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

30 Sep 17


SDU1 deals with ordnance in Bristol Channel


The Somerset County Gazette website contains this article and the Burnham-on-Sea website this article reporting Thursday's disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of an item of ordnance found off Burnham-on-Sea.  Photos from RNLI Lifeboats at Burnham-on-Sea/Mike Lang.






SDU2 deals with anti-tank rocket near Winchester


The Southern Daily Echo website contains this article reporting yesterday's disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of an unexploded anti-tank projectile found at Crawley near Winchester



29 Sep 17 - Death of Lt Colin Churcher MBE RN


Colin passed away peacefully in hospital in Aberdeen yesterday afternoon (see entry for 22 Sep 17).


I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our deep condolences to his wife Hilda and their family.  I will publish the funeral arrangements when available.


Lt Colin Churcher MBE RN

(15 Apr 1926 - 29 Sep 2017)


From MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE:


"I was privileged to have had Colin as my Course Officer on my SDO's course, Apr '80, and thus his signature in my original log."


From MCDOA member Peter Waddington:




Having just returned from sailing, I have today caught up with the website, and having missed your entry re Colin's hospitalisation I was greatly saddened to read of his passing last Thursday.


Our paths didn't cross frequently either while serving after we both qualified or since retirement except at the annual dinners where we last met in 2015, but he was of course a stalwart member of our CDO qualifying course in 1964.  He was invariably smiling, cheerful and friendly, and despite being something like 10 years older than most of us, he was extremely fit. Keeping up with him was often quite a challenge!


Coincidentally, we first met the year before our qualifying course, while serving with the British Joint Services Training Team in Ghana; he as the Gunnery Training Officer in the Naval Base at Takoradi, and I as the CO of GNS Komenda. He and his first wife Jan were near neighbours of ours in our shore accommodation in Takoradi.


I have a crew booked to come sailing with me again next week, so regret that I am unlikely to be able to attend the funeral.  However I will keep an eye on the dates just in case.  I have never met Hilda or the rest of Colin's family, but please convey my condolences either directly or through anyone who is able to be there.






28 Sep 17 - News from HMS Cattistock


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Paul Irving, Commanding Officer of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 3), for this update, dated 16 September, received via the Ton Class Association ((TCA).  I write a column titled 'MCMV News' for the Associaton's bi-monthly newsletter 'Ton Talk'.


"Greetings from HMS CATTISTOCK!


My name is Lt Cdr Paul Irving and it has been my privilege to be the Commanding Officer of your affiliated ship since July 2017.  Sadly this first letter to you all is also a 'goodbye' as I hand CATTISTOCK back to a previous CO, Lt Cdr Charles Wheen, and Crew 8 next week.  I apologise that the continuity with our affiliates is far from perfect, but I can assure you that we are operating this great ship in a very efficient way by rotating different Crews onboard.  I had the pleasure of hosting Mr Oliver Hemsley of the CATTISTOCK Hunt at very short notice during our recent visit to London ExCeL as part of the Royal Navy's presence at the Defence Sales Exhibition International (DSEI) last week, and I will discuss further opportunities for interaction between HMS CATTISTOCK and our affiliates with Charles next week.


Crew 3 returned to the UK in January 2017 having completed a 6-month Gulf deployment in our sister shio, HMS CHIIDDINGFOLD, and we subsequently took over HMS CATTISTOCK in May 2017.  Since then we have been undertaking UK training and operations, including some unusual tasking for a minehunter which involved escorting Russian submarines through UK waters.  It's a testament to the skills and adaptability of my Ship's Company, as well as an indication of how capable this ship is, that we were able to complete this task (normally undertaken by a frigate) successfufly and we got some great photos of CATTISTOCK in action which were taken from a Merlin helicopter of 814 Naval Air Squadron.



I'm writing to you whilst at sea on our return to Portsmouth from our visit to DSEI in London, during which we hosted large numbers of guests onboard to witness our equipment and systems in action.  Once we arrive in Portsmouth tomorrow, we will then spend the week handing over to Crew 8, who will undertake a period of training and preparation for an exciting NATO deployment in HMS CATTISTOCK in early 2018.


Finally, I'm sure you'd like to join me in wishing my Marine Engineer Officer, WO1 'Busta' Brown, all the very best for the future as he leaves his final sea-going assignment in the Royal Navy.  In a career spanning 36 years, he has served in almost every class of ship in the Royal Navy (including several Hunt-Class MCMVs) and he has been an outstanding servant of HMS CATTISTOCK - his good humour and extensive engineering experience will be sorely missed by Crew 3.


With best wishes,


Paul Irving"


27 Sep 17 - Recent EOD incidents


The Metro website contains this article, including video, reporting the detonation, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a 1,400 lb mine caught up in a fishing boat's net off Clacton on 22 September.



The Cornwall Live website contains this article, including video, reporting the detonation by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a phosphorous marine flare found on Praa Sands in Cornwall on 23 September.




26 Sep 17 - Chris Sherman and David Hosking back from sailing for charity


I am grateful to MCDOA member Chris Sherman for this update on sailing 'Celtic Dawn' back to the UK from the Azores with fellow MCDOA member David Hosking MBE (see entry for 9 Aug 17)


"Hi Rob,


Arrived back in the UK last week and thought you might like to post an update on the website, along with some of the attached pics:


Hosking and Sherman back on dry land


We made it!  For those of you who haven’t been following the blog & tracking site, David Hosking and I had a fairly exciting trip back from the Azores and finally brought Celtic Dawn alongside at her home berth on the River Frome near Wareham in Dorset.  We were at sea for 16 days and 20 hours and covered 1,547 nautical miles over the ground.  It was a great adventure, but I have to admit that the 2 on / 2 off watch-keeping routine was physically and mentally very demanding!  Probably up there with “live in week” on the long course…  



Left: A salty-looking Chris Sherman

Right: A peppery-looking David Hosking


We experienced everything from motoring in flat calm blue seas near the Azores to a Severe Gale Force 9 with huge seas while still over 400 miles from land.  We briefly crossed the narrow line between “exhilarating” and “rather scary” when the steering gear started to fail during the gale!   At this stage we deployed our Jordan series drogue and it worked incredibly well, bringing us to a slow and controlled downwind drift until the wind dropped and we were able to repair the steering and continue the passage home.   Happy to share details over a beer or two and in particular can advise owners of wheel steered boats on some checks to make to reduce the chance of having the same problems!




A final plea for donations (however small) to Combat Stress, the military veterans mental health charity.  There seems to be a problem with the link from our tracking site, but this should take you to the Just Giving site:   



The website doesn’t actually mention me as David has had some problems updating it from when he set it up before starting the transatlantic trip with his son, but please be assured that any donations go direct to the charity and that all of the costs of the trip have been met by David, me and Celtic Dawn’s owner.  


Screen capture from Celtic Dawn's blog and tracking site


Hoping to make the annual dinner this year and looking forward to catching up then.


Best wishes,


Chris Sherman"


25 Sep 17


News of David Sandiford and Martyn Holloway


I am grateful to MCDOA co-founder and past-Chairman David Sandiford for this contribution:


"Hi Rob,


I attach the photo of the 50th anniversary reunion of our 1967 entry at BRNC Dartmouth from last weekend.



Other MCDOs present were MCDOA past-President Chris Massie-Taylor OBE, Geoff Goodwin, Martyn Holloway, Chris Tarmey, Julian Thomson, Keith Edmunds and Paul Baines.


The 'seniors' in attendance were Admiral Sir Jonathon Band GCB DL and Rear Admiral John Lippiett CB CBE DL.


Kind regards,


David Sandiford"


Having attended the gathering at Dartmouth the previous weekend, Martyn Holloway was in London this weekend for a reunion of personnel manning the five minesweeping trawlers of the 11th MCM Squadron which deployed to the Falklands in 1982 (see 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box).  He was the squadron's Senior Officer and had the task of replacing the ceremonial rope on HMS Northella's bell which hangs in The Admiralty pub in Trafalgar Square together with other 11th MCM Squadron memorabilia. 



The bell rope was plaited by Jan Pearcey, a life-sized cardboard cutout of whom can be seen 'photo-bombing' the image.  Jan is resident in Australia and was unable to attend in person.




French minehunter visits Portsmouth


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the visit of the French Tripartite class chasseur de mines (minehunter) FS Sagittaire to Portsmouth over the weekend prior to her participation in this year's second Exercise JOINT WARRIOR off Scotland.



Above and below: FS Sagittaire alongside in Portsmouth

with the new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth astern

(RN website photos)



JOINT WARRIOR 17/2 will run from 30 September to 12 October and involve 35 naval units from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the USA, supported by 11 rotary wing aircraft.


24 Sep 17 - SDU2 called to incident on M3


The BBC website contains this article and the Guardian website this article reporting yesterday's closure of the M3 motorway after a ‘potential hazardous material’ was discovered between junctions 9 and 11 at Winchester.  The motorway was closed for almost 12 hours and members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) were involved in the incident.



Postscript: On 1 October 2017, the Daily Mail published this article reporting that a 17-year-old boy had been charged with arson after hurling flammable material onto the motorway causing the the M3 to be shut for 12 hours.


23 Sep 17 - Exciting drama at the Diving Museum 


A play titled 'That Infernal Diver!' will be performed at the Historical Diving Society (HDS) Diving Museum in Stokes Bay on Saturday 7 October.  Time: 1900 for 1930.  Cost: £6 including refreshments.



The play, scripted by Peter Appleton from the 'The Infernal Diver' by MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan (Chairman of the HDS and founder of the Diving Museum), is a dramatised interview with John Deane as he recalls his life, his co-invention of the diving helmet and his underwater exploits.  Deane, a former Gosport resident, acquired the moniker ‘Infernal Diver’ for his explosive escapades in the Crimean War.



Tickets are available here via 'the shop' on the HDS website:


Tickets for 'That Infernal Diver'


22 Sep 17 - Calling Aberdonian members of our community


MCDOA member Colin Churcher MBE, former WWII Arctic convoys gunnery rate, CDO and author of 'To Render Safe' (see entry for 22 Nov 14 in News Archive 48) is being treated in hospital in Aberdeen prior to being released into a care home.  If anyone is in a position to visit him and provide some moral support, please contact me and I will pass his wife's phone number. 


Colin with his newly presented Ushakov 'Arctic Convoy' medal in November 2014



Colin's autobiographical 'To Render Safe'


Colin at the MCDOA Dinner in HMS Excellent's

wardroom in November 2015


21 Sep 17 - Australian MCDO enjoying his exchange with the RN


The Australian 'Navy Daily' website contains this article describing the RN exchange of Lt Cdr Marc Rennie RAN.  Marc has been serving as the XO of HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member David Louis) which recently returned to Portsmouth after a three year deployment on Operation KIPION in the Gulf (see entry for 1 Sep 17).


Lt Cdr Marc Rennie RAN on arrival at Portsmouth on 1 September


Marc is due to return to Australia with his wife and new daughter, born in late August, later this year after which he will assume Command of an Australian minehunter.


20 Sep 17 - 'Gentlemen Who Lunch' are back in business


As regular readers will have surmised, your humble webmaster has been away for a few weeks and has only just brought this page up to date after cruising the Mediterranean with Mrs Webmaster. 



Fortuitously, I was able to take these shots of HMS Ocean loading stores at Gibraltar on Tuesday 12 September prior to her evening deployment to the Caribbean on Operation RUMAN to render HADR (Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief) in the wake of Hurricane Irma.  She is due to arrive on station tomorrow.






Yesterday, the MCDOA's 'Not Quite the last of the Summer Wine' trio had to dispense with Holloway's company at its regular gathering because he is still catching up after attending his son's wedding in Ontario earlier in the month and a 50th anniversary reunion of his entry at Dartmouth last weekend.  Consequently, it was just Barlow and me in Emsworth for a gentle stroll to the Lord Raglan for lunch followed by a beer in the Sussex Brewery where we were tended by the gracious Nathalie. 


Doug Barlow & Rob Hoole enjoying a beer at the Sussex Brewery in Emsworth


Nathalie, our hospitable hostess


19 Sep 17 - John Herriman relinquishes Command of HMS President


Fair winds and a following sea to MCDOA member John Herriman who has handed over Command of HMS President to Cdr Richmal Hardinge at their RNR headquarters at St Katharine Docks on the River Thames in London.


John Herriman relinquishing Command of HMS President

to Cdr Richmal Hardinge

(Royal Navy photo)


18 Sep 17 - Calling anyone involved in 'JIM' atmospheric diving suit trials


I have received this request:




I hope this is the right website to use to get in contact....  


I am presently writing a book on work undertaken at the Royal Naval Physiological Laboratory (RNPL) and the Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit (AEDU) at Horsea Island.  This includes work by naval divers and others with respect to subsmash and clearance of ordnance/salvage work.  This was a six-year trial in the late 1970s and early 1980s where we took both civillians and naval persons and trained them in using the one-man submersible called JIM, mainly carried out at Falmouth, Portland and Rosyth.  Lt Mike Kooner was one of our contacts but the Chiefs were i/c when away diving.  


At this point, I am looking for names as after 30+ years most have been forgotten by me and it is my intent to give a list of those involved at the back of the book, as there were no more than 30 people throughout the six years.  I estimate that about ten divers were trained by us to use the suit including Colin 'Scouse' Kidman and David 'Spike' Spears [now deceased - see first entry for 2 Nov 13 in News Archive 44].  As I am contacting you "today", it is necessary for anyone providing information to agree to have their names published.  Data Protection Act now applies unfortunately.  


The book is factual and deals with the problems we encountered when setting up and running this project from scratch.  Naval Divers were a small part of the overall work we undertook but were the most numerous and deserve a mention... 


I have about ten pages free so there is the room for their thoughts, although I will have to ensure that it is not likely to upset too many living people.  Nothing published will come under the Official Secrets Act.  If it did, I could lose my pension!  


It is hoped to publish sometime in the new year and there will be quite a few photographs included which shows the lads during training and diving.  I will be happy to send digital copies once we get the book to the libraries (a legal requirement when books are published).


These two pictures show Seaforth Clansman and equipment plus one of the trainee operators on the Clyde and a general paper of what I would like to know.



Left: 'JIM' on board MV Seaforth Clansman

Right: End of 'JIM' operators' course circa 1983

[Is that Whisky Walker second right?]


Any assistance would be greatfully received.


Many thanks,


Richard Castle"


Richard can be contacted via this email address.


The 'JIM' atmospheric diving suit was invented by the late Mike Borrow OBE who founded Underwater Marine Equipment (UMEL) and conducted the first commercial oxy-helium dive in Greece in 1963 (see second entry for 27 Aug 13 in News Archive 43). 


Mike Borrow OBE

(31 Aug 1928 - 16 Jun 2013)


It was capable of exceeding a depth of 600 meters and was first trialled from HMS Reclaim in 1972.




The suit featured in the James Bond film 'For Your Eyes Only' in 1981 and was used to help salvage a Wellington bomber from the bottom of Loch Ness in 1985.


