Ex Chariot Rock

Members of the RAF Marham, Wittering and Coningsby Sub Aqua Clubs departed for Gibraltar to take part in an expedition to locate the remains of the Liberator Bomber that crashed on take off on 3rd July 1943 killing all on board except the pilot. Amongst the passengers were the Polish Prime Minister-in-exile and his daughter.

Arrival at Gibraltar went smoothly and the facilities at Gun Wharf Training Centre were taken over in a slick manner. Within four hours of arrival the team completed the first dives to test equipment and everyone finally returned to Devil’s Tower Camp for meals, a planning session for the next day’s diving, a beer and then bed. The next few days were spent exploring the many shipwreck sites, improving the experience level on the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) and practicing the underwater skills of deploying Delayed Surface Marker Buoys (DSMB) and conducting searches that would be essential to diving on the Eastern Threshold of Gibraltar Airport.

The night before the search of the Eastern Threshold a visit was paid to the memorial to those killed in the Liberator Bomber crash. LCpl Smith (MDHU) gave a presentation about the incident and its political and strategic ramifications. A prompt start the following morning ensured a flat transit to the Eastern side of the island whilst the minibus delivered the weightier stores to Catalan Bay, the nearest landing site to the dive site. A series of searches were carried out in the vicinity of the centreline of the approach to the runway. An echo sounder, in conjunction with Admiralty Charts, was used and several anomalies on the sea bed were discovered which were then marked with shot lines. As soon as practical, divers were in the water to identify the cause of these anomalies by a series of searches. The first dive had a strong Northerly drift which caused the Gibraltar Harbour Police launch to keep a close eye on things and, after the first dives, approached the boats to explain the team had drifted into Spanish waters! The RHIBs beat a hasty retreat, although no harm had been done and Her Majesty’s Harbour Master was very understanding! Nothing conclusive was found but the area of crash site was clearly identified and a wreath laid in memory of those killed in the crash.

The rest of the expedition continued with further dives improving the skill levels and the qualifications of divers. There were some diving anniversaries, Cpl Angie Dickinson and Cpl Kev Jones completed their 300th and 100th dives on the Seahawk wreck. As a change, a visit to the St Michael’s Lower Cave was conducted; this 210m cave was an amazing sight, made all the more interesting by the guide, Dale.

Various qualifications were gained during the expedition, from RAF Marham, Cpl Angie Dickinson gained Advanced Diver and Diver Cox’n, SAC Ellie Little qualified as Diver Cox’n and from RAF Coningsby, Cpl Noel Terry qualified as a Sports Diver and during the final dive of the expedition, completed his 35m depth progression dive on the Europa Reef. In addition, various Dive Leader lectures and dives were undertaken to improve other members experience levels.

The Gun Wharf Activity Centre is an excellent facility with welcoming staff and first rate equipment. They offer a number of training courses and Adventure Training opportunities throughout the year.

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