Combat Divers

Being there. . . . bibliophile, lover of all intelligent books, whether or not of the naval military
kind where you are more comfortable being carried above the surface rather than under it.
Surely, upon learning of its availability, you’ll insist upon adding the one presented below to
your personal bibliotheca, library. Why? Because it is an inordinately rare 90+ year chronicle of
growth and development, events and personalities, of American and British elite underwater
forces and their warriors. In Michael G. Welham’s latest offering, “COMBAT DIVERS” from
Osprey Publishing, you are not only privy to a timely visual history of the combat diver’s
stealthily activities, illustrated throughout with accompanying rare and unusual photographs,
but also meet Siebe Gorman, developer of the Amphibian Mark 1, a closed-circuit underwater
system, then established a factory in Italy for its production during the mid-1930s. Be there
with former Royal Marines Commando Michael Welham as he reveals the dangerous missions,
describes the unique equipment and shares the secretive undersea world that then was not
clearly defined. Thanks to Michael’s clear, entrancing definitions we are close than ever to
becoming the contemporary combat diver ourselves.
Reviewed and Highly Recommended by Don DeNevi
“COMBAT DIVERS – – An Illustrated History of Special Forces Divers”, by Michael G. Welham.
Osprey Publishing, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc: 2023, 304 pages, 7 3/4”x 9 3/4”, hardcover; $40.
On page 292, Chapter Nineteen, “The Future”, Michael has chosen the following passage to
conclude his own work. It is from the classic book written by T.J. Waldron and James Gleeson’s
“The Frogman”, published by Morrison and Gibb in London in 1950. This says it all:
“During the last war (World War II), courage was a fairly common quality. One saw it, heard
about it, or read about it in the general public, the Civil Defense, the Armed Forces, and last,
but by no means least, in the Special Services, and the Secret Services. It may be that there was
more need for courage than ever before; certainly, methods of warfare more devastating than
ever before had been invented and used. Also, other methods, more individual and more
personal, were put into action. These methods called for the highest possible qualities of
courage and self-sacrifice in the men whose business it became to operate them.”
“Ours is the story of the brave men who worked alone, under the water. Some wore
fantastic-looking rubber suits with great webbed feet. Some walked or crawled on the muddy
bottoms of harbors in complete darkness, looking for mines, while others bestrode torpedoes –

  • ‘Charioteers’ they were called, and some slipped through the black waters in midget
    submarines. They worked alone, in the dark, in enemy waters. When they started on a mission,
    they knew that the chances were that they had taken a one-way ticket, that there might be no
    return. That grim knowledge went with them deep down in hostile waters. But it was a

forgotten knowledge, stored on one side, completely subjugated to thoughts of ‘attack’, and
their determination to cripple the enemy, no matter what the hazards or the cost.”
This fascinating book reveals their little-known yet fascinating operations, from Dutch Special
Forces combat divers covertly operating against Somali pirates to the actions of Soviet Spetsnaz
divers in Swedish territorial waters during the Cold War. It also examines how the most famous
units, such as the US Navy SEALS and the Royal Navy’s SBS, are currently operating and
adapting to threats in a multitude of theatres. Using first-hand accounts, Michael also details
the first female combat divers and their ground-breaking roles within each unit. Extensively
researched and written by an author with first-hand experience, this is, indeed, a “must-read”
history of these elite special forces operatives.

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