AFTER over a decade of fundraising, a statue to honour the Royal Navy’s heroes of the deep will finally be unveiled next year.
The bronze monument to celebrate the heritage of HMS Vernon and those involved in mine warfare, diving and bomb and mine disposal is to be unveiled at Gunwharf Quays on March 25, 2020.
Since the project began in 2008, more than £250,000 has been raised so far by a team of unpaid volunteers to fund the one-and-a-quarter life size monument of a contact sea mine and two divers, created by sculptor Mark Richards FRSS, which will stand proud of one of the pools of the shopping centre – the former site of HMS Vernon.
Rob Hoole, who served in the navy for 32 years and was based at HMS Vernon, is part of the project.
The retired lieutenant commander from Waterlooville said: ‘This is the culmination of the fundraising efforts of dozens of serving and retired volunteers in the RN mine warfare and diving communities who wish to see a permanent reminder of the rich heritage of HMS Vernon, and a tribute to its heirs, in Gunwharf Quays. The Project is grateful to them all.’
The cash for the statue was raised through a number of fundraising activities including volunteers swimming around Portsea Island, a 24-hour kayak marathon and abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower as well as gala dinners and auctions.
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 before it closed in 1986.
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 mud banks the clearance tasks fell to personnel from HMS Vernon.
Extra cash is still needed for the unveiling ceremony, lighting, maintenance, insurance and signage. To find out how to help visit vernon-monument.org.uk