of the Avenger class MCMV USS Guardian, stranded on a reef in the Philippines since 17 January (see entry for 30 Jan 13).


Above and below: USS Guardian aground on the Tubbataha Reef

(US Navy photos)




31 Jan 13 - HMS Cattistock bound for the Mediterranean


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the departure of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 2) from Portsmouth on Monday 4 February to start a four-month deployment with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean. 


HMS Cattistock

(RN library photo)


30 Jan 13


USS Guardian to be broken up


The CBS News website contains this article and the ABC News website this article announcing that the Avenger class MCMV USS Guardian, stranded on a reef in the Philippines since 17 January, has suffered too much damage to be lifted off in one piece and will have to be dismantled to facilitate her removal (see entry for 21 Jan 13).  Much of the protective GRP sheathing has been torn off the port side of her wooden hull.


USS Guardian aground on the Tubbataha Reef

(US Navy photo)


NDG divers help raise Dunkirk little ship


The Navy News website contains this article describing the salvage of Skylark IX, one of the Dunkirk 'little ships', from a Scottish river bed by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) (see second entry for 18 Nov 12 in News Archive 40). 



Members of Northern Diving Group with the salvaged Skylark IX

(Navy News website photo)


Skylark IX was also employed as a shallow water minesweeper in Poole harbour during the Second World War. 


Award of Volunteer Reserves Service Medal  


Congratulations to MCDOA member Ian Berry and to AB(MW)1 S. Johnson RNR on their award of the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal as announced here in the London Gazette.


Lt Cdr Ian Berry MBE RNR


29 Jan 13 - HMS Grimsby to visit Liverpool this weekend


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing a visit by HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6) to Liverpool from Friday 1 to Monday 4 February.


HMS Grimsby

(RN Library photo)


28 Jan 13 - Mine detonated in controlled explosion off Brixham


The Western Morning News website contains this article describing Saturday's recovery of a Second World War mine by a fishing boat off Brixham in Devon and its subsequent disposal by a Royal Navy EOD unit, presumably Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).


27 Jan 13 - Free Divers (the topic that keeps on giving)


Several informative new responses have been appended to the entry for 23 Jan 13.


26 Jan 13 - A new book from Bernie Bruen 


I was delighted to receive the following announcement this morning from my old LMCDO '76 course-mate and friend, MCDOA member Bernie Bruen in France:


"Dear Rob,


Herewith (hopefully) info about my latest book, from which the song (that we did not have time to sing at the Dinner), 'A Diver's Lot', was taken - from among other diver songs.  I feel that the book will be of interest to members and would ask if it is possible to apprise them of its existence on the MCDOA website.


There is snow here and temperatures of -15°.  However, we hope for a mild February.


All the best,




Bernie's new book, written in conjunction with ex-clubswinger Dickie Barr, can be ordered online here from Woodfield Publishing.  The publicity blurb states:


"A collection of song lyrics, poems and humorous observations informed by the authors' combined experiences in the Royal Navy 1950s-1980s


Richard Barr and Bernie Bruen met while serving in the Royal Navy in the 1970s aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Bulwark.  With other crew members they formed a ship’s band, which went on to perform under the unlikely name The Malawi International Airways String Quartet ~ MIASQ for short, entertaining audiences in various far-flung parts of the world with their lighthearted ditties about nautical life.



Many of the songs they performed were penned by Bruen and/or Barr themselves, and it is these original offerings that are preserved here for posterity.  From boozy ballads celebrating the joys of alcoholic excess and the delights of female company to laments for the bygone age of sail, they all evoke subjects close to the matelot’s heart.


In addition there are recollections from both authors of some of the more notable incidents from their naval careers.  Other sections record sundry items of nostalgic interest and humorous comments ~ intentional and otherwise ~ made or overheard by the authors whilst aboard the various Royal Navy ships on which they served.


The end result is an entertaining mixture which contains ingredients that will appeal to any former sailor." 



Lt Cdr Nigel Arthur 'Bernie' Bruen MBE DSC RN at the MCDOA Annual Dinner in November 2012 


During the 1970s, Bernie also formed a folk group called 'Rattlin' Down'.  Among other songs he performed and recorded was 'The Montagu Whaler'  which is heard here being sung by Bernie's occasional musical sidekick, ex-GI singer and comedian Shep Woolley.  Coincidentally, Shep was at our annual dinner last November too.


Shep Woolley at the 2012 MCDOA Dinner


25 Jan 13 - Scouse Fleming helps launch 2013 Great South Run


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing yesterday's official launch of the 2013 BUPA Great South Run.  The article includes a video of the press conference held at the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney which features an interview with CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) (watch from minute 06:30).  Scouse was in the same standard diving dress he wore during last year's event (see entry for 28 Oct 12 in News Archive 40).


CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming with TV presenter Andy Akinwolere and last year's

winner of the women's section Jo Pavey at the Royal Marines Museum yesterday


24 Jan 13 - Final call for 'Last of the Wooden Walls' 


'Last of the Wooden Walls - An Illustrated History of the TON Class Minesweepers and Minehunters', edited by your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster, was launched only ten months ago but is rapidly becoming a collector's item.  The publisher's stocks were exhausted several weeks ago but a few copies are still available from distributors such as Amazon (link) and at the original price from Maritime Books (link).  There are no current plans for a re-print.



'Jacks of All Trades: Operational Records of Ton Class Mine Countermeasures Ships', the TCA's companion volume to the above book, is also available from Amazon (link) and Maritime Books (link).  As this is published privately, there is no risk of stocks drying up.



Royalties for both books go to the Ton Class Association.


Postscript: Sales of 'Last of the Wooden Walls' have been so successful that the book has been reprinted and the hardback version is available here:


Halsgrove Publishing: Last of the Wooden Walls - An Illustrated History of the TON Class Minesweepers & Minehunters


Amazon: Last of the Wooden Walls - An Illustrated History of the TON Class Minesweepers & Minehunters


23 Jan 13 - RN Diving Heritage: Free Divers


I receive several queries relating to naval minewarfare, diving and EOD each week.  Occasionally, a question requires me to enlist the help of others to provide a credible answer.  This example, received from Bill Marshall via the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has spawned a wealth of recollections worth sharing:


"During the 1950s there was a new rate in the RN whereby a Shallow Water Diver could attend further training as a 'Free Diver'. 


