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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.

17 Nov 17 - NDG called out for suspicious package in Glasgow


The Sunday Post website contains this article reporting that a Royal Navy bomb disposal unit, presumably members of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group (NDG), was called to a Glasgow office block yesterday after the discovery of a suspicious package.


NDG EOD vehicle in Glasgow yesterday

(Photo courtesy of Ed Harvey) 


16 Nov 17 - Forthcoming book about First World War minewarfare


Your humble webmaster has been collaborating with Cdr David Bruhn USN, prolific author of such publications as 'Wooden Ships & Iron Men' Vols I to III, on the production of a new book.  'Home Waters' will tell the story of Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and US Navy mining and minesweeping operations during the First World War.  One of its forewords has been written by Rear Admiral Paddy McAlpine CBE RN (MCDOA President) and another has been written by Rear Admiral Paul Ryan USN (a former COMINWARCOM).


Draft cover of 'Home Waters'


The book is due to be launched early in the New Year to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.  I will be donating my proceeds towards Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to celebrate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously occupied the site.


Co-authors David Bruhn & Rob Hoole with their wives

 in San Francisco in 2014


Watch this space for further news.


15 Nov 17 - MCDOA AGM, Operational Updates and Annual Dinner



The deadline for applications for this year’s AGM, operational updates and annual dinner on Friday 24 November 2017 is mid-day today.  Last year's dinner coincided with the UK-hosted ABCANZ conference and was attended by a record crowd of 145 members and guests (see entry for 20 Nov 16 in News Archive 56 for more photos).



Paddy McAlpine, our outgoing President, has kindly agreed to be the Guest of Honour at this year's dinner which is wholly fitting as this will be his last as our senior serving MCD Officer.  Please help give him the send-off he so richly deserves as our only ever MCD officer to achieve flag rank.


Rob Walker, our Honorary Secretary, has provided this list of dinner attendees to date (14 November):


Guest of Honour

Rear Admiral Paddy McAlpine CBE

Deputy Commander Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO



Lt Cdr David Bartlett MBE RN
Dr John Bevan
Lt Keith Broughton RN
Lt Cdr Stephen Brown RN
WO(D) Andy Brunton MBE
Cdre Phil Burrell RN
Lt Col Andrew Callahan
Lt Cdr Jonny Campbell RN
Lt Col Mike Canham RE
Lt James Carpenter RN ?
Lt Cdr Jon Cox RN
WO(D) Mo Crang
Lt Cdr Mike Critchley RN
Cdr Don Crosbie RN
Lt Cdr Nigel Davies RN
Cdre Mark Durkin RN
Lt Cdr Brian Dutton DSO QGM RN
Mr Simon Edwards (Broughton)
Cdr Patrick Gale RN
Lt James George RN
Lt Cdr Ian Geraghty RN
Mr Glyn Gilbert
Lt Cdr Kev Giles RN
Lt Cdr Richard Gobey RNR (Gobey)
Lt Cdr Steve Gobey RN
Capt Dan Groom RE
Lt Cdr Stuart Harper RN

Cdr Justin Harts USN (O'Flaherty)
Lt Cdr Sean 'Central' Heaton RN
Lt Cdr Dan Herridge RN
Lt Cdr Martyn Holloway RN
Mr Gareth Hoole (Hoole)
Lt Cdr Rob Hoole RN
Maj David Hough RE (REBDOC)
Mr Adam Hunkin (Hunkin)
Cdr David Hunkin OBE RN
Cdr Phil Ireland DSC RN
Lt Cdr Sam Jane RN
Lt Cdr Andy Kent RN
Lt Cdr Bill Kerr RN
2Lt Rory Kerr (Kerr)
Lt (David?) Lee RN
Lt Cdr David Louis RN
Lt Bob Lusty RN
Cdr Dougie MacDonald RN
Cdr Martin Mackey RN
Lt Cdr Alasdair Magill RN
Mr Ted Mangion
Lt Cdr Alex Manning RN
Lt Cdr David Marshall RN (Marshall)
Mr James Marshall (Marshall)
Lt Cdr Mike Marshall MBE RN
Lt Cdr Steve Marshall DSC RN
Mr Tony Marshall (Bevan)
Maj Bob Mather RE
Lt Cdr Stuart McAlear RN
Lt Cdr Paul McDermott RN
Cdr Del McKnight RN
Lt Charles Morton RN
Cdr Al Nekrews QGM RN
Capt Chris O'Flaherty RN
Capt Ivan Olbrechts RE (REBDOC)
Lt James Oxley RN
Lt Cdr Andrew Penfold RN
Mr Lawrence Pinkney (Giles)
Lt Cdr Ben Piper RN
Mr Eric Piper (Piper)
Mr James Piper (Piper)
Capt Jason Poole RN
Cdr Simon Pressdee RN
Lt James Preston RN
Lt Cdr Gregg Powell RN
WO(D) Ray Ramsay
Cdr David Ramsden RAN
WO(D) John Ravenhall

Capt Roger Readwin RN
Cdr Keith Riches RN
Lt Cdr Peter Robinson RN
Cdr Stuart Robinson RN
Cdr David Sandiford RN
Miss Julie Scott (FCO)
Cdr Jason Scott RN

Col Zac Scott (Nekrews)
Lt Cdr Chris Sherman RNR
Cdr Ashley Spencer RN
Lt Cdr Ben Stait RN
Lt Cdr Dave Stanbury RN
Lt Rob Stone-Ward RN
WO1 Scott Vessey RE
Mr Chris Taylor (MoD)
Cdr Ben Vickery RN
Lt Cdr Peter Waddington RN
Lt Cdr Charlie Wheen RN
Lt Cdr Steve White RN
Lt Cdr Max Wilmot RN
Cdr Charlie Wilson OBE RN
Lt Cdr Graham 'Tug' Wilson MBE RN
Capt Mike Williams RE (REBDOC)
Mr James Young (Kerr)


* LMCDO '67 50th Anniversay celebrants shown in blue

* LMCDO '77 40th Anniversary celebrants shown in purple

* LMCDO '92A 25th Anniversary celebrants shown in red

* LMCDO '92B 25th Anniversary celebrants shown in green


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), they are required to complete the membership process prior to being offered a place at the dinner.  As in days of yore, serving and former serving WO(MW)s and WO(D)s are also eligible to attend at the guest rate without the need for a sponsor.  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 is also available on the website's Forthcoming Events page. 


Peter Davis, our Hon Treasurer, requests 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.


14 Nov 17 - Minewarfare Heritage: Ldg Wireman Jasper Moody and HMS Elfreda


I received this enquiry yesterday:




I came across your website whilst trying to find out some information about may late father's time spent in the Royal Navy on board a minesweeper, HMS Elfreda.  His details are:


Name: Jasper Joseph Moody 

Rank: Leading Wireman

Service Number: CMX97262

Award: MID (The London Gazette 11/12/1945 Page 6004)


It would be great if you could add his details to your site information.  If there's any information that you can find out why he was awarded the MID [Mention in Despatches] I would be really interested in reading it and most grateful.


Many thanks,




Tim Moody


TM Electrical Consulting Ltd




This was my reply:


"Hello Tim,


Thank you for your email which has been passed to me by Rob Walker, our Association Secretary.  


I have added your late father's name to the list of  ‘WW II Awards for RN Minesweeping’ in the MCDOA website's 'Branch History' section.   


His post-war award of a MID (Mention in Despatches) is most likely to have been for general service above and beyond the call of duty, not for any specific act or incident.  That’s why the list of recipients in the London Gazette is so long.  


As you are aware, HMS ELFREDA was a Catherine class minesweeper built at Associated Ship Builders in Seattle.  She was ordered on 6 Dec 1941, laid down on 7 Sep 1942 and launched on 25 Jan 1943 as the Auk class BAM minesweeper USS OVERSEER (AM 321).  She was transferred to Britain on lend-lease and commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS ELFREDA (J 402) on 22 Dec 1943.  She was returned to the US Navy after the war and sold to the Turkish Navy in March 1947.  Renamed TCG CESMI (M505), she was finally withdrawn from service in 1974.  


I have attached a scanned excerpt about the Catherine class minesweepers from ‘Fleet Sweepers At War’ by Jack Williams.  It contains several references to HMS ELFREDA and a photo of her.  


Best wishes,


Rob Hoole"


From Chapter 7 of Fleet Sweepers At War by Jack Williams:


The BAM-class


The first difficulty with this class is to determine the nomenclature.  These ships have been variously listed as being of the CATHERINE or GAZELLE or 'CHANCE' class.  Most official wartime papers appear to favour 'CATHERINE', but this is difficult to understand as she was not the first to be completed, which is usually the reason for the classname, and there seems no other reason than that she appears first in the alphabetical fleet list.  The first ships of the class to be completed were STRENUOUS (completed as USS USAGE) and TOURMALINE (completed as USS VITAL), but neither were chosen as the class-name.  The more correct title in my view would be the BAM-class.  All of them were originally ordered and built for the US Navy and given US Navy designation as AMs. This designation of AM was used to denote Auxiliary Minesweeper, which, in US terms, meant that they were auxiliary to the Fleet, and not, as in the Royal Navy terminology, that they were auxiliary minesweepers such as the trawler sweepers.  They were in fact the equivalent of the British Fleet Minesweepers.  All US Navy ships were given a two or three letter designation often denoting their category (eg. DE being destroyer escorts).  So this class were in fact British AMs, meaning that they were AMs built for the Royal Navy, and hence can be shortened to BAMs.


