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

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

27 Nov 14 - HMS Quorn visiting Ipswich this weekend


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


HMS Quorn wearing Gulf dhow funnel badge

(Royal Navy library photo)


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


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


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


Japanese launch approaching HMS Atherstone in the Gulf

(RN website photo)


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


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


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


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


RAF Sunderland flying boats on the River Elbe at Finkenwerder


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



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


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


24 Nov 14 - SDU2 features in TV programme


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


The SDU2 team that performed the operation


Demolition of underwater obstructions in Stokes Bay


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


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


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


"G’day Rob,


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


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


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


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


2. The duties and responsibilities of DT6.


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


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


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




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






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


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


22 Nov 14 - Colin Churcher presented with Ushakov Medal


Colin with his Ushakov Medal


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


Ushakov Medal recipients with the Russian Ambassador in London

on 23 October with Colin Churcher seated fourth from left

(Russian Embassy photo)


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



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


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


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


"Hi Rob,


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






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

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

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


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


20 Nov 14 - LCOCU article in Diver magazine


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


See inside for "A Day at the Beach"


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


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


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




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


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


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


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




Brian Hunt"


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


19 Nov 14


Award of LS & GC medals


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


Do you remember Donald Hills or Degaussing at HMS Vernon?


I have received these requests for information:


Ex-CD Donald Hills




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



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


Glen Robins"


From former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows:




Hope all is well with you and yours.


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







Managing Director

Fellows International Limited"


I have put Mick in touch with Glen Robins.


Degaussing at HMS Vernon


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


Yours in hope,


Kevin Parsons"


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


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


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


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

 in the Solent last week with HMS Cattistock in the backgound

(Image courtesy of Lt Cdr Roster)


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


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



14 Nov 14 - Medical aspects of IMCMEX 2014


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



A casualty is treated on board HMS Penzance

(Navy News website photo)


12 Nov 14 - 11th MCM Squadron commemoration in Hull


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


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


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


Jon Major and (inset) the minesweeping trawler HMS Junella


See this article on the Hull Daily Mail website for further background. 


11 Nov 14 - Lest we forget



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

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

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

We will remember them.

  Robert Laurence Binyon



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


10 Nov 14


The Return of the Webmaster


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


Hoole getting in his minutes at

The Mirage in Las Vegas


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


David & Nancy Bruhn with Linda & Rob Hoole

in San Francisco


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



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

at Poulsbo in Washington State


Ex-Royal Navy Hoole at the helm approaching Port Orchard

(opposite Bremerton) in Washington State


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


Man jailed after planting fake pipe bomb in Southampton


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


Death of Lt Robert Aitken DSO RN


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


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


From MCDOA Honorary Secretary Soapy Watson:


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


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


Kindest Regards,




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


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



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

(RN website photos)



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

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


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


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

during IMCMEX 2014

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


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


Post script: The Portsmouth News published this article on 11 November.


31 Oct 14 - FDU2 in Icelandic IEDD Exercise


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


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

Icelandic Coast Guard vessel in the background

(RN website photo)


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


30 Oct 14 - SDU1 deals with hand grenade in Plymouth


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



29 Oct 14 - HMS Grimsby active off Trafalgar


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


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

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

(RN website photo)


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


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


25 Oct 14


NDG deals with hoax IED in Peterhead


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



SDU2 deals with suspected ordnance at Swanage


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




22 Oct 14 - Award of LS & GC medals


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


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


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


12 Oct 14 - SDU1 recovers body in Plymouth


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




11 Oct 14 - HDS Diving Museum update


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and the WWII bunker in Gosport that houses the Society's library and museum reserve collection:


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



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


DDS students at the HDS Museum




The HDS Museum is open to the general public at weekends until the end of the summer season when it is closed (except for special groups) for maintenance over the winter.  It relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site when it is open for business at weekends during the summer.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 078 0278 5050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.


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


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



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



7 Oct 14 - HDS Diving Museum update


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and the WWII bunker in Gosport that houses the Society's library and museum reserve collection:




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


Draeger tank escape breathing apparatus


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


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


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


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


HDS Museum 'Big Draw'




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


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


NEXT THEMED EVENT - Halloween !!


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




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


Yours Truly with fellow presenter Jim Vorosmarti

at the HDS Annual Dinner in 2011


The HDS Museum is normally only open to the public from April to October between 1100 and 1600 on weekends and bank holidays.  It relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site when it is open for business.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 078 0278 5050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.

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



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


6 Oct 14


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


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


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


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




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


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


Yours aye,


Barney B wiv 2xTs"


2015 MCDOA Northern Dinner


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


"Soapy, Rob,


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


Steve Brown"


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


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


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




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


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


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


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






5 Oct 14 - SNMCMG1 at Faslane


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



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




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


4 Oct 14 - HMS Ledbury visits Newcastle


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


3 Oct 14


Royal Marines officer awarded George Cross


The tragedy leading to this award occurred during an Adventurous Training diving expedition off El Quseir in Egypt in August last year.  40 Commando, which organised the exped, had only recently spent six months based at 'HMS Price' in central Helmand, Afghanistan for Operation HERRICK XVII.  I will leave the citation from Supplement No.1 of Thursday 2 October 2014 of the London Gazette to speak for itself:




St James’s Palace, London SW1


3 October 2014


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






Lieutenant Samuel John SHEPHARD, Royal Marines, 30140550.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Recent SDU2 EOD activity


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



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


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


2 Oct 14 - Reunion for MCDOA members


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


Topsy Turner and Bob Hawkins on board HMNZS Canterbury


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



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

Right: Bob and Topsy by the brow of HMNZS Canterbury


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


Topsy with Trudy Hawkins on the bridge

of HMNZS Canterbury 



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

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


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


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

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

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


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


Bob wearing the ODT's only surviving

example of original CDBA


1 Oct 14 - Establishment ashore of HMS Vernon


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


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



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


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


Artist's impression of the Vernon Monument

in situ at Gunwharf Quays


30 Sep 14


HMS Ramsey to start six-month refit


The UPI website contains this article announcing that HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew 2 commanded by MCDOA member Ash Spencer) is about to begin a six-month refit by Babcock at a dockyard in Scotland, presumably Rosyth.  Refit work will include 22 upgrades and improvements, including replacement of power generation equipment and installation of new communications capability designed by the Sandown-Class Output Management team.  Maintenance work will include new paint coating and deck covering and a complete hull blast and re-coat.  Slow speed drive alignment checks will be performed as well as a complete overhaul of the ship's boat crane and the reverse osmosis plant, and planned maintenance and defect rectification.


HMS Ramsey returned to her base port of Faslane on 29 August after a three-year deployment in the Gulf (see entry for 29 Aug 14 in News Archive 47).  By way of contrast, here is MCDOA member Martin Mackey, her then Commanding Officer, conducting rafting practice on USS Swift (HSV 2) during Exercise COLD RESPONSE in Norway in early 2006.



Promotion for Cdr Andrew Cowan LLB (Hons) DipLP RD RNR


I am grateful to MCDOA member Martin Mackey for informing me that RNR MW specialist Andy Cowan, recently covering the West of Scotland for Commander Maritime Reserves (CMR), has been selected for promotion to Capt RNR.  Martin believes his promotion was effective from 26 September 2014.


Congratulations on this fine achievement.


29 Sep 14


HMS Grimsby completes MCM exercise in Mediterranean


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6) and other MCMVs from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Spain and Turkey, as well as an Italian frigate, in a minehunting exercise off Cartagena in Spain.  She is currently deployed in the Mediterranean with the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  The RN ship and her German counterpart, FGS Homburg, excelled by detecting and recovering six mines each.


Ships of SNMCMG2 off Cartagena

(RN website photo)


HMS Brocklesby among warships participating in this autumn's JOINT WARRIOR


The Royal Navy website contains this article revealing that HMS Brocklesby (MCM2 Crew 1) will be among the warships participating in this autumn's biannual Exercise JOINT WARRIOR 142, due to start off the coast of Scotland on 7 October. 


