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Tale of bravery brought to the surface by BSAC divers

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The rescue of two men trapped aboard a burning sea plane more than 60 years ago has been uncovered by a team of BSAC divers.

Members of the Eling-based Calshot Divers have become underwater detectives in a bid to unravel the mystery surrounding three iconic Sunderland Flying Boats.

And Calshot Divers are now backing a campaign for a permanent memorial to a leading aircraftman, stationed at Calshot in 1950, who was awarded the George Medal for bravery after rescuing two men from one of the stricken aircraft which was ablaze off the Hampshire coast.

John Greenwood, Calshot Divers’ Training Officer, said: “As a club we now meet in Eling, despite the club’s historic name. So, when looking for a new project all club members could get involved with, we wanted to somehow try and find a tie-in with Calshot, where our club was initially formed.

“Calshot is, of course, famous for its former flying boat base and the Schneider Trophy race for seaplanes. The last two races were held off Calshot Spit in 1929 and 1931 and were won by British Supermarines.

“We knew of a Sunderland Flying Boat wreck off Calshot, very close to where the lifeboat is now moored.

“From records we knew the wreck, which we managed to plot using sonar depth readings, could potentially be one of three identifiable aircraft, PP118, G-AGKY and ML883 which were all lost in the area.

“But everything pointed to it being PP118 which was built in 1945 at the Short Brothers factory in Rochester and reportedly, partially sank off Calshot, on February 3rd 1950 during a severe gale.”

Calshot Divers discovered that, during an operation to recover the aircraft almost three weeks later, it caught fire after flares aboard the stricken flying boat were ignited.

Leading aircraftman, Peter Anderson, who was known as Andy Anderson and stationed at Calshot, rescued two people from the burning wreck and was subsequently awarded the George Medal for his bravery.

One of the two other possible aircraft, G-AGKY, was also built in Rochester in 1943 was converted into a civilian passenger aircraft and went into service with Aquila Airways.

That aircraft was reportedly written off following an accident off Cowes and sank off Calshot on January 28, 1953 while it was under tow and thankfully, the five crew and 26 passengers on board at the time all survived.

And the third aircraft, ML883, was built in Blackburn, Dumbarton in 1944 and sank off Calshot, after being hit by a surface vessel, on December 17th, 1944.

John said: “All the records and information we could find led us to believe the wreck of the aircraft we had found was that of PP118, the aircraft that Andy Anderson rescued two people from.

“However, once we dived the wreck we realised, very quickly due to the shape of the aircraft’s windows and hull for example, the likelihood was that it was not PP118 and must be one of the other two which were different models.

“But that raised more questions than answers. If it wasn’t PP118 then which one was it? And where was PP118? We did a huge amount of research and wanted to find the family of Andy Anderson, who we discovered had died as recently as June 2003.”

He added: “We located Mr Anderson’s grave and saw it was clearly well tended. So, a few days before the anniversary of his death I left a message fixed to the grave headstone asking the family to get in touch.

“One of his sons, John Anderson, contacted me and we were able to meet and learn a great deal more about the circumstances surrounding the award of the George Medal to Andy Anderson and what had happened to the Sunderland Flying Boat PP118.”

“However, it was clear, and our suspicions were confirmed from photographs the family possessed, that the wreck we had dived on was most definitely not PP118.”

He added: “But hearing the story of Andy Anderson his bravery left us shocked that there is no permanent memorial in the Calshot area to commemorate his gallant act.”

For more information on Calshot Divers, click here.

Gear News

New from Fourth Element: the RF2 free diving wetsuit

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The team at fourth element have introduced their latest freediving wetsuit, the RF2. Streamlined and high-performance, this two piece 6/5/4/mm suit has been developed for freedivers who want to enjoy maximum freedom and ultimate warmth.

Lined outer panels around the core, arms and legs provide durability, a Glideskin across the shoulders and the hood maximises hydrodynamics. This hybrid freediving wetsuit offers cool and cold water freedivers the freedom to explore their limits in comfort.

Director of fourth element, Paul Strike said, “We’ve designed this suit with the consultation of professional freedivers, instructors and with the knowledge of freedive suit specialists. The RF2 brings together fourth element’s knowledge of thermal protection with freediving expertise at the top of the sport to create a high performance recreational suit.”

The suit is both comfortable and practical, being more durable than traditional smoothskin suits whilst retaining excellent stretch and form fitting design. The inner of the suit has a smooth cell Metalite coating; this provides extra warmth retention and is more robust than traditional open cell.

