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

30 Jun 13 - Death of ex-CPO(D) Bob Underwood


MCDOA past-Chairman David Sandiford, among others including ex-CD1s Brian 'Troy' Tempest, Martin 'Spike' Spears and Colin 'Foggy' Goff, has relayed this additional sad news:




It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that ex-CPO(D) Robert "Bob" Underwood sadly passed away unexpectedly but peacefully at home in Southsea earlier this week.  


His daughter Nicole will pass more information about funeral arrangements when available.


Nicole has expressed her wish that there be no flowers but that donations be made in Bob's name to the Vernon Monument Project, a cause which he held dear and of which he was a staunch and active supporter.


I served with Bob in NP1007 on board MV Seaforth Clansman around 1980 where he was, in all respects, a thoroughly good man to have on the team.  I met him again earlier this year and we were both looking forward to renewing an old friendship.  Sadly the fates have intervened.


Maintain Momentum,


Kind regards,


David Sandiford

Trustee, Head of Fundraising & Assistant Project Manager (1)

Vernon Monument

Mobile: 07967 810242

Registered Charity: 1128677"


I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our sincere condolences to Nicole and Bob's other surviving relatives, friends and former colleagues.


From ex-WOWEM(R) David Oliver:


"I cannot tell you how saddened I was when David Sandiford rang to tell me of Bob’s death.  He and I were great mates and served together with NP 1007 (MV Seaforth Clansman).  I was the 'greenie' looking after the CCTV and diving system electrics.


I had the honour to have Bob as my best man when I married Ann at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1984.  Ann and I, together with Corrine and Bob, shared many enjoyable and happy times at their home in Cosham and ours in Titchfield.  As things moved on, Bob and I somehow managed to lose contact over the years and it was via David Sandiford that Bob and I made e-mail contact again this year.  The plan was to meet up again.  Sadly this cannot now happen.


Bob was a fine man, a great companion and a good mate to be with.  Ann and I send our sincere condolences to Nicole.


David Oliver"


28 Jun 13 - Death of ex-CPO(CD1) Robert 'Jock' Adam


Former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM in Australia has relayed the following sad news:


"G'day Blokes,


At 2050 tonight I received a telephone call from Jenny Adam in Scunthorpe to say that Jock (Robert Muir Keir) Adam, ex-CPO CD1, died in hospital at 0818 this morning, 28 June 2013.


Jenny said that Bob had been unwell since the end of last year although the cause of death has yet to be fully established.  Jenny needed someone to pass the word to members of his old branch that Bob loved.  Although I knew that he was unwell from the last time that I phoned him, I had no idea that it was leading up to this.


Obviously I will contact Jenny in the next few days and try to get Bob's funeral arrangements, and will send them on...


Robert 'Bob' Adam, and his sense of humour when things got tough, will be sadly missed by me and all of those that knew him. 


Rest well good mate.


Dave (Mona) Lott"


We offer our sincere condolences to Jenny and Jock's other relatives, friends and former colleagues.  Does anyone have any stories or photos I could publish here?  I know that Jock was a CD1 on the Home Station CD Team with the late MCDOA member Bruce Mackay in the mid-1960s because he mentioned it after Bruce's death last October.


From ex-CD1 Colin 'Foggy' Goff:


"Hi Rob,


I only knew Jock by name.  Always sad to hear one of the branch moves on.  Sadly, it comes to us all in time.




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


"G'day Rob,


Many thanks for your very able assistance over this sad event, I am sure that Jenny and family will be extremely appreciative of your help.


I hope to contact Jenny by phone later tonight and will convey the gist of several emails that have arrived at this end conveying their sadness and shock.  


Len Fisher PO CD1, one of my old branch compatriots, shared with me his sadness of Bob Adam's passing and notified me of his own recent battle with cancer which has gone on for longer than the expected duration passed upon him by the UK doctors that were treating him.  Apparently he was told that he was informed that he was too old to receive extended treatment but French doctors took up the challenge and he has so far survived an extra year over the date stamp pronounced on him by the UK mob.


I also understand from Foggy Goff that Bob Underwood, a former member of the CD branch, also died during the week, although full details have yet to be released.


Anyway thanks again for your much appreciated help.


Dave (Mona) L"


27 Jun 13 - Project Vernon clothing now on sale


Project Vernon is the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.  It is supported by the MCDOA, the Minewarfare Association (MWA), the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD), the RN Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA) and the Ton Class Association (TCA).


Artist's impression of the Vernon monument in situ


Support and promote the campaign at the same time by buying and wearing one of the Vernon Monument polo shirts or hoodies for sale online here.  They are available in navy blue or maroon.

Project Vernon polo shirts and hoodies


These tee shirts will soon be available too, also in navy blue or maroon:


Project Vernon tee shirt (coming soon)


26 Jun 13 - Dates for the diary




Sun 21:  Combined Association Barbecue at Horsea Island.  1200 to 1730.  Sponsored by the MCDOA, the Minewarfare Association (MWA), the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD) and the RN Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA).  Open to all serving and ex-serving MWs and Divers and their families.  Live music by The Zodions plus raffle (bring along a prize), horseracing and other games.  £10 per head and £5 for children under 10 for food.  First drink free.  Proceeds in aid of Project Vernon.  Calling notice and booking form available for download here.


Thu 25: HMS Excellent Open Day: Come and support the Project Vernon stand.  Bring your cheque book.


Fri 26:   Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club annual lunch at Carver Barracks, Wimbish, Saffron Walden, Essex.  1230 for 1315.  Cost £20 per head.  All MCDOA members welcome.  Deadline for bookings Fri 19 July.  Calling notice and booking form available for download here.  


Fri 26: RN Divers’ Golf Championship at Botley Park Golf Club.  Starts at 0800.  Open to all serving and ex-serving officers and ratings of the diving branch with a number of places reserved for invited sponsors.  The competition will be played over 27 holes and will culminate in a barbeque and prize giving.  £55 per entrant which includes coffee and bacon rolls on arrival, green fees, lunch and evening barbeque.  £15 per guest for the barbecue only.  Application form available for download here.




Sun 29: VIP visit to Studio 434's private classic car and motorcycle collection.  Exclusive event in aid of Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to commemorate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.  Event at private Potters Bar venue will include guided tour and cordon-bleu luncheon.  See for details of this amazing location (normally the preserve of TV and movie makers).  Cost £75 per person with all profits going to Project Vernon.  Reserve your tickets here.




Fri 11 to Mon 14: Ton Class Association AGM & Reunion at Southport.  See TCA website for further details



Fri 22: MCDOA Operational updates, lunch and AGM at Fleet Diving Headquarters, Horsea Island.  1000 to 1500.  Details to follow.

Fri 22: MCDOA Annual Dinner in the Wardroom, HMS Excellent.  1930 for 2000.  The Guest of Honour will be Rear Admiral Peter Hudson CBE, Commander NATO Maritime Command and a former CO of HMS Cottesmore.  We have some illustrious leavers to dine out this year and the members of LMCDO '88A and '88B are planning a strong turnout to celebrate their 25th anniversary.  Note that WO(MW)s and WO(D)s are eligible to attend this function too.  Proceeds in aid of Project Vernon.  Details to follow.


Sat 23 - Sun 24: Historical Diving Society AGM and Conference at RNLI College, Poole.  See HDS website for further details.


More information on the Forthcoming Events page.


25 Jun 13 - HMS Penzance returns to sea as Britain's No.1 minehunter


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing the return to sea of HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 3) after her six-month revamp at Rosyth.  The article features MCDOA member Jim Byron DSC (MCM1) and AB(MW) Bradley Cotton.



HMS Penzance returning to sea

(RN website photos)


HMS Penzance is due to take over from HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Justin Hains) as the UK's contribution to Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean. 


23 Jun 13 - Arctic Star for Colin Churcher and the late Philip Balink-White


I am grateful to MCDOA member Lt Colin Churcher MBE RN for this update:


"Hello Rob,


Long time no see but I promise to make an effort to attend the Annual Dinner this year.


You probably know already from the Ton Class Association that I finally received the Arctic Star medal almost 70 years after the event and I thought it would be a bit of news for other MCDOA members.


Newly approved Arctic Star


I served as an Able Seaman in the destroyer HMS Myngs during the whole of 1944 and until the end of WW II in Europe in 1945.  We were based in Scapa Flow (no trees, no women!) and our main duty was to escort convoys to and from Murmansk.  In between the convoys, we escorted aircraft carriers to the Norwegian coast to carry out air strikes against the German battleship Tirpitz which was holed up in a Norwegian fjord.  The living conditions were intolerable and we lost a lot of ships and a lot of men.  We lived in the constant fear of "Will we be the next one?" but I'm still here.


Hope to see you soon,




Colin is the author of the autobiographical To Render Safe.  He was appointed an MBE in recognition of his disposal of a German GC ground mine in the West Warwick reservoir at Walthamstow in February 1970 while OIC of the Portsmouth & Medway Clearance Diving Team.  PO(CD) Barry Coulson was awarded the BEM for the same incident.



Coincidentally, Capt Linda Balink-White USN advises me that she has now received the Arctic Star intended for her late husband, MCDOA member Cdr Philip Balink-White MBE RN.  Poignantly, it arrived just 17 days after his death (see entry for 18 Jun 13).


22 Jun 13 - SDU1 deals with suspect vehicle-borne IED in Truro


The West Briton website contains this article, including photos and a video, describing a suspect IED dealt with by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) in Truro yesterday.


SDU1's CUTLASS remote-controlled vehicle being readied for deployment


21 Jun 13


One Navy, little and large


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the recent operational partnership in the Gulf of HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 1) and the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon in which MCDOA member Jason White is a PWO (see third entry for 25 May 13).  The article features AB(MW) Daniel Moseley.


HMS Ramsey with HMS Dragon beyond

(RN website photo)


HMS Blyth in Rouen


The Royal Navy's FaceBook page contains this entry describing last week's visit to Rouen by HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2 now commanded by MCDOA member Ash Spencer).  Her trip also involved MCDOA member Nick Stanley in his role as Defence & Naval Attaché, Paris.  He took passage in the ship from Le Havre to Rouen:


"HMS Blyth has completed a highly successful visit to Rouen to participate in the town’s maritime festival, ‘Rouen de Armada’.  A huge gathering of tall ships from around the world assemble in Rouen every five years to promote the values, benefits and relevance of maritime training in modern society.


Before arriving, HMS Blyth had a more sombre duty to perform, stopping briefly off the shore of Port en Bessin to the west of the mouth of the River Seine.  The ship sent a shore party to attend the commemorations of 47 Commando’s D-Day assault.  On the 7th June 1944, 47 Commando took the vital town which linked the American and British beach heads.  “Talking with the veterans was a sobering reminder of the sacrifices they made and how lucky we are today,” said Leading Diver Ashbridge.


MCDOA member Capt Nick Stanley RN, Defence & Naval Attaché Paris,

at 47 Cdo commemoration ceremony at Port en Bessin

(Royal Navy photo)


On completion of the memorial events the ship proceeded to Rouen making the 6.5 hour transit up the Seine River to the French city.  The Ship’s Company were kept extremely busy during the visit with Blyth open to visitors throughout her seven-day stay.  In all, 25,000 visitors were given capability demonstrations of the Ship’s mine hunting and diving equipment, upper deck weapons and damage control aids.


HMS Blyth alongside in Rouen

(Royal Navy photo)



HMS Blyth's ship open to visitors

(Royal Navy photos) 


The Armada itself had a fabulously relaxed carnival atmosphere with huge crowds of visitors attending every day (French police estimated 4-5 million in total).  On one evening 50,000 attended the nightly concert before even larger crowds gathered for the fireworks.


Fireworks over the tall ships in Rouen

(Royal Navy photo)


In a gesture of gratitude to Rouen, all the crews paraded en mass through the streets. 60,000 people watched and cheered from the pavements as Blyth’s crew marched for three hours through the town with 1,500 other Armada sailors.  “I really didn’t expect such ecstatic reactions, an incredible experience,” said S/Lt Tyler Smart, parade officer.


HMS Blyth's ship's company marching through Rouen

(Royal Navy photo)


Several VIP groups were hosted on board during Blyth’s time in Rouen, including the UK-French mine countermeasure project group.  The visit gave the project team an insight into the current capabilities of Royal Navy mine hunters and the technical challenges involved in developing future mine disposal systems."


There are many more photos of the visit on the RN's FaceBook page.


Postscript: On 26 June, the Royal Navy website published this article covering the same story.


20 Jun 13


HMS Ledbury visits Albania


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Portsmouth News website this article describing a recent three-day visit by HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6) to the Albanian port of Vlore.  The articles feature MCDOA member Justin Hains, Ledbury's Commanding Officer.


HMS Ledbury and ITS Crotone alongside in Vlore, Albania

(RN Website photo)


HMS Ledbury is currently assigned to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean with ITS Crotone of the Italian Navy and TGC Edincik of the Turkish Navy.


Recent RN EOD incidents 


The following articles describe recent incidents attended by RN EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams: 


Plymouth Herald 14 Jun 2013: VIDEO: Controlled explosion in Plymouth after suitcase found in bin outside Naval Base


"A CONTROLLED explosion was carried out on a metal box which was dumped in a bin outside the Devonport naval base.  Police, MOD bomb disposal experts and fire fighters were called to the scene on Saltash Road at around 12.55pm yesterday..." 


SDU1's CUTLASS remote-controlled vehicle dealing

with suspect IED outside HMS Drake


Island Echo 17 Jun 2013: Projectiles discovered at Osborne


"Royal Navy Bomb Disposal experts have this afternoon attended Osborne House in East Cowes after three artillery shells were discovered by members of staff, one of which is believed to date back to Victorian times..."


RN Bomb Disposal vehicle on the Isle of Wight


I am grateful to PO(D) Ken Smith of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) for providing these photos of the artillery shells:



Artillery shells found at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight


Daily Gazette 18 Jun 2013: Device made safe by bomb disposal team off Mersea Island


"BOMB disposal experts have been called to Mersea Island after reports of a tank shell being found off the island coast.  The Royal Navy team was called before 12pm today.  It is believed the shell dates back to World War Two..."


I am grateful to PO(D) Ken Smith of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) for providing this photo of the tank shell in situ:


Tank shell found at Mersea Island in Essex


19 Jun 13 - HMS Brocklesby to visit Torbay


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing a visit by HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 3) to Torbay on Friday 21 June for the start of a three-day regional engagement programme supporting the town’s Armed Forces Day events.


HMS Brocklesby

(RN website photo by PO(Phot) Sean Clee)


18 Jun 13 - Death of Cdr Philip Arthur Balink-White MBE RN


Captain Linda Balink-White USN, wife of MCDOA member Philip Balink-White (known as Phil White while serving in the RN), has called to inform me that her husband died in Pensacola, Florida on 5 June at the age of 92.  Phil White was Superintendent of Diving (SofD) at HMS Vernon for his final four years in the Royal Navy before leaving in 1970.  His illustrious naval career spanned 32 years and Linda has provided this biography:


Cdr Philip Balink-White MBE RN


Commander Balink-White was born on 25 September 1920 in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, England, the youngest son of Royal Navy man Thomas White and his wife Mabel Alice White.


Initially educated at St. Mary's Catholic School, Bognor, Philip followed the family tradition and eagerly joined the Royal Navy as a Seaman Torpedoman on his 18th birthday.  At the outbreak of World War II he was serving in HMS Royal Oak.  Six weeks later, on the night of Friday the 13th, he was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in the protected anchorage of Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, north of the Scottish mainland, with the loss of 833.  He was one of 370 fortunate survivors, having been in frigid waters for two hours before rescue.  Many years later he regularly corresponded with one of the U-boat crew, each respecting the other's professionalism.  Philip always carried a heavy heart for his lost shipmates, as well as his middle brother who died in an aviation accident during the war.  Six years of war followed, with service aboard HMS Aurora for the Norwegian campaign as well as seeking the battleship Bismarck.  There were also several Arctic convoys to Murmansk for which he received a Soviet medal from the Soviet Ambassador to New Zealand.  He also spent 18 months at the Naval Headquarters in Alexandria, Egypt making many sorties into the desert, sleeping under trucks and shaking out boots to rid them of scorpions.


In 1947, Philip was a Petty Officer on board HMS Vanguard which took the Royal Family to and from South Africa for the Royal tour. Prince Philip was one of Philip's instructors shortly before Philip became a Commissioned Boatswain.  On promotion to Lieutenant, he served in Mine Countermeasures vessels, qualifying as a Clearance Diver in underwater Bomb and Mine Disposal.  As a Lieutenant, he soon became OIC of the Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving team based in Malta.  His team of 12 disposed of 900 bombs and mines, mainly underwater in the Med area, in each of his three years there.  The underwater disposal in Benghazi of a 1,500 pound German acoustic-magnetic mine was a highlight.  The team was also involved in the 1956 invasion of the Suez Canal.  Philip was honored for his work by Queen Elizabeth II who appointed him a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).  Philip was Executive Officer of HMS Loch Ruthven, taking the ship on an 18-month deployment to the Persian Gulf. 