This is an excerpt from an AEDU brochure dating from the 1970s:


"JIM", the atmospheric diving suit is presently undergoing a series of evaluation trials by AEDU and RNPL, the object of which is to determine the usefulness of deep diving equipment of this nature for observations and inspection, salvage and recovery and to assist in the event of a submarine accident.


"JIM" demonstrating his ability to assist in

submarine rescue


The body of "JIM" is manufactured from magnesium, and the limbs in aluminium alloy, the latter constructed in such a way, that in water they are approximately neutrally buoyant, and allow considerable freedom of movement.  JIM's eyes of which there are four, offer the operator a fairly wide field of view.  The controls for life support are housed inside the shell and there are two separate but identical systems which can be cross-connected, therefore allowing various permutations should any particular component fail.  Oxygen is metered in to maintain an air atmosphere to provide an endurance of approximately 24 hours.


In the water, and weighed correctly at about 30 kilos, JIM can walk forwards, sideways and backwards; he can fall forwards or backwards to pick up tools, and do a task at seabed level.  He can roll along the seabed, walk into a one knot current, walk in fairly thick mud, and climb a gradient of about 45°.


Trials at AUWE Portland have proved that JIM at a depth of 457 metres can perform various tasks such as undoing and doing up nuts and bolts, shackles and quick-release connections.


At sea JIM can be deployed from a parent vessel, and then controlled from a gemini, it can be lifted or lowered as the operator requires.


Work continues on manipulator improvement, designing and buoyancy control system, and in the various methods of examining improved manoeuvrability.


From Richard Castle:


"Hi Gavin,


Many Thanks for the info.  I remember the picture well.


Yes,I do remember you in the flying JIM, but memories being a bit faded can't place the incident.


There is a story about SETT and a naval officer in JIM, but I won't spoil it.  No photos allowed up there!  


It was an interesting time and I wish we could have taken some of the ideas further.  My background was Search and Rescue in the RAF and there was a real potential for that type of deployment.


Did you dive JIM down at Falmouth?  I remember going out when the Navy was starting to take over and it was either you or Mr Christopher in the suit.  The picture doesn't show the operator though.  I may have been out there because of a servicability issue.


Shaun was a blunt but amusing character.  It took him 15 minutes to maser JIM and I still don't really know what he thought of it to this day!  


I have some 600 photos of the project which we will be getting on line eventually.




Richard Castle"


From MCDOA associate member Gavin Anthony:




Apologies for a tardy response.  Not sure if you have seen or are aware of the attached (pages scanned from an AEDU public information brochure I have that was produced in the mid 1970’s).  It was seeing this that led me eventually to working in EDU and subsequently PL.  


Unfortunately I do not have contact details for anyone still around who was directly involved, however, Shaun Gandi was an interesting character who may provide something further.  I was fortunate to use, in the HMS Vernon tank, the first ‘flying’ JIM fitted with thrusters to help it get around the submarine for pod posting.


Best Regards,




From Richard Castle:


"Hi John, John and Gavin,


Nice to hear from you.  It's been a long time.


I have written out an overview so all will be aware of what is going on.  This is great!  I had not even got round to e-mailing John Bevan yet and the book is already out of the bottle so to speak.  So much for a slow build-up towards publication.


Yes, I remember the Brian Forbes incident and have put a bit in but (and this is the interesting bit) the story I was given was that he had a few drinkies the night before and threw up in the JIM which then required cleaning.  I had better try to check even though the outcome is nearly the same.


FYI, the book is the JIM project from 1978 until 1986 and a few stories about RNPL, the ones that are not likely to cause much offence.  I have kept away from the Deep Dive series, etc.  Nothing contained is linked to people except me and so no sleepless nights for anyone.


Any info supplied is interesting, because I don't remember it all.  30+ years is a long time.


I cannot find Tony Gisborne or Angus McInnes (EDU) which is a shame.  They were first on the list.  Navy divers were easy but Marine Salvage lads don't exist either.  I think I have found Shaun Gandi(?) from Rosyth, though.


There does need to be a dedicated book on RNPL and EDU.  To be blunt, the older everyone gets, the less chance of there being a "factual" record made.  Too many stories will be lost or fabricated.  Finally, there are 200 pages (A5) at present including photos, but it can be modified.  However, modern items including names, addresses and photos will be subject to copyright and the Data Protection Act.  Sorry for sticking that in, but I can't use several good photographs and words because of copyright issues.  The Times wanted to charge literally by the copy sold.


Any e-mail will be replied to and the more info the merrier, but not all at once.


Janice sends her regards and wonders if there isn't a TV series in it all!  Better than a documentary on emptying dust bins methinks.  


It's nice to hear from so many people I knew from the past.




Richard Castle"


From John Florio:


"Hi Chaps,


I don't have Tony's contact details and so far have not found anyone who does have them.  I will try again.


The operators often wore cut down galoshes and other improvised footwear in the suit.  During trials in AEW, I recollect one RN officer (**** *******) losing his footwear and so getting his foot jammed.  Someone decided that the only way to free it was to remove JIM's leg - which required a bit more rotation of the leg than the human hip joint was designed to provide.  He was eventually freed with a bit of jiggling and much swearing.


We should not forget the role played by Alverstoke Village Fish Bar: A lot of the JIM trials at AEW were carried out at the weekend when the tank was 'free'. I will never forget characteristic smell of Castrol R mingled with the smell of the tank and the the smell of fish and chips that the 'tilly' collected from Alverstoke Village Fish bar. 


Incidentally the contribution to diving made by Alverstoke Village Fish Bar should probably be recognised at the museum as it also 'did the catering' for many of the therapies carried out in the RNPL 690 m chamber and the Hyperbaric Medicine Unit at Haslar.




John F"


From MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan:


"Hello Richard,


I worked at RNPL but not on the Jim programme.  Our main man on that project was Tony Gisborne.  He’s wearing the check shirt in your first picture with his back to the camera.  Gavin Anthony or John Florio may have Tony’s contact details.


I did dive Jim in the UMEL tank at Farnborough once.   


The late Cdr Brian Forbes who ran the SETT for a while trialled it.  He once told me that when being towed behind a gemini he got seasick, but threw up inside his wooly bear so as not to spoil the suit for the next man!


Another anecdote I heard about Jim was that the late Peter Messervy (then MD of British Oceanics) had a go with it in the UMEL tank.  He walked into a corner (just two or three steps as I remember it) and couldn’t get out of it again!  He apparently damned it for ever as a result!


Good luck with your book.




17 Sep 17 - A new book from John Bevan


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan has just launched his latest book titled 'Operation Tadpole: The Royal Navy's underwater diving operations, Gibraltar 1940 - 1945'.




I have long been familiar with the exploits of the late Lt ‘Bill’ Bailey CBE GM* DSC RNVR in Gibraltar and elsewhere during the Second World War and count his son Andrew, the author of 'A Wartime Tribute' in the website's Dit Box, among my friends.  However, it took John Bevan’s revelations in this informative book to make me appreciate just how comprehensively Bailey’s achievements have been wrongly credited to the much better known Cdr Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb OBE GM RNVR who would later be lost in mysterious circumstances while diving underneath a Russian cruiser visiting Portsmouth at the height of the Cold War.


As with many others of my generation, my misconceptions stemmed mainly from watching ‘The Silent Enemy’ starring Laurence Harvey in the glamorised role of Crabb as OIC of the Royal Navy’s UWWP (Under Water Working Party) in Gibraltar.  Bailey, played by Terence Longden, only makes a fleeting appearance.  Several events in the film are fictitious but close enough to the truth to be convincing.  Moreover, most of the central characters portrayed in the film actually existed.


John Bevan’s ‘Operation Tadpole’ is a credible and much-needed attempt to set the record straight.  It describes the critical role of Gibraltar as a staging post for Allied shipping transiting the Mediterranean, particularly convoys bound for the besieged island fortress of Malta.  Gibraltar was also the base of the formidable Force ‘H’ tasked with protecting the vital convoys.  The Italians were determined to diminish this thorn in their side, mainly by employing Decima MAS frogmen riding human torpedoes to fix explosive devices to the hulls of ships assembled in the Bay of Gibraltar and inside the harbour.  Initially, their principal targets were warships but they were soon forced to resort to attacking more easily accessible and vulnerable merchant ships.  Despite some successes, most of their victims were soon repaired and their cargoes salved.  The attackers also suffered several equipment malfunctions and human casualties while conducting their hazardous operations. This book provides an easily readable and entertaining account of each of the nine attacks made by Italian divers, sometimes delivered with their ‘Maiale’ (pig) human torpedoes by submarine but more often launched from a secret compartment in the oil tanker Olterra, interned by the Spanish in Algeciras across the bay from Gibraltar.  The level of detail is impressive, particularly for such a relatively slim volume. 


The book identifies each participant in the Italian attacks and describes their British counterparts and the often desperate defensive measures they had to adopt.  It is richly illustrated with contemporary photos, sketches and diagrams as well as recent photos taken by the author to put significant locations in perspective.  The events recounted constituted the genesis of practicable self-contained diving and it is telling that this occurred, like so many other technological advances, in a military context.


As the author points out towards the end of his well-researched and historically objective work, wholly contrary to popular belief: (a) Crabb didn’t lead the diving team at Gibraltar during any of the nine attempted Italian attacks; (b) Italy had already capitulated by the time Crabb took over the UWWP; (c) Crabb was an assistant to Bailey during the last three attacks only; and (d) Crabb, unlike Bailey, was never involved in an underwater altercation with an Italian frogman.  Please read this delightful volume to learn the truth in greater detail.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.


John's book should soon be available from Amazon via this link:


Operation Tadpole: The Royal Navy's underwater diving operations, Gibraltar 1940 - 1945


16 Sep 17 - SDU2 deals with unexploded bomb at Warsash


The Portsmouth News website contains this article and the Southern Daily Echo website this article reporting today's detonation, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of an unexploded bomb found on the shore at Warsash in Hampshire.



15 Sep 17 - RN slated to receive four Atlas Remote Combined Influence Minesweeping Systems


The Defence News website contains this article announcing that the Royal Navy is slated for the delivery of four ATLAS Remote Combined Influence Minesweeping Systems (ARCIMS) from December according to Atlas representatives at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) conference in London (see first entry for 12 Oct 16 in News Archive 56).


ARCIMS vessel at DSEI

(Defence News photo)


ARCIMS at BUTEC, Kyle of Lochalsh for UNMANNED WARRIOR in October 2016

(RN website photo)


14 Sep 17 - Death and funeral of ex-CD Dean Rushforth



Dean 'Deano' Rushforth passed away peacefully at home on Monday 11 September after battling cancer for ten years.


His funeral will be held at Portchester Crematorium at 1000 on Thursday 21 September with a gathering afterwards at Gosport & Stokes Bay Golf Club starting at 1200.  All are welcome in uniform or plain clothes.


No flowers but donations to the Rowans Hospice, who made it possible for Deano to fulfil his last wish to come home for his final day with his family, would be appreciated.  Donations can be made via:


13 Sep 17 - Unveiling of Royal Engineers bomb disposal plaque in Malta


Malta was the most bombed place on earth during the Second World War and was awarded the George Cross for the bravery of its people.  Today, Dr Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, unveiled a plaque in the Upper Barrakka Gardens at Valletta to commemorate the Royal Engineers personnel who were responsible for bomb disposal.  In the two years between 1940 and 1942, at most two officers and 30 men dealt with 7,300 unexploded bombs.  This was about ten times the average for their counterparts across all theatres of war.  The Bomb Disposal Plaque will also recognise the continued work by RE Bomb Disposal and Armed Forces of Malta since 1945 to clear unexploded Second World War bombs from the island.



The Project Co-ordinator, S.A.M. (Susan) Hudson with whom I have collaborated in the past, is the daughter of Lt George D Carroll RE who disposed of dozens of bombs during his wartime service in Malta but received no honours, awards or other public recongnition for his deeds.  She tells his story in 'UXB Malta - Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal 1940-44' (see third entry for 13 May 10 in News Archive 30). 




As many of you will be aware, the MCDOA is affiliated with the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) and several of its members attend our annual dinners.


More pictures and information about the plaque and its unveiling are available here:


Unveiling of the Bomb Disposal Plaque – 13 September 2017


It should also be remembered that two RN bomb & mine disposal officers, Electrical Lt Antony Gusterson Rogers GM RN and Commissoned Boatswain Lord J H Sheldon GM RN, were killed in Malta on 23 May 1941 when a mine they were working on exploded (link).  Rogers is buried in the Malta Naval Cemetery at Capuccini and Sheldon is buried in the Malta Naval Cemetery at Kalkara. 


Another RN bomb & mine disposal officer who worked in Malta, Lt Cdr William Ewart Hiscock GC DSC RN, was awarded the GC posthumously for great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  He was also awarded the DSC posthumously for courage, enterprise and devotion to duty in contact with the enemy.  In September 1941, a Torpedo Machine (a device in which the Italians specialised) was dropped in 15 feet of water in St. George's Bay, Malta and he was given the task of disarming it.  The operation of salvage was one of considerable danger as, quite apart from the possibility of booby traps, no information was available as to the firing mechanism of the explosive head and its behaviour when parted from the body was a matter of complete uncertainty.  While Lt Cdr Hiscock and his assistant (Petty Officer C. Le Bargy DSM) were working on the bomb, the clock mechanism started and it was only their cool determination and skill which brought the operation to a successful conclusion.  Lt Cdr Hiscock was killed with his wife when their house received a direct bomb hit on 15 February 1942.  He is buried in the Malta Naval Cemetery at Kalkara.


RN mine disposal in Malta


Cdr Edward D Woolley GM* RNVR also served as an RN bomb disposal officer in Malta during the Second World War and his story is told in 'Mines over Malta' by Frederick R Galea (see entry for 5 Jun 08 in News Archive 22).


Mines over Malta front cover      Mines Over Malta back cover


12 Sep 17


A busy summer for MCM2 Crew 6


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting how MCM2 Crew 6 has docked down the Fishery Protection Squadron OPV (offshore patrol vessel) HMS Tyne in Falmouth Docks.



As noted in the entry for 2 Apr 17 in News Archive 58, Operation JICARA has seen MCM2 Crew 6, which returned early this year from manning HMS Middleton on Operation KIPION in the Gulf, rise to many challenges.  During July and August, HMS Tyne completed an intensive docking and maintenance package, the first for five years.  Crew 6 worked successfully with A&P Dockyard and BAE to deliver repairs, preservation and inspections across the entire ship, from her anchors to antennas.  This included a complete re-spraying of the ship’s hull and superstructure and an overhaul of her shafts and propellers.


As reported in this article on the Royal Navy website, HMS Tyne visited Cardiff for Armed Forces Day in July when MCM2 Crew 6 hosted over 90 local dignitaries on board with a capability demonstration spanning both Fishery Protection and Mine Countermeasures Squadrons.  The First Sea Lord took the salute for a parade of over 500 led by HMS Tyne and the ship was open to over 1,000 visitors the following day.






