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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.

Have you ordered your miniature of the Vernon Monument yet?  It is being sold in a variety of sizes, finishes and prices to raise funds for the planned sculpture at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to celebrate the Minewarfare & Diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.  'Project Vernon' is officially supported by Portsmouth City Council, Gunwharf Quays, the MCDOA, AORNFCD, MWA, RNCDA and the TCA.  Click here for details.

25 Sep 16 - News from HMS Grimsby


Lt Cdr Will Blackett on board HMS Grimsby

(RN website photo)


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Will Blackett, Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6), for this update received via the Ton Class Association ((TCA).  I write a column titled 'MCMV News' for the Associaton's bi-monthly newsletter 'Ton Talk'.


"I am delighted to introduce myself as the new Commanding Officer of your affiliated Ship, HMS GRIMSBY.  You will be used to the fact by now that the RN operating model for Mine Countermeasures Vessels (MCMVs) involves regularly swapping crews across the Squadron; this means that we can maximise the time our Arabian Gulf units spend on task because we can move people to / from the Ship rather than needing to bring the whole Ship home every six months.  I am in Command of Crew 6; Crew 5 under Lt Cdr Neil Griffiths have now departed and have now taken over HMS PENZANCE in the Gulf. 


I am pleased to say that we will remain on board GRIMSBY for about a year - our rotation to the Middle East is not until June next year.  In the meantime we have a busy programme ahead of us; for the last few weeks we have been operating locally to Faslane in order to conduct post maintenance trials and training (including a package of Operational Sea Training).  Recently we took part in the Bournemouth Air Festival as part of a small taskgroup anchored off the beach and our most recent commitment was as Guard Ship to the Blyth Tall Ships Regatta.  We are now heading out to the Baltic Sea to join the First Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group (SNMCMG1).  We will remain part of the NATO task group for four months, operating mostly within the Baltic, before returning to the UK for Christmas.  During our time in the Baltic we can expect to be tasked to clear historic ordnance as well as routine NATO reassurance visits to some of the Eastern Baltic nations.  Next year we will operate mainly in UK coastal waters as we prepare for Gulf operations.  We will hand the Ship over to Crew 3 in June when GRIMSBY will commence an in depth refit period in Rosyth.


All being well I aim to host an affiliates' day onboard the Ship in the early part of next year; it currently looks as though February works best in terms of programming.  I will write again during the latter part of the Baltic Deployment and aim to declare a date for you to save.


In the meantime you can keep an eye on us via our page on the Royal Navy website, and if you wish to get in touch I would be delighted to hear from you - my postal address and email address are both at the top of the page.


Yours aye,


W P Blackett"


Will Blacket underwent sea training in several MCMVs and was the Navigating Officer of HMS Hurworth 2007/8.  As the PWO(A) of HMS Daring where he had previously served as OOW1 and Navigating Officer, he played a leading role in the provision of disaster relief and humanitarian aid to Philippine islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.


Will Blackett as the PWO(A) of HMS Daring in the Philippines in November 2013

(RN website photo)


24 Sep 16 - Roger Readwin appointed RNRU's new Director of Rugby


Capt Roger Readwin RN


Congratulations to MCDOA member Roger Readwin on being selected as the Royal Navy Rugby Union's new Director of Rugby as announced in this article on the RNRU website.  Roger, the previous CO of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), was promoted Captain on 21 June this year and appointed Captain Mine Warfare and Patrol Vessels, Diving and Fishery Protection (Capt MFP).


"...In my opinion, Navy Rugby underpins the heartbeat of the fighting spirit of our Naval Service – it develops team work like no other sport, and has a tangible impact straight back into the fighting ethos of our Royal Navy Warships and Royal Marine Commandos.  We must also create memories for our players, which they will all look back on in the years to come, with pride and honour..."

Roger Readwin


23 Sep 16 - Simon Kelly assumes Command of HMS Westminster



I am delighted to publish this press release, dated 16 September, announcing the assumption of Command of HMS Westminster by MCDOA member Simon Kelly




COMMANDER Simon Kelly today took command of HMS Westminster, the Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate.  


In a short ceremony, Cdr Kelly assumed Command from Lieutenant Commander Chris L’Amie, the Senior Naval Officer, who has led HMS Westminster through her maintenance period.  Lt Cdr L’Amie remains with the Ship as the Executive Officer and Cdr Kelly’s Second in Command.



Simon Kelly assuming Command of HMS Westminster from Lt Cdr Chris L’Amie
(Royal Navy photo)


The ceremony took place on the decks of HMS VICTORY, in her day at the cutting edge of warship design.  Two and a half centuries later, HMS Westminster follows in similar footsteps, now recovering from an extensive maintenance period, that has seen the installation of a brand new missile system, an upgraded combat computer and the updated search radar.  The ship is now the Royal Navy’s most advanced submarine hunter.  


On assuming Command, Cdr Kelly recognised the progress the Ship had made during the course of the maintenance period, “The impressive progress made so far in preparing HMS Westminster to return to sea is testament to the combined efforts of the Ship’s Company and BAE, our industrial partner.  More work lays ahead, but Westminster is in an excellent position to return to the Fleet next year as the Royal Navy’s most capable frigate”.  


Having already commanded both Sandown and Hunt class ships, Cdr Kelly is familiar with the opportunities that lay ahead for the Ship, “As a submarine hunting specialist, Westminster will undertake a period of sea trials and training to bring the Ship, the combat system and the crew together as an effective fighting unit.  Once trained, we look forward to deploying to UK territorial waters and into the North Sea to deter any submarine threat.  This is the area that Ship was designed to operate in and in which our previous namesake has won battle honours”.


I am sure that all members of our community will join me in congratulating Simon and wishing him the best of good fortune in his new appointment.


22 Sep 16 - A meeting with the son of Lt Cdr William 'Bill' Bailey CBE DSC GM* RN


Since the George Medal (GM) was instituted by King George VI on 24 September 1940 in recognition of "acts of great bravery", approximatelty 2,200 have been awarded.  However, only 20 or so bars to the GM have been awarded.  Naval recipients have included:


AB William Henry Bevan GM* for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  Assisted Sub Lt Wright deal with mine suspended over stage of London Palladium Theatre 11 May 1941.


Sub Lt (later Lt) John Bridge GC GM* RNVR for great gallantry and devotion to duty.  Conducted bomb disposal work at Graving Docks, Falmouth, Cornwall on 17 May 41.  Presented at same time as GC while he was a Temporary Lt RNVR assigned as Bomb Safety Officer at Plymouth.


Lt William 'Bill' Bailey DSC GM* RNVR for exceptional gallantry, skill and great devotion to duty, often in close proximity to the enemy, during mine-searching and clearance operations in the ports of Normandy and the Low Countries.


Lt (later Lt Cdr) Geoffrey John Cliff OBE GM* RANVR for mine disposal Belfast July 1942.


Lt George Douglas Cook GM* RCNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  Mine disposal Haifa 26 July 1941.


Lt Bertram Henry Walter Fenwick GM* RNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  Assisted Lt Cdr Wadsley conduct first rendering safe and recovery of a photo-electric cell booby-trapped G Type mine in Clyde area.   Also rendered safe mine in third floor office of building adjacent to main telephone exchange in Liverpool 13 March 1941.  Had to climb ladder and enter via window.


Sub Lt Frederick Ronald Bertram Fortt GM* RNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  Mine disposal Nuneaton May 1941.


Cdr James Leslie Harries GM* RCNVR for exceptional gallantry, skill and great devotion to duty, often in close proximity to the enemy, during mine-searching and clearance operations in the ports of Normandy and the Low Countries.


Lt Denis James Patrick O'Hagan GM* RCNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  Mine disposal Nuneaton May 1941.


Lt Howard Dudley Reid GM* RANVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  Mine disposal Glasgow August 1941.


Lt Cyril Rowlands GM* RNVR for great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  Bomb disposal Malta April 1942.


Lt George Henry Olaf Rundle GM* RCNR for mine disposal July 1942.


Lt Hugh Randall Syme GC GM* RANVR for the disposal of ten mines, including one that exploded when turned, at Primrose Hill, St John's Wood, London on 20 April 1941.


Lt Herbert Edgar Wadsley GC GM* RNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  Participated in bomb & mine disposal London February to May 1941.


Lt James Kerr Woodrow GM* RNVR for gallantry, skill and inspiring devotion to duty in disposing of damaged ammunition in the magazines of HMS Thane Jan/Feb 1945 after she had been torpedoed.  Lt Cdr Woodrow handled the first batch of damaged ammunition by himself in order to give confidence to his party.


Lt Edward Dutton Woolley GM* RNVR for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.  Dealt with mine on third storey of flour mill in London's docklands October 1940 with AB Pearson.  Fuze clock re-started twice but mine was rendered safe.  Later conducted bomb & mine disposal in Malta.


Commissioned Boatswain Lord Joseph Henry Herbert Sheldon GM RN was a near miss.  He assisted Lt Cyril Rowlands with bomb & mine disposal in Malta and was recommended for a bar to his GM but was killed and awarded a MID (Mention in Despatches) instead as the GM could not be awarded posthumously until 1977.


One of the most illustrious recipients of the GM and Bar was the late Lt William 'Bill' Bailey DSC GM* RNVR


Lt William 'Bill' Bailey DSC GM* RNVR


I accompanied MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS) and founder of its diving museum, at a meeting with Bill Bailey's son Andrew in Southampton today.  Andrew was visiting from his home in Portugal and had arrived on the train from London.  We convened in the coffee bar across the road from the station.  This was the first time I had seen Andrew since a 70th anniversary commemorative event I helped organise with Cdr John Ouvry DSO RN's son David and the late Noel Cashford MBE on board HMS Belfast in 2009 (see entry for 27 Nov 09 in News Archive 28).


Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) with John Bevan and Andrew Bailey


Andrew wrote A Wartime Tribute to his father which can be found in the website's Dit Box.  Before I dropped him off at the Boat Show, he passed over documents and photos featuring his father, some of which I hope to publish in due course.  He also passed John Bevan his father's medals which will be exhibited in the Diving Museum at Stokes Bay along with those of his wartime comrades in Gibraltar, Cdr Buster 'Lionel' Crabb OBE GM RNVR and Stoker First Class Sydney Knowles BEM.  Andrew also inscribed bound copies of his tribute to his father which he presented to John and me.



Left: Andrew Bailey with his father's medals

Right: Andrew Bailey inscribing a copy of his biography of his father


Medals of the late Lt William 'Bill' Bailey DSC GM* RNVR


Andrew also passed over the Commando dagger his father wore on mine clearance operations against the Italian frogmen at Gibraltar.  The Fairbairn-Sykes (Second Pattern) Commando fighting knife issued between Aug 1941 and Oct 1943 will be displayed in the diving museum together with his medals.



Left: The Commando dagger worn by Bill Bailey on underwater operations

Right: Andrew Bailey's 'Wartime Tribute' to his father


Like most of the individuals listed above, Bill Bailey was trained at HMS Vernon and will be among the personnel celebrated by the Vernon Monument at Gunwharf Quays which now occupies the site in Portsmouth.


Postscript: The Bill Bailey memorabilia loaned by his son Andrew has been incorporated in the display at the Diving Museum featuring Lionel 'Buster' Crabb and Sydney Knowles, his wartime colleagues in Gibraltar.  I photographed it in situ on Saturday 24 September.


Crabb, Bailey & Knowles display at the HDS Diving Museum at Stokes Bay


20 Sep 16 - Gentlemen Who Lunch


The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole is still active although it has met at regular haunts in Emsworth of late.  However, today's weekly gathering was spent further afield at the Horse & Groom in East Ashling, West Sussex.  The trio was joined by Hoole's friendly next door neighbour Lez.




18 Sep 16 - Funeral of Lt Cdr Arthur John Futcher MBE RN


I am grateful to John's son Michael for this update following his father's funeral at St. Saviour's Anglican Church in Laidley, Queensland, Australia on Friday 16 September:


"Apologies for the delay.  Dad had his send-off on Friday which went very well indeed.  It was a good turnout at the church, and the local Returned Services League (RSL) gave him a graveside guard of honour.  A piper piped the pallbearers as they carried the white ensign-covered coffin to the grave.  A very moving tribute indeed.


John's casket in the church



Left: John’s wife Kath and his two sons Tom (left) and Mike (right)

Right: Guard of Honour


I attach some notes taken partially from my eulogy for your information.  Hopefully they will be of help.  


Lieutenant Commander A J Futcher MBE MiD RN


John was born in 1928, the eighth of ten children.  He had a poor but happy childhood growing up in the idyllic Hampshire countryside with his brothers, and stories of his boyhood adventures; stealing apples from the manor house, falling into ice ponds and burning hay ricks have passed into family legend.  


In 1945, at the age of 17, John joined the Royal Navy.  He was too young to see any action in World War II, and over the next few years he served out the first part of his apprenticeship in a variety of vessels including the last battleship ever built - HMS Vanguard - in which he served for the famous Royal Tour of South Africa in 1947.  He also served in HMS Whitesand Bay, HMS Boxer and HMS Creole.  As a young Leading Seaman, John was seeing the world and living the life, with it all in front of him.  His quickness of mind and hard work allowed him to achieve steady promotion but his lack of a high-quality education was to stand against him getting to the front of the queue for training as an officer. 


Then in 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea and the course of John’s life was to change irrevocably.  At the outbreak of the Korean War John was serving in HMS Belfast in the Far East, and when General MacArthur called for volunteers to conduct raids behind enemy lines to destroy bridges, tunnels and so on, John volunteered immediately.  He said he did this because he felt he could do a good job, and because he wanted to help his beleaguered comrades who were already struggling behind enemy lines.  Little did he realise it at the time, but he was going to get a lot more than he bargained for before his part in the war was over.  


On the 29th November 1950, John’s unit, 41 Commando, along with a substantial assault group was ordered north to reinforce a besieged US division pinned down in the tiny village of Hagaru-ri.  No one had told his force, but the night before, the Chinese had allowed them to pass through.  He awoke next morning to the news that they were surrounded by tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers and that the Chinese commander had vowed to annihilate every single one of them.  It’s hard to fathom, but John recounts in his book this news was met with indifference more than fear by him and his friends as they were so confident in their abilities to handle any situation.  What followed, however, was a nightmare.  


The next morning John’s division was ordered to proceed as planned along a narrow road bounded by high mountains on both sides, filled with thousands of enemy soldiers.  For about twelve hours John and his friends fought for their lives as the convoy proceeded at snail's pace through what became known as “Hell Fire Valley”.  At one point one of John’s unit, a gentleman called “Sweeney” Todd, cried out “Futch! Futch! I’ve been hit."  John had repeatedly to carry him to safety amidst intense enemy fire.  It seems inconceivable how any of the unit could have survived, but a good few got through.  John and “Sweeney” Todd were among them.


The days that followed stamped themselves indelibly into John’s psyche.  The battles were intense and bloody, and the weather so cold you could neither dig a foxhole, nor eat your food without unfreezing it.  


When he returned home, John was awarded a mention in dispatches for his bravery in the heat of battle, and as a result of a report from one of his commanding officers about his coolness and courage in the face of the enemy, he was recommended for a commission.  


For the next few years John served in several naval ships and continued his officer training at a variety of on-shore training establishments, including HMS Hawke and the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, as he steadily moved up the ranks.  They were fun times, and the serious side of the job was always balanced with a healthy dose of practical jokes and social activities of the liquid variety.  Ships served in at this time included HMS Crispin. 


By 1955 John had reached the rank of Sub Lieutenant and was serving in HMS Battleaxe stationed in Malta.  One evening he was asked to go out on a blind date and found himself with a young WREN called Kathleen Geary.  They hit it off immediately and marriage followed the next year.  They didn’t waste any time, and almost nine months to the day after the wedding, his first son Tom was born.  


After briefly flirting with the idea of joining the Fleet Air Arm, John decided to become a Clearance Diver, training at HMS Vernon, and serving in several ships including: HMS Tiree, HMS Dingley, HMS Shoulton and HMS Striker.




In 1964 John’s second son Mike was born and John, newly promoted to Lieutenant Commander, accepted the position of Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer for Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland.  A more settled life ensued and the family was able to stay put in Scotland for several years as John travelled up and down the coast defuzing scores of unexploded World War II bombs and mines, many of which had washed up on beaches or were caught in fishing nets.  For his services he was appointed an MBE – a fitting recognition of his bravery and professionalism.



In 1967 John led the Royal Navy diving team to search for the body of Donald Campbell, who had been killed trying to break the world water speed record on Lake Coniston.  Cambell’s boat the Bluebird was found, but unfortunately owing to the murky conditions and the rudimentary equipment available, John’s team were unable to recover the body, but the team received high praise for their professionalism in conducting the search.  


In 1968, at the age of 40, John retired from the Royal Navy to set up a lobster farm in the tiny fishing village of Kinlochbervie in the Highlands of Scotland.  This was a risky venture and John received a huge amount of publicity initially as this type of thing hadn’t been attempted in the north of Scotland on this scale before.


In 1973 the family emigrated to Australia where John’s usual adventurous spirit allowed him to turn his hand to a variety of jobs which included managing a fish processing factory and the North Queensland Fish Board and even opening a fish and chip shop.  By 1975 John had settled in Townsville, and soon landed his final and in many ways, his favourite job – as skipper of the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s research vessel, the Lady Basten, in which he served until retirement in 1992.  It was a wonderful job to finish his career, taking scientists out to the Great Barrier Reef, and he was able to dive for pleasure which he hadn’t been able to do very often while in the Navy.  


In retirement, John was practical about the problem of how to fill his day – he threw himself into planting and building projects around his house and land.  He became a stage manager for his son Mike’s Theatre Company for a while, and he even did a small amount of extra work on film and television - until his agent ran off with his money!


In 2012 John was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and Parkinsons Disease and given only a few months to live.  In typical John style however, he hung on stoically for four years so that he could complete his memoirs. 


John and his wife Kathleen in hospital in July this year


Bill Smith the diver who had recovered Donald Campbell’s body in 2001, had inspired him to write his memoirs, and John decided to tackle it.  So for the next three years, through sheer willpower, with his wife Kath’s unstinting support, and 18 months worth of chemo coursing through the bloodstream, John embarked on his final major task – to write the story of his life.  The book is called “Futch” and has been published.  It is a testament to not only the remarkable breadth of his life but to John’s sheer strength of will, optimism, tenacity and love for life.


Dust jacket of 'Futch' by John Futcher






Burstow's Funeral Care website contains this announcement:


FUTCHER, Arthur John Lieutenant Commander, MBE, Royal Navy


 Late of Plainland and formerly of Townsville, passed away peacefully at Wesley Hospital on 28th August 2016 aged 88 years.


Beloved Husband of Kathleen. Dearly loved Father and Father-in-law of Tom and Anne; Michael and Helen. Loving Grandfather and Great-grandfather of William, Claire, Frankie and Jimmy; Ellian, Charlie, Oliver, Max and Josephine. Loved Brother of Allen and Victor.


Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend John's funeral, to be held at St Savior's Anglican Church, Ambrose Street, Laidley, service commencing at 10.30am Friday 16th September followed by interment at Laidley Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the RSL, Laidley, gift envelopes available at the church. "At Peace"


Lt Cdr John Futcher MBE RN

Lt Cdr Arthur John Futcher MBE RN

(28 Jul 1928 - 28 Aug 2016)


My announcement of John's death has sparked several tributes and other email exchanges about the early days of the MCD sub-branch which I have appended to the entry for 8 Sep 16.  I have contacted Capt Peter Hore RN and am hopeful of an obituary being published in the Daily Telegraph.


17 Sep 16 - Topsy Turner superseded as CO of HMNZS Philomel


Former MCDOA Honorary Secretary David 'Topsy' Turner transferred to the RNZN in 2004 after almost 30 years in the RN.  I was his LMCDO course officer in 1983.  Since moving to New Zealand, he has been the RNZN's MCM Project Officer, SO MCM & OIC of the Operational Diving Team (ODT), Senior National Officer (SNO) and OIC of the Deployed Support Element (DSE) for HMNZS Te Mana during her Gulf deployment on Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, SO1 Operational Plans (J53) in the Joint Force HQ, CO of HMNZS Canterbury and most recently XO (from 20 Nov 2014) and then CO (from 26 Feb 2016) of HMNZS Philomel (see entry for 16 Mar 16 in News Archive 53).


I am grateful to Topsy for this update:


"Hi Rob,


Just six months after taking command of HMNZS PHILOMEL and Naval Base Commander Devonport (we only have one base), I find myself in Hawaii in a brand new appointment for the New Zealand Defence Force.  I am now thrilled to be the NZDF's Liaison Officer to the US Pacific Command (PACOM) in Honolulu which is where Yvonne and I will be for the next three years.  I have office space in the NZ Consulute here in downtown Honolulu and split my time between PACOM and the various component commands spread across the island including of course the Pacific Fleet HQ at Pearl Harbour. 


The UK Liaison Officer is Cdr Marcus Jacques who is known by quite a few of our senior MCDs including Paddy McAlpine and of course Marcus has commanded a number of SRMHs [Bangor, Grimsby, Walney and Blyth] during his time in UK and out of Bahrain.  


Please see attached a couple of photos from my Change Of Command Ceremony on 26th August.











I was taken by surprise when the parade broke ranks and honoured me by conducting the Navy haka as a sign of respect for a departing Commanding Officer.  The haka is not an appointed, pre-determined or mandated occurrence; it is performed freely and without order so you can appreciate just how humbled I was.  I have to say that it drove this seasoned sailor to shed the odd emotional and salty tear.




Needless to say Rob, just like Spidy Ince, please accept my aplologies for not being able to make it to the dinner this year; I'll either be having surfing or golf lessons by then which is of course a great way of building relationships!!  




I am sure that all members of our community will join me in congratulating Topsy on his new appointment and wishing him, Yvonne and their family continued success, health and happiness in Hawaii.


16 Sep 16 - HMS Middleton lifts for charity


While alongside in Bahrain on 14 & 15 September, ship's company members of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 6) surpassed their target to deadlift the weight of their ship by more than 128 tonnes in 12 hours.


HMS Middleton's deadlifting personnel in the Forward

Support Unit warehouse in Bahrain

(RN photo)


Simultaneously, PO(ET) Rob Knott, the ship's DWEO and instigator of the event, made a valiant attempt to break the world record for the most weight deadlifted in 24 hours.  This is currently held by Ian Atkinson of Warrington in the UK.  Rob's personal target of 475,100 kg was 63% of HMS Middleton's total weight of 750 tonnes which would involve deadlifting 60kg nearly 8,000 times.


PO(ET) Rob Knott, DWEO of HMS Middleton

(RN photo)


Rob Knott's daughter Isla was born at QA (Queen Alexandra hospital) near Portsmouth and treated for a cystic hygroma, a growth on the lymphatic nodes around the neck,  The aim of the ship's efforts was to raise as much money as possible for Portsmouth Hospitals Charity and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC).  You can help by donating online via this Virgin Money Giving webpage:


Robert Knott's fundraising page


15 Sep 16


HMS Hurworth in Portsmouth


I was showing some visiting friends from the USA around Portsmouth harbour today and captured HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 1) alongside in the naval base.  According to the RN website, she is currently undergoing maintenance and conducting sea-trials (see entry for 6 Jul 16 in News Archive 55).



HMS Hurworth alongside in Portsmouth Naval Base


HS Europa (formerly HMS Bicester) in Toulon


MCDOA member Dave Stanbury,  Principal Staff Officer (old-type SOO) for Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2), has taken these photos of the former HMS Bicester, now HS Evropi (Europa) in the Greek Navy, arriving in Toulon. 




David reports that her sweep gear is still fully operational but the PAPs are long gone.






14 Sep 16 - Fish & Clips quiz evening at the Diving Museum



What could be more traditional than a fish & chips supper?  Even better with lashings of fun.  So come and join us at The Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay on the evening of Saturday 24 September to join in the Fish & Clips quiz evening.  Doors open at 1900 for a 1930 start.  We'll show you clips from movies and then ask you cunning questions about them.



Hot and tasty Fish & Chips suppers will arrive half way through at about 2015.  There will be a 'help-yourself' soft drinks bar (and you can bring your own choice of drinks if you like).


There will be teams of four but don't worry if you can't make a team... come along and join in and we'll make up teams to suit.  The lucky winners will each win a bottle of Prosecco.  All this for only £7.  You can get tickets from the Gosport Tourist Information Centre or pay on the door on the night.  Better than another evening of repeats on the telly!


Hope to see you there!


12 Sep 16 - Award for member of Northern Diving Group


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG)'s award for 'Sailor of the Year' to LS(D) Scott McAllister.  The award, presented by Commander Portsmouth Flotilla (COMPORFLOT) on board HMS Victory, was made in recognition of Scott's involvement in the safe removal of a large quantity of 30-year-old unstable quarry explosives from a locked outhouse near a primary school in a remote Scottish village.


Cdre Peter Sparkes (COMPORFLOT) presenting NDG's Sailor of the Year award

to Ldg Diver McAllister on board HMS Victory in Portsmouth Naval Base

(RN website photo)


11 Sep 16 - SDU2 deals with torpedo that closed Portsmouth harbour


The BBC website contained this article, the Portsmouth News this article and there was much other coverage in the national press reporting yesterday's disposal by members of Portsmouth based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of an unexploded torpedo.  Its discovery resulted in the temporary closure of Portsmouth harbour and cessation of train and ferry services. 


10 Sep 16 - Royal Engineers diver paralympian


I am grateful to MCDOA member Rory Armstrong for this notification:




Heads-up that former RE diver SSgt Micky Yule is probably competing on Saturday in powerlifting at Rio.  Micky lost his legs in an IED event in Afghanistan a few years ago and is an inspirational chap.


Best regards,


Rory Armstrong"


According to the Paralympics website, Micky Yule should be competing in the -65kg Powerlifting event currently rescheduled for 1600 local (2000 BST) today.


9 Sep 16 - EOD in Scotland


The Aberdeen Press & Journal website contains this feature about bomb disposal in Scotland including the activities of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG).


NDG detonates a mine washed up on Aberdeen beach

(Picture: Kami Thomson)


On 5 August 2016, Navy Command provided this MOD response to a Freedom of Information request from the Aberdeen Press & Journal:




8 Sep 16 - Death of Lt Cdr Arthur John Futcher MBE RN


I have received this sad news from John Futcher's son Michael:


"Dear Sir,


I’m writing to let you know that my father, former Royal Navy clearance diving officer Lt Cdr John Futcher MBE, passed away on 28 August and that some of your members may be grateful to know.


Dad served in Korea as a Royal Navy Marine Commando before serving with the RN as a clearance diver and on several RN ships including HMS Vanguard, HMS Belfast, HMS Tiree, HMS Dingley, HMS Shoulton, HMS Striker and others, before being appointed Bomb and Mine Disposal officer for Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland.  He led the diving team that searched for Donald Campbell’s body in 1967, and was awarded the MBE for his clearance diving service a year later.  He retired from the Royal Navy in 1968 and then moved to Australia in 1973 where he lived until his death.  


In July this year my Dad published his memoirs “FUTCH” which is now in print and covers his life and career – it’s a great read.  If anyone is interested in purchasing a copy they can contact me via this email address.


John Futcher at book launch in July 2016


I attach a photo of him with members of his clearance diving team taken in the 1950s.


John Futcher with members of his

CD Team during the 1950s


Many thanks.  


Michael Futcher"


John Futcher is mentioned several times on this website including the RN Diving magazines in the Branch History section but see particularly the entries for 4 Mar 15 in News Archive 49 and 19 Jun 12 in News Archive 38, the second entry for 12 Jul 09 in News Archive 27 and the entry for 24 Jun 09 in News Archive 26.  He was awarded a Mention in Despatches as a Leading Seaman on 18 May 1951 for "gallant and distinguished service with 41 Independent Commando (Royal Marines) in operations in Korea".  This was for his part in the late-1950 battle for the Chosin Reservoir.  "I'll never forget Chosin," he said.  "The temperature ranged from minus 20 to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit."   He also took part in the landing at Inchon in 1951. 


John Futcher examining a beached M Mk1 moored mine with Frank Newman, Bungy Williams and

Scouse Bolton of the Scotland & Northern Ireland Clearance Diving Team (SNICDT) circa 1965 


He was appointed an MBE as a Lt Cdr in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1967  As CO of the diving tender HMS Dingley, he was best man for fellow CDO David Lermitte, CO of Dingley's sister ship HMS Brenchley.


John Futcher (right) as David Lermitte's best

man in the mid-1960s


HMS Dingley in the mid-1960s


I am sure that all members of our community will join me in extending our sincere condolences to John's wife Kathleen, his son Mike and other members of his family.


