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.

27 Dec 15 - Death of former FCPO(D) Robert 'Dutchy' Holland


Alex Dalton has passed word of the death of Dutchy Holland in a Houston hospice on Christmas Day.  He has asked his contact to pass on any further information when known.


Dutchy at a Divers' Dinner in the late 1960s


I only knew Dutchy briefly during the early 1970s but he made a lasting impression on me as a first class diver and robust leader with a big heart.  After leaving the Royal Navy, he became the highly respected safety director for Oceaneering International for many years. 


I am sure that other members of our community will join me in extending our sympathy to his family, friends and former colleagues.


From MCDOA member Tim Hidesley OBE:


"Hi Rob,


It’s a sad day when an old mate passes on.


I was a member of LMCDO '68, Course Officer Peter Waddington, Course Instructor Dutchy Holland and a motley crew of students - Dave Forsey, Mike Emary, Bob White, Chris Beresford-Green, Jim Brown, John Rayner and me.  Forsey was the oldest and saltiest, Rayner and me the youngest and both of us S/Lts which was unusual in those days.  Dutchy was a fair and gifted instructor who did his utmost to get us all through.  He was strong on max time in the water, rather than punishment by mud run and we benefitted from his professional approach to diving.  BR155 was digested thoroughly, no shortcuts.


As a Chief CD1 he had experienced close contact with officers but not in vocal groups of independently minded people like us who had strong opinions on everything, and had to be properly managed.  He allowed us leeway and found answers to all the endless questions about the Branch, diving rules and regs.  We liked him a lot and respected his judgement.  He was the one who said, ‘If you catch it you have to eat it", and we ate it raw or cooked.  He was only slightly put out when we were all thrown out of the B & B in Falmouth for disorderly behaviour, boiling crab in the bedrooms and allegedly sneaking a girl into a room overnight (and not paying for her!).   I didn’t, but married her later.  


I met Dutchy on occasion in the years that followed and continued to enjoy his zest for life and friendship.  What a loss.


With best wishes,




From MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton:


"Hi Rob,


Thanks for the sad news about Dutchy.  I knew that he had been unwell but not of the seriousness of his illness.  He was indeed a larger-than-life character who, in latter life, enjoyed his horsing activities both in Scotland and in the USA. 


I first met him at the RN Diving School in Chatham in the 1950s when I was qualifying D3.  Dutchy was among the last of the D1s to qualify 'Deep' in HMS Reclaim before we steamers were made obsolete and he was then 'converted' to CD1.  I did not see much of him during our subsequent service careers until I took over the Saturation Diving Team from Peter Cobby.  By then, Dutchy was well established with Oceaneering and he was very helpful in keeping me advised on the latest developments, particularly on equipment.  He was of also of great assistance when we carried out trials with the 'JIM' Atmospheric Diving Suit in connection with submarine rescue both locally and off Malta.


It was in the safety of manned underwater operations however that Dutchy made his greatest contribution.  To put this in its proper context: In the commercial world this was a time of rapid expansion in subsea work in support of North Sea oil and gas operations.  Although there were some UK-based contractors, most of the activity was in the hands of overseas-based companies using their own nationally-based divers with techniques and kit developed largely for Gulf of Mexico operations.  These subsequently proved unsuitable for northern North Sea operations and, after a number of fatalities, the governments of the UK and Norway called on both contractors and operating companies to significantly improve the standard of safety of offshore activity as a whole, but manned underwater operations in particular.  Thus the formation of the Divng Inspectorate under 'Jackie' Warner and the similar group in the  Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.


Dutchy, by now prominent in the association of Diving Contractors (AODC), greatly assisted in the formulation of the subsequent regulations and was a founder member of the European Diving Technology Committee.(EDTC).  This was  formed under the auspices of the EU to coordinate the regulation of diving safety on a wider international basis.  The oifield operating companies had formed their own underwater operational safety groups who also co-operated with the Inspectorates within their areas and internationally through available forums


I became secretary of the EDTC and, during my four year tenure, greatly enjoyed working with Dutchy whose common sense approach, technical knowledge and sense of humour were invaluable in often difficult negotiations.  With the spread of offshore operations worldwide, the principles he established in those pioneering days are continuing to contribute to the safety of manned subsea operations and are, in my opinion, a wonderful legacy.


Please pass on my condolences.






From former FCPO(D) David 'Mona' Lott BEM:


"G’day Rob,


Yet another mate to mourn.  Many thanks for the advanced notification of the sad loss of yet another “Good Bloke”.


Dutchy was one of the first three FCPOs to be made up from the CD branch.  The other two rated at the same time were Tom King and Nobby Clarke.


I first met Dutchy In 1955 when he was qualifying Diver 2 (Copperhead) at Chatham’s Diving School in the dockyard and I was on my CD3 (Corkhead’s) Course.  Dutchy was still riding his magnificent Triumph.  I do not know which year he saw the light and switched to the CD branch.


Our paths often crossed and I was sent to HMS Dingley as the Buffer where Dutchy was enthroned as the Coxswain / CD1 under the command of Lt Cdr Harry Parker.   Later and after leaving the RN, Dutchy worked in the North Sea, I think for Oceaneering, and did extremely well.




Dave L (Mona)"


From MCDOA member Ralph Mavin:


"Dutchy will be well remembered as a larger-than-life character with an immense knowledge of both military and professional civilian diving.  I had the benefit of this experience both as a diver and trainee supervisor over at RNPL and later in civilian life as a rookie Diving Inspector and subsequently as the Chief Inspector - I treasure these memories.




From MCDOA member Dave Forsey MBE:


"Dear Rob,


Very sad to hear of Dutchy's passing.  As a survivor of the 1968 LMCDO course, I have many memories of happy times with him as our course instructor.   A very special character who will be missed by all who knew him.


Yours aye,




From MCDOA member Peter Waddington:


"Dear Rob,


Very sad news about "Dutchy".  He was the Instructor, and my very able 'right hand man' when I was the Course Officer for the 1968 LMCDO and OLMCDO courses; a modest man, but a very fine CPO and instructor who should (as I am sure I told him) have become an SD Officer.


Those of the LMCDO course who are still with us will, I am sure, be saddened by the news and wish to join me in asking you to pass on our condolences.   My immediate assumption is that the "Houston" referred to is in Texas, rather than the one in Renfrewshire, but I will keep an eye on the website for further details, as I am, of course, fairly close to the latter.






From MCDOA past-Chairman David Hilton MBE:


"Dear Rob,


Thank you.  Dreadful news, especially to his family at Christmas.


I worked for Dutchy as a Leading Clearance Diver 2 when he ran the 75 metre air diving / sat diving team back in the 1960s before he went and made lots of money in the North Sea.  He was a larger than life character who will be sadly missed by us all.


My best regards,




From MCDOA member Brian Dutton DSO QGM:


"Dear Rob,


Not such a good morning when we are told of the passing of 'Dutchy' Holland.  Of all the members of this branch, he is the one for which I had the greatest admiration.  His knowledge of diving, experience and leadership were always to be admired.


Yours sincerely,




23 Dec 15 - HMS Atherstone home in time for Christmas


The Portsmouth News website contains this article, the Royal Navy website this article and the Navy News website this article describing today's return to Portsmouth of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) after her three-and-a-half year deployment in the Gulf region on Operation KIPION.


HMS Atherstone berthing alongside in Portsmouth

(Royal Navy photo by LA(Phot) Iggy Roberts, FRPU East)


HMS Atherstone after berthing alongside in Portsmouth

(Royal Navy photo by LA(Phot) Iggy Roberts, FRPU East)


PO(D) Matt Cable with his wife Katie, daughter Maisie and parents David and Lesley

(Royal Navy photo by LA(Phot) Iggy Roberts, FRPU East)


I am sure that all members of our community will join me in wishing her ship's company a very merry Christmas and a highly enjoyable leave with their loved ones.


22 Dec 15 - HMS Atherstone due home tomorrow


The Portsmouth News website contains this article announcing tomorrow's return to Portsmouth of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) after her three-and-a-half year deployment in the Gulf region on Operation KIPION (see entry for 11 Dec 15).  According to QHM's website, her ETA at Outer Spit Buoy is 1000.


Today's Portsmouth News website also contains this article, including a video message from Liam Andrews, the Operations officer of HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 7), one of seven Royal Navy vessels deployed in the Gulf region over Christmas.


Lt Liam Andrews RN, Ops Officer of HMS Chiddingfold


Postscript: The Portsmouth News published this Christmas message from Ldg Chef Steven Ward of HMS Chiddingfold on 23 December.


19 Dec 15 - MCM Force: Coalition in the Gulf


I am grateful to MCDOA member Tim Davey, Commander of the Faslane-based First Mine Countermeasures Squadron, for this message and the accompanying article written by Lt Tim Foley RN which draws upon an original submission published in the Royal Navy Warfare Officer’s News Letter 2015:




We mentioned this in our last email exchange on the candidates for future accommodation block names in Faslane.  I have passed that detail to the BXO for his consideration.  


Please find attached an article, with accompanying phots, that was written by my Battle Watch Captain (Lt Tom Foley – now on his MCDO course, supervised by me(!)) as part of our COMUKMCMFOR deployment that completed earlier this year.  I am content for it to be used on the MCDOA page and it could also feature in the next edition of ‘Ton Talk’.  Tom has given me his approval for it to go forward.  


Have a great Christmas and best wishes for 2016.  Let me know if you need anything else.







Commander Royal Navy

Commander First MCM Squadron"


MCM Force: Coalition in the Gulf


Lt Tom Foley joined the RN in 2010 after completing a degree in Politics and Economics from the University of Nottingham. SFT was spent in HMS Clyde conducting maritime security patrols around the Falkland Islands along with an enjoyable time in HMS Mersey enforcing fishery protection in UK waters.  Tom completed his first complement assignment in HMS Monmouth as an OOW and Intelligence Officer; this included an Op Kipion deployment along with a busy period of national tasking in home waters.  A short teaching job followed at HMS Collingwood instructing IWO students before being appointed to join COMUKMCMFOR.  He is now undertaking Mine Clearance Diving Officer training before re-joining the Fleet as an MCMV Operations Officer.


Having been appointed to RFA Cardigan Bay to join the Commander UK Mine Counter Measures Force (COMUKMCMFOR) Battlestaff my first two questions were ‘who are they’ and ‘what do they do’?  Whilst most will be familiar with the MCMVs permanently stationed in Bahrain, few will be aware of the coalition air, surface and sub-surface MCM effort in the Operation Kipion JOA. 


RFA Cardigan Bay sails with multinational Task Group under COMUKMCMFOR Command 


This article will outline the UK/US MCM coalition structure before explaining the range of MCM capabilities at its disposal.  A typical Task Group will be examined to show how the adaptable force operates.  Looking ahead, the future MCM force construct will be analysed showing the challenges and opportunities this will present.


Whilst remaining at R0 and very high readiness for tasking in support of national objectives under the direction of UKMCC, the RN MCM force in the Arabian Gulf works in coalition principally and regularly with US and French partners.  Training and close liaison with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations is also maintained to support their respective MCM and diving capability.  The mission of the coalition is simple; ensure the freedom of navigation throughout the JOA.  This is achieved by re-assuring partner nations, deterring potential adversaries and working together to build and maintain our collective understanding of the maritime environment.  The importance of the coalition’s work in safeguarding maritime security can not be overstated, global trade and elements of the UK’s energy security depend upon it.  Three of the world’s major choke points sit within the KIPION JOA: the Suez Canal, Bab El Mandeb Strait and Strait of Hormuz; these waterways must remain safe and open.


RIB carrying UUV getting craned off CRDG during Ops in the Gulf of Aden


When deployed, COMUKMCMFOR acts as the ‘adaptive’ MCM commander working under the Tactical Command (TACOM) of CTF 52 – the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet mine warfare command.  This is a unique structure and sees a UK staff working directly for the USN with high levels of interoperability required to ensure efficient and rapid integration.  Elements available to the UK led TG include four US Avenger class and four UK MCMV (two Hunt, two Sandown) permanently stationed in Bahrain.  French units augment the force along with providing personnel to Battlestaff. US Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV), Mine Hunting Units (MHU), EOD teams and the UK Fleet Diving Unit 3 can be called upon to join the MCM effort making the force highly adaptable.


USN Mk 18 UUV deploying from 12 m RIB Gulf of Aden May 2015


RFA Cardigan Bay acts as the Afloat Forward Support Base (AFSB) for UKMCMFOR along with a permanently embarked 16 strong Battlestaff providing command and control to the TG.  Expertise on the small staff includes Engineering, Communicators, Oceanography and Meteorology, Intelligence, Logistics, a Medical Officer and several Mine Warfare specialists.  Whilst at sea, sustainability is achieved by rafting ships with the AFSB; it can efficiently supply fuel, water, stores and ammunition allowing the TG to operate independently for long periods at sea without requiring to go alongside or any specific host nation support.  Although it doesn’t routinely operate with an embarked flight, the ship has a large flight deck and can lily-pad other helos or conduct stores or personnel transfers as required.


USS Dextrous rafts with CRDG during Ex Artemis Trident

(March 2015). Fuel and water transferred


When the TG assembles, the US UUV and MHU teams embark on RFA Cardigan Bay bringing with them all equipment including transportable command stations and teams of up to 50 people.  UUVs operate using Mark 18 Mod 1 and 2 vehicles (the same as the RN’s REMUS 100 and 600 systems) deployed from 12 m RIBS operating autonomously searching the sea bed in pre-determined route patterns.  The teams embark with a group of divers giving the ability to detect, identify and dispose of under water ordinance providing a complete organic MCM detect and engage capability.  MHU operate by towing a side scan sonar behind a remote controlled RIB at range from the AFSB offering rapid mine hunting and intelligent preparation of the environment.  This technology remains in the trials period at the urgent operational requirement stage and is yet to be fully commissioned by the USN.  It does however offer a glimpse of what future capabilities may hold for the MCM community; remote unmanned systems operated at range from a manned host platform.


Sitting alongside the more familiar surface MCM TG (the ships) is the forward deployed US air MCM component comprising of four MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters and a US underwater MCM element including full EOD diving teams, UUVs and Seabotix equipment.  Seabotix is a small and easily deployable submersible remotely operated vehicle.  Fitted with sonar, grabbing and cutting equipment along with a high resolution camera it is able to visually identify and dispose of ordnance without putting divers at risk.  The UK doesn’t operate any Air MCM capabilities but can call upon the Fleet Diving Squadron, for Fleet Diving Unit 3, who are at high readiness in the UK to deploy to the JOA and utilise their forward deployed equipment (REMUS 100 and clearance diving sets).


MHU deploying from CRDG dock


The air and subsurface MCM units form two separate TGs that run in parallel to the UK led surface MCM component (CTG 52.1 – Underwater, CTG 52.2 – Surface, CTG 52.3 – Air).  This provides maximum flexibility in tasking and allows operations to take place across a large area by splitting the force.  However all of the commands are adaptable in that they have the capacity to task other elements of the force and are no longer stove-piped.


UK/US exercises involving air, surface and sub-surface MCM take place in the Arabian Gulf on a regular basis to develop interoperability and strengthen working relationships.  ‘Squadex’ is a quarterly exercise between the UK/US and there are numerous others that lead up to the biennial International MCM Exercise (IMCMEX) a significant multinational exercise stretching across the whole JOA. All feature COMUKMCMFOR with Tactical Command of ships and assets from several coalition partners.  Focusing on detecting and identifying exercise mines in a specified threat area, the aim is to build interoperability between units involved, operate safely together and find the mines to enable the delivery of military effect (choke point Freedom of Navigation, Amphibious Task Force routing, approaches to maritime critical national infrastructure etc.).  National doctrinal differences, ROE profiles and differing MCM Risk Directives provide learning points following each exercise; this in turn strengthens the coalition into a more effective fighting force.  Whilst mine hunting is the focus, force protection units (which would be essential when operating in a semi-permissive environment) are incorporated to defend the MCM force allowing further training and integration.  Recent exercises have involved Type 45s, Type 23s and Arleigh Burke class ships patrolling the force providing force protection, threats assessments and a greater situational awareness to the MCMVs.


Historical ordnance detonated by a diver-placed charge during Ex Artemis Trident


The ability to disrupt maritime security through mining or the credible threat of mining continues to shape the future coalition MCM force construct.  Mines are relatively cheap, easily acquired and deployed; the need for a rapidly deployable and adaptable MCM capability is clearly evident.  This was realised in April 2015 when COMUKMCMFOR deployed to the Gulf of Aden and Southern Red Sea as the afloat commander for a coalition TG comprising of four MCMVs (two US, one UK, one FR), UUV and MHU teams along with RFA Cardigan Bay.  Deploying 2000nm from the Arabian Gulf for a 40 day period in response to a potential threat of sea mining in the area, proved the robust force construct of a UK led TG and high readiness assets in theatre with trained and effective crews.  The adaptability of the TG allowed survey work to be carried out in areas from the Southern Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden in depths of water between 2m utilising divers down to 400m by employing the US variable depth sonar capability.  Important work was also complete in the Bab el Mandeb strait reassuring the global shipping community, deterring potential aggressors and building a greater understanding of the maritime environment in the region.


An old exercise mine being recovered by HMS Shoreham, with divers watching on


Looking ahead the need to continue developing a stronger MCM coalition will become apparent as limited resources are called upon to meet demanding tasking across a large JOA.  The existing coalition can be improved and expanded.  Exercises will allow further integration between partners however opportunities to incorporate new nations into the force construct should encouraged, including those of the GCC.


As new MCM technology develops, the US have turned their attention towards developing the Littoral Combat Ships, which is planned to replace the Avenger class MCMV by 2022.  The UK, alongside upgrading existing MCMVs (including the engine replacement programme in Hunt class and generator upgrades in Sandowns) has now started to develop a multi-purpose ship.  The concept is to use a common hull and modular design that can be reconfigured for different roles to support MCM, hydrographical and patrol requirements. This will see the UK developing UUVs to facilitate rapid MCM Ops whilst removing the human element from the threat area.  As developments are made both at home and abroad new opportunities and challenges are presented.  The RN MCM community must continue to playing a leading role in MCM coalition operations looking at how new threats, technologies and partners nations will shape the future force construct. It is not entirely clear how a traditional MCMV can really be replaced and the next 10-20 years should see some exciting developments as technology delivers better unmanned systems – although they will routinely always require some form of ship and, of course, the highly trained people to prepare, launch, monitor, operate and maintain the equipment.


MHU team launch 12 m RIB from CRDG dock. The towed sonar can be seen at the back of the RIB


The highly adaptive UK-led MCM coalition TG operating under a US command has proven to operate as a successful model.  Working with partner nations to achieve a common aim makes sense in the world today and future efforts must build on this foundation, ensuring the RN remains a leading force in the MCM community both in home waters and further afield as part of a NATO TG or in the Kipion JOA.


