Mike Todd - a man of standards
Tributes have been paid to Mike Todd, former BSAC chairman and pivotal figure in British diving, who died suddenly on 12 January, aged 78. He left several legacies: he organised the earliest dive shows and he inspired generations of divers both as a coach and then as leader of the BSAC. As chairman of the safety inspectorate IDEST, he ushered in a new era of safety standards.
Born in Blackburn, Lancashire in 1931, his father was a fireman and his mother worked in the local cotton mill. Attending Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Blackburn, he showed aptitude in technical sciences and went on to study metallurgy at Sheffield University. He made the most of university life, and took the opportunity to develop his interest in water polo, to which his athletic, 6ft 4in frame was well suited.
After university, he worked for the Atomic Energy Authority in Preston before carrying out his national service with the Royal Air Force in Henlow, Bedfordshire. The RAF had excellent sports facilities and he became the star of its water polo team, eventually going on to captain the Combined Services water polo team. He married his wife, Jean, in 1955, having known her for years through family friends. Together, they made a formidable team and although Jean was not a diver herself, she devoted much of her time organising BSAC events with Mike. They decided to stay in the South, and bought a house in Orpington when Mike took a job in the local telecommunications industry.
An avid reader of technical periodicals, he found out about the first wave of British scuba divers and joined Bromley BSAC in 1957. On his first night, he met up with a young journalist by the name of Kendall McDonald, who would himself go on to become a chairman of BSAC and a major figure in UK diving. Both men were natural raconteurs, and became lifelong friends, providing the British scuba scene with a 'double act' that entertained and inspired a generation of divers.
Mike became a lecturer in engineering materials at Croydon Technical College and made full use of the long holidays. Both college management and students asked him to start a diving club and he obliged, creating Croytech BSAC. Mike and Jean were fond of the students, and hosted 'Lancashire' nights to raise cash for a club inflatable - the guests would bring their own refreshments, Jean would cook a giant hotpot and everyone paid half a crown.
He became increasingly active in BSAC's coaching circuit and was among the first generation of national instructors. As a coach, he was a stickler for the rulebook, working from a conviction that established standards were crucial to British diving. It was said that any candidate on his instructor training courses would have an additional advantage thanks to this thorough approach.
In the early Sixties he started writing a column on diving equipment for the then BSAC magazine, Triton. He had made a name for himself, partly from his homemade wetsuits. Mike bought sheets of foam neoprene from the Expanded Rubber Company in Mitcham and his clients would lie down on large pieces of paper so that he could draw around them to produce a working pattern. The wetsuits sold for around ٤ each. He would continue to write on equipment and safety matters into the Eighties.
In 1970 he became the BSAC coach for London and the Southeast, replacing Alex Double. Increasingly active in the instruction scene, he participated in the club's 'flying instructor' service, travelling to Hong Kong and Singapore to 'boss' instructor training events. A firm believer that scuba diving should be available to the wider public, he later devised a beginner's course for the Combined Cadet Force (CCF), aimed at schoolteachers and students. through his efforts he served in the CCF as Lt Cdr and was a life member of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Sub Aqua Association.
His favourite place for diving was Cornwall, specifically the Manacles Reef off the Lizard Peninsula. He and Jean used to drive to Cornwall in a Volkswagen Caravanette, and met a farmer who wanted to dive and so their six-week summer visits became an annual fixture. Mike's own diving was primarily in the 30-35m range. He 'didn't see the point' of night dives and later admitted that he had never done one. Eventually, he bought a caravan and kept it on the Cornish farm for annual holidays with Jean and their two daughters, Debbie and Vicki. In 1975, he was instrumental in establishing the National Diving Centre at Porthkerris on the Lizard.
Mike was a born organiser and, with Jean's help, masterminded many Diving Officer's Conferences. When the BSAC was briefly given a Chelsea pub for members to use (at a peppercorn rent), Mike stepped forward to act as the licensee. A lasting legacy of his organisational skills is today's dive shows, which stemmed originally from the exhibitions Mike put on at Crystal Palace in the Seventies. At one time or another, Mike held virtually every BSAC post. He was a longstanding member of the National Diving Committee; national advisor on equipment; chief examiner for first class divers; London regional coach and one of the first national diving officers, in addition to being the first ever winner of the Jacques Cousteau Award for services to the club (in 1975). He was made a vice president of the club in 1991, and served as honorary secretary from 2000 to 2007, when he was made an honorary life vice president of the club.
According to Jean, his favourite role in BSAC was his spell as national diving officer from 1975 to 1977, working alongside his friend Kendall McDonald, who was chairman during the same period. Never afraid to court controversy, he criticised the performance of regulators at the 1978 Diving Officer's Conference. He went on to serve as chairman of the club from 1982 to 1984: his initial aims were to see that the club promoted itself more and that there should be more communications between HQ and the branches.
In 1985 he was instrumental in setting up IDEST (the Inspectorate for Diving Equipment Servicing and Testing), which established a set of safety criteria and testing for diving cylinders. This reflected his conviction that the UK diving industry should have impeccable safety standards, from training and safety protocols to the use and servicing of equipment. He was chairman and chief engineer at IDEST, successfully running the organisation for more than 25 years. His legacy continues in the 95 IDEST-approved testing stations operating across the UK today.
His good friend Tony Marshall, vice chairman of BSAC, said Mike would be remembered for his 'can-do' attitude across more than 50 years in the diving world. 'In developing the earliest shows and establishing the highest standards in training and servicing, he has done much to shape the diving industry,' Tony said. 'He was there at the 2009 Diving Officer's Conference in December and I remember him being pleased that the club was supporting the Marine Conservation Society. Mike was a friend to us all, he was one of a kind, and he will be sorely missed.'.
Ted lost his fight with cancer last year and will be sorely missed by all of us. Ted was a stalwart of Army Sub-Aqua and filled a number of posts in the ASADA Committee. As the Training Officer of ASADA he ran the Advanced Instructors Course the now Chairman attended and also played a large part in training the Diving Officer. He has either directly or indirectly trained a host of other Army Divers and supported numerous expeditions. Ted came from an era when AT was available to all and provided the rush of adrenalin we all needed when the main threat was from the Eastern Bloc and the Ops tempo was slightly less challenging and more sympathetic to AT! Ted maintained his currency though, he was well aware of the increased part “Health and Safety” was playing in recreational sub-aqua through his work with IDEST. He remained engaged with Army sub-aqua after retirement as a SADS and the Diving Officer of SB 651 and he continued to offer sage advice until the end. The presentation of the Omerod Trophy to Ted May is a fitting tribute to a man that gave so much to all of us in Army Sub-Aqua over the many years.