No Christmas card from Beachcomber this year to those not-so-humble servants of the Ministry of Defence. Most of Britain's wreck-divers and underwater archaeologists may also delete them from their lists.
Having scarcely had time to wash their hands after maligning amateur divers, and banning them from even looking at wrecks on a new list of sunken Naval ships, the MoD has done a back-flip and signed away an ancient Royal Navy war grave to a group of American treasure-hunters.
Money is, of course, at the root of this turnaround. Only at the start of this year the MoD recommended designation of 21 wrecks for protection from sport divers and commercial salvors, the climax of a general campaign of vilification of amateur divers as "tomb-robbers".
Britain's scuba-divers, most of whom had never dived a war grave in their lives, heard Defence Under Secretary Dr Lewis Moonie say: "I hope that those who have disturbed or plundered the last resting place of those whose lives were lost in service of their country, will now realise that this vile and abhorrent practice will not be tolerated by this Government".
They were threatened with fines, confiscation of equipment and seizing of boats – not for disturbing a war grave but simply for diving to look at certain of the listed vessels.
To their credit, the diving organisations combined to launch their "Respect Our Wrecks" campaign to try to counter this black propaganda.
The mere idea of a diver buying a naval wreck was so abhorrent that during this time no mention was made of the fact that until a few years ago the Navy sold wrecks around our coasts to divers for under £100. A "war grave" of more than 600 men from 1760 sold for £50 in 1960.
What a difference a few years make! Now Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. of Florida has signed a partnership agreement with the MoD to share the spoils from the 80-gun HMS Sussex, which was carrying 9 tons of gold when she sank near Gibraltar on 19 February, 1694, during one of our wars with France.
There is not much mention in the press releases about this wonderful deal that when the Sussex sank, nearly 600 men went down with her, There were only two survivors.
So when is a naval war grave not a war grave? The MoD's answer seems to be: a) when it was a long, long time ago and today's descendants of those lost are unlikely to complain; b) when it is nearly half a mile down; and c) when you say it is "an archaeological excavation" and you are conserving the "deep ocean cultural heritage".
A diver might assume that after this deal, which some estimates say might allow £2.5bn to be split between the gold-raisers and the MoD's Disposal Services Agency, the ministry should at least speak nicely of Britain's divers in future.
At the last count, after this sale, the Navy has 247 wrecks left. Not many carry tons of gold like the Sussex (and don't forget the Edinburgh), but after this affair the MoD hardly appears to be the right outfit to protect them. Or to condemn divers.
Real divers will be delighted to hear that Beachcomber's New Year is to be dedicated to stamping out Eganitis, a strange disease that infects those who write about shipwrecks in the other, greatly inferior, diving magazines.
It seems a new Beachcomber-resistant form of this unsightly disease is spreading. Vaccination may be one answer, but if that fails some diving scribblers will have to be culled.
Eganitis in its simplest form occurs as a mad desire to mis-spell the name of that famous Liberty ship heavily dived in Plymouth Sound, the James Eagan Layne. Latest outbreaks have appeared in article after article about diving the James EGAN Layne, but my Plymouth Leak has now pinpointed the source of this infection.
So will the man who painted "James EGAN Layne" in white letters on the big red buoy on the site (see picture last month) send me five crisp cracklies for the Diver Lifeboat Fund and go and change it to EAGAN before the year is out?
Unless he does, I shall have to spell his own name correctly here. Then all those he has misled into incorrect spellings in their logbooks will wish to contact him. As will the children of the merchant seaman, killed in WW2, who gave his name to the ship. They visit England quite often…
Will the trainee who got so fed up with pool training that he tried to flush his mask and fins down the main Victoria Station loo please contact me? I ask this on behalf of my South-east London Leak, who is much incensed that the rail company seems to think he is responsible for all diving training in London loos and is demanding that he not only collects the equipment, but also settles a hefty bill for repairs.
Though I am asking the flusher to contact me, I do suggest that my Leak looks more closely at the notepaper on which the demands for compensation are written. Could he be the victim of a cruel and heartless joke?
This is a good time of the year for wiping the slate clean and reminding those who have transgressed that Beachcomber never forgets and rarely forgives. That is why I am prepared to give the divers of the quaintly named Hell Fins club only until the final stroke of midnight on 31 December to make good their promise to send me a fine contribution to the Diver Lifeboat Fund.
These divers have had ample time already to pay up. The incident which gave rise to their debt occurred way back on a midsummer day over the wreck of HMS Elk, off Plymouth.
Picture the scene. A calm sea. A First Class exam is in progress, but the RIB carrying the testees has its outboard up and no propeller on the shaft. A local dive charter-boat arrives with its skipper and two lads who want to dive the wreck
Shamefaced, the RIB divers say that the propeller fell off as they manoeuvred over the wreck. Would the two divers retrieve it and, by the way, could they also bring back the nut and washer?
That is just what the two gallant divers nearly did. They found the prop on the sand by the port bow. They even picked up the washer in the forward hold. But they had no luck with the nut.
The exam candidates were told that they could have the prop and washer back only if they promised to send a contribution to Beachcomber for the Lifeboat Fund. They promised.
Sadly it seems that promises made out at sea, even by potential First Class divers, do not survive on dry land, and I am still waiting.
Hell Fins may well find that non-payment means that Hell hath no fury like a Beachcomber scorned. Even at Christmastide.