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

31 Dec 13 - New Year Honours


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing the New Year Honours award of the MBE to WO2 ET(ME) Paul Hutchinson for his services as the MEO of HMS Hurworth, HMS Quorn and HMS Atherstone during the past three years.


WO2 ET(ME) Paul Hutchinson

(Portsmouth News photo)


The Portsmouth News also contains this article describing the award of the CBE (Civil) to Rear Admiral John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust but also President of the Ton Class Association (TCA).


Congratulations to both recipients.  The full list of military Honours and Awards is available here.


Postscript: On 2 Jan 2014, the Royal Navy website published this article covering the same story.


27 Dec 13 - Plastic men prove their mettle with a fitness feat


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing the participation of personnel from the Portsmouth-based minehunters HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) and HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 7) in a strength and endurance competition in Bahrain.  The article features AB(D) Tom Hilder (see entry for 23 Nov 13).


26 Dec 13 - Was this brass torch used for RN diving?


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has passed me some photos showing a brass torch, possibly used in diving operations.  The torch is engraved with the NATO Stock Number (NSN) 6135-99-913-6957 which is now obsolete.  Possession of an NSN does not necessarily mean the torch was used by the Royal Navy but can anyone identify it or provide its provenance?




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




Happy New Year to you.


The light and battery case shown on the MCDOA web site on the 26th December is the RN Divers Head Light of the late '60s and early '70s.  It was designed to leave the hands free and assist in ships bottom searching. The torch was worn on the head via a plate with spring clasp attached to the centre straps on the face-mask and the original version had a sea cell battery actuated by immersion in salt water.  Its disadvantage was the cost, as the battery contained silver, and the inability to turn the light off once actuated.  


The replacement battery case version was manufactured in chrome-plated brass for magnetic cleanliness!!






20 Dec 13 - HMS Chiddingfold sailors raise charity cash with cycle ride


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing a 152 km cycle ride by eight of the ship's company of HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 5) to raise £1,500 for the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC).  The article features AB(D) Ashley Mansell who organised the event.


18 Dec 13 - HMS Ledbury visit to Swansea


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit to Swansea by HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6) earlier this month (see second entry for 5 Dec 13).  The article features MCDOA member Simon Pressdee, her Commanding Officer.


HMS Ledbury alongside Prince of Wales Dock in Swansea

(RN website photo)


17 Dec 13 - MCDOA ties


I have received this request from Richard 'Soapy' Watson, our Honorary Secretary:




Seasonal greetings!


I have recently had a few members asking whether MCDOA silk ties are available with the correct RN tie weave.  For some reason, the tie originally designed in 1992 had the white diagonal stripe above the red diagonal stripe when it should be the other way round.  


Would you put a little advert on the website asking members to e-mail me if they are interested in buying a silk tie for £22.80?  Obviously £820.80 for 36 ties is a lot of money to pull out of our funds and I would like to test the water to see how many people will genuinely have an interest.  I would definitely buy one!  


Kind Regards,




RD Watson

Lt Cdr MSc

Diving Standards Officer Navy"


Please email your declaration of interest to Soapy via this address.  He has already received positive responses today from Keith Broughton, Martyn Holloway, Al Nekrews, Graham 'Tug' Wilson and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole).


16 Dec 13 - Funeral of ex-CD Dave 'Wanger'  Woon


I am grateful to Dave Woon's wife Philippa for this follow-up to his funeral (see first entry for 8 Dec 13):




Although Dave's send-off in Plymouth on the 12th December was incredibly sad, it was also a very fitting tribute to him, a man who lived for the sea.  After a short service, his ashes were scattered in Plymouth Sound.  The weather was kind to us for that.


The wake was held in a pub on the Barbican and gave us a chance to talk of Dave and all he meant to us and enjoy "one more for the road" (one of Dave's famous phrases).


I am making arrangements for his second send off in the north for the 10th January 2014.   The service will be held in St Paul's Church, Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria at 12 noon followed by the interment of the remainder of his ashes in Grange Cemetery.  The wake is yet to be arranged but rest assured there will be one.  Dave loved a bit of a do!


I have also set up a website for anyone who would like to donate in his memory to a cause that was especially close to Dave's heart...Motor Neurone Disease...from which his mum died in 1998 and for which his dad has worked voluntarily since:


If you cannot make it to the service on the 10th I fully understand, but I thought you would like to know so you can raise a glass to him on the day.


Many thanks,




15 Dec 13 - Opening of RAN's new Diving School


I am grateful to MCDOA member Cdr Edward 'Jake' Linton BEM RAN, Patron of the RAN Clearance Divers' Association (RANCDA), for these photos taken at the opening of the Royal Australian Navy's new Diving School at HMAS Penguin in Sydney on 9 December: 


Attendees of the HMAS Penguin redevelopment opening ceremony including MCDOA

member Jake Linton (wearing unbuttoned blazer in centre of front row), MCDOA

honorary member V Adm Russ Crane (wearing suit next to Jake) and MCDOA

member Dennis 'Taff' Sweeney (wearing blazer third from right behind first row)


Senior Instructor Paul Darcy, CDO Candidate and Jake Linton


Lam Ahlek, Jim Henry, Russ Crane, Jake Linton, Don Allan, Doug Moore, Bill Fitzgerald,

Eric McKenzie, Raymond Foord, Neill 'Dinga' Bell, Barry Wilson and Dennis 'Taff' Sweeney


Jake adds:


"Have a great Christmas and New Year.  I hope 2014 brings you health, more wealth and much happiness.




United and Undaunted,




11 Dec 13 - News from HMS Shoreham


MCDOA member Matt Moore, the Commanding Officer of HMS Shoreham, has issued this update:


As MCM1 Crew 8 comes to the end of its time on board, I can reflect on a very busy deployment and update you on the valuable contribution that your ship continues to make in this operational theatre.  We have spent the majority of our time at sea conducting the core role of the Royal Navy, which is maintaining a presence at sea and contributing to maritime security and the freedom of navigation.  We have undertaken a number of multinational exercises working with the navies of the USA and France allowing us to develop our interoperability, whilst developing joint capability.  During our time we have conducted visits to Oman, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, maintaining and building on already strong relationships with those countries and their navies.


MCM1 Crew 8 is coming towards the end of its time on board.  It has been a very busy and successful period in which the crew has worked hard in maintaining the ship and conducting our day-to-day business.  I take great pride in handing over HMS SHOREHAM as the most operationally capable minehunter in theatre.  We are currently making our final preparations to hand over to the next crew and preparing for Christmas leave.  MCM1 Crew 4 commanded by Lieutenant Commander Shaughnessy Royal Navy returns and will take over from us very soon, at which point we will return to the UK to take over HMS BANGOR where a number of members will leave the crew to continue their careers.  Lieutenant Commander Shaughnessy and his crew will be in touch in due course to introduce themselves.


It is with heavy hearts that Crew 8 leave their home on SHOREHAM but we take with us some fond memories and I would like to thank you for your ongoing support and kind messages.  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 the contribution she is making to operations in the Arabian Gulf.


Yours aye,


Matt Moore


M J Moore

Lt Cdr RN


We wish Matt and the members of his ship's company all the best during their well-deserved Christmas leave and every success for the future.


10 Dec 13 - LS(D) Craig Waghorn nominated for a Millie


Congratulations to LS(D) Craig 'Waggy' Waghorn on being nominated for a Sun newspaper Military Award, otherwise known as a 'Millie'.  This is in recognition of his services for High Threat Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (HT IEDD) while No.2 for MCDOA member Al Nekrews QGM in Afghanistan last year (see entry for 22 Mar 13 in News Archive 41). 


Lt Cdr Al Nekrews & LS(D) 'Waggy' Waghorn

taking a break while in Afghanistan 


Already awarded the Fleet Commander’s Commendation, Craig has now been nominated for a Millie as Most Outstanding Sailor or Marine.  Craig and his wife Ayca, together with their 14-week-old baby Sonny, are featured in this article on the Sun's website which includes a photograph of all three.


The 2013 award ceremony will take place on Wednesday 11 December and be broadcast on ITV from 2100 on Monday 16 December.  As customary, the ceremony will be hosted by Amanda Holden and Phillip Schofield.


Postscript: In the event, the award for Most Outstanding Sailor or Marine was presented by Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones to Petty Officer Emily McCullough of the QARNNS (Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service) for her exemplary care of patients during two tours of Afghanistan and one in Iraq.  More details on the MoD website here: Military heroes honoured at the Millies


9 Dec 13 - Funeral of Surg Capt Ramsdale (Ramsay) Ramshaw Pearson MB BS MD FFOM RN


The rustic village church of St Peter's at High Cross near Froxfield saw a strong turnout for yesterday's Service of Thanksgiving for the life of MCDOA honorary member Ramsay Pearson (see first entry for 6 Dec 13 including appended tributes).  MCDOA members present included Dr John Bevan, Bob Lusty, Ralph Mavin, Bill 'Chippy' Norton, Jon Riches and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) as well as ex-CD Mike O'Meara.  There was also a panoply of illustrious naval medical personages including Surg R Adm Peter Barnard, MCDOA member Surg Cdre Jim Sykes, Surg Capt Peter Beck, Surg Cdr Jon Broom, Surg Cdr Donald Bruce, Surg Cdr (Professor) David Elliott, Surg Cdr Bob Hanson and Engineering Technician Colin Scott of the Institute of Naval Medicine (INM).  Uniformed staff representing INM comprised Surg Cdr Richard Webber, Surg Cdr Simon Phillips, Lt Cdr James Fowler and POMA Gareth Hawksworth.  Ramsay's family and other friends and colleagues were also present in force including his fellow members of the Froxfield Choir.


The service began with David Groves the organist playing Bach's 'Bist du Bei Mir' as Ramsay's casket, draped in the Union Flag, was borne into the church and set in front of the altar.  After the greeting and opening prayer, the congregation sang the hymn 'Angel Voices Ever Singing'.  Abigail, one of Ramsay and Margaret's grand-daughters, then read a poem she had composed while James and George, her two brothers, stood in support.


Surg Cdr Bob Hanson then gave a witty account of Ramsay's life and career.  He related how Ramsay had been born in Washington, County Durham and attended the Grammar School before studying medicine at King's College, an amalgamation of Durham University College of Medicine and Armstrong College, Durham which subsequently became the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1963.  He had then practised his profession, mainly focusing on underwater medicine while in the Royal Navy, but later as a GP in Waterlooville.  Bob Hanson related some stories of Ramsay's time in the Royal Navy in Singapore, Malta and the other Washington in the USA.  One of these tales recalled Ramsay sitting at his desk in Singapore when the door opened and a Royal Marines Colour Sergeant marched a Royal Marine into his office:


"Left, right, left, right, left, right.  Halt!  Eyes right!  Eyes front!  Quick march.  Left, right, left, right..."


The CSM then marched the Royal Marine back out through the door.  Ramsay was perplexed and followed the Colour Sergeant to find out what was going on.


"Marine Bloggs requested to see you, Sir." barked the Colour Sergeant.


Bob Hanson also described Ramsay's love for his family and his involvement in sport as a keen batsman and rugby player.  He was also an authority on British and American railways.


The service resumed with the singing of the hymn 'The Church's One Foundation' before Katie, one of Ramsay's other grand-daughters, read the 23rd Psalm.  She added a couple of personal highlights about her grandfather including the fact that he was the cleverest man she had known, largely owing to his ability to complete the Telegraph crossword in the bath each morning before breakfast.  The Froxfield Choir, of which Ramsay had been a staunch member, then sang 'Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring' before Ramsay's son Chris read the following poem composed by his father's erstwhile friend and fellow honorary MCDOA member, the late Lt Cdr Robbie Robinson MBE:


At the End of the Day


At the end of the day

When you've finished your task

"Five Bells" is the signal you make.

And all that your mates,

And your colleagues will ask,

Is..."Is that fellow real, or a fake?"


You won't even get by,

Merely wearing the tie.

You'll be judged by your skill and your purpose.

Well - you've passed the stiff test,

To the clan you're the best -

And divers see under the surface.


The congregation then said the Lord's Prayer before the Froxfield Choir sang 'God be in my Head'.  The final hymn, 'Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven', was followed by the Commendation and Blessing.


A Celtic Blessing


May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

the rain fall soft upon the fields

And, until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


We then filed out of the church to the sound of the organist playing Bach's 'Fantasy in G'.


After the committal and burial in the churchyard, most attendees went on to 'The Pub With No Name' for a reception that including a superb spread.  There were also some wonderful ales on tap with which to raise a glass towards Ramsay as one of the newest members of the heavenly choir.  I took the opportunity to extend our condolences to Ramsay's widow Margaret and pass on the many goodwill wishes of those unable to attend the service.  I also chatted with other members of Ramsay's family including his daughter Alison, her husband Mark and their children Katie and Emily, his son Chris and his other daughter Janet, her husband Dave and their children Abi, George and James.