HMS Brocklesby

(RN website photo)


The exercise will involve 22 naval units and around 52 fixed wing aircraft from the UK, the USA, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Germany, Lithuania, Belgium, Poland, Estonia and Latvia, with the US Navy’s Commander Destroyer Squadron 26 (COMDESRON TWO SIX) assuming overall command of the task group.  French and Danish vessels will berth at Glasgow ahead of the exercise while ships from Spain, the Netherlands, the USA, Latvia, Poland and Latvia will berth at Faslane.  


28 Sep 14 - RN and RNR Divers around Plymouth


The Plymouth Herald website contains this article announcing the opportunity to meet members of the Royal Navy’s bomb disposal team, Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1), at the final heritage open day of the year to be held at Plymouth Naval Base on Sunday 26 October.



For those local to Plymouth and interested in joining the RNR Diving Branch, HMS Vivid is holding a recruitment presentation at Plymouth University tomorrow (Monday 29 September).  This is a fantastic opportunity to discover what's involved in becoming a Royal Naval Reservist, and what both the Diving Branch and wider RNR have to offer.  Divers will be in attendance to answer any questions specific to the Branch; while Initial Naval Training (INT) staff from HMS Vivid will tell you all you need to know about the joining process and completing INT, the first step towards becoming an RNR Diver.  All are welcome.



Most recently, the RNR divers have been conducting continuation training at Portland.







27 Sep 14 - New book from David Bruhn covering US auxiliary minesweepers


I am grateful to my friend and fellow naval historian Cdr David Bruhn USN for this notification:


"Hello Rob,


My latest book, Battle Stars for the "Cactus Navy": America's Fishing Vessels and Yachts in World War II, was published by Heritage Books a month ago.  I hope that you will advertise its existence to persons interested in the US Navy's equivalent of the Royal Naval Patrol Service (RNPS) in World War II, and in American minesweepers.  Although the bulk of the book is devoted to anti-submarine work off America's coasts and support by former fishing vessels of operations in the South and Southwest Pacific, I have identified in the book the fishing vessels taken by the US Navy for use as coastal minesweepers (AMc) and base minesweepers (AMb).  The designation of the latter vessels was short-lived, as relatively early in 1942 the US Navy reclassified these vessels as either YPs (patrol craft) or small boats. 



Information about this book and my other works may be found at:




David Bruhn"


As chronicled on this website, David has previously written these books among others:


Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Volume I: The U.S. Navy's Ocean Minesweepers, 1953-1994


Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Volume II: The U.S. Navy’s Coastal and Motor Minesweepers, 1941-1953


Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Volume III: The U.S. Navy's Coastal and Inshore Minesweepers, and the Minecraft that Served in Vietnam, 1953–1976


      Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The U.S. Navy's Coastal & Motor Minesweepers, 1941-1953     


26 Sep 14


Promotions to CPO(MW) and CPO(D)


I am grateful to Peter 'Taff' Reader, Vice Chairman of the Minewarfare Association (MWA), for passing on the news that the latest signal lists the following promotions to Chief Petty Officer:


PO to CPO MW (5)








PO to CPO D (5)


CLARK, S W D222617G SDU 2






Congratulations to all those listed.


RN Diving & EOD Heritage: Portsmouth & Medway Bomb & MIne Disposal Team


In 1959 Britain's biggest cinema company, the Rank Organisation, decided to replace its newsreels with a series of short, quirky, topical documentaries that examined all aspects of life in Britain.  For the next ten years, 'Look at Life' chronicled, on high-grade 35mm colour film, the changing face of British society. 


More recently, the BBC revamped the footage and produced two series titled 'Britain on Film'.  The following scenes appeared in an episode of Series 2 called 'The World of Work', first broadcast on 17 June 2013.  They show the Portsmouth & Medway Bomb & Mine Disposal Team (forerunner of Southern Diving Unit 2) based at HMS Vernon in the 1960s.  In an obvious set-up for the cameras, they are called out to deal with a beached Exercise Mk 17 moored mine, apparently near the 'Inn on the Beach' on Hayling Island.  There is also footage showing the Royal Engineers performing bomb disposal work:


BBC Britain on Film - Series 2 Episode 4: The World of Work



The Officer-in-Charge of the B&MD team was 39-year-old Lt Charles Leslie 'Taff' Lawrence MBE RN from Tenby, South Wales.  He had been appointed an MBE in the 1957 New Year Honours for his work as the Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Officer based in Malta.  He died on 7 March 2006 and references to him and his career, including tributes from former colleagues, can be seen in various entries in News Archive 13.  Can anyone identify the other members of the team?



25 Sep 14 - SDU2 removes obstructions in Solent


The Portsmouth News contains this article describing yesterday's explosive removal of two pillars 300 metres off the beach at Stokes Bay in Hampshire by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).  The article features CPO(D) Simon Crew and LS(D) Luke Halbauer.


Members of SDU2 off the beach at Stokes Bay yesterday

(Portsmouth News photo)


Were these the final remains of Stokes Bay Pier or possibly the Submarine Mining Establishment pier?  Did you ever wonder how the Mining Ground got its name?  The following web pages are fascinating reads for Royal Navy and Royal Engineers members of our community:


Stokes Bay Pier and Branch Line


"...During World War Two the pier sustained some damage from an air attack.  During the D-Day landings, June 1944 the pier was the mooring point for large L.C.H. (Landing Craft Heavy) and Motor Launches.  In 1953 the Admiralty fenced in the pier.  The last use of the pier was by the Royal Naval degaussing service until it moved to Fort Rowner.  


The buildings on the pier were removed in the 1960s and the pier was demolished in stages between 1972 and 1976.  It was not until 1985 that some remains of the supports were finally destroyed by the Royal Engineers Diving Establishment [REDE] at Marchwood, who offered to remove 90 piles and two crane bases free of charge.  They agreed to undertake this over a period of two years in seven to ten visits a year, using explosives.  The bases of the pier supports are occasionally visible at exceptionally low tides."


Stokes Bay Pier and Railway 1890

(Note the branch line curving off eastwards

to the old Submarine Mining Establishment)


Fort Monckton and the Submarine Mining Establishment


"Fort Monckton and the Submarine Mining Militia


Submarine mining work began at Gosport in 1873 with a test-room in Fort Gilkicker and an old shed at Stokes Bay, formerly used by the contractor that built the Spithead forts.  A submarine mining establishment for the defence mines was built at Blockhouse and this became the centre of the R.E. work.  The Submarine Mining Militia was formed in 1878 with the purpose of operating the mine defences of the major ports.  The men were mainly experienced boatmen and their annual training was 55 days...


In 1892 two new schools of instruction were formed at Portsmouth and Plymouth, the staff at each being responsible for mining and electric light defence at that port. The one at Portsmouth was at Stokes Bay, Gosport.


The Stokes Bay Submarine Mining Establishment [SME] was the centre of Submarine Mining training.  Royal Engineers were trained as electricians and as divers.  They learned the safe handling of explosives and the use of defensive mines.  Submarine mines were laid and tested off Fort Gilkicker in Stokes Bay.  That year it was decided that an additional school was needed and a series of buildings called the Submarine Mining Establishment was built to the west of Fort Gilkicker, east of Stokes Bay pier.  This site was chosen because a Mr Leather had a construction yard here in 1863 for the purpose of building the three Spithead Forts of Spitbank, No Man's Land and Horse Sand.  He built a pier with a crane on the end to land the Cornish granite and Portland Stone used in the construction.  After the Spithead forts were completed the site was still owned by the Crown.  The pier and site were ideal for use as a Submarine Mining Establishment.  The Militia moved from Monckton to Blockhouse and the Royal Engineers occupied Fort Monckton...


