Naval honour for Scottish-based Royal Navy diving and bomb disposal unit

The Royal Navy’s team of Scottish-based diving and bomb disposal experts have received a prestigious trophy for being one of the best units in the Fleet.

Northern Diving Group was presented with the Fleet Effectiveness Trophy in the category of best Fleet Diving Unit on Tuesday, April 12, when Rear Admiral John Weale, Flag Officer Scotland Northern Ireland, visited their unit at HM Naval Base Clyde.

The Fleet Effectiveness Trophy is awarded in recognition of achievement of excellence and Northern Diving Group ably demonstrated the highest standards in diving capability and performance.  

Receiving the award on behalf of the 40-strong team of clearance divers, who were most recently in action in Orkney disposing of a Second World War torpedo, was Lieutenant Commander Tony Hampshire Commanding Officer of Northern Diving Group.

“The entire team works hard in challenging conditions to keep our coastlines safe, often travelling to remote communities to dispose of ordnance left over from both World Wars,” he said. 

“Having only recently joined the unit, it’s a tremendous honour to take on such a team of dedicated and motivated clearance divers who are recognised as being among the best in the Fleet.”     

Last year Northern Diving Group was involved in safely disposing of 727 items of ordnance, travelling all around Scotland and Northern Ireland.  

Twenty-nine of the call-outs were to remote islands and peninsulas meaning that during 2015 Northern Diving Group covered over 25,000 road miles.  Already this year the Group has performed 29 Explosive Ordnance Disposal tasks which has included 131 items of unexploded ordnance. 

Earlier this month a team from Northern Diving Group were called to Scapa Flow in the Orkney Isles to deal with a Second World War German torpedo thought to be one of those fired at Wartime battleship HMS Royal Oak.  The team dived to the seabed to attach explosive charges, detonating the torpedo and rendering it safe. 

Northern Diving Group was also recognised for their underwater engineering expertise.  The team conducted over 450 operational dives last year, totalling some 18,929 minutes under the water supporting the Royal Navy Fleet. 

One of the more high-profile jobs was to St James Bay in St Helena where divers from Northern Diving Group helped support the MOD Salvage and Marine Organisation.

The team dived to the Wartime wreck of RFA Darkdale, conducting 60 dives at between 33-42 metres in order dispose of 38 items of unexploded ordance. The work to remove the high explosives allowed engineers to later safely remove oil and fuel from the wreck. 

Speaking during the presentation, Rear Admiral Weale said:  “My vision for Faslane is to be the 21st century home of the UK’s elite underwater forces.

"Your tremendous team efforts over this past year have shown how to make this vision real from a Royal Navy diving perspective and encourages our other underwater specialists, whether serving in submarines or mine-warfare countermeasures vessels, to do the same.

“We can never take for granted that the Diving Specialisation, particularly with its Bomb and IED Disposal roles, is on the frontline on a daily basis. I thank you for your dedication and commitment.

"Congratulations to you all.”

Formed in 1996, Northern Diving Group are experts in a diverse range of diving tasks and Explosive Ordnance Disposal.  The team cover an area stretching from the Mersey round the top of Scotland to the Humber.

The entire team works hard in challenging conditions to keep our coastlines safe, often travelling to remote communities to dispose of ordnance left over from both World Wars.

Lieutenant Commander Tony Hampshire