Soldiers work to clean Wet Dock

PLUNGING into the pitch black depths of the Wet Dock isn't necessarily how most people would spend a sunny morning on Ipswich waterfront.

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PLUNGING into the pitch black depths of the Wet Dock isn't necessarily how most people would spend a sunny morning on Ipswich waterfront.

But divers from 23 Engineer Regiment, based at Rock Barracks, Woodbridge, did exactly that yesterday.

A section of Eagle Wharf was transformed into a hive of activity as the team of 10 took part in a training exercise to remove underwater obstacles that were preventing ships from mooring at the quayside.


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Major Kev Lillicrap said: “There is around about a third of our team here today - there are currently 35 divers at the barracks.

“As Royal Engineers we have an underwater engineering capability and anything that we're able to do on land we should also be able to do underwater - from search and recovery all the way through to demolitions.

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“It's zero visibility down there under the water. The guys are feeling around with their hands - they can't see anything at all.”

Maj Lillicrap said the barracks was contacted by timber importer Anglo-Norden - which uses Eagle Wharf - and asked to find obstructions that they believed were preventing ships from pulling alongside the quay.

“Obviously we have to maintain our capacity and competency and every so often we arrange a small training exercise such as this to keep the guys up to date with the types of equipment that we are using.

“When Anglo-Norden asked if we would be able to come along we were only too happy to help because it was an ideal opportunity.

“We believe there are six old pier legs and we are sending divers in to find them and hopefully cut them down using a chainsaw.”

The divers were in radio contact the whole time during their descent and their progress was being beamed back by video camera to television screens in a truck parked on the quayside.

The engineers returned from Afghanistan just before Christmas, after six months serving all over the Helmand province.

Maj Lillicrap said the barracks would like to thank the local sea cadets who were letting the divers use their hut as a base for the training session.

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