The BAMs were 22 ships of the American 'AUK' class of AMs, built in America and transferred to Britain under Lease-Lend arrangements.  Originally 32 were allocated but the US Navy retained ten of these.  The builders were:


Associated Shipbuilders, Seattle (AM9-1 6, 22-29)

Savannah Mcy & Foundry Co., Georgia (AMI7-21)

Gulf Shipbuilding, Chickasaw, Alabama (AM3I-32)

Gulf Shipbuilding, Madisonville, Alabama (AM30, 129-130)


Displacement of these vessels was about 1100 tons (standard) and 1200 tons (deep), although the designed displacement was about 900/1100 tons; the increase being probably due to the extra MIS gear and armament fitted.  Dimensions were - 221 feet long (overall), 32 feet beam and 9 feet draught.  The BAMs were Diesel-Electric, twin-shafted; four diesel generators and four motors, giving a designed speed of 18 knots, and a sweeping speed of 12 knots.  Armament was a single 3-inch HA/LA, six 20mm Oerlikons, four depth charge throwers and two rails.  Minesweeping gear of Oropesa, LL and SA (hammer) was fitted to deal with all types of mines.  Radar and Asdic (Sonar) sensors were fitted.  Designed complement was about 80 but this rose to more than 100 after commissioning.  Although it is sometimes claimed that a few of the class (e.g. TATTOO) were rivet-built, it hasn't been possible to verify this, and it is more commonly thought that they were in fact of welded construction.


Fleet List:


Pendant No. Name Original No. Builder Completed
ex AM 9
ex AM 10
ex AM 11
ex AM 12
ex AM 13
ex AM 14
ex AM 15
ex AM 16
ex AM 25
ex AM 26
ex AM 27
ex AM 28
ex AM 17
ex AM 18
ex AM 19
ex AM 29
ex AM 20
ex AM 21
ex AM 31
ex AM 129
ex AM 32
ex AM 130


The names chosen by the Admiralty for this class show little or no recognition of the problems which might be faced by the crews.  Names such as FAIRY and CYNTHIA can hardly be considered appropriate names for warships.  However, with the exception of ELFREDA, all of the class bore names of ships which had previously served with the Royal Navy; PIQUE and GORGON (both 5th of the name and with 4 Battle Honours) and PYLADES (7th of the name with 2 Battle Honours) are names associated with earlier notable service.  PIQUE was actually christened as CELERITY, but because of the possibility of confusion with another ship named CELEBRITY, she was renamed three months after commissioning while on passage to UK.


The first of the class to arrive in the UK was GAZELLE in October 1943, when she was allocated to the 40th Minesweeping Flotilla.  By the end of November four more of the flotilla had been commissioned and were completing work-up at Bermuda - CATHERINE, CATO, GORGON and PIQUE.  The last named didn't leave for UK with the others, but, after spending Christmas at New York, proceeded to St. John's, Newfoundland from where she sailed with the Algerine PERSIAN on 6 January 1944, arriving at Londonderry on 13 January.  With the arrival of GRECIAN, STRENUOUS (designated Senior Officer ship) and TOURMALINE in January the flotilla was complete, but in February CATHERINE took over as Senior Officer when STRENUOUS and TOURMALINE were both found to have serious defects and both were paid off into Reserve at Hartlepool.  Replacing these two were MAGIC and TATTOO still under work-up with other units of the 41St MSF in Canada, and arriving at Rosyth in late February.


As each ship arrived in UK they were sent for alterations which were necessary before they could be used by the Royal Navy.  Bunks were removed to allow for a greater complement (about 100 instead of the designed 80), but the greater problems were concerned with their diesel electric machinery.  One visitor from an Algerine (Lieutenant John Nicholas RNVR) recalled how he got an electric shock as he stepped into the wardroom.  His shoes had been repaired with riveted soles and the deckplates were live.  The ships had to be 'anglicised' to cope with these problems...




On 25 June [1944] while sweeping PIQUE sustained damage from an exploding mine and retired to Devonport for repair.  A few days later GAZELLE had a sweep wire wrap around her screws while sweeping off Arromanches, and she also went to Devonport for repair.  On the night of 6/7 July the flotilla suffered a tragic and bitter blow.  The flotilla were again in their place on the 'Trout Line', with MAGIC and CATO the two ships anchored at the tail end.  This was the night chosen by the Germans to launch their new weapon against the ships in the anchorage.  The weapon was the 'Neger' ('Marder' to the Germans), a human torpedo launched from Villers-sur-Mer.  This was a one-man weapon consisting of an electrically propelled carrier body with an underslung explosive torpedo, steered by the pilot sitting in a plexi-glass covered cockpit on the carrier.  Their first successful targets were the two BAMs of the 40th MSF, MAGIC and CATO.  Both sank very quickly with the loss of 26 and 25 men respectively.  MAGIC was the first to be attacked and blown up, and many of her crew were rescued and taken on board CATO, the nearest ship, which herself blew up a short time later.  As a result of this disaster, MS40 ordered the flotilla to remain under way instead of being at anchor on the 'Trout Line', which meant that the crews had even less sleep than hitherto.  The flotilla were further depleted on 11 July when GORGON was damaged by a mine and needed repair, and she was followed by CATHERINE on 20 July.


At the end of July both PIQUE and GAZELLE were back with the flotilla along with two replacements, TATTOO and ELFREDA.  However, the latter didn't remain long as she went on 17 July to Hull for repairs and refit which were not completed until mid-September. 


The 40th MSF continued sweeping off Normandy throughout August.  While all the activity was taking place preparatory for Normandy, other BAMs had been arriving in UK and working-up at Granton (minesweeping) ready for operational duty.  Allocated to join MAGIC and TATTOO (SO) in the 41st MSF were PYLADES, CYNTHIA, and ELFREDA, the latter two being under repair at Devonport.  At the end of June they were joined at Plymouth by the others of the flotilla...




In mid-June STEADFAST of the 40th MSF and PYLADES of the 41st MSF were detached from their respective flotillas to join the Algerine 18th MSF off Normandy, following mine damage to RATTLESNAKE.  On 30 June STEADFAST went to Devonport for repair and on completion rejoined her old flotilla, the 40th.  On 8 July as the 18th MSF prepared to get under way after a night on the 'Trout' Line a group of German human torpedoes (the Negers) attempted to break through the ring of protective ships.  Units of the flotilla, particularly ORESTES, began to engage the enemy, but at about 0650 PYLADES was hit in the stern by a torpedo...


Eleven men of PYLADES were killed or missing and a number of others injured.  With the loss of PYLADES and MAGIC, and the transfer of TATTOO and ELFREDA to the 40th MSF, the 41st MSF was left with only COMBATANT, CHANCE, CHAMOIS and CYNTHIA.  However, with the arrival in the UK of FAIRY, FOAM, FLORIZEL and FROLIC a re-organisation took place and the 42nd MSF under the senior officer ship COMBATANT came into existence.


By July the flotilla was operational and assisting in sweeping off Normandy.  During a sweep on 21 July CHAMOIS was shattered by an acoustic mine exploding very close by, and which caused a lot of internal damage but no leaks...


At Hartlepool CHAMOIS was found to be beyond repair and declared a Constructive Total Loss. In August CHANCE, after a long period of sweeping was required to go to Devonport for a replacement of her Number 3 engine.  Both flotillas (40th and 42nd) remained sweeping off Normandy and the Belgian/Dutch coasts during the winter of 1944/45.




In November 1944 ELFREDA was engaged in a special task.  With the tugs GRIPER and JAUNTY towing the experimental 'Stirling' craft CYRUS (a 4000 ton barge), ELFREDA was in command of Operation 'Hoover', an attempt to clear the Le Havre approaches of 'Oyster' [pressure] rnines.  In a Force 5-6 wind, the tugs had great difficulty in manouevring the unwieldy craft through the crowded anchorage, and after impaling an American LST she was eventually secured to a buoy.  The handling party of nine seamen from ELFREDA were then taken off, much to their relief.  Further attempts, partly successful although no mines were swept, were made in the next few days.  However, during the winter gales which began soon after, CYRUS broke from her moorings and, despite ELFREDA pumping oil around her, she went aground in the mouth of the River Seine.


