Items from The News, Navy News and Warship World are reproduced by kind permission of David Brown, Jim Allaway and Mike Critchley respectively. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.
30 Jun 06 - 'Ticking Clock!' by Noel Cashford
'Ticking Clock!', the latest book by MCDOA associate member Lt Noel Cashford MBE RNVR, has just been published. Like his previous books 'All Mine!' and 'All Theirs!', it describes a variety of naval bomb and mine disposal incidents and is peppered with amusing observations that will strike a chord with most of us. It is also well illustrated with photos and Noel's own drawings. Vintage characters such as John Ouvry, Lionel 'Buster' Crabb, Edward Obbard, Gordon Gutteridge, Pete Cobby and 'Uncle Bill' Filer all receive mentions as well as relative newcomer CPO(D) Andy Carss who was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal (QGM) for rendering safe a wartime German bomb in Portsmouth Naval Base on 19 Sep 2002. Priced at £7.95 plus £2 p&p, it is highly recommended reading.
Click here to download the order form for Noel's books. He will sign any ordered direct from him before posting them.
24 Jun 06 - Message Board Item
The 'Message Board' in the Members Only area contains an important proposal requiring comment from the Association's membership.
22 Jun 06 - Ton Talk Aussie Special
The current bi-monthly issue of Ton Talk (magazine of the Ton Class Association) is an 'Aussie Special' featuring the Ton Class minehunters transferred from the RN to the RAN. For membership details (£7.50 per year), go to their website and download the application form.
21 Jun 06 - RN Divers' Cufflinks
Peter Dick, editor of the Historical Diving Times (journal of the Historical Diving Society) has passed me the following request from John Roberts:
"Some time ago, in the mid-sixties if my memory is correct, the Royal Navy decided to return all the standard diving gear to the dockyard and solely use SABA and SDDE. I was in the RN Diving School at Devonport at the time when all the redundant equipment was rounded up and shipped out.
At this time, a Chief Diver by the name of Bob Fraser arranged to have about twenty-five sets of cufflinks made in the shape of a standard helmet and corselet and given to the few remaining personnel who had used the gear in anger, prior to the introduction of the Clearance Diving Branch.
I still have mine (see photograph) and would be interested to know if any others are still in circulation.
If anyone can help answer John's question, please e-mail me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Incidentally, Bob Fraser set up Fraser Diving International Ltd when he left the RN and was at the Annual Divers' Reunion on Saturday.
From Mick Lambert:
"I still have my set. They are actually made of pewter and I bought mine from Bob Fraser. If my memory serves me right they cost either £6 or £12 a pair."
From Terry Gosling:
"I have one of the Bob Fraser cuff links, I lost the other one at a PU trial somewhere. I tried to get another pair made in silver but it was too hard!!"
20 Jun 06
Defence Diving School Instructors Cycle for Charity
The following item from today's Portsmouth News describes a charity bike ride from John O'Groats to Land's End involving DDS divers Joe Hanfrey, John Carroll, John Pearson, Derek Kelly and Ian Fleming.
Minesweeping Heritage - Cdr Stanley Ewart Davies DSC** RNR
Cdr Stanley Ewart Davies DSC** RNR
Last Thursday, I travelled to Stembridge in Somerset to meet Jeremy and Hugh Davies, sons of the late Cdr Stanley Ewart Davies RNR who was awarded the DSC and two bars plus two Mentions in Despatches for his minesweeping deeds during WW II. I had originally been approached by Stanley's grandson Martin who had seen details of his grandfather's awards on the website and wanted further information. Over a pint in the garden of the village pub, and later at Jeremy's cottage, Jeremy and Hugh described their father's exploits and their childhood with him in wartime Grimsby while showing me his collection of photographs and notes.
Hugh & Jeremy Davies
Stanley Ewart Davies was born in Newport, Monmouthshire c.1907 and gained his Master's Certificate with Messrs James Brothers before serving with the British India Steam Navigation Company for ten years. He then worked with the Bristol Aeroplane Company for three years during which he became a voluntary instructor attached to HMS Flying Fox, the tender for Severn Division RNR. At the outbreak of WW II, he was commissioned as a Sub Lt RNVR but soon transferred to the RNR and underwent minesweeping training at Lowestoft. He was promoted to Lt in 1940, Lt Cdr in Mar 1943 and Cdr in Jul 1945.
Left: HMT War Duke
Right: War Duke's close-in weapons system
Initially, Stanley Davies commanded His Majesty's Trawler (HMT) Manx Prince until she was mined and sunk off the Humber on 28 Nov 1940. On 9 Dec 1940, he was appointed in Command of the minesweeping trawler HMT War Duke based at Grimsby. During this period, he was commended by Captain Minesweeping for sweeping 25 mines in the North Sea and was congratulated by Flag Officer Humber for rescuing the entire crew of the 'Lady Luda'. He was gazetted for the award of the DSC on 1 Jan 1942 for "meritorious work in minesweeping in the North Sea" and was awarded the first bar to his DSC on 9 May 1944 "for enterprise and skill minesweeping around Orkney and Shetland". This seems to have involved a live minesweeping trial sponsored by the Superintendent of Mine Design for which he was congratulated by the Director of Minesweeping.