Having been educated to senior Royal Navy officer standards, Philip was the first former enlisted man to graduate from the Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich, England.  Following a tour of duty in the Ministry of Defence, London, he filled the prestigious post of Royal Navy Superintendent of Diving for four years.  The Royal Navy twice seconded Philip to the movie world.  He briefly appeared with Sir John Mills in "Above Us The Waves".  In "The Silent Enemy", he performed all the underwater diving shots for the star, British actor Laurence Harvey.  The movie was about a famed Royal Navy diver, Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE GM RNVR, who later apparently died under somewhat mysterious circumstances involving Russian ships visiting England.


Following his 32-year navy career, Philip became Manager of the Underwater Division of the Siebe Gorman engineering firm.  In 1973, he married Lieutenant Commander Linda Joan Balink-White (née Balink), US Navy and accompanied her around the world for the next 19 navy years.  In Rhode Island he was first the night manager of a motel and then lived on and managed the 56-acre Van Alen estate.  In Monterey, CA, he was First Officer of a modest Oceanographic Research ship.  In Hawaii, he appeared in 18 episodes of Hawaii Five-O, the pilot of Magnum P I and numerous TV and radio commercials.  In Portugal, he was a Professor of English at the Portuguese Naval Academy.  In Japan, he wrote on naval history for the base newspaper and also returned to television acting.  In New Zealand, he supported his wife in her duties and travels as US Defense and Naval Attaché.


Philip & Linda Balink-White


Upon retirement to Pensacola, Philip audited 25 full time classes at the University of West Florida, read for the then-PJC's TV SAP to help the visually impaired, had two articles published in the Royal Navy's Naval Review, one on his Royal Oak sinking experience and the other on his retirement activities.  He was the Royal Navy Sailing Association Local Honorary Officer; active in the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra Guild and the Navy League; a volunteer usher at the Saenger Theater for 19 years; an Honorary Member of the Northwest Florida WAVES Unit 52, having been a strong supporter of military women being allowed to achieve their maximum potential.  Philip dabbled with painting in oils and acrylic; was a licensed amateur radio (ham) operator; and enjoyed reading about history.  Earlier, he and Linda relaxed on their sailboat in the waters around Newport.


Philip was blessed with a wonderful, dry British sense of humor.  A masterful storyteller, he had enthusiasm and appreciation for every day. His kindness and loving nature allowed him to easily make friends worldwide.  He was a remarkable man, loved by all.  He brought sunshine wherever he went.  He will be terribly missed -- beyond words.


Survivors include his wife Captain Linda Joan Balink-White, USN (ret); his daughters Penelope Anne Bloxham (Peter) of Coombe Hill, Surrey, England and Jennifer Joan Harrison (Steve) of Cannes, France; grandsons Oliver Philip Bloxham, 28, of Wimbledon, London and James Philippe Harrison, 19, of Cannes; brother-in-law Bob Balink (Adele) of Colorado Springs, CO; sister-in-law Patricia Anne Balink Taylor (Ernie) of Simi Valley, CA.; niece Kathryn Balink Fernandez (Ron), Denver, CO; great-niece Mary Adele Fernandez, 4; great-nephew Mark Andrew Fernandez, 20 months; niece Heather Tyekiff (Richard), Ascot, Berkshire, England.


There was a brief memorial service at the Harper-Morris Chapel on Wednesday, 12 June, immediately followed by a short committal service at Barrancas National Cemetery.


Special thanks go to Dr. Knefely and his staff as well as to the Baptist Hospital and Covenant Hospice nurses and aides who all so tenderly looked after Philip.


"He fought the good fight."


Philip's hugely entertaining autobiographical story 'And so you think you are retired' is available in the website's Dit Box.  His dramatic first-hand account of the sinking of HMS Royal Oak at Scapa Flow is available on pages 411 to 416 of Vol 82 No 4 (Oct 1994) of the online Naval Review here.  On behalf of the MCDOA, I have expressed my heartfelt sympathy to Linda on the loss she and the rest of her family have suffered.  Phil White is yet another part of the rich minewarfare & diving heritage we intend celebrating with the Vernon Monument.


Cdr Philip Arthur Balink-White MBE RN

(25 Sep 1920 - 5 Jun 2013)


From Captain Linda Balink-White USN in the USA:


"Hi Rob,


So very many thanks for the story in the "Latest News" on Philip and all your well-added bits.  I even re-read his "retired" article again.   Lots of wonderful memories for which I am incredibly thankful.


I think there are possibly still many around who probably remember Philip or at least stories about him.  A few days ago I mailed you the handout we offered folks last week.  Hopefully you get it perhaps Saturday.  You might get a kick out of at least one of the photos therein.  You'll know which one I refer to!


Thanks again, Rob.


Linda (in showery Pensacola)" 


From MCDOA member Brian Braidwood:


"Dear Rob,


After I qualified as a CDO in November 1964 I joined HMS Bronington as First Lieutenant.  I regarded Phil White with some awe, not only as professional head of the branch I had just joined but even more because I knew he was the very first qualified Clearance Diver to become a Commander and the first to be SofD.


A few months after joining, I was on Bronington’s deck alongside in Vernon Creek when I saw SofD walking past.  On the spur of the moment I asked him, with some trepidation, if he would like to come on board for a drink.  I had asked my wife Sonia to come on board for supper that evening and she was already in the wardroom.  To my delight Phil accepted my invitation and stayed with us for about an hour.  He proved to be excellent and entertaining company, as everyone knows, and I have always treasured that visit as a happy memory of a senior and distinguished CDO.


When the article first appeared on the website, I printed off a copy of “… And so you think you are retired” and it has proved of great interest and amusement to lots of friends.  Everyone was taken by the advice from actor Spencer Tracy: “Learn your lines and don’t trip over the furniture!”


I can only end by saying how glad I was to have known Phil White and joining in sympathy to Linda on her loss.


Best wishes,




16 Jun 13 - RN Minewarfare Heritage: Cyril Banks


In June 1944, Cyril Banks was a Seaman AA Gunner on board the Algerine class minesweeper HMS Ready, commanded by the Senior Officer 8th Minesweeper Flotilla (8th MSF).  HMS Ready was among the earliest ships off the heavily-defended Normandy invasion beaches (specifically Gold Beach) and swept her first mine at 2300 on the night before D-Day.  Further details of Cyril's war service (which also included Arctic convoy duty although he has yet to receive his medal) are available here.


HMS Ready while assigned to the 18th MSF in 1943


Thanks to an unforeseen train of events, I had the privilege of greeting 88-year-old Cyril when he arrived at Portsmouth by ferry late yesterday after attending the most recent D-Day anniversary ceremonies in Normandy.  He stayed at my house overnight before completing his journey to his home in Hertfordshire by rail today.  During our time together, Cyril told me some fascinating stories and I was able to photograph him holding the Légion d'Honneur presented to him by the French Defence Attaché last November at the Royal Overseas League in London as described here.  To quote part of the article:


"...Cyril is an active member of the Not Forgotten Association and, since 2002, has helped raise about £16,000 for the charity.  He regularly collects at Stansted Airport, took part in a recent collection at London's Victoria Station which raised £6,000 and, while in his 80s, has abseiled and wing-walked to boost funds."



Cyril Banks with his Légion d'Honneur


Cyril abseiled down the 110-foot Harlow Water Tower as recently as last month to raise funds for the Not Forgotten Association (NFA) as described here.  He is a truly remarkable man and a living link with much of the rich minewarfare & diving heritage we intend celebrating with the Vernon Monument.  I am proud to have shared his company, albeit for such a short period.


88-year-old Cyril Banks with fellow NFA

abseiler Ann Milcoy on 4 May 2013


For a fuller description of minesweeping activity during the Normandy landings, see the entry for 26 May 04 in News Archive 6 and 'Operation Neptune: the Minesweeping Operation 5-6 June 1944' by David Verghese in the website's Dit Box.


Postscript: Sadly, Cyril crossed the bar on 6 May 2022.


15 Jun 13 - OBEs for Andy Elvin and Mark Savage


Hearty congratulations to MCDOA members Andy Elvin and Mark 'Doc' Savage on being appointed Officers of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Military Division of today's Queen's Birthday Honours.  The full list of Defence Honours & Awards can be viewed on the MoD website here.


A/Capt Andy Elvin OBE RN briefing IMCMEX 13 participants on board

USS Ponce in the Gulf last month

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen)


Cdr Mark Savage OBE RN, as CO of the Fleet Diving Squadron, accepting

the 2010 Naval Capability Trophy from CINCFLEET in July 2011

(RN website photo)


From MCDOA member Andy Elvin OBE:


"Hi Rob,


Many thanks.


The plan is to try and make it to the annual dinner and I hope to see you there.  The beers will be on me.




From MCDOA member Mark Savage OBE:




Many thanks for your message.  As always, it was good to hear from you.


By way of a personal update, I was pulled out of FDS early in Sep 11, after less than 18 months in command, to relieve Peter Greenwood (now outside and running a Letting Agency) as the Fleet Olympics lead planner, which morphed into Chief of Staff to the Maritime Component Commander for Op OLYMPICS at the Maritime Operations Centre, Northwood HQ.


My OBE was awarded for maritime support to the Olympics, both in London and at Weymouth.  Since then I have been recovering from surgery (hip resurfacing – old age!) following an over-active youth, supporting the G8 security, and am now leading on maritime support to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 for the Naval Service amongst other maritime support work.  (Martin Mackey, coincidentally, is the MoD tri-service lead for the Commonwealth Games)


As for the future, I am expecting to return to an MCD specialist post mid 2014, but there is a developing opportunity to work for a cross-Government organisation on secondment from the Navy, continuing in the maritime security sector – time will tell.


I trust you are well.  Hope to see you at the annual dinner.






14 Jun 13


News from HMS Grimsby


Lt Cdr Paul Ottewell RN, Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6), has issued this hauling-down newsletter dated 12 June 2013: 


"I write both to inform you that MCM1 Crew 6 is now at the end of its tenure in HMS Grimsby and to introduce my successor Lieutenant Commander Mark Hammon of Crew 7 [see entry for 12 Jun 13].


Since joining HMS Grimsby in September 2012 at the end of an extensive refit, Crew 6 has undertaken an extensive package of training and regeneration as well as provided support to various Naval Regional Commanders.  A recent participant in Exercise JOINT WARRIOR off the West coast of Scotland, HMS Grimsby spent the Spring operating extensively with both British and foreign navies before going on to complete Operational Sea Training last month.  The end result of this work-up programme is that Crew 6 is now at peak operational capability, ready to deploy on operations abroad and capable of finding and destroying enemy mines wherever we may be called upon to do so, and in the face of opposition if necessary.  We are ready to fight and win.


HMS Grimsby

(RN website photo)


I am very much looking forward to attending Armed Forces Day in Cleethorpes on 29 June and being part of the inauguration ceremony for the new Memorial Gate; this will be my last act as Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby.  A few days later, Crew 6 flies to the Arabian Gulf where HMS Ramsey will be our home for six months.  Later in July, Crew 7 will take over ownership of HMS Grimsby and will conduct training in home waters before deploying to the Mediterranean in the New Year.  I have no doubt that Mark will continue to nurture the very genuine relationship that has been built between HMS Grimsby and her affiliates.


If my successor or I can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to get in contact.


Yours sincerely,


Paul S. Ottewell"


We wish Paul and his ship's company a safe but enjoyable deployment in HMS Ramsey and every success in whatever the future holds for them.


Prince of Wales visits HMS Bangor


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing yesterday's visit by Prince Charles to the Clyde Naval Base at Faslane where he toured HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 4) and met members of the Northern Diving Group (NDG).



Above and below: The Prince of Wales visiting HMS Bangor at Faslane yesterday

(RN photos by LA(Phot) Will Haigh) 


13 Jun 13 - Al Nekrews receives his QGM from the Queen


Congratulations to MCDOA member Al Nekrews who was presented with his Queen's Gallantry Medal (QGM) by HM Queen Elizabeth II at an investiture held at Buckingham Palace today (see first entry for 22 Mar 13 in News Archive 41) as described in this article on the Royal Navy website.


Lt Cdr Al Nekrews QGM RN showing his new

medal outside Buckingham Palace today

(RN photo)


Besides wearing the Diving & EOD skill badge authorised for MCDOs and WO(D)s on his left sleeve (see entry for 21 Nov 06 in News Archive 16), Al appears to be wearing the newly-instituted Bomb Disposal badge for CPO(D)s and PO(Ds) on his right sleeve (see entry for 1 May 13).


Postscript: On 16 June 2013, the Portsmouth News published this article covering the same story.


From MCDOA member Al Nekrews QGM:




Many thanks for your kind congratulations.  I had a fantastic day at Buckingham Palace on Thursday with my wife Emma, my mother and my No 2, LD 'Waggy' Waghorn, and was absolutely delighted to receive my award from Her Majesty the Queen.  We were joined by family and friends after the Investiture for a celebratory meal and a great day was had by all.  MCDOA member Dave Hunkin OBE also joined us for drinks and, true to form, managed to escape before the bill arrived!


I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate MCDOA members Capt Andy Elvin and Cdr Mark Savage on being appointed Officers of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the recent Queen's Birthday Honours.  I trust they will have as exciting an Investiture day as I did.  It really is an amazing experience.


Kind regards,


Al Nekrews" 


12 Jun 13 - News from HMS Shoreham


Lt Cdr Mark Hammon RN, Commanding Officer of HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 7), has issued this hauling-down newsletter dated 1 June 2013:


"As HMS SHOREHAM passes the end of her first year away from the UK and MCM1 Crew 7 near the end of our time on board I can reflect on another busy period and update you on the valuable contribution your Ship continues to make in this operational theatre.


We have naturally spent the majority of our time at sea conducting a number of multinational exercises, training, national tasking and Wider Regional Engagement.  The exercises have included exercises with our coalition partners in the area, but more importantly with Gulf Cooperation Council navies, allowing us to develop our interoperability whilst developing their capability.  Most recently we undertook an exercise in Oman, led by the Royal Navy of Oman, ahead of conducting the International Mine Counter Measures Exercise based out of Bahrain.  The latter saw over 40 nations coming together to further develop procedures to be able to respond to a mining incident anywhere around the world.  This culminated for us in HMS SHOREHAM taking charge of a formation of 14 ships from 6 nations and manoeuvring them into a very close formation for a photo.


HMS Shoreham manoeuvring ahead of the French Tripartite class MCMV

FS Sagittaire and the US Avenger class MCMV USS Sentry during IMCMEX 13

(US Navy photo by Lt Cdr T. Scot Cregan USN)


Wider Regional Engagements has seen us visiting a number of countries in the area, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, but also seeing us venturing outside of the Arabian Gulf, to the Gulf of Oman and Muscat, Oman.  Our time in Abu Dhabi saw HMS SHOREHAM taking centre stage in one of the worlds largest Defence Sales Exhibitions, with us providing support to United Kingdom Trade and Industry as well as spreading the important word of what the Royal Navy does in the region.  Whilst there we were lucky enough to have the privilege of meeting Mr Robert Pooley, one of our affiliates as the owner of Pooley Swords.  Unknown to us he was at the exhibition for his own business reasons and we were very pleased that he took the time to come down to the waterfront one evening to see us.  I hope he enjoyed the opportunity to see HMS SHOREHAM as much as we enjoyed meeting him.


Outside of the exercises and WRE and when not alongside in Bahrain, conducting routine maintenance, we have been maintaining a presence at sea, contributing to maritime security and the freedom of navigation.  This core role of the Royal Navy, which it undertakes every day of the year, often goes unnoticed, but is essential in ensuring the commodities and energy supplies that we are so reliant upon at home are able to move freely around the world.


MCM1 Crew 7 are now into the last two weeks of our time on board.  It has been a very busy and successful period in which the Crew have worked hard, not only in maintaining the Ship and conducting our day-to-day business, but also in maintaining the very good name of HMS SHOREHAM, which I will be proud to hand over to our reliefs.  We are currently at sea conducting training and routine operations, whilst at the same time making our final preparations to hand over to the next crew.  MCM1 Crew 8, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Matt Moore Royal Navy, will take over from us mid-June at which point we will return to the UK to take over HMS GRIMSBY, but with very fond memories of our time in HMS SHOREHAM.  Lieutenant Commander Moore and his crew will be in touch in due course to introduce themselves.


Finally, I would like to thank you for your ongoing support and kind messages and whilst HMS SHOREHAM is not in the UK and freely available for you to visit, she remains very much your Ship and you should feel duly proud of the work she is doing and contribution she is making to operations on the Arabian Gulf.  It has been a great honour for me to have Commanded her.


Yours sincerely,


Mark Hammon"


We wish Mark and his ship's company a safe return to the UK and every success in whatever the future holds for them.


