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

31 Mar 14 - RN Minewarfare Heritage: D-Day minesweeper veteran receives medals 64 years late


As we approach the 70th anniversary of D-Day, this article from the Mail Online website is particularly apposite.  It describes the presentaion of six Second World War campaign medals to 91-year-old George Edwin Williams, who served as a CPO on board a minesweeper during the Normandy landings, 64 years after they were 'lost in the post'.


The medals were presented by Capt Warren Bairstow CSC RAN, naval adviser to the Australian High Commission, at the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, Suffolk:



See Operation Neptune: The Minesweeping Operation 5-6 June 1944 by David Verghese in the website's Dit Box for the story of the minesweeping operations that enabled the Normandy landings on D-Day.


30 Mar 14 - Job Offer


MCDOA member Kim Godfrey has asked me to publicise a London-based vacancy for a Contingency Planning Consultant who has had experience in dealing with emergency response organisations (e.g. an IED/CMD Operator such as an MCDO or CD1).  The job was formerly held by another MCDOA member.  Relevant details can be downloaded here:


RPS Energy Crisis Management Consultant (PDF)


If interested, please contact Kim via this email address.


29 Mar 14 - HMS Brocklesby sends Mother's Day message



The Portsmouth News website contains this article and the Royal Navy website this article describing a special Mother's Day message from the ship's company of HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 1) commanded by MCDOA member Ben Vickery.  Ben's ship left Portsmouth on 29 January for a deployment with Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean.


RN website photo


Postscript: On 30 March, the Capital FM website published this article covering the same story.


28 Mar 14 - Tim Ash takes over as Captain of HMS Warrior (1860)


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing Wednesday's installation of recently retired MWO Tim Ash as the Captain of the historic warship HMS Warrior (1860) in Portsmouth.


Tim Ash taking over the helm of HMS Warrior (1860) from Cdr Ken Jones

(Portsmouth News photo by Ian Hargreaves)


During his early naval career, Tim served in HMS Bicester and commanded the River Class Fleet Minesweepers (MSFs) HMS Spey and HMS Orwell during an interlude in the RNR.  He was the Executive Officer of Portsmouth Naval Base & Wardroom Mess President of HMS Nelson before leaving the Royal Navy in February this year.  I am sure all members of our community will join me in congratulating him and wishing him the best of luck in his prominent new role.


27 Mar 14 - Dave Bence excels in Abu Dhabi Triathlon


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing the participation of MCDOA member Dave Bence in the 2014 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon won by the Brownlee brothers.  He came fifth in his age group.


Dave Bence with GB Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee MBE who also took

part in the race with his brother, GB Olympic bronze medalist Jonny Brownlee

(Portsmouth News photo)


Dave is currently based in Bahrain as CAPTUKMCM and Deputy Commander, Commander Task Force 52 (CTF 52).  I am sure all members join me in offering him our congratulations on his impressive achievement.


Postscript: On 31 March, the Royal Navy website published this article covering the same story.


26 Mar 14


Award for MCDOA member's ship



The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing the presentation of the Surface Flotilla Frigate Effectiveness Trophy to HMS Lancaster commanded by MCDOA member Peter Laughton MBE.


HMS Lancaster receiving her trophy with Peter Laughton pictured second left

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


As reported in the entry for 20 Jan 14 in News Archive 45, the Surface Flotilla MCM Effectiveness Trophy was awarded to MCM2 Crew 6, commanded by MCDOA member Simon Pressdee, for its work while manning HMS Atherstone for a seven-and-a-half month deployment to the Gulf followed by HMS Ledbury in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Baltic.


Congratulations to all concerned.


Long Service & Good Conduct Medal award


Congratulations to LS(D) Andrew Groves on being gazetted for the award of the LS & GC.  The relevant page of the Supplement to the London Gazette can be viewed here.


Earlier this month, Andrew was presented with the Superintendent of Diving's newly instituted Safety Excellence Trophy (see entry for 12 Mar 14.


25 Mar 14 - Gentlemen Who Lunch


41 years to the month since they first met as wardroom 'livers-in' while serving at HMS Vernon, the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole resumed their regular weekly gatherings by lunching at The Blue Bell in Emsworth today.  They were accompanied by Hoole's next door neighbour Lez.


Holloway, Howard, Hoole and Barlow after a meal in their favourite local


Barlow's yacht 'Dougout' will soon be back in the water following her winter maintenance period and the trio will once more become 'Three Men in a Boat'.  Watch this space.


24 Mar 14


Job for military diving SME


A reputable recruiting organisation is seeking a military diving SME (Subject Matter Expert) with knowledge of physiological and human factors assessment of submarine and diving systems to work on a sub-contract basis for a defence research programme.  The work would be about half-time from this April to March 2015.


If you are interested and require further details, please email me via my webmaster address and I will advise accordingly.  The deadline for CV submissions is 4 April 2014 and Project Vernon could gain from any introductions I make.


News from Team Soapy


I have received this update from our intrepid Honorary Secretary, Richard 'Soapy' Watson, who will be participating in the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race with Mark Campbell over the Easter weekend:


"Hi Rob,


Just to let you know that Mark and I completed the Newbury Canoe Club's Waterside C Race on Sunday as part our training for the BIG EVENT, now only 23 days away! 



The race was from Pewsey to Newbury, consisting of 23 miles of canal and 35 portages.  We did very well and came 8th out of 26 in our VETERAN (over 40) category.  Our average speed was 5.9 mph and our overall time was 4 hours 5 mins.  A very big thank you to CPO (Diver) Willie Sharp MBE who supported us on Sunday and kept us hydrated.



We would really appreciate any support during the day.  I will post my estimated arrival at each portage over the race so people living local can cheers us on."


Soapy and Mark will be competing in the Devizes to Westminster Race to raise money for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to celebrate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site, and Parkinsons UK.  You can sponsor them in their challenging venture here:


Soapy and Mark's sponsorship page on Virgin Money Giving 


23 Mar 14


News of HMS Brocklesby



The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the recent activities of HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member Ben Vickery) which left Portsmouth on 29 January for a deployment with Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean.


SDU1 deals with grenade on Gwithian beach


The BBC News website contains this article describing Friday's disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a grenade discovered on the beach at Gwithian in Cornwall.


22 Mar 14 - Northern Diving Group's Underwater Cycle Challenge for Sport Relief


The team completed its epic week-long underwater cycling challenge yesterday afternoon after pedaling 1,001 miles, breaking a world record and raising £7,396 for Sport Relief.  Mission accomplished.  Well done guys.




Oliver Shepherd has compiled a video of the week's events which can be seen on You Tube here.  You can still demonstrate your appreciation for the team's efforts via its Sport Relief page here.


Postscript: On 27 March, the Royal Navy website published this article describing how the divers involved in the challenge were visited by HRH Prince Michael of Kent on 19 March.



21 Mar 14


Latest Operational Honours and Awards


Hearty congratulations to LS(D) John Pearson on being gazetted for the award of the Queen's Commendation for Bravery (QCB):


"For volunteering, in an act of sheer bravery to dive 60 metres in order to recover the body of an Aircrewman who was killed in a mid air collision [between two RAF Tornados] over the Moray Firth on 3rd July 2012."


In June 2006, John was a member of a Defence Diving School (DDS) team that completed a charity bike ride from John O'Groats to Land's End (see entry for 20 Jun 06 in News Archive 14). 


Joe Hanfrey, John Carroll, John Pearson, Derek Kelly and Ian Fleming

in June 2006


In September 2007, he achieved the first 60 metre manned dive in Clearance Divers' Life Support Equipment (CDLSE) at the Deep Trials Unit (DTU) in Alverstoke (see entry for 19 Sep 07 in News Archive 19).


 John Pearson at DTU in September 2007


Congratulations are also due to WO2 ET(ME) Christopher Mullan QGM on being appointed an MBE for raising the state of minehunters deployed in the Gulf "to an unprecedented level" and to CPO ET(ME) David Alan Kennedy on being awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service (QCVS) for providing engineering support to minehunters both in the UK and in the waters of the Gulf.


The full list of Operational Honours and Awards released today by the Ministry of Defence can be found here.


Capt Andy Elvin RN invested as OBE


Congratulations to MCDOA member Andy Elvin on being invested as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.



In his last job, Andy was based in Bahrain as Deputy Commander, Commander Task Force 52 (CTF 52).


Andy briefing IMCMEX 13 participants on board USS Ponce

in the Gulf in May last year

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


Lt Duncan 'Jim' Hawkins RNR presented with QVRM


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing last Tuesday's presentation at Buckingham Palace of the Queen's Volunteer Reserves Medal (QVRM) to Jim Hawkins.  Only 13 are awarded to members of the Armed Services each year. 



Jim was a member of the Minewarfare Branch during his 22 years in the RN and has since spent 15 years in the RNR as the senior training officer for the Wales URNU (University Royal Naval Unit).


Jim with his QVRM at Buckingham Palace

(RN website photo)


Jim is an active member of the Minewarfare Association (MWA).  He not only attended last year's Southern Area Christmas Dinner in Fareham (see entry for 30 Nov 13 in News Archive 44) but also helped organise this month's annual reunion in Cardiff (see entry for 10 Mar 14).



Above and below: Jim Hawkins (second right) at last December's

MWA Southern Area Christmas dinner in Fareham



I am sure all members of our community will join me in congratulating Jim on his well-deserved award.


RNZN Divers dispose of Second World War mines


The website contains this article, including video, describing the disposal by RNZN clearance divers of mines laid during the Second World War in the Hauraki Gulf off Aukland.


20 Mar 14


Northern Diving Group's Underwater Cycle Challenge for Sport Relief


1,000km (625 miles) smashed in the early hours of this morning and still 45 hours to go until they stop pedaling at 2000 on Friday!



It has been raining heavily this morning but the team is still smiling:



So far, the team has raised 78% (excluding Gift Aid) of its fundraising target of £5,000 and you can still donate online via its Sport Relief page here.


SDU1 deals with Second World War mine on Pembrokeshire beach


The South Wales Evening Post website contains this article describing Tuesday's (18 March) disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a Second World War British Mk 14 moored mine discovered by a nine-year-old girl on the beach at Bullslaughter Bay in Pembrokeshire.



18 Mar 14 - HMS Quorn’s sailors restore military graves in Bahrain


The Navy News website contains this article describing how sailors from HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3) have tidied up 23 graves in the military section of Bahrain’s New Christian Cemetery where personnel from all three Services who were based in the kingdom in the 1960s and early 1970s, are laid to rest.


Navy News photo


Postscript: On 27 March 2014, the Royal Navy website published this article covering the same story.


17 Mar 14 - Northern Diving Group's Underwater Cycle Challenge for Sport Relief



The Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) is aiming to break the Guinness World Record for underwater cycling.  It is planning to cycle on a fixed spinning bike underwater for a week, raising some cash for Sport Relief and breaking a Guinness World Record in the process.


Endorsements have been received from the Prime Minister and Olympic gold medal cyclist Sir Chris Hoy.  See the video of this conversation involving David Cameron and LS(D) Simon Lund at No.10 here.  Also see Downing Street Latest: Sport Relief: Simon from the Royal Navy’s Northern Diving Group



 Regular updates are being published on the team's Face Book page here




The world record of 163km was broken late today with John 'YoYo' Ravenhall in the saddle.




The team is well on the way to achieving its fundraising target of £5,000 and you can donate online via its Sport Relief page here.


16 Mar 14 - SDU1 deals with 'bomb' near Dartmouth


The Torquay Herald Express website contains this article, including video, describing last week's disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of ordnance found at Strete Gate Beach near Slapton in South Devon.



15 Mar 14 - Soapy and Mark's 125 mile 24-hour paddle 18-21 Apr 2014


Soapy Watson, our intrepid Honorary Secretary, has entered the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race.  This year he will be accompanied by Mark Campbell who kindly stepped in after Soapy's previous partner broke his arm.  Their aim is not only to complete the course within 24 hours but also to raise money for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to celebrate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site, and Parkinsons UK.



This race, which takes place over the Easter weekend, is a 125 mile marathon navigating the Kennet & Avon Canal and tributaries of the Thames before following the main river to finish opposite the Houses of Parliament just downstream from Westminster Bridge.  There are 77 portages along the way.


Soapy and Mark training at Dreweatts Lock, Marsh Benham earlier this month


You can sponsor Soapy and Mark in their challenging venture here:


Soapy and Mark's sponsorship page on Virgin Money Giving


From MCDOA member Dave Hunkin OBE:


"Hi Rob,


Great to see Soapy and Mark competing in this years DW.  Regarded as the Everest of marathon kayaking, it is easy to underestimate from the comfort of your arm chair - it's a hell of a challenge.


The very best of luck to you both.  Hope the fundraising goes well.  Keep eating, keep drinking and if at any stage you feel like you're paddling up stream, worth checking your nav!!!   


Good luck boys.


Dave Hunkin"


14 Mar 14


An invitation to the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club annual lunch


I have received this kind invitation for all MCDOA members from Robin Bennett, Honorary Secretary of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA enjoys an affiliation:




This year’s REBDOC lunch is at the Defence Capability Centre, Defence Academy, Shrivenham on Saturday 26 April and it would be great to see some of our MCDOA colleagues again.


Calling Notice & Booking Form for REBDOC Annual Lunch


You can ignore the item about the AGM, so the timings are 1230 for 1300 with carriages at 1700.   Major Ben Hawkins RE is giving a guided tour of the Ammo Hall in the afternoon and we hope to have an operational update from our serving colleagues.


Owing to catering requirements I need all bids in by Mon 24th March.  


Many thanks for your support.






Robin Bennett

Hon Secretary

Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers Club"


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:




Mummy DCC (with beautiful make-over thanks to John Dadd and Jim Thomson) is proud to announce the arrival of baby DCC:








The wheelbarrow marathon was plagued with incidents down at the Bunker last weekend. 


MCDOA member John Bevan, ex-CD Mike O'Meara, ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson,

former FCPO(D) John Dadd BEM and HDS Museum Officer Kevin Casey


Dadd suffered a wheel coming off as he rounded School Corner which led to the event being temporarily halted for safety reasons.  Dadd was shocked but uninjured and bravely chose to continue.  The Emergency Repair Team were swiftly on the job and managed to rebuild the front wheel assembly. 


Following an uneventful restart, two wheelbarrows (Dadd and Bevan) had to come into the pits for tyre pressure adjustments.  Thomson and Casey worked feverishly but O'Meara took full advantage and streaked into the lead. Dadd caught up but Bevan suffered the indignity of being lapped by O'Meara.  "The sun was in my eyes," Bevan said to the excited reporters from CNN.


About a ton of soil that had been dug up from around the Bunker the previous weekend was transferred into the school grounds during the race.


"Nigel would be proud," an official said.




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. 


13 Mar 13


MCDOA silk ties now available



By popular demand, MCDOA Honorary Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson has acquired a stock of 35 MCDOA silk ties in lieu of the standard polyester version.  If you would like one, send a cheque for £30 (including post & packing) made payable to "MCDOA" to:


Lt Cdr R D Watson RN

Honorary Secretary MCDOA

Fleet Diving HQ

Bridge Building

Horsea Island

West Bund Lane





First come, first served.


12 Mar 14 - LS(D) Andrew Groves of HMS Middleton is first recipent of prestigious trophy


I am grateful to MCDOA Honorary Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson for this announcement:


Superintendent of Diving makes inaugural Award of his Diving Safety Excellence Trophy


LS(D) Groves receiving an engraved fountain pen from Cdr Chris Baldwin

(The trophy remains on display at Fleet Diving HQ on Horsea Island) 


Commander Chris Baldwin, the Ministry of Defence Superintendent of Diving (SofD) has recently made the inaugural award of the annual SofD Diving Safety Excellence Award 2013 to a Royal Navy Diver.  Leading Seaman (Diver) Andrew Groves, Leading Diver onboard HMS MIDDLETON (MCM2 Crew 4) is the first recipient of the Award which recognises excellence in the field of diving safety.  LD Groves was cited as having made an exceptional effort to ensure that the diving safety management system onboard his ship was in excellent condition.  This included the maintenance of all the diving equipment, control of documentation, team competency and diving currency, and sustainability of diving operational capability.  As an LD for one of the four deployed MCMVs in the Gulf, this was no mean feat.  The Ship achieved the highest Diving Safety Management System Audit score in 2013.  While LD Groves was at pains to stress that this was of course a team effort, Diving Standards Officer (Navy), Lieutenant Commander ‘Soapy’ Watson was in no doubt that it was LD Groves’ extraordinary individual effort, around which this team success was based.


