Thailand – Australia – United Kingdom

Army Divers Tackle Sharks

Army divers dodged sharks in Yarmouth as they helped clean an aquarium.

The diving team from 23 Engineer Regiment, based at Woodbridge, Suffolk, was at the resort’s Sea Life centre to give its main tank a good scrub to help them with their training.

As the 12 divers cleaned the tank they had to keep a watchful eye out for zebra, nurse, black tip and bamboo sharks as they circled around.

The divers, who served in Afghanistan last year and are more used to diving in murky water up to 50m deep, relished the chance to mix with the sharks and two large turtles as they rarely got to swim near the creatures during their training.

As well as using scrubbing brushes to clean up the tank, the soldiers carefully brought up shark egg cases so they could be put in a breeding area.

Major Ken Lillicrap, who was the first diver in, said: “The sharks did not come near me as they seemed a bit wary and we were very conscious that we would do nothing that would upset them.

“Some of the guys here have never dived with sharks before and it gives them a chance to swim near them.”

The visit was organised by Sgt Pete Donnelly after he visited Yarmouth’s Sea Life centre with his wife before going to Afghan-istan and got talking to staff about how tanks were cleaned.

Sgt Donnelly said his unit had enjoyed the rare chance to dive with the sharks and he hoped the team would now regularly use the tank to help with training.

The divers normally go on training dives at a local reservoir and Ipswich docks.

On operations, they can swim three miles out from the shore on demolition and construction work.

In Afghanistan, 23 Engineer Regiment’s team of 36 divers was used in more traditional land-based engineering roles as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade’s six- month tour.

Christine Pitcher, Sea Life’s displays supervisor, said: “We believe this is the first time that army divers have ever dived at a Sea Life centre. Sharks can be totally unpredictable creatures.”

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