US UUV team prepares to launch from the dock of CRDG. The two Remus UUVs

can be seen on the back of the RIB


Reflecting on my time working for COMUKMCMFOR as the Battle Watch Captain, I have learnt a great deal about mine warfare and the coalition MCM effort in the Kipion JOA.  I was part of a small but well-trained and motivated team (who we are) and was involved in everything from intensive training to operations and wider regional engagement plus the management and leadership of a diverse and capable force (what we do).  The ability to assemble a TG comprising of UK, US and French assets at a moment’s notice and deploy it to operate effectively together was impressive.  Sustaining it at sea with only minimal shore support and combining numerous MCM capabilities when needed has shown the adaptability, flexibility and clear benefits of the RN leading a successful coalition force.  The future of MCM remains in the balance – with new technologies offering incredible capabilities to advance and speed up the detect to engage process but this must be measured against the increasing sophistication of the worldwide mine threats and the residual capability we have in our current array of MCM tools to deal with any potential mine dangers.


18 Dec 15 -  MCDOA Northern Dinner 3 Mar 16 and Fleet Efficiency Award to NDG


I am grateful to MCDOA member Tim 'Castro' Castrinoyannakis, Officer-in-Charge of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group's (NDG) Unit 2 (NDU2), for this update:


"Afternoon Rob,


I hope all is well and you’ve got a festive vibe on!


I thought it wise to give you a quick update on our efforts in organising the Northern Dinner for next year ahead of the festive season.  With a bit of fin work, Lt Cdr Steve Brown, Lt Cdr Nathan Isaacs and I have managed to secure 3 March 2016 as the most suitable date with NEPTUNE WR and RN commitments; only a handful of days really past our 50th anniversary.  The Wardroom has kindly agreed to support our event and I am confident, having attended the last one in 2014, that we will be well looked after by the staff. 


The dinner is open to all Officers within NEPTUNE but predominantly aimed at serving MCDs, MW Officers, CD and MW Warrant Officers and all member of MCMV Wardrooms.


Food, wine and entertainment are still under review, but I can confirm that the cost will be no more than £30 per head.


Cdr Tim Davey (Cdr MCM 1) will sit as Mess President and will be leading the event as our Senior Northern MCD.  Our VIP for the evening is still under discussion but I can assure you it will be someone equally charismatic, engaging and in line with our ethos.


Unfortunately, accommodation has been an ongoing issue in Faslane for the past two years.  However, every effort is being made (both by us and the Base XO) to identify availability early in order to ensure we can accommodate everyone.


An official announcement, which will include the finer details, will be made mid-January.  In the interim rest assured that the dinner will take place next year and is shaping up nicely in becoming a fine evening, worthy of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the formation of the MCD branch.  Could I request that you advertise the above on our Website as we are keen to get the word around as early as possible?


On another note, I am delighted to announce on behalf of Lt Cdr Steve Brown RN (CO NDG) that this year's Fleet Diving Unit Efficiency Trophy has been awarded to Northern Diving Group.


RN Surface Flotilla Efficiency Pendant


The award is an NCHQ sponsored trophy awarded to the diving unit which has demonstrated the overall highest standard in diving capability and performance.  As you can imagine, this is a great honour for everyone here at NDG and we are delighted for the opportunities to deliver such outstanding results.  There is not a single individual onboard who did not play a vital role in our success  


Here is the citation from NCHQ, although we now stand at a total of 44,006 minutes of underwater effect:


 “Northern Diving Group (NDG) is made up of two co-located Diving Units, maintained at high readiness 365 days a year:


NDU1 is responsible for the provision of R0 (24 hours notice to move) support to Op RELENTLESS under CASD plus R1 (48 hours notice to move) manpower for NATO’s Submarine Rescue System (NSRS). 


NDU2 is responsible for the provision of a two-man counter-IED watch at 10 minutes notice to move and a four-man Conventional Munitions Disposal (CMD) at 30 minutes notice to move.  In addition NDU2 is charged with providing an eight-man Operational Maintenance and Repair (OMAR) support unit to the Fleet at R2 (5 days notice to move). 


Neither NDU1, nor NDU2 are scaled with sufficient manpower to sustain their commitments in isolation and the established “supporting and supported” relationship between both units makes the nomination of NDG all the more appropriate.  During the 11 months January to November 2015, NDG’s successes can be summarised as follows:


The Group have conducted in excess of 450 operational dives totalling 18,929 minutes, the majority of which have been in direct support to Op RELENTLESS or submarines preparing for operations from the Clyde. 


Between 16 August and 11 September this year, an eight-man element deployed with diving and ROV capability to the USA to successfully complete a challenging and essential Enclosed Space Diving System (ESDS) task which ensured the operational schedule was not impacted by a potentially critical defect. 


Those operational dives which are not directly attributable to maintaining the RN submarine schedule were largely undertaken during an NDG-led EOD operation by elements of Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), tasked to support the MOD Salvage and Marine Organisation (SALMO) in the removal of oil from the World War II wreck of RFA DARKDALE located in James Bay, St Helena.  Sixty dives totalling 1,540 minutes were conducted at depths between 33m to 42mto overcome the challenges posed by what was found to be a fragile hull structure with concretion fixing the shells to the hull which risked causing a large scale oil spill.  This NDG led task resulted in the safe disposal of 38 HE Projectiles, amounting to a total NEQ of 78 kg.


In providing a UK Military Aid to the Civil Power (MACP) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capability to the Home Office ashore and at sea from Humber, anti clockwise to the Mersey NDG have responded to 78 CMD tasks (including 29 tasks to remote islands and peninsula’s), rendering a total of 727 items of ordnance safe.  NDG also responded to 5 IED tasks during 2015.  Tasking has resulted in excess of 25,000 road-miles travelled, routinely on rural roads in challenging weather.


Three tasks which demonstrate the varied nature of NDG’s year were:


An extended operation to recover and dispose of 277 pyrotechnics which, having been stored in a disused warehouse, had become accessible to children and a number had been taken into schools in Glasgow.


Safely raising, moving and subsequently disposing of a live S Mk 6 mine located within 100m of a busy lido and gym and 500m of a ferry terminal.


A night helo insertion to a remote peninsula to return normality to a community and school where 100 sticks of commercial explosive had been located in an out building.


NDG have also coordinated and led the only major multinational NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) exercise of this year; they continue to provide the greatest SQEP contribution of the three nations towards arguably the most capable submarine rescue system in the world.


In sum, the 40 uniformed and 2 civilian staff in NDG have yet again eclipsed every diving unit with respect to in-water time, a total of 25,069 minutes and contribution to both Military Tasks and enduring operations.  Their success is entirely attributable to the can-do cohesion between two heavily committed units which enables challenging ops to be achieved with such highly professional and entirely safe results."  


Finally a very Merry Christmas from all us divers here at NDG.


Yours Aye,




Tim Castrinoyannakis

Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy

Officer In Charge Norther Diving Unit Two

Northern Diving Group "


17 Dec 15 - A Parliamentary Question about HMS Brocklesby


From Hansard:


HMS Brocklesby: Written question - 19417


Mrs Madeleine Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether (a) HMS Brocklesby M33 mine sweeper will be refitted at Portsmouth naval dockyards and (b) that refitting will include new propulsion capability; and if he will make a statement.  (Asked on 9 December 2015.)


Mr Philip Dunne: As part of the Royal Navy’s continual examination of its resources and operational priorities, HMS Brocklesby’s docking period and refitting of her propulsion capability has been deferred.  (Answered on 16 December 2015.)


16 Dec 15 - Completion of Minewarfare Course


The Portsmouth News website contains this article reporting the completion of MW qualifying course by AB(MW) Charlie Bennett, 22, from Fareham.  He was presented with his certificate of qualification by Capt Phil Milburn RN, Captain Mine Warfare & Patrol Vessels, Diving & Fishery Protection (Captain MFP).


15 Dec 15 - Gentlemen Who Lunch


The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole, plus Hoole's next door friend and neighbour Lez Howard, enjoyed its final Tuesday gathering of the year today at The Blue Bell in Emsworth.  Giles Babb, the pub's landlord and chef de cuisine, joined us for the customary photo.



A Merry Christmas to all our followers.


14 Dec 15 - News from HMS Cattistock


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Simon Cox, Commanding Officer of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 6), for this update received via the Ton Class Association (TCA) for which I write a column titled 'MCMV News' in its bi-monthly newsletter called 'Ton Talk'.


"As we round 2015, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on a busy year, punctuated throughout by success and in doing so, convey my sincere thanks to all involved with CATTISTOCK and for your parts therein.  The start of the year saw Crew 6 return to the UK after a challenging but rewarding deployment to the Arabian Gulf for Op KIPION, receiving plaudits from both the US and National Component Commanders for the invaluable contributions to the Gulf region.  Since returning, we have taken ownership of HMS CATTISTOCK and spent the majority of the year completing a multi-million pound refit, which brought with it different, but no less important challenges.  However, it did allow us to host family, friends and affiliates for a special day in Portsmouth dockyard back in July.  It was day 2 in Command for myself and a great way to start.  I hope to meet our friends, family and affiliates many more times over the coming 18 months and as I have said many times, you are the VIPs and are most welcome onboard anytime.  We must make the most of every opportunity to further these relationships.


September saw a peak of activity as we brought the Ship back to life and completed the first runs of the new engines, auxiliary equipment, weapons and sensors.  This culminated in October when we eventually took the 'Mighty CATT' back to sea for the first time and pushed her hard through her sea trials. She passed with flying colours and this was only as a result of the hard work, determination and professional acumen of a close-knit team - Crew 6.  We were fortunate enough to have our efforts recognised by both the MCM Commander and the Portsmouth Flotilla Commodore, who highlighted the super human effort put in, bringing a 33 year old ship back up to modern war fighting standards.  In November, we celebrated this success in quite some style, rededicating HMS CATTISTOCK with a most notable previous Commanding Officer, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC ADC DL and his wife Lady Zambellas.  The event was a huge success and something not often achieved by a minehunter.  But it served as a fitting milestone for CATT to re-enter the Fleet, ready to serve her Country once again.  We also managed to reward many of the sterling efforts from the team, with some even making the local papers!  Later that week, we were also fortunate enough to host the Pope's Ambassador to the United Kingdom - the Apostolic Nuncio, Arch Bishop Meninni.  Another high profile visit executed in typical MCM style.


From there, we have travelled around the United Kingdom conducting wider regional engagement visits to Poole for November ceremonies (representing the RN at both Poole and the village of Cattistock commemorations in typical naval style).  We have also visited Glasgow and Fowey in Cornwall, spending long periods in rough weather building our core warfare skill in preparation for national duties over the Christmas period.  Throughout we have received fantastic feedback, especially from the Naval Regional Commander, Naval HQ and all those we have had the pleasure of working with.  Such achievements and plaudits do not happen by coincidence.  It takes a well-led team, underpinned by the same genuinely excellent people who come together as a 'band of brothers' and I am privileged to be part of that team and incredibly grateful for the contributions of everyone involved.  Furthermore, the taut programme demanded a great deal of personal commitment in order to ensure success and as such, I am equally indebted to the family, friends and affiliates for their support throughout our endeavours.  They are a critical factor in Crew 6's success and I would like to extend my sincere thanks to them for their ongoing support in all that we do.


Looking ahead to 2016, we have an important Operational deployment to the Arabian Gulf, and we need to ensure both CATTISTOCK and Crew 6 are ready for everything and anything that we may be asked to do.  We all know that the current geopolitical climate is a complicated one and we must remain ready to deliver for UK PLC.  I am absolutely confident that we will be ready, and continue to build on our reputation for success. 


In the mean time, though, all that remains is for me to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Fingers crossed for a quiet Christmas period and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.


Many thanks again for your continued support.  Merry Christmas


Simon Cox


Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy

Commanding Officer

HMS Cattistock"


12 Dec 15 - US Remote Minehunting System severely criticised


The Daily Mail website contains this article and the CNN website the following article citing the latest report by the US Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) on the development of Lockheed Martin's Remote Minehunting System (RMS):


 $700 million mine-hunting drone can't find explosives


"(CNN) - A mine-detection system the US Navy invested nearly $700 million and 16 years in developing can't complete its most basic functions, according to the Pentagon's weapon-testing office.  The Remote Minehunting System, or RMS, was developed for the Navy's new littoral combat ship.  But the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation says the drone hunting technology was unable to consistently identify and destroy underwater explosives during tests dating back to September 2014.


"The Navy has determined that the RMS' total number of failures and periodicity of failures fall short of the design requirement for the system," said Capt. Thurraya Kent, a spokeswoman for the Navy.  Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's undersecretary of defense for acquisition, has scheduled a review of the program for early 2016..." 


Washington, D.C. (Dec. 13, 2002) The Remote Minehunting System (RMS)

is an organic, off-board mine reconnaissance system that will offer carrier

 battle group ships an effective defense against mines by using an unmanned

 remote vehicle. RMS is being designed for installation aboard Arleigh Burke-class

 destroyers. Current plans call for RMS to be first installed aboard the destroyer

 Pinckney (DDG 91) in 2004

(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin/Released) 



Above and below: GULF OF MEXICO (Jan. 7, 2012) The Remote Minehunting System (RMS) and an

AN/AQS-20 mine hunting sonar are brought aboard the littoral combat ship USS Independence

(LCS 2) during developmental testing of the mine warfare mission module package

 (U.S. Navy photos by Ron Newsome/Released)




This news is particularly interesting in view of plans to replace the UK's current MCMVs with the future Mine Countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) incorporating offboard MCM systems deployed from a variety of vessels or even from ashore.  Trials of various remote-controlled minehunting and minesweeping systems, including the Atlas Remote Combined Influence Minesweeping System (ARCIMS), are being conducted by the Portsmouth-based Maritime Autonomous System Trials Team (MASTT) using a specially procured fast motor launch called 'Hazard' (see entry for 16 Apr 14 in News Archive 46).


This article explains the US Navy's concept of taking the man out of the minefield:


Breaking Defense 6 April 2015: From Sailors To Robots: A Revolution In Clearing Mines


11 Dec 15 - HMS Atherstone in Malta and Gibraltar


I am grateful to local photographer Mario Buhagiar and his Facebook publishing friend Bence Zákonyi for allowing me to publish this striking image of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) leaving Grand Harbour in Malta on 6 December.  See their Facebook page at Mario Buhagiar's Ships in Malta


HMS Atherstone leaving Grand Harbour, Malta on 6 December

(Photo courtesy of Mario Buhagiar)


I am also grateful to local photographer Daniel Ferro for this image of HMS Atherstone in Gibraltar today.  She is on her way home to Portsmouth after a three-and-a-half year deployment in the Gulf on Operation KIPION (see entry for 3 Dec 15).


HMS Atherstone in Gibraltar on 11 December

(Photo courtesy of Daniel Ferro)


10 Dec 15


A few words from MCDOA member Jon Riches


I am grateful to MCDOA past-Vice Chairman & former Superintendent of Diving (1987-90) Jon Riches for these tidings:




Thank you for the info re 'George' Sissons.  I visited him today and it was good to see him after many years but sadly not in the best of circumstances.  I first met him when he was Second Dicky' on our 1966 Long Course.  I was buddied to him for the later parts of the Diving module as my buddy, Neil Harrison, had been back coursed due injury.  George then served in the Western Fleet CD Team 1969 - 1971 when I was OIC.  Subsequently our paths crossed during various MCD appointments.  I much enjoyed his company and he was an excellent and loyal member of my Team.  He is clearly being very well looked after at 'Wisteria Lodge', Horndean and still maintains his sense of humour and enjoys reminiscing!  I did not take him a tot as you did but something else alcoholic! 


Your article and pictures of Nutty Carr also brought back memories as when I was First Lt of BRONINGTON 1967 - 68 he was in IVESTON and subsequently transferred to BRONINGTON and if I remember rightly, relieved me.  He was a good chum and when needed gave me sage advice which was most gratefully received by a very green MCDO!  He and his wife were kind and generous hosts in their married quarter in South Queensferry, frequently entertaining us batchelors.  Their invitations always resulted in very sore heads the following morning!!


It all seems such a long time ago.


Best wishes,




Departing SofD Jon Riches in standard dress being presented with a leaving memento by

Lt Col Roger Mundy RE (SofD Army) after a final dip in the Creek at HMS Vernon in 1990


Royal Navy Minewarfare Heritage: Award of Legion d'Honneur to D-Day motor minesweeper veteran


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the recent presentation of the French Legion d'Honneur to Trevor Watson at a ceremony in the Wardroom, HMS Collingwood.  Trevor was a Boy Signalman in the Royal Naval Patrol Service (RNPS) on board the 105 ft 'Micky Mouse' motor minesweeper MMS 252 on D-Day during the Normandy landings.  He was presented with his medal by Commandant François Jean, Honorary Consul of the French Embassy on behalf of the President of France, in the presence of Nigel Atkinson Esq, HM Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire (see 'Operation Neptune: The Minesweeping Operation 5-6 June 1944' in the website's Dit Box).



Trevor Watson flanked by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire and the Honorary Consul of France

(RN website photo)


The RNPS, in which Trevor served, fought all over the world in all theatres of the war and was mainly involved with minesweeping and anti-submarine work.  The only RNPS VC was won at Namsos during the Narvik campaign but over 850 other awards were made to RNPS personnel as well as over 200 Mention in Despatches.  RNPS vessels were on convoy duty in the Atlantic and the Arctic, in the Mediterranean and the Far East but many will first think of them keeping the War Channels clear.  Throughout the early years of the war, the Germans sowed minefields by sea and by air around the British Isles in an attempt to strangle the coastal convoys that kept Britain supplied.  The RNPS worked tirelessly to keep the shipping lanes clear so that the convoys could continue.  This meant constant minesweeping using systems developed by HMS Vernon because each time an area was cleared, E-boats, U-boats or aircraft mined it again.


MMS 236 - A 105 ft motor minesweeper similar to Trevor's


105 ft motor minesweepers detonating an influence mine


This hazardous work was recognised by Churchill with the award of a unique silver badge to RNPS minesweeping and anti-submarine crews.  It was not an automatic award and was only given to those officers and ratings who had completed six months sea-time.  The first issue had a vertical pin at the back but so many of these were lost that it was changed to having four small eyes so that it could be sewn onto the sleeve (see 'RN Minewarfare Branch' in the website's Branch Historyysection)..



Royal Naval Patrol Service Badges


After the war, Trevor served in the Admiralty Dance class minesweeping trawlerr HMT Cotillionn in the Balticc where he took part in the dangerous job of ordnance disposal and the removal of German defensive minefields.  He was subsequently discharged from the Service in January 1947.


Dance class Admiralty trawler HMT Cotillian


9 Dec 15 - David Hosking to sail Atlantic for charity


MCDOA member David Hosking MBE (Leader of Team Hallin sponsored by fellow MCDOA member John Giddens (Founder & former Chief Executive of Hallin Marine), achieved a new trans-Atlantic rowing record, albeit briefly, in June 2011 (see second entry for 8 Feb 11).  


Team Hallin arriving in Port St Charles, Barbados in June 2011


I have now received this announcement:


"After two successful Trans-Atlantic rows in 2010 and in 2011, Team Hallin's skipper David is now about to embark on a sailing adventure tracing the same route that he had previously rowed/sculled across on the Classic West to East mid-Atlantic route.  David will be joined by Bob Prentice [Altantic rower 2010] as the crew on Ted Manning's [skipper] 33ft sailing ketch 'Celtic Dawn'.  The three of them hope to set off from La Gomera in mid-December, about the same time as the 35 Ocean Rowing Boats in the Talisker Challenge Rowing Race depart, but 'Celtic Dawn' will aim for a landfall in Barbados rather than in Antigua as the racing rowing boats will do.


