HE has helped destroy more than 20 underwater mines, torpedoes and bombs during a navy career spanning two decades.
Now, Lieutenant Commander Neil Marriott can add to the list of explosives after British warship HMS Bangor demolished two underwater bombs on Nato operations off Libya last weekend.
The father-of-two, who was born in Morningside and grew up in East Linton, has been the commanding officer of the minehunter – which exploded a 1000kg mine on the seabed near the key port of Tobruk – for just over two years.
The crew discovered the explosive sitting in 145 metres of water and blew it up using an armed underwater drone called Sea Fox.
As HMS Bangor prepared to leave Tobruk, she also blasted a nearby torpedo.
Lt Cdr Marriott, 38, Bangor’s skipper, said: “To find two pieces of ordnance and destroy them safely is a great result for my ship’s company.
“Both of these explosives were historic, and their detonation methods had corroded, but they could still have been set off accidentally so it was the right thing to do to destroy them.
“We have been hunting for mines since June, working from port to port, and a success like this means shipping into Libya is that much safer.”
Both weapons were spotted by a mine warfare team headed by Lt Cdr Marriott working in Bangor’s darkened operations room. They scan sonar screens which show shadows and shapes on the seabed.
When they find a potential mine, Sea Fox – which has an explosive charge on it – is driven underwater from the operations room until it is close to the target.
The commanding officer, Lt Cdr Marriott, then gives the go-ahead to proceed and the Sea Fox is detonated, along with the bomb. Lt Cdr Marriott, a former Knox Academy pupil, added: “If it is a modern mine, locating it by diver can be very dangerous as the sensors can be very sensitive and easily activated by a diver. We are trained to approach sensitive mines very carefully so as not to activate them.”
Bangor’s 38-strong crew have been part of Operation Unified Protector since June.
Lt Cdr Marriott said: “We were due to go and work in the North Sea and Baltic when we deployed, but this task took priority and we were ready to do it.
“We have hunted for mines off Benghazi and Brega already, and are ready to search in any other Libyan port that needs it.”
They have no way of knowing how long ago the mines off Libya were planted, but are certain it was not recently.
Lt Cdr Marriott decided to become a navy diver after attending an East Lothian scuba club as a teenager.
He received the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in 2008 for clearing sea mines left by Saddam Hussein near Umm Qasr.