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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.

3 Feb 16


UK/US MCM exercise in Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 5 commanded by MCDOA member Steve White), HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 2) and Portsmouth-based Fleet Diving Unit 3 (FDU3), accompanied by their 'mother ship' RFA Cardigan Bay, in a mine countermeasures exercise in the Gulf with the American MCMV USS Gladiator.  All images from the RN website.







Army Navy rugby at Twickenham


Time is running out to book your places on the MCDOA coach to the Army Navy rugby match at Twickenham.  If successful, this will become an annual event.

Cheques are to be made payable to “MCDOA” and sent to Mark Shaw, our Honorary Secretary, at:




Bridge Building

Horsea Island





See you on the coach.


2 Feb 16 - HMS Ramsey joins SNMCMG1


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Navy News website this article reporting that HMS Ramsey (MCM1 Crew ?) has joined the other MCMVs of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) in Kiel.  Her deployment with the NATO Group will begin with a series of exercises near Copenhagen.


View from HMS Ramsey's bridge while transiting the Kiel Canal

(RN website photo)


HMS Ramsey arriving in Copenhagen

(Navy News photo)


1 Feb 16 - An evening with a legend


Legendary RN diver and world record-breaking adventurer Eamon 'Ginge' Fullen QGM and I enjoyed one of my wife's four-alarm chilis and catching up with each other at our home tonight.  Ginge is currently undertaking a First Aid refresher course as part of his RNR commitment but he also participated in the 2016 MASSEVEX exercise involving the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) in Faslane last month (see entry for 23 Jan 16). 


Ginge Fullen (right) sharing some of his historical images with Yours Truly (Rob Hoole)


Check out this link:


An Interview with Adventurer Ginge Fullen


Also see the entry for 1 Mar 15 in News Archive 49 for MCDOA member Dave Ince's highly entertaining illustrated account of conquering the inactive volcano of Kao, Tonga's highest mountain, with Ginge last year.


27 Jan 16 - Award of second clasp to VRSM


Congratulations to MCDOA member Mike Boal on being gazetted for the award of the Second Clasp to the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal (VRSM).  This signifies 20 years of undetected crime in the RNR.  As an MWO of longstanding, Mike may be remembered most recently for his FTRS service on the UK Minewarfare Battle Staff in Bahrain.


26 Jan 16 - Advance Australia Fair




Happy Australia Day to all our mates down under.


23 Jan 16 - NATO Submarine Rescue System 2016 MASSEVEX


I am grateful to MCDOA past-Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson for this update on the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS):


"Hi Rob,


Just to keep you up to date on a few RNR activities.


Steve Brown, Commanding Officer of Northern Diving Group (NDG), headed up the 2016 MASSEVEX exercise in Faslane this week.  The whole system was supported by the three nations of UK, France and Norway.  It was great to see all the different elements such as divers, submariners, medics and JFD personnel working in harmony to deliver a very successful Submarine Rescue Exercise.



The Royal Navy Diving Reserves team consisted of seven personnel all who have now completed the necessary operational performances to be able to work towards manning up Reserves Diving Unit Two (RDU 2), part of the Reserves Diving Group which supports FDS in NSRS.  We intend to have 12 Reservists on high readiness for the system in the near future.  RNR Diving reservists will ensure a continuity of SQEP for the TUP system of NSRS.


May I send my thanks to Steve Brown for all the great work he has done during his Command of NDG and welcome and congratulate Tony Hampshire on his new command of NDG.






22 Jan 16 - Parliamentary Questions about Hunt class propulsion  


From Hansard (see entry for 17 Dec 15):


Minesweepers: Written question - 22479


Mrs Madeleine Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether the 2010 contract for £15 million with BAE Systems for the replacement of propulsion systems in the eight Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels is still to be completed by October 2016; and if he will make a statement. (Asked on 13 January 2016.)


Mr Philip Dunne: To date, work to replace the propulsion system on four of the Hunt Class mine countermeasures vessels has been completed with the fifth due for completion later this year.  Due to changes applied to the ships upkeep programme combined with the need to address emerging engineering issues, work on the remaining three vessels is now scheduled for completion by late 2019.  (Answered on 18 January 2016.)


Minesweepers: Written question - 22480


Mrs Madeleine Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many Hunter (sic) Class mine countermeasures vessels have completed their re-engineering; when he expects all eight to be completed; and if he will make a statement.  (Asked on 13 January 2016.)


Mr Philip Dunne: To date, work to replace the propulsion system on four of the Hunt Class mine countermeasures vessels has been completed with the fifth due for completion later this year.  Due to changes applied to the ships upkeep programme combined with the need to address emerging engineering issues, work on the remaining three vessels is now scheduled for completion by late 2019.  (Answered on 18 January 2016.)


21 Jan 16 - Award of LS&GC medals


Congratulations to LS(D) Alan 'Lofty' Lofthouse on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal.


20 Jan 16 - HMS Bangor personnel run Bahrain Half-Marathon


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the participation of 21 members of the newly arrived ship's company of HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 2) in the Bahrain Half-Marathon on 8 January.  They succeeded in raising £2,478.75 for their chosen charity, Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s).  The first member of the team to cross the finishing line was AB(D) Charlie Dutton.


HMS Bangor's Bahrain Half-Marathon Team

(RN website photo)


HMS Bangor's JustGiving fundraising page can found here: HMS Bangor - MCM1 Crew 2's Bahrain Half Marathon page


19 Jan 16 - Diving Museum achieves more stellar success but needs your vote


Following its shortlisting as one of the Daily Telegraph's top six family-friendly museums in the UK last year (see entry for 12 Jul 15 in News Archive 51), the Diving Museum, run by the Historical Diving Society (HDS) in No.2 Battery at Stokes Bay, has just achieved two more significant successes.


Firstly, MCDOA member Dr John Bevan, HDS Chairman and the driving force behind the museum's establishment, has been chosen by Gosport Borough Council as its nominee for VisitEngland's 'Tourism Superstar' of 2016, a national competition involving the Daily Mirror and social media.  While John is not comfortable with the 'superstar' label because the museum is very much a team effort, he hopes that people will turn a blind eye to this aspect and think of this as a major publicity opportunity.


John Bevan outside the Diving Museum


John making his pitch in a video


Please click on this link and vote for John to help put the Diving Museum on the map:


Daily Mirror: Vote NOW for VisitEngland Tourism Superstar 2016



Secondly, Museum Officer Kevin Casey has managed to secure a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund as described in this press release:



A Victorian Gun Battery wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

The Historical Diving Society (HDS) has received £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards an exciting project, to assess the work and costs required to restore No 2 Battery, on Stokes Bay in Gosport.  The work is planned to start late January and be completed by June.


The building is in a deteriorating condition so structural consultants with experience of ‘At Risk’ listed buildings will be engaged to produce a report on its condition and what is required to carry out full restoration.  If restored, No 2 battery will need to be self-supporting, so cultural, heritage and marketing consultants will be engaged to help the HDS develop a plan to give the building a sustainable future use.  It is hoped to develop it into the National Diving Museum, thus preserving Gosport’s and the countries’ rich diving heritage as well as preserving its historical importance as part of the defences of Portsmouth Harbour.

The HDS was formed 25 years ago and is an all-volunteer registered charity.  It was founded to preserve all aspects of diving heritage for future generations.  Gosport is an important part of that heritage, as John Deane the co-founder of the diving helmet lived in the town for many years and sold the first commercial diving helmet in the world to a local merchant.  As No 2 Battery is in sight of where the Royal George and the Mary Rose both sank and John Deane having dived on both, it is an ideal location to house such a museum.

The Battery was built in 1861 as part of Palmerston’s Folly (a defensive system of forts to protect the Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth Harbour) and its preservation is important as it is the only remaining battery of 5 from the Stokes Bay lines.

Kevin Casey, the HDS Museum Officer said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident the project will help us establish a much better picture of the amount of work and funding needed to totally restore No 2 Battery back to its former glory.”


Kevin Casey (near left) taking a break with 'Yours Truly' and other museum

volunteers at Stokes Bay in March 2012

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.

For further information, please contact:

Kevin Casey
Museum Officer
The Historical Diving Society
023 9252 0426
07917 626164

17 Jan 15 - Former CD's novel to be filmed


'Oscar King' is the nom de plume of a former Royal Navy clearance diver.  He has drawn my attention to his first novel: Persian Roulette:


"After a successful and varied career in the British Special Forces and service with the American military and government, Oscar King now works in the financial sector in London and the Middle East.  When not working or adventuring, King writes.  Having previously written military non-fiction for Bene Factum, he has now successfully turned his hand to fiction.  Persian Roulette is the first of three novels in the Harry Linley series."



This is a synopsis of Oscar's 337-page paperback, also available in digital format for Kindle:


"In the midst of the global financial downturn, listless financier and ex-special forces officer Harry Linley accepts the seemingly innocent task of spending a week house-sitting for a friend.  By the end of the first night, however, two men are dead on the kitchen floor.  A handful of disparate international strangers find themselves subsequently entangled in a web of deceit, sex and murder amongst the glittering towers of Dubai, with a seemingly unstoppable chain of miscommunication threatening to bring them all to ruin.  At the heart of all this chaos: a beautiful, white Persian cat.  This hilarious, mile-a-minute thriller provides a sharp-eyed satire of our globalised world, in which those who shout loudest, shoot fastest and spend most always try to come out on top."


'Oscar' informs me that his novel has now been signed for filming and he is working on the screenplay of his previous book, a non-fiction work published under a different name.  He has another novel coming out in the next few weeks.


14 Jan 16 - MCDOA Northern Dinner 3 March 2016



I am grateful to MCDOA member Tim 'Castro' Castrinoyannakis (OIC Northern Diving Unit Two (NDU2)) for this announcement:


"Sirs, Fellow Divers, Friends & Guests,


The 2016 Northern MCDOA dinner will take place in the Wardroom, HMS Neptune on Thursday 3 March, celebrating the Golden Anniversary of the formation of the MCD Branch on 25 February 1966 and its first long course.  The Mess President and your host for the evening will be Cdr Tim Davey RN MCM1 Squadron Commander, we are hoping to be announcing/confirming our guest of honour over the next few days.  


Dinner will be £30 per head for members and £35 per head for non members which will include all food and drinks for the evening. Payments can be made by cheque or Direct Debit (in which case email me separately).  The night is sure to entail fine cuisine, ample grog, live music and some awful singing and shenanigans.  Accommodation within the Wardroom is very tight at the moment due to the continuous but necessary refurbishment, however it is looking promising and Lt Cdr Nathan Isaacs is hard on the case.  Failing that, some more austere arrangements (camper beds etc) can be made.  


I would also like to thank the Association which has approved some funding towards our entertainment and as such our costs are kept as low as possible.  I encourage those of you who are not members to consider the benefits of joining and of other upcoming events.  


If numbers and interest are suitable, I will be also endeavour to arrange a tour of NDGs facilities followed by unofficial drinking with some of our keen divers and salty Senior Rates prior to the dinner.  Please let us know if you would be interested.  


Please find attached proforma for the evening and let me, or Nathan know as soon as possible if you can attend and if you need accommodation so we can manage expectations and numbers. 


Undoubtedly I will have missed a number of members and friends outside of the branch; please pass this on as you see fit outside of the dist list.  


Many thanks    


Yours Aye,




13 Jan 16 - SDU1 recovers artillery shell in Efford


The Daily Mail website contains this article describing the recovery by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of a shell from Efford Nature Reserve in Plymouth.


MCDOA Honorary Secretary Peter Davis (OIC SDU1) and

two other members of the unit with the recovered shell


10 Jan 16 - SDU2 deals with hand grenade found in Isle of Wight garden


The Isle of Wight County Press Online website contains this article describing the recovery by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2)  of a corroded wartime hand grenade discovered in the garden of a house at Newport on the Isle of Wight. 



9 Jan 16 - Vacancy for Full Time Reserve Service Position (Updated 8 Jan 2016)


The latest Vacancies for Full Time Reserve Service Positions contain this job specification:




A vacancy has arisen for an OF3 (Lt Cdr or equivalent) of any Specialisation to serve as Staff Officer Operations (SOO) on the Mine Warfare Battle Staff on a rotational cycle in Bahrain and the UK on FTRS(FC) Terms and Conditions of Service (TCOS).


SOO is the senior N3-5 Staff Officer who is responsible for coordinating all current and future plans for MCM Operations for 24 hours and beyond for all aspects of the employment of the MW Force, including branches and sequels and all other contingency planning.  This role will normally be filled by COS prior to deployment and thereafter or the SO3 HM when not on MCM Operations.  SOO is also responsible for the cohesion of staff effort within the division particularly between the current Operations Cell and the Plans Cell within the N3 Division and between the N3 and N5 Divisions. 


Accountable to the Chief of Staff his/her primary purposes are:


a. Primary Purpose.


(1) Organise and supervise N2 and the N3 watch keepers.


(2) To plan operations in accordance with the MW Commander's guidance.


b. Secondary Purposes.


(1) Manage the maintenance of the current MCM, OPFOR and neutral operational picture.


(2) Monitor the progress of assigned MCM Units in their tasks.


(3) Draft MCM Tasking for period 24-72 hrs.


(4) Chair the Current Plans WG.


(5) To provide mid and long term planning advice and direction to th e MW Commander.


(6) To assess adequacy of current plans and modify or develop new plans as required.


His/her primary responsibilities are to:


a. Organise N3 augmentees into a watch bill that satisfies the demands of the exercise or operation.


b. Ensure tha t an accurate and up-to-date current operations picture is maintained by the watch keepers.


c. Ensure that the Operations Room state boards give an accurate and up-to-date summary of tasking of MCM Units and progress of tasks.


d. Ensure that the required records and reports are maintained to a high standard.


e. Draft, for COS’s approval, follow-on and foul-weather tasking for MCM Units up to 72 hours.


f. Plan (not task) MW Activities for the period 72 hours and beyond.


g. Ensure that the reports and records required from MCM Units are submitted in time and to a high standard.


h. Organise the Main Brief and Update Briefs as required by the Battle Rhythm.


i. Draft the MW Commanders Daily Direction and Guidance (D&G) signal.


j. Advise the Command of any events that impact on the assumptions or COAs within the Command Estimate.


k. To act as the Group Practice Programme (GPP) manager.


l. Maintain close liaison with the planning staffs of superior commands.


m. Maintain the MW Commanders plan, adapting the plan to changing circumstances and ensuring that it continues to best support the MCC's plan.


n. Plan for the possible redeployment of the MWBS including the exit strategy and liaise with SO3 N4 ENG for planning the execution of the move.


o. Act as lead Staff Officer for Force Protection.


p. Review progress towards completion of plans and advise COS of predicted shortfalls.


q. To support the COS and act as the MWBS non-MW lead programmer (when outside of exercises or operations) liaising with outside agencies as necessary.


r. To coordinate and supervise the compilation of non-MW planning and programme signal and MWBS Lessons Learnt as directed by COS.


s. To review progress of plans and advise COS of any shortfalls.


t. To act as the Divisional Officer to all SR N3 Watch keepers when deployed.


Employment Schedule:


FGen process, PDT and validation based in UK: 3-4 months prior to deployment.


Deployment based in Bahrain: 6 months.


Leave: 2 months on recovery from theatre.


Applicants should meet the following criteria:




Must either have been, or currently be, a OF3 of any specialisation.




Either have been, or currently be, a OF3 of the Mine Warfare specialisation.


Period of Service. The appointment is on FTRS( FC) TCoS for an initial period up to 2 years.  Previous applicants need not apply.


Annual Salary and Leave.  Basic pay will be between £ 49,423.98 and £59,191.32 per annum depending on increment level.  Recruitment and retention payments are not always available to Reservists on FTRS.  Details are available in the relevant JSP which you should check before accepting any commitment.  FTRS personnel are eligible for annual leave and public holidays in accordance with JSP 760.


Allowances.  FTRS(FC) provides a full allowance package; details of all allowances for FTRS are available in the relevant JSPs which you should check before accepting any commitment.


8 Jan 16 - Dates for the diary


Thursday 14 January 2016


Capt William Alexander CEng FIET FIMechE RN

(18 May 1936 - 30 Dec 2015)


Funeral of Capt Bill Alexander RN, popular Commander of HMS Vernon from 1979 to 1981, who died in hospital on 30 December after a short illness.  The service will start at 1030 at St Thomas Anglican Cathedral, Old High Street, Portsmouth and be followed by a reception in the Royal Naval & Royal Albert Yacht Club, Pembroke Road, Portsmouth.  No flowers please but donations, if desired, to the British Lung Foundation via this page at JustGiving.


Bill Alexander was 16 when he joined the Royal Navy at BRNC Dartmouth in 1961 and spent 39 years as a Weapons Engineering officer.  After leaving the RN in 1990, he spent eight years working for British Aerospace.  Between January 2000 and April 2014, he was a Board Trustee of the RN Museum and was a council member during the formation of the National Museum which was formed by bringing the RN Museum together with the Fleet Air Arm Museum, the Royal Marines Museum and the Submarine Museum.  As the grandfather of six children, he became a Volunteer Reading Helper at Southsea Infants School in 2000 and a governor in 2003 with specific responsibility for Health & Safety.  He was also a member of the Resources Committee.


Thursday 3 March 2016



MCDOA Northern Dinner in the wardroom of HMS Neptune at Faslane.  Presided over by Tim Davey (MCM1), this will celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the formation of the MCD Branch on 25 February 1966 and its first long course.  The dinner is open to all officers within HMS Neptune but is predominantly aimed at serving MCDs, MW Officers, CD and MW Warrant Officers and all members of MCMV Wardrooms.   Food, wine and entertainment are still under review but the cost should be no more than £30 per head.  This event is being organised by Tim 'Castro' Castrinoyannakis (OIC of Northern Diving Group's (NDG) Unit 2 (NDU2)) and he hopes to arrange a tour (maybe to include an MCMV) and pre-dinner drinks in NDG for those interested.  Further details and a booking form should be available next week.  In the interim, Steve Brown (CO NDG), Nathan Isaacs (FOST MPV) and Castro will be happy to answer any questions posed via this email address.