From MCDOA member David Burstall:


"Hello, and Bravo Zulu, you two for your remarkable memories.


I can only comment that to the best of my recollection Peter Roberts joined my CDO class some way into it and was back-classed - presumably to join Harry, Mike & Co as you suggest.   We had both fallen foul of the redoubtable Willy Wyvil, our course instructor, who did not like young upstarts like me, nor Peter who had better gongs than he had.  He was determined to fail us both and we were equally determined to resist - but therein lies another tale, to be told on another day.   Suffice it to say that Willy had a wonderful time together with his killick (Vic Humphrey?), and two AB CD3s chasing me around Horsea Lake and the floating dock, in, on and under the water.






From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:


"Well done John.  You have remembered many more details of the early days than I knew; I will try and add to them.

My acquaintance with Clearance Diving started in 1954 when I was the office boy in the Algerine class minesweeper HMS Recruit, leader of the 2nd MS Squadron, then part of the of the Med Fleet.  The Med FCDO Pip Piper and his team led by Sam Stanley, took passage with us for a fleet exercise.  I was sufficiently impressed by the team to the respond to the AFO inviting applications to join the branch.  I was also the ship’s diving officer on the strength of a one week midshipman’s diving acquaint course in Malta some four years earlier.  My CD suitability was tested on a run ashore in Malta conducted by Pip Piper and Morty Drummond on his way home from the Far East with another MSO Squadron.  I must have passed.

The first FCDO Med had been John Dickenson with the fearsome Jock Gribbon as his CD1.  The stories about their exploits in the Manoel Island Nissan huts were still being told.  The one I recall was of the detonator and short fuse being lit and thrown into the team’s mess hut with a shouted warning to jump clear!

I thought that David had been on the course earlier than ours from which Peter Roberts had been back-classed to us.  My memory of Peter was on the celebratory run ashore in Southsea on the successful completion of our course when he attempted to climb a lamppost.  Certainly Pat Dowland had been on a previous course as I relieved him in February 1956 as Diving Officer of the Isles Class coal burning trawler HMS Flatholm to complete the special survey of the Mersey from the Manchester Ship Canal out to the Formby Light vessel including all the docks.  A year later the ‘powers that be’ decided that this survey was no longer required and we were left alongside in Devonport, our home port to where we had returned for the Easter leave period 1957, with nothing to do.  It was here that I was phoned by Jackie Warner and asked if I was prepared to go to Iran to start a Diving School.  I remember saying that I was prepared to go anywhere to leave a ship with no purpose.

I flew to Iran in the summer of 1957 and stayed for a year although the original plan was for only a six month tour.  So, in mid-July 1958 I was in Teheran for a week staying with the air attaché, Group Captain Pelly-Fry, and writing my final reports prior to my return home by train from Iraq for which I had received prior approval.  I had this idea of going into the booking office at Baghdad Railway station and asking for a single to Waterloo.

On the morning of 14th July 1958 the air attaché’s driver reported Radio Cairo’s story of bloody revolution.  "They are always talking about bloody revolution," said the air attaché, "...but I will just check it out with with HE."  Sir Roger Stephens said much the same, it was just Radio Cairo talk but he rang back 10 minutes later to say that a revolution had taken place in Iraq and King Faisal had been assassinated as had his Prime Minister Nuri al-Said.  I was then co-opted onto the diplomatic staff and sent to the border to assist any Brits escaping the revolution – but there were none.  So my plans to return home by train came to nought.  I mention this story to confirm my recollections as being in the right year.

You ask when the two 'Mr Macs' became CDOs.  The original Mr Mac (McLanachan), must have qualified way before I did because during my time in Willcove running the international course in late 1955, he took over temporarily from Stuart Honour to allow Stuart to have some leave.  This led to the occasion when Mr Mac called to me over the adjoining wall between our cabins asking if I was on for a ‘run’.  I cleaned into my ‘dog robbers’ and he turned up in shorts and plimsoles (no trainers in those days); he was a hard man.  I have heard similar stories about him from others but it certainly happened to me. Don McLaughlan qualified later.

I thought Arthur Checksfield was an Upper Yardman who did a full CDOs course.  I’m not sure of Phil White’s background; perhaps he came the D/P route in which case he would also have had to do a full course.  Certainly Pete Cobby and Nutty Carr Became CDOs through SD Promotion, but I imagine that Peter Messservy, the ‘Battling Bosun’, would also have had to have done a full CDO’s course.

That’s all for now – ask me another

Yours aye,



From MCDOA member David Burstall:




Congratulations, John, on a fantastic memory and the production of a pretty accurate record.  I can't fault it except to state that I think Pat Dowland qualified before me and not after.  I can't comment on Philip White, whom I relieved in my first job after qualifying, in HMS Annet - surveying Southampton seabed.  At the same time Pat Dowland was in another Isles Class trawler surveying the depths of Mersey,  I can't recall the name.






From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Rob & David.

Rob is very kind and much appreciated for all he does for the Branch.  Before I become completely senile, I will try to make a table of CDO Courses, their dates and names as far as I can remember.  As I am now nearly blind, please forgive typos, etc.  No doubt others will corrct me and add their own knowledge.  I hope Rob will then have a better record of the early days of our great Branch and the men who made it.


1951 - Foundation of C.D. Branch by John Crawford, Jackie Warner, Bill Filer and CPO(D) Sam Stanley (bringing in remnants of 'P' Parties (e.g. Gordon Gutridge).  Most decisions were made in the bar of the South Queensferry Hotel, e.g. gas mixtures/depth ratios (suspect mathematics!).

1952 - 7 March. Official CD Branch launch by AFO. First CDO Course. John Dickenson (later I Diving), Tony(?) Babcock, 'Pip' Piper, Joe Brookes, Dave Lambert, Al Cuthbert (RAN).

1953 - Eric Gash, Frankie Franklin, Harry Wardle, ?, ?

1954 - Stuart 'Jazz' Honour, Jim Neil and Guy Worseley.

1955 - First Course: Harry Parker, Mike Gillam, Henry Wilson and Peter Roberts (back-classed). Second Course: David Burstall and Peter Robertson (second chance).

1956 - David Edwards, Phil Hawke (RAN), Pat Dowland, ?.

1957 - Johnny Futcher, David Lermitte and Bill Thorniley.

1958 - Len Graham (RAN), Tony Johnson-Newell, Mike Hodgson and John Grattan.


Arthur Checksfield and Phil White [later Philip Balink-White OBE] only did the B&MD part of the CDO Course (D/P Scheme)?

Peter Messervey, Peter Cobby and John 'Nutty' Carr became CDOs through SD promotion?

How and when did Don McLauchlan and 'Mr Mac' McLanachan become CDOs?  Can David Edwards, wth his superb memory, help with some answers?

Small stainless steal plaques were mounted on the wooden panelling on the left of the left corridor off the foyer of Vernon’s Wardroom.  These were engraved with each CDO Course and the names of officers who had qualified in the order of passing.  I was top of my course and I seem to remember counting those men ahead of me.  There were 18 officers so this table needs considerable correction: but at least it is a start.

Yours aye,



From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:


"Many thanks Rob for keeping me in touch and for what you do for us.  Johnny Futcher’s names rings a number of bells but no precise memories – but I would like to obtain a copy of his book.  


Sorry, John, to learn of your health problems but glad that that you are still in good heart.  Fortunately, my prostate cancer was treated early some eight years ago and my dodgy heart valve replaced with no further complications.  Old age does have its problems but life is still worth living.  


Harry – good to hear from you - have many happy memories of our course - remember the Cherbourg Race?


David, we must get together sometime.  Harry Parker and I were on the same CD course that started, as I recall, in May 1955 together with, among others, Peter Roberts who had been back classed from your course.  Joe Brookes was our course officer, Hoppy Hopewell our Instructor with our good friend Bob Lusty as ‘second dickey’.  I had to leave the course before our Bomb Disposal time as I was told to run the first, and, to my knowledge only, International CD course at HMS Defiance.  The course comprised four Dutchmen, two Portuguese, a Norwegian and a Pakistan Bosun with Bungy Edwards as the Instructor assisted by Taff Davey.  


HMS Defiance was the home of TAS and Diving training in the West Country that had taken place in three old hulks  sold for scrap just before our arrival.  So the school was moved up the hill on the Cornish side of the Tamar into a strange collection of wartime huts with a recompression chamber, a diving tank but no main drainage.  The school was not fully recognised by naval stores and so the First Lieutenant, little Alfie Crossley, ran a small market garden, the sale of produce from which supported the purchase of lightbulbs, cleaning gear and the like.  Course members were accommodated across the water in the barracks and Stuart (Jazz) Honour, West Country B&MDO, and I were the only members of the Wardroom living in.


The School’s Commanding Officer, Sam Seymour, lived alone in a small house nearby and was wont to wander about the camp in the late evening on a sort of unofficial ‘Rounds’.  On one occasion he came across a couple of the lads.


’What are you doing?’ he said.

‘Digging,’ they replied.

‘What for?’ he asked.

‘Corned beef,’ they replied.  


Do you remember, in those far off days, divers received an allowance of corned brief and ships biscuits as recompense for their difficult and dangerous duties.  These enterprising fellows were storing theirs until they could take them home where they were much appreciated in that post-war period of austerity.  Ever after they were known as the Cornish corned beef miners; being Clearance Divers, they were forgiven.


I eventually did my Bomb Disposal course with the Royal Engineers at Broadbridge Heath in January 1956.






From MCDOA member David Burstall:


"Hello All,


Rob - Once again many thanks for keeping us in touch, and I echo Harry's sentiments about your dedication to this website.  It keeps on producing gems that I had entirely forgotten about.


