3 April 2012

This month has been very busy with lots of training taking place in preparation for the 2012 summer dive season. Courses have been run every weekend this month covering xxygen administration for divers, compressor operation and gas blending skill development courses in addition to the normal pool training sessions.

The main focus was to give SSAC members training in compressor operation and supplementary bespoke training on the new air, nitrox and mixed gas (trimix) facilities which have been installed/updated in recent months. Thanks to all the instructors who gave up their weekends and in particular to Marg Baldwin and Jim Mills from the Midlands Instructor Team for running the gas blending course.

Trimix Training

SSAC divers were pleased to help Portsmouth & District Angling Association by investigating underwater obstructions at Funtley Lake near Fareham which were causing fishermen to 'snag' their lines. Divers examined the areas around the swims and recovered a number of pieces of wood and metal including bike frames, a wheel barrow, pipes and large tree trunks and branches. Warden Sean and fellow fishermen were delighted with our work after we located several cars other debris which we may return to help recover early in the spring.

mt_gallery:Funtley Pond

17 November 2011

LCT 427 Memorial ServiceIn a touching ceremony, thirteen Royal Naval heroes who perished on their return home from D-Day have been remembered with a the laying of wreaths at sea over the site of their final resting place just four miles from their home port of Portsmouth.

Families had waited more than 67 years to discover what had happened to their loved ones and to be given the opportunity to pay their final respects. A young RN sailor piped the 'Still' and a silence was observed for the officers and men of Landing Craft Tank LCT 427. Wreaths were laid on the water over the shipwreck 30m (100ft) below.

In the early hours of 7 June 1944, His Majesty's Landing Craft Tank LCT 427 was returning home with a flotilla of other craft when, in the darkness, she was involved in a collision with a large battleship and sank with the loss of all hands. With so much going on at the time the tragic accident went unreported and LCT 427 was recorded as ‘missing’ along with her crew. The families of the crew were not aware of what had happened and assumed their loved ones had been lost in Normandy when they failed to return home.

Only one of the crew, Able Seaman Kenneth Sumner, aged 22, was recovered from the water but he died two days later. His fiancée, Margaret Emmett Hunter from Wickham, Hampshire, was one of those attending the service along with the families of another five of the crew.

Margaret, now 87, was only 19 when she became engaged to the Kenneth Sumner, a handsome young sailor from Wilmslow. Clutching photographs and newspaper clippings she said, “Kenneth loved dancing and was a fun, kind-hearted man. We were engaged in the November of 1943 and I last saw Kenneth in February of 1944. In June 1944, I heard in a letter from his father that he had been killed. I was devastated. I never really got a chance to say goodbye and did not know what had happened until recently. ”Margaret was relieved to finally know what had happened and for the opportunity to visit the place where LCT 427 had come to rest. “I never forgot about Kenneth. It's been good to come here today and finally say goodbye. It leaves me so sad to think of all those lives lost.”

D-Day veteran Paul Butler, 85, from Chipping Norton was a young midshipman in the Royal Navy onboard LCT 454, one of the other craft returning with LCT 427 from the D-Day beaches that night. He believes he signalled the ill-fated landing craft to warn of oncoming danger but cannot be certain. He said, “I saw the silhouette of a large ship coming towards us. I took evasive action to avoid being hit. It has long played on my mind whether there was something more that I could have done that night. I am very honoured to be able to pay my last respects to the crew of LCT427 that awful night.” Paul was honoured to be able to give the reading as a mark of his respect for his lost comrades.

Gladys Ingle, 85, travelled with her family from Sheffield to the Solent to pay her respects to elder brother Hallam Carr. She described the moment when she tossed the wreath onto the water. “It's so sad to think that they were so close to home. At last I have visited the place where Hallam was lost and said goodbye.” 

