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.

26 Dec 14 - News from HMS Penzance


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the take-over of HMS Penzance in the Gulf by MCM1 Crew 7 earlier this month.  The ship arrived in Abu Dhabi on Christmas Eve for some R&R and the opportunity to hold some festive fun on board. 




23 Dec 14 - Funeral of Lt Cdr Brian Harold Lithgow Braidwood RN


I joined fellow MCDOA members Stu Harper, Peter Hicks, John O'Driscoll MBE and Howard Trotter at St Martins Church in Martinstown near Dorchester yesterday for the Thanksgiving Service for Brian Braidwood (see entry for 14 Dec 14).  The congregation totalled more than 150 relatives, friends and former colleagues.


After a welcome and prayers by the Reverend Jean Saddington, Brian's cousin David Dorman read this prayer used at his boarding school, Portora Royal in Enniskillen:


O Lord our God, Who art in every place; from whom no distance or space can ever separate us; we know that those who are absent from each other are still present with Thee.  We therefore pray Thee to have in Thy Holy keeping those dear ones from whom we are now separated.  Grant that both they and we, by drawing nearer to Thee, may be drawn nearer to each other, bound together by the unseen chain of Thy love in the communion of Thy Spirit and the holy fellowship of Thy Saints: that whether or not, according as seemeth best to Thy Divine Majesty, we meet together again here on earth, we may surely meet again at the resurrection of the just and go in together to that house of many mansions which Thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love Thee,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.



Brian's nephew Tim then read Psalms 107: verses 23 to 32 (They that go down to the sea in ships) before we gave a stirring rendition of the hymn, Guide Me O Though Great Redeemer.  Brian's daughter Tessa Ferguson then read 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 (Faith, Hope and Love).


Brian's daughter Fiona Staddon and son David then provided their memories of their father:


Memories of Brian Braidwood – Thanksgiving Service 22nd December 2014 written by his children Fiona, Tessa and David


In the words of Jacques Yves Cousteau, "When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself."


To us, Brian was Daddy.  From a young age he taught us essential life skills: how to build a bonfire, sail, dive and drive.  He got stopped more than once by the MOD police whilst teaching us to drive at the Naval air station.  The offences were “No L plates” and “Distracting learner helicopter pilots”.  Underage driving did not come in to it!  But he also taught us values: to respect and care for others, to treat all as equals and to live life to the full.


In later years everyone was welcomed to our family home in Buxton Road.  When our friends visited, be it individually or an entire student diving club, they were always made to feel welcome and one of Brian’s ice-breaking tricks was to throw a tea towel at someone at the end of their first meal and say, "Do you know what this is?"  The invariable answer was "Yes" and they would then be told to make use of it!


Brian, like his father, could have excelled in any field.  After an excellent school report in 1945, Brian’s mother received the following from his grandfather: “It is a really brilliant report for a boy of six and a half.  The whole report shows that he has excellent abilities.”  He then suggests: "...a good preparatory school in England, followed by a scholarship to Winchester and an Oxbridge degree course”.  Oxbridge’s loss was the Royal Navy’s gain.  A term mate of his at The Royal Naval College, recently recalled Brian as being “ of the cleverest men of those I grew up with, who could focus an immense brain on any project or problem that interested him – and he did that with virtually undetectable effort – which was admired, if envied, by the rest of us.”  His final school report from Portora Royal School stated, "His only fault is a certain truculent restlessness which makes him draw attention to himself when he is out of step.  He would be wise to curb this drastically in the Navy, in which he deserves to succeed." 


We’re not sure he ever did succeed in not drawing attention to himself.  Brian used to tell us a story from when he was at school of clearing out the chemistry lab of suitable stock in order to create explosions in the school grounds – luckily he didn’t get caught and was able to create even bigger bangs in the Navy.  Whilst Daddy to us, to others he was an amazingly brave, clever and, at times, foolhardy man.  The work he did was often extraordinary.  In the hallway at home is his commendation for Brave Conduct for the work he did on the sunken oil tanker, RFA Ennerdale.  In June 1970, Brian oversaw an operation to control oil pollution from the stricken ship by blowing holes in its tanks.  With heavy swell making diving dangerous, Brian ignited two-minute fuzes while suspended on a helicopter’s winch wire.  One time, after lighting the fuze, Brian had to spend precious seconds untangling the winch wire, leading to him being raised from sea level to 2,000 feet, with the helicopter at full power all the way!  For this he received personal congratulations from the Government Minister for the Royal Navy, the Governor of the Seychelles and his Admiral in Singapore.  In January 1971, Brian was presented with the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct by Admiral Sir Horace Law on board HMS Victory.  And from the Seychelles he was presented with the shirt David is wearing.


The physical training for such work was provided by the Navy.  He was psychologically prepared a lot earlier.  In 1941, when Brian was three, his mother wrote in her diary, “Brian asked me for his revolver to keep under his pillow, so if Hitler came along, he could shoot him”. As a bomb disposal expert, Brian wanted us to be prepared for anything.  Never knowing quite what might arrive at the door, Sonia had been warned to be vigilant for suspicious packages especially those that ticked.  When a suspicious package arrived one day, she rang Brian asking for advice.  He contacted the local bomb disposal experts who came round to make the package safe . Sonia was delighted to discover it was her new kitchen clock – batteries included!


Being away from home meant that Brian sent us postcards from all around the world, always asking after others and making sure that Sonia was being looked after.  In 1973, David received a postcard from Canada asking him to "...look after all the girls".  He was 11-months-old at the time.  In 1976, Brian wrote from the USA asking, "Do you still love Mummy?  I do".  In 1986, he wrote from Australia, "I am glad to know you are there to look after Mummy".  He trusted David then to look after Sonia and we want him to know that he can trust us now to continue looking after her.


Brian and Sonia always enjoyed their travels and holidays, 'SKI' holidays being their favourite.  Not the snowy type; the Spend the Kids Inheritance ones.  For their Ruby Wedding Anniversary in 2004, we decided to treat them to a “family holiday” in Italy.  This duly took place at Easter in 2005 – we never were as organised as Brian at booking holidays. The family was slightly depleted due to two more grandchildren being imminent, preventing flying.  At Easter in 2013, we finally all went for that family holiday in Sedburgh, Yorkshire Dales.  By then, they had nine grandchildren in tow.  In April this year, Brian and Sonia celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary, with a party held for 70 people.  This was followed by the ir Golden Honeymoon, two weeks in Venice.  August saw a trip to France, and November a cruise in Portugal.


Over the last week we have received a wealth of tributes for which we are truly grateful.  Two of these really summed him up.


The first is from the 1960s:


"After an exercise off Harwich we found a German GC mine in perfect condition.  It was decided we would blow it next day.  For some reason, it did not go off.  Neither did the next three attempts.  It was now getting dark and Brian Braidwood said he had run out of igniters and would have to return to Bronington to get more.  The problem was the three lines of cordtex going down to the GC.  Brian decided that the only thing to do was leave me behind holding onto the cordtex.  The only light available was a small lifejacket salt water activated indicating light.  I seriously thought he was taking the **** but no,  I got in the water with just fins and drybag, three lines of explosive cord and my indicating light in the middle of the main shipping lanes in and out of Harwich Harbour.  The Gemini disappeared back to Bronington and I bobbed up and down for about an hour before they got back to me."


The second is from the 1980s:


"During this time Brian had two bosses. One Naval and one a civil servant.  Each assumed the other knew what Brian was up to if there was ever a blank in information, so we were both rather surprised one morning when we saw him interviewed on TV in New Zealand, when neither of us knew he had gone there!  We both did a panic audit of our travel budgets."


Brian was investigating the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.


Brian’s staunch support for his parents, brothers and their families during their tough times have been mentioned more than once.  For the last twenty years, Brian was the only surviving sibling of his father, Walter Braidwood’s family.  He not only took a great interest in his own three children and in-laws, but also that of his nephews, nieces, grandchildren, great-nephews and great-nieces, many of whom were guests at Sonia and Brian’s Golden Wedding anniversary party earlier this year.  At this he was seen to be “on good form and clearly enjoying himself ”. 


In 1949, after Brian’s grandfather Harold died, his step-grandmother wrote a letter to his mother Dormouse saying “I hope you will talk to the boys about him because he was very fine in every way”.  This is why Brian started writing his family history, 'The Braidwood Story', so that it would be available for his own grandchildren.  It is a fascinating read and we will certainly be talking to our boys (and girls) about Brian as he too was very fine in every way.  With the first two volumes (1872-1939) and (1939-1964) already printed, Brian was determined to bring the story up to date before he died.  Just three days before this happened, he asked his son-in-law Mike to bring his laptop, complete with 'The Braidwood Story', into the hospital.  Brian then requested a few final edits and told Mike which printer and binder he had already made arrangements with.  The third volume will be duly completed to Brian’s specifications.  Meanwhile a draft is available for you to read in the pub after this service.  Points will be awarded for correctly identifying and marking the deliberate errors.


