Divers and mine warfare memorial unveiled in Portsmouth

This is the magnificent new monument to all those sailors who hunt – and dispose of – mines.

Rising out of the water at the spiritual home of Royal Navy mine warfare and diving, the statue remembers all those who have attempted to keep the sea lanes open and clear mines: by sweeping, by hunting and by plunging into the depths to render them harmless.

CPO(D) Alex Newnes, Leading Diver Michael ‘Dolly’ Parton, AB(Divers) Adam Leonard, Connor Whiting, Daniel Mulholland, Thomas Waterhouse and mine warfare specialist AB Charles Wood from the Fleet Diving Squadron on Horsea Island joined veteran divers and mine warfare practitioners for the unveiling of the statue at Canalside in Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quays shopping, leisure and housing complex by Naval Base Commander Commodore Jeremy Bailey.

For nearly 75 years until 1996, the site was dedicated to training clearance divers and the home of the Royal Navy’s world-leading mine warfare specialisation.

Despite the long, proud history of HMS Vernon, there was no memorial on the site to mark its naval history and, in particular, recognise the men who trained and served there.

There is a feeling of great pride and relief among the team of volunteers who have worked so hard over the past 12 years to reach this moment.

Rob Hoole

Twelve years ago, Project Vernon was established to put that right. It’s taken a massive effort by the clearance diving/mine warfare communities to raise more than £250,000 to turn dreams and sketches into the reality of artist Mark Richards’ finished sculpture.

It took a day to install the completed work which features a one-and-a-quarter scale British Mk17 moored mine and two divers wearing equally-iconic Clearance Diving Breathing Apparatus.

Under normal circumstances, around eight million people are expected to see the imposing statue.

“There is a feeling of great pride and relief among the team of volunteers who have worked so hard over the past 12 years to reach this moment," said a proud Rob Hoole, former skipper of a Hunt-class minehunter and involved in Project Vernon since its inception.

The Coronavirus pandemic kiboshed plans for a grand unveiling, but organisers still intend to hold a formal dedication service, and install lighting to bathe the statue in artificial light at night, which is why fundraising isn’t quite complete yet.

The latest moneyspinner devised by the team – after , even a canoe marathon – is selling replicas of the monument by Mr Richards, behind sculptures of Ernest Shackleton and naval officer/cartographer Matthew Flinders (the man who gave Australia its name).

It can be ordered via the Project Vernon website (delivery is delayed presently as they come from China): www.vernon-monument.org.uk/shop.