Friday 11 to Sunday 13 March 2016


Minewarfare Association (MWA) Annual Reunion weekend at the Hotel Rembrandt in Weymouth.  Special concessionary accomodation rate available until the end of January.  Booking details via the events page on the MWA website and the MWA's Facebook page.


Saturday 30 April 2016


MCDOA coach to Army Navy rugby match at Twickenham.  If successful, this will become an annual event.

Cheques are to be made payable to “MCDOA” and sent to Mark Shaw, our Honorary Secretary, at:




Bridge Building

Horsea Island





Saturday 14 May 2016



Evening reunion in Portsmouth to mark the 25th Anniversary of the 1991 Gulf War (Operation GRANBY/DESERT STORM - see here for some relevant Minewarfare & Diving dits).  This event is being organised by MCDOA former Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson (AB(Diver) HMS HURWORTH 1991).  Contact him via this email adddress if interested in attending or contact him or me via Facebook to be added to the relevant 'Event' page.


Details of these and other events of interest are available on the website's Forthcoming Events page. 


7 Jan 16 - Royal Navy Diving Heritage: The Med Fleet CD Team on Manoel Island, Malta in 1968


I am grateful to Derek Shea, son of the late ex-CD David Shea, for this email and images of Manoel Island, the base of the Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team in Malta:




Attached are a couple of MFCDT pictures from 1968/9.  I'm afraid I can't put many names to the faces other than in the first attached team pic: Dave Shea third from left in back row, Mick Curtin seventh from left in back row and John Dadd second from left in front row.


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

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

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

Harry Neve, Dudley North.


In the second team pic the only other name I can add is Alf Slingsby far right in the back row.



I've also attached a few photographs of the base from my recent visit in May last year.



Above and below: Manoel Island in May 2015




I've got loads more including interiors.  Let me know if anyone is interested in seeing them.  I won't attach too many for now.  


Please feel free to publish these pictures to the site if you feel they may be of interest to your members.  Perhaps they might be able to put a few more names to faces.


Kind Regards,




This article by the late MCDOA member Cdr John Parry OBE (see entry for 22 Nov 06 in News Archive 16), OIC of the Med Fleet CD Team at the time, was published in the Summer 1968 issue (Vol 15 No 2) of the RN Diving Magazine.  It is contemporaneous with the photos of the MFCDT provided by Derek:


News from the Med


Having taken over from John Grattan in March, I feel that it is time our readers were brought up to date on the Malta Clearance Diving Team, and also, to let you know what the team has been up to during the past few months.


Contrary to what many people think, the team is still based at Manoel Island, and in recent months the work load has increased tremendously.  As a result, the team have done a great deal of travelling and undertaken a variety of diving jobs.  We spend a good deal of time away from Malta on NATO exercises and, so far this year, have been to Italy and Crete with Greece and Turkey yet to come.


Other diving tasks have taken members of the team to Cyprus and Tobruk.  In Malta itself, the E.O.D. task is far from finished.  Very rarely does a day pass when our searching does not produce some form of unexploded ordnance.  Amongst items found last month were a 4,000 lb German 'Satan' and two German buoyant mines: a GZ and a GT.


Another task that takes up much of our time and effort is the removal of shells, depth charges and the like from the wrecks in Grand Harbour.  At present, we are working on the wrecks of two destroyers near the harbour entrance and, although work on one is nearly finished, the other will keep us busy for some time. 


In the sporting field, we have decided that we shall compete at football and volleyball.  Our first football match was played last week against one of the minesweepers and we ran out winners by 4-1.  Volleyball, we have tended to play amongst ourselves, but as we have constructed our own pitch next to the store, there is ample opportunity to play.


It is generally well-known that the future composition of the team is under review but, whatever decision is taken on this issue, there remains plenty of work to do in Malta and we hope that it will continue to be complemented as a Fleet Team.


The present team is as follows:


Lt Cdr Parry

Lt Bartlett

PO CD1 Slingsby

PO CD1 Newman

PO CD2 Neave

PO CD2 North

PO CD2 Dadd

LS CD2 Shea

LS CD2 Flynn

AB CD2 Curtin

AB CD2 Roberts

AB ShD Bryant



Among other places on the website, articles and images featuring Manoel Island can be found in the entries for:


29 Nov 05 in News Archive 12


14 Dec 07 in News Archive 20


4 Jun 08 in News Archive 22


12 Sep 09 in News Archive 27


31 Mar 10 in News Archive 29


23 Nov 10 in News Archive 32


23 Jan 13 in News Archive 41


7 Jul 13 in News Archive 43 


Also see this You Tube clip from the Rank series 'A look at Life' which was filmed in 1969 during Derek's dad's time in the MFCDT.  Tug Wilson and John Dadd also feature in the clip.


Members of the MFCDT diving in Grand Harbour, Malta


John Dadd tending the divers


From MCDOA member Tony Rose OBE:




I trust you are well.  Happy new Year!  


A few names for you on the first Team photo: 


Back Row: 4th from left is Erroll Flynn.  


Front Row: POME ? then John Dadd, Alf Slingsby, John Parry, Dave Bartlett, Darkie Newman, Harry Neve, Dudley North.  


On the final pic, the cleaner looking building on the left was the Shallow Water Diving School where I qualified in early 1957 as a SWD (Shark Wrestler [actually Shallow Water Diver]) with UBA [Underwater Breathing Apparatus] on 1.5 lpm O2 when George Wookey was the OIC.  I have forgotten the name of my Instructor who was a CPO D1.  I was serving in HMS DIANA (Daring Class Destroyer) at the time as a Junior Seaman and was in the Ship's Diving Team having qualified prior to carrying out "Gun Running" Patrols off Cyprus.


Lt Cdr Phil White [later Cdr Philip Balink-White] was the Boss of the MFCDT and CPO Brian Fawcett was the Team Chief.  That's where I first met characters like Yorky Wilkinson, Dave Audoir, Charlie Chapman, Jim Cook, Nobby Clarke etc - Happy Days!   I believe that pyramid shape at the back was part of the perimeter wall of HMS PHOENECIA.


Take care Rob.  Keep up the good work.


Best Regards,




From MCDOA member David Bartlett MBE:


"Hi Rob,


Many thanks for your emails ref Malta.  My initial reply has been covered by the many interesting replies that you have received but if you need any more info on the names, please let me know.


To follow on from John Parry's article; I took over from John in early 1969 and we eventually moved to St Angelo with a reduced team to carry out the same tasks as highlighted in John’s article (except for NATO work).  One operation that stands out was when a German buoyant mine was discovered by a Maltese yachtsman trying to free his anchor in a creek close to St Angelo.  It was in a high state of erosion and it was decided to lift it (lifting bag) and tow it out clear of the island.  This was highlighted on Malta TV and radio (as all serious EOD work was) and an area around the creek was evacuated.  The tow was successfully completed and we were accompanied by a flotilla of small boats preparing to gather all the fish that came to the surface after the explosion.


I was relieved by Bill Grady in August 1970.  He had the unfortunate task of running the organisation down as Don Mintoff, the President of Malta at that time, decided that he did not want the British troops on the island.


List of ordnance dealt with 1968-1970:


Bombs,mines and other un-exploded missiles:  300

Ordnance from sunken wrecks:                        3,000

Land ordnance:                                               300


Dorothy and I visited Malta in the 1990s and visited Manoel Island.  We were entertained by the Maltese Army Diving Unit who had set up their HQ in the premises we once occupied.  Not very good viewing now.


Great memories.


I would like to wish all the Divers and Staff who were present in Malta during that time a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year.






From former WO(D) John Dadd BEM:


"Hi Rob,


John Parry listed the members of the 1968 MCDT in his article.  This is to put names to faces in case you don't recognise any of them.


The picture has some locally employed personnel (LEP) on it.


FRONT ROW from left to right: LEP, John Dadd, Alf Slingsby, John Parry, Dave Bartlett, Darky Newman, Harry Neve, Dudley North.  


BACK ROW from left to right: LEP, LEP, Dave Shea, Errol Flynn, Robbie Roberts, Ken Bryant (ships diver) Mick Curtin, LEP, LEP.  


Our biggest job during my time in the team was the removal of ordnance from the wreck of HMS Jersey, loaded with shells, torpedoes and depth charges.  She was in Malta as part of Force K, a newly formed destroyer flotilla.  The flotilla had been at sea trying to intercept a supply convoy on passage to Tripoli from Augusta and a return convoy to Italy.  When entering Malta with other ships with Force K after a fruitless search, she detonated a mine laid in the entrance of Grand Harbour by aircraft the previous night.  HMS Kelly, Kelvin and Jackal had entered harbour before her and were marooned inside for some days before the wreck could be cleared.  She was then blown apart by depth charges in an attempt to give a decent depth of water in the main channel.


We first became aware of her after sighting three Maltese divers in a daihso continually diving in the same spot, which roused our curiosity.  Alf Slingsby decided to investigate what was attracting their interest, as they were obviously 'brassing", and discovered a smashed destroyer full of unexploded ordnance which would need clearing.


The team then surveyed the wreck and John Grattan, the boss at the time, submitted his report to Flag Officer Malta and the team were tasked to clear the ship of all ordnance.  Tricky job being in the main shipping channel, however, we toiled for months on end under the hot Mediterranean sun (someone had to do it!) on a challenging, interesting and rewarding job.


Great memories.




From former CPO(D) Alf Slingsby BEM:


"Hi Rob,


Just looked at the MCDOA site.  Malta holds a lot of memories for me and it was great to see so many familar faces.


Most of the wreck removal was done with John Grattan as Boss 1 and Mike Stewart as Boss 2.  I am still in contact with John Grattan who has not been keeping too well.


Will look in my photo collection to see what I have.


Yours aye,




From former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM:


"G’day Rob,


Please excuse the delay but I have been very busy consoling many old divers' ghosts that were resurrected by the publication of the recent photos of the old RN Diving Section at Manoel Island.  They really brought back a mass of great memories from what was now a long time ago (1958-61) and, probably without knowing it at the time, the best diving years of my life.


I was very saddened to see what was left of this pristine hub of activity where so much unexploded ordnance from WW2 was dealt with throughout the islands of Malta.  Yes, Malta took a severe punishment but that's how she got the George Cross added to her name!


Looking at the team photos I can only recognise the following from team photo no 1: Rear row 4th from LHS is AB Errol Flynn (deceased) with whom I served in HMS Dingley in 1962.  Front Row 2nd from left John Dadd, Alf Slingsby (CD1), John Parry (Boss), Dave Bartlett 2/ic, my old 1955 CD3 classmate Frank Newman (CD1), then comes Harry Neave (now resident Victoria, Oz) and RHS is Dudley North.  


My apologies to Derek Shea for not recognising his father Dave.  Although we shared the building with the Portsmouth BMD team during my time in the Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit, our jobs also kept us very much apart. 


As I said in a previous email, I had vague recollections that the team that attended the German crash site had come from the Portsmouth B&MD team but I cannot add anything further.


Sincere regards,


Dave L (Mona)

Eden, NSW



From MCDOA member Mike Gillam:


"Hi Rob,


I recognise a few faces but the only ones I can put a name to are John Parry in the centre and PO Newman, who was in the FECDT 1960-62, immediately on John’s right in one picture and second on left in the other.  However it was sad to see Manoel Island in such a state of disrepair.


I attach a couple of photos I took a few years ago when it was being used by the Malta Defence Force divers.



Manoel Island in 2008




From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:


"Hi Rob,


My first impression is the extraordinary amount of Petty Officers in one team.  I recognise most of the front row in the first picture starting with John Dadd second from left followed by Alf Slingsby, John Parry, David Bartlett, Darky Newman and Harry Neave.  In the second picture all the above Petty Officers have gone leaving only Darky Newman, to the left of John Parry, as Senior team leader.


Hope this might help to fill in some blanks.


Yours Aye,




From MCDOA member Dan Nicholson:


"Thanks Rob,


About the time I joined the branch.  Apart from knowing JP [John Parry] and John Grattan well, I have no background on any of the sailors.  And, I never visited Malta!






6 Jan 16 - HMS Middleton liaises with Djibouti Navy and Coast Guard


HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) departed Portsmouth for the Gulf on 9 November (see entry for 9 Nov 15) and called into Gibraltar on 14 November (see second entry for 18 Nov 15).  The Portsmouth News website contains this article reporting that she was recently in Djibouti at the mouth of the Red Sea where members of her ship's company shared their seafaring knowledge with their local counterparts. 


Sub Lt Adam Beesley chatting through the art of coastal navigation

(Portsmouth News website photo)


Postscript: On 7 January, the Royal Navy website published this article covering the same story but with more images.


5 Jan 16 -  Award of LS&GC medals


Congratulations to WO(D) John 'YoYo' Ravenhall on being gazetted for the award of the clasp to the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal and to CPO(MW) Sean Slee and PO(MW) David 'Foggy' Foggin on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal.


4 Jan 16


Royal Navy Diving Heritage: Cold War salvage of Soviet Yak-28 in Lake Haval, Berlin (continued)


I am grateful to Derek Shea, son of the late ex-CD David Shea, for this email (see second entry for 2 Dec 15):




More than happy for you to use any or all of my e-mail exchanges with Bert in order to assist with your article.  Obviously I can't add anything to the narrative other than to confirm that my late father David Shea was definitely one of the RN team involved and is the nearest rating unpacking the kit in Bert's photograph.  I can also confirm that he was with the Portsmouth Bomb and Mine Disposal Team at the time. 


From the MCDOA site it looks as though PO White was the OIC.  It would be great to identify the remaining members of the team and maybe uncover some more photographs.  As I've said in my previous e-mails with Bert, I have researched the incident thoroughly and read everything I could find including the documents at the National Archive.  I was always a bit disappointed that there was very little mention of the Navy's involvement.


The recent contact with Bert has been really wonderful.  He has provided me with more details of the Navy's involvement and of course the photograph for which I am really grateful, thanks Bert.  I look forward to reading the article in due course.  


On a different note Rob, I was in Malta in May last year and managed to obtain access to the old MFCDT / RN Diving School site on Manoel Island.  Dad was in the MFCDT from 1967-69.  I myself was born in the David Bruce RN Hospital, Mtarfa in 1968.  I've got a set photographs of the base which you are more than welcome to publish on the site if they are of interest to your members.  I also have MFCDT pictures on Manoel Island from 1967 to 1968 as well as pictures of the hospital.


Many thanks for the contact.


Kindest Regards and Happy New Year,


Derek Shea"


I am still striving to acquire the relevant photos from Derek or Bert and will publish them when received.


From Derek Shea:


"Hello Rob,


Attached are the photographs that Bert kindly sent me.  My dad, Dave, is the nearest rating unpacking the gear.  You can see the face mask and rebreather of the CDBA set in the foreground.




I also found this You Tube clip from the Rank series 'A look at Life' which was filmed in 1969 during my dad's time in the MFCDT.  Tug Wilson and John Dadd are also in the clip.  I'll forward the Malta photographs in due course,






SDU2 called to deal with hand grenade on Isle of Wight


The IOW Radio website contains this article describing a call-out for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to inspect a hand grenade recovered by police from the garden of a property in Newport on the Isle of Wight.


1 Jan 16 - Arrangements for the funeral of former FCPO(D) Robert 'Dutchy' Holland


A memorial service will be held for Dutchy at 1500 on Tuesday 5 January at the Magnolia Funeral Home, 811 South Magnolia, Magnolia, Texas 77355.


27 Dec 15 - Death of former FCPO(D) Robert 'Dutchy' Holland


Alex Dalton has passed word of the death of Dutchy Holland in a Houston hospice on Christmas Day.  He has asked his contact to pass on any further information when known.


Dutchy at a Divers' Dinner in the late 1960s


I only knew Dutchy briefly during the early 1970s but he made a lasting impression on me as a first class diver and robust leader with a big heart.  After leaving the Royal Navy, he became the highly respected safety director for Oceaneering International for many years. 


I am sure that other members of our community will join me in extending our sympathy to his family, friends and former colleagues.


From MCDOA member Tim Hidesley OBE:


"Hi Rob,


It’s a sad day when an old mate passes on.


I was a member of LMCDO '68, Course Officer Peter Waddington, Course Instructor Dutchy Holland and a motley crew of students - Dave Forsey, Mike Emary, Bob White, Chris Beresford-Green, Jim Brown, John Rayner and me.  Forsey was the oldest and saltiest, Rayner and me the youngest and both of us S/Lts which was unusual in those days.  Dutchy was a fair and gifted instructor who did his utmost to get us all through.  He was strong on max time in the water, rather than punishment by mud run and we benefitted from his professional approach to diving.  BR155 was digested thoroughly, no shortcuts.


As a Chief CD1 he had experienced close contact with officers but not in vocal groups of independently minded people like us who had strong opinions on everything, and had to be properly managed.  He allowed us leeway and found answers to all the endless questions about the Branch, diving rules and regs.  We liked him a lot and respected his judgement.  He was the one who said, ‘If you catch it you have to eat it", and we ate it raw or cooked.  He was only slightly put out when we were all thrown out of the B & B in Falmouth for disorderly behaviour, boiling crab in the bedrooms and allegedly sneaking a girl into a room overnight (and not paying for her!).   I didn’t, but married her later.  


I met Dutchy on occasion in the years that followed and continued to enjoy his zest for life and friendship.  What a loss.


