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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.

18 Dec 14 - HMS Grimsby returns to Faslane


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the UK Government website this article describing today's return to Faslane of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6) after four months in the Mediterranean with Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2).  Since leaving HM Naval Base Clyde on 27 August, she has covered almost 8,000 nautical miles and visited 11 foreign ports. 



The ship was met by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.


Defence Secretary Michael Fallon welcoming Lt Cdr Will King,

Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby, at Faslane today

(RN photo by Chief Petty Officer Airman (Photographer) Thomas McDonald)


16 Dec 14 - Death of Lt Cdr William Thorniley MBE RN


I am grateful to former FCPO(D) Chris Jones for having spotted the death notice for MCDOA member Bill Thorniley in Navy News.  Bill was borne on the books of the minesweeping trawler HMT Annet, the inshore minesweeper HMS Brearley, the South African naval base HMS Flamingo, the Landing Ship (Tank) HMS Messina, the Type 15 frigate HMS Undaunted, the Ton class minesweeper HMS Maryton, the minelayer HMS Plover and the shore establishments HMS Vernon, HMS Warrior and HMS Osprey.  Owing to his advancing years, Bill did not attend MCDOA functions but I know that he was held in high regard by his contemporaries.


Bill was appointed an MBE in 1959 for clearance diving work on a controlled minefield (torpedo warheads) in Belfast Lough.  The job was completed a couple of years later by the Home Station CDT in HMS Dingley (MCDOA member Harry Parker) to allow the channel to be dredged in time for the new ocean liner SS Canberra to put to sea from the Harland & Wolff shipyard.  Chris Jones added this comment:


"I actually served with Bill in Belfast Lough. Fifteen feet of silt before one reached the bottom and we achieved it by washing ourselves down using a high-powered hose.  Interesting times."


15 Dec 14 - Arrangements for the funeral of Lt Cdr Brian Harold Lithgow Braidwood RN


I have been advised by Brian Braidwood's younger daughter Tessa that there will be a private family cremation at 1130 on Monday 22 December followed by a memorial service at St Martins Church, Martinstown, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 9JZ at 1430 the same day to which all are very welcome.  



This will be followed by tea, coffee, nibbles and a toast to Brian at the Brewer's Arms (about three minutes’ walk from the Church), to which everyone is also welcome.  Donations if desired can be sent to Weldmar Trust Hospice or RNLI c/o Woods Funeral Services, 11A Icen Way, Dorchester, Dorset. DT1 1EW Tel:01305 250425.



I will be attending in a personal capacity and will be happy to represent the MCDOA.


14 Dec 14 - Death of Lt Cdr Brian Harold Lithgow Braidwood RN


MCDOA member Peter Waddington has informed me of the death of Brian Braidwood, his fellow MCDOA and LCDO '64 course member who succumbed to cancer yesterday.


Brian was born on 2 May 1937.  He was a 20-year-old Sub Lt when he qualified as a Shallow Water Diver (the forerunner of the Ship's Diver but using an oxygen rebreather) at the RN Diving School on Manoel Island in Malta in October 1957 (see entry for 4 Dec 05 in News Archive 12).  He joined the Submarine Service in March 1959 and, on completion of Submarine Training, he was appointed to HMS Adamant for HMS/M Excalibur in July 1959.  In January 1960, he joined HMS Chaser as Spare Submarine Officer, then in June 1960 he joined HMS Dolphin for HMS/M Orpheus.  In June 1961 he joined HMS Forth as Spare Submarine Officer, eventually joining HMS/M Alliance in July 1961 and finally re-joining HMS Forth in November 1961 as Spare Submarine Officer. 


On returning to General Service he joined the frigate HMS Malcolm for Fishery Protection Squadron duties off Iceland.  He subsequently qualified as a Clearance Diving Officer at HMS Vernon in 1964. 


