About Us

The Canadian Naval Divers Association (CNDA) was founded in January 1981 at Halifax, Nova Scotia. The founding members of the Association were: Andre Desrochers, Stanley F. Watts, Leo Goneau, Terry Havlik, Glenn Adams, and Michael Walsh. The first president was Stanley F. Watts and the current national chairman is Wally Green.

This site is published by the Canadian Naval Divers Association (CNDA). Its purpose is to keep the Naval Trained Diver, both Active and Retired, informed and aware of what is happening within CNDA and other matters pertaining to Service Diving in Canada. It is also intended to keep you in touch with others of the diving community who may have been your friends and diving team members from those tremendous days in the past.

Clearance Diving History

Up until 1945, diving in the Canadian Navy was conducted by Royal Navy trained hard-hat divers. Taskings were limited to salvage and ship repair in shallow waters. Following the Second World War, it was apparent of the need for mine-disposal divers to be utilized for harbour defense and coastal mine clearance.
The first Canadian Dive Unit was formed in 1949 as a mine disposal organization. This unit was stationed at HMCS Stadacona and training was conducted in the United States and in England . Once enough trained personnel were available, training of non-commissioned members began to take place in Halifax .

It was quickly noticed that many of the mine-disposal tasks duplicated the taskings of the harbour repair unit and in August of 1952, the Diving & Ordnance Disposal School & Training Centre was formed. This new unit conducted operations throughout Europe and Canada 's coast as well as many operations in the Artic Ocean .

After going through many months of deliberation and training, the Clearance Diver Branch of the Navy was formed. This new branch allowed for personnel to be trained as full-time divers. Up until then, the Navy trained divers as a secondary duty. Doing so prevented efficiency in keeping qualified instructors and mine disposal divers. This new branch gained a highly sought after status as a professional and rewarding career for numerous members of the Navy and the Armed Forces of Canada. Originally located at the French Cable Wharf in Dartmouth , the unit moved to its present location at Shearwater in June of 1974. 

By the Late Chuck Rolfe (CPO1 1951 to 1989)

We sometimes are asked, "What's in it for me?" In this day and age, when value for money is the driving force on everyone's bank account, this is a fair question. We are pleased to respond by drawing attention to the benefits and advantages that can be gained by becoming a member of the Canadian Naval Divers Association and maintaining your membership with the Association's Chapters.

It's our mandate to:

  1. Bring together in mutual friendship those who were trained as Divers at the Naval Diving Units or Establishments.

  2. Keep the members informed of and in contact with, each other and the Association by means of Communication Lists, newsletters, meetings, Reunions, socials, etc.

  3. Mutually support each other as necessary.

  4. Provide a central record of (and how they may be located) their long lost friends.

  5. Maintain links with the Diving Units and other appropriate organizations.

  6. Provide for establishing new Chapters, when required, in various regions of the country.

What does all this mean? A Quarterly newsletter (the DIPPERS DIGEST) is provided, which is a means of contact for members searching for their long lost friends, as well as being a forum for sending in informative articles. The Association maintains a national Communication List which provides the names addresses and where known, phone numbers of all Divers (not just those who are members) of whom we are aware. This started with a small listing of 30 Divers, increasing to 225 in 1989, and which is now well over the 300 mark. It is encouraging to hear that some members have already been in touch with other diving shipmates and stated that they have even been able to visit some of their chums who they haven't seen or heard from in over 20 to 40 years. Each Chapter also conducts social events for their members, thereby providing for social interaction by their members. With the meetings and triennial Reunions, it is felt that there is now an adequate means for friends to get together. This has been achieved in the few short years we have been active, which we believe is quite a good record for such a young organization -WITH YOUR SUPPORT IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER!
 Naval Diving Now

The Fleet Diving Units on both coasts were established shortly after the Second World War as mine countermeasures diving units, and this task remains one of their primary responsibilities. Both FDU(P) and FDU(A) have the same core capabilities and conduct Clearance Diver training to maintain their high professional standard. These core capabilities are:

  1. Mine Counter-Measures (MCM);
  2. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD);
  3. Battle Damage Repair (BDR); and
  4. Force Protection Support (FP Support).

