Cmdr Crabb - What Really Happened?

At Emsworth Community Centre on 9th February 2022 (and repeated on 19th February) Ann Bevan’s talk about Cmdr. Crabb attracted full audiences. Many people in the audience remembered about Cmdr Crabb who disappeared in Portsmouth harbour 50 years ago.

The Premier of the Soviet Union, Nikolai Bulganin, and First Secretary of the Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev sailed into Portsmouth aboard the cruiser Ordzhonikidze for a trade visit in April 1956. Two destroyers, Sovershenny and Smotryashchie, accompanied the cruiser. The three vessels moored alongside the then South Railway Jetty close to where HMS Warrior is now berthed in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. A member of the Merchant Navy, Crabb was known as Crabby to his friends and was a man of character, known to be completely fearless and able to stand cold water and had received the George Medal. Crabby favoured a shallow water rebreather and it was this apparatus that he was wearing when he submerged to investigate the Soviet cruiser’s hull etc. In fact he aborted his first dive and disappeared during the subsequent dive on 19th April 1956. Conspiracy theories abound as to what happened next.

Ann described various conspiracy theories and showed how the dives were accomplished. Conditions in the harbour and currents in the Solent were also investigated. In particular, how did a body end up in Chichester Harbour? Was it Cmdr. Crabb? Opinions differ but the body is interred in Milton cemetery and the headstone is that of Commander Crabb.

The lecture finished with some lively discussions amongst the audience as to what may of happened.

Sue Young