CDT3 Report of Proceedings First Gulf War

19 February 2016 by Stuart Bennington

Last updated: 10/11/2017

Report of Proceedings front cover

A very recent acquisition for the Memorial from the SeaPower Centre is the Reports of Proceeding of Clearance Diving Team 3 (CDT3) during the First Gulf War.  Reports of proceedings are usually a set of monthly reports of the goings on of a particular ship or establishment in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).  This one is different in being arranged as a sort of scrap book covering the whole of the deployment of CDT3 to the Gulf in 1991.

Most people know that after Saddam Hussein’s armies invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Australia sent ships from the RAN to take part in the trade blockade of Iraq.  However, many do not know that the RAN also sent CDT3 to assist in mine clearance operations during the resulting Gulf War.

The mines that the Iraqis had laid and in some cases set adrift represented probably the greatest threat to the allied navies faced in the Gulf War.  In fact over 1,000 mines had been laid in the seaward approaches to Kuwait and over 150 set adrift.  However, it was not these mines that CDT3 was initially deployed to deal with.  CDT3 was initially deployed with intention of conducting very shallow water mine countermeasure, or more particularly clearing beaches so that amphibious forces could land on them.

The initial request for CDT3 to deploy went out on 23 January and by 31 January they had arrived in theatre, a very quick response.  Initially there was a cover story as to why they were there, mainly to hide their role they had been sent for, and they temporarily joined the HMAS Westralia as part of that story.

A page of the text of the ROP, note the six Silkworm missiles in the photograph on the bottom right hand side

The planned amphibious operations did not eventuate and on 15 February they were advised they would be performing mine countermeasure operations in liberated harbours and approaches in Kuwait.  On 5 March, after the land offensive had concluded and Kuwait was liberated, CDT entered the country and began their task.  Between 5 March and 22 April 1991 they successfully took part in the clearance of four ports and seven ships, rendering safe or destroying over 30 mines, 7 Silkworm missiles, hundreds of explosive devices, and over 200,000 rounds of ammunition.

The centre photograph shows one of the oil well fires lit by Saddam’s troops when they retreated, the resulting smoke cloud often turned day into twilight

Captain Shick, the American Naval Officer who was in charge of port clearance operation in Kuwait, said of CDT3 ‘Without their individual and collective can-do attitudes and a professionalism… which is unsurpassed, the successful achievement of clearance diving objectives would have been far more difficult… their magnificent efforts are a credit to themselves and, indeed to the Royal Australian Navy’.

Kuwaitis returning home, note the smoke haze in the background

The First Gulf War Report of Proceedings of CDT3 is currently undergoing digitisation and should be available to view online later this year.