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HMS Mercury plaque unveiling

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HMS Mercury’s ‘local’ to unveil commemorative plaque

A Hampshire pub that has become a place of ‘pilgrimage’ for former Royal Navy communications trainees expects more than 300 of them to attend a special ceremony, this weekend.

Enterprise Inns’ The Rising Sun, at Clanfield, near Portsmouth, is to receive a special plaque marking its role as HMS Mercury’s ‘local’ during the training centre’s heyday.

It will be unveiled by Commodore Peter Swan RN (Retired), at 11.30am on Sunday (26 October).

Publican Chris Lynch is bringing in extra bar staff to cope with the hundreds of people who are being bussed to the event from all over the country.

“They’re coming from right across the UK”, said Chris, who has run the North Lane pub for the past two-and-a-half-years with his wife, Rosie. “We’re a place of pilgrimage for what I call ex-‘Mercurians’.”

Sited on the 120-acre Leydene Estate, shore-based HMS Mercury was the Royal Navy’s Communications and Navigation school from 1941 to 1993, and more than half-a-million personnel from around the world served or trained there during its 52 years. Visitors have included the Queen, Prince Phillip, Lord Mountbatten, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

The Rising Sun was considered HMS Mercury’s ‘local’, and when the base was cut off by bad weather in 1962 the pub was even used to house a temporary radio station.

The English Heritage blue plaque – the first to be registered in Hampshire – will commemorate HMS Mercury’s existence and the impact it had on the local community.

Chris said: “I’ve been given dozens of items of HMS Mercury memorabilia, including paintings, photographs, even the last bottle of wine from the officers’ mess, and the plan is to display them all properly in what will be a mini-museum remembering the most important communications establishment within NATO in Europe.

“We already have a steady stream of ex-Mercurians visiting the pub; they come from all over the world with fond memories of The Rising Sun, which was very much the HMS Mercury local. A commemorative plaque and our museum will make this a real place of pilgrimage for them.”

Enterprise Regional Manager Nick Bolsover said: “It’s a real honour for the pub to be recognised with its own plaque, while Chris’ plans to display the memorabilia will cement The Rising Sun’s very close links to HMS Mercury, no doubt attracting even more former trainees to what was their local pub.”

The plaque unveiling is a public event that anyone can attend.

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