Harry - I had not realised that Peter Roberts was on your course.  I think he must have joined you after Willy Wyvil had persuaded Eric Gash that he needed more time.  He had actually joined my course half way through it so it was not easy for him to catch up.  The course before me had Pat (Froggy) Dowland and Philip White on it and possibly Peter Messervy, but I cannot be sure.


Mike - That's an excellent photograph of you and the FEFCDT in 1962. 


Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team 1962
Back row: Peter 'Brum' Fowles, Doc Campion, Brian Martin, Simon Russell, Tansy Lee,
Dolly Dolan, Harvey Sumner, Vic Humphrey, Gilbert Bartholmew and Tom Fisher (ME)
Front Row: Mick Roberts, Mike McCall (POME), Bob Atkinson, James Majendie,
Mike Gillam, Brian Fawcett, Tom King and Stan Templeton


I was pleased to identify at least half of the team who carried over after I relieved you.  To my regret I never kept any photos at all, as I wasn't into photography in those days.  So I rely heavily on this website.






From MCDOA member Harry Parker:


"Thanks, Rob, and greetings to the rest of you (assuming this daft machine has done what I tell it for a change).


John Futcher and I never served together but our paths crossed several times in cheerful fashion.  Sorry he has gone; the stream of us across the bar seems to flow faster.


David - Mike Gillam, Henry Wilson, Peter Roberts, Midshipman Whiston RNVR, P.O. Pat Christmas and I began our CD course early in 1955.  I forget whether you were earlier or later.


I am still in Dunfermline, standing by to move to a smaller dwelling (close by).  Enjoying being in touch with old friends through Rob`s splendid website.  What a grand job you make of it.


Cheerio for now.  God bless all of you.




From MCDOA member David Burstall:


"Hello Rob, Michael and John,


Many thanks to you all for keeping me informed about the death of Johnny Futcher.  I was well aware of his various exploits over the years but our paths had never crossed, so I cannot really say that I knew him well (my loss).  I was sorry to hear of his declining health owing to cancer - it's a really dreadful affliction and seems to take more and more of us.  I regret I am unable to help with any memorabilia about him.


Michael Futcher - you have every reason to be proud of your Dad and his achievements - and the important memories are those of the times when he was fit and well and sorting the world out, rather than his poor health in his declining years.  He did very well to publish his memoirs before his death - putting pen to paper (or fingers to computer keyboard) takes a great deal of dedication and self discipline.


Rob - What news of Harry Parker?  I believe he was on the long CDO course after me but before the one with David Lermitte and Johnny F.  Perhaps he qualified at the same time as David (Bush) Edwards?  Or does he pre-date me?  I was on a course on my own until I was joined by submariner Peter Roberts VC, circa 1955/1956.






From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Rob,


I am sorry to hear the sad news about Johnny Futcher.  There are few left of his vintage in the Branch, a sad feeling for those of us remaining.


Yours aye,




From ex-CD Pate Gallant (see entry for 17 Aug 16):


"Hola Rob,


I am sad to hear about the passing of Lt Cdr John Futcher.


I was in his team when we searched and found Donald Campell's Bluebird in Lake Coniston in 1967.  I brought up his seat belt harness that was still attached to the bulkhead by one bolt.  The rest had been ripped out with the bolts still attached.  Also the attachments that went into the quick release were all bent back.  He must have been thrown out with quite a force.


I am enclosing a paper cutting of that time.  I think it was from the Daily Mirror printed in Manchester.



Best Regards,


Pete Gallant"


6 Sep 16 - Divers complete 500 kilometre run and swim to help prostate cancer sufferers


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the completion of a charity fundraising event by 43 members of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) at Horsea Island (see entry for 18 Aug 16).   They each completed 25 circuits totalling 100km in the water and 400km on land.



5 Sep 16 - Death of former LS(D) Peter 'Brum' Fowles


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


"Hi Rob,


I have just heard from ex-CD Vic Humphrey that our old pal Peter (Brum) Fowles has passed away.  Vic and Brum were in the FECDT in 1963 when I did my Free Divers course.  Then Brum and I were in Guz as killick 3's in 1965.  Cris Ballinger joined us as a new Ships Diver.


Brum went into the security service on leaving the RN.  A good diver and a good bloke.  RIP mate.






This photo of the FECDT (Far East Clearance Diving Team) in 1962 shows Brum Fowles standing far left:


Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team 1962
Back row: Peter 'Brum' Fowles, Doc Campion, Brian Martin, Simon Russell, Tansy Lee,
Dolly Dolan, Harvey Sumner, Vic Humphrey, Gilbert Bartholmew and Tom Fisher (ME)
Front Row: Mick Roberts, Mike McCall (POME), Bob Atkinson, James Majendie,
Mike Gillam, Brian Fawcett, Tom King and Stan Templeton


Brum had this letter printed in the December 2009 issue of Navy News about his experiences in Northern Ireland in 1958/9:



In 1960, Brum was a member of the Home Station Clearance Diving Team led by MCDOA member John Grattan and embarked in HMS Dingley of the 51st Mine Sweeper Squadron based at HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar on the south shore of the Forth.  He was present when the team moved to its new home at HMS Vernon where it eventually became the Fleet Clearance Diving Team.


In 1962, Brum was a member of the surprisingly large ship's diving team, led by MCDOA member Mike Gillam, on board the Antarctic survey ship HMS Protector and enjoyed an eventful deployment.


After HMS Reclaim had completed searching for wartime mines in Seydisfjord in Norway in 1963, Brum was tasked to retrieve a souvenir from an oil tanker sunk in the harbour.  The bridge was 20 fathoms from the surface and he returned with a binnacle cover which was promptly "pounced upon by the Boss, wheeled away, and never again seen".  During one of the six weekends Reclaim spent alongside in Santa Cruz in Tenerife in 1964 while conducting deep diving trials, members of the ship's company watched the only bull fight of the period.  It was reported that they had difficulty though, in distinguishing 'Brum' Fowles from the bulls.


2 Sep 16 - An article of possible interest


From the National Interest website:


Sea-Mines: The Most Lethal Naval Weapon on the Planet


Here is an extract:


“Sea mines, one of the oldest weapons in the naval inventory, are often the cheapest and most available form of anti-access/area denial weapons to a vast number of maritime nations,” said retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jerry Hendrix, director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security.  “Even if their budget will not allow them to purchase high-end missiles or aircraft, most maritime nations can afford to sink any number of mines off their coast in order to dissuade another power from approaching their shores.”


To make matters worse, sea-mines are not only cheap and deadly, they are also vexingly difficult to find—even with modern equipment as the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG-59) discovered during the first Gulf War in 1991.  The multi-billion dollar Aegis cruiser was severely damaged by a pair of Italian-made MN103 Manta sea-mines that cost only a few thousand dollars.  Earlier, a First World War-era mine nearly sank the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988 during the Iran-Iraq War.


However, technology might be on the verge of making the lives of Western sailors safer.  Drones will allow the U.S and allied naval forces to counter the threat without directly putting their lives in jeopardy.  Northrop Grumman announced recently that it will be participating in the British Royal Navy's Unmanned Warrior exercise where the American defense giant will demonstrate its unmanned mine hunting capabilities.  During the exercise, Northrop will show-off its AQS-24B towed mine hunting sensor, which will be operated from an Atlas Elektronik UK ARCIMS Unmanned boat... 


1 Sep 16 - Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum!


Your humble webmaster was even more grateful than normal this morning when he received a bottle of Pusser's Rum for having written the 'Jackpot' letter in this month's Navy News (see entry for 19 Jul 16 in News Archive 55):


September Navy News 'Jackpot' letter


Just in the nick of time from the look of things:



31 Aug 16


HMS Brocklesby receives new engines


The Navy News website contains this article describing the replacement of the Deltic diesel engines in HMS Brocklesby with new fuel-efficient Caterpillars.  She is being refitted in the ship hall at Portsmouth Naval Base previously used by BAe Systems to build blocks of the Type 45 destroyer and the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers (see entry for 14 May 2016 in News Archive 54).



Above and below: HMS Brocklesby being refitted in the ship hall at Portsmouth Naval Base

(Navy News website photos)



HMS Grimsby & NDG visit Blyth for North Sea Tall Ships Regatta


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the presence of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6), members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG), HMS Tyne and HMS Explorer at Blyth in Northumbria over the bank holiday weekend for the four-day North Sea Tall Ships Regatta.  There was also representation from HMS Sultan with three veteran helicopters (a recently-decommissioned Search-and-Rescue Sea King, a Lynx and a Gazelle) as well as the Tyneside RNR Division at HMS Calliope.


HMS Grimsby dressed overall

(RN website photo)


Northern Diving Group display

(RN website photo)


HMS Ledbury acts as Guardship for Dartmouth Regatta


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the presence of HMS Ledbury (MCM2 Crew 7) as guardship for the Dartmouth Royal Regatta over the bank holiday weekend.


HMS Ledbury acting as Guardship for the Dartmouth Royal Regatta

(RN website photo)


Postscript: HMS Ledbury is back alongside at Portsmouth and I took this photo of her earlier today.  Launched in December 1979, she is doing pretty well for her age.


HMS Ledbury alongside at Portsmouth


30 Aug 16 - News from Simon Bound QGM


I am grateful to MCDOA member Simon Bound (LMCDO '88B) for this update:


"Dear Rob,


I hope all is well.  I wanted you to know that the website is excellent.  A lot of very good material for members and interested third parties.  I know this takes a good deal of work, much of it unnoticed! 


Greetings from Greenwich, CT.  This is our fifth year in the USA and no regrets.  Two of my boys are applying to the US Naval Academy, so we hope to continue the tradition this side of the Atlantic!


