Whilst attending a Vernon Old Instructors’ Trafalgar Night Dinner at Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, I became aware of Project Vernon. This campaign’s goal is to install a monument to commemorate the
Vernon’s many vital roles
Naval Heritage of the HMS Vernon site, now Gunwharf Quays. Great credit should be given to those who strived to get this project funded with an initial design of a diver and mine, to which I have donated. However, many who regularly served in Vernon since WWII, through the Cold War and up to Vernon’s closure in 1977, are anxious that the full wide purpose of this Underwater Warfare Establishment is not lost or diluted. The original wooden hulks that formed the early torpedo/mine school
are well documented. Underwater Warfare changed rapidly following WWII in Vernon. There was a shift from the heavy weight destroyer/ cruiser-launched torpedoes to light weight anti-submarine. Also the long-used depth charge moved to ASW mortars. One also should not forget the Navy’s ASW Nuclear Depth Bomb. Its training, handling and storage took place here. These underwater weapons with their improved Sonar/Radar control
systems were a major part of Vernon’s work, as was the shift from mine sweeping to mine hunting with expansion of diving training. As someone said, if you attended a Vernon ceremonial divisional
parade, the vast numbers of men and their specialisations involved could be clearly seen.
Deeply sorry to miss you
submarine capability was huge and second only to the US. This was the UK effort to counter the then impressive Soviet
work which was an integral part of Vernon’s wider underwater warfare activities. Also, we should not forget the birth of the RN’s electrical branches there before HMS Collingwood. Many of us hope that all those involved in recording Portmouth’s
At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s to 70s, the RN’s anti-
submarine threat of some 500 boats. This should not devalue in any way the mine warfare and diving
naval heritage will take this opportunity to support and preserve all the key aspects of Vernon’s history on this important waterfront area in modern-day Portsmouth.
– R J Nicholls, (Ex FCPO TASI) Godalming, Surrey
My body art got past the recruiters
IN THE letter by Brian Bloom (December) concerning WO1 Stephenson, he raises the question ‘are tattoos now allowed at Raleigh?’
galleon on my right.
I read an article in my morning paper about a year ago concerning a young man in Portsmouth who had breezed through the selection process at his local recruiting office, only to be turned down when they saw he had a single letter tattooed behind one ear. So my
‘When were visible tattoos banned by the RN?’
had question would be
its own recruiting office in Church Square, and I had very visible tattoos on the back of my hands, namely a black panther’s head on the left and a
I joined up when Hartlepool
The only time they were mentioned during the nine years I served was when they were added to Visible Distinguishing Marks on my service documents, as tattoos on both hands and arms. Another question I have
when all Seamen-related branches were changed in the RN, what became of GIs and Chief GIs? What did they become under the new branches? Who is their equivalent now regarding drill instruction, etc.? As an afterthought, I didn’t like
‘that cap,’ either. Those awfully nice quiet fellows at Whale Island didn’t need a funny hat to get their point across!
No Gunners in the Navy
IN the past 75 years, there have been ships and submarines named HMS Hotspur, HMS Manchester, HMS United, HMS Liverpool and even HMS Chelsea, but no HMS Arsenal. Is that an indication that none of Their Lordships ever supported the Gunners, a team that has always been in the top flight of English football? Rugby fans, and Chief Petty Officers, will note HMS Exeter, HMS Gloucester, HMS Harlequin, HMS Newcastle and HMS Falcon, HMS Saracen, HMS Wasp, HMS Worcester and HMS Warrior. There’s not been an HMS Leicester for centuries, although an HMS
– Lester May, Camden Town, London
Tiger, of course, only one ever HMS Northampton and an HMS Shark but no Sale, although that is what seems to be the fate of too much of the Fleet
Wartime Orange Wednesday?
DURING World War 2, with oranges in short supply, a destroyer captain en route to the UK via North Africa apparently loaded up his ship with oranges as a gift
READING the many letters in our Comment pages about who was the youngest boy to join the post-war Navy (the current record-holder is Mike Smith, at 14, but he may be challenged yet) it’s striking how precise the memories are – names, dates, classmates, teachers, lessons – many are recalled with complete precision. Proof, if it were needed, of the lasting impression the training establishments left on the young people who went through their gates. They entered as boys and left as highly- trained, skilled and self-reliant young men who could turn their hands to anything. It’s a style of teaching and discipline completely different
from today’s, and drawing comparisons between their generation and following ones would be futile when the
24 FEBRUARY 2012 :
world has changed so much. The current generation of teenagers is certainly more
affluent in material terms than the St Vincent and Ganges boys. They might, however, envy the previous generations for their sense of purpose, and the self-respect which came from doing a skilled job in the finest Navy in the world. On a markedly more sombre note, Derek West, of the HMS Phoebe Association, has written about the boys from his own ship who were killed in World War 2.
February 2012 no.691: 58th year Leviathan Block, HMS Nelson, Portsmouth PO1 3HH
Sarah Fletcher 023 9272 4194 Editor: Mike Gray 023 9272 5136
Many shipmates will be attending the service at Portsmouth Cathedral to remember the 534 Boy Seamen who were killed in action – a sobering reminder of what was expected from our young people only a few generations ago.