We should remember, Brian is keeping watch over all of us from his little cloud, glass firmly in hand.


The Reverend Jo Lacy-Smith then delivered an address before the congregation sang the hymn Abide With Me, written by Henry Francis Lyte, another old boy of Portora Royal boarding school.


The service concluded with The Lord's Prayer, the Naval Prayer and the Blessing.  Most mourners then repaired to the nearby Brewer's Arms where a glass or two were raised in Brian's memory.


Lt Cdr Brian Harold Lithgow Braidwood RN

(2 May 1937 - 13 Dec 2014)


From Brian's son David on 6 Jan 2015:


"Dear Rob,  


Thank you for posting the passing of my father, Brian Braidwood, on the MCDOA website.  It has been comforting for Sonia, Fiona, Tessa and myself to know that there are so many people out there who have such fond memories of him, even if they had not seen him for a number of years.  We all feel the same as those who contributed maessages, that he was 'cheerful with a fund of stories to tell'.  I'm sure some of them involved those who have contributed comments about him on the website, so you can let Wooly know that, despite Brian not being here to defend himself, he's welcome to pass on stories about him!  


I'm sorry I was not able to talk to those from the MCDOA after the funeral, small children were demanding attention, but thank you to all who were able to attend. Perhaps when the Vernon Monument is unveiled if there is a gathering we may be able to make it across and meet some of you then.


Wishing you all the best for the New Year,




18 Dec 14 - HMS Grimsby returns to Faslane


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the UK Government website this article describing today's return to Faslane of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6) after four months in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  Since leaving HM Naval Base Clyde on 27 August, she has covered almost 8,000 nautical miles and visited 11 foreign ports. 



The ship was met by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.


Defence Secretary Michael Fallon welcoming Lt Cdr Will King,

Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby, at Faslane today

(RN photo by Chief Petty Officer Airman (Photographer) Thomas McDonald)


16 Dec 14 - Death of Lt Cdr William Thorniley MBE RN


I am grateful to former FCPO(D) Chris Jones for having spotted the death notice for MCDOA member Bill Thorniley in last month's Navy News.  He died on 8 October at the age of 85.


Bill was borne on the books of the minesweeping trawler HMT Annet, the inshore minehunter HMS Brearley, the South African naval base HMS Flamingo, the Landing Ship (Tank) HMS Messina, the Type 15 frigate HMS Undaunted, the Ton class minesweeper HMS Maryton, the minelayer HMS Plover and the shore establishments HMS Vernon, HMS Warrior and HMS Osprey.  Owing to his advancing years, he did not attend any recent MCDOA functions but I know that he was held in high regard by his contemporaries.


Bill was appointed an MBE in 1959 for clearance diving work on a controlled minefield (torpedo warheads) in Belfast Lough.  The job was completed a couple of years later by the Home Station CDT in HMS Dingley (MCDOA member Harry Parker) to allow the channel to be dredged in time for the new ocean liner SS Canberra to put to sea from the Harland & Wolff shipyard.  Chris Jones added this comment:


"I actually served with Bill in Belfast Lough. Fifteen feet of silt before one reached the bottom and we achieved it by washing ourselves down using a high-powered hose.  Interesting times."


15 Dec 14 - Arrangements for the funeral of Lt Cdr Brian Harold Lithgow Braidwood RN


I have been advised by Brian Braidwood's younger daughter Tessa that there will be a private family cremation at 1130 on Monday 22 December followed by a memorial service at St Martins Church, Martinstown, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 9JZ at 1430 the same day to which all are very welcome.  



This will be followed by tea, coffee, nibbles and a toast to Brian at the Brewer's Arms (about three minutes’ walk from the Church), to which everyone is also welcome.  Donations if desired can be sent to Weldmar Trust Hospice or RNLI c/o Woods Funeral Services, 11A Icen Way, Dorchester, Dorset. DT1 1EW Tel:01305 250425.



I will be attending in a personal capacity and will be happy to represent the MCDOA.


14 Dec 14 - Death of Lt Cdr Brian Harold Lithgow Braidwood RN


MCDOA member Peter Waddington has informed me of the death of Brian Braidwood, his fellow MCDOA and LCDO '64 course member who succumbed to cancer yesterday.


Brian was born on 2 May 1937.  He was a 20-year-old Sub Lt when he qualified as a Shallow Water Diver (the forerunner of the Ship's Diver but using an oxygen rebreather) at the RN Diving School on Manoel Island in Malta in October 1957 (see entry for 4 Dec 05 in News Archive 12).  He joined the Submarine Service in March 1959 and, on completion of Submarine Training, he was appointed to HMS Adamant for HMS/M Excalibur in July 1959.  In January 1960, he joined HMS Chaser as Spare Submarine Officer, then in June 1960 he joined HMS Dolphin for HMS/M Orpheus.  In June 1961 he joined HMS Forth as Spare Submarine Officer, eventually joining HMS/M Alliance in July 1961 and finally re-joining HMS Forth in November 1961 as Spare Submarine Officer. 


On returning to General Service he joined the frigate HMS Malcolm for Fishery Protection Squadron duties off Iceland.  He subsequently qualified as a Clearance Diving Officer at HMS Vernon in 1964. 


LCDO '64 with Brian Braidwood sitting far left and fellow MCDOA members

Peter Hicks sitting centre, Tony Lumbard standing third from left,

 Colin Churcher MBE standing fourth from left and Peter Waddington

standing fifth from left


Brian was then appointed to HMS Bronington in the Vernon Squadron and featured in the archived minehunting footage of this c.1975 video (see from minute 01:21) first used in 'The Undersea War', a Royal Navy training film made in 1965:



Brian was the coxswain of Bronington's Gemini and the rest of the diving team comprised PO Dave Audoire and ABs Jan Gardner, Tanzy Lee, Dudley 'Wooly' Woolnough and Shorty Lougher.  The callsigns of Bronington's Geminis were 'Pinky' and 'Perky' because the Command Security Officer had allegedly vetoed the use of 'Burgess' and 'MacLean'. 


Brian Braidwood as coxswain of HMS Bronington's Gemini


This photo, provided by Brian, shows 'Perky' with the divers and film crew embarked: 



Brian then returned to serve in the Minewarfare Training Section at HMS Vernon until 1968 when he was appointed Fleet Clearance Diving Officer of the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team based at HMS Terror in Singapore.  In January 1971, he was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct for an extraordinary operation as can be seen from this citation in the London Gazette:


On 1st June 1970, R.F.A. ENNERDALE, carrying 42,000 tons of fuel oils, sank in 100 feet of water in the Seychelles and it was decided that immediate action should be taken to release the oil while the South East Monsoon would carry the oil clear of the main islands.  Conventional methods of placing explosives alongside the hull, using boats and divers were impractical in the heavy swell.  Lieutenant Commander Braidwood, the Far East Clearance Diving Officer, working with Lieutenant Kenworthy, the senior pilot detached from 847 Naval Air Squadron, devised a method whereby 3 mortar bombs placed on a pallet could be lowered into position on the wreck from a helicopter, the cordtex fuse then being ignited by the crew inside the helicopter.  With ENNERDALE lying on her starboard side, and using a Wessex HU Mk. 5 helicopter, this method successfully breached the port tanks, releasing about 12,000 tons of oil.


To reach the starboard side tanks another demolition charge was constructed.  To place the charge in the correct position divers secured a 45 foot wire pennant to the top of the wreck and, using a gemini dinghy, joined it to a similar wire lowered from the helicopter.  The dinghy raced clear, the helicopter crew fit the cordtex fuse and released the bomb tray which, on its ninety foot pennant, sank down alongside the vents on the lower tanks.


Later in the operation when H.M.S. CACHALOT was unable to fire torpedoes into the wreckage to free oil trapped in the hull, the warheads were taken off the torpedoes, and towed and detonated in the same way.  When some of the warheads failed to explode, Lieutenant Commander Braidwood dived to investigate the reason.  At this stage short pre-cut delay fuses were added and Lieutenant Commander Braidwood ignited the fuses on the surface of the sea, while suspended on the helicopter's winch wire.  There was always a swell, often heavy, and diving was dangerous.  Faced with a difficult and unusual situation, Lieutenant Commander Braidwood showed remarkable ingenuity and courage.


Brian was presented with his QCB by Admiral Sir Horace Law, Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command, in the great cabin of HMS Victory in June 1971 with the legendary MCD officer Stuart 'Jazz' Honour MBE representing the Captain of HMS Vernon.