LCDO '64 with Brian Braidwood sitting far left and fellow MCDOA members

Peter Hicks sitting centre, Tony Lumbard standing third from left,

 Colin Churcher MBE standing fourth from left and Peter Waddington

standing fifth from left


Brian was then appointed to HMS Bronington in the Vernon Squadron and featured in the archived minehunting footage of this c.1975 video (see from minute 01:21) first used in 'The Undersea War', a Royal Navy training film made in 1965:



Brian was the coxswain of Bronington's Gemini and the rest of the diving team comprised PO Dave Audoire and ABs Jan Gardner, Tanzy Lee, Dudley 'Wooly' Woolnough and Shorty Lougher.  The callsigns of Bronington's Geminis were 'Pinky' and 'Perky' because the Command Security Officer had allegedly vetoed the use of 'Burgess' and 'MacLean'. 


Brian Braidwood as coxswain of HMS Bronington's Gemini


This photo, provided by Brian, shows 'Perky' with the divers and film crew embarked: 



Brian then returned to serve in the Minewarfare Training Section at HMS Vernon until 1968 when he was appointed Fleet Clearance Diving Officer of the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team based at HMS Terror in Singapore.  In January 1971, he was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct for an extraordinary operation as can be seen from this citation in the London Gazette:


On 1st June 1970, R.F.A. ENNERDALE, carrying 42,000 tons of fuel oils, sank in 100 feet of water in the Seychelles and it was decided that immediate action should be taken to release the oil while the South East Monsoon would carry the oil clear of the main islands.  Conventional methods of placing explosives alongside the hull, using boats and divers were impractical in the heavy swell.  Lieutenant Commander Braidwood, the Far East Clearance Diving Officer, working with Lieutenant Kenworthy, the senior pilot detached from 847 Naval Air Squadron, devised a method whereby 3 mortar bombs placed on a pallet could be lowered into position on the wreck from a helicopter, the cordtex fuse then being ignited by the crew inside the helicopter.  With ENNERDALE lying on her starboard side, and using a Wessex HU Mk. 5 helicopter, this method successfully breached the port tanks, releasing about 12,000 tons of oil.


To reach the starboard side tanks another demolition charge was constructed.  To place the charge in the correct position divers secured a 45 foot wire pennant to the top of the wreck and, using a gemini dinghy, joined it to a similar wire lowered from the helicopter.  The dinghy raced clear, the helicopter crew fit the cordtex fuse and released the bomb tray which, on its ninety foot pennant, sank down alongside the vents on the lower tanks.


Later in the operation when H.M.S. CACHALOT was unable to fire torpedoes into the wreckage to free oil trapped in the hull, the warheads were taken off the torpedoes, and towed and detonated in the same way.  When some of the warheads failed to explode, Lieutenant Commander Braidwood dived to investigate the reason.  At this stage short pre-cut delay fuses were added and Lieutenant Commander Braidwood ignited the fuses on the surface of the sea, while suspended on the helicopter's winch wire.  There was always a swell, often heavy, and diving was dangerous.  Faced with a difficult and unusual situation, Lieutenant Commander Braidwood showed remarkable ingenuity and courage.


Brian was presented with his QCB by Admiral Sir Horace Law, Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command, in the great cabin of HMS Victory in June 1971 with the legendary MCD officer Stuart 'Jazz' Honour MBE representing the Captain of HMS Vernon.



Brian wrote this illustrated account of his time in command of the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team which is also available via the website's Dit Box


Brian subsequently served in the Leander class frigate HMS Scylla from 1971 to 1973, as OIC of the Plymouth Clearance Diving Team from 1973 to 1974 and as OIC of the Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal School (DEODS) at Chattenden from 1974 to 1976.  He then spent many years at Southwell on Portland under the various guises of Captain Underwater Weapons Acceptance, DRA Southwell, DGUW(N), etc.  Here, he pioneered and trialled new diving and EOD equipment for the Royal Navy.  In 1985, he was sent to New Zealand to survey the wreck of Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior and was called as an expert witness during the investigation into her sinking by the French intelligence services.


