On the 28th June 2019, 13 members of The Queen’s Own Yeomanry (QOY) and 2 external instructors deployed to Bugibba, Malta for a 10-day Sub-Aqua Diving expedition. The QOY personnel had a variety of experience and abilities, ranging from complete beginners to highly qualified divers.
On arrival in Malta, an RSOI and acclimatisation package was conducted, including mandatory briefs and medical training. Diving commenced on Saturday the 29th June, split into two groups. 2Lt Raquet, WO2 Rigby, Sgt Cribben, Tpr Barton and Tpr Loble made up the beginner group who began their training with theory and pool sessions at the Dive Deep Blue diving centre. Over the subsequent 5 days, the group successfully completed all theory lessons and a written test, as well as progressing their diving to 20m at different locations in the Mediterranean Sea. By Wednesday 3rd July, all 6 were qualified BSAC Ocean Divers!
The second group all held prior diving qualifications and were diving under the military instructors; Capt Boyes and Sgt Lehman, throughout the trip. Lt Oakeley (Exped Leader), Lt Bartie and 2Lt Price completed theory lessons, practical sessions and a test to complete their BSAC Sports Diver qualification, allowing them to dive to a greater depth of 35m. Cpl Clowes and Cpl Dove made progress towards achieving their BSAC Dive Leader qualification, whilst LCpl Pybis and LCpl Ledger progressed towards BSAC Advanced Diver and SADS (instructor) qualifications. Beginning the week with a shakeout dive at Popeye Village, this more experienced group also dived at multiple locations including the Blue Grotto and Circewwa. Each day brought depth progression and ranged from reef and wall dives to wreck dives, with divers seeing a multitude of marine life from stingrays to cuttlefish and barracuda. With 2-3 dives per day, all students honed their skills and drills as well as exploring the underwater realm of the Maltese shores.
Thursday 4th July brought a much-needed pause in diving for everyone, with a day to revise course material and recover after some intense courses and diver training. It also gave the divers the opportunity to visit more of Malta, with some soldiers choosing to travel to the capital city; Valetta for the afternoon.
On Friday 5th July, with all personnel now qualified divers, the team travelled by ferry to Gozo Island to dive together. Pairing up the experienced divers with the newly qualified ones, the team explored a reef off the edge of Gozo in their first dive and a cavern in the second, whilst strategically dodging jellyfish! They then headed back to Circewwa, one of their favourite diving spots, for the pinnacle of the expedition; the night dive! After enjoying the sunset as a group, the team kitted up, dived in and began to explore the seabed by torchlight. A multitude of marine life came to light, including an octopus and a sea cucumber. All divers successfully navigated their way in challenging conditions, resulting in a great finish to the exercise. A compulsory 24hr gap between diving and flying brought a day to relax and enjoy a trip to Comino Island as a group; a final blast of sun and swimming followed by a team meal to top off the expedition.
Overall, Exercise AZURE FOX has been a huge success with 9 personnel successfully completing a BSAC qualification and 4 pax working towards their next BSAC Diving grade. A fantastic opportunity enjoyed by all, who are very grateful for the continued support of the QOY, trustees and Dive Deep Blue who have enabled this exercise to go ahead. The team look forward to future diving expeditions and other opportunities on the horizon!