What was the insignia of this classification and how long did this classification exist?


What became of the people classified as 'Free Divers'?  Did they merge into the CD Branch?


Any info would be most welcome."


I forwarded Bill's query to a few cronies and here are some of their responses in reverse chronological order:


From MCDOA member Jon Riches:




Reading Mike Gillam's response, just to let you know Pip Piper is still alive, age 91, and living in St Malo.  I don't think he is a member of the MCDOA.  I tried to get him to join when I was living in Normandy as we were fellow members of the Northern France Branch of the RNA.  He often spoke of happy times he had with the Med Fleet CD Team and the support he had from Lord Louis.


Best wishes,




From former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM in Australia:


"G'day Rob,


The SW / Free Diver subject did arouse great interest and, as Mick Fellows stated, it is nice to know that there are still some "Old and Bolds" about... although I, of course, am far too young to fit into that category!


Mike Gillam's last follow-up triggered another grey cell.  Fortunately, before it too upped and died, it directed me to my bottlebank of photos that include one that may be of some interest to Mike.  He mentioned Pip Piper, Sam Stanley and the aqualungs newly issued to the Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Team courtesy of Captain Cousteau and Lord Louis Mountbatten.


Viscount Montgomery of Alamein meeting members of the Med Fleet CD Team at

Malta in 1955 including Dave 'Mona' Lott standing at attention second from the left


I don't think that Mike will have too much trouble in picking out Pip and Sam, but a very slightly younger version of me is boot-scooting it in line next to the bloke in 'Clammy Death' in February 1955 when I was qualifying as a 'Shark Wrestler' as Mick Fellows put it.  The Field Marshal standing next to Pip is, of course, Monty of Alamein fame.


Regards and thanks,


Dave L (Mona)"


From former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM*


"Hi Rob,


What a great, entertaining week reading all of the memoirs from the elderly gentlemen of the branch.  Clammy death, Salvus, oxygen on demand, SABA and the Med Team, etc.  Far more interesting than reading about the country's dire financial situation and the EU in-or-out lottery and also nice to know that a few of us are still around.


The response for information about the formation of the Free Divers has been quite accurate and I can confirm, as a 1956 qualified Shallow Water Diver, that the Free Diver badge was a standard six-bolt helmet with an 'F' below it worn on the right cuff.  It was the envy of many as it upgraded the wearer, when on a run ashore in the rig trying to trap, from Shark Wrestler to Frogman.  


Can I use this opportunity to plug the forthcoming CD1s' Association Divers Dinner & Dance on Saturday the 18th May following the Friday night's AGM at the Royal Maritime Club Portsmouth.  A black tie occasion open to all present and past members of the CD branch.  Information on the AORNFCD website or from Troy Tempest at 01329 847951  


Regards to all,




From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:


"Hi Rob,


Most interesting.  My memories have been stirred by the various accounts that seem to have well covered the development of Shallow Water Divers to Free Divers and then to Ship's Divers.  I started a bit earlier and before the general introduction of SWBA to the fleet.


In 1953 we were required to carry out a ship's bottom search during a Med Fleet Exercise so I was detailed off to be the Diving Officer of HMS Recruit (MSO) on the strength of having undergone a five-day diving acquaint course as a midshipman a few years earlier.  The ship’s diving team, as I recall, comprised an S/M Diver III, an elderly Artificer Diver and myself.  The only equipment we had was Salvus converted from its fire-fighting role.  We survived. 


It was about this time that I first met clearance divers, i.e. the Med FCDT led by Pip Piper and Sam Stanley who had relieved John Dickinson and Jock Gribben.  I seem to remember that they were the first CD team to be provided with commercial air breathing sets thanks to Lord Louis Mountbatten (then Deputy Flag Officer Mediterranean).  I did not become acquainted with the UBA until the following year on the Long CD Course.


Many thanks,




From ex-CD1 Colin 'Foggy' Goff:




Many thanks for this; good and interesting reading.




From former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM in Australia:


"G'day Rob from a warm and brown and slightly bushfire-burned country!


Your re-directed email re "Free Swimmers" immediately triggered a vague memory among the grey cells in an ageing brain.  I definitely remember Free Swimmers being introduced but I couldn't get much further information from the grey cells except that it had something to do with what were old current "ships bottom search schemes" whereby a single guide line was strung from two bottom lines strung about 50 feet apart.  Starting at the keel, a pair of divers would start swimming "Freely" towards each other from opposite ends of the strung line and searching for limpet mines etc.  When they had passed each other and reached the opposite ends they would signal each other and move the line twice visibility distance or six feet towards the surface (which ever was the largest) and then return to pass each other again... and so forth until arriving at the surface.


This was a quick way to search the ship's bottom but as the divers were free swimming it could be rather hazardous to them.  I vaguely remember that extra qualifications had to be taken and the ship's divers qualified as "Free Swimmers".  I have a vague memory of their badges being upgraded to having FS instead of SW (Shallow Water) or SD (Ship's Diver) underneath the badge on their left or right cuff?  But I wouldn't argue if I am proved wrong.


I then went scuttling off to check on my old and battered copy of BR155 updated to 6th October 1975 and in Part 1 Chapter 2 Safety Regulations in which it has a Table C Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus and this lists the Maximum Depths in feet for the various categories of Diver.  Under Ship's Diver Free in Pairs column is a note (1) re Free in pairs = Free Swimming in pairs may take place to a depth of 50 feet when engaged in authorised ship's bottom searches.



Other than the above I am afraid that I cannot be of much more help.  I can say that they were never just merged into the CD branch and would have had to undergo the full CD3 branch qualifying course to be able to become one of the elite.  I would appreciate you forwarding this email to those who require it as I have had to post from my scanned output and the grey cells are playing up again.  