Surg Capt Ramsay Pearson MB BS MD FFOM

(13 Aug 1932 - 27 Nov 2013)


From Ramsay Pearson's son Chris:


"Hi Rob,


I'd be very grateful if you could pass on my personal thanks and those of my family to everyone who joined us to celebrate my father's life on Monday.  It was lovely for the family to be able to chat with so many of Dad's friends and colleagues.  I can't help thinking he would have been slightly irritated he wasn't able to be there in person to share in the reminiscing.  He was always quick with a tale about his Navy days; more recently entertaining and inspiring his grand children with those wonderful stories.


Thank you also for the kind words on the MCDOA website from those who couldn't join us on the day.  It has been comforting and uplifting to know that my father was respected by so many friends and colleagues.  I know that Dad was tremendously proud and humbled to have been accepted into the family of Royal Navy divers; I think an honour not lightly bestowed.


Kind regards,


Chris Pearson"


8 Dec 13


Death and funeral arrangements for ex-CD Dave 'Wanger'  Woon


I have received this sad news from ex-CD Richard 'Dickie' Barrett:


"Hi Rob,


I have just been informed of the death of ex-CD2 Dave 'Wanger'  Woon from the 1970s.  He died of a heart attack after taking a tumble in the dark.  He was with his wife at the time.  This is all the info I have at this time.


He was a real character.  Always one of the lads and a damn good diver.  He goes up there to join a good team who will not only make him welcome but look after him.


RIP Wanger.  Our times on board HMS Reclaim will always be remembered.


Dickie Barrett"


Brian 'Troy' Tempest, Honorary Secretary of the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD), informs me that Dave Woon died in Croatia.  Ex-CDs Richard 'Dickie' Barrett, Colin 'Foggy' Goff and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson advise me that that they all worked with Dave Woon offshore in Sub Sea after he left the RN.


I have confirmed that the the funeral will take place at 1000 on Thursday 12 December at Weston Mill Crematorium, Ferndale Road, Plymouth, Devon, PL2 2EP.


I am sure all members of our community will join me in extending our deep sympathy to Dave's family, friends and former colleagues.


From ex-CPO(D) Mick Kester:


"Hi Rob,


Having just said goodbye to Neil Primrose in Truro/Falmouth on Friday, I'm sorry to hear the sad news that Dave Woon has passed away.  As with Dickie Barrett, we all served together in the good ship RECLAIM in the early 1970s.  During the deep bell runs, Dave was the buddy you would want alongside you, both in and outside the bell.  Also, it was Dave's and my job to make sure that our Boss, the late George Dance, arrived back on board safe and sound during the other runs.


Before my retirement from the City Harbour Office here in Plymouth, Dave would visit me and bring me up to date on all still in the Offshore World during visits home to his Dad (Note of interest: Dave's father was an ex-Shipwright Diver).  Both the late big Norman Slingsby and I knew him during our time as second dickies for SWD [Shallow Water Diver] training in the old Diving School at HMS Drake during the early 1960s.  Some team he's become a member of now.


Best regards,


Mick Kester"


Australian clearance divers in Afghanistan


The Navy Daily website contains this article extolling the achievements of Royal Australian Navy clearance divers in C-IED (Counter-Improvised Explosive Device) operations in Afghanistan.  The article features MCDOA member Dave 'Spidey' Ince and Russ Crawford.  Dave transferred from the RN to the RAN in 2006 and Russ served in the Minewarfare Training Section at HMS Vernon during the 1980s in an illustrious procession of RAN MCD exchange officers which also included Sid Brown, Pony Moore, Vic Justice, Neill 'Dinga' Bell, Garry Kennedy, Russ Crane and Mike Angus.



Left: LS(CD) Michael Greenfield, Flt Sgt Peter Radcliffe and Cpl Luke Troy

from Combined Team Uruzgan at Patrol Base Wali in Afghanistan.

Right: Front row (l-r): Lt Robert Woodall RAN, CPO(CD) Luke Graham and CPO(CD) Andrew Keitley

Back row (l-r): PO(CD) Christian O'Neill and LS(CD) Dale Johns 

at Multi-National Base, Tarin Kot, Afghanistan.

(Navy Daily photo) 


7 Dec 13 - A new book from Paul Henke


MCDOA member Paul Henke's wife Dorothy has sent me this announcement:


Just wanted to let you know that Shadow of a Tear, the fifth and final Tears book, is now available on Kindle.  It will be available for other e-book readers on SmashWords by the end of November, and in paperback in February 2014.  We had hoped to get it rushed through before Christmas but unfortunately this has not been possible.  Apologies for the delay.


I think having come to the end of the series Paul is feeling a bit desolate.  I do think Shadow of a Tear is his best ever book.  I loved every bit of it.  


"September 1945.  The war in Europe is over.  It is a time of hope, as people rebuild their lives and look to the future.  With the shadow of communism steadily growing, fear grips the western world.  Although Sir David Griffiths had decided to take a back seat in world politics, he is drawn into fighting a web of crime and espionage in order to protect his family.  His daughter, Susan, aspires to be a Member of Parliament; his son, Richard, works with MI6 and with time his POW mental scars begin to heal."


Paul is now working on a new Nick Hunter book.  Nick is needed more than ever to sort out the world's problems.  


Paul is out and about over the next six weeks - click here for details.  Do drop by and see him if you are anywhere near these venues.  


Don't forget, if you want any books, personalised and autographed then you can either go through the website or phone us on 01360 440013.  We can send the books to you or direct to the recipient, wrapped in Christmas paper with a tag.


As always thanks to everyone who has written their comments on Amazon.  The fantastic reviews you have given have made a huge difference to Kindle sales.


Finally, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.






P.S.  Please do connect through any or all of the following Social Media channels:


Paul's Facebook


Paul's Twitter


Paul's LinkedIn


and of course you can subscribe to Paul's BLOG


Anyone who has read Paul's books will know that his fictional hero Nick Hunter is an MCD Officer.


6 Dec 13


Death and funeral arrangements for Surg Capt Ramsdale (Ramsay) Ramshaw Pearson MB BS MD FFOM RN


MCDOA associate member Surg Cdre Jim Sykes has passed me the sad news of the death of MCDOA honorary member Ramsay Pearson on 27 November. 


Ramsay was one of only three MCDOA honorary members elected to date, the others being the late Lt Cdr Robbie Robinson MBE RN and Vice Admiral Russ Crane AO CSM RAN, former Chief of the Royal Australian Navy.  He was a world-renowned specialist in diving medicine and his naval career included (but was by no means limited to) service at HMS Terror in Singapore, the guided missile destroyer HMS Glamorgan, HMS St Angelo in Malta, HMS Vernon in Portsmouth and HMS Dolphin in Gosport.  In December 1978, HM the Queen sanctioned his appointment as an Officer (Brother) of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.  Having already held several other appointments at INM (Institute of Naval Medicine) in Alverstoke, Ramsay was appointed Head of Undersea Medicine from 1987 to 1989.  He then held an exchange appointment with the US Navy until leaving the Royal Navy in 1992 after suffering a heart attack.


As a young duty diving officer at HMS Vernon during the 1970s, I performed many therapeutic hyperbaric treatments with Ramsay and learned much from him and about him on these occasions.  My experiences included witnessing his ‘robust’ handling of some of the cavalier scuba divers who had only themselves to blame for their predicament.  In 1988, he was quoted in the Sunday Times after pointing out that 34 of the 80 cases of decompression sickness dealt with at INM so far that year had involved the use of diving computers.  "People are relying absolutely on the computers, and they are allowing people to do things we think to be unsafe," he said.


Ramsay's funeral and burial will take place at 1130 on Monday 9 December at St Peter's Church, High Cross, Froxfield near Petersfield, Hampshire GU32 1EQ with a reception afterwards at The Pub with No Name (aka The White Horse), Priors Dean, Hampshire, GU32 1DA. 


I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our sincere condolences to Ramsay's family, close friends and former colleagues.


From MCDOA member Brian Dutton DSO QGM:


"Dear Rob,


I am so sorry to read of the death of Ramsay, whom I met very often when I lived in Petersfield.  He is a loss to everyone who knew him and to the branch when he retired.


I was out of the country in Australia when his death was announced.  Will you please send me the name and address of the undertakers (Michael Miller possibly) and whether there is a charity that I may contribute to in his name.  Thank you.


Yours aye,




From former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM and former WO(D) Colin 'Scouse' Kidman QGM:


"Dear Rob,


Unfortunately the sad news of the passing of Captain Ramsay Pearson came on Friday afternoon, which is traditionally our make and mend day, and we only learnt about the funeral arrangements this morning.  Regretfully too late for us to make Petersfield.  


Captain Ramsay was the surgeon that allowed me to carry on diving after fracturing my skull – with the wise medical advice: “You’re old and bold enough to come back up quick if it starts hurting on the way down”!   On retiring from the Royal Navy he became our company's Specialist Medical Consultant when we ran mobile hyperbaric treatment chambers looking after dozens of infants with cerebral palsy and members of Manchester United, Celtic and Portsmouth Football Clubs wishing to return to the field quickly after muscle injuries.  


A fountain of specialist aviation, submarine and diving medical knowledge and a true gentleman as well as a great run ashore, he never forgot his links with the clearance diving branch and assisted many of our former colleagues after their retirement into Civvy Street suffering from the strains and stresses of earlier branch life.  


Neither of us has ever met his family but would you please give our sincere condolences to them.




Colin (Scouse) Kidman & Mick Fellows"


From MCDOA member Simon Ridout:




It is with sadness that I have read of Ramsay's death.  Diving in general and RN diving in particular is indebted to him.  I personally found him to be inspiring, as well as a caring doctor.


Yours Aye,




From MCDOA member Alan Padwick OBE:


"Dear Rob,


I am very sorry to hear that Ramsay has died.  He was a good bloke with a nice sense of humour.  The INM doctors were all a lot of fun in those days.


Sadly I will not be able to get there for the funeral as I am about to have a toe straightened and that is interfering with everything (though the prospect of being forced to sit around with my foot up for a fortnight seems quite appealing).  Give my regards to those who remember me and have a good Christmas yourself.






From MCDOA member Julian Malec:


"Dear Rob,


...I regret I cannot be at Ramsay’s funeral tomorrow.  Jon Riches will be my rep!






From MCDOA member Stu Harper:




Very much regret will not be able to make Monday. 


Like you, Ramsay's practical, common sense approach to the rapidly evolving diving medicine field deeply affected and hugely assisted this old diver.  He will be greatly missed by many around the world who he nurtured to better things.


Please add my condolences.






From MCDOA member Jon Cox:




Thank you for the sad news regarding Ramsay's passing.  He was and will remain a giant of a man in the field of underwater medicine.  I remember him with great affection .


Sadly, I will not be able to make the funeral.  Please pass on my condolences to his family.


Jon Cox"


From MCDOA member Peter Waddington:




I was very sorry to hear through your good offices, the sad news of Ramsay Pearson's passing.  As with Tim, I have not met him for many years, and I have no knowledge of his family, but please pass on my condolences. 


Professionally he was of course everything you have written about him.  Socially, he was a charming gentleman, and also, as may not be so readily remembered except by the direct participants, he was a keen organiser of, and participant in, our small but quite successful Choral Society in HMS Vernon in the late 1960s/early 70s.




Peter Waddington"


From MCDOA member David Hosking MBE:




Sorry to hear the sad news and please pass my deep condolences to the family.




From MCDOA member Tim Hildesley OBE:




So sorry to hear of the death of Ramsay Pearson who I knew well but had not seen for some years.  I'd be grateful if you would pass on my condolences to Jim Sykes who, as you well know, was more or less a contemporary of Ramsay and whose careers ran alongside each other. 


We will be unable to attend the funeral as we are still overseas returning on 18 Dec.  I do not know Pearson family members but rely on you to express the sympathy of us MCD officers who benefited from Ramsay’s skills over the years.


With best wishes and thanks for passing the information,




RN divers receive bravery award for bomb disposal


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the award of the Guernsey Police Chief Officer’s Commendation to members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) for a complex operation to remove and dispose of a wartime air-dropped mine on Guernsey in the Channel Islands (see entry for 19 Aug 13 in News Archive 43).  The article features PO(D) Nick 'Jack' Frost who led the disposal operation, CPO Jack Harwell who provided technical engineering and lifting advice, LS(D) Luke Hill, AB(D) Stuart Farden and AB(D) Jack Muddiman.


PO(D) Nick Frost flanked by Minister for the

Home Department Jonathan Le Tocq and

Chief Officer of Police Patrick Rice

(RN website photo)


Postscript: On 10 December, the Plymouth Herald published this article covering the same story.


SDU2 call-out to incident in Southampton


The Southern Daily Echo website contains this article describing a call-out for members of Portsmouth Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to an explosives incident at a bakery in Bitterne, Southampton yesterday.



5 Dec 13


Peter Laughton due home for Christmas


The Portsmouth News website contains this article announcing that the Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster is due to return home in time for Christmas following her deployment in the Western Atlantic.  The ship left Portsmouth on 23 May and the article features MCDOA member Peter Laughton who has recently taken over Command as described in this article from the Portsmouth News.


