Now 92 and still in good health, Woolley has just celebrated again – by reversing the numbers and completing 29 dives around Cyprus. His dives ranged from 9 to 38m in depth.
The 29th dive was completed alongside fellow-members of BSAC Branch 107S at the RAF Akrotiri Club on the Zenobia wreck in Larnaca Bay with a maximum depth of 32m. It was the fifth of the dives to be carried out on the Zenobia, with Viking Divers.
Other dives had included six Limassol wrecks and sites at Latchi, Coral Bay and the Akrotiri peninsula. The penultimate dive had been in January but weather conditions and unavailability of other club-divers had delayed Woolley’s grand finale until 23 April.
Woolley lives near Limassol but was born in Cheshire in August 1923. During World War Two he served in the Royal Navy Radio Branch and was on convoy duties in 1943/44 before being seconded to SBS Special Force 281 to the Dodecanese. He was among the first Allied forces to land on Rhodes when the Germans left in May 1945.
After the war, Woolley worked as a radio engineer. He began his diving career with Portland & Weymouth BSAC in 1960.
Working for the Foreign Office, he was posted to Cyprus in 1964. Over three tours of duty there he was secretary, diving officer, and expedition member of BSAC 107S, and became an advanced diving instructor.
In 1983 his career took him to Dubai, where he was a founder-member and first diving officer of BSAC 1388. In 1999 he retired to Cyprus, rejoining his previous club. By then he had dived off Australia, in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Red Sea as well as the Arabian Gulf.
Woolley reckons water sports are the best way of keeping fit, and pays tribute to the club’s diving officer Dave Turner and other members for helping him to keep diving in his 90s.
“Ray is an active member, attending practical rescue management and collective first-aid training,” says Turner. “He regularly supports dive-managers as an extra pair of hands on the surface, and can turn his hand to a variety of maintenance tasks.
“I often go out with Ray. He’s very relaxed and comfortable in the water and sometimes signals that he is taking his mask off for a few minutes as he likes to swim without it. This would frighten a lot of people.
“Looking through the club records from the mid-’60s, I found that Ray and three other club-divers used a rowing-boat to get to the dive-site while the club’s dive-boat was having a new engine fitted – now that’s being keen on diving!”
Turner says that although Woolley now prefers boat-diving to clambering over rocks for shore-dives he is “game for almost anything”. BSAC recently confirmed that Woolley is the oldest active diver in the club, but Turner would like to find out if he is also the oldest scuba-diver in the world still diving below 30m.