Brian wrote this illustrated account of his time in command of the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team which is also available via the website's Dit Box


Brian subsequently served in the Leander class frigate HMS Scylla from 1971 to 1973, as OIC of the Plymouth Clearance Diving Team from 1973 to 1974 and as OIC of the Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal School (DEODS) at Chattenden from 1974 to 1976.  He then spent many years at Southwell on Portland under the various guises of Captain Underwater Weapons Acceptance, DRA Southwell, DGUW(N), etc.  Here, he pioneered and trialled new diving and EOD equipment for the Royal Navy.  In 1985, he was sent to New Zealand to survey the wreck of Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior and was called as an expert witness during the investigation into her sinking by the French intelligence services.


Although Brian left the Royal Navy in 1989, he was frequently consulted by government and commercial organisations about diving and underwater EOD matters including the inquiry into the sinking of MS Estonia in the Baltic in 1994.  In August 2007, he belatedly celebrated his 70th birthday with a 24 metre dive off Portland ending up with 18 scallops.  In October the same year, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his original SWD qualification with a "civilised" dive in the Dunker at Yeovilton (see entry for 14 Nov 07 in News Archive 20).




He was a staunch member of the MCDOA and a frequent contributor to the website.  I will miss his friendship immensely.


Brian Braidwood at the MCDOA AGM in 2010


I am sure all members of our community will join me in extending our sympathy to Brian's bereaved wife Sonia, son David, daughters Fiona and Tessa and his other family members.  He lived near Dorchester and I will publish funeral arrangements if and when they become available. 


From former CPO(D) Clive Egginton:


"Hello Rob,


Very sorry to hear about Brian Braidwood.  He gave me much encouragement and help whilst I was in Portland and later on when I was working offshore.


Very sad.  He was a gentleman. 


Clive Egginton"


From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:


"Hi Rob


Sorry to hear about Brian, a stalwart member of the branch with a great record, particularly in the Far East.


Sorry also to learn about Bill Thorniley, another old friend.




From MCDOA member David Burstall:


"Hello Rob,


I was very saddened to hear that Brian had died.  Though it is many years since I last saw him, our paths in the Navy crossed a number of times, though we never served together.  He was invariably cheerful and always good company.   I am delighted he got recognition for his diving expertise in the Maldives.


I regret I will not be able to attend his funeral and so would be grateful if you would represent me.






From MCDOA member Colin Churcher MBE:


"Hello Rob,


It was a shock to hear of the death of Brian.  We qualified together on the '64 CDO course.  I was the “ Old Man” of the team and I always felt that Brian was 'keeping an eye on me'.  I certainly felt happier with him on the other end of my buddy line.


Unfortunately I am unable to attend the funeral as I have difficulty in walking.




From MCDOA member Jon Riches:




How very sad to hear of Brian's death.  I relieved him as First Lieutenant of HMS Bronington in early 1967.  He gave me an excellent turnover and introduced me to life in Edinburgh where he and Sonia had a flat.  Subsequently in various MCD appointments I had many dealings with Brian.  He was a good man to deal with and always cheerful and helpful with a fund of stories.


Sadly I am unable to make his Memorial Service but send my condolences to Sonia and his family.




From MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald:


"Hello Rob,


Very sorry to hear about Brian.  My thoughts are with his family.


As pond life, my ship was supported by Steve G's [Gobey's] team and I recall a similar meeting where we never knew quite what Brian was going to produce from his Pusser's grip!  Later in BRECON, having played Brecon (Wales) First XV and lost heavily, I woke up in RNH Haslar to find Brian in the bed beside me.  I attracted the ire of Matron and was saved by Brian leaping out of bed to defend me.  I shall always be grateful.  




From MCDOA member Steve Gobey:


"Dear Rob,


So sorry to hear the sad news of Brian's passing.  When he handed over to the RAF as OIC of DEODS in 1976, he also handed over to me as RN Training Officer.  Sally and I had just returned from the Australia exchange and Brian and Sonia were most helpful in sorting out a married quarter, getting all our stuff delivered and making sure we were settled in and fully prepared for life with the Army!


After DEODS I was the Boss of the FOST Diving Team at Bincleaves where we often provided assistance to Brian for his trials on new and experimental underwater EOD equipment.  We never knew quite what Brian was going to produce from his Pusser's grip - or his garage!


Sally and I regret we cannot be there on Monday but please pass our sincere condolences to Sonia and the family.


Yours Aye,




From MCDOA member Alan Padwick OBE:


"Hi Rob,


It was shock to hear that Brian is gone.  Our career paths often crossed, starting in 1962 when as a very green Sub Lt I relieved him in HMS MALCOLM in the Iceland FPS.  I also took over from him in the Minewarfare section at VERNON in 1968.  When I was S of D in 1983 to 86, I found I was theoretically partly his boss, his other boss being a civil servant.  We each assumed the other knew what he was up to when there seemed to be a blank in information, so we were both rather surprised one morning when we saw him interviewed on TV in New Zealand, when neither of us knew he had gone there!  We both did a panic audit of our travel budgets.


I wish we could get to his funeral but my cousin has also died and his funeral is at the same time as Brian's.  Please pass on my regards to all who get there and my sympathy to Sonia (assuming you can make it).  Sarah has sent you a message which she would like to be passed to Sonia.






From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Rob,


I much regret that I am unable to make the Memorial Service for Brian Braidwood next Monday because I have broken my right shoulder blade and cannot drive.  One is supposed to get wiser with age - rubbish - silly accidents still occur!


Please 'rep' me amongst all your other friends.


Yours aye,




From MCDOA member Bryan Barrett in the USA:


"Hi Rob,


I am so sorry to hear of the death of my old friend Brian Braidwood.  He was on the CD course before me (’64 – I was ’65) and we worked together in various capacities for many years.  He was a good friend.  Requiescat in pace.


Wishing you the best for Christmas and 2015,


Yours aye,




From ex-CPO(D) Perry Mason:


"It saddens me to hear of the passing of yet another member of the branch especially at this time of the year or for that matter at any time of the year.  My thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to his wife Sonia and the remainder of his family.


Rest in peace Brian."


From ex-PO(D) Dudley 'Wooly' Woolnough:


"Dear Rob,


So sorry to hear about the death of Brian.  As mentioned in your post, I was one of Bronington's crew.  One incident sticks in my mind, one that I have told many times in various bars.


After an exercise off Harwich we were minehunting to recover the dummy ground mines.  It was my dive and I was a brand new CD3 having only qualified about six months previously in 1964.  When I hit bottom with my torch the viz was extremely good and I had landed about five feet from a German GC in perfect condition.  On surfacing I told Dave Audoire and we returned to the ship to advise the Captain.  I was showering when called to the wardroom (in my towel) to confirm my sighting and point it out in AMP5. 


After various signals it was decided we would blow it next day.  An exclusion zone was set up and I think Jan Gardener did the first dive to set the PE.  For some reason, it did not go off.  Neither did the next three attempts.  It was now getting dark and Brian Braidwood said he had run out of igniters and would have to return to Bronington to get more.  The problem was the three lines of cordtex going down to the GC.


Brian decided that the only thing to do was leave me behind holding onto the cordtex.  The only light available was a small lifejacket salt water activated indicating light.  I seriously thought he was taking the **** but no, I got in the water with just fins and drybag, three lines of explosive cord and my indicating light in the middle of the main shipping lanes in and out of Harwich Harbour.  The Gemini disappeared back to Bronington and I bobbed up and down for about an hour before they got back to me.  


This is a story that would be very much highlighted in my book if I ever get round to writing it.  There are many more stories I could tell about Brian, but as he cannot now defend himself best left in the memory bank.  Unfortunately I will not be able to make service on the 22nd and am sailing out of Tilbury on a Christmas and New Year cruise with Terry Settle and wives.  If you manage to attend please pass on my condolences to Sonia and family.






Ex-PO CD1 Dudley M. Woolnough MIIRSM Tech. IOSH

Deep Marine Works"


11 Dec 14 - The hospitality of HMS Middleton and HMS Ledbury


I spent yesterday with fellow members of the Ton Class Association (TCA), the Mayor and townspeople from Ledbury and representatives of the Ledbury Hunt being hosted by MCM 2 Crew 4 on board HMS Middleton and HMS Ledbury in Portsmouth Naval Base.  I was particularly pleased to see my old buddy ex-CPO(D) Spike Wheeler again. 


We were met at Trafalgar Gate by Navigating Officer Glyn Duffell and his assistant Alex Saunders before being taken in a ubiquitous BAE Systems bus to the ships' berth in 2 Basin.





After a safety brief by LS Rich and a warming cup of coffee, we were welcomed by Commanding Officers Mark Headley and Steve White.