The Submarine Mining Establishment at Stokes Bay

on the site of Mr Leather's yard in 1890


Submarine Mining transferred to the Navy


In 1902, owing to the increased use of defence electric [search] lights, arrangements were made to give every man of the Submarine Mining Service a general training either as attendant on the lights or as assistant to the engine drivers on the engines, which by this time were all driven by oil.  In 1905 Parliament decided to abolish submarine mining as a means of defence for rivers and estuaries in the U.K.  Submarine Mining Defence was transferred to the Navy and the Submarine Mining Schools had to be reorganized.  The use of electric lights had, by that time, extended to various ports, such as Gibraltar, where there was no mine defence.  The charge of the lights at these ports thus devolved on the ordinary Fortress Companies and men for this work were being trained in the Electrical School at the S.M.E.  Such training was necessarily largely theoretical and the same was the case at the Gillingham School, while both Portsmouth and Plymouth had by now a large electric-light defence which could be used for instruction.  It was, therefore, decided to close the school at Gillingham and to concentrate all the instruction in electric lighting at the schools at Portsmouth and Plymouth, which were renamed Schools of Electric Lighting. (Taken from: History of the Corps of Royal Engineers)"


One final piece of trivia: The recently refurbished Nab Tower off Portsmouth was the prototype for a string of similar control centres of anti-submarine controlled minefields, nets and hydrophones stretching across the English Channel during the First World War.  It was built at Shoreham in 1918 at the then staggering cost of £1m but the end of the war meant there was no longer any need for a defensive barrier.  The Nab Tower was therefore floated out and sunk in its present position to replace a lightship and become a navigational aid, occasional hazard and weather station instead.


Post script: On 6 October, the Royal Navy website published this article covering SDU2's operation.


24 Sep 14 - Funeral of ex-CPO(D) Albert Derek 'Ginger' Snell BEM


I am grateful to former CPO(D) Michael 'Shiner' Brassington for this report on yesterday's funeral of Ginger Snell (see entry for 15 Sep 14):


"It was very refreshing to attend a pagan ceremony.  No prayers to a man in a white toga and beard sitting on a cloud.  No hypocritical vicar spouting about resurrection.  Just a lady, a grandaughter and a son spending an hour covering all of Ginger's life and achievements.


Ginger's resurrection was the DNA of a large family in the front rows.  And our memories.


Twenty-six family members were there; twenty-seven if you count Ginger.


Nine Ganges members were present: two of us who served in the King's Navy and seven youngsters from the 1960s intake.  I later mentioned us serving the King and a wag asked, "Which king?" 


I did miss 80+ voices rendering 'Bread of Heaven' and 'Those in Peril on the Sea'.  We just had a gentle music background. 


Maggie [Lockwood] and Albert [Chapman] were in attendance; I made it 90 mourners.  They went off to the booze and bunfight.  I, having to drive 70 miles home for me jabs and munchies, requested leave of absence.   A dinner and a large tot was waiting at my address instead!  Or I would have had to B&B which is not 12 bob any more.


I suppose you are thinking, "Move up one Shiner - I'm right behind you!"




I am also aware that MCDOA members Bill 'Chippy' Norton and Howard Trotter attended the service.


Shiner later sent me this Order of Service:


Albert Derek Snell, Gorleston, Tuesday 23rd September 2014 at 3.20pm




Humming Chorus from Madam Butterfly – Puccini




Welcome, and thank you for coming here today to honour and to remember the life of Albert Derek Snell, known to everyone as Ginger, who died on the 6th of September aged 81.

My name is Mags Allison, I’m a member of the British Humanist Association’s nationwide team of celebrants, and I’m here to lead today’s ceremony.

Humanists believe in living life fully and well, because it is our only life – and not only for our own sakes but for the benefit of others, because we have only each other to rely on.

In his later years Ginger didn’t have any religious belief and he didn’t want a lot of fuss, so a simple Humanist ceremony seems the right way to say goodbye to him; that said this ceremony is for all of you, whatever your beliefs. I’m going to talk a little about Ginger’s life and the sort of person he was, based on what I learned from Andrew, Duncan and Derek; we’ll hear tributes and memories from some of Ginger’s family and friends, and there will be poetry and more music. I hope that you will find this a fitting and personal way to say goodbye to the man you knew.

We all know that every life must come to death in the end.  We see the cycle of birth and death constantly around us, not only in the lives of our families and friends, but also reflected in the constantly changing seasons, as the turning leaves and hedges full of blackberries tell us that autumn is here again, even as we enjoy the last of summer’s warmth.  Ginger’s life and death are part of that never-ending cycle of the world and of humanity – a tiny life in the history of the planet, but at the same time an important life, significant and unique.

We can’t hide from the sadness of losing someone we love but we can face that loss with dignity and courage, be comforted by the memories that we will cherish and keep with us forever, and take strength from the love and support of those around us who share our sadness.  For all the sadness at losing Ginger this is a very precious time, an opportunity to remember together and celebrate the things that made Ginger special and to be glad that he was part of your lives.




We’re going to begin our ceremony with a poem read by Ginger’s granddaughter Grace – many of you will recognise it as the adopted poem of the HMS Ganges Association.


If – Rudyard Kipling


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop to build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And, which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!




Ginger was born Albert Derek Snell on the 5th of December 1932 in North Creake, Norfolk to mother Milly and father Albert, joining his half brother Harry, who was 15, and half sister Eunice, who was eight – she always called Ginger her ‘kid brother’.

It was a farming family, and Ginger worked on the land from about the age of 10 while he was still at school. However, at 14 Ginger decided that farming wasn’t for him and he joined the Navy and HMS Ganges as a cadet at 15; the Navy would be his home and career until 1972.

In 1956 Ginger married Jean, who was a Navy WREN, at St Margaret’s Church in Lowestoft. They lived first at Chatham Dockyard, but being a Navy family, they would be stationed in several different places over the years, including HMS Ganges in Shotley near Ipswich, Gosport in Hampshire, Tamerton Foliot near Plymouth, and Singapore for two years from 1967.

In the course of these moves the family grew with the arrival of Ginger and Jean’s three sons, Derek in January 1960, Duncan in August 1964 and Andrew in January 1967. Jean was definitely the matriarch of the family and with Ginger often away he relied on her keeping everything organised, including the boys.

Ginger didn’t set out to be a mine and bomb clearance diver, but that is what he ended up doing, a job for which many applied but few were successful.  And as many of you know he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his bomb disposal work in Hong Kong.  He was, justifiably, proud of his naval career and wore his medals proudly.

When he left the Navy in 1972 after over 20 years’ service it’s fair to say that Ginger had some difficulty adjusting to civilian life.  However, he found work, settling first on being an instructor at a commercial diving school, which meant living in Peterborough during the week and coming home to the family at weekends.  This was followed by a few years in the diving industry at Bix, based in Great Yarmouth and serving the oilrigs.  With all this diving Derek commented that he never, ever saw his dad in a swimming pool or just swimming in the sea – Ginger used to say that he’d only go in the water if someone paid him!

Ginger’s last jobs were on land, with periods at Cantley sugar beet factory, Gunton Hall and finally Bernard Matthews near Halesworth where he was a store man. It was from here that Ginger retired at the age of 65.

Jean had had a stroke in the late 1970s, which meant a big change in family life, with Ginger taking a caring role.  After her death from breast cancer in 1993 Ginger went through some very dark times.  During this period his close friend Sandi helped him through and she has continued to be a great friend and support ever since.

In retirement Ginger led an uncomplicated life.  He was independent and house proud – anyone coming to visit only had to open the front door to find a spotless and fresh smelling home.  He enjoyed pottering in the garden; particularly making up his hanging baskets, and his neighbour Brian said he would miss seeing Ginger out and about in the garage.  He also spent time making knot rope boards that he was able to sell, many of which were commissions, and kept his mind sharp by doing word searches and the cryptic crossword in the EDP.

Ginger enjoyed walks with Sandi and her dog, especially around the Beccles common area, and meeting up with his friends from the Suffolk Coastal Branch of the HMS Ganges Association.  He was heavily involved in the Association, attending meetings and events and spending some time as Welfare Officer, and was very proud of his involvement with them.  Reminiscing and telling stories of his Navy life was something Ginger was always happy to do – though his sons told me that it was often hard to tell fact from fiction!

Phone calls and visitors were always welcome – to a point. Andrew said that after he left home and would phone his mum and dad Ginger would answer, ask ‘how are you’ and then as soon as Andrew had replied with ‘fine’ Ginger would say ‘here’s your mother’ – he’d found out all he needed to know.  And when Andrew and Ginger’s grandson Harry drove up from Stowmarket, quite a long drive, Ginger would open the door with a smile and then after five minutes would say ‘lovely to see you; you don’t need to go yet but when do you think you’ll be leaving?’  After about 45 minutes this would become ‘right, should you be on your way, you’ll lose the light soon’, and when they finally did go he’d come out and wave them off to make sure!  Ginger was very welcoming but he didn’t like people hanging around too long.

