The Royal Navy and some of its Commonwealth spin-offs have long had a habit of commissioning “stone frigates” as shore establishments located on existing bases. One of these, founded in 1923, was HMS Vernon, so-called due to the fact that the torpedo and mining training schools in Portsmouth were on a series of hulks that included the old (circa 1832) 50-gun fourth-rate of the same name.
HMS Vernon remained a shore establishment into 1996, specializing in mine warfare in various forms, then was sold for the development of its commercial real estate potential.
Two years ago, the so-called Vernon Monument at today’s Gunwharf Quays, a shopping and housing development formed from the old HMS Vernon establishment, was quietly installed.
Designed by sculptor Mark Richards, the £250,000 statue depicts a one-and-a-quarter scale British Mk XVII moored contact sea mine, armed with 11 “Hertz horn” contacts – chemical fuses – which two divers wearing equally-iconic Clearance Diving Breathing Apparatus are attempting to deal with.
However, as 2021 was the year of COVID, the monument was only just dedicated this week, at an event that saw guests from around the world as well as personnel from the Royal Navy’s Mine Warfare community in attendance.
The statue is the only national memorial in Britain to mine warfare.