Family members attending were related to the following crew members:
Hallam CARR, Eric FIELDS, David SPILLANE, Kenneth SUMNER, Joseph 'Bill' WHITFIELD, Alfred GIRARD, Frank FREEMAN

LCT 427 PaintingFollowing the successful country wide appeal for relatives of the crew of LCT 427 to contact SSAC, a memorial service has been arranged for 17th November 2011. So far relatives of nine of the 13 crew have been in touch and many are planning to attend the service at Portsmouth Dockyard. Divers from SSAC and veterans from the LST and Landing Craft Association will also take part in the service.

The memorial service will include a wreath laying at sea at the exact position of the wreck of LCT 427 followed by a short service at St Ann's Church at the Portsmouth Naval Base. All relatives and comrades of the crew are most welcome to take part. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. asap if you wish to attend.

On her return to Gold beach in the early hours of 7 June 1944, LCT 427 sank with the loss of all hands four miles from her home port of Portsmouth following a collision with another vessel. More than 65 years later, divers from SSAC located and surveyed the wreck of 427 which lies at a depth of 30m in the busy shipping lane approaching Portsmouth and Southampton harbours. Our work to survey the wreck site has been made possible by means of a grant from the British Sub-Aqua Jubilee Trust and the kind permission of the Queen's Harbour Master at Portsmouth.

The memorial service has been made possible by the kind support of the Royal Navy and Chaplain Revd Keith Robus RN.

The Officers & Men of HM LCT 427

ALEXANDER, Frederick B
Ty/Act/Leading Seaman, C/JX 176906 Aged 24

GUTHRIE, George T
Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, Commanding Officer
CARR, Hallam
Able Seaman, P/JX 365096 Aged 19
JOHNSON, Albert E
Able Seaman, P/JX 323203 Aged 22
DAWE, William A
Stoker 1c, D/KX 525694 Aged 40
SPILLANE, David
Able Seaman, D/JX 368929 Aged 22
FIELDS, Eric
Able Seaman, D/JX 422546 Aged 19
SUMNER, Kenneth W
Wireman, D/MX 99992 Aged 22
FREEMAN, Frank
Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR Aged 20
WELSH, Leonard G
Motor Mechanic, P/JX 426606 Aged 24 (19?) 
GIRARD, Alfred W
Able Seaman, P/JX 223849 Aged 22
WHITFIELD, Joseph W
Act/Chief Motor Mechanic 4c, P/MX 98645 Aged 24
GRAHAM, James
Stoker 1c, P/KX 159134 Aged 37
 

28 Aug 2011

Splash-in winning image

As part of an organised trip to St Abbs and Eyemouth, club members travelled 420 miles to the Scottish borders to dive in the St Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve and to take part in the 2011 'Splash-in' underwater photography competition. Despite unsettled/challenging conditions, competitors submitted some stunning images of marine life for judging by an audience of over 100 fellow divers and local residents.

SSAC Diving Officer Martin Davies won the Marine Life Portrait category and was also voted overall 'best of show' for his image of pollock taken on the wreck of the Glanmire.

20 September 2011

The story of the loss of LCT 427 and the work carried out by SSAC divers, under the leadership of Alison Mayor, to investigate the wreck site in the shipping lane (Project Kedge Hook) has been picked up in the media.

This article is on the BBC news website whilst this article appeared in The News in Portsmouth. Alison was also interviewed live on BBC Radio Solent at 07:55 on Tuesday 20 September.

2-5 July 2011

LCTSouthsea Sub-Aqua Club divers begin their latest and most challenging wreck investigation yet - the wreck of a British WW2 Tank Landing Craft in the Eastern approaches to Portsmouth Harbour.

