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With all of these enjoyable reminiscences about first night dives, there's
no way that I'm going to miss out on telling a, 'Tall Tale'!  :-)

For those among you who *may* have heard it before, I make no apologies for
repeating it!  :-)

My father's family had strong ties with the Navy.  My grand-father was an
early submariner and Navy 'hard-hat' diver.  Another of his sons was a
commercial 'hard-hat' diver who travelled the world and had a wealth of
yarns to tell - and there was a third uncle, also involved in diving, whom
I'd never met.

In 1963 - on my eighteenth birthday - I joined the Royal Navy.   As soon as
I'd completed basic training, I volunteered to become a diver.

Together with the other - older - hopefuls, I turned up at the Diving School
with my kit bag over my shoulder and my draft papers clutched in my hand and
presented myself to the Chief Petty Officer Clearance Diver in charge of the
school.

"What's your name, Lad?"

"Strike, Chief!"

"Strike! Strike!  I've got some relatives called Strike.  What's your
father's name?"

"Roy, Chief"

"Roy, eh!  Well, I'm your uncle, lad.  You WILL pass this course!"

"There's nothing wrong with a bit of helpful nepotism."  I thought -
mistaking his order for a statement and not fully appreciating the
situation. :-)

As soon as it was learned that I was related to the Chief, all of the
instructors
made my life hell.  'Wannabes' like me were rarely failed.  The usual
practice was to make life unbearable so that people voluntarily failed
themselves by dropping out of the course.  I was younger and much, much
fitter in those days and completing the programme was - as far as I was
concerned - less to do with family honour as it was with fear of the verbal
abuse and scorn that failure would bring down on my head!

Our first night dive was scheduled using surface demand diving equipment
with full face-mask, a pair of small 'come-home' cylinders in the event that
the surface air-supply failed - and a pair of rubber, lace-on boots with hea
vy lead soles.

Eight of us kitted up in 'body-bags' sat on the deck listening to terrifying
tales told by the Instructor Petty-Officers as the boat splashed its way
through the spray to the dive site where anchor lines were laid to position
us over a deep 'hole'!  A shot line with a heavy concrete block was paid out
and hung suspended at a depth of a 120 feet.

 "Who's going to be first to volunteer?  You'll do, Strike!"

Without benefit of a light, I was kitted up, a life-line was attached and I
was told to descend to the shot and sit there until they signalled me to
come up!  With both hands firmly gripping the rope, I slid slowly down into
the blackness until my boots touched the concrete block.  And there I
remained, hanging on like grim death in the light current, until I gradually
becoming aware of the bio-luminescence that spiralled around me.

I had no idea, at that time, what it was and thought that it might have been
my mind playing tricks until I closed my eyes and all the bright sparks and
flashes dissapeared.  Everytime I opened my eyes the spinning effect seemed
to worsen.  Periodically I received a pull on the life-line to check that I
was still conscious and alive - and to remind me that all I had to do was
give four pulls, (or more<G>),  on the line if I wanted to come up and fail
the course.

(Unbeknownst to my tenders, I was down below, eyes scrunched tightly shut
and so cold and terrified that I'd forgotten the signal procedures!)  :-)

After what seemed like hours - but was actually only measured in minutes - I
received the signal to ascend.  I cannot begin to describe the sense of
relief as I slowly hauled myself up the shot-rope, periodically venting air
from my suit through the cuff seal.

As my tender was unlacing the lead boots, I was handed a steaming mug of tea
and a cigarette and asked if I was OK?  I nodded, but was so cold that my
teeth were chattering and I was incapable of speech.  On the ascent I'd
mentally rehearsed what I was going to tell the Petty Officer to do with his
diving course, but before I could do so he said, "I don't know about the
rest of you, but I'm cold and tired.  No need for anybody else to do the
dive.  Let's head home and have a tot of rum!"

His words found a sympathetic and enthusiastic listener.  I chickened out of
delivering my speech!  :-)

After that first experience night dives just got better! But for one day, I
was truly the 'Prince of Darkness'!  :-)

Strike