Cdr Peter Laughton MBE RN on the bridge wing of HMS Lancaster

(RN website photo by L(Phot) Jay Allen)


Warm welcome for HMS Ledbury in Swansea


Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the recent visit to Swansea of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6).  The article features MCDOA member Simon Pressdee, her Commanding Officer.


SDU2 collects scrap metal


The Isle of Wight Radio website contains this article describing a call-out to Ventnor on Tuesday for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).  The suspect ordnance turned out to be scrap metal which the team removed from the scene.


4 Dec 13 - The Royal Naval Reserve Diving Branch


The Royal Navy website contains this article about the RNR Diving Branch including photos illustrating a weekend of pre-joining aptitude and acquaint testing at Horsea Island last month.  The article features MCDOA member John Herriman, the Branch Manager.


AB Natasha Senn RNR of HMS King Alfred in Portsmouth

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


AB Grant Thornes RNR of Leeds-based Ceres

Division of HMS Calliope in Newcastle

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


CPO Chris Dello RNR of HMS King Alfred in Portsmouth

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


The Royal Navy has also published this accompanying video on YouTube.  It was filmed by LA(Phot) Maxine Davies and has a commentary by Lt Nick Foster RNR.


Postscript: On 18 December, the Portsmouth News published this article covering the same story. 


Gulf minehunters feature on BBC TV (Part II)


The second half of a report on the Bahrain-based RN minehunters currently deployed in the Gulf was broadcast on BBC South Today last night (see entry for 2 Dec 13).  The report includes interviews with personnel from HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4), RFA Cardigan Bay and FSU 01 (Forward Support Unit 01).







The programme can be watched again on iPlayer via this link until 1859 (GMT) on Wednesday 4 December.  The segment about the RN minehunters starts at minute 08:26.


3 Dec 13 - MCDOA President in Libya


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit to Libya by MCDOA President, Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC.  He is embarked in HMS Bulwark while commanding the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) which has been deployed since August on COUGAR 13 and visited Tripoli to support a UK Trade & Industry (UKTI) event.


Capt Andrew Burns RN (CO of HMS Bulwark), HMA Michael Aron, Rt Hon Mark

Francois MP, Lt Gen David Capewell RM and Cdre Paddy McAlpine RN

(RN website photo by LA(Phot) Arron Hoare)



2 Dec 13 - Gulf minehunters feature on BBC TV (Part I)


Today's South Today programme on BBC TV contained the first half of a report on the Bahrain-based RN minehunters deployed in the Gulf.  Among those interviewed was MCDOA member Cdr Jim Byron DSC RN, Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force (UKMCMFOR). 





The programme can be watched again on iPlayer via this link until 1859 (GMT) on Tuesday 3 December.  The segment about the RN minehunters starts at minute 13:15 and a second report about the UKMCC (UK Maritime Component Commander) in Bahrain is scheduled for Tuesday's programme at 1830.  There will also be sporadic all-day coverage on Radio Solent as there was today.


1 Dec 13 - Funeral of ex-CPO(D) Neil Primrose BEM


For those attending Neil Primrose's funeral in Truro on Friday (see entry for 27 Nov 13 in News Archive 44), his daughter Lisa has asked that colourful clothing be worn because the family would not like the occasion to be unduly gloomy.


30 Nov 13 - MWA Southern Area Gathering


A few members of the Minewarfare Association (MWA) enjoyed a pre-Christmas meal together last night in Fareham.  The group gained flying speed in the Lord Arthur Lee before moving on to LJ's Chinese Restaurant; not particularly festive but hugely enjoyable!  Fellow MCDOA member John Bainbridge joined me for the occasion.


MWA members enjoying a taste of the Orient


29 Nov 13


SDU1 blows up mine off Portland


The BBC News website contains this article describing yesterday's detonation of a wartime mine off Portland by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).  The article features MCDOA committee member Peter Davis, the unit's new OIC (see entry for 16 Nov 13).


MCDOA member Peter Davis, OIC SDU1


Postscript:  Coincidentally, I received this email from Peter shortly after publishing the above article:




Thanks for posting the Dinner Photos - as usual the event was great. 


A surprising first few weeks with SDU1.  A routine training dive off Portland saw me and my buddy stumble upon a WW2 mine.  While some might argue that this is the ultimate in creating work for myself, it did give me the opportunity to do my first live EMLB lift and wet demolition task with the Team. The following was posted by BBC after my interview on BBC Solent:


A busy week with the remainder of the team digging out on an engineering task back in Plymouth in support of an RN warship.  As you would expect, I am massively chuffed to have joined such a cohesive and effective team of divers and operators.


Yours aye,


Peter H Davis




SDU2 deals with two incidents on the Isle of Wight


The Island Echo website contains this article and the County Press website this article describing the second of two EOD incidents dealt with by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) on the Isle of Wight on Tuesday.


28 Nov 13 - Minehunter crews battle it out in Bahrain


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a 'Plastic Man' (vice 'Iron Man') fitness competition between 10-man teams from HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4), HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 7), HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 8) and HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 6) while all four ships were alongside Mina Salman Port in Manama.


MCDOA member Jim Byron, Commander UK Mine Counterneasures Force (UKMCMFOR), presented the winner's trophy to AB(D) Tom Hilder representing HMS Quorn.


27 Nov 13 - Death and funeral arrangements for ex-CPO(D) Neil Primrose BEM


I have just heard the sad news of the death of ex-CPO(D) Neil Primrose from Cris Ballinger via Troy Tempest, Secretary of the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD).  I mainly remember Neil from when he ran the Torpedo Trials Underwater Recovery Unit at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall over 30 years ago.  This diving element was primarily responsible for recovering air-dropped weapons after trials off the Helford Estuary but it also provided useful support for courses from HMS Vernon undertaking their deep diving training at Falmouth during the summer months.  For his services, he was awarded the BEM in the 1986 New Year Honours.  He also ran a local guest house which proved a favourite haunt for many CDs.


Neil's funeral will take place at 1100 on Friday 6 December in the Trelawney Chapel at Penmount Crematorium, Newquay Road, Truro, Cornwall, TR4 9AA.  The funeral director is Mr. D. Dodson of T. Cooke Funeral Directors in Falmouth. 


Pete Batchelour of RNAS Culdrose has spoken with the funeral directors and it appears that the service is open to all, especially service and ex-service people.  He also suspects that a uniformed attendance would be welcome.  A reception may be held at the Royal Duchy Hotel in Falmouth after the service but this is still subject to confirmation.


I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our deep sympathy to Neil's close family and friends.


From MCDOA member David Carey:


"Many thanks for sharing the sad news of Neil's passing.


Regret that I won't be able to attend the service on the 6th Dec as I'll be in Dubai.  Please pass my condolences onto Neil's family: I have vivid memories of diving days off Falmouth and nights spent in pubs and B&B's there!   


Neil's contributions and connections to the entire diving community, especially via deep diving training and work-up teams, plus the Culdrose SAR divers, will always be remembered and appreciated.


Maintain momentum!


Best regards,


David Carey

Project Manager, Vernon Monument"


From MCDOA Honorary Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson:




Really sorry to hear about the passing of Neil.  I met him when I was a Baby Diver many moons ago!  


Please pass on my sympathy to all the family and friends. Unfortunately I will be on my way back from Bahrain that day-otherwise I would have attended the funeral.


Kindest Regards,




From ex-CD Ernie Ayre: 


"So sad to hear of the passing of Neil.  I remember him well.


If anyone is attending the funeral, would you please pass on my deepest sympathy.


Thank you,


Ernie Ayre (Shorty)"


From ex-CD George McCarthy:


"A sad day for me today on hearing this news.  I owe Neil so so much.


I visited Neil at home 3-4 months ago and commented on his breathing at which point he deflected my concerns in a very professionally way.  He knew I was now a Paramedic and yet he was adamant that I would not be allowed to think he was not immortal.


Looking back on that visit now fills me with so much pride that my Chief Diver didn't share his fears with the men brought up under his command.  


Thank you, Chief.  It was an honour to have served with and for you.




From ex-CD Mark 'Olly' Holroyd QCB:


"Hi all,


Another sad loss.  Please pass on my condolences to his family.  I hope to be able to make it to the funeral.






26 Nov 13 - Members of HMS Shoreham's ship's company visit school in Bahrain


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit by eight personnel from HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 8) to St Christopher’s School in Manama, Bahrain.  The article features AB(MW) Jack Brooks.


RN website photo


Members of MCM1 Crew 8 deployed on board HMS Shoreham in early June 2013 and it is anticipated that they will return to the UK in December.  The ship is due to remain based in Bahrain until mid-2015 when she will be relieved by HMS Bangor, currently manned by MCM1 Crew 4.


25 Nov 13 - MCDOA Operational Updates, AGM and Dinner follow-up



Once again, the events of last Friday left some lasting memories for those MCDOA members and guests who participated.  The day started with some operational updates in the Reclaim Room at Fleet Diving Headquarters on Horsea Island.  After the usual reunions over coffee and biscuits on arrival, our Chairman Chris Baldwin welcomed attendees and provided a description of his diving standards team and its recent activities.


Chris Ashcroft

Superintendent of Diving


The audience for the operational briefs


During the ensuing coffee break, Ralph Mavin and Martyn Holloway took a particlular interest in Dave Sandiford's highly detailed miniature of the planned Vernon Monument and SofD's 'new' silver trophy which will be awarded annually to outstanding units or individuals.



Left: MCDOA members during the coffee break

Right: Mavin, Holloway and Sandiford admiring the hardware 


We were then given briefs on various aspects of minewarfare and diving operations, equipment and tactics by Don Crosbie, Bill Kerr, Mark Atkinson and Martin Mackey. 


Don Crosbie - OIC Fleet Diving Squadron 



Bill Kerr and Mark Atkinson


Martin Mackey


After the customary fish and chips for lunch, members re-convened for the AGM.  Respects were paid to the memories of MCDOA members Philip Balink-White MBE, Morty Drummond and Pat Dowland who had all crossed the bar since our previous gathering a year ago.  Cdre Paddy McAlpine, currently commanding the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) which has been deployed since August, was re-endorsed as the Association's President and all Association officers were re-elected without opposition. 


Despite banner headlines on this website, announcements at three AGMs and several emailed appeals, it was reported that approximately half the Association's members have still not amended their Standing Orders i.a.w. the decision made three years ago to increase the annual subscription from £10 to £15; in some cases, Standing Orders have been allowed to lapse altogether.  The Chairman and Honorary Secretary are therefore faced with having to expend scarse and valuable time, effort and expense in writing to recalcitrant members individually, asking them to hasten their actions and settle their arrears.  Are you one of the culprits?


It was decided to amend the MCDOA's Constitution to allow newly-qualified MCDOs and MWOs to be dined in at the Association's expense at the next programmed Annual Dinner provided they have applied for membership.  Such graduates are already granted immediate free membership pending activitation of their Standing Orders in January of the following year.


It was decided to purchase framed Project Vernon limited edition prints of 'Danger at Depth' and 'Vernon Creek' to present to the President of HMS Excellent's Wardroom as a token of the Association's gratitude for being allowed to use the mess.


It was decided to purchase framed Project Vernon limited edition prints of 'Danger at Depth' and 'Vernon Creek' for raffle at the evening's dinner in aid of Project Vernon.


It was decided to award a subsidy of £300 towards the MCDOA Northern Dinner programmed for February 2014.


It was decided to allocate £1,000 towards the evening's bar expenses. 


It was announced that next year's Operational Updates, AGM and Dinner are planned for 21 November 2014. 


The day's events culminated in the Annual Dinner in HMS Excellent's wardroom with a record 145 attendees.  Socialising commenced with an aperitif in the bar.


Principal Guest, Vice Admiral Peter Hudson, chatting with members

in the bar before dinner


Several serving and retired WO(D)s were present as well as our friends from the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club and members' personal guests.  The Maitre d'Hôtel and her staff were their usual cheerful and ever diligent selves and the members of HMS Nelson's Volunteer Band, led by Colour Sgt Christian Edwards RM, played their hearts out.  As last year, Captain Mark Durkin took the chair as our absent President's representative and Chris Baldwin acted as 'Mr Vice'.  Between the starter and the main course, Chris paid tribute to the two courses celebrating their 25th anniversary.  Between the main course and pudding, he toasted our leavers and Cdre Phil Burrell subsequently responded on behalf of both groups before the port was served.


Phil Burrell speaking on behalf of the leavers

(Photo courtesy of Andy Todman) 


As last year, we were graced with the presence of my old friend and LMCDO Course buddy Bernie Bruen.  This time, he was reunited with three of the officers who served under him when he commanded HMS Gavinton during the mid-1980s.


Lt Cdr Robin Swaine, Bernie Bruen, Cdre Al Halliday and Cdre Richard Farrington

reunited after nearly 30 years


Bernie joined Al Halliday after dinner to render two divers' songs he had composed.


Al Halliday and Bernie Bruen singing for their supper


The dinner culminated with Mark Durkin introducing our principal guest, Vice Adm Peter Hudson, who gave a colourful speech that included anecdotes about several of those present.



