The 8th Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment, Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight Rifles, known informally as the "Isle of Wight Rifles" was formed to defend the Isle of Wight after a 19th-century invasion scare. The unit served as infantry during World War I, and as coastal defence artillery during World War II. Postwar it converted to the air defence role.
|Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight Rifles|
|Role||Infantry (1860–1937; 1967–2006)|
Coast Artillery (1937–1949)
Air Defence (1949–1967)
|Garrison/HQ||Drill Hall Road Army Reserve Centre|
The Isle of Wight had long been fortified against invasion, due to its strategic position. It had also had numerous troops billeted in the Napoleonic Wars. In 1859, Artillery and infantry Rifle Volunteer Corps were raised in response to an invasion scare following the perceived resurgence of French naval power under Louis Napoleon III. On the Isle of Wight there was a major programme of fortification, including Forts Victoria, Albert, Golden Hill, and Culver Fort and batteries at Sandown, Puckpool, Bouldnor and the Needles. Infantry support was provided by eight RVCs formed at various locations around the island (dates given are those of first officers' commissions):
Those who served in the Corps paid for their own kit and expense; Newtown ranges were set aside for their training. They were soon 3,000 strong. With another 4,000 troops from the mainland, soldiers comprised 1 in 4 of the local population. By this time Queen Victoria had moved to the Isle of Wight at Osborne House.
The separate RVCs were brought under the umbrella of the 1st Administrative Battalion of Isle of Wight Rifle Volunteers, formed on 5 July 1860 with headquarters at Newport, under Colonel Dunsmore formerly of the 42nd Highlanders. In 1880 the Administrative Battalion was consolidated as the 1st Isle of Wight Rifle Volunteers, organised as follows:
In September 1885 the unit became the 5th (Isle of Wight 'Princess Beatrice's) Volunteer Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, Princess Beatrice being Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, married to Prince Henry of Battenberg, who was appointed Honorary Colonel of the battalion.
When volunteers were asked for in 1899 for South Africa only twenty riflemen were accepted as the "1st Active Service Section of the Isle of Wight Rifles". They served with other Hampshire volunteers in a support capacity and distinguished themselves by marching thirty-five miles in twelve hours to cover the withdrawal of a detachment under fire near Mafeking. In 1901, despite many volunteering, only ten were accepted and only three passed the medical. Even so, the unit was awarded the Battle Honour 'South Africa 1900-01'.
When the Territorial Force was formed under the Haldane Reforms, the five volunteer battalions of the Hampshire Regiment were numbered in sequence following the Regular and Special Reserve, so that the unit became the 8th Battalion. The volunteers were now paid an annual bounty of £5 and the weekend and annual two-week camps, for which wages were received, were very popular socially. In 1913, Lieutenant Colonel John Rhodes took command. He offered a £1 bounty for joining and as a result a number of men from the mainland joined up in preference to other units.
While the four mainland TF battalions of the Hampshires formed the Hampshire Brigade of the Wessex Division, the 8th remained unattached under the orders of Southern Command and when war broke out in 1914, the Rifles were mobilised to man local fortifications. The Territorials were asked to volunteer for overseas service, forming second battalions of home service men and recruits. Whereas the Wessex Division sailed to relieve Regular troops in India, the 1/8th Battalion was left training at Parkhurst. However, on 19 April 1915 the battalion was assigned to 163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade in 54th (East Anglian) Division to replace the 1/4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment that had already gone overseas. The 54th Division had been employed on coast defence, but now it was preparing to go overseas, completing its training at Bury St. Edmunds and Watford. On 30 July 1915 the Isle of Wight Rifles sailed from Liverpool aboard the RMS Aquitania (some wood of which now forms a bar in Sandown Broadway), to join the fighting at Gallipoli.
An Allied force under Lieutenant General Frederick Stopford had landed at Suvla Bay on 7 and 8 August 1915. The beach led to a plain overlooked by a range of hills. Stopford (who set up his command post in a sloop – HMS Jonquil – anchored offshore) took the beaches but waited whilst stores were landed before occupying the empty hills. By the time he decided to move upon them the Turks had filled them full of artillery and infantry. The 163rd Brigade, consisting of the 1/5th Suffolk 4th & 5th Norfolk, & 1/8 Hampshires (I.W.Rifles) were landed on 10 August 1915 in order to attack the Turkish positions on Anafurta Ridge. Stopford delayed the attack wishing to make good losses in his lines until pressured by the overall commander, General Hamilton, to order the attack thus giving the Turks full warning of the impending attack.
