Royal Navy Northern Diving Group recover an ensign from wreck of HMS Royal Oak to fly new ensign for 79th anniversary 251018 CREDIT ROYAL NAVY
Navy

Royal Navy Diving Team Given Freedom Of Orkney

The HMNB Clyde-based diving team are one of only 12 recipients ever to be given the honour.

Royal Navy Northern Diving Group recover an ensign from wreck of HMS Royal Oak to fly new ensign for 79th anniversary 251018 CREDIT ROYAL NAVY

The Freedom of Orkney has been bestowed on the Royal Navy's Northern Diving Group (NDG) in recognition of its "outstanding work".

The HMNB Clyde-based divers have long-established links with the island going back more than 40 years.

Voted for by Orkney Council, the honour recognises how the team has kept the community safe through the disposal of modern and historic ordnance, like torpedoes and mines. 

Harvey Johnston, councillor and convener of Orkney Islands Council, said the team has been "indispensable over decades".

"Top of their service to our citizens is safely removing ordnance which every so often is found by members of the public," he said.

"They really are friends of Orkney and I am certain they will carry this honour proudly."

The honour also marks the team's long-standing historic connection in commemorating those lost in the sinking of HMS Royal Oak.

The battleship was torpedoed by a German U-boat at Scapa Flow during the Second World War.

Councillor Stephen Clackson spoke at the council meeting in support of the team's nomination, citing a personal connection through his uncle who was one of the 835 killed when HMS Royal Oak was sunk on 14 October 1939.

"I have attended many of the memorial services held each year at Scapa on the anniversary of that fateful day, at which the Northern Diving Group plays a key part," he said. 

"I am sure I speak on behalf of all the 'Royal Oak families' in supporting this nomination to confer the Freedom of Orkney on the Royal Navy Northern Diving Group."

In an annual ceremony and as a mark of respect, clearance divers replace the White Ensign on the designated war grave wreck – the NDG has carried out this role since it was formed in 1995.

The NDG is just one of 12 recipients to have received the Freedom of Orkney.

 Orkney island in northern Scotland 080319 CREDIT DEFOREST/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
File photo of Orkney (Picture: DeForest/Alamy Stock Photo).

NDG Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Mark Shaw, said: "I am very aware that this type of award is not often issued and reserved for individuals or organisations with particularly close links with Orkney.

"To be only the 12th recipient of the Freedom of Orkney is a distinct privilege and both myself and the team at NDG are very much looking forward to receiving the Freedom."

The award will be formally marked later in the summer if COVID restrictions allow.

Other recipients include the Royal Navy ship HMS Orkney and the Queen's Own Highlanders.

The NDG is one of two Fleet Diving Squadron area diving groups whose mission is to provide diving, explosive ordnance disposal and in-water maintenance and repair to the fleet.

The 39-strong team covers a vast area that was exposed to many bombing raids during the Second World War, from the highwater mark in Liverpool, stretching 12 nautical miles out to sea, encompassing Hull, Northern Ireland, the Scottish Western Isles, Shetland, and the Orkneys.

Cover image: Divers from the NDG replace the White Ensign on the wreck of HMS Royal Oak (Picture: Royal Navy).