We were then split into groups and shown various parts of the ship.  PO(MW) David Pearce and AB(MW) Flintham explained the systems in the Ops Room while Ops Officer Tom Hazel looked on.



We then went to the bridge where ship's navigating officer Glyn Duffell described the operation of the systems.




AB(D) Robbie Matthews then described the operation of a SABA (Swimmer's Air Breathing Apparatus) after which LS(D) Lee Causer showed us the around the compression chamber.  Unfortunately, the Clearance Diver's Life Support Equipment (CDLSE), the diving team's primary minehunting closed-circuit rebreather set, was not on board at the time.





We ended up being shown the SeaFox remote-controlled mine identification and disposal vehicle by AB(MW) Phil Perkins.




We were then transported to the Wardroom at HMS Nelson for a splendid reserved table lunch before being given a tour of HMS Victory.  Our guide was particularly entertaining and informative and, despite having seen the ship many times before, I learned several new facts.


'Wooden Ships and Iron Men'

The TCA Group comprising Rob Hoole, Tony O'Brien, Malcolm Kemp,

Neville Dutton, Norman Ellis and Spike Wheeler


HMS Middleton is newly emerged from refit with Caterpillar ACERT diesels replacing her old Deltic propulsion system and HMS Ledbury will shortly be entering refit for the same installation.  I am particularly grateful to Commanding Officer Mark Headley and to MCDOA member Steve White for making this visit possible and to the various other members of the ship's company, including ship's navigator Glyn Duffell in his role as liaison officer, who were responsible for its smooth execution.


10 Dec 14 - HMS Grimsby coming home


The Royal Navy Facebook page contains this article announcing that HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6) has detached from Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean and is on passage back to her base at Faslane for Christmas leave.


HMS Grimsby (third from left) rafted up with other units of SNMCMG2

(RN Facebook image)


5 Dec 14 - MCMV teams to compete in Half-Ironman relay challenge in Bahrain


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the participation of teams from HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Simon Pressdee), HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 5 commanded by MCDOA member Si Kelly) and the US Navy’s Task Group 52 in the USD 500,000 Bahrain Challenge half-ironman triathlon tomorrow.  The article also features AB(D) Ryan Snell.


HMS Atherstone's Bahrain Challenge team with MCDOA member

Simon Pressdee standing centre

(RN website photo)


Postscript: The results of the triathlon are listed here.  Out of 48 teams in their category, HMS Atherstone 1 ranked 8th, HMS Shoreham 2 ranked 19th, HMS Shoreham ranked 21st, HMS Atherstone 2 ranked 27th and HMS Atherstone 3 ranked 29th.  Congratulations to all participants.


2 Dec 14 - SDU1 called out to Dawlish Warren


The BBC News website contains this article describing an EOD call-out to the beach at Dawlish Warren this morning for members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).  The article features PO(D) Mark Cocking and the suspect item turned out to be an old car tyre.



27 Nov 14 - HMS Quorn visiting Ipswich this weekend


According to the Royal Navy's Facebook page, HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3), which returned to Portsmouth this autumn after three years in the Gulf (see entry for 2 Sep 14 in News Archive 47), sailed into her affiliated town of Ipswich today for a five-day visit.  She will be open to the public on Saturday 29 November (ticket only basis) and the ship's company will exercise their Freedom of Entry to the Borough by marching through the town centre on Sunday.


HMS Quorn wearing Gulf dhow funnel badge

(Royal Navy library photo)


Postscript: ABP's Shipping TV website contains this video showing HMS Quorn's arrival in Ipswich Docks.


26 Nov 14 - UK and Japanese MCMVs working together in the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Simon Pressdee) has spent the last two weeks in the Gulf working with two Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force ships: the MCM tender JS Bungo and the MCMV JS Yaeyama (photos here).  The article also mentions that Lt Alex Coleman (Ops Officer of HMS Atherstone) and an MWO from HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 5 commanded by MCDOA member Si Kelly) were embedded in the Japanese 51st Mine Division battle staff on board JS Bungo for IMCMEX 2014.


Japanese launch approaching HMS Atherstone in the Gulf

(RN website photo)


25 Nov 14 - Were RN divers involved in the Berlin Airlift?


I have received a query from a lady called Sue Campbell who is researching the eligibility of additional personnel for the newly approved Berlin Airlift Clasp:


Berlin Airlift The General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasp ‘BERLIN AIRLIFT’ will be awarded for at least one day’s service to all aircrew, RAF and civilians who took part in the Berlin Airlift operation from 25 June 1948 to 6 October 1949 inclusive.  Applications for the new clasp will be accepted from 1 March 2015 onwards.  The first of the awards will be made towards the end of that month (however these timings remain under review).  Applications will be dealt with in date order.


Sue is convinced that Royal Navy divers were involved in clearing the River Elbe at Finkenwerder near Hamburg to allow RAF Sunderland flying boats to take off with relief supplies and/or Lake Havel where they landed in Berlin (see this video for further background).  If true, a case could be made for these personnel or their surviving relatives to receive the Berlin Airlift clasp. 


RAF Sunderland flying boats on the River Elbe at Finkenwerder


Sue is also interested in finding out anything about Royal Navy personnel serving at Lancaster House, the British Headquarters in Charlottenburg, Berlin from 1945 to 1953.  Completed in 1943 and used as the Wehrmacht Administrative Office of the Army High Command, the building is now the Rathaus (City Hall) for Berlin-Wilmersdorf.



Rathaus Wilmersdorf (formerly Lancaster House) in Fehrbelliner Platz, Berlin


If anyone is able to help, please contact me via my Webmaster email address. 


From Bernd von Kostka in Berlin:


"Dear Sue and Rob,


Maybe you will allow me to respond to your request to Rob.  There are three experts on the Berlin Airlift in Berlin: Wolfgang Husche who did his PhD on the Berlin Airlift (he was a private pilot himself and has had a brilliant connection with the Veterans for decades), Captain Behrend from the German Air Force Museum in Berlin (who spent a month at the UK Archives to research the Airlift and its connection to Gatow Airfield) and me at the Allied Museum who has been dealing with the subject for about 20 years now.


I have contacted the other two guys.  Of course none of us is a diving expert but none of us came across any hint that divers were engaged in the Sunderland support for Berlin (roughly from July to Dec 1948).  So I can say that it has obviously not happened on the Havel Lake in Berlin.  It might have happened on the Elbe near Hamburg but again none of us had heard of this.  


I hope this answer is helpful in some way.


Have a nice day,




 Bernd von Kostka

 Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter  I Curator I Conservateur  

AlliiertenMuseum e.V. I Clayallee 135 I 14195 Berlin I Germany

Tel +49 (0)30 81 81 99 82 I 

Fax +49 (0)30 81 81 99 91"


From MCDOA member Bryan Barrett in the USA:


"Hi Rob,


I can throw some light on the Royal Navy involvement in the Berlin Airlift.  My father (Lt.Cdr. Denis Barrett DSC, RN (retd) now deceased) a submariner, was stationed in Berlin from 1947 until the early ‘50’s working at the British HQ in Charlottenburg.  We lived in Berlin (I say ‘we’ because my mother and I joined my father there) in 1947 and I lived there for three years, returning to England late in 1950.)


We were there throughout the Berlin airlift, when conditions in Berlin were pretty bad, and everything in very short supply.  We lived in the Naval Officers’ mess in Konigsallee, in Grunewald along with several other naval officers and their families.  I can remember some of their details, if Sue is interested.  Please pass on my email address to her and ask her to get in touch with me if she would like me to give her what details I can remember from some 60+ years ago!!


Yours aye,




24 Nov 14 - SDU2 features in TV programme


Episode 1 of the BBC One TV series Channel Patrol, broadcast today, contains excellent footage of the operation by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to remove explosively two underwater pillars causing a navigational hazard in Stokes Bay earlier this year (see entry for 25 Sep 14 in News Archive 47).  The programme features CPO(D) Simon Crew as supervisor with Jeremy Osborne and Joshua Spivey diving and Marcus Dickson manning the safety boat. 


The SDU2 team that performed the operation


Demolition of underwater obstructions in Stokes Bay


The programme may be watched again on BBC iPlayer here for the next 30 days.  The relevant sections are from minute 12:32 to 21:15 and from minute 36:30 to the closing credits.  For those unable to watch the programme, there was a 40 - 50 minute window (although the tide was never slack owing to the double cycle in the Solent) for the divers, working as a pair, to place four PE charges (total 45 kg) on the concrete pillars.  They were clinging on for dear life in poor viz to secure the charges, one low and one high, on opposite sides of each pillar to create a 'moment.of force'.  The range was fouled by a couple of dinghies before the charges were fired safely and successfully.