Regards to all,


Dave L (Mona) from Eden NSW Oz"


From MCDOA member Peter Waddington:


"Dear Rob,


A good New Year to you.


I have just belatedly caught up with all the correspondence about Free Divers, and thought I would add my two-pennyworth. I think Tony Rose has pretty much answered the query.  However, just to back it up, I qualified Shallow Water Diver on SWBA (the old CDBA on O2, with reducer) at Horsea (HMS VERNON) in November 1960, as part of my pre-joining training for HMS BELFAST, where I had been appointed Quarterdeck Officer, Diving Officer, X turret Quarters Officer et al.  We all flew out to Singapore in Jan 1961 as the new crew for her final commission as flagship of the Far East Fleet.


In July 1961 the ship was supplied with the then new SABA at Singapore, and I and my fellow SWDs did a two-day conversion course under Mike Gillam at HMS TERROR, whereupon we were permitted to use the new gear for the rest of the commission.


In September 1962, after returning to UK, I did the full conversion course to SWDO on SABA, and I note that, as with Brian Braidwood's certificate, this qualified me to supervise Shallow Water Diving and Free Diving. I interpret that as meaning those who were still unconverted and diving on SWBA, and those who were now on SABA and qualified to dive to 60ft.  I don't know if there was any separate insignia for a Free Diver, or exactly when the term went out of use, but suggest that it was when the SWBA to SABA conversions were completed and new divers began training entirely on SABA, and were termed Ship's Diver.


It is a bit irrelevant, but to add a small supplement to John Grattan's comments on diving on O2 "0n demand", we were not of course permitted to do this in SWBA as Shallow Water Divers.  We always had to dive with a set flow on a reducer.  Demand diving on O2 came later, on a CD course.  As he comments, it could be extremely dangerous unless you stuck strictly to the laid down procedures, and particularly to the two minutes on the surface followed by clearing the counterlung before re-diving after any interval on the surface breathing air.  I will not mention names, though some may remember the incident, but one member of the MCDO course I ran in 1968 came close to killing himself by not carrying out this full procedure between dives during an underwater mine identification exam at DEODS, and "Dutchy" Holland and I had to explain to the subsequent inquiry how easy it was for someone ostensibly diving on pure O2 on demand to end up suffering from hypoxia.


I hope this is of some interest, if not use!






From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Rob, John, Michael and Bill.


I do remember the changes very well indeed because I was involved with the diving fraternity at that time.


Shallow Water Divers [SWD] were trained to do the ship's diving duties including defense against frogman attack and fairly simple u/w ship's maintenance.  The former was known as Operation Awkward, although the name was also used by the CD Branch for the rapid dressing exercise.  You had to be dressed and ready for the water in less than two minutes.  However, one also had to wait for two minutes before entering the water, by clearing the breathing bag twice, to prevent shallow water black out.  SWDs [including me in 1956] were trained using pure oxygen supplied through a reducer; but one felt very grown up when allowed {reluctantly I suggest} to go on demand.


The down side was that there were an unacceptable number of accidents because of O2 poisoning, "proto" cocktails, loose connections, pierced breathing bags etc.  Digressing for a moment, in the early '60s there was a move to ban pure O2 even for C.D.s' night attacks for exactly the same reasons.  I fought that move strongly because I felt that if C.D.s were to give way we would lose one of our capabilities or assets to the R.N. and, therefore, risked becoming obsolescent.  As the Commanding Officer of two Fleet Teams I recognised the risks and took extra precautions in lieu and, even now, am glad that I fought for the Branch and its capabilities.


In the mid '60s the commercial and sub-aqua divers had made enormous advances in the quality of the aqualung.  The British Sub-Aqua Club was founded in 1952 if I remember correctly.  The R.N. produced the SABA set and in '68 the SDDE.   Pure O2 was then exclusively used by C.D.s and, as mentioned above, usually in the CDBA role with mixed gases.  


The term SWD became obsolete on the change of equipment and 'Free Diver' and soon after 'Ship's Diver' was used in lieu.  There was no change in the badge or S.9s or anything else, as far as I remember, and the further training was little more than an acquaintance course.   Some Free Divers changed over to the Fleet Air Arm and became Search and Rescue Divers.  It should not be overlooked that none of these part time divers [and, I hasten to add, many did outstanding work] had the length of training, exacting regime or failure rate of the Clearance Divers Course and who were, quite correctly, classified as Special Forces.  Thus there was never any question of amalgamation; in spite of the fact that all C.D.s had to have had at least two years experience as a Ships Diver [or SWD in my case] plus the recommendation of a C.D.O. before being taken on C.D. course.  It may interest Bill that the failure rate on the Ship's Divers course was just over 50% and the C.D. course 68% in those days!


In my dotage I do hope I have helped you.


Yours aye,




From MCDOA member Tony Rose:




I trust you are well.  Happy New Year!  


On the assumption that my memory isn't completely blown I reckon the story goes something like this:  


I qualified Shallow water Diver (SWD) in 1956 in Oxygen (SWBA).  I then went on to qualify as Clearance Diver 3rd Class in 1958.  At that time I do remember the Trials Team testing out the new Air Set - Swimmers Air Breathing Apparatus (SABA) which was eventually brought into service in 1960-ish.  For very good reasons (safety and logistics predominantly) it was to take over from the SWBA.  From memory, qualified SWDs did a two week conversion course - one week Horsea and one week ship's bottom searches and were then called Free Divers (FD).  


Eventually those not having done the SWD course did a full four weeks training in SABA to qualify as a FD and were given a badge - Divers Helmet (not sure but it could have been with FD below), worn on the lower arm as were the SWDs with SW below the helmet.  The FD's role was much the same as the SWDs only he was additionally trained to dive to 60' for recovery purposes (SWD Max depth was 30').   Eventually the FD became known as the Ship's Diver (SD) but I can't remember when.