11 Jun 13


MCM1 Crew 6 personnel recognised with awards


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing last Monday's presentation of awards by Cdre Steve Garrett, Commodore Faslane Flotilla (COMFASFLOT), to members of MCM1 Crew 6, currently manning HMS Grimsby


PO(D) Andrew ‘Tex’ Marshall received the Armourers’ and Brasiers’ Annual Award for Excellence 2013 for his “simply exceptional” work in the role of Coxswain and Crew 6 Marine and Weapons Engineers received a Chief of Joint Operation’s Commendation for their tireless work in keeping HMS Ramsey working at full capability in tough environmental and operational conditions in the heat of the Gulf.


Cdre Garrett presenting PO(D) Tex Marshall with his award

(RN website photo)


Cdre Garratt presenting the engineers of MCM1 Crew 6 with their award

(RN website photo)


Congratulations to all recipients on their well-deserved awards.


HMS Bangor to visit Largs this weekend


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing a visit by HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 4) to North Ayrshire between 14 and 16 June to help celebrate the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Largs.


HMS Bangor

(RN website photo)


10 Jun 13 - Members of SDU1 visit BRNC Dartmouth


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) to Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) at Dartmouth to provide officers under training with an insight into the Royal Navy’s Mine Clearance Diving branch.  The article features MCDOA members Ross Balfour (OIC SDU1) and John Hunnibell.


Ross Balfour demonstrating EOD equipment to BRNC officers under training

(RN website photo)


8 Jun 13 - Memories of HMS Laleston in 1972


I am grateful to MCDOA member Alan Padwick OBE, Superintendent of Diving from 1983 to 1986, for this update:


"Dear Rob,


As a fellow ex-HMS Laleston man, you may be interested in this little piece about one of the highlights of the time when I was lucky enough to command her.  Geoff Goodwin was one of the officers.  In 1972 I took her to North Norway, visited Narvik, then moved on to Andenes on the northern tip of the Vesteralen island of Andoya.  Our mission was to present a brass plaque to the citizens of Bleik, a village nearby, and to help them commission a bell tower for the bell of SS Vandyck




SS Vandyck was a British troopship sunk off the village during the withdrawal from Narvik in 1940.  Villagers rescued and gave shelter to 165 British soldiers and seamen until the Germans turned up and marched them all the way to Bavaria as POWs.  An ex-POME, married to a local girl, and a man called Alv Rydland had asked for us and organised our reception.



I have just driven back there in the motorhome that replaced my narrow boat, via Eurotunnel, and northern Europe.  I did not manage to give them prior warning.  I simply stopped at the village shop and told the first person of a suitably senior age who I was and asked if anyone remebered us.  It was very pleasing to find lots of people did and Sarah and I were swiftly taken charge of, along with my scrap book and photos of the era, and taken to meet people who were involved. 



A coffee party ensued including Alv Rydland's widow Berit (standing next to me in the group photo).  I realised how much our 1972 visit had meant to them when she quoted anecdotes that I had told her about my family and the ship back in 1972, when she gave me lunch during our visit.  It was a moving interlude in our long journey.



We left the island by ferry, heading towards Tromso (from where this comes to you).  I could not resist a picture of these two side wall hovercraft, looking very business-like in Andenes harbour. 



Whatever became of all the effort some of our branch put in to developing hovercraft for our Navy?






HMS Laleston, nicknamed 'Lollipop', was HMS Vernon's deep diving training tender between 1967 and 1978.  Like Alan, I have fond memories of serving in her, some of which are recorded in the website's Dit Box.


7 Jun 13 - Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club Lunch


I am most grateful to Robin Bennett, Honorary Secretary of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated, for this kind invitation:




Attached is a proforma for our annual lunch which is at Carver Barracks (Wimbish, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 2YA) this year to fit in with a number of events including the disbandment of 49 Fd Sqn (EOD) RE and an Open Day at Carver Bks on the Saturday.  We would be delighted if any MCDOA members could join us, so if you could circulate this I would be most grateful.  


Many thanks,




Robin Bennett

Hon Secretary

Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers Club"


6 Jun 13 - RN Diving Heritage: The Dawn of the Longest Day


I thought it appropriate today, exactly 69 years after D-Day, to publish the following excerpt from pages 114-120 of The Frogmen - The Story of the Wartime Underwater Operators by T J Waldron and James Gleeson (Evans Brothers Ltd, London, November 1950):


The first men ashore on "D" day were frogmen; this time they were called Landing Craft Obstacle Clearance Units [LCOCUs pronounced Lock-yews].  There were a hundred and twenty of them and their object was to clear away the underwater obstructions and mines so that the assault craft could get on to the beach.


The frogmen who blasted a hole in the Nazis' Atlantic Wall, and enabled invasion craft to reach the Normandy beaches on "D" day were nearly all "hostilities only" men.  The men who led the units were Lt. R. E. Billington, D.S.C. and Bar, R.N.V.R., aged 28, of Purley; Lt. H. Hargreaves, D.S.C., aged 21, a cotton salesman from Burnley; Lt. J. B. Taylor, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., aged 22, a Middlesex bank clerk; Lt. W. Brewster, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., aged 28, an Edinburgh bank clerk; Capt. A. B. Jackson, Royal Marines, a Dumfries bank cashier; C.S.M., D. J. R. Morss, R.M., a carpenter's mate from Herne Hill; Lt. D. J. Cogger, M.C., R.M., an engineer­ing apprentice from Canterbury; Sgt. P. H. Jones, D.S.M., R.M., a carpenter from Bournemouth; Lt. D. J. Smith, R.M., an assistant engineer from Purley, and Sgt. K. Briggs, D.S.M., R.M., from Dorking.


Hargreaves, Billington, Taylor, Briggs and Jones received their decorations for the Normandy invasion operation.  Four others who were decorated were P.O. S. C. Eagles. D.S.M., a costing clerk from Manchester; P.O. F. Livingstone, D.S.M., a Hull carpenter; Cpl. E. Deans, D.S.M., a motor driver from Barrow-in-Furness, and Cpl. R. Headley, a Newcastle-on-Tyne apprentice engineer.  So there you have them - bank clerks, engineers, carpenters, clerks and students.  Some of them had previously served in midget submarines and the human torpedoes.  All of these bank clerks, engineers, carpenters, clerks and students acquitted themselves nobly on "D" day.


A long time before the invasion of Normandy it had become apparent to us that the much vaunted Western Wall of the enemy extended not only to the shores of Europe but beyond them, and into the sea.  This extension of the wall consisted of formidable obstacles laid right down to the low-water line in such a manner that they would soon be covered by a rising tide.  The most formidable of these obstacles was known as Element "C".  It was a two-and-a-half-ton mass of steel, constructed like a picket fence.  It was ten feet high by ten feet broad and on a base which measured ten feet by fourteen feet.  This had to be scientifically destroyed, because if it had been merely blown up carelessly it would still have been a formidable obstacle.  Thirty-six small charges were placed at different positions on the obstruction and when they were all exploded it fell to pieces, and no part of it was more than eighteen inches above the sea bottom.



There were metal objects standing some five feet high in the form of pyramids.  There were other steel obstacles known as "Hedgehogs" which looked like a six-pointed star.  Every one of these devices was festooned with mines or shells so that even the lightest touch of an invasion craft would have set them off.  In any case, even if the mine or shell had not exploded, the obstacles themselves would have ripped the bottom out of any craft which touched it, and rendered it useless, or even sunk it on the spot.  This then was the task of these frogmen, the task for which they had been training since the Landing Craft Obstacle Clearance Units had been started in January 1944 at H.M.S. Appledore in the little village of Appledore on the North Devon Coast.


In charge of the training units was Lt.Commander Davis, R.N.R., of Hereford, formerly of the Boom Defence Com­mandos from which the Locku Boys developed.  With him was Chief Petty Officer D. P. Reid, an Appledore man and former merchant service bos'n, who put every one of the men through their underwater swimming tests, and was responsible, in all, for about twenty thousand dives.


In their thin rubber diving suits fitted with helmets and breathing apparatus and with huge rubber fins attached to their feet, these men worked and trained steadily until they became experts in the art of swimming under water for long periods of time, in handling dangerous explosives, and preparing to meet any emergency - and deal with it.  Their moment came at H hour on "D" day when ten units (four Royal Navy and six Royal Marines) went into action and remained in action until the underwater defences had been cleared and the Allied armies established ashore.  They worked in the face of enemy shell and mortar fire.  They were sniped at and subjected to underwater blast from exploding shells and mines.  This is what Lt. H. Hargreaves, D.S.C., the cotton salesman from Manchester, said about it:


"The invasion of Normandy to the average person was the greatest combined operation that had ever taken place, and that in fact was the truth.  However, few people know of the work carried out by small, special units, both before the operation, and during the initial assaults.  We were one of the small units which had this particular role to play.  A role which was not easy, and from which many of us did not expect to return, but one which we were determined to carry out until our work was completed.  For the invasion of Normandy the Force Commanders used approximately a hundred and twenty officers and men of the Locku units divided into ten parties, or units.  Each unit had an officer and eleven men, and each was allotted to its own beach and had its own particular job to do.  In my case, and that of a brother officer, we found ourselves detailed to deal with the obstacles on a beach near the village of La Riviere.


"We were supposed to go in at H hour, which was the very beginning of the assault.  We were dropped into our craft from an L.S.I. at seven o'clock in the morning and went hell-for-leather for the beach, and arrived hoping to find the front row of obstacles on the water's edge, and not in the water, but discovered some two or three feet of water over them.  We left our craft and got to work at once on posts with mines secured to the tops of them, specially constructed wooden ramps which were mined, and steel hedgehogs with mines and anti-aircraft shells on top of them, and we were subjected the whole time to quite a hot fire from rockets, shells and bombs.


"We must have been about four hundred yards from the beach when the firing first started, and they didn't forget to inform us that they knew we were coming.  When we finally got on the beach we discovered that we were being systematically sniped, not only with rifles but also by odd bursts of machine-gun fire - a most unpleasant experience - but one that we soon got used to.  As time went on we almost forgot about it until we realised that opposition was dying down because in the meantime the Army had landed and was dealing with machine-gun posts, mortar posts, and all the other unpleasant places Jerry had prepared for us.


"The weather was very much worse than anyone would have expected in June, and we had the greatest difficulty working in a very heavy surf.  It was hard going and we soon got pretty tired, but in the meantime the obstacles were being slowly but systematically destroyed.  As we made an initial gap for the landing craft to come through, so we increased the size of the gap as time went on.  We succeeded in clearing the whole of the beach some thousand yards in length, with obstacles going out to over four hundred yards by the end of "D" day.


"That didn't end our work, of course, although the worst was over.  Landing craft of all shapes and sizes were simply pouring on to the beach, and in the meantime, having cleared that beach, we had to proceed to another beach and get rid of the obstacles there.  In all, we successfully disposed of over two thousand five hundred obstacles, practically every one mined, in addition to this, as a sort of savoury, we cleared the explosives out of half a dozen beetle tanks.


"Not long before 'D' day a special jacket had been invented to protect us against that terrible blast which can be experienced when a mine or shell explodes underwater.  This jacket was known as a 'Kapok Jacket' and was worn underneath our swim suits.  It proved to be a most wonderful thing, and saved the lives of no less than three of my men. One of my petty officers, who was working in about six feet of water, had a shell or mortar bomb explode in the water quite close to him, and although he was completely knocked out, and in fact paralysed for several hours, he had no injuries whatever, and no after effects.  A Royal Engineer who was swimming towards the beach from one of the landing craft, and was some distance farther away from the explosion than the petty officer, was killed outright, and I have no doubt that many men suffered the same fate on that day.


"I would like to make it quite clear that we don't in any way look upon ourselves as supermen, or heroes, or anything like that at all, and we did not by any means clear all the obstacles off the beaches in time for the landing craft to get in.  There were nowhere near enough of us to have hoped to do it.  What we could, and did do, was to clear an initial gap for the landing craft to beach safely, and to increase that gap as quickly as possible until the beach was entirely free from obstacles.


"Consequently many of the landing craft who didn't use the gap, because of the simple fact that there just wasn't room for them, struck obstacles, or had holes blown in them or their bottoms torn out, with the result that many men had to swim ashore with full equipment.


"When our original job had been completed we had to keep our reputation as 'Jack the Handyman' by doing many jobs to assist on the beaches, such as winching drowned vehicles out of the water.  We did this by taking a wire with a hook on the end, right out to sea in our swim suits and breathing sets, hook up the vehicle, come to the surface and signal to the operator ashore to start up his winch, which he did, and pulled the drowned vehicle up high and dry.  We helped to unload stores, we cleared mines, we assisted the Royal Engineers, in fact we did everything except mind the babies, and if there had been any there we would have done that too.


"Throughout the landings, in all ten units, the total casualties were two frogmen killed and ten wounded - some seriously.  Lt. Hargreaves was wounded in the shoulder, but carried on.  One of the coolest pieces of work was done by Sgt. K. Briggs, D.S.M., R.M., who, although he was being sniped at all the time, rendered a hundred charges safe, single-handed. 


On another beach at West Capelle was Sub-Lt. I. A. P. Rumsey, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., whose home is in Lisbon.  He said:


"We were spotted from a tower ashore and were subjected to pretty heavy mortar fire during which a petty officer was killed and two men were wounded.  Later the R.A.F. blotted out the tower and things were more comfortable although shells still kept coming over.  One shell destroyed our breathing apparatus, which we had not been using as the tide was low.  When the water came up later, Leading Seaman A. Robertson and myself tried staying underwater by holding our breath.  We blew about fifteen obstacles in this way, but we couldn't keep it up.  We carried on next morning, after sleeping in a R.A.F. crater, where incidentally we were subjected to fire from an 88mm gun.


"This party became short of food and an expedition went into the shattered town to forage.  "We found a chicken," said Lt. Rumsey, "which was very difficult to catch, and even more difficult to kill.  We also found some black bread and some German spam.  I don't know if it was because I was so hungry, but that spam tasted better than any we ever had at home." 


I was proud to be a friend of the Petty Officer who, thanks to his Kapok Jacket, survived the explosion in the water "quite close to him".  He eventually became staunch MCDOA founder member Lt Cdr Robbie Robinson MBE RN who suffered pain from his injuries right up to his death in March 2004.  He is the type of man the Vernon Monument will be celebrating and one of the reasons I am so passionate to see it erected.


Pathé News produced this post-war film about the LCOCUs: Naval Frogmen - LCOCU


For a description of minesweeping activity during the Normandy landings, see the entry for 26 May 04 in News Archive 6 and 'Operation Neptune: the Minesweeping Operation 5-6 June 1944' by David Verghese in the website's Dit Box.


4 Jun 13 - SDU2 detonates shell off Suffolk coast


I am grateful to PO(D) Ken Smith of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) for drawing my attention to this article on the East Anglian Daily Times website describing his disposal of a naval shell found off Southwold on Sunday.  Ken has also provided these photographs showing the shell as it was discovered and some of the bounty delivered by the detonation:



Naval shell as recovered off Southwold



PO(D) Ken Smith and AB(D) Joe Smith

of SDU2 with their 'catch'


Postscript: On 6 June, the Portsmouth News published this article covering the same story.


3 Jun 13 - Shameless plug for the Ton Class Association


Membership of the Ton Class Association (TCA) is open to all who served in Ton class MCMVs or their support ships and organisations, a requirement satisfied by a significant number of MCDOA members.  Naturally enough, TCA membership includes an automatic subscription to the colourful bi-monthly magazine for which I write the 'MCMV News' column (copies sent to each MCMV on the Bridge Card) plus the opportunity to attend lively national and regional reunions.


Sometimes, TCA membership can bestow some unexpected privileges.  The Association's patron is HRH the Prince of Wales and last month he invited TCA members to a reception at Clarence House.  Mrs Webmaster and I were among those who attended and I was able to renew an acquaintance that stretched back to BRNC Dartmouth in 1971 and involved me introducing the Prince to 'chip butties' on board HMS Bronington in 1976.  The Prince also wrote the Foreword for the TCA's Last of the Wooden Walls - An Illustrated History of the Ton Class Minesweepers and Minehunters, edited by Yours Truly.


Mr and Mrs Webmaster chatting with the Prince of Wales,

the TCA's Patron, at Clarence House last month


The TCA's President is Rear Admiral John Lippiett CB MBE who is also the Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust.  This happy state of affairs led to TCA members, including your humble Webmaster, being invited to attend a preview of the new Mary Rose Museum several days before the official opening. 


Impression of new Mary Rose Museum ready for unveiling


The TCA has contributed towards the construction of the new Mary Rose Museum, just as it has raised considerable sums for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.  Membership is only £10 per year and I commend it to you.  An application form and standing order authority can be downloaded here.


P.S. If members are growing weary of seeing Hoole's phizog and activities on this page, send me some of your own news and photos for publication.  You'd be surprised how much they would interest your fellow members.


2 Jun 13 - Project Vernon team at HMS Collingwood's Open Day


A team of volunteers took advantage of the fine weather at HMS Collingwood's Open Day yesterday to raise several hundred pounds towards Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.


