No sinking feeling for scuba star Thomas

Thomas Hilder, front centre, with his coursemates
Thomas Hilder, front centre, with his coursemates

A SCUBA diver could be sent to the frontline in Afghanistan after completing a gruelling Royal Navy course with flying colours.

Able Seaman Diver Thomas Hilder, 22, developed a love of diving growing up here in 1066 Country and wanted to pursue his passion further after joining the Navy last summer.

Now he is celebrating after coming through the intense specialist clearance diver training at the Defence Diving School in Portsmouth - scooping two special awards from his instructors in the process.

Clearance divers work with UK forces overseas and are sent under water to hunt down and clear improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and more traditional mines. They also help train the Afghan National Security Forces.

ASD Hilder received his certificate and awards from Commodore Paddy McAlpine, the Navy’s top diver, who said: “You have to earn your place in this branch, you have to work very hard. There is no harder, more physically demanding course in the Royal Navy. The equipment they will be using is fantastic as is the training they have been given. They should be very proud of what they have achieved.”

The newly-qualified specialists put on a live diving display as part of an action-packed graduation ceremony and ASD Hilder admitted the course had lived up to its unforgiving reputation. “It was the toughest but most rewarding six months to date,” he said.