23 Nov 14 - Does anyone remember Peter Minten (Buster) Brown?


I have received this request from Don 'Scotty' Allan, Historian of the Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers' Association (RANCDA):


"G’day Rob,


We are trying to establish the origin / qualification of a former RN rating by the name of Peter Minten (Buster) Brown.  We understand he may have transferred to the RAN or RANR some many years ago.  He was awarded an OAM for his services to the RANR Diving Team 6 (Victoria) when he held the rank of PO but I unsure if this was as a Diver.  Capt Ian Pfennigwerth RAN (Rtd), a naval historian, is attempting to obtain data on his history and what he actually did to receive his OAM.  Ian is finalising a history on all RAN RANR sailors who have received awards during service or post service if the award was relative to navy matters. Unfortunately, we are having difficulty tracking someone who could enlighten us.  He passed away in 2010?  By all accounts, he was a larakin and spinned many tall tales.  As the historian of RANCDA we have no record that places him as a qualified CD.


I have copied and pasted Ian’s comments - if you can provide any history it would be appreciated:


It’s rubber on the road time for Buster.  As you will see from the attached draft entry for the BZ manuscript,  I have a miniscule amount of information to work on.  I would be extremely grateful if any of you could provide more detail on the following:


1. His service career both in the RN, PNF and RANR.  Was he a PNF CD?  If so, where did he serve and in what capacity?  He appears to have been a PO so at least: somebody at the Diving School must remember him.  Was he a member of DT6 or did he just ‘help out’, whatever that may mean?


2. The duties and responsibilities of DT6.


3. His relatives, particularly his son who delivered the eulogy at his funeral.  The eulogy itself would provide more info than I currently have.  OAMs are not handed out to ‘good blokes who tell lots of war stories’.  Somebody wrote a recommendation in 1983 that convinced the sceptics sitting around the Board table in Navy Office that his name should go forward to the G-G as one of a handful of H&A for the Australia Day 1984 list.  I’m trying to tell people what was in that recommendation, or at least to infer it. 


I do need you to put your thinking caps on and get busy on your keyboards if this aim is to be achieved.  Your help is not only appreciated but is essential."


 Larry Digney, National President of the RANCDA has also copied me on this email:




I think that may be Buster Brown, ex CPODVR, DT 6.  When I was the Victoria Command Diving Supervisor in 1976-78 he was the Chief of the team.  He was never an RAN CD and I can't remember if he was an RN CD.  Capt Paul Willee QC RANR, our legal advisor, was his boss in the early '70s and he may be able to assist with more detail.






Peter ‘Buster’ Brown was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in recognition of his service to the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, particularly to Diving Team 6, part of the Melbourne Port Division of the Reserve.  The National Archives of Australia holds no service record for him but it has been established that he transferred to the Reserves after a 20-year career in the permanent forces of both the RN and RAN in 1966 and was promoted Chief Petty Officer Diver in 1970.  It is believed that he was born in the UK and served as a Clearance Diver with the RAN during the 1960s.  There is some doubt that his award was actually for service with the Diving Team, some suggesting it was really for involvement with the community.  A colourful character, by all accounts, none of his former colleagues could provide reasons behind his award.  He died circa 2010 but no contact could be established with his relatives.


If anyone can provide information about Peter Minten 'Buster' Brown, please contact me via my Webmaster email address and I will put you in touch with relevant correspondents.


22 Nov 14 - Colin Churcher presented with Ushakov Medal


Colin with his Ushakov Medal


Congratulations to MCDOA member Colin Churcher MBE on being presented with the Ushakov Medal by the Russian Ambassador at the Russian Embassy on 23 October.  He was awarded the medal as a token of gratitude for his service as a Radar Control rating in the destroyer HMS Myngs on the Arctic convoys during the Second World War.  More details and photos here.


Ushakov Medal recipients with the Russian Ambassador in London

on 23 October with Colin Churcher seated fourth from left

(Russian Embassy photo)


After an eventful career on the lower deck, Colin was commissioned and qualified as a CDO,  Among his many exploits thereafter, he disposed of 'The Blackfriars Bomb' under Blackfriars Bridge in 1968 and was appointed an MBE for rendering safe a German GC parachute mine in the West Warwick Reservoir at Walthamstow in 1970 while OIC of the Portsmouth Bomb & Mine Disposal Team.  His life story can be read in his autobiography, To Render Safe, which he relates in the third person about a character called 'Dave'.



Colin's autobiographical 'To Render Safe'


Colin had hoped to attend our annual dinner last night (illustrated article to follow in due course) but poor health forced him to cancel at the last moment.  I am sure all members of our community will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery and extending our best wishes to his wife Hilda.


21 Nov 14 - Topsy Turner superseded as CO of HMNZS Canterbury


Former MCDOA Honoray Secretary David 'Topsy' Turner transferred from the RN to the RNZN in 2004.  He has just sent this message:


"Hi Rob,


After two great years in command of HMNZS CANTERBURY, I was relieved by CDR Simon Rooke, RNZN on Thursday 20 Nov.  I'm now the Executive Officer of HMNZS PHILOMEL and looking forward to a completely different set of challenges.






Cdr Simon Rooke RNZN (left) receiving a Maori greenstone mere, the symbol of Command,

from Topsy Turner while the Chief of the Royal New Zealand Navy looks on

(Photos by DNB photographers Dyanne Armstrong and CPL Paul Firth)


It seems like only yesterday that Topsy was assuming Command of HMNZS Canterbury (see entry for 15 Nov 12 in News Archive 40).  HMNZS Philomel is the supporting naval establishment at Devonport Naval Base in North Shore City, Auckland responsible for the logistics and organisation of Naval personnel, and for any visits to the base by foreign ships.  I am sure that all members of our community wish Topsy every good fortune in his new appointment and extend our warmest greetings to his wife Yvonne, son Harry and daughter Jenni.


20 Nov 14 - LCOCU article in Diver magazine


The December issue of Diver magazine, out today, contains a three-page illustrated article written by Yours Truly about the frogmen belonging to the Landing Craft Obstacle Clearance Units (LCOCUs), the first men ashore on D-Day (see entry for 6 Jun 14 in News Archive 46 and Operation Neptune: Frogmen - The First Men Ashore on D-Day in the website's Dit Box). 


See inside for "A Day at the Beach"


Steve Weinman, the magazine's editor, approached me to write the article in September after receiving this letter from an Australian reader:


"I have been trawling the many recent publications re D-Day with the anticipation of articles re obstacle clearance etc., by 'P' parties, 'LOCKUs', etc., but to no avail.  Has the contribution of “frogmen” been forgotten?  Their exploits did inspire many."


Steve advises me that "...The piece seems to have gone down well!" and he has already received this feedback:




Interested to read the article 'Frogmen - First Ashore on D-Day' as this reminded me of a story that my late father told me.


Whilst serving on a Royal Navy minesweeper in 1944, he was detailed to accompany a Navy Survey Officer to land on a French Normandy beach and take depth measurements and sand samples.  No submarine insertion here as they were rowed to as close inshore at night as they could get in the ship's whaler and waded ashore to take their water depth measurements/sand samples at different depths.  As it was now getting light they had to crawl up the beach and hide in sand dunes to wait for darkness to come again so they could be picked up by their ship's whaler.  They only had canned water and chocolate and could hear the German sentries on the beach talking who luckily did not venture into the sand dunes.


When night fell they waded out as far as they could and waited for the whaler which duly appeared out of the darkness and returned them to the minesweeper waiting further out to sea.   My father did not know which beach he landed on but has said there were lots of various steel fabrications in the water and on the beach.


He heard nothing more about it and when D-Day itself started he was up in the North Sea on minesweeping duties.  Only then did he put two and two together. 




Brian Hunt"


I will be donating my author's fee to Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays to celebrate the minewarfare and diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.  I'm sure my late friend and fellow MCDOA member Lt Cdr Robbie Robinson MBE, the 'Bard of Vernon' who was injured at Normandy on D-Day as a LCOCU diver, would have appreciated the gesture.


From MCDOA Membership Secretary Dave Stanbury:


"Good in-flight reading!  Well done Rob."




19 Nov 14


Award of LS & GC medals


Congratulations to WO(D) Steve Vernon, WO(D) Kev Wilkins and CPO(D) Kev Amaira on being gazetted for the award of the Clasp to the Long Service & Good Conduct (LS & GC) medal (link).


Do you remember Donald Hills or Degaussing at HMS Vernon?


I have received these requests for information:


Ex-CD Donald Hills




I wonder if there may be any way to get information about my great uncle Donald Roy Hills (born 4th July 1926 in Brighton) who was a member of the Scotland Command Bomb and Mine Disposal Clearance Diving Team from the end of the Second World War until about the early 1960s?  He is on the front left of the photo below. 



I've no idea where the photo was taken or any of the names of the others in the photo.