With best wishes,




From MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton:


"Hi Rob,


Thanks for the sad news about Dutchy.  I knew that he had been unwell but not of the seriousness of his illness.  He was indeed a larger-than-life character who, in latter life, enjoyed his horsing activities both in Scotland and in the USA. 


I first met him at the RN Diving School in Chatham in the 1950s when I was qualifying D3.  Dutchy was among the last of the D1s to qualify 'Deep' in HMS Reclaim before we steamers were made obsolete and he was then 'converted' to CD1.  I did not see much of him during our subsequent service careers until I took over the Saturation Diving Team from Peter Cobby.  By then, Dutchy was well established with Oceaneering and he was very helpful in keeping me advised on the latest developments, particularly on equipment.  He was of also of great assistance when we carried out trials with the 'JIM' Atmospheric Diving Suit in connection with submarine rescue both locally and off Malta.


It was in the safety of manned underwater operations however that Dutchy made his greatest contribution.  To put this in its proper context: In the commercial world this was a time of rapid expansion in subsea work in support of North Sea oil and gas operations.  Although there were some UK-based contractors, most of the activity was in the hands of overseas-based companies using their own nationally-based divers with techniques and kit developed largely for Gulf of Mexico operations.  These subsequently proved unsuitable for northern North Sea operations and, after a number of fatalities, the governments of the UK and Norway called on both contractors and operating companies to significantly improve the standard of safety of offshore activity as a whole, but manned underwater operations in particular.  Thus the formation of the Divng Inspectorate under 'Jackie' Warner and the similar group in the  Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.


Dutchy, by now prominent in the association of Diving Contractors (AODC), greatly assisted in the formulation of the subsequent regulations and was a founder member of the European Diving Technology Committee.(EDTC).  This was  formed under the auspices of the EU to coordinate the regulation of diving safety on a wider international basis.  The oifield operating companies had formed their own underwater operational safety groups who also co-operated with the Inspectorates within their areas and internationally through available forums


I became secretary of the EDTC and, during my four year tenure, greatly enjoyed working with Dutchy whose common sense approach, technical knowledge and sense of humour were invaluable in often difficult negotiations.  With the spread of offshore operations worldwide, the principles he established in those pioneering days are continuing to contribute to the safety of manned subsea operations and are, in my opinion, a wonderful legacy.


Please pass on my condolences.






From former FCPO(D) David 'Mona' Lott BEM:


"G’day Rob,


Yet another mate to mourn.  Many thanks for the advanced notification of the sad loss of yet another “Good Bloke”.


Dutchy was one of the first three FCPOs to be made up from the CD branch.  The other two rated at the same time were Tom King and Nobby Clarke.


I first met Dutchy In 1955 when he was qualifying Diver 2 (Copperhead) at Chatham’s Diving School in the dockyard and I was on my CD3 (Corkhead’s) Course.  Dutchy was still riding his magnificent Triumph.  I do not know which year he saw the light and switched to the CD branch.


Our paths often crossed and I was sent to HMS Dingley as the Buffer where Dutchy was enthroned as the Coxswain / CD1 under the command of Lt Cdr Harry Parker.   Later and after leaving the RN, Dutchy worked in the North Sea, I think for Oceaneering, and did extremely well.




Dave L (Mona)"


From MCDOA member Ralph Mavin:


"Dutchy will be well remembered as a larger-than-life character with an immense knowledge of both military and professional civilian diving.  I had the benefit of this experience both as a diver and trainee supervisor over at RNPL and later in civilian life as a rookie Diving Inspector and subsequently as the Chief Inspector - I treasure these memories.




From MCDOA member Dave Forsey MBE:


"Dear Rob,


Very sad to hear of Dutchy's passing.  As a survivor of the 1968 LMCDO course, I have many memories of happy times with him as our course instructor.   A very special character who will be missed by all who knew him.


Yours aye,




From MCDOA member Peter Waddington:


"Dear Rob,


Very sad news about "Dutchy".  He was the Instructor, and my very able 'right hand man' when I was the Course Officer for the 1968 LMCDO and OLMCDO courses; a modest man, but a very fine CPO and instructor who should (as I am sure I told him) have become an SD Officer.


Those of the LMCDO course who are still with us will, I am sure, be saddened by the news and wish to join me in asking you to pass on our condolences.   My immediate assumption is that the "Houston" referred to is in Texas, rather than the one in Renfrewshire, but I will keep an eye on the website for further details, as I am, of course, fairly close to the latter.






From MCDOA past-Chairman David Hilton MBE:


"Dear Rob,


Thank you.  Dreadful news, especially to his family at Christmas.


I worked for Dutchy as a Leading Clearance Diver 2 when he ran the 75 metre air diving / sat diving team back in the 1960s before he went and made lots of money in the North Sea.  He was a larger than life character who will be sadly missed by us all.


My best regards,




From MCDOA member Brian Dutton DSO QGM:


"Dear Rob,


Not such a good morning when we are told of the passing of 'Dutchy' Holland.  Of all the members of this branch, he is the one for which I had the greatest admiration.  His knowledge of diving, experience and leadership were always to be admired.


Yours sincerely,




23 Dec 15 - HMS Atherstone home in time for Christmas


The Portsmouth News website contains this article, the Royal Navy website this article and the Navy News website this article describing today's return to Portsmouth of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) after her three-and-a-half year deployment in the Gulf region on Operation KIPION.


HMS Atherstone berthing alongside in Portsmouth

(Royal Navy photo by LA(Phot) Iggy Roberts, FRPU East)


HMS Atherstone after berthing alongside in Portsmouth

(Royal Navy photo by LA(Phot) Iggy Roberts, FRPU East)


PO(D) Matt Cable with his wife Katie, daughter Maisie and parents David and Lesley

(Royal Navy photo by LA(Phot) Iggy Roberts, FRPU East)


I am sure that all members of our community will join me in wishing her ship's company a very merry Christmas and a highly enjoyable leave with their loved ones.


22 Dec 15 - HMS Atherstone due home tomorrow


The Portsmouth News website contains this article announcing tomorrow's return to Portsmouth of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) after her three-and-a-half year deployment in the Gulf region on Operation KIPION (see entry for 11 Dec 15).  According to QHM's website, her ETA at Outer Spit Buoy is 1000.


Today's Portsmouth News website also contains this article, including a video message from Liam Andrews, the Operations officer of HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 7), one of seven Royal Navy vessels deployed in the Gulf region over Christmas.


Lt Liam Andrews RN, Ops Officer of HMS Chiddingfold


Postscript: The Portsmouth News published this Christmas message from Ldg Chef Steven Ward of HMS Chiddingfold on 23 December.


19 Dec 15 - MCM Force: Coalition in the Gulf


I am grateful to MCDOA member Tim Davey, Commander of the Faslane-based First Mine Countermeasures Squadron, for this message and the accompanying article written by Lt Tim Foley RN which draws upon an original submission published in the Royal Navy Warfare Officer’s News Letter 2015:




We mentioned this in our last email exchange on the candidates for future accommodation block names in Faslane.  I have passed that detail to the BXO for his consideration.  


Please find attached an article, with accompanying phots, that was written by my Battle Watch Captain (Lt Tom Foley – now on his MCDO course, supervised by me(!)) as part of our COMUKMCMFOR deployment that completed earlier this year.  I am content for it to be used on the MCDOA page and it could also feature in the next edition of ‘Ton Talk’.  Tom has given me his approval for it to go forward.  


Have a great Christmas and best wishes for 2016.  Let me know if you need anything else.







Commander Royal Navy

Commander First MCM Squadron"


MCM Force: Coalition in the Gulf


Lt Tom Foley joined the RN in 2010 after completing a degree in Politics and Economics from the University of Nottingham. SFT was spent in HMS Clyde conducting maritime security patrols around the Falkland Islands along with an enjoyable time in HMS Mersey enforcing fishery protection in UK waters.  Tom completed his first complement assignment in HMS Monmouth as an OOW and Intelligence Officer; this included an Op Kipion deployment along with a busy period of national tasking in home waters.  A short teaching job followed at HMS Collingwood instructing IWO students before being appointed to join COMUKMCMFOR.  He is now undertaking Mine Clearance Diving Officer training before re-joining the Fleet as an MCMV Operations Officer.


Having been appointed to RFA Cardigan Bay to join the Commander UK Mine Counter Measures Force (COMUKMCMFOR) Battlestaff my first two questions were ‘who are they’ and ‘what do they do’?  Whilst most will be familiar with the MCMVs permanently stationed in Bahrain, few will be aware of the coalition air, surface and sub-surface MCM effort in the Operation Kipion JOA. 


RFA Cardigan Bay sails with multinational Task Group under COMUKMCMFOR Command 


This article will outline the UK/US MCM coalition structure before explaining the range of MCM capabilities at its disposal.  A typical Task Group will be examined to show how the adaptable force operates.  Looking ahead, the future MCM force construct will be analysed showing the challenges and opportunities this will present.


Whilst remaining at R0 and very high readiness for tasking in support of national objectives under the direction of UKMCC, the RN MCM force in the Arabian Gulf works in coalition principally and regularly with US and French partners.  Training and close liaison with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations is also maintained to support their respective MCM and diving capability.  The mission of the coalition is simple; ensure the freedom of navigation throughout the JOA.  This is achieved by re-assuring partner nations, deterring potential adversaries and working together to build and maintain our collective understanding of the maritime environment.  The importance of the coalition’s work in safeguarding maritime security can not be overstated, global trade and elements of the UK’s energy security depend upon it.  Three of the world’s major choke points sit within the KIPION JOA: the Suez Canal, Bab El Mandeb Strait and Strait of Hormuz; these waterways must remain safe and open.


RIB carrying UUV getting craned off CRDG during Ops in the Gulf of Aden


When deployed, COMUKMCMFOR acts as the ‘adaptive’ MCM commander working under the Tactical Command (TACOM) of CTF 52 – the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet mine warfare command.  This is a unique structure and sees a UK staff working directly for the USN with high levels of interoperability required to ensure efficient and rapid integration.  Elements available to the UK led TG include four US Avenger class and four UK MCMV (two Hunt, two Sandown) permanently stationed in Bahrain.  French units augment the force along with providing personnel to Battlestaff. US Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV), Mine Hunting Units (MHU), EOD teams and the UK Fleet Diving Unit 3 can be called upon to join the MCM effort making the force highly adaptable.


USN Mk 18 UUV deploying from 12 m RIB Gulf of Aden May 2015


RFA Cardigan Bay acts as the Afloat Forward Support Base (AFSB) for UKMCMFOR along with a permanently embarked 16 strong Battlestaff providing command and control to the TG.  Expertise on the small staff includes Engineering, Communicators, Oceanography and Meteorology, Intelligence, Logistics, a Medical Officer and several Mine Warfare specialists.  Whilst at sea, sustainability is achieved by rafting ships with the AFSB; it can efficiently supply fuel, water, stores and ammunition allowing the TG to operate independently for long periods at sea without requiring to go alongside or any specific host nation support.  Although it doesn’t routinely operate with an embarked flight, the ship has a large flight deck and can lily-pad other helos or conduct stores or personnel transfers as required.


USS Dextrous rafts with CRDG during Ex Artemis Trident

(March 2015). Fuel and water transferred


When the TG assembles, the US UUV and MHU teams embark on RFA Cardigan Bay bringing with them all equipment including transportable command stations and teams of up to 50 people.  UUVs operate using Mark 18 Mod 1 and 2 vehicles (the same as the RN’s REMUS 100 and 600 systems) deployed from 12 m RIBS operating autonomously searching the sea bed in pre-determined route patterns.  The teams embark with a group of divers giving the ability to detect, identify and dispose of under water ordinance providing a complete organic MCM detect and engage capability.  MHU operate by towing a side scan sonar behind a remote controlled RIB at range from the AFSB offering rapid mine hunting and intelligent preparation of the environment.  This technology remains in the trials period at the urgent operational requirement stage and is yet to be fully commissioned by the USN.  It does however offer a glimpse of what future capabilities may hold for the MCM community; remote unmanned systems operated at range from a manned host platform.


Sitting alongside the more familiar surface MCM TG (the ships) is the forward deployed US air MCM component comprising of four MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters and a US underwater MCM element including full EOD diving teams, UUVs and Seabotix equipment.  Seabotix is a small and easily deployable submersible remotely operated vehicle.  Fitted with sonar, grabbing and cutting equipment along with a high resolution camera it is able to visually identify and dispose of ordnance without putting divers at risk.  The UK doesn’t operate any Air MCM capabilities but can call upon the Fleet Diving Squadron, for Fleet Diving Unit 3, who are at high readiness in the UK to deploy to the JOA and utilise their forward deployed equipment (REMUS 100 and clearance diving sets).


MHU deploying from CRDG dock


The air and subsurface MCM units form two separate TGs that run in parallel to the UK led surface MCM component (CTG 52.1 – Underwater, CTG 52.2 – Surface, CTG 52.3 – Air).  This provides maximum flexibility in tasking and allows operations to take place across a large area by splitting the force.  However all of the commands are adaptable in that they have the capacity to task other elements of the force and are no longer stove-piped.


UK/US exercises involving air, surface and sub-surface MCM take place in the Arabian Gulf on a regular basis to develop interoperability and strengthen working relationships.  ‘Squadex’ is a quarterly exercise between the UK/US and there are numerous others that lead up to the biennial International MCM Exercise (IMCMEX) a significant multinational exercise stretching across the whole JOA. All feature COMUKMCMFOR with Tactical Command of ships and assets from several coalition partners.  Focusing on detecting and identifying exercise mines in a specified threat area, the aim is to build interoperability between units involved, operate safely together and find the mines to enable the delivery of military effect (choke point Freedom of Navigation, Amphibious Task Force routing, approaches to maritime critical national infrastructure etc.).  National doctrinal differences, ROE profiles and differing MCM Risk Directives provide learning points following each exercise; this in turn strengthens the coalition into a more effective fighting force.  Whilst mine hunting is the focus, force protection units (which would be essential when operating in a semi-permissive environment) are incorporated to defend the MCM force allowing further training and integration.  Recent exercises have involved Type 45s, Type 23s and Arleigh Burke class ships patrolling the force providing force protection, threats assessments and a greater situational awareness to the MCMVs.


Historical ordnance detonated by a diver-placed charge during Ex Artemis Trident


The ability to disrupt maritime security through mining or the credible threat of mining continues to shape the future coalition MCM force construct.  Mines are relatively cheap, easily acquired and deployed; the need for a rapidly deployable and adaptable MCM capability is clearly evident.  This was realised in April 2015 when COMUKMCMFOR deployed to the Gulf of Aden and Southern Red Sea as the afloat commander for a coalition TG comprising of four MCMVs (two US, one UK, one FR), UUV and MHU teams along with RFA Cardigan Bay.  Deploying 2000nm from the Arabian Gulf for a 40 day period in response to a potential threat of sea mining in the area, proved the robust force construct of a UK led TG and high readiness assets in theatre with trained and effective crews.  The adaptability of the TG allowed survey work to be carried out in areas from the Southern Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden in depths of water between 2m utilising divers down to 400m by employing the US variable depth sonar capability.  Important work was also complete in the Bab el Mandeb strait reassuring the global shipping community, deterring potential aggressors and building a greater understanding of the maritime environment in the region.


An old exercise mine being recovered by HMS Shoreham, with divers watching on


Looking ahead the need to continue developing a stronger MCM coalition will become apparent as limited resources are called upon to meet demanding tasking across a large JOA.  The existing coalition can be improved and expanded.  Exercises will allow further integration between partners however opportunities to incorporate new nations into the force construct should encouraged, including those of the GCC.


As new MCM technology develops, the US have turned their attention towards developing the Littoral Combat Ships, which is planned to replace the Avenger class MCMV by 2022.  The UK, alongside upgrading existing MCMVs (including the engine replacement programme in Hunt class and generator upgrades in Sandowns) has now started to develop a multi-purpose ship.  The concept is to use a common hull and modular design that can be reconfigured for different roles to support MCM, hydrographical and patrol requirements. This will see the UK developing UUVs to facilitate rapid MCM Ops whilst removing the human element from the threat area.  As developments are made both at home and abroad new opportunities and challenges are presented.  The RN MCM community must continue to playing a leading role in MCM coalition operations looking at how new threats, technologies and partners nations will shape the future force construct. It is not entirely clear how a traditional MCMV can really be replaced and the next 10-20 years should see some exciting developments as technology delivers better unmanned systems – although they will routinely always require some form of ship and, of course, the highly trained people to prepare, launch, monitor, operate and maintain the equipment.


MHU team launch 12 m RIB from CRDG dock. The towed sonar can be seen at the back of the RIB


The highly adaptive UK-led MCM coalition TG operating under a US command has proven to operate as a successful model.  Working with partner nations to achieve a common aim makes sense in the world today and future efforts must build on this foundation, ensuring the RN remains a leading force in the MCM community both in home waters and further afield as part of a NATO TG or in the Kipion JOA.


US UUV team prepares to launch from the dock of CRDG. The two Remus UUVs

can be seen on the back of the RIB


Reflecting on my time working for COMUKMCMFOR as the Battle Watch Captain, I have learnt a great deal about mine warfare and the coalition MCM effort in the Kipion JOA.  I was part of a small but well-trained and motivated team (who we are) and was involved in everything from intensive training to operations and wider regional engagement plus the management and leadership of a diverse and capable force (what we do).  The ability to assemble a TG comprising of UK, US and French assets at a moment’s notice and deploy it to operate effectively together was impressive.  Sustaining it at sea with only minimal shore support and combining numerous MCM capabilities when needed has shown the adaptability, flexibility and clear benefits of the RN leading a successful coalition force.  The future of MCM remains in the balance – with new technologies offering incredible capabilities to advance and speed up the detect to engage process but this must be measured against the increasing sophistication of the worldwide mine threats and the residual capability we have in our current array of MCM tools to deal with any potential mine dangers.


