'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner

#1
Vernon Monument 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner on 19 July will remember the 'Forgotten Few' of the Falklands

Project Vernon logo.jpg

A Vernon Monument 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner at Trinity House on 19 July will commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Falklands War. It will also raise funds towards the monument planned at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to celebrate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS VERNON which previously occupied the site. It will be attended by a VVIP (identity to be announced in a separate press release) as well as former Royal Marine, TV broadcaster, writer, biologist and inspirational speaker Monty Halls. Popular naval entertainer Shep Woolley will deliver an after-dinner speech.

The Falklands War wasn't over for the Royal Navy minesweepers, minehunters and diving teams when the Argentinians surrendered

The Falklands War did not end for the Royal Navy's minesweepers, minehunters and clearance diving teams when the Argentinean commander surrendered on 14 June 1982. Between 23 June and 4 July the five Hull trawlers of the 11th Mine Countermeasures Squadron, hastily-converted for minesweeping, swept 10 of the 21 deadly moored mines laid by the Argentinians in the approaches to Port Stanley.

In early July 1982, the Hunt Class minehunters HMS BRECON and HMS LEDBURY arrived in theatre and confirmed by sonar that all poised mines had been cleared. Utilising their remote operated vehicles and and divers, they then located and disposed of the remaining married mine failures and mine sinkers.

Between 13 October 1982 and 2 January 1983, a Royal Navy deep diving team (Naval Party 2002) embarked in MV STENA SEASPREAD recovered sensitive items from the wreck of the Type 42 destroyer HMS COVENTRY, sunk by Argentinean bombs 10 miles north of Pebble Island. At the request of COVENTRY’s Commanding Officer, Captain David HART DYKE LVO RN (father of Miranda Hart), the divers also recovered his ceremonial sword and telescope, now on display in the RN Museum in Portsmouth, and the cross of nails from Coventry Cathedral presented to the ship in 1978 when she was commissioned.

The Project Vernon Trustees are extremely grateful to Honorary Vice Admiral Sir Donald Gosling KCVO, who has donated £30,000 towards the cost of this event, and to Trinity House which has provided the venue and donated £500.

The dinner will be attended by several Falklands veterans including:


Lt Cdr Brian DUTTON DSO QGM RN (OIC of Fleet Clearance Diving Team One (FCDT 1)) who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his team's successful removal of an unexploded bomb from HMS ARGONAUT on 28 May 1982.

Lt Cdr 'Bernie' BRUEN MBE DSC RN (OIC of Fleet Clearance Diving Team Three (FCDT 3)) who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his team's successful removal of an unexploded bomb from RFA SIR GALAHAD on 26 May 1982.

Lt Cdr Martyn HOLLOWAY RN (CO HMS CORDELLA and Senior Officer of the hastily-formed 11th Mine Countermeasures Squadron (11th MCMS)) who led his force of five converted minesweeping trawlers 8,000 miles south, supervised its hazardous operations including the landing and recovery of Special Forces raiding parties and clearance of mines off Port Stanley, before bringing it home without sustaining a single casualty.​

Other attendees will include:

Warrant Officer (Diver) Terry SETTLE MBE QGM BEM who was decorated for the recovery of a Soviet ground mine laid by Gaddafi in the Gulf of Suez in 1984.

Warrant Officer (Diver) Colin KIDMAN QGM who was decorated for the removal and disposal of a complete outfit of damaged Seadart missiles from the magazine of HMS SOUTHAMPTON after she suffered a major collision in the Middle East in 1988.

Mr David OUVRY, son of Cdr John OUVRY DSO RN who was the first to render safe a deadly German magnetic mine in November 1939 so that the boffins at HMS VERNON could develop countermeasures and self-protective measures.

Mr Andrew Bailey, son of Lt 'Bill' BAILEY CBE DSC GM* RN who undertook many of the tasks in Gibraltar during the Second World War for which Cdr Lionel 'Buster' CRABB OBE GM RNVR was later credited.​

A "Silent Auction", launched prior to the event, will comprise a wide variety of exciting lots including diving memorabilia and Project prints. There will also be a main auction of some very special lots including:

A day at sea on board a major Royal Navy warship, to be named nearer the date, as the guest of the Captain - date to be agreed.

A day hosted by a Royal Navy Area Diving & Bomb Disposal Unit - date to be agreed.

A day hosted by a Royal Navy Fleet Clearance Diving Unit – date to be agreed

A day's shooting for nine guns on Saturday 4th November 2017 at the Leydene Shoot in Hampshire.

A unique silver-plated 280mm high bronze statuette of the planned monument, specially made for this event by the renowned sculptor, Les Johnson FRBS.