Simon Bound and sons in the USA


Simon Bound and family in the USA


Best wishes,




29 Aug 16 - Webmaster's abseiling denouement



'Tis done.  The MCDOA's adopted charity (The Vernon Monument) will benefit by at least £4,500 and the RNRMC by at least £500 but I am hoping for more donations in sponsorship when people see these photos.  Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Are there any offshore barons out there who have HMS Vernon to thank for getting their foot on the ladder?







The best bit was the surprise of being met at the bottom by all three of my children, my grandson and their wonderful friends plus MCDOA member Doug Barlow and his wife Jill, MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton and his wife Gunhild, ex-MW Ian 'Herman' Gearing and his wife Katy with their children, ex-CD Chris 'Paddy' Doonan, and many others. 


The Hooles: parents, children and grandson


The Norton family


Doug & Jill Barlow flanked by my son Gareth (left) and his friend Graham (right)


The ensuing party in the Slug & Lettuce was fantastic until most of the youngsters left to resume their places at the Victorious Festival on Southsea Common.


Thank you to all those who have helped me reach an overall total of £4,450 so far.  I implore the rest of you to sponsor me too, if only in baffled amusement or amazement.


Rob Hoole's Abseil fundraising page


Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.




28 Aug 16 - It's today!


Today is the day I risk my neck to raise funds for the MCDOA's adopted charity (The Vernon Monument) and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC).  My overall total currently stands at a gratifying £4,212.50 but with your help I would like to get a bit closer to my outrageously ambitious target of £10k. 


I am extremely moved by the kind donation from Cheryl Brassington Edwards in memory of her late father, ex-CPO(D) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington.


Yours Truly with Michael 'Shiner' Brassington (left) in 2009 and with his widow Coralie (right)

after his funeral last October 


I am also touched to have received a donation from a sibling of Lt Thomas 'Ned' Kelly in his memory.  As killick divers, Ned (who died aged 42 in September 2001) and Charles 'Charlie' Anthony Smithard (who died aged 27 in January 1983) were second dickies for LMCDO courses in the early 1980s with Ray Ramsay as Chief Instructor and me as Course Officer.  There are memorials to both of them hidden away on Horsea Island but the Vernon Monument will act as a publicly visible tribute to all who have paid the ultimate price while serving in minewarfare, diving and bomb & mine disposal roles.


Ned Kelly's memorial plaque on a building at the top end of Horsea Lake



Memorial to Charlie Smithard outside the Defence Diving School on Horsea Island



Left: Upper plaque on the memorial to Charlie Smithard

Right: Lower plaque on the memorial to Charlie Smithard


The engraving on the upper plaque mounted on the memorial to Charlie Smithard states:












ON JANUARY 18th 1983



The engraving on the lower plaque mounted on the memorial to Charlie Smithard states:














Front cover of a personal notelet from

Charlie's mother Marie


RIP Shiner, Ned and Charlie.


The statistics show that around 47,000 internet users access this website each month.  So far, only 55 people have contributed to my fundraising campaign.  Where are the rest of you?  If you have not done so already, please sponsor me in my endeavour today or as soon afterwards as you can manage.  My fundraising page will remain open until 28 November 2016:


Rob Hoole's Abseil fundraising page


26 Aug 16 - Webmaster's fundraising abseil for the Vernon Monument this Sunday



Only two days until my abseil down the Emirates Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quays to help raise funds for the Vernon Monument (see entry for 8 Aug 16).  I would like to thank my fellow divers and members of our close-knit MCM community plus family and friends who have helped me raise almost £4k to date.  I still need £6k to reach my outrageously ambitious target so please keep donating.  As my chemistry teacher used to say, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.


Fittingly, Gunwharf Quays (where there is already an Army monument) was previously HMS Vernon, the Royal Navy's alma mater of minewarfare, diving and bomb & mine disposal.  Not only will this monument celebrate our community and its achievements; past, present and future, but it will also act as a permanent eye-catching reminder to the 8 million people who visit Gunwharf Quays each year that this work carries on to this day.


Artist's impression of world-renowned Australian sculptor Les Johnson FRBS's

near twice life-size 14-ton Vernon Monument in situ at Gunwharf Quays


The Vernon Monument is the MCDOA's single adopted cause but please be generous whether you are an Association member or not.  Every donation brings us closer to our target.  If you haven't sponsored me already, please do so via my fundraising webpage.  If eligible, don't forget to add the Gift Aid which boosts your contribution by 25%.


Rob Hoole's Abseil fundraising page


10% of my proceeds will go to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) which has been so supportive in the past.  Thank you in anticipation.


23 Aug 16 - Awards of LS&GC medal and clasps


Congratulations to:


CPO(MW) T. F. J. Briggs on being gazetted for the award of a clasp to his Long Service & Good Conduct medal


LS(D) D. W. Cooper on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal


LS(D) S. A. Smyth on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal


LS(MW) M. Newbold on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.


22 Aug 16 - John & Ann Bevan's barbecue and related forthcoming events



MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), and his charming wife Ann hosted their annual barbecue in glorious weather yesterday. 







Here is John in uncharacteristically subdued clothing.  Beyond the fence is INM (Institute of Naval Medicine), centre of excellence for much pioneering work in naval diving medicine and environmental physiology.






Unfortunately, ex-CDs John Dadd and Jim 'Tommo' Thomson and MCDOA member and former Sapper diving officer Les Rutherford were busy looking after 'the shop' (the nearby Diving Museum) and arrived too late to be included in the photos. 


In March 1970, John Bevan and his RN Scientific Service colleague Peter Sharphouse established a new deep diving record at Alverstoke's RNPL (RN Physiological Laboratory) DTU (Deep Trial Unit) at Haslar when they spent 10 hours at a simulated depth of 1,500 feet of seawater (457 metres of seawater).  This dive was 300 feet beyond the predicted maximum of around 1,200 fsw (366 msw) and was described by American colleagues at the time as “a hyperbaric moon landing”.  HMS Reclaim’s divers participated in the trials and later applied the lessons learned, and decompression tables developed, during their open water saturatation diving operations (see HMS Reclaim - A World Record-Breaker in the website's Dit Box).


More recently, John has been the prime mover behind the establishment of the HDS Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and its associated Library in a disused civil defence bunker in Gosport.   He is a prolific author and has written about the enigmatic Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE GNM RNVR.



The next event at the Diving Museum is an evening talk with something for everyone interested in local history.  It's about Portsmouth-born author Percy Westerman who wrote naval/military themed stories based in Portsmouth, Southsea and Gosport.  There will also be a rarely seen silent movie of one of his books made by Walsall Sea Scouts.



'Haunted Harbour and Other Ripping Yarns' is an illustrated talk by Nigel Gossop about Percy Westerman's life and works.  It will be held on Saturday 27th August starting at 1800 and should finish at about 2030.  All this AND a party atmosphere with drinks and nibbles at The Diving Museum.  And all for only £6!


Get your tickets at The Tourist Office or here via the HDS website:


Booking for Haunted Harbour and Other Ripping Yarns


20 Aug 16


Turkish MCMV in search for missing Georgian military divers


I am grateful to MCDOA member Dave Stanbury, Principal Staff Officer (old-type SOO) for Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2), for this email:




Good morning.


This article may be of interest to some of your readers!


Turkey assists in search, recovery of missing Georgian soldiers


Marine experts from Turkey are the latest international players to get involved in a search and recovery operation of two Georgian soldiers who went missing two days ago during a deep sea training dive in the Black Sea off Georgia’s west coast.  A vessel from Turkey’s Coast Guard Service with nine crew on board entered Georgian marine space yesterday afternoon, and is already participating in today’s search and recovery for the two missing soldiers.


Meanwhile a larger ship from the Turkish Navy is expected to arrive in Georgian territory tomorrow morning to assist in the search, announced Georgia’s Ministry of Defence today. The larger ship is equipped with special sonar and camera equipment used to record the contour of the sea floor and detect items in deep water, and on board are personnel who are trained for such operations.



The missing Georgian soldiers have been named as Corporal Iago Sharadze and First Class Private Giorgi Nanetashvili.  The pair were undergoing mandatory diving training within the scheduled maritime special course in the Gonio region but failed to surface after the planned dive.  The training exercise took place on Monday morning... 


Dave Stanbury"


Let's pray they turn up safe and well.


RAN personnel in the Battle of the Atlantic


I am grateful to MCDOA member Brian Dutton DSO QGM for this email:


"I thought this article from a friend of mine in Australia is of interest as a couple of Aussies (maybe more) were in X-Craft and one certainly had a dive without diving suit as it had been lost in the X-Craft.


Australian Sailors in the Battle of the Atlantic


...Not all Rushcutter graduates remained in the escort forces.  Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander) Max Shean, RANVR, for example, saw action in submarines.  After spending 15 months on convoy duty in the North Atlantic, Shean volunteered for ‘special and hazardous service’ manning the Royal Navy’s ‘X-Craft’ midget submarines.  In September 1943 he participated in Operation SOURCE, which aimed to destroy Tirpitz while anchored in a Norwegian fjord.  Six X-Craft were towed by ocean-going submarines to the operation area, but Shean’s X-9 being towed by HMS Syrtis, parted its tow and disappeared with her three-man passage crew.  Shean, who was aboard Syrtis at the time, was sent into the water to clear the fouled line from Syrtis’ propeller.  With his diving suit lost in X-9, Shean had to dive into the frigid Arctic waters wearing overalls weighted with steel bars, but completed the task successfully.