Artist's impression of the Vernon monument in situ


The team arrived at HMS Collingwood before 0800 and set up shop in sunny but distinctly blustery conditions.  As usual, Dixie Dean had organised everything in meticulous detail and there were no hitches.  We even had staggered lunches arranged for us in the wardroom.



The Project Vernon stand ready to greet the throng


Once the gates were opened to the public, the team was kept busy until the crowds started ebbing away at around 1630.  Several hundred leaflets were distributed and we talked with many members of the MCD community including MCDOA member Kev Stockton and CDs on their basic course.  I was particularly delighted to meet a veteran of Second World War motor minesweepers and BYMS.



Left: Here they come!

Right: Ex-CD1s Tony Devitt and Dennis 'Taff' Brady selling Project Vernon merchandise


The end of a successful day: MCDOA committee member Martyn Holloway,

MWA Chairman Dixie Dean MBE, MCDOA Vice Chairman Rob Hoole, MCDOA

past-Chairman David Sandiford and AORNFCD member Dennis 'Taff' Brady

(AORNFCD member Tony Devitt had to depart earlier)


The polo shirts and hoodies with the newer, more representative logo proved popular (order yours online here) as did the opportunity to be photographed behind a lifesize cut-out of a standard diver.  Much interest was also shown in the forthcoming sale of miniature replicas of the Vernon monument, made possible by the sculptor's recent completion of the exquisitely detailed maquette that will be laser-scanned and scaled up to produce the almost twice-lifesize fourteen-ton stone and bronze structure.  Watch this space.


In the meantime, keep contributing what you can via the Project Vernon donations webpage here.  Don't forget to complete and submit the Gift Aid form which adds 25% to all eligible payments.


1 Jun 13 - New record for MCDOA website


During May 2013, the MCDOA website was accessed by 34,408 distinct host servers, the first time this statistic has exceeded 34,000.  Overall, internet surfers in 111 different countries and territories made 944,137 successful requests for pages, images and files (an average of 30,456 per day) and downloaded 33.47 gigabytes of data.


31 May 13 - MWA Southern Dit Session


Some members of the Minewarfare Association (MWA) helped welcome MCDO Cdr Max Muller RAN and WO MW Darren Chapman RAN at The Crown in Fareham last night.  Max and Darren have just begun the Advanced Minewarfare (AMW) Course based at the Maritime Warfare School (MWS), HMS Collingwood and will be visiting various NATO and RN minewarfare centres of excellence during the next six weeks.


Left to right: Darren Chapman, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole), Max Muller,

John Gunter, Paul 'Taff' Reader and Taff Crandon


30 May 13 - HMS Quorn discovers shipping hazards


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the detection by HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 8 commanded by MCDOA member Simon Kelly) of two rogue mooring buoys in the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf.


Uncharted buoy from HMS Quorn's forecastle

(RN website photo)


28 May 13 - Long Service & Good Conduct Medal awards, etc


Congratulations to PO(MW) Matt 'Jim' Bowen on being gazetted for the award of the LS & GC and to MCDOA member Steve Gobey's son, Lt Cdr Richard Gobey RNR, on being gazetted for the award of the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal.  The relevant page of the Supplement to the London Gazette can be viewed here.


27 May 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:




What a difference the sun makes!  Bank Holiday weekend was superbly sunny, though there was a chilly wind.  But it worked!  On Saturday we enticed 53 visitors through the doors, Sunday 59 and Monday ... wait for it ... 75 visitors!  Let's hope the 'summer' continues!




Ann attended a special day for the kids at the RNSM where they had prepared a short video and drawings based on their visits to various museums around Gosport and Portsmouth.  Amazingly, the main impact and inspiration for the kids turned out to be their Diving Museum visit!




This coming Sunday is the "Gosport Big Day Out".  We can expect a large number of visitors as we will be charging only £1 per visitor.




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.


26 May 13 - IMCMEX 13


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing the involvement of the RN Minewarfare Battle Staff in International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 (IMCMEX 13) in the Gulf.


The article features MCDOA member Neil Marriott, Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force (UKMCMFOR), as well as Portsmouth-based HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member Ben Vickery), HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 8 commanded by MCDOA member Simon Kelly), HMS Dragon (in which MCDOA member Jason White is a PWO) and RFA Cardigan Bay (in which the Minewarfare Battle Staff was embarked).


25 May 13


New leader for US Navy’s West Coast bomb disposal command


In international news, the San Diego Union Tribune website contains this article describing Thursday's appointment of Capt Robert A Baughman USN in Command of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1.


Isle of Wight call-out for SDU2


The Isle of Wight County Press website contains this article describing a call-out for Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) on Wednesday to deal with an anti-aircraft shell found in a garden.


A different perspective on IMCMEX 13


I am grateful to MCDOA member Jason White QGM, PWO (Principal Warfare Officer) in the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon, for this update:




Just so you don’t think it was all MCMVs in IMCMEX 13, HMS Dragon was there babysitting the hunters and escorting merchant vessels through the Strait of Hormuz.  I’ve attached some pictures of the ‘leadthrough’ (although not a leadthrough that any of us would recognise!) with ourselves and HMS Quorn. 



Above and below: Transiting the Strait of Hormuz



We spent the day with HMS Quorn, off and on, as her MMPU and it was good for [fellow MCDOA member] Si Kelly and me to catch-up on comms.  I believe they had an interesting night recovering exercise targets, nine in all, and the last proved to be rather a pain to find and recover (botched lay – not Quorn’s fault at all).


One of HMS Dragon's Lynx helicopters conducting rapid roping exercise with HMS Quorn


HMS Quorn with a US Navy Avenger class MCMV in the background


Cyclone class coastal patrol boat USS Firebolt with HMS Dragon in the background


Yours aye,



Lt Cdr Jason White QGM RN




24 May 13 - HMS Pembroke in Liverpool commemoration of Battle of the Atlantic


The Liverpool Echo website contains this article describing the arrival of HMS Pembroke and the German minehunter FGS Groemitz, among other ships, in Liverpool for this weekend's commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic (BOA 70).


HMS Pembroke approaching Liverpool for this weekend's BOA 70 commemoration

(Liverpool Echo website photo)


HMS Pembroke is berthed alongside the Merseyside Maritime Museum and FGS Groemitz is berthed at the corner of Canning Dock and The Strand.  Both ships will be open to the public from Saturday to Monday between 1100 and 1700 (last entry 1600).


The BBC has published this article covering the same story.


Postscript:  This was the scene when HMS Pembroke opened to visitors on Saturday:



Above and below: HMS Pembroke open to visitors during BOA 70 in Liverpool



23 May 13 - RFA Cardigan Bay during IMCMEX 13


The Navy News website contains this article describing some of the activities of the medical staff embarked in RFA Cardigan Bay during the two-week International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 (IMCMEX 13) which concludes in the Gulf on Friday.  The ship has been home to Dutch, Belgian, American, French and Japanese divers, plus patrol craft and a Royal Navy battle staff.  She has also provided supplies and fuel for the 30-plus ships involved in the exercise.


22 May 13 - IMCMEX 13 nearing its end


The Royal Navy website contains the following illustrated articles about the two-week International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 (IMCMEX 13) which concludes in the Gulf on Friday:


Japanese anti-mine experts join RFA Cardigan Bay


Japanese Navy MCM UUV operators operating from RFA Cardigan Bay

during IMCMEX 13

(RN website photo by PO(Phot) Wheelie A'barrow)


Mine forces show of strength as they unite in Gulf


14 of the 35 international warships participating in IMCMEX 13

(RN website photo by Mass Communications Specialist Daniel Gay USN)


The Navy News website contains this article covering the same story.


21 May 13


More about IMCMEX 13 in the Gulf


The Ministry of Defence website contains this article describing the pivotal role of the Royal Navy in IMCMEX 13, the world's largest mine countermeasures exercise.  The article features MCDOA member Neil Marriott, Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force (UKMCMFOR).  It also features the familiar figure of Cdr Yvo Jaenen Belgian Navy, the previous Commander of Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1).  Other personnel appear in the accompanying photos.



Left: OOW Sub Lt Martyn Harris, Ops Officer Lt Chris Ockleton and CO Lt Cdr Mark Hammon

on HMS Shoreham's bridge

Right: XO Lt Tim Castrinoyannakis with Lt Atapon Kamnoi of the Thai Navy

in HMS Shoreham's wardroom

(MoD website photos) 


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the support for MCM forces being provided by the 16,000 tonne Bay-class Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary) RFA Cardigan Bay during IMCMEX 13 in the Gulf.


RFA Cardigan Bay with Avenger Class MCMV USS Ardent alongside

(RN website photo)


42nd Anniversary Reunion of LMCDO '71


I was delighted to receive this update from MCDOA member Steve Gobey:


"Hi Rob,


Over the past weekend in Bath, we have enjoyed a memorable celebration of the 42nd anniversary of the commencement of our LMCDO course in May 1971.  It was a 100% turnout of all five of us and the main day on Saturday was spent cruising on my narrow boat 'Frobisher' on the Kennet & Avon Canal followed by a fine dinner at Woods Restaurant in Bath. 


LMCDO '71 members Norman Taylor, Chris Massie-Taylor OBE, Steve Gobey,

Hamish Loudon MBE and Julian Thomson


As our IOMCD [Instructor Officer Minewarfare & Clearance Diving] Albert Thompson lives not far away, I had invited him to join us a surprise guest for the cruise.  It was fun to watch the head-scratching and penny-droppings of the others!  Albert proved himself to be a valuable crew member, producing superb bacon butties in the galley and assisting us with the 'Stat Eval' [Statistical Evaluation as applied to minesweeping] of the pubs and beer quality en route!


LMCDO '71 members Chris Massie-Taylor OBE, Norman Taylor, Steve Gobey,

Julian Thomson and Hamish Loudon MBE plus their IOMCD Albert Thompson 


We had not met as a full course since 1981 when we had a 10th anniversary celebration in Weymouth/Portland so it was a very busy and fun-filled weekend of reminiscing and catching up.


Best Regards,




This is how the members of LMCDO '71 looked at the start of their course in May 1971:


LMCDO '71 Course Photo

(Mike Welford later qualified on LMCDO '72.  Both he and Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM

are domiciled in Australia)


From MCDOA member Mike Harwood (LMCDO '71's Course Officer):




Thanks for that.  Here is a photo of our reunion in 1981:


LMCDO '71 reunion at Portland in 1981: Julian Thomson, Steve Gobey, Norman

Taylor, Hamish Loudon MBE, Mike Harwood and Chris Massie-Taylor OBE




From former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM in Australia (LMCDO '71's Chief Instructor):




Many thanks for news of the 1971 LMCDO reunion.


It was reassuring to see that I am not the only one whose features have changed over the 'quickly-passed' 42 years.  I think that I could easily have passed by any one of them in the street without paying too much attention.  However, I will add that the longer I look at the photos, the easier it becomes to reconcile currently displayed features with those shown in the course photo from 1971.  It is also why I try to avoid bathroom mirrors.


Lovely to see that the class is still bonding tightly after the time lapse and long may it continue.  Funnily enough, I had just received an unrelated email from a then L/Sea CD and Second Dickie to that class.  He happened to state that he remembers both the class and the static shock that he got from the ungrounded hook from a casevac chopper removing one of John Dadd's injured CD3s' course who were sharing the large MFV with us. That L/Seaman went on to become SofD in the shape of Dave Hilton.


Anyway, thanks again and please keep up the great work on the website.


Dave L

(aka Mona, MOB1 and Eveready although I prefer Panasonic.)" 


From former FCPO(D) John Dadd BEM:


"Hi Rob,


It was a fun course both for my CD3s and for Mona's LMCDOs.  I have a few photographs taken during that time deep diving in Falmouth and will forward them to Mona.


One of the highlights of the trip was that it coincided with Mona's birthday and I well remember the PU that his class threw for him in The Grapes.


Take care,




From MCDOA member Mike Welford in Australia (starter on LMCDO '71, finisher on LMCDO '72):


"Thanks Rob, on the ball as ever....  


What a bunch of vibrant and fit young MCDOs.  Sorry not to be there but presently pressing olives for their oil! 


Trust you are all active divers still?  My last dive was off Montague Island (with the seals) and Niue (viz 50-100 meters) a thousand miles north of NZ. [See entry for 21 Dec 12 in News Archive 40]


Mike Welford (left) wearing a bulky BCD (or so he says) in December 2012


I have to say that my mentor (or nemesis) has been GSP [Graham Sharp Paul] and I understand he is getting Squeak [Garry] Kennedy and Russ Crane to dive again; two big splashes there?


Winter here so log fires, hot punch and Christmas in June.  Got my 50th at BRNC this year but a very full program (organised by Erica) so little flexibility to go on a narrow boat with the boys.


Keep fit.






20 May 13


Arrangements for the funeral of the late PO(D) Michael Sean Brady


I am grateful to WO(D) Steve Fitzjohn of the Fleet Diving Squadron for the following information:


The funeral service for the late PO(D) Mick Brady (see entry for 15 May 13) will take place at The Downs Crematorium, Bear Road, Brighton, BN2 3PL at 1200 on Thursday 23 May.  The family has extended an invitation to all attendees for a wake on completion at the Good Companions public house, 132 Dyke Road, Brighton, BN1 3TE.


A union flag will be provided by MWS Collingwood and a bugler will be provided by HM Royal Marines Band, Portsmouth.  Dress for officers and ratings is 1B with medals, negative swords.  Mourning bands are not to be worn by RN personnel but are optional for Army or RAF attendees.  Establishments will half-mast colours.


Floral tributes or wreaths are welcomed.  The family has requested any charity donations to be made to Macmillan Cancer Support, forwarded via: Ray Trafford, SE Skinner & Sons Funeral Directors, 145 Lewes Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 3LG.


The MCDOA will be making a donation in lieu of a floral tribute.


Team Hallin: Round GB Rowing Race 2013


MCDOA member David Hosking MBE has sent me this announcement (see entry for 4 Apr 13):


"Dear Friends & Supporters,


On Saturday 1st June 2013 I shall again be leading another Team Hallin challenge in an attempt to break another Rowing World Record.  We have entered the Round GB Rowing Race and we shall be racing six other crews in a non-stop, unsupported row around mainland GB trying to beat the current world record of just under 27 days.  Here is a photo of the Team and our boat, getting coaching advice from an Olympic Rowing Champion (guess who?)! [See entry for 11 Aug 12 in News Archive 39.]


Olympic Gold Medal winner Sophie Hosking with crew of Hallin Marine 2


I am very grateful to all those of you who supported my Atlantic World Record breaking row in 2011 [see second entry for 8 Feb 11 in News Archive 33] and I hope to be able to count on your continued support this year.  As well as trying to win this Race, we shall also try and raise £60,000 for our adopted charity Combat Stress.  Currently, Team Hallin have raised over 54% towards this massive target, so if you can assist us by any donation, no matter how small, we would be extremely grateful indeed.  To donate to this worthy cause please either:


Go to the Just Giving link on our website at


Make out a cheque to 'Combat Stress' and send it to me/Team Hallin at 15 Wilton Crescent, London, SW19 3QY.


If you want to see my Team Hallin crew and our new boat 'Hallin Marine 2' [and my daughter Sophie with her Olympic gold medal] then please come to the Combat Stress Press photo session at South Dock Marina [Rope Street, Plough Way, LONDON, SE16 7SZ at lunchtime on Thursday 30th May 2013.  If you are unable to see us that day then why not wave us goodbye from Tower Bridge at 0800AM on Saturday 1st JUNE 2013.


David's daughter, Olympic Gold Medal winner Sophie Hosking,

christening Hallin Marine 2


Thank you for your continued support and I hope to see some of you at the end of next week.






Cdr D B Hosking RN (Rtd)

Skipper Team Hallin/Hallin Marine 2


P.S. To track our progress around the coastline, please go to the Race website - a link to which is on our website at" 


N.B. The Founder and Chief Executive of David's sponsor, Hallin Marine, is MCDOA member John Giddens.


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:




A strange combination this weekend.  79 on Saturday including 20 ex-CD1s shown in staff photographer John 'JET' Towse's shot below!  Then 21 on Sunday.


Members of the Association of RN First Class Divers at the HDS Museum




On Sunday, the BBC's Antiques Road Trip spent about four hours filming and interviewing John Dadd for a forthcoming episode.  They were insistent that they only wanted one person involved.  So we just pulled faces from behind the camera!


BBC's Antiques Road Trip team interviewing former FCPO(D) John Dadd BEM

at the HDS Museum




John Dadd, ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson and Ann Bevan put up our new banner during the week.  The last one suffered during a gale.


New banner above the entrance to the HDS Museum




We have received a wonderful donation from Jason Palalas of a deck plate from HMS Challenger, the RN's last dedicated DSV (Diving Support Vessel).


Deck plate from the former SOV (Seabed Operations Vessel) HMS Challenger




Is a bank holiday, so come and enjoy the crack!




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.


