Buster Crabb’s diving pal dies

Portsmouth in 1717 (from William Gates History of Portsmouth, 1900)

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You may remember two years ago I wrote about the secret mission of Commander Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb, the diver who mysteriously disappeared while diving under the Russian cruiser Ordzhonikidze in Portsmouth Harbour in 1956.

Previous to this Crabb had dived under another Russian ship, the Sverdlov, and with him was former naval diver Sydney Knowles, who has died aged 90.

Knowles had worked alongside Crabb in Gibraltar during the war.

The story was made into a film Secret Enemy with Michael Craig playing Knowles.

Crabb asked Knowles to accompany him on the second dive, but Knowles refused and it was said that Crabb dived alone. Knowles never believed this and said in his book Diver in the Dark that Crabb had told certain friends that he was going to defect.

He claimed MI5 were worried about the embarrassment this might cause and that another ‘dive buddy’ went under the ship with Crabb and murdered him.

The whole story is still shrouded in mystery.

A headless, handless and footless body washed up in Langstone Harbour was said to be Crabb’s remains and this torso was buried in Milton Cemetery.

Knowles served 15 years in the navy, including in destroyers during the war.