Why Free Diver?  I think the initial idea was that they would swim free when doing a ship’s bottom search.  I'm not really sure why or when the practice of using a life line or float line or buddy line came into being but I suspect safety was the dominant issue.  There were a number of incidents which no doubt had a bearing on how they eventually operated.  


On the final question, yes, some SDs did qualify and merged into the CD Branch, but a lot tried and failed (memory again!!) until the Baby Diver was "invented"  - was it early sixties??  


Being an SD was a pre-requisite to do a CD Aptitude Test in order to start the CD course.  It was at this stage that I went off the scene - on the Special Duties course and off to sea in HMS ESKIMO and I'm not clear what happened after that until I reappeared as the Long Course Training Officer in 78ish then I/Diving in 80ish!!  


If there are any supplementaries give me a shout and if I can reawaken the old cells I will!!   Hope that helps   


Take care,




From me:


"Thanks Bill,


Bill ‘Chippy’ (originally 'Chipping') Norton lives in Spain with his delightful Norwegian wife Gunhild although he still returns to his house in Old Portsmouth occasionally.  See the entry for 29 Oct 07 in News Archive 20 of the MCDOA website for some photos of us together at a mutual friend’s villa near Cape Trafalgar.  


I am appending some further answers to your original question.


Best wishes,




From Bill Marshall:


"Many thanks as you all have now cleared up my question but also the answers have really woken up my memories of some excellent old hands who I am glad to say are still around.


One final question: Does anyone know what happened to 'Chippy Norton' as the last I remember of him was in the Singapore team 1968/1970.


Thanks and regards and the best to you all.


Bill Marshall" 


From Linda, wife of MCDOA member Philip Balink-White MBE (formerly Phil White) in Florida:


"Hi Rob,


Philip doesn't recall the Free Diver classification but doubts they automatically became CDs once Free Diver classification might have disappeared.  But he doesn't recall.


Beautiful day here.  I did two hours of tennis this a.m. and am looking at snowy photos from Philip's daughter in Richmond Park!  Her Wimbledon house has several inches of the white stuff in the garden!


Keep safe!


Linda Balink-White"


From MCDOA member John O'Driscoll MBE:


"Hi Rob,


I qualified as Ship’s Diver in 1963.  The Free Diver qual had just been abolished and all Free Diver rates were automatically rated Ship’s Divers.  The SSP(D) was two bob a day for Shallow Water Divers and four bob for Ship's Divers.   I think the insignia of Standard Diving helmet was worn on the right cuff.  




John O’D"


From MCDOA member Brian Braidwood:


"Dear Rob,


My recollections are as follows:-


I was a SWDO trained in 1957 on O2 only [By Webmaster: See entry for 4 Dec 05 in News Archive 12].


Brian Braidwood's course certificate for Shallow Water Diving Officer (SWDO) issued

by the RN Diving School at HMS Phoenicia on Manoel Island in Malta in 1957


I was getting Diving Pay of 2/- a day when I started my LCDO course still as a SWDO.  I had served in one of the last frigates to have O2 only (MALCOLM and relieved by Alan Padwick) and then in one of the last HM Ship to have O2 only (ANZIO). 


MCDOA member Lt Alan Padwick (later Cdr Alan Padwick OBE RN) with

AB Murtagh on board HMS Malcolm in 1962 


I was stuck on 2/- a day even though I had done a training conversion course on SABA.


Brian Braidwood's course certificate for supervising Shallow Water Divers (SWDs)

and Free Divers (FDs) and diving in Swimmer's Air Breathing Apparatus (SABA)

issued by the RN Diving School at HMS Vernon in 1962

(Artwork by former CPO(CD1) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington)


Others starting the LCDO course with me had served in ships with air sets which gave them 4/- a day and they were known as Free Divers.  Later they became Ships Divers when we started to have Ships Divers trained on air only.  After a lot of argument and support from my Course Officer Taff Lawrence, I managed to have my Diving Pay doubled to 4/- a day after four weeks on course and be categorised as a Free Diver to keep up with the others.


I know nothing of the insignia.  Mick Fellows may well be able to correct or comment on the above.


Best wishes,




From MCDOA member Norman Brookhouse:


"Free Diver (FD) was a step up from Shallow Water Diver (SWD).  You had to be a Shallow Water Diver first and recommended by your CO.  FD was allowed to dive using a marker float whereas SWD had to be on a lifeline at all times.  It was NOT a passport to becoming a CD but it could be of help.


Free Diver was created mainly to make underwater searches of ships' bottoms quicker particularly around the stern with props and rudders to look at.  When I was Diving Officer (and NBCDO which I would rather forget) in 1964/66 we developed a search with a half necklace from keel to surface; only FDs were allowed to man the lower parts. 


I think but am NOT sure that the badge worn on the right cuff was a diving helmet with FD underneath it, whereas the SWD had just the helmet.  FDs were created once SABA (compressed air) had replaced the old SWD sets.


How will that do?"


Response from Bill Marshall:


"Many thanks for your reply but when I was a lowly shallow water diver I was booked for a course of 'Free Diver' (For compassionate reasons I could not attend) and others took this course as it was one step on from Shallow Water Diver.


Incidentally, I later spent yonks in Helium hard hat and other types of gear to drops of 700 odd feet and bell drops to 980 plus sat.  Time at Alverstoke on table development and many many years in the game.


But that RN Free Diver rating still puzzles me.  As others took that course there must be an answer out there somewhere.  Maybe some HDS member has the answer.


Anyway all the best and regards,


Bill Marshall"


From former CPO(CD1) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington:


"Dear Bill,


I am vintage 1954 to 1976.  Pump hand /attendant for Standard gear 1952/3.  The term "free Diver" as far as I know was never used as a qualification.  Only as a term to describe the difference between the old weighted boot with a Mark I suit or a clammy death "Sladen suit” dive and a finned dive.  We were still on a line or a buddy line which was standard for free swimming in pairs.  We lost a diver in Gib that year when he was free alone.  Known as CHIPS.


Hope this helps. Forwarding to David Lott, Les Maynard and Foggy.