Although CYRUS was used later for static sweeping, ELFREDA's task was finished and she returned to the flotilla.  After sustaining damage in the Channel on 4 December ELFREDA went to Portsmouth for repair.  In January 1945 the 40th MSF of CATHERINE (SO). ELFREDA (now repaired). GAZELLE, GRECIAN, PIQUE, TATTOO, GORGON and CHANCE were put under Nore Command and based at Harwich.  This meant dawn to dusk sweeping for the flotilla, clearing a channel across the North Sea to the Hook of Holland.  On 2 March CATHERINE collided with the Halcyon SPEEDWELL off Harwich, damaging her minesweeping gear.  Also working out of Harwich was the 42nd MSF of FAIRY (SO), COMBATANT, CYNTHIA, FLORIZEL, FOAM, FROLIC and STEADFAST, with JASPER joining in April.  In January FAIRY, COMBATANT, FROLIC and FOAM with the danlayer HERMETRAY carried out a high percentage wire search off North Foreland, accounting for nine mines, and followed this up with a LL/SA sweep which raised five more mines.  In March FROLIC suffered a near miss mine explosion off Harwich which caused widespread damage and she went to Flushing for repair which took until October. 


At the end of April the 40th MSF were attached to the Rosyth Command and based at Aberdeen.  Their main task was to clear an area of the northern end of the British East Coast Mine Barrage now that the war in Europe was almost at an end.  On 6 May the flotilla left Rosyth to sweep ahead of the cruisers BIRMINGHAM and DIDO and four destroyers to clear a passage through the Skaggerak to Copenhagen where they arrived on 9 May.  Numerous mines were cut during this sweep.  The flotilla then returned to Rosyth from where they left with another force, including the cruiser DEVONSHIRE carrying Crown Prince Olaf of Sweden, and again swept through the Skaggerak and made for Oslo, arriving there on 13 May...




Following this brief respite, ELFREDA and the 40th MSF returned to Aberdeen from where they continued mine clearance sweeping off the north east coast of Scotland.  Also based in Scotland at Rosyth were the 42nd MSF and both flotillas worked clearing the many minefields in the East Coast Barrage.  During the latter half of 1945 many of the ships of both flotillas went off for refit and repairs, ELFREDA, GORGON and TATTOO enjoying the delights of Rotterdam and FROLIC and FLORIZEL at Flushing.


For the BAMs the war was now over, but they continued for some more months enaged in the massive clean-up operation of the many minefields around Britain.  At the end of 1945 both flotillas were operating off the East Coast, the 42nd MSF mainly working from Dover, often with Algerine sweepers.  On 24 and 25 November 1945 the 40th MSF swept 70 mines, of which 25 were credited to PIQUE.  Early in 1946 both flotillas moved north again, this time to the west coast of Scotland, based at Aultbea (Loch Ewe) or at Iceland.  But as the year drew to its close their service with the Royal Navy was at an end, and all were handed back to the United States Navy for disposal. 


A number were prepared in British ports after sale by the USN and transferred to the Turkish Navy: CATHERINE, CHANCE, ELFREDA, FROLIC, GRECIAN, PIQUE, TATTOO and TOURMALINE.


Several after return to the USN were sailed to Greece for disposal some transferring to the Greek Government: COMBATANT, FLORIZEL, GORGON, JASPER, STEADFAST.


Returned to United States: CYNTHIA, FAIRY, FOAM, GAZELLE,


Sold Mercantile: CHAMOIS, STRENUOUS.



From Tim Moody (the original enquirer):


"Hello Rob,


Thank you very much for the information you sent me about HMS Elfreda.  I have passed it on to the rest of my family who I know will all be very interested.


Thanks for also including Dad's details on your website.  It make a fitting tribute to the brave effort he and his colleagues made during the war  


I have managed to find the book you found the section of information in on Amazon so I will be reading this in the next few days  


I found a very rare photo of Elfreda (now TCG Cesme A-595) anchored off Izmir in Turkey in 1964 after the USN had sold her.  She was stricken from the Turkish Navys records soon afterwards (1967) and I expect she was then scrapped.


TCG Cesme (ex-HMS Elfreda) at Izmir in Turkey in 1964


Kind regards,


Tim Moody"


13 Nov 17


Reduction in MCM Flotilla to result in halving of Gulf MCMV force?


The Royal Navy has maintained four minehunters in the Gulf, each rotating every three years, since 2006.  Most recently, the HUNT class HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 1) has been relieved by HMS Ledbury (2/7) and the SANDOWN class HMS Penzance (1/1) by HMS Blyth (1/8).   Chiddingfold and Penzance returned to Portsmouth and Faslane respectively at the beginning of September (see entry for 1 Sep 17).  Other MCMVs based at the Mina Salman Support Facility in Bahrain, imminently due for re-commissioning as HMS Jufair, comprise the HUNT class HMS Middleton (2/4) and the SANDOWN class HMS Bangor (1/6) together with their ‘mother ship’ RFA Lyme Bay


HMS Chiddingfold alongside in Bahrain

(RN website photo)


The unmanned HUNT class MCMVs HMS Atherstone and HMS Quorn have been undergoing deep refit in the ship hall at Portsmouth Naval Base since December last year.  Under a project called JICARA, this has left MCM2 Crew 6 (ex-HMS Middleton) free to man the offshore patrol vessel HMS Tyne on fishery protection duties until the end of the year with MCM2 Crew 7 (currently manning HMS Ledbury) then programmed to man her sister ship HMS Mersey


On 26 October, The Times published this article reporting plans to dispose of Atherstone and Quorn among other 'adjustments' in Defence, i.e. cuts.  On 27 October, The Birmingham Mail published this article stating that the two ships are to be decommissioned in a formal ceremony at Portsmouth on 14 December:


Royal Navy ship that carries town's name to be scrapped


HMS Atherstone is to be decommissioned after more than 30 years of service...


The ship had been pulled in to receive new engines, but those plans have now been scrapped and the minesweeper will be decommissioned along, with her sister ship HMS Quorn later this year.  In a letter written by [MCDOA member] Lt Cdr Sam Jane of the Royal Navy to Ray Jarvis, it read:


"As an affiliate of HMS Atherstone, I write to you to inform you that the Royal Navy has taken the difficult decision to remove the ship from active service.  To that end she will be ceremonially decommissioned alongside her sister ship HMS Quorn at Portsmouth Naval Base on Thursday, December 14.  Your commitment and support to these vessels over the years has been very much appreciated by both the Commanding Officer and crews who have served in HMS ATHERSTONE as well as the wider Royal Navy."


The disposal of the two HUNTs would reduce the size of the RN MCM flotilla from 15 hulls to 13 (6 of the original 13 HUNTs and 7 of the original 12 SANDOWNs).  However, plans exist to move to modular MCM systems employing remote operated surface vessels and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) deployable from a range of platforms or even from ashore.  Such systems include ARCIMS (ATLAS Remote Combined Influence Minesweeping System) which has already been trialled extensively by the RN with a view to possible adoption.


Fake news or fact?  The Sunday Times published this article on 12 November:


Royal Navy plan to cut minehunters in Gulf risks wrath of Pentagon


"Gavin Williamson, the new defence secretary, risks angering America over plans to slash the British fleet of minehunter ships in the Gulf.


Admirals are considering removing two of the Royal Navy’s four minehunters that are permanently stationed in the Gulf, according to well-placed sources.  Britain’s minehunters are highly valued by America as a deterrent against Iran using mines to block the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important choke point for oil supplies.  In late 2011 Iran threatened to close the strait in response to sanctions..."


This response was published by 'Sir Humphrey' on the Thin Pinstriped Line blog on 12 November:


We Must Prevent a Minehunter Gap!


"The Sunday Times reports today (PAYWALL LINK) that the Royal Navy is thinking of removing two of the four MCMV vessels that it has permanently based in the Gulf.  This is seen as inevitable following the removal of a pair of Hunt class from service as an in year savings measure. The worry is that there will be significant damage to bilateral relations with the US over this issue.


The RN has maintained a reasonable presence in the Gulf for many years, which is built around three core roles –


a.    The ability to provide a surface escort (either AAW or ASW) that can operate in a high end war fighting environment, and integrate into US CVBGs.


b.    An MCMV squadron and support ship to provide an integrated ability with the USN to ensure an effective mine clearance capability in the region.


c.    Support ships such as tankers, stores ships and a repair capability (now on the LSD) to support wider coalition operations.


This force is also augmented on a regular basis by other deploying units which over recent years have included submarines, helicopter carriers and LPDs, hydrographic vessels and so on.  It is commanded from Bahrain through the 1* UK Maritime Component Commander, a ‘dual hatted’ individual who not only exercises control over UK ships in region, but acts as a deputy for the Commander US 5th Fleet, primarily on matters linked to the 31 nation Combined Maritime Forces HQ..."  


Watch this space for further developments in the public domain.


News from HMS Grimsby


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Charlie Luxford, Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 7) for this newsletter which I have received via the Ton Class Association (TCA).  I write a column titled 'MCMV News' for the Associaton's bi-monthly newsletter 'Ton Talk'.



"Hello and welcome to all,


I write to you very proudly as Commanding Officer of the First Mine Countermeasures Squadron Crew Seven in HMS GRIMSBY, your ship.

