Underwater Search Unit

1960-61: Formation of the Underwater Search Unit: Richard Bond: Harry Webb was a divisional motorcyclist and he dealt with an RTA at Ranmore Cross Roads involving a civilian who lived nearby. Harry became friends with him and this person had a great interest in scuba diving. Harry became very interested, went diving frequently with him and eventually started a police diving club that used to meet at the old Castle Street Baths in Guildford. I joined the club after I joined as a cadet at Guildford in December 1961.

At some stage, possibly around 1960-61 Harry had (I think) persuaded the police to buy some equipment, set up a diving unit and had been allocated an old Austin or Morris J4 van. I believe that Harry had then been sent to the Royal Navy to train properly, I am not sure, but he did have contacts at Portsmouth who allowed us later to use the diving tank at H.M.S. Vernon to train new recruits. I came back from initial training in September1962 and was posted to Woking.

The diving shed was in one of the small stable type buildings behind Woking Police station, but soon moved into the garage behind Woking Magistrates Court, which had been used to house found cycles. It later was moved to a room under the ramp at Godalming Police Station (very inconvenient as most of our diving was done in Weybridge, Egham areas) I started diving with the Diving Section as it was then known in about Autumn 1963. We did at one point train other police forces: Durham, Ireland and Nigeria spring to mind.

1963-1970: part record: Excluding practice dives and many minor searches for property. There were many other searches and body recoveries that I was not involved in.

  • 1963 20 September: First training dive.
  • 1964 18 May: River Thames at Laleham. Search for body of drowned youth 'Woodcock'; found.
  • 1964 25 July: Frensham Little Pond, search for swimmer, body Tingley found.
  • 1965 21 February: Basingstoke Canal, Camp Farm Road, Aldershot: Search for Jewellery; found.
  • 1965 15 August: River Park Avenue, Egham: my first body 'Cooper' at night - 0425; found.
  • 1965 2 October: Undertake a search in connection with missing girl at Dagenham, in factory grounds of Ford Motor Co. I was searching a pit full of green muck, very unpleasant. I was later told that the missing girl had been found dead in a neighbour's wardrobe and that Dagenite Batteries discharged their waste into the pit.
  • 1966 18 April: Marco's Pit, Mixnams Lane, Chertsey recovery of workman from submerged dumper.
  • 1966 26 April: Sidlow Bridge, Reigate, River Mole, Regional Crime Squad call out for church ornaments - all found.
  • 1966 22 June: Sunbury, The Creek, River Thames: I recovered body of Terence Sharp, 2300 hours.
  • 1967 3 March: River Wey, Burpham, I found and recovered drowned man Butt.
  • 1967 12 May: Below Chertsey Bridge, River Thames, I found and recovered body Gaotano.
  • 1967 20 July: Winkworth Arboretum Lake, Godalming I recovered body of Proctor (tied hand & foot). I encountered an extreme amount of antagonism in trying to get a team together; the search had to be postponed several times. When I found the body he was found bound hand and foot. It was dealt with as a murder until it was realised that he could have tied the knots himself.
  • 1967 22-23 August: Search for body of Harper (not found). River was in flood, I think. This was the only search for a known body that was unsuccessful during this time; it was assumed that the River, being in flood, had swept him down stream.
  • 1968 18 March: Woking open air pool Woking Park, demonstration of underwater communications etc, for Home Office.
  • 1968 May: Civil Defence Staff College swimming pool, Sunningdale, demonstration of equipment.
  • 1968 12 September: Woodbridge Meadows, Guildford, River Wey recovered body of Bargattha, (by wading).
  • 1968 16 September: River Wey floods; worked all night, all next day Old Woking & Hersham areas, then all next night dry suits and inflatable craft!
  • 1968 5 November: Belvide Reservoir, Staffordshire. Birmingham University Group, trial of communication apparatus.
  • 1968 26 November: Ryton-on-Dunsmore Police Training School, swimming pool demonstration for Chief Constables.
  • 1969 1 January: Guildford, River Wey, near Row Barge public house; search for knife involved in stabbing. (0400 hrs).
  • 1969 9 January: Guildford River Wey, Parkway for Body of Mr. Christmas - found by PC 487. I remember this; the deceased was a dapper little old man, immaculately dressed and with black shiny boots. Looked peaceful.
  • 1969 8 April: Laleham, Middlesex, River Thames, I Recovered body of boy David Murphy.
  • 1969 27-28 May: River Wey, Shalford; I recovered body of Linda Lale missing from overturned punt.
  • 1970 1 April: Gravel Pit, Eastleigh, Hants in connection with murder of a female student. There were searches in the River Itchen or Test but not recorded as breathing apparatus not used (Schnorkel). The body of the student was found murdered, weeks later on a railway embankment nearby. This area had been searched by Hampshire Dog Section.
  • 1970 28 May: St. Catherine's, Guildford River Wey; I found drowned man in swimming trunks.
  • 1970 10 July: Island Barn Reservoir, Molesey. Filming for BBC.
  • 1971 11 May: the Chantry, Riverside, Temple Gardens, Egham, River Thames; I recovered boy McDermott.
  • 1971 14 May: Last practice dive Staines.

There was a recovery in the River Wey at Stoke Lock, Guildford, I don't have a date. where an elderly lady had gone missing in the river in Guildford town centre months previously and became stuck in the sluice gate, held together mainly by her corset. I distinctly remember her hand being washed into the mill pool past me. The members involved received either congratulations or a commendation from the chief constable.

Bob Bartlett: The team in its final days were under the leadership of Sergeant Steve Rayne and had a secondary role of public order instructors. It is not know how such a diverse role became theirs.

In the late 1980s financial constraints and a lack of significant tasks led to the demise of the team with a contract being given to Sussex Police to provide cover. The role was nearly taken over by Surrey Fire Brigade who gave a great deal of consideration under their guise "and Rescue". However, costs and resources meant this was not a realistic option for them.

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