The inaugural meeting of the British Sub Aqua Club was held in London at the Waldorf Hotel on October 15th 1953. There were about 50 people present and the meeting had been arranged by Oscar Gugen and Peter Small. They had both attended a course run at Dartmouth by the retired RAF Captain Trevor Hampton AFC, who had bought some equipment made by Seibe Gorman, and had possibly made the first aqualung dive in English waters.
Gugen and Small decided that the club would be non profit making, the subscription would be 30 shillings a year, and the lower age limit would be 16. The first AGM was held in December 1953, and by then there were 100 members and three more branches, Bristol, Blackpool and Manchester.
On the 21st March, 1917, the S.S. Maine, a 3600 ton cargo vessel sailed for London's East India dock bound for Philadelphia with a crew of 43 under her master Capt. W. Johnston, carrying a cargo consisting mainly of horsehair, goatskins and seeds.
At 8 a.m. On the 23rd March, a damp and misty morning she was steaming at about ten knots on a zigzag course approximately thirteen miles South of Berry head. As was usual in wartime lookouts were posted on the fo'c'sle and up with the master and 1st officer keeping a sharp lookout from the bridge when, without warning the ship was hit by a torpedo on the port side in number 2 hold which blew off number 2 and 3 hatches, smashed the port gig and partially wrecked the bridge.
On the 21st March 1917 the armed merchantman S.S. Maine set sail from London's East India Docks bound for Philadelphia carrying a cargo consisting of chalk, horsehair, goatskins and fenugreek seeds to run the gauntlet of the marauding U-boat packs in the Atlantic.
She never made it out of the English Channel. On the squally, misty morning of the 23rd March 1917, under the command of Captain 'Bill' Johnston and with his First Officer on the bridge, lookouts stationed on the forecastle head and the poop, and the 12cm gun on the stern manned she was steaming on an evasive zig-zag course at about ten knots approximately thirteen miles South of Berry Head. The poor weather perhaps masked the wake of the periscope of the following U boat. Oberleutnant-zur-see Ralph Wenninger on the U-boat UC17 had spotted the Maine shortly after dawn and was shadowing her. He attacked and at 8:05am the Maine was struck on the port side level with her No.2 hold by a single torpedo.
A Cautionary Tale, by Jack MacLoughlin
Several years ago, I was diving at Vobster and noticed pins and needles in my hands afterwards which lasted for a number of days. I put this down to diving in cold water with 3mm gloves and with newly replaced and therefore tight wrist seals. However, after one of my buddies mentioned someone he knew getting a bend under similar circumstances, I phoned the Royal Navy Doctor for advice. Given the dives were mostly shallower than 10m, I was told a bend was unlikely and they would call back in a few days for a update. I was diving again the following weekend and everything was back to normal.