Davies (left) with beached British M Mk1 moored magnetic mine
Davies was mentioned in despatches on 6 Jun 1944 "for leadership, skill and devotion to duty in an important minesweeping operation", apparently in the Humber area.
Left: BYMS 2211 at sea
Right: Mine clearance in the North Sea
On 21 Nov 1944, Davies was awarded the second bar to his DSC "for gallantry, skill, determination and undaunted devotion to duty during the landing of the Allied forces on the coast of Normandy" while embarked in BYMS 2211 (Skipper Thomas Henry Spall DSC RNR) as Senior Officer of the 159th Minesweeper Flotilla (MSF). This involved sweeping in advance of the bombarding fleet close to Juno beach some 40 minutes before 'H' hour on 6 June. On 25 Jun 1944, his flotilla assisted in sweeping the inner Fire Support Areas off Cherbourg for the American bombarding forces. Later, the flotilla carried out a final clearance of the approaches, outer harbour and docks of Cherbourg.
Davies was again mentioned in despatches on 3 Apr 1945 "for gallantry and endurance in clearing the Scheldt estuary of mines during the period Oct-Nov 1944." The swept channel into Antwerp was 73 miles long and a mile wide at its widest part at Flushing. The Germans used every type of mine possible making it one of the most challenging minesweeping operations ever attempted. Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey (CinC Allied Naval Invasion Forces) was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying, "An example of the density of mines is illustrated by the 159th MS Flotilla accounting for 22 mines in four minutes."
Left: BYMS 2211 bridge & forecastle
Right: BYMS 2211 alongside in Holland post Scheldt operations
After handing over the 159th MSF in the middle of 1945, Stanley Davies was posted to the East Indies Station at Trincomalee as Cdr Minesweeping and made responsible for clearing Japanese mines from the Bay of Bengal. He was then sent to command the minesweepers based at Singapore for part of 1946.
Stanley Davies with his staff at Trincomalee
The left hand photo below shows motor minesweepers MMS 197 and MMS 201 in dry dock, probably at Trincomalee. Both MMS were attached to the 122nd MSF (East Indies Station based at Trincomalee) in 1944/45 and broken up in 1946. The right hand photo shows British Yard Minesweeper BYMS 2148 which suffered a particularly infamous fate. Laid down on 8 June 1942 as YMS-148 by the Western Boat Building Co., Tacoma, WA, she was launched on 29 November 1942 and transferred to the Royal Navy on 15 May 1943 as BYMS-2148. She was attached to the 161st MSF (Eastern Fleet based at Trincomalee) in 1944, transferred to the 152nd MSF (East Indies Station based at Trincomalee) in 1945, served in M/S Force II in Malaya in 1946 and was returned to the US Navy on 10 November 1946. Transferred to South Korea (Republic of Korea) in 1948 as YMS-516, she was mined and sank on 18 October 1950 during sweeping operations west of Kalma Pando, Wonsan Harbour, Korea.
Left: MMS 197 and MMS 201 in dry dock in 1945
Right: BYMS 2148 in 1945
ROK YMS-516 (ex-BYMS 2148) mined off Wonsan Oct 1950
When he returned to civilian life, Stanley Davies worked with the Port of Bristol Authority where he commanded several dredgers working out of Avonmouth. He was also Deputy Dock Master but ill health forced his early retirement. He died in November 1960.
My thanks to Jeremy, Hugh and Martin Davies for their kind cooperation with the production of this article.
19 Jun 06 - RN All-Ranks Divers' Reunion
Well done Troy Tempest, Secretary of the Association of RN First Class Divers, for organising such a brilliant reunion in the Home Club on Saturday night. A tot of Pussers rum was served on arrival and Shep Woolley provided the entertainment and called the raffle.
I can't list all the attendees but MCDOs present included Paul Guiver, Gerry 'Pincher' Martin, Bill Norton, our own MCDOA Treasurer Graham 'Tug' Wilson (the younger) and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole). Non-MCDOs included Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir John 'Doc' Rawlins KBE FRCP FRAeS, Vic Anderton, Richard 'Bagsy' Baker, Peter Barratt, Freeby Bean, Steve Bielby, Shiner Brassington, Donkey Bray, Alan Broadhurst, Nick Carter, Albert Chapman, Chris Christie, John Cobb, Joe Cook (first visit after 23 years in Australia), John Dadd, Mick Fellows, Bob Fraser, Jimmy Green, Gabby Haines, Mike Handford, Mike Harding, Ron Hartshorn, Jacko Jackson, Colin 'Scouse' Kidman, Dobey Lines, Jim Lynch, Joe Maher, Ron Maitland-Flanagan, Sean Meleady, George McCarthy, Bill McGovern, Mac McKeever, Harry Neave, Peggy Neil, Roy New, Paddy Noonan, Nick Openshaw, Johnny Peach, Tony Phipps, Dickie Radford, Les Sharpe, Tim Sizer, Patrick Stevens, Dave Tyzack, Spike Wheeler and Tug Wilson (the elder).
