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‘...Embedded in the
SECRETARY of State for
Defence Bob Ainsworth
is a man with a keen
historical sense of the
Navy’s importance in
shaping our island
“People say it’s that strip of sea,
that 20 miles of channel which
keeps us safer than continental
Europe has been through its
“But it’s the people who have
effectively patrolled it for centuries
who have kept us safe,” he told
Permanent tribute
Navy News, when he spoke about
the Green Paper and forthcoming
Strategic Defence Review.
The Strategic Defence
Review, the fi rst since 1998, will
to mine warriors
be produced shortly after the
As a prelude, the Green Paper
sets out the options for defence,
THIS is an impression of a twice-life-size sculpture which will one day raising serious questions about
serve as a lasting tribute to sailors in one of the loneliest – and most the UK’s place in the world, the
dangerous – professions: underwater warfare. threats we face, how we can best
A frogman struggles to disarm a moored mine, a defi ning image of protect ourselves and crucially,
one aspect of the challenge faced by sailors in mine countermeasures, how much we are prepared to pay
protecting life at sea and the nation’s seaways for more than a century. for it (see opposite).
The Vernon Monument – named after the RN’s long-standing home “There are a couple of big
of mine warfare and diving branches – is earmarked for a spot in the questions that we need to ask the
former non-tidal creek at the defunct establishment. public,” explained the Secretary of
HMS Vernon closed nearly 15 years ago and the site has since been State.
redeveloped into the hugely successful Gunwharf Quays shopping- “One is, what kind of country
leisure-housing complex on Portsmouth’s waterfront. do they want us to be, what kind
A little of the Victorian part of this venerable site remains, notably of a role do they want us to play in
the Customs House (today a pub) and images of Vernon in its heyday the world?
● Scope for change... Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth tries out the periscope on HMS Trafalgar shortly
can be found around the Gunwharf complex. “And the other is, how much
before the veteran submarine was paid off Picture: LA(Phot) Shaun Barlow, FRPU West
But a determined group of men who served there felt something was are they prepared to pay? You can’t
missing – the human element. The result is the Vernon Monument, get away from those two issues,
which we alluded to briefl y in an article championing the wartime because they are opposite sides of
deeds of John Ouvry in our January edition. the same coin.” Since the last defence review...
Well, this is how Australian sculptor Les Johnson imagines that A struggle for funding is
memorial. inevitable, not just for defence
Thirteen artists vied for the prestigious contract, whittled down to
as a whole, but among the three
three who then visited Gunwharf, HMS Collingwood’s minewarfare
Services. peacekeeping
section and the Fleet Diving Squadron HQ on Horsea Island for
In this battle for resources, operations in the
the Navy tends to feel at a Balkans
minehunters and divers
They produced maquettes – small-scale versions of their intended
disadvantage. It is not as visible RN and RFA personnel
complete survey work
sculptures – for a panel of experienced ex-Vernon servicemen to
as the other services and its
examine; the latter decided Mr Johnson’s concept would most closely
contribution to land operations
provide assistance
in Gulf;
major commitment of
after Asia’s Boxing Day
RFA helps rebuild the
epitomise the combined branches’ mine disposal role.
in not always recognised by the
RN/RM forces in Sierra
harbour in Tristan da
The full-size version of the sculpture will cost around £250,000 to
general public.
create and install. The team behind Project Vernon – motto ‘nothing
Mr Ainsworth acknowledges
too awkward to achieve’ – is already around one fi fth of the way to its
this as a problem. He said: “At sea
is out of sight, certainly under the
To assist the fund-raising, a series of limited edition prints, Danger At
sea is out of sight, and so making
major commitment
RN-led rescue of
concerted effort
Depth, depicting a diver attaching explosive charges to a moored mine,
people aware, particularly when
of RN/RM forces in
trapped Russian
against pirates off
has been produced by marine artist John R Terry FCSD.
you’ve got high end operations
Afghanistan (operations
the Horn of Africa
Some of the 215-sized run of A3-plus-size pictures are still available
going on is a real diffi culty.
ongoing); (operations ongoing)
via the dedicated website,, with prices
sailors support efforts HMS Iron Duke scores
“HMS Iron Duke might pop
starting at £75. Mr Terry has now been commissioned to produce a
to contain Foot and
record drugs bust in
up in the middle of the Caribbean
second oil painting which will highlight the Ton class vessels which
Mouth outbreak
Naval task force
with a great big drugs seizure but evacuates 4,500
played such a signifi cant part in the history of HMS Vernon.
it’s a relatively fl eeting glance at
More details about Project Vernon can be found at the above website
a patrol reassurance capability
where you can now also make a donation directly to the appeal.
civilians from Lebanon
that’s been provided for months
upwards of 19,000
at least 4,000 RN and
on end.”