The Royal Navy website also contains this article describing HMS Tyne's visit to Tynemouth later in the month to act as Guardship for the Mouth of the River Tyne Festival.  Among her other duties, she hosted an evening Capability Demonstration to 70 guests.




11 Sep 17 - Families attend divers' graduation ceremony at Horsea Island


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the attendance of family and friends at a recent ceremony marking the completion of 1603 Clearance Divers' Course at the Defence Diving School (DDS) on Horsea Island.  The seven successful graduates had undergone 22 challenging weeks of training which saw them running the distance from Portsmouth to Plymouth twice, spending the equivalent of three days underwater and surface swimming the circumference of the Isle of Wight.  They received their certificates and divers’ badges from Flag Officer Sea Training, Rear Admiral John Clink CBE, while AB(D) Turner (Topsy?) also won the overall course trophy for best student.


CD Course 1603

(RN website photo)


AB(D) Turner receiving best student award from FOST

(RN website photo)


SDU1 called to suspicious device in Bideford


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article, including video, reporting a call-out for members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) to deal with a suspicious device found in a bag outside Bideford Children's Hospice's charity shop.


10 Sep 17 - Funeral of former CPO(D) Bob Fraser


I am grateful for these contributions following the funeral of Bob Fraser at Portchester Crematorium on 1 September (see entry for 13 Aug 17).


From former WO(D) Vic Humphrey BEM:




Eileen Fraser has asked me to express her heartfelt thanks to all members of the Clearance Diving Branch who supported her and her family at Bob's funeral


Best regards,


Vic Humphrey"


From MCDOA member Jon Riches:




Not sure how many reports of the funeral you have had but here is my offering.


From memory some of those attending were; Bob Lusty, Bill Norton, John O'Driscoll, Ralph Mavin, Pincher Martin, me!, Vic Humphrey, Mick Fellows, Ray Ramsay, Mike Handford, Troy Tempest, Pete Still, Dudley 'Wooly' Woolnough, Tony Pritchard, Joe Maher, John Dadd, Colin Kidman, Cris Ballinger and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.  I think Ray Ramsay took a full list of names.


The service at Portchester Crematorium started with the entry music 'Softly as I leave you' by Matt Munro.  Then the Officiator welcomed everyone and gave a brief synopsis of Bob's life.  This was followed by three verses of 'Eternal Father strong to save' the last verse being the Divers verse composed by Bill Filer.


There then followed a brief family tribute read by the officiator which was very moving and encapsulated Bob in a few sentences.  The Eulogy was read by Dudley Woolnough who also rang 'Five Bells' on the Horsea Island memorial bell.


After the committal a poem was read, 'Do not weep for me' written by Constance Jenkins.  Exit music was 'Walk Away' by Matt Munro.  There was no religious content.


Afterwards we repaired to the Cams Hall Golf Club for drinks and an excellent finger buffet.  There was much reminiscing and swinging the lamp!


I am sorry  be so brief but got back from hols just before the service.  Hope this helps and that you had a good holiday.


Best wishes,




From former WO(D) Ray Ramsay:


"Hi Rob,


I hope you and Lin had a great cruise.  


Attached some snaps, not up to your standard! 







Probably 60 to 70 people attended, about 50% ex-RN, including MCDOs Bill 'Chippy' Norton, Gerry 'Pincher' Martin, Jon Riches, Ralph Mavin, Graham 'Tug' Wilson MBE, John O’Driscoll MBE, Bob Lusty and probably some more that I didn’t recognise.  Others present included former CD1s Cris Ballinger BEM, Dudley Woolnough, Mike Handford, Vic Humphrey, Colin 'Scouse' Kidman, Joe Maher (I.O.W), Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM, John Dadd BEM, Chris Jones BEM, Nelly Nilsson (in uniform), Clive 'Taff' Thomas, Pete Still, Tim Sizer and Troy Tempest.  Also Nigel Fairman and Nutty Carr, both ex-CDs whom you may know.


Some travellers: Tony Pritchard ex-CD (France) was with Bob in the WFCDT.  Phillip Akeroyd (Bermuda) was Bob’s partner in Fraser Diving.  Bob's brother-in-law (USA).  I don’t know if family travelled with him.


Bob’s wife, son and brother also attended with many more friends and family.


It was well attended and I am sure that the family appreciated the RN attendance.  Troy said that he would send you the order of service.


Best Regards,




Photos courtesy of AORNFCD Secretary Brian 'Troy' Tempest:






















5 Sep 17 - SDU1 detonates second bomb in week near Hinkley Point Power Station


The Somerset Live website contains this article reporting the detonation, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), of the second bomb found in a week in the Bristol Channel near Hinkley Point Power Station.


4 Sep 17 - Award of LS&GC


Congratulations to PO(MW) Dave Earner on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.


1 Sep 17 - Homecoming of HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Penzance


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing today's return of HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member David Louis) to Portsmouth after her three-year deployment to the Gulf on Operation KIPION.


HMS Chiddingfold arriving Portsmouth

(RN website photo)


MCDOA member David Louis, CO of HMS Chiddingfold

(RN website photo)


The Royal Navy website also contains this article describing the return of HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 1) to Faslane after her three-year deployment to the Gulf on Operation KIPION.  PO(MW) Mark Titman of HMS Penzance took the opportunity to propose to his partner and she duly accepted.


HMS Penzance arriving Faslane

(RN website photo)


PO(MW) Mark Titman of HMS Penzance after popping the question

(RN website photo)


31 Aug 17 - HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Penzance returning from the Gulf


HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member David Louis) is due to return to Portsmouth tomorrow after being deployed on Operation KIPION in the Gulf for over three years (see entry for 10 Aug 17).  According to QHM's Movements, her ETA at Outer Spit Buoy is 1030 and she will berth initially on South Railway Jetty (bows north).  Any photos of her arrival would be appreciated.


HMS Chiddingfold's progress can be tracked on AIS (Automatic Identification System) here.


Screen capture of HMS Chiddingfold's AIS track this morning


She has been accompanied on her passage home by Faslane-based HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 1) which arrived in Ardrossan for a short stopover this morning.


HMS Penzance arriving in Ardrossan for a short stopover this morning

before proceeding home to Faslane

(Royal Navy in Scotland photo)


Flashback to 2014: HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 3) berthing on HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 5) in Gibraltar on 13 June during their passage to the Gulf to relieve HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 2 commanded by MCDOA member Ash Spencer) and HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3) respectively (see entry for 22 Jun 14 in News Archive 46):


HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Penzance in Gibraltar on 13 June 2014

while bound for the Gulf

(Photo courtesy of local photographer Daniel Ferro)




Above and below: HMS Penzanze at Gibraltar on 22 July 2017

while returning from the Gulf

(Photos courtesy of local photographer Daniel Ferro)



Postscript: The Portsmouth News has published this article announcing the homecoming of HMS Chiddingfold and the Carlisle News & Star this article announcing the homecoming of HMS Penzance.


30 Aug 17 - New books


Oscar King is the pseudonym of an author who started his eventful career in the Royal Navy as a Clearance Diver before being commissioned and qualifying as a Fleet Air Arm helicopter pilot.  He was appointed an MBE for his involvement in hazardous operations and had further escapades after leaving the Service.


'Mexican Standoff' is the third volume of Oscar's trlilogy about the fictional adventures of ex-Special Forces hero Harry Linley.  It is due for release tomorrow and should be available to order soon afterwards via Amazon here:


Mexican Standoff by Oscar King


The previous books in Oscar's trilogy can be ordered here:


Persian Roulette by Oscar King


Moscow Payback by Oscar King




MCDOA member Paul Henke's most recent book about the fictional adventures of ex-MCDO Nick Hunter is called 'Turmoil'.  It is available to order via Amazon here:


Turmoil by Paul Henke



Paul will be signing copies of his books at the Perth Show 1000-1600 on Friday and Saturday.  If you are planning to attend please do drop in to see him.  He is always happy to have a chat.


29 Aug 17 - New Treasurer needed for MCDOA


After four years in the role, Peter Davis requires someone to take over as MCDOA Honorary Treasurer as he is prevented from continuing owing to his return to sea among other commitments.  He is therefore looking for someone to relieve him, effective from the AGM in November.  This is a serving officer's post as it involves close liaison with the Secretary and the two signature arrangement for the expenditure of Association funds.  Although the work is relatively undemanding, it is critical to the continued running of the Association.


Please contact Peter via this email address if you are able to fulfil this vital position.


As far as this year's dinner is concerned, Peter has requested that


a. Cheques should be submitted with completed booking forms (or else list the guests on the back of the cheque).  Those paying online need to annotate their payment reference on their ticket proformas.  Cheques and Bank Transfers are the preferred methods of payment.


b. Hosts should pay for all their guests in a single payment to prevent a large number of random cheques/bank transfers.


28 Aug 17 - NDG disposes of pyrotechnic in Hebrides


The Hebrides News website contains this article describing the disposal, presumably by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG), of a phosphorous flare discovered on the shore at the North Ford causeway between Grimsay and Benbecula.


27 Aug 17 - Reunion for 1982 ships' company members of HMS Brecon, HMS Ledbury and RMS St Helena


Ian McVitie is organising a reunion for ships' company members of HMS Brecon, HMS Ledbury and RMS St Helena who deployed to the Falklands in early July 1982.  It will take place at the 4* Strathallen Hotel, Birmingham from Friday 30 March to Sunday 1 April 2018.



Email Ian McVitie for further details.  The booking form is available for download here.


26 Aug 17 - Life in the TONs


To mark its 30th anniversary, the Ton Class Association (TCA) has just published a new book called 'Life in the Tons'.




This 156-page A4 format paperback is "...a compilation of dits and photographs of time spent serving in TON class vessels that were Britain's front line of defence against the sea mine during most of the 1950s through to the 1990s".  It costs £11.50 (including post & packing) and can be obtained from the TCA's Stores Officer.  See this page of the TCA website for further details. 


'Life in the TONs' is a companion volume to 'Last of the Wooden Walls - An Illustrated History of the TON Class Minesweepers & MInehunters' and 'Jacks of All Trades - Operational Records of TON Class Minesweepers and Minehunters published in 2012 to mark the TCA's 25th anniversary.



25 Aug 17 - A very kind gesture including a piece of Vernon heritage



Yesterday I received this letter and photographs together with a cheque for £50 towards the Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument:


"Dear Cdr Hoole,


I read with considerable interest about your project to build a monument at Gunwharf Quays to those who undertook minesweeping duties.  My late father, Able Seaman Appleford, served on board a series of minesweepers during the Second World War.  I have various papers relating to his service.  Although they do not perhaps convey all of his work, I know from discussions with him that he was minesweeping off Arromanches on D-Day, aiming to clear a path for USS Texas to get towards the shore.


My father was serving in BYMS 2161, believed to be called 'Miranda' according to his papers, when the war ended, with him being one of the first crews to enter Copenhagen harbour at the end of hostilities.  I have enclosed two photographs of his ship which he left among his papers.  I suspect they were taken by a local press photographer at the time.



Above and below: BYMS 2161 and other RN minesweepers alongside at Copenhagen in 1945



I understand that you are raising funds for the monument at a fund-raising event later this week.  Although this is not something I would be able to attend, I would very much like to support the creation and installation of the monument.  I have therefore included a cheque which I'd like to go towards the costs.  My father was a member of the VAC (Vernon Auxiliary Company) based at HMS Vernon.


If any of my father's papers are of interest to you or your colleagues carrying out research into the work of the Yard Mine Sweeper class, I'd be happy to providee scans or copies if they care to get in touch with me.


The Rev'd Ken Appleford


P.S. As mentioned, these vessels are tied up alongside the quay in Copenhagen harbour - the first Allied vessels to enter the port at the close of the Second World War.  In the 'nearer' photo can be seen a a Resistance member complete with armband.  An impression of a BYMS can be seen in the background on the Wooden Minesweepers Memorial at the National Memorial Arboreteum at Alrewas in Staffordshire."


HMS Miranda was, in fact, the minesweeper base at Great Yarmouth.  It was commissioned on 16 October 1940 and paid off on 21 July 1945.


BYMS (British Yard Mine Sweeper) 2161 was built at the Burger Boat Co at Manitowoc in Wisconsin and launched on 3 April 1943.  She was completed on 9 August 1943 and assigned to the 163rd MSF (Mine Sweeper Flotilla) based at Lowestoft & Great Yarmouth (1943), Grimsby (1944), NW Europe (1945) and Lowestoft in 1946.  This is a list of her movements:



6 Oct - Charleston

1 Nov - Halifax, Nova Scotia

3 Nov to 9 Dec - St Johns, Newfoundland

22 Dec - Falmouth

26 Dec - Portland

27 Dec - Portsmouth

29 Dec - Southend

29 to 30 Dec - Harwich

BYMS 2161 Sweepdeck
(photos by Charlie Price)



25 Jan to 28 Apr - Harwich

28 Apr to 9 Jun - Lowestoft

9 Jun to 10 Jul - Harwich

18 Jul - Harwich

24 to 31 Jul - Lowestoft

31 Jul to 1 Aug - Harwich

1 to 23 Aug - Southend

23 Aug - Portsmouth

18 Sep - Le Havre

18 to 30 Sep - Portsmouth

1 Oct - Dover

28 Oct - Ramsgate

28 Oct to 3 Dec - Lowestoft

4 Dec - Aberdeen



20 Apr - Aberdeen

22 Apr to 9 May - Grimsby

25 Jun - Copenhagen

25 to 29 Jun - Kiel

30 Jun - Hamburg

7 Jul to 4 Sep - Plymouth

9 to 15 Sep - Gibraltar (then to SE Asia for minesweeping duties with 181st then 182nd MSF in Malaya until Sep 1946. Sold in USA in 1947.)



Ken mentions that his father was a member of the Vernon Auxiliary Company.  This excerpt from 'HMS VERNON - A Short History from 1930 to 1955', written by Cdr Edgar Dudley Webb RN and published by HMS Vernon's Wardroom Mess Committee in 1955, provides the background for the formation of this organisation:


 "...In the autumn of 1938 came also the Munich crisis, and everyone dug trenches for nearly a week.  The Captain had anticipated this move by sending the Commander into the Dockyard to get shovels and spades.  He found there were only about 130 in store, so he drew the lot and brought them back to Vernon.  Two or three days later the order came to dig, and Vernon was much commended for the brilliant organisation of the operation; which was not entirely true - they were the only ones with spades.


Trench digging was made a sort of 'coal ship'.  A platform was rigged for the band and they played throughout the day and well into the night.  Meanwhile draft chits were being relayed on the loudspeaker, and many a sailor with pick poised in mid-stroke would hear that he was off to sea.  The Captain was determined to preserve the football field, and this was achieved by confining the digging to the grass tennis courts and beyond the football touch and goal lines.  As this was all the site of a reclaimed tidal creek, the trenches remained a muddy abortion for many weeks, and it took a long time to get the lining and woodwork complete and the sheeting and covering provided.