In spite of his ready smile and laughter, which many people have commented on, Ginger was a private person, someone who didn’t show his emotions. He was quite wise, a good instructor, and as Jean used to say, definitely calm under pressure.  As a parent he never gave advice or criticised anyone’s choices; he was open minded and never fazed by anything anyone said.  Ginger was a traditional man who did his best to look after and provide for his family, and he was especially proud of his grandchildren. He worked hard and played hard – to quote Andrew he was ‘a rogue, a rascal, but loveable’.

Following a fall at home in late July, Ginger was admitted to hospital, where he was diagnosed with advanced cancer in his lungs and brain.  He was discharged home a few weeks later, eager to get home, and with lots of care and support in place.  After suddenly becoming unwell a fortnight ago, he was readmitted into hospital and died two days later.  It’s a relief to his family that he was only ill for a short time and that he died peacefully – I know he is already dearly missed.




Ginger’s family have been quite overwhelmed by the kind messages they’ve received from Ginger’s former naval friends, so I’m going to finish our remembrance with some of their words; then our final tribute will come from Peter Talman.


Bill (Taff) Davies wrote: I was a member of Ginger Snell’s class of 1948.  I am sad to hear of his passing but ever reminded of his presence…usually in the front rank.  We were once required to state our Christian denomination prior to the first of many compulsory church services...I was not sure, but knowing I was always called Taff, Ginger poked me in the ribs and said, ‘Tell him, Welsh tobacconist!’

Barney Barnett: You have to mention in as diplomatic a way as possible the social life we led on the Shotley peninsula at HMS Ganges in 1972.  Because we were so cut off and the regime was ‘work hard play hard’ the senior rates messes’ hooleys were awesome!  Lots of Duck Run Derbies and other inter-mess games I can’t even begin to enlighten a civilian audience about!  Ginger was an oppo of many great players in the diving community: we had a good conversation last week about lots of them including Spiro Collar and Pablo Welch. RIP Deeps.

Bill Norton: Ginger was a lovely man: always cheerful and full of fun.  I worked with him a couple of times and enjoyed his company, particularly in Singapore where he did so much difficult and dangerous work during the IED campaign in Hong Kong.  The world will be a poorer place for his passing.

Dave Lott (Mona): The only bright spot that eases my sadness was the recent phone call shared with Ginger when we both expressed memories of our old friendship to each other and had a chuckle.  Lest we forget, we will remember him.


Finally, I shall hand over to Peter

Peter (The Boomer) Talman: Our good friend Ginger, a very private but popular man, loved by all those who knew him, who liked to do things his way but in a way that people would benefit by his wisdom.  My first experience of Ginger was as a new entrant into HMS Ganges where, as an instructor, boy he gave us new boys the benefit of the knowledge he had gained – typical of Ginger.  He went on to serve many years in the Navy and achieved his ambition of becoming a clearance diver, winning a BEM for clearing bombs in Singapore harbour.  His marriage was delayed by the Suez crisis but he took that in his stride and went on to produce a family and achieve the rank of chief petty officer.  On demob he decided to join the Suffolk coastal division of Ganges Association and so we re-met and myself, Ginger and John Williamson spent many happy hours exploring the countryside, becoming known as the last of the summer wine.  What more can I say but that his presence will be sadly missed by all those who crossed the path of this wonderful man. 




Let’s sit and listen for a few moments to one of Ginger’s favourite pieces of music: the Intermezzo from Mascagni’s opera Cavalleria Rusticana.

As we listen I’m sure your own memories will come to mind as you think about the Ginger you knew and what he meant to you.  If you wish, please use this time for private prayer.

Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana – Mascagni




In a few moments we are going to stand and say a formal goodbye to Ginger, although his family have chosen to leave the curtains open. Just before that Duncan is going to read the poem he’s chosen – the poet is unknown, but it’s called 'The Measure of a Man'.


Not how did he die, but how did he live?
Not what did he gain, but what did he give?
These are the units to measure the worth

Of a man as a man regardless of birth.

Not what was his church or what was his creed?
But had he ever befriended those really in need
Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?

Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say,
But how many were sorry when he passed away.




If you are able to, please stand.

Be happy that Ginger lived among you
You are richer for having known him
You took delight in his love and friendship
Treasure the memory of his words, his achievements and his character.


Ginger is now beyond harm or pain. With respect we leave him in peace and with love we say farewell. Here, in this last act, in sadness but without fear, we commit Ginger’s body to its end and his memory to our hearts.

Please sit down.




That brings us almost to the end of our ceremony and I hope you have found some comfort in this time spent together dedicated to Ginger’s memory. Each of you has your own memories of him, and I hope that in times to come you will think about him and talk about him often, remembering the person he was and the good times you had together.

You can begin doing just that this afternoon as you are all warmly invited to join Ginger’s family at the Lowestoft Railway Bowls and Social Club in Carlton Road, Lowestoft for light refreshments and some more reminiscences.

And if anyone would like to make a donation in Ginger’s memory, please give directly to any charity of your choice.

One of the best of all answers to death is for us to have a wholehearted commitment to living – for greater fulfilment and happiness for ourselves as well as for others. From what I’ve learned about him I think that Ginger would have agreed with that sentiment; he wouldn’t have wanted you to be too sad today but to leave here remembering some of his many adventures – real or imagined – with a smile!

As we leave to the sound of Heart of Oak, the Royal Navy March Past, I’ll close by wishing you peace and health and happiness – thank you all for being here today.



Heart of Oak – William Boyce (Royal Navy March Past)


From MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton on 27 September:


"Hi Rob,


Ginger had a good send off in Great Yarmouth in a simple but moving Humanist service.  Eulogies were given by the officiating lady and the Chairman of the HMS Ganges Association. 


Ginger's son Duncan read a poem "The Measure Of a Man", his favourite music was played and his grandaughter, Grace, who has inherited his red hair, bravely gave a rendition of Kipling's poem "IF" which has a special significance for ex-Ganges boys.


At Ginger's own request there was no ceremonial but there was a good delegation from the Suffolk Coastal Branch of the HMS Ganges Association, of which he had been the Welfare Officer.  Ginger had risen to the top at Ganges as an Instructor Boy in 1947/48.


Divers were represented by Shiner Brassington, Howard Trotter, Tony 'Basher' Briggs, Maggie Lockwood, Albert Chapman and George Porter.  Mrs Jackson, widow of the late Jacko Jackson who had been in the team and were neighbours of Ginger and me in Singapore, came with her son.  Albert had driven down from Scotland, picking up George in Newcastle on the way down.  Great effort and very much appreciated by the family.


There followed a reception at the Lowestoft Bowls Club where the Ganges Association meets.  Memorabilia of Ginger's childhood and service career was displayed and a tot was drunk in his memory.


A sad occasion but a good farewell  


Yours Aye,




From Ginger Snell's son Derek and his wife Alex on 24 September:


"Dear Friends of Ginger,


Thank you all so much for coming to Ginger's funeral service and reception and, if you couldn't be there, thank you all for thinking of him.


If any of you would like a full copy of the service, please let me know and I can send it to you by email.


With our best wishes,


Alex (aka LOFTY (adopted mascot of Ganges Suffolk Coastal Branch)) and Derek Jnr x"


23 Sep 14 - Death of Normandy veteran Eric Rackham


My wife and I had the honour and distinct pleasure of hosting Normandy veteran Eric Rackham, an ex-RASC DUKW driver, in June this year shortly after he had been presented with the Legion d'Honneur in a ceremony at the British Embassy in Paris (see entry for 30 Jun 14 in News Archive 46). 


I am sad to say that his companion at the time, Dutch philanthropist Tenno Dogger, co-founder of the Deep Respect organisation which serves to keep alive the memories of the Normandy veterans, has informed me that Eric died on Sunday evening (21 September) following a two-week sojourn in the hospital at Bayeux.  He became very tired and weak but did not suffer.  Tenno and Eric's wife Gloria were with him during the day.


Lest we forget

Eric Rackham at the D-Day Museum

in Southsea on 28 June 2014


22 Sep 14 - HDS Diving Museum update



MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and the WWII bunker in Gosport that houses the Society's library and museum reserve collection:




Another great success this year.  We had 40 people come and view our ARP Bunker/library.  There was some useful feedback as well.


