Harbour News

Published: February 4, 2022 | Updated: February 4, 2022

Blown up twice, shot once and now Dave is in the hottest of hot seats at the Port of Poole

By Andrew Diprose, editor

“I’ve been blown up twice and shot once. It tends to put life into perspective.”

So says Dave Laut, Port Safety & Security Manager at Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC).

The 62-year-old is answerable to CEO Jim Stewart for all areas of safety and security at the Port of Poole, including training.

He’s also responsible for the port’s emergency and contingency planning.

A big job, by any measure, but after 22 years in the British Army Dave was well qualified for what’s arguably the hottest of hot seats.

Joining the Royal Tank Regiment as a Junior Leader at the age of 16 he saw service around the world including Northern Ireland and Bosnia.

Something of an action man, the avid diver found himself in the headlines – and splashed across the nation’s TV screens – after being one of the first divers to explore the wreck of HMS Invincible.

The former battlecruiser, pictured, was built in 1907.

The flagship of the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron sunk in the Battle of Jutland off Denmark in 1916 with the loss of more than 1,000 lives.

It broke in half after its middle gun turret was struck by a German shell, taking off its roof and detonating the midships magazines.

Dave was part of a military expedition rediscovering the wreck, a protected war grave, at a depth of approximately 55 metres.

A film crew captured the moments as Dave, and his close friend Steve Marshall, dived on the 75th anniversary of the battle in 1991.

They had set off from HMS Belfast on the cable layer vessel Cable Protector.

Another Royal Navy frigate was in attendance together with a German destroyer and a small number of very elderly veterans from the battle.

Dave said: “I still regard this as one of my best dives ever.

“We, of course, respected it as a war grave but to sit on one of the gun barrels at 42 metres was the most amazing experience.

“This was on the turret which had its roof blown off.

“It was both historic but also very moving.”

After the dive, Dave was invited to Buckingham Palace where he met Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Leaving the army in 2000, Dave, pictured in Bosnia, worked for a short time for vehicle recovery specialist Castle Recovery before joining PHC, initially as Assistant Safety Training Officer.

Within two years he was promoted to Safety Training Officer with security later added to his responsibilities.

Dave, who has a son, George, 31, a docker at the port, and three grandchildren aged from 18 months to six years, said: “I just love the job.

“It’s the people, the variety and the challenges.

“My job involves close liaison with the ‘blue light’ services, Border Force and APHA (Animal & Plant Health Authority) as well as Brittany and Condor Ferries, Sunseeker and other companies and agencies.

“We enjoy excellent relationships and I like to think that’s because of our ‘can do’ attitude and that we work as a team.”

Covid has provided challenges, as well as opportunities, for the port.

Already used for flu vaccinations, PHC had no hesitation in agreeing to the port being used as a ‘drive-through’ Covid vaccination centre for The Adam Practice.

As a result, more than 50,000 people have safely received their jabs.

Dave said: “On one occasion, 1,400 people received their vaccinations in four hours.

“It’s a great example of not just how we try and help the community but see ourselves as a key member of the community.”

A crucial role played by Dave is instructing staff in counter terrorism measures.

While serving in the army he was injured in explosions in Northern Ireland and Bosnia.

Dave was also shot in Bosnia.

He said: “I know what it’s like.

“It tends to put life in perspective.”

Tragedy struck in 2017 when Dave’s wife, Glynis, died from a long-term illness.

She was 62 and the couple had been married for 27 years.

He met his new partner, Carole, online and they’ve been together seven months.

Dave said: “We’re very happy but I don’t take anything for granted.

“I live each day the best I can.

“Life is busy.

“I’m also a Dorset volunteer for Community Heartbeat Trust and a great supporter of Young Enterprise and help them as much as I can.

“I count myself very lucky to be doing a job I love.”