Memorial garden unveiled at Defence Diving School

A dedication service for Royal Navy Clearance Divers (RNCD) has been held at a special memorial garden created at the Defence Diving School (DDS), Portsmouth.

The project to create the memorial garden began two years ago when the Chairman of the Royal Navy Clearance Divers Association (RNCDA), Warrant Officer Steve Vernon, together with DDS staff, forged the idea. 

The RNCDA was formed a little over 6 years ago, but had previously existed between 1947 and 1960.

The idea behind creating this dedicated area at the Horsea Island site is to remember all former RNCDs who have lost their lives.

I served with many of those whose names were read out today, I was so glad to hear that some of my old shipmates have been remembered.

Gerald Morris

With no real idea of where to begin, apart from a rough concept in mind, Steve made contact with Fareham College who have students on course who are required to spend a certain amount of time with industry to develop their skills.

Identifying students on the landscaping and builders courses, Steve worked with the college to bring students on to the site to create this special area, with the Association raising funds for all the materials along the way.

The students who had completed the work attended the service held on Friday 7 October, together with former and current RNCDs, which included several who had been divers during the Second World War together with members of the earlier Association.

During the service of dedication the names of all RNCD who had lost their lives were read out, a total of 268 names.

Following this a bell was rung five times, traditionally an indication for all divers to start, finish or complete their work.

Captain Jim Nisbet, a Navy Diver, was the Guest of Honour at the event and unveiled the plaque at the garden before addressing the gathered guests, “I am truly honoured, delighted and humbled to be here today and to be asked to unveil this memorial garden plaque.

“It is a magnificent and long overdue memorial to the branch, great credit to the Association for making this happen.”

Alex Carroll, 17, from Fareham, was one of the students from Fareham College involved with the clearance and landscaping of the project, he said “I was honoured to be asked to be involved with the project and also to be invited to attend today; it was a very respectful event.”

Gerald Morris, a member of the original Divers Association and Second World War diver, was at the event; he said “I served with many of those whose names were read out today, I was so glad to hear that some of my old shipmates have been remembered.”

Following the ceremony the invited guests moved to the Officers and Senior Rates mess for refreshments provided by ESS, and to continue catching up with former friends and colleagues.