HMS Vernon (shore establishment)
HMS Vernon was a shore establishment or 'stone frigate
Stone frigate
Stone frigate is a nickname for a naval establishment on land. The term has its origin in Britain's Royal Navy after its use of Diamond Rock, off Martinique, as a 'sloop of war' to harass the French...

' of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. Vernon was established on 26 April 1876 as the Royal Navy's Torpedo Branch and operated until 1 April 1996, when the various elements comprising the establishment were split up and moved to different commands.

Foundation and early history

The second ship to be called HMS Vernon ended her career laid up in Chatham Dockyard
Chatham Dockyard
Chatham Dockyard, located on the River Medway and of which two-thirds is in Gillingham and one third in Chatham, Kent, England, came into existence at the time when, following the Reformation, relations with the Catholic countries of Europe had worsened, leading to a requirement for additional...

 as a floating coaling jetty. In 1872 she was moved to become a tender to HMS Excellent for torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

 and mining
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

 training. In 1874 she was joined by HMS Vesuvius, an iron screw torpedo vessel. Vesuvius was attached as an Experimental Tender for the conduct of torpedo trials, and remained in the role until 1923.

On 26 April 1876 Vernon was joined by the former steam frigate HMS Ariadne and the lighter
Lighter (barge)
A lighter is a type of flat-bottomed barge used to transfer goods and passengers to and from moored ships. Lighters were traditionally unpowered and were moved and steered using long oars called "sweeps," with their motive power provided by water currents...

 Florence Nightingale. These were then commissioned as HMS Vernon, and became the home of the Royal Navy's Torpedo Branch, independent of HMS Excellent. Ariadne was used to provide accommodation. In January 1886 HMS Donegal
HMS Donegal (1858)
HMS Donegal was a 101-gun screw-driven first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 23 September 1858 at Devonport Dockyard....

 replaced the original Vernon as a more spacious torpedo school ship. Donegal was renamed Vernon, the original Vernon was renamed Actaeon and took over as the practical workshop.

On 23 April 1895 the hulks were moved to Portchester Creek. Ariadne was replaced as an accommodation hulk by the old HMS Marlborough
HMS Marlborough (1855)
HMS Marlborough was a first-rate three-decker 131 gun screw ship built for the Royal Navy in 1855. She was begun as a sailing ship of the line , but was completed to a modified design and converted to steam on the stocks.She served as flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet from 1858-64 HMS...

, which was renamed Vernon II and was connected by bridges to Actaeon and Vernon, jointly named Vernon I. In 1904 HMS Warrior
HMS Warrior (1860)
HMS Warrior was the first iron-hulled, armour-plated warship, built for the Royal Navy in response to the first ironclad warship, the French Gloire, launched a year earlier....

 joined the establishment as a floating workshop, power plant and wireless telegraphy school, renamed Vernon III. Meanwhile Actaeon was renamed Vernon IV. Also in 1904 Ariadne was detached and sent to Sheerness
Sheerness is a town located beside the mouth of the River Medway on the northwest corner of the Isle of Sheppey in north Kent, England. With a population of 12,000 it is the largest town on the island....

 to be used to establish a new torpedo school. She was renamed Actaeon in 1905.

In wartime and onshore

On the outbreak of the First World War Vernon was used to carry out torpedo trials and to train new recruits for the Navy. Extensive research and development was also carried to develop new anti-submarine devices, mines and ships' electrics. On 1 October 1923 Vernon was moved ashore and new departments were set up to cover aspects of maritime warfare, such as mining, torpedoes and electrical equipment. The names of the original hulks that made up the floating Vernon were used for buildings in the base.

In the Second World War, and following on from the increasing use of mines, Vernon took on responsibility for mine disposal and developing mine countermeasures. The staff were able to capture a number of enemy mines and develop successful countermeasures. A number of officers working with Vernon were awarded Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

s for their successes in capturing new types of mine. Some of these were the first Royal Naval decorations of the war.

The Germans began placing booby traps in some mines to counter attempts by Vernon's staff to capture them. One exploded in a mining shed at Vernon on 6 August 1940, killing an officer and four ratings and seriously injuring a number of other personnel. To avoid a repetition of this, a nearby disused quarry, nicknamed HMS Mirtle (short for Mine Investigation Range),
was used for examining mines.