Service personnel
SAR turn from Jungly crew
2007 RM personnel deployed
He continued: “Showing the
provide cover during RN and RFA help Belize
overseas daily;
fl ag, presence, infl uence, coercion,
fi re-fi ghters strike in wake of Hurricane
continuous Search and
deterrence – they’re all effects we
Rescue duties;
A SEA KING crew back from skill in Afghan skies – see page 7)
rely on the Navy and different
Afghanistan found themselves on set the Sea King down in a field,
aspects of the Navy to deliver.
sailors drafted in
continuous fishery
following floods in
another rescue mission – this time while aircrewman Sgt Lloyd RM
“And we ask an awful lot of
invasion of Iraq –
protection patrols;
in Dorset. discussed the driver’s plight with a
them in terms of the amount of
largest RN force
continuous nuclear
Their 846 NAS Jungly was on a paramedic.
output for the number of platforms
assembled since
deterrent patrols
training fl ight over Musbury when They decided the woman, who
that they’ve got and the amount of
Falklands (operations
the crew spotted a lengthy tailback suffered head injuries, needed
money and resources. People are
run until 2009)
on the A358 between Axminster flying to hospital in Yeovil, which
working enormously hard in order
and Seaton. Following that queue, the Sea King did via the Agusta
to deliver defence.”
they found an overturned car. Westland site in the town.
is this a good time to contemplate objectives and I think this one will needed for our defence capability
He agrees that the recent focus
Pilot Lt Cdr Gavin Simmonite She subsequently underwent
running the Royal Navy down? be as well. going forward?”
on land operations tends to under-
(who received the DFC for his tests for her injuries.
He said: “It’s lovely to think we “Our security policy has been One solution may be to build
represent the Navy’s contribution.
can just go back to the old days updated fairly recently and cheaper ships, and more of them –
He said: “If you look at current
where we had lines of battleships we’ve got to see defence as part did he think this was a reasonable
operations in Afghanistan and
that we could display and a fl eet of that security in the round, so option?
Haiti, the contributions that the
the size of the second and third the Strategic Defence Review is “That is something that’s got
Navy is making are huge and I
most powerful nations’ fl eets put certainly going to do that and the to be considered but at the same
think if they saw the percentage
together. Green Paper sits within.” time we need a sonar capability
fi gures, people would be really
“But we can’t There is a fear that that’s been provided at an
defend ourselves
“At sea is out of
the Navy’s frigate and impressive level by the Type 23,”
“But even when the Royal
in isolation – I destroyer numbers Mr Ainsworth said.
Marines are not deployed and
don’t think even sight, certainly have been sacrifi ced “Life moves on and the threat
running Task Force Helmand,
the Americans
under the sea is
for the new carriers, moves on, and getting the balance
the Navy is still making a huge
believe that they and may be run right, so that we can protect a
can do that – so
out of sight, and
down even more. capital ship at sea and yet be
The defence secretary added:
we have to de-
so making people
Can the Navy able to cover the grounds is an
“When I talk to constituents and
fend ourselves as continue to enormously diffi cult choice.
family members about the level part of a partner-
aware, particularly
deliver when “The Navy is wrestling with all
of visibility and understanding of ship, or alliances, its frigate and these issues and I know the review
what the navy is doing, it’s not NATO, the EU.
when you’ve got
destroyer forces is going to have to wrestle with
where we would like it to be. To be credible
high end operations
are so reduced? them as well, so all we can do at
“I know there are a lot of senior members of those He said: this stage is fl ag them up as issues
people in the Navy worried about alliances we have
going on, is a real
“We’ve bought in the Green Paper.”
the visibility of the Naval Service to be able to play the Type 45 There is also another study into
and I think there is a degree a role and make a diffi culty.” now and it is the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – why is
of truth in that with regards to contribution. a fantastic this taking place so soon after the
population at large. “I think ship with an last one?
“What people do understand is our ability to play that role in amazing capability, but at the end The minister explained:
that we’re an island nation and far, supporting everything from of the day they cost us about £1 “We should welcome effi ciency
far more dependent upon trade peacekeeping operations to billion apiece. examinations, and I don’t believe
and therefore the free passage of stabilisation buys us considerable “We’re soon going to have to we can afford to do anything
goods in the world than practically infl uence.” replace the Type 22/23s and the other than look all the time to see
any other nation on earth. Some defence reviews in the Navy is already working on this, whether or not we’re operating as
“If the security systems and past have been criticised for not but if the future surface combatant capably and effi ciently as we can.
the trade systems of the world fall being tied in with foreign and is going to cost £1 billion we’re “But what we’ve got to do is
over we catch cold as much, if not security policy – would this one be not going to have many of them, make sure those studies capture all
more, than anybody.” different? and we’re not going to be able to the complexity of the job – and the
Now that other countries “I don’t think we’ll fall down sell them in the export market. job is sometimes more complex
including China, Russia, India and on that,” he said. “The last SDR “And if we can’t do that, how than people imagine.
France are building up their navies, was grounded in foreign policy can we maintain the skills base “Supply ships to the Navy sounds
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