Clearance diver

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A US Navy work diver is lowered to the sea bed during a dive from the USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51) off the coast of St. Kitts.
Preparing to raise a mine from the seabed

A clearance diver was originally a specialist naval diver who used explosives underwater to remove obstructions to make harbours and shipping channels safe to navigate, but the term "clearance diver" was later used to include other naval underwater work. Units of clearance divers were first formed during and after World War II to clear ports and harbours in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe of unexploded ordnance and shipwrecks and booby traps laid by the Germans.

In some navies, including the Royal Navy, work divers, which includes ship's divers, must have a lifeline and a line tender when reasonably practicable.


The first units were Royal Navy Mine and Bomb Disposal Units. They were succeeded by the "Port Clearance Parties" (P Parties). The first operations by P Parties included clearing away the debris of unexploded ammunition left during the Normandy Invasion. During World War II Navies used the heavy surface-supplied standard diving dress before changing to lighter self-contained rebreather equipment.[citation needed]


Admission to clearance diver training requires the candidate to pass medical and physical fitness screening and to be a member of the relevant military force.[1]

Scope of activity[edit]

The scope of activity for a clearance diver varies depending on the specific armed force in which they are a member, but historically the most defining competence is skills in underwater demolition using explosives. The closely associated skills in explosive ordnance disposal are also generally implied by the designation.

Nations with clearance diving groups[edit]

US Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) divers


  • Egypt
  • South Africa



United Kingdom[edit]

IWM photo of Lt. Lionel 'Buster' Crabb, RNVR, Officer in Charge of the Underwater Working Party at Gibraltar, dated April 1944
Lionel 'Buster' Crabb, using the DSEA at Gibraltar, April 1944.

Royal Navy naval work divers are officially called Clearance Divers.[9] During WWII divers used the Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus (DSEA), no wetsuit or swimfins.[10] On 17 December 1942, six Italian divers on three manned torpedoes attacked Gibraltar harbour. A British patrol boat killed the crew of one with a depth charge. Their bodies were recovered and their swimfins later used by Gibraltar's guard divers (Sydney Knowles and Commander Lionel Crabb). This was the first known British use of swimfins.[citation needed]

In November 1944, following surrender of Italian forces an Italian frogman brought two Decima Flottiglia issue oxygen rebreathers and a 2-piece frogman's drysuit to Livorno, for the Allies to use. This equipment proved better than the Davis Apparatus and lasted longer on a dive. After the war and until the 1990s divers used the Siebe Gorman rebreather[11][12] and aqualung.[citation needed]

Training to become a Clearance Diver takes around 7 months. Before trainees are accepted onto a course, they must pass a week-long diving aptitude selection, held at the Defence Diving School, on Horsea Island, Portsmouth. This selection involves passing the Divers Physical Fitness Test (DPFT), tests of physical and mental endurance and surface swimming. The candidates are also introduced to the Royal Navy's Swimmers Air Breathing Apparatus and dive in Horsea lake, including night dives. Historically, the failure rate has been high due to the physical and psychological pressures of military diving, so there is a three-day Pre Entry Diving Acquaint (PEDA), which allows prospective candidates to undergo physical and mental tests to give them a better idea of what to expect of the training.[citation needed]

The diving branch is formed of teams, that serve aboard mine hunters, perform domestic bomb, mine and IED disposal and the two Fleet Diving Groups (FDG).

  • Expeditionary Diving Group (EDG) comes under 3 Commando Brigade specialising in Very Shallow Water (VSW) beach reconnaissance operations, working alongside UK Special Forces (UKSF). New members are trained in parachuting, maritime counter-terrorism (MCT) tactics and swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV) operations.[13]
  • Tactical Diving Group (TDG) is the deep-water warfare unit who specialise in sea mine disposal. Members cross-train with EDG.

Clearance divers have been involved in every major British conflict since their inception and have most recently deployed teams to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. They have units operating in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean providing an underwater force protection (UWFP) element. See Operation Kipion.[citation needed]

From 2022 Royal Navy Divers will come under the Diving & Threat Exploitation Group (DTXG) based in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Faslane. It comprises:

  • A Squadron (formerly Tactical Diving Group) Special operations squadron - Horsea Island, Portsmouth.
  • B Squadron (formerly Southern Diving Group) Homeland Defence and IWMAR diving to SURFLOT, geographically distributed between Horsea Island, Portsmouth and HMNB Devonport
  • C Squadron (formerly Northern Diving Group) Homeland Defence and IWMAR diving to SUBFLOT, located in HMNB Clyde.
  • D Squadron (formerly Expeditionary Diving Group) MTG, LRG / JEF(M) facing, located at Horsea Island, Portsmouth.
  • E Squadron (Explosive exploitation) Horsea Island, Portsmouth, with options to disperse force elements to HMNB Clyde and Devonport.[14][15]

North America[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Navy EOD - Diver Training". Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  2. ^ "Estonian Navy - mine countermeasures section".
  3. ^ "Plongeurs-démineurs, l'élite des grands fonds". Le 11 December 2016.
  4. ^ "Castelsarrasin. Phase de tests pour entrer parmi l'élite des plongeurs de combats du génie".
  5. ^ "Prepare the way: German Navy mine divers".
  6. ^ "Irish Defence Forces – Naval Service Diving Section (NSDS)".
  7. ^ "Norway's Naval divers and Clearance Diver force".
  8. ^ "Diving division in Skredsvik, Sweden, Sailors & Officers trained as Naval divers".
  9. ^ "The RN Clearance Diving Branch".
  10. ^ pp 16-20, issue 41, Historical Diving Times.ISSN 1368-0390
  11. ^ Quick, D. (1970). "A History Of Closed Circuit Oxygen Underwater Breathing Apparatus". Royal Australian Navy, School of Underwater Medicine. RANSUM-1-70. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2009.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ Goble, Steve (2003). "Rebreathers". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal. 33 (2): 98–102. Archived from the original on 8 August 2009. Retrieved 20 March 2009.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  13. ^ Elite UK Forces - Fleet Diving Units
  14. ^ "Royal Navy divers transform to create new elite mission teams".
  15. ^ "MCDOA Latest News".
  16. ^ "Canadian Department national defence policies Section 8009-0, Forces Diving". 13 November 2013.
  17. ^ Australian clearance divers tasks include rendering and safe disposal of conventional ordnance and improvised explosive devices.
  18. ^ Rudolph, Jack; Sweeney, Taff. "Navy Clearance Diver". Australian Diver Accreditation Scheme. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  19. ^ New Zealand Navy Divers