Roedean Old Boys' Association (ROBA)

ROBA Flag lowered

During the Second World War, Roedean was commandeered separately by both the Armed Forces and the Admiralty.

On 3 August 1940, the Army sent an advance group of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to occupy House No.3, followed by the Queen’s Royal Regiment under their C.O. Colonel A.P. Block.

They stayed for eleven weeks, followed by four Canadian regiments and the London Scottish, who visited for three weeks each.

At Church Parade on the first Sunday Dame Emmeline Tanner took the salute. The next day she dined in the Officers’ Mess (the former sewing room) with the secretaries.

The visitors particularly appreciated the use of the Chapel and Colonel Block arranged for a gift of two silver stoppers for the vessels used in the Communion Service, each bearing the regimental crest. A tablet in the Ante-Chapel commemorates their stay.

On 7 April 1941, the Admiralty took over the School from the War Office and Roedean became HMS Vernon, the training school for Torpedoes and Mines and for the electrical branches of the Royal Navy, and home to over 30,000 sailors. 

As a result of this time, Roedean is perhaps the only girls’ school in the country to have an Old Boys' Association.

ROBA reunionThe first Roedean Old Boys' Association (ROBA) reunion took place at Roedean in July 1994, at the instigation of Sam Morley who spent time at HMS Vernon. He placed announcements in the Navy News and Sunday Express and received over 100 enquiries.

54 ex-service men attended that first event, which included a presentation of a ROBA wall plaque, lunch, tour of the School and then on to a tour of St Dunstan’s, where many of the HMS Vernon courses also took place.


If you or a family member were based at HMS Vernon and would like to arrange a visit to the School, or if you have any photos or other materials that would be of interest to our archivist please get in touch with our Alumnae Office: or by phone on 01273 667398.