RN and Dutch divers work together in Bahrain


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing the participation of Portsmouth-based Fleet Diving Unit 3 (FDU3) and their Dutch counterparts in International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 (IMCMEX 13) in Bahrain.  The articles feature MCDOA member Nathan Isaacs (OIC of FDU3) and PO(D) Gareth Buffrey.


Cdre Simon Ancona RN, UK Maritime Component Commander (UKMCC) and

Deputy Commander Combined Maritime Forces (DCCMF) in Bahrain with

members of FDU3 and Royal Netherlands Navy divers during IMCMEX 13


19 May 13 - AORNFCD 25th Anniversary Reunion


By all accounts, the Association of Royal Navy First Class Divers (AORNFCD) enjoyed a highly successful reunion this weekend.  An informal gathering took place at the Royal Maritime Club on Friday night.  Saturday morning saw a visit to the Historical Diving Society's museum at Stokes Bay (where comments included "I never realised there was so much there..."), the AGM in the afternoon and a formal dinner in the evening.  The proceeds of the weekend are destined for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which formerly stood on the site.


Your humble webmaster, along with fellow MCDOA founder David Sandiford and MCDOA member Jon Cox, attended the convivial dinner on Saturday night without his usual camera but Troy Tempest was kind enough to furnish this photo:


Left to right: David 'Jimmy' Bond, John Ling, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole),

Lawry Lawrence MBE and Mike Handford


Notable divers present at some time or other during the weekend included Vic Anderton, Bagsy Baker, David 'Jimmy' Bond, Donkey Bray (the younger), Albert Chapman, Chris Christie, John Cobb, Jon Cox, John Dadd BEM, Tony Devitt, Chris 'Paddy' Doonan, Mike Handford, Colin 'Scouse' Kidman QGM, Lawry Lawrence MBE, John Ling, Ted Mangion, Bill McGovern, Dusty Miller, Mick Openshaw, Bob Oulds QGM, David Sandiford, Les Sharpe, Stew 'George' Sissons, Brian 'Troy' Tempest, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson and Tug Wilson (the older) plus several wives and other guests.  As though being in the company of such icons wasn't enough, I was especially touched to be presented with an AORNFCD tie for services rendered to the CD Branch over the past few years.  Thanks fellows, it means a lot.


Troy Tempest has posted other photos of the weekend's activities here.


18 May 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 just received the donation of a KMB helmet fitted with an "Ultraflow" return-line breathing system.


Kirby Morgan Bandmask 'Ultraflow' helmet


This represents an important benchmark in the evolution of return line systems and complements the Krasberg helmet already in the collection.




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.


17 May 13 - HMS Pembroke in BOA 70 commemoration in Liverpool


Following the participation of HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2 commanded by MCDOA member Tim Davey) in last weekend's commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Atlantic (BOA 70) in London (see entry for 4 May 13), the Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the participation of HMS Pembroke (newly manned by MCM1 Crew 5) in next week's BOA 70 commemoration in Liverpool. 


HMS Pembroke

(RN website photo)


HMS Pembroke is planned to be open to visitors at Canning Half-Tide Dock between 1100 and 1600 on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (25 to 27 May). 


16 May 13 - More publicity for IMCMEX 13


The BBC website contains this article (including a video) and the ITV website contains this video, both of which focus on the participation of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member Ben Vickery) in International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX 13) in the Gulf. 


HMS Atherstone's bridge during minehunting in IMCMEX 13


HMS Atherstone's Operations Room during minehunting in IMCMEX 13


The videos include some good action sequences and interviews with MCDOA member Ben Vickery, HMS Atherstone's Commanding Officer. 


MCDOA member Lt Cdr Ben Vickery RN being interviewed for ITV News


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of UK naval forces in IMCMEX 13.  It includes this photo of MCDOA member Andy Elvin, Deputy Commander, Commander Task Force 52 (CTF 52), UK Mine Countermeasures briefing multinational forces on board the command ship USS Ponce (LPD 15) prior to the start of the exercise:


MCDOA member Capt Andy Elvin RN briefing IMCMEX 13 participants

on board USS Ponce

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen)


The Navy News website contains this article covering the same story.  It features PO(MW) Si Oldroyd and LS(MW) Chris Heron of HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 7).


IMCMEX 13 involves navies from more than 40 countries whose focus is to promote regional security through mine countermeasure operations in the US 5th Fleet area of responsibility.


15 May 13


Death of PO(D) Mick Brady


MCDOA member Graham 'Tug' Wilson MBE has sent me this sad news:


"Hey Rob,


Don't know whether you heard but PO(D) Mick Brady sadly passed away early yesterday morning after a hugely brave fight with illness.  Scouse Fleming posted the sad news on Facebook yesterday.  A huge loss to his family, his many friends and the diving branch as a whole.




CPO(D) Ian 'Scouse' Fleming and the rest of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) have paid their own tribute and I am sure that all other members of our community will join me in extending our heartfelt sympathy to Mick's family, friends and colleagues.


SDU2's tribute to the late PO(D) Mick Brady


IMCMEX 13 in the Gulf


The US Navy website contains these articles describing aspects of IMCMEX 13 (International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013), currently being conducted in the Gulf:


International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 Begins


PO(D) Grahame Sheppard and AB(D) J J Brown preparing a REMUS 100 autonomous

underwater vehicle (AUV) in the Gulf of Aden during IMCMEX 12 in September last year

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman)


Old, but Not Outdated: Mine Countermeasures


Aerial view of ships at Mina Salman in

Bahrain in preparation for IMCMEX 13

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Sandberg) 


13 May 13 - Royal Navy leads world's biggest minewarfare exercise


The Daily Telegraph has published this article describing how the UK is leading a fleet of 34 ships plus other units from 41 nations in an international naval show of force after Iranian threats to close the Gulf.  International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 13 (IMCMEX 13), led by Cdre Simon Ancona RN, will involve all four of the RN's minehunters based at Bahrain as part of Operation KIPION.


RN minehunters departing for IMCMEX 13 from their base at Mina Salman

in Bahrain


Simon Ancona has been selected for promotion to Rear Admiral and to be Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Military Strategy) with effect from 14 October 2013.  Older MCDOA members may remember his sibilant serpentine father Derek as Commander of the RNR's 10th MCM Squadron c.1979-81.  After leaving the Royal Navy, he served as Her Majesty's Chief Coastguard until 1996.


11 May 13 - RN Diving Heritage: Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team (FECDT) and Singapore



Last week, MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), received this request for information:


"Dear John Bevan,


I note that you are an associate member of the MCDOA and wonder if you can help me with some details of the British Navy divers in Singapore during the 1940s and 1950s.  I think the British Navy had Sembawang Naval Base in Singapore and that they certainly had a 'hard hat' diving operation and/or training school for divers.  The best people to ask would obviously be the old generation of British divers.


I am asking because the Singapore Navy now has a Navy Museum and I am trying to loan them a Siebe Gorman diving setup, i.e. SG pump with fully suited 6-bolt diver.  The Singapore Navy has no antique diving display and is unsure whether an old antique diving display will be suitable.  I told them that almost certainly the British Navy and/or HM Dockyards had a 'diving' presence in Singapore and I have been using Google to see if I could find any old diving photos showing a connection to Singapore.  Can you help?


Best Regards,


P K Chandran



John Bevan responded:


"Hello P K Chandran,


Thanks for your email.  I think the best person to answer your query will be Rob Hoole of the MCDOA, copied this email.


For my own information, I’d be most grateful for pictures of your SG pump and helmet with their serial numbers as I keep an index of all known items for research purposes.


Sorry about apparently not replying to your earlier letter!  Perhaps it was because I’m trying to avoid the temptation to fill my house with helmets!


Best wishes and good luck,




I canvassed the usual suspects and MCDOA member Mike Gillam kindly provided this response:


"Greetings PK,


Your query to John Bevan has been passed on to me, one of the older generation of naval divers, not of the ‘hard hat’ variety, but with a particular interest in Singapore. 


Shortly after the Clearance Diving Branch was formed, teams were sent out to the two major Fleets at that time, in the Mediterranean and the Far East.  The Far East team arrived in Hong Kong in 1951 and proceeded to carry out diving duties with the fleet throughout the region including diving training and the disposal of unexploded ordnance.


Throughout the next few years the team made regular visits to Singapore and Malaysia.  In 1954 it was reported that one of the divers suffered a fatal attack, believed to be by a shark, while diving for the police near Singapore Harbour to recover jettisoned packets of opium.*


In 1958 an additional team was sent to Singapore to deal with the disposal of unexploded ordnance in the area leaving the Hong Kong team to continue training and their duties with the fleet.  The navy had no ‘hard hat’ divers in Singapore at this time although there may have been civilian divers working in the naval dockyard. 


The Naval Base in Hong Kong was being wound down in the late 1950s and the Far East Clearance Diving Team moved to Singapore in early 1960 to set up The Fleet Diving Centre in HMS Terror at the Naval Base, Sembawang.  This accommodated a professional diving facility, a bomb and mine disposal team and a diving school for the Far East Fleet.  I took over as team leader in May 1960 and remember that one of our first tasks was to commission the diving tank that been sent down from Hong Kong and convert an old battle practice target to act as a platform for diving training.



Above and below: Fleet Diving Centre at HMS Terror,

Sembawang, Singapore in the 1960s



Short diving courses were provided for the Fleet and various other groups such as the Ghurkas and Malaysian Maritime Police Officers.


Bottle stowage at Fleet Diving Centre, HMS Terror


The main duties of the team were to search for and dispose of explosive ordnance, exercise mine countermeasures, exercise the Fleet and the civil authorities against attack by underwater swimmers and conduct underwater ship husbandry, diving training and general diving.  This involved clearing areas still shown as being mined in such places as Eastern Malaysia and the Andaman Islands; exercising the fleet against underwater attack off Pulau Tioman;  CMS underwater screw change wherever that was required; dealing with unexploded ordnance left over from the WWII; salvage; and the never ending task of recovering things that had been lost underwater. 


The largest task while I was there was the clearance of ammunition dumped in the Johore Strait just off Sarimbun at the North end of the island.  Various items of British, Japanese and US ordnance had been dumped in the centre of the strait including bombs, artillery shells, anti-personnel mines, mortar bombs and grenades.  It took the team seven months to search for and recover nearly 400 tons of rotting ordnance, nearly 30,000 items, some of which were too dangerous to move and had to be detonated on a deserted beach nearby.


The Far East Clearance Diving Team finally left Singapore in 1971.  If you have any further queries or would like me to elaborate on anything that I have said, please let me know.  I would be happy to help.


On a personal note, Singapore holds many happy memories for us.  My wife and I first met in Singapore in 1960 when she was working in the British High Commission and it was my first proper job ashore.  It was also where we made our first home together and where our first daughter was born.  We returned there in 1967 when I was Staff Operations Officer to the Inshore Flotilla and where, in 1969, our third daughter was born.  Happy days!




Mike Gillam"


* The clearance diver suffering a fatal shark attack in Singapore harbour was LS(D) Charles Brian Larkin, aged 21.  He was killed on 28 July 1954 and is buried in Kranji Military Cemetery.  As recorded here on the Veterans UK website, his name is included on the Armed Forces Memorial and the Roll of Honour at the National Memorial Arboretum.


The archives of the National Library, Singapore contain several articles about the FECDT in Singapore including this story in the Straits Times featuring LS(D) Geoffrey Clifford and MCDOA member Tony Lumbard.  I have also found old issues of the RN Diving Magazine a rich source of information about the team and its activities.  I believe the only users of standard (hard hat) diving dress in Singapore at the time worked for the Singapore Harbour Board.  One of them is mentioned in an article titled 'Salvage in Singapore', published in the Autumn 1960 (Vol 7 No 4) issue of the RN Diving magazine.  It describes FECDT divers assisting in the salvage of the capsized Singapore Harbour Board tug 'Pitho', 340 tons.


Does anyone have anything significant to add?


10 May 13 - HMS Ledbury finds historical sea mine on first day of deployment


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the detection by HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Justin Hains) of a Second World War German GC ground mine in Weymouth Bay.  HMS Ledbury is en route to join Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean.


SeaFox ROV CCTV image of wartime German mine

(RN website photo)


8 May 13


Four men in a boat


Your humble webmaster enjoyed yesterday's glorious weather helping MCDOA associate member Doug Barlow sail his Westerly Griffon 'Dougout' from her winter quarters at Thornham Marina in Chichester Harbour to her summer berth at HMS Excellent.  Fellow MCDOA member Martyn Holloway, our usual crew mate, was otherwise occupied.  Instead, we enjoyed the company of Doug's son-in-law David Barnard (a retired 'toothwright' Cdr) and Dean Molyneaux (a serving 'greenie' Captain RN).


Dougout's crew waiting for the sluice gate to be opened at Thornham Marina


The favourable wind and tide ensured a swift passage along the shore of Hayling Island, Eastney and Southsea to Portsmouth although there was more than enough time to open the bar and consume a leisurely lunch en route.



Left: David Barnard in the cockpit with Doug Barlow leaning over the coaming

Right: David Barnard with Dean Molyneaux at the helm 


We then had to flash up the engine to negotiate the gap into Portsmouth Harbour against a strong ebbing tide.


Following another yacht into Portsmouth


We arrived at the marina on Whale Island without incident and secured 'Dougout' in her summer berth, hopeful that the current weather bodes well for a better sailing season than last year.


Dougout being secured at HMS Excellent, ready for the new season


I saw several familiar faces at the Marina, one of which belonged to MCDOA member Rory Armstrong.  Rory is currently on PWO course and is pictured here with what he describes as 'a work in progress':


MCDOA member Rory Armstrong with his 'work in progress'


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:




A pretty good weekend with 46 visitors on Saturday, 32 on Sunday and 42 on Monday (including a visitor from HDS Poland).  TOTAL of 120 visitors.




Welcome Dusty who joined our Guides team on Monday!




Thanks to British Oxygen and [MCDOA associate member] Gavin Anthony (QinetiQ), we have received 14 gas cylinders for HMS Reclaim's diving bell.  John Dadd and Jim Thomson cracked the installation with the aid of scaffolding, and finished off on Monday by John Dadd, Dusty Miller, Roger Forster and Barry Stayte.



 HMS Reclaim's diving bell being restored to its former glory


Ex-Sat Diving CDs John Dadd BEM and Jim

'Tommo' Thomson with their handiwork




HMS Reclaim was commissioned on 1 June 1948 as the Royal Navy's deep diving and submarine rescue vessel and served until 25 October 1979 (see 'HMS Reclaim - A World Record-Breaker' in the website's Dit Box).  Here is her diving bell in its heyday:


HMS Reclaim's diving bell in its heyday


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.


7 May 13 - HMS Ledbury departs for Mediterranean deployment


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Portsmouth News this article, including a video, describing today's departure from Portsmouth of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Justin Hains) for a four-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).


HMS Ledbury leaving Portsmouth today

(RN website photo by LA(Phot) Vicki Benwell)


6 May 13


Warm welcome home for HMS Cattistock


The Portsmouth News website contains this article, including a video, describing yesterday's return to Portsmouth of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 2) from her three-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) after a brief stopover in Poole (see first entry for 2 May 13).


New departure time for HMS Ledbury


The Portsmouth News website contains this article announcing that HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Justin Hains) will now pass Portsmouth's Round Tower en route to her four-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) at approximately 1010 tomorrow (see second entry for 2 May 13).


Death of Rear Admiral Sir Morgan Charles Morgan-Giles DSO, OBE, GM


Today's Daily Telegraph contains this obituary describing the eventful life and career of Rear Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles who died on Saturday at the age of 98.


Admiral Morgan-Giles joined the Royal Navy in 1933 and qualified as a Torpedo Officer at HMS Vernon in 1939.  In 1941, he was sent to the Suez Canal where he was in charge of the campaign against German air-laid magnetic mines.  This included liaising with the RAF who flew Wellington bombers fitted with giant 'wedding ring' electro-magnetic mine sweeps at low level along the length of the canal.  He was awarded the George Medal for his work in rendering safe various enemy devices in the Suez Canal and received one of his four Mentions in Despatches for clearing the port of Bari in Italy.


A Wellington bomber fitted with 'wedding ring' magnetic minesweeping loop


Admiral Morgan-Giles was the Captain of HMS Vernon from March 1959 to January 1961.  He is shown here as the guest of honour at the Annual Divers' Dinner held in Kimbell's Corner House opposite the Theatre Royal in Commercial Road, Portsmouth in 1959:


Captain of HMS Vernon (later Rear Admiral) Morgan-Giles flanked by Cdr Bill

Shelford (the RN's first Superintendent of Diving) and Cdr John Carr OBE (SofD

at the time) at the Vernon Divers' Dinner at Kimbell's in Portsmouth in 1959


5 May 13 - Long Service & Good Conduct Medal awards


Congratulations to CPO(D) N. Smith on being gazetted for the award of the clasp to the LS & GC and to LS(MW) C. P. G. McGregor and LS(D) L. J. O’Sullivan on being gazetted for the award of the LS & GC.  The relevant page of the Supplement to the London Gazette can be viewed here.


