Diver by Tony Groom
The Royal Navy Clearance Divers, not the SAS, are the British mystery unit of the Falklands War of 1982. They did not even appear in the first edition of the Official History -- now put right. It is fair to say that without them it is highly likely that the British would have lost the war. But this is more than a book about the Falklands War. It tells the story of some of the bravest and most professional men in the Royal Navy. The gripping accounts are spiced with `black' humour of the sort that only men engaged in a dangerous profession can really appreciate. Read this book and you will learn why. You will want to turn every page.
Commander, 3 Commando Brigade Falklands 1982 -- Major General Julian Thompson, CB,OBE
Throughout my career in the Royal Navy I have had the privilege and honour to work with a number of Mine Clearance Divers, and each time I have been struck by their supreme levels of professionalism and dedication. Underwater bomb disposal, often in the cold waters and zero visibility of the seas and ports around the UK, is not for the faint-hearted and often requires levels of courage, stamina and sure-footedness that exceeds that expected in other military disciplines.
Such a hazardous lifestyle creates bonds amongst its proponents that are exceptionally close, along with a unique and highly developed sense of humour (you have been warned!).
The demands of commercial saturation diving are no less rigorous. In this book Tony Groom provides a fascinating, no-holds-barred account of his remarkable life and of the world of professional naval and civilian divers.
His story is gripping, humbling and highly amusing in equal measure - all the more so for the matter-of-fact manner in which he tells it.
From clearing unexploded bombs lodged in ships during the Falklands war, to hair-raising exploits in the oil fields of the North Sea, he shines a light on a calling that demands the coolest of heads and extreme courage.
I strongly commend it to anyone with an interest in extraordinary human endeavour or the sea. -- Admiral Sir Jonathon Band KCB ADC. First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff
In my ten years in Her Majesty's Royal Navy, there was never a boring moment. I joined at the tender age of seventeen, and had qualified for basic diver by the age of eighteen. I was then shipped off to sea aboard one of the Navy's smaller minehunters, for what should have been a year's draft. However, my term aboard the Kirkliston was cut short. I was accused of being a modern-day Fletcher Christian, cast out as a mutineer, and sent back to diving school!
I didn't know it at the time, but being in effect sacked from my first ship early was a blessing in disguise. To punish me, the Navy saw fit to fly me halfway around the world to an island paradise in the South Pacific, with orders to blow parts of it up. Every boy's (and man's) dream.
Eventually, coming home a tad worldlier, I joined the globe-trotting Fleet Clearance Diving Team in Portsmouth. I decided it was time to advance my skills and take an intensive seven-month course to become a Leading Diver. Then, to put some of my new-found skills into practice, I joined the Portsmouth Bomb and Mine Disposal Team, where I gained a great deal of experience, mostly of blowing things up. We would drive around the country picking up all sorts of ordnance, washed up, fished up, sometimes even dug up.
Having escaped sea for three years, I was on someone's radar for another sea draft. HMS Bronington was my next ship. Prince Charles had left when I arrived, but he would come to sea with us every now and then, `just to get away from it all'. Having survived the year on the Bronny without being cast adrift as a mutinous dog, I went back to the Fleet Team.
During all these generally positive experiences, there was never a hint that I would be going to war. Never for one moment did I think I would find myself sitting alongside live unexploded bombs during an air raid.
World War II was long gone. The end of the Cold War was fast approaching. So who would have given a second thought to a tiny piece of news in the bottom corner of the broadsheets?
March 19, 1982. A group of Argentine scrap metal merchants working in South Georgia, in the South Atlantic, is escorted by some Argentinian military personnel. Britain calls Argentina to remove the military personnel without delay. They receive no response.
Hardly anyone took any notice. Even the British government saw nothing to overly concern them. Where was South Georgia anyway? I would soon find out.
My war took longer to get over than I realised. I thought I was fine, but looking back now I see that I wasn't `all there' for a number of years afterwards. I saw and experienced things I will never forget, things I think about to this day. Things that make me appreciate everything that I have, with my wonderful family and close-knit circle of friends. Some, who were just unlucky, who were simply in the wrong place, never got to have an adult life, a wife, kids, the things we all take for granted.
This book is not meant to be precise. Not every date, time, casualty etc has been exhaustively verified. A large part is about the Falklands conflict and is taken from the diaries I kept on a daily basis. If I heard, for example, whilst aboard a ship that there had been fourteen casualties somewhere, that is what I wrote down.
Now some might say I should go back and check every figure. That would mean tampering with my diary and it would take away the realism of what it is like to take in a war as it goes on around you. What you hear on the day of a tragedy is never going to be completely correct. That is the same in civilian life as well as the military, whether it's a train crash or a ship sinking. So I'm not going to do it. The diaries are published as I wrote them, sometimes under duress, sometimes under tables, but word for word they are what I thought, wrote and knew at the time.
Some names have been changed, for obvious reasons, some haven't.
Everything I have written in this book is true and happened. I've not tried to build any parts or characters up, or shoot them down, I've tried to tell it as I saw it.