Diving unit’s story revealed

From humble beginnings in the 1960s with a one-man unit, the Naval Service’s diving teams have come into their own and, in today’s world, are involved in numerous operations, not just military but search and rescue.

A new book, to be launched later this month, The Ninth Ship — The Irish Naval Diving Section, outlines a history of divers’ operations.

In 1964, a young Lt Joe Deasy received notification from headquarters he was being sent to England to commence a seven-month long torpedo anti-submarine course, known as the TAS course. It came as a complete surprise to the officer because he never expressed anything remotely resembling a desire to go diving.

“Joe simply shrugged his shoulders and went home to inform his newly-married wife of the planned course. He returned having successfully completed his TAS course, but much more importantly for the Irish Naval Service, as it would turn out, he successfully passed his diving course. This was the start of a very slow process that has over successive years — between 1964 up to today — culminated in what is undoubtedly this country’s most advanced diving unit, the Irish Naval Diving Section,” said the book’s author, Martin Buckley.

The year 1973 saw the first high-profile operation for the naval divers on the IRA gun-running ship Claudia.

Since then the numbers and types of operations have grown immeasurably.

In 1979, they were tasked to assist after the Betelgeuse oil tanker explosion in Bantry claimed the lives of 50 people. In 1985 they helped recover bodies and search for clues to the Air India disaster. Two of the divers involved in that operation were awarded distinguished service medals (DSMs).

“The book is an account of how the diving section developed from what was essentially one man’s accidental entry into diving.

“It tells of how in the early 1970s a succession of naval officers, NCO’s and men, underwent diver training with the Royal Navy and, how after a short while, it was realised the Naval Service could train its own,” said Martin, who was once in charge of the diving section.

“In 1982, the first ever Naval Service diving course took place and, to date, a total of 29 courses have been run with 127 personnel qualifying.”

The book will be launched on Friday week, October 30, at Haulbowline navy base by Defence Minister Simon Coveney. Also in attendance will be chief of staff of the Defence Forces Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, who had served as a diver.

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