Celtic Dawn at anchor off Spain earlier this year


To show your support for David and team in their efforts to raise funds for Combat Stress, and also to track Celtic Dawn's progress to the West Indies, please go to Team Hallin's website at::


Have a great Christmas and a prosperous New Year.






DB Hosking

Team Hallin"


8 Dec 15 - HMS Blyth emerges from refit


The Navy News website containss this article reporting last month's emergence of Faslane-based HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew ?) from a seven-month refit at Rosyth.  The work package saw the ship receive 15 specific capability upgrades and modifications, including the installation of three new diesel generators.   Other work included the complete renewal of her hull’s outer paint and improvements to the ship's company accommodation..


HMS Blyth heading from Rosyth towards the Forth Road Bridge, once rumoured to carry traffic

(Navy News photo by Dave Warner)


7 Dec 15 - Royal Navy Minewarfare Heritage: 11th MCM Squadron painting unveiled


MCDOA member Martyn Holloway was the Senior Officer of the 11th Mine Countermeasures Squadron (11th MCM Sqn) which comprised five Hull trawlers taken up from trade, converted into minesweepers, manned by personnel from refitting Ton class MCMVs and then deployed to the South Atlantic for Operation CORPORATE during the Falklands conflict in 1982 (see 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box).  On Saturday he was among other squadron veterans. plus Jon Major of HMS Ardent, who witnessed the unveiling of a framed painting of one of the trawlers, HMS Northella, at The Admiralty in Trafalgar Square, officially London's most central pub (see entry for 19 Nov 15 in News Archive 52).  Northella's bell already hangs in the pub.


Left to right: Pony Moore (ex-Farnella), Jon Major (ex-Ardent), Andy Watts (ex-Cordella),

Jim McIntosh (ex-Northella), Adrian Thompson (the artist), Jeremy Greenop (ex-Northella CO)

and Martyn Holloway (ex-Cordella CO and MCM 11)


Adrian Thompson's painting of HMS Northella


The painting's accompanying explanation


Cdr Jeremy Greenop OBE RN, former CO of HMS Northella / HMS Soberton


6 Dec 15 - News from HMS Grimsby



I am grateful to Lt Cdr Neil Griffiths, Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 5), for this update received via the Ton Class Association ((TCA).  I write a column titled 'MCMV News' for the Associaton's bi-monthly newsletter 'Ton Talk'.


"It is with great pleasure that I write to introduce myself as the Commanding Officer of HMS GRIMSBY and First Mine Counter Measures Squadron Crew 5, having taken over from Will King who I understand wrote to you on his departure.  I am incredibly proud and honoured to take Command of HMS GRIMSBY and I am pleased to say that Crew 5 will have the Ship for the next year which will give me and the team a chance to host you I hope, onboard over the tenure of my Command.  As you are aware the Crew changes in GRIMSBY every year but we have been lucky enough to serve in her twice before (under Simon Kelly and Giles Palm), so it has felt like coming home.


HMS GRIMSBY has a busy year ahead. Having just completed a short workup to prepare her Ship's Company for our current deployment, she underwent a maintenance period alongside in Rosyth, before returning to sea.  Our main operational task started in September where we are now deployed for the next 3 and a half months as part of Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Task Group 1 (SNMCMG1) alongside various different nations as part of NATO's reaction force.  This deployment will include a number of multi-national exercises and take us all over Europe and into the Mediterranean.


As is the form these days on minor war vessels, the regular changes of crews can make it challenging to maintain that 'special' relationship with our affiliates; however Will has told me of the very strong links that have been built with yourselves and of the support you have shown, hence I am very keen to build on this in the year ahead.  I am hopeful that in the New Year after we return from our NATO Deployment, you will have the opportunity to come on board 'Your Ship' and to meet some of our exceptional young sailors.  In the mean time, I look forward to meeting you in due course, and please drop me a line if I or any of my team can be of any support over the coming months or more importantly when we return to home waters.


Yours Aye,




5 Dec 15 - Former WO(D) Stew 'George' Sissons in fine fettle


I called in to see Stew at Wisteria Lodge in Hordean yesterday afternoon.  He was in remarkably fine fettle considering that he had received treatment at QA Hospital in Cosham that morning (see entry for 21 Nov 15 in News Archive 52).  The quality of the photos is not up to the usual standard because I used my iPad.



I took along a bottle of Pussers Rum at the suggestion of former WO(MW) Lee 'Barney' Barnett BEM, who visited Stew last week.  Stew and I shared a few tots and dits with his other visitors, Jim Chetwood and Micky Finn.  I also met Emily who not only cares for Stew but also ensured that we were kept supplied with plenty of tea and biscuits.




Stew is happy to receive as many visitors as possible but it is worth calling Wisteria Lodge first to check that he is not away for one of his treatment sessions.  I can provide his email address and/or mobile number on request.


Postscript: This delightful photo was taken when former WO(MW) Lee 'Barney' Barnett BEM visited Stew again on Monday 7 December.




4 Dec 15


Death and funeral of Anthony 'Pedro' Pitt


Ex-CD Tony 'Pedro' Pitt passed away on Monday 23 November.  Troy Tempest and Terry Gosling have kindly informed me that his funeral will take place at Worcester Crematorium, Astwood on Monday 7 December at 1430.


RN and USN MCMVs exercise together in the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting a recent MCM exercise in the Gulf involving HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 8), HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 7), HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 6), USS Gladiator and USS Devastator.  The MCMVs were supported byy USS Ponce, the Afloat Forward Support Base, which provided a helicopter platform, as well as divers and a US Navy Mine Hunting Unit (MHU) using unmanned surface vessels to scan the seabed with sonar.






Royal Navy photos


Postscript: The Royal Navy website published this article on 8 December supplementing the original story.


3 Dec 15 - HMS Atherstone halfway homee


The Royal Navy website containss this article reporting the Suez Canal transit off HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4).  This marked the midpoint of her passage home to Portsmouth after her three-and-a-half year deployment in the Gulf on Operation KIPION.  The article features AB(D) Ben Phillips.


MCM2 Crew 4 with HMS Atherstone at Aqaba in Jordan

(RN website photo)


HMS Atherstone after passing beneath the Egyptian-Japanese Friendship Bridge

spanning the Suez Canal at El Qantara

(RN website photo)  


Since leaving Portsmouth in May 2012 (see entry frr 30 May 12 in News Archive 38), HMS Atherstone has steamed over 50,000 miles, participated in 14 joint UK-US training exercises and spent more than 8,630 hours (just over 51 weeks) on operational tasks, i.e. not on passage or alongside.  She is due home for Christmas.  


2 Dec 15


Second World War bomb detonated at Tynemouth


The North East Chronicle website contains this article, including video, of a wartime bomb being detonated by a naval EOD team today at Tynemouth Longsands.  It had been dredged up from the River Tyne near Swan Hunter at Wallsend.




Royal Navy Diving Heritage: Cold War salvage of Soviet Yak-28 in Lake Haval, Berlin


I received this query via the website on Monday 30 November:


"Dear Gentlemen,


I am from the Allied Museum in Berlin and researching a dive done by British Navy divers in Berlin in 1966.  In that year a Russian Yak jet fighter crashed into a lake in the British sector in Berlin.  Two or three Royal Navy divers than tried to figure out what happened in the muddy Berlin lake and searched the wreck (with its two dead pilots).  The wreck and the pilots' bodies were handed over to the Russians weeks later but not before the divers dismantled technical equipment from the Yak (NATO designation: 'Firebar')..


Have you ever heard of that Cold War dive in Berlin?  Is there another Association or a Navy Diver Museum I can approach with this question?  Can you please ask around within your network?     


Thank you,   


Bernd von Kostka   


Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter  I Curator I Conservateur

Alliierten Museum e.V. I Clayallee 135 I 14195 Berlin I Germany"


The Soviet two-seater Yakolev Yak-28 jet fighter crashed in a lake in the British sector of Berlin at 1530 (local) on Wednesday 6 April 1966.    I put out some feelers with the results shown below.  They are presented from top to bottom chronologically to make them easier to follow.


Among the significant items contributed by Chris Ransted is a copy of the telegram from the British Embassy in Bonn (then the capital of West Germany) reporting that four naval divers from Portsmouth and three RAF Technical Intelligence Officers were expected to arrive at RAF Gatow in Berlin at 1100z on 7 April.  The newspaper article on the right reports some of their eventual 'pickings'.




The Report of Proceedings by the Commandant of the British Sector of Berlin (Major-General Sir John Nelson KCVO CB DSO OBE MCC) to the British Ambassador in Bonn (Sir Frank Kenyon Roberts GCMG GCVO) contains these words::


"...Meanwhile the welcome and extremely prompt arrival of a team of Naval divers and technical experts from the United Kingdom, who after being roused from their beds in England in the very early hours of the morning reached the crash site at noon on the 7th of April, allowed salvaging to start in earnest.  During the afternoon the main part of the fuselage was sufficiently raised onto the Royal Engineers' raft to confirm that both pilots were indeed dead in the cockpit.  First priority for the rest of the day went to the work of extricating the bodies, which owing to the tangled condition of the wreckage took about seven hours and was in part extremely dangerous because one of the ejector seats was still "live".  Great praise must go to the team, and particularly to the R.A.F. mechanics from Gatow, who accomplished this without mishap...


...My United States colleague was at first without instructions but early on the 8th he learned that a party of experts was arriving from the United States that day and would want to work on the wreckage for two or three days.  Even allowing for the extra few hours' flying time the Americans had been a good deal slower off the mark than the Royal Navy and the R.A.F..."


Unfortunately, none of the documents identifies the RN divers involved in the operation which, as described in Tommo's links below, involved the surreptitious removal of the fighter's engines and its radar dish from under the noses of the Soviets.  The engines were analysed at Farnborough and subsequently returned to the scene of the crash before being handed back to the Soviets.  The Soviets lodged this protest after the event:


"British Embassy, Bonn: 14 June 1966


Crashed Soviet aircraft.


Soviet Ambassador made following oral statement today to Mr. Padley,




The Soviet Embassy in its Note of April 8, 1966 drew the attention of the British Foreign Office to the unjustifiable actions of the British Occupation Authorities in West Berlin in connection with the crash of a Soviet military aircraft which fell in the British Sector of this city on April 6..


The British side has not yet replied to this Note and in fact has taken an unseemly position with regard to the settlement of the problems connected with this accident..


The inspection of the crashed aircraft carried out by Soviet experts after its return has revealed the absence of a number of items and parts which had obviously been dismantled.  This is indicated by the fact that the locations of their mountings are intact, and also by the existence of cut cables leading to the above mentioned apparatus.  The appropriate proof can be presented to the British side if necessary.  The removal of the said equipment could not have been carried out without the knowledge of the British occupation Authorities who placed a guard around the place of the crash and carried out the salvage operations.  In connexion with the above the Embassy has been authorized to make a protest and to insist on the complete return of the illegally retained Soviet State property..


The actions of the British Occupation Authorities with regard to the Soviet military aircraft which crashed during a normal flight over West Berlin are contrary to the generally accepted norms of relations between States and to the interest of normal international intercourse..




Has anyone anything to add, especially the identities of the divers involved?  If so, please email me via myy webmaster address and I will pass it on to Bernd and publish it here.


From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:


"Hi Bernd,


Yes, I remember the dive.  If my memory is correct, Petty Officerr (CD1) Knocker White plus three other Clearance Divers went to the crash site at very short notice.  I can't remember their names but when they came back, the discussion in the Divers' Mess revealed that they worked by night closely observed by the Russians from their sector.  Items of interest were removed and flown to Farnborough for examination then returned to the crash and replaced.  The operation took about a week.


It is highly possible that members of that incident are still with us.  PO White has passed on and I am now turned 80.  However, the other three might still be around and able to give you more detailed information as they were about my age."


From ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, volunteer at the Historical Diving Society's museum:


"Dear Bernd,


Thank you for your query about the 1966 incident, passed on to me by Rob Hoole.


Here is a link to a 2003 report which covers the story quite well.  Hopefully this is useful for you:


Here is another excellent link that gives the name of the army divers as well:


Ich bin ein Freiwilliger am HDS Diving Museum, lebte auch in Berlin als Junge in Charlottenburg.




James Thomson (Tommo)

Ex-Taucher RN"


From MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society:




The National Archives may have something (e.g. an on-line search).  Apart from that I’m afraid my only other suggestion is to check the newspapers of the period.




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


"Good morning Rob,


Whilst going through my archive in the middle of the night, as one often does when faced with a challenge, I believe, but am not 100% sure, that it was an RE Diver, WO2, later Major, Steve Hambrook, based in Berlin who carried out the dive to recover “forensics” from the downed Russian aircraft in 1966.






Michael G Fellows MBE  DSC  BEM* MSM


Managing Director

Fellows International Limited"


From MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society:


"Hello Bernd,


If you have any photos of the divers in their equipment, we may have some similar items in our collection that we could loan you.


Best wishes,




Diving Museum"


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


"Sorry Rob,


The old brain has very vague memories of the Berlin task but I can’t place a single name on the incident.  I have a very vague idea that Portsmouth B&MD members were involved, and there the thought train ceases.


Good and highly interesting ongoing yatter with Debby [Carr] and her dad’s photos.  Where did the time go?




Dave L (Mona)"


From Chris Ransted, author of Bomb Disposal and the British Casualties of WW2 and Disarming Hitler's V Weapons: Bomb Disposal - The V1 & V2 Rockets:


"Hi Bernd,


I found two files at the National Archives: FO 1042/226 and 227 (Soviet air crash in Berlin: YAK 28 (Firebar) all-weather jet fighter, came down in Stoessensee (lake in British sector), 6 April 1966).  The correspondence in the files is all of a diplomatic nature and there is not much technical data.  The files were too big to photograph every page and there was a lot of duplication of material inside.  However, I have put a number of the images in a drop box [link supplied].  You may have to register to access them and you may have all this info already but maybe there is something of interest in there.


Good luck with your museum display.


Best regards,




From Bend von Kostka, Curator at the Allied Museum in Berlin:


"Dear Chris,


Thank you very much for this very valuable source and the scans.


I downloaded these and will find the time to read it within the next days.  It is getting very diplomatic when it comes to handing it to the Sowjets and I did not know that the US was also involved in the intelligence work looking at the technical bits and pieces.   


I will certainly try to put an article in a Berlin newspaper next year commemorating that event.  The whole story is a brilliant episode of the “Cold War”.


Thank you very much for that extra information from the National Archive! 


Until then,




Bernd von Kostka

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter  I Curator I Conservateur

Alliierten Museum e.V. I Clayallee 135 I 14195 Berlin I Germany"


From Bernd von Kostka:


"Dear Gentlemen,


These are excellent answers for the first day of the request!


 James Thompson also forwarded this link with very good information– that I have not seen before..  


The file in Kew (where I have been several time in my career) would be of great interest!


I also mentioned the Yak-episode in my Book in 2009 ((Hauptstadt der Spione/Capital of Spiess- only in German I am afraid)  and I think I have put the story together already – more or less).  I do not have the role of the Navy Divers in it and I know now that Army (hobby) divers did it the first day and then after her arrival Navy divers took over.  I also know much more about the two pilots – and there is an extensive report on the cockpit part and the exchange of the wreck on the internet.


But I am not only researching the history but at the same point looking for an “artefact to display“.  Museums do display items, that´s what the visitor expects.  So our next exhibition is dealing with the Cold War in Berlin and the Yak episode is a likely subject with many other subjects.  


My first idea was to spot one of the divers and to ask if there is anything from his diving equipment left - but I guess that will not be the case because it is all military equipment.  Do you have any suggestions what we could display?  We are looking for a good single artefact (maybe a diving suit from the 1960s?).


I'll forward your e-mail to my two Zeitzeugen.  One was a part of the British Aquar Club and the other one the son of one of the navy divers.  I think we'll get this story straight so maybe at some point you can put this on your  MCDOA webside if it is ready.


Gentlemen, we´ll stay in contact and I am looking forward to your suggestions concerning the artefacts.


Thank you very much again.


Bernd von Kostka"


From ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson:


"Dear Bernd,


Very interesting reading from Chris.


As there is very little information on the equipment used, and four RN divers were sent out, I would think that they would have used the available equipment of that time.   Clearance Diving Breathing Apparatus was used in general by the CD Branch..


1. It was robust.

2. It was easy to transport.

3. It would last for the life of the carbon dioxide absorbent, i.e. 90 minutes.  The oxygen or mixed gas would be easy to re-charge.

4. Rigged for pure oxygen there are negative bubbles, or very few.  Rigged for mixed gas only minimal bubbles released.   


I have included a picture of myself in CDBA in the Diving Tank in Devonport in 1965 during a demonstration for Foreign Diving Officers.  We have this equipment iin the Diving Museum although it is looking a bit tired.




Hope this is of interest to you.






From former WO(D) Ray Ramsay:


"Hi Rob,


I was on my CD2 course at HMS Vernon when this operation took place.  I am sure that the Pompey B & MD team did the job.  I think that “George” Denton was in the team at the time and he may have taken part.  Willie Pert had just joined Vernon.  He was a big Buddy with George and would also know more about this operation.




From Bert Henderson:




The following emails may explain the contact you have had from Bernd von Kostka, in the Museum in Berlin.  I managed to get the e-mail address of Derek Shea recently and, as you can see from the exchange, his father David Shea may have been one of the divers in the team.


I have to say, I was not surprised then, nor am I now, at the low cunning and deviousness that POs of the Royal Navy can apply to a young and impressionable Pongo!  My older brother is an ex Radio/Mech PO and over the years I have often sailed with him from Hornet with various of his ‘mates’ and found myself doing longer watches or ‘guard duty’ as they called it, especially after some Pusser’s Rum.  I subsequently sent Derek a copy of a photograph I have with the Navy team sorting their gear, from which he is sure one of them is his father David.   




Bert Henderson"


From Bert Henderson to Derek Shea on 26 Nov 2015:




A few years ago I saw a blog on Berlin in which you asked about your father’s involvement in the Russian aircraft in Berlin.  I was one of the BSAC divers who was there when the Navy divers arrived.  I have recently managed to get your e-mail address from the museum in Berlin.  If you are still interested, I‘ll tell you what happened and I have a not very good photograph.




Bert Henderson


(If none of this makes any sense, I’m sorry – wrong Derek!)"


From Derek Shea to Bert Henderson on 26 Nov 2015:




Good to hear from you, you've got the correct Derek!   


I spent some time a few years ago researching the incident as I knew my late father David Shea was involved as a Royal Navy Clearance Diver.  I was never really sure exactly what his involvement was as we'd never spoken about it.  My brother recalls some details of a conversation with him in which he discussed recovering the pilots.   