Above and below: Digging trenches outside the football ground touchlines and on

the Petty Officers' tennis courts at HMS Vernon during the Munich crisis in 1938



Meanwhile one of Vernon's tenders, the small minelayer Plover, was carrying out trials in the Mediterranean, and at the height of the crisis was on passage from Malta to Gibraltar.  They took considerable interest in such news bulletins as they could pick up, as they were never quite certain they were not going to run up against part of the Italian Fleet, with their speed of something like 12 knots and armament of six pistols, for which they had no ammunition.



Above and below: HMS Vernon's coastal minelayer HMS Plover. Launched at

William Denny & Brothers on the Clyde on 8 Jun 1937, sold on 26 Feb 1969

and subsequently broken up at Inverkeithing



On 9th December 1938 there was a change in the Vernon name-ship.  The trawler which had borne the name since 1923 had her boilers condemned and was paid off into reserve under her first name of Strathcoe. 


HMS Strathcoe as HMS Vernon.  Launched at Hall Russell at Aberdeen in 1916, requisitioned by

the Admiralty in Jan 1917 and converted into a minesweeper.  Purchased 1918 and converted

 into a minelayer.  Renamed Vernon in 1924 and attached to HMS Vernon for minelaying trials.

 Based at Malta from 1933 and reverted to Strathcoe in 1939.  Laid up but re-employed on

harbour service 1942 and converted into an ESSO (fuel tanker) in 1943.

Sold in 1946 and became mercantile loss on 4 Feb 1959.


Controlled mines on board Vernon (ex-Strathcoe), tender to HMS Vernon

for minelaying trials between 1924 and 1938


[By Webmaster: Prior to 1 Jan 1959 the Naval Discipline Act only applied to those officers and men who were borne on the books of one of His/Her Majesty's Ships of war.  Thus all personnel were appointed or drafted to a 'nominal ship' when not actually serving in a proper seagoing warship.  At the turn of the century these shore establishments were mainly old hulks and the original ship names were taken into use.  Later, when proper shore accommodation was provided, a ship was nominated to carry the establishment name, and later, even small craft were used for this purpose.  Thus a 27 feet long Montagu whaler was notionally crewed by hundreds of officers and men.  The provision of a nominal depot ship also created other anomalies. The DOLPHIN was lost while under tow; the ST ANGELO was mined; the MANTIS became a constructive total loss, and the FOLIOT was lost by collision. Other losses were the CABOT and HORNET. Even the enemy were confused as they claimed to have sunk the ST ANGELO, and in a way, they were right.  Vessels normally had their names changed to comply with those of their associated shore bases because they tended to wear out faster.  Establishments formed after 1959 (PALATINE, SHERWOOD, etc) did not run this risk, having no need for a nominal depot ship, and the Navy List ceased to record nominal depot ships from 1962.]


As a replacement for Strathcoe, the mining tender Skylark was re-christened Vernon and became the name-ship of the establishment.


HMS Vernon's mining tender 'Skylark' being re-christened 'Vernon' on 9 Dec 1938. Her name

was changed to 'Vesuvius' in Apr 1941 owing to difficulties with the postal arrangements.

Launched at Portsmouth Dockyard on 15 Nov 1932, sold on 5 Jul 1957 and broken up

 in Feb 1958 at Pollock Brown in Southampton


An important outcome of the Munich crisis was the 'Vernon Auxiliary Company', also known as 'Cork's Light Horse'.  The Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth, appreciated that if the enemy laid mines in the approaches to his port immediately on the outbreak of war, there would be a period of two or three weeks before the minesweeping force allocated would be in full stride.  During that period the port might have to be closed. He therefore directed the Captain of Vernon to produce an organisation to meet this deficiency, and the matter was put in the hands of the First Lieutenant - Lieutenant Commander J. Hext Lewes.


The direction given was to collect and train a body of men, preferably drawn from the yachtsmen and yacht hands of the port, who would engage themselves to answer a personal call from the Commander-in-Chief, independently of any order to mobilise.  They would undertake the sweeping of the approaches to the port for a period of two or three weeks, until they could be relieved by the forces formally allocated by the War Plan.  How they were to be collected and trained was left to the First Lieutenant, with somewhat of a suggestion that he would be well advised to go round the Gosport pubs one Sunday forenoon canvassing.


Actually the means adopted was to ask to dinner certain yachtsmen who it was thought might be interested, and to discuss the question of whom to invite to join this somewhat exclusive and unusual yacht club.  In his opening address the Captain is said to have informed the neophytes that everything was quite unofficial as yet and that they might find themselves lodged in the Tower for piracy or high treason.  But if so, they would be in good company, for the Commander-in-Chief and he would be there also.  The Captain says he merely told them they had no legal authority to be at sea and must be very careful to avoid collisions.


No difficulty was experienced in selecting enough officers, and a firm foundation of ratings was provided by a number of yacht hands recommended and brought along by Camper and Nicholsons of Gosport.  The remainder were collected in many unorthodox ways, largely with the help of the rugger reporter of the Portsmouth Evening News, and some beer.  The officers of the Company assisted in the recruiting of their own crews.  Bus conductors, clerks, dustmen, anyone willing and not debarred by a reserved occupation, all were welcome and entered enthusiastically into the training.  In one trawler the Captain had a Sea Scout as signalman, a greyhound race-track engineer as a leading seaman, a milk roundsman as a wireman, a timber merchant as a winchman, a yacht hand as coxswain, and Portsmouth Gas Company men as stokers.  One of the chief stumbling blocks at this time was the Labour Exchange and its list of reserved occupations, and the peacetime occupation of an applicant had often to be tactfully reworded to escape this net.


Training started towards the end of 1938, long before any formal approval had been given to the formation.  Nothing could be promised; the men just came in on Thursday evenings for lectures and on Sundays for minesweeping because they thought it might make them more useful in the trouble that was to come.


Seagoing training started with the picket boat sweep in Spithead and worked up to trawlers.  In February 1939 the Admiralty formally approved the formation of the. Company, and draft regulations were drawn up by Vernon on the lines of the R.N.V.R. Regulations.  Although these regulations do not seem to have ever obtained Admiralty approval, it is satisfactory to note that they were honoured in full.  It was on these regulations that the officers were given R.N.V.R. commissions immediately on the outbreak of war and in consequence became the most senior temporary R.N.V.R. officers of their respective ranks.  Ratings were taken into the Navy in the substantive rating held in the V.A.C. and all training bonuses earned were paid.  By the spring some of the officers were already members of the R.N.V.S.R. and the remainder were accepted by the Admiralty for enrolment.


Members of the Vernon Auxiliary Company manning picket boats


Two trawlers were at once provided from the Reserve Fleet and moored alongside Vernon Pier, and a few pensioner shipkeepers were engaged.  Although high and dry at low water, the trawlers became seagoing ships for Customs purposes.  They went to sea every Sunday, and later on for a week's cruise once a month to Plymouth, Falmouth and other Channel ports.  On their cruise the trawlers joined up with the Minesweeping Training Flotilla from Portland, and very fully took their part in exercises.  Apart from the First Lieutenant of Vernon and the shipkeepers, they were manned entirely by the volunteers.  Keenness produced some amusing incidents, as when the Senior Officer hoisted the stationing flag.  The Auxiliary Vessels Signal Book was feverishly consulted, and it was decided that this must mean 'keep station close astern'.  And they followed him round all the morning like a dog, only to find they were supposed to disregard his movements.


Members of the Vernon Auxiliary Company

manning a minesweeping trawler


By April 1939 fourteen officers and about fifty ratings had been enrolled, and by the end of June, when the First Lieutenant was promoted, the unit had risen to four trawlers.  His farewell trip was a week-end to Alderney, when two trawlers were manned and commanded by the V.A.C. and two by R.N.R. crews and fishermen skippers.  A few days before this the unit had the honour of lining a special part of the route in the Dockyard along which the King and Queen drove on their way to embark for the visit to Canada.  They were pointed out by the Commander-in-Chief to His Majesty as the latest addition to his fighting forces.  To reach their position, the unit had to march along the Hard, which was already lined by the battalions from Whale Island.


In keeping with their general unofficial character, a special uniform was designed for the Company, largely with the help of the Captain's daughter and Mr Alderman of Gieves.  For the officers, this consisted of a yachting type reefer, which could without much difficulty move forward to a monkey jacket or backward to a reefer, black uniform buttons, and shoulder-straps with blue rank stripes and a gold wire monogram, 'V.A.C.'.  With this was worn an ordinary officers' cap and badge.  The men were supplied with a seaman's jersey with white letters 'V.A.C.' on the chest, trousers, boots, cap with Vernon ribbon, and an oilskin.


The trawlers attended the Reserve Fleet Review at Weymouth in August and the Commanding Officers were presented to His Majesty.  In the wardroom of the flagship, H.M.S. Effingham, one of the Commanding Officers was mistaken in his V.A.C. uniform for the attaché of a foreign naval power.  This story has been considerably embellished over the years.


A few days before mobilisation, the Vernon Auxiliary Company was called up as intended.  They manned their four trawlers and, being at sea before the outbreak of war, fully met all requirements of the directive on which they were raised.  Far more than this, their standard was such that some of their officers were at once taken to assist in the training of other trawlers.  This perhaps repaid the many hours of peacetime leisure sacrificed to training that was strange, arduous and often uncomfortable, especially for the ratings who were for the most part quite unused to the sea and her ways.  The officers and men of the Vernon Auxiliary Company subsequently served in all parts of the world, many of the ratings gained commissions, several lost their lives, including two of the original fourteen officers, and a number of decorations were won.  Indeed, all those who had anything to do with the Vernon Auxiliary Company had good cause to be proud of their work.


Between the Munich crisis and the start of the war, the Mining Department had the job of planning the Dover mine barrage, and were later to help with the operation orders and the actual laying.


As the days of 1939 lengthened and it became clear to the most confirmed optimists that war was not to be avoided, preparations of all kinds were pressed forward, black-out, fire-fighting, even some plans for the possible dispersal of Trials Departments.  The Long Course at Greenwich were disbanded to become First Lieutenants of destroyers and minesweepers commissioning from Reserve, all except one Australian, whose government said that they had paid for him to do a 'T' course, and do a 'T' course he should.


A single-storied building, Marlborough Block, was built on the east side of the parade ground, to provide additional accommodation at a time when a number of M.T.B. ratings were still living in Vernon.  On the north-west side a chief petty officers' recreation room was begun, later to become the church and cinema.  Apart from these two additions, and the altered appearance of No.17 Building after the fire of 1935, Vernon looked much the same as in 1930, when depicted in Lieutenant Sayer's History.  And the Second World War started, which was to bring so many physical changes to the shore establishment and such a profound transformation to the whole Torpedo Branch..."


This is the 'wooden minesweepers' memorial at the National Memorial Arboreteum which Ken mentions as incorporating an impression of a BYMS.



24 Aug 17 - FDU2 pays respects to Second World War casualty HMS Hermes


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting that members of Fleet Diving Unit 2 (FDU2) have laid a white ensign on the wreck of the Second World War aircraft carrier HMS Hermes.  All photos from the RN website.



Bereft of any aircfraft, she was bombed and sunk by Japanese aircraft off Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on 9 April 1942 and lies in 60 metres of water. 






The article features Jim Preston (OIC FDU2) and CPO(D) Ward Peers (2I/C FDU2).  The ten-strong team of RN divers has been conducting joint-training with divers of the Sri Lankan Navy based at Trincomalee and hopes to offer training courses for their Commonwealth colleagues in due course at the Defence Diving School (DDS) on Horsea Island in Portsmouth.



23 Aug 17


Change of venue for reception following Bob Fraser's funeral


The venue for the reception following Bob's funeral service (see entry for 13 Aug 17) has changed from the Marriott Hotel to:


The Cams Hall Estate Golf Club

Portchester Road


PO16 8UP


NDG deals with unexploded ordnance at Nairn


The Aberdeen Press & Journal website contains this article, including video, reporting last night's disposal by members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) of Second World War ordnance found on the Nairnshire coastline.  The article features MCDOA member Tim 'Castro' Castrinoyannakis, NDG's Chief of Staff.






22 Aug 17


Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2017


The ships of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) and the Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON) are participating in OPEN SPIRIT 2017 in the Baltic from 18 to 31 August.  This operation, dedicated to clearing historical ordnance in Latvian waters, involves 15 ships and six clearance diving teams from ten countries: Belgium, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and the UK.


The Estonian minehunter ENS Sakala (formerly HMS Inverness)

entering the Latvian port of Mērsrags on 21 Aug 2017


The Lithuanian minehunter LNS Kuršis (formerly HMS Dulverton)

entering the Latvian port of Mērsrags on 21 Aug 2017


SDU1 deals with hand grenade near Honiton


The Midweek Herald website contains this article describing a call-out today, presumably for members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), to deal with a hand grenade dug up in a garden near Honiton in Devon.  The team later detonated the grenade.





21 Aug 17


MCDOA AGM, Operational Updates and Annual Dinner


I have been notified by Rob Walker, our Honorary Secretary, that this year’s dinner will be held in HMS Excellent’s Wardroom on Friday 24 November 2017.  Paddy McAlpine, our outgoing President, has kindly agreed to be the Guest of Honour which is wholly fitting as this will be his last as our senior serving MCD Officer.


Rear Admiral Paddy McAlpine CBE


The evening will follow the traditional format commencing with pre-dinner drinks in the bar at 1900 followed by food and refreshments and a hearty sing-song to the musical accompaniment of HMS Nelson's Volunteer Band before retiring to the bar.  N.B. As roving photographer, I request that attendees only stand on their chairs for 'Bubbles' during the singalong as images of rows of 'bums', however interpreted, are not particularly edifying.


The dinner is open to MCDOA and affiliated association members and their guests only.  If a non-member wishes to attend the dinner who is eligible to join the Association (serving or retired), then they will be asked to complete the membership process prior to being offered a place at the dinner.  Serving and former serving WO1s (D/MW) are also eligible to attend at the guest rate.  If lack of space becomes a problem (as nearly happened last year), members will be restricted to one or possibly two guests each with others being placed on a reserve list.  We don't want to turn bona fide members away.


The cost of the dinner will be £45 for members and £50 for guests.  This will include a four-course meal, wine, and the Association will put a healthy kitty behind the bar if approved as usual at the AGM.  JFD UK has again kindly offered to provide the port for the evening.  Accommodation in HMS EXCELLENT transit block has been reserved.  


This year marks the 50th anniversary of LMCDO ’67: Course Officer: Hec Donohue RAN.  Students: David Bartlett, Jack Birkett, Nigel Davies, Peter Fougstedt SAN, Pat Gale, Mike Harwood, Geoff Mullett, Chris Niven RN/RNZN and David Ramsden RN/RAN and LMCDO ’67 MW Conversion: Course Officer: Brian Braidwood. Students: Tag Caisley, Hec Donohue RAN, John Hendrick, Tony Johnson-Newall and Charles 'Chuck' Maginley RCN.