On 12 August 1915 the attack was ordered across terrain varying from thick scrub to abandoned fields, all cut with dried watercourses. The purpose of the advance was to clear the area of snipers prior to a Divisional attack on Anafarta Ridge the next day. Muddle and confusion hampered the planning with the individual Battalions not receiving the warning orders that the advance was to take place and no clear objective was indicated. Eventually at 16:45 the order to advance was sounded. The start line that had been doglegged around a small hill was then subject to a muddled order that changed the direction of the Norfolks at the moment of advance. Rather than straightening the line, the bend was amplified and as the Norfolks charged a gap that opened up between them and the 8th Hants and the rest of 163 Brigade. Advancing 1,500 yards across the more favourable terrain, the Norfolks took nearly forty percent casualties. The Norfolks' Company, including men from the Royal Estate of Sandringham, were able to advance the furthest but were cut off. Mystery and fantasy has dogged this action ever since. The Brigade held a temporary line formed along a road edge for 48 hours until relieved by the 161st (Essex) Brigade. From the Rifles, 3 brothers from the Urry family together with their brother-in-law were killed, whilst among the officers two brothers, Clayton and Donald Ratsey of the legendary sailmaking firm Ratsey & Lapthorn, both Captains, were killed. Losses in each of the Battalions involved were counted in the high 300's including missing and wounded. The Rifles lost 89 men killed in action once the missing men were reclassified "presumed killed in action". In September 1915 they were moved back to Anzac Cove and evacuated in November.
The 1st Battalion sailed to Alexandria and to an acclimatisation camp at Sidi Bish, then to Mena Camp by the Pyramids of Giza. They moved into deployment at the Bitter Lakes on the Suez Canal. In January 1917 they marched to Mazar and in February marched across the Sinai Desert 145 miles in 12 days to El Arish. On the night of 17 April 1917 the offensive against the Turkish line at Gaza began, supported by tanks. The first phase of the Rifles operation to capture the Sheik Abbas ridge went well, but one of the tanks, a Mark I male, "Sir Archibald", was destroyed by artillery. On the morning of the 19th the attack against the Sihan Redoubt commenced with the Rifles in support of the 4th & 5th Norfolks. As the two leading battalions melted away the Rifles found themselves leading the attack. Eventually the redoubt was captured following a last charge by the other supporting tank, a Mark I female, "Nutty". Sihan or Tank redoubt was briefly held by a handful of Norfolks, Rifles and Australians, until they were forced to retire through lack of ammunition and water. The Rifles sustained major casualties during the days attack. Two hundred were kept in reserve but out of 800 who went into action only two officers and ninety men answered roll call the following evening, some being taken prisoner and subsequently transferred to Austria. A trench raid against the Turks at Beach Post was regarded as a model of its kind, and earned the Battalion high praise, as they captured a machine gun and two Lewis guns, as well as demolishing several dug-outs. The attack had been carried out at the point of the bayonet, one sergeant accounting for 13 Turks alone. General Allenby took overall command of the Palestine Campaign in August 1917 and his final successful assault against the Gaza-Beersheba Line saw the Rifles attacking the trenches to the south of Gaza. Carrying out this task cost the Battalion 2 officers and 51 other ranks killed. The Rifles then fought their way into Palestine, fighting in the Judaean Hills as Allenby entered Jerusalem. They remained in Palestine until the final defeat of the Turks in September 1918 when they sailed from Beirut to Alexandria and were demobbed in Cairo. When rioting broke out a cadre joined the Army of Occupation in the Sudan, eventually returning to the Isle of Wight in 1920.
In August 1916 the 2/8th Battalion, manning the forts on the Isle of Wight, was absorbed by the 4th (Reserve) Battalion of the Hampshires at Romsey. In September a draft of 250 men was shipped to India. From here they were landed at Basra with the Indian Army. They fought no major battles but were involved in constant skirmishing through Amarah, Kut, Ctesiphon, Persia, Turkestan, Constantinople, Salonika, Italy and France, returning home in 1919.
