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HMS Victory black tie dinner and auction

On the 11 September 2014, a hugely successful charity dinner and auction was held on board HMS Victory in Portsmouth, by kind permission of the Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel CBE, to raise funds for Project Vernon.

All congratulations and a huge thank you must be given to the organising team, namely Cdr Chris Baldwin RNR, Lt Cdr Richard ‘Soapy’ Watson RN, Cdr David Hunkin OBE RNR, Lt Cdr Al Nekrews QGM RN, Keith Broughton and others, for teaming up to initiate, plan and execute the dinner and auction.

The resultant funds raised have yet to be finalised and totalled but it is thought that the amount is in excess of £100k: a tremendous amount of money and an indication of the generosity of the guests and their unreserved support of Project Vernon.

The following are some of the many highlights of the evening in the form of a pictorial narrative of events.

Guests were greeted on their arrival at HMS Victory by members of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 who provided a display and demonstration of their equipment and capabilities whilst the guests waited for a guided tour of HMS Victory.






After the guided tour of the ship, guests assembled on the upper deck of HMS Victory where an exhibition of the auction lots presented an opportunity to view the marvellous artefacts, pictures, statues and events they would be bidding for during the evening, while enjoying a glass of champagne and canapés.

Lots for the auction included the late John Terry’s original painting of ‘Vernon Creek’; silver-plated scaled miniatures of the Vernon Monument; the rug used to disguise the IED rendered safe by Lt Cdr Al Nekrews in Afghanistan, which led to the award of his QGM; a day at sea in HMS Lancaster, courtesy of her commanding officer, Cdr Peter Laughton MBE RN; another day in a different frigate; a VIP day at RNAS Yeovilton; a day with a Clearance Diving Unit; a day of driven game shooting with the RN Gun Club; a box at the O2 Arena; a decanter and glasses engraved with HMS Vernon’s badge (kindly donated by Doug Barlow); and much, much more.  Commodore Paddy McAlpine CBE, ADC, RN, Commodore Portsmouth Flotilla (COMPORFLOT), was on hand to give guests a friendly welcome.


 Guest Assemble on the Upper Deck of HMS Victory



 The Rug Used in the Afghanistan IED

 Auction Items and Pledges on Display

Guests were then treated to a display by a quartet of Royal Marines drummers after which the Drum Major was offered and drank a silver bowl of rum presented by the Guest of Honour, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce KG GCB OBE DL, former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Defence Staff.


 Royal Marine Drum Quartet      


 The Drum Major is presented with the rum by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce KG GCB OBE DL

David Carey, the Project Manager of Project Vernon exploited the opportunity to brief Lord Boyce on the many aspects and progress of Project Vernon, David had flown over from Dubai especially for the occasion.



Admiral Sir Jonathon Band GCB DL, former First Sea Lord and our Master of Ceremonies for the night, is seen here chatting with our main after-dinner speaker, Sir John Scarlett KCMG OBE, the former Head of MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service).




Once everyone had enjoyed the pre-dinner drinks and immediately prior to being called to dinner the final evolution on the upper deck was to assemble for the group photograph.


Photo by LA(Phot) Nicky Wilson

Guests then proceeded down to the lower gundeck and took their places at the tables before Commander Chris Baldwin, the chief instigator of ‘Project Buster’, welcomed Admiral Jonathan Band as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.



There were many highlights to the evening. During the course of the meal, Commander David Hunkin gave an accolade to Lieutenant Commander Al Nekrews and explained the significance of the framed blanket in the auction.

Diners were then given the opportunity to write down their bids for items available in the silent auction to the accompaniment of a musical duo.


The evening then continued with splendid speeches from Sir John Scarlett (former Head of MI6) and Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce (former Chief of the Defence Staff) plus a singalong comprising of the nautical songs ‘Heart of Oak’ and ‘Rule Britannia’.


 Sir John Scarlet


 Commander Chris Baldwin (left) ex-Chairman of Project Vernon’s Organising Management Committee and Mr Mike Handford (right) Chairman of the Vernon Monument Fund’s Board of Trustees

 Lord Boyce


When it came to the live auction, one could only sit in stunned admiration as the flamboyant and ebullient auctioneer Simon Morgan, late of Bonhams, used every trick in the book to wheedle, cajole and otherwise encourage bidders to pledge the maximum amount for the lots on offer.  As he plied his trade and the sums rose through the tens of thousands, it soon became apparent that our wildest expectations had been exceeded.


 Simon Morgan giving it his all to encourage bids from the guests.


 Bids coming in thick and fast

We don’t yet know the exact total sum raised but it certainly topped £100k.  Some final words of appreciation came from our Master of Ceremonies, Admiral Sir Jonathan Band, before we dispersed our separate ways.

 Sir Jonathan Band thanks the guests for their remarkable generosity before the evening comes to an end

There are still some funds to be raised before Project Vernon hits its overall target.  However, the substantial sums raised on the night allows the project to move forward and begin the planning for the installation of the monument in Gunwharf Quays.

You can help the campaign rach its final goal by simply donating any sum of money through the Donations tab on the home page; or perhaps by purchasing one of the silver plated or bronze resin miniatures; or maybe buy a framed print of Danger at Depth or Vernon Creek? All contributions are warmly welcomed!

Reproduced in part from the MCDOA website by kind permission of Rob Hoole (MCDOA Webmaster)

22 September 2014 – Update

The donations and pledges continue to be paid and we will soon know the exact amount raised.  Watch this space for further updates.