LEADERS behind a project honouring the Royal Navy’s heroes of the deep are hoping a fundraising dinner will help turn their dreams into reality.
Members of the navy’s mine warfare and diving community have been battling to raise £320,000 to start work on a new eye-catching tribute at Gunwharf Quays.
It aims to celebrate the history of HMS Vernon, which occupied the site for much of 70 years until it was developed into the shopping centre.
So far, their nine-year quest has raised more than £230,000.
Now, the team behind the Vernon Mine Warfare and Diving Monument are inviting people to join a charity dinner marking the 35th anniversary of the Falklands War.
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, of Waterlooville, said they had raised about 70 per cent of the cash needed to pay for the statue.
But he said the project could not progress until they had secured all the funds.
‘To those of us who lived and breathed Vernon, there is now very little to show of that happy, busy, vibrant establishment these days apart from a couple of torpedoes, a mine and a crane,’ he added.
‘Having this monument here would mean the world to the minewarfare and diving community – past and present.’
The dinner will be held at Trinity House, in London, on Wednesday, July 19.
The black-tie event will feature a host of unique prizes, which people from across the globe can bid for.
The gifts on offer include a day at sea on a major Royal Navy warship, a day hosted by a naval diving and bomb disposal unit, a day’s shooting for nine guns at the Leydene Shoot in Hampshire, and two unique models from renowned sculptor Les Johnson.
Tickets cost £295, or £2,700 for a table of ten. Transport from Portsmouth to London is available.
Lt Cdr Hoole said: ‘Come and support an important part of Portsmouth’s naval heritage.’