96-year-old World World Two diver honoured at special ceremony

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Derek Johnson

A former World War Two diver from Sussex has been honoured at a special ceremony for his contribution to saving lives.

John Payne, who is 96 years old and from Lancing, is one of the last of a very hard breed.

He was part of a select team of divers during the war, which cleared mines and unexploded bombs from harbours and ports in occupied Europe.

Mr Payne was at the beaches after D-Day, helping to secure the Allied bridgehead and with others saving many lives in the process.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

When asked what the equipment was like to wear, he said: "The equipment was very comfortable. You could dive for hours but that was unnecessary.

"Anything is dangerous if you don't take care. You had instructions of what to do and that's all."

At the Diving Museum in Gosport, John Payne was overwhelmed by the welcome, and shed tears of joy when he was presented with a commemorative frame honouring his work.

John is perhaps the last surviving member of what were known as the Port or P Parties, effectively human minesweepers, making harbours safe before troops went in.

They did vital work on the D-Day beaches to ensure troops who were landing were not the victims of mines placed around the shoreline.

W/Officer Simon Crew of the Fleet Diving Squadron said: "I have just been looking at the equipment that he was wearing, a canvas suit, a mask with really limited visibility and a diving set that I probably wouldn't even have used in the bath.

"To look at what he dealt with on the D-Day beaches - it's absolutely unbelievable."