18 Dec 15 -  MCDOA Northern Dinner 3 Mar 16 and Fleet Efficiency Award to NDG


I am grateful to MCDOA member Tim 'Castro' Castrinoyannakis, Officer-in-Charge of Faslane-based Northern Diving Group's (NDG) Unit 2 (NDU2), for this update:


"Afternoon Rob,


I hope all is well and you’ve got a festive vibe on!


I thought it wise to give you a quick update on our efforts in organising the Northern Dinner for next year ahead of the festive season.  With a bit of fin work, Lt Cdr Steve Brown, Lt Cdr Nathan Isaacs and I have managed to secure 3 March 2016 as the most suitable date with NEPTUNE WR and RN commitments; only a handful of days really past our 50th anniversary.  The Wardroom has kindly agreed to support our event and I am confident, having attended the last one in 2014, that we will be well looked after by the staff. 


The dinner is open to all Officers within NEPTUNE but predominantly aimed at serving MCDs, MW Officers, CD and MW Warrant Officers and all member of MCMV Wardrooms.


Food, wine and entertainment are still under review, but I can confirm that the cost will be no more than £30 per head.


Cdr Tim Davey (Cdr MCM 1) will sit as Mess President and will be leading the event as our Senior Northern MCD.  Our VIP for the evening is still under discussion but I can assure you it will be someone equally charismatic, engaging and in line with our ethos.


Unfortunately, accommodation has been an ongoing issue in Faslane for the past two years.  However, every effort is being made (both by us and the Base XO) to identify availability early in order to ensure we can accommodate everyone.


An official announcement, which will include the finer details, will be made mid-January.  In the interim rest assured that the dinner will take place next year and is shaping up nicely in becoming a fine evening, worthy of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the formation of the MCD branch.  Could I request that you advertise the above on our Website as we are keen to get the word around as early as possible?


On another note, I am delighted to announce on behalf of Lt Cdr Steve Brown RN (CO NDG) that this year's Fleet Diving Unit Efficiency Trophy has been awarded to Northern Diving Group.


RN Surface Flotilla Efficiency Pendant


The award is an NCHQ sponsored trophy awarded to the diving unit which has demonstrated the overall highest standard in diving capability and performance.  As you can imagine, this is a great honour for everyone here at NDG and we are delighted for the opportunities to deliver such outstanding results.  There is not a single individual onboard who did not play a vital role in our success  


Here is the citation from NCHQ, although we now stand at a total of 44,006 minutes of underwater effect:


 “Northern Diving Group (NDG) is made up of two co-located Diving Units, maintained at high readiness 365 days a year:


NDU1 is responsible for the provision of R0 (24 hours notice to move) support to Op RELENTLESS under CASD plus R1 (48 hours notice to move) manpower for NATO’s Submarine Rescue System (NSRS). 


NDU2 is responsible for the provision of a two-man counter-IED watch at 10 minutes notice to move and a four-man Conventional Munitions Disposal (CMD) at 30 minutes notice to move.  In addition NDU2 is charged with providing an eight-man Operational Maintenance and Repair (OMAR) support unit to the Fleet at R2 (5 days notice to move). 


Neither NDU1, nor NDU2 are scaled with sufficient manpower to sustain their commitments in isolation and the established “supporting and supported” relationship between both units makes the nomination of NDG all the more appropriate.  During the 11 months January to November 2015, NDG’s successes can be summarised as follows:


The Group have conducted in excess of 450 operational dives totalling 18,929 minutes, the majority of which have been in direct support to Op RELENTLESS or submarines preparing for operations from the Clyde. 


Between 16 August and 11 September this year, an eight-man element deployed with diving and ROV capability to the USA to successfully complete a challenging and essential Enclosed Space Diving System (ESDS) task which ensured the operational schedule was not impacted by a potentially critical defect. 


Those operational dives which are not directly attributable to maintaining the RN submarine schedule were largely undertaken during an NDG-led EOD operation by elements of Fleet Diving Squadron (FDS), tasked to support the MOD Salvage and Marine Organisation (SALMO) in the removal of oil from the World War II wreck of RFA DARKDALE located in James Bay, St Helena.  Sixty dives totalling 1,540 minutes were conducted at depths between 33m to 42mto overcome the challenges posed by what was found to be a fragile hull structure with concretion fixing the shells to the hull which risked causing a large scale oil spill.  This NDG led task resulted in the safe disposal of 38 HE Projectiles, amounting to a total NEQ of 78 kg.


In providing a UK Military Aid to the Civil Power (MACP) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capability to the Home Office ashore and at sea from Humber, anti clockwise to the Mersey NDG have responded to 78 CMD tasks (including 29 tasks to remote islands and peninsula’s), rendering a total of 727 items of ordnance safe.  NDG also responded to 5 IED tasks during 2015.  Tasking has resulted in excess of 25,000 road-miles travelled, routinely on rural roads in challenging weather.


Three tasks which demonstrate the varied nature of NDG’s year were:


An extended operation to recover and dispose of 277 pyrotechnics which, having been stored in a disused warehouse, had become accessible to children and a number had been taken into schools in Glasgow.


Safely raising, moving and subsequently disposing of a live S Mk 6 mine located within 100m of a busy lido and gym and 500m of a ferry terminal.


A night helo insertion to a remote peninsula to return normality to a community and school where 100 sticks of commercial explosive had been located in an out building.


NDG have also coordinated and led the only major multinational NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) exercise of this year; they continue to provide the greatest SQEP contribution of the three nations towards arguably the most capable submarine rescue system in the world.


In sum, the 40 uniformed and 2 civilian staff in NDG have yet again eclipsed every diving unit with respect to in-water time, a total of 25,069 minutes and contribution to both Military Tasks and enduring operations.  Their success is entirely attributable to the can-do cohesion between two heavily committed units which enables challenging ops to be achieved with such highly professional and entirely safe results."  


Finally a very Merry Christmas from all us divers here at NDG.


Yours Aye,




Tim Castrinoyannakis

Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy

Officer In Charge Norther Diving Unit Two

Northern Diving Group "


17 Dec 15 - A Parliamentary Question about HMS Brocklesby


From Hansard:


HMS Brocklesby: Written question - 19417


Mrs Madeleine Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether (a) HMS Brocklesby M33 mine sweeper will be refitted at Portsmouth naval dockyards and (b) that refitting will include new propulsion capability; and if he will make a statement.  (Asked on 9 December 2015.)


Mr Philip Dunne: As part of the Royal Navy’s continual examination of its resources and operational priorities, HMS Brocklesby’s docking period and refitting of her propulsion capability has been deferred.  (Answered on 16 December 2015.)


16 Dec 15 - Completion of Minewarfare Course


The Portsmouth News website contains this article reporting the completion of MW qualifying course by AB(MW) Charlie Bennett, 22, from Fareham.  He was presented with his certificate of qualification by Capt Phil Milburn RN, Captain Mine Warfare & Patrol Vessels, Diving & Fishery Protection (Captain MFP).


15 Dec 15 - Gentlemen Who Lunch


The MCDOA's 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole, plus Hoole's next door friend and neighbour Lez Howard, enjoyed its final Tuesday gathering of the year today at The Blue Bell in Emsworth.  Giles Babb, the pub's landlord and chef de cuisine, joined us for the customary photo.



A Merry Christmas to all our followers.


14 Dec 15 - News from HMS Cattistock


I am grateful to Lt Cdr Simon Cox, Commanding Officer of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 6), for this update received via the Ton Class Association (TCA) for which I write a column titled 'MCMV News' in its bi-monthly newsletter called 'Ton Talk'.


"As we round 2015, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on a busy year, punctuated throughout by success and in doing so, convey my sincere thanks to all involved with CATTISTOCK and for your parts therein.  The start of the year saw Crew 6 return to the UK after a challenging but rewarding deployment to the Arabian Gulf for Op KIPION, receiving plaudits from both the US and National Component Commanders for the invaluable contributions to the Gulf region.  Since returning, we have taken ownership of HMS CATTISTOCK and spent the majority of the year completing a multi-million pound refit, which brought with it different, but no less important challenges.  However, it did allow us to host family, friends and affiliates for a special day in Portsmouth dockyard back in July.  It was day 2 in Command for myself and a great way to start.  I hope to meet our friends, family and affiliates many more times over the coming 18 months and as I have said many times, you are the VIPs and are most welcome onboard anytime.  We must make the most of every opportunity to further these relationships.


September saw a peak of activity as we brought the Ship back to life and completed the first runs of the new engines, auxiliary equipment, weapons and sensors.  This culminated in October when we eventually took the 'Mighty CATT' back to sea for the first time and pushed her hard through her sea trials. She passed with flying colours and this was only as a result of the hard work, determination and professional acumen of a close-knit team - Crew 6.  We were fortunate enough to have our efforts recognised by both the MCM Commander and the Portsmouth Flotilla Commodore, who highlighted the super human effort put in, bringing a 33 year old ship back up to modern war fighting standards.  In November, we celebrated this success in quite some style, rededicating HMS CATTISTOCK with a most notable previous Commanding Officer, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC ADC DL and his wife Lady Zambellas.  The event was a huge success and something not often achieved by a minehunter.  But it served as a fitting milestone for CATT to re-enter the Fleet, ready to serve her Country once again.  We also managed to reward many of the sterling efforts from the team, with some even making the local papers!  Later that week, we were also fortunate enough to host the Pope's Ambassador to the United Kingdom - the Apostolic Nuncio, Arch Bishop Meninni.  Another high profile visit executed in typical MCM style.


From there, we have travelled around the United Kingdom conducting wider regional engagement visits to Poole for November ceremonies (representing the RN at both Poole and the village of Cattistock commemorations in typical naval style).  We have also visited Glasgow and Fowey in Cornwall, spending long periods in rough weather building our core warfare skill in preparation for national duties over the Christmas period.  Throughout we have received fantastic feedback, especially from the Naval Regional Commander, Naval HQ and all those we have had the pleasure of working with.  Such achievements and plaudits do not happen by coincidence.  It takes a well-led team, underpinned by the same genuinely excellent people who come together as a 'band of brothers' and I am privileged to be part of that team and incredibly grateful for the contributions of everyone involved.  Furthermore, the taut programme demanded a great deal of personal commitment in order to ensure success and as such, I am equally indebted to the family, friends and affiliates for their support throughout our endeavours.  They are a critical factor in Crew 6's success and I would like to extend my sincere thanks to them for their ongoing support in all that we do.


Looking ahead to 2016, we have an important Operational deployment to the Arabian Gulf, and we need to ensure both CATTISTOCK and Crew 6 are ready for everything and anything that we may be asked to do.  We all know that the current geopolitical climate is a complicated one and we must remain ready to deliver for UK PLC.  I am absolutely confident that we will be ready, and continue to build on our reputation for success. 


In the mean time, though, all that remains is for me to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Fingers crossed for a quiet Christmas period and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.


Many thanks again for your continued support.  Merry Christmas


Simon Cox


Lieutenant Commander Royal Navy

Commanding Officer

HMS Cattistock"


12 Dec 15 - US Remote Minehunting System severely criticised


The Daily Mail website contains this article and the CNN website the following article citing the latest report by the US Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) on the development of Lockheed Martin's Remote Minehunting System (RMS):


 $700 million mine-hunting drone can't find explosives


"(CNN) - A mine-detection system the US Navy invested nearly $700 million and 16 years in developing can't complete its most basic functions, according to the Pentagon's weapon-testing office.  The Remote Minehunting System, or RMS, was developed for the Navy's new littoral combat ship.  But the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation says the drone hunting technology was unable to consistently identify and destroy underwater explosives during tests dating back to September 2014.


"The Navy has determined that the RMS' total number of failures and periodicity of failures fall short of the design requirement for the system," said Capt. Thurraya Kent, a spokeswoman for the Navy.  Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's undersecretary of defense for acquisition, has scheduled a review of the program for early 2016..." 


Washington, D.C. (Dec. 13, 2002) The Remote Minehunting System (RMS)

is an organic, off-board mine reconnaissance system that will offer carrier

 battle group ships an effective defense against mines by using an unmanned

 remote vehicle. RMS is being designed for installation aboard Arleigh Burke-class

 destroyers. Current plans call for RMS to be first installed aboard the destroyer

 Pinckney (DDG 91) in 2004

(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin/Released) 



Above and below: GULF OF MEXICO (Jan. 7, 2012) The Remote Minehunting System (RMS) and an

AN/AQS-20 mine hunting sonar are brought aboard the littoral combat ship USS Independence

(LCS 2) during developmental testing of the mine warfare mission module package

 (U.S. Navy photos by Ron Newsome/Released)




This news is particularly interesting in view of plans to replace the UK's current MCMVs with the future Mine Countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) incorporating offboard MCM systems deployed from a variety of vessels or even from ashore.  Trials of various remote-controlled minehunting and minesweeping systems, including the Atlas Remote Combined Influence Minesweeping System (ARCIMS), are being conducted by the Portsmouth-based Maritime Autonomous System Trials Team (MASTT) using a specially procured fast motor launch called 'Hazard' (see entry for 16 Apr 14 in News Archive 46).


This article explains the US Navy's concept of taking the man out of the minefield:


Breaking Defense 6 April 2015: From Sailors To Robots: A Revolution In Clearing Mines


11 Dec 15 - HMS Atherstone in Malta and Gibraltar


I am grateful to local photographer Mario Buhagiar and his Facebook publishing friend Bence Zákonyi for allowing me to publish this striking image of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) leaving Grand Harbour in Malta on 6 December.  See their Facebook page at Mario Buhagiar's Ships in Malta


HMS Atherstone leaving Grand Harbour, Malta on 6 December

(Photo courtesy of Mario Buhagiar)


I am also grateful to local photographer Daniel Ferro for this image of HMS Atherstone in Gibraltar today.  She is on her way home to Portsmouth after a three-and-a-half year deployment in the Gulf on Operation KIPION (see entry for 3 Dec 15).


HMS Atherstone in Gibraltar on 11 December

(Photo courtesy of Daniel Ferro)


10 Dec 15


A few words from MCDOA member Jon Riches


I am grateful to MCDOA past-Vice Chairman & former Superintendent of Diving (1987-90) Jon Riches for these tidings:




Thank you for the info re 'George' Sissons.  I visited him today and it was good to see him after many years but sadly not in the best of circumstances.  I first met him when he was Second Dicky' on our 1966 Long Course.  I was buddied to him for the later parts of the Diving module as my buddy, Neil Harrison, had been back coursed due injury.  George then served in the Western Fleet CD Team 1969 - 1971 when I was OIC.  Subsequently our paths crossed during various MCD appointments.  I much enjoyed his company and he was an excellent and loyal member of my Team.  He is clearly being very well looked after at 'Wisteria Lodge', Horndean and still maintains his sense of humour and enjoys reminiscing!  I did not take him a tot as you did but something else alcoholic! 


Your article and pictures of Nutty Carr also brought back memories as when I was First Lt of BRONINGTON 1967 - 68 he was in IVESTON and subsequently transferred to BRONINGTON and if I remember rightly, relieved me.  He was a good chum and when needed gave me sage advice which was most gratefully received by a very green MCDO!  He and his wife were kind and generous hosts in their married quarter in South Queensferry, frequently entertaining us batchelors.  Their invitations always resulted in very sore heads the following morning!!


It all seems such a long time ago.


Best wishes,




Departing SofD Jon Riches in standard dress being presented with a leaving memento by

Lt Col Roger Mundy RE (SofD Army) after a final dip in the Creek at HMS Vernon in 1990


Royal Navy Minewarfare Heritage: Award of Legion d'Honneur to D-Day motor minesweeper veteran


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the recent presentation of the French Legion d'Honneur to Trevor Watson at a ceremony in the Wardroom, HMS Collingwood.  Trevor was a Boy Signalman in the Royal Naval Patrol Service (RNPS) on board the 105 ft 'Micky Mouse' motor minesweeper MMS 252 on D-Day during the Normandy landings.  He was presented with his medal by Commandant François Jean, Honorary Consul of the French Embassy on behalf of the President of France, in the presence of Nigel Atkinson Esq, HM Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire (see 'Operation Neptune: The Minesweeping Operation 5-6 June 1944' in the website's Dit Box).



Trevor Watson flanked by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire and the Honorary Consul of France

(RN website photo)


The RNPS, in which Trevor served, fought all over the world in all theatres of the war and was mainly involved with minesweeping and anti-submarine work.  The only RNPS VC was won at Namsos during the Narvik campaign but over 850 other awards were made to RNPS personnel as well as over 200 Mention in Despatches.  RNPS vessels were on convoy duty in the Atlantic and the Arctic, in the Mediterranean and the Far East but many will first think of them keeping the War Channels clear.  Throughout the early years of the war, the Germans sowed minefields by sea and by air around the British Isles in an attempt to strangle the coastal convoys that kept Britain supplied.  The RNPS worked tirelessly to keep the shipping lanes clear so that the convoys could continue.  This meant constant minesweeping using systems developed by HMS Vernon because each time an area was cleared, E-boats, U-boats or aircraft mined it again.


MMS 236 - A 105 ft motor minesweeper similar to Trevor's


105 ft motor minesweepers detonating an influence mine


This hazardous work was recognised by Churchill with the award of a unique silver badge to RNPS minesweeping and anti-submarine crews.  It was not an automatic award and was only given to those officers and ratings who had completed six months sea-time.  The first issue had a vertical pin at the back but so many of these were lost that it was changed to having four small eyes so that it could be sewn onto the sleeve (see 'RN Minewarfare Branch' in the website's Branch History section).



