30 Jun 07 - Newsletters from HMS Hurworth
The ORION Task Group, comprising HMS Atherstone, HMS Hurworth, HMS Shoreham, HMS Walney, MCM 1 and FDU 2, is currently on deployment in the Mediterranean. Lt Cdr Andy Woolhead, the Commanding Officer of HMS Hurworth, has sent the following newsletters:
25 May 07
As I write to you, HMS HURWORTH is on passage to Piraeus (the port of Athens) in Greece after another busy three weeks with the ORION Task Group. Since you last heard from us we have completed two minehunting exercises and three port visits: Patras in Greece (near to the island of Zakynthos) twice; and La Spezia in Northern Italy.
Our first period alongside in Patras was spent preparing for the first exercise of ORION 07, Exercise Ariadne. The exercise was organised by the Greek Navy and involved not only the four British ships, but minehunters from Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain and Turkey. Much of the first weekend was devoted to making sure that HURWORTH was ready to hit the ground running. Some members of the ship’s company took the opportunity to visit the ancient site of Delphi, a sacred Greek temple which became a refuge for mariners who eventually became its priests. It then became famous as the home of the Oracle where one would go to gain advice on worldly problems.
On the morning of 7 May, Exercise Ariadne commenced with the Task Group sailing at Action Stations under threat from both Fast Attack Craft and aircraft from the Greek Navy. We started the day with a lead-through of the Task Group, which involves a minehunter leading a group of ships through a channel that has been cleared of mines. During this lead-through, the group was under constant attack from Greek Coastguard speedboats and a Greek Navy helicopter. This provided a great training opportunity for the ship’s gunnery teams. All pretend of course. On completion of this mini-battle, HURWORTH made way to her designated mine hunting area where we began the search for the exercise mines that had been laid by the Greek Navy.
During the exercise, HURWORTH’s minewarfare and diving team managed to find and recover three exercise mines, which was considered a great success. At the end of the exercise we found we had a few minutes to spare so the ship went to anchor. During this short stay swinging around the cable, the divers carried out an inspection of the ship’s hull and the ship’s company was treated to the first 'Hands to Bathe' of the deployment.
The chance to cool off after a hard exercise was much appreciated by everyone, and Leading Seaman Phil Mayer showed the crowd how to dive from height while Lieutenant Will Blackett showed how to fall onto his face from even higher.
On completion of the exercise, we sailed back to Patras for a well-deserved break. Our second period alongside in the city was much more relaxed and it presented the opportunity to explore the city and its sights, sample the local food and, for many of the ship’s company, gave a chance to visit the beaches and start working on those all important tans.
On 12 May we sailed from Patras and headed across the Ionian Sea towards Italy. Our passage took us through the Strait of Messina, a narrow strip of water between the toe of Italy and the island of Sicily. The Strait is famous for strange phenomena such as whirlpools and standing waves, both of which we observed on our way through. Allegedly the sea monsters Scylla and Charybidis also abide here. After passing safely through, we headed north along the Italian Coast passing Naples and the island of Capri before reaching the Italian naval town of La Spezia.
La Spezia is located in a very beautiful part of Northern Italy and many members of the crew took the opportunity to explore the region. Trips to both Pisa and Florence were popular with a lot of people visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa and many of the museums in Florence. It was not all fun and games, though. We had arrived in Italy to conduct trials with our minehunting sonar on the range at the NATO Underwater Research Centre.
The Italian Navy had laid exercise mines outside the breakwater of La Spezia Harbour and it was our job to find and identify them. Both the Remote Controlled Underwater Vehicles and the divers were called upon to identify the contacts that the sonar had detected. The diving team, led by the ship’s new Cox'n PO(D) Tim Hall, set about diving on the possible contacts and with visibility ranging from 0 to 1 metre, it proved a challenge to identify all the contacts.
We have now left Italy and are on our way back to Greece although there is one minor change to the programme. The cancellation of an exercise has made room for another port visit in the Black Sea but this will not effect our return date to Portsmouth.
That’s about all from here. We arrive in Sicily to top up with fuel and water in the next couple of days and then it's on to Greece. I hope you are all keeping well and I looking forward to writing to you all again soon to keep you updated on our activities and of any changes to the programme.
HMS Hurworth 18 June 07
It has been three weeks since you last heard from us and during that time life on board HURWORTH has continued to be extremely busy. We left La Spezia after a period of sonar trials and started the passage east to Athens. After a six hour stop in Augusta, Sicily, to top up with fuel, we continued on our way across the Ionian Sea to Greece. That evening, the Senior Rates' mess hosted a BBQ for the ship’s company. With good food and music, we were very privileged to see dolphins playing in the ship's bow wave as the sun set behind Mount Etna.
To save time, our journey took us through the Corinth Canal. Constructed between 1881 and 1893, it is 6.3 kilometres long and 24.6 metres wide at its narrowest point. Built to join the Ionian sea to the Aegean sea, it is still used regularly. An average of 33 vessels pass through the canal per day, each taking 40 minutes to transit.
We enjoyed a three day visit to Piraeus, the port of Athens, where the ship’s company went on trips to all of the city’s famous sites such as the Acropolis and Sounio. Athens also saw the first fixture for the Task Group Rugby Team against the Greek Attika Springboks. The squad is made up from the ship’s companies of the four minehunters and was coached by HURWORTH’s Lt Will Blackett who could not play owing to injury. HMS HURWORTH also provided many of the players with Lt Ben Piper, CPO(ET) Tanzy Lee, PO(MEM) Yarpie Briant, PO(ET) Steve Pearson, PO(MW) Jan Gaffney, LS(MW) Windy Belcher, LET(ME) Andy Riby, AB(SEA) Alex Hinds, AB(MW) Soapy Watson, and ET(ME) Chuck Norris. After a tense start, there didn’t seem to be much difference between the teams but after half time the sailors got the upper hand with Lt Ben Piper and AB Alex Hinds both putting points on the board with a final score of 27-21 to the Navy team.
On leaving Athens we travelled east. Although it was only a short journey, it took us to a whole different continent, Asia and Erdek in Turkey. Erdek is situated in the Sea of Marmora and to reach it, we first had to transit the Dardanelles. The Dardanelles is a confined body of water partly linking the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, and is understandably a very busy shipping lane. It was here at this narrow and strategic waterway that the WW1 Battle of Gallipoli was fought and we passed the many memorials to the Turkish and Allied soldiers and sailors who died there.
Erdek is home to a Turkish naval base and, on our arrival, the Task Group began to train with the Turkish Navy in preparation for the forthcoming exercise. After four days of preps, we sailed at Action Stations. HMS HURWORTH left the other British units and was attached to the Turkish Task Group. We completed a number of serials and got used to working with the Turkish Navy. Almost inevitably we were attacked by a Fast Inshore Attack Craft simulated by the Turkish Coast Guard. I am pleased to say that HMS HURWORTH triumphed and came away unscathed. On completion, the ship’s company moved into minehunting watches to begin the mine clearance phase of the exercise. We were given an area to clear of mines and, 38 hrs later, this was achieved. We then made our way back to Erdek for an assessment of the exercise, sailing early the following morning.
Our next port of call was Izmir, situated on the west coast of Turkey. The route took us back through the Dardanelles and we arrived the following day. We berthed the ship in an unconventional way by backing the ship onto the jetty. This is known as Mediterranean mooring and is achieved by dropping an anchor and reversing the ship back onto the jetty. It is a very popular way of berthing in the Mediterranean but it is seldom used by the Royal Navy.
On our arrival, Leading Seaman ‘H’ Harrison began coaching the Task Group football team for a fixture against the local Turkish Navy team. In extremely hot conditions, the Turkish side proved too strong and the Task Group team lost 4-0. HURWORTH was represented in the team by ET(ME) “Ozzy” Harvey, ET(WE) “Sid” James AB(MW) “Johno” Johnston and AB(MW) Jamie Pym. While alongside, the diving team, led by the Coxswain PO(D) Tim Hall, took the opportunity to dive on the ship and conduct an inspection of the the ship’s hull and anchors. The main event in Izmir was the Queen's Birthday Cocktail Party. This event was hosted on board our support vessel RFA CARDIGAN BAY. Over 200 guests, including the British Ambassador to Turkey, were in attendance for what turned out to be a very successful evening.
After four days we left Izmir and made our way towards the Black Sea. A much needed 'Hands to Bathe' took place and many fine examples of belly flops, bombs and the painful back flop were witnessed. We transited the Dardanelles again but this time we continued east to the Bosporus. This is another narrow waterway that cuts through the city of Istanbul and the gateway to the Black Sea. The passage through Istanbul was spectacular and very busy with numerous ferries and small boats making the short crossing from the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side of the city.
We arrived in Varna, Bulgaria to find a beautiful city with lovely beaches and lively entertainment. Hosted extremely well by the Bulgarian Navy, we are currently exercising in Bulgarian waters before the next stage of the deployment.
I hope you are keeping well and I looking forward to writing to you again soon to keep you updated on our activities and of any changes to the programme.
29 Jun 07 - NATO Submarine Rescue System Demonstration
Chris Ameye, MCDOA Chairman and RN Superintendent of Diving, has kindly supplied the following news about the participation of MCDOA members in a demonstration of the NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS):
Thought you might like this short article plus pictures for the website.
I have just returned from DIVEX in Aberdeen where I, along with my Diving Standards Team and MCDOA member/CO Northern Diving Group (NDG) Lt Cdr 'Sharkey' Ward, attended a full demonstration of the new NATO Submarine Rescue System (NSRS) Transfer Under Pressure (TUP) arrangements as part of the safety acceptance process. The system, built by DIVEX under contract from Rolls Royce, is undergoing final outfitting before transfer to Faslane. Sea Acceptance Trials (SATS) are due in the autumn with Full Operational Capability (FOC) planned for mid-December 2007. Once in service, NSRS will be managed by Rolls Royce (MCDOA member John Burden) and operated by the UK, France and Norway. UK operators will be RN Clearance Divers from NDG in Faslane.
After a comprehensive system brief by the design team led by Peter Williamson, the demo encompassed a walk-through of the system and a series of dry & pressurised runs. The final run consisted of a live demonstration of the fire suppression system with John Burden, SOFD and Team (WOMEA Stu Johnstone & CPO (D) Nick Eastham) acting as guinea pigs! The event proved highly successful and it was good to link up again with John in both a social and professional capacity. NSRS is a most impressive system and a unique new capability for the Clearance Diving specialisation.
I enclose a couple of pictures for posterity!
Left: SofD Team with NSRS
Right: SofD Team with John Burden (Rolls Royce)
NSRS Control Room with MCDOA Associate Member
Alan Noonan (DIVEX) in background
John Burden (Rolls Royce) with Chris Ameye (SofD)
HMS Chiddingfold Rejoins the Fleet
The Navy News website contains this article describing the return to the Fleet of HMS Chiddingfold. She has undergone a maintenance period at Rosyth which included being fitted with the SeaFox mine disposal system.