The Territorial Force disbanded after the war but was later reformed as the Territorial Army. The Rifles were stood down, but were not disbanded due to Princess Beatrice's (Governess of the IOW) intervention. They were mobilised at Albany Barracks during a coal-strike in 1921. In 1923 the battalion was transferred to the 128th (Hampshire) Infantry Brigade, part of 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division, alongside the 4th, 5th/7th and 6th battalions, Hampshire Regiment. They were transferred to the Royal Artillery in 1937 as The Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight Rifles Heavy Regiment, with 189 Battery at Cowes and 190 Battery at Ryde. The regiment was retitled 530th (The Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight Rifles) Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery in 1940.
The regiment was mobilised on 25 August 1939, with four batteries:
Although it was employed manning the extensive coastal defences many personnel were drafted to service in other units. A contingent sailed to Alexandria on the Empress of Canada in 1941 and sent to reinforce Tobruk, aboard HMAS Voyager. There they were formed into 17 Coast Regiment – a number being captured when it fell to Rommel on 21 June 1942. Another contingent was sent to Gibraltar aboard the SS Aquila to prepare defences against Franco's Spain. Another battery served with General Alexander in Burma.
In 1947 the regiment was reformed as 428 The Princess Beatrice's (Isle of Wight Rifles) Coast Regiment, RA, but in 1949 it was converted as 428 The Princess Beatrice's (Isle of Wight Rifles) (Mixed) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA, with three batteries based at Ryde, Newport and Cowes with RHQ at Newport. They were armed with 3.7 HAA Guns and associated radars and predictors. The term 'Mixed' in the title indicated that members of the Women's Royal Army Corps were integrated into the unit. They were briefly responsible for the manning of the 5.25 gun sites on the Island. After the demise of Anti-Aircraft Command and the reduction in air defence units in 1955, the Rifles were once again renamed, now becoming P (Princess Beatrice's IoW Rifles) Battery in 457 (Wessex) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA, equipped with mobile 3.7 guns. When the regiment te-equipped with Thunderbird SAMs the battery became P HQ Bty 457 Heavy Air Defence Regt RA TA (The IoW Rifles) The Hampshire Caribineers Yeomanry. The main element of the battery was the Regimental Surveillance Troop with 4 mk 7 & height finding radars. They had received two Distinguished Service Orders, a Distinguished Conduct Medal, four Military Crosses, seven Military Medals and various mentions in despatches during their wartime service.
In 1967 457 Regiment RA was disbanded and reconstituted as C (Wessex Royal Artillery, Princess Beatrice's) Company, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Territorials in TAVR III before being reduced to cadre in 1969. In 1971 the cadre was reconstituted as 6 Platoon, B Company (Hampshire), 1st Battalion, Wessex Regiment (The Rifle Volunteers) in TAVR II - a mobilisation component of 1 (Guards) Infantry Brigade (the Guards title being dropped during the 1970s). In 1986 the company (including 6 platoon) was moved to the 2nd Battalion and the mobilisation role was changed to home defence in 43 (Wessex) Infantry Brigade.
Under the 1992 drawdown ("Options for Change"), The Queen's Regiment was amalgamated with the Royal Hampshire Regiment to create the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshire's). A and B companies of 2 Wessex were amalgamated as C (Duke of Connaught's) Company, 6th/7th Battalion PWRR, and the Isle of Wight Rifles became 9 (Princess Beatrice's) Platoon, awkwardly placing C company in 145 (Home Counties) Brigade district (re-designated 145 (South) Brigade in 1994) whilst the remainder of the battalion (and the sister 5th Battalion) were in 2 (South East) Brigade district. It also gave the unit the distinction of having the longest name of any unit in the British Army of the time and due to the platoon's continued connection to Princess Beatrice its members were nicknamed "The Isle of Wight Rifles" throughout the rest of 6/7PWRR. The 1998 Strategic Defence Review reorganised the TA infantry along brigade lines, and the Isle of Wight Rifles became 9 (Princess Beatrice) Platoon, D Company of a new battalion, 3rd PWRR (The Royal Rifle Volunteers) formed by all the TA infantry in 145 Brigade in 1999. Despite the Royal Rifle Volunteer designation the unit continued to be badged to the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.
Under the Strategic Defence Review New Chapter 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps agreed to take the Island's Territorial unit into their TA counterpart, 165 Port and Maritime Regiment, to maintain the TA Centre with the designation 266 (Southampton) Port Sqn. "Isle of Wight Rifles", 165 Port & Maritime Regt., Royal Logistics Corps.
