The P&O ocean liner Moldavia was purchased by the Admiralty in 1916 and used as an auxiliary cruiser in WWI. On May 23rd, 1918 while serving as a US troop transport, carrying 900 US troops from Halifax, Nova Scotia, for London, she was torpedoed by the German U-boat UB-57 (Oberleutnant Johannes Lohs), in the English Channel. As she was sinking, troops and crew were transferred to the escorting destroyers. In total, 56 American soldiers on a lower deck lost their lives by the inrush of water and the torpedo impact.
These days the Mol (as she’s affectionately known) is considered one of the best dives on the south coast and is still on my to-do list – even after 15 years of diving I still hadn’t dived it! You see it’s also on my cursed list: dives I book onto and for one reason or other never get to dive (the M2 was on this list for a very long time too until 2 years ago). She lies on her port side in about 50m over 25miles offshore and is (so I’ve been told) a fantastic dive.
The weather was great on the early September Saturday morning, blue skies, no wind, t-shirt and shorts weather. If the weather carried over to the Sunday we would be in and then some. I had a 20/20 mix for some narcosis free diving. The phone beeped away and I saw a text from Paul, “Tomorrow’s dive cancelled”. Doh! It was due to blow up off shore so Steve had already called the dive.
After 20 minutes of swearing, I received a call from our illustrious D.O., asking what I now had planned for Sunday. Well nothing now, so he surprising suggested a bike ride… What I hear you ask, Dave on a bike… Ben, Katie and I occasionally ride around the Sussex and Surrey area, however Dave riding was unheard of. .
We arranged to meet up the next day with Ben and his better half Katie for a cross country bike ride and pub lunch. Dave, Ben and Katie were waiting for me at Three Bridges, went I turned up Dave and Ben were in conversation on where to go. I suddenly felt ill, not due to the fact I’d spent 8 hours of the previous day on the sauce and had just ridden the short 2.5mile to meet them, no it was the fact Dave was dressed in Lycra. If you think him in his undersuit is bad, well you’ve seen nothing.
Anyhow soon we set off, and the alcohol soon came pouring out of me in sweat, we went into Tilgate forest for ride amongst the pine trees, Dave and I still muttering that we were gutted the dive was cancelled. Across the M23 and through dense woodland and up towards the Balcombe road. The weather was no where near as warm as the previous day, and for that I was glad. We approached the top of a hill and needed to make a decision on which route to take to the pub, when to my delight we spotted Blackberries. I’d brought 3 tupperware containers and handed them out, it is end of blackberry season and we found a few late choice berries. We carried on down a steep gravel path, that Katie and Dave flew down on their bikes, Ben walked most of the way as he had fallen off on all previous attempts at this decent. I, the only one without a lid, and with a more road than mountain bike took it cautiously but still rode down the hill.
After a little further we came to the pub, The Cowdray Arms on the Balcombe Road, after another excellent pub lunch (we always have excellent food on our rides/walks) it was back on the road for a ride up to the Worth Way. This took us again along ‘cycle paths’ aka loose ruts beside paths in the forest. Here we saw 4 fallow deer, which leapt across my path not 12 feet in front of me. More Blackberries were picked and we rode back into Three Bridges around 4:30 in the afternoon. Here I left Dave, Katie and Ben and rode the final 2.5miles home, a few more Blackberries were picked and eaten, and I almost ran over a rabbit but that isn’t uncommon down near me.
Dave, I must say did very well and obvious our shock at his cycling ideas were unfounded. We all vowed to meet up for cycling more often, albeit not at the deference of a dive.
Luckily I didn’t need the 80% in my shed to recover, just a nice strong cup of tea.