Left: Tug Wilson (the younger) helps Doc Rawlins with the raffle. Right: Some of the reunion attendees
Let's see even more people at next year's event (16 June 2007).
17 Jun 06 - Queen's Birthday Honours
Congratulations to CPO(D) John Meekin on being appointed an MBE in today's Queen's Birthday Honours. During the past couple of years, he has performed several notable tasks with SDU2 based at Horsea Island near Portsmouth.
13 Jun 06 - HMS Vernon Heritage
I am indebted to website viewer Geoff Jones for supplying these photos of a plate recovered from the Solent. It appears to have belonged to an RN mess (No 20?) attached to HMS Vernon and shows a spar torpedo boat from the late 19th century together with a Whitehead torpedo and the Latin words "Magna Pericla Latent" (Great Hidden Danger).
RN Dinner Plate recovered from the Solent
MCDOA member Brian Braidwood has subsequently drawn my attention to a Royal Navy Scientific Service (RNSS) paper by Geoff Kirby, a retired AUWE scientist, which shows a similar torpedo boat (FIG 2) and torpedo (FIG 4). Brian has also provided the photos below.
Spar Torpedo Boat
Spar Torpedo Trial
Can anyone else shed any light on the history of the plate?
Postscript: David Clover contacted me on 15 May 2011 to tell me that the photo of the spar torpedo trial immediately above is a frame from a film recorded around 1898 by his Great Grandfather, Alfred West of ‘G West and Son’ Gosport. It was probably shot in Fraser Lake, part of Portsmouth Harbour. David has drawn my attention to his website at http://www.ournavy.org.uk on which a link to the footage concerned (see here) can be found in the ‘Films Extant’ section linked on the left.
12 Jun 06 - New Personal Update
The Members Only area contains an update from Bill Scarth in Kuwait.
8 Jun 06 - Ensign placed on HMS Antelope
The following item from today's Portsmouth News describes the placing of an ensign on the wreck of HMS Antelope by divers from HMS Liverpool.
6 Jun 06 - Dave Ince completes 100 mile Wilderness Trek
Congratulations to MCDOA member Dave Ince who is nearing the end of his extended exchange appointment with the US Navy at SupSalv. He has just completed the 100 mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail between Monson and Abol Bridge in Maine. Accompanied by his friends Andy Reynolds and Phil Gaha, he began this ordeal to celebrate his wife Julie's recent victory over cancer and to raise funds for the American National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Dave's report of his trek follows:
Well we did it, 100 miles of Maine wilderness behind and out from beneath tired and battered feet. Andy, Phil and I set out from Monson on 26 May, with packs weighing in at 50 lb plus, plunging into the deep foreboding woods and the swarms of hungry black fly (what black fly eat when they can't get hikers is anyone's guess). The trail was easy to follow at first and we spent that first night by a roaring waterfall straight out of the film 'The Last of the Mohicans'. The terrain then got progressively harder, continually stepping (stumbling) over roots/rocks and stomping up mountains. The 'AT' (Appalachian Trail) all the more difficult to follow/see as we ventured out of 'day hiker' territory. We weren't to meet another fellow hiker for nearly 2 days. Unfortunately injury plagued Phil and at the 30 mile mark he withdrew from the trek, hooking up and limping out on a logging road with Seth, a young lad we'd met at camp the night before who had twisted his ankle.
Sorry to see Phil go, Andy and I pushed on, and after spending a night at 'Camp Black Fly' (where the little beggars literally fell like a rain shower on the tent) we climbed up and over White Cap Mountain, the highest point on the trail and the halfway point. Morale was good at this point; we could see the end of the Quest in the misty blue distance and knew that all the mountains from here on in would be progressively smaller. Down into the flat lands we yomped, packs getting lighter daily and all the hard climbs behind us. But 'They' were waiting for us. Voracious, starving and in their 1,000s.
The flat lands became mile upon mile of swamp and bog, the trail now became a trial as it wound through the noisome mosquito infested quagmires. The insect repellent never lived up to advertised claims and we were both bitten to the core and then over again, the head nets were not to come off for the next 50 miles. Night time in camp was worse, both of us dressed in Gortex 'armour' and continually on the move, especially whilst eating to keep the cloud of critters behind mouth and spoon! The air constantly hummed in a high musical 'C' and the only real sanctuary was inside the tent. However, the little evil flying things just sat on the mesh in huge squadrons and waited patiently until you re-emerged. We no longer appreciated the incredible scenery and had to get out of the wilderness fast.
From that moment we put in 17-18 mile days and closed on Abol Bridge as quickly as we could. So jaded with the bugs, with 3 miles to go we met a group of hikers travelling south and convinced them that turning around would be a good option - they didn't have bug spray or head nets and we just couldn't in good conscience let them go through such suffering! Anyway, on Friday 2 June, 12:45 pm we reached the 100 mile point and the end of the trek. It took us just under 7 days.
Currently it looks like we have raised at least $2,000 for the NBCF, so well worth all the blisters and bites! Thanks to everyone who supported and sponsored our endeavour. If you planned to donate but haven't as yet, could you do so in the next few days as I am trying to get the total from the NBCF.