The aim of the Award is to raise diving safety awareness and standards among the MOD diving community and to reward the efforts of individuals in ensuring that this hazardous duty is conducted as safely as the MOD diving environment allows.  Part of the Defence Environment and Safety Authority’s Defence Maritime Regulator domain, SofD has a team of 12 inspectors responsible for monitoring diving safety standards in military, commercial and recreational (Adventurous Training and Cadet Forces) fields.  During this monitoring task, Diving Inspectors are authorised to issue Diving Safety Commendations on behalf of SofD, to individuals they see as having made an ‘excellent’ effort to keep themselves and their colleagues safe through their determination to improve diving safety.   


There is no specific task that individuals have to do to warrant a commendation; the decision rests solely with the Diving Standards Team Inspectors, who have acquired a considerable amount of experience in diving safety assurance. In fact, it is entirely possible for a non-Diver to earn a commendation, if they have been responsible for a demonstrable contribution to diving safety.  


When an individual is commended for their ‘excellent contribution to diving safety’, they are given a certificate and the commendation is recorded in their Diving Logs (if they are a Diver) and a note is sent to their CO or line manager requesting that the award is recorded in their OJAR/SJAR/PADR.  They are also informed that their names will go forward for consideration as the person who has made the greatest contribution to MOD diving safety over the whole year.  A small panel comprising of the three Diving Standards Officers (Navy, Army and Adventurous Training), advises SofD on which of the already commended individuals is most deserving of the overall Diving Safety Award.  The Award is formally presented to the winner by SofD and along with a small token for their effort, their name is engraved on the Superintendent of Diving’s Diving Safety Award Trophy.  The Trophy is kept on display in the Fleet Diving HQ at Horsea Island.  


Commander Baldwin explained why he wanted to establish the Award:


“The MOD Diving Community has a diverse and broad population and the vast majority of those involved are dedicated to maintaining good diving safety standards.  After all, diving is a particularly hazardous activity, in which individuals are at risk simply through the nature of the environment in which it is conducted. In monitoring these standards, I am sometimes required to place censures on areas where we find serious shortcomings or breaches of diving safety regulations.  But I felt that it was important also to recognise individuals who had gone that extra mile to improve safety and so with help from the RN Trophy Store, and sponsorship from DIVEX, who have kindly agreed to pay for the engraving work each year, I can now make that recognition happen.  My hope is that this will, in albeit a small way, serve to encourage good practice and improve the MOD’s diving safety culture.”


Hearty congratulations to Andrew on his ground-breaking achievement.


11 Mar 14 - Gulf minehunters in major exercise


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing the participation of HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 1 commanded by MCDO Ashley Spencer), HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 2) and HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 4), plus their command ship RFA Cardigan Bay and escorting frigate HMS Somerset, in a major mine countermeasures exercise in the Gulf with US Navy forces.  The article features PO(MW) David 'Muddy' Waters of HMS Shoreham.


HMS Ramsey and HMS Atherstone leaving Bahrain – as seen from HMS Shoreham

(RN website photo)


USS Devastator alongside RFA Cardigan Bay

(US Navy photo by MC1(NAC) Shannon E. Renfroe)


10 Mar 14 - MWA Annual Reunion


Members of the Minewarfare Association (MWA), many accompanied by their wives, gathered in Cardiff at the weekend for a highly enjoyable AGM and Annual Reunion.  MCDOA dual-members present included Yours Truly (Rob Hoole), Jonathan Lee and George Turnbull.  Following informal drinks in the hotel and a foray into the city on the Friday night, several attendees mustered for the AGM on the Saturday morning after enjoying a hearty breakfast.




The often hilarious meeting was conducted by MWA President Dixie Dean assisted by Honorary Secretary Peter 'Taff' Reader and Honorary Treasurer Pete Whitehead.




Several other members arrived for the dinner on Saturday night and birthday gifts were presented where appropriate.










After dinner, a 190mm miniature of the planned Vernon Monument was raffled and the lucky winner was Ray Standley.  Over £300 was raised for this worthy cause aimed at erecting a statue at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to celebrate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which formerly stood on the site.



A separate raffle raised a similar amount.




We owe Jim Hawkins and Gary Abnett a huge vote of thanks for organising such a successful event.  The next reunion will be held in the Midlands in March 2015.


7 Mar 14 - Friends and colleagues bid farewell to Chris Davies


Friends and colleagues mustered in HMS Nelson's wardroom last night to bid farewell to MCDOA member Chris Davies who is leaving the RN after 31 years and emigrating to Australia. 



MCDOA members present included Chairman Chris Baldwin, Vice Chairman Yours Truly (Rob Hoole - Chris's CO in HMS Berkeley in 1988/9), Hon Sec Richard 'Soapy' Watson, Don Crosbie, Bill Kerr, Mark Durkin, Martin Mackey, Simon Pressdee and Mark Savage OBE. It was also good to see WO(D) Dan Archer, who has been working with Chris in MCM and Diving Equipment Capability for the past couple of years, and Richard Govan OBE (Chris's CO in HMS Brocklesby in the mid-1980s).



Left: Yours Truly with Chris Davies in the wardroom of HMS Berkeley in 1989

Right: Chris Davies with Yours Truly in the wardroom of HMS Nelson last night


Tributes were paid to Chris by his boss of the past two years and he was presented with a decanter and glasses engraved with his former ships and units.  Chris then said a few words, concentrating on the quality of the people with whom he has served, before most of those gathered departed for a curry run in Gunwharf Quays, the former site of HMS Vernon.


We wish Chris every success in his new life down under.


6 Mar 14 - More EOD incidents


The John O'Groat Journal website contains this article:


Royal Navy declares wartime bombs found off Wick safe


The Bridport News website contains this article which features PO(D) Tex Marshall of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1):


UPDATED: Bomb squad called to Charmouth beach


5 Mar 14 - Recent EOD incidents


The Kent online website contains these well-illustrated articles.  The second article features PO(D) Nobby Clark of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).  Some of the readers' comments are, to say the least, interesting.


Eighteen World War Two bombs have been found by two brothers from Walmer at Sandwich Bay


Royal Navy experts carry out controlled explosion after war-time shells washed up on Minster Leas on Sheppey


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article:


VIDEO: Watch explosion as Plymouth bomb disposal experts blow up WWII device on beach


2 Mar 14 - 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 front door is now repainted.  Passing neighbours have been throwing compliments on the good work being done.


Nigel Phillips's team has been hard at work refurbishing the oak flooring in the Womens' Voluntary Services Room (WVS) and the corridor.  Once it's been waxed, the room will be ready to receive the book cases.  Pictured are Nigel and Mike O'Meara whilst Tommo was working in the corridor. 





Ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson has been a real expert with the axe, despite having been injured by a flying log:



Over the weekend of 21/22 February, Nigel's team dutifully carried out their Community Service sentences doing hard labour outside:



Left: Ray Mabbs (retired) seen pondering how a spade works

Right: Barry Jackson (retired) showing him how


Former FCPO(D) John Dadd BEM digs in



Left: Ex-CD Mike O'Meara (retired) digging himself into a hole (again),

supervised by Mike Fardell and Nigel

Right: Spoil heap awaiting transfer to school grounds


Thanks also to Nigel's brother, John, and partner Shirley who eluded the photo-opportunities.  Very encouraging and congratulatory words were offered by neighbours and onlookers.  Rosemary (opposite) was given the Grand Tour.  Well done team!  A back-breaking task completed.


Nigel's team has now completed 99% of the more physical refurb operations at the Bunker.  Thanks to Tommo and Peter Jackson who came and helped out last Friday. We await a reasonable break in the weather to transfer the soil from the front into the school grounds.  Possibly this coming weekend. 


New ventilator neatly installed in Library window recess


Nigel has decided that the air in the Bunker will now circulate according to his new protocol:



Any attempt by the air not to circulate as directed should be reported immediately.  So far, it's behaving and relative humidity throughout the Bunker is holding steady in the low 70%s. 




We provided another successful session for the Standard Underwater Medicine Course from the Institute of Naval Medicine at the beginning of the month.  26 RN and RM doctors were shown around by John Dadd, Tommo and myself.  The group was one of the most enthusiastic to date.


Thanks to QinetiQ and Gavin Anthony for the latest donation to the collection.  This is a LOSE, a British covert oxygen rebreather.


Lightweight Oxygen Swimming Equipment (LOSE)


Here are a few more items standing in the queue for exhibiting this year, courtesy of QinetiQ and Gavin Anthony - and there's more to come!



Left: Siebe Gorman smoke mask

Right: GSD Bandmask



O2 Rebreather 




Just five weekends to go before reopening the Diving Museum for Season No. 4!




On Saturday, 17 May, the Diving Museum will come alive with spooky re-enactments of WW2 divers rendering mines safe.  Apparitions of famous divers will emerge from haunted chambers; John Deane, the Gosport diver who invented the diving helmet; William Walker who saved Winchester Cathedral; Buster Crabb the frogman who disappeared under mysterious circumstances.




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. 


1 Mar 14 - MCDOA website breaks another barrier


The MCDOA website has increased its following.  During February, it was accessed by 44,112 distinct host servers, the first time this statistic has exceeded 43,000.  The number of people accessing the site is likely to be even higher as many servers (e.g. MoD, US military, etc.) are shared by several users.


28 Feb 14 - Storms revealing wartime ordnance


The BBC website contains this article describing the dramatic increase in wartime ordnance exposed by the recent winter storms and flooding.  It features MCDOA member Chris O'Flaherty, Commanding Officer of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS).


The BBC website also contains this article describing how a woman took home a practice bomb dug up by her dog on the beach at Perranporth in Cornwall.  The bomb was removed by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).


27 Feb 14 - MWA Southern Area Dit Session


This evening's monthly Southern Area Dit Session of the Minewarfare Association (MWA) was a small but convivial affair held at the Lord Arthur Lee in Fareham.  It was attended by MCDOA dual-members Bill Kerr and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) as well as Pete Whitehead, David 'Bagsy' Baker, John Gunter, Chris Bamber and Pete 'Taff' Reader.



26 Feb 14 - SDU1 deals with grenade in mid-Devon


The Exeter Express & Echo website contains this article describing the discovery of a hand grenade in a field near Sampford Peverell in Devon and its subsequent disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).


25 Feb 14 - Steve Gobey in Sydney


MCDOA member Steve Gobey has been touring Australia where he ran one of the CD teams while on exchange with the Royal Australian Navy in the mid-1970s.  I am grateful to him for this email:


"Hi Rob,


Just a quick "Hi from Down Under".  The attached pics show my meet-up with Dinga Bell on Sunday and a visit to the shiny new RAN Diving School yesterday.  Taff Sweeney kindly took the time to show me round the very impressive facility which he played a big part in bringing to fruition.  It was good to see Neill, Taff and Russ Crawford again and they all send their best regards to you and all of the cloth that remember them.


Must dash - off to join P&O ship ARCADIA for a seven-week cruise home from Sydney.  Must be mad paying for all that sea time but I have to do what Sally tells me these days!


VBW to you and yours,




Steve's first photo shows him having a beer with Neill 'Dinga' Bell.  Dinga left the RAN as an MCD Cdr in 2009 but made a huge impact when he filled an exchange billet in the MW training section at HMS Vernon during the late 1970s.  I was on the staff at the same time and still have painful memories of drinking lunchtime 'Red Eyes' with Dinga in Vernon's wardroom, running MCMG sea training with him from Rosyth (including the bar sessions in Cochrane's wardroom) and pitching up at his house in Denmead for another one of Gail's infamous 'four-alarm' chillies.  He has since featured several times on the pages of this website and is currently Vice-President of the RAN Clearance Divers' Association (RANCDA) and President of its New South Wales Branch.


Steve Gobey with Neill 'Dinga' Bell in Sydney 


On ANZAC Day last year, Dinga was made a Fellow of the RANCD's Roll of Honour in recognition of his ongoing dedication and commitment to the Association and the Diving branch in general.  His plaque commemorating the occasion was presented by former Chief of Navy Vice-Admiral Russ Crane AO, CSM, RAN, the most senior ever MCD officer, as described in this article on the Singleton Argus website.



Russ Crane and Dinga Bell on ANZAC Day last year


Steve's second photo shows him with Dennis 'Taff' Sweeney.  Taff left the RAN as an MCD Lt Cdr in 2011 after 50 years in naval uniform: 24 years RN and 26 years RAN (see entry for 1 Jan 12 in News Archive 37).


Taff Sweeney and Steve Gobey at the RAN's new Diving School

at HMAS Penguin in Balmoral, Sydney Harbour


Russ Crawford, who doesn't appear in Steve's photos, served on exchange with the RN in the MW training section at HMS Vernon during the 1980s and also features elsewhere in this website.


24 Feb 14 - Ship's Company of HMS Ledbury parades through streets of Ledbury


The BBC website contains this article and the Royal Navy website this article describing yesterday's parade through the streets of Ledbury in Herefordshire by the ship's company of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Simon Pressdee) to exercise their Freedom of the Town.


Lt Alex Coleman RN, HMS Ledbury's Ops Officer, leading the parade

(RN website photo by by LA(Phot) Iggy Roberts)


Simon Pressdee with Terry Widdows, Mayor of Ledbury 


23 Feb 14 - Pat Harding's 80th birthday


I am grateful to ex-CPO(D) Cris Ballinger for this notification:


"Hi Rob,


I wonder if you would let your members know that Pat Harding reaches the grand age of 80 this coming Friday and she still works most nights behind the bar in Falmouth.   If they would like to send a card, it should be addressed to:



Rumours Wine Bar

Quay Hill



TR11 3HG


Many thanks,


Cris Ballinger"


Here is Pat with a few members of the Branch after the funeral of MCDOA member Dave Ellis a few years ago (see entry for 16 Aug 09 in News Archive 27):


Rob Hoole, Tim Sizer, Chris 'Sandy' Sanders (Pat's son-in-law), Cris Ballinger,

Tim Hadley and Graham 'Tug' Wilson behind Pat in Rumours Wine Bar


21 Feb 14 - Busy start to the year for SDU1


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article describing how recent storms have kept Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) busy.  Since the start of the year, members have been called out 21 times and disposed of 74 items of ordnance.  The article, which features PO(D) Tex Marshall, manages to confuse the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) with the Southern Diving Group (SDG) in some respects but is still useful publicity.


Postscript: On 23 February 2014, the Daily Mail published this article describing the increased incidence of ordnance being exposed by recent storms.  Southern Diving Group is given a mention.


20 Feb 14 - MCDO and MWO promotions


I am grateful to Soapy Watson, our Honorary Secretary, for advising me that the following MCDOs and MWOs have been selected for promotion to Lt Cdr according to the signal released this morning:


Lt Graham Boulton RN (MW)

Lt Peter Davis RN (MCD)

Lt Sean 'Central' Heaton RN (MCD)

Lt Sam Jane RN (MCD)

Lt Ben Piper RN (MCD - Dad will be proud!)

Lt Alex Scott RN (MW)


Congratulations to all concerned.  As Soapy says, this is a fantastic strike rate for the Branch considering the strength of competition from other Warfare officers.


19 Feb 14 - HMS Ledbury to exercise Freedom of the Town



The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing that the ship's company of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Simon Pressdee) will visit their affiliated town of Ledbury this weekend and exercise their Freedom of the Town with a parade through the streets.


18 Feb 14 - Death of ex-CD Tom Kissack


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


"G'day Blokes,


It is with considerable regret and sorrow that I forward the attached message from Bob Adam's recent widow Jenny to convey the passing of 'Mr Nice Guy' Tom Kissack.


I first met Tom when he was drafted to the Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team based in Malta; probably the most prized branch draft in its day.  Complete with warm and clear water, none of its members was prepared to let the day pass without getting beneath the surface.  A very close-knit team whose friendships continued well into the future.  Tom must have been into his late eighties before succumbing to the fatal ending.


Standing: Unknown Maltese PO Stoker, Ron Hartshorn, Bob 'Jock' Adam, Tom Kissack, Royston 'Taff' Davy,

Unknown Maltese PO Stoker, Bill Cornick, Les Maynard, Jock McKenzie (later killed while attempting to render

 safe a shell in dredger) and PO Ken Peake (Steamer).

