Q: What is the monument for?
A: To commemorate all those who passed through “HMS Vernon” over the years, in particular those serving as Divers or Mine Warfare specialists or who worked with the teams in their various roles. Placing the monument in a conspicuous, public place, namely Vernon Creek in the heart of Gunwharf Quays, the former HMS Vernon, will remind of the dangerous underwater ordnance disposal role that this community has fulfilled and continues to perform on a daily basis across the globe.
Q: Why build one now?
A: In 1996 the UK Ministry of Defence sold what many knew as HMS Vernon to a commercial property company for the site to be redeveloped and subsequently opened and rebranded as Gunwharf Quays in 2001 (see www.gunwharf-quays.com). Scattered in between luxury residential and retail property developments are some original, Royal Navy-era relics that remind the individual of the nautical history associated with this famous site: some late-Victorian buildings; a few torpedo exhibits; a couple of famous figureheads from long-gone wooden hulled warships; even the venerable red GPO telephone box has survived somehow… And there are two mines: a refurbished M Mk1 found recently under rubble during some building works and a Mk 17 moored mine. Yet there are few memorials on the site. What of all the service personnel who passed through the gates of the Vernon, including the divers, bomb and mine disposal and mine warfare specialists? The answer is the proposed Vernon Monument, a permanent and highly suitable tribute to these and other select communities.
Q: Who’ll see it?
A: Over 30 million people have visited Gunwharf Quays since its opening in 2001. The monument will be located in the most prominent position in this very popular public site where the next 30 million will barely be able to avoid seeing it. The latest panoramic views of the site can be seen at www.gunwharfquays.co.uk. Other views of the area are in the Gallery on this website.
Q: What’s the proposed design?
A: A bronze statue on a stone plinth. To demonstrate typical combat clearance diving and mine warfare operations, the design is of a Clearance Diver, wearing Clearance Diving Breathing Apparatus (CDBA) diving equipment that was in operational use during the period when HMS Vernon closed, dealing with a typical moored mine that has been caught in the remains of a wreck. There is evidence of minesweeping equipment that has been caught up in the wreck also. The scale will probably be 1.5 times life-size with the monument mounted on a raised stone plinth, itself positioned on an underwater structure clear of the seabed. Lighting the monument will give greater visual impact at night.
Q: When’s it all going to happen?
A: As soon as the funds can be raised and matched to the rising costs of construction. Once the funds raised equal the curve of rising inflation then a fixed price contract will be signed. Prices do not wait for fundraisers and increase with inflation that takes its toll of the amounts already raised, thus the longer it takes to raise the funds then the more it will cost.
None of the Project team envisaged that it would take as long as it has to raise the amounts already raised and would urge those who are waiting for the last opportunities to contribute to consider doing so as soon as possible. We are getting closer but it is impossible to predict when completion will be achieved.
Q: Where’s it going to go?
A: In the middle of Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth in the western end of the Vernon Basin, near to the old crane and opposite the Custom House Public House. Planning permission dictates that the monument be installed in the canal to provide a natural moat defence for public safety reasons.
Q: So what happens next?
A: Several milestones have been achieved…
Outline approval has been given by the Gunwharf Quays site owners Land Securities Group, Crown Estates and Portsmouth City Council’s Conservation & Design planning department.
The monument will be to all those who passed through Vernon and especially, because of the final design, divers and minewarfare specialists. We continue to seek volunteers to help in delivering this monument, whether as members of the Organising Committee or in fundraising. All support is welcome, particularly fundraising ideas and the enthusiasm to see an idea through; there’s plenty to do in the planning and production process too!
Fundraising and Good Causes
The Organising Management Committee has selected the sculptor, finalised the design and will be ready to start the production process as soon as the amount raised approaches the then current estimated amount required. The current estimate (April 2018) is upwards of £345,000. Some of this will need to be set aside for future insurances and to meet maintenance costs although by far the greater part will fund the monument production costs.
Our range of merchandise to support the fundraising process includes a series of monument miniatures with over one hundred sold to date. Further ongoing merchandising sales of limited edition artwork and associated project materials, plus support from our various Associations and their respective members, are all progressive, valued sources of funds. Please see the "Shop" pages for details of items available for sale.
The Superintendent of Diving, currently Commander Don Crosbie, Royal Navy in his capacity as chairman of the Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officers' Association (MCDOA) kindly continues to act as the Prime Sponsor for the Project. David Sandiford, who took over last year as the volunteer Project Manager, is assisted by a small team of volunteers.
Q: What can I do to help?
A: Initially, please register your overall support or thoughts on line using the Contact Us page of this website. You may wish to give a donation now via the Donation page or make Shop purchases and can make payments in a variety ways through this website. Volunteers, particularly with fundraising and PR experience, are keenly sought.
So, that’s the outline plan for Project Vernon, the Monument: now to pay for it, build it and install it……..