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How the Diving Museum went to visit Russia

In September three members of The Diving Museum (Mike O'Meara Vice Chairman, John Bevan Chairman and myself Museum Director,) visited Russia at the invitation of The Centre for Russian and British Art and Culture (Voroznezh-Winchester). We gave presentations on the diving museum, HMS Edinburgh gold salvage and Peter the Great’s connection with the Dean brothers who invented the first diving helmet.

We visited Moscow, Voronezh in the south of Moscow where Peter the Great built his navy, St. Petersburg and Kronshtadt an island off St. Petersburg which until recently was an off limits naval base.

Presentations were delivered in museums and dive schools in each city. In Moscow, Russian dive school No1 and Voronezh dive school No2. Both schools also had very good museums. In St. Petersburg presentations were given on the ice breaker Krasin which was built in Newcastle in 1916. When built it was the most powerful icebreaker in the world and it took part in the Artic Convoys. I was invited to make a dive in a Russian 3 bolt standard dress at school No2. I believe I am the first westerner to dive in that part of Russia. When I got out of the water and the face plate was removed I was greeted with a large shot glass of vodka which would have been rude to refuse followed by bread and red caviar.

We were privileged to have personal escorted tours at quite a few museums such as the Central Naval Museum and the Aurora, the ship that fired the gun that started the revolution, both in St. Petersburg. In Voronezh we visited the Admiralty Church where we laid some flowers at the memorial to the Submariners lost in the Kursk.

Other memorable highlights of our visit were some wonderful concerts and one such concert was performed by the Voronezh Male Voice Choir. By chance they were visiting the UK a couple of weeks after our return and had one free date so we were lucky to have them perform in St. Mary’s Church Alverstoke, Gosport.

We found the Russian people we met very warm towards us and many had kind words for the British because of WW2 and the Arctic convoys. It was a fantastic trip we hope to return sometime in the future.

By Kevin Casey (27 Oct 2016)

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