1967 Long MCD Course & Mine Warfare Conversion


LMCDO '67 Course Photo


LMCDO '67 - 'The Final Few'


We will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of  LMCDO 92A: Course Officer: Alan Trevarthen. Chief Instructor: Dave Morris. Students: Don Crosbie, Tim Lambie and Tony Watt.LMCDO 92B: Course Officer: Alan Trevarthen. Chief Instructor: Dave Morris. Students: Keith Broughton, Jason Scott and Tim Lewis and LMCDO 92B (MW module): Course Officer: Jim Acton. Chief Instructor: Tony Mulrain. Students: Keith Broughton, Jason Scott, Tim Russell and Clive Smith).






LMCDO '92B MW module


Operational update briefs will be held in the Reclaim Conference Room at Fleet Diving Headquarters in the Bridge Building on Horsea Island commencing at 0900.  Lunch will be provided in the HI Officers and Senior Rates Mess from 1200 with the AGM starting at 1315.  Members are encouraged to attend this important serial and make your voices heard to the committee.  


Payment for the dinner can be made by cash, cheque or online bank transfer.  Please ensure  you send hard or soft copy application forms.  The closing date for applications will be Friday 10 November or before if all spaces are taken.  If you are due to leave the Royal Navy and deserve being dined out for free, please make Rob Walker aware and discuss your choice of 'gizzit' with him.


Download and complete the calling notice and booking form here.  It will also be available on the website's Forthcoming Events page. 


20 Aug 17 - SDU1 detonates grenade in Devon


The Mirror website contains this article, including video, reporting Saturday's detonation, presumably by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), of a hand grenade discovered in a field in the tiny village of Winkleigh in central Devon.


(Okehampton Police photo)


16 Aug 17 - Hurworth and SDU2 lead Queen Elizabeth home to Portsmouth


I was among the thousands who witnessed the first entry of QNLZ (the future HMS Queen Elizabeth) into Portsmouth today (see entry for 12 Aug 17).  This photo was taken by my son from the beach outside the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth and merits sharing.


(Photo courtesy of Gareth Hoole)


QNLZ was too large to capture in one photo as she passed my position on the ramparts between the Square Tower and the Round Tower so this is a composite of two images.



This event received much media coverage but little or no publicity was given to HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 5) leading her to Outer Spit Buoy at the start of the approach channel. 



HMS Hurworth with QNLZ at sunrise


I am grateful to MCDOA member Bob Hawkins, QNLZ's First Lieutenant, for these images of the leadthrough.





I took this long range photo of HMS Hurworth detaching from her task at Outer Spit Buoy.



Members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) had the privilege of leading QNLZ in through the gap and up harbour in their RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat).


SDU2 RIB approaching Outer Spit Buoy at sunrise

(Photo courtesy of James Danger)


SDU2 RIB leading QNLZ into Portsmouth

(Photo courtesy of James Danger)


SDU2 RIB leading QNLZ into Portsmouth

(Rob Hoole photo)


SDU2 RIB leading QNLZ into Portsmouth

(Photo courtsy of James Danger)


SDU2 RIB leading QNLZ into Portsmouth

(Photo courtsy of James Danger)


SDU2 RIB leading QNLZ up harbour

(Photo courtesy of Andy Waller & James Danger)


14 Aug 17 - Former CPO(MW) Garry Burridge becomes a Beefeater


Congratulations to Gary Burridge on his installation as a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London.



Postscript: The ITV News website has since published this article, including video, the Kent Online website this article and the Shoreham Herald website this article covering the same story.



13 Aug 17 - Arrangements for the funeral of former CPO(D) Bob Fraser


Bob Fraser's son Mark has advised me that his father's funeral will take place at Portchester Crematorium, Upper Cornaway Lane, Portchester PO6 8NE at 1230 on Friday 1 September (see entry for 5 Aug 17).  Anyone who knew Bob will be welcome.


Regrettably, I am unable to attend but I would be grateful for a brief account of the service which I can publish on the website.


Postscript: The venue for the reception following Bob's funeral service (see entry for 13 Aug 17) has changed from the Marriott Hotel to The Cams Hall Estate Golf Club, Portchester Road, Farham PO16 8UP.


12 Aug 17 - Three mighty warriors


I am grateful to MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE, First Lieutenant of our new carrier QNLZ (the future HMS Queen Elizabeth), for this photo of himself during his ship's recent encounter with USS George H W Bush and her strike group off the coast of Scotland: 



Royal Navy website: HMS Queen Elizabeth meets up with US carrier group off Scottish coast



QNLZ is not actually HMS yet as she is still in civilian hands on contractor's sea trials.  She won't wear the white ensign until she is accepted and commissioned into the Royal Navy.  Ill-informed critics complain about her having no aircraft but she won't receive any of the 138 F-35 jets, in her case STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing) F-35Bs, being purchased by the UK until she is ready for them.  Her aircraft, some of which are currently being flown by RN and RAF pilots in the USA and at sea, will be the cheaper full rate production versions with the latest hardware and software, not the more expensive LRIP (low rate initial production) aircraft which would only be sitting in a hangar somewhere gathering dust and growing ever more obsolete.  Almost as though it had been planned that way, eh?


I am looking forward to witnessing QNLZ's first entry into Portsmouth when weather conditions permit.  Her sister ship, Prince of Wales, should be following in a year or so.


Postscript:  QNLZ's first entry into Portsmouth has been confirmed as approximately 0710 on Wednesday 16 August as announced in this article on the Royal Navy website and this article on the Portsmouth News website.  Note the planned road closures.


10 Aug 17 - Penzance and Chiddingfold on their way back from the Gulf



The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the return to the UK of HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 1) and HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member David Louis).


HMS Penzance has tweeted these photos of her homeward passage so far:


HMS Chiddingfold following HMS Penzance through the Strait of Messina


HMS Penzance's XO at the grill



Hands to bathe from HMS Penzance


Both ships have been deployed on Operation KIPION in the Gulf for over three years.  Penzance has been relieved by HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew 8) and Chiddingfold has been relieved by HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 7) (see second entry for 7 Jul 17).


HMS Penzance arriving in the Gulf in August 2014

(RN website photo)


HMS Chiddingfold alongside in the Gulf in August 2016

(RN website photo)


HMS Penzance and HMS Chiddingfold in Oman early last month


HMS Ledbury after her arrival in Bahrain last month

(HMS Ledbury photo)


9 Aug 17 - MCDOA members sail for charity


MCDOA member David Hosking and his son Edmund successfully sailed 'Celtic Dawn' from Antigua to the Azores in May 2017 and both were very grateful for the money raised for Combat Stress by their many supporters (see second entry for 9 Mar 17 in News Archive 57).  David will be returning to the Azores on 22 August to prepare 'Celtic Dawn' for the home trip.  With the help of fellow MCDOA member Chris Sherman, who will join David in the Azores on 2nd September -  the two will attempt to bring 'Celtic Dawn' back to her home port of Poole, England.  The two also hope to raise yet more funds for 'Combat Stress' on their return trip home. 


David and Chris plan to depart from Praia Da Vitoria Marina [on the Island of Terceira in the Azores] on the morning of Sunday 3 September 2017 [subject to a favourable weather window] and they hope to arrive back in the UK some two weeks later.  Follow their progress towards Poole [UK] by watching the Yellowbrick satellite tracker on this site:


The tracker will go live at the end of August 2017.  


To show your support for David and Chris, please consider making a donation to their adopted charity 'Combat Stress' by using this JustGiving link:  


8 Aug 17 - SDU1 deals with bomb off west Somerset


The BBC News website contains this article, the Somerset Live website this article, the Forces News website this article and the Bristol Post website this article describing this afternoon's disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of "a large second world war bomb" in 40 metres of water at Lilstock Range near Hinkley Point nuclear power station.


MCDOA member James Oxley (OIC SDU1)



7 Aug 17 - Award of LS&GC


Congratulations to LS(D) Matt McEwan on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.


5 Aug 17


Death of former CPO(D) Bob Fraser


I regret to report the sad news from Vic Humphrey (via Cris Ballinger and Dudley Woolnough) that Bob Fraser passed away in the early hours of this morning.  He had been suffering from cancer for some time and discussed his condition with me at the Association of RN First Class Divers' reunion at the Royal Maritime Club in June when I took this photo of him (see entry for 11 Jun 17 in News Archive 58).


Bob Fraser in June this year


After leaving the Royal Navy in the mid-1970s, Bob founded the highly successful Singapore-based offshore oil & energy company Fraser Diving International Ltd.  This specialised in supplying portable saturation diving systems until he sold the company about ten years ago.  I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our deep condolences to his family.


From MCDOA member Chris Sherman:


"Hi Rob,


I was sorry to read about the death of Bob Fraser.  I worked for his company 1993 – 1995 and spoke to him on the phone a few times but never actually met him as I working in Brunei and then Saudi Arabia while he was in Singapore.  He was certainly held in high regard by his employees and his peers in the offshore diving industry.


I retired from my job as Chief Inspector of Diving at HSE at the end of 2016 and have been “busily retired” since then.  You may know that since 2005 I have co-owned a Contessa 32 yacht with another ex-MCDO (and ex-HSE diving inspector) Steve Field and this absorbs quite a lot of our time (and pensions!).


Best regards,


Chris Sherman"


From MCDOA member Jon Riches:




Oh Dear, Oh Dear,  Another fine man gone.


Bob was my second Chief in the Western Fleet Clearance Diving Team having relieved Dutchy Holland.  Both now sadly departed.  Highly professional and a man in whom I had the utmost trust.  


He was an outstanding 2i/c who taught me much.  As you know when he left the RN he ran a very successful diving business in the Far East and I lost touch with him.  We re-established contact at Morty Drummond's funeral a couple of years ago [see entry for 21 Mar 13 in News Archive 41].  It was a pleasure to see him again after such a long time and to catch up with what he had been doing.


My sincere condolences to his wife and family.


In sadness,




From MCDOA member John O'Driscoll MBE:


"Dear Rob,


I am saddened to hear the news of Bob Fraser's death recently.


I served with Bob in the Western Fleet Clearance Diving Team and thence the Fleet Clearance Diving Team from 1971 to 1973.  Not only was he a consummate first class Chief Petty Officer Diver but also a gentleman and a true friend. 


I kept in touch with Bob over the years and saw him late last year when we arranged to meet at a local pub on the Hamble.  He was in poor health at the time but,as was his way, made no complaint about his situation.  We were in contact until the last few months, during which time he arranged a very special welcome for us when Jos and I went to St Lucia during the winter.  His son-in-law controls a number of marinas in the Caribbean and we were given VIP treatment through out our visit.


Like many people I owe a great deal to this fine gentleman for his support and loyalty as my Chief Diver and his enlightened company as a friend.  One of the finest men whose comradeship I will always treasure.


Yours aye,


John O'D"


From MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton:




Very sorry to hear of Bob's passing.  I knew he had been ill for some time but not that it was terminal.  Please pass my condolences to the family.


Bob and I were in a group of young D2s (Divers Second Class) awaiting the opportunity to get on to the D1 course when 'Standard' diving was declared redundant.  Existing D1s were offered a place on a modified CD1 course.  D2s were offered a place on the next CD3 course.  If they gained 80% marks overall, they were given a place on the next CD2 course.  Alternatively, they could opt to revert to their original sub-specialisation, e.g. Gunnery or TAS.


Bob and I, together with 'Blondie' Rees and a few others, took the conversion route.  No allowance was made for the relative age gap between us and the new students but we mostly made it!  Peter Cobby later became Bob's mentor and they picked up on the USN 'Man in the Sea' programme into saturation diving and the Mk1 exchange programme.


Although DTU (Deep Trials Unit) had been set up as a civilian function at Alverstoke, the RN's deep diving programme was moribund.  Meanwhile, commercial operations were booming.  Bob and some friends from the U.S.saw an opportunity, commissioned a basic modular sat system from a company in mid-U.K. and set up business, initially in the Middle East but later in south-east Asia based in Singapore.  The subsea manager of the largest offshore engineering group was also an ex-Steamer.  Vic Humphrey later had a position as safety officer in another contracting company so, when I visited the area wearing my Shell 'hat', it was quite homely. 


I remember that Bob had a super banyan boat called RECLAIM which he intended to bring back to the UK.  I lost touch with him when I moved to Norway but last spoke to him at Christmas.


Vic Humphrey can probably add more but by any measure, Bob made a great success in both his careers,and cracked the 'Steamer / Corkhead' rivalry myth!   May he rest well with a glass of good malt.


Yours aye,




From Cris Ballinger BEM:


"Hi Rob,


Bob spent a good deal of time with the Experimental Deep Trials Unit just before I first met him in, I think, 1968.  He then joined HMS Reclaim as the Chief where I first met him.  His deep diving knowledge was unbelievable, and even before we had heard of Saturation Diving, he was aware of it and was teaching us.  Under his guidance we pushed the Reclaim far further than she was capable of.  We spent almost three years on her when he left to take over the WFCDT, later FCDT.  He then went to America, and like all his jobs, he turned it all around and practically rebuilt the DDS Mk1, making Vic Humphrey's job and then mine much easier, but he was a very hard act to follow. 


I do have much in my career for which to thank Bob.




MWA Southern Area Dit Session


A small but convivial band of Minewarfare Association (MWA) members celebrated well over 40 years of friendship last night at a monthly Southern Area 'Dit Session' at the Royal Maritime Club in Portsmouth.  MCDOA co-members included David Sandiford, George Turnbull, Bill Kerr and your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster.


Left to right: David Sandiford, George Turnbull, Peter 'Taff' Reader, Sandy (friend of Bill Kerr),

Bill Kerr, Dixie Dean and Rob Hoole


4 Aug 17 - HDS at Horsea Island's families day


Members of the Historical Diving Society's Working Equipment Group set up shop outside the Fleet Diving Squadron's headquarters at Horsea Island's families day yesterday.












Congratulations to LS(D) Luke Halbauer of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) and Ty Burton and John Smillie of the HDS Working Equipment Group for making the day such a success.  No fewer than 16 HDS members turned up on a very windy day.  Thankfully the rain stayed away.  Amazingly, Ty managed to dip a dozen divers, mainly RN, despite explosions going off all around them.  Members also brought a good collection of helmets, regulators, torches etc., so they managed to put on a respectable display. Thanks also to Una Smillie for an inexhaustible supply of sandwiches and crisps.


3 Aug 17 - Funeral of Lt John Ernest Hendrick RN


There was a full house for John Hendrick's funeral today at The Oaks Crematorium near Havant (see entry for 30 Jul 17).


MCDOA members present included Bob Lusty, David Hilton MBE, Bill 'Chippy' Norton and his wife Gunhild. Jon Riches and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) while the Association of Royal Navy First Class Divers (AORNFCD) was represented by Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM, Chris Jones BEM, Colin Kidman QGM, Gerry 'Pincher' Martin, Ray Ramsay, Brian 'Troy' Tempest and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.


