Most Portsmouth people over a certain age will have heard of HMS Vernon, the mine-countermeasures establishment which once existed where Gunwharf Quays now stands.

An artist's impression of the monument to be put up at Gunwharf Quays when the money has been raised.

An artist's impression of the monument to be put up at Gunwharf Quays when the money has been raised.

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Most Portsmouth people over a certain age will have heard of HMS Vernon, the mine-countermeasures establishment which once existed where Gunwharf Quays now stands.

I wonder, however, how many know of the brave men and women who served there and who received medals for their bravery?

I received an e-mail from Rob Hoole who is trying to raise funds for a memorial to all those who served in Vernon.

His main ‘nostalgic’ interest includes the wartime mine investigation range (nicknamed HMS Mirtle) at Buriton, near Petersfield, and the sections evacuated to Leigh Park House (now demolished) in Leigh Park Gardens, and Roedean School for Girls in Brighton.

He is a keen supporter of Project Vernon, the campaign to put up a monument in Gunwharf Quays to celebrate the site’s naval heritage.

It seems to be a well-kept secret, but during the Second World War, Vernon was the alma mater of naval personnel awarded 23 George Crosses and at least 134 George Medals for bomb and mine disposal.

Countless other medals, Mentions in Despatches and King’s Commendations for Bravery were awarded to personnel associated with Vernon for naval minelaying, minesweeping, diving and bomb and mine disposal while hundreds of other personnel were made MBEs and awarded OBEs in military lists.

Since the Second World War personnel associated with Vernon have been awarded at least one Distinguished Service Order, 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, 69 British Empire Medals, 14 Queen’s Gallantry Medals and 35 Queen’s Commendations for Bravery, among other honours and awards for gallantry, for naval minewarfare, diving and EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) operations from the waters of Tarawa and Tuvalu in the Gilbert and Ellis Islands to the badlands of Iraq and Afghanistan.

No single monument or memorial exists to celebrate these individuals or commemorate the minewarfare, diving and EOD heritage of HMS Vernon.

However, the Vernon Monument project has raised more than £220,000 so far towards the £325,000 need to build a near twice life-size monument comprising a bronze diver and a mine at Gunwharf Quays where HMS Vernon stood before closing its gates for the last time in April 1996.

The installation has been designed by Australian sculptor Les Johnson.

If you would like to contribute to the memorial contact Rob on rob.hoole@ntlworld.com.

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