I wanted to find out as much as I could about the incident mainly regarding the Royal Navy divers and my father's involvement.  This I have achieved to some extent through the articles I've found on the Internet and ultimately through a visit to the National Archives at Kew where I read through the original BRIXMIS documents reporting the incident.   


I was also looking to find any photographs I could of the incident as my brother and I recall there being photographs amongst my father's collection which have subsequently been lost..


So to conclude... It would be a pleasure to hear your recollections of events.  As I say, I've read about the incident extensively but would be extremely interested to hear from someone who was directly involved such as yourself.  I would also be very interested in seeing any photographs you may have regardless of the quality.   


Thanks for taking the time to contact me, much appreciated.  I look forward to hearing from you. Again, many thanks.   


Kind Regards,,


Derek Shea"  


From Bert Henderson to Bernd von Kastka on 30 Nov 2015


"Good Morning Bernd,


These are my recollections of the incident in April 1966.  As you will see I was only involved in the first two days and looking back, only to divert the watchers until the main event.  I have no objects from those days other than some old photographs, though I remember that when I left Berlin at the end of 1966, a piece of the wing with the red Star was on the Clubroom wall.  I could not guess where it is now.  I have seen the plaque on the Heer Strasse Bridge, the view of the Stoessen See is very different to 1966, but then so is most of Berlin.   


On the evening of Wednesday 6th April 1966, I was told by my own unit to go to the British Sub Aqua Club in Brigade HQ at the Olympic Stadium.  There I met several more of the experienced divers of the club, who had been told to assemble our equipment, ready to dive on the Russian aircraft which had crashed into the Havel that afternoon.  Although we were regarded as ‘sport’ or ‘fun’ divers, we had trained well and most of our ‘open dives’ had been necessarily in West Berlin’s murky, black water.


When we arrived at the site the next morning, we drove very carefully down the steep track, through the assembled Russian military (lots of cameras) to the small jetty on the lakeside.  The tail of the aircraft could be seen sticking out above the water with the RE barge anchored nearby.  Under the watchful eyes of the Russians we transferred our gear to the barge and prepared to dive. The only briefing I can remember was that:


a. The aircraft is in the British Sector therefore it is ours (I doubt that the Americans or the French had any divers anyway) and until the real divers arrive we are it, make it look good!


b. We were also told that a Berlin Police diver had examined the wreck and announced that the cockpits were empty, which the press had blown up, and the locals were angry.  If possible could we check the truth of this?  


The first dive was almost a disaster.  BSAC guidelines were (and still are) that two divers should stay together (the ‘buddy’ system) and in black water with nil visibility, be roped together.  When we got to the bottom, we almost immediately got the line tangled in the broken wreckage and had to very carefully free ourselves.  I suggested to the Dive Marshall  that it would be better to go alone with a line to the surface, which I did. I found the A/C cockpits which were almost buried in the mud and managed to feel inside, and identify the flying suits of the crew.  The Royal Navy divers had arrived during the morning, a Chief Petty Officer and two (or three?)  ratings.


Later that afternoon I was surprised to be asked by the Chief if I would like to try their equipment, full wet suit and face mask with an oxygen  rebreathing set.  I did want to try the oxygen rebreather, though I did wonder why we would do this with the Russian gold braid watching, but then I was young, enthusiastic and innocent!


After a five minute course, some splashing about, clearing the suit and sitting on the bottom for forty minutes just off the jetty, I got the signal to surface.  At which point we seemed to pack up the gear and leave the site quite quickly.  We met the Navy team for dinner and drinks later in the Sergeants mess at Brigade HQ.  They were kind enough to tell us that we had done well in the conditions, and no, they would not be able to join us later at The Old Eden, for more drinks and dancing!  That was the last I saw ( or heard) of the RN Team, or in fact of the Russian aircraft.


My Tank Troop was on standby and confined to barracks the following week, by which time the A/C and pilots had been returned.  As everything in Berlin was secret in those days, the incident was never talked about. It is only a few years ago when I read the BRIXMIS accounts, that I knew what subsequently happened.  I was always curious though as to why the Royal Navy Diving Team were never mentioned in the accounts I had read, or in the Tony Geraghty Book.


Thank you again for the e-mail address of Derek Shea.  I have been in touch with him  and will probably visit the National Archives to read the ‘official’ accounts.   


Best Regards,


Bert Henderson"


From Bert Henderson to Derek Shea on 30 Nov 15:


"Hello Derek,


Sorry for the delay in answering,  The man from the Museum [Bernd von Kastka] in Berlin who gave me your address, wanted to hear what I knew about the incident (which as you can see, from my level was not very much).  I am also still being a little careful, Mr Putin seems to have found the drum again!


Having been in the Service and involved in other ‘incidents’, I am fairly cynical as to how history is eventually told.  Mostly though I was curious to know what eventually happened below the water (Berlin was a very ‘secretive’ place then and even people in the BSAC club didn’t talk about it later) and why the Navy were never mentioned.  I did try to find if the current RN Mine Clearance organisation (MCDOA) had any records about it, without success.


Below is what I told him of what I think was happening when we were there.  As you can see, after the first few days I was not involved so am very interested to read the material in Kew.  Would you please give me some pointers to the material you found there?  I have been back a few times on other things (my brothers, father, uncle and grandfathers were all Army or Navy) so I know how it works and have a reader's card.  I will also try to digitise the photos I have (which prove the Navy was there!) and either attach them or send them separately.


Best Regards,,


Bert Henderson"


From Derek Shea to Bert Henderson on 30 Nov 2015:




Many thanks for your detailed response below.  You've provided me with a few more excellent pieces of detail that I was previously unaware of.  Your mention of meeting the Navy Team later for dinner and drinks at the Sergeant's Mess is a wonderful little detail I could never have got from any other source.  It seems highly likely then Bert that you shared a drink with my Dad!


I too have searched high and low through the MCDOA website but cannot find any reports of the incident.  I've even searched archive issues of the Royal Navy Diving magazine which again proved fruitless.


As I said in my previous mail, I've read through an official report at the National Archives.  I've looked at this again and it is in fact the official report by the British Military Government in Berlin (rather than BRIXMIS as I previously thought) dated 22nd April 1966 under original reference (1225G) Despatch Number 6.  There is also a short summary of this Despatch dated 27th April under reference RY1381/33.


Unfortunately Bert I don't think this will tell you anything you don't already know.  It reports the incident from start to conclusion and is comprehensive but doesn't provide any detail on the underwater activities you might be hoping for.   


The document does contain reference to the Royal Navy's presence but very little detail of their involvement.  You yourself Bert have supplied me with the most detail yet about the RN team's presence in Berlin and for that I am extremely grateful.


Good luck with the photographs, I am very interested to see them.   Many thanks again for your detailed reply Bert, it's very much appreciated.   


All the Best,




Postscript: See Bert's photos in the entry for 4 Jan 16.


1 Dec 15 - Army Navy rugby at Twickenham  

30 Nov 15


SDU1 deals with two shells kept in a house


The Cornishman website contains this article describing today's disposal by Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of two explosive shells on Long Rock Beach in Cornwall.  The shells were discovered by police at a house in Heamoor near Penzance.



Obituary for Major Richard Clifford MBE RM


The Daily Telegraph has published this obituary for Richard Clifford who died on 15 November.  Members of a certain age will remember his captivating updates on SBS diving at the annual MCD Conferences held in HMS Vernon.  In recent years, I invited him to attend our annual dinner on several occasions but he was never able to accept.


Major Richard Cormac Clifford MBE RM

(19 May 1946 - 15 Nov 2015)


From MCDOA member Steve Gobey:




Sad to hear of Richard's passing.


I had the honour of working with him when I was Boss of the FOST Diving Team at Portland when he and his lads helped us with the night attacks on work-up ships.  Also later at Abbey Wood when I was involved with SBS diving equipment acceptance.  My abiding memory is of him coming up the breakwater at Bincleaves to our section with his hands and arms covered in blood.  He had come to ask if we had any freezer bags.  Not for scollies, but for road kill!  He had run over a badger on his drive round from Poole that morning and was butchering it on one of the 'Baghdad Railway' trolleys as it would make an interesting food issue for SBS escape and evasion training!   FOST Divers were very glad we were RN and not RM!


A good man and a great character who will be sadly missed.






29 Nov 15 - Royal Navy Diving Heritage: Lt Alan 'Nutty' Carr RN


I received this message via the website on Monday 23 November:




I wondered if your organisation would be interested in some old naval clearance diving photographs?  My father was a clearance diver and bomb disposal officer in the 1950s and 1960s.  He is now 85 and very poorly but he has a lot of old photographs and I think he would like to find a good home for them.  I notice he was mentioned on your website a few times.  He is Nutty Carr (Nutty Mk IV - real name Alan James Carr).


Kind regards,


Debby Carr"


It transpired that Debby had spotted this photo of the 50th MSF Diving Team, including her father fourth from the left, being briefed by the late MCDOA Honorary Life Member 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM at Port Edgar on the Forth at South Queensferry circa 1956 (see entry for 10 Sep 08 in News Archive 23 for identities of other personnel).


50th MSF Diving Team (normally embarked in HMS Diver)

50th MSF Diving Team circa 1956

(normally embarked in HMS Diver)


I telephoned Debby after ascertaining from the Navy List archives that her father was an SD (Special Duties i.e. ex-rating) CDO promoted Sub Lt on 4 May 1960 and Lt on 1 Apr 1967.  As an officer, he served in Malta, HMS Iveston, HMS Vernon and HMS Bronington.  I also drew a few others into the discussion including former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM in Australia and former CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, a fellow member of the Historical Diving Society.


Jim Thomson established that A/PO Alan Carr (C/JX 852524) had quaified as a CD2 on 18 March 1955.  Debby conformed this and said that her father had joined the Royal Navy from Barnardo's in 1948 and left at the end of 1969.  Here is his complete service history:


26 May - 7 Jun 1948 Ord Sea HMS Royal Arthur (New Entry training)
8 Jun - 1 Nov 1948 Ord Sea HMS Anson (battleship)
2 - 25 Nov 1948 Ord Sea HMS Pembroke, Chatham
26 Nov 1948 - 25 May 1949 Ord Sea (TD3) HMS Vernon, Portsmouth
26 May - 12 Sep 1949 Ord Sea (Diver 3) HMS Pembroke, Chtham
13 Sep 1949 - 1 Jan 1950 Ord Sea HMS Diadem (cruiser)
2 - 6 Jan 1950 Ord Sea HMS Pembroke, Chatham
7 Jan - 27 Feb 1950 Ord Sea HMS Lochinvar (HMS Drake II, Devonport)
28 Feb - 25 May1950 Ord Sea MFV 1037 (HMS Vernon diving tender)
26 May - 14 Jun 1950 AB HMS Dipper (HMS Vernon mining/diving tender)
15 Jun - 30 Sep 1950 AB HMS Dipper (HMS Drake II)
1 Oct - 21 Nov 1950 AB HMS Dipper (HMS Cochrane, Rosyth)
22 Nov 1950 - 31 Aug 1951 AB HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar (HMS Cochrane)
1 Sep 1951 - 28 Apr 1952 AB HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar
29 Apr - 29 May 1952 AB HMS Drake, Devonport
30 May 1952 - 14 Jan 1953 AB (CD3) HMS Fierce (Algerine class minesweeper) (Med FCDT) (HMS Phoenicia, Malta)
15 Jan - 31 Mar 1953 A/LS HMS Fierce (Algerine class minesweeper) (Med FCDT) (HMS Phoenicia, Malta)
1 Apr 1953 - 14 Jan 1954 A/LS HMS St Angelo. Malta for Med Fleet CD Team
15 Jan - 26 Jul 1954 LS HMS St Angelo, Malta for Med Fleet CD Team
27 Jul - 18 Oct 1954 LS HMS Vernon
19 Oct - 8 Nov 1954 LS HMS Diver (HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar)
9 Nov 1954 - 17 Mar 1955 A/PO HMS Diver (HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar)
18 Mar 1955 - 10 Jan 1956 A/PO (CD2) HMS Diver (HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar)
11 Jan 1956 - 16 Jan 1957 PO HMS Diver (HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar)
17 Jan - 27 Jun 1957 PO HMS Vernon, Portsmouth
28 Jun 1957 - 11 Jan 1958 PO (CD1) HMS Vernon, Portsmouth
12 Jan - 17 Jun 1958 PO HMS Cormorant, Gibraltar (HMS President)
18 - 26 Jun 1958 PO HMS Vernon, Portsmouth
27 Jun - 27 Oct 1958 PO HMS Phoenicia, Malta
28 Oct 1958 - 26 Oct 1959 PO HMS Vernon, Portsmouth
27 Oct 1959 - 3 May 1960 PO HMS Dryad, Southwick
5 May - 15 Jun 1960 A/Sub Lt Royal Naval College, Greenwich
9 Oct 1960 - 4 Apr 1961 A/Sub Lt (SD)(B)(CD) HMS Reclaim
May - Nov 1962 Sub Lt (SD)(B)(CD) HMS Drake, Devonport for Plymouth Command Bomb & Mine Disposal Unit.  Commendation from CinC Plymouth (Vice Admiral Nigel Henderson) for hazardous task clearing disused firing range in South Wales.
5 Nov 1962 - 14 Nov 1063 Sub Lt (SD)(CD) Command Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer for CinC Plymouth (Vice Admiral Nigel Henderson)
13 Dec 1963 - 19 Mar 1964 Sub Lt (SD)(CD) HMS Phoenicia, Malta as Med Fleet Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer
20 Mar 1964 - 28 May 1965 Sub Lt (SD)(CD) HMS St Angelo, Malata as Med Fleet Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer.  Also served in Aden.
20 Jun 1966 - 7 Nov 1967 Lt (SD)(CD) HMS Iveston as XO
8 Nov 1967 - 16 Feb 1968 Lt (SD)(CD) HMS Iveston as XO.  CO was MCDO Lt Cdr Karl Lees (later Trng Cdr at HMS Vernon) who became Debby's Godfather.
19 Feb - 6 Dec 1968 Lt (SD)(CD) HMS Vernon as CD1s' Training Officer
7 Dec 1968 - 1969 Lt (SD)(CD) HMS Bronington


Here are some of the historic photos Debby has provided to date.  She says that the photos of HMS Diver and HMS Dipper are from 1950.  Her father tells her that both vessels were raised/salvaged from Kiel in the aftermath of the war and the Germans were made to repair them.  The diving team then sailed them back to the UK as there was no other transport.


HMS Dipper in 1950 


CPO Durrant with practice German GC ground mine on board HMS Dipper in 1950


HMS Diver far left in 1950 alongside Miner class minelayer

and Isles class Admiralty trawler HMT Gateshead



HMS Diver Christmas card drawn by Nutty

 with crew photo inside (see below)

sometime between 1954 and1956


Inside HMS Diver Christmas card.  Nutty seated far left and the late 'Uncle Bill' Filer

seated centre


HMS Diver conducting diving operations


Nutty "mucking about" in binnacle & oilskins

'diving gear' (Siebe Gorman Mk?) in 1950


Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team on Manoel Island, Malta in 1954

Back row: Taff Davies, ?, John Dowds, Pricky Price, Nutty Carr, ?, Jock Campbell

Front row: Sam Stanley, Pip Piper, Ginger Howe, Pete Cobby


Nutty Carr on board HMS Diver in 1956


CDO Long Course 1957

Back row: Nutty Carr (PO Instructor), S/Lt Allen RNVR

Alan 'Shiner' Wright, Jackie Rae (Course Officer),

Front row: Les Sharpe (Second Dicky) and Alastair Cuthbert


CDO Long Course 1957

Standing: Alan 'Shiner' Wright, Jackie Rae (Course Officer),

Alastair Cuthbert, Nutty Carr (PO Instructor), Colin Allen RNVR

with Les Sharpe (Second Dicky) sitting in the 'Sleeping Beauty'

Motorised Submersible Canoe


CD1s' Course BCD 24 at HMS Vernon circa 1967

Back row: PO (later FCPO) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM (Instructor) and Lt Alan 'Nutty' Carr (Course Officer)

Front row: Brian 'Jumbo' Jervis, ? Tonks, Jim Quinn, Ted Setchell and George 'Gabby' Haines


John Futcher, Peter Roberts VC DSC, Mrs Roberts, Bill Filer and Alan 'Shiner' Wright


Peter Roberts VC DSC and his wife with the late MCDOA member 'Uncle Bill' Filer GM MBE


Back row: Jerry Locke, ?, Ginger Howe, Scouse Davies, Knocker White, Geoff Burgess, Jim Cook,

John Alderton, Nutty Carr with pipe, ?

Front: John Futcher, Bill Filer, Peter Roberts, Alan 'Shiner' Wright 


From ex-CDO Brian 'Jumbo' Jervis in the USA:


"Hi Rob,


Thanks for the update.  It sure is nice that someone like you has preserved so many memories for the likes of me. 


But who are all those old people?  Makes me realise how much water has flowed under that bridge!!!!  We never see ourselves ageing; of course, we leave that up to others.


Take care,


Brian 'Jumbo' Jervis"


From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:


"Hi Rob,


I was in HMS Lochinvar when the photo was taken of the diving team in the good ship Diver with Uncle Bill in command.  At that time I was working for Peter Messervy in the Northern Ireland and Scottish B & MD Team removing mines from HMS Port Napier.  I would visit Diver on the odd occasion.  The favourite daily programme on board was ‘Bill and Ben The Flower Pot Men’.  Oh to be young again.


I have contacted Nutty and will arrange a meeting in the near future.  I also contacted Ginger Andrews who resides in Newlyn.  He comes up to Chichester to visit his daughter from time to time.  He and Nutty got on very well so we will have a reunion in the New Year.


Thanks again for your help.


As ever,




27 Nov 15 - SDU2 detonates wartime mine off the Isle of Wight


The Portsmouth News website contains this article, the Royal Navy website this article and the Navy News website this article describing this morning's detonation of a 1,500 lb wartime German GD (sic) ground mine by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).  The mine was found by a crane barge 1.5 km off Southsea while removing debris from a site being dredged next month in preparation for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers.  SDU2's six-man team, which moved the mine to a safe location off Bembridge before detonating it, was led by PO(D) Richard Ellis.


The mine fouling the grab of the crane barge

(Navy News website photo)


The 300m high plume off Bembridge

(Navy News website photo)


Does anyone else think the mine above looks more like a GC than a GD?  These images are from BR1748(3) originally CB3115(3), 'Instructions for Rendering Safe Underwater Weapons - German Ground Mines' produced at HMS Vernon and published by the Admiralty Torpedo & Mining Department in 1944.  The lightweight parachute housing doesn't normally remain attached for very long after impact with the water:






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




The mine looks like a GC and its location off Southsea ties in with the historical munitions contamination information we have on Portsmouth Harbour showing two abandoned GCs off South Railway Jetty in 1945.






Michael G Fellows MBE  DSC  BEM* MSM


Managing Director  

Fellows International Limited" 


25 Nov 15 - Unveiling date set for Vernon Monument


Artist's impression of the Vernon Monument

in situ at Gunwharf Quays


I am grateful to the trustees of the Vernon Monument charity for this announcement:


Project Vernon raises funds to commit to September 2017 for unveiling bronze statue at Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth


The Trustees of the Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument Fund have announced that “Project Vernon'' has now raised in excess of £220,000 towards the declared target of £320,000: this sum represents 70% of the funds needed to complete this project.


