The End of an Era…..the Third Pillar of Wisdom……
It would not become apparent to me that I had in fact left TIDSAC at the end of exercise Triton Triangle in the Kyle of Lochalsh for many years, that realisation essentially only hit recently, going back over the last 30 years of my diving life here in fact. I had my last real dive with TIDSAC on the Port Napier which was, at the time, my favourite and by far most explored wreck, it remains one of my favourites not only for what we saw as we dived, but what the wreck had to offer and how she tempted me into wreck penetration, something I’d never done before and something I absolutely loved but respected in equal measure. I have always thought of T.E. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” as being the 7 decades of a man as Biblically laid out in “Three-Score Years and Ten”, that’s hard to argue considering, if I am not mistaken, that Lawrence never actually mentions or refers to “7 pillars” in the book other than in it’s title……. allowing me to be as “right as anyone else” considering….. So TIDSAC was very much part of my 3rd pillar of wisdom, by starting and ending in my 3rd Decade on this journey. I have no poetic observations of the landscape of Tidworth and its environs, I had no part in revolt or the crumbling of empires whilst there, and it would not be for another 20 years that I would see anything of the Ottoman Empire, which makes the time I had there seem almost prosaic
As any soldier will tell you, leaving the Army is a confusion of sorts, I knew, even as we dived the Port Napier for the last time, on Thursday the 13th of July 1995, that my time was coming to an end. I had met and fallen in love with Ellen, I had a growing responsibility towards Lee and Lewis and I had already suffered the death of one marriage whilst serving….I knew how that felt, I knew what that meant, I was not losing my Catherine to a lonely hemorrhage in some god-forsaken shithole accommodation block, I’d rather leave the Army and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune than go through that with Ellen…….. So my time with the Army would come to an end soon, I would be forced to look for another way to support our little family, and my time with TIDSAC would fade from view. That hurt a lot more than I thought it would, TIDSAC had literally saved me from myself over the last 5 years, it would have been easy to spend my evenings in the Drummer, indeed I’d come close several times to the self-destruct option, but I’d always had diving to pull me a step back from the breech, and Norman and Joy to engage me in the next adventure, Swanage, Durdle Door, Chesil Cove, Bowleaze Cove….. and Kyle, every one had given me enough to keep me on a path that saw me pick myself back up, rage at the injustice, but carry on regardless……..I have said the Army made me and I owe it everything I am and will ever be, but TIDSAC underpinned my resurrection from a pit, and gave me time to find a salvation I never believed I could or would have, one that has lasted from those days to this, and one I hope will until I am gone from here to dust
I had loved my time with Norman & Joy, with Toots, with Adrian and all the other divers I had dived with or taught, or trained with, or joined on expeditions, they were, truly halcyon days….days which you looked forward to and back on as if they were perfect, although there were many dives spent playing Naughts & Crosses in appalling viz, and days where every living thing seemed to have seen you coming and decided to get well away from the area…… There were epic, memorable dives around the South Coast at Falmouth, Portland, Chesil and more distant locations like Skye and Kyle, when life was shit there was always TIDSAC…..to all those who dived with me or around me I offer you my most sincere thanks, you were very much part of a salvation, and I will be eternally grateful to you all!
Although the Port Napier was my last real dive with the main of TIDSAC there is a single remaining dive which I suppose added the final “full-Stop” to that chapter of my life, after my BSAC Advanced Diver course (another post on here elsewhere) and prior to my last true Army diving, on the Falklands expedition in January of ’95 there is a log entry that reads: “23/08/95 RIB – Grove Point Portland (E) One of the best dives I’ve done for marine life – Cuttlefish, two shoals of Pouting, well over 50 fish in one, a couple of fairly large Crabs, two Blenny, two large Wrasse & some I didn’t know. Brilliant! W/Temp 19’ Air In 220 Out 90 Buddy Dougie” This is the unknown, unrealised full stop, the end of the final chapter, the start point for all after TIDSAC, and just one short exped away from the cessation of my opportunity for hostilities……..a “Farewell to Arms”…….of sorts…. They wouldn’t let me keep my SA80….the Bastards