Royal Naval Patrol Service Badges


After the war, Trevor served in the Admiralty Dance class minesweeping trawler HMT Cotillion in the Baltic where he took part in the dangerous job of ordnance disposal and the removal of German defensive minefields.  He was subsequently discharged from the Service in January 1947.


Dance class Admiralty trawler HMT Cotillian


9 Dec 15 - David Hosking to sail Atlantic for charity


MCDOA member David Hosking MBE (Leader of Team Hallin) and the team's sponsor, fellow MCDOA member John Giddens (Founder & former Chief Executive of Hallin Marine) achieved a new trans-Atlantic rowing record, albeit briefly, in June 2011 (see second entry for 8 Feb 11). 


Team Hallin arriving in Port St Charles, Barbados in June 2011


I have now received this announcement:


"After two successful Trans-Atlantic rows in 2010 and in 2011, Team Hallin's skipper David is now about to embark on a sailing adventure tracing the same route that he had previously rowed/sculled across on the Classic West to East mid-Atlantic route.  David will be joined by Bob Prentice [Altantic rower 2010] as the crew on Ted Manning's [skipper] 33ft sailing ketch 'Celtic Dawn'.  The three of them hope to set off from La Gomera in mid-December, about the same time as the 35 Ocean Rowing Boats in the Talisker Challenge Rowing Race depart, but 'Celtic Dawn' will aim for a landfall in Barbados rather than in Antigua as the racing rowing boats will do.


Celtic Dawn at anchor off Spain earlier this year


To show your support for David and team in their efforts to raise funds for Combat Stress, and also to track Celtic Dawn's progress to the West Indies, please go to Team Hallin's website at:


Have a great Christmas and a prosperous New Year.






DB Hosking

Team Hallin"


8 Dec 15 - HMS Blyth emerges from refit


The Navy News website contains this article reporting last month's emergence of Faslane-based HMS Blyth (MCM1 Crew ?) from a seven-month refit at Rosyth.  The work package saw the ship receive 15 specific capability upgrades and modifications, including the installation of three new diesel generators.   Other work included the complete renewal of her hull’s outer paint and improvements to the ship's company accommodation.


HMS Blyth heading from Rosyth towards the Forth Road Bridge, once rumoured to carry traffic

(Navy News photo by Dave Warner)


7 Dec 15 - Royal Navy Minewarfare Heritage: 11th MCM Squadron painting unveiled


MCDOA member Martyn Holloway was the Senior Officer of the 11th Mine Countermeasures Squadron (11th MCM Sqn) which comprised five Hull trawlers taken up from trade, converted into minesweepers, manned by personnel from refitting Ton class MCMVs and then deployed to the South Atlantic for Operation CORPORATE during the Falklands conflict in 1982 (see 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box).  On Saturday he was among other squadron veterans. plus Jon Major of HMS Ardent, who witnessed the unveiling of a framed painting of one of the trawlers, HMS Northella, at The Admiralty in Trafalgar Square, officially London's most central pub (see entry for 19 Nov 15).  Northella's bell already hangs in the pub.


Left to right: Pony Moore (ex-Farnella), Jon Major (ex-Ardent), Andy Watts (ex-Cordella),

Jim McIntosh (ex-Northella), Adrian Thompson (the artist), Jeremy Greenop (ex-Northella CO)

and Martyn Holloway (ex-Cordella CO and MCM 11)


Adrian Thompson's painting of HMS Northella


The painting's accompanying explanation


Cdr Jeremy Greenop OBE RN, former CO of HMS Northella / HMS Soberton


6 Dec 15 - News from HMS Grimsby



I am grateful to Lt Cdr Neil Griffiths, Commanding Officer of HMS Grimsby (MCM1 Crew 5), for this update received via the Ton Class Association (TCA).  I write a column titled 'MCMV News' for the Associaton's bi-monthly newsletter 'Ton Talk'.


"It is with great pleasure that I write to introduce myself as the Commanding Officer of HMS GRIMSBY and First Mine Counter Measures Squadron Crew 5, having taken over from Will King who I understand wrote to you on his departure.  I am incredibly proud and honoured to take Command of HMS GRIMSBY and I am pleased to say that Crew 5 will have the Ship for the next year which will give me and the team a chance to host you I hope, onboard over the tenure of my Command.  As you are aware the Crew changes in GRIMBSY every year but we have been lucky enough to serve in her twice before (under Simon Kelly and Giles Palm), so it has felt like coming home.


HMS GRIMSBY has a busy year ahead. Having just completed a short workup to prepare her Ship's Company for our current deployment, she underwent a maintenance period alongside in Rosyth, before returning to sea.  Our main operational task started in September where we are now deployed for the next 3 and a half months as part of Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Task Group 1 (SNMCMG1) alongside various different nations as part of NATO's reaction force.  This deployment will include a number of multi-national exercises and take us all over Europe and into the Mediterranean.


As is the form these days on minor war vessels, the regular changes of crews can make it challenging to maintain that 'special' relationship with our affiliates; however Will has told me of the very strong links that have been built with yourselves and of the support you have shown, hence I am very keen to build on this in the year ahead.  I am hopeful that in the New Year after we return from our NATO Deployment, you will have the opportunity to come on board 'Your Ship' and to meet some of our exceptional young sailors.  In the mean time, I look forward to meeting you in due course, and please drop me a line if I or any of my team can be of any support over the coming months or more importantly when we return to home waters.


Yours Aye,




5 Dec 15 - Former WO(D) Stew 'George' Sissons in fine fettle


I called in to see Stew at Wisteria Lodge in Hordean yesterday afternoon.  He was in remarkably fine fettle considering that he had received treatment at QA Hospital in Cosham that morning (see entry for 21 Nov 15).  The quality of the photos is not up to the usual standard because I used my iPad



I took along a bottle of Pussers Rum at the suggestion of former WO(MW) Lee 'Barney' Barnett BEM, who visited Stew last week.  Stew and I shared a few tots and dits with his other visitors, Jim Chetwood and Micky Finn.  I also met Emily who not only cares for Stew but also ensured that we were kept supplied with plenty of tea and biscuits.




Stew is happy to receive as many visitors as possible but it is worth calling Wisteria Lodge first to check that he is not away for one of his treatment sessions.  I can provide his email address and/or mobile number on request.


Postscript: This delightful photo was taken when former WO(MW) Lee 'Barney' Barnett BEM visited Stew again on Monday 7 December.




4 Dec 15


Death and funeral of Anthony 'Pedro' Pitt


Ex-CD Tony 'Pedro' Pitt passed away on Monday 23 November.  Troy Tempest and Terry Gosling have kindly informed me that his funeral will take place at Worcester Crematorium, Astwood on Monday 7 December at 1430.


RN and USN MCMVs exercise together in the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting a recent MCM exercise in the Gulf involving HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 8), HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 7), HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 6), USS Gladiator and USS Devastator.  The MCMVs were supported by USS Ponce, the Afloat Forward Support Base, which provided a helicopter platform, as well as divers and a US Navy Mine Hunting Unit (MHU) using unmanned surface vessels to scan the seabed with sonar.






Royal Navy photos


Postscript: The Royal Navy website published this article on 8 December supplementing the original story.


3 Dec 15 - HMS Atherstone halfway home


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting the Suez Canal transit of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4).  This marked the midpoint of her passage home to Portsmouth after her three-and-a-half year deployment in the Gulf on Operation KIPION.  The article features AB(D) Ben Phillips.


MCM2 Crew 4 with HMS Atherstone at Aqaba in Jordan

(RN website photo)


HMS Atherstone after passing beneath the Egyptian-Japanese Friendship Bridge

crossing the Suez Canal at El Qantara

(RN website photo) 


Since leaving Portsmouth in May 2012 (see entry for 30 May 12 in News Archive 38), HMS Atherstone has steamed over 50,000 miles, participated in 14 joint UK-US training exercises and spent more than 8,630 hours (just over 51 weeks) on operational tasks, i.e. not on passage or alongside.  She is due home for Christmas. 


2 Dec 15


Second World War bomb detonated at Tynemouth


The North East Chronicle website contains this article, including video, of a wartime bomb being detonated by a naval EOD team today at Tynemouth Longsands.  It had been dredged up from the River Tyne near Swan Hunter at Wallsend.




Royal Navy Diving Heritage: Cold War salvage of Soviet Yak-28 in Lake Haval, Berlin


I received this query via the website on Monday 30 November:


"Dear Gentlemen,


I am from the Allied Museum in Berlin and researching a dive done by British Navy divers in Berlin in 1966.  In that year a Russian Yak jet fighter crashed into a lake in the British sector in Berlin.  Two or three Royal Navy divers than tried to figure out what happened in the muddy Berlin lake and searched the wreck (with its two dead pilots).  The wreck and the pilots' bodies were handed over to the Russians weeks later but not before the divers dismantled technical equipment from the Yak (NATO designation: 'Firebar').


Have you ever heard of that Cold War dive in Berlin?  Is there another Association or a Navy Diver Museum I can approach with this question?  Can you please ask around within your network?    


Thank you,  


Bernd von Kostka  


Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter  I Curator I Conservateur

AlliiertenMuseum e.V. I Clayallee 135 I 14195 Berlin I Germany"


The Soviet two-seater Yakolev Yak-28 jet fighter crashed in a lake in the British sector of Berlin at 1530 (local) on Wednesday 6 April 1966.   I put out some feelers with the results shown below.  They are presented from top to bottom chronologically to make them easier to follow.


Among the significant items contributed by Chris Ransted is a copy of the telegram from the British Embassy in Bonn (then the capital of West Germany) reporting that four naval divers from Portsmouth and three RAF Technical Intelligence Officers were expected to arrive at RAF Gatow in Berlin at 1100z on 7 April.  The newspaper article on the right reports some of their eventual 'pickings'.




The Report of Proceedings by the Commandant of the British Sector of Berlin (Major-General Sir John Nelson KCVO CB DSO OBE MC) to the British Ambassador in Bonn (Sir Frank Kenyon Roberts GCMG GCVO) contains these words:


"...Meanwhile the welcome and extremely prompt arrival of a team of Naval divers and technical experts from the United Kingdom, who after being roused from their beds in England in the very early hours of the morning reached the crash site at noon on the 7th of April, allowed salvaging to start in earnest.  During the afternoon the main part of the fuselage was sufficiently raised onto the Royal Engineers' raft to confirm that both pilots were indeed dead in the cockpit.  First priority for the rest of the day went to the work of extricating the bodies, which owing to the tangled condition of the wreckage took about seven hours and was in part extremely dangerous because one of the ejector seats was still "live".  Great praise must go to the team, and particularly to the R.A.F. mechanics from Gatow, who accomplished this without mishap...


...My United States colleague was at first without instructions but early on the 8th he learned that a party of experts was arriving from the United States that day and would want to work on the wreckage for two or three days.  Even allowing for the extra few hours' flying time the Americans had been a good deal slower off the mark than the Royal Navy and the R.A.F..."


Unfortunately, none of the documents identifies the RN divers involved in the operation which, as described in Tommo's links below, involved the surreptitious removal of the fighter's engines and its radar dish from under the noses of the Soviets.  The engines were analysed at Farnborough and subsequently returned to the scene of the crash before being handed back to the Soviets.  The Soviets lodged this protest after the event:


"British Embassy, Bonn: 14 June 1966


Crashed Soviet aircraft.


Soviet Ambassador made following oral statement today to Mr. Padley,




The Soviet Embassy in its Note of April 8, 1966 drew the attention of the British Foreign Office to the unjustifiable actions of the British Occupation Authorities in West Berlin in connection with the crash of a Soviet military aircraft which fell in the British Sector of this city on April 6.


The British side has not yet replied to this Note and in fact has taken an unseemly position with regard to the settlement of the problems connected with this accident.


The inspection of the crashed aircraft carried out by Soviet experts after its return has revealed the absence of a number of items and parts which had obviously been dismantled.  This is indicated by the fact that the locations of their mountings are intact, and also by the existence of cut cables leading to the above mentioned apparatus.  The appropriate proof can be presented to the British side if necessary.  The removal of the said equipment could not have been carried out without the knowledge of the British occupation Authorities who placed a guard around the place of the crash and carried out the salvage operations.  In connexion with the above the Embassy has been authorized to make a protest and to insist on the complete return of the illegally retained Soviet State property.


The actions of the British Occupation Authorities with regard to the Soviet military aircraft which crashed during a normal flight over West Berlin are contrary to the generally accepted norms of relations between States and to the interest of normal international intercourse.




Has anyone anything to add, especially the identities of the divers involved?  If so, please email me via my webmaster address and I will pass it on to Bernd and publish it here.


From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:


"Hi Bernd,


Yes, I remember the dive.  If my memory is correct, Petty Officer (CD1) Knocker White plus three other Clearance Divers went to the crash site at very short notice.  I can't remember their names but when they came back, the discussion in the Divers' Mess revealed that they worked by night closely observed by the Russians from their sector.  Items of interest were removed and flown to Farnborough for examination then returned to the crash and replaced.  The operation took about a week.


It is highly possible that members of that incident are still with us.  PO White has passed on and I am now turned 80.  However, the other three might still be around and able to give you more detailed information as they were about my age."


From ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, volunteer at the Historical Diving Society's museum:


"Dear Bernd,


Thank you for your query about the 1966 incident, passed on to me by Rob Hoole.


Here is a link to a 2003 report which covers the story quite well.  Hopefully this is useful for you:


Here is another excellent link that gives the name of the army divers as well:


Ich bin ein Freiwilliger am HDS Diving Museum, lebte auch in Berlin als Junge in Charlottenburg.




James Thomson (Tommo)

Ex-Taucher RN"


From MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society:




The National Archives may have something (e.g. an on-line search).  Apart from that I’m afraid my only other suggestion is to check the newspapers of the period.




From former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM*:


"Good morning Rob,


Whilst going through my archive in the middle of the night, as one often does when faced with a challenge, I believe, but am not 100% sure, that it was an RE Diver, WO2, later Major, Steve Hambrook, based in Berlin who carried out the dive to recover “forensics” from the downed Russian aircraft in 1966.






Michael G Fellows MBE  DSC  BEM* MSM


Managing Director

Fellows International Limited"


From MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, Chairman of the Historical Diving Society:


"Hello Bernd,


If you have any photos of the divers in their equipment, we may have some similar items in our collection that we could loan you.


Best wishes,




Diving Museum"


From former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM in Australia:


"Sorry Rob,


The old brain has very vague memories of the Berlin task but I can’t place a single name on the incident.  I have a very vague idea that Portsmouth B&MD members were involved, and there the thought train ceases.


Good and highly interesting ongoing yatter with Debby [Carr] and her dad’s photos.  Where did the time go?




Dave L (Mona)"


From Chris Ransted, author of Bomb Disposal and the British Casualties of WW2 and  Disarming Hitler's V Weapons: Bomb Disposal - The V1 & V2 Rockets:


"Hi Bernd,


I found two files at the National Archives: FO 1042/226 and 227 (Soviet air crash in Berlin: YAK 28 (Firebar) all-weather jet fighter, came down in Stoessensee (lake in British sector), 6 April 1966).  The correspondence in the files is all of a diplomatic nature and there is not much technical data.  The files were too big to photograph every page and there was a lot of duplication of material inside.  However, I have put a number of the images in a drop box [link supplied].  You may have to register to access them and you may have all this info already but maybe there is something of interest in there.


Good luck with your museum display.


Best regards,




From Bend von Kostka, Curator at the Allied Museum in Berlin:


"Dear Chris,


Thank you very much for this very valuable source and the scans.


I downloaded these and will find the time to read it within the next days.  It is getting very diplomatic when it comes to handing it to the Sowjets and I did not know that the US was also involved in the intelligence work looking at the technical bits and pieces.  


I will certainly try to put an article in a Berlin newspaper next year commemorating that event.  The whole story is a brilliant episode of the “Cold War”.


Thank you very much for that extra information from the National Archive !!!  


Until then,




Bernd von Kostka

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter  I Curator I Conservateur

AlliiertenMuseum e.V. I Clayallee 135 I 14195 Berlin I Germany"


From Bernd von Kostka:


"Dear Gentlemen,


These are excellent answers for the first day of the request !!


 James Thompson also forwarded this link with very good information– that I have not seen before.  


The file in Kew (where I have been several time in my carreer) would be of great interest!!


I also mentioned the Yak-episode in my Book in 2009 (Hauptstadt der Spione/Capital of Spies - only in German I am afraid)  and I think I have put the story together already – more or less).  I do not have the role of the Navy Divers in it and I know now that Army (hobby) divers did it the first day and then after her arrival Navy divers took over.  I also know much more about the two pilots – and there is an extensive report on the cockpit part and the exchange of the wreck on the internet.


But I am not only researching the history but at the same point looking for an “artefact to display“.  Museums do display items, that´s what the visitor expects.  So our next exhibition is dealing with the Cold War in Berlin and the Yak episode is a likely subject with many other subjects. 


My first idea was to spot one of the divers and to ask if there is anything from his diving equipment left - but I guess that will not be the case because it is all military equipment.  Do you have any suggestions what we could display?  We are looking for a good single artefact (maybe a diving suit from the 1960s?).


I'll forward your e-mail to my two Zeitzeugen.  One was a part of the British Aquar Club and the other one the son of one of the navy divers.  I think we'll get this story straight so maybe at some point you can put this on your  MCDOA webside if it is ready.


Gentlemen, we´ll stay in contact and I am looking forward to your suggestions concerning the artefacts.


Thank you very much again.


Bernd von Kostka"


From ex-CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson:


"Dear Bernd,


Very interesting reading from Chris.


