Watch: The fight to keep The Yomper at Eastney

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THE iconic Yomper statue paying tribute to all those who served in the Falklands conflict must never be moved.

That’s the clear message from a community that has rallied together against plans to uproot the landmark Falklands memorial from its prominent position outside The Royal Marines Museum and move it to the historic dockyard.

Our grandson Oliver is six and he loves the Yomper. We told him a couple of years ago, that he probably won’t always be here. And he ran up the steps and held onto his leg and said; “I will miss him when he’s gone.

Margaret Saunders

The museum is set to move there in 2019 thanks to a £2m boost from the government and is considering taking the Yomper and showcasing it to visitors.

But campaigners say the proud tribute must stay as it’s a reminder of the area where marines trained – and the sacrifices made by so many.

Some say moving the Yomper would be the equivalent of moving the Queen Victoria statue from Guildhall Square simply because ‘that monarch has ceased to reign as our sovereign Queen.’

An online petition has attracted more than 340 signatures and scores of supporters gathered at the Yomper to pledge their support.

Eastney resident Brian Forcey, 79, who served in the RAF, said: ‘It’s an iconic statue and I frequently meet ex-marines who have trained in that area.

‘They look at the buildings where they used to live and they are proud of the Yomper looking out to the sea. They believe it’s the best place for it. I wouldn’t like to see it move, at all. It’s a piece of history.’

Ann Hunt, 69, who lives in the former marine barracks, said: ‘There’s no way it should happen. The marines have always been based at Eastney.

‘I know the museum will go, but we feel very strongly that the Yomper should stay. If they take him, we will have an awful void. Why don’t they commission something else for the dockyard?

‘We feel that if we don’t speak up about this, it will be too late.’

Marine Gate resident Phil Saunders, 69, who organised the Yomper gathering, said: ‘It’s an iconic statue and I don’t want the Yomper to move, away from somewhere accessible to the public and somewhere where people can’t get to it without having to pay a fee.

‘It’s part of our common history. The relationship with the Falklands conflict, that’s what it represents. It’s something Portsmouth sees as its own.’

His wife, Margaret Saunders, said: ‘Our grandson Oliver is six and he loves the Yomper. We told him a couple of years ago that he probably won’t always be here. And he ran up the steps and held on to his leg and said; “I will miss him when you’re gone.’’

‘It’s crucial for our youth and a reminder of our heritage and history.’ Sheila Mackie, 60, of Eastney, who put together the petition, said: ‘I just feel he belongs outside the old marine barracks. When the museum goes, nobody will know that it’s part of our history. All the marines were there.

‘The Yomper has grown to be more than just a statue. He has come to be a monument for the Falklands, and he’s much loved by everyone who goes past.

‘To be put in a building wouldn’t do him justice.’

A spokesman for the Naval Dockyards Society said: ‘Putting this ridiculous scheme into context is like removing the Queen Victoria statue from Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square, simply because that monarch ceases to reign as our sovereign Queen.

‘Like the Queen Victoria statue complements our city Guildhall, subsequently the ‘Yomper’ complements the facade of the now residential Eastney buildings.’

A dockyard spokeswoman said: ‘We are looking at all possible options and understand how sensitive this is.’

and what the Yomper means to people and this will be taken into consideration.’

WORLD-renowned sculptor Philip Jackson created the famous Yomper Falklands memorial statue outside the Royal Marines Museum.

It was commissioned by the Royal Marines and unveiled on July 8 1992 by Margaret Thatcher – on the tenth anniversary of the Falklands War.

It was officially unveiled to commemorate all the Royal Marines and those who served with them in the south Atlantic during the conflict.

The Yomper statue is based on a photograph of Corporal Peter Robinson yomping his way to ‘Sapper Hill’ during the conflict.

As the Royal Marines proceeded along the Moody Brook track towards Port Stanley, Robinson took out a Union Flag from his pack and attached it to the aerial of his radio with masking tape when he heard news of the Argentine surrender.

Yomp is Royal Marines slang describing a long-distance march carrying full kit.

Mr Jackson, who lives and works in West Sussex, was appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2009.

His other works include; the statue of Mahatma Gandhi for Parliament Square, unveiled March 2015, The Korean War Monument statue, unveiled in London 2014, a figure of Prince Philip, unveiled in Windsor Great Park, 2013, and the Bomber Command Memorial Sculpture, in Green Park, London.