Plymouth's John Smith commended for 50 years as a Royal Navy diver
A GRANDFATHER-of-six who has dealt with bombs, bodies, bank heists and pirates has just been awarded a certificate to recognise his 50 years as a naval diver and instructor.
Sixty-nine-year-old John Smith, from Plympton, was recently given a surprise special commendation certificate from the Royal Navy to mark his time as a Navy diver.
Dad-of-four John has cleared mines, searched for bodies for the police, blown up dangerous old wrecks, been on anti-piracy duty and even recovered large sums of money from villains.
He said: "I joined the Navy in June 1960. One of my earlier ships was HMS Belfast, it was here that I started to visualise my career as a navy diver and on joining the Far East Fleet in 1962, I took my first step on the ladder and qualified as a Shallow Water Diver.
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"It was the time of the conflict in Borneo and I spent nearly two years in the Far East visiting Japan, Hong Kong and many other exotic places. We had to search ship bottoms checking for terrorist explosives and carrying out ship maintenance."
By 1966 John was back from the Gulf, where he also served, and became a fully qualified naval clearance diver. Then it was back to sea for fishing protection and anti-terrorism duties aboard a mine hunter where he was called to deal with WW2 mines in the Thames and near Falmouth.
Back on land again John joined the Scottish and Northern Ireland dive team.
"We were involved in bomb and mine disposal, including Orkney and Shetland and we did a lot of work for the police, particularly searching for bodies because in the early 70s they did not have their own diving team," he said.
While a member of that team he worked on demolishing the remnants of HMS Natal, helped remove ammunition from the wreck of HMS Drake and also diffused a mine before it could become disentangled from a dredger – something he was later commended for.
By 1979 John was back in Plymouth as part of the bomb and mine disposal team for the South West. This included the Channel Islands, the south west coast around Devon and Cornwall and the west coast up as far as Cumbria.
John later became chief instructor for the joint services sport diving school in Plymouth, where he was awarded an MBE for his contribution to diving, and retired from the Royal Navy, after 41 years service as a Warrant Officer, in December 2000.
John said diving has given him "a fantastic life".
On leaving, he was presented with a lifetime achievement award from the diving organisation BSAC. He was asked to continue to contribute his expertise as a part-time instructor for the Combined Cadet Forces dive team, which he still continues to do, and for a time he also worked for the Diving Diseases Research Centre in Plymouth.
To mark his 50 years diving service John received his certificate from Commander Chris Baldwin, Superintendent of Diving for the Royal Navy.
He was presented the certificate as a surprise at the Bovisand Diving Centre after a leisure dive with friends.