25 June 07 - Police go Batty over Box under Bridge
Members may be amused by this article from the Brighton Argus website. Fleet Diving Squadron please note for future reference.
24 June 07 - Funeral arrangements for ex-CD Tom Kirkham
Pete Gilson advises via Terry Gosling that Tom Kirkham's funeral will be held in Tananger Church, Tananger, Norway at 1300 on Thursday 28 June 2007. Flowers to be sent c/o Tananger Church. Letters or cards of condolence can be sent to Tom's widow, Mrs Hildegunn Kirkham. Contact details available on request to the Webmaster.
23 Jun 07
LMCDO '07A Meets the Leopard Man of Skye
Richard 'Soapy' Watson, the MCDOA's Honorary Treasurer, is also the Long MCDO Course Diving Training Officer. He has sent this message:
Just got back from Kyle of Lochalsh with CDO '07A. I am happy to report that all officers passed and they will get their DDS certificates next week (I will send photographs). CDO '07B starts on 06 Jul 07 with 3 RN students, 2 x Omani and one Singaporean student. CDBA is out of use at the moment due to problems with the DSM hose connections. However, we are confident that the set will return to service in the very near future. The attached photograph is the last day at Kyle last week when the students met the "Leopard Man."
LMCDO '07A Meeting the Leopard Man of Skye
Postscript: On 17 June 2016, the Daily Telegraph published this obituary for Tom Leppard, the Leopard Man of Skye. He was born on 14 October 1935 and died on 12 June 2016.
Diver Down - Tom Kirkham
Terry Gosling has informed me that ex-CD Tom Kirkham passed away on 20 June after a long illness. Funeral arrangements will be promulgated when known. Tony Jacks adds:
"I have been informed today that Tom passed away last night. During his diving career he has endured and survived injuries and ailments that most others would have succumbed to. During the last few years he has suffered a ruptured aorta and lung, cancer with associated complications, but throughout he cheerfully and optimistically persevered.
He was in Stavanger hospital awaiting chemotherapy on remnants of the cancer; last week he had two minor heart attacks and unfortunately last night suffered a major attack from which he never surfaced.
He was, and will be remembered as a tower of a man. I am sure we can all recall an event or two that we witnessed or featured in, that will bring a chuckle to your face.
He leaves his wife “Hildegunn” and family in Norway and his former family in UK with whom he remained very close. My sincere sympathies and condolences go out to those folk.
At present the details of his funeral arrangements are not known; I will advise you in due course."
Neil 'Dickie' Davies adds:
"I worked with Tom all the way through the 1980s with Oceaneering and the ADS systems, along with the late Alfie Lyden. There were a few ex-CD's amongst our crew, Eric Hammands, Dean Parfitt & myself were all there and will no doubt be saddened to hear the loss of another giant of a man. My commiserations to Hildegunn, we did meet during our time at Oceaneering when Hildegunn worked in accounts in Stavanger."
MoD Announces Award of Contract for CDLSE
The Ministry of Defence website contains this article describing the award of a contract to DIVEX Ltd for CDLSE (Clearance Divers' Life Support Equipment), the replacement for 'new' CDBA. MCDOA Chairman and RN Superintendent of Diving Chris Ameye informs me that articles will also appear in the MoD's Focus magazine and Navy News but you read about it here first (see entry for 9 June 07).
22 Jun 07 - Falklands 25 - Commemorative Events in London
MCDOA member Martyn Holloway has sent the following report about the Falklands commemorative parade on Horse Guards and march along The Mall last Sunday:
"Twenty-five years and a few months ago on 12th October 1982, I had decided to represent the11th MCM trawler Minesweeping Squadron in the victory march around London. On Sunday 17 June 2007 I was proud to do it again. I met up with an exclusive band of Clearance Divers on London's Embankment who had found Commodore Michael Clapp. As COMAW during Operation Corporate, Commodore Clapp was in charge of the amphibious forces that included the 11th MCM and the Fleet Clearance Diving Teams. Those present were WO (Divers) John Dadd, Michael Fellows, Graham Trotter and Lt Cdrs (MCD) Bernie Bruen, Alex Manning and Brian Dutton; their exploits during the conflict can be read elsewhere on this website [see entry for 31 May 07]. WO (MW) 'Smudge' Smith then joined us briefly before forming up with the uniformed division. Smudge, formerly the Petty Officer (MW) of HMS JUNELLA, had gone out with Tex Marshall (Squadron Chief) and Bernie Bruen in a Gemini craft to recover a swept Argentinean floating mine from the minefield.
With there being a certain amount of disarray on forming up, the Commodore decided that we would hijack the Royal Naval contingent and instructed us to join him in the front marching rank of the Veterans, much to the chagrin of others. By arrangement, we stepped off short and kept a respectable distance from the serving and uniformed in front.
I gather that the marching elsewhere left a little to be desired and some said that only those in wheelchairs had managed to keep in step. I must admit that wheeling in columns of 12 was a new one on me. We marched onto Horse Guards parade to a thunderous reception.
It was both a happy and a sad occasion and there was both laughter and tears. Eventually, after the words were spoken, the songs sung and prayers had been read, we marched off behind an uninspired Royal Marine band leaving Alex Manning to keep us all in time. We were applauded at every step down the Mall and keeping in step was important in our rank; John Dadd as left hand marker set the pace with Brian Dutton to his right, then Michael Fellows, myself, Alex Manning, Commodore Clapp, Bernie Bruen and Graham Trotter. I was truly in the company of heroes.
The Royal Marines, all proudly wearing their green berets whether serving or former serving, were halted in front of us at Buckingham Palace having marched quietly behind in their inimitable rubber soled and uncomplicated style. Quite rightly they were applauded by the Royal Naval contingent and all went well until some wag in our group called across and asked, "And what instrument did you play Royal?"
Lady Margaret Thatcher was mobbed whenever she got near the boys. Asked at the reception afterwards if she would come back when the other lot was gone, she confined herself to a wry smile. It had been an emotional day for all of us yet well managed by the BBC. I look forward to seeing the coverage when I can find someone qualified to operate the VCR.
The photo of us is not of good quality, the flash did not work and John Dadd had managed to get himself lost in the melee following dismissal, possibly suffering from an over exposure to live television. It had been good to meet up in these circumstances and I hope we shall all be around to take part in the next one."
Falklands 25 Team
Back Row: Alex Manning, Michael Fellows, Captain Clapp, Piggy Trotter
Front Row: Bernie Bruen, Brian Dutton and Martyn Holloway
21 Jun 07 - HMS Cattistock's 25th Birthday Party
Last Saturday, HMS Cattistock celebrated her 25th birthday alongside in Poole, the closest port to her affiliated namesake village in Dorset. She was dressed overall for the Queen's birthday and had a fun-filled day during which she was open to visitors and had to fend off 'pirates' with fire hoses, eggs and flour bombs.
HMS Cattistock alongside the Town Quay in Poole
Your humble webmaster and Mrs Webmaster were fortunate enough to be invited to an evening cocktail party on the forecastle along with members of the Ton Class Association (TCA), the Mayor of Poole and friends from Cattistock village, the Cattistock Hunt, and the ship's affiliated Lilliput Sea Scout Group.
Left: TCA Members chatting to one of Cattistock's POMEMs
Right: Lilliput Sea Scout Group staff with CO of HMS Cattistock
Mrs Webmaster and I chatted with several guests and members of the ship's company including the Coxswain (PO(D) Simon Spencer), the Boatswain (PO(MW) Gareth Stockley - son of WO(MW) Pawl Stockley), and the Chief of the Boat (Marine Engineer Officer).
Left: Mrs Webmaster with Cattistock's MEO and Coxswain
Right: Other CTP guests
Towards the end of the party the ship's CO, Lt Cdr James Barnes, exchanged gifts with the Mayor of Poole, the people of Cattistock village and Peter Harrison, the Vice Chairman of the TCA.
Left: The Mayor of Poole exchanging gifts with Cattistock's CO
Right: Gifts exchanged with the people of Cattistock village
Peter Harrison, Vice Chairman of the TCA,
presenting a TCA badge to HMS Cattistock's CO
I would like to take this opportunity to wish HMS Cattistock "Many Happy Returns" and thank her CO and ship's company for such an enjoyable evening. She is a ship of which to be proud.
19 Jun 07 - More Dates for your Diary
History Channel Programme featuring Recovery of Holland 1
'Mega Movers - Sub Salvage' describing the recovery of the Holland 1, the Royal Navy's first submarine, will be broadcast on the History Channel at 1100 on Saturday 23 June. The programme will feature MCDOA member Duncan Bridge. See here for further details.
Summer BBQ at Horsea Island
Thanks to our Honorary Secretary Tony Griffiths and his wife Debs, and our Honorary Treasurer Soapy Watson, this year's Horsea Island barbecue will be held in collaboration with the Association of RN First Class Divers on Saturday 14 July starting at 1600. The intention is for an informal family-orientated fun day that will include some excellent char-grilled cuisine and liquid refreshments, music, a tombola, bring & buy stall, ‘treasure hunt’, traditional mess horse-racing (for children - big & small), the opportunity for a quick swim in the lake and, of course, the chance to meet-up with old friends and their families. Rig will be casual and there will be a prize for the ‘best’ Hawaiian shirt/dress, as judged by the Committee (of good taste). Car parking will be available outside the John Bridge Building.
All this will be available for the excellent price of only £5 per head, inclusive of entry into the door prize raffle and the first drink; so come along, wearing your shirt/dress, and have a great afternoon. All profits raised on the day will go toward the Vernon Memorial Project. As you can see from the photos below, the last two barbecues were a lot of fun so be sure to come along. The calling notice and booking form are available for download via the 'Upcoming Events' page in the website's Members Only area.
Here are some scenes from previous years:
Minewarfare Branch Reunion
This year's MW Branch reunion will take place on Saturday 22 September in HMS Collingwood. It is open to all MW qualified officers, WOs and senior rates although plans are afoot to form a Minewarfare Branch Association for all ranks. The calling notice, booking form and further details are available for download via the 'Upcoming Events' page in the website's Members Only area.