In order to maintain this standard, members of the diving units carry out numerous diving and demolition tasks and exercises, often in cooperation with foreign Navies such as the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. Canadian Clearance Divers also complete a rigorous and intensive training program. All Clearance Divers begin as either ship's team divers or combat divers, where they will spend several years completing tasks using CABA (aka SCUBA) diving equipment. After this period they may volunteer to become Clearance Divers and must complete a gruelling two-week preliminary course. On the "prelim" they are assessed by instructors while competing for a limited number of positions on course. If accepted, they will then complete a one year course learning to use numerous different types of diving equipment as well as diving medicine, recompression treatment and chamber operation, demolition and Explosive Ordnance Disposal, underwater welding and cutting, ice diving, underwater photography and many other tasks. On successful completion of the course the students are awarded the coveted "dolphin" badge of the Clearance Diver.

Once in the unit the divers will be assigned to one of several sections. The Mine Countermeasures (MCM) section is responsible for mine detection and disposal, and maintains its proficiency through both exercises and actual taskings. The BDR (Battle Damage Repair) section carries out numerous ship repair tasks (such as removing and replacing ship's propellers and sonar domes) throughout the year. In addition, the BDR section is prepared to deploy at short notice anywhere in the world to carry out neutralization of ordnance and repair of underwater damage incurred in the modern Naval combat environment. BDR is also capable of carrying out salvage operations (including surveying and raising sunken vessels). The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) section carries out land-based bomb disposal tasks for their regions of responsibility, as well as investigating and disposing of unexploded military ordnance.

EOD's role has become increasingly important in recent years, and it now responds to dozens of calls each year, including such things as wartime "souvenir" ammunition or commercial explosives. The Repair section maintains all of the diving gear, and operates the unit's recompression chambers. Repair also maintains and operates Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV's). The Training section runs courses for all Canadian Forces Divers (including Air Force Search and Rescue Technicians, Army Combat Divers, and Navy Ship's Team, Reserve Inspection, and Clearance Divers). Additionally, the respective diving unit may be tasked with additional responsibilities such as submarine search and rescue, recompression treatment of diving casualties, or scientific research projects.

A variety of diving equipment is used by Canadian Clearance Divers. CABA gear (consisting of a US Divers Regulator or AGA full face masks plus twin aluminum 80 cu ft bottles) is used for the majority of ship repair and other shallow water tasks. Mine Countermeasure tasks are accomplished using the Canadian Clearance Diver Apparatus (CCDA) and the Canadian Underwater Mine Apparatus (CUMA), both of which are Canadian-designed rebreathers, built by Fullerton-Sherwood in Mississauga, Ontario. CCDA is a set-flow Nitrox rebreather capable of diving to 180 feet sea water (FSW), while CUMA is a variable-flow Heliox rebreather with onboard diagnostics capable of diving to 270 fsw (Nitrox is an enriched oxygen mixture, such as 60% 02 40% N2 while the Heliox rebreather supplies a set amount of pure oxygen and adds increasing amounts of helium to this as the diver descends). For deep non-MCM diving, the Kirby-Morgan Superlite 17 helmet with surface supplied mixed gas (compressed air or Heliox) is used. At the deeper depths a hot water suit is also used to prevent hypothermia from the extreme cold.

Additional equipment used by members of the unit includes several recompression chambers (including the Drager Duocom chamber which is portable and capable of fly-away operations), underwater cutting and welding gear, hydraulic and pneumatic tools, video and photographic equipment, hand-held and side-scan sonar's, and two ROV's; the advanced "Phantom IV' deep underwater vehicle and the larger "Trailblazer" Bottom Object Investigation Vehicle. The Diving Unit also possesses many vessels used for support of diving operations. YDT-11, used for deep diving, is a 130 ton diving tender with an onboard 6-man recompression chamber and mixed-gas surface support equipment. Many smaller craft are also used by the unit, either on their own or in support of the larger dive tenders.