Left to right: John Dadd, David Hilton, Brian 'Troy' Tempest, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, Bob Lusty,

Jon Riches, Mick Fellows, Colin Kidman, Gerry 'Pincher' Martin and Ray Ramsay



Mourners entered the chapel to the sound of the Beach Boys singing God Only Knows and the Carpenters singing Close To You.  John's casket, lying on the catafalque, was draped in a white ensign with his sword and medals on top.  The Revd Colin Noyce OCM RN, who also happens to be the chaplain to the Ton Class Association (TCA), then welcomed everyone to the service and said Prayers of Penitence before the congregation sang Abide With Me.  Colin then read from the Gospel of John Chapter 14 verses 1 to 6 (In My Father's house are many mansions) before delivering these reflections on John's life:


"I am grateful to Freda and the family and John's brother Bill for some insights into his life.


John was born in Croydon in March 1935 but at the age of four, when war broke out, he and his brother Bill were evacuated to Ottershaw in Surrey. This was not a happy time for them and John actually ran away.  He was sought by the authorities and when found, was severely thrashed by the husband of the person where they were billeted.  Had it been today there may well have been a prosecution for cruelty.


With the war over and a return to their home, John passed his 11+ and went to Whitgift School in South Croydon.  They had a cadet force which John joined and Bill tells me that he took the mickey because the uniform was like something from the First World War.  However, John must have liked wearing uniform as he decided to join the Royal Navy at HMS Ganges in 1950.  After the uncomfortable years of evacuation, Bill thinks it must have been like going from the frying pan into the fire because many of the senior rates seemed like qualified sadists.  (Apologies to any Ganges instructors among us today.  These were Bill's words, not mine.  I was a St Vincent boy!)


However, John survived his training and joined the Fleet as a seaman and went to serve in Korea.  He later became a clearance diver and that was to be his life from then on.  I'm told that he actually dived with the infamous Cdr Buster Crabb.  John's specialisation was in bomb disposal, a branch that is still very much in demand.  Apparently, he also had his own vehicle with a flashing blue light.


Whilst serving in Malta in 1960, John met Freda who was serving there as a Wren.  They fell in love and came to the UK the next year to be married before returning to Malta to finish their time there.  Jon, their first son, was born in November 1961, just six weeks before they left.  After some leave, John joined HMS Vernon and Caroline was born in Gosport in 1963.  John was commissioned as a Special Duties officer in 1965 and Scott was born in Portsmouth in 1968.  In 1969 Freda, Jon, Caroline and Scott joined John on a married accompanied appointment in Hong Kong.  Phil, their youngest, was born in 1972 after their return to the UK.


John retired from the Royal Navy in 1975 and took a job in Fort William as an underwater operations manager on the oil rigs.  After five years of commuting, the family joined John and lived in Aberdeen for the next 15 years.  It was there that they acquired two puppies; a retriever and a labrador and John adored them both.  When John retired, the family returned to Alverstoke and John was still involved in his love of diving.  He was a keen swimmer golfer and loved to walk the dogs along the beach, often accompanied by a grandchild.  They moved once more to their present home in Drayton.


Freda tells me that after so much time away, John became a real homebird in his retirement and just enjoyed the company of his family.


Sadly in 2010 whilst attending a Historical Diving Society dinner, John suffered a stroke [See entry for 17 Nov 10 in News Archive 32].  This seems to have started his decline into dementia and by 2013 he went to reside in Russell Churcher Court, Gosport where he was cared for very well.  The sad thing about dementia is that we begin to lose our loved ones before they leave our physical presence.  However, as with death itself, there are always memories to draw upon and good times for which to be thankful.  The wonderful thing for those baptised as Christians is that we have God's promise of eternal life.  So even though we are parted from our loved ones for a while by death, we knoiw that we will be re-united with them and with all who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  Until then, John, rest in peace."


 After Hannah paid homage to her grandfather with some of her memories, her mother Liz read this poem she had composed for the occasion:



Peace has come at last to John,

The fight was hard, the fight was long,

The questions we have are always there

We hope we did what was right and fair.



You can hear and see this disease that steals,

Not knowing each day what someone thinks and feels,

Snatching moments here and there,

Trying to give the best of care.



With our eyes, we delved into those greyish blues,

That widened at times, we thought he knew

The hand that grabbed and wouldn't let go,

As if to say, "I'm still in here you know!"



Hear me now I think he'd say,

My body's gone but I'm not far away,

Feel me on the wings of the breeze,

Hear me most on the sounds of the sea

Just listen.....


Colin Noyce then led the congregation in prayers before we sang the Naval Hymn, Eternal Father.  This was followed by the Commendation & Farewell, Committal aand a bugle playing of The Last Post and Reveille.  We departed the chapel to the sound of Katherine Jenkins singing Time To Say Goodbye.


Several of us mustered afterwards in the Old Customs House pub at Gunwharf Quays (formerly the Captain's offices in HMS Vernon) to swap dits and raise a glass in memory of John.  It was a humbling but joyous occasion and I managed to capture this group with John's son Jon, a former Lt Cdr (S) submariner.


Left to right: Chris Jones, Bob Lusty, Jon Hendrick, Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, David Hilton,

John Dadd and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) with Bill 'Chippy' Norton sitting front and centre


Donations, if desired, very gratefully received for the Vernon Monument Project, Royal British Legion or Alzheimer's Society via Ruby Funerals Ltd or:


Lt John Ernest Hendrick RN

(3 March 1935 - 9 July 2017)


2 Aug 17 - Sub Lt Graham Maurice Wright GM and AB William Henry Bevan GM*


I received this query today:


"Dear Webmaster,


I am producing a TV documentary for ITV about the London Palladium.  In the course of my research I have discovered that two RN "Land Incident" clearance experts defused a parachute mine in 1941 that had landed over the stage of the Palladium.  Without their efforts there would possibly be no Palladium today.


The two men involved were Sub-Lieutenant Graham Wright and Able Seaman William Bevan.  Both were awarded the George Medal.  Sadly Sub-Lieutenant Graham Wright was lost not too long after the incident, torpedoed whilst on a troop ship SS Aguila.  


My question is whether it might be possible to find out more about these servicemen, ideally finding a photo of them?   Or finding who may have served with them?  I have tracked down Mrs Wright as being Mrs Margaret Rhona Wright of Swansea but I fear she may be no longer with us.  


Any help or pointers you can offer will be gratefully accepted.


Thanks so much.


Jamie Wiggins"


I responded to Jamie's email thus::


"Hello Jamie,


Thank you for your email.  Beyond this information already published on the MCDOA website, I regret I have little more to offer about Sub Lt Graham Maurice Wright GM RNVR and AB William Henry Bevan GM* than the attached scan from p.39 of my belated friend Noel Cashford’s book All Theirs!


Graham Maurice


HMS Vernon

9 Jun 42


RMS - GM awarded for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Dealt with GC mine suspended over stage of London Palladium Theatre 11 May 41 by climbing a ladder.  The fuze started ticking during removal but the mine failed to explode.

Reported missing presumed killed on 19 Aug 1941 while en route to Gibraltar on board the torpedoed troopship SS Aguila.

William Henry


HMS Vernon
HMS Vernon

27 Jun 41
9 Jun 42

Bar to GM

BD and RMS - GM awarded for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Mine Disposal Manchester Dec 40.

Bar to GM awarded for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  Assisted Sub Lt Wright deal with mine suspended over stage of London Palladium Theatre 11 May 41.



However, I am blind copying this to some other people who may be able to help.


Best wishes,


Rob Hoole"


Does anyone have anything to add?


From Hans Houtermain:


"Wright has been added at:


As for Bevan you can find some details here:  




Hans Houterman"


From WWII re-enactor Tony Boyle:


"Dear Rob,


Thanks for the information about Wright and Bevan.   Yes as you say very sad.  The whole story of the sinking of the SS Aguilla is tragic.  The first draft of wrens were on board en-route to Singapore.  After this they were allowed on RN ships which sailed faster with less risk of being torpedoed.  


I’m currently trying to find out more about Lt James Kessack RANVR who died defusing a parachute mine in Southport on 28 April 1941.


Kind regards,




From Jamie Wiggins:




Thank you so much for this.  I love the drawing in the book.  It's just how I imagined it.  Fascinating, and a little sad maybe, to see in the reply from Hans that Bevan's GM was auctioned for £22,000. 


They must have told their story to someone because the account in your friend's book and from other sources vary a little but are generally quiet detailed and follow the same lines.  I shall endeavour a little further.


Thanks again,




1 Aug 17 - Artefacts dredged up from Portsmouth harbour


The Forces TV website contains this article, the Portsmouth News website this article and the Royal Navy website this article describing artefacts that have been recovered during dredging operations to prepare Portsmouth harbour for the arrival of the new aircraft carriers QUEEN ELIZABETH and PRINCE of WALES.  More than 20,000 items, ranging from shoes to sea mines, have been found, many dating back several centuries.  The wealth of artefacts uncovered include eight cannon, an aircraft engine, 36 anchors and a human skull, which was passed to the local police.  There was an arsenal of old ordnance, ranging from bullets and cannonballs to a British torpedo.  A German sea mine and five large bombs were found, before being made safe by the Royal Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.


A video interview incorporated in the first two articles features MCDOA member Del McKnight, CO of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS).



31 Jul 17 - HMS Ramsey visits Ramsey


The Isle of Man Today website contains this article reporting the recent visit of HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 4) to her affiliated town of Ramsey.


Lt Cdr Louise Ray, the ship's Commanding Officer, was welcomed to Ramsey town hall by Ramsey Town Commissioners’ chairman Andy Cowie and the president of the Ramsey branch of the Royal Naval Association Ken Johnson, who took the opportunity to present her with two framed photographs of earlier ships that had borne the name HMS Ramsey.



The reception also saw the rededication, attended by the Lieutenant Governor Sir Richard Gozney, of the ensign of HMS Ramsey presented to the town in 1945 and now located in Ramsey town hall.


30 Jul 17 - Arrangements for the funeral of Lt John Ernest Hendrick RN


John Hendrick's son Jon has passed me this announcement (see entry for 20 Jul 17):


"Hi Rob,


Attached is a generic invitation to the funeral which I've knocked up, including the info needed by any old divers who wished to attend and who may contact you, rather than Chris Jones.  



Chris has confirmed that, in addition to you and him, as far as he is aware the following guys do plan to come on Thursday:


Colin 'Scouse' Kidman

Bob Lusty

Jon Riches


Additionally, Chris has identified the following "usual suspects" whom he tends to see at old muckers' funerals but none of whom have yet been in touch to say yay/nay about coming on Thursday:


Gerry 'Pincher' Martin

John Dadd & Jim 'Tommo' Thomson from the Diving Museum - I'm popping down there shortly to see who's on watch

Vic Humphrey

Mike Handford

Mick Fellows

Vernon Gibbons

Cris Ballinger

Bob Fraser

Bill 'Chippy' Norton

Brian 'Troy' Tempest

David 'Jimmy' Bond

Don Green

Ted Setchell

David Hilton (Cdr RN - still serving?)


In particular, Dad requested especially that Pincher Martin attend the funeral if he is able and willing.


Another name that I dredged from the deepest recesses of my memory was a fellow officer with Dad in Hong Kong, Roy Drury I think?  I have a childhood memory of lunch with him in a hotel in Repulse Bay and that he was a pretty sharp dresser, winkle-pickers and all :)   Does that name ring a bell?


On the off chance that you may yourself be in contact with any of the above, I'd be very grateful if you wouldn't mind please forwarding the attached to them with a request that they simply drop me a quick email or phone call (07779-727120) to confirm, as it wouldn't really do for an ex-pusser to allow anyone to turn up and find insufficient victuals!   Alternatively, if anyone on the divers' net has contact details I'm very happy to do the legwork and get in touch myself.  Perhaps the news that there may be the odd tot or three on offer may grab their attention :)  With enough notice I may also be able to help with transport.  


Finally, one question which Chris suggested that I ask you, as the font of all knowledge on these things, is whether the RN Diving Branch automatically sends a rep in uniform to ex-divers' funerals or does a special request have to be made?


Many thanks for your help Rob.


Kind regards,


Jon Hendrick"


I have managed to forward Jon's message to all those listed apart from Vern Gibbons, Bob Fraser and Ted Setchell.  Any help in advising them would be appreciated.


Roy Durie, who turns out to be Jon's godfather, served with John Hendrick in HMS BOSSINGTON in Hong Kong but left the RN as a lieutenant in 1972.  I have tracked him down north of the border and put him in touch with Jon.


From AORNFCD member Cris Ballinger BEM:


"Hi Rob,  


I have left it till the last minute to contact you reference John's funeral, hoping to juggle our babysitting duties, but I'm afraid it's just not possible.  I sometimes wonder how Ginny managed when I was away, but just keep quiet.  


Please pass on my condolences and apologies to his family and to those who thought I may make it.  Sometimes the West Country seems further away than it is.






From MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton:


"Hi Rob,


Lt John Hendrick was not a member of the MCD Officers' Association.  He regarded himself as a Clearance Diver rather than an MCM specialist but it was John and his generation, as young CDs led by enthusiastic young officers like Guy Worsley and Frankie Franklin, who worked the transition between the 'P-Party' divers and the new Clearance Diver branch, out on the job and in the mud. 


From my perspective as a young 'Steamer' at around that time, together they established the image of highly trained competent young guys at their best when working as small elite teams.  While many legendary characters developed at that time, John was the epitome of a classic CD.  A big guy, but quietly effective, as he moved up through the system.  Later as an instructor he was noted for developing quality students, by firmness and leadership rather than the bullying which was prevalent at that time.  It is regrettable that the Service was unable to find a suitable  niche for his talents in his subsequent progress, but after early retirement he continued to make a considerable contribution to the safety of underwater operations.  Firstly as an instructor at the newly formed National Diving Centre in Fort William and later in his very successful second career in Shell Expro's North Sea operations.


After iniatally moving to Fort William, John and Freda settled in Aberdeen where he enjoyed his golf until his back protested.  They eventually returned to Portsmouth where he joined the Historical Diving Society.  It was at one of their meetings that he suffered a stroke from which he never recovered and his final passing although very sad has saved him any further indignity.


John was a fine man and a good friend.  Gunhild and I hope to be there on Thursday for the service and after and I have informed Chris and Freda Jones.  I'll let Jon Hendrick know too.


Most sincerely,




From MCDOA member David Bartlett MBE:


"Dear Rob,


My apologies for not being able to attend John's funeral.  Please pass on my condolences to all his family and friends.


John and I first met when he completed the MW section of LMCDO '67.  We remained good friends for the rest of his naval career.


My best regards,




From AORNFCD member Vic Humphrey BEM:




Sorry to report that I will be unable to attend John's funeral due to a previous commitment which I cannot change.


I knew John in the very early days of the Branch and during his time when we both worked in the North Sea oil & gas industry.  Please express my sincere thoughts and condolences to his family and friends on yet another sad occasion for our branch.


Best regards and I'll see you soon.




From AORNFCD Secretary Brian 'Troy' Tempest:


"Hi Rob,


I will try to attend the funeral.