Middle Row: CPO Jerry Locke (Steamer), Lt Cdr Stuart 'Jazz' Honour, Lt Cdr George 'Franky' Franklin,

Sub Lt Jim Grace (Steamer) and CPO Ernie Foggin.  

Front Row: Barry 'Blondie' Limbrick (Steamer), Peter Powell and Terry Mathews (Steamer).


I can remember when 50% of the team were sent to Benghazi to clear many wartime munitions from its harbour and the other 50% of us were sent to Cyprus to protect the Med Fleet from underwater attack by EOKA terrorist forces.  This half were sitting around at the end of the day onboard the munitions ship RFA Fort Retainer when the subject of age came up.  Most of us were in in our early 20s but L/Sea Tom Kissack stated that he was 30 something!  As a stroppy young AB I said words to the effect that "No one gets to be that old" which received a rather heated reply from Tom.  It just shows that one should engage brain before opening mouth as my words have often come back to haunt me.


Farewell Tom, good "Older" Buddy.  May you rest well.  My thoughts are with you.


Dave L (Mona)"


Jenny Underwood's email:


"Hi Dave,


Sorry to be the bearer of yet more sad news.  The nephew of Tom Kissack rang me to let me know that Tom passed away last night in hospital.  He is going to let me know funeral arrangements as soon as he knows them.






Jenny xxx"


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


"It is 50 years since Tom used to bend his elbow at our cottage in Plymouth.  We enjoyed his companionship at the Diving School.  Unfortunately, Drafty kept us at opposite ends of the world after that happy time but my memory of the lad is as fresh as ever (unlike memory of yesterday's lunch).  


To celebrate his lovely long life I have dedicated an eye op in the third world.






17 Feb 14 - SDU1 deals with unexploded projectile in North Devon


The BBC website contains this article and the North Devon Journal website this article describing yesterday's disposal of an unexploded projectile at Crow Point in Braunton by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).



SDU2 deals with suspicious package at HMS Collingwood


The Sky News website contains this article and the Portsmouth News website this article describing a call-out for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with a suspicious package at HMS Collingwood in Fareham.  The incident turned out to be a false alarm.


15 Feb 14 - Funeral of Lt Cdr Dennis Selwood OBE RN


The chapel at Chichester Crematorium was overflowing with family, friends and former colleagues for last Thursday's funeral of Dennis Selwood (see entry for 31 Jan 14 with recently appended tributes).  MCDOA members present included David Burstall with his wife Jane, Tim Hildesley OBE with his wife Jill, Jon Riches with his wife Anne, Julian Malec and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole).  Other members of the branch included Gerry 'Pincher' Martin, Derek 'Phil' Philips with his wife Carol and Dudley 'Wooly' Woolnough.


The casket, draped in a white ensign and covered with floral arrangements, was borne into the chapel and mourners were welcomed by the Rev John Williams, former Rector of St Peter & St Paul at West Wittering, who then offered an opening prayer.  The congregation then sang the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father) including the divers' verse written by the late MCDOA member Lt Cdr 'Uncle' Bill Filer GM MBE.  Father Williams then read Psalm 107 verses 23-30 (They that go down to the Sea in Ships).


Dennis's brother-in-law Alan Thomas then delivered these reflections:


Lieutenant Commander Dennis Peter Selwood OBE Royal Navy


Let’s not be too solemn; after all, as Jill reminded me, Dennis might have greeted us by - “What the devil are you all doing here? Haven’t you got anything better to do?”


Born in Brighton, he was the youngest by far of three boys.  The Selwood family spanned the 20th century in two generations - Dennis’ father was a sailor at the battle of Jutland and his older brother fought in the Second World War.  From grammar school Dennis joined the Navy as a sailor at HMS Temeraire in Scotland in 1956 with a strong determination to become an officer. 


He joined the Diving Branch because he said the pay was better there.  He served in various ships and shore establishments here and abroad. 


He and Jill met in 1966 at a party on board HMS VICTORIOUS in Hong Kong harbour.  After that he disappeared round the world for the next year.  On his return to England he tried to impress her with his sailing skills and borrowed a yacht from the dockyard to take her round Portsmouth harbour.  That impression faded rather when they went aground and had to be towed off by a passing whaler full of sailors.


They were married in September 1968 on one of the wettest days ever (before this year!) - the marquee in our parents’ garden was flooded; Jill cut the wedding cake standing ankle-deep in water.  The divers were in their element, of course.


Dennis was the Officer-in-Charge of the Western Fleet Clearance Diving Team based at HMS VERNON in Portsmouth and they lived in Emsworth.  His job involved defuzing mines and diving to great depths to retrieve people or equipment from vessels.  The divers were a close-knit team whose safety and lives depended on each other.


He was away much of the time - usually at short notice and without telling Jill where he was going.  On one occasion, at about 3 o’clock in the morning, he called enthusiastically from a remote pub beside a Scottish loch, telling her what a good time they were having before he passed the phone to all the other divers in the team - each to tell her what a good time they were having!


They were once called to salvage the engine of a Boeing 707 which had dropped into a reservoir while coming in to land at Heathrow.  The team stayed in one of the smarter airport hotels and the bar helped to ease the discomfort of their tough assignment.


On another occasion they were called to Cardigan Bay, to retrieve a Sea Dart missile which had gone missing.  After several weeks of searching, the missile was located and Dennis disarmed the warhead, for which he was appointed MBE.  Dennis and Jill then went to Sydney for an exchange posting with the Royal Australian Navy.  During the Queen’s state visit there in 1970, Dennis was presented with his MBE.  I gather the subsequent party at Government House ended at 5 a.m.


On hearing that a small squadron of Australian Navy patrol boats was operating off the coast of Papua New Guinea, Dennis somehow procured the command of one of them.  There seems to have been little interest in the area, to the extent that Dennis needed an airline route leaflet to show Naval HQ in Canberra where he was going.  He was then at sea almost all the time and Jill became the unofficial Naval Agent in the little port of Lae, arranging supplies for the patrol boats when they came in for occasional weekends.  Once the fuel, water, mail and food were on board she was generally rewarded with a G & T and - when Dennis’s ship arrived - his dirty laundry too!


Claire and Timothy were born in England, during which time Dennis served as First Lieutenant of HMS NUBIAN in the West Indies.  In 1979 he took up an exchange post with the US Navy in Charleston, South Carolina; they thoroughly enjoyed their 3½ years there.  Tributes from American colleagues include:


“His professionalism was well respected. The casual mention of his name opened doors in certain navies that otherwise may have remained closed.”


“He was wild, witty and wise but didn't suffer non-mine warfare types who thought they knew the business better than he.” 


A colleague has also written -  “He'd stop by my desk each Friday to invite me to 'sink a few jars' at the club and I'd go only if I could get a reliable - but very late - ride home.  He's someone I'll never, ever forget.” 


In 1986 Dennis was put on standby for a secret mission following the Falklands War.  He was given a bleeper so he could be called at 24 hours’ notice and he put it away in a drawer.  He was contacted several weeks later, given a MI5 minder, a false passport and a flight to Montevideo.  There, he spent ten days watching his dead letter box on the beach until further orders arrived.


A few days before Christmas, the minder told Jill he was on his way home, and she and the children went to Heathrow to meet him.  He wasn’t on the flight which caused some consternation in the family but, typically, he turned up, by an unplanned route, a couple of days later.  He was awarded OBE and, at Buckingham Palace, when the Queen noticed that the citation was blank, she asked if his mission had been very secret and whether it had been successful.  Dennis replied politely that if it had not been he would not be standing there in front of her.


After leaving the Navy he worked for British Aerospace on a project in Saudi Arabia.  As his office was in Preston he and Jill had a narrowboat built for him to live in.  They spent the next couple of years fitting it out and travelling the canals with the children for holidays.


Many of the comments and anecdotes I have heard and read over the last couple of weeks have epitomised the Dennis that I knew - professional; loyal; didn’t suffer fools gladly and was good at spotting them; could be rude, off-hand and difficult; always curious and challenging; you knew where you were with him; he never approached anything halfway; a good friend in a tight spot or for a night out.


Most occasions turned into some sort of game, generally prefaced with a “madness not to!” and most games involved a drink or three; I remember the two of us sitting on our living room floor one night, dribbling whisky over each other’s head - something to do with hair growth - clearly not successful!


On retirement, as his naval friends will know, he broke off all his connections with his earlier life and disappeared into his shed in Birdham.  There, he collected tools, built furniture and fixed things; emerging occasionally to sail their little Hurley 22 yacht FANTASY, which he fitted-out and kept in immaculate order.  He also created and fitted furniture for a succession of houses and student flats for Claire and Timothy as they moved away from home.


Each summer he skippered, with his accustomed skill, their charter yachts in Croatia or Turkey, when they invited friends and family to join them on this his only social event of the year.  For many of us here, the good times and the hairy and hilarious moments from these trips will be our abiding memories of Dennis.


In due course he morphed into a grandfather, albeit reluctantly - he had always declared that he wished to have nothing to do with children until they “stopped crying and could talk sensibly” - Charlie and Lucy won him over and knew him as ‘Fantasy Grandad’ who liked sausages and beans, who fixed things and came out of a shed.


Before he met Jill, Dennis’ family was the Navy; we were all quite a puzzle for him.  It is hugely to the credit of Jill, with Claire and Timothy, that he came to be a proud part of his own family.


So now.....Axminster Tools may go bust; the Famous Grouse distillery will wonder what has happened to their duty-free sales;..... we will all miss him......


Alan's tribute was followed by prayers and the congregation singing 'Jerusalem'.  After the Commendation and Committal, we all provided an informal rendition of 'Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside'.


Most of us gathered afterwards in Chichester Yacht Club to raise a glass or two in Dennis's memory and I passed our best wishes to his wife Jill, daughter Claire and son Timothy.  I also talked with Claire's husband, Lt Col Matthew 'Murph' Murphy RHA.  He currently serves at PJHQ and has worked with MCDOA members Dave Bence and Jason Poole.


Lt Cdr Dennis Selwood OBE RN

(26 Oct 1937 - 29 Jan 2014) 


From Dennis Selwood's wife Jill:


"Dear Rob,


Claire, Timothy and I were very pleased to meet you and other MCDs yesterday at Dennis’s funeral and subsequent party at Chichester Yacht Club.  We were also delighted – and amazed – to find that so many of you had taken the time and trouble to write such long and (surprisingly complimentary!) tributes about him on the website, particularly as he had disappeared from view so many years ago.


Yesterday’s events would have been memorable anyway with family and friends attending, but the icing on the cake for them was to be able to read all your anecdotes - and character assassinations (?) - which we printed and displayed at the Yacht Club.  


Hardly any of his current friends (yes, he had one or two and was usually rude to them as well) had heard anything of his naval past but knew he enjoyed sailing.  His skill in skippering our charter yachts in Croatia and Turkey each summer was much appreciated and admired by all of us (and his expertise in consuming Grouse-based nightcaps).


Once again, thank you from all of us.


Jill, Claire and Timothy" 


13 Feb 14


Daily Telegraph obituary for Lt Cdr Dennis Selwood OBE RN


As ever, I am indebted to Capt Peter Hore RN for writing this obituary for Dennis Selwood which was published in today's Daily Telegraph (see entry for 31 Jan 14 and appended tributes in News Archive 45).


Peter's submission was heavily edited and he has passed me the original text:


Lt Cdr Dennis Selwood OBE RN


Lt Commander Dennis Selwood, who has died aged 76, was an expert in minewarfare.


Over several years in the late 1980s, when Britain led the world in minewarfare and mine-countermeasures, Selwood was head of the Minewarfare Tactical Development Group at HMS Vernon in Portsmouth (now the Gunwharf shopping centre).  There he provided a highly effective link between the Royal Navy and scientists at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (now QinetiQ) who were involved in assessing the risks from new developments in minewarfare.  Selwood was at the peak of his career with unsurpassed skills in defusing and examining individual mines which were being brought onto the market by Britain’s nominal allies and sold on by unscrupulous arms dealers to potential enemies.


In one case he travelled abroad clandestinely to inspect a new type of mine, which he was shown in darkened workshop: the mine was live and unfamiliar to Selwood, but he recovered its sensors and central processing unit so that these could be examined in Britain.


It is said that when he went to Buckingham Palace in 1988 to receive the OBE, which had been awarded for this sensitive service, HM the Queen commented that his work must have been very secret, and asked whether it had been successful.  Selwood replied politely that if it had not, he would not be there now.


Dennis Peter Selwood was born in Brighton, son of an engineer who had fought at the Battle of Jutland and postwar had worked on the building of Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Young Selwood was educated at the grammar school and joined the Navy, on the lowerdeck, in 1956.  He claimed not to have touched a drop of alcohol for his two years on the lowerdeck because he was so keen to become an officer.


Selwood volunteered to join the diving branch because he wanted the extra pay, and qualified in 1962 as a Clearance Diver or CD, one of the elites of the Navy, whose duties included bomb and mine disposal, the clearance of underwater obstacles from beaches, and the location and disposal of the mines planted on ships and docks.


In 1969 Selwood was officer in charge of the Western Fleet Clearance Diving Team, when he was called at short notice to Cardigan Bay, where a live Sea Dart missile had fallen into the sea from the missile range at Aberporth.  After several weeks of searching, Selwood found the missile and disarmed the warhead, for which he was made an MBE.  He was presented with his medal at a garden party at Government House, Sydney during HM the Queen’s visit to Australia in 1970, while he was on exchange service at HMAS Penguin.  The party following the ceremony ended at 5 a.m.


When Selwood heard that a small squadron of Royal Australian Navy patrol boats was operating off the coast of Papua New Guinea, he procured the command of one them, insisting at naval headquarters in Canberra on showing a hapless staff officer where he was going with the aid of an airline route map.  He was at sea almost all the time in the waters around New Guinea, but smuggled his wife to Lae (sic) where her duties as the unofficial ship’s agent involved arranging supplies for the patrol boats when they came in for weekends.  Once fuel, water, mail and food were aboard she was rewarded with a gin and tonic and with Selwood’s dirty laundry.


In 1977 Selwood found himself leading a diving team in the Gilbert and Ellis Islands on a three month-long operation to clear American minefields which had been laid in the 1940s off Funafuti Atoll.  He devised a routine in which his team countermined the ordnance and then [after the explosion] took a two-day break whilst sharks fed on the dead fish.  He then repeated the operation on the opposite side of the atoll, about 15 miles away from the feasting sharks.  With four days left on the island and with celebration parties planned, Selwood insisted his men should complete their task.  Diving on the last remaining mines had barely started when a shark, its jaws wide open and larger that the inflatable boat carrying the diving party, chased a diver out of the water.  The boat shot away from the site, steering a zigzag course at full speed to avoid the shark attempting to bite the boat.  Selwood, who had observed this manoeuvre while sitting under a palm tree in the company of the female farewell committee, commented: “That’s probably a rogue bull shark.  Let’s not annoy it any further today.”


In 1979-1982 Selwood served on an exchange programme with the USN where he was responsible for training in the tactics and technology of mine warfare, and much of the knowledge which was transferred during this period was later used by the USN during the Tanker Wars of 1984-88 and in the Gulf War 1990-91.  He was also remembered because, during a diving conference in Charleston, South Carolina he replaced the coolant in his American commanding officer’s vintage MG sports car with beer, and when it would not start he pushed the car into a downtown bar.  The car smelled of hops for weeks afterwards.


After leaving the Navy in 1989 Selwood was head-hunted by British Aerospace, when, as his office was in Lancashire and his home was in Hampshire, he had a narrowboat built for him and spent two years fitting it out, before travelling the canals with his family for holidays during the ten years he was with BAE.


On retirement, Selwood ‘swallowed the anchor’, breaking off connections with his earlier life and disappeared into his shed in Birdham, West Sussex where he built furniture and repaired things, emerging occasionally to sail his Hurley 22 'Fantasy', which he kept in immaculate order.


He was wild, witty and wise, intensely loyal, committed to his work, but outspoken and intolerant of those who did not share his ethics.  He was devoted to his family.


He married Jill Thomas in 1968 who survives him with their daughter and son.


Dennis Selwood, born October 26 1937, died January 29 2014.