Shean went on to command X-24 during Operation GUIDANCE in April 1944; a solo raid on an important floating dock in Bergen Harbour, Norway.  X-24 was towed to the drop-off point by HMS Sceptre, commanded by another Australian-born officer, Lieutenant (later Vice Admiral Sir) Ian McIntosh, RN.  The final approach required X-24 to negotiate a passage of some 40nm through patrolled waterways protected by two minefields and torpedo nets.  After successfully entering the busy basin Shean and his crew set 24-hour time-delayed charges on their target and made their way back out to the rendezvous with Sceptre.  Upon their return to Scotland they discovered that poor intelligence and incorrect charts had led them to set their charges on an enemy ammunition ship instead of the dock.  This did not, however, diminish X-24’s remarkable feat.  The attack was deemed a success and Shean was awarded the DSO for his leadership...


Best regards,




19 Aug 16 - New crew for HMS Chiddingfold in the Gulf


The Navy News website contains this article announcing that MCM2 Crew 3 has taken over HMS Chiddingfold from MCM2 Crew 5 in the Gulf.  The article features AB(D) Brad Hayes, AB(MW) Andy Holmes and AB(MW) McNamee.



Above and below: MCM2 Crew 3 taking over HMS Chiddingfold at Mina Salman in Bahrain

(Navy News photos)



18 Aug 16 - FDS divers to perform Horsea Lake circuits for charity


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing that 40 members of the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS) will perform a six-hour marathon stint of 1,000 standard trainiung circuits at Horsea Island to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK.  The event will take place on Wednesday 31 August and involve each diver performing 25 circuits totalling 2½ kilometres in the water and the equivalent of 10km on land making a grand total of 100km swum and 400km run for the entire team.


Online donations may be made via:


17 Aug 16 - Spanish reunion for ex-CDs Pete Gallant and Robin 'Harry' Neave


I am grateful to Pete Gallant for drawing my attention to this article on the Costa Blanca's Round Town News website describing his June reunion in Spain with fellow ex-CD Robin 'Harry' Neave.


Pete and Harry served together on the Portland Clearance Diving Team in 1962-63.  This was their first meeting since then as they served in different locations during the rest of their time in the Branch.  Pete lives in the Jalon Valley in Spain while Harry and his wife Maureen live in Melbourne, Australia. 


Here is the text of the article:


Heads above water


SPECIALIST ROYAL Navy mine clearance divers Peter Gallant and Robin ‘Harry’ Neave enjoyed meeting on dry land for a rare catch up.  Both served in a naval diving team based at Portland Harbour in Dorset in 1963 – Peter now lives in Jalon and Harry in Melbourne.  However, with Harry visiting family in Spain, there was an opportunity for the former comrades to meet.


Both were trained in bomb and mine disposal – dealing with suspect devices washed up on the coast or caught in fishing nets, as well as other underwater duties. When ships visited Portland, their team would attach dummy limpet mines to hulls to help train the crew’s own divers in the art of searching for explosive devices after dark.


After the Dorset posting, Peter went to the Far East to help clear Japanese munitions dumped in the sea between Singapore and Malaya at the end of WW2,  Harry was stationed in Malta dealing with unexploded bombs in the waters around the Mediterranean island during the war.  And following their Navy service, Harry worked for a diving company recovering gold bullion from the wreck of HMS Edinburgh sunk on its voyage to Russia; Peter dived for oil companies operating around the world. 


Pete Gallant and Robin 'Harry' Neave on the Costa Blanca in Spain


This photo shows members of the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team, including Pete Gallant wearing old-style SABA, on board MFV 164 in 1965 while conducting the first diving inspection of the wreck of HMS Repulse (see The Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team by Mike Gillam in the website's Dit Box).


Lt Cdr David Lermitte, Pete Gallant (wearing old-style SABA) and Leo Whelan

of the Far East Fleet CD Team on board MFV 164 in 1965


This photo shows the Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team, including Harry Neave sitting second right, on Manoel Island in Malta circa 1968-69 (see entry for 7 Jan 16 in News Archive 53).


Back row: LEP (Locally Employed Personnel), LEP, Dave Shea, Errol Flynn,  Robbie Roberts,

Ken Bryant (ships diver), Mick Curtin, LEP, LEP.

Front row: LEP, John Dadd, Alf Slingsby, John Parry, Dave Bartlett, Darky Newman,

Harry Neve, Dudley North


From Pete Gallant on 21 August:


"Hola Rob,


It was great meeting old friends after all this time.  We are both well into our seventies and have done quite a lot with our lives since leaving the Royal Navy.


We had plenty of yarns to catch up with.  Our time in the Navy was a very good background for the jobs I had before final retirement.  I had originally joined up as a Royal Marine Musician.  After I transferred to the Navy and got into the Diving branch, I never looked back and still keep in touch with some of my old diving mates.


Your article was well put together with both our photos from our Navy time,  Since you published it on the MCDOA website's Latest News page, I have been contacted by Mike Lambert who was in the Portland team at that time,


With best wishes for your abseil,


Pete G" 


15 Aug 16 - SDU2 deals with mortar bomb at Droxford


The ITV website contains this article describing Saturday's recovery, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a mortar bomb dug up in a back garden at Droxford in Hampshire.




14 Aug 16 - RN Minewarfare & EOD Heritage: Lt-Cdr Charles Graham Tanner GM RNVR


I am grateful to Ed McFarlane for the following email and photo:




I saw this tablet in Farnham churchyard mentioning the above and his father and found your entry for him on your site.



Thank you for maintaining your online memorial to so many.  




Ed McFarlane"


From the MCDOA website's list of WW II Awards for RN Diving and Bomb & Mine Disposal in the Branch History section:








Charles Graham


HMS President (London)

20 Apr 43


RMS/BD - GM awarded for gallantry and devotion to duty. Mine disposal Thames Oct to Nov 42.


From the MCDOA website's list of Royal Navy Bomb & MIne Disposal Casualties in the Branch History section:








Charles Graham
Lt Cdr RNVR HMS President
22 Sep 1943 GM awarded for gallantry and devotion to duty.  Mine disposal Thames Oct to Nov 1942.  Killed with FOURACRE while attempting to render safe two unexploded G type mines from wreckage of a crashed Dornier Do-217 at Out Newton, Yorkshire.   Aged 35.  Buried Tilford (All Saints) Churchyard near Farnham, Surrey.


I have thanked Ed for his kind words and photo.  The Vernon Monument will constitute a more tangible memorial to our forebears (and much else) and Ed has graciously made a donation to our Association's adopted cause via my Spinnaker Tower Abseil fundraisng page.


13 Aug 16 - HMS Middleton defeats RAN frigate at football in the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing how HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 6) has beaten HMAS Perth 8-1 at football in Bahrain.  The article features LS(MW) Eddie Edmondson who scored one of Middleton's two hat-tricks and LS(MW) Ashley Stone who helped organise the match.


HMAS Perth and HMS Middleton football teams

(RN website photo)


12 Aug 16 - SDU1 detonates mortar bomb at Saundersfoot


The Wales Online website contains this article, including video, describing Wednesday's disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a mortar bomb on the beach at Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire.




11 Aug 16 - False alarm for SDU2 at Lepe


The Southern Daily Echo website contains this article describing yesterday's call-out for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with an item of suspected ordnance on the beach at Lepe in the New Forest.  The object turned out to be part of a car engine


10 Aug 16 - Ride & Dive in Gosport



9 Aug 16 - Funeral of Edward John Towse



St Mary's Church in the grounds of Porchester Castle was packed yesterday for John's funeral (see entry for 23 Jul 16 in News Archive 55).  Apart from members of his family, mourners included many of John's friends associated with Southsea BSAC, the HDS (Historical Diving Society), the Mary Rose Trust and Portchester Sailing Club.  MCDOA members included HDS Chairman Dr John Bevan and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) as well as former CD1s John Dadd BEM, Clive Egginton, Mike O'Meara and ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson.



We entered the church to the sound of Elgar's Nimrod played by the Band of HM Royal Marines, Portsmouth.  The casket, draped in a red ensign and covered with floral tributes, was then borne in and place in froint of the altar.  Revd Mark Williams, the church's curate, then welcomed attendees before saying an opening prayer.  This was followed with a lusty rendition of the Naval Hymn (Eternal Father).


This tribute was then paid by David Wells, one of John's nephews:


JOHN TOWSE 1934 - 2016


John was a wonderful uncle and friend to all who knew him but to us his nieces and nephews, and all our children he was just John.


He drove our mothers, his sisters, to distraction as he always turned up to all family gatherings late for his meal just as everyone finished, but his arrival always heralded tales of chaos & laughter and was awaited with excited anticipation as he would always bring the most interesting presents.  


But as the family spread further afield, for our children a visit to Portchester was always exciting - they loved coming down with the hope of spending time with John. You never knew what adventures you might have:


A trip out on the boat - which always meant being late for tea!


Windsurfing lessons - sometimes in the back garden!


Homemade stilts!


Nothing was too much trouble for John when it came to family, and all of us loved and appreciated that  


He took both of his sisters under his wing once they were living alone, helping them move into adjoining houses to his, where they competed for his attention to the extent that he had to eat Sunday dinners on alternate weeks with each to keep them happy!  He was at their beck and call, and was always there for them, though not necessarily straight away - especially if the tide was right!  


Spending time in his company was happily anticipated and guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.  


He was hugely instrumental in bringing us face to face with part of our history.  


An intelligent, funny man, with a love for life.  A natural raconteur to whom weird & crazy things regularly seemed to happen.  He has left an amazing legacy with the Mary Rose, but he has also left a huge gap in our hearts.


He spent many hours over a long period researching family history, and was also instrumental in co-producing a photographic history of Portchester - the place he lived his whole life.  He was also involved in rebuilding the Lych Gate we have all just walked through.




John always had a love of the sea and he joined Portchester Sailing Club as a Junior where he learnt to sail under the leadership of Cdr Bill Hammond.  In 1954, John was one of the first members of Southsea BSAC and he quickly became its secretary.  He had a passion for diving which dominated his life.