Both FDU(P) and FDU(A) as well as DRDC Toronto Experimental Diving Unit are at the forefront of diving technology, and will continue to expand and develop CF capabilities in the future. Increasing integration of Naval Reserve Inspection Divers in FDU operations (in keeping with the Canadian Forces "Total Force" concept) acts as a "force-multiplier" (providing a pool of trained personnel to assist and conduct ship repair and underwater searches). In addition, with the acceptance of the "SOOKE & SECHELT" diving tenders ( 300 ton, 110 foot long) , the units are now able to extend the reach and scope of their diving operations. The Diving Units are the only operational mine countermeasures, explosive ordnance disposal and battle damage repair asset s in the Navy. The officers and men of the diving units are ready to respond to any situation and remain true to their motto: "Strength in Depth!"

Although both diving units remain comparatively small, their scope of operations is extensive, and the varied functions are of considerable importance. The units are tasked to perform the following basic functions:

  • Search and inspection of the seabed;
  • Underwater Demolitions;
  • Mine Countermeasures;
  • Explosives Ordnance Disposal;
  • Salvage and Rescue;
  • Underwater Ship Repair and Maintenance;
  • Repair and Inspection of Canadian Forces Diving Apparatus;
  • Dive Training; and
  • Recompression Chamber services.

In the performance of tasks evolving from these functions, diving units works closely with various other Maritime Forces Pacific or Maritime Forces Atlantic support services such as Ship Repair Unit Pacific, Naval Engineering Unit Pacific, Queens Harbour Master, and the Rescue Co-ordination Center. Approximately 4,000 underwater man-hours are expended annually on ship and harbour repairs alone at each unit.

To carry out its assigned tasks, units are equipped with two diving tenders plus a full array of smaller working and diving vessels.

Divers breathing apparatus found at the units and onboard their diving tenders include:

  • Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus (CABA) for general diving to 150 Feet of Sea Water (FSW).
  • Canadian Clearance Diving Apparatus (CCDA) which is a NITROX rebreather capable of diving to 140 FSW.
  • Canadian Underwater Mine Apparatus (CUMA) which is a HELIOX rebreather designed for depths to 270 FSW.
  • Surface Supplied Breathing Apparatus (SSBA) which utilizes the Kirby-Morgan Superlite 17B dive helmet for depths to 330 FSW on HELIOX and the AGA Mask to 180 FSW on compressed air.
Past Command Teams of the Diving Units
Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific)
1951 -1953                     Lt(N) L. Cryderman
1952 - 1953                    Lt(N) C. Smedley
1953 - 1954                    Lt(N) L. Corbitt
1954 - 1955                    LCdr Ben Ackerman
1955 - 1957                    Lt(N) P. Henry
1957 - 1957                    Lt(N) L. Chaney
1957 - 1959                    LCdr G.H. Lowthie
1959 - 1963                    LCdr B. Ackerman
1963 - 1969                    LCdr W. Palmer
1969 - 1973                    LCdr A. W. Rowse
1973 - 1976                    LCdr LCdr L.M. Lafontaine
1976 - 1977                    LCdr A. W. Rowse
1977 - 1981                    LCdr T.A. Essery
1981 - 1986                    LCdr K.J. Brown
1986 - 1990                    LCdr P.S. Legallis
1990 - 1994                    LCdr N.L. MacDonald
1994 - 1997                    LCdr W.E. Laing
1997 - 1999                    LCdr E.C. King
1999 - 2003                    LCdr H.L. Mark
2003 - 2005                    LCdr R.G. Dowker
2005 - 2007                    LCdr D.K. MacDonald
2007 - 2009                    LCdr R. Watt
2009 - 2010                    LCdr J. Couillard
2010 - 2012                    LCdr R.J. Klein
2012 - 2014                    LCdr T. Bacon
2014 - Present               LCdr C. Naefken

FDU(P) Coxn's/Chief Divers
1954                               CPO1 Bob Wigmore
1956                               C1DV4 Bill (Slinger) Woods
1957 - 1958                   CPO2 Bill Cubitt 
1959 - 1961                   CPO1 Collin Drew
1961 - 1964                   PO1 Jim Connell
1965                               CPO1 Jack Thompson
1970 - 1972                   CPO2 Bob Thompson
1972 - 1976                   CPO1 Red Larsen
1977 - 1981                   CPO1 Darby Matthews
1981 - 1983                   CPO2 Ray Smith
1983 - 1989                   CPO1 Gerd Mantel
1989 - 1992                   CPO1 John De Jong
1992 - 1995                   CPO1 Daryl Skaalrud
1995 - 1997                   CPO1 John De Jong
1997 - 1998                   CPO1 Daryl Skaalrud
1998 - 1999                   CPO1 Nick Serbu
1999 - 2000                   CPO1 George Cox
2000 - 2004                   CPO1 Danel (Des) Desjardins
2004 - 2006                   CPO1 Rod Goodwin
2006 - 2007                   CPO1 Gary Ford
2007 - 2009                   CPO1 Walter Dubeau
2009 - 2016                   CPO1 Darrell Colwell
2016 - Present              CPO1 Rob DeProy

Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic)
 Jul 2013 – present        LCdr Steph Julien
Jul 2009 – Jul 2013        LCdr Roland Leyte                                
Jul 2006 - Jul 2009         LCdr Leanne Crowe                              
Jul 2003 - Jul 2006         LCdr Wayne Dipersio
Jul 2002 - Jul 2003         LCdr Gary Reddy
Jul 1999 - Jul 2002         LCdr Chris Deere
Jul 1995 - Jul 1999         LCdr Jim Hewitt
Jul 1992 - Jul 1995         LCdr Chuck Edwards
Jul 1989 - Jul 1992         LCdr Tony Latus
Aug 1985 - Jul 1989       LCdr Gord Rank
Jul 1980 - Aug 1985       LCdr Bruce Martin
1976 - 1980                   LCdr Robert Coren
1974 - 1976                   LCdr Art Rowse
1971 - 1974                   LCdr Don Hope
1970 - 1971                   LCdr Al Booth
1967 - 1970                   LCdr Alan Sagar
1963 - 1967                   LCdr Ross Dickinson
1960 - 1963                   LCdr Palmer
1954 - 1960                   LCdr Smedley
1952 - 1954                   LCdr Ken MacAlpine
1950 - 1952                   LCdr John Ruse

FDU(A) Coxn's/Chief Divers
Jul 2014 – present         CPO1 Andy Tiffin
Jun 2011 – Jul 2014       CPO1 Charles Trombley
Jul 2008 - Jun 2011        CPO1 Mark Simonsen  
Jul 2004 - Jul 2008         CPO1 John McEwen
Sep 2000 - Jul 2004       CPO1 Kevin (KP) McNamara
Jul 1999 - Sep 2000       CPO1 Nick Serbu
Jul 1995 - Jul 1999         CPO1 John McEwen
Jul 1994 - Jul 1995         CPO1 Terry Havlik
Jul 1992 - Jul 1994         CPO1 MacDonald
Jul 1988 - Jul 1992         CPO1 Terry Havlik
Jul 1984 - Jul 1988         CPO1 Charlie Doyle
Jul 1981 - Jul 1984         CPO1 Dan McLeod                              
Jul 1979 - Jul 1981         CPO1 George Carnahan
Jul 1977 - Jul 1979         CPO1 Ray Goulard
Jul 1974 - Jul 1977         CPO1 Ike (Nelson, Andrew) Eisner
Jul 1970 - Jul 1974         CPO1 Vernon "Mel" Melanson
Jul 1967 - Jul 1970         CPO1 Peter Nicholson  
Jul 1963 - Jul 1965         CPO1 Keith Powers
Jul 1960 - Jul 1963         CPO1 Jim Wilson
Jul 1959 - Jul 1960         CPO1 Bob Wigmore
Apr 1954 – Jul 1959       C2DV4 Bill "Slinger" Woods

Note #1 – Untill about 1966 the Coxn's position was held by a non diver. -info from Fred Watts
Note #2 – Fred Watts has it partially right. I think (Not 100% sure) Charly Doyle Or Andy Ouellette was the first diver Cox'n, during Coren's stint as C.O. All the rest were Chief Diver or Senior Diver in charge of the   Diving office, Cox;n was a completely seperate entity that dealt with all non diving activities. It was normally a P1 Bosun but I can remember at least 1 P2. Most of the names escape me but P1 Murray (LUMP) O'Donnell, P1 John Drake, P1 John (retired to New Zealand, then came back to Canada) I can't think of the name. Dan Mcleod would know. If I have it wrong I'm sure someone will correct us.