An explosive challenge for Portsmouth-based divers

HMS Duncan has returned to Portsmouth after spending three months in the Mediterranean Picture:  L/Phot Louise George

HMS Duncan returns to Portsmouth after three months away at sea

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CLEARANCE divers from the Royal Navy have blasted their way through a highly-charged Nato exercise in Iceland.

A dozen members of the navy’s Southern Diving Group joined about 200 others from Nato and Partner for Peace countries for the exercise, called Northern Challenge.

Members of the group – which has units based in Portsmouth and Plymouth – faced a range of challenges both on land and sea during the two-week exercise.

Commanding officer Lieutenant Commander Al Nekrews said: ‘Exercise Northern Challenge takes these multi-national teams and brings them together for a realistic threat-based scenario which develops rapidly on land and in the water.

‘Iceland is an excellent place to train as we can use live weapons and explosives, so it is an opportunity to make the training as realistic as possible.

‘The Royal Navy is capable of operating at land and in the maritime environment, but our niche capability is the underwater explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) capability.’

The teams all had to work to the Nato doctrine while ensuring they also kept to their own nation’s standard operating procedures.

Petty Officer Andrew ‘Snowy’ Davies of the Danish Navy – a former Royal Navy diver – was one of the exercise assessors.

PO Davies said about the challenge: ‘On land there are a lot of actions you can take to ensure that you never have to expose an operator to an explosive device by using the robots, for example.’