It is still possible to sponsor Dave online using a credit card. Go to this link and fill in the fields in the form. In the comments box, state “Donated for the 100 Mile Wilderness Trek Fundraiser” so the administration staff at NBCF can record how much Dave and his colleagues have raised for them.
Dave is transferring to the RAN and will move to Australia with Julie and their two sons shortly after completing his exchange appointment in the States. However, he hopes to be dined out of the RN at the MCDOA annual dinner in November.
5 Jun 06 - HMS Ledbury Hunts for Missing Diver
The following item from today's Portsmouth News describes the search for a missing diver by HMS Ledbury.
3 Jun 06 - MCDOA Ladies Night Dinner
The Ladies Night dinner held last night in HMS Nelson was thoroughly enjoyable and David and Kathy Forsey celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary in style. BZ to Tony Griffiths, our Honorary Secretary, for organising such a memorable evening. Thanks also to Cdr Patrick Keefe BSc RN for allowing us the use of his mess and to Kirsty Elles (Maitresse d'Hotel) and Peter Richardson-Sandell (Chef de Cuisine) and their staffs for their superb efforts and attention to detail.
David & Kathy Forsey 2 June 2006
Pictures of the occasion are now available in the 'Photo Galleries' of the Members Only area.
2 Jun 06 - Golden Wedding Anniversary
Warm congratulations to MCDOA member David Forsey and his wonderful wife Kathy on their Golden Wedding anniversary today. Several of us will have the opportunity to help them celebrate the occasion at the MCDOA Ladies' Night dinner this evening in HMS Nelson's wardroom.
David & Kathy Forsey 2 June 1956
A light-hearted account of David's early life and naval career can be found via this link.
1 Jun 06 - Navy News Items
The following MCD-related items from the June issue of Navy News include: a front page article describing the detection by HMS Atherstone and disposal by the Northern Diving Group (NDG) of a bomb in the River Mersey (featuring MCDOA member Chris Davies (MCM3), HMS Middleton and HMS Walney) plus the disposal of a shell off the Isles of Scilly by Southern Diving Unit 1 (SDU1); a Ship of the Month feature about HMS Hurworth; a yacht rescue by HMS Ledbury; a BAe Systems robotic minehunting device called 'Talisman'; and an expedition to the North Pole featuring LS(D) John Carroll of the Defence Diving School (DDS).
25 May 06 - DDS Diver at North Pole while other DDS Divers save Whale
The following items from today's Portsmouth News describe an expedition to the North Pole by LS(D) John Carroll of the Defence Diving School (DDS) and the rescue of a humpback whale off Scotland by other DDS staff including MCDOA member Richard 'Soapy' Watson.
23 May 06 - New Personal Updates
The Members Only area contains updates from Bob 'GW' Gwalchmai (Canadian Navy), Alan Padwick, Dave 'Spidey' Ince and Steve 'Steamy' Window.
20 May 06 - MCDOA Ladies Night and RN Divers' Golf Championship
Time is fast running out (deadline Fri 26 May) to book for the MCDOA Ladies Night in HMS Nelson on Fri 2 June.
The 21st Annual Royal Navy Clearance Divers' Golf Championship will be held at Southwick Park on Fri 28 July.
Full details and application forms for both these events are available via the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area.
17 May 06 - Wartime Bomb found in River Mersey
The Daily Telegraph contains this article, featuring MCDOA member Chris Davies (MCM3), which describes yesterday's detection by HMS Atherstone of a bomb in the Mersey. The BBC website contains these articles and videos of the subsequent recovery and disposal operations.
16 May 06
Update from Duncan Bridge
MCDOA member Duncan Bridge saw this motor yacht in Valencia, Spain on 13 May and identified her as a converted minesweeper. In fact, the vessel is called MV Sandvig and was formerly the Danish Vig Class inshore minesweeper HDMS Sandvig, launched in March 1961 and decommissioned in August 1977. She is now available for charter at 4,000 euros per day plus VAT and catering service.
Former Vig Class minesweeper HDMS Sandvig in Valencia
Duncan reports he is currently working with the German team participating in the 'Americas Cup' and has signed on until mid 2007.
New Diving Poem by Lt Cdr Bob Gwalchmai, Canadian Navy
3 September 1941, John Gillespie Magee Jr, an American pilot serving with the RCAF, flew to 30,000 feet during a
test flight of the Spitfire Mk V. After landing, he penned his
familiar poem 'High
Flight' which ended with the words "... and touched the face of
God." Tragically, he was killed three months later.
MCDOA member Bob Hawkins has sent this divers' version called 'Descent' written by Canadian CDO Bob 'GW' Gwalchmai. GW was on exchange with Bob at the US Navy EOD Centre at Indian Head, Maryland in the late 1980s and completed the MW module of LMCDO '89A in the UK. He is currently the Training Officer at HMCS York in Toronto.