As there is very little information on the equipment used, and four RN divers were sent out, I would think that they would have used the available equipment of that time.   Clearance Diving Breathing Apparatus was used in general by the CD Branch.


1. It was robust

2. It was easy to transport

3. It would last for the life of the carbon dioxide absorbent, i.e. 90 minutes.  The oxygen or mixed gas would be easy to re-charge.

4. Rigged for pure oxygen there are negative bubbles, or very few.  Rigged for mixed gas only minimal bubbles released.  


I have included a picture of myself in CDBA in the Diving Tank in Devonport in 1965 during a demonstration for Foreign Diving Officers.  We have this equipment in the Diving Museum although it is looking a bit tired.




Hope this is of interest to you.






From former WO(D) Ray Ramsay:


"Hi Rob,


I was on my CD2 course at HMS Vernon when this operation took place.  I am sure that the Pompey B & MD team did the job.  I think that “George” Denton was in the team at the time and he may have taken part.  Willie Pert had just joined Vernon.  He was a big Buddy with George and would also know more about this operation.




From Bert Henderson:




The following emails may explain the contact you have had from Bernd von Kostka, in the Museum in Berlin.  I managed to get the e-mail address of Derek Shea recently and, as you can see from the exchange, his father David Shea may have been one of the divers in the team.


I have to say, I was not surprised then, nor am I now, at the low cunning and deviousness that POs of the Royal Navy can apply to a young and impressionable Pongo!  My older brother is an ex Radio/Mech PO and over the years I have often sailed with him from Hornet with various of his ‘mates’ and found myself doing longer watches or ‘guard duty’ as they called it, especially after some Pusser’s Rum.  I subsequently sent Derek a copy of a photograph I have with the Navy team sorting their gear, from which he is sure one of them is his father David.  




Bert Henderson"


From Bert Henderson to Derek Shea on 26 Nov 2015:




A few years ago I saw a blog on Berlin in which you asked about your father’s involvement in the Russian aircraft in Berlin.  I was one of the BSAC divers who was there when the Navy divers arrived.  I have recently managed to get your e-mail address from the museum in Berlin.  If you are still interested, I‘ll tell you what happened and I have a not very good photograph.




Bert Henderson


(If none of this makes any sense, I’m sorry – wrong Derek!)"


From Derek Shea to Bert Henderson on 26 Nov 2015:




Good to hear from you, you've got the correct Derek !  


I spent some time a few years ago researching the incident as I knew my late father David Shea was involved as a Royal Navy Clearance Diver.  I was never really sure exactly what his involvement was as we'd never spoken about it.  My brother recalls some details of a conversation with him in which he discussed recovering the pilots.  


I wanted to find out as much as I could about the incident mainly regarding the Royal Navy divers and my father's involvement.  This I have achieved to some extent through the articles I've found on the Internet and ultimately through a visit to the National Archives at Kew where I read through the original BRIXMIS documents reporting the incident.  


I was also looking to find any photographs I could of the incident as my brother and I recall there being photographs amongst my father's collection which have subsequently been lost.


So to conclude... It would be a pleasure to hear your recollections of events.  As I say, I've read about the incident extensively but would be extremely interested to hear from someone who was directly involved such as yourself.  I would also be very interested in seeing any photographs you may have regardless of the quality.  


Thanks for taking the time to contact me, much appreciated.  I look forward to hearing from you. Again, many thanks.  


Kind Regards,


Derek Shea" 


From Bert Henderson to Bernd von Kastka on 30 Nov 2015


"Good Morning Bernd,


These are my recollections of the incident in April 1966.  As you will see I was only involved in the first two days and looking back, only to divert the watchers until the main event.  I have no objects from those days other than some old photographs, though I remember that when I left Berlin at the end of 1966, a piece of the wing with the red Star was on the Clubroom wall.  I could not guess where it is now.  I have seen the plaque on the Heer Strasse Bridge, the view of the Stoessen See is very different to 1966, but then so is most of Berlin.  


On the evening of Wednesday 6th April 1966, I was told by my own unit to go to the British Sub Aqua Club in Brigade HQ at the Olympic Stadium.  There I met several more of the experienced divers of the club, who had been told to assemble our equipment, ready to dive on the Russian aircraft which had crashed into the Havel that afternoon.  Although we were regarded as ‘sport’ or ‘fun’ divers, we had trained well and most of our ‘open dives’ had been necessarily in West Berlin’s murky, black water.


When we arrived at the site the next morning, we drove very carefully down the steep track, through the assembled Russian military (lots of cameras) to the small jetty on the lakeside.  The tail of the aircraft could be seen sticking out above the water with the RE barge anchored nearby.  Under the watchful eyes of the Russians we transferred our gear to the barge and prepared to dive. The only briefing I can remember was that:


a. The aircraft is in the British Sector therefore it is ours (I doubt that the Americans or the French had any divers anyway) and until the real divers arrive we are it, make it look good!


b. We were also told that a Berlin Police diver had examined the wreck and announced that the cockpits were empty, which the press had blown up, and the locals were angry.  If possible could we check the truth of this? 


The first dive was almost a disaster.  BSAC guidelines were (and still are) that two divers should stay together (the ‘buddy’ system) and in black water with nil visibility, be roped together.  When we got to the bottom, we almost immediately got the line tangled in the broken wreckage and had to very carefully free ourselves.  I suggested to the Dive Marshall  that it would be better to go alone with a line to the surface, which I did. I found the A/C cockpits which were almost buried in the mud and managed to feel inside, and identify the flying suits of the crew.  The Royal Navy divers had arrived during the morning, a Chief Petty Officer and two (or three?)  ratings.


Later that afternoon I was surprised to be asked by the Chief if I would like to try their equipment, full wet suit and face mask with an oxygen  rebreathing set.  I did want to try the oxygen rebreather, though I did wonder why we would do this with the Russian gold braid watching, but then I was young, enthusiastic and innocent!


After a five minute course, some splashing about, clearing the suit and sitting on the bottom for forty minutes just off the jetty, I got the signal to surface.  At which point we seemed to pack up the gear and leave the site quite quickly.  We met the Navy team for dinner and drinks later in the Sergeants mess at Brigade HQ.  They were kind enough to tell us that we had done well in the conditions, and no, they would not be able to join us later at The Old Eden, for more drinks and dancing!  That was the last I saw ( or heard) of the RN Team, or in fact of the Russian aircraft.


My Tank Troop was on standby and confined to barracks the following week, by which time the A/C and pilots had been returned.  As everything in Berlin was secret in those days, the incident was never talked about. It is only a few years ago when I read the BRIXMIS accounts, that I knew what subsequently happened.  I was always curious though as to why the Royal Navy Diving Team were never mentioned in the accounts I had read, or in the Tony Geraghty Book.


Thank you again for the e-mail address of Derek Shea.  I have been in touch with him  and will probably visit the National Archives to read the ‘official’ accounts.  


Best Regards


Bert Henderson"


From Bert Henderson to Derek Shea on 30 Nov 15:


"Hello Derek,


Sorry for the delay in answering,  The man from the Museum [Bernd von Kastka] in Berlin who gave me your address, wanted to hear what I knew about the incident (which as you can see, from my level was not very much).  I am also still being a little careful, Mr Putin seems to have found the drum again!


Having been in the Service and involved in other ‘incidents’, I am fairly cynical as to how history is eventually told.  Mostly though I was curious to know what eventually happened below the water (Berlin was a very ‘secretive’ place then and even people in the BSAC club didn’t talk about it later) and why the Navy were never mentioned.  I did try to find if the current RN Mine Clearance organisation (MCDOA) had any records about it, without success.


Below is what I told him of what I think was happening when we were there.  As you can see, after the first few days I was not involved so am very interested to read the material in Kew.  Would you please give me some pointers to the material you found there?  I have been back a few times on other things (my brothers, father, uncle and grandfathers were all Army or Navy) so I know how it works and have a reader's card.  I will also try to digitise the photos I have (which prove the Navy was there!) and either attach them or send them separately.


Best Regards,


Bert Henderson"


From Derek Shea to Bert Henderson on 30 Nov 2015:




Many thanks for your detailed response below.  You've provided me with a few more excellent pieces of detail that I was previously unaware of.  Your mention of meeting the Navy Team later for dinner and drinks at the Sergeant's Mess is a wonderful little detail I could never have got from any other source.  It seems highly likely then Bert that you shared a drink with my Dad!


I too have searched high and low through the MCDOA website but cannot find any reports of the incident,  I've even searched archive issues of the Royal Navy Diving magazine which again proved fruitless.


As I said in my previous mail, I've read through an official report at the National Archives.  I've looked at this again and it is in fact the official report by the British Military Government in Berlin (rather than BRIXMIS as I previously thought) dated 22nd April 1966 under original reference (1225G) Despatch Number 6.  There is also a short summary of this Despatch dated 27th April under reference RY1381/33.


Unfortunately Bert I don't think this will tell you anything you don't already know.  It reports the incident from start to conclusion and is comprehensive but doesn't provide any detail on the underwater activities you might be hoping for.  


The document does contain reference to the Royal Navy's presence but very little detail of their involvement.  You yourself Bert have supplied me with the most detail yet about the RN team's presence in Berlin and for that I am extremely grateful.


Good luck with the photographs, I am very interested to see them.   Many thanks again for your detailed reply Bert, it's very much appreciated.  


All the Best,




Postscript: See Bert's photos in the entry for 4 Jan 16.


1 Dec 15 - Army Navy rugby at Twickenham 

30 Nov 15


SDU1 deals with two shells kept in a house


The Cornishman website contains this article describing today's disposal by Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of two explosive shells on Long Rock Beach in Cornwall.  The shells were discovered by police at a house in Heamoor near Penzance.



Obituary for Major Richard Clifford MBE RM


The Daily Telegraph has published this obituary for Richard Clifford who died on 15 November.  Members of a certain age will remember his captivating updates on SBS diving at the annual MCD Conferences held in HMS Vernon.  In recent years, I invited him to attend our annual dinner on several occasions but he was never able to accept.


Major Richard Cormac Clifford MBE RM

(19 May 1946 - 15 Nov 2015)


From MCDOA member Steve Gobey:




Sad to hear of Richard's passing.


I had the honour of working with him when I was Boss of the FOST Diving Team at Portland when he and his lads helped us with the night attacks on work-up ships.  Also later at Abbey Wood when I was involved with SBS diving equipment acceptance.  My abiding memory is of him coming up the breakwater at Bincleaves to our section with his hands and arms covered in blood.  He had come to ask if we had any freezer bags.  Not for scollies, but for road kill!  He had run over a badger on his drive round from Poole that morning and was butchering it on one of the 'Baghdad Railway' trolleys as it would make an interesting food issue for SBS escape and evasion training!   FOST Divers were very glad we were RN and not RM!


A good man and a great character who will be sadly missed.






29 Nov 15 - Royal Navy Diving Heritage: Lt Alan 'Nutty' Carr RN


I received this message via the website on Monday 23 November:




I wondered if your organisation would be interested in some old naval clearance diving photographs?  My father was a clearance diver and bomb disposal officer in the 1950s and 1960s.  He is now 85 and very poorly but he has a lot of old photographs and I think he would like to find a good home for them.  I notice he was mentioned on your website a few times.  He is Nutty Carr (Nutty Mk IV - real name Alan James Carr).


Kind regards,


Debby Carr"


It transpired that Debby had spotted this photo of the 50th MSF Diving Team, including her father fourth from the left, being briefed by the late MCDOA Honorary Life Member 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM at Port Edgar on the Forth at South Queensferry circa 1956 (see entry for 10 Sep 08 in News Archive 23 for identities of other personnel).


50th MSF Diving Team (normally embarked in HMS Diver)

50th MSF Diving Team circa 1956

(normally embarked in HMS Diver)


I telephoned Debby after ascertaining from the Navy List archives that her father was an SD (Special Duties i.e. ex-rating) CDO promoted Sub Lt on 4 May 1960 and Lt on 1 Apr 1967.  As an officer, he served in Malta, HMS Iveston, HMS Vernon and HMS Bronington.  I also drew a few others into the discussion including former FCPO(D) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM in Australia and former CD Jim 'Tommo' Thomson, a fellow member of the Historical Diving Society.


Jim Thomson established that A/PO Alan Carr (C/JX 852524) had quaified as a CD2 on 18 March 1955.  Debby conformed this and said that her father had joined the Royal Navy from Barnardo's in 1948 and left at the end of 1969.  Here is his complete service history:


26 May - 7 Jun 1948 Ord Sea HMS Royal Arthur (New Entry training)
8 Jun - 1 Nov 1948 Ord Sea HMS Anson (battleship)
2 - 25 Nov 1948 Ord Sea HMS Pembroke, Chatham
26 Nov 1948 - 25 May 1949 Ord Sea (TD3) HMS Vernon, Portsmouth
26 May - 12 Sep 1949 Ord Sea (Diver 3) HMS Pembroke, Chtham
13 Sep 1949 - 1 Jan 1950 Ord Sea HMS Diadem (cruiser)
2 - 6 Jan 1950 Ord Sea HMS Pembroke, Chatham
7 Jan - 27 Feb 1950 Ord Sea HMS Lochinvar (HMS Drake II, Devonport)
28 Feb - 25 May1950 Ord Sea MFV 1037 (HMS Vernon diving tender)
26 May - 14 Jun 1950 AB HMS Dipper (HMS Vernon mining/diving tender)
15 Jun - 30 Sep 1950 AB HMS Dipper (HMS Drake II)
1 Oct - 21 Nov 1950 AB HMS Dipper (HMS Cochrane, Rosyth)
22 Nov 1950 - 31 Aug 1951 AB HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar (HMS Cochrane)
1 Sep 1951 - 28 Apr 1952 AB HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar
29 Apr - 29 May 1952 AB HMS Drake, Devonport
30 May 1952 - 14 Jan 1953 AB (CD3) HMS Fierce (Algerine class minesweeper) (Med FCDT) (HMS Phoenicia, Malta)
15 Jan - 31 Mar 1953 A/LS HMS Fierce (Algerine class minesweeper) (Med FCDT) (HMS Phoenicia, Malta)
1 Apr 1953 - 14 Jan 1954 A/LS HMS St Angelo. Malta for Med Fleet CD Team
15 Jan - 26 Jul 1954 LS HMS St Angelo, Malta for Med Fleet CD Team
27 Jul - 18 Oct 1954 LS HMS Vernon
19 Oct - 8 Nov 1954 LS HMS Diver (HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar)
9 Nov 1954 - 17 Mar 1955 A/PO HMS Diver (HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar)
18 Mar 1955 - 10 Jan 1956 A/PO (CD2) HMS Diver (HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar)
11 Jan 1956 - 16 Jan 1957 PO HMS Diver (HMS Lochinvar, Port Edgar)
17 Jan - 27 Jun 1957 PO HMS Vernon, Portsmouth
28 Jun 1957 - 11 Jan 1958 PO (CD1) HMS Vernon, Portsmouth
12 Jan - 17 Jun 1958 PO HMS Cormorant, Gibraltar (HMS President)
18 - 26 Jun 1958 PO HMS Vernon, Portsmouth
27 Jun - 27 Oct 1958 PO HMS Phoenicia, Malta
28 Oct 1958 - 26 Oct 1959 PO HMS Vernon, Portsmouth
27 Oct 1959 - 3 May 1960 PO HMS Dryad, Southwick
5 May - 15 Jun 1960 A/Sub Lt Royal Naval College, Greenwich
9 Oct 1960 - 4 Apr 1961 A/Sub Lt (SD)(B)(CD) HMS Reclaim
May - Nov 1962 Sub Lt (SD)(B)(CD) HMS Drake, Devonport for Plymouth Command Bomb & Mine Disposal Unit.  Commendation from CinC Plymouth (Vice Admiral Nigel Henderson) for hazardous task clearing disused firing range in South Wales.
5 Nov 1962 - 14 Nov 1063 Sub Lt (SD)(CD) Command Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer for CinC Plymouth (Vice Admiral Nigel Henderson)
13 Dec 1963 - 19 Mar 1964 Sub Lt (SD)(CD) HMS Phoenicia, Malta as Med Fleet Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer
20 Mar 1964 - 28 May 1965 Sub Lt (SD)(CD) HMS St Angelo, Malata as Med Fleet Bomb & Mine Disposal Officer.  Also served in Aden.
20 Jun 1966 - 7 Nov 1967 Lt (SD)(CD) HMS Iveston as XO
8 Nov 1967 - 16 Feb 1968 Lt (SD)(CD) HMS Iveston as XO.  CO was MCDO Lt Cdr Karl Lees (later Trng Cdr at HMS Vernon) who became Debby's Godfather.
19 Feb - 6 Dec 1968 Lt (SD)(CD) HMS Vernon as CD1s' Training Officer
7 Dec 1968 - 1969 Lt (SD)(CD) HMS Bronington


Here are some of the historic photos Debby has provided to date.  She says that the photos of HMS Diver and HMS Dipper are from 1950.  Her father tells her that both vessels were raised/salvaged from Kiel in the aftermath of the war and the Germans were made to repair them.  The diving team then sailed them back to the UK as there was no other transport.


