On Thursday I told of a new book, just published, called Crabbgate, by Dr John Bevan. He has worldwide knowledge of diving.
On April 19, 1956, Commander Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb carried out a spying mission for MI6 underneath a Soviet warship docked in Portsmouth Harbour.
It was berthed alongside the South Railway Jetty, known to thousands of sailors and families seeing ships off and arriving.
The dive went disastrously wrong and Crabb died while in service to his country.
He was not the fittest of men. He was 47 years old, chain-smoked cigarettes and was also an almost alcoholic.
A cover-up was hastily attempted. The government imposed an embargo on disclosure of the facts.
Former Portsmouth Evening News and Daily Mail reporter Peter Marshall was the first to expose the deception, followed by a host of other newspapers and television.
There was collective shaming of the government and the Admiralty over a catalogue of failures in ‘trade craft’.
The devious handling of Cmdr Crabb’s body, together with a very questionable inquest, is such that when classified information was due to be released the ban was extended to cover 100 years from the time of the incident. Why?
Dr Bevan attempts to answer the question in this extended version of the author’s earlier book on the subject. This has so much more and discloses significant information disclosed by the National Archive in October 2015.
Peter Marshall visited the Sally Port Hotel in Old Portsmouth, where Cmdr Crabb had stayed, to see the hotel register.
He saw Crabb’s signature along with a Bernard Smith of the Foreign Office.
Marshall then went off to find a photographer.
In the hour he was gone, Detective Superintendent Jack Lamport, head of Portsmouth CID, had torn two sheets from the Sally Port Hotel register. Completely illegally.
Lamport also told the staff to remain silent on the matter.
One man who was investigated in the cover-up was Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Many say he was promoted well above his capabilities but, being who he was, his connections, and being a master at self-promotion, he made it to the top.
The book has many photographs in its 200 pages.
Some of the images of the cadaver on the mortuary table are chilling. There are diagrams of Portsmouth Harbour and photos of all those involved in the cover up.
The inquest report is just beyond belief.
Crabbgate, by Dr John Bevan, is available at New to You Books, Cosham High Street, on (023) 9232 1089 or visit Waterstones for copies at £12.99.
n I read in The News last week that a teacher had retired after 27 years without ever being sick.
I can just beat that. When I was at Waterloo as a train crew foreman, one of the drivers retired after 50 years and five days service.
He had never been late on duty, never had a day off sick or had been up in front of a guv’nor for a misdemeanour.
With so many celebrities getting top awards just for turning up, I wrote to Buckingham Palace hoping my colleague might get some recognition. No chance. In fact, I never even had a reply.
n The photograph of the St Jude’s class in 1949 I published on Thursday, May 2, was seen by Marian Knight (nee Smith).
Marian tells me the name of the teacher to the left of Mr Lucas, the headmaster, is Mr Drew.
She was at St Jude’s, Marmion Road, Southsea, from September 1948 to July 1954 and in Mr Drew’s class for three of those years.
Happy times at the lovely school.
Ah! School – the best time of our lives, eh Marian?
n The photo of the Co-op bread vans I published on Tuesday, April 30, was located in Fratton Grove, says Dave Ward.
That is where the Co-op bakery was up until the Second World War.
It is now under ASDA at Fratton. Edwin Amey tells me the head office was at 87 Fratton Road.
n The article I wrote about St Francis Church at HMS Sultan was read by 87-year-old Mary Bagley, from Lee on the Solent.
Mary told me she attended St Francis Church and as a child she went to Sunday school there.
It was situated in Military Road, just to the left of the old Brockhurst railway station. It was known as the Old Tin Church.
n Maureen Armstrong and Gillian Fernandez Morton, joint authors of Bombweed, a novel about Portsmouth during the war, have been in touch to say that in June they will be taking part in the Southwick D-Day event talking about, and selling, their book.