The Museum was very popular as ever, starting slowly on the Thursday and building up to several hundred on Sunday.  The total was somewhere around 450 visitors.  We've mislaid the Visitor Book so I don't have precise numbers.


This last weekend was average in numbers, with 18 on Saturday and 28 on Sunday, but high on visitor quality.




The praise for our Pirates weekend organised by Margaret Marks keeps coming in with particularly nice feedback on our Facebook page.  Thanks to Hazel Casey also for getting us half a page of publicity in The News.  


WELCOME to [MCDOA member] Les Rutherford, ex-Royal Engineers and Royal Marines, who is joining our elite band of Guides.  




Margaret Marks organised a very successful Guides Evening on Sunday when the eats and drinks added a tasteful dimension to our viewing of Jane Russell risking life and limb (and one or two other bits) hunting for sunken treasure.  The opportunity was taken to brief all present with the latest developments on our Accreditation, Incorporation, Charity status and future events.  




The next in Margaret Marks' special events will be the BIG DRAW on 4-5 October.  This is part of a national event.  So come along and put pencil to paper and express that artist inside you.  




Only suitable for the more brave of our Guides.  Margaret's séance on 31 Oct - 2 Nov will be a specially spooky event for kids who will also be invited to 'take over' the museum.  You have been warned.  




On Wednesday, 24 September, we are being visited at the museum by Beverley Lucas of Portsmouth City Council and Rob Harper of Gosport Borough Council.  This is part of the Portsmouth Harbour Project Programme Board that has been set up to help 'at risk' listed buildings.  This is a three-year project conceived by the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire's (PUSH) Quality Places Panel and is supported by a number of partners including English Heritage.  Fingers crossed, we could get some serious money spent on refurbishing the Battery.




The HDS Museum is open at weekends until the end of the summer season.  It relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site when it is open for business at weekends during the summer.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 078 0278 5050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.


20 Sep 14 - A message from Jimmy Bond about his swim down the River Dart


Artist's impression of the Vernon Monument

in situ at Gunwharf Quays


I am grateful to 66-year-old former CPO(D) David 'Jimmy' Bond for this message (see entry for 14 Sep 14):


"Hi Guys,


Just a snapshot of Mick and me to prove we did it.  What you can’t see is the crap water I came through before Dittisham or the scar on my neck from five hours of turning my head to the left, nor the cauliflower ear from someone’s fist who overtook me on the last bit coming up to Dittisham.  Anyway it was a great day apart from the dreaded head cold but that’s life.  I think back to Windermere when Mick [MCDOA member Mick Beale] had flu and did that, in colder water with no tide.  You’re a legend Mick, and thanks again for coming down yet again to join me for the swim.


A thousand thanks to all those who’ve sponsored me so kindly and anyone wishing still to do so please see my JustGiving (Frank Water) and VirginMoney (Vernon Monument) pages.  As you can see in the newspaper article, with the latest boost of £100,000 we are getting very close to the goalpost of £275k for the Vernon Monument.




To all the old Vernon guys... Like someone said recently and has been said so many times before, if the word could be spread FAR ENOUGH and every diver and minewarfare person who passed through VERNON put their hand in their pocket for £5 or £10 we would be MADE UP.  Tell your mates and let's get it done,  We are so very close.


Best Rgds,


David (Jimmy) Bond"


17 Sep 14 - Brief encounter in hazy Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the recent activities of HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 5) and RFA Cardigan Bay in the Gulf.



RN website photos



16 Sep 14 - HDS Diving Museum update



MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and the WWII bunker in Gosport that houses the Society's library and museum reserve collection:




We have just received a brand-new, unused, Swimmer-Canoeist oxygen set on loan from the Royal Marines Museum in Southsea!


RM Swimmer Canoeist Breathing Apparatus



HDS Museum collection of O2 rebreathers




On Thursday 25 September (c7.00 pm), we will be hosting a group of HDS members from Belgium led by the famous salvage diver, Marc Jasinski.  Marc will be donating a Draeger rebreather when he comes.




We have just acquired for safe keeping a stack of archives from DIVER magazine which include:


Peter Small records (to 1963)

Underwater Equipment Research Society (1960-3)

35mm slides and B/W prints including BSAC banquets and Mary Rose

Bound copies of DIVER




The HDS Museum is open at weekends until the end of the summer season.  It relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site when it is open for business at weekends during the summer.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 078 0278 5050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.


15 Sep 14 - Updated funeral arrangements for ex-CPO(D) Albert Derek 'Ginger' Snell BEM


From Ginger's son Derek and his wife Alex (see entry for 6 Sep 14):


"Just to let you all know that Dad's funeral arrangements are:


Tuesday 23rd September 3.20pm at Great Yarmouth Crematorium, Oriel Avenue, Gorleston, NR31 7JJ.


Followed by a reception at Lowestoft Railway & Bowls Club, 123A Carlton Road, Lowestoft, NR33 0LZ.


If you know of anyone else who may wish to attend, please let them know.  They will be very welcome   Strictly no flowers please and donations, if you wish, to a charity of your own choice.  No collection will be taken at the service.  


If you need to contact us: 01263 823914


Alex and Derek Snell"


14 Sep 14 - Jimmy Bond and Mick Beale swimming for Project Vernon today


Artist's impression of the Vernon Monument

in situ at Gunwharf Quays


Ex-CPO(D) David 'Jimmy' Bond and former MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Mick Beale are swimming 10 km of the River Dart from Totnes to Dittisham and possibly the extra 6 km to Dartmouth Castle today for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument in Gunwharf Quays to celebrate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site (see entry for 23 Aug 14 in News Archive 47).  Some of the money will also go to Frank Water UK, Help for Heroes (H4H) and the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC).


Jimmy Bond (second left) and Mick Beale (centre rear) with fellow Round

 Portsea Island swimmers John Beavis, Antony 'Pinta' Beer, Richard

 'Soapy' Watson, Steve 'Scouse' Vernon and Dave 'Stretch' Armstrong

at Gunwharf Quays (formerly HMS Vernon) in July 2011


Please give them your generous support and sponsorship by donating via their webpage here:


Virgin Money Giving: David (Jimmy) Bond's fundraising page


Don't forget to register for Gift Aid which adds 25% to your donation.


From Jimmy Bond on 17 September 2014:


"Well I did it, with a good dose of a head cold for company too.


I entered the water at 1030 with about 200 other collywobbled swimmers at the Totnes rowing club.  The start was a bit of a muddle of bodies colliding with each other and every one trying to acclimatize to the water but after about 15 minutes things settled down and one got into ones pace/stroke.  For the first 6 K the river state was good and calm but then it got pretty much progressively sloppier on the surface making the job twice as hard as it need be.  The roughest bit was as we turned the bend into Dittisham creek.




Along the way there were the odd collisions with some 800 other swimmers of varying speeds.  I came away pretty much unscathed apart from one pretty good thump on my starboard ear.  I think the first swimmers were in at 1300 and I arrived in a good gaggle of 30 or so at about 1330, 10K cracked.  I then handed in my body number to keep the head count right for the organizers and proceeded to get a drink and decide on whether I was fit enough to do the last 6 K to Dartmouth Castle.


Mick and I entered the water at 1400 with the safety boat and canoe in attendance.  1600 saw us arrive at the Castles and open water having avoided five different ferries and all manner of river craft.  16K or 10 mile swam, swum or swimmed, I did it anyway.




Here is a big thanks to Mick for joining me and the safety team.  Thanks to David for doubling his original sponsorship for the extra swim to the sea.  Thanks to all who have sponsored and here's hoping that, with the large injection we had last week of £100,000+, we will see our monument in the not too distant future.




Cheers guys and girls.  See me on Face Book.


David Bond"


Congratulations to Jimmy and Mick on their gruelling achievement.  Now, let's see the colour of your money.  Here is a reminder of their sponsorship webpage:


Virgin Money Giving: David (Jimmy) Bond's fundraising page


12 Sep 14 - 'Project Buster' team raises over £100k for Project Vernon


Artist's impression of the Vernon Monument

in situ at Gunwharf Quays


Congratulations and a huge BZ to MCDOA past-Chairman Chris Baldwin, Honorary Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson and members David Hunkin OBE, Al Nekrews QGM, Keith Broughton and others for teaming up to initiate, plan and execute 'Project Buster'.  This involved the independent organisation of a £400 per plate charity dinner last night on board HMS Victory, the world's oldest commissioned warship, by kind permission of Vice Admiral David Steel CBE, the Second Sea Lord.  The object of the exercise was to raise funds for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument in Gunwharf Quays to celebrate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously stood on the site.  I'm sure the Vernon Monument trustees are extremely grateful.



