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British Military Divers

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Diving (disambiguation): a common term for human underwater activities including deep water and pool diving, in this context by the military on maritime service. British Army divers include Royal Engineers, highly skilled multi-role sappers performing hazardous work on operations and exercises around the world (MoD). Military diving is not confined to the British Army, and tri-Service diving has a long and distinguished history (MCDOA).


Military Clearance Divers

  • Clearance Divers do a range of underwater work, providing domestic bomb and mine disposal, and IED disposal cover, at a variety of locations.
  • Selection standards are high, and training to become a Clearance Diver is notoriously arduous (RN Careers).
  • A Fleet Diving Unit is a highly skilled team of divers and mine warfare specialists. Working together, they neutralise underwater threats the world over and play a central role in maritime counter-terror operations, whether they are shore-based or on board a ship.
  • There are military diver associations, for instance the Royal Navy Clearance Divers Association (RNCDA) and the Royal Engineers Sports Diving Association (RESDA).


  • The DDS possesses diving tenders (boats) based at Whale Island for work in the Harbour and the Solent. Advanced diver training is conducted at Weymouth, Falmouth, Plymouth and the west coast of Scotland.
  • Divers also have skills development opportunities elsewhere: the Joint Service Sub Aqua Diving Centre (JSSADC) is the lead centre for diving, primarily training supervisors (BSADS & ESADS) and instructors.
  • Courses are run for all grades of diver, including the entry level Ocean Diver Course and crossovers for those qualified with other diving certification agencies or through professional military training.
  • The RAF runs Sub-Aqua Clubs and training at stations including Brize Norton and Leeming.

Military Divers Making Britain's Seas Safer

  • Deep-water diving is a dangerous occupation, and locating, detecting and making safe unexploded bombs underwater is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Divers often have to rely on their touch and senses.
  • Forces Network ran an article during February 2018, writing: "At the Defence EOD, Munitions and Search Training Regiment or DEMS in Oxfordshire, they train all three services for this vital role."
  • At any one time the training school at Bicester hosts up to 200 staff and 300 students. The school is considered a centre of excellence for training military personnel to deal with the threat posed by IEDs.

Source: Forces Network (online) 01 February 2018.


Specialist EOD Diver training is provided by The Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Munitions and Search Training Regiment (DEMS Trg Regt), which moved into its £100 million facility at St George’s Barracks Bicester, during 2013.

During July 2019, A GARDEN of Remembrance, with a memorial stone, was dedicated at St George’s Barracks DEMS. It was designed by officers to commemorate personnel from all three services who have lost their lives attending to unexploded ordnance (Bicester News).

UK Special Forces Divers

  • Royal Navy Northern and Southern Fleet Diving Groups and Fleet Diving Units 1, 2 and 3 are the clearance diving units and officers (CDOs). Training for CDOs is carried out at DDS Portsmouth.

Notable Military Divers

  • The vital role played on D-Day 1944 by British divers is as well-concealed as the 'frogmen' themselves. Four Royal Navy and six Royal Marine 'LCOCUs', each comprising an officer and 11 men, were deployed from LCAs (Landing Craft (Assault) at H-Hour.
  • On Operation Neptune 1944, British frogmen blasted a hole in the Nazis' Atlantic Wall and were the first ashore on D-Day (MCDOA).
  • Cmdr Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE and George Medal (1909-1956), was a Royal Navy frogman and MI6 diver. He vanished during a reconnaissance mission around a Soviet cruiser berthed at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1956 in unknown circumstances, presumed dead (BBC, 2015).
  • L/Cpl George Partridge age 27 died on 26 March 2018 at the National Dive Centre in Tidenham, Gloucestershire. He was serving with 26 Engineer Regiment in Wiltshire.

Campaign to Honour Clearance Divers

During June 2019, a campaign was launched to fund a memorial to British military mine-clearance divers, "often unsung and unseen heroes who undergo some of the most arduous military training there is" (Divernet, 25 June 2019).


The History of Military and Naval Diving (Rob Hoole).

"First ashore on D-Day":

Buster Crabb:

Campaign to Honour Clearance Divers: