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Diving Training Unit (Army)

The Location, History and Role of Diving Training Unit (Army) (DTU(A))

The Royal Navy and the Royal Engineer Diving Establishment combined their diver training assets to form the Defence Diving School (DDS) at Horsea Island in September 1995. This was not the first time the RE and RN had joined forces at Horsea, as the facility itself is centred on a former torpedo test range, which was built by the Royal Engineers on behalf of the Admiralty in the 1880s.

Subsequent landfill operations have long since joined two sides of Horsea Island to the Portsmouth mainland; next to port Solent. The site itself is an outpost of HMS EXCELLENT, and comes under the Command of The Maritime Warfare School. Diving Training Unit (Army) (DTU(A), formally Royal Engineer Diver Training Wing) is an integral part of this Joint Service Unit and moved from HMS VERNON (what is now Gunwharf Quays).

The first recorded military interest in diving came in 1838 when Colonel Pasley, Royal Engineers, of the School of Military Engineering at Chatham undertook to demolish the wreck of a collier blocking the fairway of the Thames at Tilbury. After unsuccessful attempts to position the charges using the diving bell from the Naval Dockyard Pasley trained a number of his soldiers in the use of Mr Kemp's diving equipment, having first tested the concept himself and thus become the first Service diver on 28 April that year.

Within a short period charges had been successfully laid by divers of the Royal Sappers and Miners and the wreck demolished. Encouraged by this success he turned his attention the following year to the wreck of the Royal George at Spithead and over 5 subsequent years conducted salvage operations and demolished both this and a number of other wrecks in the area. During this period he evaluated a number of different types of diving equipment and in his final technical report commended the use of Siebe's diving dress for 'public service'. Having persuaded the Navy of the advantages of this equipment over the unwieldy Dockyard diving bell; he subsequently detached LCpl Jones to HMS EXCELLENT to train a party of 13 Petty Officers and Seamen in its use.

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