Guests were greeted on their arrival at HMS Victory by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) who provided a display of their kit and capabilities beside the ship.  Thanks for your time and effort, guys.









Diners were given the option of a guided tour of the ship before assembling on the upper deck.  Here, an exhibition of auction lots enabled them to view the marvellous artefacts, pictures, statues and events they would be bidding for during the evening while enjoying a glass of Champagne and canapés.  Lots included the late John Terry's original painting of 'Vernon Creek, silver-plated miniatures of the Vernon monument, the rug used to disguise the IED rendered safe by MCDOA member Al Nekrews in Afghanistan which led to his award of the QGM, a day at sea in HMS Lancaster commanded by MCDOA member Peter Laughton MBE and another day in a different frigate, a VIP day at RNAS Yeovilton, a day with a Clearance Diving unit, a day of driven game shooting with the RN Gun Club, a box at the O2 Arena, a decanter and glasses engraved with HMS Vernon's badge kindly donated by MCDOA member Doug Barlow and much else.  Commodore Paddy McAlpine CBE ADC, MCDOA President and Commodore Portsmouth Flotilla (COMPORFLOT), was on hand to give guests a friendly welcome.








We were then treated to a display by a quartet of Royal Marines drummers after which the Drum Major was offered and drank a silver bowl of rum presented by the Guest of Honour, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce KG GCB OBE DL, former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Defence Staff.








During the ensuing mingling, I was able to introduce David Carey, the Project Manager of Project Vernon, to Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce.  David, who has suffered a serious illness recently, had flown over from Dubai especially for the occasion and exploited the opportunity to brief Lord Boyce about the project.



Admiral Sir Jonathon Band GCB DL, former First Sea Lord and our Master of Ceremonies for the night, is seen here chatting with our main after-dinner speaker, Sir John Scarlett KCMG OBE, the former Head of MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service), and MCDOA member Simon Bound:





Our final evolution on the upper deck was to assemble for the group photograph.


(Photo by LA(Phot) Nicky Wilson)


We then proceeded down to the lower gundeck and took our places at the tables before MCDOA past-Chairman Chris Baldwin, the chief instigator of 'Project Buster', welcomed Admiral Band as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.





The menu comprised Red Onion Tart Tatin, Beef Wellington and a Desert Island Trio with a selection of wines and port.  I found myself sharing a riotous table with MCDOA Honorary Treasurer Soapy Watson, WO1(D) Steve Vernon, WO1(D) Karl Roberts, ex-CD Aubs de Lavenu and Capt Mick Stewart RE.  During the course of the meal, MCDOA member David Hunkin gave an accolade to fellow member Al Nekrews and explained the significance of the framed blanket in the auction.





Diners were then given the opportunity to write down their bids for items available in the silent auction to the accompaniment of a musical duo.



The evening then continued with splendid speeches from Sir John Scarlett (former Head of MI6) and Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce (former Chief of the Defence Staff) plus a singalong comprising 'Heart of Oak' and 'Rule Britannia'.










When it came to the live auction, one could only sit in stunned admiration as the flamboyant and ebullient auctioneer Simon Morgan, late of Bonhams, used every trick in the book to wheedle, cajole and otherwise encourage bidders to pledge the maximum amount for the lots on offer.  As he plied his trade and the sums rose through the tens of thousands, it soon became apparent that our wildest expectations had been exceeded.






I don't yet know the total sum raised but it certainly topped £100k.  Some final words of appreciation came from our Master of Ceremonies, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, before we dispersed our separate ways.


A big 'thank you' to all involved for your generosity.  There is still some money to find before Project Vernon hits its overall target but if everyone with HMS Vernon to thank for getting their foot on the first rung of the ladder of their offshore career were to donate a couple of hours' pay plus Gift Aid or purchase a silver-plated miniature, we'd be home and dry.


Post script: On 19 September, the Portsmouth News published this article, including a photo of the attendees.  The statue is described solely as a monument to naval divers but it is actually intended to celebrate both the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon.  Much of the money raised to date has come from members of the minewarfare community, including the MCDOA, MWA and the TCA, and we are extremely grateful.


11 Sep 14 - New book about Lionel 'Buster' Crabb from MCDOA member


MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has sent me this announcement:




In case any members are interested, I will be launching my book on Cdr Crabb in November in Gosport and Portsmouth as follows:


Discovery Centre, Gosport Saturday, 8 November,  -  2pm  -  Book launch and signing  


Central Library, Portsmouth Saturday, !5 November  -  1.30pm  -  Illustrated talk and book signing







10 Sep 14 - Funeral arrangements for ex-CPO(D) Albert Derek 'Ginger' Snell BEM 


From Ginger's son Derek and his wife Alex (see entry for 6 Sep 14): 


"Just to let you all know that we have started making funeral arrangements for Dad.  It will be on Tuesday 23rd September at 3.20pm at Gorleston Crematorium, Great Yarmouth.  Please let us know if you would like to come.


There will be a small reception afterwards which is yet to be arranged.  By Dad's own request, it will not be a ceremonial funeral.  There are to be no flowers at all, but you are welcome to make a donation to a charity of your own choice if you wish.


Ganges: Suffolk Coastal Group, will be wearing their blazers.  You may wish to wear yours, that will be fine.  As I say email me via this address if you wish to come and I send more details as I get them.


Ginger's youngest son Andrew is busy compiling a eulogy.  If you have anything which might lighten the service, please email Andy as soon as possible via this address and we will do our best to include it.


Thank You,


Alex and Derek"


9 Sep 14 - HDS Diving Museum update



MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS), has provided this update about the Diving Museum in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay and the WWII bunker in Gosport that houses the Society's library and museum reserve collection:






Margaret Marks had organised a "Pirates & Sunken Treasure" theme and we had previously rehearsed our Guides on board HMS Warrior 1860 [commanded by MCDOA member Tim Ash].


Margaret Marks, John Bevan, Ann Bevan, former FCPO(D)

John Dadd and ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson

on board HMS Warrior 1860


On the day, we were stampeded by treasure-hunting kids towing parents/grandparents etc.






Margaret included a sing-along sea-shanty pirate ukulele band and a pirate drumming group to add some atmosphere. 




Ann Bevan had arranged a treasure hunt with hidden clues all around the Museum and the Guides were dressed up in awesome pirate gear.


Cut Throat Jack (John Bevan), Rolly Roger (Martin Marks), Merry Meg (Margaret Marks),

Black Bess (Ann Bevan), Jethro Thug (ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson,

ex-CPO(D) Dusty Miller and Whitebeard (former FCPO(D) John Dadd).


John Bevan and ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson


Margaret also organised Mike O'Meara to give an illustrated presentation on his HMS Edinburgh gold salvage project [which also involved MCDOA member Mike Stewart and Honorary Member David Keogh] on Saturday evening, complete with the Gosport Mayor and Mayoress in attendance.  This went extremely well and we have discovered that we can fit in 60 people seated for such presentations.




Left: Ex-CD Mike O'Meara with Cllr Keith Gill (Mayor of Gosport) and his Mayoress

Right: Mike O'Meara talks about the salvage of gold from HMS Edinburgh


Margaret joined in with a sizzling, hip wiggling hula dance.


Merry Meg (Margaret Marks)


The result: over 200 visitors!!


A big THANK YOU to the Guides and supporters who made it all possible.  Check out the Museum Facebook page for more evidence.  Margaret now has her sights on THE BIG DRAW weekend (4 & 5 October) when visitors will be invited to get drawing the exhibits.  





All Guides are invited to a social evening at the Museum, from 1800 onwards, on Sunday 21 September for some fun and briefing.  Jane Russell will be displayed diving to the ocean depths amongst other things.  




Nigel and his team, including John Dadd and Jim Thompson, have been busy at the Bunker again.  We now have a new concrete apron outside the new front door.


