Print of 'Vernon Creek' by John Terry

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Following the success of the painting ‘Danger At Depth’ it was decided to commission John Terry to paint another scene.

In this painting the idea was to show a representation of ‘The Vernon’ from the west or Gosport side of Portsmouth Harbour as it would have looked in the mid ‘70s when the establishment is probably best remembered.

The original has been sold for a significant sum and lies in a private collection abroad.

 The picture shows a formation of Coniston (‘Ton’) Class Mine Counter Measures Vessels (MCMVs) leaving Vernon on a typical day in June 1976. In the foreground is HMS Bronington, then under the command of His Royal Highness Lieutenant The Prince of Wales, he having completed his pre-joining training at HMS Vernon earlier that year. The weather is fine and the city’s buildings contrast clearly against the early morning summer sky.

Much of the skyline shown in the painting has long since gone with the heady pace of progress and the new visitor to the eye of the artist would struggle to recognise the scene nowadays dominated as it is by the Millennium (Spinnaker) Tower.

As the ‘Danger At Depth’ painting seemed somehow more popular with the Clearance Divers than with Mine Warfare specialists, John Terry thought to redress the balance with this painting. He decided to show every type of ship or boat that was in use for diving or mine warfare purposes that could at some point be seen at Vernon’s jetties. Not immediately obvious unless you are a ‘Twicher’ but there is only one diver in the picture.

The training of all Seaman specialisations had undergone radical change by 1975 away from the ‘nice to know’ and ‘becos that’s what I did on my 2’s course’ approach to a more precise method called ‘Objective Training’. Here an individual’s specialist responsibility at a certain level was clarified, the tools he needed to perform his job were identified and the number of times he was required to perform his tasks satisfactorily under the gaze of his instructor in order to qualify were spelled out.

Somehow, this did not prevent trainee divers from escaping the delights of Horsea Island mud runs. Some might remember the justification for keeping mud runs in the syllabus being a wonderful photograph of four members of the Portsmouth and Medway Bomb and Mine Disposal Team carrying a 250 Kg German bomb slung between them across the River Thames mudflats in East London.

The Mine Warfare Branch had been formed and had taken the art from the former Torpedo and Anti Submarine Branch. Now, far from being an ad hoc activity where training was performed ‘on job’, the procedures required for preparing and laying mines as well as sweeping or hunting them were properly specified to standards required to be performed by specialist officers and ratings, hooray!

By this time the business of anti-submarine warfare had been subsumed along with gunnery into the province of this new animal, the Principal Warfare Officer. Training in these arts had migrated elsewhere leaving Vernon to the Clearance Divers and Mine Warfare specialists, small ship stuff - much more relaxed although no less professional in their work.

Three Admirals and a Bosun. When the artist John Terry died suddenly in 2012, the unsold Vernon Creek Double Remarque Editions that required his additional customer-specified bespoke drawings were withdrawn as no longer viable for sale. The Project had already secured the support of four illustrious former ‘Ton’ Class commanding officers with careers ranging from boy Seaman to Admiral, each of whom had served in Ton’ Class ships that visited HMS Vernon during the period portrayed in the painting. The Project is grateful to those who willingly gave their time and signatures to authenticate a number of prints that are offered additionally to the limited edition.  

- Admiral Sir Jonathon Band GCB, DL, ADC. Former First Sea Lord, Chief of Naval Staff and Commander-in-Chief Fleet served in HM Ships Houghton, Brereton and Lewiston as a junior officer, commanding HMS Soberton as a Lieutenant Commander. Clearly well prepared by his small ship experiences, Sir Jonathon went on to command HM Ships Phoebe, Norfolk and the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious prior to becoming First Sea Lord. He remains a keen supporter and advisor to the Project.

- Rear Admiral Roy Clare CBE joined the Royal Navy as a boy Seaman in 1966 at the age of 15 and rose to become a Rear Admiral. He was Executive Officer to HRH Lieutenant The Prince of Wales in HMS Bronington and later went on to take command of Bronington. Other sea commands included HM Ships Birmingham, York and the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible.

- Rear Admiral John Lippiett CB MBE. served in HMS Appleton as a Midshipman, later commanding HMS Shavington as a Lieutenant Commander. Subsequent sea commands included HM Ships Amazon and Norfolk as well as Captain of the 9th Frigate Squadron in 1991.

Subsequent to his naval service he performed valuable work as the Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust and continues to this day as the President of the ‘Ton’ Class Association.

- Lieutenant Commander Douglas Barlow, Royal Navy, an ‘Arethusa’ boy, served in three battleships and three cruisers early in his career and then as an officer in the ‘Ton’ minesweepers HM Ships Houghton, Clarbeston, Monkton and in command of HMS Repton. A stalwart at HMS Vernon from 1973 - 1980, first as Staff Officer (Tenders) and then as Officer-In-Charge of the Seamanship School, he was one of the last serving ‘Bosuns’ in the Royal Navy. He is well known among former small ship men, notably for his ever-present good-humoured running of the waterfront and indeed by all who knew him during his service in HMS Vernon. He once saved the handbag of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother that had fallen in the water as she disembarked from the Royal Barge. In a famous photograph, Douglas has the handbag in one hand and the Queen Mother in the other.

Artist’s Proof Editions of Vernon Creek are available with an overprint of two sketches set below the main picture. One is of the Captain’s Office building, the listed ‘Customs House’, the other of HMS Vernon’s Main Gate, both of which have been saved from the bulldozer. Each print is signed not only by the artist, but also by the head of each of the three Associations behind Project Vernon at the time of signing:

- Captain Colin Welborn Royal Navya Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officer,  HM Ships Wilton and Bronington, HMS Vernon and President of the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Officers’ Association at the time of signing.

- Mr Michael HandfordChairman of the Board of Trustees, The Vernon Mine Warfare & Diving Monument, former Chief Petty Officer (Diver); HMS Gavinton as Coxswain. HMS Vernon in operational Bomb & Mine Disposal and diving posts from 1955 - 1977.

- Mr Don GreenChairman of the Association of Royal Navy First Class Divers at the time of signing, previously Warrant Officer (Diver); HMS Hubberston as: Coxswain and HMS Vernon in operational diving team & training roles from 1966 - 86 and HMS Nelson (Gunwharf) 1988-91.

- Warrant Officer (Mine Warfare) Wayne Moorethen Chairman of the Mine Warfare Association, who served in the ‘Ton’ Class minesweepers and mine hunters: HM Ships Upton, Bronington, Wotton, Bossington and Nurton; further at HMS Vernon in 1981, 1984 and 1990 at HMS Nelson (Gunwharf) in various operational and training posts. 

Some Limited Edition Prints remain available for sale. Of the projected print run of 720 only 140 were signed by John before his death. Although the individual print may show its number as e.g. 63/720, in fact, the limited edition is now 140, even more limited.

Unsigned and unnumbered prints are offered at a reduced price. 

Print Details: 

  • Approximately 521mm x 364mm

  • Produced on quality art paper with Fine Art Trade Guild quality seal

  • Certificate of Authenticity issued on request for each limited edition and Artist Proof Edition prints.

As with all items on this page, a substantial contribution is being made to the Vernon Monument Project charity for each item sold. 

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