Glen Robins"


From former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows:




Hope all is well with you and yours.


I remember “Pusser” Hill, from Brighton, very well from his time in the Scottish bomb disposal team in Lochinvar at Port Edgar, before they moved to Rosyth, and as Coxswain of HMS Brenchley in the 51st Mine Hunting Squadron in 1960.







Managing Director

Fellows International Limited"


I have put Mick in touch with Glen Robins.


Degaussing at HMS Vernon


"A very long shot, but I am trying to find out information about the degaussing trials, etc., that went on at HMS Vernon in the latter stages of the Second World War.  In particular, a project XX 855.  Are you able to advise where the best place to start is?


Yours in hope,


Kevin Parsons"


If you can help with either query, please contact me via my Webmaster email address and I will put you in touch with the relevant correspondent.


18 Nov 14 - Ben Ainslie's Americas Cup yacht with HMS Cattistock


This photo was published on the Royal Navy's Facebook page today:


The BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) AC45 British challenge for the next Americas Cup

 in the Solent last week with HMS Cattistock in the backgound

(Image courtesy of Lt Cdr Roster)


17 Nov 14 - NDG called to deal with torpedo at Lossiemouth


The STV website contains this article describing yesterday's discovery of an "unexploded torpedo" on West Beach at Lossiemouth.  Unfortunately, the torpedo had disappeared by the time members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) arrived on the scene.



14 Nov 14 - Medical aspects of IMCMEX 2014


The Navy News website contains this article describing medical aspects of this year's International MCM Exercise (IMCMEX 2014) in the Middle East (see entry for 9 Nov 14) and features divers from HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 3).



A 'casualty' is treated on board HMS Penzance

(Navy News website photo)


12 Nov 14 - 11th MCM Squadron commemoration in Hull


The Ton class crews from Rosyth who manned the five Hull trawlers (FARNELLA, CORDELLA, JUNELLA, NORTHELLA and PICT) taken up from trade to form the 11th Mine Countermeasures Squadron, led by MCDOA member Martyn Holloway, performed incredible acts of bravery in the Falklands during the conflict in 1982 (see The Forgotten Few of the Falklands in the website's 'Dit Box'). 


Several of the personnel involved, together with others deeply interested, have set up this group on Facebook and intend organising a commemorative service at Holy Trinity Church in Hull at 1400 on Sunday 14 June 2015 attended by Andrew Marr, of Andrew Marr International, who owned four of the five trawlers.  The ceremony will be followed by the usual reunion in a convenient hostelry.


The instigator of this event is Hull resident Jon Major who was serving in the Type 21 frigate HMS Ardent when she was bombed and sunk during the Falklands conflict.  Her Commanding Officer at the time was Cdr Alan West RN, later Admiral Lord West of Spithead, former First Sea Lord and guest of honour at the MCDOA Annual Dinner in 1995 when he was Naval Secretary.


Jon Major and (inset) the minesweeping trawler HMS Junella

(Hull Daily Mail photo)


See this article on the Hull Daily Mail website for further background.  It has been brought to my attention that the trawler in the black and white photo inset above is not the Junella built by Clelands S. B. Co Ltd, at Wallsend-upon-Tyne in 1975 which served in the Falklands in 1982 but is actually her predecessor of the same name built at Hall Russell & Co Ltd of Aberdeen in 1962 for the same owner, J Marr of Hull.


11 Nov 14 - Lest we forget



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

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

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

We will remember them.

  Robert Laurence Binyon



Also, please spare a moment for those listed among the RN Bomb & Mine Disposal Casualties in the 'Branch History' section of the website.


10 Nov 14


The Return of the Webmaster


Your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster has just returned from a month-long vacation visiting his 'folks' in the Seattle area of the USA with Mrs Webmaster.  The trip included excursions to Las Vegas in Nevada and San Francisco in California plus a leisurely drive up the US west coast.  This took in the little-known and utterly brillient Evergreen Space & Aviation Museum at McMinnville in Oregon where Howard Hughes' 'Spruce Goose' had pride of place among the other 150+ aircraft on show - photos on request.



Hoole getting in his minutes at The Mirage in Las Vegas


One of the highlights of our tour was being shown the sights of San Francisco by fellow naval minewarfare historian and author Cdr David Bruhn USN and his wife Nancy (see entry for 27 Sep 14 in News Archive 47).  Something else we have in common is that he commanded the US Navy MCMVs USS Gladiator and USS Dextrous in the Persian Gulf during the late 1990s and I commanded the Hunt class MCMV HMS Berkeley (now the Greek HNS Kallisto) in the Gulf during the late 1980s.



David & Nancy Bruhn with Linda & Rob Hoole in San Francisco


We also cruised the islands of Washington State's Puget Sound with my ex-US Navy (now USAF Reserve) brother Jim and his lovely partner Diane on board one of his three boats.



Ex-US Navy and ex-Royal Navy 'brothers-in-arms' plus the girls

at Poulsbo in Washington State


Ex-Royal Navy Hoole at the helm approaching Port Orchard

(opposite Bremerton) in Washington State


As time permits, I will update this page of the website retrospectively.


Man jailed after planting fake pipe bomb in Southampton


The Southern Daily Echo website contains this article describing the 30-month jail sentence awarded to a man who planted a hoax Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in the garden of a house in Bitterne Park, Southampton in a “malicious and vindictive act”.  The incident occurred in May this year and was dealt with by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) (see entry for 14 May 14 in News Archive 46).


Death of Lt Robert Aitken DSO RN


The Daily Telegraph contains this obituary and the Independent this obituary for wartime Charioteer and X-Craft miniature submarine diver Lt Robert Aitken DSO RN who died on 22 October.  He was X-7's diver and navigator in a crew of four commanded by Lt (later Rear Admiral) Godfrey Place VC CB CVO DSC RN.   He escaped his sunken submarine and was taken prisoner of war after severely damaging the German battleship Tirpitz in Altenfjord in Northern Norway in September 1943. 


9 Nov 14 - No accommodation available in HMS Excellent for civilians attending MCDOA Dinner


From MCDOA Honorary Secretary Soapy Watson:


"After the calling notice for the MCDOA Dinner had been issued, I was unfortunately informed that there is no accommodation for civilians at HMS EXCELLENT as the Insurance on HMS BRISTOL only covers service and cadets.  There are no spare cabins either.  Members seeking accommodation are to make their own arrangements.


I am really sorry if this has inconvenienced anyone, however this is out of my control.


Kindest Regards,




6 Nov 14 - RN MCMVs and FDT3 participate in Gulf MCM Exercise


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing the participation of the RN MCMVs HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Simon Pressdee who features in the article), HMS Chiddingfold (2/5), HMS Penzance (1/3) and HMS Shoreham (1/5 commanded by MCDOA member Si Kelly) plus their ‘mother ship’ RFA Cardigan Bay, the frigate HMS Northumberland, the support ship RFA Fort Austin, the nation’s flagship HMS Bulwark and the amphibious support vessel RFA Lyme Bay in this year's International MCM Exercise (IMCMEX 2014).



Above and below: Royal Navy ships in the Gulf during IMCMEX 2014

(RN website photos)



HMS Chiddingfold, USS Dextrous, the Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer

 USS Sterett, USS Devastator and HMS Penzance in the Gulf during IMCMEX 14


The exercise area ranged from the Gulf to the Arabian Sea and the shores of the northern Red Sea.  Members of Portsmouth-based Fleet Clearance Diving Unit 3 (FCDU3) were also among the more than 5,000 military personnel from more than 40 nations in the exercise. 


Divers from FCDU3 and the Royal Naval Force of Jordan in the Red Sea

during IMCMEX 2014

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Rolston/Released)


Also see this article on the US Navy website and this article on the RAN website.


Postscript: The Portsmouth News published this article on 11 November.


31 Oct 14 - FDU2 in Icelandic IEDD Exercise


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of 10 members of Portsmouth-based Fleet Diving Unit 2 (FDU2) in the two-week NATO Exercise NORTHERN CHALLENGE hosted by the Icelandic Coast Guard at the former naval air station in Keflavik.  Five Army Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD) teams,12 Navy IEDD teams and one law enforcement advanced IEDD team from nine nations participated in the Improvised Exposive Device Disposal (IEDD) exercise and dealt with mock incidents on land and at sea.


Lt Cdr Sean 'Central' Heaton defuzing an IED with an

Icelandic Coast Guard vessel in the background

(RN website photo)


The article features MCDOA members Kev Stockton (CO FDG), Al Nekrews QGM (CO SDG) as coordinator of the exercise and Sean 'Central' Heaton (OIC FDU2) plus LS(D) Paul Hill.


30 Oct 14 - SDU1 deals with hand grenade in Plymouth


The Plymouth Herald contains this article describing the recovery, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), of a heavily corroded hand grenade uncovered by a builder in Crownhill, Plymouth.