Shiner Brassington"


Postscript:  I have stumbled upon this article in the Spring 1964 (Vol 11 No 1) issue of the RN Diving magazine:


Introduction of New Diving Rate


Due to modern diving equipment now being used in the Royal Navy with the emphasis on the change-over from oxygen to compressed air breathing sets, the need has arisen for a structural change in the diving training programmes used in the RN.  The Shallow Water Divers (S.W.D.) and the Free Divers (F.D.) have had to be amalgamated; this means the introduction of the new diving rate namely Ship's Divers.  Officers will be known as Ship's Diver Officers.


The present Free Divers will automatically become Ship's Diver, while the Shallow Water Diver will do a two-week conversion at one of the various diving schools.  Shallow Water Divers changing over to the new rate, check in accordance with A.F.O. 64/64.


The training for the new rate will consist of a four-week course at any of the main diving schools.  On completion of the course, Ship's Divers will be qualified to use S.A.B.A. (Swimmers Air Breathing Apparatus) to a depth of 60 feet and S.D.D.E. (Surface Demand Diving Equipment) to a depth of 120 feet.  They will have a thorough knowledge of ship's bottom searches, diving regulations, lifesaving, Diving mechanics, physiology and illnesses.  They will also have an elementary knowledge of ship's underwater fittings, Sonar dome and propeller changing.


The Ship's Divers badge will be the same motif of divers helmet, as on the F.D. and S.W.D. badge but without the letters under it.


Applications should be made in accordance with A.F.O. 68/64.


22 Jan 13 - Mine charge case dealt with at Troon


The Evening Times website contains this article describing the disposal of an empty mine charge case at Troon last week, presumably by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) under the Command of MCDOA member Richard Osbaldestin.


21 Jan 13 - USS Guardian takes a turn for the worse


According to this article on the GMA News website and this article on the Manilla Bulletin website, the situation has deteriorated for the Avenger class MCMV USS Guardian which went aground on the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines on Thursday (see entry for 17 Jan 13).  Her ship's company of 79 was removed to accompanying ships for safety on Friday and she has swung 90 degrees after being struck by strong waves.



Above and below: USS Guardian now lying parallel to the Tubbataha Reef

(US Navy photos)



Position of Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea in the Philippines


USNS Salvor, a Safeguard-class salvage ship based in Hawaii, is expected to arrive on the scene later this week.


20 Jan 13 - SDU1 deals with shell off South Wales


The South Wales Evening Post website contains this article describing the trawling up of an artillery shell off Mumbles Head in South Wales and its subsequent disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).  The article features PO(D) Tim 'Sid' Lawrence.



19 Jan 13 - Neil Marriott's promotion to acting Commander


I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Hunkin OBE for this welcome news:


"Hi Rob,


I'm not sure if you've seen this already but on Monday, MCDOA member Neil Marriott ships his brass hat.  Long overdue, Neil has been selected to be the next operational MCM Commander in the Gulf.  He starts preparing himself and his new team next week.


Members may remember that Neil was pivotal to the success of Op TECATE in the Gulf in 2008 for which he received a QCVS.  More recently he Commanded HMS BANGOR on operations off Libya.


I am delighted for Neil, absolutely the right man for the job and no doubt you will join me in wishing him and his team every success.


Best wishes,


Dave Hunkin"


Neil Marriott stepping ashore at Portsmouth on 25 Nov 2011 after

HMS Bangor's five-month deployment in the Mediterranean

including 120 days supporting NATO forces off Libya


Many congratulations on your brass hat, Neil.  It has been a pleasure chronicling the achievements of you and your teams on these pages.


17 Jan 13 - MCMV runs aground


Spare a thought for the ship's company of the Avenger class MCMV USS Guardian which ran aground in the Philippines earlier today as described in this article on the Yahoo News website.


USS Guardian

(US Navy photo)


Postscript: The BBC News website has since published this article and the GMA website this article (including video) covering the same incident.


USS Guardian aground on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea


16 Jan 13 - Minehunter's crew become pirates


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how the ship's company of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 1) posed as pirates for a boarding exercise in the Gulf with the frigate HMS Monmouth.  The article features MCDOA members Ben Vickery and Pete Davis, Atherstone's CO and XO respectively.


HMS Monmouth tailing the 'pirate ship' HMS Atherstone in the Gulf

(RN website photo) 


15 Jan 13 - Clearance Divers visit Diving Museum


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit to the Historical Diving Society's museum at Stokes Bay by CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming and other members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).  They handed over the sum of £400 in appreciation of the loan of historical diving equipment they wore while participating in the BUPA Great South Run last year (see entry for 28 Oct 12 in News Archive 40).


Members of SDU2 with volunteer museum staff including John & Ann Bevan,

ex-FCPO(D) John Dadd and ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson at the HDS Museum

(RN photo by by LA(PHOT) Keith Morgan)


Postscript: The Portsmouth News published this article describing the occasion on 19 January 2013.


13 Jan 13 - HDS Diving Museum: Appeal for volunteers



Ann Bevan, wife of MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has issued this appeal for volunteers to help with the winter refurbishment of the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay, starting tomorrow:


"I apologise for taking so long to get this notice to you but I have had an unusually busy Christmas and just when I thought I was getting time to sort things out, our kitchen is about to be ripped out so I will have even less time to help in the museum than I’d hoped.


I have made a list of things that need to be done in the museum.  We may not get everything done but if we can get most of it done before we open I think we’ll have something worth showing off. 


The first thing we need to do is get a set of tools, extension leads, etc into the museum ready to start. We may have enough in the bunker to get going with.  I suggest the following layout:


Intended new layout of Diving Museum




Navy, Commercial, Hard Hat and Scuba sections stay as they are with a few tidying up jobs.

The Gosport stuff is moved into the new room with the History of the Battery.

The Russians and SeaLab moves into the little room.

The area around the William Walker ‘photo opportunity’ cut out is used for famous divers.  We need to get Buster Crabb and Syd Knowles in there somewhere. 