A unique 400mm high bronze statuette of the planned monument, also specially made for this event by the sculptor, Les Johnson FRBS.​

The planned start time is 1800 with carriages at 2300. The dress code is Black Tie with miniatures or equivalent Service uniform.

Tickets for the dinner may be purchased via the Eventbrite website at:

 
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#2
Artist's impression of Project Vernon monument med lge.jpg

PROJECT VERNON
, initiated in April 2008, is the campaign to erect a monument at Gunwharf Quays (the marina, retail centre and residential development in Portsmouth) to celebrate the naval and military heritage of HMS VERNON, its alma mater, which occupied the site in one form or another from October 1923, when it moved ashore from hulks, until its closure in April 1996. Gunwharf Quays has an annual footfall of 8 million and is home to the iconic Spinnaker Tower. To date, the campaign has raised over £230,000 of the £325,000 required to meet the target. The 'Falklands 35' charity dinner at Trinity House on 19 July 2017 aims to close the gap considerably.

The handful of Royal Navy personnel involved in Minewarfare, Diving and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD - more familiarly known as Bomb Disposal) during Operation CORPORATE, the Falkland Islands campaign in 1982, and its aftermath, was awarded a total of one DSO (Distinguished Service Order), three DSCs (Distinguished Service Crosses), one DSM (Distinguished Service Medal), one QGM (Queen's Gallantry Medal), one BEM (British Empire Medal), six MIDs (Mentions in Despatches) and at least seven Commander-in-Chief’s Commendations for Brave Conduct. One MCDO (Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officer) was appointed an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) and three others were appointed MBEs (Members of the British Empire).

Throughout the Falklands campaign in 1982, the members of the FCDTs (Fleet Clearance Diving Teams) lived and worked in atrocious conditions. Performing most of their bomb disposal and repair work at night during lulls in the air raids, they slept in cramped spaces in odd nooks of ships or ashore in damp, makeshift shelters. Much of their diving was conducted in dark fetid compartments surrounded by jagged steel edges, explosive debris and freezing water contaminated by oil, battery acid and raw sewage. They also turned their hands to acting as mechanics, welders, cutters, riggers, first aiders, stretcher bearers, nurses and mortuary attendants, as well as organising the odd entertainment for fellow servicemen. Early on, the members of the FCDTs surrendered all their spare clothing to the survivors of SIR GALAHAD and other bombed ships so they soon looked a piratical bunch. When he first heard about the bomb disposal work conducted by the Fleet Clearance Diving Teams in the Falklands, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fieldhouse GCB, GBE, the then Commander-in-Chief Fleet, said in wonderment:

“Who are these people and where do we get them from?”

The ships’ companies of the five minesweeping trawlers comprising the rapidly formed 11th Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Squadron also had it tough. They endured rough weather, unreliable machinery and lack of proper self-defence armament, communications and navigation systems. Sailing to and fro on their various often clandestine missions carrying stores and personnel in the dark, with radar switched off and all lights extinguished for security, they frequently ran the risk of being rammed or fired on by both enemy and friendly forces. Apart from acting as guinea pigs in channels suspected of being mined and landing Special Forces raiding parties, they swept 10 of the 21 deadly moored mines laid by the Argentinians in the approaches to Port Stanley; the other mines had either broken adrift and floated away or failed to deploy properly. Astonishingly, the relatively junior officer who welded the makeshift squadron together as an effective force, led it 8,000 miles south, supervised its hazardous operations and then brought it home again four months later without its ships or men sustaining a single casualty received no public recognition for his feat.

During the Second World War, HMS VERNON was the alma mater of naval personnel awarded 23 George Crosses and at least 134 George Medals (including 16 bars) for bomb & mine disposal (including minesweeping) on land and at sea. Countless other medals, Mentions in Despatches and King's Commendations for Bravery were awarded to personnel associated with HMS VERNON for naval minelaying, minesweeping, diving and bomb & mine disposal while hundreds of other personnel were appointed OBEs and MBEs in the military lists.

Since the Second World War, personnel associated with HMS VERNON, its mine countermeasures vessels and diving teams have been awarded at least one Distinguished Service Order, 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, 69 British Empire Medals (including one bar), 14 Queen's Gallantry Medals and 35 Queen's Commendations for Bravery among other honours and awards for gallantry, in naval minewarfare, diving and EOD operations from the waters of the North Sea, Mediterranean, South Atlantic, Arabian Gulf, South China Sea and the Gilbert & Ellis Islands to the badlands of Iraq and Afghanistan.