18 Jun 07 - MCDOA AGM, Operational Updates and Annual Dinner
This year's AGM, Operational Updates and Annual Dinner will take place on Friday 16 November 2007. Our Guest of Honour for the dinner in HMS Excellent will be Rear Admiral Chris Parry CBE, son of the late Cdr John Parry OBE, a sorely missed MCDOA member. Apart from dining out Tony Griffiths (our erstwhile Honorary Secretary) and Tug Wilson (our erstwhile Honorary Treasurer) from the service, we will be marking the 55th anniversary of the formation of the Clearance Diving branch. As is our custom, we will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the appropriate MCDO course. This year it is the turn of LMCDO '82 (Course Officer: Geoff Goodwin/Rob Hoole, Course Instructor: CPO(D) Bob Oulds/CPO(D) Ray Ramsay and RN students: George Cairns, Bob Hawkins, Stu McAlear, Ian Morrison, Simon Neil, Martin Nutt, Sean O'Reilly and the late lamented Simon 'SAG' Ross).
MCDOA member Bob Hawkins, currently on exchange with the US Navy, has sent this e-mail regarding the dinner:
How are you my friend - well I trust? As part of my corralling of former members of LMCDO 1982 to come along to our 25th anniversary dinner on 16 Nov I have made contact again with Capt Geoff Uren RAN (currently their equivalent of Capt MFP) and Capt (RAN Rtd.) Greg Mapson. Greg sent this to me today, it's a photograph of me, Simon Neil and Sean O'Reilly standing at the edge of the old Heliport in VERNON next to the creek where the Tons berthed. I think it may be the day that HM The Queen and Prince Phillip flew out of there to join HMS INVINCIBLE (and their son 'H' of course!) on her return from Op Corporate but I'm not sure exactly.
The Three Amigos - LMCDO '82
(Bob Hawkins, Simon Neil and Sean O'Reilly)
Although it's a scan of an old photograph, I hope you can weave your IT magic to put it in the LMCDO 82 section of photographs?
Former Captain Greg Mapson RAN has sent this e-mail:
Thanks for your e-mail. I will do my level best to make the trip! Yes, I still keep in touch with Allan Rankin, Gerry Kelly – haven’t seen Sharpe Paul in a while and Taff Sweeney is still at the dive school. Angus Crampton-Smith pops up every now and then and I ran into Andy Johnstone-Burt last week (he works for Booze and Allen – doing very well !!). I have copied Capt Geoff Uren who is the present MCD FEG Commander – he is also LMCDO 82 – our other Oz course chum John Carter passed on in 1999. I will also let RADM Russ Crane, the present DCN, know of the dinner – though I suspect he will be too hard pressed to make the journey.
It is also hoped to have three of the German members of OLMCDO '72 present to celebrate their 35th anniversary. Their Course Officer was MCDOA member Ed Thompson and their Course Instructor was CPO(D) (later FCPO(D)) Dave 'Mona' Lott. The students were Henning Bess, Victor Prohl and Hartmut 'Fiete' Walz. Victor, who retired as a Commander in the German Navy, informs me that Fiete retired as a Captain and Henning is still active as a Rear Admiral. Of particular interest, Fiete Walz was Richard Moore's SOO in STANAVFORCHAN and was a later CSNFC himself.
On a final note, we are inviting members of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers' Club to attend our future functions as paying guests in a reciprocal arrangement so do put the dinner in your diaries now. It should be both bonzer and wunderlich.
17 Jun 07 - Three Men in a Boat
Two weeks ago, our intrepid 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole sailed from Portsmouth in the good ship 'Dougout' to Bembridge marina on the Isle of Wight for our regular Tuesday get-together. Sailing conditions were perfect and such was our euphoria that we agreed to try something more adventurous next time.
Holloway and Barlow discussing
something more adventurous
Being roughie-toughie seamen, we discussed the possibility of sailing to Hawaii via the North West passage but eventually settled on a two-day deployment up the Beaulieu River to Buckler's Hard where many famous wooden warships were constructed for the Royal Navy. As a result, last Tuesday found us loading the boat at Whale Island when Barlow suddenly realised he'd left his parrot at home.
Ouch! Realisation hits Barlow
After consoling Barlow by telling him we would try to catch a seagull and paint it green, we set off from Portsmouth harbour under sail and turned right into the Solent. With a brisk wind from the south-west, it took only six long tacks to reach the mouth of the Beaulieu River to the west of Southampton Water. Here, we lowered our sails and motored the few miles up to Buckler's Hard where we secured between two of the berthing piles in mid stream. Having inflated and launched our tiny dinghy, we started its outboard motor only to discover it leaked fuel as soon as the cock was opened. Holloway has recently passed an RYA engine maintenance course on which he was taught to point to the problem. However, despite his best efforts, the problem remained and we had to abandon the outboard in favour of oars.
Left: Buckler's Hard from the River
Right: Holloway pointing to the problem
Hoole rowed Barlow ashore first while managing to overcome the strong tidal stream with some deft oarsmanship. Unfortunately, Barlow insisted on sitting in the bow of the dinghy instead of in the stern sheets and suffered a damp seat as a result - no jokes about a 'tender behind', please. Barlow then returned to the boat and rowed Holloway ashore. After paying the harbour master for our overnight berth, we all strolled along the shoreline to take a look at the site of what was once a thriving ship-building community but is now a museum area (further information here) and marina. One vessel that stands out particularly is MGB 81. Further information about this sleek-looking Second World War vintage Motor Gun Boat can be found here. The slipways where MTBs and RAF Air Sea Rescue launches were repaired can still be seen on the foreshore. Prior to D-Day, the river was full of landing craft and Mulberry harbour units awaiting deployment to Normandy.
Left: Buckler's Hard Marina
Right: Downriver from Marina
The cottages where the shipyard workers lived are still intact and can be viewed in daylight, as can the museum. We were too late to see these but the Master Builder's house has been converted into the only pub in the village.
Left: Shipyard workers' cottages at Buckler's Hard
Right: The Master Builder's House Hotel at Buckler's Hard
Having looked around, we returned to 'Dougout' to prepare for dinner and Holloway engaged in some 'swan-upping'.
Holloway making friends with a passing swan
After a dhobi and change of clothes, we visited The Master Builder's House Hotel for some bowls of bangers & mash with onion gravy, all washed down with a few pints of IPA before returning on board and turning in.
Our 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio
dining in The Master Builder's House Hotel
Early the next morning, we awoke to find the stiff breeze of the previous night had disappeared and it was flat calm and misty. The mist soon burned off but, much to our disgust, we were forced to motor back downriver before returning to Portsmouth under power. Mind you, as we munched our bacon butties and drank welcome cups of coffee, it was still a beautiful day and we had enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining 'deployment'. At least it kept us off the streets for a while.
Flat Calm on the Beaulieu River
Back in Portsmouth Harbour
16 Jun 07 - Queen's Birthday Honours
Warm congratulations to WO1(D) Neil Andrew 'Andy' Brunton on his appointment as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in today's Queen's Birthday Honours. Andy's trip to Buckingham Palace for his investiture will be his second this year (see entry for 25 Jan 07 in News Archive 17). Can you spot the self-effacing Andy as an AB(D) in this photo of some members of the Plymouth Clearance Diving Team taken about 27 years ago (when we all had a bit more hair)?
PCDT Red-Wingers c.1980
The full list of Queen's Birthday awards to British service personnel is available here but the RAN CD Association website contains further Queen's Birthday Honours news about our fellow MCDOs down under:
"Congratulations to Rear Admiral Russ Crane for his award of the AM & to LCDR Russ Crawford for his award of the Conspicuous Service Cross. Ex-MCDO Richard Caton, who is now with DFAT, has been awarded the Public Service Medal [PSM] for his outstanding duties whilst in Dili."
Both Russ Crane and Russ Crawford served in the MW section at HMS Vernon while on exchange with the RN during the 1980s. Our warmest congratulations to all three RAN recipients.
15 Jun 07 - Falklands 25 - RN Bomb Disposal Reminiscences
The BBC News website contains this article showing extracts from the diary of former LS(D) Tony Groom while serving in Fleet Clearance Diving Team 1 (FCDT 1) during the Falklands conflict. Note that his entries for May and June 1982 are on two separate web pages.
Tony Groom (centre) helping to remove a damaged
Seacat missile from HMS Argonaut
12 Jun 07 - HMS Quorn visits Bristol
9 Jun 07 - Contract Awarded for New Clearance Diving Set
Clearance Divers' Life Support Equipment (CDLSE)
MCDOA Chairman Chris Ameye has sent the following welcome news in his role as the Superintendent of Diving:
"The Ministry of Defence has announced on 1 June 2007 that it has awarded a contract to DIVEX Ltd of Aberdeen to provide the Royal Navy with a new state of the art mixture gas re-breather diving set. The set, called Clearance Divers' Life Support Equipment (CDLSE), will restore the Royal Navy’s 60 m capability.
CDLSE is the most advanced electronic mix gas re-breather in the world today and will enable Royal Navy Clearance Divers to conduct their full range of tasks worldwide against the most modern threat. Commander Chris Ameye, the MOD Superintendent of Diving and CDLSE FLEET Customer, said:
‘The award of this contract represents a significant step towards the restoration of a safe and viable 60m diving capability. The arrival of CDLSE later this year will be a major boost to the clearance diving specialisation and will provide the Royal Navy with a first class diving capability. I very much look forward to CDLSE’s introduction into service’.
CDLSE unmanned testing and manned trials are planned over the next few months and will be followed by the RN evaluation phase which will culminate with an initial capability for the Fleet Diving Squadron in Nov 2007. The first two batches of production sets are due for delivery mid-2008 and will allow an enhancement of front line units and the commencement of career training at the Defence Diving School by Sep 2008."
7 Jun 07 - Holland One Recovery Documentary
The History Channel documentary about the recovery of Holland One, the RN's first submarine, is now due to be screened on Saturday 23 June. Check local listings for times. The programme is entitled 'Mega Movers - Sub Salvage' and features MCDOA member Duncan Bridge who led Naval Party 1007 (the RN saturation diving team on board MV Seaforth Clansman) for the recovery operation.
6 Jun 07 - HMS Cattistock launches SeaFox
The RN website contains this article describing the first launch by HMS Cattistock of SeaFox, a "state of the art ‘fire and forget’ system, capable of destroying mines in depths in excess of 300m". Incidentally, your humble webmaster and Mrs Webmaster will be attending Cattistock's 25th birthday party on 16 June.
2 Jun 07 - Major Milestone for the Website
During May, the MCDOA website received 10,468 visits from internet users in over 57 countries, the first time the monthly total has exceeded 10,000. 392,340 hits were recorded on individual pages, files and images and 6,818,168 kilobytes of data were downloaded.
1 Jun 07 - Navy News Items
Task Force ORION comprising HMS Atherstone, HMS Hurworth, HMS Shoreham, HMS Walney, MCM 1 and FDU 2. HMS Blyth and HMS Ramsey exchanging ships' companies with HMS Penzance and HMS Pembroke in the Gulf.
The recent activities of HMS Quorn.
FDU 3 in Exercise ARABIAN GAUNTLET featuring MCDOA member Simon Pressdee, PO(D) Hope and LD Jackson.
