RN Minewarfare Heritage: New book now available

'Nightraiders', the second volume of the trilogy that started with 'Home Waters', is now available to order from the American publisher, Heritage Books, at a cost of $80 ($40 plus $40 p&p to the UK). This equates to £63.82 at the current exchange rate.

Alternatively, signed copies are available via the website’s Shop for £30 (including £4 UK p&p) with £10 going towards Project Vernon.

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Nightraiders: U.S. Navy, Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy, and Royal Netherlands Navy Mine Forces Battling the Japanese in the Pacific in World War II. Cdr. David D. Bruhn, USN (Retired) and Lt. Cdr. Rob Hoole, RN (Retired).

As war with Japan was imminent, the British laid minefields off Hong Kong and Singapore; the Dutch in the Netherlands East Indies; and the Australians off New Zealand and Australia, in an attempt to prevent enemy invasion. Ships hastily converted to this task were referred to as “night raiders.” Duty aboard a “floating ammunition dump” was hazardous enough; missions carried out under the cloak of darkness increased the odds of survival in enemy waters.

As MacArthur, Halsey, and Spruance’s forces advanced toward Japan, minesweepers worked with “night raiders”—clearing waters off landing beaches, while minelayers strove to deny the enemy freedom of the sea. Australian seaplanes (“Black Cats”) flew long, perilous night-missions to mine Japanese harbors, and British submarines and planes joined in the attack on shipping. Late in the war, USAAF bombers ringed the Japanese home islands with thousands of mines.

When hostilities ended, war-weary “sweep sailors” remained in Asian waters—ridding the sea of “shipkillers.” The little-known efforts of these valiant men are illuminated in this rare look into history. One hundred and forty-four photographs, maps, and diagrams; appendices; and an index to full-names, places and subjects add value to this work.

'Home Waters', the first volume of the trilogy launched last year, contains a foreword by MCDOA past-President Rear Admiral Paddy McAlpine CBE and a section describing the history of HMS VERNON. Signed copies are still available from the website’s Shop at the same price (£30 including £4 UK p&p) with £10 going towards Project Vernon.

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Home Waters: Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and U.S. Navy Mine Forces Battling U-Boats in World War I - David Bruhn and Rob Hoole.

In WWI under a crippling naval blockade of its North Sea ports which ultimately resulted in the starvation of thousands of its citizens and as land warfare in Europe drags on, Germany endeavours to counter-blockade Britain via U-boat attacks on shipping and by mining waters round the British Isles.

Hundreds of fishing vessels from every port and harbour in Britain are pressed into minesweeping duties and minelayers sow fields to restrict and destroy German vessels. Their efforts allow the powerful Royal Navy to hold the German Navy in port — except for occasional skirmishes, including the Battle of Jutland. American destroyers hunt U-boats in British waters, while minelayers create a barrier between the Orkney Islands and Norway, to try to deny the enemy entry into the Atlantic.

Desperate, Germany mounts a U-boat offensive off North America in the summer 1918, to induce the U.S. to bring her destroyers home. Although nearly one hundred vessels are sunk, this action fails. Germany surrenders in late autumn 1918 and allied vessels are left with the deadly task of removing thousands of mines laid in the war. One hundred and fifty photographs, maps, and diagrams; appendices; and an index to full-names, places and subjects add value to this work.

The third volume of the trilogy, titled 'Enemy Waters', will deal with minewarfare (minelaying, minesweeping and naval bomb & mine disposal at sea and on land) against Germany and Italy during the Second World War. It is due to be released next year.

Latest Fundraising

Many thanks to Jess Owen for placing the winning bid of £150 for this original framed painting of HMS Brinton, complete with banana and Fishery Protection Squadron funnel badge. The painting, signed and dated (1977) by R.G. (Bob) Hales, was donated to the Vernon Monument Project.

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A generous donation of £1,000 has been made by one of our own who wishes to remain anonymous. You know who you are - very many thanks on behalf of all of our supporters.

A very kind donation of £500 has been made by Chris Thompson who reminded Project Manager David Sandiford that he was in HMS Cottesmore while David was in HMS Chiddingfold.