Left: Mark Durkin introducing the Admiral

Right: Vice Admiral Hudson speaking out


Bernie Thompson has kindly supplied this photo showing some of the members of LMCDO '88B reunited with their Course Officer for their 25th anniversary:


LMCDO '88B Course Officer Jon Chapple (centre) flanked by students

Bernie Thompson, Simon Bound, Paul Jones and Chris Deere RCN


As ever, well done and thank you to our Honorary Treasurer, Richard 'Soapy' Watson, for organising such a sucessful programme of events.  Here are some more photos of the evening and I am grateful to Andy Todman for supplying some of them.




24 Nov 13 - ABCANZ Diving Working Group in the USA


I am grateful to MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin for this contribution regarding the the ABCANZ (Australia, British, Canada, America and New Zealand) Diving Working Group: 




Soapy and I were in the US at the beginning of the month and visited the USN Dive School in Panama City and the US EOD School at Elgin AF Base in Florida. 




If you need a bit more information, I am working on an agreement for a worldwide MoU with the four other nations in ABCANZ to use each other's recompression chambers.  Also, we have four divers from FDS working with the US on some diving trials at the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City.




Chris Baldwin"


23 Nov 13 - Lass nite


Wot a fun fab fantassic diner last nit!

Announcement in this morning's Telegraph


Normal servis will be resummed as son as posibl.


22 Nov 13


MCDOA Annual Dinner


It's tonight, 1900 for 1930 in the wardroom at HMS Excellent!  A draw will be held for framed Project Vernon limited edition prints of 'Danger at Depth' and 'Vernon Creek' plus other attractive prizes so bring plenty of cash.  See you there.


HMS Grimsby visits towns in the North-East


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing recent visits by HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 7) to Hartlepool, Newcastle and Grimsby.


HMS Grimsby passing under the Millennium Bridge at Gateshead

(RN website photo)


21 Nov 13


Welcome home Jason White


The Royal Navy website contains this announcement and the Portsmouth News website this article about tomorrow morning's return to Portsmouth of the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon from her eight-month deployment in the Mediterranean and east of Suez.  One of her PWOs is MCDOA member Jason White QGM and I am sure all members of our Association will join me in welcoming him home and wishing him an enjoyable and thoroughly well-deserved leave. 


Local resident Daniel Ferro has kindly allowed me to publish this photo of HMS Dragon leaving Gibraltar on the evening of 17 November.  She has reinstated the red dragon she wore on her bows during her Part IV trials but has only treated her starboard side, possibly owing to the temporary unavailability of a large enough paint cat in Gibraltar.


HMS Dragon leaving Gibraltar on 17 November 2013

(Image courtesy of Daniel Ferro) 


Daniel also took this photo of HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 3) arriving at Gibraltar on 17 November  She has been deployed in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2) since early September.


HMS Penzance arriving at Gibraltar on 17 November 2013

(Image courtesy of Danel Ferro) 


HMS Blyth completes OST


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation in the most recent Exercise JOINT WARRIOR of HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2) and her completion of OST (Operational Sea Training).


MCDOA President meets US counterparts off Djibouti


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a meeting between MCDOA President Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC (Commander United Kingdom Task Group (COMUKTG)) and Capt Malcolm Potts USN (Commander Amphibious Squadron One) in the waters off Djibouti to discuss continuing amphibious interoperability between the two allies.  Capt Potts, based on board USS Boxer, and Col Christopher Taylor USMC (Commanding Officer 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit) visited HMS Bulwark, Cdre McAlpine's flagship, to discuss the sustainability and maintenance of their respective amphibious Task Groups.


Paddy McAlpine (second right) hosts US counterparts on board

HMS Bulwark off Djibouti

(RN website photo)


Paddy McAlpine flanked by Colonel Taylor USMC and Captain Potts USN

on board HMS Bulwark off Djibouti

(RN website photo)


MCDOA member's daughter helps host prestigious naval presentation


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a presentation in Portsmouth Naval Base today for the Defence and Naval Attaché’s of 19 major nations including, among others, senior officers from the Russian, Brazilian, Chilean, Chinese, Indian and US armed forces.  One of the members of the RN Presentation Team is Lt Cassie Stavely RN, daughter of MCDOA member John Staveley.


Cassie Staveley at lectern during VIP presentation by RN Presentation Team

(RN website photo)


20 Nov 13


Bomb wagon involved in collision in Portsmouth


The Portsmouth News contains this article describing the collision of an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) vehicle with a car near Gunwharf Quays (previously the site of HMS Vernon) in Portsmouth this morning.  The bomb disposal vehicle belonged to the Army's RLC (Royal Logistic Corps, known colloquially as the 'Really Large Corps').


Northbound RLC EOD vehicle on Burnaby Road at junction with Park Road

(Portsmouth News photo by Marcus Cole)


Award of LS &GC


Congratulations to PO(MW) S. G. Moore and PO(MW) S. G. Wiles on being gazetted for the award of the LS & GC (Long Service & Good Conduct Medal).


19 Nov 13 - Funeral of ex-CD Steve Briggs


A good crowd turned out for the funeral of Steve Briggs at Worthing Crematorium today (see second entry for 2 Nov 13).  Fellow members of the Clearance Diver branch included Jimmy Bond, Buster Brown, Tony Groom, Mike 'Pincher' Marten, Danny Tolhurst and Michael Webb but there were many other divers from the offshore industry as well as other friends, colleagues and relatives.


We entered the chapel to the sound of 'Visions' sung by Stevie Wonder and were welcomed by the officiating priest before the opening prayer.  This was followed by the singing of 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' after which Steve's lifelong friend Keith gave a moving tribute describing their boyhood in Wembley including japes, scrabble games, cycling, go-karting and playing football.  He also recounted how he had met his future wife Linda at a Soho nightclub after a particular evening in their local pub, The Bull & Bush in Wembley, and Steve had been his best man.  Their subsequent families had remained in close touch thereafter, once sharing a wonderful holiday in Sharm el Sheikh, and Steve had been regarded as an uncle to Keith's own children.  Steve had joined the Royal Navy and become a Clearance Diver in the early 1970s but left after a few years to work for a variety of offshore diving companies.  On being rendered a quadraplegic in a domestic accident two years ago, he had continued to show grit and cheerfulness right to the end despite his adversity.  Keith also paid tribute to all those who had supported Steve in his final months.


The service then resumed with The Collect and our recitation of 'Psalm 23' (The Lord is my Shepherd) before the congregation listened to the famous rendition of 'Nessum Dorma' by Luciano Pavarotti.  The officiating priest then read from 'The Book of Mark' 4:35-41 (Jesus calms the storm after which three members of the Brighton Buddhist Centre described Steve's involvement with their Worthing outreach group and how, despite his paralysed state, he had been an inspiration to whoever met him.  Their leader then encouraged the congregation to join in chanting Steve's favourite mantra.


After further prayers, mourners sang 'The Naval Hymn' (Eternal Father) after which the priest delivered the Commendation & Farewell and Committal & Blessing.  The congregation left the chapel to the sound of 'Time to Say Goodbye' by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli.


Most people went on to a reception at the nearby Black Horse in Findon to meet Steve's family and friends and toast his memory.  Buster Brown has kindly supplied this photo of the CD Branch representatives present apart from Tony Groom who had a previous engagement after the service:


Back row: Danny Tolhurst, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) and Michael Webb

Front row: Jimmy Bond, Mike 'Pincher' Marten and Buster Brown


I am sure all members of our community will join me in extending our deepest sympathy to Steve's family on their sad loss and hope that time will make their grief less hard to bear.


Steven Alan Briggs

(24 Sep 1957 - 29 Oct 2013)


18 Nov 13 - HMS Atherstone hosts Chelsea Pensioners


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit by three Chelsea Pensioners to HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) in Bahrain.  Chelsea Pensioners are normally resident at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a retirement and nursing home in London for former members of the British Army.


Chelsea Pensioners Albert Willis, Barry Prior and Simon de Buissere being

presented with a photo of HMS Atherstone by her Commanding Officer,

Lt Cdr Simon Rogers RN

(RN website photo)


17 Nov 13 - Double celebration for Doug Barlow


Several people attended the typically riotous 85th birthday celebration of MCDOA associate member Doug Barlow at a hotel in Emsworth last night.  What came as a surprise to some was that Doug had secretly married his longtime partner Jill earlier in the day.


Doug and Jill cutting their combined celebration cake


I am particularly delighted because Doug has been a good friend since we first served together at HMS Vernon over 40 years ago and he was my Best Man in 1981.  I am sure all members of our community will join me in wishing him and Jill many more happy years together.


Postscript: On 19 November, the Portsmouth News published this article including a photo of Doug and Jill on the front page.


16 Nov 13 - News from Peter Davis


I am grateful to MCDOA committee member Peter Davis for this update:




A quick line to report my supersession as Officer-in-Charge Southern Diving Unit 1 (Plymouth).  Lt Cdr Ross Balfour is off to the United States and I look forward to carrying on his hard work here in GUZ.



Also looking forward to the AGM on Friday and toasting my new role at the dinner.


Yours aye,


Peter H Davis




15 Nov 13


HMS Quorn and HMS Atherstone host UK Minister


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how the Gulf-based minehunters HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 7), HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) and the frigate HMS Montrose have hosted Philip Dunne MP, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support & Technology, while alongside in Abu Dhabi.


Philip Dunne MP meeting Lt Cdr Eleanor Stack RN, CO of HMS Quorn,

and other members of the ship's company

(RN website photo)


LS(D) Duncan explaining CDLSE to the Minister

(RN website photo)


PO(MW) Cooke explaining the SeaFox mine disposal vehicle to the Minister

(RN website photo)


Rattler Morgan on Question Time


Did anyone else spot our old friend Rattler Morgan in the audience on BBC1 TV's Question Time from Portsmouth last night?  I mainly remember him as MCM2's Squadron Chief (Minewarfare) at HMS Vernon during the 1970s but we met again at the MWA Annual Dinner at the Royal Maritime Club earlier this year (see entry for 17 Mar 13 in News Archive 41).


Rattler Morgan criticising cuts in RN manpower on last night's 'Question Time'


Yours Truly with Barney Barnett and Rattler Morgan at this year's MWA Dinner


14 Nov 13 - A Query from Malta: RN Clearance Diver called Bruce Smith?


I received this request for information this morning:


"Dear Sirs,


My name is Jacqui Hedley.  I moved to Malta from UK to open a Dive Centre two years ago and found out from my Aunty that my Uncle who died 21 years ago this week was a Clearance Diver in the Royal Navy.   


I was diving with a Navy Diver this morning here in Malta and he told me about this website and said I should get in touch.


My uncle's name was Bruce Smith, his DOB was 19/09/19--.  I am awaiting an answer from my aunty with the year he was born in.   He was originally on submarines then he was stationed here in Malta.   


It is a bit sketchy as he never talked much about his time in the Navy but we believe he was stationed in Malta for about two years in the 1950s or 1960s but we believe it was more likely to have been the 1960s.  It would be fantastic if you had any information about him and even better if there was a photo of him I could hang in my Dive centre.  


Looking forward to hearing from you and any information you may have.


Kindest regards,




Jacqui Hedley

Owner/Director of Diving Ocean Mysteries Diving"


I then sent Jacqui this reply:


"Hello Jacqui,


Thank you for your email.


I regret that I have not heard of your uncle, Bruce Smith, but I am blind-copying this to some other people who may be able to help.   Can you remember the name of the Navy Diver with whom you talked?  


Best wishes,  


Rob Hoole"


Jacqui sent this in response:


"Dear Lt Cdr Hoole,


Thank you very much for your quick reply.


I just had an answer from my Aunty and he was born in 1933.  Thank you ever so much for passing the message on.  Hopefully someone has heard of him.  Being a diver I have to say I have great respect for anyone that would dive and be around bombs/mines.


The chap that told me about you is [MCDOA member] Tony Hampshire.  I do not think he is anything to do with mine clearance but he has just done three years in Oman.  He is an Instructor and was teaching divers to Advanced level (I think).  He stopped here en route home to the UK and will be at Faslane.  


Thank you once again for your assistance.


Kindest regards,




I have advised Jacqui how to obtain a copy of her uncle's service record.  Can anyone else help her find out more about him?  If so, please email me via my Webmaster address.


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


"G'day Rob,


I knew several Smiths in the branch but, without more details, I cannot identify which one we are talking about.  Has his aunt still got his service Certificate and Diving history sheet?  


Dave L (Mona)"


From ex-CD Pete Alderton:


"There was an ex-police force PO CD1 in HMS Drake's diving section about 1963/64.  I do not recall his first name because he was known to us all as 'Copper' Smith (naval humour).  I believe he went to the Far East in HMS Triumph or HMS Forth.


Best Wishes,




13 Nov 13


MCDOA President in Pakistan


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the visit to Pakistan of HMS Bulwark as part of the COUGAR 13 deployment of the UK’s Response Force Task Group ((RFTG).  The RFTG is under the overall Command of MCDOA President Paddy McAlpine, Commander United Kingdom Task Group (COMUKTG).


Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC RN with Cdre Waris, Commander Pakistan Marines

(RN website photo)


Gulf-based MCMVs remember the fallen


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of approximately two hundred sailors from HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 7), HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4), HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 6) and HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 8 commanded by MCDOA member Matt Moore) plus personnel from Forward Logistic Site, Fleet Support Unit and the UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) headquarters in a Service of Remembrance in Bahrain.


Personnel from HM Ships Ramsey, Shoreham, Atherstone, Quorn, Minewarfare

Battle Staff 1, UKMCC HQ and the Fleet Support Unit on Mina Salman Port Jetty

for Remembrance Service conducted by Reverend Ralph Barber

(RN website photo) 


12 Nov 13 - MCDOA Annual Dinner reminder 


To date, those attending this year's annual dinner in the Wardroom, HMS Excellent on Friday 22 November include:


Guest of Honour
Vice Admiral Peter Hudson CBE
Commander Allied Maritime Command
Service Leavers
Cdre Phil Burrell RN
Capt Adrian Cassar RN
Cdr Phil Ireland DSC RN
Cdr Paul Jones RN
Cdr Chris Davies RN
Cdr Tim Ash RN
Other Members and their Guests
(Host's name in brackets)
Cdr Chris Ameye RN
WO(D) Dan Archer
Cdr Chris Ashcroft RN
Lt Cdr John Bainbridge RN
Cdr Chris Baldwin RN
Mr Simon Baldwin (Baldwin)
Lt Cdr Doug Barlow RN
Lt Robin Bennett RE
Cdr Ian Berry MBE RNR
Brig Stuart Birrell DSO RM (Hunkin)
Lt Cdr Simon Bound QGM RN
Lt Keith Broughton RN
Lt Cdr Bernie Bruen MBE DSC RN
Lt Col Jim Castle MBE RE
Lt Cdr Jon Chapple RN (LMCDO '88A & '88B Course Officer)
Lt Colin Churcher MBE RN
WO(D) Mo Crang
Sub Lt Sam Cresdee RN (Pressdee)
Lt Cdr Mike Critchley
Cdr Don Crosbie RN

Cdr Tim Curd RN
Mr ? Curtis (Hunkin)
Lt Pete Davis RN
Lt ? Davis RN (Vickery)
Cdr Chris Deere RCN
Maj Nick Deppe RE (Watson)
Capt Mark Durkin RN
Mr Simon Edwards (Broughton)
Cdr Mike Emary RN
Sub Lt Mike Every RN (Pressdee)
Cdre Richard Farrington RN (Durkin)
WO(D) Steve Fitzjohn
Lt Cdr Chris Flaherty RN
Capt 'JJ' Forbes RE
Mr ? Forbes (Forbes)
Lt Cdr Kev Giles RN
Lt Cdr Mike Gillam RN
Lt Cdr Kim Godfrey RN
Lt Cdr Simon Goodrum RN
Lt Cdr Nick Gwatkin RN
Cdre Alistair Halliday RN (Durkin)
Mr Alan Hares

Lt Cdr Stu Harper RN

Lt Cdr Dan Herridge RN
Mr John Higham (Broughton)
Lt Cdr Nigel Hill RN
Lt Cdr Ian Hogg RN
Lt Cdr Martyn Holloway RN
Mr Gareth Hoole (Hoole)
Lt Cdr Rob Hoole RN
Cdr David Hunkin RN
Mr John Hurst (Forbes)
Lt Sam Jane RN (Pressdee)
Lt Cdr Bill Kerr RN
Cdr Chris Lade RN
Mr Tony Knight
Cdr Chris Lade RN
Lt Cdr Bob Lusty RN
Cdr Martin Mackey RN
Mr Ted Mangion (Watson)
Lt Cdr Steve Marshall DSC RN
Lt ? Marshall MBE RN
Lt Cdr Ralph Mavin RN
Lt Cdr Stu McAlear RN

Lt Cdr Paul McDermott RN
Lt Ian McLeland RN

Lt Ian Morton RN
Mr Adam Neil (Neil)
Cdr Simon Neil RN
Mr Toby Neil (Neil)
Mr John Newnhan (Morton)
Cdr Jim Nisbet RN
Lt Cdr ? Northcoat RN
Mr ? Okunowo (Gwatkin)
Mr Mick O'Leary
Mr Danny O'Sullivan (Jones)
Mr R Pavry (Neil)
Mr Brit Pearce (Hares)
Lt Ben Piper RN
Mr Eric Piper (Piper)
Lt ? Pisch USN (Pressdee)
Mr ? Porch (Hunkin)
Lt Cdr Simon Pressdee RN
Mr Richard Purcell (Lade)
WO(D) John Ravenhall
Mr P Redman (?)
Mr K Richards (?)
Lt Cdr Ian Richardson RN
Cdr Keith Riches RN
WO(D) Karl Roberts
Lt Cdr Peter Robinson RN
Cdr Tom Russell RN
Cdr David Sandiford RN
Cdr Mark Savage OBE RN
Cdr Jason Scott RN
Mr ? Shelly (Hunkin)
Mr ? Silcock (Watson)
WO2 Jez Simpson (Watson)
Lt Cdr Ash Spencer RN
Capt Nick Stanley RN
WO(D) Steve Strange QGM
Lt Cdr Andrew Stribley RN
Lt Cdr Robin Swaine RN
Surg Cdre Jim Sykes RN
Cdr Bernie Thompson RN
Lt P Thompson RN (Thompson)
Mr Adrian Thornber (?)
WO(D) Graham 'Piggy' Trotter DSM
Capt Simon Turner
Lt Cdr Ben Vickery RN
Lt Cdr Peter Waddington RN
Lt Cdr Richard 'Soapy' Watson RN
Lt Graeme Waugh RN (Ashcroft)
Mr George Wellington (Hares)
Lt Cdr Darren West RN
Mr Gary Williams (Hares)
Cdr Charlie Wilson RN
Lt Cdr Graham 'Tug' Wilson MBE RN
Lt Jason Wong RN
Mr Steve Woodhead RE
Mr C Young (?)


* LMCDO '88A 25th Anniversary celebrants shown in red

* LMCDO '88B 25th Anniversary celebrants shown in green

* LMCDO '73 40th Anniversay celebrants shown in blue


Please submit your applications and any outstanding payments quickly.  Any prospective diners eligible for MCDOA membership must have an effective Standing Order in place to pay their annual subscription.  This has been £15 for the past three years but half the membership is still subsidising those who haven't yet increased their payments from £10 and paid off arrears. See the entry for 15 Sep 13 in News Archive 43 for further details.


RN medical officer completes Army Diver training course


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting that Surg Lt Jamie Vassallo RN has undertaken the Army Diver Class 2 (AD2) Course.  This qualifies him to use in-service self-contained air diving equipment to a maximum depth of 30m and is the equivalent of the old Ships' Diver course which the RN no longer runs.


Surg Lt Vassalo being prepared for army diving session

(RN website photo)


Jamie is currently serving at the Institute of Naval Medicine, Gosport and belongs to Fleet Diving Unit One (FDU1) as an Underwater Medical Officer supporting diving operations from RM Poole.


News from HMS Cattistock


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


HMS Cattistock's Wardroom Celebrates Anniversary of Battle of Trafalgar with

Chief of Defence Personnel, Lieutenant General Anthony Gregory CB


HMS CATTISTOCK, a Hunt Class Mine Countermeasures Vessel (MCMV), hosted Lieutenant General Anthony Gregory CB, during her Trafalgar Night celebrations whilst alongside in HM Naval Base Portsmouth on 24 October 2013.  General Gregory had previously visited the crew in his capacity as Chief of Defence Personnel, to discuss the ship’s capabilities and meet the sailors first hand and, as thanks for his support, the Wardroom gladly broke bread with him on the annual celebration of the Battle of Trafalgar.  


The Battle of Trafalgar took place on 21 October 1805 and was the most decisive victory in British naval history after Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson defeated the might of the combined Franco-Spanish Fleet under the command of Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve.  The opposing fleet outnumbered the British but Nelson adopted an unorthodox tactic, in which he split the Fleet into two columns perpendicular to the larger Franco-Spanish Fleet, and delivered a victory that ended the threat of invasion of the British Isles by Napoleon.  Shortly after the Battle, Lord Nelson, flying his Flag in HMS VICTORY, died after he was mortally wounded by a French sharpshooter and immortalised the victory as an enduring symbol of our Nation’s long-standing and glorious naval history.  


General Gregory enjoyed a traditional Trafalgar Night Dinner, which commenced with a Champagne Reception on the Bridge of HMS CATTISTOCK before moving to the Wardroom to dine on “Cape Trafalgar Cod”, “Loin of Beef Lord Nelson” and “Lady Hamilton’s Spiced Pear”.  The evening concluded with General Gregory proposing a toast to the Immortal Memory of Lord Nelson.  


The Royal Navy maintains a permanent presence in the Persian Gulf, including 4 MCMVs, as part of the United Kingdom’s on-going commitment to provide security at sea and to ensure the safety of the world’s waterways, in particular, those in the Middle East.  As part of this, Crew 2 of the Second Mine Countermeasures Squadron (currently embarked in HMS CATTISTOCK) will shortly deploy to the Middle East for a 7-month tour to help protect the nation’s interests.


MCM2 Crew 2 Ready for Operations in the Persian Gulf


In December 2013, Crew 2 of the Second Mine Countermeasures Squadron will deploy to the Persian Gulf.  In preparation for this deployment, the crew have conducted a busy period of training and mission rehearsal in Scotish waters conducting Operational Sea Training (OST) and Exercise JOINT WARRIOR (Ex JW).



In August, the crew left Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Portsmouth embarked in HMS CATTISTOCK in order to deploy to Sovereign Base Area (SBA) Faslane ail north to HMNB Clyde where she would conduct OST.  The bridge team were tested in their ability to safely navigate and conduct pilotage in testing conditions both simulated and real world.  The Mechanical Engineering Department and the Executive Department achieved a particularly high standard owing to the experience and hard work committed.  The rigorous OST training package put high demands on the CATT and her crew and at times serials did not run smoothly.  However over the period the crew developed their skills as individuals and as a team coming together to achieve high standards across the board and receiving a Very Satisfactory overall.



After a short period of well-earned rest and sonar trials, CATT participated in the multi-national Ex JW.  Fourteen vessels along with thirty aircraft from three different Nations came together to keep the sea lines of communication open and provide support to a distressed nation, Pastonia. Pastonia is a Nation in civil war split between Peoples Republic of Pastonia (PRP) and Government of Pastonia (GoP).  The latter being the legitimate force for good and thus supported by the Multi National Force (MNF).  OST proved to be ideal preparation for the exercise with the crew maintaining their high standards for the duration of the exercise.  After the MCM operations conducted during OST in which CATT achieved a record number of Sea Fox runs the crew were able to successfully achieve any tasking that they received, in their stride. Serials conducted during this period included mine hunting with Sea Fox the Royal Navy’s unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), diving to depths of 60m in order to recover mines as well as Mine lead through of the task force and a helicopter transfer.



During Exercise Joint Warrior the Royal Navy Reserves were embarked across the fleet. HMS Cattistock was fortunate to have Leading Seaman (MW) Anthony Peacock (33) whose last time at sea was in 2002 when minehunters were also minesweepers.  Anthony is a software test analyst during the week and commented, "It was really great to get up to speed with the modern methods of minehunting and put into practice all the weekends and evenings that I have spent training with the RNR."  


On completion of Ex Joint Warrior CATT is returning to Portsmouth and shall be conducting final preparations prior to pre-deployment leave and the subsequent deployment to the Middle East.


I am sure all members of our community will join me in wishing MCM2 Crew 2 the best of good fortune in the Gulf and a safe return.


Postscript: On 13 November, the Royal Navy website published this article covering the same story.


11 Nov 13 - Lest we forget



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

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

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

We will remember them.

  Robert Laurence Binyon



10 Nov 13 - First silver-plated miniature of the Vernon Monument reaches Australia


The first 190mm hallmarked silver electro-plated version of a miniature of the Vernon Monument has reached Australia.  It was delivered to MCDOA member Dave 'Spidy' Ince who transferred from the RN to the RAN in 2006.  As can be seen below, he is delighted with his purchase and you can order your own miniature via the Project Vernon website here.



Dave Ince proudly holding his miniature of the planned Vernon Monument


Dave, of course, is otherwise known as 'Bradley Vincent', author of 'Far From Breaking Waves'.




9 Nov 13 - HMS Ledbury takes part in 40th anniversary commemoration of NATO MCM Force


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6) in a formal ceremony at Gdynia in Poland to mark the 40th anniversary of the Standing NATO Mine Warfare Force.  HMS Ledbury is attached to Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1) and has just completed Exercise STEADFAST JAZZ 13 involving ships from Norway, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia (see entry for 30 Oct 13).  The article features MCDOA member Simon Pressdee, Ledbury's Commanding Officer.


Commanding Officers of SNMCMG1 ships including Simon Pressdee second left

(RN website photo)


8 Nov 13 - Ensign replaced on wreck of HMS Royal Oak


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing this year's pilgrimage to Scapa Flow by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) to replace the white ensign on the wreck of HMS Royal Oak.  The battleship was torpedoed at anchor by a U-boat on 14 October 1939 with the loss of 833 personnel including 110 boy sailors.  The article features MCDOA member Richard Osbaldestin (CO of the Northern Diving Group) and LS(D) William Millar.


