Diver Hilton - Those who came before us - by Ginge Fullen
Diver Hilton – Intro
Those who came before us –- The accidental Deep Dive World Record holder
10th July 1930, HMS Tedworth a 231 foot long Deep Dive Tender is anchored in 55 fathoms (328 feet) of water in Loch Fynn Scotland, not too far away from the shoreline itself. A team of 12 divers are involved in the second Admiralty Deep Diving Committee trials whose aim is to determine the maximum depth a man can attain underwater and produce safe decompression tables. The previous world record of 306 feet held by the American Navy since 1915 has already been broken. Several divers have dived to 328 feet already. Captain Damant (retired) the previous world record holder from the first Admiralty Deep Diving Committee is involved in the trials along with the aging Professor Haldane whose decompression tables the Navy have been using since Damant and Catto achieved the record of 35 fathoms (210 feet) in 1906. Haldane’s tables have been extended for these trials.
Diver Hilton at 23 years of age is the youngest diver involved and at 62.2 kg also one of the lightest but he is fit and strong and has already served in the Navy for eight years. He gets dressed in for the last dive of the day in the standard diving equipment that weighs far more than himself. Before he goes in the water he goes through some exercises on deck to check that the CO2 absorbent is working. Exercise was thought to help during the decompression phase of the dive. All of the deep dive records to this date including this dive have been on air. All of the divers suffered from nitrogen narcosis and many have gone unconscious at depths over 300 feet. One of this pioneering team will not survive these trials. Diver Frederick George Hilton descends to the seabed at 328 feet (just short of 55 fathoms) the present world record depth. On reaching that depth he cannot feel the bottom so asks to be lowered further. Two more times this happens and still he cannot feel the bottom. The tide had changed and the vessel has swung on its anchor putting the stern of Tedworth into deeper water. Quite accidently, Diver Hilton has been lowered to 57.5 fathoms, a remarkable 344 feet. A signal from the Admiralty arrives the next day stating all Royal Navy diving is to be limited to 55 fathoms.
Diver Fred Hilton’s story has maybe been forgotten about over the years yet deserves a place in military deep diving history. This is a story about triumph and tragedy and one of the true pioneers of his day, the like of which we will never see again who achieved a deep diving world record, that on air, in standard diving equipment will never be beaten.