Over the past few years, Peter has been extremely cooperative in writing tributes to members of our small community for publication in the Daily Telegraph.  Other examples have included (in alphabetical order):


CPO(D) Stephen 'Darby' Allan


Cdr Philip Arthur Balink-White MBE RN


Lt Cdr John Bridge GC GM* RN


Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR


Lt Cdr Peter Cobby BEM RN


Lt Cdr 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM RN


Lt Cdr Ian Fraser VC DSC RD* RNR


Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John 'Jab' Harrison


Val Hempleman


Ldg Sea Sydney Knowles BEM


Lt Cdr Bruce Mackay RN


Cdr Peter Messervy MBE GM RN


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


Lt Cdr 'Robbie' Robinson MBE RN


Lt Arthur 'Bubs' Russell MBE RNVR


Lt Cdr Harry Wardle RN


Lt George Wookey MBE RN 


From MCDOA member Brian Braidwood:


"Dear Rob,


In recent years only two other diving Lieutenant-Commanders have been appointed an OBE and neither was already an MBE.  The other two were John Grattan and Graham Shaw.  As you well know the OBE is normally for Commanders or equivalent.


With best wishes, and don’t forget the red roses for Linda on Friday!




SDU1 investigates suspicious materials in Saltash


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article describing how members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) attended an incident at an address in Saltash, Cornwall today and examined suspicious materials at the request of the police.  A man was subsequently arrested.




SDU2 investigates supect IED in Brighton


The GlobalPost website contains this article describing how members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) were called to examine a suspect package in Brighton today.  It was one of a string of crude explosive devices sent to seven armed forces recruitment offices up and down the country.




12 Feb 14 - Padstow beach bomb came from German WWI trenches


The Cornishman website contains this article revealing that a First World War bomb found by a fisherman and his dog in Padstow two weeks ago has been identified as an extremely rare German trench mortar.  It was collected by PO(D) Andrew ‘Tex’ Marshall of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) who hopes to have it displayed in the museum at Devonport Naval Base.



10 Feb 14


SDU1 deals with hand grenade on Dartmoor


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article describing yesterday's disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a hand grenade discovered by a dogwalker on Dartmoor.  The article features PO(D) Andrew 'Tex' Marshall and PO(D) Mark 'Jan' Cocking.



Second World War munitions dealt with in Northern Ireland


The Down Recorder website contains this article describing the disposal of Second World War munitions discovered on Lecale beaches near Ardglas and Ballyhornan in Northern Ireland.  The ordnance was not dealt with by a Royal Navy bomb disposal team as reported in the article although a Royal Navy EOD Operator, currently serving with 11 EOD Regiment RLC, was involved.



9 Feb 14 - SDU2 deals with smoke canister on its doorstep


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing this afternoon's disposal by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of a smoke canister discovered on the shoreline near Port Solent, adjacent to their HQ on Horsea Island.


7 Feb 14 - Death of Lt Cdr Gerry Mitchell RN


I am sorry to prolong the New Year gloom but a reference to a bequest in the current issue of 'Ton Talk', the bi-monthly magazine of the Ton Class Association (TCA), has belatedly drawn my attention to the death of MCDOA associate member Gerry Mitchell.  I have subsequently discovered this announcement on the Dorset Echo website:


GERALD (GERRY) MITCHELL RN Rtd Passed away peacefully, aged 82 on 20th November 2013 at Chestnut Nursing Home, Charlton Down. Much loved husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather and friend. The funeral service will be held at Weymouth Crematorium on Friday 29th November at 1.00 pm. Family flowers only please, but donations for ‘Alzheimer’s Society’ would be appreciated and may be sent to Cotton & Son, Milton House, 1 Milton Road, Weymouth DT4 0AZ Enquiries Tel: (01305) 76 76 76 2:51am Saturday 23rd November 2013


Gerry was originally an old style 'salt horse' non-specialist seaman officer but he later served in the MCMD section at AUWE (Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment) at Southwell, Portland for many years as an RO2 (Retired Officer Grade 2) MoD civil servant.  He had particular co-responsibility for overseeing the development, procurement, acceptance trials, introduction into service and support of minewarfare systems and equipment.  This saw him working opposite many uniformed MCD project applicator officers and I shared an office with him myself for three years during the mid-1990s before the organisation moved to Abbey Wood near Bristol.  He had an infectious sense of humour and was always a source of enormous corporate knowledge and sage advice. 


Gerry Mitchell (far right) at the 2001 MCDOA Annual Dinner with (left to right)

Alan Bayliss, David Hilton, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) and Harry Parker MBE


We extend our sincere condolences to Barbara, Gerry's widow.


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




I've just got back from a wee trip away and picked up on the sad news regarding Gerry Mitchell.  My sincere condolances go out to Barbara and the children (albeit grown up by now).


Gerry was my Boss at Severn RNR in the latter half of the 1970s and I have to say what a remarkable guy he was to work for.  I remember going up to Lowestoft with him to pick up a trawler (Suffolk Harvester) which was going to be renamed HMS Venturer and used for DATS and bottom sweeping trials.  When we went to sea for an acquaint, Gerry was distraught to see the trawler skipper using an AA Road Map as his aid for navigation!  Yep, we did hit the putty leaving harbour.  By the time the Pusser took over we had a full outfit of relevant charts!  On another occasion, we suffered a steering gear failure going downriver from the floating harbour in Bristol.  The Boss used the bow thruster all the way down to Avonmouth to keep us in the centre of the channel. 


After Gerry left the Royal Navy, our paths crossed frequently in places like Loch Orrible [Eriboll], the Kyles of Lochalsh, Loch Ewe, Campbeltown and lots of other MCM/MCD-orientated scenarios of the late 1980s and 90s.  I can remember going to tea with him and his family and seeing the name board of HMS Barbain (she was based at Loyang near Singers Naval Base) in pride of place.  He had been her CO.  The other name board belonged to HMS Wilkieston but I don't know if he was her CO.


I have to say he was a lovely man to work for and he commanded the utmost respect from all who worked with and for him.


Belatedly R.I.P.






(Purveyor of Mines to the Gentry (rtd))"


By Webmaster: I don't know whether Gerry commanded HMS Wilkieston but he was certainly the first Commanding Officer of a Ghanaian corvette called GNS Keta which was launched at Vickers in January 1965.


From former WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE, Chairman of the Minewarfare Association (MWA):


"Hi Rob,


I know some of our members will remember Gerry Mitchell and his association with minewarfare.  I was not aware of his passing and it came as a bit of a shock.


I worked with Gerry at DGUW(N) whilst working for Mike Kooner and Pony Moore.  If I remember correctly he was involved in the procurement of the very first Mine Warfare Tactical Support System (in the very early days when DGUW(N) were writing the NSR and specs).  I remember him as a very friendly, good humoured man who took on roles that some of the other Project Managers were perhaps too busy to get involved in.  I distinctly remember him, Peter Churcher and Norton Tyzack swapping mine sweeping dits. They all had fascinating stories to tell.


Best regards,




By Webmaster: Gerry also took on the Project Management of the Route Survey Data Base (RSDB).


5 Feb 14 - EOD incident in Exmouth 


The Exeter Express & Echo website contains this article describing a call-out for members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) yesterday to deal with a smoke grenade discovered under an ice cream kiosk uprooted by storms on the sea front in Exmouth.  The article features PO(D) Nick Cross.


Postscript: On 6 February, the Royal Navy website published this article covering the same story.


4 Feb 14 - Tributes to Lt Cdr Steve Wild RN and Lt Cdr Dennis Selwood OBE RN


Several new tributes to the recently deceased Steve Wild and Dennis Selwood have been appended to the entries for 21 Jan 14 and 31 Jan 14 respectively with the most recently received towards the top.


3 Feb 14 - HMS Grimsby enjoys a warm welcome in Grimsby


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the recent visit of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 5 commanded by MCDOA member Simon Kelly) to Grimsby (see entry for 25 Jan 14).  The article also features AB(MW) Lewis Gardiner who scored the ship's only goal in a football match against Humberside Police who won 4-1.


Aerial view of HMS Grimsby

(Royal Navy photo)


2 Feb 14 - RN Diving Heritage: Old Photos


I am grateful to ex-CD1 Pete Gallant for this contribution:




This photo was taken in the 1960s at JSBDS [Joint Services Bomb Disposal School before it became DEODS in 1970] during a meet-up of BD units from all three services.  It shows ex-CPO(CD1) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington, a civvy driver, me (Pete Gallant) and an RAF officer.





Pete G"


I am also grateful to MCDOA member Mike Gillam for this contribution:


"Hi Rob,


In going through some old files I came across the attached photos that may be of some interest.


The first is a team photo that should be added to the story of Clearance Diving East of Suez [Done!].


Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team 1962

Back row: Peter Fowles, Doc Campion, Brian Martin, Simon Russell, Tansy Lee,

Dolly Dolan, Harvey Sumner, Vic Humphrey, Gilbert Bartholomew and Tom Fisher (ME)

Front Row: Mick Roberts, Mike McCall (POME), Bob Atkinson, James Majendie,

Mike Gillam, Brian Fawcett, Tom King and Stan Templeton


The next photo dates from my time as 'I Diving' in HMS Vernon circa 1966.  It is obviously of some course or other and contains an interesting collection of characters.  Back row standing from the left are Ernie Foggin, Taff Lawrence, George Wookey, Tim Bain-Smith and a CD1 who I remember well, apart from his name [Paul Scott - see Dave Lott's contribution below].  I cannot name the front row apart from the well known submariner and old chum of Joe Brooks, Mattie Todd sitting next to me, who was running the 100 foot escape tower at Dolphin at the time [see Vic Humphrey's contribution below].  Some years earlier, he introduced my long course to the excitement of the X-craft at Portland that included locking out and hanging on the side while under way.



Any suggestions as to what the course might have been about would be welcome.


Yours Mike"


I can identify the sub-lieutenant leftmost in the front row as the late MCDOA member Chris Beresford-Green who qualified on the 1968 LMCDO course.  If anyone can put names to others in either of Mike's photos, I will happily add them.


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


"G’day Rob,


Recently feeling nostalgic for the old CD branch, I have been visiting old “Lost Mates” on your webpages.   Arriving at Mike Gillam’s contribution of RN Diving Heritage Photos dated 2 Feb 2014 and his second photo, the bloke whose name is missing from the PO CD1 rear row right hand side is Paul Scott ex-D1 who qualified as a CD1 when he transferred to the CD branch from the Standard Diving branch after it was abolished.


I relieved Paul as the PO CD1 of AEDU (Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit) in early 1964 as he was about to leave the RN.  He went on to become a publican in the West country and died there not too many years later.


As usual many thanks for your website, great reading for a young oldie.


Dave Lott (Mona)"


From former FCPO(D) Vic Humphrey:




All cylinders are still working as I sincerely hope they are with you and your family.  Re the photo of the FECDT in 1962:


Rear row: Peter Fowles – Doc Campion – Brian Martin – Simon Russell – Tangy [Tansy?] Lee – Dolly Dolan – Harvey Sumner – Me – Gilbert Bartholomew - Tom Fisher (ME)


Front row: Mick Roberts – Mike McCall (POME) – Bob Atkinson – James Majendie – Mike Gillam – Brian Fawcett – Tom King – Stan Templeton.  


Unfortunately, to my knowledge seven of the team have died which even with the inevitable passage of time, is really sad.   The Team in '62 was an exceptional time to be a Clearance Diver.  


Please give my very best regards to Mike and James.


Best regards,


Vic H"


1 Feb 14 - Arrangements for the funeral of Lt Cdr Dennis Selwood OBE RN


I have received this heart-warming message from Jill Selwood (see entry for 31 Jan 14 in News Archive 45 with appended tributes):


"Hi Rob,


I am Dennis’s wife and much appreciate the comments I have read on the website so far! 


If anyone who knew him would like to come along to Chichester Crematorium on Thursday, 13th February, at 1400, and then to Chichester Yacht Club for a few jars afterwards, you will be very welcome.




31 Jan 14


Death of Lt Cdr Dennis Selwood OBE RN


Lt Cdr Dennis Selwood OBE RN


I have been informed via Capt Peter Hore RN, the Daily Telegraph's naval obituary writer, that former MCD officer Dennis Selwood died on Wednesday night (29 Jan).  He had been suffering from cancer of the esophagus.


Dennis never joined the MCDOA but he was well known throughout the Branch and in Australia and the USA where he had exchange appointments at the RAN Diving School (newly moved from HMAS Rushcutter at Edgecliff to HMAS Penguin in Sydney Harbour) during the late 1960s and at COMINEWARCOM at Charleston, South Carolina between 1979 and 1982.  His name is dotted around this website including an article mentioning that he was the Diving Officer of HMS Victorious c.1966 and another mentioning his service as the Far East Fleet's Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer.  I also know that he served as the XO of a Tribal class frigate at a later stage of his career. 


He was appointed an MBE in the 1970 New Year Honours for the recovery of a missile off the range at Aberporth when OIC of the Western Fleet Clearance Diving Team and an OBE in the 1988 New Year Honours for his often sensitive work when OIC of the now-defunct Minewarfare Tactical Development Group (MWTDG) accommodated in HMS Vernon but under the direct auspices of CINCFLEET (his reason for refusing to join Vernon's Duty Lt Cdr roster ).  On leaving the Royal Navy, he spent several years working for BAE Systems and was particularly involved with the Saudis in the Al-Yamamah defence project.


Capt Hore would like to speak with anyone who can shed more light on Dennis's life and career with a view to producing an obituary for the Daily Telegraph.  Please contact me if you feel able to help.  I would also appreciate any memories or tributes to append to this article. 


Dennis lived in Birdham, West Sussex and I will publish any funeral details as I receive them.  He leaves his wife Jill, son Timothy and daughter Clare to whom we extend our sincere condolences. 


From MCDOA member Alan Padwick OBE:


"Dear Rob,


I was very sorry to have failed to see the sad news about Dennis in time to get to his funeral.  I send my sympathy and condolences to Jill and family.  I have not seen them since we passed each other in our narrow boats on the Leeds and Liverpool canal in the early 1990s.


Back in the old days, with the aid of many a bottle he persuaded me into several scrapes.  But I was quite sober when Dennis got me into trouble with Prince Charles, while he was commanding Bronington.  As Staff MCDO to CMCM, I had been very involved in devising and running one of the first major Clyde MCM exercises.  While doing his bit, the Prince found a live German mine.  Dennis, as Fleet MCD Officer, asked to join Bronington to see it.  You can imagine the effect Dennis could have on his Royal Highness and at the exercise wash-up I got a Royal protest for letting Dennis get at him - as if anyone could control Dennis.


Sorry he is gone.






From MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton:


"Hi Rob,


As usual I am a day late and a dollar short having not been on the net for time.  I was really shocked to learn of Dennis's passing.  He was a one-off and I remember some great moments with him, and some of which I would not wish to be reminded.  Sad that so vibrant a person should be brought down in such a way.  I know the miseries of that type of cancer from personal experience and he deserved a better ending. 


Yours Aye,




From Robin Wager MA RD RNR Rtd:




I was sad to hear of his death.  So young.


I worked for him when he was FMCDO at Northwood, where he transformed the Cell into a professional team of RNR's and ensured the NATO and Fleet elements worked closely together.


Dennis organised a series of RNR training courses at HMS Vernon to enable us to better understand the tasking and employment of MCMVs to support the fleet.  He also provided support and guidance and during his time at CinCFleet, successfully passed on his skills, in his imitable way, that we all appreciated long after he left for the States.


On one exercise I accompanied him to Pembroke Dock as the exercise required a plan to set up and lay a paper minefield.  The trip to Wales was a lesson in itself.  We ran out of fuel and guess who pushed the RN minivan!  Once refueled and in Wales, I learnt how to ingest some restorative beer as well a the tasks ahead of us to plan and lay a mine field.  Dennis also allowed some of us to present the Mine Warfare picture to the command, but, he was always on call when any 'problem questions' arose.


His wit was always on hand to chivvy the best out of us.  I once called him to ask for help on diving.  His first words were "I thought you were dead."


We will remember him.


Kind Regards,




From MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald:


"Hello Rob,


Very sorry to hear about Dennis; we bumped into each other in Birdham on occasion.  Dan Nicholson, as ever, hits the nail on the head - I can say no more.




From former MWO Roger Baileff:


"Dear Rob,


I was sorry to hear that Dennis had crossed over the bar.


