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HMS MAXTON M1165 - SUEZ CANAL CLEARANCE - 1974

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"Operation Rheostat "
Suez Canal Mine Clearance
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Operation Rheostat Funnel Badge (Courtesy SCA Port Said)

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HMS Maxton (Photo taken when part of "Blackfoot Squadron" Hong Kong)
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Aerial View - North End Suez Canal
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The Suez Canal after the Arab-Israeli war. Clearly seen are the "berms" (sandbank fortifications) on the left hand side of canal which marked the Israeli defence lines (the "Bar-Lev" line) at the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  The breaches through them are the routes blown through by the Egyptian Army to allow tanks etc passage when they attacked the Bar-Lev line. They perhaps did`nt count on the Israelis counterattacking further down the canal at Deversoir, building a causeway across the canal and attacking them from the rear!

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The Rock
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HMS Lochinvar - MCM Base (Click on photo for link)
 
On 27th March 1974, HM Ships MAXTON and ABDIEL, after ammunitioning ship/storing at our base at HMS LOCHINVAR (Situated at Port Edgar, nr Edinburgh, Scotland) joined BOSSINGTON and WILTON  at Gibraltar to make up the UK part of the International Task Force formed to clear the Suez Canal of explosive ordnance left after the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.  They formed Task Group 65.2 for what was named OPERATION RHEOSTAT (known as OPERATION NIMBUS MOON/STAR by US Forces). After a short stopover at Malta, the Task Group arrived off Port Said on 7th April 1974.

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SCA HQ - Our first operating base

 
On arrival, BOSSINGTON, WILTON and MAXTON hunted the approaches to Port Said to establish a swept channel for ABDIEL to join and enter Port Said.  MAXTON was the first to enter Port Said, and ABDIEL entered and berthed alongside the Suez Canal Authority HQ Building, which was to be our support base for the first part of the operation.

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Clearing Port Said approaches

Minehunting continued in the approaches to Port Said and in the proposed anchorage area for the American LPH USS Iwo Jima, who arrived later and deployed their helos towing minehunting sledges to attempt to clear some of the approach areas.During the next few days, Port Said harbour and berths were hunted to clear any remaining ordnance and render the area safe.

On 25th April, BOSSINGTON and MAXTON sailed from Port Said to Dhekelia (Cyprus) for a four day standoff.  Dhekelia was not the most ideal location, the ships having to anchor offshore and run liberty boats, so it was decided to move the ships to Famagusta, to berth alongside the British Army RCT base. It was in Famagusta that most of us developed a taste for Keo Beer and the wicker flagons of Keo Brandy - some more than others!

Both vessels returned to Port Said and commenced minehunting on the first section of the Canal proper on 29th April.

Task Force Insignia
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Courtesy USS Barnstable County (LST1197)

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US Minesweeping Helo
 Hunting continued, working a 4 day on task/one day passage/one day standoff, usually alongside HMS Abdiel. Hunting lasted approx 12 hours per day, anchoring overnight in position ready to recommence in the morning.  Items found included 2000Kg (and smaller) bombs, numerous anti tank rockets, unexploded shells, various other items such as AK47 personal weapons, grenades (in boxes!), armoured vehicles etc.
Minehunting continued until the canal was safe as far as Ismalia (Lake Timsah) when the Abdiel moved down to berth alongside a floating pontoon at Ismailia. Ismalia then became our operating/support base.

Our partners in crime were the ABDIEL, WILTON and BOSSINGTON.  ABDIEL was the flagship for our task group, the others were part of the hunting team with us.  WILTON had the distinction of being the first GRP warship in service and was sometimes nicknamed HMS TUPPERWARE. 

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HMS Bossington

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HMS Wilton - Courtesy Ton-Class Association

We were joined in Ismailia, or rather Lake Timsah, by the USS BARNSTABLE COUNTY, who anchored in the Lake and assumed control of the Task Force.  The BARN came as a welcome visitor to us, not least because they opened a bar ashore in Ismailia called the LIZARD LOUNGE and let us use it when on standoff.  As well as the bar she also provided us with an opportunity to go onboard for a meal (real steak!) and of course the chance to see "DEEP THROAT" - I`m sure there were more Brits onboard to watch the movie than there were US personnel...

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USS Barnstable County (Click picture for Website)

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HMS Abdiel (Courtesy Ton-Class Association)

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USS Iwo Jima (Click for Iwo Jima Website)

Link to the Royal Navy web site Friends of the Royal Navy
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Crew Members On-Line

Al (Robbie) Robertson            rumrat21@hotmail.com
Dave (Elvis) Wilkinson            lalestons@hotmail.com
Joe (Eggy) Eglinton                Sparks_1165@hotmail.com
Dave (Jock) Weir                   dave@stationst.freeserve.co.uk
Bob Dollins                            JRDollins@aol.com 
Taff Jones (Bryn)                   Bryncabul@aol.com 
Mick (Nobby) Clarke               inkymick@hotmail.com 
 
 

All photographs courtesy Dave Wilkinson unless otherwise stated
HMS Maxton cap-tally used throughout site courtesy of the Ton Class Association
My thanks for technical assistance and advice to Lobby Lowdnes (LostOppo.com), Rik furnival (Ton Class Association), Pusser Hills (HMS Juno Site), Bob Dollins (USS Barnstable County site) and various on-line gif. providers

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"The lower deck bites back"