Although Brian left the Royal Navy in 1989, government and commercial organisations frequently consulted him about diving and underwater EOD matters including the inquiry into the sinking of MS Estonia in the Baltic in 1994.  In August 2007, he belatedly celebrated his 70th birthday with a 24 metre dive off Portland ending up with 18 scallops.  In October the same year, he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his original SWD qualification with a "civilised" dive in the Dunker at Yeovilton (see entry for 14 Nov 07 in News Archive 20).




He was a staunch member of the MCDOA and a frequent contributor to the website.  I will miss his friendship immensely.


Brian Braidwood at the MCDOA AGM in 2010


I am sure all members of our community will join me in extending our sympathy to Brian's bereaved wife Sonia, son David, daughters Fiona and Tessa and his other family members.  He lived near Dorchester and I will publish funeral arrangements if and when they become available. 


From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:


"Hi Rob


Sorry to hear about Brian, a stalwart member of the branch with a great record, particularly in the Far East.


Sorry also to learn about Bill Thorniley, another old friend.




From MCDOA member David Burstall:


"Hello Rob,


I was very saddened to hear that Brian had died.  Though it is many years since I last saw him, our paths in the Navy crossed a number of times, though we never served together.  He was invariably cheerful and always good company.   I am delighted he got recognition for his diving expertise in the Maldives.


I regret I will not be able to attend his funeral and so would be grateful if you would represent me.






From MCDOA member Colin Churcher MBE:


"Hello Rob,


It was a shock to hear of the death of Brian.  We qualified together on the '64 CDO course.  I was the “ Old Man” of the team and I always felt that Brian was 'keeping an eye on me'.  I certainly felt happier with him on the other end of my buddy line.


Unfortunately I am unable to attend the funeral as I have difficulty in walking.




From MCDOA member Jon Riches:




How very sad to hear of Brian's death.  I relieved him as First Lieutenant of HMS Bronington in early 1967.  He gave me an excellent turnover and introduced me to life in Edinburgh where he and Sonia had a flat.  Subsequently in various MCD appointments I had many dealings with Brian.  He was a good man to deal with and always cheerful and helpful with a fund of stories.


Sadly I am unable to make his Memorial Service but send my condolences to Sonia and his family.




From MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald:


"Hello Rob,


Very sorry to hear about Brian.  My thoughts are with his family.


As pond life, my ship was supported by Steve G's [Gobey's] team and I recall a similar meeting where we never knew quite what Brian was going to produce from his Pusser's grip!  Later in BRECON, having played Brecon (Wales) First XV and lost heavily, I woke up in RNH Haslar to find Brian in the bed beside me.  I attracted the ire of Matron and was saved by Brian leaping out of bed to defend me.  I shall always be grateful.  




From MCDOA member Steve Gobey:


"Dear Rob,


So sorry to hear the sad news of Brian's passing.  When he handed over to the RAF as OIC of DEODS in 1976, he also handed over to me as RN Training Officer.  Sally and I had just returned from the Australia exchange and Brian and Sonia were most helpful in sorting out a married quarter, getting all our stuff delivered and making sure we were settled in and fully prepared for life with the Army!


After DEODS I was the Boss of the FOST Diving Team at Bincleaves where we often provided assistance to Brian for his trials on new and experimental underwater EOD equipment.  We never knew quite what Brian was going to produce from his Pusser's grip - or his garage!


Sally and I regret we cannot be there on Monday but please pass our sincere condolences to Sonia and the family.


Yours Aye,




From MCDOA member Alan Padwick OBE:


"Hi Rob,


It was shock to hear that Brian is gone.  Our career paths often crossed, starting in 1962 when as a very green Sub Lt I relieved him in HMS MALCOLM in the Iceland FPS.  I also took over from him in the Minewarfare section at VERNON in 1968.  When I was S of D in 1983 to 86, I found I was theoretically partly his boss, his other boss being a civil servant.  We each assumed the other knew what he was up to when there seemed to be a blank in information, so we were both rather surprised one morning when we saw him interviewed on TV in New Zealand, when neither of us knew he had gone there!  We both did a panic audit of our travel budgets.


