HC Deb 30 May 1956 vol 553 cc13-5W
41. Mr. Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will publish in HANSARD the text of the Note sent to the British Government by the Soviet Government on the incident concerning Lieut.-Commander Lionel Crabb, and the reply sent by Her Majesty's Government.

1956. Mr. Selwyn Lloyd


14 Translation


No. 47—A

The Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Great Britain presents its compliments to the Foreign Office and has the honour to state as follows:—

During the stay of the Soviet warships at Portsmouth, at 7.30 hours on 19th April, three sailors of the Soviet vessels discovered a diver swimming between the Soviet destroyers at their moorings at the South River jetty. The diver, dressed in a black light-diving suit with flippers on his feet, was on the surface of the water for the space of one or two minutes and then dived again under the destroyer "Smotryashchie".

The Commander of the Soviet warships, Rear-Admiral V. F. Kotov, in conversation with the Chief of Staff of the Portsmouth naval base, Rear-Admiral Burnett, drew attention to the fact of the appearance of the diver near the anchorages of the Soviet vessels, immediately alongside the destroyers.

Rear-Admiral Burnett categorically denied the possibility of the appearance of a diver alongside the Soviet vessels and declared that at the time no diving operations of any kind were being carried out. In reality, however, as appears from information reported in the British Press of 30th April last, there is confirmation of the fact that the British Naval Authorities were actually carrying out secret diving investigations in the vicinity of the anchored Soviet vessels at Portsmouth. Moreover, the carrying out of these investigations caused a fatality to a British diver. It is sufficient to quote that the "Daily Sketch" in reporting the loss of the diver Crabb, stated as follows:—

"He went into the water for the last time at Stokes Bay, Portsmouth, on secret investigatory work near to the anchorage of the Soviet cruiser ' Ordzhonikidze'."

Attaching as it does important significance to such an unusual occurrence as the carrying out of secret diving operations alongside Soviet warships visiting the British Naval Base at Portsmouth, the Embassy would be grateful to the British Foreign Office to receive an explanation on this question.

London, 4th May,

1956. NS 1216/1

The Foreign Office presents its compliments to the Embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and has the honour to make the following reply to the Embassy's note of 4th May.

As has already been publicly announced, Commander Crabb was engaged on diving tests and is presumed to have met his death whilst so engaged.

The diver, who as stated in the Soviet note was observed from the Soviet warships to be swimming between the Soviet destroyers, was presumably Commander Crabb. His approach to the destroyers was completely unauthorised and Her Majesty's Government desire to express their regret at the incident.


9th May,

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