TIMELINE - The story of Buster Crabb

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Dating back to the 1600's, The Sally Port Hotel is steeped in history. Right in the heart of Old Portsmouth, the hotel has witnessed many historical world events not least the Battle of Trafalgar lead by Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson in 1805, World War 1, and of course the hotel itself was victim to bomb damage during the Second World War. The hotels suites situated on the top floors are all named after people that have touched Portsmouth in some sort of manner. These include Lord Napier, Samuel Pepys, Lord Palmerston and Buster Crabb.

It is the story of Buster Crabb that perhaps peaks the most interest, as his is the most recent. Lionel Crabb, also known as Buster Crabb, was a Royal Naval Frogman and MI6 diver, who was also an acknowledged war Hero during World War II. Crabb was staying at the Sally Port Hotel, and was last seen on the morning of the 19th April 1956, a day after a soviet cruiser had arrived in Portsmouth Harbour. MI6 had reportedly sent Crabb on a secret mission to spy on the cruiser, without permission or knowledge of His Majesty's ministers.

After Buster went missing, all his belongings and even the page of the hotels register where he had written his name had been taken. MI6 had tried to cover up the mission and went as far to say that Buster had died during a test dive at Stokes Bay. The soviets responded to this, by releasing a statement that they had indeed seen a frogman near the cruiser.

Fourteen months later, a body was found in Chichester Harbour with missing head and hands, which meant it was impossible to identify him. The coroner however was satisfied that the body was indeed of Lionel Crabb.

The information of his disappearance was declassified for 50 years, and only since 2006, the National Archives released papers relating to the soviet cruiser. There are many theories on Buster's fate and how he exactly died. Foremost, is the theory that he was killed by the soviets or died during their interrogation. Another theory was that he was actually killed by MI5. The less sinister theory is that he simply died from oxygen poisoning from equipment failure during his dive.

We may not know the exact circumstances of his death, however the history behind Lionel Crabb and how his last night was at the Sally Port, definitely makes him someone that Portsmouth will not forget.