29 Oct 14 - HMS Grimsby active off Trafalgar


The Royal Navy website contains this article and this article describing the minehunting operations in the waters off Cape Trafalgar of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6) during Exercise NOBLE JUSTIFICATION.  More than two dozen warships and submarines, as well as helicopters, AV-8B Harrier jump jets, maritime patrol aircraft, B-52 bombers and more than 5,000 sailors and marines from 16 nations converged on the southern coast of Spain for the NATO exercise.  HMS Grimsby is currently deployed with Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2).


Greek HNS Europa (ex-HMS Bicester), German FGS Homburg and HMS Grimsby

celebrating Spain's national day alongside in Cartagena before the exercise

(RN website photo)


27 Oct 14 - SDU2 deals with suspected shell in New Forest


The Southern Daily Echo website contains this article describing a call-out, presumably for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), to deal with a suspected shell found this morning in a park at Holbury in the New Forest.  The item turned out to be an old gas canister.


25 Oct 14


NDG deals with hoax IED in Peterhead


The Aberdeen Press & Journal website contains this article and the STV website this article describing an incident involving a hoax Improvised Explosive Device (IED) sent to an engineering company in Peterhead, presumably dealt with by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG).  This was the second such incident involving the company in recent times, apparently because its managing director had campaigned for a No vote in last month’s Scottish independence referendum.



SDU2 deals with suspected ordnance at Swanage


The Swanage Coastguard website contains this article describing a call-out for Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with suspected ordnance on the beach at Peveril Point near Swanage in Dorset this morning.  The item turned out to be an old piece of pipe.




22 Oct 14 - Award of LS & GC medals


Congratulations to WO(D) Lee Yates on being gazetted for the award of the Clasp to the Long Service & Good Conduct (LS & GC) medal and to LS(D) M C Morton and AB(D) R J Bailey on being gazetted for the award of the LS & GC medal (link).


21 Oct 14 - SDU2 participates in Emergency Services Day in Fareham


The Portsmouth News website contains this article describing the participation of a Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Unit, presumably members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), in a highly successful '999' Emergency Services Day in Fareham on Saturday.


12 Oct 14 - SDU1 recovers body in Plymouth


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article describing the involvement of members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) in the recovery of the body of a man pursued by the police and seen jumping into the water at Sutton Harbour in Plymouth.




11 Oct 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:


"On Thursday, 9 Oct we hosted 16 diving doctors on the Standard Underwater Medical Course from the Institute of Naval Medicine followed by 16 army divers on course at the Defence Diving School at Horsea Island.  John Dadd and Jim Thomson kept them in order.



SUMC members being shown around by former FCPO(D) John Dadd and ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson


DDS students at the HDS Museum




The HDS Museum is open to the general public at weekends until the end of the summer season when it is closed (except for special groups) for maintenance over the winter.  It 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.


10 Oct 14 - NDG replaces ensign on wreck of HMS Royal Oak


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing the replacement of the white ensign on HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG).  The articles feature PO(D) Alan Dickman and NDG’s youngest member AB(D) Alexander Briggs.



The articles also mention that HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 8) visited nearby Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands over the weekend preceeding the ceremony. 



7 Oct 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:




We hosted 12 visitors from Belgium led by Marc Jasinski on Thursday 25 September. They all said what a great collection we had.  Marc took the opportunity to donate a German tank escape breathing apparatus for which we are most grateful.


Draeger tank escape breathing apparatus


Apologies for the terrible picture which was taken by my iPhone with a dirty lens!


Belgian visitors with museum volunteer guide, former FCPO(D) John Dadd


Saturday 27 September was quiet with 17 visitors and Sunday a little better with 26.  [The late MCDOA member] Pat Dowland's widow called in on Sunday too and was given the VIP treatment by ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.  


This weekend was our special BIG DRAW weekend organised by Margaret Marks.  Numbers were very encouraging despite some environmental challenges and competing events: Saturday 25 and Sunday 50.  For lots more pics look up the Museum FaceBook page.


HDS Museum 'Big Draw'




We were honoured with visits by our Vice Presidents, Surgeon Captain Jim Vorosmarti USN (Retd)* and Prof David Elliott [MCDOA member Surg Cdr David Elliott RN] on 3 October.  Jim generously donated further valuable archive material and David is preparing to donate more library books shortly.


Surg Capt Jim Vorosmarti USN (Rtd) at the HDS Museum


NEXT THEMED EVENT - Halloween !!


Start girding your loins for the next themed event courtesy of Margaret Marks!  Be there on 31 Oct, 1 & 2 November if you dare!




* I was fortunate enough to share the podium with Jim Vorosmarti during the HDS AGM weekend at the RNLI College in Poole three years ago and sat next to him at the subsequent dinner (see entry for 30 Oct 11 in News Archive 36).  He is a charming individual with an encylopaedic knowledge of diving medicine.


Yours Truly with fellow presenter Jim Vorosmarti

at the HDS Annual Dinner in 2011


The HDS Museum is normally only open to the public from April to October between 1100 and 1600 on weekends and bank holidays.  It 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.  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.

Don't forget that John Bevan will be launching his new book and giving a talk about the enigmatic Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE GM RNVR in Room F on the third floor of Portsmouth Central Library at 1330 on Saturday 15 November.  Tickets are free. 



Your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster's own opinion about Crabb's fate can be read in 'The Buster Crabb Enigma' in the website's Dit Box.


6 Oct 14


Death of ex-CPO(CD1) Tony 'Jan' Howarth


I note from the latest issue of 'Ton Talk', the bi-monthly newsletter of the Ton Class Association (TCA), that the above named person has crossed the bar.  He lived in Plymouth and is recorded as having served in HMS Ships Bronington, Cuxton, Clarbeston, Gavinton, Lewiston, Leverton, Maxton, Monkton, Upton and Walkerton.


Does anyone recall him?  It would be a shame not to mark his passing with a few lines from his former colleagues about his life and career.


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




Jan HOWARTH was a Minewarfare rate, he certainly made PO (MW).  Dixie Dean will probably fill you in on the details as he sent him a 'muppet' tie a wee while back.


On the ferry shortly, chasing some sun on the Med coast.  Be well.


Yours aye,


Barney B wiv 2xTs"


2015 MCDOA Northern Dinner


I am grateful to MCDOA member Steve Brown for this announcement:


"Soapy, Rob,


We plan to hold the 2015 Northern dinner on Fri 27 Feb 2015.  If it is of any interest to members, this is the night before Scotland vs Italy at Murrayfield so may well offer an opportunity for some joined-up socialising.  


Steve Brown"


To register your interest, please contact Steve via this email address.


FTRS Job - UK Naval Training Liaison Officer (NTLO(UK)) in HMS COLLINGWOOD - REF No 1836028


I am grateful to MCDOA member Jim Pearson for this job announcement:




Capt Durkin suggested I contact you to see if you would be interested in advertising the subject FTRS job on the MCDOA website.  Although the role is being advertised as an OF2/OF3 any, it is well suited to an MCDO as it revolves around Sandown (Al Jawf) training and includes an element of MCD training.


I am an MCDO and have been doing the job for just under two years.  After Christmas leave the job is splitting in two with the more strategic training element moving out to be based in Riyadh (run by Dave Wright) and the FTRS role focusing on UK training only.  The job is a varied one and I think most people would find it quite enjoyable.  I work autonomously and a lot of my time is spent looking after the Saudi Captain in Collingwood and resolving welfare issues.  I also act as a mediator between BAE and the Saudi Naval Force over contract issues. 


I report to an SO1 based in London and go and stay in London for a night, roughly once a month.  I do not get involved in Collingwood duties or divisions.


The job is on page 28 of the latest FTRS job list:






5 Oct 14 - SNMCMG1 at Faslane


Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1)'s website contains this article describing Friday's arrival of the force at HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane to participate in this autumn's Exercise JOINT WARRIOR 142.



SNMCMG1, led by Cdr Giedrius Premeneckas in the Lithuanian minelayer LNS Jotvingis, also includes the Polish Navy’s ORP Flaming, the German Navy’s FGS Datteln, the Norwegian Navy’s HNoMS Karmoey, the Latvian Navy’s LVNS Talivaldis (ex-HMNLS Dordrecht), the Estonian Navy’s ENS Sakala (ex-HMS Inverness), the Dutch Navy’s HNLMS Zieriksee and the Belgian Navy’s BNS Crocus.




The two-week exercise, starting on 7 October, is also planned to involve the RN minehunters HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 1), HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 7), HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 1) and HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 8).