NDG diver on wreck of HMS Royal Oak

(RN website photo)


We should particularly remember MCDOA member Philip Balink-White who was one of the survivors of the sinking of HMS Royal Oak.  He retired from the RN as Superintendent of Diving in 1970 and died in Florida in June this year (see entry for 18 Jun 13 in News Archive 42 and this obituary in the Daily Telegraph).


Postscript: On 9 November, the Daily Mail website published this article, the Scotsman website this article and the STV News website this article covering the same story.


6 Nov 13 - Gulf MCMV personnel clean up cemetery in Bahrain


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how personnel from the Gulf-based minehunters HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 7), HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4), HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 6) and HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 8 commanded by MCDOA member Matt Moore) have been tidying up the Old Christian Cemetery in Bahrain in preparation for November's remembrance services. 


MCMV personnel tidying up Old Christian Cemetery in Bahrain

(RN website photo)


The cemetery belongs to St Christopher’s Cathedral in Manama and the article features AB(D) Liam Boardman of HMS Atherstone who qualified as a CD last year (see first entry for 12 Sep 12 in News Archive 39).


5 Nov 13 - Boyhood neighbours serving together in HMS Atherstone


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how PO(MW) Joe Morton and AB(MW) John Edmunds are currently serving together in HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) in the Gulf.  They were born just streets apart in Chaddesden, Derbyshire.


PO(MW) Joe Morton and AB(MW) John Edmunds with HMS Atherstone

(RN website photo)


4 Nov 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 that houses the Society's library and museum reserve collection: 




Despite being closed for the season, we opened on Saturday to receive survivors of the RN reunion dinner on Friday and for a Classic Car rally on Sunday!  So we managed another 51 visitors in all over the weekend.  We were honoured especially to meet three highly decorated divers.  Pictured being kept in order by Guides James Thomson (far left) and John Dadd BEM (far right) are Phil 'Ozzie' Hammond CGM, Graham 'Piggy' Trotter DSM and Terry Powell DCM. 



[By Webmaster: The background to each recipient's award is available in the section titled 'Post WW II Awards for RN Minewarfare, Clearance Diving and EOD' in the website's Branch History section.] 


Also pictured are two of the Classic Car visitors.





We have a few special openings coming up.


Thursday, 21 November (6.30 pm) - Gosport Cubs


Friday 22 November (Time tbc) - Danish HDS visitors


Tuesday 26 November (10.45-11.45 am) - Wicor Primary School




We will be entertaining children from Alverstoke Junior School at The Bunker on Friday 29 November.




A BIG THANK YOU for your support during our very successful 2013 season!




We are grateful to the HDS, especially its Chairman Dr John Bevan and Exhibitions Officer Una Smillie, for allowing the Vernon Monument to share its stand at Dive 13 at the NEC in Birmingham last weekend.  MCDOA founding Chairman David Sandiford represented Project Vernon and reports that considerable interest was generated among scuba divers and resulted in sales of PV merchandise.



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 078 0278 5050.  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.  A lot of work needs doing during the winter close season.


3 Nov 13 - Jason White in the Mediterranean


Spare a thought for MCDOA member Jason White QGM.  He is a PWO on board the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon and the Royal Navy website contains this article describing her recent activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.  HMS Dragon sailed from Portsmouth on 19 March and has spent much of her deployment in the Gulf where she operated with our MCM forces.  She is due home for Christmas.


HMS Dragon with the submarine HMS Talent in the Eastern Mediterranean

(RN website photo by LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins)


2 Nov 13


Funeral of ex-PO(D) David James 'Spike' Spears


There were as many people standing as sitting in the large chapel at Portchester Crematorium yesterday for the tribute to the life of Spike Spears (see entry for 18 Oct 13).  Clearance Divers in evidence included Vic Anderton, Cris Ballinger, David 'Jimmy' Bond, Donkey Bray (the younger), Chris Christie, John Dadd, Chris 'Paddy' Doonan, Mick Fellows, Don 'Jimmy' Green, Philip 'Ozzie' Hammond, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole), Ginge Lincoln, Dave McKenna, Mick O'Leary, Ray Ramsay, Scouse Roberts, Stu 'George' Sissons, Sully Sullivan, Troy Tempest, Graham 'Piggy' Trotter and Graham 'Tug' Wilson; apologies to any I have missed out.  It was also good to see WO(D) Steve Strange and PO ET(WE) David Blanks in uniform as well as a host of family, fishing friends and others.


Spike's casket was draped with a white ensign topped with flowers and his favourite fishing rod.  A framed photo was propped at the foor of the casket and a diving helmet and knife were laid in front of the catafalque.  Mourners entered to the sound of 'No Matter What' by Boyzone before the celebrant, Christine Allaway, welcomed attendees.  She then read out a poem entitled 'He Fished'.


In a voice understandably full of emotion, Spike & Lesley's daughter Hazel then delivered this moving eulogy:


"I would like to begin by thanking everyone for being here today and for proving to us, the family, how respected and loved Dad was and that he meant so much to so many.


Let me start by telling you something you never knew about my Dad.  My Dad thought that he never came to much in life.


I stand here now ready to prove `Mr always right' on this occasion, was wrong.


Though rarely used, Dad's first name was David.  In 1970 David met Lesley and a double act was formed.  You couldn't make it up.... Two teenagers meet while on holiday, boy makes a fool of himself by crashing his bike through rose bushes while trying to impress girl, girl falls hook, line and sinker.  Some may have thought that two 15-year-olds had no future together.  They would have been wrong.  Mum and Dad proved that some things are meant to be and no matter what, true love conquers all obstacles, defies all storms and deepens its colours with the passage of time.  They were made for each other.


At the age of 17 Dad joined the Navy and David soon became Spike, a name that stuck with him and that he earned by his ability to impale himself with metal spikes through the foot not once but twice while on mud runs.


In Dad's time in the Royal Navy, he served as a Clearance Diver, within different teams.  He served in HMS Brinton, the Seaforth Clansman, HMS Vernon and HMS Challenger, to mention but a few, until he was medically discharged from the Royal Navy as a Petty Officer Diver.  Dad spent many years working in saturation diving teams testing atmospheric diving suits and, from what I can work out, getting to be a big kid playing with big toys.  He was one of the first four personnel chosen to be trained to use atmospheric diving suits and to represent the Navy.  He didn't go unnoticed and was praised for his ability to adapt tools and implement them for operators to use while wearing the suits; many of his adaptations became standard equipment.


Spike in a 'JIM' atmospheric diving suit


Dad caught the attention of many during his diving career, as much for the cars he drove than his outstanding diving skills.  He thought he was the bee's knees in his Ford Capri but what made Dad's cars so unique was the diver's helmet he painted on the bonnet.  Having a car that stuck out like a sore thumb had its down side though; everyone knew it was his.  It was discovered that any key would fit the ignition and so, on a regular basis, Dad's car would be relocated in the car park only to leave him baffled when he returned to where he thought he had left it.  This was fine until his fellow divers parked the car in the Master-at-Arms' parking space outside the regulators' office at HMS Vernon.  The divers' sense of humour was not appreciated and, shortly after, Dad had his car pass withdrawn.


The diver's helmet from the bonnet of that car has always stayed close to Dad  When the car went, the helmet was cut out and placed on the wall of every house he lived in until it came to its final resting place where it is now, on the door of his garden shed. 


By the age of 22, Spike had gained the title of Dad and was the proud father of two beautiful daughters!  There was a reason Denise and I thought he was an amazing dad, and that was because he was more of a child than an adult.  I am sure Mum will agree with me when I say he never really developed past the age of 12.  I spent many summers on the Bessie Vee with Dad scrubbing the decks, making tea and cleaning the galley but, best of all, winning the prize for the best catch of the day.  Dad's face was particularly smug when, on one trip, I had been granted the opportunity between my 1st Mate duties to dip my line in the water.  Who needs a rod and reel when you can catch an 8 lb thornback on a hand line?  I gave up my fishing career on the Bessie Vee about the same time that the toilet cubicle with a closing door became a bucket with a curtain.


When I asked Denise for a Dad memory that stood out to her, she reminded me of the time Dad came home with a lunch box full of frogs that went on to invade our home, and then of the times when he used to come into senior school to fix the teachers' cars while dressed like a character from 'The Last of the Summer Wine', and of the times he took her to Horsea Island and dragged her up and down the lake on a rope attached to the back of a boat.  But my favourite memory had to be when Dad took Denise off to the car auctions insisting he would not go a penny over the £500 budget they had.  Needless to say, he got carried away only to come home with a nice blue Fiesta that cost £1,000.


At the age of 41, Dad took on the name of Skipper of the Bessie Vee.  No fish would ever be safe again.... Over the space of 15 years, Dad took to the sea every day that the weather would permit, serving professionals and amateurs of all ages and physical abilities.  He was especially keen to get disabled anglers out and to enable them to keep fishing despite their individual needs.  He landed over 10,000 fish, 15 footballs, seven inflatables and two rubber dinghies.  He caught three record fish, made numerous crossings to Alderney and took far too many photos for the delicately-named 'chunder album'.  He tagged hundreds of tope and smooth hound in an attempt to help sustain the fishing sport for the future, mooned the QE2, rescued yachts that had broken from their moorings and subsequently earned himself the title of `Bessie Vee - The 5th Emergency Service'.  He recovered submerged boats for salvage, mooned HMS York, donned a wet suit and cleared fouled propellers for any boat that asked, offered his mechanical skills to every engine in need and, above all, made many like-minded friends.


When Dad reached the ripe young age of 37, he gained his favourite name: Grandad.  This name had slight variances over the years: Gandad, Gwa Gwa, Mr Twit and, a personal favourite of mine, 'Old Man that smells of cabbage'. 


As the first grandchild, Thomas formed a special bond with his Grandad.  To an outsider, the relationship at times appeared more like father and son as Dad taught Tom how to fish in the early years and how to fix his car in the latter.  Some might say Dad taught him to be a chip off the old block!  Dad's favourite subject was Tom and he couldn't have been prouder than when he delivered Tom to Liverpool University only last month. 


Jessica benefited from Grandad in other ways and was often on the receiving end of a lesson or the subject of a project.  One that will stay with Jessica forever is when she happened to ask him if he had a piece of lined paper.  He told her that he did not and she continued her search.  A couple of hours later he called her back and handed her a piece of hand drawn lined A4 paper that he had painstakingly drawn measuring out each and every line to perfection.  The fact she had found some lined paper made no difference to him as he handed it over with a satisfied look on his face.  Jessica still has that piece of paper and I have a feeling she always will.


Madison learnt a completely different lesson from her grandad; she learnt that 3-year-olds should not be left alone with their grandfather in a shed with tools!  She was quite proud of herself and her wound as she returned from the shed stating "Grandad shut my hand in the vice, Mummy... look!"  The fact that Madison sees Grandad's shed as her special place amazes me.  Any other child would be traumatised by the events that went on in there.


And Lucas... Lucas understood Grandad's passion for jelly and ice cream, something Dad insisted on having at every birthday party, no excuses!  And he has insisted he wants to learn to fish with the rod that Grandad gave him. 


Dad had many great characteristics and has been described by many as a true gentleman but there are two qualities that truly defined him. 


The first was his determination.  It wasn't enough for Dad just to remove the larger stones from the allotment, oh no!  He sieved nearly every ounce of that patch until it was like powder before planting every seed in a perfect row.  It wasn't just an allotment; it was a work of art.  He was always so determined to fix the unfixable, and find a solution to every problem, even if sometimes the solutions were more problematic than the problems themselves.  He couldn't just build a bird house; he built the best birdhouses and with guttering.  And if he saw an apple on an out-of-reach apple tree, he wouldn't pass on by.  He would use every one of his engineering skills to create some sort of contraption that could reach his prize.


Secondly, Dad was brave.  In fact my Dad was the most courageous person I have ever met.  I am not talking about when as a boy he trespassed in fields, poached from rivers and went scrumping only to be chased away on many occasions by a farmer with a shot gun.


Or, when at the age of 14, he had to explain to his mum that he had been expelled from school for throwing a black board rubber at his teacher. 


Nor do I refer to one Friday afternoon after a few too many sherbets when he gallantly rode his motorbike into the kitchen to be met by the disapproving stare of Mum. 


I don't mean when he took excessive amounts of oxygen hits and suffered a bad case of the bends.  This happened during a trial to enable divers to go to deeper depths than ever before.  I am told this is one occasion when Dad temporarily lost his smile.  The second attempt at the trial was much more successful and, as a result, the commercial and leisure divers of today are now able to reach depths of 90 metres because of Dad and his team. 


I am not talking about after the Falkland War had ended when he was part of a Fleet Clearance Diving Team responsible for the safe removal of unexploded mines and bombs.


Or about the many heroic rescues out on the Solent in high winds and swelling tides, assisting in his words 'Idiots with boats'.