This is tremendous news and reflects the hard work, tenacity and generosity of all those who have contributed thus far: at social reunion dinners organised over last weekend, Project Vernon’s management team thanked all friends, colleagues, supporters and contributors.  Several major fundraising events are planned for 2016, both in London and Portsmouth, to raise the remaining balance of the stated goal... and, thereby, to see this specialist heritage monument unveiled in Vernon Creek, Gunwharf Quays, in September 2017.


Recent negotiations and discussions have sourced various means by which the materials used, procurement costs and total construction outlay can each be reduced by a significant combined amount.  Further, as funds have now passed the important 70% threshold, the Trustees are now in a position, for the first time, to commit to commercial contracts for the production of the core component parts of the monument.  Starting with the plinth in the water of Vernon Creek next summer, this will be followed by the off-site assembly of the base structure later in the year, and the bronze casting process of the statue itself soon after.


This remains a very worthy and strategic goal for the brethren Mine Warfare and Diving Associations who sponsor the project and, more especially, the heritage of the wider community, both operational and retired, in the UK and abroad, especially those who served and trained in their alma mater of HMS Vernon, prior to its conversion into the successful Gunwharf Quays retail and residential site.


The momentum and commitment from the stalwart band of organising volunteers is there.  All those who have not yet contributed to the monument are encouraged to do so, by time, by cash donations or through purchases of the merchandise on sale, via the project’s website  Indeed, as the Festive Season approaches, what finer way to support a registered charity, the Project Vernon team and the overall project goal: the installation of The Vernon Mine Warfare and Diving Monument!!


I am also pleased to announce that MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, world record-breaking diver (simulated depth of 1,500 ft (457 msw) at RNPL's Deep Trials Unit at Alverstoke in 1970), founding Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS) and instigator of its Diving Museum at Stokes Bay, has kindly consented to join the other trustees of the Vernon Monument charity.


N.B. The Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument Fund is a registered charity, licensed number 1128677.  Project Vernon is the campaign to design, construct and install a statue in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, Hampshire.  Internationally-famous artist Les Johnson, Fellow of the Royal Association of British Sculptors, has produced the chosen design for the monument.


Postscript: The Navy News website published this article covering the same story on 26 November.



23 Nov 15 - Operational updates, AGM and annual dinner


Last Friday's operational updates, presentations, lunch and AGM at Fleet Diving HQ on Horsea Island followed by the annual dinner in the Wardroom at HMS Excellent were among the most successful I can remember.  Mark Shaw, our newly installed Honorary Secretary, deserves our utmost admiration and thanks for his brilliant organisation.


Events began in the Reclaim Room of Bridge Building at Fleet Diving Headquarters with members gathering for coffee and biscuits before starting the day's business.



Left: Martin Mackey, Don Crosbie and Stu McAlear

Right: Geoff Goodwin, Martyn Holloway and David Edwards



Left: Bob Lusty, Peter Waddington and Brian Dutton

Right: Peter Robinson, Steve Gobey and Howard Trotter



Left: David Sandiford and Ralph Mavin

Right: Mark Savage and Rob Hoole




We were then treated to a comprehensive set of presentations about recent, current and future minewarfare, diving & EOD operations, equipment and capability by our Chairman Mark Atkinson and MCDOA members Roger Readwin, Don Crosbie and Mark Savage, all of whom are principal players in their fields.


We then enjoyed lunch in the new all-ranks mess where we were well looked after by WO(D) John 'YoYo' Ravenhall, the mess president.  Other members joined us including Bill 'Chippy' Norton with his wife Gunhild.  They has escorted Kate, the widow of former Superintendent of Diving Guy Worsley OBE, plus his son Mark and daughter Claire, on to the island for a presentation of memorabilia which took place in the Reclaim Room after lunch (see second entry for 10 Nov 15).


Mark Atkinson (MCDOA Chairman & current SofD) receiving an album of lists, hand-written

 in copper plate, of deep divers who qualified on board HMS Reclaim from Kate, the widow

of Guy Worsley OBE (SofD 1971-82) while Rob Hoole and Bill 'Chippy' Norton look on



We then conducted the AGM which was fairly uneventful and I hope to publish the minutes when our Hon Sec has passed them to me.  Rear Admiral Paddy McAlpine OBE was re-endorsed as our President and all officers were re-elected except David Stanbury, our Membership Secretary, who is busily deployed with SNMCMG2 in the Mediterranean.  We are grateful to David Miln for stepping into his shoes.  Watch out for a full programme of events next year which will mark the MCD Branch's 50th Anniversary.


The day's events culminated in our annual dinner in HMS Excellent, by kind permission of the Mess President, Brig Richard Spencer OBE RM.  This was attended by 110 MCDOA members and guests and was its usual success thanks to Mark Shaw's meticulous preparations, the friendly and efficient wardroom staff and the wonderfully talented HMS Nelson Volunteer Band.





In the absence of MCDOA President Paddy McAlpine who is playing golf for NATO in Portugal, the chair was taken by our Chairman, Mark Atkinson, with 'Yours Truly' back in his traditional role as 'Mr Vice'.  We celebrated the 25th anniversary of LMCDO 90A & 90B, of which David Bence, John Law and Phil Ireland were present, and we even had one member, John O'Driscoll, of LMCDO '65 celebrating its 50th anniversary.  Tony Watt, David Bence and Steve Brown, our service leavers, were all presented with gifts and David Bence gave a witty speech on their behalf.



Left: Mark Atkinson presenting David Bence with his leaving 'gizzit'

Right: Mark Atkinsonson presenting Steve Brown with his leaving 'gizzit'

(Sorry, Tony.  I wasn't quick enough to capture your presentation.)


David Bence responding on behalf of the service leavers


Apparently, there was fierce competition among the members of HMS Nelson's Volunteer Band to play at our function but only 18 could be accommodated on the night.  They brought their usual sense of fun to our traditional rendition of 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles'.






The usual enthusiasm was evident during the 'Bubbles' part of the singalong.



The wardroom staff entered the spirit of the occasion too:



Our Chairman introduced Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey, our principal speaker, with a quirky speech that no doubt owed something to MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald who works for Sir Alan in the MCA (Maritime & Coastguard Agency).



Sir Alan Massey then delivered a self-deprecating joke-filled speech that had something for everyone and captivated his audience.




Here is a selection of photos taken during the evening.  I have my son Gareth to thank for many of them.















































































































I can supply higher resolution versions of specific photos on request.


From Claire Worsley, daughter of Cdr Guy Worsley OBE (Superintendent of Diving 1971-1982):


"Dear Rob,


I just wanted to write and say a huge thank you for all you did to make Friday possible.  My mother enjoyed herself immensely and it meant a great deal to her to see old friends and be able to talk about my father with them.  Both Mark and I really appreciate it.


If one of the photographs you took comes out OK perhaps you might be able to email to me I would like to put it in a frame for her. [By Webmaster: Done!]


Many, many thanks and please let us know about the unveiling of the statute at Gunwharf in 2017.  We would love to be there.


Kind regards,


Claire Worsley"


N.B. MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton has also asked me to thank everyone concerned with the presentation.


Postscript: This is the first time in circa 25 years I can remember another Royal Navy association pipping us to the top of the Daily Telegraph's Service Dinner announcements.  Who are these people? 



21 Nov 15 - Former WO(D) Stew 'George' Sissons seriously ill


Retired MCDO Gerry 'Pincher' Martin informs me that Stew Sissons has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and is currently in the Wisteria Lodge Care Home in Horndean.  He will be attending his daughter's wedding on 28 November before starting a regime of cancer treatment on 30 November.


The MCDOA's 'Three Men in a Boat', comprising Doug Barlow, Martyn Holloway and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole), are accustomed to seeing Stew in the marina at HMS Excellent where he keeps his yacht 'Springtied' and we have often collaborated to lift her in and out of the water or shift her berth.  He has also been responsible for four of the cadet sail training dinghies attached to the sailing centre.


This was Stew in typical cold-weather pose with his pride and joy at Whale Island in April 2008 (see entry for 6 Apr 08 in News Archive 22):



This was Stew in typical warm-weather pose chatting to Martyn Holloway in July last year while Doug Barlow and Dean Molyneaux were preparing 'Dougout' for sea (see entry for 4 Jul 14 in News Archive 47):



Stew has also rolled up his sleeves to help raise funds 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 occupied the site.  Here he is (second right) at Gunwharf Quays flanked by Yours Truly and ex-CD1 Taff Brady:



I have known Stew for well over 40 years and am sure that he would appreciate a card sent to him via Wisteria Lodge, 82 London Rd, Horndean, Waterlooville, Hampshire PO8 0BU.  Alternatively, I can supply his email address and mobile number on request.  In the meantime, I entreat all members of our community to join me in offering Stew and his family our sincere best wishes and support in their horrible predicament.


20 Nov 15


Falklands minewarfare mini-reunion


MCDOA member Kev Giles wanted some help putting together a presentation about minewarfare aspects of Operation CORPORATE (Falklands 1982) for the Advanced Amphibious Course.



What better reason for a lunchtime reunion with MCDOA members Martin Holloway (CO 11th MCM Squadron) and Alex Manning (COMAW Staff) at the Blue Bell in Emsworth yesterday with 'Yours Truly' on hand to record the occasion?



L to R: Kev Giles, Alex Manning, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) and Martyn Holloway


Talks about the history of Gunwharf Quays including HMS Vernon




I am grateful to Mike Underwood, author of Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, for this announcement (see entry for 22 Apr 15 in News Archive 50):


"Hi Rob,


I hope you are well. 


The sales of Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth are going well.  I am giving two talks to the Newcomen Society about Gunwharf and HMS Vernon at the University of Portsmouth on 8 December and 19 January 2016, both in Room PO1.11 at the Portland Building, St James Street (off Queens St) at 6.30 p.m.  You and your members very welcome.


I would also like to meet up in the New Year to discuss the idea of a Vernon Conference.


Best wishes,


Mike Underwood



19 Nov 15 - 11th MCM Squadron presentation in London


HMS Northella was one of the five Hull trawlers taken up from trade to form the 11th MCM Squadron commanded by MCDOA member Martyn Holloway.  These vessels were converted into minesweepers and manned by personnel from refitting Ton class MCMVs before being sent to the South Atlantic for the Falklands conflict in 1982.  They performed various hazardous tasks besides sweeping 10 of the 21 mines laid off Port Stanley by the Argentinians, the others having broken adrift and floated away or failed to deploy from their sinkers properly (see 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box).


HMS Northella's bell currently hangs in The Admiralty, a Fullers pub in London's Trafalgar Square.  At 1500 on Saturday 5 December, veterans of the 11th MCM Squadron plan to present the pub with a framed painting of HMS Northella, created by marine artist Adrian Thompson, with a descriptive brass plaque.  Please fell free to attend if you can.





18 Nov 15


SDU2 deals with pyrotechnic at Birling Gap


The Eastbourne Herald website contains this article and The Argus website this article describing this morning's disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southerrn Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a phosphorous-filled marine marker flare at Birling Gap near Beachy Head in East Sussex.


Infamously, Birling Gap is where a wayward mine cover-plate severed the arm of ex-PO(CD1) 'Sarge' Sarginson following a detonation in 1959.


HMS Middleton arrives in Gibraltar


I am grateful to local photographer Daniel Ferro for these images of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) arriving in Gibraltar last Saturday (14 November) while en route from Portsmouth to the Gulf (see entry for 9 Nov 15). 




17 Nov 15


John Herriman plays key role in 800th Lord Mayor's Show



The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the key role played by HMS President, London RNR Division commanded by MCDOA member John Herriman, in this year's Lord Mayor's Show.


SDU1 deals with ammunition discovered in River Severn


The Gloucester Citizen website contains this article, including video, describing today's disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of ammunition found in the River Severn at Lyde Rock, near Beachley on Sunday.


16 Nov 15 - Mine Warfare Battle Staff lift a minehunter for charity


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting how staff of the Royal Navy’s Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force (COMUKMCMFOR) based in Bahrain have lifted the equivalent weight of a Hunt Class Mine Countermeasures Vessel (MCMV) and raised almost £1,500 for charity in the process.


MCDOA member Jason White (far left) with the team

(RN website photo)


15 Nov 15 - Award of LS&GC medals


Congratulations to CPO(D) Simon 'Ruby' Murray on being gazetted for the award of the clasp to the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal and to LS(MW) Matt Fay and AB(D)1 J T Finlay on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.


14 Nov 15 - 1st MCM Squadron staff visit Inverness


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing last weekend's visit to Inverness by Faslane-based 1st MCM Squadron staff, led by MCDOA member Tim Davey (the Squadron Commander), to participate in the city’s Remembrance ceremonies. 


1st MCM Squadron staff paying their respects with armed forces and civilian personnel

in the Cavell Gardens at Inverness

(RN website photo)


13 Nov 15 - Chance encounter between two MCDOA members


I am grateful to MCDOA past-Chairman Chris Baldwin for this contribution:




This may be of interest.


Chris Lade and I met up through business last week.  I work for the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) based in London and SAAB Seaeye, where Chris works, is one of our members.  I paid a visit to SAAB Seaeye with an IMCA colleague to update our understanding of the business and, lo and behold, bumped into Chris!"


MCDOA member Chris Lade congratulating fellow member Chris Baldwin after

his close-run victory in the annual marine contractors' Hangman knock-out


12 Nov 15


MCDOA Annual Dinner attendees


Mark Shaw, our Honorary Secretary, has sent me this list of dinner attendees to date.  Please excuse the absence of service, rank, title, honours or decorations:


Dave Armstrong
Chris Ashcroft
Mark Atkinson
Chris Bamber
David Bence
Robin Bennett
Angus Benton
John Bevan
Gary Biddle
Chris Blackford
Sandy Blackwood
Roly Brading
Hugh 'Mac' Brodie
Keith Broughton
Ben Brown
Steve Brown
Andy Brunton
Alex Bush
Alex Cameron
David Carey
Ryan Carey
Colin Churcher
Hayton Cramphorn
Mo Crang
Don Crosbie
Nick Davis
Peter Davis
Nick Deppe
Brian Dutton
Simon Edwards
Peter Emery
Bob Evans
John 'JJ' Forbes
Mike Forbes
Glyn Gilbert
Steve Gobey
Geoff Goodwin
David Graham
Alan Hares
Stuart Harper
James Harrison
Bob Hawkins
Jamie Hawkins
Martyn Holloway
Gareth Hoole
Rob Hoole
David Hough
David Hunkin
John Hurst
Phil Ireland
Simon 'Si' Kelly
Bill Kerr
Rory Kerr
Mike Kooner
Chris Lade
John Law
Jonathan Lee
Bob Lusty
Dougie MacDonald
Martin Mackey
Brian Mansbridge
David Marshall
James Marshall
Mike Marshall
Steve Marshall
Alan Massey
Ralph Mavin
Stuart McAlear
Dave Milne
Ian Morton
James Morton
Mike Morton
Al Nekrews
John Newnham
John O'Driscoll
James Oxley
Brit Pearce
Nigel Pinhorne
Ben Piper
Eric Piper
Cozy Powell
Simon Pressdee
John 'YoYo' Ravenhall
Roger Readwin
Keith Riches
Tony Riches
Peter Robinson
Nick Rogers
David Sandiford
Mark Savage
Jason Scott
Ben Sharples
Mark Shaw
Tim Sizer
John Staveley
Steve Strange
Rich Talbot
Chris Tarmey
Nick Tarmey
Howard Trotter
Peter Trotter
Peter Waddington
Richard 'Soapy' Watson
Tony Watt
Steve White
Sam Wicks
Graham 'Tug' Wilson
Ken Wollaston
Craig Wood
Steve Woodhead


Interestingly, the MCDOA's intrepid 'songmeister & raconteur extraordinaire' Bob Hawkins MBE was undertaking liferaft drills at the Sea Survival Training Centre at Horses Island today in preparation for his role as First Lieutenant of HMS Queen Elizabeth.



Departure of HMS Atherstone from the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the departure of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) from Bahrain to return to the UK after her three-and-a-half years in the Gulf on Operation KIPION (see first entry for 10 Nov 15).  She was waved off by Capt Nick Washer RN (Deputy Commander United Kingdom Maritime Component Command (UKMCC), her Commanding Officer between 2002 and 2004.


Capt Nick Washer RN on board HMS Atherstone in Bahrain

(RN website photo)


During her time in the Gulf, Atherstone has covered some 44,520 nautical miles and conducted over 8,630 hours of operational tasking.  The ship has also taken part in 14 UK/US training exercises and conducted extensive survey tasking to support the UK/US MCMV effort to maintain the sea lines of communication. 


Death and funeral of ex-CPO(D) Andrew 'Harry' Harrison


Ex-CPO(D) Andrew 'Harry' Harrison passed away on Tuesday 3 November from complications relating to pneumonia.  He lived at Appledore in North Devon and I am grateful to MCDOA member Mick Beale for this report of his funeral which was held yesterday at Barnstaple Crematorium:




I have just got back from ex-CPO Andrew 'Harry' Harrison's funeral in Barnstaple.


Harry was ex-Sat Team and the Cox'n of HMS Bronington in the 1980s.  He was also Chief of the Hong Kong team in the early 1990s.


It was a sad affair but very well attended by locals and family.  I attended from DDS along with CPOs Bob Hope, Nellie Nilsson and ex-PO Mick Openshaw.  Other ex-CDs present were Steve Bielby, Dave Bond, Jim Lynch and Cris Ballinger.




Mick Beale"


On 22 May 1992, Harry was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery for his Meritorious Service on 15 August 1991 in a Search and Rescue operation involving the oil rig support barge DB29 during typhoon 'Fred'.  He was a CPO(D) based at HMS Tamar in Hong Kong at the time, 


11 Nov 15 - 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 15


HMS Atherstone departs Gulf for return to UK


Personnel from HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4), HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 7), HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 8) and HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 6), as well as maritime battlestaff based in Bahrain, mustered for this rare photograph with Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force (COMUKMCMFOR) in the Gulf.   Shortly after this photo was taken, HMS Atherstone departed for the UK where she is due to arrive in Portsmouth in December.  She will be relieved in theatre by HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2).


UK MCMFOR personnel mustered on the jetty in Bahrain

(RN website photo)


Royal Navy Diving Heritage: Donation of HMS Reclaim albums and other memorabilia to Fleet Diving Headquarters


The late Cdr Guy Worsley OBE was Superintendent of Diving from 1972 to 1983 in the days when SofD was responsible for all areas of service diving including CD team operations.  This was an exciting period for the Clearance Diving branch, particularly with regard to deep diving.  According to MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton:


"...All the connections he established and maintained with the US Navy through the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] and personnel exchange programmes, his efforts to replace HMS Reclaim, initially with HMS Clansman and later the Seabed Ops Vessel (which regrettably was mushroomed into the monstrous HMS Challenger by DG Ships and AUWE despite Guy’s efforts), were instrumental in the RN being able to carry out the recovery operation on HMS Coventry and retaining a deep diving capability.  In addition, the organisation and back-up which he arranged and managed for Operation Corporate and the Falklands, in coordination with CinC Fleet, was great staff work from which the later operational role of SofD was constructed..."