A letter about the 11th MCM Squadron during the Falklands conflict 25 years ago.
31 May 07 - Falklands 25 - The Forgotten Few
Left: S(D) Stan Bowles and LS(D) Dave Southwell of FCDT 1 with 1,000 lb bomb in HMS Argonaut
Right: Minesweeping trawlers of the 11th MCM Squadron at Gibraltar
Today's Portsmouth News contains this article describing the achievements of the Fleet Clearance Diving Teams and the minesweeping trawlers of the 11th MCM Squadron during Operation Corporate (the Falklands campaign) and its aftermath. It features MCDOA members Bernie Bruen, Brian Dutton and your humble webmaster as well as former FCPO(D) Mick Fellows. I am indebted to Simon Toft of The News for helping our branch receive the recognition it deserves. My thanks also to those mentioned above plus MCDOA members Martyn Holloway, Mike Kooner, Chris Meatyard and David 'DOC' O'Connell as well as former LS(D) Tony Groom for providing information and photos as background for Simon's article.
This passage now appears in the MoD website's Background Briefing about the Falklands conflict:
"...During that time Argentinean air attacks against the beachhead and shipping took place whenever weather allowed, several times a day. Almost every Royal Navy escort was damaged, and HMS ARDENT was sunk. Fortunately no logistic ships were lost to enemy action but several were damaged; this was in no small measure due to the extraordinary bravery of the Mine Clearance Divers of the Royal Navy and those Royal Engineers who defused a large number of bombs and so saved the ships."
This passage now appears in the official 'Falklands 25' website's Description of the Conflict:
"...Over the following six days Argentinean air attacks against the beachhead and shipping took place almost daily. Fortunately not one logistic ship or item of 3 Commando Brigade’s stores had been lost. Thanks must be given to the extraordinary bravery of the Mine Clearance Divers of the Royal Navy and Royal Engineers who defused a large number of bombs and so saved the ships."
My fuller account appears below.
The Forgotten Few
The handful of Royal Navy personnel involved in Minewarfare, Diving and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD - more familiarly known as Bomb & Mine Disposal) during Operation Corporate (the Falklands campaign) and its aftermath, was awarded a total of one Distinguished Service Order (DSO), three Distinguished Service Crosses (DSCs), one Distinguished Service Medal (DSM), one Queen's Gallantry Medal (QGM), one British Empire Medal (BEM), six Mentions in Despatches (MIDs) and at least seven Commander-in-Chief’s Commendations for Brave Conduct. One Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer (MCDO) was appointed an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) and three MCDOs were appointed Members of the British Empire (MBE) for their achievements. It is therefore surprising that the list of participating units on the Falklands Memorial outside Port Stanley fails to mention either of the two main Portsmouth-based Fleet Clearance Diving Teams (FCDTs 1 and 3 but up to five FCDTs were active) although it does include the Army’s field postal unit and the RAF’s mobile meteorological unit. Of further note, Sir Lawrence Freedman’s Official History of the Falklands Campaign says little about the activities of the Fleet Clearance Diving Teams or the minesweeping trawlers of the specially formed 11th Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Squadron which swept ten of the 21 deadly moored mines laid by the Argentineans in the approaches to Port Stanley (the other mines had either broken adrift and floated away or failed to deploy properly).
Throughout the Falklands campaign, the members of the FCDTs lived and worked in atrocious conditions. Performing most of their bomb disposal and repair work at night during lulls in the air raids, they slept in cramped spaces in odd nooks of ships or ashore in damp, makeshift shelters. Much of their diving was conducted in dark fetid compartments surrounded by jagged steel edges, explosive debris and freezing water contaminated by oil, battery acid and raw sewage. They also turned their hands to acting as mechanics, welders, cutters, riggers, first aiders, stretcher bearers, nurses and mortuary attendants, as well as organising the odd entertainment for fellow servicemen. Early on, the members of the FCDTs surrendered all their spare clothing to the survivors of SIR GALAHAD and other bombed ships so they soon looked a piratical bunch. When he first heard about the bomb disposal work conducted by the Fleet Clearance Diving Teams in the Falklands, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fieldhouse GCB, GBE, the then Commander-in-Chief Fleet, said in wonderment to the Fleet Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer (Lt Cdr J H 'Hamish' LOUDON MBE RN), “Who are these people and where do we get them from?”
The ships’ companies of the minesweeping trawlers also had it tough. They endured rough weather, unreliable machinery and lack of proper self-defence armament, communications and navigation systems. Sailing to and fro on their various missions carrying stores and personnel in the dark, emcon-silent and with all lights extinguished for security, they frequently ran the risk of being rammed or fired on by both enemy and friendly forces.
When the Task Force was being prepared it was realised that, in the event of hostilities, clearance divers would be required to conduct Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Battle Damage Assessment (BDA), Battle Damage Repair (BDR) and underwater reconnaissance in potential landing areas. It was also realised that minesweeping would be required if the Argentineans laid sea mines in critical areas off the coast. To coordinate such operations, MCDO Lt Cdr (later Cdr) Chris MEATYARD was appointed to the staff of Commodore Amphibious Warfare (COMAW – Cdre Michael CLAPP CB, RN). On 5 April 1982, Chris and his small MCM staff embarked in HMS FEARLESS and departed Portsmouth with other elements of the Task Force. Later on, he and his team were transferred to HMS INTREPID but he was soon recalled to FEARLESS because the Commodore needed his specialist advice ‘on tap’.
On 25 April 1982, the Argentinean garrison at Grytviken on South Georgia surrendered. The same day, the Argentinean submarine ARA SANTA FE, severely damaged by depth charges from HMS ANTRIM’s Wessex helicopter (Lt (now Rear Admiral) Chris PARRY), beached herself in Grytviken harbour. MCDO Lt (later Lt Cdr) David 'Doc' O’CONNELL MBE RN, embarked in HMS ENDURANCE, led a five-man team of ships’ divers which spent three weeks clearing hazardous explosives and other materials from the submarine before re-floating her so she could safely be towed out to sea and sunk. He was subsequently appointed as an MBE.
The elderly Ton Class Coastal MCM vessels in service at the time were unsuited for the long passage and heavy seas expected in the South Atlantic. The first two of the new Hunt Class MCM vessels were not yet operational so it was decided to requisition five deep sea trawlers from Hull (FARNELLA, CORDELLA, JUNELLA, NORTHELLA and PICT) and fit them with rudimentary minesweeping equipment. Originally PICT was to be present solely as a stores ship however, to minimise loss should ships be lost, stores were distributed evenly among the squadron allowing PICT to be commissioned as a fully fledged minesweeper. These ships were designated the 11th MCM Squadron and sailed from Portland on 27 April 1982 with MCDO Lt Cdr Martyn HOLLOWAY as Senior Officer in HMS CORDELLA. PICT's conversion delayed her departure such that she joined the squadron on 30 April while 150 miles west of the Portuguese coast.
On 11 May 1982 at Ascension Island, FCDT 1 (led by MCDO Lt Cdr Brian DUTTON DSO, QGM, with FCPO(D) Michael 'Mick' FELLOWS MBE, DSC, BEM* as his 2 I/C) and FCDT 3 (led by MCDO Lt (later Lt Cdr) Nigel ‘Bernie’ BRUEN MBE, DSC with CPO(D) Graham ‘Piggy’ TROTTER DSM as his 2 I/C) arrived in RAF C130 Hercules aircraft to join the Task Force. The 11th MCM Squadron arrived at Ascension Island for fuel and met up briefly with FCDT 3 which had planned to embark in the ships but was ordered to passage with RFA SIR BEDIVERE instead.
On 12 May at Ascension Island, FCDT 1 embarked in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship RFA SIR TRISTRAM and FCDT 3 embarked in the landing ship RFA SIR BEDIVERE.
On 13 May, the 11th MCM Squadron sailed from Ascension Island for South Georgia and SIR TRISTRAM and SIR BEDIVERE sailed for the Falklands. Soon after the arrival of Task Force advanced elements in San Carlos Water, the clearance divers found themselves in the thick of it.
On the afternoon of 21 May, FCPO(D) FELLOWS, LS(D) SEWELL and AB(D) PULLEN of FCDT 1 were called upon to deal with an unexploded Argentinean 1,000 lb bomb in the County Class destroyer HMS ANTRIM. The bomb had passed through the Sea Slug missile magazine and lodged in the heads (toilets). The fuze had been damaged so any attempt to render the bomb safe was useless. While still under air attack and with considerable difficulty, the clearance divers and ship’s staff carefully manoeuvred the bomb through a hole cut in the flight deck and lowered it into deep water. In the meantime, the Type 21 frigate HMS ARDENT was bombed and sunk and the Leander Class frigate HMS ARGONAUT reported two unexploded bombs on board, one forward in the Seacat missile magazine and one aft in the boiler room. As ARGONAUT’s Officer of the Watch, Lt Peter MORGAN RN had already saved the ship once by letting go an anchor to stop her running at full speed towards the shore with her rudders jammed owing to bomb damage. As the Ship’s Diving Officer, he also led his men in surveying and making temporary repairs to the bomb damage in the flooded forward magazine, diving on two occasions in the knowledge that there was an unexploded bomb in the compartment. He was later awarded the DSC.
On the morning of 23 May, an Army Royal Engineers team removed the fuze from the bomb in ARGONAUT’s boiler room and it was ditched by the ship’s company. Lt Cdr MEATYARD conducted his own diving survey of ARGONAUT’s flooded Seacat magazine but shortly afterwards, the Type 21 frigate HMS ANTELOPE arrived in the anchorage with two unexploded bombs on board. Tragically, attempts to render these safe by a Royal Engineers bomb disposal team resulted in the death of Staff Sergeant James Prescott (posthumously awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal) and severe injuries to Warrant Officer John Phillips (later awarded the DSC). ANTELOPE was wracked by a series of massive explosions and started to burn from end to end, her lightweight aluminium structure melting in the intense heat.
On 24 May, ANTELOPE broke in half and sank after burning throughout the night. RFAs SIR GALAHAD and SIR LANCELOT both reported unexploded bombs on board and Lt Cdr BRUEN carried out surveys of both ships. The bomb in SIR GALAHAD had entered her hull on the port side, punched its way through several compartments picking up and aluminium bulkhead on the way, and ended up in her battery charging room wrapped in torn steel and surrounded by smashed carboys of acid. The bomb in SIR LANCELOT had come to rest underneath a companion ladder that led from the recreation space to the officers’ accommodation on the deck above. It was positioned with its nose up at an angle of 45 degrees beneath the lowest treads of the stairs in the ship’s tiny film store.