No single monument or memorial exists to celebrate these individuals or commemorate the heritage of HMS VERNON. The Vernon Monument, designed by world renowned sculptor Les Johnson FRBS and chosen by an all-ranks committee of serving and retired minewarfare & diving personnel after an exhaustive and transparent competitive process, will be the first. The fourteen-ton stone, bronze and steel structure will depict a Royal Navy Clearance Diver in typical diving equipment of the VERNON era placing an explosive charge on a publicly identifiable swept moored mine (sometimes referred to as a buoyant mine) which has become fouled on a wreck on the seabed.

The diver represents all aspects of HMS VERNON’s diving heritage including clearance diving, deep diving, ship’s diving, experimental diving, X-craft midget submarine divers, Chariot human torpedo divers, SAR (Search & Rescue) diving and diving training including Royal Engineers diving based at HMS VERNON. The monument will act as a tribute to personnel involved in such operations and activities, including RN clearance diving personnel involved in EOD operations ashore in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The accompanying mine, incorporating a fouled sweepwire and explosive cutter, represents all aspects of HMS VERNON’s minewarfare heritage including those involved in mine design, minelaying, bomb & mine disposal, minesweeping and minehunting. It will act as a tribute to personnel who have manned and continue to man the minehunters deployed in the Gulf region.

Project Vernon has a website at www.vernon-monument.org and a Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/vernonmonument.

Registered Charity No. 1128677.

The Vernon Mine Warfare and Diving Monument is a Charitable Trust, registered by the Charity Commission for England and Wales.​
 
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#3
A rare image of minesweeping trawlers of the 11th Mine Countermeasures Squadron cross-decking troops and their kit from QE2 to other vessels at Ascension Island while en route to the Falklands.

Troops being crossdecked at Ascension Island 1982 (2).jpg

The elderly TON class coastal mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) in service at the time were unsuited for the long passage and heavy seas expected in the South Atlantic. The first two of the new Hunt Class MCMVs were not yet operational so it was decided to requisition five deep sea trawlers from Hull and fit them with rudimentary minesweeping equipment. These vessels were commissioned into the Royal Navy and crewed mostly by the ships' companies of TON class MCMVs based at Rosyth: CORDELLA (HMS UPTON); FARNELLA (HMS WOTTON); JUNELLA (HMS BICKINGTON); NORTHELLA (HMS SOBERTON); and PICT (HMS BILDESTON).

The 11th MCM Squadron's Senior Officer will be attending the dinner.
 
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#4
Lt Cdr 'Bernie' Bruen MBE DSC RN with the unexploded 1,000 lb bomb he and his team (FCDT 3) later removed from RFA SIR GALAHAD.

Bernie Bruen and the Sir Galahad bomb.jpg
Bernie Bruen with 1,000 lb Argentinean-dropped bomb (made in UK)
in RFA SIR GALAHAD's Battery Room

The bomb had entered SIR GALAHAD's hull on the port side, punched its way through several compartments picking up an aluminium bulkhead on the way, and ended up in the battery charging room wrapped in torn steel and surrounded by smashed carboys of acid. Working with the ship's engine room staff, Bernie and his team extracted the bomb, lifted it through two decks and lowered it into a Gemini inflateable dinghy filled with boxes of cornflakes to cushion the ride. The Gemini and its deadly cargo were subsequently sunk in safe water.

Bernie and his team helped dispose of several other unexploded bombs and rendered safe and recovered one of the Argentinean sea mines laid in the approaches to Port Stanley.

Bernie Bruen with Argentinean mine.jpg
Bernie Bruen with swept Argentinean sea mine

He often played his fiddle to entertain personnel at sea and ashore, even during air raids, and subsequently wrote an account of his Falklands experiences titled Keep Your Head Down - A Falklands Farewell.

Bernie Bruen with fiddle on board Colour Sgt Garwood LCU.jpg
Bernie and his fiddle on board Colour Sgt GARWOOD's LCU

Bernie, who was later appointed an MBE as the CO of HMS GAVINTON for recovering a Soviet ground mine laid by Gaddafi in the Red Sea in 1984, will be attending the Vernon Monument 'Falklands 35' Dinner at Trinity House on 19 July. Buy your own tickets here:

 
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#5
Bernie Bruen was the NBCDO on Bulwark (R08 version) when I was on there. He had his own band which he called the Malawi International Airways String Quartet (there was 6 of them!)

He used to walk round the ship in white ovies, a red surcoat with yellow stripes sewn on and a white hard hat with a blue flashing light on the top..he's mad as box of frogs :)

Duty one Christmas Day with him as OOD and he had us rigging hoses all morning to test a theory he had of how to boundary cool the outside of the ship...things you remember years later!!
 