4 May 13 - HMS Blyth to participate in Battle of Atlantic commemoration in London


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing a six-day visit to London by three warships, including HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2 commanded by MCDOA member Tim Davey), to participate in events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic (BOA 70).  HMS Blyth is expected to berth alongside the Royal Naval Reserve unit HMS President at St Katherine’s Dock at 1300 (approx) on Tuesday 7 May and depart at 1645 on Monday 13 May.


HMS Blyth returning to Faslane in December 2012 after a six-month deployment

in charge of Standing NATO MCM Group 2 in the Mediterranean

(RN website photo)


3 May 13 - Latest promotion signal


I am grateful to MCDOA member John Craig for informing me that fellow MCDOA members Alex Bush, John Herriman and Del McKnight have been selected for promotion to Commander according to yesterday's signal.


Also selected were non-MCDOA members:


Lt Cdr Phil Dennis MBE: Former CO of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 6) and HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 1)

Lt Cdr Des Donworth: Former CO of HMS Blyth and the now decommissioned HMS Walney (MCM1 Crew 1)

Lt Cdr Chris Nelson: Former CO of HMS Ledbury

Lt Cdr Tony Williams: Former CO of HMS Ledbury and HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 7)

Lt Cdr Steve Higham: Former CO of HMS Middleton and current CO of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 2)

Lt Cdr Paul Ottewell: Former CO of HMS Penzance and HMS Ramsey and current CO of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6)


Congratulations to all concerned.


2 May 13


HMS Cattistock returns from the Mediterranean


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the return to the UK of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 2) from a three-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  She will arrive in Poole tomorrow to renew her affiliation with the village of Cattistock and associated organisations before finally returning to her base at Portsmouth at 1600 on Sunday.


HMS Cattistock

(RN website photo)


The members of MCM2 Crew 2 have been deployed for 12 of the past 16 months, first in HMS Middleton in the Gulf and then in HMS Cattistock in the Mediterranean.


HMS Ledbury bound for the Mediterranean


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing next Tuesday's departure from Portsmouth of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6) for a four-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  The article features MCDOA member Justin Hains, HMS Ledbury's Commanding Officer.


HMS Ledbury

(RN website photo)


HMS Brocklesby returns from pre-deployment training


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing last week's return to Portsmouth of HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 4) after two months of pre-deployment training including participation in Exercise JOINT WARRIOR 13-1.  After a brief period of leave, her ship's company will deploy to the Gulf for six months in HMS Atherstone, currently manned by MCM2 Crew 1 under the Command of MCDOA member Ben Vickery.


HMS Brocklesby


1 May 13 - Bomb disposal badge authorised for RN EOD operators


Effective from today, Royal Navy Chief Petty Officers and Petty Officers who hold an 8B8, 0808/0801 or DEOC qualification are permitted to wear an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) trade badge similar to those worn by their Army and RAF counterparts (Official Ref: 2013DIN04-055).  CPOs will wear a gold version of the badge on No.1 Uniform/Mess Dress 6mm above the centre cuff button on the right arm and POs will wear it 36mm from the end of the sleeve. 


A red version of the badge is to be worn by all RN EOD operators on CS95 or MTP on the right upper arm or sewn on to the Velcro patch on MTP. 


This badge will not replace the current diving helmet or heraldic dolphin badge worn by Officers and Warrant Officers and there will be no change to the badges worn on No.4 or No.1 Uniform for Junior or Senior Rates.


The origin of RN ratings wearing a bomb disposal badge during and after the Second World War is described in the entry for 8 Jan 08 in News Archive 21.  According to MCDOA Hon Sec Richard 'Soapy' Watson, this information proved helpful in gaining the latest authorisation.



30 Apr 13 - HMS Middleton's divers in Gibraltar


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a week-long training deployment in Gibraltar for the diving team of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 3).  The five-strong team comprised Executive Officer Lt Sam Jane RN, LS(D) Duncan Watt and AB(D)s Dan Box, Tom Davies and Will Davis.


AB Will Davis taking details from AB Dan Box on a rainy day on the Rock

(RN website photo)


29 Apr 13 - Combined Association Barbecue at Horsea Island on 21 July


MCDOA Secretary Soapy Watson, the principal coordinator of this event, will be on leave on the original date of 15 June so he has postponed it until Sunday 21 July.  He points out that this is just before summer leave and HMS Excellent's Summer Ball is on 19 July so MCDOA members' wives and girlfriends should be around for the weekend.


This popular annual function is open to all past and present members of the RN MW & Diving branches and their guests.  The calling notice and booking form are available for download here or via the Forthcoming Events page.


28 Apr 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:




Another good weekend with 36 on Saturday and 44 on Sunday, not to mention 29 special visitors from the Friends of the Royal Navy Museum on the 25th.




We were delighted to receive Nobby Clark on Sunday who was an exchange RN diver on the SEALAB III Project in the USA with [MCDOA member] Cyril Lafferty.


Nobby Clarke with SEALAB exhibit




See below for documentary proof of spring flowers bravely reappearing at last!  Thanks to Margaret Marks for planting them in the first place!


Spring at the HDS Museum




Hopefully we should be in full swing this coming weekend.  Sadly, Ann and I are visiting HDS friends in Sweden over that weekend so please make sure we have a reasonable turnout of guides whilst we are away.




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.


Postscript: It is good to see that Nobby Clark has visited the SEALAB exhibit at the HDS Museum.  As a PO(D), he wrote these articles which appeared in Vol 15 No 2 and Vol 16 No 1 of the Royal Naval Diving Magazine:


Royal Alien Navy


San Diego



July 1968

On January 10th of this year, [MCDOA member] Lt Cyril Lafferty RN and I flew to Washington, D.C. to take part in the US Navy Project, SEALAB III.  We arrived at about 2200 and, within a few hours, had moved into apartments with our American counterparts.  I was made welcome with a glass of Bourbon and a hot sandwich, a combination I would learn to enjoy in time.

PO(CD1) Nobby Clark second left and Lt Cyril Lafferty RN far right

Within the month, we were joined by the other members of the Alien Navy, Lt Cdr L M Lafontaine RCN, Leading Seaman (CD) Bill Lukeman RCN and Lt Cdr Mike Shotter RAN.

When we arrived at the Experimental Unit in Washington, they were in the middle of a saturation dive to 600 feet in which they were carrying out various physiological studies and, after a couple of days to acquaint ourselves with the chamber and associated equipment, we joined the watch-bill.

We remained in Washington until late February, during which time two saturation runs were made; the first to 600 feet; the second with an excursion to 1,025 feet for thirteen minutes, which established a world record for depth.

The schedule for this dive was as follows :

0 - 600 feet -15 hours
600 feet - 27 hours
Excursion to 825 feet - 20 minutes
Return to 600 feet for three hours
600 - 825 feet - 5 1/2 hours
825 feet - 26 hours
Excursion to 1,025 feet -13 minutes
Return to 825 feet for 24 hours
825 feet to surface - 8 1/2 days.

The decompression routine was as follows:

825 - 795 feet at 1 ft./min
795 - surface at 4 ft./hour with 2 hour stops at 750, 600, 450 and 300 feet; and 4 hour stops at 150, 100 and 50 feet.

The dive was a complete success and the divers Lugo and Risk carried out their assigned tasks confidently.

On 25th February, the Alien Navy moved to the Underwater Swimmers School at Key West in Florida for an acquaintance course with the United States Navy's Mk Six Mixed Gas Diving Gear.  Whilst at Key West, we met up with Lt Cdr James Majendie RN who was on course at the school.  He was down from his Explosive Ordnance Demolition job at Indian Head, Maryland which is near Washington, D.C.  The Americans are PT fanatics and I actually saw him on the PT field (once or twice).

The Royal Alien Navy at UW Swim School, Key West, Florida
(Left to right: PO(CD1) Nobby Clark, Lt Cyril Lafferty RN, Lt Cdr Shotter RAN,
Lt Cdr Mike Lafontaine RCN and (sitting) LS(CD) Bill Lukeman RCN)

We spent three weeks at the Underwater Swimmers School and it was a pleasant change from the freezing temperatures of Washington; the visit being marred by Lt Cdr Shotter being involved in an automobile accident resulting in his removal from the project.  He is up and about at this moment, working with the Australian Naval Attaché in Washington and doing well.  We wish him all the best for his future and hope to see him again soon.

On our return to Washington, we had a week before Lt Lafferty and I started our saturation dive during which we had our pre-dive Medicals and took our base-line tests for the studies and tests we were to make on the dive.

Our dive started on Wednesday, 20th March, reaching 600 feet early Thursday morning.  After spending twelve hours at depth, we made the excursion to 750 feet for one hour.  We left 600 feet on Friday evening and reached surface at 0730 on Friday, 29th March.  Unfortunately, I earned myself a further 18 hours in the chamber because of a slight disagreement with my knee.

The weekend was spent saying farewell to friends in Washington prior to moving to San Diego on Tuesday, 2nd April.

Since arriving here we have been joined by Lt R R Sutton RAN who takes Lt Cdr Shotter's place.  He had a pierhead jump on completion of his MCDO conversion course and arrived in Washington in time to participate in the last saturation dive with the Canadian complement of the Alien Navy.

We have spent a lot of time training in the equipment to be used during the SEALAB experiment.  The training is broken into three phases:

Phase I at San Diego with aquanaut equipment, and carried on till the end of July.

Phase lI at San Francisco during August on the Habitat, Decompression Chamber Transfer Chamber and Support Ship.

Phase III at Long Beach during September on procedures, working up to a shallow water dress rehearsal with all systems.

At the time of writing this, we have just completed a month's training of the civilian participants, in which Lt Lafferty and I were actively engaged on the training side, Lt Lafferty being Assistant Training Officer.

The teams have been tentatively chosen, and Lt Lafferty has got the job of Team Leader for Number Four Team.  With him is Lt Sutton.  Lt Cdr Lafontaine is on Team Number Five and Bill Lukeman and I are on the list of alternates.

Our normal daily routine usually goes like this:

0700 - Muster
0710 - P.T. and Run
0815 - Prepare gear for dive
0900 -1400 - Diving
1430 - Lecture
1600 - Secure.

The PT, of course, is the hardest to get used to.  It hurt when we started; it still hurts now, but it doesn't take one so long to recover.

We have been lucky enough to have our families join us over here, and each weekend, I don my tourist hat and take a look at someplace one normally would only expect to read about: Disneyland, which has a lot to offer and not only for the kids; Marineland with its trained dolphins, whales and seals; then the inexpensive trip up into the mountains or to the desert; all within an hour's drive from San Diego.

We had a pleasant surprise in June when SofD visited us with four British industrialists, amongst whom was the familiar figure of [the late MCDOA member] Harry Wardle, who was looking very prosperous.  Unfortunately, the visit had to be short and sweet.  Earlier, during mid-May, HMS Fife paid a visit to San Diego and I just happened to find myself aboard at the 'right time' and was made very welcome by a most sociable POs' mess.  Amongst them, who should I find but Vic Humphrey.  I can assure you a pleasant couple of days were spent 'discussing diving' (hic).  Vic hopes to be returning to the United Kingdom around Christmas via the States and we hope to meet up in San Francisco later this year.

Lt Lafferty and I send our regards to all, especially those in 'Jannerland', from whom we departed with such a hangover; or something.

Yours Aye,



Royal Alien Navy - conclusion

San Diego
April 1970

In the year that has passed since my last article, much water has passed under the bridge and many changes have taken place within our organization.

The Alien Navy is gradually being dissolved.

Lt Sutton returned to Australia last month, March 3rd.  He was going back to the Diving School in Sydney as Executive Officer.

Major Lafontaine and Bill Lukeman are returning to Canada in mid-June, to a very good and important job, according to the latest 'buzz' from Canada.

Lt Cdr Lafferty and I are tentatively scheduled to return early August, with hopes of a job somewhere?! (Any buzzes welcome!) 

So our 'nine-month' visit is coming to an end.  It is a pity that we will be unable to see the conclusion of a project that has called for a lot of hard work and effort by all hands concerned, but we of the Alien Navy wish for them a successful conclusion, eventually.

At the time of writing, the Mk 2 Mod 0 Deep Diving System (DDS) is up at Hunter's Pt Naval Shipyard in San Francisco undergoing a refit, with the IX.501, where she has been since mid-October of last year.  The refit and modification should be completed by the end of July and ready for its Operational Evaluation by October/November this year. 

In review, the past year has been relatively quiet but we have all been kept busy with the usual mountains of paper work. 

Major Lafontaine took over as Executive Officer of the unit about May of last year. 

Lt Cdr Lafferty is the Training and Operations Officer and as such has had to produce the training curriculums and procedures for all the Mixed Gas diving rigs we use, and the Mk 2 Mod 0 DDS.  The unit has been tasked with the training of all divers for the U.S. Navy's new Submarine Rescue Ships (ASR), two at present being built, that will have the DDS in them.

Lt Sutton went with the Elk River (IX501) up to San Francisco last year where he remained until his return to Australia.

Bill Lukeman and I have looked after the practical diving training for our own personnel as well as the weekly diving practices. 

Bill is at present running the first of the ASR divers' Mixed Gas courses whilst I spend my time between San Francisco with the DDDS and San Diego, updating and writing the Operational and Emergency Procedures for the System. 

We have also had an administrative change.  We are no longer under control of the Deep Submergence Systems Project Office in Washington, D.C., but have been integrated with the submarine Development Group as the Diving Division, under their command.  We will still be doing the same job, and at the moment it has only affected the administrative department.

We had a very welcome visit late last year by Lt Cdr Honour, Lt Cobby, Ginger Andrews, Bob Fraser and Tug Wilson and members of the AEDT who were over here working with the Mk 1 DDS; a 'portable' system which is working out of Port Hueneme (pronounced 'Yneme') about 200 miles north of San Diego (just a short three-hour drive by Freeway).

We managed a very good 'social' visit up there from San Diego prior to their return to U.K.  They certainly had Heuneme organised!  They also made a very good impression on the Mk 1 personnel, who have all asked to be remembered to their 'British Guests', including the fisherman aboard the USNS Gear!

On my return from San Francisco earlier this month I spent three days with the Mk 1 DDS, who are presently involved with an Operational Evaluation on the new Mk 2 Semi-Closed UBA, known as the 'Abalone' rig because it is entirely enclosed by the diver's back and an outer shell.  Everything was going very well.  Whilst I was there they carried out four dives to 180 feet for 60 minutes with a decompression of about seven hours, with no problems.  They have since completed a 300 foot saturation and are at the moment decompressing from a 650 feet saturation, during which the two divers had an excursion dive to 690 feet for two hours and then a three-hours dive the following day.  The sea temperature was about 48° F but the hot water suit heating system they are using gave them adequate protection, and their reports state that they were very comfortable during both dives.  Let's hope their success continues throughout the Operational Evaluation, and that the Mk 2 is accepted, as it is indeed a comfortable rig to use.

The US Navy has come up with a new Decompression Schedule for saturation diving, which they have had great success with so far on the saturation dives with which it has been used. It gives stops based on time rather than depth, as follows:

0600 - 1400 Ascent
1400 - 1600 Stop
1600 - 2400 Ascent
2400 - 0600 Stop

with the following rates of ascents:

Depth Range / Rate of Ascent

600 to 200 ft. / 10 min./ft. or 6ft. per hour
200 to 100 ft. / 12 min./ft. or 5ft. per hour
100 to 50ft. / 15 min./ft. or 4ft. per hour
50ft to surface / 20 min./ft. or 3ft. per hour

The total decompression time works out approximately the same as the Decompression Schedule used on our saturation dive which I described in an earlier article.  The idea being that divers should only sleep during the periods whilst they are held at the appropriate depth during a stop, and as already stated they have had great success so far.

If perchance you should bump into a familiar face later this year, around the Portsmouth area, dressed like something out of a 'Western' movie and speaking with a strange accent, bear with him, as I will most probably have just started my repatriation course in preparation for returning to the 'fold'.

Regards to all from a dissolving Alien Navy.  Lt Cdr Lafferty and I are looking forward to seeing 'you all' this summer.

Yours Aye,


26 Apr 13 - SDU1 deals with grenade near Slapton Sands


The Kingsbridge & Salcombe Gazette website contains this article describing the disposal by Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a hand grenade found on a farm at East Allington in Devon.  The farm is in an area used for training prior to D-Day and adjacent to Slapton Sands where more than 600 US soldiers died in the Battle of Lyme Bay during Exercise TIGER, a rehearsal for the Normandy landings.


25 Apr 13 - Special Offer



MCDOA member Colin Churcher MBE's autobiographical To Render Safe (list price £12) is available for £4 if ordered from Maritime Books before 1300 on Friday 3 May.  Colin was appointed an MBE for rendering safe a German GC ground mine in the West Warwick reservoir at Walthamstow in February 1970.