Our paths crossed over a number of years in the 1980s: Vernon, Rosyth Naval Base and the Fleet Headquarters at Northwood to name but a few.  However I especially remember him when I was tasked to update the Fleet mining plans, working for Mike Emary in Northwood.  Dennis arranged for me to visit all manner of mining depots at home and abroad, including a US national course at CMWC in Charleston, SC, generously giving his time and experience to guide me through and around various obstacles to get various plans approved by both UK and NATO agencies.  I even managed to get a few dives in with him at Bincleaves, and remember his maxim of a hearty breakfast and very light dinner, so that there was plenty of room for beer.


I regret I cannot attend his funeral and would be grateful if my condolences were added to those of others.  


With best wishes,




From Cdr Jim Aaron USN in the USA:


"I've been thinking about Dennis and the time we spent together at COMINEWARCOM.  Dennis was indeed outspoken, and that may have turned some people off when they first met him.  But he was also very knowledgeable and professional.  I think it's fair to say that, during the 2½ years I worked with him, he educated not only me, but most others he worked with, and raised the level of professionalism in those around him.  He also played hard, most often with a pitcher or two on the table.  As I said earlier, Dennis never approached anything halfway, and I believe that rubbed off on those who worked with him.  


One of Admiral Horne's favorite tactics was to do his very best to attack and intimidate officers on his staff.  I saw it happen many times.  To my knowledge, he never tried to do this with Dennis.  It may have been because Dennis was an Exchange Officer, but I suspect it was because Horne knew that Dennis wouldn't stand for it.  


I'm saddened to hear of his passing, and hope that Jill will soon be able to carry on.  Although the children are grown now, I'm certain they will miss their father.




CDR Jim Aaron USN (Ret)"


From Cdr Edward 'Jake' Linton BEM RAN, Patron of the RAN Clearance Divers' Association:


"Sad news about Dennis, Rob.


I have read with great interest the comments you have posted on the MCDOA web site; they paint the picture perfectly of the man I knew.  Dennis certainly left his mark wherever he served and is a great loss to the Branch as well as humanity in general.  The world needs men of his ilk.


My sincere condolences to his family.




Jake Linton"


From former WO(D) Terry Settle MBE QGM BEM:


"Hi Rob,


Very sad, sad news to learn of the passing of Dennis.


Dennis was my Boss in the Western Fleet Team, my first draft on joining the branch.  I have very fond memories of those times.  “Yam Sing”, “Madness not to” and “Barrel” come to mind.  Many a happy time was had by all in the Wessy Fleet.


I can remember one time when we were billeted at RAF Aberporth which was our regular base for swimming jackstays in Cardigan Bay searching firstly for a Sea Slug Mk? and later for a Sea Dart which we recovered.  During that period Dennis would take his turn as duty driver for the evening runs ashore into Aberporth.  On one occasion on returning to camp, Dennis took the Land Rover on a detour around the Camp’s flag pole and over the flower beds that had been especially groomed for the arrival the next day of Royalty (PC was leaning to fly Chipmunks at the time).  The camp commander was not amused and sent for Dennis the next morning and told him to find the culprit and discipline him.  Dennis gave himself one day’s stoppage of leave and one day's No.9s.  No.9s for us was a round of beer for all team members.


The team had a party round the Boss’s house at Emsworth to celebrate him being appointed an MBE and the team receiving a commendation.  Before he chucked us out, and without his knowledge, we managed to transfer the lounge furniture (including I think a piano) to the other side of a small stream that ran at the rear of his garden.


I served alongside Dennis later in my career while sharing an office with him at Northwood and COMMW Rosyth.  He had a watching brief over me whilst I spent a year training Qatari divers.


Dennis was a great guy and a friend.  Please pass on my condolences to Jill and family and apologies for not being able to attend the funeral. 




Terry Settle



Settle-for-Safety Ltd"


From ex-CD1 Dudley 'Wooly' Woolnough


"Dear Rob,


Very, very sorry to hear of Dennis Selwood's passing.  He was my very first Boss when I was sent to Bincleaves at Weymouth after qualifying CD3.  Dennis would (occasionally!!!) give a 'make & mend' as long as the team were all in Mabel's  (The Kings Arms) by midday.  Dennis would drink Guinness in vast amounts then challenge anyone to a race along Chiswell Beach.  He had a Sunbeam Alpine and I had the RN Land Rover.


I next saw him off Pulau Tioman in Malaysia.  I was in HMS Kirkliston and he was laundry officer in HMS Victorious.  Our Geminis passed as I was taking the ship's dog ashore for a crap and he was running a dive.  It is my understanding he was laundry officer on the Vic as punishment for throwing a wet bread roll at the speaker during the very first Divers' Dinner I attended.


He was my Boss again in the Western Fleet team with Dutchy Holland as the Chief.  Dennis took me, Terry Settle, Stingers Imray and two others to search for a lost US Starfighter off Douglas on the Isle of Man.  We found and recovered 75% on the first day.  Dennis was called to London and gave us three days to get to Aberporth to look for the lost missile in Cardigan Bay.  Dutchy was not best pleased.  We encountered a lot of strong tides and could not dive so Dennis's answer was to go to the nearest pub by Gemini.  After several pints we would return to the MFV and Dennis would decide the tides were good enough to dive.  With several pints inside us, Terry Settle and I swam many jackstays.  We did eventually find the missile, hence Dennis got a medal and we received an Admiral's commendation.


A great Boss and there are many more great memories that should not be told!!!!  


I hope to be at Chichester Crematorium.


Wooly Woolnough


Dudley M Woolnough MIIRSM Tech.IOSH

Deep Marine Works"


From Cdr Maurice 'Toby' Horn USN in the USA:




I first met Dennis at COMINEWARCOM, Charleston when he reported there in 1979.  I think my related experiences in the UK helped make us close friends.  Jill and Jani met and became friends also, sharing many home, children and social events.  I would meet Dennis almost daily at the extended BOQ lunch bar where we talked the talk and had a pint or two.  He rarely ate anything except on Wednesday when the BOQ dining room served Curry.  He had a penchant for the stuff, perhaps because it washed down so easily with a cold beer.


Dennis was the epitome of the term 'rascal'.  His favorite expression was “bugger”, which was not meant as a vulgar articulation.  It was “bugger this” or “bugger that” or “bugger off”, and nothing or anyone escaped this sarcasm.  I loved him like a little brother whom I sometimes wanted to turn over my knee and spank.  He loved life, a good drink and a beautiful woman from anywhere.  I knew him as a dedicated professional, devoted husband and proud father. 


My wife and I are pleased to have the experience of sharing many moments in our lives with Jill and Dennis.  Those memories will live on and on.


CDR M. D. “Toby” Horn, USN (Ret)"


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




I'm very sorry to hear the sad news of Dennis crossing the bar to the dive site, with presidential apartment, in the sky.  I hope he doesn’t run into any submariners up there!


Dennis was one of the old school CDOs that led by example, even in the water, and didn’t suffer fools gladly.  I accompanied him and our late SofD, Guy Worsley, to the Gilbert and Ellis Islands in the '70s to locate and dispose of WWII American sea mines in the entrances to Funafuti Atoll.


We worked a routine of locating all of the mines in an entrance, detonating them with countermining charges and then taking a two-day make & mend whilst the great white sharks, from the surrounding deep waters, fed on the dead fish.  We then repeated the operation on an entrance on the opposite side of the atoll, about 15 miles away from the feasting sharks.


When clearing the last entrance we had a misfire on one of the twelve charges almost certainly due to the coral cutting the cordtex.  The explosion from those detonating attracted the normal influx of sharks.  With only four days left on the island and with celebration parties planned before the RAF Hercules picked us up, Dennis insisted that we dive on the remaining mine saying, “If you guys haven’t the stomach for the job – I’ll do it myself.”  There were not too many volunteers but fortunately the late fearless, then Baby Diver, Darby Allan stepped forward [see entry for 26 Nov 10 in News Archive 32].


Darby plunged into the stirred-up water with a countermine charge in his hand.  Less than two minutes later he surfaced so fast that his body didn’t touch the side of the Gemini as he came inboard.  An enormous shark, larger that our inflatable, followed him with its jaws wide open, snapping at his rear end and missing it by inches.  Darby ripped off his mask and shouted towards me, “Sod that!  You can have my rate, it's too bloody dangerous.”  We didn’t hang around and shot from the site at full speed conducting anti-submarine manoeuvres to avoid the shark attempting to bite the Gemini.


Dennis, sitting under a palm tree in the company of the female farewell committee, had observed the excitement and, on the Gemini beaching, he commented, “That’s probably a rogue bull shark, Mick.  Let’s not be too hasty at annoying it further today and wait a couple of days before you dive on it.” 


On the way home we had technical problems with the aircraft and had a five-day break in Fiji in a five star hotel where Dennis really looked after us.


I never had the pleasure of working for Dennis again but had the occasional drink with him in Chichester.  A great guy and a man's man.  I never met his wife and family but send them my deepest condolences.




Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM*


Fellows International Limited"


From Lt Cdr Doug 'Pony' Moore GM BEM RAN in Australia:


"Hello from Australia,


I knew Dennis well both in Aus and whilst on exchange in the UK.  Please pass on Georgina's and my sympathies to Jill.


Doug Moore"


From MCDOA member Dan Nicholson:


"Dear Rob,


It was with great sadness that I heard of Dennis’ passing.  He was always a force to be reckoned with whether you took him on before or after he’d had a few jars.  And now he has handed in his weight belt and departed to another diving store.


We met several times, both socially and professionally.  His home brews were as ‘interesting’ as was the only dive we had together in Ostend Harbour (my Diving Log says it was 20 Oct 69).  All course members were given the opportunity to buddy up and take a dip along the jackstays in the area adjacent to the Belgian Navy’s diving complex.  It needs no more explanation than to say “we got lost”.  Perhaps it was the unfamiliarity of using the Belgian’s DC55 set or that the mud was so alluvial we didn’t know whether we were swimming through it or above it.  Not surprisingly, visibility was nil.  The ‘next serial’ was lunch and a good time was had by all.  


Dennis was a gentleman, fiery and strong.  Just what any small branch needs at any time.  


My sincere condolences to Jill and his family.  I regret I will not be at the funeral.


Kind regards,


Dan Nicholson"


From Cdr Mike Mercer USN in the USA:


"My sincere condolences to the Selwood family on the loss of this very unique man. 


Since learning of Lt Cdr Selwood's passing, I have spent hours trying to find words to offer a brief comment of my interactions with him during his time at COMINEWARCOM (1979-1982).  It cannot be done by me.  The day he crossed the bar was the same day I had the usual bi-weekly breakfast with a childhood friend now retired Colonel of US Army Special Forces.  We were casually discussing 'characters' we had met in our careers.  I told several 'Selwood Stories' at that breakfast.  What a coincidence.  Anyone who knew him has their own 'Selwood story or stories' to tell.  I shall try to be brief.


In 1979 I thought I had met a living character of a Douglas Reeman novel, maybe several Reeman novels.  We shared a number of serious as well as amusing events during our time together.  One was of great joy to RAN MCDs present and is still told with amusement by onlookers of the event.  He once told me his version of the MBE and OBE.  Oh, that I had the opportunity to recall that to him when the OBE was bestowed.


Lt Cdr Selwood was the backbone and prime tutor of the USN RSV [Route Survey] program at COMINEWARCOM.  His input was sought in many projects there.  He taught me the strategy and tactics of RSV as well as his thoughts on effective utilization of ROVs and MCM/EOD divers 'in water' time among other MCM topics.  He was most willing and eager to share his expansive in-depth knowledge of MIW and MCM. 


When he learned that I was going to be the first USN MCM officer to serve in PEP [Personnel Exchange Programme] with the BundesMarine's MsFltl [German Navy's Minesweeper Flotilla], he took great pains to provide me with his experience in the NATO realm of MCM.  His mentorship proved invaluable to me and my duties as a PEP officer.  Later his MCM philosophy and teaching likewise well served the USN MCM Forces in the Iran/Iraq 'Tanker Wars' of 87-88 and in Desert Storm MCM operations.  His professionalism was well respected.  The casual mention of his name in some circumstances opened doors in certain navies that otherwise may have remained closed. 


Lt Cdr Dennis Selwood OBE MBE Royal Navy: Colleague, Teacher, Mentor, Professional, Very proud member of Her Britannic Majesty's Royal Navy.  His name will live in my family for years to come.  Fair winds and following seas!!


Very respectfully,


CDR Mike Mercer USN (Ret)"


P.S. I relay to the MCDOA from USN EOD member Kevin Kerns, EOD Master Chief, USN (ret) {formerly served with Mine Warfare Inspection Group Charleston SC}:


"Fair winds, Brother!"


From MCDOA member Norman Brookhouse:


"A few memories...


June 1962 saw the start of my CD course along with Frank Spragg, Larry Park, Don Hillman, Tony Whitaker, Telehun Demisei (Ethopian Navy) and last, but certainly not least, Dennis - the menace - Selwood.  I think only Frank and I are still here?


Dennis was not only the fittest, but also the youngest; he became known to us all for his innocent remarks, which ALWAYS had totally unexpected results, to Dennis anyway!  The best was on a very hot sunny day at Horsea about week 3; Dennis said to the world in general but to our Instructor 'Taff' Roberts in particular, “Taff, I have never been to Portchester Castle.”  The next comment was from 'Dusty' Miller (one of our second dickies - the other being 'Ginger' Snell) “Get ready here you go!”


He was right!  Our daily mud crawl took us across the creek to Portchester Castle where were told to obtain proof of our arrival; this was safely achieved (much to the surprise of the man in the ticket office when confronted by a group of rubber suited men - one with a black face).  Then it was back across the mud to Horsea.  Dennis was heard to say quietly, “That was fun where shall we go tomorrow?”  Immediatedly followed by the cry from Taff we all know so well, “Awkward!!”, and another 90 minutes underwater.  


Our course continued with many dramas notably at Horsham (Army School of Bomb Disposal); during our exercise to dig out our mock UXB, the shuttering protecting our hole collapsed on Dennis covering him in liquid mud.  As usual on such occasions 'Midnight' (our Ethiopian) got the blame but Dennis, not to be outdone, started shovelling mud in all directions.  Several 'Brown Jobs', who had been observing our work, got plastered as well and they were NOT wearing overalls.  Suddenly there were no spectators.


I shall not go on!  Happy Days looking back - not always so at the time.  Dennis was quite a character and will be sadly missed.  


Norman Brookhouse  


P.S. I am sorry not be able to attend on the 13th of February due to an already arranged commitment.  I am sure someone will drink my jar in memory of Dennis."


From Capt Mike West USN in the USA:




Thank you for the notification of LCDR Selwood's passing.  He was on the staff of COMINEWARFOR in the 1980s as an Exchange Officer and helped our fledgling MCM exercise efforts a great deal in analysis and observation.  We were just starting up our exchange program with several Allied Navies, and Dennis was instrumental in the training and cultural understanding for the young officers that we sent to both Europe and South America.  


That said, he led the charge to push my 1953 MG into Captain Harry's Blue Marlin Bar in downtown Charleston when an MCD Conference was held, and between him and Emary, Hildesley, Cartlidge and several others managed to drain the radiator and replace the coolant with beer which gave the car a distinctive aroma for weeks on end!!  


God bless Dennis and Jill.  He served well in the Colonies!


Mike West



Wando, SC, USA"


From Cdr Ron Swart USN in the USA:




I just wanted to pass along my sincere condolences to Jill and family and the entire RN MCD community upon Dennis' passing.  I was the junior officer (former Chief Mineman) on the COMINEWARCOM staff when Dennis was aboard in the early 80's.  I retain and still treasure a few of his most noteworthy trip reports after his travels representing COMINEWARCOM, RADM Chuck Horne. 


He was wild, witty and wise but didn't suffer non-mine warfare types who thought they knew the business better than he.  He'd stop by my desk each Friday to invite me to 'sink a few jars' at the club and I'd go only if I could get a reliable but very late ride home.  He's someone I'll never, ever forget.  I believe Chris Pott relieved Dennis and there was quite a contrast in style and personality.




Ron Swart


CDR USN (Ret)"


From Cdr Mike Welford RAN (ex-RN) in Australia:




Another blow to the diminishing list of ‘Great Guys’ as indicated by your commentary and his appointments as an MBE and an OBE.  Whilst not claiming to be a great confidant of Dennis Peter Selwood, I certainly thought of him as a trusted friend who had your back in troubled times and hope I meant the same to him.  He was fiercely loyal to the Navy and the Diving Branch in particular, often being somewhat controversial when referring to those not as committed as himself!  He had the highest ethics and called a shovel a $@&*ing spade.


