About Buster

About Buster

by voicecom |

Lionel Crabb was born on 28 January 1909 at 4 Greyswood Street, Streatham, South West London, the son of Hugh Alexander Crabb, a commercial traveller for a firm of photographic merchants, and his wife, Beatrice Goodall. They were a poor family. Little is known about Crabb’s early life save that it was modestly commercial: in his youth he held many jobs but also joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve prior to World War II.

At the outbreak of World War II, Crabb was first an army gunner. Then, in 1941 he joined the Royal Navy. The next year he was sent to Gibraltar where he worked in a mine and bomb disposal unit to remove the Italian limpet mines that enemy divers had attached to the hulls of Allied ships. Initially, Crabb’s job was to disarm mines that British divers removed, but eventually he decided to learn to dive.

He was one of a group of underwater guard divers who checked for limpet mines in Gibraltar harbour during the period of Italian frogman and manned torpedo attacks. They dived with Davis Escape Sets, which until then had not been used much if at all for swimming down from the surface. At first they swam by breast stroke without swimfins.

On 8 December 1942, during one such attack, two of the Italian frogmen, Lt. Visintini and Petty Officer Magro died, probably killed by depth charges. Their bodies were recovered, and their swimfins and Scuba sets were taken and from then on used by Sydney Knowles and Commander Lionel Crabb.

He was awarded the George Medal for his efforts and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. In 1943 he became Principal Diving Officer for Northern Italy, was assigned to clear mines in the ports of Livorno and Venice; he was later created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for these services. He was also an investigating diver in the suspicious death of General Sikorski of the Polish army, whose B-24 Liberator aircraft crashed near Gibraltar in 1943. [1]

By this time he had gained the nickname “Buster”, named after of U.S. actor and swimmer Buster Crabbe. After the war Crabb was stationed in Palestine and led an underwater explosives disposal team that removed mines placed by Irgun, the Zionist militant group. After 1947, he was demobilized from the military.

Crabb moved to a civilian job and used his diving skills to explore the wreck of a Spanish galleon and he located a suitable site for a discharge pipe for the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston. He later returned to work for the Royal Navy. He twice dived to investigate sunken Royal Navy submarines — the HMS Truculent in January 1950 and HMS Affray in 1951 — to find out whether there were any survivors. Both efforts were fruitless. In 1952 Crabb married Margaret Elaine Player, the daughter of Henry Charles Brackenbury Williamson and the former wife of Ernest Albert Player. The couple separated in 1953 and divorced about two years later.

In 1955 Crabb took frogman Sydney Knowles with him to investigate the hull of the Soviet cruiser Sverdlov to evaluate its superior manoeuvrability. According to Knowles, they found a circular opening at the ship’s bow and inside it a large propeller that could be directed to give thrust to the bow. That same year, March 1955, Crabb was made to retire due to his age, but a year later he was recruited by MI6.

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