22 Apr 13 - Kudos for Southern Diving Group


The Royal Navy website has published these articles:


Royal Naval Divers' Olympic Award: MCDOA member Ross Balfour, Officer-in-Charge of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), was recently presented with the Maritime Component Commander’s Commendation by Capt Phil Milburn RN, the new Captain Mine Warfare and Patrol Vessels, Diving and Fishery Protection (Capt MFP), for his leadership in ensuring on-water security during the Olympic sailing regatta at Portland, Weymouth.  Additionally, Southern Diving Group (SDG) was presented with the Fleet Diving Effectiveness Trophy for ensuring the safety and success of the 2012 Olympic Games through the provision of diving and maritime bomb disposal operators in both Portland (SDU1) and London (SDU2) for the entire Olympic period.


Captain MFP presenting Ross Balfour with his commendation

(RN website photo)


Members of Southern Diving Group outside SDU1's HQ at Devonport

(RN website photo)


Royal Navy Divers Operational Display: During Capt MFP's visit, SDU1 demonstrated the remote-controlled six-wheeled bomb disposal vehicle CUTLASS. 


CUTLASS bomb disposal vehicle

(RN website photo)


Congratulations to all concerned.


21 Apr 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:




Exactly 100 visitors over Sat (49) & Sun (51)!  So it's picking up again, thanks to the novelty of sunshine appearing!  We were also visited by Sue Deane (yes - Deane!).  Also Mrs Alex Campbell, whose father (CPO Peter Sothcott) died while diving in Portsmouth Dockyard in 1961.


[By Webmaster: Peter Charles Sothcott was a Shipwright First Class serving at HMS Vernon who died while examining the hull of the Type 12 frigate HMS Londonderry in Portsmouth Harbour on 3 March 1961.  He was 34 years old, married, with two children.  He is buried in the RN Cemetery at Haslar and his name is on the Armed Forces Memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire.]




For those who haven't been along recently, here are images of two newer exhibits:







We were lucky to receive Robert McCann (ex-RE diver) on Sunday who donated an RN Manual on the RN comms set (BR 155 C(8)) amongst other things.




A 9-lb eagle owl appeared outside.  The owner was taking it for a walk. It eats mice and rats, but did you know that it's illegal to feed them live mice or rats?  They'd probably shoot the owl if you did!





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.


20 Apr 13


Funeral arrangements for John Terry FCSD


I have been advised that the funeral of John Terry, who passed away last weekend (see entry for 15 Apr 13), will take place at 1130 on Tuesday 30 April at Portchester Crematorium.  No flowers, thank you, but all are welcome to attend.


Death of Kathy Forsey


I have received the following sad news from MCDOA member Dave Forsey MBE:




After a long and painful fight against cancer, my wife Kathy passed away peacefully in the Rainbow Room at the local West Berkshire Community Hospital on Sunday 14th April.  It has been a particularly painful year because our eldest son Peter died in January.


Those who knew Kathy will know how she was always full of fun and laughter and forever an enthusiastic supporter of all things CD.  Those in the Faslane Team in the early 1970s may recall how, after all-night screw changes, it was "back to the Boss's house for breakfast" and, at any slow party, she loved the opportunity to tease with the "Diver who went to Heaven" joke.  She will be sorely missed by me, our daughter Catherine, son Paul and our nine grandchildren.


Her funeral service will be held at 1130 on Friday 26th April at St Michael & All Angels Church in Enborne and will be conducted by the Reverend Rachel Lewis.  The service will be followed by natural burial at Acorn Ridge and all are then welcome at The Craven Arms in Enborne for refreshments.  Family flowers only but donations in her memory may be made to the Newbury & District Cancer Care Trust (NDCCT) and the Friends of the Charles Clore Unit, c/o Camp Hopson Funeral Directors, 90 West Street, Newbury, RG14 1HA, Tel (01635) 522210.


Yours aye,




Dave and Kathy were married on 2 June 1956 and celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary at an MCDOA Ladies Night in HMS Nelson exactly 50 years later.



Left: Dave & Kathy Forsey on 2 June 1956

Right: Dave & Kathy Forsey on 2 June 2006


Kathy was a wonderfully warm and vivacious lady and I am sure that all members will join me in extending our deepest sympathy to Dave and his family on their terrible loss.


From ex-CPO(D) Ray Ramsay:


"Hi Rob,


I hope you are well.


Very sad news about Kathy, she was a wonderful lady.  Chris and I first me her and Dave back in 1968 in the Far East.


I wish to send Dave my condolences.  Could you please let me have his address?


Best Regards,




[By Webmaster: I have since passed Dave's address to Ray.]


19 Apr 13


HMS Cattistock heads up multi-national mine exercise


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 2) with ships from Spain, France and Turkey in MINEX 13-1, a multinational minehunting exercise off the coast of Spain.


The Spanish minehunter ESPS Duero from HMS Cattistock

(RN website photo)


Mission accomplished



After 110 miles and 24 hours of near-continuous paddling, Soapy Watson and Andy Brunton completed their sponsored canoe challenge at 0800 this morning.



Above and below: Soapy and Andy completing their epic canoe challenge on Horsea Lake



Andy and Soapy getting used to their

land legs


Andy and Soapy flanked by support team members Stan Stanley

and Nellie Nilsson


It is still possible to support Soapy and Andy by making an online donation on the Virgin Money Giving website here.


Well done, guys.


18 Apr 13


STOP PRESS! Horsea Island Sponsored Canoe Challenge


This was the scene on Horsea Lake at the Defence Diving School (DDS) at 0800 this bright but blustery morning when MCDOA past-Chairman Paul Jones, Commanding Officer of HMS Excellent, started MCDOA Honorary Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson and former WO(D) Andy Brunton MBE of DIVEX on their 24-hour sponsored canoe challenge: 


Paul Jones preparing to start off Andy (left) and Soapy (right)



Left: They're off!

Right: Only 125 miles to go


By 0830, the team had covered the first 2.3 miles and are shown here on the more sheltered water opposite Pasley's Pool at the Lock Gates end of the lake:


So far, so good


Soapy and Andy are undertaking this challenge to raise funds for The Vernon Minewarfare and Diving Monument and the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity in lieu of the Devizes to Westminster race from which they were forced to withdraw owing to the special regulations imposed because of the uncommonly harsh conditions (see entry for 29 Mar 13 in News Archive 41).  If you would like to give them your support in person, please drop in before they finish at 0800 tomorrow.  Alternatively, email me your messages of encouragement via my Webmaster address and I will pass them on when I return to Horsea later today.


The team's sponsorship page does not currently permit online donations although this should be remedied later today.  In the meantime, you can still support them by donating straight to one or both of their worthy causes via the links above or by chucking some cash into the collection bucket at Horsea.


Postscript: The boys were still looking remarkably fresh at 2300 by which time they had completed over 80 miles.  They had switched to the heavier canoe owing to the choppy conditions:


Cockleshell heroes in the dead of night


In the meantime, the support team comprising Stan Stanley and Nellie Nilsson were manning DIVEX HQ in the old Chief of the Island's office, ever alert to any emergency like two rusty coiled springs.


Stan and Nellie holding the fort


Funeral of ex-CPO(D) Royston Watson 'Roy/Taff' Davey


All Saints Church in Denmead was almost filled to capacity for this afternoon's funeral of ex-CPO(D) Roy/Taff Davey (see entry for 14 Apr 13).  Apart from family, friends and former colleagues at Oaklands RC School in Waterlooville, several members of the RN minewarfare and diving community were present including former WO(MW) Lee 'Barney' Barnett and ex-CDs Chris 'Paddy' Doonan, Bob Fraser, Chris Jones, Pat Stevens, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson plus 'Yours Truly' (Rob Hoole).  Also present were Margaret Peters and Julie Quinn, the respective widows of ex-CPO(D) Jasper Peters (see entry for 30 Apr 07 in News Archive 18) and ex-CPO(D) Jim Quinn (see entry for 18 Oct 2004 in News Archive 8) who were based in Singapore with Roy and his family while serving on the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team in the 1960s.


The service started with the sentences, welcome and opening prayer by the Revd Sandra Edwards before the congregation sang 'The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended'.  After a reading from Revelations 21 verses 1 to 7 (Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth), the Revd Edwards delivered a tribute to Roy which described how he was born in Swansea, South Wales in 1934, left school when 15 and joined the Royal Navy at HMS St Vincent at the age of 15-and-a-half.  He qualified as a clearance diver and experienced several adventures in the UK, the Mediterranean and the Far East.  We heard how on one occasion when countermining a mine washed up on a beach, Roy had to ask a member of the public for a match to light the safety fuze leading to the demolition charge.  Roy met Margaret in Malta in 1959 and married her on Guy Fawkes Day the following year.  They subsequently had two daughters although one sadly died 13 years ago. 


After leaving the Royal Navy, Roy taught maths and applied science for 18 years at Oaklands RC School in Purbrook where he was known as 'Mr Sunshine'.  His interests included fast cars and we were told about the MG Q-Type racing car he owned while in the Royal Navy and the red BMW he later drove in civilian life which led to him being referred to as the 'Red Baron'.  He enjoyed taking his family on holidays to Brittany and Normandy and always did the cooking.  He also loved his dogs Monty, Rufus and Winston.  His death was the result of asbestosis diagnosed three years ago.


The congregation then listened to a recording of the Fron Male Voice Choir singing 'Unchained Melody', Roy and Margaret's favourite song, before prayers were said.  This was followed by a rousing rendition of the hymn 'Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer' before the Revd Edwards said the Prayer of Commendation and gave the Blessing.  The coffin and the congregation left the church to the sound of the Fron Male Voice Choir singing the poignant 'Suo Gan' which I always remember as featuring in the film 'Empire of the Sun'


Family members then attended the interment in the adjacent cemetery before joining other mourners at the Mead End pub to raise a glass in Roy's memory.


I am sure that all members of our community join me in offering Roy's widow Margaret, his daughter Helen and ex-RN son-in-law Mark and their daughters Olivia and Lily our sincere condolences.  For those unable to attend Roy's funeral service, donations in his memory can be made by cheque payable to either the RSPCA Stubbington Ark or Hounds For Heroes and sent to: South Downs Funeral Service, The Old Post Office House, Hambledon Road, Denmead, Waterlooville, Hants PO7 6NN.  Tel: 023 9223 1567.



Royston (Roy/Taff) Watson Davey

(13 Dec 1934 - 3 Apr 2013) 


Kudos for First MCM Squadron



The Royal Navy website has published these articles today:


First Mine Counter Measures Squadron receives top naval prize.  Congratulations to the Maritime Warfare Battle Staff of the Faslane-based First Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCM1) for winning this year's Surface Flotilla Efficiency Trophy in the area of “Mine Counter Measures”  and to HMS Blyth of the same squadron for winning the effectiveness trophy in the field of “Communications”.


Adm Sir Mark Stanhope, the outgoing First Sea Lord, presenting Cdr Andy

Lamb (MCM1) with the Surface Flotilla Efficiency Pennant at Faslane

(MoD website photo)


Aberdeen Royal Navy Officer Honoured.  Congratulations also go to Cdr Andy Lamb (MCM1) on being invested as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his extensive MCM-associated service including Command of HMS Ramsey, HMS Pembroke and HMS Shoreham at home and overseas.


Postscript: The Ministry of Defence website has since published this article covering the above stories.


17 Apr 13 - RN EOD team deals with home-made 'firework'


The Island Echo website contains this article, including a video, describing yesterday's disposal by a Royal Navy bomb disposal team, presumably Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a suspicious device found in Sandown on the Isle of Wight.  According to this article on the Isle of Wight County Press website, the item was identified as a home-made firework.


16 Apr 13


HMS Ramsey visits KSA


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing some of the activities enjoyed by the ship's company of HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 1) during her recent visit to Saudi Arabia (see first entry for 3 Apr 13).


Divers from HMS Ramsey and the RSNF HMS Al-Shaqra diving on a reef

(RN website photo)


HMS Ramsey top of the class for fitness


The Royal Navy website also contains this article describing the unsurpassed level of fitness achieved by the ship's company of HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 1), currently deployed in the Gulf.


Fitness with a Mk 44 Minigun on board HMS Ramsey

(RN website photo)


15 Apr 13 - Death of John Terry FCSD


John Terry with his painting of Vernon Creek


I am extremely sad to report that John Terry FCSD finally succumbed to cancer over the weekend.


During the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, John was a member of the Portsmouth Graphics Pool on the fifth floor of Creasy Centre at HMS Vernon.  Apart from his normal work producing illustrations (remember those pre-PowerPoint instructional viewfoils and slides?), technical drawings and diagrams for various naval authorities, ships and units in the Portsmouth & Medway Command area, he painted the striking murals in Creasy's foyer depicting the history of Royal Navy mining and mine countermeasures.  He also painted the mural in the Conference Room depicting 'The Battle of Portobello', famously won in 1739 by Admiral Edward 'Old Grog' Vernon after whom the establishment was named.  John finally retired in 2010 as the Head of Fleet Publications & Graphics based at HMS Excellent.


From the outset, John was a keen supporter of Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a statue at Gunwharf Quays to commemorate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.  He provided a set of conceptual drawings from which one was chosen by an all-ranks committee of serving and ex-serving MW and CD personnel to serve as a logo and to advise and inform the thirteen sculptors who originally bid for the commission in an open competition (see various entries in News Archive 23 and elsewhere).


John Terry's conceptual design

for Project Vernon


The Project Vernon committee, drawing on the free advice of the President of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, applied a rigorous set of criteria to produce a shortlist of three proposals before settling on the design submitted by Les Johnson FRBS.  This was formally adopted in August 2010 (see various entries in News Archive 31).  WO(D) Andy Carss QGM is shown with a maquette of the winning design in this video although the marauding shark, included by the sculptor to add 'an increased sense of danger', was immediately rejected as superfluous.


To kick off project fundraising, John freely donated his talent and many hours of his time to producing 'Danger at Depth', a painting depicting a clearance diver in older-type CDBA securing a demolition charge to a Mk 17 moored mine fouled on the seabed by a severed sweep wire.  His generosity even extended to adding bespoke embellishments to the higher-priced limited edition prints.  The version he produced for me, signed by significant characters in the recent history of RN minewarfare and diving, has hand-painted badges of the principal MW and Diving ships and units in which I served during my 32-year naval career, all at a sizeable premium which went straight into the Project Vernon coffers:


Hoole's Double Remarque print of 'Danger at Depth'


John also donated the original painting to the cause and it duly fetched a five figure sum from a retired member of the CD Branch.


Following the success of 'Danger at Depth', Project Vernon commissioned John to produce a depiction of HMS Vernon's waterfront, intended to appeal to a wider market.  This resulted in  'Vernon Creek', a scene notionally set in 1976 which shows HMS Bronington, HMS Soberton and the ill-fated HMS Fittleton as well as other RN and RNR Ton Class MCMVs, diving tenders, PAS boats and other craft scooting around Portsmouth harbour.  Again, John produced bespoke embellishments for purchasers of the higher-priced limited edition prints.  My version, signed by significant personages in the recent history of RN minewarfare (including a recent First Sea Lord), includes sketches of the main gate and the wardroom:


Hoole's Double Remarque print of 'Vernon Creek'


By my reckoning, sales of John's paintings and prints have grossed over £53,000 for Project Vernon to date with potential sales of another £90,000 remaining in stock.  Why not order a limited edition print of one of his paintings as an enduring testament to this fine man?  Details can be found on the Project Vernon website here and there are prices to suit all pockets.


Above and beyond all this, we will remember John for being a firm friend of the RN minewarfare and diving community.  We offer our sincere condolences to his widow Joy, other family members and friends.  I will publish funeral arrangements when known.


From MCDOA past-Chairman Paul Jones:


"Incredibly sad news to hear of John's passing.  As Chairman of the Project Vernon committee 2008-2010, I was amazed by his wonderful pictures (Diver at Depth and Vernon Creek) produced during that period and how brilliantly understated he was of his tremendous ability. 


An absolutely lovely bloke with an incredible talent that will be inextricably linked with memories of HMS VERNON and his brilliant artwork that seemed to be everywhere - there is even a piece of scenery he painted lurking at the back of Fisher Hall theatre at HMS EXCELLENT!


He will be sorely missed by his naval family and my thoughts are with his family.


Paul Jones"


From former FCPO(MW) Lee 'Barney' Barnett:




VMT for giving us the sad, sad news of John Terry's sudden death.  Dixie [Dean] said he had been given far longer than what transpired.


He was one heck of a guy.  I have a cartoon somewhere amongst my memorabilia that a PO MW Course divied up some 'blue liners' for him to produce.  A most remarkable, talented man who did lots for us guys in blue suits.


My thoughts are with his family and may he find a safe anchorage in the next world.


Yours aye,




14 Apr 13 - Funeral arrangements for ex-CPO(D) Royston 'Taff' Davey


The Portsmouth News website contains this obituary (see entry for 8 Apr 13):


Royston (Roy Taff) Davey : Obituary


Davey Royston (Roy/Taff) Retired R N CPO CD1 Bomb and Mine Disposal. Retired Maths Teacher Oaklands R.C. School.