HMS Dipper in 1950 


CPO Durrant with practice German GC ground mine on board HMS Dipper in 1950


HMS Diver far left in 1950 alongside Miner class minelayer

and Isles class Admiralty trawler HMT Gateshead



HMS Diver Christmas card drawn by Nutty

 with crew photo inside (see below)

sometime between 1954 and1956


Inside HMS Diver Christmas card.  Nutty seated far left and the late 'Uncle Bill' Filer

seated centre


HMS Diver conducting diving operations


Nutty "mucking about" in binnacle & oilskins

'diving gear' (Siebe Gorman Mk?) in 1950


Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team on Manoel Island, Malta in 1954

Back row: Taff Davies, ?, John Dowds, Pricky Price, Nutty Carr, ?, Jock Campbell

Front row: Sam Stanley, Pip Piper, Ginger Howe, Pete Cobby


Nutty Carr on board HMS Diver in 1956


CDO Long Course 1957

Back row: Nutty Carr (PO Instructor), S/Lt Allen RNVR

Alan 'Shiner' Wright, Jackie Rae (Course Officer),

Front row: Les Sharpe (Second Dicky) and Alastair Cuthbert


CDO Long Course 1957

Standing: Alan 'Shiner' Wright, Jackie Rae (Course Officer),

Alastair Cuthbert, Nutty Carr (PO Instructor), Colin Allen RNVR

with Les Sharpe (Second Dicky) sitting in the 'Sleeping Beauty'

Motorised Submersible Canoe


CD1s' Course BCD 24 at HMS Vernon circa 1967

Back row: PO (later FCPO) Dave 'Mona' Lott BEM (Instructor) and Lt Alan 'Nutty' Carr (Course Officer)

Front row: Brian 'Jumbo' Jervis, ? Tonks, Jim Quinn, Ted Setchell and George 'Gabby' Haines


John Futcher, Peter Roberts VC DSC, Mrs Roberts, Bill Filer and Alan 'Shiner' Wright


Peter Roberts VC DSC and his wife with the late MCDOA member 'Uncle Bill' Filer MBE GM


Back row: Jerry Locke, ?, Ginger Howe, Scouse Davies, Knocker White, Geoff Burgess, Jim Cook,

John Alderton, Nutty Carr with pipe, ?

Front: John Futcher, Bill Filer, Peter Roberts, Alan 'Shiner' Wright 


From ex-CDO Brian 'Jumbo' Jervis in the USA:


"Hi Rob,


Thanks for the update.  It sure is nice that someone like you has preserved so many memories for the likes of me.  But who are all those old people?  Makes me realize how much water has flowed under that bridge!!!!  We never see ourselves ageing; of course, we leave that up to others.


Take care,


Brian 'Jumbo' Jervis"


From MCDOA member Bob Lusty:


"Hi Rob,


I was in HMS Lochinvar when the photo was taken of the diving team in the good ship Diver with Uncle Bill in command.  At that time I was working for Peter Messervy in the Northern Ireland and Scottish B & MD Team removing mines from HMS Port Napier.  I would visit Diver on the odd occasion.  The favourite daily programme on board was ‘Bill and Ben The Flower Pot Men’.  Oh to be young again.


I have contacted Nutty and will arrange a meeting in the near future.  I also contacted Ginger Andrews who resides in Newlyn.  He comes up to Chichester to visit his daughter from time to time.  He and Nutty got on very well so we will have a reunion in the New Year.


Thanks again for your help.


As ever,




27 Nov 15 - SDU2 detonates wartime mine off the Isle of Wight


The Portsmouth News website contains this article, the Royal Navy website this article and the Navy News website this article describing this morning's detonation of a 1,500 lb wartime German GD (sic) ground mine by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2).  The mine was found by a crane barge 1.5 km off Southsea while removing debris from a site being dredged next month in preparation for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers.  SDU2's six-man team, which moved the mine to a safe location off Bembridge before detonating it, was led by PO(D) Richard Ellis.


The mine fouling the grab of the crane barge

(Navy News website photo)


The 300m high plume off Bembridge

(Navy News website photo)


Does anyone else think the mine above looks more like a GC than a GD?  These images are from BR1748(3) originally CB3115(3), 'Instructions for Rendering Safe Underwater Weapons - German Ground Mines' produced at HMS Vernon and published by the Admiralty Torpedo & Mining Department in 1944.  The lightweight parachute housing doesn't normally remain attached for very long after impact with the water:






From former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM*:




The mine looks like a GC and its location off Southsea ties in with the historical munitions contamination information we have on Portsmouth Harbour showing two abandoned GCs off South Railway Jetty in 1945.






Michael G Fellows MBE  DSC  BEM* MSM


Managing Director  

Fellows International Limited" 


25 Nov 15 - Unveiling date set for Vernon Monument


Artist's impression of the Vernon Monument

in situ at Gunwharf Quays


I am grateful to the trustees of the Vernon Monument charity for this announcement:


Project Vernon raises funds to commit to September 2017 for unveiling bronze statue at Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth


The Trustees of the Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument Fund have announced that “Project Vernon'' has now raised in excess of £220,000 towards the declared target of £320,000: this sum represents 70% of the funds needed to complete this project.


This is tremendous news and reflects the hard work, tenacity and generosity of all those who have contributed thus far: at social reunion dinners organised over last weekend, Project Vernon’s management team thanked all friends, colleagues, supporters and contributors.  Several major fundraising events are planned for 2016, both in London and Portsmouth, to raise the remaining balance of the stated goal... and, thereby, to see this specialist heritage monument unveiled in Vernon Creek, Gunwharf Quays, in September 2017.


Recent negotiations and discussions have sourced various means by which the materials used, procurement costs and total construction outlay can each be reduced by a significant combined amount.  Further, as funds have now passed the important 70% threshold, the Trustees are now in a position, for the first time, to commit to commercial contracts for the production of the core component parts of the monument.  Starting with the plinth in the water of Vernon Creek next summer, this will be followed by the off-site assembly of the base structure later in the year, and the bronze casting process of the statue itself soon after.


This remains a very worthy and strategic goal for the brethren Mine Warfare and Diving Associations who sponsor the project and, more especially, the heritage of the wider community, both operational and retired, in the UK and abroad, especially those who served and trained in their alma mater of HMS Vernon, prior to its conversion into the successful Gunwharf Quays retail and residential site.


The momentum and commitment from the stalwart band of organising volunteers is there.  All those who have not yet contributed to the monument are encouraged to do so, by time, by cash donations or through purchases of the merchandise on sale, via the project’s website  Indeed, as the Festive Season approaches, what finer way to support a registered charity, the Project Vernon team and the overall project goal: the installation of The Vernon Mine Warfare and Diving Monument!!


I am also pleased to announce that MCDOA associate member Dr John Bevan, world record-breaking diver (simulated depth of 1,500 ft (457 msw) at RNPL's Deep Trials Unit at Alverstoke in 1970), founding Chairman of the Historical Diving Society (HDS) and instigator of its Diving Museum at Stokes Bay, has kindly consented to join the other trustees of the Vernon Monument charity.


N.B. The Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument Fund is a registered charity, licensed number 1128677.  Project Vernon is the campaign to design, construct and install a statue in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, Hampshire.  Internationally-famous artist Les Johnson, Fellow of the Royal Association of British Sculptors, has produced the chosen design for the monument.


Postscript: The Navy News website published this article covering the same story on 26 November.


23 Nov 15 - Operational updates, AGM and annual dinner


Last Friday's operational updates, presentations, lunch and AGM at Fleet Diving HQ on Horsea Island followed by the annual dinner in the Wardroom at HMS Excellent were among the most successful I can remember.  Mark Shaw, our newly installed Honorary Secretary, deserves our utmost admiration and thanks for his brilliant organisation.


Events began in the Reclaim Room of Bridge Building at Fleet Diving Headquarters with members gathering for coffee and biscuits before starting the day's business.



Left: Martin Mackey, Don Crosbie and Stu McAlear

Right: Geoff Goodwin, Martyn Holloway and David Edwards



Left: Bob Lusty, Peter Waddington and Brian Dutton

Right: Peter Robinson, Steve Gobey and Howard Trotter



Left: David Sandiford and Ralph Mavin

Right: Mark Savage and Rob Hoole




We were then treated to a comprehensive set of presentations about recent, current and future minewarfare, diving & EOD operations, equipment and capability by our Chairman Mark Atkinson and MCDOA members Roger Readwin, Don Crosbie and Mark Savage, all of whom are principal players in their fields.


We then enjoyed lunch in the new all-ranks mess where we were well looked after by WO(D) John 'YoYo' Ravenhall, the mess president.  Other members joined us including Bill 'Chippy' Norton with his wife Gunhild.  They has escorted Kate, the widow of former Superintendent of Diving Guy Worsley OBE, plus his son Mark and daughter Claire, on to the island for a presentation of memorabilia which took place in the Reclaim Room after lunch (see second entry for 10 Nov 15).


Mark Atkinson (MCDOA Chairman & current SofD) receiving an album of lists, hand-written

 in copper plate, of deep divers who qualified on board HMS Reclaim from Kate, the widow

of Guy Worsley OBE (SofD 1971-82) while Rob Hoole and Bill 'Chppy' Norton look on



We then conducted the AGM which was fairly uneventful and I hope to publish the minutes when our Hon Sec has passed them to me.  Rear Admiral Paddy McAlpine OBE was re-endorsed as our President and all officers were re-elected except David Stanbury, our Membership Secretary, who is busily deployed with SNMCMG2 in the Mediterranean.  We are grateful to David Miln for stepping into his shoes.  Watch out for a full programme of events next year which will mark the MCD Branch's 50th Anniversary.


The day's events culminated in our annual dinner in HMS Excellent, by kind permission of the Mess President, Brig Richard Spencer OBE RM.  This was attended by 110 MCDOA members and guests and was its usual success thanks to Mark Shaw's meticulous preparations, the friendly and efficient wardroom staff and the wonderfully talented HMS Nelson Volunteer Band.





In the absence of MCDOA President Paddy McAlpine who is playing golf for NATO in Portugal, the chair was taken by our Chairman, Mark Atkinson, with 'Yours Truly' back in his traditional role as 'Mr Vice'.  We celebrated the 25th anniversary of LMCDO 90A & 90B, of which David Bence, John Law and Phil Ireland were present, and we even had one member, John O'Driscoll, of LMCDO '65 celebrating its 50th anniversary.  Tony Watt, David Bence and Steve Brown, our service leavers, were all presented with gifts and David Bence gave a witty speech on their behalf.



Left: Mark Atkinson presenting David Bence with his leaving 'gizzit'

Right: Mark Atkinsonson presenting Steve Brown with his leaving 'gizzit'

(Sorry, Tony.  I wasn't quick enough to capture your presentation.)


David Bence responding on behalf of the service leavers


Apparently, there was fierce competition among the members of HMS Nelson's Volunteer Band to play at our function but only 18 could be accommodated on the night.  They brought their usual sense of fun to our traditional rendition of 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles'.






The usual enthusiasm was evident during the 'Bubbles' part of the singalong.



The wardroom staff entered the spirit of the occasion too:



Our Chairman introduced Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey, our principal speaker, with a quirky speech that no doubt owed something to MCDOA member Dougie MacDonald who works for Sir Alan in the MCA (Maritime & Coastguard Agency).



Sir Alan Massey then delivered a self-deprecating joke-filled speech that had something for everyone and captivated his audience.




Here is a selection of photos taken during the evening.  I have my son Gareth to thank for many of them.















































































































I can supply higher resolution versions of specific photos on request.


From Claire Worsley, daughter of Cdr Guy Worsley OBE (Superintendent of Diving 1971-1982):


"Dear Rob,


I just wanted to write and say a huge thank you for all you did to make Friday possible.  My mother enjoyed herself immensely and it meant a great deal to her to see old friends and be able to talk about my father with them.  Both Mark and I really appreciate it.


If one of the photographs you took comes out OK perhaps you might be able to email to me I would like to put it in a frame for her. [By Webmaster: Done!]


Many, many thanks and please let us know about the unveiling of the statute at Gunwharf in 2017.  We would love to be there.


Kind regards,


Claire Worsley"


N.B. MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton has also asked me to thank everyone concerned with the presentation.


Postscript: This is the first time in circa 25 years I can remember another Royal Navy association pipping us to the top of the Daily Telegraph's Service Dinner announcements.  Who are these people? 



21 Nov 15 - Former WO(D) Stew 'George' Sissons seriously ill


Retired MCDO Gerry 'Pincher' Martin informs me that Stew Sissons has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and is currently in the Wisteria Lodge Care Home in Horndean.  He will be attending his daughter's wedding on 28 November before starting a regime of cancer treatment on 30 November.


The MCDOA's 'Three Men in a Boat', comprising Doug Barlow, Martyn Holloway and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole), are accustomed to seeing Stew in the marina at HMS Excellent where he keeps his yacht 'Springtied' and we have often collaborated to lift her in and out of the water or shift her berth.  He has also been responsible for four of the cadet sail training dinghies attached to the sailing centre.


This was Stew in typical cold-weather pose with his pride and joy at Whale Island in April 2008 (see entry for 6 Apr 08 in News Archive 22):



This was Stew in typical warm-weather pose chatting to Martyn Holloway in July last year while Doug Barlow and Dean Molyneaux were preparing 'Dougout' for sea (see entry for 4 Jul 14 in News Archive 47):



Stew has also rolled up his sleeves to help raise funds for Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to celebrate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS Vernon which previously occupied the site.  Here he is (second right) at Gunwharf Quays flanked by Yours Truly and ex-CD1 Taff Brady:



I have known Stew for well over 40 years and am sure that he would appreciate a card sent to him via Wisteria Lodge, 82 London Rd, Horndean, Waterlooville, Hampshire PO8 0BU.  Alternatively, I can supply his email address and mobile number on request.  In the meantime, I entreat all members of our community to join me in offering Stew and his family our sincere best wishes and support in their horrible predicament.


20 Nov 15


Falklands minewarfare mini-reunion


MCDOA member Kev Giles wanted some help putting together a presentation about minewarfare aspects of Operation CORPORATE (Falklands 1982) for the Advanced Amphibious Course.



What better reason for a lunchtime reunion with MCDOA members Martin Holloway (CO 11th MCM Squadron) and Alex Manning (COMAW Staff) at the Blue Bell in Emsworth yesterday with 'Yours Truly' on hand to record the occasion?



L to R: Kev Giles, Alex Manning, Yours Truly (Rob Hoole) and Martyn Holloway


Talks about the history of Gunwharf Quays including HMS Vernon




I am grateful to Mike Underwood, author of Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, for this announcement (see entry for 22 Apr 15 in News Archive 50):


"Hi Rob,


I hope you are well. 


The sales of Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth are going well.  I am giving two talks to the Newcomen Society about Gunwharf and HMS Vernon at the University of Portsmouth on 8 December and 19 January 2016, both in Room PO1.11 at the Portland Building, St James Street (off Queens St) at 6.30 p.m.  You and your members very welcome.


I would also like to meet up in the New Year to discuss the idea of a Vernon Conference.


Best wishes,


Mike Underwood



19 Nov 15 - 11th MCM Squadron presentation in London


HMS Northella was one of the five Hull trawlers taken up from trade to form the 11th MCM Squadron commanded by MCDOA member Martyn Holloway.  These vessels were converted into minesweepers and manned by personnel from refitting Ton class MCMVs before being sent to the South Atlantic for the Falklands conflict in 1982.  They performed various hazardous tasks besides sweeping 10 of the 21 mines laid off Port Stanley by the Argentineans, the others having broken adrift and floated away or failed to deploy from their sinkers properly (see 'The Forgotten Few of the Falklands' in the website's Dit Box).


HMS Northella's bell currently hangs in The Admiralty, a Fullers pub in London's Trafalgar Square.  At 1500 on Saturday 5 December, veterans of the 11th MCM Squadron plan to present the pub with a framed painting of HMS Northella, created by marine artist Adrian Thompson, with a descriptive brass plaque.  Please fell free to attend if you can.





18 Nov 15


SDU2 deals with pyrotechnic at Birling Gap


The Eastbourne Herald website contains this article and The Argus website this article describing this morning's disposal, presumably by members of Portsmouth-based Southerrn Diving Unit 2 (SDU2), of a phosphorous-filled marine marker flare at Birling Gap near Beachy Head in East Sussex.


Infamously, Birling Gap is where a wayward mine cover-plate severed the arm of ex-PO(CD1) 'Sarge' Sarginson following a detonation in 1959.


HMS Middleton arrives in Gibraltar


I am grateful to local photographer Daniel Ferro for these images of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) arriving in Gibraltar last Saturday (14 November) while en route from Portsmouth to the Gulf (see entry for 9 Nov 15). 




17 Nov 15


John Herriman plays key role in 800th Lord Mayor's Show



The Royal Navy website contains this article describing the key role played by HMS President, London RNR Division commanded by MCDOA member John Herriman, in this year's Lord Mayor's Show.


SDU1 deals with ammunition discovered in River Severn


The Gloucester Citizen website contains this article, including video, describing today's disposal by members of Plymouth-based Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1) of ammunition found in the River Severn at Lyde Rock, near Beachley on Sunday.


16 Nov 15 - Mine Warfare Battle Staff lift a minehunter for charity


The Royal Navy website contains this article reporting how staff of the Royal Navy’s Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force (COMUKMCMFOR) based in Bahrain have lifted the equivalent weight of a Hunt Class Mine Countermeasures Vessel (MCMV) and raised almost £1,500 for charity in the process.


MCDOA member Jason White (far left) with the team

(RN website photo)


15 Nov 15 - Award of LS&GC medals


Congratulations to CPO(D) Simon 'Ruby' Murray on being gazetted for the award of the clasp to the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal and to LS(MW) Matt Fay and AB(D)1 J T Finlay on being gazetted for the award of the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.


14 Nov 15 - 1st MCM Squadron staff visit Inverness


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing last weekend's visit to Inverness by Faslane-based 1st MCM Squadron staff, led by MCDOA member Tim Davey (the Squadron Commander), to participate in the city’s Remembrance ceremonies. 


1st MCM Squadron staff paying their respects with armed forces and civilian personnel

in the Cavell Gardens at Inverness

(RN website photo)


13 Nov 15 - Chance encounter between two MCDOA members


I am grateful to MCDOA past-Chairman Chris Baldwin for this contribution:




This may be of interest.