I wish we could get to his funeral but my cousin has also died and his funeral is at the same time as Brian's.  Please pass on my regards to all who get there and my sympathy to Sonia (assuming you can make it).  Sarah has sent you a message which she would like to be passed to Sonia.






From MCDOA member John Grattan OBE:


"Dear Rob,


I much regret that I am unable to make the Memorial Service for Brian Braidwood next Monday because I have broken my right shoulder blade and cannot drive.  One is supposed to get wiser with age - rubbish - silly accidents still occur!


Please 'rep' me amongst all your other friends.


Yours aye,




From MCDOA member Bryan Barrett in the USA:


"Hi Rob,


I am so sorry to hear of the death of my old friend Brian Braidwood.  He was on the CD course before me (’64 – I was ’65) and we worked together in various capacities for many years.  He was a good friend.  Requiescat in pace.


Wishing you the best for Christmas and 2015,


Yours aye,




From ex-CPO(D) Perry Mason:


"It saddens me to hear of the passing of yet another member of the branch especially at this time of the year or for that matter at any time of the year.  My thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to his wife Sonia and the remainder of his family.


Rest in peace Brian."


From ex-PO(D) Dudley 'Wooly' Woolnough:


"Dear Rob,


So sorry to hear about the death of Brian.  As mentioned in your post, I was one of Bronington's crew.  One incident sticks in my mind, one that I have told many times in various bars.


After an exercise off Harwich we were minehunting to recover the dummy ground mines.  It was my dive and I was a brand new CD3 having only qualified about six months previously in 1964.  When I hit bottom with my torch the viz was extremely good and I had landed about five feet from a German GC in perfect condition.  On surfacing I told Dave Audoire and we returned to the ship to advise the Captain.  I was showering when called to the wardroom (in my towel) to confirm my sighting and point it out in AMP5. 


After various signals it was decided we would blow it next day.  An exclusion zone was set up and I think Jan Gardener did the first dive to set the PE.  For some reason, it did not go off.  Neither did the next three attempts.  It was now getting dark and Brian Braidwood said he had run out of igniters and would have to return to Bronington to get more.  The problem was the three lines of cordtex going down to the GC.


Brian decided that the only thing to do was leave me behind holding onto the cordtex.  The only light available was a small lifejacket salt water activated indicating light.  I seriously thought he was taking the **** but no, I got in the water with just fins and drybag, three lines of explosive cord and my indicating light in the middle of the main shipping lanes in and out of Harwich Harbour.  The Gemini disappeared back to Bronington and I bobbed up and down for about an hour before they got back to me.  


This is a story that would be very much highlighted in my book if I ever get round to writing it.  There are many more stories I could tell about Brian, but as he cannot now defend himself best left in the memory bank.  Unfortunately I will not be able to make service on the 22nd and am sailing out of Tilbury on a Christmas and New Year cruise with Terry Settle and wives.  If you manage to attend please pass on my condolences to Sonia and family.






Ex-PO CD1 Dudley M. Woolnough MIIRSM Tech. IOSH

Deep Marine Works" 


11 Dec 14 - The hospitality of HMS Middleton and HMS Ledbury


I spent yesterday with fellow members of the Ton Class Association (TCA), the Mayor and townspeople from Ledbury and representatives of the Ledbury Hunt being hosted by MCM 2 Crew 4 on board HMS Middleton and HMS Ledbury in Portsmouth Naval Base.  I was particularly pleased to see my old buddy ex-CPO(D) Spike Wheeler again. 


We were met at Trafalgar Gate by Navigating Officer Glyn Duffell and his assistant Alex Saunders before being taken in a ubiquitous BAE Systems bus to the ships' berth in 2 Basin.





After a safety brief by LS Rich and a warming cup of coffee, we were welcomed by Commanding Officers Mark Headley and Steve White.





We were then split into groups and shown various parts of the ship.  PO(MW) David Pearce and AB(MW) Flintham explained the systems in the Ops Room while Ops Officer Tom Hazel looked on.