I have asked an electrician to come and put new lights and power sockets into the new room.  I have not yet got a start date but we can store stuff that needs to go into that room until he has it ready.


The RNPL stuff must be put in the New Room because the helium unscrambler and TV cannot be in the same area owing to the mutually interfering noise/sound and putting Gosport stuff with the History is more logical than putting the TV (underwater video) with the History of the Battery.


I have also attached a list of things that need to be done.  I will do all the signage but any help anyone can offer with any of the other bits and pieces will be gratefully received.  The only thing I ask is when setting up an exhibit, please make sure that the public cannot see any of the fixtures.  Hide wires, cables, screws, etc., as much as possible.


I can have the museum open Mon-Fri, from 12-4pm for access if that helps, starting on Monday 14th.  If you can help, please just turn up.  If there are any of the jobs you particularly want to do, just let me know and we can earmark them for you.


As always, many thanks to everyone for all your help and support. 


And if I haven’t said it already,.....HAPPY NEW YEAR!




The HDS Museum relies on a handful of volunteer workers and guides.  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 don't have to be an HDS member to get involved.


12 Jan 13 - Special recognition for 'Smudge'


The BBC News website contains this article and the Western Morning News website this article describing the presentation of an award by the Superintendent of Diving, MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin, to former WO(D) John 'Smudge' Smith MBE for clocking up 50 years of RN-associated diving.  He has also been presented with a lifetime achievement award by the BSAC.


John Smith MBE


I had the pleasure of serving with John on the Plymouth Clearance Diving Team (PCDT since named SDU1) between 1979 and 1982.


PCDT members outside their HQ at HMS Drake in 1980 with John Smith

seated second left and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) seated second right

flanking the OIC, MCDOA member John Wiseman

(The late CPO(D) Norman 'Big Norm' Slingsby was absent on duty that day.)


In 2002, I was delighted to be reunited with him at the RN Golf Championships at Southwick Park.


Our team at Southwick Park Golf Course in 2002 including John

Smith second left and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) far right


I am sure that everyone will join me in offering John our heartiest congratulations on his well-deserved award and wishing him well for the future.


11 Jan 13 - VIPs visit HMS Ramsey in the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the recent visit to Bahrain of UK Armed Forces Minister Andrew Robathan, Defence Equipment, Support & Technology Minister Philip Dunne and Commander Joint Forces Command (CJFC) Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach.  The VIPs visited the UK Maritime Component Commander (UKMCC), the minehunter HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 5) and the frigate HMS Monmouth.



Lt Cdr Giles Palin, CO of HMS Ramsey, greets the VIPs


Lt Olly Shepherd RN, XO of HMS Ramsey, shakes AM Sir Stuart Peach's hand



Olly Shepherd briefs the VIPs about the diving kit

(RN website photos)


Members will recall that Sir Stuart Peach was Guest of Honour as Chief of Joint Operations (CJO) at our annual dinner in 2011 while still an Air Vice Marshal (see entry for 24 Nov 11 in News Archive 36).


MCDOA member Ben Stait, Chief of Staff to MCM2 currently deployed in the Gulf, informs me that MCM1 Crew 5 hosted the visit just prior to their handover of HMS Ramsey to MCM1 Crew 1 (Lt Cdr Rich Hutchings) and RIP (Relief in Place) out of theatre.


10 Jan 13


MCDOA member's son in the news


The Royal Navy website contains this article, the UK Government website this article and the French Navy website this article describing the participation of an RN Lynx helicopter (Flight 217 of 815 Naval Air Squadron, currently attached to the French frigate FS Surcouf) in the chase and arrest of suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia.  The first two articles feature the Lynx's pilot, Lt Mike Curd RN, son of MCDOA member Tim Curd. 


Lt Mike Curd RN in the right-hand seat of 217 with FS Surcouf in view

(RN website photo)


Postscript: Mike produces a regular blog of his experiences while attached to FS Surcouf, available on the RN website here.


Forthcoming TV programme covering RN and Army bomb & mine disposal


I have received this emailed announcement:


"Hi there,


Sorry to bother you.  


I work for the BBC in Scotland and have come across your website while doing some fact checking.  


I am working on a series for BBC Four called Britain on Film that looks at British life between 1959 and 1969 as filmed by the Rank Organisation.  In an episode about work we have a film called Rendered Safe from 1962.  It looks at the work of the RN and Army bomb disposal teams working in the country at the time.  There is a section that features Lt Charles Lawrence MBE.  From your website I understand that he has sadly passed away.  However, I wondered whether you are able to mention the film to his family who I am sure will get great pleasure from the footage.  He appears with a team on a beach diffusing (sic) a bomb.   


As yet we do not have a date for broadcast but I would anticipate sometime later in the year, possibly from May 2013.  The series is called Britain on Film and there are 10 episodes.  The episode that features the bomb disposal is called The World of Work.  It will broadcast on BBC Four probably around 8.00/8.30pm.  


If you require any other information then please don’t hesitate to contact me.  


Kind Regards,




Jenny MacLeod

The Review Show

BBC Scotland"


I have sent Jenny this response:


"Hello Jenny,


Thank you for your email which I have forwarded to Beverley Beech, the late Charles ‘Taff’ Lawrence’s eldest daughter.  I’m sure she will appreciate it.  


I will keep my eyes open for the programme and look forward to watching it.


Best wishes,


Rob Hoole"


See the entries for 7 Mar 06 and 18 Mar 06 in News Archive 13 for further background on Clearance Diving Officer Lt Charles Leslie 'Taff' Lawence MBE RN. 


From ex-CPO(CD1) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington:


"Dear Rob,


New Year Greetings to you and yours.


Just a note to ask you to let me know when the Taff Lawrence programme is on the box.  I only watch programmes with sub-titles normally.


In 1999, Bev told me that she fell in love at nine years old with no other than a 20-year-old Shiner in Malta in 1955.  A very rare event for me!!!






From ex-CPO(CD1) Len Smith:




Many thanks for your latest email.  I will make every effort to watch the series when it is screened later in the year.  I'm still in email contact with all three of Taff's daughters and have forwarded your message on to the two youngest.


