Prince Harry has attended a reception with charity organisers who are raising funds to install a statue in Portsmouth, honouring Royal Navy diving and mine disposal teams.
The Prince arrived at Trinity House, London, this evening in black tie evening dress and medals on his lapel, in his role as Commodore-in-Chief of Small Ships and Diving, Royal Naval Command.
It is hoped the statue will be installed in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, where the training site HMS Vernon was once based. The statue has been designed by Australian sculptor Les Johnson. Cast in bronze, it will show a navy diver placing an explosive on a mine (see photo above) and will be the first to commemorate HMS Vernon’s history and the work of its present and past personnel, 23 of which won the UK’s second highest honour for gallantry, the George Cross.
HMS Vernon was an onshore branch of the Royal Navy, originally established as the Torpedo Branch. It was moved ashore following World War I. The training base was home to the mining and torpedo schools and later the branches of clearance diving and mine warfare were developed, preparing a force of minesweepers, minehunters and dive teams. The base remained in Portsmouth until 1996, when it was divided into different commands.
So far, more than two-thirds of the £325,000 target has been raised, with more hoped for during the charity dinner, as the silent auction was held. Lots on offer included diving memorabilia and day at sea on board a major warship.
The 32-year-old Prince chatted with veterans and currently serving military personnel; he no doubt traded stories of his personal experience in a conflict zone from his time served in Afghanistan.
The drinks reception and dinner also marks 35 years since the end of the Falklands War; Harry’s uncle Andrew, Duke of York, served during the conflict, as a pilot in the navy.