Having recently returned from Operation Kipion in the Persian Gulf [in HMS BANGOR], Crew 7 have taken ownership of GRISMBY in Rosyth Dockyard where she is being fitted with a brand new 3D sonar which will greatly increase her mine hunting capability.  As the first Sandown to receive the new Sonar, the crew is currently engaged in taking back ownership of GRIMSBY from Babcock staff, training to use the new equipment and preparing for the ship to enter the water before the big move back on board. 


By next year we confidently expect to be conducting trials on GRIMSBY and the new equipment in and around UK waters, in order to maintain the UK's commitment to its Mine Countermeasure Capability and to keeping the sea's navigationally safe, to safeguard our interests at home and abroad. 


After a period of sea trials, we will begin our force regeneration for Operation Kipion and our next deployment, we very much hope within the next year to take this opportunity to re-strengthen our affiliation and give back to yourselves and our community that provide us with such great support throughout our time at sea.  Your continued support means a great deal to all of the Ship's Company, I wish you all the best and if you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact my Gunnery Officer SLt Toby Howett.


Yours Aye,


Charlie Luxford


Lieutenant Commander C Luxford Royal Navy

Commanding Officer



12 Nov 17 - Daily Telegraph obituary for Lt Colin Churcher MBE RN


As ever, I am indebted to Capt Peter Hore RN for writing this obituary for MCDOA member Colin Churcher which appeared in yesterday's Daily Telegraph (see entry for 15 Oct 17)


Colin Churcher at MCDOA Annual Dinner

in November 2015


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


CPO(D) Stephen 'Darby' Allan


Cdr Philip Arthur Balink-White MBE RN


Lt Cdr John Bridge GC GM* RN


Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR


Lt Cdr Peter Cobby BEM RN


Lt Cdr 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM RN


Lt Cdr Ian Fraser VC DSC RD* RNR


Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John 'Jab' Harrison


Val Hempleman


Ldg Sea Sydney Knowles BEM


Lt Cdr Bruce Mackay RN


Cdr Peter Messervy MBE GM RN


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


Lt Cdr 'Robbie' Robinson MBE RN


Lt Arthur 'Bubs' Russell MBE RNVR


Lt Cdr Dennis Selwood OBE RN


Lt Cdr Harry Wardle RN


Lt George Wookey MBE RN 


11 Nov 17 - Lest we forget 


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

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

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

We will remember them.

  Robert Laurence Binyon



The website's Branch History section contains a list of RN & RM personnel killed while serving in Minewarfare, Diving and EOD roles since the beginning of the Second World War although it is by no means comprehensive, especially where minesweeper crews are concerned.  Generically, I have titled it RN Bomb & Mine Disposal Casualties.


A list of officers who have died since qualifying as CDOs and MCDOs when courses first began in 1952 can be found in the entry for 7 Oct 17.


10 Nov 17


SDU1 deals with 'suspicious package' at Devonport Naval Base


The Mirror website contains this article and the Plymouth Herald website this article reporting that members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) were called out to deal with a 'suspicious package', believed to have originated in Northern Ireland, at Devonport Naval Base today.  Its discovery caused the evacuation of HMS Vivid.




The package turned out to be benign.


SDU2 deals with Canadian pipe mine at Lee-on-the Solent


The Royal Navy website contains this article, the Portsmouth News website this article and the ITV News website this article describing this morning's removal and safe detonation by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) of a six-metre length of Canadian pipe mine laid under the airfield at what was formerly HMS Daedalus, the Royal Naval Air Station at Lee-on-the-Solent.  The articles feature Lt Cdr Jonny Campbell (OIC SDU2).


The former HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-the-Solent


Pipe mine at Lee-on-the-Solent

(Portsmouth News image)


During the early part of the Second World War, more than 250 sections of pipe bomb – each about 18 metres long and containing 55kg of explosive (slightly more than a modern Stingray torpedo), were buried so the naval airfield could be destroyed in the event of a German invasion.  Not all of them were cleared after the war and 33 (EOD) Regt of the Royal Engineers conducted a five-week operation to remove the remainder in 2006 as described in this article on the BBC News website and this article on the Southern Daily Echo website.


Also see this informative article on the Think Defence website:


Airfield Pipe Mines – OP CRAB STICK


9 Nov 17 - Fleet Diving Squadron presented with Desmond Wettern Award


Congratulations to the Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), commanded by MCDOA member Del McKnight, on winning the Desmond Wettern Fleet Award for the best contribution to the positive image of the Royal Navy as tweeted by the First Sea Lord here:



The award has been presented annually since 1993.  It comprises a cut glass ship’s decanter mounted on a plinth of oak from HMS Victory and bearing a silver plate inscribed ‘Heart of Oak’.


8 Nov 17 - RN Minewarfare Heritage: Lt Charles Tanner GM RNVR and AB Percy Fouracre BEM




On 20 April 1943, Lt Charles Graham Tanner RNVR was gazetted for the award of the GM (George Medal) and A/AB Percy Fouracre was gazetted for the award of the BEM (British Empire Medal) "for gallantry and devotion to duty".  They had undertaken the disposal of bombs and mines in the London area between October and November 1942 while attached to HMS Vernon. 


Both Tanner and Fouracre were killed on 22 November 1943 while attempting to render safe two unexploded German GG parachute mines from the wreckage of a crashed Dornier Do-217 at Out Newton, Yorkshire.  Tanner was aged 35 and is buried in Tilford (All Saints) Churchyard near Farnham in Surrey.  Fouracre was aged 32 and is buried in West Buckland (St Mary) Churchyard in Somerset.


Chris Ransted, author of Bomb Disposal and the British Casualties of WW2 and Disarming Hitler’s V Weapons: Bomb Disposal, the V1 and V2 rockets sent me this well illustrated article he researched about Charles Tanner in 2013,  I thought it appropriate to share in view of tomorrow's significance:


Lt Cdr Charles Graham Tanner GM RNVR


7 Nov 17 - Minewarfare Heritage: New Book


The late Lt Bernard Upton MBE RNR survived the sinking of the Bangor class minesweeper HMS Cromarty when she was mined in the Straits of Bonifacio in the Mediterranean on 23 October 1943.  He was still very active and sailing his own yacht single-handed at the age of 94 as well as giving presentations to branches of the RBL and other organisations.  His yacht was a Fairey Atalanta, which he built in a printer’s yard in 1959.


Former WO(MW) Dixie Dean MBE, Chairman of the Minewarfare Association (MWA), and I had been corresponding with Bernard's nephew, Sqn Ldr Richard James MBE RAF (Rtd), since October 2009 with a view to publishing Bernard's memoirs.  Sadly, Bernard passed away at his home in France on Friday 22 April 2016 before this could be achieved (see entry for 2 May 16 in News Archive 54).


Lt Bernard Upton MBE RNVR

(11 Jul 1919 - 22 Apr 2016)


MCDOA member Neil Marriott attended Bernard's funeral in Janvry, 40km south-west of Paris, on 27 Apr 16 and provided an account of the service (see second entry for 10 May 16 in News Archive 54).


Richard has now published a book on behalf of his uncle.  It is called 'On the Road to Normandy and a little beyond' - A Sailor's Life Story'.




The Foreword has been written by MCDOA President Paddy McAlpine:



The well-illustrated book is a fascinating read and costs £10 including post & packing.  Email Richard James, Bernard's nephew, to place your order.






Shipmates of Bernard Upton lost when HMS Cromarty was mined on 23 October 1943


BARBER, Jack, Stoker 1c, D/KX 101547, MPK [Missing Presumed Killed] 

BARMBY, Edwin R, Able Seaman, P/JX 275326, MPK  

BARRETT, David C, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK  

COLUMBUS, Harold W, Signalman, P/JX 325706, DOW [Died Of Wounds] 

COOPER, James J, Stoker Petty Officer, D/KX 82197, MPK  

COX, Richard E, Ty/Act/Warrant Engineer, MPK  

DICKENS, James W, Ty/Leading Cook (S), C/MX 72720, MPK  

FERNIE, Thomas E, Ty/Act/Lieutenant, RNR, MPK  

GALLAGHER, Peter J, Stoker, RNPS, LT/KX 157769, MPK  

GIBBONS, Horace N, Ty/Petty Officer, C/JX 137860, MPK  

JONES, William, Ty/Act/Leading Telegraphist, D/SSX 34120, MPK  

LEEWORTHY, Frederick W D, Ty/Leading Seaman, D/J 97504, MPK  

MOORFIELD, John A, Coder, D/JX 293565, MPK  

O'BRIEN, Melvin E, Able Seaman, D/SSX 24305, MPK  

PINCKNEY, Erlysman P H, Act/Commander  (Hannibal, O/P), MPK

ROBERTSON, David D, Stoker 1c, C/KX 130280, MPK  

TASSELL, Alan, Able Seaman, D/KX 99367, MPK  

TROKE, Walter E, Ty/Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK  

TRUELOVE, Stanley, Ordinary Seaman, D/JX 419878, MPK  

WATKINS, Harry, Ty/Act/Petty Officer Telegraphist, D/JX 155532, MPK


2 Nov 17 - RN divers undertake new boat-handling course


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing that the first of a new twin-engine outboard Arctic 22 boat-handling course has taken place at HMS Raleigh for four clearance divers.  The course was delivered by instructors at the Royal Navy School of Seamanship School on the River Lynher.  The article features AB(D) Andy Waller.


