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In My Day They Were Called ‘Frogmen’: Latest Blog from Northern Diver



Northern Diver
Northern Diver are a UK company that have over 40 years of diving expertise behind them and have gained a well earned reputation of excellence: researching, developing, manufacturing and supplying high tech diving equipment to commercial and leisure sectors. The company is also heavily involved in assisting, advising & supplying governments around the world in respect to military plus search & rescue diving requirements. I suppose my fascination with military diving began when I was a schoolboy and the ‘Crabb Affair’ became headline news. It was 1956. The idea that a British Royal Navy frogman and MI6 diver had mysteriously vanished whilst on an operation ‘nearby’ a Soviet cruiser berthed in Portsmouth Naval Dockyard had all the ingredients for a James Bond novel. In fact, the alleged underwater inspection of the cruiser’s hull by a frogman spy actually inspired Ian Flemming as he put pen to paper for the James Bond adventure ‘Thunderball’.

Lieutenant Commander Lionel Kenneth “Buster” Crabb OBEGM (28 January 1909 – presumed dead 19 April 1956) was a war hero. He was one of a group of underwater clearance divers who checked for limpet mines in Gibraltar harbor during the period of Italian frogman and manned torpedo attacks by the Decima Flottiglia MAS. They dived with oxygen rebreathers (Davis Submarine Escape Apparatus), which until then had not been used much if at all for swimming down from the surface. At first they swam by breaststroke without swim-fins. They did however have ‘plimsoles’!
On 8 December 1942, during one such attack, two of the Italian frogmen, Lt. Visintini and Petty Officer Magro died, (probably killed by depth charges). Their bodies were recovered, and their swim-fins and scuba sets were taken and from then on used by Sydney Knowles and Commander Lionel Crabb on future operations.
By the time Crabb dived under the Soviet cruiser Ordzhonikidze that had taken Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin on a diplomatic mission to Britain, he had actually retired from the Royal Navy but had been recruited by British Intelligence.
Many theories surfaced concerning Crabb’s disappearance: especially when a headless & handless corpse in a frogman’s suit washed up on a Sussex beach 14 months later. The body was of course almost impossible to identify (with the forensic technology then available). That fuelled even more elaborate ideas. Some suggested that the Russians had dropped a body into the sea but that Crabb had really been captured by the Russians and spirited away to Moscow (others suggested – all part of a pre-conceived plan by MI6 to plant a double agent in the Kremlin).
Many years later, a high ranking ex Soviet intelligence officer told an Israeli journalist that Crabb had actually been spotted on the surface alongside the warship and subsequently shot. Another Russian claimed that he had been awarded a medal by the then USSR for killing the frogman with a knife. Nothing could be conclusively proved as fact. Many experts suggest that as Crabb was 57 at the time of the incident, was known to smoke and drink heavily, that these factors combined with catastrophic equipment failure – oxygen poisoning or perhaps carbon dioxide poisoning – killed him outright or brought him to the surface where he then died. Over the years, various parliamentary questions were tabled by MP’s seeking the true facts on Crabb’s mission and eventual demise. All were met by ‘No Comment’ from the various parties in power on the grounds of the Official Secrets Act.
It is interesting to note that when the 50 year rule for public disclosure on the ‘Crabb Affair’ came up, the government of the day released some information ‘that back in 1956, Crabb was not the only diver investigating the Soviet cruiser but little other data was forthcoming. Currently, as far as the ‘Crabb Affair’ is specifically concerned (Freedom of Information regulations etc) further release of data is withheld till 2057!
To read more of Northern Diver’s latest blog, click here.

Dive Training Blogs

Dream Dive Locker Build Out Part II: Blank Slate (Watch Video)



I owe you all an update on the dream dive locker build out! We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to build my dream dive locker/scuba classroom/office. In this installment, I’m going to answer your questions and comments from the first video in this series.

Scuba diving is my passion and to have a dedicated space for all my dive gear, as well as a hang out spot for my students, is a dream come true.

Let me know your color choice! 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5!

Thanks for watching!



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Miscellaneous Blogs

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Stephan Whelan



Next in a new series of podcasts shared by our friends Gemma and Ian aka The BiG Scuba Podcast…

Ian and Gemma chat to Stephan Whelan.  Stephan is the Founder and Publisher of His passion for the underwater world started at 8 years-old with a try-dive in a hotel pool on holiday that soon formulated into a lifelong love affair with the oceans and led him to become one of the leading figures in the diving media industry.

Stephan got bitten by the diving bug early in life. His first scuba experience was a try-dive when he was eight years old on a family holiday in Europe, and from that moment, he was addicted. He learned to dive properly with BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) as soon as he could at school and then did his BSAC Assistant Instructor when he turned 16. By the time he was heading to university in 1996, he was hooked on teaching and diving as much as he could.

By the time he started studying at university, he decided to have a go at flexing his web-design skills by publishing some of the stories he had built up about various ‘challenging’ students and dives he had encountered, and so (as it was known then) was created. He published numerous personal stories until 1998 when other writers began enquiring about contributing to the site with their tales, and it was at this moment he decided to make it more like a magazine format and began asking for volunteer helpers. He got a couple of editors on board, and plenty of writers began contributing. (or DB as it’s become to be known) is now one of the most-popular diving websites in the world and has grown to publish over 9,000 articles covering all sorts of topics like Freediving, Scuba Diving, Ocean Advocacy, and Diving Travel all the while keeping over half-a-million passionate divers from the diving community connected every month through the forums, large social media following, mobile app, and recently launched podcast.








Find more podcast episodes and information at and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

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