Nigel Phillips (the doorman)


There's also been work on the windows, and sorting of the books, archives, drains and mains water wall penetration.




The HDS Museum is open at weekends until the end of the summer season.  It relies on a handful of volunteer guides, at least two but ideally three of whom need to be on site when it is open for business at weekends during the summer.  If you live locally and can spare the odd few hours, please contact John Bevan via this email address or call him on 078 0278 5050.  You will then be given access to the online roster to fill in your own dates as and when you are available.  You don't have to be an HDS member to get involved in this or any other way.


8 Sep 14 - MCDOA AGM, Operational Updates & Annual Dinner



From our Honorary Secretary, Richard 'Soapy' Watson:


"This year’s Association Dinner will be held in the Wardroom, HMS Excellent on Friday 21 November 2014.  There will be a number of leavers (including myself and Bill Kerr).  I will be away the first half of November so please get your applications over to me early.  The dinner will cost a very reasonable £45 per head for members (£50 for Guests).  Before applying, please ensure that your standing order mandate is in effect for the annual membership subscription of £15, as there are still many members who have not changed their mandate.


We will follow the traditional format commencing with pre-dinner drinks in the bar at 1900 followed by good food and refreshments and a hearty sing-song to the musical accompaniment of the HMS Nelson Volunteer Band before retiring for a nightcap or two.  This year we are very fortunate to have Rear Admiral Clive Johnstone CBE as our Guest of Honour.  He is the Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff and is the First Sea Lord's agent in the MoD.  He has been a Navigator, Fighter Controller and Principal Warfare Officer in ships ranging from minesweepers to aircraft carriers.  He has been engaged on operations in the North Atlantic, Caribbean, the Balkans, in the Northern Gulf and Lebanon.  His biography can be downloaded here.


Rear Admiral Clive Johnstone CB


As well as toasting the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Long Courses, this will also be a great opportunity to meet up with many old friends and acquaintances.  Any service leavers (who are paid up members) wishing to be dined out are requested to contact the Hon Sec.


As ever, the mess is likely to be fairly full but limited accommodation should be available on board HMS BRISTOL (serving personnel only) courtesy of her Commanding Officer.  


To ensure that you do not miss out on this great evening please complete and return the attached application, ensuring that it reaches me before 30 October 2014.


Kindest Regards,




The calling notice and booking form for the AGM and Operational Updates at Fleet Diving Headquarters on Horsea Island are available for download here and those for the Annual Dinner in the Wardroom, HMS Excellent are available for download here.  Links are also available on the Forthcoming Events page. 


Serving and ex-serving WO(MW)s and WO(D)s are thoroughly welcome to attend the dinner at the 'guest rate' of £50 and members of our affiliated Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club (REBDOC) are also invited at the member rate.


As is our custom, we will be marking the 25th anniversary of the Long MCDO Courses of 1989.  LMCDO '89A comprised: Course Officers Jon Chapple and the late Steve Wild; Course Instructors Mo Crang and Chris 'Charlie' Howe; Students Mark Atkinson, Kelvin Barrett RNZN (MW only), Rob Cornick, MCDOA ex-Treasurer Kim Godfrey (Diving only - MW module completed on LMCDO '97A), Bob Gwalchmai RCN (MW only), Nick Quinn RNZN (MW only) and Nick Whitfield (MW only).



LMCDO '89A at the start of its Diving module and Minewarfare module respectively


LMCDO '89B comprised: Course Officers MCDOA past-Chairman Dave Hilton and Paul Raisbeck; Course Instructors Tiny Timms and Dave Smith; Students: Adrian 'Spanner' Dann, Ralf Dreimanis RCN (MW only - later OIC FDU3), MCDOA ex-Treasurer Dave 'Spidy' Ince (later transferred RAN), Mike Parrott (MW only) and Andy Woollven plus an unidentified MWO on the MW module - can anyone help?



LMCDO '89B at the start of its Diving module and Minewarfare module respectively


We will also be dining out any MCDOA members leaving the Service.  If you are a leaver and wish to be dined out this year, please inform our Honorary Treasurer Soapy Watson in good time or you won’t receive a ‘gizzit’.  Leavers must have been paid-up members for at least the past three years to dine for free but may pay for the privilege if they have joined the Association in the meantime.   


This event is heavily subsidised by the MCDOA so only bona fide members and affiliates are eligible to attend and bring private guests.  Check that the Standing Order covering your annual membership subscription is still valid and reflects the increased amount of £15 per year before applying or you will be disappointed.  If you are not yet a member of the MCDOA but feel you are entitled to join, the necessary Application Form and Standing Order Authority (effective from next 1 Jan) are available for download via the Membership section but you must also send a cheque for £15, payable to the MCDOA, to cover the current year.  


I look forward to seeing as many as possible on the day of the race.


From MCDOA member Dave 'Spidey' Ince RAN (LMCDO '89B) on 8 Sep 14:


Dave Ince holding the silver-plated miniature of the

Vernon Monument he received last November


"G’day Rob or should I say ‘malo a lalei’,


The latter salutation because I am sending my regrets and apologies for not being able to attend the next MCDOA Dinner from the Kingdom of Tonga, my latest posting.  I am especially regretful because it is the 25th Anniversary of the 1989 Alpha and Bravo courses.  I had been promising myself I would get back for this one and have a few / many with my fellow CD Bravo course mates Adrian ‘Spanner’ Dann and Andy ‘Dinosaur Paws’ Woollven, the Three Disposaleers.  Our course had a particularly high attrition rate; Tiny Timms and Dave Hilton were obviously looking for the best so I’m not sure what happened there (ha ha ha).  


Unfortunately my new job and other significant travel plans (off to Antarctica on hols) get in the way.  Although still in a RAN uniform, I am now the Maritime Surveillance Advisor to His Majesty’s Armed Forces Tonga.  The nearest RN analogy is one of those loafing jobs in the Windies.  I have left all things MCD behind me for a while perhaps for good; I think I can safely say I have ticked all the boxes there.  My time commanding an Armidale Class Patrol Boat has earned me another feather in my cap and broadened the horizons, quite literally.  The Tongans have three small patrol boats and the job is what it says on the tin.  Anyway, as you can imagine, life in this tropical paradise is not too shabby.  The Tongans are great people and punch above their weight. Some of the brethren may even have worked with some of the guys in Afghanistan.  I was actually at BRNC with the reigning King of Tonga, so I’m well connected.


The Spidy Inces are all very well.  Julie came with me to Tonga, but our sons Luke and Brent have flown and grown.  Brent has just commenced an Aussie SF course, and Luke is in the vinegar strokes of joining the Aussie Commandos.  There is a real risk they will end up on the same Commando course, heaven help them!  I will be posted here until early 2017, so if any of members of the Association are thinking of coming out this way be sure to give me a shout.  The diving and whale watching opportunities are superb.  You can even swim with the beast here.  We have plenty of room, loads of dive kit and a couple of boats. 


I have attached my latest requisition, the ‘French Fry’ taken as a prize from a if you couldn’t tell by the name.  Actually the bastard fleeced me!  Anyway, we now call it the ‘Soggy Chip’ and the kayak is called ‘Mushy Pea’... you can take the man out of England but you can’t take England out of the man.  



I’ll be sitting under a palm tree and raising a rum-filled coconut to you all on 21st November.


Cheers one and all.  


Yours Aye,





RAN Maritime Surveillance Adviser - Tonga

C/O Aust High Commission - Nuku'alofa

Locked Bag 40

Kingston, ACT 2604"


7 Sep 14 - News from HMS Grimsby



I am grateful to Lt Cdr William King RN, Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6), for this update received via the Ton Class Association (TCA):


"It is my pleasure to write to you as we depart on deployment to the Mediterranean.  We will be joining the standing NATO mine countermeasure task group [SNMCMG2] which is a team of eight Mine Countermeasures Ships that remain ready to respond to tasking in the Mediterranean region.  This provides a welcome break from the more regular Gulf tasking and the team will return to UK waters just before Christmas.