15 May 06 - Aussies on Tour
Last Thursday, Mrs Webmaster and I had the pleasure of spending an evening at Gunwharf Quays, the former site of HMS Vernon, with founding member of the RAN CD Branch Jake Linton and his charming wife Anne. They are midway through a European tour and came to the Portsmouth area to catch up on old times with MCDOA member Morty Drummond and his wife Sally. Morty and Jake have known each other since serving together at the RAN Diving School HMAS Rushcutter in the late 1950s and photos of them at the time can be seen on the RAN CD Association's website via this link. Jake and his wife have been staying with MCDOA member Dan Nicholson and his wife Christine in Poole because Jake and Dan were on exchange together at COMINEWARCOM in Charleston in the 1970s. Everyone formed such close bonds that they have visited each other several times during the intervening years.
Left: Morty & Sally Drummond with Jake Linton. Right: Dan Nicholson & Jake Linton.
As Jake describes so eloquently in 'A Clearance Diving Experience' in the website's Dit Box, he undertook his SD training at HMS St George at Eastney (now Fraser Gunnery Range) and his CDO MW conversion course at HMS Vernon during the mid 1960s before completing a two-year exchange appointment in HMS Aisne.
Left: Dan & Chris Nicholson with Jake & Anne Linton at Gunwharf Quays
Right: Jake with Linda Hoole, Anne Linton and Rob Hoole at Gunwharf Quays.
12 May 06 - MCDOA Promotions
MCDOA members Simon Elliman, Dave Hunkin, Tom Russell and Mark Savage were among those selected for promotion to Commander on yesterday's signal. I am sure all other members join me in offering them our warmest congratulations and best wishes for the future.
5 May 06 - Hubert Hill Paintings Donated to MCDOA
My request for someone to collect a painting from Twickenham (28 Apr 06) has been overtaken by events. On Monday, I travelled to the Thames-side home of Irissa Cooper who got in touch after spotting our website. She wanted to offer the MCDOA a painting by her late friend, Hubert Hill, a 'Chelsea Painter' who served in minesweepers during WW II (I will try to find out which ones when I next visit the Naval Historical Branch). In the event, she gave me two of Hubert Hill's paintings for auction by the Association.
Irissa at her PC and with Hubert Hill paintings
During the Second World War, Irissa served in both the British forces Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) and its American equivalent, the United Services Organisation (USO).
Irissa in her ENSA and USO uniforms
After the war, she became an actress in the West End theatre and in films and remains a member of the Grand Order of Lady Ratlings, affiliated with the Grand Order of Water Rats. She shared the stage and screen with such stars as James Cagney, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jose Ferrer, Christopher Lee, Lloyd Bridges, Moira Lister, Rachel Roberts, Leslie Phillips, Sid Field, Tommy Handley, Tommy Trinder and many more.
Irissa Performing a Twirl
As shown below, the paintings Irissa has donated to the MCDOA comprise an oil called 'A Spanish Scene' and a watercolour called 'Chelsea Pub'. The committee is considering the best course of action for using these pictures to raise funds. Does anyone have any ideas?
'A Spanish Scene' and 'Chelsea Pub' by Hubert Hill
I am sure all members join me in thanking Irissa for her thoughtful gesture. What a trouper!
2 May 06 - Ledbury Yacht Rescue
The following item from today's Portsmouth News describes the rescue of a yacht by HMS Ledbury on 1 May.
1 May 06
Navy News Items
The following MCD-related items from the May issue of Navy News include: the activities of MCM2 (MCDOA member Peter Williams) in Norwegian waters; the return to the UK of HMS Grimsby after being damaged in a Norwegian fjord; and the activities of HMS Shoreham.
Possible Roles for Decommissioned Sandowns
The following item from today's Portsmouth News describes possible future roles for the decommissioned Sandown Class minehunters Sandown, Inverness and Bridport (see entry for 25 Apr 06).
28 Apr 06
With regard to my request for the collection and delivery of two paintings (see second entry for 8 Apr), MCDOA member Kim Godfrey has kindly agreed to collect the picture in Plymouth but I am still looking for someone to collect the picture in Twickenham, which has been donated to the MCDOA for auction, and deliver it to Portsmouth. Any offers please?
HMS Vernon Heritage
A fellow called Ben Colomb contacted me recently after looking at the website. He informed me that he was the grandson of a Cdr Philip Colomb RN who served as a Torpedo Officer at HMS VERNON from 1935 to 1938 and was responsible for landscaping the wardroom garden. He asked me if I'd like copies of his grandfather's 'before and after' photographs.
