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Book Review: Diving the Thistlegorm

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Diving the Thistlegorm – The ultimate guide to a World War Two shipwreck by Simon Brown, Jon Henderson, Alex Mustard and Mike Postons.

A Review by Jeff Goodman

It’s a real pleasure when I get great books like this to read and review. This book takes the reader on a historic and fully comprehensive journey of the Thistlegorm. A brilliant in depth guide to the wreck and all it’s facets, all illustrated by superb photos and graphics. The detail of research into this ship is impressive and portrayed to the reader in an easy to read style and layout. It is obvious how much hard work has been done to make this book enjoyable to read as well as be educational.

When I first dived the Thistlegorm I knew very little about the wreck except for the brief safety dive talk given on our boat prior to entering the water. I truly wish I had had this book to read before hand. It would have given me such an important insight to what I was diving on and looking at. My dive would have been even more enjoyable. I can only hope that every boat heading out to the wreck in the future has at least one copy on board.  We need more books like this.

I remember the first dive I ever had on the Thistlegorm. It was fantastic. The water was clear, there was an abundance of wildlife and the wreck itself was awesome. Gliding over the decks and the cargo holds, filled with machines and items of war, was an experience never to be forgotten. I didn’t really know just how lucky I was. So you can imagine how happy I was to know a few years later that I was to dive it again. I awoke early on the Liveaboard and eagerly looked off the open stern to the wreck site. Instead of the clear blue open sea I had seen before just a few years previously, there were now twelve to fourteen other Liveaboard dive boats all moored up to the wreck and already discharging divers into the water.

My dive on the wreck this time was truly not an experience I wanted to have again. There were more divers than fish. The decks were busy with criss-crossing people and the holds were choc-a-block with divers who seemed to have little care either for the wreck itself or other people. I was often pushed from behind, had a few fins in the face and lights blazed directly into my eyes.

With this memory in mind it was with a little trepidation that I started to read ‘Diving the Thistlegorm’. Was this simply going to draw more divers to the wreck with no consideration for careful diving practices? To my great relief, the second section of the book was titled ‘Wreck under threat’ and addressed my very concerns about the Thistlegorm being systematically ruined by careless and unregulated mooring of dive boats on the ships superstructure, as well as disregard of the wrecks contents by many divers. The section didn’t dwell too long on this, but the points for wreck preservation were strong and well made.


About the authors of Diving the Thistlegorm

Simon Brown is a photogrammetry/3D reconstruction expert who has documented underwater subjects for a wide range of clients including Historic England and television companies such as National Geographic Channel and Discovery Canada. He is currently teaching police forensic collision investigators the use of photogrammetry for evidence preservation.

Jon Henderson is Reader in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh where he is the Director of theUnderwater Archaeology Research Centre. With specific research interests in submerged prehistoric settlements and developing underwater survey techniques, he has directed underwater projects in the UK, Poland, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Jamaica and Malaysia.

Alex Mustard is a former marine biologist and award-winning underwater photographer. In 2018 he was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for “Services to underwater photography”.

Mike Postons pioneered the use of digital 3D modelling to visualise shipwrecks, as well as the processes of reconstructing original ships from historic plans. He has worked with a number of organisations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Historic England and the Nautical Archaeological Society.


Diving the Thistlegorm – The ultimate guide to a World War Two shipwreck is available now from Divedup.com, online and from retailers. ISBN 978-1-909455-37-5 | 240 pages | 160 × 21 × 240 mm

Jeff Goodman is the Editor-at-Large for Scubaverse.com with responsibility for conservation and underwater videography. Jeff is an award-winning TV wildlife and underwater cameraman and film maker who lives in Cornwall, UK. With over 10,000 dives to his credit he has dived in many different environments around the world.

Miscellaneous Blogs

Book Review – The Final Dive: The Life and Death of ‘Buster’ Crabbe (2007)

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It was the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Cruiser Ordzhonikidz, supported by two destroyers, had brought Soviet leaders Khruschev and Bulganin to Britain for sensitive meetings with the British Government. The ships were moored in Portsmouth harbour and the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, had expressly forbidden any clandestine inspection of them. However, on the morning of 19th April 1956 Commander Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabbe, an experienced naval diver, slipped into the cold waters of Portsmouth harbour. His top secret mission was to photograph the hull, propellers and rudder of the Ordzhonikidze. He was never seen alive again.