I only really got to know him when we teamed up to do experimental dives for Bill Filer at RNPL.  I think at that time he had had several buddies who got ‘bent’ and caused him to lose time in the VERNON bar.  I never dared let him down!   When I was IMW we attended a number of Committees together.  We tended to travel and stay at the same accommodation and thus I was never as alert as I should have been the next day! 


Though an ‘old school’ diver he took minewarfare to heart being highly professional and knowledgeable.  I think he was XO of NAIAD [actually NUBIAN] and understand that his CO thought highly off him and was surprised when he did not get his brass hat while several other less deserving officers were promoted.


I believe he had a ‘troubled’ youth and joined up as a sailor (prepared to be totally wrong on that count) and swiftly became an Officer and a QDD (I find from my copy of The Navy List he was a Lieutenant  X CD seniority 16 Aug 1961 serving at TERROR in Autumn of 1964), later qualifying MCDO.  From this I conclude he was promoted Lieutenant Commander on 16 August 1969.  He did not talk much about himself but he always had something to say about Defence Policy.  I observed that he held the opposite sex in high regard and was always a gentleman in mixed company.  We socialised briefly before my departure for the RAN and my wife and I met with Dennis and Jill on several memorable occasions.  I thought that on one occasion Dennis and I ended the evening perched on the exposed beams in his lounge some eight feet above ground after ‘daring’ each other (how foolish we were when young) but my wife does not share this memory.


I did try to contact him after I transferred to the RAN but he was elusive.  The Australians certainly remembered him from his exchange where I believe he had a ‘drive’ of an ATTACK patrol boat as CO as well as time in the Diving School.   I think I asked for your help Rob but, as you say, he did not join the MCDOA so I never got hold of him.


Erica and I send our deepest sympathy to Jill and family and are greatly saddened at their loss.


Michael and Erica Welford"


From MCDOA member Tim Paul MBE:


"Dear Rob,


Very sorry to hear of Dennis's departure.  He was one of the old school characters, full of common sense and didn't suffer fools gladly.


I served with him in Vernon and met up with him again when he was with BAE Systems.  He will be much missed.


Best regards,


Tim Paul"


From MCDOA member David Burstall:




I am really sorry to hear that Dennis has died - of cancer.  Poor old boy.  I knew him well but only for one commission when I was the Far East Fleet CDO in Singapore from December 1962 to December 1964.  Dennis, then a Lieutenant, was my 'No 2' as the FEF BD Officer for some 18 months.  I took over from Mike Gillam and handed over to David Lermitte (the Termitte) in December '64, by which time Dennis had also left, having been relieved by Tim Trounson (who sadly also recently died).


Dennis was a real 'ball of fire' who reckoned he could out-run, out-swim, out-drink anyone who cared to challenge him.  (He was not allowed to out-do his Boss as this would have been undiplomatic).  There was one occasion at a divers' do when he was challenged to drink a bottle of whisky from a pint glass.  He drained it without pausing, and to give him his due he managed to remain on his feet for quite a long time afterwards.  He appeared for work the following morning at the usual time, but a little more quiet than normal.


He was possessed of enormous energy and stamina and led his team with great expertise and imagination.  The period that we were in Singapore was during the Confrontation with Indonesia so most of our activities centred round Fleet Security, Operation Awkward, bomb and mine recovery from the Johore Straits.  It was a very busy time with call-outs and alarms a regular feature of life.  Dennis was always up for any challenge.


I lost touch with him after he left Singapore and our paths never crossed again except when I attended his wedding.


I retired from the Navy in 1969 and so was totally unaware of what he had been doing since.  I knew nothing about his appointment as an MBE in 1970 and he obviously did well to be appointed an OBE in 1988.  I would be very happy to speak to anyone about FEF reminiscences and if necessary Captain Hore.


I would appreciate it if you could let me have his home address so that I could write to Jill.






From MCDOA member Steve Field:




Sad news!  I had the pleasure of accompanying Dennis and WO Terry Settle on a trip to QATAR to assist in the setting up of their Navy EOD school.  Both Terry and I were well looked after by Dennis on that trip.  I remember that he seemed to have the presidential suite at the hotel.


A real character and a gentlemen.






From MCDOA member Nick Stanley:


"Hi Rob,


Sad news.  I came into contact with Dennis a couple of times, most notably when working in the bunker at Northwood under Dave Cartlidge (84 or 85).  Dennis and I had been called up from our non-op posts for a major NATO exercise (I was resident MCDO at BRNC at the time).  Dennis spent much of the exercise planning a bisector minefield in a sensitive geographical location - a thing of great beauty!






From MCDOA Past-Vice Chairman Jon Riches:




Thank you for letting me know about the death of Dennis Selwood. 


Our paths crossed frequently during our Naval service.  I first met Dennis in Malta in early 1969 when I was Staff MCDO to the 7th MCM Squadron and he was deployed with the Western Fleet Clearance Diving Team.  I got to know him well and enjoyed his company.  I then relieved him as OIC of the WFCDT in June 1969.  We had a long turnover culminating in a final handover during an exercise with the Greek Navy!  During the handover I was amazed at how little he ate - only one meal a day in the evening!  I relieved him again as Fleet MCD Officer in 1977 at Northwood.  Another fun turnover!   I think he was then appointed as XO of HMS NUBIAN.  We met again in 1981 when he was at Charleston, South Carolina and I was on SACLANT staff in Norfolk, Virginia. 


Subsequently we had many dealings when I was on the Director of Naval Warfare's staff and he was leading the Minewarfare Tactical Development Group in Vernon.  Whilst he was there I was very involved in the clandestine operation in South America from which he was appointed an OBE.  From his description it was very hairy stuff!!  


Our paths diverged when we both retired and we had not been in touch for many years.  He was a highly professional Naval Officer having come through the ranks with, I think, the Upper Yardman Scheme.  Not everyone's cup of tea, he could be offhand and difficult to get on with but once you had his confidence he was a staunch friend.  He was devoted to Gillian and his children, a keen DIY man and producer of fine homemade wines.  Another good man gone! 


Anne and I send our sincere condolences to his family.




From former CWO4 John 'Bart' Bartleson USN (ex-DEODS) in the USA:


"Dear Rob,


I am sorry to learn of another MCDO passing the bar.  I don’t believe I knew him.    


Kind Regards,




MWA Southern Area Monthly Dit Session


A small but select group gathered at The George on Portsdown Hill last night for a highly enjoyable Minewarfare Association (MWA) Southern Area monthly 'dit session'.  Apart from MWA members Darren 'Alice' Cooper, Dixie Dean MBE, Taff Reader and Peter Whitehead, MCDOA dual-members Mike Critchley, Bill Kerr, Martin Mackey, David Sandiford and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) were also present to sink a few jars and set the world to rights.


Left to right: Martin Mackey, Dixie Dean, Peter Whitehead, Rob Hoole, Bill Kerr,

David Sandiford, Taff Reader, Mike Critchley and Alice Cooper


Today is the last opportunity to take advantage of an accommodation discount for this year's MWA annual reunion at the Park Inn Hotel in Cardiff over the weekend of 7-9 March 2014.  See the MWA website for further details.


30 Jan 14 - Funeral of Lt Cdr Steve Wild RN


Portchester Crematorium was as crowded I have ever seen it for today's funeral service of MCDOA member Steve Wild (see entry for 21 Jan 14 with appended tributes).  The RN minewarfare & diving community was well represented by MCDOA members John Coggins MBE, Mike Critchley, Geoff Goodwin, Stu Harper, Tim Hildesley OBE, Martyn Holloway, Rob Hoole, Paul Jones, Chris Massie-Tayor OBE, Mike Kooner MBE, Ian Morton, David Sandiford, Chris Tarmey and Steve Window together with former WO(D)s Colin Kidman QGM, Bob Oulds QGM and Pete Still QCB, ex-CPO(MW)s Norman Blick and Joe George and ex-CD Paddy Doonan.  However, we were vastly outnumbered by a host of Steve's other friends and family members.


Mourners entered to the sound of 'Morning Has Broken' by Cat Stevens before being welcomed by the officiating minister, the Reverend Carol Gully.  The congregation then sang the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father) before MCDOA Past-President and co-founder David Sandiford delivered this tribute:


"I have been asked to give a brief summary of Steve's Royal Naval career and I am honoured to do so.


Steve joined the Navy in 1966 as a Fleet Air Arm engineer apprentice and got involved with sports diving throughout his training.  This led to him qualifying as a ships' diver in the early '70s and, after attending the naval college at Dartmouth and being promoted to sub-lieutenant, he qualified on the Long Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers' course in 1976.


Then followed service in HMS Kirkliston before he relieved me in HMS Reclaim, then the Navy's deep diving ship, as the diving officer and qualifying in oxy-helium and bell diving.  During this time he led his team in the recovery from the Irish Sea of many sections of the first Tornado aircraft to crash at sea.  He then had time as the XO of HMS Brinton before returning to civvie street for several years.


Having rejoined the Navy, Steve was appointed second-in-command of HMS Chiddingfold where our careers touched again.  Steve had brought her through the final stages of building and fitting out and was justifiably proud of our ship.  After this he spent some time in minewarfare training where his computer knowledge came to the fore and he is remembered for his conscientious and helpful instruction of his staff as well as his students.


During his time in the Portsmouth and Plymouth Clearance Diving Units, he helped in keeping the southern areas safe from explosives and terrorist bombs.  His work also included working on the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry disaster recovering bodies from the wreckage.  He followed this by taking over as the training officer for the long courses from 1994-1996 bringing on the next generation of MCDOs.


Steve's final appointment brought all his expertise together when he became Inspector of Diving for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines which saw him approving some specialist new equipment and diving things we are not allowed to talk about.


Many kind comments have been received including about his being a firm but fair Boss.  These have come from around the UK and as far afield as the USA, Canada and Australia.  As evident from the attendance today, Steve will be fondly remembered in the Navy's minewarfare, diving and explosive ordnance disposal community for his cheerful diligence, hard work and friendliness.  He will be sadly missed."


The Revd Carol Gully then read a short tribute by Steve's wife Di which emphasised his warmth and humanity as a husband, father of Katy and Zoe and grandfather of four children as well as his great love of outdoor pursuits, especially windsurfing.  The congregation then paused for thought to the accompaniment of 'I WIll' by the Beatles.  After a final poem, prayers, the committal and blessing, we left the chapel to the sound of 'Sailing' by The Soldiers.  A few of us gathered in the nearby Seagull to raise a glass in Steve's memory.


Lt Cdr Steve Wild RN

(25 May 1949 - 19 Jan 2014)


29 Jan 14


HMS Brocklesby finally departs for the Mediterranean


The Portsmouth News website contains this article, the Royal Navy website this article and the Navy News website this article describing today's departure of the Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member Ben Vickery) for a four-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  She had originally been programmed to sail on Monday but her departure was postponed owing to exceedingly rough weather in the Bay of Biscay (see entry for 26 Jan 14).


HMS Brocklesby departing Portsmouth today

(Royal Navy photo by LA(Phot) Maxine Davies)


Postscript: On 30 January, the Portsmouth News published this article as a follow-up to this event.


Award of LS & GC Medal


Congratulations to LS(D) Marcus O’Toole and LS(D) 'Swenny' Swenson on being gazetted for the award of the LS & GC (Long Service & Good Conduct) Medal.


MCDOA Northern Dinner 6 Mar 2014


MCDOA member James George has forwarded me these details about the forthcoming MCDOA Northern Dinner at Faslane:


Venue:  The Wardroom, HMS NEPTUNE

Date: Thursday 6 March 2014

Time: 1845 for 1930

Dress: Mess Undress/Black Tie with miniature medals

Cost: £40 (£45 for guests and non-members) per head


To attend, download and complete this application and forward it with a cheque made payable to ‘Wardroom Mess, HMS NEPTUNE’ to:




HMNB Clyde


G84 8HL


In extremis, applications may be emailed to SWOMW1 via this address with payment to follow.


Applications received after 27 February 2014 will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.


This dinner is sponsored and subsidised by the MCDOA but WO(MW)s and WO(D)s will also be welcome to attend at the guest rate.


28 Jan 14 - MCDOA Curry Run in London


MCDOA member Andy 'Sharkey' Ward is organising a curry run for fellow members in London on Thursday 13 February starting in a pub at 1830.  Provisional attendees to date include:


Dave O'Connell

Ben Stait

Mark Savage

Al Nekrews

Martin Mackey

Kim Godfrey

Rich Battrick

Pete Greenwood

Dave Hunkin

Keith Broughton

Andy Ward

Tim Shorland-Ball


If interested, please email Andy via this address.


27 Jan 14 - News from John Craig


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




I thought that you (and fellow members) might appreciate a short update following the annual NATO Mine Warfare Conference at EGUERMIN, held from 21 to 23 January 2014.  While there was no official UK MW representation - a point that the Chair (Cdre Arian Minderhoud, RNLN) intends to take up separately with the Northwood Maritime Command HQ in his role as DCOS OPS – there were two Royal Navy MCDs in attendance: myself, as an invited speaker, and Lt Cdr Nick Gwatkin RN, representing the Centre for Maritime Research and Evaluation (CMRE – formerly known as the Naval Undersea Research Centre (NURC)), Naples.


NATO Minewarfare Conference delegates at EGUERMIN, Ostend in late January 2014


I was specifically invited to speak at the conference on the topic of preserving manned surface mine countermeasures platforms, at least until unmanned systems are able to deliver an equivalent (preferably better) level of capability.  I wrote an article on the same topic in the July 2013 edition of the U.S. Naval Institute’s ‘Proceedings’ magazine, entitled ‘Don’t give up the ship(s)’ (which you kindly précised on the website), which is – fortunately – gaining momentum as NATO attempts to avoid a potentially catastrophic ‘capability trough’, as a result of some over-optimistic and financially-driven assessments of the pace of future technical developments by some of our procurement agencies.  


While Nick did not speak personally, delegating his brief to an extremely knowledgeable and motivated Canadian scientist (Dr. Michel Couillard), his side-bar discussions were of his usual high standard, and he was a clear winner of the ‘most entertaining dits’ award!  I am sure that he will not object to me telling you that he is looking closely at becoming a farrier as a second career, following in the footsteps of another one of our members, Stu McAlear, who has a Diploma from the Worshipful Company of Farriers. (What is it about Royal Navy clearance diving that makes our people want to work with horses?!)  


Nick Gwatkin (right) clearly enthralled with my plan to put the world to rights

(My hair's not really that grey... I blame the lighting in the room )


As a random observation on the recruiting potency of the (sadly?) defunct Ship’s Diver qualification, Nick and I first met as ‘pond-life’ bubblers in HMS BATTLEAXE’s ship’s diving team in 1992.  Other members of the team at the time included Sean Millar and Dave Welch, both former MCDs, which probably gives us a reasonable claim on being the most successful ship’s diving team in terms of pull-through to the Clearance Diving officer community!  


P.S. As a result of the conference, and an associated lack of internet access, I was late reading about the sad death of Steve Wild. He was my course officer on my first attempt at MCDO course (LMCDO 93B), and my failure to crack the nut on that particular attempt was down to my own shortcomings, rather than any reflection of Steve’s teaching ability. Perhaps because of his ‘god-like’ status as my course officer, I am finding it hard to reconcile his seeming physical invincibility then with the ravages of his cancer, so he will always live on in the prime of his life in my memory.


The website remains awesome, by the way.  It really is a lifeline for divers scattered around the world, as the recent phot of the 'dodgy duo' (Jonesy and 'Bob the Dog') shows!


Yours aye,  


John Craig



Commander Royal Navy

Military Professor

Joint Military Operations Faculty

U.S. Naval War College"


26 Jan 14 - HMS Brocklesby bound for NATO duties in the Mediterranean


The Portsmouth News website contains this article announcing tomorrow's departure of the Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member Ben Vickery) for a four-month deployment in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  The article features AB(D) Ben Gaskell. 



We wish Ben and his ship's company a rewarding deployment and a safe return on completion.


Postscript: HMS Brocklesby's departure was postponed owing to exceedingly rough weather in the Bay of Biscay.


25 Jan 14 - HMS Grimsby arrives in Grimsby Dock


The Grimsby Telegraph website contains this article, including video, describing yesterday's arrival of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 5) in Grimsby's Royal Dock for a weekend visit.  The article features MCDOA member Simon Kelly, her Commanding Officer.