Portsmouth suffered heavy air raids during the war, with Vernon being hit several times. One bomb demolished Dido Building and killed 100 people. Subsequently, sections of Vernon were dispersed to quieter areas. On 3 May 1941 most departments of Vernon were moved to Roedean School
Roedean School
-Roedeanians in fiction:* Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward * Dawn Drummond-Clayton * Emily James...

 at Brighton
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...

, which was known as HMS Vernon(R), whilst other elements were relocated elsewhere on the south coast and further away.

On 1 October 1944 responsibility for naval diving passed from the Gunnery Branch, at HMS Excellent, to the Torpedo Branch, at Vernon. A new diving school known as Vernon(D) was established at Brixham
Brixham is a small fishing town and civil parish in the county of Devon, in the south-west of England. Brixham is at the southern end of Torbay, across the bay from Torquay, and is a fishing port. Fishing and tourism are its major industries. At the time of the 2001 census it had a population of...

 on 27 October 1944, with administrative support in Dartmouth
Dartmouth, Devon
Dartmouth is a town and civil parish in the English county of Devon. It is a tourist destination set on the banks of the estuary of the River Dart, which is a long narrow tidal ria that runs inland as far as Totnes...

. The Brixham base was later joined by the Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit (AEDU) and the Deep Diving Tender HMS Tedworth. The unit remained at Brixham until 1 October 1945 when it returned to the main HMS Vernon at Portsmouth.

Postwar devolution and decommissioning

On 10 October 1946 the recently-formed Electrical Branch took over responsibility for Electrical Operations from Vernon, whilst Vernon merged with the Anti-Submarine Branch, which had been based at HMS Osprey at Portland
Portland Harbour
Portland Harbour is located beside the Isle of Portland, off Dorset, on the south coast of England. It is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world. Grid reference: .-History:...

. The merger resulted in the formation of the Torpedo and Anti-Submarine (TAS) Branch, which assumed responsibility for naval diving. The TAS Branch remained at Vernon until mid 1974, when it was moved to become part of HMS Dryad
HMS Dryad (establishment)
HMS Dryad was a stone frigate . It was the home of the Royal Navy's Maritime Warfare School until 2004.Originally the school was based in Portsmouth Dockyard. The establishment took its name from the ship used as its tender, the fourth HMS Dryad. During World War II it was moved to Southwick House...

 prior to the formation of the Operations Branch the following year. Vernon housed the RN Diving School, training Clearance Divers for the Fleet Clearance diving teams and minehunters. The establishment was also the home of the "Dunker" Helicopter and Fixed Wing Aircraft Escape Training, until a new facility was built at RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron).

Vernon ceased to be an independent command on 31 March 1986, when it was renamed HMS Nelson (Vernon Site)
HMNB Portsmouth
Her Majesty's Naval Base Portsmouth is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the British Royal Navy...

, and in 1987 it was renamed HMS Nelson (Gunwharf) It became the Headquarters for the Commandant General Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 for a brief period, and continued to be used for training. Mine warfare training was moved to the School of Maritime Operations (SMOPS), now part of HMS Dryad, in November 1995. The final element of the old Vernon, the diving school, was moved onto new premises on Horsea Island and Vernon ceased to exist. The figurehead
A figurehead is a carved wooden decoration found at the prow of ships largely made between the 16th and 19th century.-History:Although earlier ships had often had some form of bow ornamentation A figurehead is a carved wooden decoration found at the prow of ships largely made between the 16th and...

 of the original HMS Vernon is preserved in Portsmouth.

See also

  • List of Royal Navy shore establishments
  • Gunwharf Quays
    Gunwharf Quays
    Gunwharf Quays is an area of Portsmouth, Hampshire, now home to a large shopping centre.- History:The centre opened on 28 February 2001 and is located on the site of the former Royal Navy shore establishment HMS Vernon, renamed HMS Nelson on March 31, 1986...

  • Admiralty Mining Establishment
    Admiralty Mining Establishment
    The Admiralty Mining Establishment was a technical department of the Royal Navyresponsible for both the design of naval mines and the development of suitable countermeasures. In keeping with many technical departments it employed both military and highly skilled, civilian personnel...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.