My dear friend Emma who is one of the most vibrant and gorgeous girls I have ever met, very sadly lost a really important man to her last year. She lost her Dad. He wasn’t just an important man to her; he was extremely important to a big old bunch of people who miss him dearly. His name was Paul and he was a Seaman and Diver. On the day of his funeral the entourage of folk who turned up to bid him fair well at Portsmouth Cathedral was a sight that overwhelmed his family. Boat horns blared in the background as they lined up along Southsea Seafront, his hometown. People waited in the streets outside the church where his service was held to pay their respects and it was a real site. He was a very special person and his life had been quite incredible.
I didn’t know Paul well but when I found out about what he had done with his life I was devastated that I hadn’t got to talk with him more. There is something about meeting other divers and hearing their stories that is absolute treasure. Their experiences are dive history and his watery career was expansive. I am sad that I didn’t get to speak with him more about his dive life because I think I could have learnt a lot from him and would have really enjoyed just listening to his stories. Emma showed me some photos of him at work with his dive pals and I was desperate to share them with her permission. She agreed and here we are.
Diving isn’t a job that just anyone can do. It is really hard to learn how to do well and safely. I am totally inspired by divers who reach high levels of training like Paul did. Not everyone really understands how much work goes into that. Being in the water is just like being in space. Everything you know is all of a sudden flipped upside down and different and the ability to operate in such a strange environment is a real skill.
It takes a certain type of person to deal with problems that arise in extreme conditions, let alone work whilst they do it. Again, it will always be something that non divers find it hard to relate too. We have all been on hairy dives before, ones where the current catches you unexpectedly or where the temperature is so fiercely cold that you feel numb all over. Those dives that don’t go to plan or you have to end because things came up that you couldn’t predict. You need a calm demeanor and an intelligent way of approaching problems.
I can only wonder about all of Paul’s experiences underwater and imagine what some of the dives he went on were like. As a diver his history fascinates me.
Emma kindly shared a statement that went out about Paul just after his death in January 2021.
‘Paul was something of a legend. Massively popular, always able to put a smile on peoples faces and hugely engaging. Nothing was too much trouble for Paul and he was the kind of person you would want at your side in a crisis or when the going got tough.
Paul was 58 years old when he died of Covid related complications. He enjoyed an extensive career supporting the Royal Navy since joining the RMAS as a junior seaman in 1978. He served on numerous vessels including torpedo recovery ships before settling on the dog class tug setter as an able seaman. In 1987 Paul transferred to the moorings section and then in 1989 to the diving section.
Paul was the last RMAS diver to conduct a deep dive, looking for a crashed phantom jet off Lundy Island in 64 meters of water. He took part in the recovery of aircraft in Dunkirk and dived with the team in Canada.
In 2000 Paul went back to the moorings section and transferred to Serco in 2008 before joining the PC section in Portsmouth. He was an avid Portsmouth FC supporter and a pillar in his community and a proud upholder of our country’s military heritage and sacrifices. He will be dearly missed.’ Duncan Foster, Head of Portsmouth Operations, Maritime Services.