Sadly, he suffered from Alzheimers in his last few years but was very well looked after by carers from Access Care, in particular Vusa and Salim who was with him at the end.  


The last of the Towse family in Portchester after around a century of the family living in the same small terrace - and the end of an era.  So many happy memories.    


As he would have said, "John Towse OUT"...but never forgotten


Neil Wycherley, Reader at St Mary's Church, then led the congregation in prayers before the Commendation and Blessing.  We then followed the casket out of the church to the sound of the Naval Hymn played by Captain J R Perkins and the Band of HM Royal Marines.




The family and close friends attended the Committal and Cremation at Portchester Crematorium while others waited for them to join us at Portchester Sailing Club adjacent to Portchester Castle.






If you wish to make a donation in memory of John, please make cheques payable to the 'Mary Rose Trust' and send c/o Taylor & Wallis Funeral Directors, 125/127 West Street, Portchester, Fareham, Hampshire PO16 9UF.


Edward John Towse

(14 Apr 1934 - 21 Jul 2016)


8 Aug 16 - Webmaster's abseil for the Vernon Monument and RNRMC



I am immensely grateful to the two serving and eleven ex-serving MCDOA members plus two ex-serving CDs and two ex-serving MWs who have appreciated my labours on this website sufficiently to sponsor me over the past month for my abseil in support of our Association's adopted cause (the Vernon Monument) and the RNRMC (see entry for 31 Jul 16 in News Archive 55) .  I hope other members of our extensive minewarfare & diving community feel similarly and will act accordingly.  Every bit helps and Gift Aid will boost any donation by 25%.


Rob Hoole's Abseil fundraising page


My abseil down the Spinnaker Tower in Gunwharf Quays, formerly HMS Vernon, takes place three weeks from today.  In the meantime, here is some more minewarfare & diving heritage the Vernon Monument will help celebrate, besides reminding people that such work continues to this day:


The Algerine class minesweeper HMS Fly streaming her Oropesa sweep

(developed at HMS Vernon) off Italy in 1943


A beardless Yours Truly (wearing beret) helping to stow the MM (Magnetic Minesweep) Mk 11(L)

loop on board the HMS Vernon-based Ton class minesweeper HMS Lewiston in 1976


HMS Vernon divers in miscellaneous rebreathers in front of the now

demolished farmhouse on Horsea Island during the early 1950s


6 Aug 16 - Qualification of two new Clearance Divers


The Salford Online website contains this home town story describing the qualification of AB Martin Bosson and the Halesowen News website contains this home town story describing the qualification of AB Mitchell Bowen as Clearance Divers.  The articles feature MCDOA members Andy Woollven (CO Defence Diving School (DDS)) and Simon Pressdee (Diving & EOD Capability).


Si Pressdee presenting certificate of CD qualification to AB Martin Bosson


Si Pressdee presenting certificate of CD qualification to AB Mitchell Bowen


5 Aug 16 - FDU2 helps clear Baltic of Second World War ordnance


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of Portsmouth-based Fleet Diving Unit 2 (FDU2) in the month-long Exercise OPEN SPIRIT in and around the port of Klaipeda in the Baltic.  They found 20 contacts, two of which proved to be wartime mines.  The exercise also involved the Lithuanian minehunters LNS Skalvis (ex-HMS Cottesmore) and LNS Kuršis (ex-HMS Dulverton).  The article features MCDOA member Rob Tristram, OIC of FDU2.


Members of FDU2 operating in the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda

(RN website photo)


4 Aug 16 - Former RFA Diligence for sale


The UK Government website contains this Ministry of Defence Notice of Sale of the former RFA Diligence.  The ship, built as MV Stena Inspector, was classed as a forward repair ship and often supported MCMVs, most notably in the Gulf.  This photo shows, from left to right, MCDOA past-Chairman Brian Mansbridge MBE (CO HMS Cottesmore), Capt Richard Guy RFA (Master of RFA Diligence), Paul Baker (CO HMS Chiddingfold) and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole - CO HMS Berkeley) on the jetty in Mina Raysut, Oman in 1989 with RFA Diligence as a backdrop.



For those interested:


Notice of the Potential Sale of the former RFA Diligence for future use


Disposal Ship: Former RFA DILIGENCE Sales Summary


2 Aug 16 - SDU2 detonates shell in Kent


The Kent Online website contains this article describing yesterday's disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of an unexploded shell at Sandgate near Folkestone in Kent.  The shell had been buoyed overnight owing to the incoming tide.




1 Aug 16 - MCDOA AGM, Operational Updates and Annual Dinner (Redux)



This year’s association dinner will be held in HMS Excellent’s Wardroom on Friday 18 November 2016.  We are adopting an international theme this year and the committee is attempting to confirm Cdre Nils 'Eric' Wirstrom USN, the current CTF 52/COMCMRON FIVE in Bahrain, as our guest speaker.  We have also extended invitations to ABCANZ (AUS, GBR, CAN, US, NZ) EOD and Diving delegates who are being hosted in the UK during the preceding week.


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.  The dinner is open to members of the association 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.  WO1 (D/MW) are also welcome to attend as a guest of a member. 


Last year's dinner featuring your humble Vice Chairman & Webmaster's prominent bald spot

(More in the entry for 25 Nov 15 in News Archive 52)


The cost of the dinner will be £45 for members and £50 for guests.  This will include a four course meal, wine, and as usual the association will put a health kitty behind the bar.  JFD UK has again kindly offered to provide the port for the evening.  MCDOA members of at least four years' standing who are leaving the Service will be dined out for free.  Please make yourselves known to Mark Shaw, our Hon Sec.


Accommodation has been reserved in HMS Excellent's transit block so please indicate on your application form if you require a bunk.


On 25 February 1966, the combined Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer sub-specialisation was formed and we will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.  We will also be feting LMCDO '66, the first full MCD course, which comprised Course Officer Pat Dowland (d.16 Feb 13) and students Mike Bull, John Coggins, Bill Grady, Bob Harrison, John Lang, John Ludgate, Alan Padwick, Jon Riches, Ed Thompson and Ivan Whatley.




We will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of LMCDO '91A which comprised Course Officer Al Trevarthen, Course Instructor CPO(D) John 'Tiny' Timms and students Tim Ash (MWO), Alex Bush, Richard Cowley, Steve England, Neil Holden, Henry Mark CAF (MWO - already CDO), Ambrose McDonough, Richard McMillan RAN (MWO), Chris O'Flaherty (who, for medical reasons, actually qualified on LMCDO '91B), Paul Papalia RAN (MWO - already CDO), Jim? Perron CAF (MWO) and Mark 'Doc' Savage.  The MW module Course Officer was Paul Davey and the MW Instructor was the late CPO(MW) David 'Taff' Davies (d.21 Nov 12).




LMCDO '91A MW module


We will also celebrate the 25th Anniversay of LMCDO '91B which comprised Course Officer Al Trevarthen, Course Instructor CPO(D) Dave 'Mo' Morris and students Angus Benton, Chris Baldwin, David Foster, Tony Griffiths (MWO), John Herriman, Chris O’Flaherty, Steve Powell (MWO) and Darroch Woodward.  Regrettably, I do not have a course photo for the MW module.  Can anyone provide one?




Last but not least, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of MWO 1/91 which I believe was the first standalone MWO course not part of a particular LMCDO course.  According to MCDOA member Martin Mackey who went on to qualify as an MCDO on LMCO '93B, MWO 1/91 comprised himself and his fellow MCDOA member Jonathan Lee plus four officers who had already qualified as CDOs in Australia: Lt Jay Bannister RAN, S/Lt Mick Edwards RAN, Lt ‘Spudy’ Hamilton RAN and S/Lt Bryan Parker RAN.  The Course Officer was RAN/RN transferee Paul Davey and the Course Instructor was the late CPO(MW) David 'Taff' Davies (d.21 Nov 12).


MWO 1/91


The AGM and operational update brief will be held earlier in the day at Bridge Building, Horsea Island.  Lunch will be provided in the Horsea Island Officers and Senior Rates Mess from 1200 with the update brief and AGM starting from 1315.  Members are encouraged to attend this important serial and make your voices heard to the committee.  Note that there will be no morning proceedings this year.


Payment for the dinner can be made by cash, cheque or online bank transfer.  Please ensure our Hon Sec receives hard or soft copy application forms.


The closing date for applications is Friday 4 November 2016 or earlier if all spaces are taken.


The calling notice and booking form are available for download here or via the Forthcoming Events page:


Calling Notice & Booking Form for 2016 MCDOA AGM, Operational Update and Dinner


From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:


"Many thanks Rob for the advance notice of the Annual Dinner that I am particularly sorry to miss as I well remember the 1966 Long Course that took place during my tenure as IDiving.  I remember them well.


We have made arrangements to be in Malta on that day without having remembered that it was just 50 years ago that the course took place in the same year that M was added to CD.  We will raise a glass to them and all who dine with them on 18th November.




From MCDOA ex-Treasurer Dave 'Spidy' Ince who transferred to the RAN in early 2007:


"Hi Rob,


The usual MRU from me.  I am still living large on a South Pacific island practicing blowing bubbles.




We return to Australia in January next year and I commence XO desigs (big ships) in February.  Then it's off to do a two year stint on our ocean droggy boats based out of Cairns.  At least we are used to the topical climate now.  Many years ago I did some extra Fleet time in HMS Herald and ended up on Operation CIMNEL in the Gulf.  I think the appointer's initial plan was to get me away from MW and CD business for a while.  Fail.  Anyway, I am not sure what the peace loving droggies will think of a MCD XO, it hasn't occurred in the RAN before!  I just hope there isn't a young subby on board who behaves like I did back then ;)  Now that would be karma!  


Please pass my very best to the merry gathering.




Dave Spidy Ince"




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