4 Oct 14 - HMS Ledbury visits Newcastle


I am grateful to Trevor Sheehan, Director & Photographer of Defence Photography, for allowing me to publish this image of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 4) passing under the Tyne bridges yesterday to start an operational visit to Newcastle.  HMS Calliope, headquarters of Tyne Division RNR, can be seen on Gateshead Quayside in the background with the Archer class patrol and training vessel HMS Example of the Northumbrian University Royal Naval Unit (URNU) berthed alongside.



Who else remembers boogeying away until the early hours on board the floating night club Tuxedo Princess or Cecilia Stobbart, known to all as Celia, who used to organise the ships' visits?  She was appointed an MBE in the 1977 New Year Honours for her tireless efforts and left the Resident Naval Officer's staff to live quietly in retirement at Whitley Bay near two of her three grandsons,  My erstwhile friend and former sea daddy, MCDOA member Doug Barlow, provided these reminscences in 2007:


I well remember Celia.  We worked and socialised together when I was the RN Staff Officer at HMS Calliope (Newcastle RNR) 1976-78.  A couple of typical incidents spring to mind:


1. Celia on the jetty in pelting rain surrounded by sacks of spuds, groceries, drinks, etc., to deliver to a ship that had been diverted. 


2. Then the occasion of an unhappy girl's voice on the phone:


Unhappy girl: "HMS Nonsuch sailed away yesterday.  Do you know where to?"


Celia: "When ships are here they are my responsibility.  When they leave they are no longer my business."


Unhappy girl: "Well, you should make it your business because I think my sister is still on board." 


3 Oct 14


Royal Marines officer awarded George Cross


The tragedy leading to this award occurred during an Adventurous Training diving expedition off El Quseir in Egypt in August last year.  40 Commando, which organised the exped, had only recently spent six months based at 'HMS Price' in central Helmand, Afghanistan for Operation HERRICK XVII


The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, with members of 40 Cdo

 at HMS Price in Nahr-e-Saraj in central Helmand, Afghanistan

in late 2012

(Navy News photo)


I will leave the citation from Supplement No.1 of Thursday 2 October 2014 of the London Gazette to speak for itself:




St James’s Palace, London SW1


3 October 2014


The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the George Cross to the under mentioned:






Lieutenant Samuel John SHEPHARD, Royal Marines, 30140550.


On 3 August 2013, Lieutenant Shephard Royal Marines was snorkelling in Egypt during a diving exercise when a fellow diver, who was also his friend, suffered an embolism and sank rapidly to the bottom.  Shephard rescued his friend’s body from a depth of approximately 60 metres.


At 1700 hours, in fading light and tired after six hours in the water, the pair were snorkelling with four others off a shallow reef 200 metres from the shore.  The other diver briefly surfaced with the others, lost consciousness, and sank rapidly to a depth estimated at 40 metres, where he lay bleeding from the nose and mouth.  Amidst the panic Shephard immediately took command of the group.  He alerted his colleagues and the Dive Instructor on the beach; prepared the group for an evacuation and for 25 minutes sought to rescue the casualty by descending alone, rapidly without air or equipment.  A qualified and equipped Dive Instructor arrived within minutes but judged it too dark, deep and dangerous to mount a rescue.  Without hesitation Shephard disregarded the instructor’s advice, took his equipment and attempted his own rescue.  Without a weight belt he demanded that he be pushed below the surface by his comrades so that he could gain neutral buoyancy to enable him to swim down.  Conscious that he was diving to the very edge of accepted safe limits, and following a series of dives that day, he knew the risk of decompression sickness, paralysis or even death, was significant as he made his descent in the fading light.  He had to overcome tremendous upward forces, swimming down in less than 5 metres visibility, to reach the bottom. 


Disorientated, now in almost complete darkness, and with a perforated ear drum, he searched for and located the casualty suspended upside down on the reef.  His dive watch recorded a depth over 60 metres, far in excess of his training and where the air he was breathing was extremely toxic.  Despite the immediate danger,  Shephard fought to free his friend, sustained deep lacerations to his legs in the process and, placing himself at even greater risk, removed his mask to give the lifeless diver two rescue breaths.  Shephard, now with negative buoyancy, fought against the immense pressure forcing him down to carry the casualty’s limp body back to the surface.


Dismissing the safety of a gradual ascent he risked a near certain severe decompression injury to get his friend to medical care.  After 15 minutes in the gloomy water, and against his own expectation, he surfaced without incident.  Shephard then led the ensuing evacuation, in the half light, over 200 metres of coral in bare and bloodied feet, providing continual emergency resuscitation until their arrival at the hospital.  Unwavering throughout, he was focussed and extraordinarily composed during this most harrowing situation.  Tragically, despite his heroic efforts, the casualty died.


In the face of extreme known and manifest personal risk, Lieutenant Shephard showed truly exceptional courage and fortitude in his efforts to save the life of his friend.  His unhesitating, selfless act, though ultimately unsuccessful, commands the highest national recognition. 


Lt Shephard was promoted Capt RM on 1 September 2013.  The casualty was Lt Damien Moran RM.


Recent SDU2 EOD activity


The Portsmouth News website contains this article and the Slough & South Bucks Observer this article describing a call-out for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) this morning to deal with a historical mortar bomb* discovered two weeks ago on the bank of the River Thames near Windsor.  The projectile was detonated in a controlled explosion.



*Note to journalists: A 'mortar' is a high angle muzzle-loaded smooth-bore weapon that fires a projectile known as a 'mortar bomb'.  It is not the projectile itself.


The Island Echo website contains this article describing a call-out for members of SDU2 on Wednesday 1 October to deal with a variety of corroded shells found at an aggregate site at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.  The shells were detonated in a controlled explosion.


2 Oct 14 - Reunion for MCDOA members


I am grateful to MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE for providing these photos of his reunion with former MCDOA Honorary Secretary David 'Topsy' Turner at HMNZS Philomel, part of Devonport Naval Base in North Shore City, Auckland, New Zealand.


Topsy Turner and Bob Hawkins on board HMNZS Canterbury


Bob is currently the Lead Maritime Planner at the Headquarters Integrated Area Defence System (HQ IADS) at RMAF Butterworth in Penang, Malaysia which executes the policies of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) (see entry for 5 Sep 14 in News Archive 47 among others).  Topsy transferred from the RN to the RNZN in 2004 and is currently the Commanding Officer of the Sealift and Amphibious Support Vessel HMNZS Canterbury (see entry for 29 Jun 14 in News Archive 46 among others).  Bob was a student on LMCDO '82 and Topsy was a student on LMCDO '83B, both with Yours Truly as their Course Officer.



Left: HMNZS Canterbury at her berth in Devonport Naval Base, NZ

Right: Bob and Topsy by the brow of HMNZS Canterbury


Bob and his wife Trudy are visiting Topsy and his wife Yvonne.


Topsy with Trudy Hawkins on the bridge

of HMNZS Canterbury 



Left: Topsy and Trudy on the vehicle deck of HMNZS Canterbury

Right: Topsy and Trudy on the upper deck of HMNZS Canterbury


Topsy also took Bob to visit the RNZN Operational Diving Team (ODT).


Topsy RNZN, Lt Cdr Kelvin Barrett RNZN, Lt Cdr Trevor Leslie RNZN, Bob RN,

Lt Cdr Greg Camburn RNZN and WO Si Marston RNZN (former CPO(D) RN)

at the Operational Diving Team's HQ at Devonport Naval Base, NZ


Here, Bob was able to don the team's only surviving example of original Clearance Diver Breathing Apparatus (CDBA) but it needs some more parts including twin O2, twin mixtures, reducer and hoses.  Any donations would be welcome if anyone has these knocking about in their garage?


Bob wearing the ODT's only surviving

example of original CDBA


1 Oct 14 - Establishment ashore of HMS Vernon


From the Facebook page of the National Museum of the Royal Navy:


On this day in 1923, HMS Vernon was established ashore on the old Gunwharf at Portsmouth.  Prior to this, the torpedo school was based afloat.  Our image here shows the Marlborough, the Warrior and the Donegal before the move.



It is extraordinary to think that the hulk of HMS Warrior, used and abused as an oil fuel jetty at Milford Haven between 1927 and 1979, is now the resplendent museum ship at Portsmouth today.  Cdr Tim Ash RN, her recently appointed Captain and Chief Executive, is an MCDOA member and trained at HMS Vernon as a Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer.


Nowadays, the site of HMS Vernon is occupied by the residential, shopping, entertainment and marina development known as Gunwharf Quays (see the website section titled HMS Vernon).  Little remains of its rich minewarfare & diving heritage but Project Vernon aims to rectify this by erecting a spectacular, dynamic-looking monument impossible to miss by the thousands of people who visit the complex each day.  Make a donation now or buy some of the marvellous merchandise available.


Artist's impression of the Vernon Monument

in situ at Gunwharf Quays



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