Arctic 22 boat-handling course at HMS Raleigh

(RN Website photo)


1 Nov 17 - Launch of 'Operation Tadpole'


The Portsmouth News contains this feature describing the launch of MCDOA member Dr John Bevan's new book Operation Tadpole: The Royal Navy's underwater diving operations, Gibraltar 1940 - 1945 (see entry for 17 Sep 17).  The book describes the wartime activities of Lt William 'Bill' Bailey CBE CBE, DSC, GM* RNVR who led the Underwater Working Party in Gibraltar against the Italian Decima MAS frogmen riding human torpedoes to fix explosive devices to the hulls of ships assembled at Gibraltar.




I had the privilege of meeting with John Bevan and Bill Bailey's son Andrew to discuss the book's preparation in September last year (see entry for 22 Sep 16 in News Archive 55).


Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) with John Bevan and Bill Bailey's son Andrew



Left: Andrew Bailey with his father's medals

Right: Bill Bailey's medals after being put on display at the HDS diving museum at Stokes Bay


John Bevan and Andrew Bailey were also present at the Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument's 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner held at Trinity House in London in July (see entry for 28 Jul 17 in News Archive 59).


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

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

at the Vernon Monument's Charity Dinner at Trinity House on 19 July 2017


John Bevan, David Ouvry and Andrew Bailey with Prince Harry at the Vernon Monument's

Charity Dinner at Trinity House on 19 July 2017 


Signed copies are available at Waterstones, Commercial Road, at £9.99.  For a more personal signed copy, if you want to buy a copy as a Christmas present, contact Dr Bevan on (023) 9260 2260 or via plus £1.30 p+p.


31 Oct 17 - HMS Pembroke at Gibraltar


I am grateful to local photographer Daniel Ferro for allowing me to publish this splendid photo of HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 5) alongside at Gibraltar earlier this month.  She left harbour on 9 October but returned on the 12th to effect some repairs.


HMS Pembroke at Gibraltar on 12 October 2017

(Photo courtesy of Daniel Ferro)


HMS Pembroke is attached to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2), currently commanded by MCDOA member Justin Hains embarked in the survey vessel HMS Enterprise, and has been participating in the French-sponsored Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 2017 (see entry for 21 Oct 17).


28 Oct 17 - Our President


No prizes for guessing the identity of the person with MCDOA President Paddy McAlpine in this recent photo.


27 Oct 17 - HMS Middleton in the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the clean-up operation performed by ship's company members of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 4) around British war graves in St Christopher's Old Cemetery in Manama, Bahrain.  The article also reports the ship's recent visit to the port of Khawr Khuwayr in RAK (Ras al-Khaimah), the northernmost of the seven emirates which make up the UAE.  She was visited by Sheikh Ahmad bin Saqr al Qasimi, a member of the ruling family and chairman of the economic zone.  The article features AB(MW) Stephen Richardson and AB(D) Sean Esson.


Sheikh Ahmad bin Saqr al Qasimi on board HMS Middleton in RAK

(RN website photo)


26 Oct 17 - John Craig selected for promotion to Captain RN


MCDOA members John Craig and Nick Gwatkin at a NATO MW Conference

in January 2014


Apart from other priorities, your humble webmaster is currently preoccupied with finalising a book about minewarfare in the First World War with co-writer Cdr David Bruhn USN (Rtd).  This has meant temporarily suspending additions to this page although it will be updated retrospectively when circumstances permit.  Nevertheless, I am delighted to publish this announcement received this morning from MCDOA member John Craig:




You may hear of it by other means, but I am finally able to confirm that I will be joining the hallowed ranks of such luminaries as Jim Nisbet, Jason Poole, Chris O’Flaherty, Roger Readwin and Pete Laughton in the MCD OF5 fraternity.  


I am due to take over as the Chief of the Staff (COS) to the Commander UK Maritime Force (COMUKMARFOR) on Tue 21 Nov and, pleasingly, one of my first tasks will be to validate the Mine Warfare Battle Staff the following week.  


While I cannot be certain, I suspect that our branch is as well-represented at OF5 level as it has ever been, which ought to be an encouraging sign for those MCDs starting out in their careers.  


Great news for me – obviously – but also, I hope, an indicator of the strength-in-depth [Apologies – I couldn’t resist the pun!] of the branch.


Yours aye,


John Craig  



Commander Royal Navy

Naval Staff – Head of Strategic Studies"


I am sure all members of our community will join me in congratulating John on his well deserved promotion effective from 21 November.


25 Oct 17 - Interesting article on the likely future of MCM


Readers may find this article on the USNI News website of interest:


Mine Countermeasures Evolving Towards Mix-And-Match Capabilities, Personnel


ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Navy is trending towards a mix-and-match set of people, platforms and sensors to detect and destroy mines, a departure from the simpler legacy mine countermeasures setup with a single helicopter type and a single wooden-hull ship class, set for replacement by the new Littoral Combat Ship and its neatly defined mission package...


One trend is operating the land-based Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures (ExMCM) Company, which falls under the Explosive Ordnance Disposal community at Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, aboard Navy ships. 


“We’ve taken our ExMCM company with their Mk 18 family of (unmanned underwater vehicle) systems, we’ve put them aboard cruisers and destroyers and had them do extensive rehearsals of the actual operations – and in some cases, in exercises and operations we’ve actually used those platforms,” Capt. Michael Egan, Commander of Task Force 52 within U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said at the conference.


“We are already working off of amphibious ships, not only the [USS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB-3)] and the [decommissioned Ponce (AFSB-I-15)] before that, but also the British auxiliaries. We’re not just limiting ourselves to our own ships, we’re working with our allies and our coalition partners and their ships as well.”


Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 2 and Expeditionary

Mine Countermeasures Company (ExMCM Co.) 202, are lowered into the water during

Mark 16 dive training on 16 Aug 2017

(US Navy photo)


...The captain noted that the British Navy operating in 5th Fleet was eager to support MCM operations off a non-traditional platform.


22 Oct 17 - Lest we forget


Was this the first Royal Navy 'clearance diver'?


AB Robert George TAWN C/JX137109 of HMS Vernon was gazetted on 9 August 1940 for the award of the DSM (Distinguished Service Medal) "for coolness, courage and resource when dealing with a magnetic mine in a tideway".  He had performed the first underwater RMS (Render Mine Safe) attempt on a GC mine in Poole harbour in 42 feet of water from HMS Vernon's echo-sounding yacht 'Esmeralda' on 14 June 1940 although the mine exploded while being towed ashore.


On 14 January 1941, he was gazetted for the award of the BEM (British Empire Medal) "for gallant conduct and devotion to duty".


On 6 March 1941, he was killed at the age of 24 by an exploding mine in Falmouth harbour while manning a boat towed by 'The Mouse', a small motor launch belonging to HMS Vernon which was specially fitted with Hotchkiss propulsion (no propeller).   He is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves part of Falmouth Cemetery.  If anyone would send me a clear image of his headstone via my Webmaster address, I'd be very grateful.


The cemetery should also contain the grave of Ldg Sea Ivan Vincent WHARTON C/JX113809 of HMS Vernon who was killed in the same incident.  Lt Reginald Bruce SUTHERLAND RNVR, also of HMS Vernon, was killed in the same incident while diving.  His body was never found but his name is inscribed on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.


 Lt J F NICHOLSON RNVR, PO BENHAM plus one other person manning 'The Mouse' survived.


A recovered German GC magnetic ground mine, complete with parachute,

at HMS Vernon during the Second World War


Postscript: Eureka! (With a little help from Tony Sexton and Aggie Dennis.)



Left: AB Tawn's headstone in Falmouth Cemetery

Right: Ldg Sea Wharton's headstone in Falmouth Cemetery


There is no disputing AB Tawn's award of the DSM:


London Gazette entry for AB Tawn's award of the DSM


However, it appears that he has erroneously been credited on his headstone with the MBE whereas he was actually awarded the BEM.


London Gazette entry for AB Tawn's award of the BEM


AB Tawn's record on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website has been amended and now reflects his award of the BEM:


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

commemorative certificate for AB Tawn


21 Oct 17 - Update on SNMCMG2


Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2), currently commanded by MCDOA member Justin Hains embarked in the survey vessel HMS Enterprise, includes HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 5).  The group finished participating in the French-sponsored Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 2017 (see entry for 3 Oct 17) on 13 October.  SNMCMG2 and HMS Pembroke have posted or tweeted these images.


The French minehunter FS Orion alongside HMS Enterprise during BRILLIANT MARINER



Above and below: Ships in formation, including HMS Diamond, during Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 2017




Above and below: Ships in formation, including HMS Diamond, during Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 2017



The group arrived at Vlore in Albania two days ago after visiting Cagliari in Sardinia.