A badly decomposed body, with head and hands missing, was discovered by fishermen in Chichester harbour months later. It was claimed to be the missing body of Buster Crabbe – but many had doubts. The incident marked the start of a controversy that claimed the posts of several high ranking naval, government and intelligence service personnel. The author of The Final Dive, Don Hale, claims it is one that still rages and which may not be resolved even when secret government files are released in 2057.

Don Hale, an acknowledged campaigning journalist and former Journalist of the Year brings all his experience and skill to unravelling this longstanding scandal. He has drawn upon official reports and private letters, statements from government representatives, fellow officers and friends to piece together Buster’s life and events leading to his disappearance and subsequent investigation. He speaks of “inquiries blocked by intrigue, constant cover-ups and government bureaucracy coupled with threats relating to the Official Secrets Act” (p. xi). If you like reading about subterfuge on a grand scale you will enjoy The Final Dive.

Don Hale’s meticulous account of the life of Buster Crabbe is supported by dozens of black and white photos and extracts from numerous official documents. It reveals how an amazing series of civilian jobs, wartime activities and friendships with high ranking government officials, British intelligence officers, American CIA operatives. . . and now known spies, prepared him for his final dive and perhaps his fate. One of Crabbe’s acquaintances was the author Ian Fleming – of James Bond fame. Indeed, it is suggested that Fleming based the character of 007 on Buster Crabbe. After reading of his exploits, both before WWII, his bomb disposal work during the war, and afterwards it is easy to see why. Certainly, those who worked with Buster Crabbe “all agree he was fearless.” (p.59). After reading of his exploits one wonders if he was too fearless.

In the later stage of Buster’s life, prior to his disappearance, Don Hall recounts “a constant merry-go-round of overseas assignments” (p. 118) for Crabbe and how he “began to receive increasingly hazardous commissions” (p. 136). It culminated in the morning dive in Portsmouth harbour. Hale’s forsensic-like account of the events surrounding the final dive and aftermath reveals absolute panic and bungling behind the scenes as official answers conflict with known facts. He describes how “The whole incident still seems bathed in secrecy, with the true facts deliberately buried in bureaucracy, and supported at the highest level by an incredible cover-up operation”.(p. 205).

A final comment by Don Hale adds to the intrigue. He states “The only part of the Crabbe puzzle about which I am not certain is not who sent him – we know the answer to that – but why on earth he was he sent, possibly at considerable risk?” (p. 248). After reading The Final Dive: The Life and Death of ‘Buster’ Crabbe you will no doubt have your own ideas.


The Final Dive: The Life and Death of ‘Buster’ Crabbe (2007)

  • By Don Hale
  • Stroud: Sutton Publishing
  • ISBN 978 0 7509 4574 5
  • 260 pp

Don Hale was a professional footballer before becoming editor of several regional newspapers. He has received numerous national and international awards for investigative journalism including Journalist of the Year. In 2002 he was awarded an OBE for his campaigning journalism in the Stephen Downing miscarriage of justice case. He has championed several others who have been wrongly convicted.

His other books include Town without Pity (2002), Murder in the Graveyard (2019) and Mallard: How the ‘Blue Steak’ Broke the World Speed Record (2019).


Find out more about Professor Fred Lockwood, who is also a published author, at www.fredlockwood.co.uk.

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Miscellaneous Blogs

The BiG Scuba Podcast… Catching up with Cristina Zenato and Kewin Lorenzen

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It’s a year since Gemma and Ian spoke with Cristina Zenato and produced Episodes 9, 12 and 21.  We also spoke to Kewin Lorenzen on Episode 13.  The year of 2020 was challenging for everyone but we hear that for both Cristina and Kewin it was a positive year with changes made to bring them both into 2021 with fresh ideas.  We hear how the sharks are and what amazing progress has been made with the cave exploration and the People of the Water Charity.

Have a listen here:


Find more podcast episodes and information at the new www.thebigscuba.com  website and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

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Competitions

Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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