We then went to the bridge where ship's navigating officer Glyn Duffell described the operation of the systems.




AB(D) Robbie Matthews then described the operation of a SABA (Swimmer's Air Breathing Apparatus) after which LS(D) Lee Causer showed us the around the compression chamber.  Unfortunately, the Clearance Diver's Life Support Equipment (CDLSE), the diving team's primary minehunting closed-circuit rebreather set, was not on board at the time.





We ended up being shown the SeaFox remote-controlled mine identification and disposal vehicle by AB(MW) Phil Perkins.




We were then transported to the Wardroom at HMS Nelson for a splendid reserved table lunch before being given a tour of HMS Victory.  Our guide was particularly entertaining and informative and, despite having seen the ship many times before, I learned several new facts.


'Wooden Ships and Iron Men'

The TCA Group comprising Rob Hoole, Tony O'Brien, Malcolm Kemp,

Neville Dutton, Norman Ellis and Spike Wheeler


HMS Middleton is newly emerged from refit with Caterpillar ACERT diesels replacing her old Deltic propulsion system and HMS Ledbury will shortly be entering refit for the same installation.  I am particularly grateful to Commanding Officer Mark Headley and to MCDOA member Steve White for making this visit possible and to the various other members of the ship's company, including ship's navigator Glyn Duffell in his role as liaison officer, who were responsible for its smooth execution.


10 Dec 14 - HMS Grimsby coming home


The Royal Navy Facebook page contains this article announcing that HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 6) has detached from Standing NATO MCM Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Mediterranean and is on passage back to her base at Faslane for Christmas leave.


HMS Grimsby (third from left) rafted up with other units of SNMCMG2

(RN Facebook image)


5 Dec 14 - MCMV teams to compete in Half-Ironman relay challenge in Bahrain


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the participation of teams from HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 6 commanded by MCDOA member Simon Pressdee), HMS Shoreham (MCM1 Crew 5 commanded by MCDOA member Si Kelly) and the US Navy’s Task Group 52 in the USD 500,000 Bahrain Challenge half-ironman triathlon tomorrow.  The article also features AB(D) Ryan Snell.


HMS Atherstone's Bahrain Challenge team with MCDOA member

Simon Pressdee standing centre

(RN website photo)


Post script: The results of the triathlon are listed here.  Out of 48 teams in their category, HMS Atherstone 1 ranked 8th, HMS Shoreham 2 ranked 19th, HMS Shoreham ranked 21st, HMS Atherstone 2 ranked 27th and HMS Atherstone 3 ranked 29th.  Congratulations to all participants.


2 Dec 14 - SDU1 called out to Dawlish Warren


The BBC News website contains this article describing an EOD call-out to the beach at Dawlish Warren this morning for members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1).  The article features PO(D) Mark Cocking and the suspect item turned out to be an old car tyre.



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 in News Archive 47), 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. 



From MCDOA member Bryan Barrett in the USA:


"Hi Rob,


I can throw some light on the Royal Navy involvement in the Berlin Airlift.  My father (Lt.Cdr. Denis Barrett DSC, RN (retd) now deceased) a submariner, was stationed in Berlin from 1947 until the early ‘50’s working at the British HQ in Charlottenburg.  We lived in Berlin (I say ‘we’ because my mother and I joined my father there) in 1947 and I lived there for three years, returning to England late in 1950.)


We were there throughout the Berlin airlift, when conditions in Berlin were pretty bad, and everything in very short supply.  We lived in the Naval Officers’ mess in Konigsallee, in Grunewald along with several other naval officers and their families.  I can remember some of their details, if Sue is interested.  Please pass on my email address to her and ask her to get in touch with me if she would like me to give her what details I can remember from some 60+ years ago!!


Yours aye,




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 in News Archive 47).  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.


From MCDOA Membership Secretary Dave Stanbury:


"Good in-flight reading!  Well done Rob."



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 in News Archive 47).  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.



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