The following served as Honorary Colonel of the regiment:
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The 163rd Infantry Brigade was an infantry brigade of the British Army that saw active service during the First World War in Gallipoli and the Middle Eastern Theatre as part of the 54th (East Anglian) Division. In the Second World War the brigade remained in the United Kingdom until it was disbanded in late 1943.1927 Birthday Honours
The 1927 Birthday Honours were appointments by King George V to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of the British Empire. The appointments were made to celebrate the official birthday of The King, and were published in The London Gazette on 3 June 1927.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.1938 Birthday Honours
The King's Birthday Honours 1938 were appointments in many of the Commonwealth realms of King George VI to various orders and honours to reward and highlight the meritorious work of his subjects in those countries. The appointments were made to celebrate the King's official birthday and for the United Kingdom and Colonies were announced on 7 June 1938.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.1939 New Year Honours
The 1939 New Year Honours were appointments by King George VI to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of the United Kingdom and British Empire. They were announced on 30 December 1938.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.1st Wessex Artillery
215th Brigade Royal Field Artillery and 57th (Wessex) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery redirect here.The 1st Wessex Artillery was a volunteer unit of the British Army that existed under various titles from 1860 to 1971, including active service in World War I and World War II54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division
The 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army. During the First World War the division fought at Gallipoli and in the Middle East. The division was disbanded after the war but reformed in the Territorial Army in 1920. During the Second World War it was a home service division and did not see any combat service abroad and was disbanded in late 1943 but many of its component units went to see service in the Normandy Campaign and North-western Europe from June 1944 to May 1945.Albany Barracks
Albany Barracks (formerly Parkhurst Barracks) was a military installation on the Isle of Wight.Bouldnor Battery
Bouldnor Battery is a military battery located in Bouldnor on the Isle of Wight. It saw active service in World War II and was fully decommissioned in 1956. Today, it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.Carey Morris
Carey Morris (17 May 1882 – 17 November 1968) was a Welsh painter, illustrator, author and businessman born in Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire.He was related to the Welsh poet Sir Lewis Morris.Drill Hall Road Army Reserve Centre, Newport, Isle of Wight
The Drill Hall Road Army Reserve Centre is a military installation in Newport, Isle of Wight.History of the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is rich in historical and archaeological sites, from prehistoric fossil beds with dinosaur remains, to dwellings and artefacts dating back to the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman periods.Hurst Castle
Hurst Castle is an artillery fort established by Henry VIII on the Hurst Spit in Hampshire, England, between 1541 and 1544. It formed part of the king's Device Forts coastal protection programme against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire, and defended the western entrance to the Solent waterway. The early castle had a central keep and three bastions, and in 1547 was equipped with 26 guns. It was expensive to operate due to its size, but it formed one of the most powerful forts along the coast. During the English Civil War of the 1640s, Hurst was held by Parliament and was used briefly to detain King Charles I before his execution in 1649. It continued in use during the 18th century but fell into disrepair, the spit being frequented by smugglers.
Repairs were made during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars with France, and the castle was modernised to enable it to hold 24-pounder (10.8 kg) guns. Fresh fears of invasion followed in the 1850s, leading to heavier, 32-pounder (14.5 kg) armament being installed and new gun batteries being laid out on both sides of the castle. Technological developments rapidly made these defences obsolete, however, and a fresh phase of work between 1861 and 1874 created sixty-one gun positions in two long, granite-faced batteries alongside the older castle. These held very heavy weapons, including massive 12.5 inch, 38 ton (317 mm, 39,000 kg) rifled muzzle-loading guns. As the century progressed, these too became outdated and lighter, quick-firing guns were installed at the castle to replace them.
The castle formed part of a network of defences around the entrance to the Solent during the First World War, and was re-armed again during the Second World War. The military decommissioned the fort in 1956 and it passed into the control of the Ministry of Works. In the 21st century, it is run jointly by English Heritage and the Friends of Hurst Castle as a tourist attraction, receiving around 40,000 visitors during 2015. Coastal erosion has become a growing problem despite government intervention to protecting the spit. Four lighthouses have been built at Hurst from the 18th century onwards, one of which, a high lighthouse first opened in 1867, remains in active service.Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight (; also referred to informally as The Island or abbreviated to IoW) is a county and the largest and second-most populous island in England. It is in the English Channel, between 2 and 5 miles off the coast of Hampshire, separated by the Solent. The island has resorts that have been holiday destinations since Victorian times, and is known for its mild climate, coastal scenery, and verdant landscape of fields, downland and chines. The island is designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The island has been home to the poets Swinburne and Tennyson and to Queen Victoria, who built her much-loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes. It has a maritime and industrial tradition including boat-building, sail-making, the manufacture of flying boats, the hovercraft, and Britain's space rockets. The island hosts annual music festivals including the Isle of Wight Festival, which in 1970 was the largest rock music event ever held. It has well-conserved wildlife and some of the richest cliffs and quarries for dinosaur fossils in Europe.