If I get the chance, I will go around and see Bob Fraser and Ted Setchell as they live in Alverstoke and Sarisbury Green which is not too far from me.  If anyone has their telephone numbers, could they pass the details on to them and inform us if they have contacted them?






From MCDOA member Jon Riches:




I will be attending and have let Chris Jones know.




From AORNFCD member Jim 'Tommo' Thomson:


"Hi Rob,


Thank you for the invite to John’s funeral.  As I have moved "Oop North" recently, I have had to change my plans to attend.


John Hendrick was Sean 'Mick' Curran's CD3 course instructor in 1963 when we were at HMS VERNON.






From AORNFCD Chairman Don 'Jim' Green:


"Apologies to all for being unable to attend John's funeral.  I have a family commitment in Farnham.


RIP John and condolences to all of the family and friends. 


I do realise the penalty of not being present but am broad-shouldered enough to take it.




Don Green"


From MCDOA past-Chairman David Hilton MBE:


"Dear Rob,


This is the first I have heard about John's death.  What dreadful news.  John was my boss in HMS BOSSINGTON - Singapore then up to Hong Kong as part of the 6th MCM Squadron.  Good days!  I remember baby-sitting for his kids.  Where has the time gone?


I was a Leading Diver in HMS WILTON when Tim Trounson was the Captain and John Hendrick was the XO.  We went out and assisted in the Suez clearance ops in 1974.  I also spent a couple of weeks with him decompressing from a 210 metre sat dive and on numerous runs ashore!  


I did not know John was ill.  I will do my utmost best to be at the funeral on Thursday.


My best regards,




N.B. The book covering Operation RHEOSTAT, the Suez Canal clearance in 1974, lists all ships, units and personnel belonging to Task Group 65.2 on pages 33-35.  It is available for download in pdf format here:


Operation RHEOSTAT - Suez Canal Clearance 1974


29 Jul 17 - Lt Cdr Maurice Walter Griffiths GM RNVR



I am grateful to MCDOA member David Hunkin OBE for this information: 


"Hi Rob,


I just wanted to draw the attention of my Branch brethren to this article in the August issue of Yachting Monthly.  It is a rare tale of a naval bomb & mine disposal officer conducting wartime EOD in London.  Rare not because of that or that the mine functioned, fortunately not killing Maurice, but because of the guilt he felt afterwards which seemed to have lasted a lifetime which is truly tragic for such an brave man.  


An interesting read and a different view on wartime EOD and these brave men.  


Best wishes,


Dave Hunkin" 


The late Maurice Griffiths was a celebrated yachtsman, boat designer, author of 19 books (mainly about sailing) and editor of Yachting Monthly from 1927 until 1967.  He was gazetted for the award of the George Medal "for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty" on 14 January 1941, specifically for rendering safe parachute land mines in London in September 1940 while attached to the Mining Department of HMS VERNON.  He also participated in the clearance of the Suez Canal in May 1941.  He died in 1997 at the age of 95.


I have a hardback copy of Maurice's book, The Hidden Menace, and met him briefly in 1979 while he was researching it in HMS VERNON's Minewarfare Reference Library.  To my eternal shame, we treated him as just another elderly naval historian and had no idea of his background.  As was the custom among his generation, he didn't make us any the wiser about himself, either.  He epitomises the calibre of people the Vernon Monument will commemorate.


28 Jul 17 - Vernon Monument 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner at Trinity House



The Project Vernon team of volunteers organised a superb event at a prestigious venue in London, arranged the attendance of Prince Harry, laid on door to door transport from the Portsmouth area, set up online and live auctions offering a VIP day in a frigate, VIP days with CD teams, unique bronze miniatures of the statue and much more.  The team also made it possible for serving personnel to join in the fun.


Coach party from Portsmouth to Trinity House



Left: MCDOA member Dr John Bevan, Project Vernon Trustee and founding Chairman of

the Historical Diving Society

Right: Carrie Hands and Peter Still



Arrival at Trinity House


Minewarfare Association member Pete Cooling and his party



Capt MFP & MCDOA President-elect Roger Readwin with CO Fleet Diving Squadron

 Del McKnight and personnel from the FDS and HMS Brocklesby outside Trinity House


Minewarfare Association Chairman Dixie Dean MBE and his party




Les Johnson FRBS, designer & sculptor of the Vernon Monument, and his wife Jennifer



Left: Cris Ballinger BEM

Right: Peter Still


Capt Neil Blair CVO RN and his wife Jane


The Ouvry and Bailey party


David Ouvry, son of WWII bomb & mine disposal officer Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN

and Andrew Bailey, son of Lt William 'Bill' Bailey CBE GM* DSC RNVR





Association of RN First Class Divers Cris Ballinger BEM, Dudley Woolnough, Vic Humphrey BEM,

 Colin Kidman QGM and Terry Settle MBE QGM BEM




Left: Cdr John Ling RN

Right: Capt Neil Blair CVO RN



RNCDA Chairman John 'YoYo' Ravenhall, Project Vernon Chairman of Trustees Mike Handford

and Jim Smith



Jim Smith and Si Crew


Cdr John Ling (right) and some of his party


Nautical entertainer Shep Woolley and Peter Still


MCDOA members Roger Readwin and Al Nekrews QGM


MCDOA member Keith Broughton and friends


Flo Hales and MCDOA member Jason Scott


AORNFCD Secretary Troy Tempest with AORNFCD members Jim Lynch and Colin Kidman QGM


Si Crew and MCDOA member Catherine Ker


Prince Harry with chosen sculptor Les Johnson FRBS and

Vernon Monument Project Manager David Sandiford


Prince Harry (Commodore-in-Chief Small Ships & Diving) with MCDOA President-elect

Roger Readwin (Captain Minewarfare, Diving, Fishery Protection and Patrol Boats)


Prince Harry with former Royal Marines officer, broadcaster, author and naturalist Monty Halls


MCDOA Vice Chairman & Webmaster Rob Hoole with Prince Harry

MCDOA Vice Chairman & Webmaster Rob Hoole with Prince Harry


Prince Harry with MCDOA members Del McKnight and Matt Cary


MCDOA member Bernie Bruen MBE DSC, Peter Still and Tim Sizer with Prince Harry


Peter Still with Tim & Lynn Sizer and Prince Harry


MCDOA member Brian Dutton DSO QGM with Prince Harry


Prince Harry with MCDOA members John Ludgate RD DL (former Deputy Lieutenant of

Tower Hamlets) and Martyn Holloway


Sailors old and new


Dixie Dean MBE ringing the bell for dinner









































It remains to be seen what the event achieved as a fundraiser but thank you to all those who put their hands in their pockets and supported it.  It was certainly an enjoyable night and our minewarfare & diving community will reap the benefit.  The total raised will take some time to calculate owing to the number of sponsors and other agencies involved and the receipt of detailed invoices.  The well-intentioned but premature announcement of receipts by the organisers of a previous event led some to believe this was the amount 'raised' although it failed to take into account associated outgoings and the cost of assets auctioned.  This had a significant effect on total profits after all the bills came in.


Postscript: I have been informed that the Charity Dinner raised an amount "in excess of £40,000".


22 Jul 17 - Reaction to Vernon Monument 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner at Trinity House



The Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument is the MCDOA's adopted cause and it received the personal endorsement of Prince Harry, Commodore-in-Chief Small Ships & Diving, at a reception preceding Project Vernon's 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner held at Trinity House on Wednesday 19 July.


Prince Harry with chosen sculptor Les Johnson FRBS and Vernon Monument

Project Manager David Sandiford at Trinity House

Rob Hoole with Prince Harry at Vernon Monument Dinner at Trinity House 19 July 2017

Prince Harry with Vernon Monument Project Manager David Sandiford and your humble

Vice Chairman & Webmaster Rob Hoole (co-founders of the MCDOA) at Trinity House


The BBC and Daily Mail have published the following articles covering the dinner:


BBC News: Prince Harry praises Portsmouth mine warfare monument


Daily Mail: Prince Harry praises `fantastic´ Royal Navy diving monument


Daily Mail: Prince Harry looks dapper as he meets Falklands veterans at black tie charity dinner in London


The Mail: Prince Harry praises 'fantastic' Royal Navy diving monument



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


"Hi Rob,


I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the dinner.






From Andrew Bailey, son of wartime bomb & mine disposal officer Lt Bill Bailey GM* DSC RNVR:


"Dear Rob,


Well done.  It was truly a great evening and all your hard work and preparation came to fruition to make it the success that it was.  A big thank you also from all the guests on our table who thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.  I hope the takings bring you close to the final target.


It was a great pleasure to meet Gareth and, as l mentioned to him also, we have a small flat in Lisbon, Belem near the river, where you are very welcome to stay if you decide to take a break in Lisbon.


Many thanks again for all that you did to make the dinner so enjoyable for our group.  Looking forward to hearing what tricks you have up your sleeve for your next Birthday!


With best wishes,




From David Ouvry, son of wartime bomb & mine disposal officer Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN:


"Dear Rob,


Indeed what an evening.  Everything appeared to go very smoothly and congratulations particularly to you and David Sandiford - what a mighty effort you put in!  


I was very honoured to be sitting at dinner not just next to one Hoole but two!  Gareth is a super chap and you must be very proud of him. 


I hugely enjoyed meeting so many of your MCDOA colleagues and it was a privilege to be there.  Prince Harry was a hit with everyone.  


I hope you can now relax a little, and that the event has got us a whole lot closer to the Vernon Monument fund target.


My best wishes to you,


David O"


Tweet from MCDOA Chairman-elect Roger Readwin, Captain MFP:

Tweet from MCDOA member Del McKnight, CO Fleet Diving Squadron:

Tweet from the Second Sea lord:

Tweet from Commander UK Maritime Forces:

Tweets from former Royal Marine, broadcaster and naturalist Monty Halls:


21 Jul 17 - NDG helps raise 'Highball' bouncing bombs from Scottish loch


The BBC News website contains this article, the Mail Online website this article and the Royal Navy website this article reporting that members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG) assisted in the recovery of historic World War Two bouncing bombs from the bottom of Loch Striven on 19 July.  They were among an estimated 200 of the Barnes Wallis designed munitions tested on the loch ahead of the famous Dam Busters raid in 1943.


The Royal Navy article features MCDOA member Tony Hampshire (CO of NDG) and CPO(D) Garth [not Gareth] Spence.



Royal Navy photos by LPhot Will Haigh, FRPU North




Royal Navy photos by LPhot Will Haigh, FRPU North



Royal Navy photos by LPhot Will Haigh, FRPU North

20 Jul 17 - Funeral of Lt John Ernest Hendrick RN


Former FCPO(D) Chris Jones BEM has kindly informed me that John Hendrick's funeral will take place at 1430 on Thursday 3 August at The Oaks.Crematorium, Barton's Road, Havant PO9 5NA (see entry for 9 Jul 17).   There will be a gathering afterwards at The Old Customs House. Gunwharf Quays (formerly HMS Vernon), Portsmouth PO1 3TY.


If you intend to be there, please let Chris know.  If you are local and think you will have travel problems, let him know your address and telephone number.  Email: Chris here or telephone him on 023 9264 1223.


19 Jul 17 - Prince Harry to meet Vernon Monument campaigners


The Portsmouth News contains this article announcing that Prince Harry, Commodore-in-Chief Small Ships & Diving, will attend the reception preceding the Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner at Trinity House tonight (see entry for 14 Jul 17).


18 Jul 17 - Pip Piper out of hospital


I am grateful to MCDOA member Pip Piper's daughter Michelle for this welcome update:


"Hi Rob,


I have seen the article on your 'Latest News' page (see entry for 11 Jul 17) and read all the kind words of your members which my sister has passed on to my father.  I am very grateful to you for this.  It will mean a lot to my father who is now out of hospital and well enough to be back in his rest home in France.  Still enjoying life and back to drinking a glass of red wine with his lunch most days!!  


I have attached a photo of him taken in France in June this year.


96-year-old Pip Piper enjoying a beer

in France last month


Kind regards,




17 Jul 17 - A Permanent British Base in the Persian Gulf


The UK Defence Journal website contains this article reporting the re-establishment of HMS Jufair as a permanent British naval base in Bahrain.



16 July 17 - Vernon Monument 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner online auction


The online auction preceding the live auction at the Vernon Monument 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner at Trinity House on 19 July will end at 1200 on Tuesday 18 July.  Please click here and bid:


15 Jul 17 - HMS Shoreham returns from NATO deployment


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting Thursday's return to Faslane of HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 2) after her three-month deployment in the Baltic with Standing NATO Minecountermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1).  She interrupted her passage home with a visit to her affiliated town of Shoreham last week (see entry for 8 Jul 17).


HMS Shoreham returning to Faslane on Thursday

(RN website photo)


14 Jul 17 - Prince Harry to attend Vernon Monument reception


Prince Harry at DDS in October 2007


Kensington Palace issued this press release this morning:



Friday 14th July, 2017




London Wednesday 19th July, 2017


Prince Harry will attend a reception for Project Vernon, the campaign to install a monument dedicated to the heritage of HMS Vernon, at Trinity House on Wednesday 19 July.  His Royal Highness is Commodore-in-Chief, Small Ships and Diving, Royal Naval Command.


HMS Vernon was a shore establishment of the Royal Navy. Vernon was established in 1876 as the Royal Navy's Torpedo Branch, named after the ship HMS Vernon which served as part of its floating base.  After the First World War, HMS Vernon moved ashore, taking over the Gunwharf site in Portsmouth, where it continued to operate until 1996 when the various elements comprising the establishment were split up and moved to different commands.


HMS Vernon originally hosted the Mining and Torpedo Schools, from which the Clearance Diving and Mine Warfare branches evolved.  It was also where mines and mine disposal techniques and equipment were developed and minesweepers, minehunters and clearance diving teams were based.


HMS Vernon was the alma mater of naval personnel awarded 23 George Crosses and at least 134 George Medals for bomb and mine disposal on land and at sea during the Second World War.  Since the Second World War personnel associated with HMS Vernon, its mine countermeasures vessels and diving teams, have been awarded at least one Distinguished Service Order, 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, 69 British Empire medals, 14 Queen’s Gallantry Medals and 35 Queen’s Commendations for Bravery.


The Vernon Monument, designed by Australian sculptor Les Johnson FRBS, will be the first monument or memorial to commemorate HMS Vernon’s heritage and celebrate the incredible achievements of its personnel.  Such personnel continue to operate worldwide and the Vernon Monument will act as a fitting, publicly accessible tribute to them.


The reception will take place ahead of the Vernon Monument ‘Falklands 35’ Charity Dinner, which will mark the 35th anniversary of the Falklands War and will be attended by several Falkland veterans.


Our glass is already two-thirds full but let's fill it to the brim,  Bid here and spread the word to others:


Let's get this monument of ours erected:


13 Jul 17 - Vernon Monument Dinner online auction now active


A VIP day at sea in a Royal Navy frigate and days with naval diving & bomb & mine disposal teams are among unique lots now being auctioned online.  The auction will culminate in our charity dinner at Trinity House in London on Wednesday 19 July.