On 25 May, RFA FORT AUSTIN reported suspicious underwater noises and members of FCDT 1 and FCDT 3 searched the ships’ hulls of all RFAs in the area to ensure that no explosive devices had been planted. Other members of FCDT 3, supported by technical staff from HMS FEARLESS, started to clear the way for the removal of the bomb from SIR LANCELOT but the operation to remove the bomb from SIR GALAHAD had to be curtailed because FCDT 3 had to move themselves and all their equipment to INTREPID because SIR BEDIVERE, their accommodation ship, was suddenly forced to depart San Carlos Water.
On 26 May, the 11th MCM Squadron arrived at South Georgia and various high value ships such as the QE2 packed with the men of 5 Brigade, vital stores and ammunition began arriving from 28 May. It was vital to transfer these essential supplies for the re-supply of the Falklands into the CANBERRA, NORLAND and the various RFAs that shuttled between South Georgia, the Task Force at sea, and the bridgehead at San Carlos. The trawler minesweepers worked tirelessly day after day transferring troops, stores and ammunition in atrocious Antarctic weather with wind speeds in excess of 100 knots, on occasions for several days, before heading on towards the Falklands. Also on 26 May, members of FCDT 1 completed the clearance of ordnance from the vicinity of the bomb in ARGONAUT’s Seacat magazine. This had been patched and pumped out but still required a route to be cut and lifting gear to be fitted before the bomb could be removed safely. FCDT 3 had removed the bomb from SIR GALAHAD during the night and then commenced clearing the area surrounding the bomb on board SIR LANCELOT. FCDT 3 also moved their base ashore from HMS INTREPID to Ajax Bay.
During 27 May, progress was made in cutting out two of three access holes for the extrication of ARGONAUT’s remaining unexploded bomb. Repairs to SIR GALAHAD continued while members of FCDT 3 secured and padded the unexploded bomb in SIR LANCELOT.
Early on 28 May, Lt Cdr DUTTON (FCDT 1) and his team removed the remaining unexploded bomb from ARGONAUT. FCDT 3 investigated three unexploded bombs in Ajax Bay and countermined one bomb found on the shoreline. They also built a sand bag wall to protect the field hospital from two adjacent unexploded bombs then bivouacked between the blast wall and the hospital to provide reassurance to its patients and staff. Other members of FCDT 3 recommenced clearing access to the unexploded bomb on board SIR LANCELOT.
FCDT 3 in the Falklands 1982
On the morning of 29 May, CPO(D) TROTTER (FCDT 3) and his team removed the unexploded bomb from SIR LANCELOT after a lengthy operation which required considerable cutting and rigging. CPO(D) TROTTER was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM).
Between 31 May and 2 June, MCDO Lt Cdr Iain 'Bruce' MACKAY RN, accompanied by CPO(MW) 'Bill' HALEY, LS(MW) P C STRIDE and LS(MW) J S CARTER, commanded one of two Landing Craft Vehicles & Personnel (HMS INTREPID’s LCVPs T5 and T6) towing the hurriedly developed Assault Minesweeping System Mk 1 to confirm the Port Salvador approach channel and the length of Teal Inlet were clear of mines prior to amphibious landings. Lt Cdr MACKAY was subsequently awarded a Mention in Despatches. During the night of 4 June, members of FCDT 1 conducted a covert underwater search of Bluff Cove inlet for obstacles or mines that could hazard an amphibious landing.
On 8 June, The Type 12 frigate HMS PLYMOUTH was struck by four bombs, none of which exploded. WO(D) FELLOWS and other members of FCDT 3 de-fuzed two unexploded bombs in her mortar magazine and removed damaged volatile Seacat missiles from her launchers. RFA SIR TRISTRAM was also bombed and severely damaged at Fitzroy Cove. She was abandoned while FCDT 3 conducted a search for unexploded bombs (UXB).
FCDT 3's LS(D) 'Tommo' Thompson, AB(D) 'Whisky' Walker and AB(D) 'Jock' Rebecca
on the surviving bridge wing of RFA SIR TRISTRAM
During the night of 10 June, HMS PICT (Lt Cdr David GARWOOD RN), (sister ship of the GAUL that had sunk in unknown circumstances while fishing) was tasked with HMS CORDELLA (Lt Cdr Martyn HOLLOWAY RN) in support to influence sweep Berkeley Sound. The idea was to clear an area for ships that would provide naval gunfire support for the final stages of the assault on Stanley. HMS PICT was the only ship available that had the special sweep system necessary. Transferring all non-essential crew to HMS CORDELLA at sea at the entrance to Berkeley Sound, HMS PICT began sweeping but the risk increased markedly early in the operation when the influence sweep failed. Clearly PICT was not built as a minesweeper and any breach in the hull would have resulted in the ship's rapid sinking. Undeterred, knowing the importance of the mission, and in the knowledge that the Task Force Commander had accepted the risk of loss of a trawler, HMS PICT's Commanding Officer decided to turn his ship into a guinea pig. HMS PICT was made as noisy as possible by running all machinery at various speeds and revving up the main engine while completing the required number of runs through the area. Fortunately no mines were found, HMS CORDELLA transferred the remaining crew back to HMS PICT and Lt Cdr GARWOOD was subsequently awarded a Mention in Despatches.
During the nights of 12, 13 and 14 June, CORDELLA, PICT and JUNELLA conducted covert operations re-supplying SAS and SBS teams deployed variously along the coast.
On 14 June, the Argentinean forces occupying the Falklands surrendered.
Between 23 June and 4 July, when the weather allowed, the minesweeping trawlers of the 11th MCM Squadron swept the enemy minefields at the entrance to Port Stanley. They bagged ten of the 21 deadly moored mines laid by the Argentines, the other mines having broken adrift and floated away or failed to deploy from their sinkers properly. CORDELLA did not sweep any mines as she was always out in front using her sweeps to protect the other ships and hopefully in safe water. PICT, next in line swept three mines. One of these nearly hit NORTHELLA which had to manoeuvre hurriedly to avoid it. NORTHELLA swept two of her own, JUNELLA four, and FARNELLA one mine. Another of PICT's mines was towed inshore by JUNELLA on 26 June to be made safe by Lt Cdr Bernie BRUEN for shipping back to the UK for analysis. The mine is currently on display at the Imperial War Museum as part of the Falklands 25 exhibition. The Hunt Class minehunters HMS BRECON and HMS LEDBURY arrived in theatre in early July and confirmed by sonar that all poised mines had been cleared. Further utilising their submersibles and divers, the two mine hunters then located and disposed of remaining married mine failures and mine sinkers.
Martyn Holloway with recovered
Argentinean mine at the Imperial War Museum
Between 13 October 1982 and 2 January 1983, a Royal Navy saturation diving team led by MCDO Lt Cdr (later Cdr) Mike KOONER RN (CO MV STENA SEASPREAD and OIC Naval Party 2002) recovered sensitive items from the wreck of the Type 42 destroyer HMS COVENTRY, sunk by Argentinean bombs 10 miles north of Pebble Island. At the request of COVENTRY’s Commanding Officer, Captain David HART DYKE LVO, RN, the divers also recovered his ceremonial sword and telescope, now on display in the RN Museum in Portsmouth, and the cross of nails from Coventry Cathedral, presented in 1978 when the ship was commissioned. Lt Cdr KOONER was subsequently appointed as an MBE and PO(D) Michael 'Harry' Harrison was awarded the Queen's Galantry Medal (QGM).
Lt Cdr James Hutcheon ‘Hamish’ LOUDON MBE RN (Fleet MCDO)
Lt Cdr Christopher ‘George Brandon Chris’ MEATYARD RN (COMAW SMCDO)
Lt Alex MANNING RN
CPO(MW) Derek RIDLEY
LS(MW) P C STRIDE
LS(MW) J S CARTER
Lt David Charles Winston ‘Doc’ O’CONNELL MBE RN
Lt Cdr Brian DUTTON DSO, QGM, RN (OIC)
FCPO(D) Michael FELLOWS MBE, DSC, BEM (2 I/C)
PO(D) W ‘Bill’ BAUCKHAM
CPO(D) Brian T ‘Ben’ GUNNELL
LS(D) C W ‘Billy’ EVERNDEN
LS(D) Lester GEOFFREYS
LS(D) A P ‘Tony’ GROOM
LS(D) Ian MILNE LS(D) ‘Nobby. NOBLE
LS(D) G J ‘Garry’ SEWELL
LS(D) D W ‘Dave’ SOUTHWELL
LS(D) David ‘Wilkie’ WILKINSON
AB(D) N M PULLEN
AB(D) Billy SMART
AB(D) J W SHARP
S(D) W G 'Stan' BOWLES
S(D) D BARRETT
FCPO(D) John DADD BEM (OIC)
CPO(D) Carl MASSEY
CPO(D) 'Blondie' LIMBRICK
POMA Keith PAGE
LS(D) Graham 'Tug' WILSON MBE
LS(D) Martin JENRICK
LS(D) Ray SUCKLING
LS(D) 'Biff' DAVIS
LS(D) Chris DAVID
LS(D) Dickie DABER
LS(D) 'Freebie' BEAN
AB(D) 'Yorkie' TUDOR
AB(D) 'Nick' NICHOL
FCDT 3 (NP 1890)
Lt Cdr Nigel ‘Bernie’ BRUEN MBE, DSC, RN (OIC)
CPO(D) Graham Michael ‘Piggy’ TROTTER DSM (2 I/C)
CMEA(L) David FOX (Technical Support)
LS(D) C ‘Charlie’ CHAPMAN
LS(D) P M ‘Phil’ KEARNS
LS(D) Charles Anthony ‘Charlie’ SMITHARD
LS(D) Anthony Savour ‘Tommo’ THOMPSON
AB(D ‘Taff’ HURLEY
AB(D) ‘Buster’ MOTTRAM
AB(D) ‘Jock’ REBECCA
AB(D) ‘Taff’ REES
AB(D) ‘Whisky’ WALKER
AB(D) David ‘John Boy’ WALTON
AB(D) G R ‘Jock’ WEIR
AB(D) M A ‘Wheels’ WHEELER
S(D) ‘Joe’ GOFTON
S(D) ‘Rex’ TURNBULL
Special Mine Evaluation Liaison Team (NP 1880 embarked in HMS INTREPID)
Lt Cdr Iain Bruce MACKAY RN (OIC)
CPO(MW) Brian ‘Bill’ HALEY
11th MCM SQUADRON
Lt Cdr Martyn Holloway RN (CO HMS CORDELLA and Senior Officer 11th MCM Sqn)
Lt (later Cdr RAN) Allan RANKIN RN (Squadron Operations Officer)
Lt Cdr David Gordon GARWOOD RN (CO HMS PICT)
Lt Cdr Jeremy P S GREENOP RN (CO HMS NORTHELLA)
Lt Cdr Mark ROWLEDGE RN (CO HMS JUNELLA)
Lt Robert ‘Bob’ J BISHOP RN (CO HMS FARNELLA)
27 May 07 - Don't it take you back?
Soapy Watson, our Honorary Treasurer and Membership Secretary is the Long MCD Course Officer. He has provided the following photos taken during the present course's live-in week at Horsea Island. Ah, who can forget the joys of being shaken at 0300 in the morning for a lock gates swim or a run around the island?
