Royal Navy divers head for an Egyptian dive in 1977

From left to right: Lt-Commander David Bartlett, Seaman Diver Dean Harris and Chief Petty Officer Diver Joe Maher.
From left to right: Lt-Commander David Bartlett, Seaman Diver Dean Harris and Chief Petty Officer Diver Joe Maher.

Lt-Commander David Bartlett, 44, from Farlington, left HMS Vernon, Portsmouth, with a team of Royal Navy divers to help save an ancient monument resting beneath the waters of the Aswan Dam, Egypt.

Earlier in 1977, navy divers co-operated with Egyptian counterparts in rescuing the Gate of Diocletian from the submerged island of Philae, bringing thousands of tons to the surface. 

A multi-million pound steel coffer dam was built on the island so that the majority of priceless monuments could be removed by stone to be re-erected on the island of Agilkia. 

But the Gate of Diocletian and the Temple of Augustus Caesar had to be left outside the dam, still submerged, because of expense. 

The gateway had been recovered and the Royal Navy divers, with their Egyptian colleagues, had six months to recover the remains of the temple, which was the earliest Roman monument in Egypt. Lt-Commander David Bartlett, who had been a diver for 15 years, said: ‘This job is going to be more difficult because there is nothing showing above the mud. 

‘While working in about four metres of water, we will have to shift roughly 5,000 cubic metres of mud before we start to lift the temple stones, which weigh up to 3,000 tonnes.’

Lt-Commander Bartlett added it would let younger divers gain good experience. One of the divers under his command was 17-year-old Seaman Dean Harris, of Cowplain, who had been diving and repairing submarines at Faslane.