Who passed away suddenly at Queen Alexandra Hospital on April 3, 2013, aged 78 years.  Will be sadly missed by his loving wife Margaret, daughter Helen, son-in-law Mark, granddaughters Olivia and Lily, niece Jill and nephew Alan.


Funeral service to take place on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at All Saints Church, Denmead at 1.00 p.m. followed by interment in Denmead Cemetery.  Family flowers only please.  Donations by cheque made payable to either the RSPCA Stubbington Ark or Hounds For Heroes may be sent to:


South Downs Funeral Service

The Old Post Office House

Hambledon Road






023 9223 1567


13 Apr 13 - MCDOA President leads forces for largest military exercise in Western Europe this year


Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC in Malta last November


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the latest bi-annual Exercise JOINT WARRIOR which starts today.  British warships (including the MCMVs HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 4), HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 7), HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 8 commanded by MCDOA member Matt Moore) and HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6)) plus other units will be joined by more than 30 visiting warships, 40 fixed-wing aircraft and 30 helicopters. 


The article features MCDOA President Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC (Commander UK Task Group) who will command British, Canadian and Dutch ships during the exercise.


Belgian, German, Norwegian and Polish ships of Standing NATO Mine

Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) arriving in Glasgow

ready for the start of Exercise JOINT WARRIOR 13


12 Apr 13 - News from John Craig in the USA


Flashback to John Craig handing over Command of the Second MCM

Squadron to fellow MCDOA member Martin Mackey in June 2011


I am grateful to MCDOA member John Craig for this update:




I stumbled across this article in the latest edition of the U.S. Naval War College's student magazine, The Luce Journal:


Red Diver Up by Lt Cdr Kathryn J. Krause USN (pdf file - 405 KB)


For an establishment that understandably concentrates on the challenging theater (sic) strategic to operational level of war interface, it was a refreshing change for me to think back to the days when dropping a wingnut because of thick neoprene gloves was a matter of life or death (or, more accurately, a matter of knocking-off early or going for yet another mud-run after upsetting the WO(D)!)  


While Newport may not be as attractive as sunny San Diego, we have solid MCDOA representation over here at the moment, and, even though the billets are tagged 'Post-SASB2 (i.e. Cdr) command tour' vice 'good-looking MCD', the UK is well represented in the US Naval War College by me (Joint Military Operations faculty professor) and [fellow MCDOA member] Roger Readwin (US Naval Command College student / Pentagon Liaison Officer (Desig)).  


For those MCDs who have hung up their fins and followed the PWO route (which, for your younger readers, is not half as bad as the ill-informed suggest!), the US Naval War College is a superb location to influence the future leaders of the US (and International) services and agencies in addition to visiting 19 states as part of the Naval Command College course (nice work, if you can get it!).  The NCC also has an enviable statistic that over half of the graduates attain flag rank while some 15% go on to head their service.  If Roger and I try really hard, then one day we might be able to muster up enough stars between us to match Cdre Paddy's one!  We can but dream...  


Yours aye,


John Craig



Commander Royal Navy

US Naval War College - Joint Military Operations Faculty"


11 Apr 13


Disposal of wartime ordnance off Essex


The East Anglian Daily Times website contains this article describing today's disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of an item of ordnance detected by a Belgian naval vessel off Walton in Essex.


False alarm in Glasgow


The Glasgow Evening Times website contains this article describing a call-out on Tuesday for an RN EOD Team, presumably Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG), to deal with an object in the city's Gallowgate area, subsequently identified as an empty gas cylinder.


10 Apr 13 - RANCDA's ANZAC Day Banner for 2013


I am grateful to Philip Kember, an elected Fellow of the Royal Australian Navy Clearance Diver Association (RANCDA) since 1993, for this message and photo:


"Hello Rob,


I thought that this might be of interest.  It's our new banner for this year's ANZAC Day march on 25th April.



Best wishes,




Philip was awarded the QCB (Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct) in 1966 for the disposal of a Second World War German GY* moored mine washed up on the shore of the Gold Coast at Surfers Paradise in Queensland while serving with RAN CDT2 and the DSM (Distinguished Service Medal) in 1968 for operational service in Vietnam while serving with RAN CDT3 Det 1.  Before leaving the RAN as a PO(CD), he was also awarded the Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 with clasps for VIETNAM and FESR (Far East Strategic Reserve), the Vietnam Medal, the Australian Defence Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, a partial US Meritorious Unit Citation, a Naval Board Commendation, a C-in-C US Pacific Fleet Commendation and a Returned from Active Service Badge.  By anyone's reckoning, that is quite an impressive tally.


9 Apr 13 - EOD incident in North Devon


The North Devon Journal website contains this article describing last Saturday's disposal of a mortar round at Northam Burrows, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).



8 Apr 13 - Death of ex-CPO(D) Royston 'Taff' Davey


I regret to report that ex-CPO(D) Taff Davey passed away in Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham last Wednesday 3 April. 


I am sure that all members of our community will join me in offering Taff's family and friends our sincere condolences.  I will publish funeral arrangements as soon as they become available.


From Mark McGreevy, Taff Davey's son-in-law:


"Hello Rob,


At the moment we are looking at 1pm on 18 April at All Saints Church in Denmead and burial afterwards in the Denmead Cemetery.  I will put a notice in the Portsmouth Evening News next week.


Many thanks,




From former WO(D) Don 'Jim' Green, Chairman of the Association of RN First Class Divers:


"Hi all,


Taff retired from the RN as a CPO(D) in the '70s or '80s and took up a position teaching maths, etc., at a private school in Waterlooville.  I am sure his family would be pleased with an attendance from any of his previous colleagues at his funeral, when it is known.




Jim Green (Don)"


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


"G'day Rob,


'Taff' Royston Davey was part of the Med Fleet CD Team when I was there.  This photo of the team on Manoel Island in Malta in 1959 shows him standing fifth from the left.



I know he was part of the Far East Fleet CDT at some time prior to that.  He was also instructing in HMS Vernon when Peter Cobby was the Training Officer.The last time that I saw him was in Waterlooville where he lived after he left the RN and took up school teaching.  I can say that, as usual, I am sorry to see another of the "Old and Bold" go down.


Dave L (Mona)"


7 Apr 13 - Project Vernon: A unique opportunity to visit Studio 434



Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to commemorate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which formerly stood on the site, has organised a fundraising visit, including a three course lunch, to Studio 434 on Sunday 29 September 2013.  Studio 434 is a unique personal collection of cars and motorcycles about which further information can be found here.



This is a fascinating opportunity to share a very special day with fellow car enthusiasts, petrol-heads and folk genuinely interested in classic cars.  The day will start on arrival at Studio 434 in Potters Bar between 1030 and 1130 with a glass of champagne or fresh orange juice on arrival.  There is plenty of free parking in the vicinity.


1919 Ford Model 'T'


There will be ample opportunity to examine the cars and motorcycles and for photo opportunities with one Studio car in their “Unique photographic cyclorama studio space”.  Please list which particular car you would like to have placed in this special photo area in the booking form linked at the bottome of this article.  We will then arrange for the most popular vehicle to be positioned in the photo area.  Please note that only one such car can be placed in this area during the day.  Recommended, popular models include the Jensen S type; the Daimler DB18; or the Jaguar Mk V… the choice is collectively yours!


1928 BSA S27 Sloper 


The £75 ticket fee for the day includes a high-standard three-course silver service Sunday lunch with wine or soft drinks followed by coffee on completion but the main objective is to put as much money towards the Vernon Monument as possible.


1938 Jensen S-Type Tourer


We plan to provide a professional photographer to help record the day’s events.  You will be free to examine all the exhibits until later in the afternoon.


1946 MG Midget TC


The Studio has generously offered to provide a raffle prize of a car (for one day!) – details to be confirmed.  News of other raffle prizes will be published at a later date.


1952 Series 1 Land Rover


Transport to and from the venue will be on a self-arranged basis for attendees.  The Studio has kindly offered to arrange transport from/to Potters Bar station for those coming by train (approx. 30 minutes from Kings Cross).


1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS


Please also have a browse through Studio 434′s website, which we hope will confirm your wish to attend this special day.

2010 Rolls Royce Phantom


How to book: The venue is limited to 100 guests in total so bookings will be taken on a “first-come-first-served” basis.  A reserve list will be started if appropriate and we need to enrol at least 60 people to make the event viable.  Secure your place by booking on-line and paying a refundable £50 deposit per head here


When the threshold of 60 attendees has been reached, you will be emailed a request to confirm your place(s) and pay the balance.  I look forward to seeing you on the day.


6 Apr 13 - RN Divers/DIVEX Horsea Lake 24 Hour Canoe Challenge 18/19 April



I have received this welcome announcement from MCDOA Honorary Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson:


"With the disappointment of not being able to compete in this year’s Devizes to Westminster (DW) Canoe Race, both Soapy Watson and Andy Brunton MBE have set their sights on an alternative challenge.  This is to paddle up and down Horsea Lake for 24 hours.  The intention is to reach at least the distance of the Devizes to Westminster (125 miles) in the 24 hour period.  They will be basing the paddle on the DW race.  For example, when they reach 35 miles (which was the distance from Devizes to Newbury) they will have a quick food break of ten minutes or so and then crack on to the next point, Reading at 54 miles.  They will also simulate the 74 portages involved with the DW race and a support crew will keep them fed and watered on the move at these points.


Andy and Soapy will have a support crew based at Divex Southern Facility at Horsea Island with Stan Stanley and Mick Openshaw along with CPO(D) Scouse Fleming.  'Paddle HQ’ will be down at the Divex Field Office (old Chief of the Island Office) where Stan Stanley will have the kettle on throughout so please feel free to visit; they will have safety cover throughout the 24 hours so someone will be there to host visitors irrespective of time of day.


Soapy and Andy training on Horsea Lake


They have received 'Green Lights' from the Commanding Officer of HMS Excellent (MCDOA past-Chairman Cdr Paul Jones RN) for the use of Horsea Lake along with the Commanding Officer of the Defence Diving School (Lt Col Paul Youngman RE) for waterspace management.


The challenge will be undertaken between 0800 on 18 April and 0800 on 19 April.  Cdr Paul Jones has very kindly offered to start the paddle.


Naturally a full risk assessment will be carried out to protect everyone’s interests and close liaison will be maintained with DDS waterspace management to ensure that the event does not impact at all on DDS diving training.


Sponsorship has been fantastic and it looks like they will raise £1,500 for the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity and The Vernon Minewarfare and Diving Monument.


Again, Soapy and Andy would like to say a very BIG Thank You to everyone who has contributed.


It would be great to see you all at Horsea during that 24-hour period so please come down.  Contact Soapy on 07980 552710 to get your name for the gate prior to 18 April."


5 Apr 13 - Re-enactment of Rendering Mines Safe at Explosion! this weekend


Avid re-enactor Tony Boyle will be demonstrating the role of a Second World War Rendering Mines Safe Officer (RMSO) this Saturday and Sunday at the Explosion! Museum of Naval Firepower's 'Spirit of the 40's' Weekend.  The museum is situated in the former Royal Naval Armament Depot at Priddy's Hard in Gosport. 


Here is Tony in action last year with the replica German LMB/GC ground mine he has built from scratch, complete with parachute, fuze pockets and internal components (see entry for 22 Dec 11 in News Archive 36):




I have helped Tony with his research and, like others before him, he has kindly agreed to make a donation to Project Vernon as a token of his appreciation.  He is ever keen to make his demonstration even more accurate.


4 Apr 13


Team Hallin back in business


I am grateful to MCDOA member David Hosking MBE for this announcement:


"Dear friends & supporters of Team Hallin,


Happy Easter to you all.


At long last the refit to 'Hallin Marine II' is now finished and over the last eight days Team Hallin's new crew have been conducting sea trials on a very cold River Thames in order to test themselves and the 'new' boat/equipment in preparation for another Rowing World Record attempt.  This time we hope to row this summer non-stop and unsupported around mainland GB. 


Team Hallin including David Hosking far left


Please see attached summary report and photos from the sea trials held this Easter.  In addition to trying to win the Round GB Rowing Race starting from Tower Bridge on Saturday 1st June 2013, Team Hallin will also be attempting to raise £40,000 for their adopted charity, Combat Stress.


Team Hallin including David Hosking second left


Thank you for your past interest in our Atlantic World Record Row in 2010 [see second entry for 8 Feb 11 in News Archive 33] and please continue to support us and Combat Stress in this summer's race around GB.


Best wishes and regards,




Skipper 'Hallin Marine II'"


Team Hallin is sponsored by Hallin Marine, founded in 1998 by MCDOA member John Giddens in Singapore.  John is still the company's Chief Executive and, like David Hosking, was a student on LMCDO '83A with 'Yours Truly' as their Course Officer.


RN divers called to EOD incident in River Tees


The Middlesborough Evening Gazette website contains this article describing yesterday's recovery of a mortar shell from the River Tees at Yarm by a Royal Navy Clearance Diving unit, presumably from Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG). 



More photos are available on here.


3 Apr 13


HMS Ramsey visits KSA


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a goodwill visit to King Abdulaziz Naval Base at Jubail in Saudi Arabia by HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 1).


HMS Cattistock visits Algeria


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a goodwill visit to Algeria by HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 2), leader of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2).


The Algerian patrol boat Al Mirfak from HMS Cattistock

(RN website photo)


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:




A big "THANKS" for the excellent Guides' turnout over Easter - though only a modest visitor turnout, with no thanks to the Arctic conditions.  Friday: 22; Saturday: 14; Sunday: 55 (the sun came out!) and Monday: 39.




However we were honoured with visits by Councillor Chris Carter, Palmerston forts expert David Moore and BSAC Vice President Tony Marshall - who generously donated a prototype RN SABA set, a triple set and lots more.




The new exhibits are looking superb and attracting very favourable comments.




Please keep an eye on Gavin Anthony's Guides' Roster for 2013 to make sure we have at least three on duty per day.




One of our CD players has retired hurt.  If anyone has a spare CD player in the loft/garage/shed looking for a home, please let Ann know.




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.


2 Apr 13


An inspirational message from Al Nekrews


I am grateful to MCDOA member Al Nekrews QGM for this message (see entry for 22 Mar 13 in News Archive 41):




I hope this finds you well?


I did send you an email last week (which has bounced back to my hotmail account?) to thank you for the mention of my QGM award and to thank Dave Hunkin for being kind enough to put it all together.  I am of course delighted at the award and hope that it will only add to the profile of the Branch and our continued contribution to the Joint EOD Community.  We certainly need to be forward leaning with respect to future EOD requirements, especially with the ‘draw down’ from Op HERRICK, while everyone in Defence looks to reorganise EOD capabilities and responsibilities.  There is a lot of hard work being done at FDS and NCHQ to ensure we continue not only to support Land operations, but more importantly, develop our niche Maritime EOD capability to meet future threats.  I was especially delighted that my No.2, Leading Diver ‘Waggy’ Waghorn was awarded the Fleet Commander’s Commendation on the same day as my QGM; his contribution to the success of our deployment as the first ever Royal Navy High Threat IEDD Team is immeasurable.  


On a completely separate note, it was great to read of Hunkin Junior’s success at the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race.  I know Adam personally and was very proud to hear about his achievement – he’s a real chip off the old block and a very determined young man.  It was really unfortunate that Soapy and Andy were unable to participate this year but I am sure they will join me in congratulating Adam… and to top it all – what a great present for Dave’s 50th birthday!


I hope to catch up at the summer BBQ.




Al Nekrews"


MCDOA website achieves new high


During March 2013, the MCDOA website was accessed by 33,802 distinct host servers, the first time this statistic has exceeded 33,000.  The number of people accessing the website is likely to have been even higher because many servers (e.g. the MoD's and US Military's) are shared by several users.  Overall, internet surfers in 115 different countries and territories made 872,809 successful requests for pages, images and files and downloaded 32.77 gigabytes of data.


1 Apr 13 - A proud MCDOA member


I was delighted to receive this announcement from MCDOA member Dave Hunkin OBE:


"Hi Rob,


It was really disappointing to see that Soapy and Andy couldn’t compete in this year’s Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race but there was at least some MCDOA representation this year if only as a ‘support slave’!


My son Adam competed in the Junior Doubles race for the first time this year.  The Juniors (15-19) paddle the 125 miles & run the 77 portages over four days with three nights camping en route.  At 15, he and his partner William Hassall were some of the youngest competitors on the course and were delighted to finish in a time of 21hrs 43mins 26 secs.


Although spread over four days, it still provides huge challenges for the Juniors who paddle each day 34, 36, 38 and finally the 17 miles to Westminster Bridge.  They completed a huge amount of highly structured training over the last few months which took them from capsizing five times during the Essex Series Race in January to today’s great result.


Dave Hunkin with his son Adam


Please excuse the gratuitous ‘proud Dad phot’ but it is my birthday!


Best wishes,


Dave Hunkin"


Well done Adam (and happy birthday to his supportive Dad).


NDG responds to incident at Glasgow Airport


The Scottish Herald website contains this article describing a call out for Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) to deal with a suspicious package at Glasgow Airport today.




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