Chris Lade and I met up through business last week.  I work for the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) based in London and SAAB Seaeye, where Chris works, is one of our members.  I paid a visit to SAAB Seaeye with an IMCA colleague to update our understanding of the business and, lo and behold, bumped into Chris!"


MCDOA member Chris Lade congratulating fellow member Chris Baldwin after

his close-run victory in the annual marine contractors' Hangman knock-out


12 Nov 15


MCDOA Annual Dinner attendees


Mark Shaw, our Honorary Secretary, has sent me this list of dinner attendees to date.  Please excuse the absence of service, rank, title, honours or decorations:


Dave Armstrong
Chris Ashcroft
Mark Atkinson
Chris Bamber
David Bence
Robin Bennett
Angus Benton
John Bevan
Gary Biddle
Chris Blackford
Sandy Blackwood
Roly Brading
Hugh 'Mac' Brodie
Keith Broughton
Ben Brown
Steve Brown
Andy Brunton
Alex Bush
Alex Cameron
David Carey
Ryan Carey
Colin Churcher
Hayton Cramphorn
Mo Crang
Don Crosbie
Nick Davis
Peter Davis
Nick Deppe
Brian Dutton
Simon Edwards
Peter Emery
Bob Evans
John 'JJ' Forbes
Mike Forbes
Glyn Gilbert
Steve Gobey
Geoff Goodwin
David Graham
Alan Hares
Stuart Harper
James Harrison
Bob Hawkins
Jamie Hawkins
Martyn Holloway
Gareth Hoole
Rob Hoole
David Hough
David Hunkin
John Hurst
Phil Ireland
Simon 'Si' Kelly
Bill Kerr
Rory Kerr
Mike Kooner
Chris Lade
John Law
Jonathan Lee
Bob Lusty
Dougie MacDonald
Martin Mackey
Brian Mansbridge
David Marshall
James Marshall
Mike Marshall
Steve Marshall
Alan Massey
Ralph Mavin
Stuart McAlear
Dave Milne
Ian Morton
James Morton
Mike Morton
Al Nekrews
John Newnham
John O'Driscoll
James Oxley
Brit Pearce
Nigel Pinhorne
Ben Piper
Eric Piper
Cozy Powell
Simon Pressdee
John 'YoYo' Ravenhall
Roger Readwin
Keith Riches
Tony Riches
Peter Robinson
Nick Rogers
David Sandiford
Mark Savage
Jason Scott
Ben Sharples
Mark Shaw
Tim Sizer
John Staveley
Steve Strange
Rich Talbot
Chris Tarmey
Nick Tarmey
Howard Trotter
Peter Trotter
Peter Waddington
Richard 'Soapy' Watson
Tony Watt
Steve White
Sam Wicks
Graham 'Tug' Wilson
Ken Wollaston
Craig Wood
Steve Woodhead


Interestingly, the MCDOA's intrepid 'songmeister & raconteur extraordinaire' Bob Hawkins MBE was undertaking liferaft drills at the Sea Survival Training Centre at Horses Island today in preparation for his role as First Lieutenant of HMS Queen Elizabeth.



Departure of HMS Atherstone from the Gulf


The Royal Navy website contains this article announcing the departure of HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) from Bahrain to return to the UK after her three-and-a-half years in the Gulf on Operation KIPION (see first entry for 10 Nov 15).  She was waved off by Capt Nick Washer RN (Deputy Commander United Kingdom Maritime Component Command (UKMCC), her Commanding Officer between 2002 and 2004.


Capt Nick Washer RN on board HMS Atherstone in Bahrain

(RN website photo)


During her time in the Gulf, Atherstone has covered some 44,520 nautical miles and conducted over 8,630 hours of operational tasking.  The ship has also taken part in 14 UK/US training exercises and conducted extensive survey tasking to support the UK/US MCMV effort to maintain the sea lines of communication. 


Death and funeral of ex-CPO(D) Andrew 'Harry' Harrison


Ex-CPO(D) Andrew 'Harry' Harrison passed away on Tuesday 3 November from complications relating to pneumonia.  He lived at Appledore in North Devon and I am grateful to MCDOA member Mick Beale for this report of his funeral which was held yesterday at Banstable Crematorium:




I have just got back from ex-CPO Andrew 'Harry' Harrison's funeral in Barnstable.


Harry was ex-Sat Team and the Cox'n of HMS Bronington in the 1980s.  He was also Chief of the Hong Kong team in the early 1990s.


It was a sad affair but very well attended by locals and family.  I attended from DDS along with CPOs Bob Hope, Nellie Nilsson and ex-PO Mick Openshaw.  Other ex-CDs present were Steve Bielby, Dave Bond, Jim Lynch and Cris Ballinger.




Mick Beale"


On 22 May 1992, Harry was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery for his Meritorious Service on 15 August 1991 in a Search and Rescue operation involving the oil rig support barge DB29 during typhoon 'Fred'.  He was a CPO(D) based at HMS Tamar in Hong Kong at the time, 


11 Nov 15 - 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 15


HMS Atherstone departs Gulf for return to UK


Personnel from HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4), HMS Chiddingfold (MCM2 Crew 7), HMS Bangor (MCM1 Crew 8) and HMS Penzance (MCM1 Crew 6), as well as maritime battlestaff based in Bahrain, mustered for this rare photograph with Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force (COMUKMCMFOR) in the Gulf.   Shortly after this photo was taken, HMS Atherstone departed for the UK where she is due to arrive in Portsmouth in December.  She will be relieved in theatre by HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2).


UK MCMFOR personnel mustered on the jetty in Bahrain

(RN website photo)


Royal Navy Diving Heritage: Donation of HMS Reclaim albums and other memorabilia to Fleet Diving Headquarters


The late Cdr Guy Worsley OBE was Superintendent of Diving from 1972 to 1983 in the days when SofD was responsible for all areas of service diving including CD team operations.  This was an exciting period for the Clearance Diving branch, particularly with regard to deep diving.  According to MCDOA member Bill 'Chippy' Norton:


"...All the connections he established and maintained with the US Navy through the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] and personnel exchange programmes, his efforts to replace HMS Reclaim, initially with HMS Clansman and later the Seabed Ops Vessel (which regrettably was mushroomed into the monstrous HMS Challenger by DG Ships and AUWE despite Guy’s efforts), were instrumental in the RN being able to carry out the recovery operation on HMS Coventry and retaining a deep diving capability.  In addition, the organisation and back-up which he arranged and managed for Operation Corporate and the Falklands, in coordination with CinC Fleet, was great staff work from which the later operational role of SofD was constructed..."


Bill has proposed that Guy Worsley's widow Kate presents his albums and other memorabilia for display in the Reclaim Room of Bridge Building (Fleet Diving Headquarters) on Horsea Island at the start of the MCDOA's AGM at 1330 on Friday 20 November.  Arrangements are being made accordingly.  If you wish to be present for this event, ensure that you have completed and submitted the booking form for the AGM and Operational Updates in accordance with the instructions in the entry for 22 Oct 15 in News Archive 52.  I am sure that any other serving personnel would be welcome at the brief ceremony too.


Guy Worsley (standing third right) with members of the Fleet Clearance Diving Team

at Funafuti in 1977 during Operation HEMICARP during which RN CDs co-operated

with their US counterparts to clear Second World War US and Japanese ordnance

from the waters of Tarawa and Tuvalu in the Gilbert and Ellis Islands


From former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows MBE DSC BEM*:




Hope you are well and enjoying life to the full.


I read the article about the late Commander Guy Worsley OBE on the MCDOA web site.  I first met him whilst he was driving HMS Acute, an Algerine Class Fleet Minesweeper in the Dartmouth Squadron, in the early ‘60s.  I was one of the ship’s shallow water divers and he nudged me towards joining the CD branch.  


I spent a couple of months with him and took that photograph of the team clearing the mine fields and Japanese bomb stores in Funafuti in the ‘70s and can personally appreciate the tremendous contribution he made towards the success of diving and EOD operations during the Falklands Campaign.  On returning from Stanley he personally drove me in his Volvo from Lyneham airfield to HMS Vernon and I remember being more frightened of his driving than the Argie bombs being targeted at me on the Antrim!  


Finally, with your good self, Captain Ramsay Pearson, Mike Harwood and Colin Kidman, I attended and had the honour (after polishing them) of carrying his cap, medals and sword at his funeral.


His collection of photographs will be a valuable historical addition and an inspiration to many displayed in the Reclaim room at Horsea.


Best Regards,



9 Nov 15 - Departure of HMS Middleton from Portsmouth


The Navy News website contains this article describing today's departure of HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) from Portsmouth to begin her three-year deployment to the Gulf on Operation KIPION (see entry for 6 Nov 15). 


AB(MW) Tom Rouse with his son

(RN website photo)


While I was waiting on the Round Tower on a particularly blustery afternoon to wave the ship farewell, I spoke to some of the large gathering including AB(D) Simon Rees's parents Geoff and Debbie Rees who had travelled from Bristol with his partner Penny.



I also met AB(D) Bradley Chapman's mum Pauline from Cleethorpes, his future father-in-law Ivor Welch from Hampshire and his fiancée Claire from Cambridgeshire with their daughters Iyla and Mia.  They had earlier witnessed Brad, known as the 'Universal Sailor', being presented with an award for his all-round achievements on board and for representing the Royal Navy as a boxer.



HMS Middleton then hove into view and the crowd cheered wildly.





Before leaving, I had a quick chat with PO(D) Lee O'Sullivan's wife Janis who was present with their children James, Spencer and Georgia.  Lee is the ship's Coxswain.



I am sure that all members of our community will join me in wishing HMS Middleton and her ship's company a safe, productive and enjoyable deployment.


Postscript:  The Royal Navy website published this article on 10 November covering the same story.  The article includes images of PO(MW) Lewis 'Flash' Gordon, LS Leigh Burge, AB(MW) Tom Rouse and AB(D) Nicholas Kavanagh.


8 Nov 15 - RN Diving Heritage: HM Naval Base Clyde (Faslane)


I am grateful to MCDOA member Phil Ireland DSC for drawing my attention to this article on The Scotsman website which includes these images of diving-related activities at Faslane during the mid-1970s:


MCDOA member Hamish Loudon MBE outside the compression chamber

at Faslane in May 1976 


Civilians being treated in the compression chamber at Faslane in May 1976


7 Nov 15 - Launch of a new book about the RAN Clearance Diving Branch



I am grateful to Larry Digney, National President of the Royal Australian Navy Clearance Divers' Association (RANCDA) for this announcement (see entry for 13 Apr 15 in News Archive 50 for further background):


"One of the greatest endeavours of RAN Clearance Divers ever has been completed by two loyal and dedicated perfectionists who spent years putting together our story, "United and Undaunted - The First 100 Years."  It is the story of our history, the history of our forefathers, of us, our legacy and our achievements. 


The work involved is immeasurable and the efforts of, initially, our second RANCDA Patron, first course member and branch stalwart, Commander Jake Linton BEM, RAN Retd. and then the very able assistance provided by Commodore Hec Donohue AM RAN Retd. are to be commended and I, personally, admire them both for completing what I believe to be the RAN CD Branch crowning glory. Never in our history has so much endeavour been put into any project, operation or undertaking.


I believe every RAN Clearance Diver should purchase at least one copy of what is ostensively, our story, and treasure it for what it is... a priceless history of our roots, of who and what we really are and what we represent. 


I implore everyone to purchase a copy and in doing so, pay tribute to the authors, to those that went before, those that paved the way and set in concrete the foundations that have provided us with what we have and what we enjoy today and to those that pave today's road with their world leading capabilities, adventures and achievements.


The proceeds of this not-for-profit book, after all costs are accounted for, go to the RANCDA to assist us all into the future. 


The books cost A$100.00 for hardback and A$70.00 for soft cover.


Please deposit the purchase price into the following account (in the name of Jake Linton) and put your name and initials in the description section. BSB: 034204 Acct: 257639.  Then email Jake, ( and advise him of your address for delivery (included in the purchase price except for bulk and overseas purchases, the costs of which are yet to be determined) and advise him what you have purchased. The books will be dispatched as soon as possible after they leave the printers.  Jake can also be contacted on 0438544970, if you need to discuss anything regarding the purchase with him. 


Please join me in demonstrating our collective support for our motto "United and Undaunted" and the book by purchasing your copies now.


Thank you Jake and Hec... You make us proud."


United and Undaunted




From MCDOA member Edward 'Jake' Linton BEM, Patron of the RANCDA and co-author of 'United and Undaunted':


"Hi Rob,


After checking with the Post Office, the best I can do for the books to the UK by air mail is:


Hard Back A$130 and Soft Cover A$100.


I am a much more educated person in relation to publishing and printing costs.  The next foray, if there is one, will be self-publishing.






6 Nov 15 HMS Middleton departs for Gulf


Portsmouth-based HMS Middleton (MCM2 Crew 2) is due to deploy to the Gulf on Monday (9 November).  She will probably relieve HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4) in Bahrain (see second entry for 4 Nov 15) and is expected to be away for the next three years.


HMS Middleton at anchor

(RN library photo)


According to QHM's Shipping Movements, HMS Middleton will depart Victory Jetty in Portsmouth Naval Base on Monday at 1300.


5 Nov 15


Papal Ambassador spends day at sea in HMS Cattistock


The Navy News website contains this article and the Portsmouth News website this article describing a day spent at sea by Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Pope's Apostolic Nuncio to the UK, on board the newly upgraded HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 6).  Royal Navy photos by L(Phot) Ken Gaunt.







Postscript: The Royal Navy website published this article on 10 November covering the same story.


SDU2 deals with projectile on Isle of Wight


The Island Echo website contains this article describing today's call-out for members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) to deal with a projectile found at St Helen's on the Isle of Wight.




4 Nov 15


News from HMS Hurworth



I am grateful to MCDOA member Steve White, Commanding Officer of HMS Hurworth (MCM2 Crew 5), for his October newsletter which is available for download here:



HMS Atherstone given Leicester City football strip


The Royal Navy website contains this article describing Leicester City FC's donation of replica football kit to HMS Atherstone (MCM2 Crew 4). 


HMS Atherstone's football team, The Flying Foxes, with their ship in the Gulf

(RN website photo)


Leicester City FC, known as 'The Foxes', is the closest Premier League team to the ship's affiliated town of Atherstone in Warwickshire.  HMS Atherstone's football team is called 'The Flying Foxes' after their ship's badge.


HMS Atherstone has been deployed on Operation KIPION in the Gulf region for the past three-and-a-half years and is due to return to the UK soon.


3 Nov 15 - 1SL presents decommissioned artillery shell to Ben Ainslie


Admiral Sir George Zambellas (the First Sea Lord) has presented a decommissioned 6" artillery shell to Sir Ben Ainslie (the most successful sailor in Olympic history) who has formed Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (LR BAR) to compete for the Americas Cup.  The ceremony took place in the presence of members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Group (SDG) at Ben Ainslie Racing Headquarters at the Camber in Old Portsmouth where the shell was discoverd during building work.



The inscription states:


British 6" HE Projectile rendered safe by the Southern Diving Group during the build of BAR HQ

Presented by Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC ADC DL

First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff



2 Nov 15 - 1SL attends HMS Cattistock ceremony


The Royal Navy website contains this article and the Portsmouth News website this article (including video) describing today's rededication ceremony to mark the emergence of HMS Cattistock (MCM2 Crew 6) from major refit.  The ceremony was attended by Admiral Sir George Zambellas (the First Sea Lord) and his wife Lady Amanda Zambellas.  Admiral Zambellas was among almost half of the ship's 35 other previous Commanding Officers present.  All photos courtesy of the RN website.








Reportedly, the upgrade, carried out by BAE Systems in Portsmouth, includes new engines and means that the minehunter can sail faster, stay at sea longer, and will extend the ship’s life to 2030 and beyond.


Postscript:  On 13 November, the Portsmouth News website published this article updating its previous story.


1 Nov 15 - Royal Naval Reserve Recruitment Drive


I am grateful to Richard 'Soapy' Watson, the MCDOA's previous Hon Sec, for this contribution:


"Hi Rob,


Hello and I hope all is well!


I'm very much looking forward to the dinner, my first as a civvie, although I'm still in uniform as I am SO2 RNR Diving which does pose challenges while having a full time job.


As you know, the RNR Diving Branch has recently had a clear policy review and so we have clear direction on what our capabilities are which are basically:


a.    To support the Fleet Diving Squadron in Search for Maritime Force Protection.


b.    To support the NATO Submarine Rescue System and have reservists at high readiness standby.


c.    To support the Fleet Diving Squadron with personnel for training and RNR personnel development.  


I just wanted to let people know about our latest recruitment drive.  As you may know, we have currently around 43 people in the RNR Diving Branch and have direction from Navy Pers to increase this number to 98.  To help promote the RNR Diving Branch, we decided to attend the International Dive Show at the Birmingham NEC last weekend (something I did back in 2007 to help promote RN CD numbers, which was successful).  The event was a a resounding success with the RNR stand being really popular with the public.  There was a lot of interest on the RNR Diving Branch, but also interest in the general RNR.


The exposure the RNR received from this event was huge.  The event accrued over 100 expressions of interest to join the RNR Diving branch so even if we get a 10% uptake, it's still a good piece of recruitment work.  I would like to thank the team who made the event such a success including WO2 Bland from HMS Forward for his recruitment skills.


Left to right: Mid Rob Powell, Ldg Diver Steve Boyd, PO Tim Pearce, PO Jacko Jackson and

Ldg Diver Aaron Barrett at Dive 2015 at the NEC in Birmingham 24/25 October 2015


We intend to repeat the event next year to continue to boost numbers.  


Kindest Regards,






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