Blog

Updates from Maritime Film UK’s Rob White, TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN

FAREWELL TO TONY

02 December 2022

We have sad news. We have lost a guiding light. Anthony Harvey, the Secretary of the Maritime Foundation – for which MFUK was created – has crossed the bar. After a year and more of a fight against cancer, in which he displayed all the courage and good humour that we knew so well in him, he “put off his old clothes”, in that moving phrase, and passed away.

It’s hard to know where to start in summing up Tony’s life’s work in bringing home to our country the vital importance of the sea and seafaring to Britain. From the creation of the Maritime Media Awards; to the founding of the Maritime Volunteer Service, which enables young people to learn about sea time; to the successful ‘Britain and the Sea’ conferences; to his editorship of ‘Maritime’, the blue-chip annual review of the maritime world; to his creation of the Maritime Foundation Memorial Book, for those lost at sea with no known grave – his achievements just go on and on.

But above all, he was a man of great generosity of spirit, of kindness and hospitality – in the words of the gospel, filled with “good will to all men.” Those who knew him will miss him so much. But we are all determined to do all we can to see that his work goes on.

There will be a memorial service for Anthony Harvey at the mariners’ church of All Hallows by the Tower, London EC3R 5BJ, on the 9th of February next year.

Ave atque vale, Tony.

RESCUE

24 October 2022

Briggs Marine’s generous help was critical, putting The Bronington Trust in a good place to save the King’s Ship from final decay and disintegration, after that critical dive survey. Mike McBride (picture) is the Trust’s spokesman. He told us: “We’re getting warm feeling that it’s now feasible to raise HMS ‘Bronington’. Very happy with the results of the Briggs marine dive survey… they went round the whole of the ship, and found a couple of bad areas on the foc’sle, port side, which they’re confident they can plug up…so as far as the Trust are concerned, it was a very successful day! It’s a massive step for us because we can now apply for charitable status, knowing that what we want to do is achievable, and hopefully we can now get the money in to raise and salvage the ‘Bronington’.”

BRIGGS MARINE TO THE RESCUE

24 October 2022

The Bronington Trust have been given massive help by dive company Briggs Marine, https://www.briggsmarine.com/, who cut them a very generous deal to conduct a full
dive survey. And this was no small undertaking. Briggs deployed two divers, one on dive, one fully kitted up and on standby; and then conducted a day-long search with fingertip care, all results relayed back to a portacabin control room, full TV and sound facilities monitoring the dive, and seeing what their diver saw, continuously. Diving Supervisor Craig Harris oversaw the dive meticulously, along with other Briggs staff. “We were able to see 60 – 70% of the vessel – a lot of the hull was into silt, quite challenging for the diver… zero visibility in places, taking measurements with next to no vis.” So – your verdict? “At this stage everything’s looking quite good. Everybody’s happy!”

SAD SIGHT

24 October 2022

Indeed. Bronington today is the picture of abandonment, listing heavily to starboard, all her essential equipment including her main Bofors gun gone, the water on her Mersey dockside washing over her, leaving her submerged from aft of the foc’sle. It’s a wrench seeing her like this. I remember as a nine-year old accompanying my father Captain Robert White RN to see several trim ‘Tons’ lying alongside in Famagusta, during the Cyprus emergency. He’d been tasked to run all naval operations around the island, to try to stop as many as possible of the arms shipments making their way from Greece from falling into the hands of the terrorist murderers of EOKA. All their bombings and shootings ended up achieving was the invasion of the island, divided ever since, with formerly flourishing Famagusta itself a ghost own. That went well, eh?

THE KING’S SHIP

24 October 2022

As we must, with sadness and respect, now call her. And with hope for a long and happy reign! This is – was – HMS Bronington, a ‘Ton’ class coastal minesweeper (so called, informally, because all the ship names of these doughty vessels ended in ‘ton’.) For many years, these tidy little ships were the workhorses of the Royal Navy – engaging in patrol and engagement tasks well beyond their prime function. Wooden, with aluminium frames, to minimize the chances of detonating magnetic mines, they added one special cachet to their record: providing Prince Charles with his first, and only, seagoing command. Uncomfortable in a seaway because of their shallow draught and relatively high top-hamper, they and their ship’s companies ploughed on at Their Lordship’s bidding for many a long year. Now King Charles’ ship is solitary survivor… but only just.

STEPHEN GREEN

07 September 2022

The project manager on the mast removal – and as it would have been, on and beyond – was former naval officer Stephen Green. Stephen was a classic RN type, well-organized, calm and collected, self-disciplined and self-motivated, with complete commitment to the project. An imposing figure, and always there for Maritime Films UK to help us capture this latest phase in the multi-year restoration – and always right on time. It was therefore an ominous surprise for the National Museum of the Royal Navy team when he failed one day to check in or call ahead of a meeting. In the end police and colleagues went round to his home. They had to force entry, and were shocked to discover that he had suddenly died. All of us will miss him sorely. R.I.P. Stephen – we and Victory are forever in your debt.

CAMERA COVER

07 September 2022

… was the biggest camera operation Maritime Films UK had ever mounted. We had to capture the mast as it went through each deck. So onboard, GoPros and a full HD camera were installed, from the keelson up. (The picture shows the butt end as it lifted off from the keelson.) Finding a clamping spot for the GoPros was a challenge – but I found some small-bore pipes attached to the deckhead. We had to withdraw from Victory before the lift started, so the rigging team kindly ran the cameras. If we’d started them even at the last moment before standing clear, they’d have run out and missed those key shots. They all survived, too – thanks riggers. Meanwhile David Botwinik time-lapsed from the museum’s upper floor, while I roved at ground level, David joining me later. So, a 6-camera shoot.

WIND BE STILL

07 September 2022

As were all calculations about the weather. Many go-dates were to pass until at last the time and above all the wind, were just right. Almost no breeze could be tolerated, because if the mainmast began to swing like a pendulum as it was drawn out from Victory, disaster movie scenes would ensue – not least because it would be well-nigh impossible to stop it once it started, threatening the ship and all around her. As with all work on Victory, all involved were well acquainted with the simple fact governing all work on her – she is unique, irreplaceable and not just a British but a world heritage treasure. So the spirit of her restoration is a curious combination of brute strength – reflecting the brute strength it took to build her – and the utmost delicacy needed to preserve and protect her.

About Rob

Rob WhiteRob is a TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN, in news, factual and documentary production. He is a four times award winner, whose awards include a coveted Royal Television Society award for his work on Channel 4 News. His association with The Maritime Foundation goes back to 1995, when he won the first Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award for a series of reports that led to a major documentary on the loss of the bulk carrier Derbyshire.

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