Over the summer, we have come out of the Coniston Crew, which is the standby crew based at Faslane.  Whilst in Coniston, the crew eagerly awaited the reigns of the coveted HMS GRIMSBY.  Since taking responsibility for HMS GRIMSBY, Crew 6 entered a busy maintenance period ensuring that the Ship was ready in all aspects for Sea and the upcoming NATO deployment.  The Ship was also alongside in Dry Dock at Greenock for 10 days where she was treated to maintenance on her Voith-Schneider propellers and a much needed hull wash.  This maintenance has now made HMS GRIMSBY one of the fastest mine hunters in her class.  All members of the Ship's Company worked tirelessly during the period to get the Ship ready, with a particular mention and thanks to the Marine Engineering department.  It was imperative that the Ship met its deadline before going into sea trials and it is testament to the Crew that this was achieved.

Before going into sea training, we sailed to Kyles through the Western Isles of Scotland, stopping at Tobermory to prepare for the upcoming assessment and shake off any 'tactical cobwebs' that had gathered during our time alongside.  The Crew were put through their paces with everything from fires and flood emergencies, to diving operations and mine hunting.  Although the Crew had spent several months alongside, they performed extreme!y well, meeting these challenges head on with professionalism and zeal. Indeed, as we head into our deployment I could not ask for a better team.

The Ship was also represented at Armed Forces Day in June in our home town of Grimsby [see second entry for 27 Jun 14 in News Archive 46].  A ten-strong contingent of the Ship's Company proudly marched through Cleethorpes before attending a memorial service at the Remembrance Gate.  It was a pleasure to be able to march through our affiliated hometown and the Crew were made to feel most welcome by the people of Grimsby and Cleethorpes.  Thank You.

As I write to you, the Crew have come back from their Summer Leave and have entered into the busy and demanding period of sea training.  I have no doubt in my mind that the Crew will approach this training with the same vigour and enthusiasm they showed during our own work up.  Once this formal period of assessment is complete, HMS GRIMSBY will set sail for the Mediterranean, joining the standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Task Group led by the Italian, Captain Giovanni Piegaja.

As we depart for home shores, I think it is fitting to say a heartfelt thanks to all for your continued support.  As Commanding Officer I am incredibly proud of my team and how much they have achieved in such short order, and I look forward to an opportunity in the New Year for you to meet the Crew, but until then I wish you all the very best from 'your Ship'.

William R C King
Commanding Officer
HMS Grimsby - MCM 1 Crew 6"


HMS Grimsby and FGS Wega of SNMCMG2 at Casablanca on 5 September 2014 to support

the NATO counter-terrorism Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR


6 Sep 14 - Death of ex-CPO(D) Albert Derek 'Ginger' Snell BEM


I have heard from Ginger's eldest son Derek that his father crossed the bar peacefully at about 2015 tonight (see entry for 25 Aug 14 in News Archive 47).  He had been readmitted into hospital late on Thursday with suspected pnuemonia.


I will publish funeral arrangements as they become available.  In the meantime, I know all members of our community will join me in extending our sincere condolences to his family and close friends.


From MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton on 9 Sep 2014:


"Dear Rob,


Sad news about Ginger.  I know that it was not unexpected  but sad nonetheless.  He was good lad.


I hope you received the copy pic of him in better times which I sent you.  I have written to Derek who, regrettably, I don't think I ever met (bad reflection on how separate the families were).


Grateful for news of the arrangements.


Yours Aye,




From ex-CPO(D) MIchael 'Shiner' Brassington on 7 Sep 2014:


"Dear Alex and family,


What sad news you sent.  Tomorrow I was looking forward to meeting up with my old 1953 buddy.


It is blessing Ginger did not have to experience a longer drawn out departue.  This is one funeral that I can get to in the car.  I'm sure you boys did your best for him.


I have two eye ops lined up in Gingers memory and this will help two more sightless folks to see.






From Ginger's son Andrew on 7 Sep 2014:


"Hello Rob,


Thank you for your kind words.


Please find attached a picture taken in recent happier times, May 22nd 2014 and I am sure before Ginge knew of his impending illness.  Please find fit to use as you wish.  He is joined in the picture by my son, his 18-year-old grandson Harry on a visit to Sizewell Power station where Harry recently began an apprenticeship.  He was immensely proud of Harry's achievement.  The picture sums up both a proud grandfather and a grandson who held so much respect and affection for his granddad.


Ginger and his grandson Harry on 22 May 2014


 Many thanks,


 Andrew Snell" 


5 Sep 14 - Bob Hawkins comes to town


It was delightful to rendezvous with MCDOA member Bob Hawkins MBE at Gunwharf Quays (formerly HMS Vernon) in Portsmouth last night.  I was his LMCDO course officer at HMS Vernon in 1982 and, as happens in our small and exclusive branch, our paths have crossed frequently ever since.


Bob Hawkins and Yours Truly


We were accompanied by Bob's 2* RAAF boss for whom he works as the Lead Maritime Planner at the Headquarters Integrated Area Defence System (HQ IADS) at RMAF Butterworth in Penang, Malaysia which executes the policies of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) (see entry for 13 Dec 12 in News Archive 40).  We were also joined by Bob's naval, army and air force colleagues from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and the UK who are all in the UK for meetings at Joint Forces Command (JFC) Headquarters in Northwood.  JFC is commanded by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach KCB CBE ADC who was our guest of honour at the MCDOA's annual dinner in 2011 (see entry for 24 Nov 11 in News Archive 36). 


Off-duty IADS military staff


RN warfare officer Glenn Gorman, who is due to relieve Bob next summer, was present at our gathering too.


3 Sep 14 - NATO Summit in Wales


The BBC website contains this article announcing the arrival of NATO leaders, including President Barack Obama, at the Celtic Manor in Newport for the two-day summit on Thursday and Friday.  The Wales Online website contains this article (including a gallery of wonderful photos) describing the arrival of naval units in nearby Cardiff for the occasion including the Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan.


HMS Duncan being towed into Cardiff Docks yesterday


An EOD vehicle from Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) was parked near HMS Duncan's brow.


SDU1 bomb disposal vehicle parked in front of HMS Duncan in Cardiff yesterday


Other naval units in Cardiff include the Latvian Tripartite class minehunter LVNS Viesturs (ex-HNLMS Scheveningen) whose arrival is described in this article published in the Penarth Daily News.  She is being joined by the Dutch Tripartite minehunter HNLMS Urk, the Hunt class minehunter LNS Kuršis (ex-HMS Dulverton), the French Georges Leygues class anti-submarine frigate FNS La Motte Picquet and the Norwegian Skjold class corvette HNoMS Skudd


LVNS Viesturs in Cardiff Docks yesterday


LNS Kuršis and HNoMS Skudd in Cardiff Docks today


Cardiff University's Royal Naval Unit (URNU) Archer class P2000 patrol boat HMS Express is normally based in the city anyway but she has been joined by her sister ship HMS Biter which belongs to Manchester & Salford URNU and is normally based at Liverpool:


HMS Express and HMS Biter at Cardiff yesterday


2 Sep 14 - HMS Quorn's homecoming


I was delighted to join AB(Sea) Martin 'Nev' Longbottom from Huddersfield on the Round Tower in Portsmouth this morning to help welcome back HMS Quorn (MCM2 Crew 3).  Nev, short for Neville, had left her in Toulon to return to the UK and pave the way for her return.


AB(Sea) Martin 'Nev' Longbottom


As chronicled in the MCDOA website's archives, HMS Quorn deployed to the Gulf in May 2011 and her current ship's company has been manning her since January this year.






I am sure all members of our community will join me in welcoming home all on board HMS Quorn and wishing them a thoroughly enjoyable time during their well-deserved leave.


Post script: The Portsmouth News has since published this article, including a video clip, and the RN website this article describing HMS Quorn's arrival in 2 Basin in Portsmouth Naval Base.  Both articles feature AB(MW) Greg 'Leroy' Learoyd.



1 Sep 14 - Royal Naval Reserves Diving Branch


The RNR Divers group on Facebook has published a set of photographs of a continuation training session on Horsea Island using half mask variant (HMV).  They have kindly allowed me to show these examples:


Divers in wetsuits from left to right: AB Standley, AB Barrett, PO Pearce,

PO Morton. LS Boyd in the background and WO Dello supervising




A factsheet about the RNR Diving Branch can be downloaded here:


RNR Diving Branch Factsheet - August 2014



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