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Take a deepdeep
at the Faslane base, is a comprehensive system that can get to any
‘subsunk’ – military speak but the name does pretty much say it all
– within the UK’s operating area in less than three days.
That’s three days to shift the great unwieldy launch crane
and kit and weld it onto the hired commercial vessel that will be
mothership, three days to fly out container after container that holds
all the essential operating systems on board, three days to fit out
the decompression chambers and three days until the submersible
itself (known as Nemo although everyone denies it...) first reaches
the sunk submarine.
And in case you should think that this is an expensive insurance
system for an unheard-of event, there have been at least 34
submarines sunk since the end of World War 2.
It is the divers of NDG who will man the decompression chambers
in the event of an emergency with a British submarine, working with
the Rolls-Royce team who manage the system and drive the vehicle
and the submarine, and medical experts of the Royal Navy.
“I have a team of 45 guys. And I have never seen them all here at
one time,” said Lt Cdr White. “There are always some on courses,
guys training on the NSRS, off working on normal day-to-day
jobbing, always a team on standby for engineering, god forbid some
might actually take some leave. One of our petty officers is out in
Afghanistan at the moment.”
“And we still have to have the duty watches and the rest.”
But it is this hectic pace which seems to win over many of the
clearance divers based up in the Scottish realm.
Leading Diver ‘Shiner’ Wright puts it simply: “I prefer it up here.
I’ve been on various different drafts, and I always seem to end up
back here.
“I like it because it’s a hardworking team. Other drafts don’t seem
to be as active. Here we are always busy.
“Up here I teach, do engineering work, did an IED task last night
– that’s all in one week.
“I’ve got lots of friends out in the commercial world, and all they
do is dive. But here that is just one aspect of the job.”
But Shiner does note one word of caution for prospective divers
– “Claustrophobic. Claustrophobic is the word I’d use. You can’t be
claustrophobic and be a diver.”
AB(Diver) Chris Hudson is freshly arrived in Scotland from the
Fleet Diving School, but says that the NDG’s reputation is as “the
working team”.
He admits: “I had looked into diving on the outside, and stumbled
across the Navy’s website. It seemed challenging, and it has been
a good experience.”
He said: “The Northern Diving Group are always busy. They do the
most diving, the most work. There’s a lot more satisfaction from the
range of work up here.”
Their boss credits this to their location in the heart of the base:
“Northern Diving Group is part of Clyde Naval Base. We feel part of
it, we’re well-liked, and we provide a tangible service.
“We’re often the first people waiting on a jetty when a ship comes
“Far too often divers are out on a limb. Seen as slightly different.
We don’t get seen on ships very often, in fact we don’t get seen a
lot. In the Falklands, the diving units have only recently been added
to the memorial.
“But here we are seen as part of the base.”
But while the Navy might not see much of the divers on a day-to-
day basis, for many people around the UK’s coastline the divers can
be their regular contact with the Senior Service.
It is this local effort clearing historic ordnance or abandoned
pyrotechnics on beaches, shorelines and coasts around the UK that
brings the public face to face with the Navy’s divers.
And it is this effort by NDG that has won them the Firmin
Sword of Peace – the military award that recognises humanitarian
Lt Cdr White explained: “Normally it goes for big humanitarian
efforts – disaster relief and the like. It’s very rare for it to be given
for a small local effort.
“But we’re constantly in among the small coastal towns around
Scotland. We’re up at Garvie Island military range for bomb disposal,
and because of that our team has been invited to attend the Cape
Wrath Highland Games, we got involved in a tug-of-war. We are a
small part of that community.”
The dive team were also presented with the white ensign from the
war grave of HMS Royal Oak after their recent dive to replace the
memorial standard. “Royal Oak is another example. The reason we
were given that ensign is because for years and years we have gone
up there for the Royal British Legion.
“But this year they said, as it was the 70th, rather than present it
to one of the Legion sites around the country, they wanted to give it
to us as someone who does this all the time.”
Lt Cdr White concluded: “People come here as an AB, as a killick,
as a PO, as a chief. They want to come back here.
“It is a work hard, play hard team.”
● AB(Diver) Scotty Telford and Leading Diver Lee Duffy prepare (left) and in the water in the Enclosed Space Diving System
used by the Northern Diving Group for underwater engineering and maintenance
0011_NN_jan10 NDG.indd 211_NN_jan10 NDG.indd 2 88/12/09 15:22:36/12/09 15:22:36
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