Simon Kelly being interviewed by Estuary TV during HMS Grimsby's

approach to Grimsby


HMS Grimsby alongside in Grimsby's Royal Dock


Postscript: I received the following email on 29 January 2014:


"Dear Sir,


Please find below the links to some public articles which were written about our recent home town visit to Grimsby.  I noticed your link to the brief coverage of the football match and my CO (Lt Cdr Simon Kelly RN) thought you may like to see these links and share them amongst the MCD community.  I hope the links work.  If there are any issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  The YouTube bit from Estuary TV starts at minute 7:45 and lasts for two minutes.  






Richard H G Pounder




24 Jan 14 - MCDOA Northern Dinner 6 Mar 2014


MCDOA member James George has forwarded me these details about the forthcoming MCDOA Northern Dinner at Faslane:


Venue:  The Wardroom, HMS NEPTUNE

Date: Thursday 6 March 2014

Time: 1845 for 1930

Dress: Mess Undress/Black Tie with miniature medals

Cost: £40 (£45 for guests and non-members) per head


To attend, download and complete this application and forward it with a cheque made payable to ‘Wardroom Mess, HMS NEPTUNE’ to:




HMNB Clyde


G84 8HL


In extremis, applications may be emailed to SWOMW1 via this address with payment to follow.


Applications received after 27 February 2014 will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.


This dinner is sponsored and subsidised by the MCDOA but WO(MW)s and WO(D)s will also be welcome to attend at the guest rate.


23 Jan 14 - HMS Atherstone opens ship to visitors in Bahrain


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing how HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 2) has hosted locals in Bahrain as part of the UK embassy’s Great British Week.


HMS Atherstone in Bahrain as part of Great British Week

(Portsmouth News photo)


Postscript: On 27 February, the Royal Navy website published this article covering the same story.


22 Jan 14 - Callout for SDU2 in Southampton


The Daily Echo website contains this article describing a callout for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with an item of wartime ordnance found in dredging spoil yesterday in Southampton.


21 Jan 14 - Death and funeral arrangements for Lt Cdr Steve Wild RN


MCDOA member Steve Wild's wife Di has informed me that Steve died on Sunday 19 January.  He had been diagnosed with a longstanding inoperable brain tumour in 2006; thereafter he was subjected to countless operations and other medical treatments in an attempt to arrest its growth, all of which he bore with characteristic stoicism.  He collapsed on New Year's Eve and was rushed to Queen Alexandra's Hospital where he remained under observation for a week before being moved to the Rowans Hospice where he succumbed 12 days later.


Steve joined the Royal Navy in 1966 and qualified as a Radio Engineering Artificer in the Fleet Air Arm.  He was later commissioned as a seaman officer and was one of my fellow students on the 1976 Long MCD Officers' Course along with Bernie Bruen (RN & Royal Navy of Oman), Dick Lauckner (RCN), the late Dave Ellis, Jim Hewitt (RN & RCN), Terry Iles, Grenville Johnson, Gerry Kelly (RN & RAN), Chris Meatyard, Kjell Rein (RNoN) and Chris Thompson, all under the tutelage of Course Officer Ralph Mavin and Course Instructors Joe Maher and Mick Kester.



Left: Steve Wild with LMCDO '76 course mascot 'George' (thanks Bernie!) at HMS Vernon in 1976

Right: Steve Wild on board FDT Datchet during deep diving training at Falmouth in 1976 


After qualifying as an MCDO, he served in HMS Brinton, HMS Kirkliston, HMS Chiddingfold and in the Minewarfare Section at HMS Vernon but he also qualified as a saturation diver and served in HMS Reclaim and, I believe, Seaforth Clansman if not HMS Challenger.  He was also involved in the operation to recover bodies from the wreck of the Ro-Ro ferry 'Herald of Free Enterprise' after it sank off Zeebrugge in March 1987.  He set high personal and professional standards and expected them of others.  After leaving the Royal Navy in 1999, he became an IT security consultant before his illness caused him to stop working and curtailed his recreational interests including scuba diving, underwater archaeology, windsurfing and golf.


Steve Wild at the MCDOA Annual

Dinner at HMS Excellent in 2001


A remembrance service will be held at Portchester Crematorium at 1130 on Thursday 30 January.  Di has requested family flowers only but that donations be made in lieu to the Rowans Hospice.  I am sure all members will join me in offering her and her daughter Katy our sincere condolences.


From Cdr Mike Welford RAN (ex-RN) in Australia:


"Dear Rob,


I've just returned from a fortnight at the Coast where my daughter has a small cottage to find two e-mails from you bearing sad news.  As to Steve, I seem to recall the face but think I was in TIGER as PWO (Stupid pc won’t let me add Gunnery!) when your Course went through? 


Just referred to my own obituary notes and it seems I WAS posted to VERNON in late ‘75 (from TIGER) and became IMW at the time of your course.  Was Vic Justice your course officer for MW? [Yes]


In my defence it was nearly forty years ago!  It’s beginning to come back to me and I do now recall Steve, yourself, Terry Iles as he was later on exchange at PENGUIN, Gerry Kelly as he joined the RAN a few years after me, Bernie Bruen (of course-who could forget him and we both served in HARDY together), Grenville Johnson the only SM MCD (as I recall), the two Chris’s (Meatyard and Thompson), Kjell Rein, Jim Hewitt and Dick Lauckner (as I saw them again in Canada) and Dave Ellis.


I am sorry to be expressing my condolences so late.  Please apologise to Di with my sympathy.


I will send a separate message about Dennis Selwood.


Michael Welford"


From MCDOA member Chris Tarmey:


"Dear Rob,


I had been trying to remember when I first met Steve Wild and then it came to me during his funeral service and Dave Sandiford’s description of Steve’s naval career.  It was in 1978 or '79 during the search and recovery operation of an early Tornado that had crashed into the Irish Sea off Blackpool.  Steve was the diving officer in HMS Reclaim and she was moored over the crash site datum in 55 metres depth of water when I arrived onboard for a briefing with my back-up team of divers from the Plymouth CDT where I was Boss 2 at the time.   


Reclaim was concentrating on recovering the larger pieces of debris as they were located.  We were tasked to join up with and coordinate the efforts of  the minehunter’s divers working from Geminis and focus our attention on locating the Flight Data Recorder or ‘black box’.  We had regular progress meetings onboard Reclaim and some of these meetings became a little tense with early progress to locate the black box going slower than the Command and accident investigators would have liked.  


But Steve was great to work with, never lost his sense of humour and entertained us with several good dits.  One in particular involved the search for the missing Tornado pilot: We were given a code word to use over the VHF radio should the pilot or parts of the pilot be found.  Sure enough, a couple of days into the operation the code word was used and bones, believed to be part of a rib cage were recovered from just below HMS Reclaim.  They were bagged and reverently flown ashore for identification.  A couple of days later the message came back that the ‘ribs’ were in fact the remains of lunchtime pork chops that had been ditched overboard with the gash - as was the common practice in those days.


We did eventually find the black box which, we were briefed, is actually orange and about the size of a small ammunition box with a U2 battery sized pinger strapped to the top.  The diver who finally found the recorder using a pinger locator brought it straight to the surface from 55 metres, tossed it into the Gemini and then went back down to do his stops.


We called the ship to give them the good news and there was great cheering and clapping and congratulations being offered from the Crash Investigation Team who manned the side to welcome us came back alongside.  What I did not know was that the divers had made and hidden in the Gemini a mock up black box in preparation for the great moment that we found the real thing.  Just as we got back along side to the cheers and applause of the boffins a diver holding the mock-up above his head in triumph appeared to lose his balance and dropped the fake black box back into the Irish Sea.


I am not convinced they thought it as funny as we did.


Best wishes,


Chris Tarmey"


From former WO(MW) Pete Whitehead:


"I worked closely with Steve in HMS Vernon when I was given the Arcturus (Hunt Class) Trainer Chief post and had many happy memories working alongside and for him.  He encouraged me to attend off-site meetings with our sub-contractors and mentored me into the ways and workings of civilian companies who run contracts for the RN.  This certainly put me in good stead for future drafts and appointments.


His professionalism and encouragement allowed me a smooth transition into my first draft as a CPO where he would allow me to run trainer operations and comment only when required.  I for one will remember him for his guidance and friendship and love of computers.


My condolences go to Steve's family at this very sad time.


Pete Whitehead"


From MCDOA member Cdr John Craig RN in the USA:


"I was late reading about the sad death of Steve Wild.  He was my course officer on my first attempt at MCDO course (LMCDO 93B).  My failure to crack the nut on that particular attempt was down to my own shortcomings, rather than any reflection of Steve’s teaching ability.  Perhaps because of his ‘god-like’ status as my course officer, I am finding it hard to reconcile his seeming physical invincibility then with the ravages of his cancer, so he will always live on in the prime of his life in my memory."


From Lt Cdr Dave 'Spidey' Ince RAN (ex-RN) in Australia:


"G'day Rob,


Shocking news.  I didn't know Steve well but had many dealings with him during my time in the branch.  He was one of the permanent fixtures, another eternal Lieutenant Commander like our good selves.  A true gentleman MCDO.


RIP fella.






From ex-CPO(D) Mick Kester:


"Hi Rob,


So sorry to hear the passing of Steve Wild.  I remember him well during his diving training (LMCDO '76) and feel proud to have played a small part in his future within the Branch.  Please pass my condolence's to his family.


RIP Steve.


Mick Kester"


From MCDOA member Mike Kooner MBE:


"Hello Rob,


So sad to hear about Steve.  We were tiffs together at Daedalus in the late 1960s and members of the Fleet Air Arm sub-aqua club.  This no doubt ignited our interest in diving and he later blamed me for switching codes from engineer to seaman as he traversed a similar career path to myself.   


I knew a little of his later illness but was surprised and saddened at the outcome.  He was a thoroughly nice man throughout the time I knew him and a true gentleman.  My sincere condolences to his wife and family.


Rest in peace Steve.




From MCDOA member Lt Cdr Jim Hewitt RCN (ex-RN) (LMCDO '76) in Canada:




The call from Dianne last Sunday afternoon was not unexpected. 


Steve was a man for all seasons, kind and generous, firm and fair, always dependable.  Steve and Di were our best friends for 38 years, since first day of LMCDO '76.  Our families grew at the same time, as do our grandchildren.  During my own recent and nearly fatal illness, they were a constant support to Norma, notwithstanding the immense burden they were bearing at the same time.  We will miss him, most dearly.


I remain unable to travel and therefore with profound regret, will not attend the service.


Yurz aye,


Jim Hewitt"


From MCDOA Honorary Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson:


"Hi Rob,


Steve was my first Boss on the Portsmouth Area Clearance Diving Team back in 1986 when I was a skin-baby diver.  I remember him as a firm but very fair Boss.  I drove for many hours travelling with him around UK "on the road" doing various jobs on both CMD and IED duties.  In fact, he was one of my first reporting officers who put me forward to become an officer so I thank him for that!


Tasks that come to mind when he was in charge were the Herald of Free Enterprise, the Marchioness pleasure boat incident on the Thames, the blade job on the USS Iowa, 18 hour prop change on the Oberon P/O diesel boat and the many, many blade changes, agouti valve and sonar dome changes we used to do where his expert technical knowledge was always apparent.  I am sure other people who were on the team will remember the "Zeppelin dropped river mine incident" at the Isle of Grain - all happy times. 


I have contacted Buck Taylor and Peggy Neil who were seniors on PACDT at the time.  Sorry I can't be there on Thursday but I will be up in Aberdeen. 


It was a pleasure to serve with Steve and I send my condolences to the family.


Best Regards,




From Cdr Greg Mapson RAN in Australia:


"Thanx Rob – sad news – will pass on to Gerry Kelly.




Greg Mapson"


From ex-CPO(D) Cris Ballinger:


"Hi Rob,


Very sad news indeed.  I was Steve's Chief for a while in Reclaim and later at Plymouth.  I like to think we had a fairly good working relationship, where I was always right.  


Please pass on my condolences to his family as I am unable to be there on Thursday.




From MCDOA Past-Chairman David Hilton:


"Dear Rob,


I am so sad and shocked to hear about Steve's recent death - a good friend who will be sadly missed.  I have very fond memories of working with Steve and our thoughts must be with Steve's family at this tragic time.


Hopefully see you at the remembrance service.


My very best regards,




From ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson:


"Dear Rob,


Am sorry to hear of the passing of another of a special breed!  RIP Steve.


Best regards to you Rob and family.




From former WO(D) Ray Ramsay:


"Hi Rob,


Sad news, Steve was a nice guy.  Unfortunately I am unable to attend.






From former WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE, Chairman of the Minewarfare Association (MWA):


"Hi Rob,


I have just read the sad news of Steve Wild’s passing on the MCDO Website.  Please pass on my personal condolences to his family and, as the Chairman of the Mine Warfare Association, those of the MWA members.  Our thoughts are with them at this very sad time.  Steve was known by many members of the Mine Warfare Branch who served with him in his many roles throughout his career in the RN.


Very sad news indeed.


Best regards,




From MCDOA member Steve Window:




Thank you for passing on this sad news.  I will be attending the memorial service.




Steve Window"


From Lt Cdr Paul Davey RN (ex-RAN) in Australia:


"Dear Rob,


This is very sad news.  I remember Steve very well.  He was a great man. 






From ex-CD1 Dave Humphreys in Australia:


"Hi Rob,


That’s sad news indeed.  I enjoyed working with Steve on the Portsmouth B&MD Team.  Generally I remember a fair Boss and I spent most of my IED No.2 duties with Steve as the No 1.  His daughter may remember a memorable trip to HMS Dolphin in Daddy's car when he got caught out baby sitting on call.  I brought the IED wagon from work and we met up on the motorway at Cosham enroute to Dolphin at about 11pm (circa 1988).  I also spent a week with him on the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' operation.


RIP and condolences to the family.






From MCDOA Chairman Chris Baldwin:




What very sad news.  I seem to remember Steve was IofD when I was OiC FDU1 in '94 and he was always willing to give us new blades the benefit of his knowledge.




Chris Baldwin"


From MCDOA member David Hosking MBE:




Sorry to hear your sad news about Steve Wild.  Please convey my deepest condolences to Steve's wife and family.






From MCDOA member Geoff Goodwin:




I was very saddened to read this. I feel sorry for all his close friends and, of course, his family. 


Please pass on my sympathies to Di and the family.  


Kind regards,




From MCDOA member Terry Iles (LMCDO '76):


"Dear Rob,


I was very sorry to hear this news.  What a tough time Steve has had.  I think I was at the 2001 Dinner because it was great to catch up with Steve. 


Very sorry to be unable to attend the funeral.  Please give my very best wishes to Di,and I will be with you in spirit.  I have many very happy memories of him on our course.  He was a stalwart.


Can you please give me Di's address.  Was in UK for Christmas and New Year and bumped into Jules Malec in a shop in Stockbridge!  Must try and make a dinner again!


Best wishes to all the boys.


Yours aye,




From Cdr Gerry Kelly RAN (ex-RN) (LMCDO '76):


"Dear Rob,


So very sad to hear of Steve's death.  A good man and larger than life on course I remember.


Please pass my condolences to Di and their family.  I will pause and remember from under the The Southern Cross tonight.  May he Rest in Peace.


Kind regards,




From MCDOA member David Burstall:


"Hi Rob,


Many thanks for keeping us all informed.  How sad that he should have died so young.






From MCDOA member Tim Curd:


"Dear Rob,


Thanks for letting us know about Steve’s death.  How very sad. 


I hadn’t seen him for many years.  The last time was probably at a MCDOA dinner around the period of the picture you showed.  He was of our “generation” and at one time I knew him quite well; when we all moved in the same circles and routinely socialised together.  When the future stretched out forever and before we all inevitably grew old and went our separate ways. 


There will be many, myself included, who are very sorry to see that he has finally succumbed to his illness.  Not without a fight I am sure.  I remember him being someone who knew his own mind and a man of huge determination.  


Our thoughts are with Di and his family.


Yours aye,




From MCDOA Past-Chairman Paul Jones:


"Steve was our course officer (MW phase) in 1988-89.  A quiet and thoughtful guy who was a thoroughly decent bloke who did not deserve to suffer such a tragic illness.


Our thoughts go out to Di and the family and, on behalf of other LMCDO 88B course members who may not be aware, our sincere condolences."

From ex-CPO(D) David 'Jimmy' Bond:


"I am very saddened to hear this news.  Please pass on my condolences to his wife and family.