#8
Soon after the arrival of Task Force advance elements in San Carlos Water, the Royal Navy clearance divers found themselves in the thick of it. On the afternoon of 21 May 1982, members of Fleet Clearance Diving Team 1 (FCDT 1) were called upon to deal with an unexploded Argentinean 1,000 lb bomb in the County class destroyer HMS ANTRIM. The bomb had passed through the Seaslug missile magazine and lodged in the heads (toilets). The fuze had been damaged so any attempt to render the bomb safe was useless. While still under air attack and with considerable difficulty, the clearance divers and ship’s staff carefully manoeuvred the bomb through a hole cut in the flight deck and lowered it into deep water.

In the meantime, the Type 21 frigate HMS ARDENT was bombed and sunk and the Leander class frigate HMS ARGONAUT reported two unexploded bombs on board; one forward in the Seacat missile magazine and one aft in the boiler room. ARGONAUT’s Officer of the Watch had already saved the ship once by letting go an anchor to stop her running at full speed towards the shore with her rudders jammed owing to bomb damage. As the Ship’s Diving Officer, he also led his men in surveying and making temporary repairs to the bomb damage in the flooded forward magazine, diving on two occasions in the knowledge that there was an unexploded bomb in the compartment. He was later awarded the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross).

On the morning of 23 May, an Army Royal Engineers two-man team removed the fuze from the bomb in ARGONAUT’s boiler room and it was ditched by the ship’s company. Shortly afterwards, the Type 21 frigate HMS ANTELOPE arrived in the anchorage with two unexploded bombs on board. Tragically, an unsuccessful attempt to render one of these safe by a Royal Engineers bomb disposal team using a rocket-propelled fuze extractor resulted in the death of Staff Sergeant James Prescott, who was posthumously awarded the CGM (Conspicuous Gallantry Medal), and severe injuries to Warrant Officer (later Capt) John Phillips who was subsequently awarded the DSC. ANTELOPE was wracked by a series of massive explosions and started to burn from end to end, her lightweight aluminium structure melting in the intense heat.

On 26 May, members of FCDT 1 completed the clearance of ordnance from the vicinity of the bomb in ARGONAUT’s Seacat magazine. This had been patched and pumped out but still required a route to be cut and lifting gear to be fitted before the bomb could be removed safely. During 27 May, progress was made in cutting out two of three access holes for the extraction of ARGONAUT’s remaining unexploded bomb. It was finally removed by members of FCDT 1 and ship's staff on 28 May.

UXB in HMS Argonaut May 1982.jpg

Above and below: HMS ARGONAUT's Seacat missile magazine

FCDT 1 divers in HMS Argonaut Sea Cat Magazine 1982.jpg

Lt Cdr Brian Dutton, OIC of FCDT 1, was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) in recognition of his service in the South Atlantic in 1982. He had previously been awarded the QGM (Queen's Gallantry Medal) for the removal of an unexploded German ground mine from the drag head of a dredger in 1974. He will be attending the Vernon Monument 'Falklands 35' Dinner at Trinity House on 19 July. Buy your own tickets here:

 
#9
Bid for a VIP day at sea on a Royal Navy warship or with an RN diving & bomb disposal team

HMS Westminster med.jpg
HMS Westminster
(Royal Navy photo)​

A VIP day at sea in a Royal Navy frigate and days with naval diving & bomb & mine disposal teams are among unique lots now being auctioned online. The auction will culminate in a charity dinner at Trinity House in London on Wednesday 19 July.

The Vernon Minewarfare & Diving Monument 'Falklands 35' Charity Dinner will mark the 35th anniversary of the Falklands conflict and raise funds towards the Vernon Monument planned at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to celebrate the minewarfare & diving heritage of HMS VERNON which previously occupied the site.

The "Silent Auction" launched today comprises a wide variety of exciting lots including:
  • A VIP day for six on board a major Royal Navy warship as guests of the Captain - date to be agreed with host.
  • A day hosted by a Royal Navy Area Diving & Bomb Disposal Unit - date to be agreed with host.
  • A day hosted by a Royal Navy Fleet Clearance Diving Unit – date to be agreed with host
  • A day's shooting for nine guns at the Leydene Shoot in Hampshire on Saturday 4th November 2017.
  • A unique silver-plated 280mm high bronze statuette of the planned monument, specially made for this event by the world-renowned sculptor, Les Johnson FRBS.
  • A unique 400mm high bronze statuette of the planned monument, also specially made for this event by the world-renowned sculptor, Les Johnson FRBS.
There are many more interesting lots to view. Online bidding has now opened at:

 

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