This is an edited version of the enduring story. All my sources are listed at the end.
On 9 June 1957 Constable Ronald Williams went to an urgent call at Chichester Harbour. Local fishermen had found the body of a Frogman on the shore,
near Pilsey Island (which is now joined to Thorney Island by a sandbank at its Southern most tip). This in itself was not unusual. Bodies of drowned
sailors would often wash up on the South Coast of England. What was unusual was that fact that the body was missing its head and both hands, was
wearing an Italian made double-rubber diving suit and also, the body had rusty markings around both the ankles, as though the body had been chained
With the technology available at the time, identifying the body was virtually impossible. However, fourteen months prior to this, a former British
Royal Navy Diver called Lionel “Buster” Crabb (nicknamed after the American Film Star) had disappeared somewhere off the coast of Portsmouth. The
ex-wife and girlfriend of Crabb were both asked to identify the body. Unfortunately neither could be sure that the body was his. A fellow diver,
Sydney Knowles, said that the body had a scar on the left knee, identical to the one Crabb had. However, there were inconsistencies. The hairs on the
body of the headless corpse, were black, whereas Crabbs were light brown. His ex-wife also noted that the size of the legs on the body were clearly
not the same as those of her ex-husband. So an inquest jury returned an open verdict but the coroner announced that he was satisfied that the body was
that of Lionel Crabb.
After what seemed to be a hasty identification, the remains were given to Crabbs mother. On the 5th July, the remains were buried at Milton Cemetery
in Portsmouth. The headstone simply read 'In Loving Memory of My Son, Commander Lionel Crabb R.N.V.R. G.M. O.B.E. At Rest At Last.' At the time there
was doubts whether the remains were really that of Commander 'Buster' Crabb. His mother didn’t believe so and after fifty years the doubts still
persist. Was Knowles, knowing that it wasn't, “ordered” to identify the body to be that of Lionel Crabbs?
What was to ensue would involve the British and Russian Cold War governments, MI5, MI6 and possibly the CIA. The incident, which would become known as
the “Crabb Affair”, would also inspire Ian Flemings, James Bond adventure Thunderball. A measure of how sensitive the Government still finds the
matter is the fact that the Cabinet Papers concerning the “Crabb Affair”, which should have become open to the public under the 30-year rule in
1986, are now to remain sealed until 2057. The British Prime Minister at the time, Anthony Eden would say to MPs, that it was not in the public
interest to disclose the circumstances in which the frogman met his end. Commander J.S. Kerans, of HMS Amethyst and Yangtse River fame, then MP for
Hartlepool, opened the matter publicly in 1960 by saying:’ I am convinced that Commander Lionel Crabb is alive and in Russian hands - the Government
must reopen this case'. The answer was 'No'. Four years later in 1964, MP Marcus Lipton again raised the topic and submitted what he called 'new
evidence' to the new Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, but he too refused to respond.
ROYAL NAVY YEARS
Known as 'Buster' and ‘Crabbie’ to his friends, it took Lionel Crabb two attempts to join the Royal Navy. In 1939 he first became a Merchant
Seaman Gunner and then transferred into the Royal Naval Patrol Service. He was barred from sea service on medical grounds (a weak left eye), which led
him to specialise in mine and bomb disposal and then in diving.
He was a man averse to fitness, a chain smoker, who could only swim three lengths of a swimming pool. But his work as a Royal Naval diver took steely
courage and bravery earning him the George Medal, the second highest gallantry award a civilian could be awarded, in 1944. Crab’s work was key in
the development of new diving techniques providing the Royal Navy with new ways of defending and attacking ships.
His story started in Gibraltar 1942 as a mine and bomb disposal expert. The real enemies in the vicinity were the Italian divers. It was they who were
successfully destroying vessels of all kinds. Here, Crabb worked with the Mediterranean Fleet Clearance Diving Team. His job was to make the Italian
laid mines and warheads safe after the British divers had recovered them. After seeing the British Divers work and thinking he could do the job better
himself, underwater, Crabb volunteered to be a diver; Lieutenant Bailey who was in charge of the team accepted him because of his expertise in mine
and bomb disposal.
At the time, the navy divers had no suits (only overalls), no fins (just plimsolls), and used Davis Submarine Escape Apparatus to breathe. Crabb made
his first dive with this primitive gear and from then on was part of the underwater defence of shipping at Gibraltar. Very soon after his first dive
he found and removed a mine clamped to the bilge keel of the steamer Willowdale, and although the mine was of a type unknown to anyone in Gibraltar,
Crabb safely defused it. From then on Crabb's life was basically focused on one mine after another. It involved diving from dawn to dusk, usually 12
hours a day, every day for weeks at a time.
When Italy signed an armistice in September 1943 and left the war. Crabb managed to visit the Olterra. This was a shipwreck 5 miles away, near Spain,
which the Italian Divers were using as a base. It was here they were developing their human torpedoes. He found parts of their equipment in good
condition. Using what he recovered, Crabb and a team of torpedo experts were able to reconstruct a torpedo and conduct trials, further developing the
Royal Navy's offensive techniques. For his efforts Crabb received an OBE in December 1945 and his last job for the Royal Navy was searching the
bottoms of ships in Haifa in Israel for limpet mines placed there by the Jewish Forces in 1948.
The Royal Navy recalled Crabb into active service again in 1951 and released him in 1955. However, following his suspicious death in 1956, some argued
that Crabb was still working for the Royal Navy. Although The Navy claimed it had not authorised any missions for Crabb. According to The Royal Navy,
he may have been working for MI6 when he went missing.
THE 1943 SIKORSKI ACCIDENT/ASSASSINATION
An incident of interest, during this period of his career, was his part played as an investigating diver in the suspicious death (and possible
assassination) of General Sikorski head of the Polish Army. Sikorskis B-24 Liberator aircraft crashed near Gibraltar in 1943 immediately after take
off. Also involved in that investigation was Kim Philby the British intelligence member who worked as a double agent before defecting to the Soviet
Union. Did Philby kill Sikorski, if so for whom? Was it for one of the other Allies? The Russians or Churchill? Was Crabb involved to help cover-up
This is a whole other conspiracy though. Two mysterious passengers on board, the late arrival of a Polish courier boarding the flight with Top Secret
Documents from Poland. Bags of Mail, that had been on the plane that mysteriously and without explanation managed to find themselves on the runway.
The Navy recreated the incident with an identical plane but couldn't explain a way in which the Mail Bags could exit the plane.
edit on 10-3-2013 by region331 because: grammar