A few circuits before breakfast...
...followed by some PT
Then there are sets to prepare...
...before a spot of night diving with Soapy walking on water
I am sure all members will join me in wishing the LMCDO students the best of luck on their course.
26 May 07 - MCDOA Ladies Night
Many thanks to Tony Griffiths, our Honorary Secretary, for arranging another enjoyable Ladies Night yesterday in HMS Nelson. Attendees included David & Deidre Edwards, Brian & Audrey Dutton, Tony & Debbie Griffiths, Rob & Linda Hoole, Ralph & Liz Mavin, Chris & Christina Meatyard, Simon & Claire Pressdee, Iain & Holly Richardson and Paul & Liz McDermott. It was a pleasantly warm evening and we enjoyed Bucks Fizz on the veranda before sitting down to a delicious meal at the top table in the dining room. The Maitresse d'Hotel was Lorraine Armstrong and the Chef de Cuisine was John Stock.
2007 MCDOA Ladies Night
21 May 07 - Falklands 25 - Dive on the wreck of HMS Ardent
(From the ITV News website)
All today's ITV News bulletins showed the descent to the wreck of HMS Ardent earlier this year by members of the Defence Diving School and the Fleet Diving Squadron, led by MCDOA Honorary Treasurer & Membership Secretary Richard 'Soapy' Watson. After placing memorial plaques, the divers and some of the survivors from HMS Ardent attended a service at the Falkland Memorial. See here for further details.
17 May 07 - Promotion Signal
Warm congratulations to MCDOA members Mark Atkinson, Dave Bence and Martin Mackey plus non-member (why?) Tim Ash on being selected for promotion to Commander on today's signal. My thanks to Phil Ireland for this welcome news.
15 May 07 - FDU3 in Gulf
The Navy News website contains this article about the deployment of Fleet Diving Unit 3 to the Gulf for Exercise ARABIAN GAUNTLET, billed as the largest mine countermeasures exercise in the world. It features MCDOA member Simon Pressdee, OIC of FDU3.
10 May 07 - SDU1 Deal with Suspect Bomb in South Wales
9 May 07 - TV Programme about Recovery of Holland One
The History Channel is due to broadcast a documentary called 'Mega Movers: Sub Salvage' on 14 June 2007 at 2100 US Eastern Time about the recovery of the Royal Navy's first submarine Holland One. Holland One entered service in 1901 but sank near the Eddystone off Plymouth in November 1913 while being towed to the breaker's yard in Wales. She was recovered in 1982 and is now displayed in the RN Submarine Museum at Gosport.
The programme will feature interviews with MCDOA member Duncan Bridge (who led the RN CD Team involved in the salvage operation) and Cdr Jeff Tall RN (Director of the RN Submarine Museum). Several CDs contributed material for the programme. The dates and times are subject to change so check local listings or the History Channel website to confirm.
[N.B. Now due to be screened on Saturday 23 June.]
7 May 07 - MCDOA Committee Meeting
The next MCDOA committee meeting will be held at Fleet Diving Headquarters at 1600 on Tue 22 May. Members with items for the agenda are invited to forward them to a committee member or to our Hon Sec, Tony Griffiths.
5 May 07 - Falklands 25 - Working on a Floating Bomb
The Plymouth Herald has published this article about the re-floating of the Argentinean submarine Santa Fe off South Georgia by a team led by MCDOA member David 'Doc' O'Connell. David was subsequently appointed as an MBE for overseeing this hazardous task. The report is one of several contained in this supplement commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands conflict.
4 May 07 - TCA Members visit HMS Cattistock
May the fourth be with you! Yesterday, your humble webmaster was privileged to be among a group of Ton Class Association (TCA) members invited to tour HMS Cattistock in Portsmouth Naval Base. Other members of the party were Peter Baker, Mike Chamberlain, Peter Ede, Chris Green, Peter Hoare, Jim Jones, former Chief Diver Ron Maitland-Flanagan (just look at this, and this!) with his companion Margaretta Soulsby who actually lives in the town of Cattistock, Derek Newman, Dave Payne and Jack Roberts. We arrived at Unicorn Gate at 1000 and were met by the ships' Assistant Operations Officer (Sub Lt Cameron Campbell-Johnson) who then escorted us to 2 Basin where Cattistock was berthed.
Some of the TCA Members before boarding HMS Cattistock
Cattistock was a hive of activity with workmen beavering away in almost every compartment. She is currently being upgraded with a variety of new systems including Remus, SeaFox and WECDIS to improve her minehunting capability. This conversion will also involve the removal of her minesweeping equipment as was evident from the amount of scaffolding on the sweepdeck. Our tour guide was the Gunnery Officer, Lt James Shortall.
TCA Group on the Sweepdeck
While we were on the sweepdeck, I had a chat with D2 Richard Marshall. He told me the other divers on board are PO(D) Simon Spencer, LS(D) Adrian 'Mo' Morrison, D1 Kevin McBride and D2 'Jackie' Chan. The PO(MW) is former WO(MW) Pawl Stockley's son Gareth, supported by LS(MW) Archibald, LS(MW) Callaghan and AB(MW)s Perkins, Slee, Semple, Buckley, Dean, Nicholson, Ward and O'Donnell. I found the Leading Diver in the diving store.
Leading Diver Adrian 'Mo' Morrison
The group was then shown the Operations Room containing the new consoles for the NAUTIS 3 Combat Management System and the 2193 wide band minehunting sonar.
Cattistock's Operations Room containing NAUTIS 3 and Sonar 2193 Consoles
Naturally enough, all the equipment was switched off so here are some pictures of it being operated elsewhere.
Left: NAUTIS 3 shown being operated in HMS Hurworth
Right: Sonar 2193 being operated
We were then shown the bridge where the ECDIS displays will be installed.
Ron Maitland-Flanagan and Margaretta Soulsby
on Cattistock's bridge
Our tour wound up with coffee, tea and biccies in the wardroom where we were able to chat with the Commanding Officer (Lt Cdr James Barnes), the First Lieutenant (Lt Iain Wood) and one of the Young Officers undertaking training (Lt Dean Ingram).
TCA members in Wardroom
As a final gesture, TCA member Jack Roberts presented the CO with a framed picture of HMS Cattistock's predecessor, a Hunt Class destroyer.
Jack Roberts presenting the CO of the current HMS Cattistock
with a picture of her predecessor
After our visit, Ron Maitland-Flanagan, Margaretta Soulsby, Chris Green and I repaired to Gunwharf Quays on the former site of HMS Vernon where we were joined by Chris's wife Dulcie for lunch in the Old Customs House pub (Vernon's admin building) before going our separate ways. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Commanding Officer and Ship's Company of HMS Cattistock for their friendly cooperation and hospitality, particularly during such a busy time on board. Fair winds and smooth seas to you all.
3 May 07 - Minehunters Exchange Crews
Left: HMS Ramsey. Right: HMS Blyth
(RN website photos)
1 May 07 - Navy News Items
The following MCD-related items from the May issue of Navy News include:
Attempts to rescue trapped survivors from the capsized oil rig support vessel Bourbon Dolphin by the Northern Diving Group, featuring MCDOA member Andy 'Sharkey' Ward (CO NDG) as well as WO(D) Steve Strange, CPO(D) Willie Sharp, LD 'Faz' Farrell and D1 John Anderson.
A bomb disposal task performed by Southern Diving Unit One featuring soon-to-be MCDOA member Mark Northcote (OIC SDU1 - Mark, get that membership application in ASAP!)
The installation of the Warfare Electronic Display and Information System (WECDIS) in HMS Quorn.
The granting of the Freedom of the Borough of Melton Mowbray to HMS Quorn. (MCDOA member Phil Ireland informs me that the killick front and centre in the lower right hand picture is LD Grant Cumming who served under his Command in 'Battling Brock' (HMS Brocklesby) in 2002/03. Can anyone identify the diver in the lower left hand picture?).
The 20th Anniversary of the Ton Class Association.
30 Apr 07 - Jasper Peters' Funeral
It was standing room only today at Portchester Crematorium for the funeral service of former CPO(D) Chris 'Jasper' Peters. The RN Diving Branch was well represented and MCDOA members included David Bartlett, Tug Wilson and Yours Truly. Among the many other divers present were Chippy Carpenter, Nick Carter, Chris Christie, John Dadd, Taff Davies, Paddy Doonan, John Dunkley, Bob Fraser, Don 'Jimmy' Green, Gabby Haines, Ron Hartshorn, Mike 'Jacko' Jackson, Jim Lynch, Gerry 'Pincher' Martin, Eric Piper, Dickie Radcliffe, Ray Ramsay, Ted Setchell, Les Sharpe, Stew 'George' Sissons, Tim Sizer, Troy Tempest, Graham 'Piggy' Trotter, Yorky Tudor and Willy Wilkes. I'm sure Jasper's family was particularly pleased to see some uniforms at the service.
Mourners arriving for Jasper's funeral
(Photos courtesy of Gabby & Kay Haines)
We entered the chapel to the sound of Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells' before Lance Blake MA TSSF, a Franciscan chaplain from the Rowans Hospice, began the service with a reading from the Gospel of St John Chapter 14 (In my Father's house are many dwelling places). Then Jasper's grandson Adam read 'Death is Nothing At All' by Canon Henry Scott Holland before Lance described some of the events in Jasper's life.
Jasper was born in St Albans and entered the Royal Navy at the age of 16. He joined the Gunnery Branch and his first ship was the destroyer HMS Cavalier but he soon transferred to Clearance Diving. He served on board the saturation diving vessel MV Seaforth Clansman and in the minehunter HMS Brinton from which he brought home the ship's mascot, a German Shepherd which he named Bryn. He left the RN as a CPO(D) after 22 years and then dived with Shell Offshore in Brunei and Dubai before finishing his working career with a job in facilities management in London. He met his wife to be, Margaret, while they were visiting their respective fathers, both patients in the same hospital. Their subsequent marriage lasted 43 years and with it came their daughter Alison, who married Michael, and grandchildren Adam and Lucy.
Jasper's taste in music ranged from the classical to Meatloaf and Queen, not forgetting Country & Western. He was also a film buff and an avid reader of Gerald Seymour, Frederick Forsyth and Stephen King. A Pompey season ticket holder, he also took his family on holidays to Cuba, Sri Lanka, Antigua and Turkey. His last trip was a cruise on a canal barge just before he died in Oxford on 15 April 2007 at the age of 66. Always lively and positive in his attitude, he had time for everyone and was consistent, compassionate and caring. In times of trouble, he would say, "Rise above it," just as he did in his final illness about which he never complained.