Left: Vernon Wardroom Garden in September 1936
Right: Wardroom Garden in Summer of 1938 after landscaping by Lt Philip Colomb RN
Wardroom Garden in January 1941 after
landscaping by the Luftwaffe
On looking up the name Colomb in Rear Admiral Edmund Nicholas 'Nico' Poland's book, 'The Torpedomen - HMS Vernon's Story 1872-1986', I was intrigued to find the following on pp.108/9:
"The arrival in service of new classes of ship alerted the staff at Vernon to the importance of electrical hand-books for the guidance of their crews. This was particularly important in the new ships where the main machinery had been sub-divided into independent units. Dynamos had been resited and the main electrical supply systems had been redesigned, but all that existed in the shape of an electrical manual in the early 1930s were two slim volumes. The first was a text book of electrical engineering with no particular application to the Navy and the second comprised a series of pamphlets dealing with high power equipment or main supply systems. To make matters worse, the Electrical Engineering Department at the Admiralty had no book writing section. Captains R B Miles and A U Willis, successive commanding officers of Vernon from 1934 to 1938, insisted there must be handbooks for the new and more complex supply systems. After lengthy discussions with the Director of Electrical Engineering and the Director of Torpedoes and Mining, it was agreed that Vernon should produce the new handbook and in 1936, Lieutenant P H F Colomb was appointed to undertake this work. He was an officer of outstanding intellectual capability whose ancestors, Sir John Colomb (late of the Royal Marines) and his brother Vice Admiral Phillip Colomb, had been able commentators on naval and maritime affairs.
Colomb had to deal with electrical systems which traced their development back to the beginning of the century. His meticulous and detailed study soon caused consternation at the Admiralty and at Vernon. He drew the attention of their Lordships to the departure in ships of the latest construction from the principles governing the electrical installations in the 'County' class cruisers. He pointed out that ring main breakers had been inserted haphazardly with the possibility that damage in one section could put undamaged sections out of action. In the worst cases damage anywhere in the system could cause a complete blackout thoughout the ship. Colomb's work led to the drawing up of a set of principles known as the 'Eighteen Points of Ring Main Design'. The ring main systems in ships under construction were as far as possible redesigned, but many ships at sea had been completed before remedial action could be taken."
I informed Ben that if this officer was his grandfather then he was responsible for much more than just landscaping the wardroom garden. Who knows how many of our ships survived action during WW II, only three years hence, as a direct result of his intervention? Ben has since confirmed that the then Lt Philip Colomb was indeed his grandfather and has provided me with a charming potted history of him, written by his Great Aunt Sylvia, and photos of his forebear plus, of course, the photos of VERNON's wardroom garden which have now been added to the History of HMS Vernon section of the website. He has also promised me some photos taken by his grandfather at the Battle of Jutland and elsewhere during his early career.
Lt (later Cdr) Philip Colomb RN
Although Ben had not realised the significance of his grandfather's work, he informs me he has a large silver salver inscribed with the words "Presented to Lt Philip Colomb from the Captain and Officers of HMS Vernon Wardroom". He also has his grandfather's sextant and some of his electrical test equipment as well as quite a few of his original calculations and circuit diagrams.
Another of Ben's illustrious ancestors, Vice Admiral Phillip Colomb, gave a series of lectures on signalling at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in 1863 having invented a Patent Flashing Day and Night Signal Apparatus in 1862. In 1865, he was awarded a certificate at the Dublin International Exhibition for his invention, as shown below. Apparently, his Signal Apparatus used a code simpler than Morse, which he thought would be too difficult to remember under seagoing conditions. This was adopted by the Royal Navy in 1867.
Certificate Awarded to Cdr (later VAdm) Phillip Colomb
Vice Admiral P.H. Colomb also developed a Manual of Fleet Evolutions and in 1878 he became a member of a committee set up to revise the Fleet Signal Book and integrate it with his manual. He was also the author of Naval Warfare: Its Ruling Principles and Practice Historically Treated, first published in 1891 and described as:
"...a significant contribution to the study of war at sea and the objectives, efficacy, and limitations of sea power. First, it is important because it drew to the national attention of the British at a time of urgency and confusion the value of maintaining a fleet capable of fulfilling the necessary mandate of such a sea service."
27 Apr 06 - HMS Grimsby Damage Inspection
The following item from today's Portsmouth News describes plans for a formal inspection of the damage sustained by HMS Grimsby in February (see entry for 16 Mar 06).
25 Apr 06 - Estonia Expected to Purchase Sandowns
The following item from today's Portsmouth News describes the signing by Estonia of a letter of intent to purchase the Sandown Class minehunters Sandown, Inverness and Bridport.
21 Apr 06 - 16th Minesweeping Squadron Plaque Unveiled in Canberra
Les Figg of HMAS Hawk (ex-HMS Somerleyton) 1965-67 has announced that the unveiling ceremony of the 16th Minesweeping Squadron Plaque took place at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra at 1000 on Friday 31 March. All ships' company members of ex-Ton Class MCMVs HMA Ships Curlew, Gull, Hawk, Ibis, Snipe and Teal were invited to attend, along with their families and friends. Details of the ceremony can be found via this link. Do take a look around this fascinating website, especially the pictures reached by clicking the 'Canberra Photos' button at the top of the page.
19 Apr 06 - New Personal Update
The Members Only area contains an update from new member Richard 'Soapy' Watson.
17 Apr 06 - Yet More About DATCHET
Duncan Bridge's recent sighting of DATCHET at Cowes (see entry for 10 Apr) has sparked several other reports. Former CPO(D) Ozzie Hammond informs me she is often alongside at Bideford and Ilfracombe and is sometimes used by Ilfracombe Sub-Aqua Club. He points out that she has much more deck space now the compression chamber has been removed. Former CD George McCarthy informs me he was working from DATCHET last year on the North Devon coast fixing RNLI moorings for Falmouth Divers.