The isle was owned by a Norman family until 1293 and was earlier a kingdom in its own right. In common with the Crown dependencies, the British Crown was then represented on the island by the Governor of the Isle of Wight until 1995. The island has played an important part in the defence of the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth, and been near the front-line of conflicts through the ages, including the Spanish Armada and the Battle of Britain. Rural for most of its history, its Victorian fashionability and the growing affordability of holidays led to significant urban development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Historically part of Hampshire, the island became a separate administrative county in 1890. It continued to share the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire until 1974, when it was made its own ceremonial county. Apart from a shared police force, there is now no administrative link with Hampshire, although a combined local authority with Portsmouth and Southampton was considered, this is now unlikely to proceed.The quickest public transport link to the mainland is the hovercraft from Ryde to Southsea; three vehicle ferry and two catamaran services cross the Solent to Southampton, Lymington and Portsmouth.List of nicknames of British Army regiments
This is a list of nicknames of regiments of the British Army. Many nicknames were used by successor regiments (following renaming or amalgamation).List of units of the British Army Territorial Force 1908
The following is a list of units transferred to the Territorial Force on 1 April 1908, or raised in that year under the terms of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907, and the associations by which they were administered. The County Association of Rutland did not have charge of any units, but did provide facilities for sub-units of the Leicestershire Yeomanry and the 5th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. A number of units, particularly those attached to the Royal Garrison Artillery and Royal Engineers, had their titles altered again in 1910.Lord Leopold Mountbatten
Lord Leopold Mountbatten (Leopold Arthur Louis; 21 May 1889 – 23 April 1922) was a British Army officer and a descendant of the Hessian princely Battenberg family and the British Royal Family. A grandson of Queen Victoria, he was known as Prince Leopold of Battenberg from his birth until 1917, when the British Royal Family relinquished their German titles during World War I, and the Battenberg family changed their name to Mountbatten.Royal Hampshire Regiment
The Hampshire Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army, created as part of the Childers Reforms in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 37th (North Hampshire) Regiment of Foot and the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot. The regiment existed continuously for 111 years and served in the Second Boer War, World War I and World War II. In 1946, due to distinguished service in World War II, the regiment was retitled as the Royal Hampshire Regiment.
On 9 September 1992, after over 111 years of service, the Royal Hampshire Regiment was amalgamated with the Queen's Regiment to form a new large regiment, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, which continues the traditions of the Royal Hampshires.Spring Hill, East Cowes
Spring Hill, East Cowes is an estate on the Isle of Wight, England, the centre-piece of which is the large landmark manor house of the same name. It was to become the family home of the Shedden family. The estate is ideally placed, having sweeping views over The Solent. It currently occupies 22 acres, although in years gone by, it was much bigger, probably amounting to around 100 acres. However, even today, it still encompasses Spring Hill House, a farmhouse, farm cottage, a gatehouse, one other large residence and around half a dozen fields. From the 1800s, East Cowes contained four prominent estates, with Spring Hill being amongst the first of them to be built. Spring Hill lay between East Cowes Castle and Norris Castle, with Osborne House, the country estate of Queen Victoria, close by.
Spring Hill estate was purchased in 1794 by the wealthy William Goodrich, partner in a Bristol shipping business with his brother-in-law, Robert Shedden. The business traded in tobacco and sugar and at the time, East Cowes was the main customs post for importing tobacco and rice into Great Britain from America, making the Isle of Wight a useful base for him. William Goodrich and his wife, Catherine Cole, moved into Spring Hill in 1794. Their daughter Mary and her husband George Shedden, soon moved to the Isle of Wight as well, living in the nearby Slatwoods estate, in Old Road, East Cowes.
Spring Hill House was rebuilt in 1863, by Goodrich’s grandson, William George Shedden. The house now encompasses 15,380 square feet and has some 30 bedrooms. In 1947, Spring Hill was purchased by the Congregation of Holy Cross, who used it as a convent until 2016, when it was sold to Uavend (East Cowes) LTD, a development company.