Scanning of the Maquette

A significant milestone has been achieved with Project Vernon, the campaign to erect a monument at the marina, residential and retail development at Gunwharf Quays, formerly HMS VERNON, in Portsmouth to celebrate all those - past, present and future - involved with minewarfare & diving operations.  The bronze sculpture is due to be installed next spring where it will be seen by an annual footfall of 8 million visitors.

Laser scanning of the half life-size model was conducted on Thursday 8 August. This will enable casting of the one-and-a-quarter life-size bronze sculpture and, eventually, miniatures in various materials.

Vernon Monument scanning composite 9 Aug 2019 (2).jpg

These photos show the enormous complexity of the task and the fine detail sculptor Mark Richards has applied to his creation without making it a characterless static 'teaching aid'. He said that balancing such a large inanimate object as a moored mine with the dynamic human life forms of the divers so that they work in harmony was his greatest challenge and his greatest cause of satisfaction.

For further background, information and pictures, go to the Project Vernon website at www.vernon-monument.org.uk/ or the Project's Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/vernonmonument/

Monitoring progress on the model of the sculpture

On 16 July, Project Vernon volunteers David Sandiford, Grenville Johnson MBE, Martyn Holloway and Rob Hoole accompanied sculptor Mark Richards and his assistant Emma Lilley to the Morris Singer foundry at Lasham in Hampshire to witness some of the processes it will use to cast the Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument in bronze. The monument is due to be installed next year in Pool B at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, the former location of HMS VERNON.

Morris Singer Foundry visit 16 Jul 2018 (90a).jpg

On 6 August, a panel of Project Vernon volunteers, constituting members of the main supporting organisations (MCDOA, AORNFCD, MWA, TCA and RNCDA), visited the studio of distinguished sculptor Mark Richards in Ludlow, Shropshire and approved his final design of the Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument. The Project Vernon panel comprised Grenville Johnson MBE, Colin 'Scouse' Kidman QGM, David Sandiford, John 'George' Turnbull and Yours Truly (Rob Hoole), seen here flanking sculptor Mark Richards and his assistant Emma Lilley.

Project Vernon sculptor visit Ludlow 6 Aug 2019 (48).jpg

This is Mark Richards’ studio, a converted school which was previously a workhouse.

Project Vernon sculptor visit Ludlow 6 Aug 2019 (14).jpg

This is the half life-size model from which the one-and-a-quarter life-size bronze sculpture, and eventually miniatures, will be produced.

N.B. The supporting scaffolding poles will not appear in the finished product!

Newest donations

From the USA

A huge thank you to a generous benefactor in the USA who has made a four figure donation towards the Project in honour of his father who was a 'P' Party (Port Clearance) diver at the end of the Second World War.

‘P’ Party divers at Antwerp in October 1944

‘P’ Party divers at Antwerp in October 1944

Incredibly, despite clearing continental ports including Cherbourg, Caen, Dieppe, Le Havre, Boulogne, Rouen, Calais, Antwerp, Ostend, Terneuzen, Zeebrugge, Flushing, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Bremen (where 60 mines were found and dealt with alone), not a single member of a ‘P’ Party was lost during operations. The sole fatality was AB William Brunskill of 'P' Party 1571 who died from his injuries on 19 Dec 1944 after a German V-2 rocket hit the Cinema Rex in Antwerp where he had been watching a film three days previously.

From Hong Kong

In view of the current situation in Hong Kong, we are particularly grateful to the Commanding Officer and five members of the Hong Kong Police EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Team for their donation, received today, of £500 towards the Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument.

Tony Chow - CO Hong Kong Police EOD Team

Tony Chow - CO Hong Kong Police EOD Team

According to the associated email, the team took over the clearance diving role in HK from the RN following the handover in 1997 and they still remember the late CPO(D) Stephen 'Darby' Allan who was killed in an explosive incident in South Sudan in 2010 after leaving the RN (see entry for 26 Nov 10 and linked entries in News Archive 32 of the MCDOA website).

The Hong Kong Police EOD Team is responsible for all EOD operations in HK, including IEDD, CMD, CBRN and underwater. The six operators making the donation are cross-trained in the underwater role and they provide round-the-clock coverage. There have been frequent underwater jobs since the RN left, mainly to do with conventional munitions found by dredging operations or found by civilian scuba divers. The objects range from MK XIV mines to large aircraft bombs and all types of shells.

As the legacy of the RN operations in HK, the six current underwater operators were keen to donate the funds to the Vernon project. I'm sure all members of our community will join me in expressing our gratitude to these members of the team for their extraordinary generosity and congratulate them on the work they do.

Latest donations

During the past week, Project Vernon funds have been boosted by donations totaling several hundred pounds from Cdr John Grattan OBE RN, Andrew Bailey (son of wartime diving officer Lt Bill Bailey CBE DSC GM & Bar RN), ex-TON class 'Sparker' David 'Bagsy' Baker and former CDs Chris 'Paddy' Doonan and Alex Peters. Sales of signed copies of books via the website's shop have added several hundred pounds more.

Thank you all. Please keep it coming.

Recent donations

Recent donations include £500 from a particularly generous but untraceable benefactor and £215 from the collection box in Gunwharf Quays.

The Project has also received £325 as a result of the latest 11th MCM Squadron reunion in Hull. Every year since 1982 the City of Kingston Upon Hull holds a Festival of the Sea weekend to commemorate the contribution the city made to the Falklands conflict.  This is recognised as those ships that were taken up from trade (STUFT) for the conflict that included the North Sea ferry MV Norland that survived AAF bombing while landing 2 Para at the San Carlos beachhead and then returned later to land elements of 5 Infantry Brigade having collected them via the 5 RN manned Hull minesweeping trawlers Cordella, Pict, Northella, Junella and Farnella in South Georgia from QE2.  The trawlers then operated around both East and West Falkland supporting SF operations as well as a 'guinea pig’ exploration for influence mines in a designated NGS area.  Following the surrender of Argentine forces, the trawlers swept the routes into Port Stanley and then cleared the declared moored minefields.  The ocean going tugs Yorkshireman, Irishman and Salvageman operated between South Georgia and the Falkland Islands in the Tug, Repair and Loitering Area.

Some of the attendees at the recent 11th MCM Squadron reunion in Hull

Some of the attendees at the recent 11th MCM Squadron reunion in Hull

The weekend is well supported by the good people of Hull who make welcome many former servicemen who took part in the conflict. The South Atlantic Medal Association (SAMA), is well represented as are those formerly of 2 Para, the 11th MCM (Trawler) Squadron and merchant seamen who manned the tugs and the Norland.  The guests of honour this year included the Lord Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire the Hon. Dame Susan Cunliffe-Lister, Admiral Lord West of Spithead, former Commanding Officer HMS ARDENT and Lady West, Major General Julian Thompson, former Commander 3 Commando Brigade and Commodore Michael Clapp, formerly COMAW/Commander Amphibious Task Group Falklands.  Lunches were held, a Church service fllled Hull Minster followed by a parade and receptions at various hostelries.

To help the weekend flow smoothly the Yorkshire Brewhouse brewed a significant quantity of  ‘5 Trawlers Amber Ale’.  Profit from the sale of 80 bottles plus a contribution from a raffle held by former 11 MCM Squadron members totalled £252 that has since been donated to the Vernon Monument Project.

Next year’s gathering will be held on the weekend of 25/26 April 20 and apparently hotel accommodation is already scarce.

Sales of books via the website's shop are also reaping a useful return.

Newly published trilogy covering minewarfare operations during the First & Second World Wars

Newly published trilogy covering minewarfare operations during the First & Second World Wars

Thank you one and all.