MCDOA member Mike Gillam has sent this background to DATCHET's acquisition as a Fleet Diving Tender:
Reading Terry Gosling's memories of DATCHET reminded me of what happened before and how it all came about.
Back in 1960 the Far East CDT, Singapore B&MDT and the FE Diving School were brought into one group which had, as I recall, two CD1s, a D1, a POME, a dozen assorted CDs and two MFVs, one 90 foot and one 65 foot. I think they were numbered 1044 and 1015. Although elderly, they were good sea boats, comfortable and provided good, stable diving platforms. Their only problem was that they cost a lot to maintain and were not very reliable mechanically. Eventually we were forced to send them in convoy on long journeys in case one broke down. On one celebrated occasion during the return from exercising the Fleet at Pulau Tioman, the small one had to take the larger one in tow until it too broke down just as we were entering the Singapore Strait. Fortunately, we managed to hitch a lift from a passing CMS and both vessels were ignominiously towed back to base at Sembawang.
After the laughter had subsided at the Far East Staff HQ, the Fleet TASO had an idea that seemed sensible to us. He suggested that we commandeer one of the large motorised junks that were being confiscated by the Hong Kong Guard ships at that time and have it refitted for diving duties. This proposal was duly submitted in proper form by CinC FES to the Admiralty after which there was a very long silence. Eventually, a letter was received from Admiralty Bath asking for the junk's stability curves, without which they would be unable to proceed with the proposal. They seemed oblivious to the fact that these vessels were hewed from solid timber under the eyes of experts in the same tradition that produced one of the world's largest navies long before Britain ruled the waves.
So, in due process of time the FE CDT was provided with DATCHET. I never experienced life on board her and, having read Terry's comments, I am very happy about that. Such are the perils of looking gift horses in the mouth because they were NIH (not invented here).
Here endeth the lesson.
15 Apr 06 - Naval Diver Ben Bell
Former CD Tony Sexton has drawn my attention to this article in yesterday's Grimsby Telegraph about the death of former RN diver Ben Bell. It looks like he had quite a career.
Tony has also provided this obituary:
"BELL BENJAMIN THOMAS (Ben) Dinger Ex Deep Sea Diver It is with deep sadness we announce that on April 7, 2006, Ben, aged 85 years, of the Gatherums, Cleethorpes, passed away peacefully, after a short illness bravely borne, loving husband of the late Irene and partner of June, dearly loved and respected father of Graham, David, Keith and Carole, father-in-law of Brenda, Sharon and Rose, grandad (Pappy) to Sarah, Nicola, Christopher, Andrew, Benjamin, Sophie, Debbie and the late Lisa and a very dear friend to many. Funeral cortege will be leaving from David's house at 12.35pm, for a service of celebration at Grimsby Crematorium, on Wednesday, April 12, at 1.00pm. Ben is now resting peacefully in the care of Mark Tyack Funeral Directors Limited, 83-85 Farebrother Street, Grimsby, where family flowers only will be received but, if so desired, donations will be welcomed for the Royal Sailors Association."
12 Apr 06 - More About DATCHET
Former AB(CD2) Terry Gosling has sent the following message regarding the item for 10 Apr:
I was looking at the pictures of DATCHET. I stood by her in Singapore and collected her when we took her into our care in the FECDT [Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Team]. She was a pig of a thing; so noisy at sea that no one slept. There was a buzz that quieter engines were to be fitted but it was just a buzz!! The A/C was rubbish and we had to provide a duty man to sleep aboard her when she was in Singapore Dockyard. It was not a sought after job! I sailed in her to Pulau Tioman a couple of times and once up the East coast to Terendak, I think to look for a pack howitzer that was dropped in the mud there (from a chopper even). I was glad to get away from her really. The RN could have done much better than her for a lot less.
Thanks for the pics though. As I say, they brought back a lot of memories (some good, I must admit).
10 Apr 06 - Fleet Diving Tender DATCHET
MCDOA member Duncan Bridge has reported the following sighting on the Isle of Wight:
By coincidence I was alongside DATCHET yesterday [7 Apr]. She is now painted orange and registered at Bideford, Devon. Her stern has been cleared and a little Hiab lift attached for a RIB. She was being used as a tug for an ex-USN flat top barge but that front slope on her deck house and bridge was unmistakable.
I spoke with the captain whilst she was here in Cowes. He mentioned that he frequently had ex-RN divers come to chat to him about her.
DATCHET in Cowes April 2006
As I recall, DATCHET (or "Rats**t Datchit" as Ralph Mavin christened her) was built for the Royal Navy in Singapore in the late 1960s and then shipped to the UK c.1974 for service as a Diving Tender attached to HMS Vernon. A Singaporean on the Overseas LMCDO course I trained in 1982 told me her sister ship remained in service with his Navy. My LMCDO course used DATCHET for deep diving training at Falmouth in 1976 but she was transferred to the Plymouth Clearance Diving Team around 1978 in exchange for the Fleet Tender IXWORTH. The Plymouth team resented losing IXWORTH in favour of DATCHET but that was before I blew IXWORTH up off Falmouth in 1983 (see 'When Things Go with a Bang!' in the Dit Box).
