There will be few of you reading these pages who can remember HMS Vernon before 1923. In that year Vernon was moved ashore to its new home at Gun Wharf, Portsmouth, where now, younger generations and many new comers to Portsmouth (old or new), think only of the area as Gun Wharf Quays. We at least remember it as HMS Vernon, the home of the TAS Branch, the Divers Branch, a Minesweepers Base, the Dunker (helicopter escape training tank - rather like the SETT (submarine escape training tank) in the old HMS Dolphin (Fort Blockhouse) across the harbour in Gosport, but a different colour, different shape and much smaller in height, though, after the power station was demolished in Portsmouth, was a prominent feature when looking towards Gun Wharf from Blockhouse. HMS Vernon was also an important helo pad and may also have been the home to other Services not mentioned here. This file allows you to roam around a part of Portsmouth now long gone. It shows Vospers ship yard where small war vessels for foreign navies were built; the Camber with its fish sheds and the trawlers berthed around it; Spice Island; parts of Old Portsmouth, and Gun Wharf, HMS Vernon with the prominent helicopter landing circles. If you look carefully at the extreme left hand side of the picture and built on top of a scaffolding, you will see the Dunker with three windows overlooking the harbour and one towards you (looks like a railway carriage) HMS VERNON Aerial Shot. Also over to the left, you will see one of the two tall chimney's which straddled the Portsmouth power station.
The files mentioned above on the title line have many scores of references to HMS Vernon which is the true (or original) alma mater for all pioneers of Royal Naval W/T, but the alma mater of the Royal Naval W/T Branch proper (dating from the 1906/7 period) was the first Signal School built in Portsmouth main barracks. But where and what was HMS Vernon before 1923 ?
1. The where part first. If you entered Portsmouth harbour and continued on a steady course of 348˚ you would bump into the old Roman Castle at Porchester. However, if your navigating officer was 'on the ball', before hitting the Castle, when abreast of Whale Island, you could turn to port to a course of 310˚to arrive in Fareham Creek (roughly where our old warships are currently waiting for disposal) or, come to starboard to 025˚ to arrive in PORCHESTER CREEK, heading up to modern day Port Solent on Horsea Island. That is where HMS Vernon was berthed, mid-stream, using buoys and anchors.
2. And what was it ? By 1895 HMS Vernon had long been established as a Torpedo School and Authority at Portsmouth. It started this role in 1876 and it, the Vernon, with other old hulks as joiners and leavers (Ariadne, Acteon, Donegal) plus an old lighter the Florence Nightingale formed the school - accommodation, workshops, classrooms, exercise yard, parade ground etc etc.
In 1895, the Vernon, the Ariadne and the Acteon, collectively known as HMS Vernon moved to Portchester Creek. Almost immediately, Ariadne was replaced by the Marlborough which was renamed HMS Vernon II and she was joined to the Acteon and to the Vernon now known as HMS Vernon I by bridges. (So, at this point, HMS Vernon overall, is three individual ships).
In 1904 HMS Warrior (now on show at Portsmouth as the ironclad battleship HMS Warrior) joined and was renamed HMS Vernon III. At this point they split the original two ships forming HMS Vernon I (Vernon and Acteon) into individually named ships calling the Vernon HMS Vernon I and the Acteon HMS Vernon IV (HMS Vernon is now a group of four ships).
Meantime but also in 1904, they sent the Ariadne (replaced by the Marlborough as shown above) to Sheerness, Kent, to start a Nore Command Torpedo School. There they renamed her HMS Acteon whose name had become available after she had been renamed HMS Vernon IV.
In summary, by 1904 the navy had a torpedo school in Portsmouth (Vernon), in Chatham/Sheerness (the Acteon) and in Devonport (the Defiance) and all three trained officers and ratings in W/T skills - see file 1912 Wireless Telegraphy for the one mention of HMS Acteon.
Can you remember to think about all that each time you see the name HMS VERNON ?