HMS Westminster commanded by MCDOA member Si Kelly

(RN website photo)


The Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner will mark the 35th anniversary of the Falklands conflict and raise funds towards the Vernon Monument planned at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to celebrate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS VERNON which previously occupied the site. The "Silent Auction" launched today comprises a wide variety of exciting lots including:  

There are many other interesting lots, too.  Please spread the word.  Online bidding has now opened at:


12 Jul 17


More publicity for Tim Sizer's charity trek


I am grateful to MCDOA member Mick Beale for drawing my attention to this article on the Portsmouth News website describing former WO(D) Tim Sizer's epic 630 mile trek in aid of Cancer Research UK and the Vernon Monument (see second entry for 20 Jun 17 in News Archive 58).



Donations in appreciation of Tim's efforts can still be made via:



Prince Michael of Kent visits Gulf MCM Force


Prince Michael of Kent has visited the UK Maritime Forces Middle East including the four minehunters based in Bahrain.


HRH Prince Michael of Kent with senior officers and CMF Bahrain beside HMS Bangor


11 Jul 17 - Lt Cdr Norman Douglas 'Pip' Piper RN


On 4 July, I was forwarded a message by Peter Down, the Honorary Secretary of the Ton Class Association (TCA).  It came from Peter Whelan, a former Commanding Officer of HMS Hubberston during her initial deployment in 1964 as the first minehunter to go to Singapore.  Peter and Mark served together in the Black Swan class sloop HMS Crane in 1959:


"Lt Cdr Norman Piper, a member of the RNA France Nord Branch (I am an ex-President) is well into his 90s and currently in a retirement home near Bordeaux.  He has not long to live.


I understand that during a full and varied naval career he either founded the RN Diving School after WW2 or was a key player in its development.  The Branch believes that this information should be passed for the attention of the CD branch with a view to wide recognition when Norman Piper eventually crosses the bar.


As ever,




Today, MCDOA Honorary Secretary Robin Walker forwarded me this message from Pip Piper's daughter Michelle:


"Dear Lt Cdr Robin Walker,


I am writing to you, from New Zealand, about my father, who to my knowledge is not a member of your organisation.  He is 97 in September and living in France.


He has just been in hospital and we were told he doesn’t have long to live.  He is the last remaining member of the original Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team which he started in Malta after the war.  He even built the building.  He reported to Mountbatten of Burma.  He is second from left in the front row in this photo:



When he left the Navy in 1956 he was Lieutenant Commander N D Piper.  I would like to ask if you can you make him a member of your organisation so that someone from your organisation can attend his funeral when the time arrives.  I am so very proud of his understated heroism and all that he did throughout WWII and after, to protect the world from the horrors of Nazism.  I can provide you with information should you need it.  


I do not have all of the full details of all the ships he was on but here is some of Lieutenant Commander N. D. Piper’s naval history that my mother (his wife of 63 years) put together before her recent death:


1941 or 1942 - Joined as Ordinary Seaman Piper


1942 - Commissioned as Temp. Sub-Lieutenant RNVR and opted for the Submarine Service. First Patrol in HMS/M Tuna in the North Sea.  He did several Arctic Patrols in HMS/M Ursula and HMS/M Tuna.  Stood by the commissioning of HMS/M Unswerving in which he remained with until the end of the war, first on Arctic Patrol, then from 1943 he was based in Malta and did several patrols in the Med where they were depth charged and completed about seven month-long patrols in the Aegean.  He remained with HMS/M Unswerving until 1945. 


In May 1945 he was promoted to Lieutenant in Command.  He was then put in command, because the Captain was on leave, and Piper then brought back the submarine (leaking like a sieve and leaving a trail of oil behind them all the way) from the eastern end of the Med (he had been at the liberation of Khios) to Gibraltar, and continued on into the Atlantic then took the sub up to Newcastle and into the Tyne.  He was instructed through a loud hailer to find the gate to get the sub into the correct dock.


Appointed to HMS Ferret in Lisahally then first Lieutenant U-3514. 


November 1945 set of to deliver U-boat to Libau in Latvia.  Finally took U3515 to Libau but because of bad weather and the tow to the HMS Icarus breaking didn’t arrive till Feb 1946.


1946 - HMS Cynthia, Minesweeper – released from RNVR re-appointed Lieutenant RN on 9th December 1946. Also served on HMS Zodiac, Seabear and Bramble


1948 – HMS Mermaid


November 1948 – Aircraft carrier Triumph


January 1950 - HMS Jamaica


April 1951 - Officers Clearance Diving Team training


1953 – Malta - In command of the Fleet Clearance Diving Team Mediterranean – Reported to Mountbatten of Burma.  


Kind Regards,


Michelle Piper"


I have sent Michelle the following response:


"Hello Michelle,


The name Pip Piper is well known to me, not least because of what John Grattan, Bill Norton and the late Robbie Robinson have told me about him.


I have also received recent news about your father (via Ton Class Association Secretary Peter Down) from Mark Whelan, the ex-President of the RNA France Nord Branch of which your father is a member.  


My records confirm that Lt Norman Douglas ‘Pip’ PIPER qualified as a Clearance Diving Officer in May 1951.  This means your father is automatically eligible for membership of the MCDOA.  As he is over the age of 75, he is not compelled to pay membership fees according to our constitution.  


Please regard your father as an honoured and well revered member of the MCDOA.  I will publish an appropriate announcement on the MCDOA website’s ‘Latest News’ page.


Best wishes,




From MCDOA Member Jon Riches:




Excellent news that Pip Piper is at long last a member of the MCDOA.  He well deserves the honour!!  


After my rather vague email to you I am glad that we now know a bit more about his RN career and that he served in most theatres of WW II.  I went to his 90th birthday party in Brittany which was an exuberant event with Pip in full command of his faculties.


Very sad to hear he is fading but he has had an excellent innings.  It was a pleasure to have known him though regrettably for me, in the late stage of his life.


Well done for drawing all the threads together.


Best wishes,




From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:




I was delighted to receive your email, thoughtfully forwarded by Rob Hoole, as Pip introduced me to Clearance Diving back in 1954.  I was serving in a minesweeping flotilla in the Mediterranean Fleet when Pip brought  the Med team on board for an exercise.  Having already had a one-week diving acquaint course as a midshipman, I was very impressed by this very professional and confident group and sought Pip’s advice on joining them.  Having then sent off my formal application to be accepted on the long CD Course I was taken on a run ashore in Malta by Pip and Morty Drummond, another CD luminary from those early days who just happened to be passing through,  


In order to check my suitability for this new specialisation. I must have passed the test as my application was accepted.  Not long after, your parents invited me to dinner at their flat in Sliema which remains one of my happy memories from this early time in my career.


If you have the opportunity, please would you convey my greetings to him and my thanks for all his kindnesses


With kind regards,


Michael Gillam"


From MCDOA member Jim Sykes:




I saw the recent entry for Pip Piper who I remember meeting as a baby Surg Lt at one of the many diving shindigs.


Trusting you are keeping well.


Yours aye,




P.S. Keep up the good work on the website." 


From Pip's daughter Michelle:


"Hi Rob,


Thank you very much for that.


Is there anything I can send to my sister in France to print off for my father to show him that he is a member?  I am very proud of his achievements, his longevity and his positive attitude to life.


I do not know a lot about my father’s time in the Navy, apart from all the stories we heard growing up from him and his friends.  Funny how you just don’t talk about things when you have the chance.  He has spoken to my son about many aspects of his life during the war in submarines.  I know he was very proud to be in the Royal Navy and loved Navy life with my mother in Malta.  Many of his life-long friends, unfortunately mostly passed on now, were ex-Navy so it was a backdrop to our lives growing up.


He is in failing health and sleeps for long periods - but can still converse, read (with help) and comprehend.  He still counts his blessings, sees joy in everyday things, has retained his dry wit and sense of humour and is still a true gentleman.  We have just returned from visiting him in France.


I look forward to hearing from you.


Kind regards,


Michelle Piper"


From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Rob,


Firstly, many thanks for your kindness to me and Michelle – absolutely typical of you.


I first met Pip Piper at the City Gem in Sliema, Malta at Christmas 1953 or very soon thereafter.  In spite of a fourteen year age gap (which is enormous in naval society) plus his distinguished war record, Pip remembered his roots and asked me to call him Pip.  We compromised by me always calling him “Pip Sir” and he was the perfect gentleman at all times.  We met quite frequently at the City Gem and I had the pleasure and privilege of going to the Manoel Island diving centre where he reigned supreme.  


He inspired many, included me, to try to pass the CDO course.  Like so many of us who knew him, I am so pleased he has had a long and fruitful life.  Reaching the age of 97 is a great achievement for a great and good man.  I pray he has a peaceful last dip – he more than deserves it.


Michelle and all are in my thoughts and prayers.


Yours aye,




From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:


"Hello Rob,


I am amazed that Pip is still with us.  I last saw him when he was working in Jackie Warner's Diving Inspectorate Team and he visited the Forties Field where I worked for BP.


I recognise most of the faces in the Med team photo but can't put names to them except for front row left CPO Ace Stanley and back row second from left Robby Robinson.


Pip was a well known and well respected CDO in the early days of the Branch.  I believe Mike Gillam did his first diving course with Pip's team.


Best wishes,


Bob Lusty"


10 Jul 17 - It's not a TON class minesweeper in the 'Dunkirk' film trailer


I have recently fielded several enquiries asking whether a vessel that features in the trailer for the forthcoming film 'Dunkirk' is a TON class minesweeper.



She is actually the former Dutch Dokkum class coastal minesweeper HNLMS Sittard although she has been 'modified' somewhat, especially with those extra guns aft.  She was in Stan's Navy (NATO's STANAVFORCHAN - Standing Naval Force Channel) at the same time as me in HMS Wilton in 1977.


The similarity with our TONs is not surprising.  Drawings of the TON Class coastal minesweeper were supplied to France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada who used these and plans of American equivalents to build comparable vessels to their own designs.  In particular, the American-designed MSC-172 Class Coastal Minesweeper, otherwise known as the ‘Western Union’, served in several navies under the offshore procurement plan known as the Military Defence Assistance Pact.


It all started when the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors formed a team at Bath in the UK in 1947 to design the post-war generation of minesweepers.  This team produced two sets of hull drawings in 1949 for the construction of future inshore and coastal mine countermeasures vessels, each hull design being sub-categorized into two variants: a minesweeper (CMS/IMS) and a minehunter (MHC/MHI).  J.I. Thornycroft Ltd of Southampton was designated lead yard and given responsibility for detailed drawings.


Although no initial orders were placed, owing mainly to a lack of funding, the impending offensive in Korean waters led to the acquisition programme being brought forward to September 1950.  The result of this urgent requirement was the TON Class, originally intended to be known as the Insect Class.  These ships were much smaller than their Fleet Minesweeper predecessors but were still able to carry out all forms of minesweeping.  The coastal minehunter variant was, however, suspended in June 1952 and cancelled altogether in March 1953, principally because of the lack of effective minehunting systems, particularly sonar, at the time.


 The first British Insect/TON class minesweepers were ordered on 9 September 1950 and HMS CONISTON (originally named RED ANT) was laid down on 14 June 1951, launched on 9 July 1952 and commissioned on 18 March 1953.  However, Thornycroft was beaten to the first launch by Doig with HMS BILDESTON being launched on 9 June 1952 although she was not commissioned until 28 April 1953.


9 Jul 17 - Death of Lt John Ernest Hendrick RN


Former FCPO(D) Chris Jones has informed me of the death today of MCDO John Hendrick after a long illness.  I was present when he suffered a stroke at a Historical Diving Society dinner at the Queen’s Hotel in Southsea in November 2010 (see entry for 17 Nov 10 in News Archive 32) and he never completely recovered.  As the first XO of HMS WILTON (1972-73), John was one of my predecessors.  I took this photo after Willie Wilkes' funeral in 2010 (see entry for 29 Mar 10 in News Archive 29).


John Hendrick (right) and Chris Jones flanking the late Tony 'Willie' Wilkes' partner Maureen

after Willie's funeral in March 2010


I will announce funeral arrangements when available but a service is likely to be held at The Oaks crematorium near Havant.


John was not an MCDOA member but I am sure all members of our community will join me in extending our condolences to his family and close friends.


8 Jul 17 - HMS Shoreham at Shoreham


With the kind permission of Lt Cdr Ben Evans, the Commanding Officer, I visited HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 2) at Shoreham yesterday with fellow members of the Ton Class Association (TCA).  As always, we were well looked after by members of her ship's company but I am particularly grateful to CPO Adam Slack, the WEO, for acting as our ship liaison officer in lieu of the MEO who was called away on duty.  HMS Shoreham has returned from a deployment with Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) in the Baltic which culminated in her showing the flag at Kieler Woche in Kiel (see entry for 22 Jun 17 in News Archive 58).










The starboard Mk 44 Minigun proved particularly popular although I'm not sure what the people in the houses opposite must have thought.



The visit was rounded off with a beer or two on the bridge.




7 Jul 17


Justin Hains takes command of SNMCMG2



The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing that Royal Navy officers have assumed command of two NATO task groups in the Mediterranean.


Congratulations are in order for MCDOA member Justin Hains who has become the Commander of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) for 12 months.  He will exercise command of SNMCMG2 from the survey ship HMS Enterprise and has previously commanded HMS Atherstone and HMS Ledbury.


Justin Hains (left) with Rear Admiral Jens Nemeyer German Navy

(MARCOM Deputy Chief of Staff, Operatons)


Justin Hains (right) with Cdr Philip Harper RN, the Commanding Officer of HMS Enterprise


Meanwhile, Cdre James Morley, the Commanding Officer of the Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan, has become the Commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), a force of six British, German, Albanian, Turkish and Greek warships patrolling between the Pillars of Hercules and the Black Sea.   He has previously commanded HMS Dulverton.


HMS Ledbury visits Jordan


HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 7) has tweeted this photo of her leaving Jordan after a two-day port call during which some of her ship's company visited the 'lost city' of Petra.



The ship is on passage to the Gulf to relieve HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 1 commanded by MCDOA member David Louis) on Operation KIPION (see third entry for 20 Jun 17 in News Archive 58).


5 Jul 17 - A photo from Bob the Dog


I am grateful to MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE, 1st Lt of the brand new carrier Queen Elizabeth (see entry for 19 May 17 in News Archive 58), for allowing me to publish this superb photo emphasising the true breadth and length of the ship's flight deck.  Bob says he took it himself "at sunset while the ship was at anchor over the former Exercise Minefield (X56...?!) in Kirkcaldy Bay."



4 Jul 17 - SDU2 detonates bomb at Southend


The Essex Live website contains this article (including video) reporting the detonation yesterday, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a Second World War bomb off Western Esplanade at Southend.



3 Jul 17 - Award of LS&GC


Congratulations to AB(D) Andy Waller on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.




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