Freedom of Orkney honour presented to Northern Diving Group
The Freedom of Orkney has been bestowed upon the Royal Navy Northern Diving Group in a ceremony today.
And the bomb disposal experts exercised their freedom of Orkney by marching through the streets of Kirkwall with the accompanying pomp of a Rosyth-based Royal Marine Band.
Attendees at the ceremony on Broad Street heard from several dignitaries including Orkney Islands Council’s convener Harvey Johnstone, commanding officer of the Northern Diving Group, Lieutenant Commander Mark Shaw, and Captain Chris Smith, Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Each year members of Northern Diving Group dive to the registered war grave, HMS Royal Oak, to replace the White Ensign — the flag of the Royal Navy — and to remember the 835 sailors lost on October 14, 1939.
The 39-strong team also provide bomb disposal expertise and have, over more than 40 years, safely disposed of wartime ordnance that has washed up on the Orkney coastline.
In May, Orkney Islands Council unanimously voted to bestow the honour on the group in recognition of the Faslane-based team’s outstanding work and close connection with the isles over the year.
Ltd Cdr Shaw said: “It was a distinct honour for Northern Diving Group to receive their Freedom of Orkney and to exercise the privilege of marching through the town today.
“It was done in ceremonial fashion, with bayonets fixed, drums beating and with colours flying.
“Since being awarded the freedom during a council meeting in May, we have been working with local authorities to plan today’s event in a COVID-compliant manner.
“We have heard some very moving speeches during the ceremony which reflected on Northern Diving Group’s close connection with Orkney — a relationship current and former members of the team hold very dearly.
“We were very warmly welcomed by the public, who I’m sure also enjoyed the ceremony and the chance to listen to the Royal Marines Band.
“We are looking forward to continuing our special relationship with Orkney for the annual HMS Royal Oak commemoration, and most likely we will be back soon to dispose of more historic munitions, although we won’t be marching in full ceremonial uniform!”