Divers have since long had a close relation to the Submarine arms and Subsafe. As a consequence of a great investigation on submarine safety 1932, diving activities became closely connected to the submarine flotilla and the submarine salvage ship HMS BELOS 1. The divers primary education took place at the Karlskrona base and in Stockholm with support of the Navy yards in those places. Resources were assembled at the Divers test tanks were the divers courses were administered. Diver’s boats ”launches” were to be found in all navy districts.

Divers course 1947
Divers course 1947 under way on the divers launch. Photo U3 archives.

Divers’ practicing was sometimes combined with salvage operations. So was for instance the salvage operation of the German type XXI sub, U3503 carried out by that year’s course of heavy divers. Later a similar task was the salvaging of the 17th century man of war VASA.

Diving at the U 3503 1946.
Diving at the U 3503 1946. Photo U3 archives.

The divers were trained on a submarine mockup to learn the technique of affixing the hauldown wire of the rescue bell. On special occasions this was tested on true submarines. They were also trained to connect HP-air hoses for blowing a submarine to the surface.

Picking up lost items and particularly lost torpedoes become a standard task.  Diving deeper than 40 metres required  special training performed on the HMS BELOS. Deep diving divers could work down to approx. 75 metres.

An aircraft engine is salvaged by navy divers 1949.
An aircraft engine is salvaged by navy divers 1949. Photo U3 archives.

Hard hat divers onboard the HMS Holmön,Hard hat divers onboard the HMS Holmön,
Hard hat divers onboard the HMS Holmön, a mine sweeper. Photo U3 archives.

Submarine salvage pickets were organized within each navy district. On the Swedish west coast there was a second rescue bell together with further equipment for diving and mooring. The submarine picket regularly practised rescue operations, utilising local pilot ships as carriers for the rescue bells named SVEA and GÖTA.

Rescue practice with a pilot ship. rescue bell GÖTA.
Rescue practice with a pilot ship. To the right the rescue bell GÖTA. Photo U3 archives.

The Navy also had light divers as clearance divers, attack divers and ships divers.

Diving technology today is more refined including mixed gas apparatuses. Noticeable is the development of the divers suits from the old days dry suit via wet suits back to dry suits and more refined suits including heating gear

Photo U3 archives.

Every submariner was trained in free escape in the special diving tank. In the beginning this meant utilizing breathing apparatuses and operation of the lockout equipment in the training tank and on board. Later the breathing apparatuses were abandoned and a built in breathing system, BIBS was introduced for supplying breathing air until the moment of leaving the boat

To maintain skill in free escape, a test was performed each year including medical examination of each submariner.

Training in the diving tankmedical check.
Training in the diving tank and medical check. Photo U3 archives.

For those interested in the history of diving, there is a Diving History Society at the old Navy yard in central Stockholm, homepage http://www.sdhf.se/