Lance read these words of Bishop Brent:
A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says, "She is gone." Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in spar, mast and hull as she was when I last saw her. Her diminished size and total loss from my sight is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says she is gone there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon and other voices take up a glad shout, "There she comes!" That is what dying is. An horizon and just the limit of our sight. Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further.
This was followed by the Celtic poem 'Deep Peace':
Deep peace of the running waves to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the smiling stars to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you,
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.
Following prayers and the committal, we sang the Naval Hymn 'Eternal Father' to the accompaniment of organist Judith Williams. Mourners then left to the exuberant sound of Meatloaf's rendition of 'Like a Bat out of Hell'. After the service, a wake was held in the Port House at Port Solent, adjacent to Horsea Island. This enabled us to express our condolences to Margaret and her family and raise several glasses to Jasper's memory.
29 Apr 07 - Standard Diving returns to Horsea Island
During the past week, members of the UK Historical Diving Society (HDS) have been hosting their counterparts from the Italian HDS (HDS Italia) in a return match following a UK jaunt to Ravenna last year. This year's week-long happening concludes at Horsea Island today. It has included visits to the Mary Rose, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior (1860) in Portsmouth's historic naval base plus trips to the RN submarine museum in Gosport, and Winchester Cathedral for the William Walker tour (William Walker MVO saved the cathedral by underpinning its flooded foundations between 1905 and 1912).
William Walker MVO
(1869 - 1918)
Events culminated this weekend with dives in Horsea Lake at the Defence Diving School using historical equipment supplied by the HDS Working Equipment Group (South). I went down to Horsea Island yesterday to join in the fun and found the lake alive with divers. The old ships' diver section and every other available spot on the south shore were crowded with sub-aqua enthusiasts, all enjoying their sport in the abnormally glorious spring weather.
Horsea Lake in all its glory
The HDS group was easy to find. The top end of the lake (the old O2 section) was populated by a colourful group of people, both male and female, enjoying a picnic in the sun while talking to each other in a cheerful and noisy mixture of English and Italian. This part of the programme had been arranged by Garry Wallace-Potter of the HDS WEG (South). His charming wife Melo, together with Una Smillie, organised a delicious all-day buffet with liquid refreshments (non-alcoholic of course).
Left: Historical Diving Times editor Peter Dick enjoying a roll from the buffet
Right: Event organiser Garry Wallace-Potter (in brimmed hat) with his wife Melo
Despite the party atmosphere, three hand-operated pumps and assorted diving gear lay ready for action.
Historical diving gear ready for action
Some of the diving helmets available for use
Throughout the afternoon, people took it in turns to dive, act as dressers and attendants and, of course, man (or woman) the pumps, including your humble webmaster.
The end result
Click on the thumbnails below for higher resolution images of the activity.
|UK & ITALIAN HDS AT HORSEA ISLAND 28 APRIL 2007|
28 Apr 07 - MCDOA Ladies' Night 25 May 07
The calling notice and booking form for this year's Ladies' Night are available for download via the 'Upcoming Events' page in the Members Only area. The function will be held in the Wardroom, HMS Nelson at 1930 for 2000 on Friday 25 May. Cost £25 per head for members and their partners, £30 per head for non-members and their partners. The deadline for applications is 20 May.
27 Apr 07
Historical Diving Times
The latest issue of the Historical Diving Society's Historical Diving Times contains several items to interest the RN diving community including two articles about the late Lt Cdr John Bridge GC GM* RNVR, the WW II bomb & mine disposal officer who sadly died last December before he could attend the ceremony in February to rename the Fleet Diving Headquarters at Horsea Island in his honour (see entries for 19 Dec 06 and 6 Feb 07).
The magazine also contains ex-RN diver Sydney Knowles' recollections of his wartime and post-war diving experiences with Cdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE GM RNVR in the Mediterranean, on a Spanish galleon in Tobermory Bay and under a Russian cruiser in Portsmouth harbour. There are also accounts of presentations given at the last HDS annual conference by: diving physiology specialist Dr Nick McIver (Railway Divers); eminent author and researcher Dr Peter Earle (The Disappearing Fleet - Treasure in Vigo Bay); ex-RN artificer diver, ex-Managing Director of Prodive and renowned shipwreck expert Richard Larn (One Size Fits All - Royal Navy Diving Equipment); and former Superintendent of Diving (Army) Colonel Peter Chitty MBE (The History of Army Diving).
25th Anniversary of the Falklands War
In commemoration of the Falklands war 25 years ago, Lt Mark Northcote RN (OIC of SDU1) will give a presentation on the recovery of classified materiel from the wreck of HMS Coventry at the Historical Diving Society's annual conference and dinner in Falmouth on Saturday 20 October 2007. The operation was conducted by RN saturation divers of NP2200 under the leadership of MCDOA member Mike Kooner who was also CO of their diving platform, MV Stena Seaspread. Our new Honorary Treasurer & Membership Secretary, Richard 'Soapy' Watson, informs me that an item about his recent dive on the wreck of HMS Ardent should be broadcast on ITN News at 1830 and 2230 on 21 May 2007.
25 Apr 07
Supersession of Honorary Treasurer & Membership Secretary
Richard 'Soapy' Watson has now relieved Graham 'Tug' Wilson as the MCDOA's Honorary Treasurer & Membership Secretary. On behalf of the membership, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Tug for his smooth running of our accounts over the past few years and wish him well in his retirement from the Royal Navy. Welcome aboard, Soapy.
Hard Hat Diving at Horsea Island
Garry Wallace-Potter of the Historical Diving Society (HDS) Working Equipment Group (South) will demonstrate a variety of standard diving equipment to visiting members of the Italian HDS in Horsea Lake on Saturday 28 April between 0900 and 1500 (approx). They will be using Andark's civilian sub-aqua facilities and I will record some of the proceedings with my camera. If any other members of our community are interested in attending, please contact me.
NDG Blows Mine in Firth of Forth
24 Apr 07 - Gentlemen Who Lunch
Our 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' trio of Barlow, Holloway and Hoole has stuck to its usual haunts in and around Emsworth over the winter months but now that spring has sprung, we have been venturing further afield. Last Tuesday, we celebrated the sunshine with our first outing of the year in Barlow's yacht Dougout but today the weather was not so clement. As a result, we visited the Hare & Hounds at Stoughton in West Sussex on Holloway's recommendation, and in the interests of the MCDOA website's occasional Good Pub Guide of course.
Exterior of Hare & Hounds at Stoughton
Unusually for Holloway, his judgement proved correct and we had a most enjoyable experience. Although this delightful village pub is light and airy, it is divided into several discreet areas. Apart from a few decorative pictures, it is devoid of cluttering bric-a-brac but still has stacks of atmosphere. Clean and pleasant throughout, it is furnished with an assortment of well-scrubbed wooden tables and comfortable chairs.
Interior of Hare & Hounds at Stoughton
The Hare & Hounds is a free house and we were greeted by the cheerful landlord, Graham Minto, whose family has run the establishment for the past two and a half years. Beers on tap include Timothy Taylor's Landlord, Harvey's Sussex Best Bitter and Hampshire Rose plus several others. For our first pint, we plumped for the Hampshire Rose which Graham poured with aplomb.
Our host, Graham Minto
The menu is not vast but it is imaginative and reasonably priced with snacks starting around £5 and main courses from about £7.50. Barlow had a tasty Virginia ham and pickle sandwich on wholemeal bread. Holloway chose a smoked haddock 'Arnold Bennett' omelette, redolent with fresh herbs, which came with a side plate of home made chips. Yours Truly went for a delicious Welsh Rarebit on wholemeal topped with two strips of bacon and a garnish of peppery water cress. Each of these filling dishes cost £5.50 and our orders were taken and served by the captivating Michelle who hails from Johannesburg in South Africa.
Michelle tending to Holloway's needs
Michelle also poured us our second pints. We chose a different beer this time but for some reason I can't seem to remember what it was. Full marks for hospitality!
Barlow, Holloway and Hoole
Our 'Not Quite the Last of the Summer Wine' Trio
As an inveterate culprit, even I have to admit that the absence of smoking is noticeable and adds to the fresh feel of the place. Still, there is always the pleasant beer garden outside for the desperately inclined (like me).
Hare & Hounds Beer Garden
(Beware the Jack Russell!)
In accordance with tradition, we were the last to leave. The Hare & Hounds at Stoughton is highly recommended for its clean atmosphere, outstanding hospitality, sumptuous food and good selection of beer. Do visit it sometime. On the MCDOA's scale of excellence, it is awarded four and three quarter mines (or diving helmets) out of five.
20 Apr 07 - Recent Requests for Help
Graf Spee Diver
I have just received the following interesting query:
"Dear Commander Hoole,
I am writing an article on some aspects of the Battle of the River Plate for the magazine Britain at War.
I write to ask if you could help with one tale, which may be incorrect, and also with any detail of Lieutenant Guy Kilroy, an ordnance expert from HMS Vernon - not, of course, to imply that anyone from Vernon is not an ordnance expert!
After the sinking of Graf Spee, the Royal Navy in effect bought the wreck. The nominal purchaser asked an Italian firm and Thos. Ward Ltd to bid for salvaged steel. Wards knew this was a cover, but sent their own Mr Frederick Smith to do a preliminary survey. Sadly, he died on arrival in Montevideo, and a replacement was sent.
There are reports that a Royal Navy diver also died in an accident in the forward turret of Graf Spee, but I have no name, no actual evidence or credible reference. If this is true, I would naturally wish to name and honour him, but I shall not publish anything that is merely rumour, possibly by someone confusing Smith's death with the next point.
Lt Kilroy, together with a Mr Ken Purvis of the Directorate of Naval Construction, and both purporting to be members of Wards, did board the wreck, conduct a survey and remove artefacts.
Can you please help. therefore, with any information about the possible death of a Royal Naval diver on Graf Spee, and with anything about Lt Guy Kilroy?
I look forward to hearing from you, if possible, and would happily ask the editor to forward a copy of the magazine.
I have found a reference to a Lt G P Kilroy (presumably Guy Kilroy) in my copy of 'The Torpedomen - HMS Vernon's Story 1872 -1986' by Rear Admiral Edmund Nicholas 'Nico' Poland. In October 1939, he was involved in the Minesweeping Section trials of the 'Skid', an early type of electro-magnetic mine sweep towed by the drifter Feaco, and in the subsequent development of the electric 'AA' sweep strung between two trawlers. Can anyone provide any other information? Catt's Nine Lives On 9 March, commercial saturation diver Scott Harris asked for help in locating a copy of the familiar instructional film 'Catt's Nine Lives' (Explosives and Demolitions Part 2) because his father had appeared in it. MCDOA member Tim Curd, CO of DEODS (the Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal School) has kindly tracked one down at the Imperial War Museum and has asked for a copy on DVD to send to Scott.