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to the children of Southend-on- Sea. Can anyone verify this story? Given the number of children in the town, did they get one each? – Colin Taylor, Ilford,
– Ian ‘Doc’ Holliday AB QA2 1964-73, Hartlepool
I WAS delighted to read your website coverage about the Military Wives Choir welcoming home HMS Turbulent (www.
) – see page 5. In my view, the intense media interest in the
development of the choir under Gareth Malone’s tutelage has gone some way towards educating the civilian population about the challenges that Service families face.
It is through such education that Service personnel and their families will achieve the sort of recognition and support that they deserve and that the Armed Forces Covenant describes as the nation’s moral obligation to them. What people have found so moving, I think, is to
have been given a glimpse of the sometimes painful reality of military life, of which, hitherto, they were largely unaware. Viewers who watched the TV programme could not help but be touched by seeing the women who participated in The Choir blossom as Gareth sensitively drew out feelings that ordinarily they kept hidden.
Military wives are given a voice at last
Far from undermining the women’s capacity to cope with the unique demands of military life, the expression of their emotions actually strengthened their resolve and encouraged them to be mutually supportive.
Gareth displayed an unusual level of empathy in recognising so quickly the relative isolation of Servicemen’s wives who live in military communities and the importance for their well-being and self- confidence of ‘giving them a voice.’ His discoveries echo some of my own research findings (described in Relocation, Gender and Emotion: A Psycho-Social Perspective on the Experiences of Military Wives published last year). One of the recommendations that I made is that
emotional upheavals should be recognised as a normal aspect of military lifestyles. Once there is greater awareness of the normality of these distressing feelings, it will become easier for them to be discussed and addressed, rather than being unhelpfully denied as tends to be the case currently.
– Dr Sue Jervis, BFPO 26 The day my wife took Revenge
I READ with interest the story about HMS Vengeance and her Families’ Day under the sea (December, page 44) The
commented that he thought this was the first time that such an event had taken place. Not so, I’m sorry to
him, as a similar event took place back in 1978 when I was MCC Chief on HMS Revenge (Port) A number of our wives and
girlfriends were invited to join us for the ‘voyage’ between Coulport and Faslane, which included a dip
beneath the waves off the Isle of Arran. The
event was, Blythe, I believe,
instigated and sanctioned by the late Admiral Lord Fieldhouse, who was at the time Captain SM10.
My recollections of the trip are
rather vague after 33 years, but I do remember having lunch in the Senior Rates’ Mess with my wife and Lady Fieldhouse. What good company she was, a most interesting and gracious lady. My other memories of the day is that, for once, it was a beautiful
sunny day, with hardly a ripple on the waters of the Clyde, and of my wife being invited by our CO, Cdr Hoddinot, to man the periscope when we surfaced, after about an hour under the briny. Like Vengeance, I don’t think
we went much below periscope depth, and I am sure he had a quick ‘one all round’ before letting my wife loose on the periscope. She can’t even drive a car, let alone an SSBN! Happy days! George Tame, ex CWEA, Wokingham, Berkshire
THE MEMBERS of the Seven Seas Naval Officers’ Club were surprised, indeed embarrassed, to learn from Global Reach (January) that a ballistic missile submarine was on patrol beneath the Seven Seas. Surprised, because the club is usually informed when a naval vessel is in the area so that, following the tradition dating back to 1868 of its predecessor the Royal Navy Club, it can send an RPC and invite the Captain and officers to use the club whilst they are in the vicinity. Embarrassed because the main core of members, being serving or retired naval officers, should always be aware of what is happening in their vicinity. It would be appreciated if you
would pass on our regards and apologies to the captain of the submarine, and assure him that he and his officers will always be most welcome to come up and join us in a glass at the Club. – Chairman and Members,
Seven Seas Club, Simon’s Town, South Africa
THE PLEDGE Lethal to our enemies, safe to ourselves (November page 28) made by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, can only be applauded. Charlie Buoy in Plymouth Sound was no stranger to me in the 1960s when ‘jumping’ for HMS Ark Royal.
It is good to see the buoy has increased in size and also has a safety rail, and the lifejackets worn by the ship’s company are less cumbersome. The old adage of ‘one hand for the ship and one for yourself’ is still true today.
of ‘messenger rope’ as seen in your picture strewn underfoot is also true to this day. Perhaps in the interests of safety someone should attend to that?
The mistake of leaving lengths
shipwright) Marlow, Bucks BZ and KBO
AFTER reading your paper for some years now, I have come to the opinion that you have a missing article from each edition. There are articles on swap
drafts, promotions, deaths, etc, but there is one thing missing. It’s a congratulations column for those in the service who have reached the 22-year milestone and haven’t submitted their notice to leave. As we don’t get any thanks from those up above for reaching this point and continuing on, I do think that at least someone should say ‘thank you for your service so far, and well done.’ Yes, I am about to reach my 22 point this year (already there in 2011 with boy’s time though) so maybe it could be up and running by then! – WO2 Derek Jenkinson, FOST, FASMAT, Faslane
– Bob Hufflet (retired
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