2020 Events

2020 TCA Committee Meeting

Royal Maritime Club, Queen Street, Portsmouth. Saturday 14th March.

This is also a social weekend where members book into the club, or other local accommodation, on the Friday for a Lamp Swinging session during the evening. We then all sit for a meal in the club Saturday evening.                     

All are very welcome.

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PROJECT VERNON PRESS RELEASE 01/19

Date: 5 November 2019

Unveiling of Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument at Portsmouth

A bronze monument is to be unveiled at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth on 25 March 2020 to celebrate the heritage of HMS VERNON and those involved in mine warfare, diving and bomb & mine disposal

A monument in the form of a bronze statue will be unveiled at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth on Wednesday 25 March 2020 to celebrate the naval and military heritage of HMS VERNON, which previously occupied the site, and honour those involved in mine warfare, diving and bomb & mine disposal – past, present and future.  It is hoped that the unveiling will be conducted by a VVIP.

Over £250,000 has been raised so far by a team of unpaid volunteers to fund the one-and-a-quarter life size monument, created by sculptor Mark Richards FRSS.  It will stand proud of one of the pools in Gunwharf Quays where its reflection will enhance its appearance to the annual footfall of 8 million.

HMS VERNON started life in 1876 as a training establishment accommodated on board ships afloat in Portsmouth Harbour.  In 1923, it moved ashore to the site that is now Gunwharf Quays and became a centre for training and trials of many forms of undersea warfare including mine warfare and diving.  It closed in 1986 and the monument of a contact sea mine and two divers commemorates that part of naval history.

During both world wars, Britain’s Armed Forces were heavily involved in locating the enemy’s mines, unexploded bombs and other explosive ordnance which, for the Royal Navy, involved dangerous operations both under the sea and on land.  Throughout the Second World War the use of sea mines increased dramatically, and scores of ships and submarines were sunk or damaged by them.  Converted trawlers were pressed into service as minesweepers but for mines dropped by aircraft onto shoals and mudbanks the clearance tasks fell to personnel from HMS VERNON.

In the hours before and during D-Day, Allied minesweepers operated off the coast of occupied France.  In addition, 120 Royal Navy divers, including Reservists and Royal Marines, cleared 2,500 mines and other obstructions from the approaches to the Normandy beaches.  This dangerous work, which was carried out under fire, significantly reduced the risks to Allied soldiers and sailors and was continued later to make the harbours of Europe safe.

The important work of Royal Navy mine warfare and diving units has continued to this day in both peace and during the conflicts in the Falklands, Middle East, Afghanistan and Libya.  Much closer to home, whilst preparing Portsmouth Harbour for use by the aircraft carriers HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and HMS PRINCE OF WALES, these Royal Navy specialists removed some 46 tonnes of explosive ordnance from the seabed within sight of Gunwharf Quays and this monument.

N.B. Members of the naval mine warfare community have provided at least half the funding for the monument so it should not be referred to purely as a ‘diving statue’ or ‘divers statue’.

PROJECT VERNON, initiated in April 2008, is the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays (the marina, retail centre and residential development in Portsmouth) to celebrate the naval and military heritage of HMS VERNON which occupied the site in one form or another from October 1923, when it moved ashore from hulks, until its closure in April 1996.  Gunwharf Quays has an annual footfall of 8 million and is home to the iconic Spinnaker Tower.

During the Second World War, HMS VERNON was the alma mater of naval personnel awarded 23 George Crosses and at least 134 George Medals (including 16 bars) for bomb & mine disposal, including minesweeping, on land and at sea.  Countless other medals, Mentions in Despatches and King’s Commendations for Bravery were awarded to personnel associated with HMS VERNON for naval minelaying, minesweeping, diving and bomb & mine disposal while hundreds of other personnel were appointed OBEs and MBEs in the military lists of honours and awards.

Since the Second World War, personnel associated with HMS VERNON, its mine countermeasures vessels and diving teams have been awarded at least one Distinguished Service Order, 10 Distinguished  Service Crosses, 69 British Empire Medals (including one bar), 14 Queen’s Gallantry Medals and 35 Queen’s Commendations for Bravery among other honours and awards for gallantry, in naval mine warfare, diving and EOD operations from the waters of the North Sea,  Mediterranean, South Atlantic, Arabian Gulf, South China Sea and the Gilbert & Ellis Islands to the badlands of Iraq and Afghanistan.

No single monument or memorial exists to celebrate these individuals or commemorate the heritage of HMS VERNON.  The Vernon Monument, designed by sculptor Mark Richards FRSS and chosen by an all-ranks committee of serving and retired mine warfare & diving personnel after an exhaustive and transparent competitive process, will be the first.

The mine represents all aspects of HMS VERNON’s mine warfare heritage including those involved in mine design, minelaying, bomb & mine disposal, minesweeping and minehunting.  It will act as a tribute to personnel who have manned and continue to man the minehunters deployed in the Gulf region for many years.

The divers represent all aspects of HMS VERNON’s diving heritage including clearance diving, deep diving, ship’s diving, experimental diving, SAR (Search & Rescue) diving and diving training including Royal Engineers diving based at HMS VERNON.  The monument will act as a tribute to personnel involved in such operations and activities, including RN clearance diving personnel decorated for their unsung achievements in EOD and IEDD operations ashore in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Project Vernon has a website at www.vernon-monument.org and a Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/vernonmonument.