I don't know where you find the time but you're doing a great job as Webmaster and everyone appreciates your efforts on their behalf.  So, please carry on the good work for as long as possible!


Take care and all the very best to you and yours.


Yours Aye,


Len Smith"  


8 Jan 13 - Disposal of torpedo pressure vessel in Kent


The Kent Online website contains this article describing the disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a torpedo compressed air flask on the beach at Dymchurch in Kent today.



7 Jan 13 - News from HMS Shoreham


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Mark Hammon RN, Commanding Officer of HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 7), for this update:


Lt Cdr Mark Hammon RN


"Seasons greetings.


I have the privilege to have taken Command of HMS SHOREHAM from Lt Cdr Toby Shaughnessy RN and consequently MCM1 Crew 7 have taken over from Crew 4 [By Webmaster: See entry for 10 Nov 12 in News Archive 40].  It is a great honour to be in Command of Your Ship and I hope we will do everything we can during our time to maintain her good name.  Toby has told me a lot about the strong links SHOREHAM has with her affiliates and how supportive you are of the Ship and everything that we do.


MCM 1 Crew 7 have come from HMS PENZANCE where we have spent the past 11 months since our last stint in the Gulf in HMS RAMSEY.  Those 11 months back in the UK have been very busy, seeing us conducting training, tasking and visits around Britain and more recently our regeneration and intensive training package ahead of flying back to the Gulf.  Unlike Crew 4 before us, we have flown out here as a group and taken over the Ship over the period of a week from them. 


We have a busy programme ahead of us over the next six months which will see us operating extensively in the Arabian Gulf, conducting minehunting operations, training and regional engagement with a number of the Gulf States.  We will also be involved in a number of multinational exercises to build on our interoperability with other navies, all of which will allow us to maintain ourselves and the Ship at a continual state of high readiness for contingent operations.


As we parachute in for a six month period I feel your link to SHOREHAM is, in a lot of ways, much stronger than ours, but I want to assure you we feel very strongly that SHOREHAM is now our Ship.  She will be our home as we operate out of our Forward Operating Base in Bahrain.  We have been handed the Ship in very good condition and I intend to do everything we can to leave her in at least as good condition.  I am also acutely aware that it is not easy for you as an affiliate to have your ship forward deployed to the Gulf and lose a lot of the physical contact that you will have previously enjoyed.  Additionally with Crews changing over every 6 months the continuity for you is very hard.  To try and help, I will endeavour to keep you regularly updated during Crew 7's time here and will encourage my relief to do the same.  If there is anything you would like or feel we could help with, please do not hesitate to ask me.


Finally, all of MCM1 Crew 7 would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.


Yours sincerely,


Mark Hammon"


HMS Shoreham shown last year leading USS Dextrous and USS Sentry through

the Strait of Hormuz with HMS Diamond providing escort

(RN website photo by PO(MTO) Chris Weissenborn RNZN)


6 Jan 13 - Ouvry plaque dedication at Milford on Sea


Yesterday, I was privileged to attend the dedication of a memorial plaque to Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN and his wife Lorna in All Saints Church at Milford on Sea on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire (see second entry for 20 Dec 12 in News Archive 40).  The installation of the plaque was the brainchild of John Ouvry's wartime bomb & mine disposal colleague, Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR.  Sadly, neither Noel nor his wife Brenda survived to see the results of their efforts.



Commander John Ouvry DSO RN

1896 - 1993

In commemoration of a brave and

gallant naval officer who

left behind a lasting legacy in

rendering safe mines and

explosive devices.

He and his wife Lorna were much

beloved members of this

church community.


Attendees included David and Geoffrey Ouvry (two of John Ouvry's four sons), his grand-daughter Jan (a recently retired Lt Cdr in the QARNNS) and other members of the Ouvry family as well as pillars of the local community.  I was especially pleased to see MCDOA member Chris Davies (coincidentally, one of my XOs when I commanded HMS Berkeley in the Gulf in 1988/9) and his wife Teresa.  Chris wore his uniform and represented the Royal Navy in general and the MCD Branch in particular with characteristic aplomb.


The dedication was performed by the Revd. Dominic Furness who confessed this was the first such ceremony he had conducted in his 30 years at the church. 


The Revd. Dominic Furness blesses the plaque


The short service included entertaining and informative valedictories by David and Jan Ouvry.  These were David's words:


"First of all, thank you, all of you, for coming today, on this rather special occasion.  


Thank you, too, to Revd Dominic Furness, the Church Wardens and the Parish Church Council of All Saints for your support during the 18 month journey that it has taken to have the plaque in place in your lovely church – and to Luke Puckett of Cornerstone Builders for putting it up!  


After the service, you will be very welcome to join us in the church hall for a buffet lunch prepared by Milford’s answer to Delia Smith, Diana Morley.  


So what is behind today?  


Some 20 years ago, on a bright, cold February day in 1993, All Saints was packed for a memorial service to 96 year-old Commander John Ouvry, a very well-known and much-loved local figure here in Milford.  Into his 90s, he was a familiar sight pedalling his bike round Milford.  His ashes were laid alongside those of his wife, Lorna, in this graveyard.  


It was no surprise that the Commander had a big obituary in the Lymington Times, but there were also obituaries in The Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Independent.  There was good reason!  


John Ouvry joined the Royal Navy at the age of 12 in 1908, and served as a midshipman and later sub-lieutenant in battleships throughout the First World War.  He was in three battles including Jutland in 1916, on HMS Tiger where he saw the battleships ahead and astern blow up and sink.  He witnessed the surrender of the German fleet at Scapa Flow.  


Between the two world wars, he was a torpedo officer specialising in mine warfare. For two years, he was seconded to the Royal Australian Navy, heading their torpedo school at Flinders Naval Depot, Victoria, and in 1928, married his English rose, Lorna, in Melbourne. – a very happy marriage of nearly 50 years.   