Bill has proposed that Guy Worsley's widow Kate presents his albums and other memorabilia for display in the Reclaim Room of Bridge Building (Fleet Diving Headquarters) on Horsea Island at the start of the MCDOA's AGM at 1330 on Friday 20 November.  Arrangements are being made accordingly.  If you wish to be present for this event, ensure that you have completed and submitted the booking form for the AGM and Operational Updates in accordance with the instructions in the entry for 22 Oct 15.  I am sure that any other serving personnel would be welcome at the brief ceremony too.


Guy Worsley (standing third right) with members of the Fleet Clearance Diving Team

at Funafuti in 1977 during Operation HEMICARP during which RN CDs co-operated

with their US counterparts to clear Second World War US and Japanese ordnance

from the waters of Tarawa and Tuvalu in the Gilbert and Ellis Islands


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




Hope you are well and enjoying life to the full.


I read the article about the late Commander Guy Worsley OBE on the MCDOA web site.  I first met him whilst he was driving HMS Acute, an Algerine Class Fleet Minesweeper in the Dartmouth Squadron, in the early ‘60s.  I was one of the ship’s shallow water divers and he nudged me towards joining the CD branch.  


I spent a couple of months with him and took that photograph of the team clearing the mine fields and Japanese bomb stores in Funafuti in the ‘70s and can personally appreciate the tremendous contribution he made towards the success of diving and EOD operations during the Falklands Campaign.  On returning from Stanley he personally drove me in his Volvo from Lyneham airfield to HMS Vernon and I remember being more frightened of his driving than the Argie bombs being targeted at me on the Antrim!  


Finally, with your good self, Captain Ramsay Pearson, Mike Harwood and Colin Kidman, I attended and had the honour (after polishing them) of carrying his cap, medals and sword at his funeral.


His collection of photographs will be a valuable historical addition and an inspiration to many displayed in the Reclaim room at Horsea.


Best Regards,



9 Nov 15 - Departure of HMS Middleton from Portsmouth


The Navy News website contains this article describing today's departure of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) from Portsmouth to begin her three-year deployment to the Gulf on Operation KIPION (see entry for 6 Nov 15). 


AB(MW) Tom Rouse with his son

(RN website photo)


While I was waiting on the Round Tower on a particularly blustery afternoon to wave the ship farewell, I spoke to some of the large gathering including AB(D) Simon Rees's parents Geoff and Debbie Rees who had travelled from Bristol with his partner Penny.



I also met AB(D) Bradley Chapman's mum Pauline from Cleethorpes, his future father-in-law Ivor Welch from Hampshire and his fiancée Claire from Cambridgeshire with their daughters Iyla and Mia.  They had earlier witnessed Brad, known as the 'Universal Sailor', being presented with an award for his all-round achievements on board and for representing the Royal Navy as a boxer.



HMS Middleton then hove into view and the crowd cheered wildly.





Before leaving, I had a quick chat with PO(D) Lee O'Sullivan's wife Janis who was present with their children James, Spencer and Georgia.  Lee is the ship's Coxswain.



I am sure that all members of our community will join me in wishing HMS Middleton and her ship's company a safe, productive and enjoyable deployment.


Postscript:  The Royal Navy website published this article on 10 November covering the same story.  The article includes images of PO(MW) Lewis 'Flash' Gordon, LS Leigh Burge, AB(MW) Tom Rouse and AB(D) Nicholas Kavanagh.


8 Nov 15 - RN Diving Heritage: HM Naval Base Clyde (Faslane)


I am grateful to MCDOA member Phil Ireland DSC for drawing my attention to this article on The Scotsman website which includes these images of diving-related activities at Faslane during the mid-1970s:


MCDOA member Hamish Loudon MBE outside the compression chamber

at Faslane in May 1976 


Civilians being treated in the compression chamber at Faslane in May 1976


7 Nov 15 - Launch of a new book about the RAN Clearance Diving Branch



I am grateful to Larry Digney, National President of the Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers' Association (RANCDA) for this announcement (see entry for 13 Apr 15 in News Archive 50 for further background):


"One of the greatest endeavours of RAN Clearance Divers ever has been completed by two loyal and dedicated perfectionists who spent years putting together our story, "United and Undaunted - The First 100 Years."  It is the story of our history, the history of our forefathers, of us, our legacy and our achievements. 


The work involved is immeasurable and the efforts of, initially, our second RANCDA Patron, first course member and branch stalwart, Commander Jake Linton BEM, RAN Retd. and then the very able assistance provided by Commodore Hec Donohue AM RAN Retd. are to be commended and I, personally, admire them both for completing what I believe to be the RAN CD Branch crowning glory. Never in our history has so much endeavour been put into any project, operation or undertaking.


I believe every RAN Clearance Diver should purchase at least one copy of what is ostensively, our story, and treasure it for what it is... a priceless history of our roots, of who and what we really are and what we represent. 


I implore everyone to purchase a copy and in doing so, pay tribute to the authors, to those that went before, those that paved the way and set in concrete the foundations that have provided us with what we have and what we enjoy today and to those that pave today's road with their world leading capabilities, adventures and achievements.


The proceeds of this not-for-profit book, after all costs are accounted for, go to the RANCDA to assist us all into the future. 


The books cost A$100.00 for hardback and A$70.00 for soft cover.


Please deposit the purchase price into the following account (in the name of Jake Linton) and put your name and initials in the description section. BSB: 034204 Acct: 257639.  Then email Jake, ( and advise him of your address for delivery (included in the purchase price except for bulk and overseas purchases, the costs of which are yet to be determined) and advise him what you have purchased. The books will be dispatched as soon as possible after they leave the printers.  Jake can also be contacted on 0438544970, if you need to discuss anything regarding the purchase with him. 


Please join me in demonstrating our collective support for our motto "United and Undaunted" and the book by purchasing your copies now.


Thank you Jake and Hec... You make us proud."


United and Undaunted




From MCDOA member Edward 'Jake' Linton BEM, Patron of the RANCDA and co-author of 'United and Undaunted':


"Hi Rob,


After checking with the Post Office, the best I can do for the books to the UK by air mail is:


Hard Back A$130 and Soft Cover A$100.


I am a much more educated person in relation to publishing and printing costs.  The next foray, if there is one, will be self-publishing.






6 Nov 15 HMS Middleton departs for Gulf


Portsmouth-based HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) is due to deploy to the Gulf on Monday (9 November).  She will probably relieve HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) in Bahrain (see second entry for 4 Nov 15) and is expected to be away for the next three years.


HMS Middleton at anchor

(RN library photo)


According to QHM's Shipping Movements, HMS Middleton will depart Victory Jetty in Portsmouth Naval Base on Monday at 1300.


5 Nov 15


Papal Ambassador spends day at sea in HMS Cattistock


The Navy News website contains this article and the Portsmouth News website this article describing a day spent at sea by Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Pope's Apostolic Nuncio to the UK, on board the newly upgraded HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 6).  Royal Navy photos by L(Phot) Ken Gaunt.







Postscript: The Royal Navy website published this article on 10 November covering the same story.


SDU2 deals with projectile on Isle of Wight


The Island Echo website contains this article describing today's call-out for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with a projectile found at St Helen's on the Isle of Wight.




4 Nov 15


News from HMS Hurworth



I am grateful to MCDOA member Steve White, Commanding Officer of HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 5), for his October newsletter which is available for download here:



HMS Atherstone given Leicester City football strip


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing Leicester City FC's donation of replica football kit to HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4). 


HMS Atherstone's football team, The Flying Foxes, with their ship in the Gulf

(RN website photo)


Leicester City FC, known as 'The Foxes', is the closest Premier League team to the ship's affiliated town of Atherstone in Warwickshire.  HMS Atherstone's football team is called 'The Flying Foxes' after their ship's badge.


HMS Atherstone has been deployed on Operation KIPION in the Gulf region for the past three-and-a-half years and is due to return to the UK soon.


3 Nov 15 - 1SL presents decommissioned artillery shell to Ben Ainslie


Admiral Sir George Zambellas (the First Sea Lord) has presented a decommissioned 6" artillery shell to Sir Ben Ainslie (the most successful sailor in Olympic history) who has formed Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (LR BAR) to compete for the Americas Cup.  The ceremony took place in the presence of members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Group (SDG) at Ben Ainslie Racing Headquarters at the Camber in Old Portsmouth where the shell was discoverd during building work.



The inscription states:


British 6" HE Projectile rendered safe by the Southern Diving Group during the build of BAR HQ

Presented by Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC ADC DL

First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff



2 Nov 15 - 1SL attends HMS Cattistock ceremony


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Portsmouth News website this article (including video) describing today's rededication ceremony to mark the emergence of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 6) from major refit.  The ceremony was attended by Admiral Sir George Zambellas (the First Sea Lord) and his wife Lady Amanda Zambellas.  Admiral Zambellas was among almost half of the ship's 35 other previous Commanding Officers present.  All photos courtesy of the RN website.








Reportedly, the upgrade, carried out by BAE Systems in Portsmouth, includes new engines and means that the minehunter can sail faster, stay at sea longer, and will extend the ship’s life to 2030 and beyond.


Postscript:  On 13 November, the Portsmouth News website published this article updating its previous story.


1 Nov 15 - Royal Naval Reserve Recruitment Drive


I am grateful to Richard 'Soapy' Watson, the MCDOA's previous Hon Sec, for this contribution:


"Hi Rob,


Hello and I hope all is well!


I'm very much looking forward to the dinner, my first as a civvie, although I'm still in uniform as I am SO2 RNR Diving which does pose challenges while having a full time job.


As you know, the RNR Diving Branch has recently had a clear policy review and so we have clear direction on what our capabilities are which are basically:


a.    To support the Fleet Diving Squadron in Search for Maritime Force Protection.


b.    To support the NATO Submarine Rescue System and have reservists at high readiness standby.


c.    To support the Fleet Diving Squadron with personnel for training and RNR personnel development.  


I just wanted to let people know about our latest recruitment drive.  As you may know, we have currently around 43 people in the RNR Diving Branch and have direction from Navy Pers to increase this number to 98.  To help promote the RNR Diving Branch, we decided to attend the International Dive Show at the Birmingham NEC last weekend (something I did back in 2007 to help promote RN CD numbers, which was successful).  The event was a a resounding success with the RNR stand being really popular with the public.  There was a lot of interest on the RNR Diving Branch, but also interest in the general RNR.


The exposure the RNR received from this event was huge.  The event accrued over 100 expressions of interest to join the RNR Diving branch so even if we get a 10% uptake, it's still a good piece of recruitment work.  I would like to thank the team who made the event such a success including WO2 Bland from HMS Forward for his recruitment skills.


Left to right: Mid Rob Powell, Ldg Diver Steve Boyd, PO Tim Pearce, PO Jacko Jackson and

Ldg Diver Aaron Barrett at Dive 2015 at the NEC in Birmingham 24/25 October 2015


We intend to repeat the event next year to continue to boost numbers.  


Kindest Regards,




31 Oct 15


Re-establishment of HMS Juffair (Jufair?) in Bahrain


The BBC News website contains this article, including video, describing today's ground-breaking ceremony at Mina Salman in Bahrain, involving UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Bahrain Foreign Secretary Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, to lay the cornerstone of a new HMS Juffair (sic).  In fact, the expanded UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) complex in the Juffair district of Bahrain, comprising a new headquarters and an engineering and logistics facility for the in-theatre Forward Support Unit, was opened on 15 June this year (see entry for 8 Jun 15 in News Archive 50).  One assumes the previous spelling of HMS Jufair will be utilised in accordance with Royal Navy custom and practice.



The article describes the establishment at Juffair as Britain's first new permanent military base in the Middle East since 1971 although the UK has maintained a continuous MCM presence in the Gulf since the arrival of HMS Ramsey and HMS Blyth in Bahrain in 2006.  The previous HMS Jufair, commissioned in November 1955, was home to the 9th Minesweeping Squadron (9th MSS) of TON class minesweepers from January 1963.  In 1966, the Squadron was renamed the 9th Mine Countemeasures Squadron (9th MCMS) to reflect the inclusion of TON class minehunters and it was finally disbanded in August 1971.  Following a UN referendum and Bahrain's declaration of independence from the UK, HMS Jufair was decommissioned in December 1971 and was adopted by the US Navy, first as the Administrative Support Unit Bahrain and then as Naval Support Activity Bahrain.



Above and below: HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 8) and HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 6)

alongside at Mina Salman in Bahrain




General Sir Richard Barrons (Commander Joint Forces Command) being briefed by Cdr Paul Ottewell RN

(Cdr UK MCM Force) with a faceless Alasdair Magill (Ops Officer UKMCM Force) near right



The Royal Navy has ties with the small kingdom of Bahrain going back 200 years and has maintained a permanent presence in the Gulf for the past 30 years.  However, its role in the region has mushroomed since 2001 when it established its first headquarters in Bahrain since the previous HMS Jufair (7 Nov 1955 to 15 Dec 1971 - see entry for 25 Aug 13 in News Archive 43).  In 2001 the effort was supported by a staff of eight.  Now UKMCC numbers more than 80 men and women and they have outgrown their former building.


Three Men in a Boat


Barlow and Hoole were present and correct today but Holloway's place in the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine Trio' was taken by Hoole's neighbour Lez again as we took 'My Way Too' the short distance from her summer berth at Whale Island to Fareham for our last sail of the season.  The sky was overcast to begin with but the autumn sun gradually burned through the mist and cloud.




A light following breeze and the flood tide carried us to our destination fairly rapidly with just the main sail set.  On arrival at Fareham Marina, 'My Way Too' was craned from the water and we removed her sails and pressure-washed her hull.




It was then time to relax on the Sailing Club's balcony, take in the view and enjoy some club sandwiches washed down with a few pints of Doom Bar.  In no time at all, we were surrounded by a rapidly growing number of club members, all intent on listening to Barlow's dits and jokes.  As Barlow is getting quite 'Mutt & Jeff' these days, he much prefers broadcasting to receiving so this situation suited him down to the ground.  Suffice it to say that this turned into one of our longer lunchtime sessions.




30 Oct 15


News from HMS Shoreham


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Jim Lovell, Commanding Officer of HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 1), for this update received via the Ton Class Association (TCA).  I write a column titled 'MCMV News' for the Associaton's bi-monthly newsletter 'Ton Talk'.


"I have the privilege of having taken Command of HMS SHOREHAM, from Lieutenant Commander Mark Redmayne Royal Navy, as the Commanding Officer of the First Mine Countermeasures Squadron's Crew 1.  Having had the August copy of 'Ton Talk' land on my desk, I thought I'd take the time to introduce myself and update you as to the activities of SHOREHAM and Crew 1.


HMS SHOREHAM has recently returned form a three year period on Operation Kipion, based out of Bahrain.  The Ship has been an integral part of the UK MCM effort in the Middle East region and has now returned home to Faslane, for much needed maintenance. 


MCM1 Crew 1 joined SHOREHAM in Bahrain for their period of duty on Operation Kipion and spent seven months in the Gulf region, prior to returning the Ship seven thousand miles to the UK.  Over the last two months, the Ship's Company have enjoyed some well earned leave.  We are now preparing to leave SHOREHAM and due to the unique way these Ships are managed, Crew 1 will be moving on to HMS PEMBROKE at the end of November, in which we will deploy for NATO Operations in the Baltic region in April 2016.


I very much look forward to updating you as to Crew l's activities during my period in Command and please accept the best wishes from HMS SHOREHAM and MCM1 Crew 1.


Yours aye,




SDU1 called to 'petrol bomb factory' in Redruth


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article describing a call-out for members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) to a 'petrol bomb facory' found at the home of a 22-year-old man suffering Asperger Syndrome in Redruth, Cornwall.


29 Oct 15 - Funeral of former CPO(D) Dougie 'Basher' Briggs


Basher (standing second left) starting CD Basic's course at HMS Vernon in 1964


Basher's funeral, held today at The Oaks Crematorium near Havant, was well attended by family, friends and former colleagues (see entry for 17 Oct 15).  MCDOA members included founding Chairman David Sandiford, founding Vice Chairman Rob Hoole and David Bartlett MBE.  Other members of the RN diving community included Cris Ballinger BEM, David 'Jim' Bond, Alan 'Donkey' Bray, Mo Crang, John Dadd BEM, Chris 'Paddy' Doonan, Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM*, Vern Gibbons, Mike Handford, Glyn Holgate, Chris Jones, Colin 'Scouse' Kidman QGM, Jim Lynch, Gerry 'Pincher' Martin, Ray Ramsay, Terry Settle MBE QGM BEM, Jack Smith, Clive 'Taff' Thomas and Paul 'Yorky' Tudor.  The family much appreciated the presence of serving personnel in uniform including MCDOA former Hon Sec Mick Beale and fellow MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE, WO(D) Steve Fitzjohn, WO(D) Jim Slade and CPO(D) 'Nelly' Nilsson (current 'Chief of the Island' at Horsea).  We were also blessed with the presence of ex-CPO(D) Jasper Peters' widow Margaret and ex-CPO(MEM) Brian Wise who worked with the Portland CD Team and served in seven MCMVs.


Basher (standing second right) starting the EOD module of his CD1's course at DEODS

in the mid-1970s when the course officer was Lt Steve Epperson USN


The casket, draped in a white ensign, was borne into the chapel to the sound of 'Whatever You Want' by Status Quo.  The Revd Paul Hickman then paid credit to the Rosemary Foundation District Nurses for the 'fabulous' way they looked after Dougie.  He continued with this welcome:


"Let's just pause and take a time of Quiet to take a breath, to hold a memory of Douglas, Dougie, Basher as you remember him as a man who once met, would never be forgotten.  He had a 'wicked' sense of humour with strong opinions, and it could be argued he was not the most politically correct man in the world.  Basher enjoyed LBC Radio (Let Britain Chat).  As one of the presenters once said, "It's more fun when people disagree with me."  This was endorsed whole-heartedly by Dougie. 


Dougie was so very proud of his service in the Royal Navy which was his main career as a Bomb Disposal Diver which defined his personality.  He retired as a Chief Petty Officer.  He had a lifetime passion for rugby and, despite his long battle with illness, he was able to see England's last game in this year's World Cup.  Sadly, England did not deliver on this occasion.


Basher (wearing white sunhat) with the FOST Clearance Diving Team including

MCDOA member Stu McAlear fifth from the left


He loved motorbikes including a Triumph 900 Triple which he shared with Mark.  It was laid-back and loud which suited him.


First and foremost in his life were his family, comrades in the Navy, workmates and a wide circle of friends.  A dad and father-in-law to Mark & Sarah, Karen & Kevin, his much-loved grandchildren Tom and Hannah, Toby, Elliott, Megan and Emily, a brother to Morris and Susan, special to Pat and Simone, his sister-in-law Ma and Dave, his mates Jack [Smith], Clive (Taff) [Thomas], Pete Still, Ray [Ramsay] and a friend to many his life has touched over the years through work and play, and I'm sure made richer.