I don't mean when he was asked to stand in for Father Christmas and took on 150 infant children for his grand-daughter's Christmas Fayre.  His back ached and he was sweating buckets but he soldiered through and even offered to do it again.


I am not talking about when out on a fishing trip he insisted to a group of 10 to 16-year-olds that "rag worm don't bite, they just pinch".  He then picked up the biggest, fattest rag worm and held it close to his hand.  What followed next was pure irony as the rag worm revealed the biggest set of bone crunching claws that I have ever seen and proceeded to "pinch" Dad's finger until it drew unsavoury amounts of blood.  Traumatised children, including myself, watched in horror as Dad tried numerous ways to detach his new friend from his person while quoting one of his favourite sayings "It's not pain, just varying degrees of discomfort"!  I'm told some of those present are still undergoing counselling as a result.


What I am talking about is how he had the strength to face fear, pain and uncertainty with a smile and a sense of humour from the day he was diagnosed.  And despite how the illness curved his spine, he was still able to stand tall.  He always looked on the bright side and that took more courage than I could ever imagine.


When I began, I told you that Dad thought he had not come to much.  People who don't come to much don't touch this many people's hearts and if all these things I have spoken of mean not coming to much, then I hope I don't come to much either.  Dad, I think I just proved that you are NOT always right!


Dad may not be here in person anymore but he is here in the memories of every person in this room, and in every drift tide, fire door and bird table, in every rag worm and out-of-reach apple tree.  He will never be forgotten."


Hazel then invited the congregation to stand and give a round of applause for her dad and his achievements.


There then followed the sound of 'Gone Fishing' by Chris Rea before the celebrant read 'The Fisherman's Prayer'.  After a pause for people to think quietly of Spike and those he loved, the celebrant performed the Commendation and Committal before saying a few final words.


Many went on to the reception at Portsmouth Rugby Club where photos of Spike and his life were displayed on a screen.  Towards the end of proceedings, those present were handed a tot of rum and Spike was toasted, first by fishing friend Pete Stokesbury and secondly by Spike's diving buddy Sully Sullivan.  I hope those not present will do the same sometime while sparing a thought for Spike's wonderful wife Lez and their marvellous children and grandchildren.


David James Spears


(16 Nov 1955 - 10 Oct 2013)


Death and funeral of ex-CD Steve Briggs


I am sad to say that another ex-CD has left us.  Steve Briggs spent the best part of two years as a quadraplegic after sustaining a spinal injury in a fall.  He died on Tuesday after developing the latest of many infections.  His funeral will take place at 1400 on Tuesday 19 November at Worthing Crematorium and afterwards at The Black Horse in Findon from 1500.  Our hearts go out to Steve's close relatives and friends who have worked tirelessly to support and care for him over such a long and distressing period.


Steve Briggs as a commercial diver

working on the Thames Barrier


Steve also leaves a 20 year-old daughter called Daisy.  Those with FaceBook accounts can catch up with the events of the past two years, leave messages of sympathy and advise Steve's sister, Sally Reid, if they intend going to the reception here:


Friends of Steven Briggs


1 Nov 13


MWA Southern Area Monthly Dit Session


A small group of Minewarfare Association (MWA) members gathered at The Crown in Fareham last night and enjoyed the usual banter, dit-swapping and catching up on the latest gossip.  They were joined by students on the latest Advanced Minewarfare Course at HMS Collingwood including Andy Perry of the RAN:


Left to right: Gordon Gover, Andy Perry RAN, Windy Belcher, Pete Whitehead, Sean Slee,

George Turnbull, Rob Hoole, Taff Reader, Dixie Dean, John Gunter and George & Jasper Stride


NDG called out for suspected mine


The InverclydeNow website contains this article describing a call-out for members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) yesterday to deal with a suspected mine trawled up by a fishing vessel off Greenock.  The object transpired to be a corroded gas bottle.


30 Oct 13 - HMS Ledbury ready for action in the Baltic


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the arrival of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6) in Gdynia, Poland to start STEADFAST JAZZ 13, a two-week exercise in the Baltic with fellow ships of Standing NATO MCM Group 1 (SNMCMG1) and other units.  The article features MCDOA member Simon Pressdee, Ledbury's Commanding Officer.


HMS Ledbury outboard of a Polish patrol craft in Gdynia

(RN website photo)


SNMCMG1, which started life as NATO's Standing Naval Force Channel (see 'Stan's Navy - A Tale of STANAVFORCHAN' in the website's Dit Box), celebrated its 40th birthday yesterday.


27 Oct 13 - News from Topsy in New Zealand


I am grateful to MCDOA member David 'Topsy' Turner, who transferred from the RN to the RNZN in 2004, for this update: 


"Hi Rob,


Greetings from New Zealand.  Please pass on my apologies for not making the dinner (yet again) this year.  It's not only the sheer distance and complications of being in a completely different hemisphere, but this time I have another excuse..... I'll be at sea!  Yup, I'm still living the dream in command of HMNZS CANTERBURY


Having recently returned from the Solomon Islands (gutted not to be able to meet up with Spidy Ince - missed him by a matter of days) from Operation PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (a South Pacific activity to bring changes to the lives of people living in some of these remote island chains), we entered a period of maintenance.  Now fully booted and spurred, we're off on the biggest NZDF amphibious exercise ever - SOUTHERN KATIPO.  It's a big deal for us insofar as we'll be doing an amphibious assault (from my ship of course!) into a ficticious South Pacific island where law and order has broken down and the NZ Army have been asked to carry our Security and Stabilisation Operations.  We'll also be carrying out an evacuation of NZ nationals just for good measure.


Next year we have a couple of regional exercises before we head off on deployment into the Pacific..... it just keeps on getting better.  And oh, by the way, I've been cleared for Captain which is just another wonderful opportunity that the RN would probably never have given me - don't ya just love New Zealand...... I know I do!


I include a couple of phots.  The first is my ship's company. You will note that we are truly Joint.  The Air Force maintain the helicopters (Navy pilots) and the Army look after the cargo/vehicle deck: 



The second is the epitomy of amphibious ship to shore connectors. You will see the LCM bow ramp, an aircraft and a RHIB....truly magical:



The third is a great view of the ship:  



Please pass on my regards to all at the dinner and in particular Admiral Peter [Hudson].  We served in Rosyth at the same time in 1986 or thereabouts when I was the Staff Mine Warfare Officer and he was Navs or XO of a Ton class whose name escapes me.  He still reminds me about the time I picked him for dirty tea towels in the wardroom pantry that hadn't been washed in days which I considered to be a threat to personal hygiene and therefore whole ship capability.  I more recently served with him in Bahrain in 2008 when I was Deputy Director Future Operations for the Coalition Force when he commanded the UK's Maritime Task Force in the Gulf.


Best wishes to all those leavers and congratulations to those celebrating their 25th.  You will have the most wonderful time I'm sure.


David Turner

Commander RNZN, pse(mfu), MCD, PWO(U)

Commanding Officer



I am sure we would all wish to congratulate Topsy on his clearance for promotion to Captain and offer him and his wife Yvonne the best of good fortune for their future.


26 Oct 13 - The devil in the deep blue sea – tackling maritime mines contains this article about modern mine countermeasures technology featuring MCDOA members Dave Berry and Chris Lade.  Deve Berry, currently MCM Product Manager with Atlas Elektronic's Surface Ship Systems Division, previously worked as a MoD scientist at DERA Bincleaves where he relieved Richard Meakin in charge of mine exploitation.


Dave Berry (right) alongside ex-GI and familiar naval

entertainer Shep Woolley at last year's MCDOA Dinner


Chris Lade, currently Defence Sales Manager with SAAB Seaeye, left the RN three years ago.  Seaeye, originally a division of Hydrovision Ltd, was the subject of a management buy-out in 1989 and was sold to SAAB in 2007 by its CEO, MCDOA member Chris Tarmey.


Chris Lade as senior leaver during

the 2010 MCDOA Annual Dinner


25 Oct 13 - MCDOA President keeps busy


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of units of the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) in Exercise OMANI COUGAR while on their COUGAR 13 deployment.  The article features MCDOA President Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC, the Task Group's Commander.


Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC RN and Capt Haider bin Ahmed bin Raheem Dad Al Zadgali

RNO presiding over the evening brief on board HMS Bulwark during OMANI COUGAR

(RN website photo by LA(Phot) Arron Hoare)


24 Oct 13 - CMFP's daughter bound for stardom in the best of causes


The BBC website contains this article, the ITV website this article, the Daily Telegraph website this article and the Mail Online this article (among a host of others) describing how the daughters of five men serving in the Armed Forces have formed 'The Poppy Girls' to record this year's fundraising single for the Royal British Legion's poppy appeal.  Three of the girls are daughters of Royal Navy officers including 13-year-old Alice Milburn whose father is Capt Phil Milburn RN, Captain Minewarfare & Patrol Vessels, Diving and Fishery Protection (CMFP).


Capt Phil Milburn RN presenting MCDOA member Ross Blafour (OIC SDU1) with

a Maritime Component Commander’s Commendation in April this year

(RN website photo)


Capt Phil Milburn RN and his daughter Alice

(Royal Navy photo)


23 Oct 13 - HMS Hurworth remembers the loss of her Second World War predecessor


The Portsmouth News website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing a short service held by the ship's company of HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 1) at Southsea war memorial yesterday.  The purpose of the ceremony was to remember the 131 sailors of the Second World War Hunt class destroyer HMS Hurworth who lost their lives when their ship was mined in the Aegean Sea on 22 October 1943, exactly seventy years before.  The article features MCDOA member Ben Vickery, Commanding Officer of the current HMS Hurworth.


Members of HMS Hurworth's ship's

company at Southsea War Memorial

(RN photo by LA (Phot) Ian Simpson)


Lt Cdr Ben Vickery RN laying a wreath at Southsea War Memorial

(RN website photo by LA (Phot) Ian Simpson)


Postscript: On 24 October, the Royal Navy website published this article covering the same story.


22 Oct 13 - HMS Quorn’s MW Olympics


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing an unusual sports event organised by HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 7) in Bahrain.  The article features PO(MW) Simon Cooke, the ship's Ops Room Supervisor.



HMS Quorn's Minewarfare Olympics in Bahrain

(RN website photos)


21 Oct 13 - HMS Grimsby visits Hartlepool


The Northern Echo website contains this article describing last weekend's vist by HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 7) to Hartlepool.


20 Oct 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 that houses the Society's library and museum reserve collection: 




The last two weekends have been fairly quiet with 25 and 15 on the 12th/13th and 22 each on 19th/20th.  This was compensated for by a very successful SUMC/QinetiQ course visit on the 10th.  Congratulations to John Dadd, Jim Thomson and Ann Bevan for this most successful training course event.  According to student feedback provided by Capt Brett Sortor MD USN (US Navy exchange officer at the Undersea Medicine Division of the Institute of Naval Medicine), the Diving Museum received the highest marks of the whole course!




Charlie Chorlton (ex-CD), Tony Scott (of KURSK salvage fame) and Jack Frost (ex-RE) dropped in and left a few interesting bits of diving kit.




Ann has now clothed the shivering manikin in the Shifting Lobby.  He is dressed in the authentic, flash-proof uniform of the attendant in the gunpowder part of the magazine.  Well, actually it's a chef's uniform that's been converted, really.



Dr Ian Calder has donated a pressure gauge used by (the) JBS Haldane on his experimental chamber.




Mike Fardell and Nigel Phillips have been doing more sorting of the reference library.  More book cases are in the pipeline to accommodate the fast-growing book collection.  Another of the rooms is to be brought in to use for the books.




Please help out if you can because John Towse and John Bevan will be away at the Diving Exhibition in Birmingham NEC both days.


EXTRA DAY - 3 November


We will be opening on Sunday, 3 November, by special request of a Classic Car meeting in the Bayside car park.  Volunteers welcome!




Friday, 15 November, 6.30pm, D-Day Museum, Southsea.  Fund-raising reception and illustrated talks by John Towse and Don Bullivant at the D-Day Museum, Southsea, on Friday, 15 November.  This will be a unique and memorable event in itself and a rare opportunity to hear the TRUE story of the finding of the Mary Rose by two of the most notable participants.  At only £10 per person it's a no-brainer!  Tickets are limited to 100, so book early if you want to be there!


Details at: you there!


Saturday, 23 November, RNLI, Poole.  HDS Annual Conference and Dinner.




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 078 0278 5050.  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.


19 Oct 13


Exercise JOINT WARRIOR comes to an end


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the completion of the current bi-annual Exercise JOINT WARRIOR off the coast of Scotland (see entry for 16 Oct 13).  The article features HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2) and HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 4) and quotes MCDOA member Ash Spencer, Commanding Officer of HMS Blyth.


HMS Blyth conducting a silent conning run during JOINT WARRIOR

(RN website photo by Lt Cdr Ash Spencer RN)


News from Jim 'Tommo' Thomson


I am grateful to ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson for this contribution:


"Hello Rob!