In September 1939, at the outset of World War Two, Lt Cdr Ouvry was head of the mining section of HMS Vernon, the Torpedo school in Portsmouth, with invaluable knowledge and experience in this very specialised field.


In September, October and into November of 1939, to quote Winston Churchill in his book ‘The Gathering Storm’, “a new and formidable danger threatened our life”.  Hundreds of ships went in and out of British ports, and our survival depended on them. But ships were now being sunk up and down the East coast.  One victim was the cruiser HMS Belfast, severely damaged and with her back broken in the Firth of Forth, to be recommissioned two years later.  Hitler had begun to deploy his secret weapon, suspected to be a new kind of magnetic mine.  Without a ‘specimen’ of this mine, we had no idea how to deal with it – we’d be unable to find a remedy.  


But then, on November 22nd, a German aircraft was observed dropping a large object attached to a parachute in the Thames Estuary at Shoeburyness, which would be exposed at low tide.  The Admiralty was alerted, and Ouvry and his team was despatched post haste to the site. At low tide, two torpedo-shaped objects were sighted, both suspected mines.  The team, with great caution, took a look at the first mine.  Then, whilst the others waited at a safe distance, Ouvry and CPO Baldwin walked the lonely walk across the mudflats to the sinister menace, and after a long, nerve-wracking time, during which Ouvry unscrewed and removed two primers, he was finally sure the mine was now ‘safe’.   As Churchill wrote “From this moment, the whole position was transformed.  Immediately, the knowledge derived from past research could be applied to devising practical measures for combating the characteristics of the mine”.  The threat to our nation could be tamed.


John Ouvry and all five of the little team were decorated at HMS Vernon by King George VI in December 1939 – the first naval ‘gongs’ awarded by the King in the war.  Lt Cdr Ouvry and Lt Cdr Lewis received the DSO.



When the George Cross was instituted in 1940, for the highest gallantry not in the face of the enemy, John Ouvry was given the opportunity to exchange his DSO for the George Cross, but with typical modesty, he declined.  He was quite contented with the honour he had earlier received from his King. 


John Ouvry trained and guided many others in rendering safe mines and other explosive devices.  No less than 12 George Crosses were awarded during the war, to those that followed – and his legacy continues to this day.  


One particular young man, who revered John Ouvry, and who himself made safe more than 200 mines during and after the war, was Lt Noel Cashford, MBE, RNVR.  Early in 2009, Noel, now 86 years old, out of the blue rang John Ouvry’s third son David, and asked why there was no memorial or plaque “for this great man”, and told him (that’s me) that we should do something about it.  


The immediate result was that a trio of Noel, David and the indefatigable Lt Cdr Rob Hoole, Vice Chairman of the MCDOA (Royal Navy Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officers’ Association) organised a commemoration for John Ouvry in November 2009, the 70th anniversary of his greatest deed, on board HMS Belfast – for him and those that followed.  John Ouvry’s mine is on display below decks.  At one point, Noel was on deck showing a mine to some school children and telling them a story of what it was like.  One of them put his hand up “Hey Mister, did you survive?!”  


Sadly, Noel died in January 2011.  But now, Noel, your wish is granted.  The plaque for Commander John Ouvry and his beloved wife Lorna is in place in All Saints, Milford on Sea, the church where they worshipped for many years.  


Quite a few of John and Lorna’s family are here today.  They had four sons. Robin, the eldest, as a young lad was pictured with a ‘safe’ mine that landed here in Milford.  Sadly, he can’t be with us today because of poor health.  Philip, the second son, followed his father into the Navy.  He couldn’t make it from France today, but his daughter Lt Cdr Janet Ouvry is here; together with her sister Christine and her family.  I’m number three, here with my wife Penny and one of our children, Adrian, and John and Lorna’s youngest son Geoff joins us from the Isle of Wight.  


So, to John and Lorna, we remember you with thanks and love, and to Commander John Ouvry, DSO, the legacy of you and your contemporaries lives on!


Thank you."


Left to right: Geoffrey Ouvry, David Ouvry, Jan Ouvry, Chis Davies

and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole)


The service was followed by a convivial reception in the Church Hall. 


4 Jan 13 - SDU1 assists in anti-terrorist operation


The 'This is Devon' website contains this article and the 'Heart Radio' website this article describing how members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) assisted the police in searching a property and removing some "potentially dangerous" suspect items during an anti-terrorist operation in Torquay yesterday.  The latter article includes a video showing the arrival of SDU1's bomb wagon.



3 Jan 13 - Our minehunters in the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the disposal of obsolescent plastic explosives on New Year’s Day by divers from HMS Atherstone (freshly manned by MCM2 Crew 1) while her gunners took part in a fiery night-time shoot to keep the skills of all aboard fully honed.  The article features MCDOA members Ben Vickery and Pete Davis, Atherstone's CO and XO respectively.



Left: PO(D) ‘Daz’ Carvell, AB(D)s Long and Barham and XO Lt Pete Davis with 'the bomb'

Right: HMS Atherstone's diving team detonates the obsolescent explosives


The Royal Navy website also contains this article and the Navy News website this article celebrating the permanent presence of four of our minehunters, plus a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ‘mother ship’ (currently RFA Cardigan Bay), in the Gulf for the past six years.  Both articles feature MCDOA member Martin Mackey (Commander of the Second MCM Squadron (MCM2)).


According to the articles, some 2,000 crew, 200 mine warfare battle staff, over 400 engineers (who provide support both alongside and aboard the mother ship) have passed through the force during the period.  Many personnel have deployed more than once and one sailor is apparently on his seventh tour of duty.


2 Jan 13 - 32 WWII shells detonated on Essex beach


The Daily Telegraph website contains this article describing the discovery of 32 examples of unexploded Second World War ordnance off Southend and their subsequent disposal on New Year's Day by a bomb disposal team from Colchester (presumably Army).  The article exposes some confusion in the reporter's mind as to whether the items were anti-aircraft shells or bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe.


In May last year, the BBC website published this article reporting the disposal of 23 anti-aircraft shells at the same location by "a bomb disposal team from Portsmouth", presumably Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).



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