Basher (centre holding a file) on an EOD call-out with the Portland CD Team


All your own personal memories, sad and happy ones, it could be a memory that will bring back happy times in your lives together, all personal memories of a special man in your lives, at this time of loss, grief and sadness, in this place at this time.


L to R: Tangy Lee, Basher Briggs, Jeff Bradley, Jumbo Jervis, ? Richardson, Jimmy Norman,

Darby Allan,and OEA1 Rowles of the Portsmouth & Medway Clearance Diving Team

 on board HMS Plymouth in May 1978

(See appended messages from Brian 'Jumbo' Jervis and John Pennington below)


However, today we can also try and remember to celebrate those good times in Douglas's life, as those memories are like treasure.  A family member and such an important man in your lives should always be mourned of course, but also those memories should be polished, admired and celebrated.  Especially memories of a man, who leaves behind him for those who loved, knew, respected and appreciated him, for simply being Douglas, Dougie, Basher, Dad, Granddad, your brother comrade and friend."


Paul then read this poem:


Memories Build a Special Bridge

by Emily Mathews


Our memories build a special bridge

When loved ones have to part

To help us feel were with them still

And soothe a grieving heart

They span the years and warm our lives

Preserving ties that bind

Our memories build a special bridge

And bring us peace of mind.



After the opening prayer, we sang the Naval Hymn, 'Eternal Father'.  Paul then read this poem


Our Dad


He never looked for praises. He was never one to boast

He just went on quietly working for those he loved the most.

 His dreams were seldom spoken his wants were very few

And most of the time his worries went unspoken too.

 He was always there, a firm foundation through all our storms of life

A sturdy hand to hold to in times of stress and strife

A true friend we could turn to when times were good or bad

One of our greatest blessings. The man that we called our Dad.


 He then read these family tributes:


"So as we arrive at today at this place at this time, to say our goodbyes, a service and celebration for a loved one can perhaps also focus our minds on our own life's and the way we live them.  What we have heard today and your own personal memories, I would argue is the meaning of true wealth, a bank of memories and a deposit in life that will gain interest over the years.


When the coins (or days) of your life are spent, they are spent - and there are no refunds.  This is a truly sobering thought, which should motivate each of us to live with cause and passion for those we hold dear, especially our families and despite their faults as, guess what, we all have them.  What is important is not to fear the days being spent, because they will, but rather make sure we are investing each one of them wisely.  When they are spent, it is what was purchased or accomplished with them that determine their true worth or success.


Let these thoughts motivate us all to spend them well, to spend each and every day wisely, just as I'm sure Douglas, Dougie, Basher would want you to do."


We then listened to Joe Cocker's 'With a Little Help from my Friends' while watching a sequence of photos spanning Basher's life and naval career.  This was followed by prayers, including the Lord's Prayer, and the Commendaton and Farewell.  After the blessing, mourners exited to the sound of Rod Stewart's 'Going Out Dancing'.  Apparently, this song was relevant to Basher because he attended a weekend dinner dance at Burleigh Manor.  When the DJ was packing up to go home, Basher switched everything back on as he insisted that the tickets did not define a finishing time so everyone kept on dancing.


These words by Theodore Roosevelt were printed on the back of the Order of Service and read out by the officiator before we departed.  Sadly, they seem particularly apt for a minor element of our community on occasion:


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."


After the service, most of us went on to Cowplain Social Club for light refreshments and to raise a glass in Basher's memory.


Dougie 'Basher' Briggs

(2 Sep 1943 - 10 Oct 2015)


From ex-RN MCDO Brian 'Jumbo' Jervis in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA:


"Hi Rob,


Very glad to get rid of the mystery.  I was very sorry to hear about Basher, he was a very good friend and a great character.


Attached is a précis of the Report of Proceedings that I found tucked away in my cellar.  If you want any more information please don't be hesitant to ask for it.


Take great care,


Brian "Jumbo" Jervis"


This is the précis Jumbo sent:


"Hi Rob,


Good to hear from you and thank you for the photograph.  It brought back many happy memories.


I found my old “Report of Proceedings” records and had fun going through them.  Here in the format you requested are some details to go with the picture.


Who: The Portsmouth & Medway Clearance Diving Team.


Members: Front row: Tangy Lee, Basher Briggs, Jumbo Jervis, Have forgotten name, OEA 1 Rowles. Back Row: Jeff Bradley, Another forgotten name, and Darby Allan.


What: We were celebrating immediately after the sinking of the Eleni V.


Where: Aboard HMS Plymouth approximately 26 miles out from the coast of Great Yarmouth.


When: Approximately 1015 on 30 May 1978.


Why: On 6 May 1978 the Greek registered Eleni V steaming north to Grangemouth from Holland with 16,000 tons of heavy furnace fuel oil was sliced in two by a French freighter heading in the opposite direction towards the English Channel.  They collided in thick fog 8 miles off the Norfolk coast.  There was no loss of life.


Between 6 May and 30 May much discussion ensued by authorities as to what to do with the wreck.  On 25 May the Superintendent of Diving informed me, Lieutenant Jumbo Jervis, that I was to meet with the Trade Undersecretary Mr. Stanley Clinton Davis and his staff and inform them how I would deal with the Eleni V.  I put together a plan as to how I was going to place explosive charges on the hull and the deck of the vessel. The vessel was half submerged and upside down. I planned to use 3265 pounds of explosive charges, 36 foot of safety fuse, three detonators, and 4000 feet of cordtex, at a cost of £13,484.00. They would be strategically placed to open up all of the oil tanks on the hull. Moments later, the charges that were placed on the deck below the water line detonated forcing the remaining oil up through the ruptures in the hull and thereby creating a fireball."


By Webmaster: This was the article in the November 1978 issue of Navy News announcing the resulting commendations:



From ex-CD John Pennington:


"Hi Rob,


Third and fourth from the right in the photo are AB(CD2) Richardson and baby CD Jimmy Norman.  They served in the Fleet CD Team with me in 1973/74.  The Bosses were [MCDOA members] John O'Driscoll and then Bob White."


27 Oct 15 - SDU2 detonates live shell off Southend Pier


The Southend-on-Sea Argus website contains this article, including video, of the detonation of a live shell by members of Portsmouth-based Southerrn Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) off the beach at Southend today.


25 Oct 15 - Bob Hawkins on board former HMS Brecon


MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE is currently undergoing pre-joining courses prior to assuming his new role as First Lieutenant of HMS Queen Elizabeth next year.  He recently found himself at HMS Raleigh near Torpoint in Cornwall where he visited the former Hunt class MHSC (Mine Hunter Sweeper Coastal) HMS Brecon, now 'STV Brecon' serving as a harbour training ship at Jupiter Point.







This article from the April 1980 issue of Navy News describes the commissioning of HMS Brecon, the first of her class, on Maintenance Jetty at HMS Vernon (now Gunwharf Quays) in Portsmouth on 18 December 1979.  She was the largest GRP-constructed vessel in the world to date and I remember the occasion and its significance extremely well.



24 Oct 15 - News from HMS Hurworth



I am grateful to MCDOA member Steve White, Commanding Officer of HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 5), for this update:




I hope you are well and no doubt looking forward to getting everyone together for the forthcoming MCDOA Dinner which I intend to go along to on completion of our OST.  


I was pleased to see my picture on the website after our recent visit to Loch Ewe during JW when we hosted the school children as well as Capt Chris O’Flaherty RN (MCDO) onboard.  PFA our newsletter for Sept which you are free to use as you see fit (for the MCDOA Website and / or Ton Talk) and I will send you the Oct edition soon.


See you soon.






Lt Cdr S J White RN

Commanding Officer


HMS Hurworth's September Newsletter is available for download here:




23 Oct 15 - 75th Anniversary of Armed Forces Bomb Disposal


The Daily Telegraph website contains this article and the BBC website this article, including videos, covering yesterday's service at St Paul's Cathedral to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Armed Forces Bomb Disposal.  One of the principal speakers was Col Mike Brooke OBE RE, former Commanding Officer of 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal).



Originally a Royal Marine, Mike left the Army in 2003 and is President of the Royal Engineers Association (Bomb Disposal Branch).  He is also a member of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) with which the MCDOA is affiliated and has attended several of our dinners:


Col Mike Brooke OBE RE and Maj David Hough RE flanking 'Yours Truly'

at the MCDOA Dinner in 2011


I understand that PO(D) Andy Coulson also read a passage at the service which was attended by HRH Prince Harry, Commodore-in-Chief of Small Ships & Diving.


Contrary to the headlines in some newspapers (e.g. the Daily Mail), this service wasn't just about the Army.  By 1939, concurrent with the formation of Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal parties, the Admiralty and Air Ministry had set up their own distinct Bomb Disposal organisations, each with an exclusive responsibility to its parent service.  In August 1940, the UK Joint Service Bomb Disposal Charter was raised to outline and establish inter-Service responsibilities for UK Explosive Ordnance Disposal.  For example, Naval Bomb Disposal Teams were set up under the Directorate of Naval Ordnance under the Director of the Naval Unexploded Bomb Department (DUBD) to discharge the Royal Navy’s responsibility for dealing with unexploded bombs on its own property.  By 20 September 1940 there were Naval bomb disposal teams at 27 shore establishments.  Each team was led by a BSO (Bomb Safety Officer) who was normally a Sub Lieutenant RNVR or Commonwealth equivalent of the RNVR.  During the Second World War, mine disposal (and thus bomb disposal) was the prerogative of the Torpedo Branch whose alma mater was HMS Vernon.  In October 1946, the Torpedo Branch spawned the Torpedo & Anti-Submarine (TAS) Branch, which included Clearance Divers as a fully specialised qualification from March 1952, and this in turn spawned the MW and Diver sub-branches of the Operations (now Warfare) Branch in January 1975.


Of necessity, bomb disposal during the Blitz involved personnel from all three services working all over the country.  According to the George Cross Database, naval personnel (RN, RNR, RNVR and RANVR) received 21 of the 42 George Crosses awarded to service personnel for bomb disposal during the Second World War (see 'WW II Awards for RN Diving and Bomb & Mine Disposal' in the website's Branch History section for specific details).  There were 21 Navy, 16 Army and 5 RAF recipients overall.


Postscript: Mike led the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Association during this year's Remembrance Sunday march past the Cenotaph on 8 November.



22 Oct 15 - This year's MCDOA Annual Dinner, AGM and Operational Updates



Time is running out to book for this year's MCDOA Annual Dinner in the wardroom at HMS Excellent on Friday 20 November.  See the entry for 14 Sep 15 in News Archive 51 for further details.



The programme for this year's MCDOA AGM and Operational Updates, held in the Reclaim Theatre at Fleet Diving Headquarters on Horsea Island on the same day, will be as follows:


0930-1000 Members arrive (Tea/coffee available)
1000-1200 Update briefs
SofD – Introduction
Cdr Readwin – Current Operations
Cdr Crosbie – Current Capability
Cdr Savage – Future Capability
1200-1230 Pre-lunch drinks
1230-1315 Lunch (free)
1330 AGM
o/c Tea/coffee
By 1600 Depart


The calling notice containing further information, including the AGM agenda, is available for download here and via the Forthcoming Events page.  Those wishing to attend are requested to e-mail Mark Shaw, our Honorary Secretary, at this address with name, matters arising and vehicle details (make, model, colour, registration).  


21 Oct 15 - Peter Laughton takes his ship to St Helena


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing a visit to St Helena by the Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster and the tanker RFA Gold Rover to mark the bicentennial anniversary of Napoleon’s arrival on the island in 1815.  The article features MCDOA member Peter Laughton MBE, the Commanding Officer of HMS Lancaster.


Peter Laughton laying a floral tribute at Napoleon's now empty tomb on St Helena

(RN website photo)


20 Oct 15 - RN and US minehunters test robots in the Red Sea


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article describing the participation of HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 8) and HMS Shoreham (MCM 1 Crew 1) with their mother ship RFA Cardigan Bay and members of Fleet Diving Unit 3 (FDU3) in a joint MCM exercise in the Red Sea.   


HMS Grimsby & HMS Shoreham

alongside RFA Cardigan Bay

(RN website photo)


The exercise also involved the American minehunters USS Devastator and USS Gladiator. 


USN and RN divers showing their respective flags underwater

(RN website photo)


The UK forces operated their REMUS and Seafox UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles) while the US forces operated their Seabotix and Mk18 Mod 2 Kingfish UUVs.


Seafox mine disposal vehicle being prepared

(RN website photo)


The articles feature MCDOA members Alasdair Magill (Ops Officer UKMCM Force) and James George (OIC FDU3).


Alasdair Magill and his US Navy counterpart

(RN website photo)


17 Oct 15 - Arrangements for the funeral of ex-CPO(D) Dougie 'Basher' Briggs


Gerry 'Pincher' Martin has informed me that Basher's funeral will take place at 1000 on Thursday 29 October at The Oaks Crematorium, Barton Road, Havant PO9 5NA.


I have appended tributes to Basher to the entry for 11 Oct 15 and will add any others I receive.


16 Oct 15 - NDG disposes of S Mk 6 mine in Clyde


The Royal Navy website has now published this article describing the removal and detonation of a torpedo-shaped S Mk 6 submarine-laid moored acoustic mine in the Clyde (see first entry for 14 Oct 15).  The article features MCDOA member Tim 'Castro' Castrinoyannakis, OIC of Northern Diving Unit 2 (NDU2).


Mine lifting bags supporting underslung mine

(RN website photo)


15 Oct 15 - Funeral of former CPO(CD1) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington



Shiner's funeral, held yesterday at Seven Hills Crematorium near Ipswich, was well attended by family and friends (see entry for 3 Oct 15).  CD Branch members present included David 'Jim' Bond, Derek Phillips and his wife Carol, AORNFCD Honorary Secretary Brian 'Troy' Tempest, Paul 'Yorky' Tudor and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole).


The casket was borne into the chapel to the sound of 'The Warsaw Concerto' (the theme tune of Dangerous Moonlight) by Addinsell Thibault.  It was surmounted by a replica of a US Navy Mk V diving helmet, a diver's dirk and floral tributes.  Melanie Joseph, the celebrant, then welcomed attendees with these words:


"Good afternoon.


It is my privilege today, on behalf of his family, to welcome you all here to honour and celebrate the life of Michael Brassington and to say goodbye to him.  I didn't have the pleasure of knowing Michael, known to you as Shiner, so it is my role today to act simply as your guide through this service of farewell to him, which has been planned and prepared by just some of those who know and love him: his wife Coralie and his daughter Cheryl.  Together they have combined words, music, memories and humour to bring Shiner back to us for this short time we have together."


Melanie then shared these thoughts on life and death:


"Although it's always hard to come to terms with the loss of someone we love, death must be acknowledged as part of that natural cycle which we all have to experience, and at whatever age it comes to us - it follows birth and life, just as night follows day.  We have no choice but to accept it as inevitable.  In a peaceful moment, if we contemplate that cycle, we can imagine perhaps the tree of life, of which we are all an essential part, as our symbol of that common experience.


We can imagine the whole human race as the tree's solid trunk and branches, with each of us representing a beautiful and vibrant single leaf, budding, unfurling, flourishing, fading and then falling, each in our turn.  Some of us will fall early, torn from our hold on the tree by the winds of circumstance, while others will cling fast, on into a golden auturnn, and the contentment of winter's old age.  But one thing is sure - whenever we fall, we are all one day destined to fade and return to the earth.  To provide sustenance and nourishment for the roots left behind.  But while we endure, we are part of the collective life of mankind, each of us, like Shiner, making unique contribution to the whole. Each of those leaves - each of us - is separate and unique.


Look throughout the whole world and there is no one like the person who you have lost.  But he still lives on in your memories and, looking beyond your grief today, I hope it will be possible to be comforted by the knowledge that Shiner was, and still is, a part of your lives. He will live on in the hearts of those he loved, and who loved him. He will live on in the influence he has had on those around him.  He will live on in the numerous legacies, both seen and unseen, which he has left for present and future generations.  He can be remembered as a living, vital presence, his influence continuing because of all he was, and all he did, whilst he was still with you. In recognition of Shiner's proud service in the Royal Navy I would ask you to please stand and join us In the lovely Hymn, Eternal Father Strong to Save, the words to which can be found in your hymn books."


After we had sung the Naval Hymn, Melanie went on to read these memories of Shiner:


"Shiner was born in West Ham in 1936 to Violet and Walter, brother to Peter, Billy and Len.  He lived in Chingford and as well as being evacuated to Yorkshire for a time, went to the Wellington Avenue School where he developed a reputation as a bit of a daredevil - if anyone would do it, it would be him.  He once searched Epping Forest for a crashed German plane and on finding it in the trees, took the helmet off the pilot and took it home with him, complete with a piece of his skull still inside! 


He used to put halfpennies on the train tracks to turn them into pennies and was, in Coralie's words, 'a bit harem scarem'.  She had heard of him from school and, although they were eventually introduced by a neighbour, he was too scared to ask her out.  Upon leaving school he went to London to train as a chef but hated it so he persuaded his father to sign his papers so he could join the Royal Navy at the age of 15.  After his training at HMS Ganges in Shotley, where he was a button boy on top of the mast, he was posted to Malta where he began to write to Coralie.  Upon his return to England he took her for their first date in London and was surprised when she kept refusing to go into any of the restaurants he had chosen, until he realised it was because she was intimidated by the presence of the table cloths, a fact that he teased her with for many years after.  He proposed after just a week of them going out and she told him not to be so daft, they'd only just met.  Not a man to be deterred by this, he tried again one week later and this time she said yes.


A week after they were married in Chingford they moved down to Portsmouth and Shirier joined a minesweeper two weeks after that.  HMS Eagle took Shiner around the world with his work on board as a diver and bomb disposal expert, sometimes being away for up to a year.  One of his proudest moments occurred in 1953 when Shiner was one of the guards on parade for the Queen's Coronation.  As he stood to attention in his smart Royal Naval uniform with the rain pouring down from above, white blanco from his hat began to drip down his face.  Sir Winston Churchill then chose this moment to drive past in his carriage and upon spotting Shiner and his white face, prodded his wife, Clementine.  They both then turned to look at him for a few moments and Churchill formally saluted him.  From this moment on he has been a lifelong fan of Churchill. 


He and Coralie moved back to Chingford, where they were blessed with the arrival of son Mark.  A move to Fareham was followed by the arrival of daughter Cheryl and in 1966 they bought their first bungalow In Horndean.


When I asked Cheryl what her dad was like she said - Wonderful.   He had them in fits of laughter and both she and Mark could twist him around their little finger.  He was patient and calm and always doing something interesting with them.  Cheryl tells me that they used to pretend that they had their own private yacht HMS Ark Royal, and their own private island, Horsea Island, where dad was a dive instructor.  She can't recall dad ever telling them off but they knew that a talking to from dad was much worse than a smack!


