A Gift to the Nation, Navy & Community – SA Navy Standby Diver Unveiled

Article and photos by Lt Cdr Glenn von Zeil PB JCD
Photos  by Capt (SAN) Ret Peter Smith and Lt Cdr Glenn von Zeil

A bronze statue of a SA Navy Standby Diver now stands tall at the end of the pier in Simon’s Town looking with intent out over False Bay. “A gift to the nation, Navy and the community” is how Rear Adm (Ret) Arne Soderland described the donation of the statue which will be cared for by Naval Heritage Trust and the Simon’s Town Amenities and Development Company.

The statue was unveiled on Saturday, 20 December 2014 by Lee Woodburne and blessed by Catholic Bishop Cawcutt whilst witnessed by past and present SA Navy Divers, their families, members of the SA Navy and Simon’s Town community. Many had travelled from afar to attend the event which was co-ordinated via social media.

Music was provided by the Isizunguzungu band under the leadership of Cdr (Ret) Mike Oldham who also played the Last Post and Reveille after the names of those legendary SA Navy divers who had “crossed the bar” were remembered and called out by their “buddies”.

A bronze statue SA Navy Standby Diver stands proudly at the end of the Simon’s Town pier

The idea of a statue to commemorate SA Navy divers was born in October 2013 during social media discussions amongst members of the SA Navy diving fraternity. Marius Huysamer took up the challenge and quickly arrange for ex-SA Navy diver Jan Otto du Plessis, a sculptor, to design and mould a bronze statue. A Project Committee was formed and pledges towards the project were quickly instituted. The overwhelming support from past and present SA Navy divers lead to +R244 000 being raised towards the project.

The statue, cast in bronze, depicts a SA Navy Standby Diver dressed in a wet suit with twin 7 set of cylinders, twin hose demand valve, weight belt, mask, snorkel, diving knife and fins. At his feet are items associated with the diver’s trade – kelp, crayfish, octopus, perlemoen, shackles, high-pressure hose, limpet mine and a quart of Sedgwick’s Old Brown Sherry.

On the plinth is a plaque which reads

This statue stands as a symbol to all past, present and future South African Navy divers. We protect and serve confident in the knowledge that there will always be a fellow diver looking out for us.
Ours is a ‘brotherhood’ that transcends race, gender and creed.
 ‘Semper in excreta’

Highly trained and professional SA Navy divers are regarded as Simon’s Town’s greatest export as many take up civilian diving positions around the globe after serving time in the Navy. Their professionalism is recognised internationally which has enhanced the reputation of the SA Navy Diving School.

Jan Otto du Plessis, ex SA Navy diver & sculptor, with Marius Huysamer with the SA Navy Standby Diver bronze statue at the end of the Simon’s Town pier

The SA Navy Standby Diver Statue Project Committee with the product of their labours. The committee commissioned fellow ex SA Navy diver Jan Otto Du Plessis, a sculptor, and raised the funds necessary to erect the stature

Thank you to Hilti SA and Bolt Fast for assisting with the plinth and the manner in which the statue is secured to it.

Bravo Zulu to Marius Huysamer and his Project Committee consisting of

Gerard de Vletter
Luke Dicks
Peter Holmes
Clifton Koen
Johan Marais
Bennie Potgieter
Robin Sprong
Erika van Wyk
Michael Vrey