The wreck is believed to be that of HMLCT 427 which sank on her return to Portsmouth after delivering her cargo of tanks on D Day. Just 4 miles from home, at 3am on the morning of 7th June 1944, HMLCT 427 was in collision with the 34,000 tonnes battleship HMS Rodney. She was sliced in half by the collision and sank immediately with the loss of all hands. For over 2 months the collision went unreported and the LCT was reported as missing.LCT layout

The wreck now lies in two pieces at a max depth of 32m. Diving conditions are extremely challenging, primarily because the wreck lies in the main shipping lane to the Solent ports but also poor visibility and strong currents. Special permission has kindly been given by the Queens Harbour Master (QHM) Portsmouth and Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) Southampton to undertake a total of 8 days diving during July and August on the bow and stern sections. A Local Notice to Mariners has been issued to warn vessels of the diving activities LNTM 49/11. The MOD (Navy Command) has also given permission to dive the wreck sites.

Members of SSAC are extremely grateful for the assistance and guidance given by the QHM and to the British Sub-Aqua Jubilee Trust who have provided funding for the survey. A report of our diving survey and the results of historical research will be completed in the New Year.

LCT survey diverAll our diving/survey activities are being conducted in a considerate, respectful and non intrusive manner in the knowledge that this is a military maritime grave. SSAC is also trying to arrange a memorial service for those lost in the tragedy, whose final resting place has been unknown until now. It is hoped that this can be arranged to coincide with the events marking the disbandment of the LST & Landing Craft Association (RN) in Sept 11.

29 April 2011

24 divers from SSAC took to the water on the day of the Royal Wedding and celebrated with a beach party and barbecue after the dive. Family and friends also joined in the street party atmosphere.

5 April 2011

Members from SSAC visited ‘The Chamber’ at the local hyperbaric unit at St Richard's Hospital, Chichester. Dr Mark Glover and Nurse Sara Hassan hosted the visit with a presentation on the causes and treatments of DCI followed by a tour around the chamber including details of the operation of the chamber and what happens during a ‘dry’ dive.

The visit was very worthwhile and divers left confident of what would happen in the event of a DCI incident, with a greater understanding of DCI and most importantly in the knowledge they must seek early advice in the event of suspected DCI.

Overheard in the (well-appointed) coffee bar: “It'd be worth getting a DCI, just to use some of this Gucci kit.”

St Richard's Hospital Decompression ChamberSt Richard's Hospital Decompression Chamber Man-Lock

It was a perfect day. The summer sun shone brightly and the tranquil delights of the Normandy coast beckoned.

Casting off the shackles of day-to-day living, ten divers from Southsea SAC and the Buccaneers assembled in the pretty Norman town of Port-en-Bessin to enjoy seven long hot days filled with great diving, crisp local Cider and amazing seafood - in short "La vie normande". A fishing port for hundreds of years, Port-en-Bessin still ranks as the seventh largest fishing port in mainland France.

Download the full report.

Best known for its abundance of adrenaline pumping top class deep wreck sites and clear waters, the North Antrim coast of Northern Ireland is also a great place to experience spectacular scenic dives and shallow scenic wrecks. As a result, a group from Buccaneer Divers crossed the Irish Sea to complete three days' diving over the May bank holiday and experience "the craic" first hand.

The only dive centre on the North Antrim Coast is Aquaholics based in Port Stewart, which has a subsidiary operation in Ballycastle where we planned to base ourselves as the harbour is directly opposite Rathlin Island making for easy transfers to site. They have two RIBS, a large 11m craft with a side ladder, which takes 10-12 in comfort and a 6m craft which takes 6 divers.

Travelling in our own cars via the Norfolk Line overnight ferry service from Birkenhead to Belfast we disembarked in Belfast at 7am on the Friday giving us plenty of time to drive to the Ballycastle dive centre, settle in and explore the area. Diving operations began on Saturday which was a real "four seasons" day featuring mist, rain and hail before ending in brilliant sunshine.

Our first dive was on the SS Lough Garry. This former Caledonian McBain ferry was pressed into war service as a troop ship and sank with the loss of 29 crew during a gale in January 1942 whilst en route from Glasgow to Oban where she had been due to transport a garrison to the Faeroe Islands to prevent them being used as a U boat base.

Now lying in 30m, she's a lovely dive with lots to see and explore including an impressive boiler and the mount for her stern deck gun.

Download the full report.