New tribute revealed in Portsmouth marking heroism of navy fallen clearance divers

The ceremony to open the memorial garden    Picture: Keith Woodland

The ceremony to open the memorial garden Picture: Keith Woodland

Chris Purcell, who was onboard HMS Sheffield.
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A MEMORIAL garden marking the heroism of fallen navy divers has been unveiled.

The new tribute is based at the home of the Senior Service’s elite clearance divers unit, at the Defence Diving School, on Horsea Island.

The idea was the brain child of Warrant Officer Steve Vernon and has been two years in the making.

WO Vernon, who is the chairman of the Royal Navy Clearance Divers’ Association (RNCDA), linked with diving school staff to design the commemoration to all former divers who have lost their lives.

As part of the project, WO Vernon enrolled the help of students on landscaping and builders’ courses at Fareham College to create the garden.

Together, the team worked to design the perfect space which has now been formally dedicated during an official ceremony.

Among those to attend the service were several original divers who served during the Second World War.

They included Gerald Morris, a member of the original Divers’ Association and Second World War veteran diver. He listened as the names of all 268 divers who had lost their lives were read out.

He said: ‘I served with many of those whose names were read out today,

‘I was so glad to hear that some of my old shipmates have been remembered.’

After the names were read out a bell was rung five times, traditionally an indication for all divers to start, finish or complete their work.

Captain Jim Nisbet, a navy diver, was the guest of honour at the event and unveiled the plaque at the garden before addressing the gathered guests,

He said: ‘I am truly honoured, delighted and humbled to be here today and to be asked to unveil this memorial garden plaque.

‘It is a magnificent and long overdue memorial to the branch. Great credit to the association for making this happen.’

Alex Carroll, 17, from Fareham, was one of the students from Fareham College involved with the clearance and landscaping of the project .

He said: ‘I was honoured to be asked to be involved with the project and also to be invited to attend today. It was a very respectful event.’

The Defence Diving School is the centre for all military diving training in the British armed forces.

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