Above and below: HMS Pembroke alongside HMS Enterprise with other units of SNMCMG2

 in Vlore, Albania astern of the Albanian patrol vessel Lisus



20 Oct 17 - SDU1 investigating trawled-up 'torpedo' in Plymouth


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article, including video, reporting that the fishing vessel Admiral Blake brought potentially live ordnance into port resulting in the evacuation of Plymouth Fisheries and the closure of Sutton Harbour.  Members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) attended the incident.


Item trawled-up by fishing vessel Admiral Blake

(Plymouth Herald image)


SDU1 EOD vehicle departing the scene

(Plymouth Herald image)


Postscript: The harbour has now been re-opened.


19 Oct 17 - LS&GC presentation


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the presentation of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal to Tony Wallace by Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant, Commander Maritime Operations (COMOPS) at a recent ceremony in Plymouth.  Tony qualified as an MWO in 2005 and later as a PWO.  Among his many other appointments, he underwent initial sea training in HMS Atherstone and served as OPS of HMS Hurworth and HMS Brocklesby as well as XO of HMS Chiddingfold before working in the UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) HQ in Bahrain.


RAdm Bob Tarrant presenting LS&GC medal to Tony Wallace

(RN website image)


18 Oct 17 - SDU2 retrieves chemical bombs in Lincolnshire


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the eight-day operation by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to recover canisters of mustard gas from Stixwould Lake near Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire (see entry for 9 Oct 17).  The article features PO(D) 'Chuck' Norris.



RN website images




17 Oct 17 - Multinational minewarfare exercise off South Korea


The US Navy website contains this article announcing the start of Multinational Mine Warfare Exercise (MN MIWEX) off the east coast of the Republic of Korea (ROK) on 15 October.  Participating nations for the week-long exercise include Canada, the Philippines, the ROK and the USA.  US units include staff from MCMRON 7, Mine Countermeasures Helicopter Squadron 14 Det. 2A and the Avenger class MCMV USS Chief.


Launch of MNV (Mine Neutralisation Vehicle) by Avenger class MCMV USS WARRIOR

during Exercise FOAL EAGLE off South Korea in March this year

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jermaine M. Ralliford/Released)


Prior to the exercise, US Naval Forces Korea and the ROK Navy hosted a three-day MCM symposium in Busan attended by delegates from nine United Nations Command 'Sending States' including Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and the UK.


16 Oct 17 - Update on book about JIM trials


I am grateful to Richard Castle for this news regarding his forthcoming book about Royal Navy trials of the JIM atmospheric diving suit (see entry for 18 Sep 17):


"Hi Rob,


Just to keep you in the picture.....  


Three contacts (as you know) all useful and actually confirming most of what I thought.  All responded to and info passed over.


Bob Lusty of HMS Reclaim sent a letter with info from DHB Ltd which was excellent.  I returned info and a few pics for his amusement.


Always interested if anyone else shows up.


The words are nearly written and the issue is mainly typos, photographs, input from ex-AEDU/RNPL staff and a front cover.  Too late for Christmas so holding for publication in March 2018.


A thanks to you and the website for adding to my knowledge as well as giving me an idea to increase the coverage of these types of joint jobs undertaken by MoD and Navy.  Let me know if I can return the favour at any time.




Richard Castle"


"JIM" demonstrating his ability to assist in

submarine rescue


15 Oct 17 - Funeral of Lt Colin Churcher MBE RN


I am grateful to Ray Clarke, Honorary Secretary of the Aberdeen branch of the Royal Naval Association, for this follow-up to the funeral of MCDOA member Colin Churcher at Baldarroch Chapel and Crematorium near Aberdeen on 6 October (see entry for 5 Oct 17):




Apologies for this somewhat delayed email.  


I trust that you received an update regarding the actual funeral held 1300 Friday 6th Oct.  Unfortunately, but as we had thought, no actual serving uniforms were present.   However, we did what we could to give Lt Churcher the send-off he deserved.  The coffin was dressed with a white ensign, officer's cap, medals and sword.




The RNA provided the six pall bearers in RNA uniform and members of Aberdeen Sea Cadets provided the standard bearer and coffin party.  The padre, the Sea Cadet padre for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Lt Cdr (SCC) Emsley Nimmo and the additional divers' verse was included in 'Eternal Father' as per request.  


We were fortunate perhaps in that the crematorium manager was ex-Army and, knowing what to expect, gave every assistance.   I hope that our debt to Lt Churcher was satisfied.


If I am correct ex-CPO(D) Kevin ‘Ginge’ Reynolds was the chap who travelled up from Rosyth (85 miles) on a motorbike; no mean feat given his years.  A Bravo Zulu there perhaps.  [It wasn't Ginge because he had been on crutches for the previous few days and drove his car.  BZ anyway but does anyone know who rode from Rosyth on his motorcycle?]


Rob, it was a pleasure to have been of assistance both to yourself and to Colin’s family who impressed me with their dignity.  I found Hilda to be a delightful lady.  I had no shortage of volunteers for the funeral party plus Emsley Nimmo and the staff at both the funeral director’s and the crematorium could not do enough.


Yours aye,


Ray Clarke

(Hon Sec Aberdeen Branch RNA)"


I would like to put on record my deep appreciation to Ray Clarke and Emsley Nimmo for their cooperation in arranging a proper send-off for Colin and once more extend our community's sincere condolences to Hilda and the rest of Colin's family.


Lt Colin Churcher MBE RN on CDO

course in 1964


Watch this space for news of a possible obituary in the Daily Telegraph.


From MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald:


"Hello Rob,


Sorry to have been absent.  I'm often in Aberdeen but on this occasion was working in NZ.


I remember Colin as a VM [Victualled Member - aka 'liver-in'] in VERNON; not easy with a northern family.  


Failed to track down [Gordon] Stamp and I understand that [David 'Topsy'] Turner is in Hawaii.  I'll do better next time.




14 Oct 17


LS&GC presentations


Congratulations to MCDOA Chairman-elect Roger Readwin (Captain Mine Warfare & Patrol Vessels, Diving and Fishery Protection (CMFP)) and MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE (1st Lt of our new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth (QNLZ)) on being presented with their Long Service & Good Conduct (LS&GC) medals including two clasps for Bob.



Left: Capt Roger Readwin RN with fellow recipient LET(CIS) S H Patterson

Right: Presenter Cdr Darren Houston (Cdr of QNLZ) with Bob Hawkins



Left: Obverse and reverse of RN LS&GC medal

Right: Bob Hawkins' LS&GC medal with its two clasps


The eligibility regulations were updated on 1 October 2016 to permit the award of the LS&GC medal, previously awarded only to ratings and warrant officers, to all RN officers serving after 29 July 2014 who had achieved at least 15 years of service with no misconduct.  A clasp is awarded for each additional period of 10 years' service with a clear record.


SNMCMG1 visits Belfast


The Belfast Telegraph website contains this article and the ITV News website this article, both including video, describing yesterday's arrival of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) in Belfast for a weekend courtesy visit after its participation in Exercise JOINT WARRIOR 17/2


Ships of SNMCMG1 rafted up in Belfast Lough

(NATO website photo)


The group comprises the Latvian coastal minelayer and command ship LVNS Virsaitis, the Estonian minehunter ENS Sakala (formerly HMS Inverness), the German minehunter FGS Sulzbach-Rosenberg; the Norwegian minesweeper HNoMS Rauma, the Belgian minehunter BNS Primula and the Dutch minehunter HNLMS Makkum.


ENS Sakala (formerly HMS Inverness) entering Belfast yesterday

(Belfast Telegraph image)


13 Oct 17 - SDU2 frees torpedo from tanker's anchor


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Daily Mail website this article describing how members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) freed a trials torpedo impaled on the fluke of an anchor belonging to the 3,000 ton chemical/oil products tanker Skaw Provider off Portland on Tuesday.  The torpedo was taken out to sea and destroyed.



The article features Lt Cdr Jonathan Campbell, OIC of SDU2.


(RN website image)


12 Oct 17


Death, funeral and DT obituary of Capt Ian Powe RN


Capt Ian Powe RN died peacefully at St Thomas’ Hospital on 2 September 2017 aged 84. 


As ever, I am grateful to Capt Peter Hore RN for writing this obituary which was published in the Daily Telegraph today.  This is an excerpt:


"On the night of January 14/15 1968 a severe earthquake struck western Sicily, killing several hundred people, injuring many more and leaving 100,000 people homeless.  The Italian government asked for help from the Royal Navy at Malta, where Powe commanded the 7th Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCMS), consisting of several small Ton-class minesweepers.  Without waiting for orders, Powe loaded his ships with disaster relief stores, medical teams and a small detachment of soldiers, and sailed overnight.


The squadron’s entry next morning to the small port of Trapani was greeted by a violent aftershock which shook the sea and shore, and hundreds of refugees rushed from the town towards the jetty.  Powe restored calm and in liaison with the mayor commandeered a convoy of lorries to take him inland to the Belice valley, where the damage was greatest; they followed debris-strewn roads which had been split and were hanging in ribbons over precipices, through villages which had been flattened or had fallen into the valleys below.  Powe set up a headquarters at Montevago, the soldiers erecting tents for accommodation and a marquee as a field hospital, while Powe’s 40 sailors dug in the rubble and began to repair utilities.  He was joined by 12 Italian Boy Scouts who had been on a camp, and two retired British aid workers from Save the Children who chanced to have retired locally.


The immediate relief effort was hampered by a lack of planning at local level, excessive bureaucracy, a lack of supplies, and a tendency to treat outsiders with suspicion.  After 36 hours soldiers from the Italian army arrived, who placed themselves under Powe’s orders; they brought a searchlight which, when played on a White Ensign which Powe had ordered to be hoisted on the one standing telegraph-pole, brought in hundreds of survivors from the countryside.  For the next week, despite cold weather and several aftershocks which mainly struck at night, Powe oversaw the rescue efforts.  Subsequently the 7th MCMS was awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Peace, while Powe himself was praised by his commander-in-chief for his “initiative and judgment in dealing with the situation, which was not only serious but required considerable tact and understanding”.


The people of Montevago named the main road in the rebuilt town “Via Comandante Powe” and an adjoining road “Via Marina Inglese”, and they invited the Powes to return in 2018 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the earthquake...


...After a deployment in the Far East as first lieutenant of the frigate Londonderry, his was an early promotion to commander when he took command of the minesweeper Walkerton and the 7th MCMS.  In 1969, when Powe’s squadron left Malta, crowds lined the walls of Barrakka heights to wave a sad farewell, the last to go after two centuries of British warships based on the island..."


A private funeral will be followed by a Memorial Service at 1100 on Tuesday 17 October at St Paul’s Knightsbridge, SW1X 8SH.  All are welcome.


Donations, if desired, to Cancer Research UK c/o Chelsea Funeral Directors, 260b Fulham Rd, SW10 9EL. Tel: 020 7352 0008."


The DT obituary can also be viewed on the MCDOA website here: Captain Ian Powe Royal Navy


Capt Ian Powe RN

(17 Oct 1932 - 2 Sep 2017)


SDU1 detonates 25lb shell


The BBC News website contains this article, including video, describing yesterday's disposal, presumably be members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), of a 25 lb shell used as a doorstop at a farm near Bovey Tracey in Devon.



11 Oct 17 - MW course graduation


Congratulations to the AB(MW)s who successfully qualified on the latest course at HMS Collingwood.



10 Oct 17 - HMS Hurworth and HMS Ramsey in JOINT WARRIOR


The Forces TV website contains this article, including a comprehensive video, describing the involvement of HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 5) and HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 4) in this year's second Exercise JOINT WARRIOR off Scotland.  Both ships' crews are due to fly to the Gulf in December to man other minehunters currently based in Bahrain for Operation KIPION.




The Royal Navy has published these images on its Facebook page showing HMS Hurworth recovering a large drill ground mine she detected in a depth of 48 metres while part of a Task Group of three Royal Navy minehunters and three French Navy minehunters during JOINT WARRIORThe mine was detected on sonar before being identified with a Sea Fox Mine Disposal vehicle.  Two divers then attached strops to it for recovery by davit.





9 Oct 17 - RN bomb disposal unit called to mustard gas find in Lincolnshire


The Lincolnshire Live website contains this article, including video, dated 6 October and this article dated 10 October reporting the attendance of "a Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Dive Team", presumably members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), at a lake near Stixwould near Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire following the initial discovery of cylinders of mustard gas on 1 October.  The operation has also involved an Army bomb disposal unit plus fire & rescue and ambulance services and the Environment Agency.






8 Oct 17 - John Bevan as 'That Infernal Diver' 


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan (Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), founder of the Diving Museum, celebrated author, world record-breaking deep diver and trustee of the Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument charity) made a thoroughly convincing John Deane, inventor of the first practical diving helmet, when he performed the role with Lee Players at the Diving Museum on Saturday night (see entry for 23 Sep 17).



The Diving Museum in No. 2 Battery at Stokes Bay is run entirely by volunteers.  It will be open 1000 to 1600 at weekends until 29 October when it will close for the winter except by special arrangement.


7 Oct 17 - RN CD Roll of Remembrance


Some time ago, I was asked by the all-ranks Royal Navy Clearance Divers' Association (RNCDA), of which I am member 076 (my LMCDO course year), to help compile a list of deceased RN divers and I have now researched all officers who qualified QDD, CDO and MCDO since October 1944.  This list does not include those engaged in diving and/or EOD before these courses began apart from some war veterans such as the late Peter Roberts VC DSC, 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM and Gordon Gutteridge OBE who were granted 'grandfather rights'.  Most individuals died from natural causes and they appear in order of date of death.  Please advise me of any omissions.


Lt Cdr Ian Dennis McLEAN-FOREMAN (4 Feb 1956)

Cdr Lionel Kenneth Phillip 'Crabby' CRABB OBE GM RNVR (19 Apr 1956)

Lt Robert Neil HARRISON (16 Apr 1972)

Lt James GRACE (4 May 1972)

Lt Peter Robert PARK (9 Feb 1973)

Lt Sidney William DACOMBE (27 Apr 1973)

Lt Cdr Jack ‘Jackie’ REA MBE (30 Jan 1976)

Lt Cdr Stuart Royston ‘Jazz’ HONOUR MBE (13 Jun 1977)

Sub Lt Albert Henry ROCK (1 Sep 1979)

Lt Cdr Peter Scawen Watkinson ROBERTS VC DSC (8 Dec 1979)

Lt Robert WILSON (5 Sep 1986)

Cdr William Yount ‘Mr Mac’ McLANACHAN MBE BEM RD RN/RNR (16 Nov 1987)

Lt William David BARRINGTON MBE (1 Jun 1989)

Lt Douglas John HILLS (21 Feb 1990)

Lt Cdr Alan ‘Shiner’ WRIGHT MBE (5 Mar 1992)

Lt Arthur Glanville ‘Badger’ OTLEY (26 May 1993)

Lt Frank WALKER (18 Oct 1993)

Lt Cdr Joe BROOKS DSC (1 Sep 1994)

Cdr Karl Grenville LEES (3 Sep 1994)

Lt Christopher John NIVEN (14 Feb 1995)

Lt Alexander Michael Francis PYM (1 Oct 1995)

Lt Cdr Eric Edward GASH (20 Dec 1995)

Lt Cdr Arthur Donald ‘Don’ McLAUCHLAN MBE (8 Jan 1996)

Lt Robert John PAGE (14 Oct 1996)

Cdr Christopher Dutton POTT (20 Nov 1996)

Lt Kenneth SNOWBALL (22 May 1997)

Lt Cdr John Keith WILSON (6 Apr 1998)

Lt Cdr Simon Alistair Gordon ROSS (13 Jan 1999)

Lt Cdr Henry James ‘Jim’ NEIL (22 Mar 1999)

Lt Cdr James Shermer ACTON (12 Aug 1999)

Lt Robert PILLING (10 Dec 2000)

Cdr Peter John MESSERVY MBE GM (11 Jan 2001)

Lt Thomas ‘Ned’ KELLY (Sep 2001) †

Cdr Leslie Gordon GUTTERIDGE OBE (26 May 2002)

Lt Cdr Sydney Alfred ‘Jackie’ WARNER MBE DSC (21 Oct 2002)

Lt William Francis Bernard ‘Wilf’ DODD (Feb 2003)

Lt Cdr Harold Alfred BORDER (14 Jan 2004)

Capt Arthur CHECKSFIELD (2 Aug 2004)

Lt Keith Maurice JENKINS (17 Feb 2005)

Cdr John ‘Jack’ BIRKETT OBE RN/RAN (1 Jan 2006)

Lt Charles Leslie ‘Taff’ LAWRENCE MBE (7 Mar 2006)

Lt Cdr David Arthur LAMBERT RN/RAN (10 Aug 2006)

Lt Cdr George Alan ‘Franky’ FRANKLIN RD RN/RNR (19 Sep 2006)

Cdr John PARRY OBE (18 Oct 2006)

Lt Cdr Michael Paynter GRUBB (6 Mar 2007)

Lt George Alan Michael WOOKEY BEM (21 Mar 2007)

Lt Cdr Harry WARDLE (1 Sep 2007)

Lt Terence David O'Neill DIGGES (15 Jun 2008)

Lt Cdr Christopher E BERESFORD-GREEN (22 Nov 2008)

Lt Cdr Alastair Sydney CUTHBERT RN/RAN (17 Jun 2009)

Lt Cdr David ELLIS (30 Jul 2009)

Lt John ‘George’ DANCE (16 Aug 2009)

Lt George Sydney Edward STRATTON (Oct 2009)

Cdr Francis Stanley WARD (26 Dec 2009)

Lt Cdr Mark TERRELL MBE VRD (18 Jan 2011)

