The History of the Isle of Wight Rifles in Words and Pictures

Isle of Wight Rifles, Officers
Isle of Wight Officers, 1915

The Isle of Wight Rifles were also known as the "8th (territorial) Battalion The Hampshire Regiment, Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight Rifles", or informally "The Isle of Wight Rifles". They also gained the Nickname "The Isle of Wight Gurkhas" due to a similarity in Rifles uniform and drill, and possibly because they tended to be shorter than the average height of the time. 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 the Artillery and Infantry Volunteer Corps were raised in response to an invasion scare following the perceived resurgence of French naval power under Louis Napoleon III, along with major fortification building, constructing Forts Victoria, Albert, Golden Hill, and Culver Fort in addition to batteries at Sandown, Puckpool, Bouldnor and the Needles. Newtown ranges were set aside for their training. Those who served in the Corps paid for their own kit and expenses. They formed throughout Hampshire and the Isle of Wight formed six units- 1st & 3rd at Ryde, 2nd at Newport, 4th at Nunwell, 5th at Ventnor and 6th at Sandown. Although these were originally independent they were amalgamated in on 6 July 1860 into the "1st Administrative Battalion, Isle of Wight Volunteer Corps". They were now 3,000 strong. With another 4,000 troops from the mainland soldiers comprised 1 in 4 of the local population. Many of the mainland troops were biletted in villages in an attempt to deepen the local gene pool. By this time Queen Victoria had moved to the Isle of Wight at Osborne House. The name was changed to the "1st Isle of Wight Volunteers" under Colonel Dunsmore of the 42nd Highlanders and later in 1880 the 5th Isle of Wight Volunteer Corps and the 5th (Isle of Wight, Princess Beatrice's Own) Volunteer Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment.

Isle of Wight Rifles
Basic Training, 1915. Picture provided by Clive Splash

Pointing finger Can You Help?

Un-named soldier
Un-named soldier

Can you help us to identify any of the un-named members of the "rifles" in the
Photographic Gallery?