I saw some good articles on your site and thought you might like to see some pictures taken at HMS Sultan a couple of weeks ago.   The occasion was the Summer Fayre with awards being made by the Commanding Officer of Sultan (Capt Trevor Gulley RN), the Mayor & Mayoress of Gosport (Cllr John and Mrs Christine Beavis) and not forgetting the MP of Gosport (Caroline Dinenage) to various charitable organisations in the Gosport area including the Historical Diving Society.



Although accompanied by ex-WO John Dadd, I had the honour of receiving a cheque for £500 for the HDS (he pushed me to the fore!).



Best regards,




18 Oct 13 - Arrangements for the funeral of ex-PO(D) David 'Spike' Spears


The funeral of Spike Spears (see entry for 12 Oct 13) will take place at Portchester Crematorium at 1330 on Friday 1 November followed by a reception at Portsmouth Rugby Football Club in Norway Road, PO3 5EP.  Flowers will be provided by the immediate family but others are requested to make donations in Spike's memory to Myeloma UK or to The Anthony Nolan Trust.  Details of a dedicated fundraising webpage will be published on the back of the Order of Service.


Volunteers from Spike's former sat team colleagues are wanted as pallbearers and should contact Troy Tempest, Secretary of the Association of RN First Class Divers (AORNFCD), to offer their services via this email address.


Spike Spears with daughter Hazel and

grand-daughters Jessica & Madison


17 Oct 13


HMS Penzance transits Corinth Canal


The Navy News website contains this article describing the transit by HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 3) of the Corinth Canal linking the Gulf of Corinth with Piraeus, the port of Athens.  HMS Penzance is currently deployed in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2).


HMS Penzance transiting the Corinth Canal

(Navy News photo)


SDU1 investigating suspected depth charge off Guernsey


The BBC News website has published these articles concerning an item of unexploded ordnance, thought to be a depth charge associated with a wreck off Guernsey in the Channel Islands, being investigated by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1):


Guernsey harbour bomb requires exclusion zone


Royal Navy divers continue to investigate suspected bomb


The Guernsey Press website has published this article which includes a video:


Video – depth charge uncovered after damage to wreck


Postscript: The BBC News website has since published this article, the Guernsey Press website this article and the Practical Boat Owner website this article by Tony Rive (including several good photos) describing the detonation of the ordnance by members of SDU1 in a controlled explosion.



16 Oct 13 - RN minehunters in action off Scotland, Sardinia AND the UAE


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 2 commanded by MCDOA member Ash Spencer) in the current bi-annual Exercise JOINT WARRIOR off the coast of Scotland.  Other participating minehunters include HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 4), HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 3) and HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 5), all under the Command of MCDOA member Cdr Jim Byron DSC RN, Commander of the Faslane-based First MCM Squadron (MCM1).


HMS Blyth recovering an exercise ground mine during JOINT WARRIOR

(RN website photo by Lt Cdr Ash Spencer RN)


The Royal Navy website also contains this article describing the participation of HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 3) in Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 13 off Sardinia.  HMS Penzance is currently deployed in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2). 



Left: HMS Penzance off Sardinia during BRILLIANT MARINER 13

Right: NATO warships involved in BRILLIANT MARINER 13

(NATO photos)


A total of 27 ships took part in what was the largest exercise of its kind in Italian waters for 15 years.  Coincidentally, participating ships comprising Task Force 445 (TF445) were visited by Vice Admiral Peter Hudson CBE RN (Commander NATO Maritime Command based at Northwood), our Guest of Honour at this year's MCDOA Annual Dinner in HMS Excellent on Friday 22 November (see entry for 15 Sep 13 in News Archive 43).  He accompanied General Knud Bartels (Chairman of the NATO Military Committee), Ambassador Alexander 'Sandy' Vershbow (NATO Deputy Secretary-General), General Philip Breedlove (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) and Rear Admiral Paolo Treu (Commander Italian Fleet Air Arm).


Vice Admiral Hudson bringing up the rear during his visit to Task Force 445

(NATO photo)


Finally, the Royal Navy website contains this article describing the successful completion of Exercise SEA KHANJAR 13 off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf.  RN participants included the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) commanded by MCDOA President Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC RN (who features in the article) as well as RN Gulf-based minehunters including HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 7).


HMS Quorn with HMS Illustrious in the background off the UAE

during SEA KHANJAR 13

(RN website photo) 


15 Oct 13


SDU2 blows up Second World War bomb in the Solent


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing the detonation by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of a Second World War German bomb dredged up by a fishing vessel in the Solent off Browndown Range.


MCDOA member honours American dead on Lake Ontario


The Royal Navy website has published this article and the Navy News website this article describing how MCDOA member Robin Walker joined members of the Royal Canadian Navy in honouring 53 American sailors who died when Britain and the USA went to war two centuries ago.  Robin and his colleagues cast 53 carnations into Lake Ontario over the wrecks of USS Scourge and USS Hamilton.  These vessels were lost in a storm on 8 August 1813 while preparing to attack British vessels on the lake which borders both Canada and the USA during the War of 1812 (which actually lasted until 1815).


Robin Walker casting his carnation into Lake Ontario

(Navy News photo)


Robin is currently on exchange with the Royal Canadian Navy at the Defence Research and Development Canada's Diving Research Facility in Toronto (DRDC Toronto).


Robin Walker at DRDC in Toronto


14 Oct 13


HMS Brocklesby represents the nation in festival at Europe’s biggest port


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 3) in World Port Days at Rotterdam, a three-day celebration of the sea and the importance of the harbour to the economy of Europe (it deals with three times as many containers as Britain’s busiest port, Felixstowe).  The article features AB(D) Lee Harris-Joce.


HMS Brocklesby's diving display at World Port Days in Rotterdam

(RN website photo)


RNR Minewarfare personnel participate in Exercise JOINT WARRIOR


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of Royal Naval Reserve personnel in the current bi-annual Exercise JOINT WARRIOR.  The article features AB(MW) Amy Dodd RNR, a 30-year-old business banking clerk with Santander in Liverpool.  She is attached to the RNR unit at HMS Eaglet in Liverpool and is embarked in HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 4) for the duration of the exercise.  HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 2) and HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 3) are also participating. 


AB(MW) Amy Dodd RNR on board HMS Bangor for JOINT WARRIOR

(RN website photo) 


AB(MW) John Sutherland RNR on board


(RN website photo) 


Lt Cdr Tony Scott RNR and Lt Cdr Nathan Ditton RNR are working with the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) at HMNB Clyde.  Tony is a member of the RNR Mine Warfare branch and is providing subject matter expertise to the exercise's command team.  Tony attends London's RNR unit, HMS President, and in civilian life works for Arup as its Global Enterprise Architect.  Nathan is a member of the RNR's Allied Worldwide Navigation Information System (AWNIS) branch.  Working closely alongside Tony, Nathan's role in JOINT WARRIOR is the collation, coordination and communication of navigational safety and security information to merchant and naval shipping within the exercise's operational area.  A social work manager in Portsmouth in civilian life, Nathan is a member of the city's RNR unit, HMS King Alfred.


Lt Cdrs Tony Scott and Nathan Ditton RNR during JOINT WARRIOR

(RN website photo) 


13 Oct 13 - Webmaster back home again


I have been been away for a few days and have been unable to update the website's 'Latest News' page.  However, I intend filling in the gaps retrospectively so please bear with me.


On arriving home this afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to find my carefully-packaged miniature of the planned Vernon Monument waiting for me.  Quite simply, it is superb!  I chose the smaller version (190 mm) initially because it is the closest in scale to most of the glass old-style CDBA 'gizzits' I have received over the years but am now tempted to order the larger size (290 mm) which offers even finer detail.



Order your own miniature via the Project Vernon website here.  Every purchase helps bring the erection of the nearly twice life-size monument at Gunwharf Quays, intended to celebrate the Minewarfare & Diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site, that much closer to fruition.


12 Oct 13 - Death of ex-PO(D) David 'Spike' Spears


Troy Tempest, Secretary of the Association of First Class Divers (AORNFCD), has informed me of the death of Spike Spears at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham during the evening of Thursday 10 October.  He finally succumbed to the myeloma which has plagued him for the past seven or eight years.


In his time as a CD, Spike Spears served with the FOST Diving Team at Bincleaves, HMS Brinton, the FOSNI Diving Team at Rosyth, NP 1007 (Sat Diving Team) in MV Seaforth Clansman, NP 2003 in the Falklands, HMS Vernon, and the Saturation Diving Team in HMS Challenger.  He qualified as a CD1 on the same course as Chris Christie, Ozzie Hammond, Hank Hancock, Henry Minn and Shep Sheppard with the late MCDOA member Dave Ellis as Course Officer and Pete Still as Chief Instructor.  In 1985, he was medically discharged from the Royal Navy as a PO(D) and went on to run an angling charter business from Portchester in his boat 'Bessie Vee'.  In August 2006, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (blood cancer which quickly affected his spine) and underwent various painful treatments including a stem cell transplant in March 2007.  Owing to his deteriorating condition, Spike had to give up his business and sell his boat.  In August 2007, he undertook a five mile 'Wheelathon' along Southsea front in aid of the cancer research charity 'Myeloma UK'  (see entry for 2 Aug 07 in News Archive 19).  I used to visit Spike during his frequent hospital treatments and despite all his trials and tribulations, he remained consistently cheerful and made the effort to attend most of our social gatherings until fairly recently.


I will publish details of Spike's funeral when available.  In the meantime, I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our heartfelt sympathy to his delightful wife Lesley (Lez) who supported him throughout his lengthy ordeal with cheerful grit and determination, as well as other family members who made considerable personal sacrifices to ensure that Spike received the best care and facilities in the final years of his life (see entry for 15 Apr 08 in News Archive 22).


Lez & Spike Spears enjoying themselves at the Combined Association Barbecue

on Horsea Island in June 2011


11 Oct 13 - HMS Quorn guides task group safely through troubled waters


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 7) in Exercise SEA KHANJAR in the Gulf during which she led the Fleet Flagship HMS Bulwark and HMS Illustrious through a mine danger area.  The article also features MCDOA President Cdre Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC, COMUKTG and Commander of the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) which left the UK in August for the COUGAR 13 deployment.


10 Oct 13 - News about HMS Shoreham in the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the detection by HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 8 commanded by MCDOA member Matt Moore) of the uncharted wreck of a dhow in a busy shipping channel off Abu Dhabi.  The article features AB(MW) Tash Kennedy.


AB(MW) Tash Kennedy of HMS Shoreham

(RN website photo)


The Royal Navy website also contains this article describing how HMS Shoreham has led the French Lafayette class frigate FS Aconit to test the ship’s skills in providing safe passage for a deep draught vessel through a potentially mined narrow channel off Bahrain.  The article features MCDOA member Matt Moore, Commanding Officer of HMS Shoreham.


8 Oct 13 - HMS Ledbury renews ties with its Herefordshire namesake town


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the visit of MCDOA member Simon Pressdee, Commanding Officer of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6), and his Navigator to Ledbury in Herefordshire to add their own ship's badge to that of the previous HMS Ledbury, a destroyer heavily involved in convoys to Malta and the Soviet Union during the Second World War, on the wall of the town’s 17th-Century Market House.


The Mayor of Ledbury receiving a ship's badge from Lt Cdr Simon Pressdee RN

(RN website photo)


7 Oct 13 - Royal Navy minehunters come through major test


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 6), HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 8 commanded by MCDOA member Matt Moore) and HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) have joined three of their American counterparts, plus the support ships RFA Cardigan Bay and RFA Diligence from the UK and USS Ponce from the USA, Fleet Air Arm surveillance Sea King and Lynx helicopters, American Sea Dragon minehunting helicopters, clearance divers and British and American teams operating UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles) have cleared a 1,000-yard-wide ‘path’ through the Gulf for a cargo ship in one of the largest Anglo-American exercises of its kind. 


HMS Atherstone launching her SeaFox

mine disposal vehicle

(RN website photo)


4 Oct 13 - International Fleet Review in Australia


Best wishes to our Australian colleagues and friends on the occasion of this weekend's International Fleet Review to commemorate the centenary of the first entry into Sydney Harbour by ships of the Royal Australian Navy.  The Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring is among the 20 participating warships from 17 nations and HRH Prince Harry, Commodore-in-Chief Small Ships and Diving, will join Governor-General Quentin Bryce to review the fleet tomorrow.


Seahawk helicopter trails the Australian White Ensign over

Sydney Harbour with HMS Daring in the background

(RAN photo)


1 Oct 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 that houses the Society's library and museum reserve collection:




A quiet weekend with 21 on Saturday and 17 on Sunday.  Possibly due to competing events including a local Michaelmas Fayre.




The cleared land where the external exhibits are located has been grassed by Jim Thomson and the grass is coming up beautifully!  Ann has bought two seated manikins.  One is placed inside one of the external chambers and the other in the Shifting Lobby inside the battery.  They really bring the exhibits to life!



The permanent signposts for the external exhibits are nearly completed thanks to the efforts of John Dadd and Jim Thomson.



John Dadd has built an extension to the ships' crests board and more crests will be going up shortly (watch this space!)




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 078 0278 5050.  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.



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