A Naval Career in Clearance Diving – Jake Linton

Author
Subjects
Biographies and personal histories, RAN operations
Tags
RAN Ships
,
Publication
March 2007 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)

By the early 1960s I had progressed to Chief Petty Officer Instructor Clearance Diver and was the Chief Boatswain’s Mate of the Flagship HMAS Melbourne. I had reached the top of my profession as a Non Commissioned Officer and I was 29 years old. My boss suggested that I should try for a Commission and so, after much study (I had left school at 13) I passed the Higher Education Certificate. Along with another Clearance Diver, Doug Moore, GM BEM, I was enrolled in HMS St. George Special Duties Officer School at Portsmouth. After a most interesting and difficult 8-month long course, Doug topped the course and I passed. We were promoted Acting Sub Lieutenants in January 1965 and commenced a 2-year stint in the Royal Navy.

My introduction to the Wardroom was ‘on’ HMS Aisne (you were never ‘in’ Aisne, I was told). I was designated the Upper Deck Mate, Diving Officer and Wine Caterer. Upper Deck Mate and Diving Officer were no problem, being the Wine Caterer was an education in itself and I found how easy it was to fall out of favour with other members of the Wardroom. I personally couldn’t see much wrong with Sparkling Star Wine, Porphyry Pearl or Ben Ean Moselle; besides, all the others available seemed much too expensive. Aisne was yet another eye opener, we commenced the Portland work up but failed after 6 weeks. The Captain and Engineer were relieved, and we did another work up and sailed for the Far East the day after completing it.

My time in the UK was soon over and I returned to Australia and joined HMAS Vendetta for a short period, then back to Rushcutter and the Diving School as Training Officer in 1968. The Diving School moved to HMAS Penguin in 1969 and I remained there until 1970. I was Training Officer and Course Officer for the 1969 MCDO’s Course. This course saw the long awaited transfer of LCDR Ian McConnochie from the Supply Branch to the Seaman’s Branch and his qualification as a Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Officer, a feat with no precedence and one that hasn’t been overshadowed. Ian has to hold the record of being the oldest person to qualify MCDO, apart from Jackie Homewood. Ian remains a firm friend and is the current NSW President of the Clearance Divers Association. My last task at the school was the writing of an addendum to the RAN Diving Manual covering the Draeger FGT1 Mixed gas Diving Equipment the replacement for the CDBA 5561A.

In May of 1970 I took command of the 7th Clearance Diving Team 3, in training to deploy to Vietnam. We departed for Vietnam in October 1970 and remained in country until May 1971. This was another memorable experience that would fill its own book; suffice to say my six-man Team had six vehicles, two boats, enough weaponry to support a small war, colour TV and stereophonic sound.

Exchange posting

When I returned from Vietnam I was posted to HMAS Torrens to qualify for my Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate. While we were on deployment in the Far East I was offered a three year exchange posting with the USN at their Fleet and Mine Warfare Training Centre in Charleston South Carolina. I jumped at the chance and within three weeks of returning to Australia my family and I had packed and moved to the United States.

My tour with the USN was a great experience and gave me a new look at our contemporaries, having had three years with the RN and then a tour of Vietnam working for the USN and now a further three years working within the USN in the US. I could see we, the RAN, were second to none. I qualified as a Staff Mine Warfare Officer while in the States and then began teaching the trade. I participated in the Planning of the Minesweeping operation of Hanoi, Operation End Sweep, and also the Mine Clearance Operations in the Suez Canal. Sadly I didn’t make it to either event, as the USN did not want any third country nationals confusing the diplomatic issues. I did manage to own two Ford Mustangs during my tour but didn’t manage to get the petrol out of my veins.

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