Catt's Nine Lives
On 9 March, commercial saturation diver Scott Harris asked for help in locating a copy of the familiar instructional film 'Catt's Nine Lives' (Explosives and Demolitions Part 2) because his father had appeared in it. MCDOA member Tim Curd, CO of DEODS (the Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal School) has kindly tracked one down at the Imperial War Museum and has asked for a copy on DVD to send to Scott.
Lieutenant Francis Bailey Hornbrook RNVR
On 18 April, David Hornbrook sent the following query:
"I wonder if you could help me. I am trying to trace the history of my cousin, Lieutenant Francis Bailey Hornbrook and I recently came across the article on the MCDOA site about Lt Cdr Gilbert Stubbs GM RNVR. Francis joined the RNVR on 6 Sep 1940 and was posted to HMS Vernon for mine disposal duties/training on 24 Sep 1940. His service record then lists:
HMS President for duty inside Admiralty 25 Sep 1940 - 13 May 1941.
HMS President inside Admiralty with Department of Trade (Merchant Ships) 14 May 1941 - 3 May 1942.
HMS President for duty outside Admiralty with Department of Torpedoes and Mining 4 May 1942 - 12 Oct 1942.
HMS Sheba for mine disposal duties 13 Oct 1942 - 7 Dec 1942.
He was killed on 7 December 1942, 'whilst taking passage aboard SS Ceramic to an unknown destination', when the Ceramic was sunk in the Atlantic. The reason I think he might have known Lt Cdr Stubbs is that what seems to be a G. E. Stubbs, Lieutenant RNVR, of The Mead, Rife Way, Felpham, Sussex, was witness to Francis's will in October 1942 (the writing is not very clear). Also, of course, there is the mine disposal connection.
I myself served in President in the 1960s, so have an added interest in piecing together this story.
Any help or advice you can give would be most gratefully received.
Lieutenant RNR (Rtd)"
I have sent David the following response:
As you probably know, HMS President was the RN accounting base in London (Lower Regent Street, W.1 in 1940-41) and HMS Sheba was the RN accounting base in Aden. SS Ceramic was a passenger/general cargo vessel of 19,140 tons built at Harland & Wolff, Belfast in 1913 and operated by Shaw, Saville & Albion Co Ltd. She was used by the Admiralty as a troopship from February 1940 and was torpedoed by U-515 on 6 December 1942 in position 40 30N, 40 20W (mid-Atlantic). There were 646 casualties and only one survivor. There is not a great deal more I can add except that I have forwarded your e-mail to Gilbert Stubbs’ son Gerald in the hope that he gets in touch with you. It sounds as though Gilbert Stubbs and your cousin both worked as RN Bomb Safety Officers (BSOs) based in London around the same time.
I have since discovered this entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website which shows that David's cousin is listed on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common.
19 Apr 07 - Funeral for ex-CPO(D) Jasper Peters
Pincher Martin has now provided the details for Jasper's funeral (see entry for 15 Apr). It will be held at 1500 on Monday 30 April at Portchester Crematorium. Family flowers only. If wished, donations to the Rowans Hospice may be sent c/o Barrells Funeral Directors, 380 London Road, Waterlooville, Hampshire PO7 7TA.
Margaret and Alison have expressed the wish that, if possible, black should not be worn.
16 Apr 07 - Atherstone and Hurworth Head for the Med
The following article from today's Portsmouth News describes the departure from Portsmouth today of HMS Atherstone and HMS Hurworth to the Mediterranean where they will join HMS Shoreham and HMS Walney for Exercise Orion 07.
15 Apr 07 - Diver Down - Jasper Peters
The following sad news has been received from Gerry 'Pincher' Martin:
"Regret to report that Jasper Peters, ex-CPO CD1 Royal Navy, failed to surface at 2020 on 15th April 2007, whilst a guest at The Rowans Hospice, Waterlooville, Hants. Jasper was diagnosed with stomach cancer last July, and had been fighting a losing battle ever since.
Our sympathies go out to his wife Margaret, his daughter Alison, and his two beloved grandchildren Lucy and Adam. Funeral arrangements to follow when known.
14 Apr 07 - Letter from Patrice Wookey
Patrice Wookey has sent the following letter of appreciation for the card and flowers provided by Alastair Cuthbert on behalf of the Association at her late husband George's funeral in Western Australia:
"Dear Commander Hoole,
I am writing to thank you for contacting our friends Ann and Alastair Cuthbert to send an arrangement of flowers to St George's Church in Dunsborough for George's funeral. The flowers were absolutely beautiful and complemented the lovely red roses on the coffin.
The day was very sad, but George was remembered by many friends and a very special eulogy by his best friend and tributes from both families.
We will all remember him for his courage and dignity thoughout his life.
Thank you, Alastair and Ann, for your time and effort on behalf of all those Association members unable to be present in person.
13 Apr 07 - NDG and SDU2 in Action
The following articles from today's Portsmouth News describe, respectively, unavailing efforts to find survivors in the capsized oil rig support vessel Bourbon Dolphin off Shetland by members of the Northern Diving Group (NDG) and the disposal of a bomb in Fareham, Hampshire by members of Southern Diving Unit Two (SDU2) featuring PO(D) Dave Moore.
N.B. Although the second article states the bomb was an inch a and a half long, it was actually an inch and a half in diameter and 11 inches long (German 1kg incendiary perhaps?).
11 Apr 07 - New Personal Update
The Members Only area contains an update from MCDOA member Martin Mackey who finds himself back in command of HMS Ramsey in the Gulf.
6 Apr 07 - George Wookey's Obituary in Daily Telegraph
I am indebted to Captain Peter Hore RN for producing this 3/4 page obituary for George Wookey in today's Daily Telegraph. The hard copy version contains a large photograph of George descending the ladder from HMS Reclaim for his 600 ft world-record breaking dive in Sørfjord, Norway on 12 October 1956.
5 Apr 07 - SDU1 Bomb Disposal in Plymouth
4 Apr 07
HMS Quorn fitted with WECDIS
The RN website contains this article describing how HMS Quorn has become the first MCMV in the Royal Navy to be fitted with WECDIS (Warfare Electronic Display & Information System). She is now fully accredited for digital navigation.
SDU1 Disposes of Bomb in Plymouth
The RN website contains this article describing the particularly tricky rendering safe by SDU1 of a bomb found in Plymouth and features OIC Mark Northcote (who has promised to join the MCDOA) and CPO(D) Robin 'Rick' Rickard.
2 Apr 07
Navy News Items
The following MCD-related items from the April issue of Navy News include:
A visit to Bristol by HMS Cattistock.
The various activities of HMS Brocklesby.
The award of the Freedom of the Borough of Melton Mowbray to HMS Quorn.
Cold weather training in Norway for 14 members of FDU3 including its OIC, MCDOA member Simon Pressdee.
Another milestone for the website
During March, the MCDOA website received 8,212 visits from internet surfers around the world. This is the first time the monthly total has exceeded 8,000 and figures continue to rise steadily. Visitors made 289,965 hits on individual pages, files and images and downloaded 4,448,079 kilobytes of data in the process.
1 Apr 07 – RN Diving Heritage – ‘T’ Parties
I have received the following e-mail from ex-PO(CD) Mike Hatter RAN in Australia:
I enjoyed reading the recent article about the 'P' Parties and have the highest respect for the guys who worked in such hazardous and demanding circumstances during the war and for some months afterwards. I take my hat off to them.
I am contacting you because your younger members may be less aware of the existence of the two Royal Navy Diving Trials Parties, commonly known as 'T' Parties, which were formed in the mid-1960s. I was on exchange with the RN between 1969 and 1971 and found myself assigned to the UK-based Green 'T' Party which, despite its name, had nothing to do with the environment, ecology or conservation. It was led by Lt Cdr Charles ‘Chas’ Brooke-Bond DSC RN and was based at HMS Twining in Rotherham where we had a nice little all-ranks mess called the ‘T-Bar’. Likewise, the NAAFI next door was known as the ‘T-Shop’. Our 2i/c was FCPO(D) 'Loose' Lipton with whom, I am sorry to say, I had a strained relationship. The other trials group, designated the Black ‘T’ Party, was based overseas in a converted sugar mill near Darjeeling in India. This team had several LEPs (Locally Employed Personnel) including AB(CD3) Lap Sang Su Chong who had been awarded the BEM for his stirring exploits and milked this distinction for all it was worth. A blend of Chinese, Indian and Australian extraction, he was nicknamed ‘Blue’ but had difficulty in pronouncing certain English words so he usually introduced himself as ‘Brue’. He was a keen martial arts expert and practised a combination of Tai-Kwando and Kung-Fu known as Tai-Fu.
‘T’ Parties had the often challenging job of conducting trials with prototype underwater equipment and their unsung achievements were largely responsible for the state of diving in the Royal Navy today. Among the kit we put through its paces were a submerged Personal Gear Transportation, Insertion and Protection System (PGTIPS), a one-man ‘flying saucer’ shaped Transportable Decompression Chamber (T-Pot - I was often tasked with warming it before use), and a torpedo firing system (T-Shot), for which we helped lay a fully instrumented submarine driving range on the seabed in Loch Long. This system was trialled in the ‘S’ Class submarine HMS Splenda but was later retro-fitted in all T-boats. We wore experimental diving dress much of the time including a special RNPL-designed breathable dry-suit containing tiny perforations which we nicknamed the ‘T’ Bag. However, despite its claimed properties, we nearly reached boiling point in tropical waters and took to wearing T-shirts and trunks instead. The photograph below shows us wearing our T-bags while acting as human guinea pigs for the early trials of the Trident missile launch system. If the surroundings look familiar, it is because the experimental underwater launch rig was erected in Vernon Creek.
'T' Party members conducting Trident
missile launch system trials
Sadly, both ‘T’ Parties were disbanded in 1977 owing to prevailing defence cuts combined with an unfortunate incident in Portsmouth harbour. The boffins had been asked to develop a limpet mine disposal system but, owing to a slight misunderstanding, they produced a special type of T-Cut to remove old paint and barnacles from ships' bottoms instead. During subsequent trials, this formula proved so strong that the Royal Yacht (HMY Britannia) sustained significant hull damage and had to be docked for urgent repairs. Much to our embarrassment, this resulted in the cancellation of the Queen's long-planned Silver Jubilee round-the-world cruise.
I’d be glad to hear from any guys out there from the old team. Maybe we could get together for a drink sometime.
PO(CD) M A D Hatter RAN
240 Warracuppa St