Lt Cdr Horace Edward 'Tag' CAISLEY MBE (13 Aug 2011)

Lt Cdr William Brook ‘Bill’ FILER MBE GM (31 Jan 2011)

Cdr Timothy William TROUNSON MBE (25 Dec 2011)

Lt Cdr Neil Laurence MERRICK RNZN/RN MBE (Mar 2012)

Lt Cdr Iain Bruce MACKAY MBE (8 Oct 2012)

Lt Cdr John Chetwode Coston BELCHAMBER (18 Nov 2012)

Lt Cdr Patrick Francis DOWLAND (16 Feb 2013)

Lt Cdr Geoffrey Mortimer Heneage ‘Morty’ DRUMMOND (28 Feb 2013)

Cdr Philip WHITE MBE (later BALINK-WHITE) (5 Jun 2013)

Lt Cdr Stephen WILD (19 Jan 2014)

Lt Cdr Kenneth Douglas KEMPSELL GM (19 Apr 2014)

Lt Cdr Dennis Peter SELWOOD OBE (29 Jan 2014)

Lt Cdr William ‘Bill’ THORNILEY MBE (8 Oct 2014)

Lt Cdr Brian Harold Lithgow BRAIDWOOD (13 Dec 2014)

Lt Cdr James Joseph COOK (31 Aug 2015)

Cdr Timothy Ian HILDESLEY OBE (9 May 2016)

Lt Ian MORTON (16 Nov 2016)

Lt John HENDRICK (9 Jul 2017)

Lt Colin CHURCHER MBE (28 Sep 2017)


Whenever possible, I have reported the deaths of all ranks on this page and these entries survive in the News Archives as far back as 2002.  The RNCDA has trawled names from these for the purposes of the Memorial Garden on Horsea Island (see entry for 7 Oct 16 in News Archive 56) where it is planned to display plaques engraved with the names of deceased RN divers.


It is for consideration that the RANCDA's 'Roll of Remembrance' has a crucifix symbol against the names of those who died while on active service to distinguish them from those who died from natural causes.



I have already published a list of 'Royal Navy Bomb & Mine Disposal Casualties' in the MCDOA website's Branch History section which covers all ranks who died while on active service during the Second World War and since.  I have also supplied DEMS Bicester with names for their memorial wall, as well as some historical information including the recipients of gallantry awards (see entry for 17 May 15 in News Archive 50). 


6 Oct 17 - Minehunter crew rows to help one of its own


Reproduced from the Navy News Facebook group:


Minehunter sailors made it from Portsmouth to Euro Disney and back again inside 48 hours.  Easy! You cry with Eurostar/the tunnel, regular ferries and motorways on both sides of the Channel.  But the 45-strong MCM2 Crew 3 rowed the round trip (plus an extra 100 miles) to send one of their shipmates and his family to the famous entertainment, leisure and holiday complex.



Nine-year-old Ethan John, the son of mine warfare specialist Able Seaman Craig John, was in remission after a battle with thyroid cancer… until he was told at the end of September that the disease had returned. 


Shipmates reacted to Craig and Ethan’s bad news as only shipmates can: by offering to do something.  They settled on a 48-hour non-stop rowathon with the goal of raising £3,000 to send the Johns on a holiday they would never forget.


"The crew phoned me and said they were doing this and I was quite amazed to be honest," said Craig from Swansea, who joined the crew just five months ago.


"The crew’s support has just been amazing, as well as everyone back home. We just weren’t expecting it at all."


He was unable to make the start of the rowing challenge… so cracked out 11 kilometres on the machine at his local gym in Swansea, before heading to Pompey with Ethan to support the later stages of the fundraiser. 


The sailors typically spent around 20 minutes at a time on the machine, covering between four and six kilometres.  Over the 48 hours they were expected to row at least four times that to hit the target. They covered the 720 miles well in time… so kept going, spurred on by Ethan and Craig who came down to Portsmouth to offer their support – and gratitude.



"We heard about Ethan’s diagnosis on a Tuesday and by Thursday I had the whole crew on board to support this fantastic event," said coxswain PO Simon Smyth, who organised the fund-raiser.


"We just knew we needed to do something and it’s been an amazing outpouring of support from the crew, the squadron and RNRM Children’s Trust."


Both the crew and the charity have pledged to continue to help Ethan and his family over the coming months.


If you want to donate in appreciation of their efforts, the bank account is:


Payee: Simon Smyth

Reference: ROW48

Sort code: 11-12-36

Account No: 00034410 


Navy News photos by LPhot Iggy Roberts.


Postscript: The Royal Navy website has published this article covering the same story.



5 Oct 17 - STOP PRESS: Arrangements for the funeral of Lt Colin Churcher MBE RN


The funeral of MCDOA member Colin Churcher will take place at 1300 tomorrow (6 Oct) at Baldarroch Chapel and Crematorium, Crathes, Banchory, Aberdeenshire AB31 5JL (see entry for 29 Sep 17).


Unfortunately, I didn't receive his stepson's timely email providing the details for some reason and only learned about it when I was phoned this evening by Ensley Nimmo, the officiating padre.  It will be a proper naval service with all the trimmings including RNA pall bearers and a bugler.  Uncle Bill Filer's verse for divers will be included in the rendition of the naval hymn (Eternal Father).


3 Oct 17 - SNMCMG2 in Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER


MCDOA member Justin Hains took over Command of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2), which normally operates in the Mediterranean, at a ceremony on board HMS Victory in Portsmouth in July (see entry for 7 Jul 17 in News Archive 59).


Justin Hains


Apart from Justin's 'flagship', the survey vessel HMS Enterprise, SNMCMG2 currently comprises HMS Pembroke (MCM1 Crew 5), the Italian Gaeta class minehunter ITS Crotone and the Turkish Engin class minehunter TCG EdremitDuring Justin's time in Command, the group has visited ports in Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Italy and France.


HMS Enterprise alongside in Koper, Slovenia

(NATO website image)



Left: Justin Hains (right) and the XO of HMS Enterprise (left) being welcomed by

 the CO of 430th Naval Division in Ankaran, Slovenia

Right: Justin Hains (second left) and the task group COs being welcomed by

the Mayor of Toulon's representative (Mairie d'honneur) Madame Lombard

(NATO website images)


Early this month, Justin received a visit from Rear Admiral Olivier Lebas of the French Navy who commanded CTF 150 between April and August this year.




The group is currently participating in the French-sponsored Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 2017 (29 Sep to 13 Oct 2017) which includes 27 ships from Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the UK supported by maritime patrol and rotary wing aircraft.  It is a Non-Article 5 crisis response operation exercise designed to support the certification of the naval component of the NATO Response Force (NRF) for 2018.


This photo was taken in Toulon before the exercise started and shows HMS Enterprise with her brood on the far side of the third jetty from the bottom.


Participating ships alongside in Toulon at the start of Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 2017

(NATO website image)


Ships of SNMCMG2 alongside in Toulon at the start of Exercise BRILLIANT MARINER 2017

(NATO website image)


2 Oct 17 - Award of LS&GC and clasps


Congratulations to:


WO(D) Andy Carss QGM on being gazetted for the award of a second clasp to the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal


CPO(D) Richard Walker on being gazetted for the award of the clasp to the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal


CPO(MW) Joe Morton on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal


1 Oct 17 - HMS Challenger model for sale


A nine feet long copper model of the former Seabed Operations Vessel (SOV) HMS Challenger is being advertised for sale on this page of the Trinity Marine website:


Royal Navy Copper QinetiQ Model – HMS Challenger


The model is priced at £3,960 and is described thus:


"Royal Navy Copper Qinetiq Model – HMS Challenger


An incredible example of craftsmanship from the days before 3D modelling, Ex Qinetiq.


Only the Royal Navy could afford to commission these stupendous copper models.  Hand built by an expert team of craftsmen to the exact scale proportions in order to gain the vessels Radar Cross Section, which is the measure of how detectable a vessel is by radar.  Make sure you check out the dimensions as these are huge!



HMS Challenger was a unique vessel in Royal Navy service, purpose built to support deep sea operations and saturation diving.  Built by Scotts at Greenock, the ship was launched on 19 May 1981, but not commissioned until 1984, during a time when the Royal Navy was cutting back on expenditure.  The consequence was that the £80m Challenger was seen as an extravagance that the Admiralty could not afford.  After only a few years service, in 1990 the ship was laid up and offered for sale.  The total cost for the construction of the ship was also increased by various errors and delays during construction.


In 1993 the ship was purchased by a company, Subsea Offshore, to be converted for work decontaminating hazardous waste dumped in the Baltic Sea and North Atlantic.  By 1996 the ship was still laid up and may never been used by Subsea.




107in length, a little under 9ft


2ft high 20in widest


Approx 60 kgs weight."



The former HMS Challenger was last reported as being owned by De Beers and operating as a seabed diamond mining vessel called MV Ya Toivo.



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 in News Archive 59)


"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 DSC GM* 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 attended 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 in News Archive 59).


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), Dougie '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)




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