Best Rgds,


Jimmy Bond"


From MCDOA member Kev Stockton:




I am sorry to hear about the passing of Steve Wild.


I first met Steve when he took over from Al Trevarthen as LTO half way through LMCDO '93A from which Dave Hunkin and I qualified.  He was then the Inspector of Diving whilst I was OIC FDU 3 at the end of the '90s.  Our work bringing CDBA into service and conducting the initial 80 mtr dives meant Steve had many dealings with us during the two-year operational acceptance period.


My thoughts go out to his family at this sad time.  


Kev S"


20 Jan 14 - Award for Royal Navy’s top minehunting team



The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Portsmouth News website this article announcing the award of the Surface Flotilla Effectiveness Trophy for mine countermeasures to MCM2 Crew 6, commanded by MCDOA member Simon Pressdee, for their operational achievements in 2013.


Lt Cdr Simon Pressdee RN and exchange officer Lt Nathan Pitsch USN holding

the Surface Flotilla Efficiency Pendant in front of the rest of MCM2 Crew 6

(RN photo by LA(Phot) Simmo Simpson)


During a period which saw MCM2 Crew 6 away on operations for 12 out of 18 months, it manned HMS Atherstone for a seven-and-a-half month deployment to the Gulf before manning HMS Ledbury in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Baltic as well as dealing with Second World War ordnance around the UK. 


18 Jan 14 - MCDOA members (and their wives) bump into each other in Thailand


I was delighted to receive this message from MCDOA past-Chairman Paul Jones today:




What were the odds in Paul Jones and his wife Yvonne walking round a street corner in Bangkok last night while holidaying in Thailand and bumping into Bob Hawkins plus his missus Trudy also out for a stroll?  Neither couple knew the other was in the area (although Bob is based in Penang) so a total coincidence.


Great opportunity to catch up, discuss the Nov MCDOA dinner dits and have few drinks - photos to prove it!



Left: Hawkins & Jonesy re-enacting Hangover 2 in Bangkok!

Right: Yvonne Jones and Trudy Hawkins


Best wishes, 




17 Jan 14 - EOD incident for SDU1 in Scillies


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article describing a callout for members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) to deal with a pyrotechnic found on a beach on St Mary's in the Scilly Isles.



15 Jan 14 - 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: 


Cdr David 'Topsy' Turner RNZN

Commanding Officer HMNZS Canterbury


"Hi Rob,


I thought our readership might be interested in what the ship has been up to recently.  This is a story that was put together for local NZ media.  It got edited a bit and ended up as the version you will see attached as a PDF file.  I think it's all good stuff though.  




The high distinctive superstructure of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s multi-role vessel HMNZS CANTERBURY has become a familiar sight in New Zealand waters and ports since she joined the fleet in 2007, and the unique support she was able to provide to Christchurch from her berth in Lyttelton after the earthquake in February 2011 has left her firmly fixed in the hearts of her namesake province.


The value she adds in times of disaster, such as in Christchurch and after a tropical cyclone struck Samoa and Tonga later in 2011, is well known.  Less understood outside military circles is her pivotal role in the NZDF’s Joint Amphibious Task Force.  Without CANTERBURY, there couldn’t be a task force at the level the NZDF requires.


HMNZS Canterbury


“She’s definitely a unique ship,” said the Commanding Officer, Commander (CDR) David Turner.


“We're a warship, but we’re a warship with a difference.  What we’re best at is enabling other forces, particularly the Army, to deliver effect..  


“We do that efficiently and cost-effectively as well.  When you compare what we can take in a single load to the equivalent in Air Force C-130 Hercules loads, it’s mind-blowing what the ship can carry.  We’ve got a gun on the front, we’re a warship, but one with a specific role to play.”  


Although the ship spent the first few months of the year undergoing remediation work at the Devonport Naval Base in Auckland, after completing trials, testing and work-up, she has travelled far afield carrying out Defence Force and Government tasks, as well as playing a pivotal role in Exercise Southern Katipo, the largest multi-national amphibious exercise New Zealand has ever hosted. 

  • July/August: Took part in Exercise Pacific Partnership 2013 (PP13), supporting a wide range of humanitarian aid, engineering and other tasks in the Solomon Islands.

  • August: Honiara (Solomon Islands), embarking Australian and New Zealand Defence Force vehicles and stores to be brought home after the conclusion of New Zealand’s participation in the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

  • August/September: Cairns (Queensland) for first-of-class flying trials with the MRH90, the Australian version of the NH-90 helicopter recently acquired for the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

  • September: Port visit to Brisbane -  dropped off Australian Defence Force equipment from Honiara, co-hosted a reception with the then New Zealand High Commissioner,  Martyn Dunne, then passage to Wellington to unload New Zealand Army equipment from the Solomons, hosted Reservist of the Year function, then finally home to Devonport.

  • November-December: Exercise Southern Katipo 2013 (SK13) – CANTERBURY had a major role, moving vehicles, equipment and personnel into and out of the exercise area from the North Island, and conducting a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation out of Bluff in the final stages of the exercise. 

It’s a huge range of challenging and differing tasks in a short period, but that’s “business as usual” for HMNZS CANTERBURY.  And she’s frequently achieved more in less time than planned.


“For example, the programme for the flying trials was to take five weeks, then it was reduced to three, then down to two,” CDR Turner said.


“But we prepared hard for it by making sure the ship was ready in all respects to develop its aviation capability, and in the end we nailed it with time to spare.”


Although the ship herself is very special, the achievements are all about people, CDR Turner said.


“I call it ‘Canterbury PLC’ – where professionalism, leadership and communication count.  Those are the three things that I concentrate on.  


“This ship provides a wonderful training environment, and that’s nurtured by the great people on board. Creating the conditions that challenge and develop our people is fundamental to creating a happy and effective ship.” 


Highlight of the year’s work? Exercise Pacific Partnership.


“For the first two weeks we were going down the western isles of the Solomon Islands delivering Army into theatre so they could make a difference to the lives and wellbeing of the villagers in these remote areas.  The crew were pretty busy supporting the Army, but towards the end we were able to go ashore and see what the Army had been doing, in villages where we had made a real difference to people’s lives.  It really doesn’t take a lot – running water, lights in clinics, tables in schools. It’s quite humbling.”


It’s a view echoed by many of the crew.


“Going ashore, we got a taste of why we do these things,” said Able Steward Jean Merito, from Whakatane. “It made my day, made my trip knowing that CANTERBURY was the ship that made it all happen.”


Leading Seaman Combat Specialist Gus Wells agreed. “It was doing one of the jobs the ship's for - helping out people that don't really have much.”


However, it wasn’t just PP13 that got a big tick.  Lieutenant Ashleigh Payne of the Royal Australian Navy is on a two-year exchange with the RNZN, and is the ship’s Navigating Officer.  Her highlight was further south, during SK13.


“Being able to exercise and train with two other New Zealand ships and a French frigate was a great opportunity and was a lot of fun.  We made the most of the two solid weeks we were together and the benefits cannot be overstated,” she said.


“If next year is anything like what I’ve experienced in the past six months it’s going to be a great time to be on exchange..”


The coming year is just as busy, starting with a long-awaited hometown visit to Lyttelton and Christchurch from 30 January to 3 February (to exercise their Charter of the city, including parading through the streets, opening the ship to the public, and supporting charity work), followed by a major naval exercise in Auckland, then away for three months, culminating in representing the RNZN at RIMPAC, the world’s biggest international naval exercise, based in Hawaii.  


“We’ll be berthed in Pearl Harbor where the last RNZN warship to visit was 30 years ago – funny thing, that was the previous HMNZS CANTERBURY!   We’ll be berthed amongst all the other naval ships and everyone’s really looking forward to it, both Hawaii itself and being part of a really big multi-national exercise,” said CDR Turner.


Here is a copy of the ship's four-page Christmas Newsletter which contains several pictures of the ship's company and their activities.  Over to you. 


HMNZS Canterbury Christmas Newsletter

(Click to download)


I've probably got another 12 months left in command and then, who knows?  I'd be very happy to stay on just as long as I can but with a great ship like this, there's always another contender waiting in the wings.


Hope all's well Rob,






14 Jan 13 - Newly arrived MCMV crew in Gulf joint exercise


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of MCM2 Crew 2, who took over HMS Atherstone from Crew 4 in December, in a Gulf exercise with US Navy units.  The article features AB(MW) Beaumont.


AB(MW) Beaumont conducting a pressure test of SEA FOX prior to its deployment

(Royal Navy website photo)


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


13 Jan 14 - Second World War ordnance detonated at St Annes


The Radio Wave website contains this article describing the disposal of wartime ordnance this morning at Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).


Postscript: The object transpired to be what looks like a VMFI (Visual Mine Firing Indicator) and this article on the BBC website contains a video showing it being blown up on Monday morning.




12 Jan 14 - Loss of US Navy MCM Helicopter


The CNN website contains this article describing the loss of a US Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon off Virginia on Wednesday.  Two crew members are known dead, two were rescued and one remains missing.  The helicopter belonged to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 (HELMINERON 14: HM-14) with which many of us have enjoyed working.


MH-53E belonging to HM-14

(US Navy image)


I'm sure our thoughts are very much with the family, friends and colleagues of the killed and missing.


11 Jan 14


John Dadd and HDS Diving Museum feature on TV


Yesterday's episode of the BBC's Antiques Road Trip featured former FCPO(D) John Dadd BEM providing a guided tour of the Historical Diving Society's diving museum at Stokes Bay near Gosport.  The programme can be watched again on iPlayer here until Friday 17 January.  The relevant sequence starts around minute 11.



John Dadd introducing Antiques Road Trip regular Tom Scott to some

vintage Royal Navy diving equipment



News from HMS Shoreham


This newsletter (dated 6 January 2014) from Lt Cdr Toby Shaughnessy, Commanding Officer of HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 4), has reached me via the Chairman of the Ton Class Association (TCA):




It is with much pleasure that I write to you again after resuming Command of HMS SHOREHAM at the beginning of December 2013, relieving [MCDOA member] Lt Cdr Matt Moore and his team before they sped off home for Christmas.  Since leaving her only a year ago in December 2012, my Crew and I have completed 12 months of UK operations in one of her sister ships, HMS BANGOR, where we have spent the last four months or so completing the necessary training and preparation to return to frontline operations in the Gulf.  It is very good to be back.


Since taking SHOREHAM over we have been fully occupied reintroducing ourselves to this tough maritime environment, with its extremes of weather and myriad of coalition Navies.  Following a brief period of weapons exercises with the US Navy, we spent our short Christmas alongside the UK's Forward Operating Base in Bahrain and have just been fortunate enough to spend a couple of days in Dubai over the New Year.  Now briefly back in Bahrain, we face a steady stream of operations, multinational exercises and regional engagement activity with our Gulf allies over the coming months.  I am pleased to report I find the ship in exceptional material condition, fully capable of fulfilling her duties in this operational theatre, and we will of course continue the previous hard work of others to ensure that her enviable reputation as a 'good' ship continues.  We will remain in her until late June.


Cognisant that your relationship with SHOREHAM is somewhat more permanent than ours as we take custody for another brief period, I intend keeping you regularly updated with reports on your ship's activities as she continues with her vital contribution to our national interests in the Gulf.  By doing so, I hope to maintain the continuity of your special relationship with her and her ship's company - difficult I know when she is deployed from the UK for so long.  SHOREHAM is about halfway through her tour of duty, and you can expect her to return to the UK in about mid-2015.  I am confident that a port visit home shortly thereafter will be high on the agenda.


The timing of our handover from Matt and his team was such that sending greetings cards for Christmas past proved impracticable at the time for which I apologise, but please accept our belated season's greetings and best wishes for this New Year.  Your continued support and affinity to your ship and her Crew is always most welcome.  I will write again in due course with an update.  In the meantime, please feel free to contact me at any time should you so wish if you feel there is anything in which we could support you with.


Yours sincerely,


Toby Shaughnessy


T E Shaughnessy

Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy


We wish Toby and his ship's company a succesful deployment in the Gulf and a safe return on completion.


10 Jan 14 - Bob Hawkins greets HMS Daring in Thailand


MCDOA member Bob Hawkins was on the jetty at Sattahip-Chuk Semat in Thailand this morning to greet HMS Daring as she approached her berth:


Lt Cdr Bob Hawkins MBE RN with PO Jonathan 'Ken' Dodd


HMS Daring departed Portsmouth for her nine-month world deployment in May last year and is the first RN warship to visit Thailand for five years.  The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing her arrival.


Bob left the UK in November 2012 to serve in Penang, Malaysia as the Lead Maritime Planner in Headquarters Integrated Area Defence System (HQ IADS) which executes the policies of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) (see entry for 13 Dec 12 in News Archive 40).


9 Jan 14 - Two minehunter crews return from the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the homecoming of MCM1 Crew 6 (ex-HMS Ramsey) and MCM2 Crew 7 (ex-HMS Quorn) from their six-month deployment in the Gulf.  After flying in to RAF Brize Norton, they are due to have a reunion party with their families at a hotel before dispersing to enjoy their late Christmas leave.


Welcome home to both ships' companies.


Postscript: On 15 January, the Royal Navy website published this article and the Navy News website this article containing several photos of the homecoming.


Post Postscript: On 24 January, the Portsmouth News website published this article covering the homecoming.



6 Jan 14 - Wartime shells detonated in Essex


The BBC News website contains this article describing today's disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of 'about nine' wartime anti-aircraft shells washed up on the beach at Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex during the recent storms.



5 Jan 14 - News from HMS Grimsby


This newsletter (dated 15 December 2013) from MCDOA member Simon Kelly, Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 5), has reached me via the Chairman of the Ton Class Association (TCA):



I am writing to update you on the latest news from HMS Grimsby and to introduce myself as the new Commanding Officer.  Despite only having been in Command for a year and a half, this is the fourth MCMV I am writing to you from and I believe uniquely the second class of MCMV as I have now been appointed as a Commanding Officer to both the Sandown and the Hunt Class.


My team, Crew 5 of the First Mine Countermeasures Squadron, and I have spent the past 6 months in Rosyth guiding HMS Pembroke through her £3.9M Support Period (Docking).  We are now focussed and looking forward to taking HMS Grimsby through our post deployment regeneration package before deploying to the Arabian Gulf next year.


The Crew and I moved on board on 27 November and I am happy to report everyone has settled in well.  The Ship's company have been quick to ensure that the high standard that HMS Grimsby was in, when handed over by Crew 7, has been maintained.  The Ship is currently in a month long maintenance package and training has now started in earnest to ensure the Ship and the Crew are, in all respects, ready for sailing in the New Year.


2014 will see HMS Grimsby go through a busy programme; first on the agenda for us is a home town visit to Grimsby, an opportunity for both the people of Grimsby and the Ship's Company to further strengthen the already strong affinity between the ship and her town.


Once we have bid farewell to the people of Grimsby we then begin the work up to full operational capability, culminating in our Operational Sea Training period in April that will prepare Crew 5 for their deployment to the Arabian Gulf (Jun 14 to Jan 15) in HMS Shoreham.  Grimsby will then be taken on by a new crew in the summer.


I speak on behalf of my Ship's Company when I say that I hope you and those at the Ton Class Association have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Yours sincerely,


Simon P. Kelly

Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy


I am sure we all wish Simon and his ship's company every success for their BOST and ensuing deployment in HMS Shoreham.


4 Jan 14 - SDU2 call-out on Isle of Wight


The Island Echo website contains this article describing a call-out for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) yesterday to deal with a suspect hand grenade found on Brook Beach on the Isle of Wight the previous day.  By the time the team arrived, the object had been covered by a landslip.



3 Jan 14 - New navigator bound for Sandown class minehunter


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing the successful qualification of Lt Kate Borland RN as a navigating officer.  She will shortly be joining one of the Sandown class minehunters of the First MCM Squadron (1 MCM) based at Faslane.


Captain Steve Dainton, CO of HMS Collingwood, presents Lt Kate Borland

with her credentials

(Portsmouth News photo)


2 Jan 14 - Award of LS & GC Medal


Congratulations to PO(MW) J. E. Aylett and PO(D) A. C. Marshall on being gazetted for the award of the LS & GC (Long Service & Good Conduct) Medal.


1 Jan 14 - Mortar bomb disposal


The East Anglian Daily Times website contains this article describing yesterday's disposal of six mortar bombs, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), on the beach between Dunwich and Walberswick in Suffolk.



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