Daan Verhoeven, Freediving Cameraman said, “The RF2 is possibly the best off-the peg suit I’ve ever tried. As soon as I got in the water, I instantly forgot the suit. I was just comfortable and could move without anything pinching or water coming in.”

Features

  • Streamline cut optimising glide
  • 5mm comfort, flexibility and warmth
  • Open cell interior, lined exterior
  • Smoothskin outer hood and shoulders for extra hydrodynamics
  • Beavertail closure
  • Supratex seat panel for extra durability

RF2 Hooded Jacket and Leggings are available in sizes S – XL.

RF2 Hooded Jacket 6/5/4mm RRP: £229.95 GBP / €275.00 EUR

RF2 Leggings 5/4mm RRP: £149.95 / €179.00 EUR

Find out more at www.fourthelement.com

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Marine Life & Conservation

Parineeti Chopra teams up with PADI to create Ocean Change

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PADI® is thrilled to announce an exceptional PADI AmbassaDiver™: Indian actress, singer and PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Parineeti Chopra.

“A PADI AmbassaDiver is someone who is passionate about using their force for good to encourage others to protect our blue planet,” says Kristin Valette Wirth, Chief Brand and Membership Officer. “We could not have found a more respected and authentic partner as Ms. Chopra, a long time ocean lover, to advance our shared mission of saving the ocean. She is unmatched as a shining example of how to protect what you love – and inspire others to do the same.”

Chopra, who has always loved the ocean, experienced the magic beneath the surface in 2013 when she took her first breath underwater in Bali. As soon as she surfaced from that dive, she was hooked – and protecting the ocean became very personal for her, receiving her PADI Open Water Diver certification later that year in Palau. Since then, she has inspired others around the world, from her family and friends to fans in India– to try scuba diving so they can join her in seeking adventure and saving the ocean.

“The first time I came up to the surface after diving, I was crying because it was such a life-changing experience,” says Ms. Chopra. “It is now something I can’t live without. I make sure I do a diving trip every three months despite my work schedule because it is my form of meditation. And it is the place I am immensely passionate about protecting.”

“We are all equal underwater and all speak the same language. Over the years I have seen the changes that have taken place beneath the surface. During my time as a brand ambassador for Tourism Australia, I witnessed the bleaching and damage that has occurred to the Great Barrier Reef.  I was so sad to see this and am now committed to being a diver with a purpose. I have also seen first-hand how marine reserves, like the ones in Sipadan, Malaysia and Palau, prove how valuable marine protected areas are. As a PADI Diver, I want to make sure that our entire blue planet gets the protection it deserves.” continues Ms. Chopra.

With over 67 million social media followers and having recently starred in the Netflix movie The Girl on the Train, Chopra joins an elite group of celebrity influencers determined to take personal action and create real change for healthier oceans. Spending nearly all her free time diving around the world, Chopra shares her love for the ocean with her fans, as diving is an important part of her life that allows her to return to nature and reset. She will work with PADI to encourage others to experience the beautiful world underwater as PADI Divers and join her in helping to achieve balance between humanity and the ocean.

“PADI created the AmbassaDiver programmeme to support extraordinary divers who dedicate their lives to illuminating the path that leads from curiosity, exploration, and discovery to understanding, stewardship and action. Ms. Chopra is playing a very important role in ocean conservation, lighting the way for others to become divers themselves and mobilising communities worldwide to seek adventure and save the ocean with her,” continues Valette Wirth.

Ms. Chopra has big plans for 2022 – including becoming a real-life PADI Mermaid and taking part in citizen science projects during her dive trips around the world. Follow Chopra’s dive adventures, projects and hands-on conservation efforts with PADI on her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

To learn more about Chopra and the rest of the PADI AmbassaDiver team visit www.padi.com/ambassadivers.

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Competitions

A luxurious dive resort in the heart of Lembeh Strait. Enjoy refined services while exploring the rich waters of Indonesia.

The resort is nestled around an ocean front deck and swimming-pool (with pool-bar) which is the perfect place to enjoy a sundowner cocktail at the end of a busy day of critter-diving.

All accommodation is full board and includes three sumptuous meals a day. Breakfast and lunch are buffet meals and in the evening dining is a la carte.

Book and stay before the end of June and benefit from no single supplements in all room types!

Booking deadline: Subject to availability – book and stay before end of June 2022

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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