Churchill once said "No one should waste a day" and this was certainly true of Shiner.  He had many hobbies and could make almost anything - carving, painting, tapestry, building boats, and he was a gifted cartoonist.  He once made Cheryl a cape and a diving suit for both himself and later one for Mark.  He loved a challenge, then once he had mastered his craft, moved onto another one.  Coralie once asked him how he had stayed married to her for so long and he replied "Because you're a challenge every day!"


He was.a great cook, albeit one that made use of every pot and pan in the kitchen, and once created a 15 course meal for the family.


Shiner had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy, retiring as a Chief Petty Officer.  He was a remarkably brave man and sustained a few injuries over the years, injuring his sternum during an explosion and burning his feet badly when rescuing several of his colleagues from a fierce fire on HMS Swiftsure after it collided with another destroyer, and earning a bomb disposal medal in Malta.  He was also involved in nuclear research and helped to develop the modern day x-ray machine.


When he retired, he declared he was never going to wear a tie again, and eventually he and Coralie settled in Felixstowe where he had bought a shop and a flat without mentioning it to her!  This was to be a gun shop and Coralie set about decorating the flat above.  Shiner and son-in-law Jack took one look at it and used her newly decorated wall as a board for a battleships game and drew all over it - before knocking it down.


Shiner loved adventure but he aIso loved his family and doted on all of them - Cheryl and Mark, grandchildren Mickey J, Matthew and Fern, and great grandchildren Ben, Jack, Olivia, Declan, Connor, Ronan, Eden and mourned the loss of baby grand-daughter Robyn.  He also thought the world of son-in-law Jack and daughter-in-law Jacqui.


Shiner was a contented man who always said, "I've done everything and got a lovely wife."  Even in hospital, when he wasn't flirting with the nurses, he had his family in fits of laughter.  It is abundantly clear that he was a special man who will be missed by all those who were lucky enough to have had him in their life."


Melanie then read this poem which had been requested by Shiner's family:


He is Gone


You can shed tears that he is gone,

Or you can smile because he lived,

You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,

Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him

Or you can be full of the love that you shared,

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,

Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember him and only that he is gone

Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,

You can cry and close your mind be empty and turn your back,

Or you can do what he would want:

Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.


After a period of quiet reflection while Josh Groban's 'To Where You Are' played in the background, Melanie conducted the Committal:


"We gather to return to the natural cycle of life and death that part of beloved Shiner which cannot remain with us.  His memory is already committed safe and warm to your hearts.  It is now time to commit his body back to the nature which formed him.  May love, light, truth and peace grow from this sorrow and enrich your lives as we say our final farewells.  Or in the words of the great Winston Churchill, "I am ready to meet my maker.  Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.""


A few more words were said before the mourners departed to the sound of Strauss's Blue Danube.


Several of us, including the ex-RN diving contingent, repaired to Shiner's home in Walton near Felixstowe for a reception that included a marvellous spread of food and drink in the dining room and kitchen.  However, Shiner's son Mark (who has inherited his father's title of 'Count of Nacton' as well as his sense of humour) had something special waiting for us in the conservatory:


Mark Brassington with his welcoming brew



David 'Jim' Bond, Brian 'Troy' Tempest, Rob Hoole and Paul 'Yorky' Tudor


I passed on our condolences to Shiner's widow Coralie and she said how pleased she was that some of his old naval friends had turned up for the service.


Coralie Brassington with Yours Truly


It will be an awfully long time before we see Shiner's like again.


Michael 'Shiner' John Brassington

(18 Feb 1936 - 30 Sep 2015) 

14 Oct 15


Breaking News - NDG dealing with possible 'unexploded bomb' off Gourock


MCDOA member Phil Ireland has kindly drawn my attention to this article on the Greenock Telegraph website which describes the discovery of an item of ordnance, possibly a "submarine mine", off Gourock in the Clyde.  According to a police spokesman, members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) are on the scene and plan to lift the device from its current location and move it out to sea to deactivate at approximately 1200 tomorrow (Thursday).  Also see this article on the Scottish Herald website which features MCDOA member Tim 'Castro' Castrinoyannakis, OIC of Northern Diving Unit 2 (NDU2).


Postscript: The BBC News website published this article on Thursday morning: Homes evacuated in Gourock as experts move unexploded mine



Post Postscript:  The Inverclyde Now website pubilshed this article, including several images, stating that the mine, believed to be an S Mk 6, was detonated between Greenock and Helensburgh at 1730 on Thursday 15 October.  According to the reported sequence of events:


"The Onlookers had waited for hours on The Esplanade but the finale to the drama was not spectacular, from land at least -- some spray and a bang."


HMS Hurworth hosts schoolchildren in Loch Ewe


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the recent operational visit of HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 5) to Loch Ewe on the north coast of Scotland where she was visited by children from the local Poolwe Primary School.  She was accompanied by her Hunt-class sister HMS Middleton and the Sandown-class minehunters HMS Pembroke and HMS Ramsey.  All four ships were then due to participate in the latest Exercise JOINT WARRIOR (3 to 16 October) involving 30 warships and submarines, 60 aircraft and around 6,300 personnel from the 12 nations taking part .




The article features MCDOA member Steve White, Commanding Officer of HMS Hurworth.


Lt Cdr Steve White RN


Gentlemen Who Lunch


Yesterday found the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole with their mate Lez enjoying lunch and quaffing Flower Pots real ale at The Wheatsheaf in Shedfield near Wickham.  Flower Pots ale, which comes in several varieties, is brewed at Cheriton near Alresford and is highly recommended.





13 Oct 15 - Video of Exercise DUGONG 2015


I am grateful to MCDOA member Ben Stait, Commanding Officer of the Fleet Diving Group (FDG), for drawing my attention to this video on the Australian Government website describing the seven-nation minewarfare and clearance diving Exercise DUGONG 2015 in Tasmania (see entry for 10 Oct 15).





Commentary for the video is provided by Cdr Max Muller CSM RAN who was hosted by 'Yours Truly' and other members of the Minewarfare Association (MWA) at a monthly 'Dit Session' in Fareham two years ago while he was undertaking the Advanced Minewarfare (AMW) course at HMS Collingwood (see entry for 31 May 13 in News Archive 42).



12 Oct 15 - HDS Conference 2015


Your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster was flying the flag for Royal Navy divers again at the Historical Diving Society's Annual Conference & Dinner at the RNLI College in Poole at the weekend.  I had previously spoken at the conference about the history of RN diving in 2011 (see entry for 30 Oct 11 in News Archive 36) but was invited back, this time to give a presentation about the Landing Craft Obstacle Clearance Units (LCOCUs).  The RN and RM personnel manning these units cleared the shallows for the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 (see 'Operation Neptune: Frogmen - The First Men Ashore on D-Day' in the website's Dit Box). 


As on the previous occasion, it was a great privilege to share the platform with Captain Jim Vorosmarti USN who spoke about the US Navy's SEALAB series of experiments with which he was involved during the 1960s.  It was also an honour to see ex-CPO(CD1) Derek 'Nobby' Clark, one of the RN partcipants in the project, although it was a shame that his then boss, MCDOA member Cyril Lafferty, was unable to attend (see entry for 22 Aug 15 in News Archive 51).




Overall, it was a highly illuminating and most enjoyable weekend including a speakers' dinner at a local fish restaurant on Friday night, the conference and annual dinner & disco on Saturday and the AGM on Sunday morning.




Other former members of the RN CD Branch present included Mike O'Meara (who chaired the conference), John Seldon and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.


11 Oct 15 - Death of Dougie 'Basher' Briggs


Gerry 'Pincher' Martin has informed me that ex-CPO(D) Basher Briggs passed away yesterday.  He had been suffering from cancer but I do not know the cause of his death.


I served with Basher in HMS Wilton in 1977 when he was the Coxswain and I was the First Lieutenant.  He was later 'Chief of the Island' at Horsea for several years before leaving the Navy.  I will publish funeral arrangements as and when they become available.


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


From MCDOA member David Bartlett MBE:


"Hi Rob,


Sad news to hear that Basher had passed away.  We served together in HMS Brinton in the Gulf and on our return to the UK 1972/73.  He was also a member of my Diving Training staff 1978/1980.  He was such a likeable character, good fun to be with and a very reliable and popular member of our branch.


Please pass on my sincere condolences to the family.  


Yours Aye,




From MCDOA member Ian Morton:




A well remembered ‘Chief of the Island’ in my early years in the branch.  Unfortunately I will not be able to attend his funeral as I am having a minor operation in QAH that morning.  Please pass on my condolences if you are attending.


Yours aye,




From MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton:


"Hi Rob,


I was very sorry to get the news about Basher.  I last saw him at the funeral of Ginger Snell [see entry for 24 Sep 14 in News Archive 47].  At that time he told me that he had been struggling with prostate cancer and was not doing too well.


He and I first met when we were both serving in HMS Victorious in 1960.  He was a Junior Seaman and I was a Leading Seaman (Diver 2) and part-time Juniors Instructor waiting to come to the top of the roster for Petty Officer.  When Victorious paid off we went our different ways.


We met up again in the FECDT in 1968 when I was appointed by their Lordships to relieve John Coggins as Fleet EODO (NOT self-appointed as Brian B. suggested in his "Memoirs").  I was his DO and we worked together on a variety of jobs all over the FEZ until we were both back in HMS Vernon and I was once again his DO in Deepwater.  During all this time he always maintained a dry sense of humour in sometimes difficult circumstances and with no sign of pugilistic tendencies!  I was never able to discover from whence his nick name was derived, and in polite company, as he progressed, preferred his Christian name.  I always felt that although not large in stature he was in heart, and it is so sad that he has been taken from us particularly in this way.


The world will be a poorer place for his passing.  Please give my belated but sincere condolences to his family.


Yours Aye,




From ex-CPO(D) Cris Ballinger:


"Hi Rob,


Like everyone who has worked and played with Basher, I was devastated to get the sudden news of his demise.  Even more so as I spent a few days in the summer visiting Portsmouth and, had I known, I would have visited him.


There are so many good memories from serving together and he was certainly the highlight when we did our CD1s course, as he refused to ever let anything seem serious.  There was always a laugh to be made out of some situation.


I was at Horsea on Friday for the dedication of the commemorative bell.  It seems fitting that Basher, who was Chief of the Island, should be the first to have it rung in his memory.


Please pass on my condolences go to his family.




From ex-CD2 Dickie Barrett:


"Hi Rob,


I have just found out about the death of ‘Basher’ Briggs and am devastated to hear this news.


I was with Basher in the FEFCDT 1968-1970 having joined as a baby CD2.  Any doubts I may have had about the branch were soon put to rest by Basher.  He took me under his wing and assured me joining the branch was the best thing I ever did.  Once again he was correct.  He was an amazing character to be with both topside and under the waves.  His guidance through those early years were invaluable.


I last saw him a few years back, first time for ages, when I was in the New Forest.  He just strolled in, walked up and said, "Hello Dickie.  I'm still waiting for that pint you owe me."  It was a pleasure to buy him one (or two) and share old times again.


He goes up there and joins a fantastic team.  He will be joining his long-time buddy Jacko Jackson where I am sure the two of them will share some dits.  He will be sadly missed.


Please pass on my condolences to his wife and family.




From former WO(D) Ray Ramsay:


"Hi Rob,


Absolutely devastated by the sad news that Basher has passed away.  I served with him on several drafts: FEFCDT 1968 to 70, he was in HMS Brinton in the Gulf while I was in HMS Brereton in 1971, FCDT 1972 - ?.  We also served together in HMS Vernon at various times.


We kept in touch for a time when he left the Pusser.  His son Mark worked where I work for several years.


He was a true character and a buddy.  I always called him "Young Briggs", amongst other things, because he was born four days after me.


My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to Shirley, Karen, Mark and all of his grandchildren.



10 Oct 15 - From our man on Horsea Island


I am grateful to MCDOA member Ben Stait, Commanding Officer of the Fleet Diving Group (FDG), for this contribution:




Greetings from Horsea Island!  I thought you would like to post the following to dits on recent and ongoing FDG activity.


First, this article from ABC news.


FDU2 under the command of Lt Cdr Sean 'Central' Heaton are in Horbart, Tasmania conducting Exercise DUGONG, a combined mine countermeasures (MCM) tactical training exercise involving divers and MCMVs from Aus/NZ/US/Can/UK.  FDU2 have deployed with a full MCM diving capability including Underwater vehicles, handheld sonars and CDLSE for the three-week exercise.



Above and below: FDU2 divers during Exercise DUGONG



FDU3 have just got back from diving on HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse with the Royal Malaysian Navy.  Under the command of Lt James George, FDU3 conducted a combined dive with CDU1.  In some challenging diving conditions they managed to replace the ensign on the wreck of HMS Repulse.  The RMN has been policing the war grave sites as it has been evident that they have been subjected to illegal salvage activity.



Above and below: FDU3 divers with Royal Malaysian Navy divers







Lt Cdr Ben Stait RN

Commanding Officer

Fleet Diving Group "


9 Oct 15 - From our man in Tonga


I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave 'Spidy' Ince, who transferred from the RN to the RAN in 2006, for this update:


"G’day Rob,  


Many regrets that I am unable to attend this year's dinner.  It is a great shame that my recent BRNC 30th Reunion didn’t coincide with the MCDOA’s Annual Dinner, but two trips to the UK in two months isn’t doable due to temporal and financial constraints.  Once again I shall be there in spirit rather than person.  It will happen one day and I shall of course continue to pay my subs!  


Has another year gone already?  Life down in the South Pacific is fine and dandy and I have recently been given the welcome news that I am extended in post an additional 12 months until January 2017.  We have had a number of visitors from the UK and the invite remains open for any folk who want to take advantage of our current location.  The best time of year to descend on us is late August to mid-October.  That is the middle of the dry season (nice weather) and the height of the humpback whale migration season.  The seas around here teem with them this time of year and Tonga is one of the few places in the world where you are allowed to swim with the magnificent beasts.  I actually moonlight as a dive and whale swimming guide from time to time.  Not bad work when you can get it.  Fellow MCDOA member Keith Broughton has provisionally booked himself a slot with us next year!



Now that I have plugged the Kingdom of Tonga’s tourist industry I will report that Inceys continue to flourish in the Southern Hemisphere.  Julie works harder than me as a volunteer physio at the one and only Tongan hospital.  One of her many achievements is rehabilitating a Tongan soldier who badly injured his spine during a rugby match.  He was a quadraplegic when she started his rehab treatment with no prospect (according to the Drs) of ever walking again.  He is now fully mobile and later this month will be travelling to the UK with his Tongan Army/Navy mates to participate in the military rugby world cup, I hasten to add in a support role only!


Both our sons are members of the Australian Defence Force. The eldest is in the Air Force and our youngest is in the Army on the direct entry Commando scheme.  Not to be outdone by his younger brother, our eldest applied to transfer to the Commandos and both are on the same same SF selection in a few weeks time.  The closest analogy to the Aussie Commandos is the SBS, hence why SF selection.  At this stage we remain a ‘purple’ family, but talk about sibling rivalry!  I expect them to have no mercy on me once they both pass.  Julie blames me for their career choices, but to be honest the way the world is today I’d rather they had chosen a different path.  The Aussie SF are at the pointy end of a much used single spear.



All my very best to the branch bretheren.  I will raise my glass on the night to say ofa’atu, that is ‘cheers’ in Tongan.  


Yours aye, 


Dave 'Spidy' Ince




Maritime Surveillance Adviser - Tonga


8 Oct 15 - Taff Reader's 'moving on' party


A few friends and colleagues gathered at The Still & West in Old Portsmouth last night to mark ex-CPO(MW) Peter 'Taff' Reader's departure from the Minewarfare Training Element at the Maritime Warfare, School, HMS Collingwood.  However, he is only moving as far as the Saudi Training Section.


Taff Reader (fourth from left in front row) with friends and colleagues






Taff was presented with a rum-filled decanter and there was no shortage of volunteers to help him empty it and toast his continuing health and happiness.



7 Oct 15 - SDG divers in Iceland


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Portsmouth News website this article (including video) describing the participation of 12 members of Southern Diving Group (SDG) in the two-week long NATO EOD/IEDD Exercise NORTHERN CHALLENGE in Keflavik, Iceland.  The article features MCDOA member Al Nekrews QGM (CO SDG) who was also chosen as the CO of the Multi-National Explosive Ordnance Disposal Co-ordination Cell for the exercise owing to his extensive knowledge of maritime and land bomb disposal operations.  It also mentions CPO(D) Simon Crew, PO(D) Sam ‘Nobby’ Clark, LS(D) Mathew O'Brien, AB(D) Jeremy Osborne and AB(D) Lee Martin Harris-Joce plus PO Andrew ‘Snowy’ Davies of the Danish Navy who is a former RN diver.


Al Nekrews with other members of SDG being flown out to their first tasking of the day

(RN website photo)


4 Oct 15 -  Congratulations to our Membership Secretary (and a heartfelt plea from him)


Congratulations to MCDOA member Dave Stanbury on his promotion to Lt Cdr last Friday on assuming the role of PSO (Principal Staff Officer: old-style SOO) for Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2) (see entry for 10 Aug 15 in News Archive 51).  He has promised to provide regular updates.


Dave is still looking for a relief as our Honorary Membership Secretary while he is abroad for the next eight months.  He is also dismayed at the number of emails he has sent to members which have been rejected because they have not bothered to update their contact details.  Several of these members are still paying the old annual subscription rate of £10 despite its increase to £15 from January 2011.


If you have not updated your details for the MCDOA membership database within the past year, please download this proforma, complete it and email it to Dave at this address.  If you are in any doubt, please do it anyway.



3 Oct 15 - Arrangements for the funeral of former CPO(CD1) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington


Shiner's funeral will take place at 1500 on Wednesday 14 October at Seven Hills Crematorium, Ipswich, Suffolk IP10 0FG (see entry for 30 Sep 15 in News Archive 51).  The cortege will leave from 169 High Road, Walton in Felixstowe.


If anyone in the Portsmouth area would like a lift on the day, please contact me via my Webmaster email address.


Postscript: Ex-CD1 Colin 'Foggy' Goff has kindly drawn my attention to this notice:



2 Oct 15 - Bill 'Chippy' Norton sends his best wishes


I visited venerable MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton today and he sends his best wishes to all who know him.



Bill conquered throat cancer several years ago but he has been back in hospital recently after falling seriously ill at his home in Spain.  He is now recuperating at his other home in Portsmouth where he is being ministered to by his charming Norwegian wife Gunhild.


1 Oct 15


HMS Grimsby deals with wartime mines off Danish coast


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 5 commanded by MWO Neil Griffiths) in Exercise NORTHERN COAST 15 in the Baltic region.  Apart from detecting and recovering drill mines laid for the exercise, Grimsby also dealt with six wartime mines ('historical' but not 'historic').  The article features AB(D) Michael Scott.


HMS Grimsby is currently deployed with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1).


Three Men in a Boat


Once again, filial duties prevented Holloway from joining Barlow & Hoole, his fellow members of the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine Trio', for their weekly gathering yesterday but Hoole's neighbour Lez stepped in once more for a breezy sail from the marina at Whale Island.  Lez is seen here at the tiller of 'My Way Too' in Portsmouth harbour under Barlow's watchful gaze.





Back to top


News Archives