A very handsome donation of £1,000 has been made by Mrs Eunice Viney, widow of the late CPO(D) Richard Viney, in Richard's memory. Very many thanks from all involved with the Vernon Monument.

Please note that every single penny collected, plus 25% Gift Aid where applicable, goes towards the campaign to design, install and maintain the Vernon minewarfare & diving monument. The project is a registered charity and all staff are unpaid volunteers.

News about our Merchandise

The Shop no longer sells items that displayed the previous design image. It is early days with the new design and once the finer details have been agreed it is anticipated that further merchandise, including clothing and miniatures of the new monument design will be offered for sale.

Keep an eye on the website and if you have ideas as what items you think should be offered for sale then fire them in via the ‘Contact Us’ page.

Click on the ‘Important Update’ below to find out why.

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

Over £250k has been raised towards the erection of the Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument in Gunwharf Quays to date but there is an irresistible strength of opinion to see the project completed sooner than currently envisaged. The Trustees have therefore sought and received unanimous agreement at a recent meeting to undertake a radical review.  You will be pleased to hear that steps are being taken to bring the monument to completion in a much quicker timescale than was previously forecast. 

Despite the sterling efforts of many supporters, sufficient money has not been forthcoming to pursue the original sculptor’s design (and costs) and, as is quite usual in such circumstances, he is unwilling to surrender the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for his creation to be implemented by someone else.  The project’s legal position has been confirmed with an IPR lawyer and advice has been sought from a former president of the Royal British Society of Sculptors.  The upshot is that a modified design needed to be considered. 

To this end, a number of new sculptors were briefed that a mine and a diver, in keeping with the project’s original logo, were to be the essence of a new design for the sculpture. The outcome was that on Thursday 4 October 2018 four parties each presented a maquette and their proposals to a panel of our peers at Gunwharf Quays. The selection panel included members of the Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officers Association, the Minewarfare Association, the Association of Royal Navy First Class Divers and the Ton Class Association.. The criteria included amongst other things that the design should be suitable, representative, fully viable, achievable in a reasonable timescale and be within or very close to the funds in hand whilst also allowing a contingency amount to cover any eventualities. 

At that meeting it was decided that one particular sculptor should be invited to produce a fully detailed and technically tested design with a detailed programme of production. This has now been done. Once this is accepted by all concerned a contract will be signed and the monument production will get underway. 

The name of the sculptor will be announced and a proposed schedule for production and, in due course, installation will be forthcoming.. In due course an artist’s impression of the new design in its intended location will be published.

It is anticipated that the likely installation date will be in the late winter or early spring of 2020.

The project team are well aware that a large number of people have supported the monument by purchasing items displaying the previous monument design from the on line shop. These sales were completed in good faith to support the project and those items are now part of the history of the Vernon Monument and should be cherished as such.

A celebration of the life of one of our keenest supporters

A memorial celebration of life took place for Frederick ‘Tug’ Wilson, a former Royal Navy diver and bomb disposal expert from Brompton who recently died at the age of 77.  It was held at the Plough & Chequers in Danes Hill, Gillingham on Tuesday 25th September.  

Former CPO(D) Frederick ‘Tug’ Wilson

Former CPO(D) Frederick ‘Tug’ Wilson

Tug - who lived at Melville Court for many years - joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15 and served for 30 years, eventually leaving as a Chief Petty Officer Clearance Diver.

Tug spent the whole of his working life with explosives, and after leaving the Royal Navy he ran a gun shop on Medway City Estate.  Then he joined the staff of the tri-service Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal School at Chattenden as a civilian where he stayed until his retirement.  

Tug was an enthusiastic member of the Chatham Branch of the Royal Naval Association, helping to bring the national conference of the organisation to the Medway Towns in 2003.  He was chairman of the Chatham Branch for a number of years and became Area Chairman with jurisdiction over RNA branches in Kent, Surrey and East Sussex until he was forced to step down due to failing health. 

In that role, he was involved in the plan to erect a monument to honour those involved in mine warfare, diving and bomb & mine disposal to be erected in the basin of the former HMS Vernon in Portsmouth.  Donations will be taken at the memorial event.

There was a good turnout of those who knew or worked with Tug. A collection was held and the proceeds very kindly donated to the monument.