It looks like DATCHET is now fitted with a bow thruster. In my time, her only propulsion was two ex-landing craft Gray Marine diesels that turned both her screws in the same direction. This made her a pig to drive, especially when manoeuvring alongside. Her hull was steel but her superstructure was marine plywood. She was sold in 1994.
The photo below shows DATCHET in 1981 with members of her naval crew and PCDT embarked. These include: Yours Truly; the equally youthful-looking PO(D) Jan Priest; FCPO(D) John 'Smudge' Smith; the late CPO(D) 'Big Norman' Slingsby; Jill our mother hen; John Wiseman; CPO(D) Mick Kester; PO(D) Dave 'Steve' Stevens; AB(D) (later WO(D)) Chris 'Spike' Hughes; AB(D) (later Lt Cdr) Paul McDermott - probably best not to mention anything these days about 'Beaker' from The Muppets; AB(D) Mark Girdlestone; AB(D) (later PO(D)) Taff Morse; LS(D) (later CPO(D) then DLO Explosives Safety Officer) Ricky 'Mac' McCabe; and several others who went on to greater things.
PCDT members on board DATCHET in 1981
8 Apr 06
MCDOA Ladies Night 2006
This year's Ladies' Night will be held in the Wardroom, HMS Nelson on Fri 2 June. Further details, calling notice and booking form are now available via the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area.
I need help with the collection and delivery to Portsmouth of two oil paintings.
The first painting is a Spanish scene executed by the 'Chelsea Painter' Hubert Hill who served in minesweepers during WW II. It is currently held by a lady in Twickenham who wishes to donate it for auction with the proceeds going to the MCDOA.
The second painting is of HMS Berkeley (now HNS Kallisto in the Greek Navy) and was executed by Vice Admiral Sir John Webster KCB. It is currently held by a lady in Plymouth who has kindly offered it to me as Berkeley's first Commanding Officer.
If any member can help with the collection and delivery of either of these paintings, please e-mail me via email@example.com with your telephone number so that I can provide appropriate details.
A change of server by our domain host has prevented me from updating the website for the past two weeks and I was eventually forced to re-publish the entire site, including updates, today. The website was also offline for a weekend last month. Despite this, the site received 6,330 visits during March, the first time the monthly figure has exceeded 6,000. Internet users in 57 countries registered 154,586 hits on individual web pages and images and downloaded a total of 2,189,384 kilobytes of data.
7 Apr 06 - SDU2 Blows German Wartime Mine
The following item from today's Portsmouth News describes the disposal by SDU2 of a German wartime mine found off the Isle of Wight in February by HMS Walney and features Jason White (See also items for 15 Feb and 8 & 9 Mar).
6 Apr 06 - New Personal Updates
The Members Only area contains updates from MCDOA members John Murphie and Richard Hill.
5 Apr 06 - Death of Lt Cdr Bill Richmond RD*, RNR and Funeral Arrangements
The item for 21 Mar described how Lt Cdr 'Big Bill' Richmond RNR (former MCMV CO and ex-DSOO MCM 10) lay seriously ill in the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough Common, Kent after contracting MRSA. Sadly, I have just been informed that Bill died at 1430 yesterday. Cdr Pat Barron RNR is in touch with the family and may be contacted on 078 0126 6906. Alternatively, Lt Cdr Roger Weston RNR, Chairman of the HMS President RNVR & RNR Retired Officers' Association, is also in touch with the family and may be contacted on 020 7385 5444.
Pat Barron has provided the following details about the funeral:
"Bill's funeral will be at Guildford Crematorium (the postal address is New Pond Rd, Godalming but it is not actually in Godalming - see below for directions) at 1300 on Wednesday 12th April and will be conducted by Padre Hugh Talbot of London Division.
Directions to the Crematorium are as follows: From London travelling south on the A3 go past the Guildford turning, continue on past the A31 Farnham turning and take the next exit the B3000 signposted to Guildford Crematorium and Compton. Drive through Compton and if you come to a roundabout you have gone 50 yds too far!
Afterwards there will be drinks at the Parrot Public House in Broadfield Road.
For those with computerised navigation systems the postcode of the Crematorium is GU7 3DB and that of the Parrot is GU4 8DW.
Thanks again to all those who did their best to cheer up Bill’s last few weeks including Martin Cook who got there just too late. I know that John and Susan are most grateful for your efforts.
Hopefully we can give him a good send off. See you there."
1 Apr 06 - Navy News Items
The following MCD-related items from the April issue of Navy News include: damage caused to HMS Grimsby when she struck the side of a Norwegian fjord; the return of HMS Atherstone to her old base port at Portsmouth; charity fundraising efforts by CPO(D) Mark Rogers and PO(D) Ian Fleming of the Defence Diving School; a visit to the Defence Diving School by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Portsmouth; and a visit to Cherbourg by HMS Bangor.
Back to Top
Back to News Archives