Saturday Evening Talks in the Diving Museum

EdinburghFollowing last year’s successful evening talk on the ‘Salvage of HMS Edinburgh’s Gold’, The Diving Museum will host two more evening talks this year.

On 9 May, Cdr John Bingeman will give a talk on ‘The other Solent Wrecks’. John is an amateur nautical archaeologist and was a Government historic wreck licensee for 33 years. After diving on the Mary Rose, he was given responsibility for the wrecks of Assurance (1753) and Pomone (1811) off ‘The Needles’ (1978-86). In 1980 he identified and achieved the designation for the 74-gun Invincible lying in the Eastern Solent. He was a founder member of the Nautical Archaeological Society and  is currently the Chairman of Maritime Archaeology Trust incorporating the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology.

On 18 July, John Bevan and John Towse, both of whom were involved in Southsea Sub Aqua Club’s initial search for the Mary Rose will give a talk on their experiences related to the investigation and eventual discovery of Henry VIII’s warship. Their talk will also cover the diving club’s work on another famous Solent wreck, the Royal George.

On 12 September, John Dadd will give a presentation on ‘Operation Blackleg’ – the Royal Navy’s mission to salvage classified material from HMS Coventry which was a casualty of the Falklands War. His talk will cover the tragic loss of the ship; the diving training required for such a deep water exercise; and the salvage itself.

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All our evening talks are held at The Diving Museum, No. 2 Battery, Stokes Bay Road (at the western end of Stokes Bay).

Entry is £6 per head and refreshments are included.

2011 Our first year

At the end of our first, highly successful, season, the visitor statistics (see image) speak for themselves.

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Staffed entirely by volunteers, the museum was open for 74 days this year and attracted a total of 5,278 visitors. However, for some of this we need to thank the US Navy for anchoring the USS George Bush off Stokes Bay in May and of special interest is the numbers attracted to the museum on the Gosport Big Day Out (12 June 2011) and Gosport Heritage Days (8-11 September 2011). There was also renewed interest in November following the excellent Television and Press coverage of the arrival of our first external exhibits – two compression chambers that were used in Alverstoke for world leading diving research.

During the year special interest groups and educational visits were arranged for:

  • Medical Examiners of Divers – 10 May
  • French twinned town Royan delegation – 22 May
  • Special Opening Ceremony – 18 June
  • Bay House School – 11 July
  • NATO Diving Working Group – 27 September
  • DIVEX – 4 October
  • Mary Rose Patrons – 14 October
  • British Hyperbaric Association – 20 October
  • Nautical Archaeological Society – 6 November

As well as groups of divers from the following diving clubs:

  • Southsea BSAC
  • Guildford BSAC
  • Selsey BSAC
  • Harlow SAC

Work continues behind the scenes with new display layouts and additional external exhibits regularly being updated.

Put a date to visit in your diary!

Compression chambers arrive at museum

Early on the overcast and blustery morning of 2 November 2011 the first of the museums external exhibits arrived. Two compression chambers previously used by the Royal Navy to test the limits of the human body deep underwater during and after World War II were carefully lifted into place at the South side of No.2. Battery.

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The riveted 100 m chamber was used to train so-called “charioteers”, Royal Navy divers who used modified torpedos to attach underwater explosives to enemy ships.

The other chamber, rated to a depth of 690 m, was used to conduct world record breaking dives exploring the depth limits to which it was possible to dive.

More photographs of the move and lifting operation can be seen in the Photo Gallery.

A video of the lifting operation may be seen by clicking the following link:   BBC video of move

Bay House School – Buster Crabb Investigation

Museum Bay House Jul 11 - 2The mysterious disappearance of Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb became the focus of an investigation by some 180 students aged 14 years of age from neighbouring Bay  House School. As part of their investigation, they visited The Diving Museum at Stokes Bay where they were given instruction on the use of closed circuit oxygen rebreathers and other equipment used by Royal Navy divers in covert operations.

Museum Bay House Jul 11 -1The students attended in groups of 15 at a time. After a very brief tour of the Museum, they assembled at the Military Diving Section. Ex-Royal Navy Clearance Divers John Dadd and Jim Thomson were there to provide their expertise. They explained the many difficulties that would have faced Crabb on his dangerous mission as well as a variety of potential scenarios that may have been played out.

The student sleuths were given the opportunity to question the expert divers before they left to continue their investigations back at Bay House School. Each student was eventually tasked with giving his/her opinion as to what they think might have happened to Crabb.

More images of the event can be found here.

Official Opening of the Diving Museum

opening1Although the weather threatened strong wind and rain for the official opening of the Historical Diving Society (HDS) museum at No. 2 Battery, Stokes Bay, the opening ceremony was conducted on an upbeat note in bright sunshine.

On arrival, HDS members, museum volunteers and invited guests mustered in the museum prior to the ceremony.

The ceremony started with short speeches by HDS Chairman John Bevan, HDS Museum Officer Kevin Casey, Vice Admiral Sir Richard Ibbotson KBE, CB, DSC, Caroline Dinenage MP (who had been delayed at HMS Sultan’s Open Day) and Mayor of Gosport, Councillor Chris Carter, who all emphasised the significant diving heritage of Gosport and the worldwide interest that the museum would arouse.

opening2After the speeches, Admiral Ibbotson, Caroline Dinenage MP and Councillor Carter used a diver’s short sword to cut three successive ribbons stretching across the ‘drawbridge’ leading to the main entrance of the museum.

After the ceremony, attendees entered the museum for a reception and a chance to look around the exhibits.

Make no mistake. The UK diving population is huge these days and this is the biggest and most comprehensive museum of its type in the country. Many of the artefacts are unique. We are sure people will flock to it once word starts getting around.