Isle of Wight Rifles - History - Return to Peace

History

Return to Peace

After the war, a large amount of reorganisation took place within the army and early in 1920, it was decided that the Rifles should be disbanded and the remnants formed into the '10th Medium Brigade R.G.A.' This decision caused public uproar and many articles appeared in the local Press opposing the changeover. On the very day that the cadre arrived home from the Sudan, it was announced that the decision had been reversed. This change of heart was in no small way due to the personal intervention of Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice. On May the 27th, 1920, Major C. T. C. Veasey was to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed to command the battalion. During the coal strike of 1921, the Rifles were called out on to full time service again, this time they became a unit of the ` Defence Force' and were stationed at Albany Barracks, Parkhurst, along with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Whilst these two regiments were stationed together, a friendly rivalry grew up between them, none more prominent than that between the two commanding officers. This rivalry came out on one occasion when the two C.O.'s decided to have a wager as to which battalion was the best at marching. The two parties of men started out from Parkhurst at the same time, they went down into Newport, up the Mall to Carisbrooke and out through Gunville and thence back to their barracks.

The Isle of Wight Rifles turned out to be the easy winners and as a result, each man received a quart of beer and a commemorative spoon from Colonel Veasey. The annual training in 1921 was carried out at Fort Granite, Sandown, and during that year the battalion sent a strong detachment of men to attend the funeral of the Marquis of Milford Haven, the brother of H.R.H. Prince Henry of Battenburg, at Whippingham Church. During the remaining years of peace, the annual summer camps were held at Sandown in 1924 and 1931. Fort Brokenhurst in 1923, Beaulieu in 1925, VVeymouth in 1926 and 1928, at Bulford in 1927, 1929, 1932 and 1936, Nunwell in 1930, Swanage in 1933 and 1935 and at Seaford in 1936. Lt. Colonel G. E. St. Aubyn took over the command of the regiment from 1925 until 1928, when he handed over to Lt. Colonel G. H. Hodgkinson who remained until 1932. From 1932 until 1936, the commanding officer was Lt. Colonel R. O. Spencer-Smith.

On July, the 21st 1926, one hundred men from the battalion formed a guard of honour for Her Majesty Queen Mary when she attended the All Island Bazaar at Carisbrooke Castle in aid of the Royal Isle of Wight County Hospital and the Isle of Wight War Memorial Fund. Following the death of His Majesty King George V, Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice took over the duties of Honorary Colonel of the regiment that had borne her name for over thirty years.

In 1933, Major C. W. Brannon undertook the formation of an Old Comrades Association, this move was welcomed heartily by the ex-riflemen and the association has remained in existence ever since, still holding their regular annual dinners to this day. At the Old Comrades Association's first dinner in November, 1933, at the drill hall in Newport, a large number of the veterans turned out and during the proceedings, a silver tea set was presented to Major Giddings who was to retire from the army early in 1934. Major Giilings gave his valuable services to the battalion as Quarter Master, he had completed just over forty years in the army. He had originally enlisted in the 3rd Hampshire volunteers, he had then been posted to the Rifles in 1907. This transfer had given him twenty-six years with the Rifles for which he had considered himself fortunate. On Sunday, the 15th April, 1934, being the nearest Sunday to the anniversay of the second battle of Gaza, old comrades from all parts of the Island, combined in honouring the memory of their fallen comrades at a church parade held at the Newport Parish Church. Thanks to the co-operation of the Old Comrades' Association, the gathering of ex-riflemen was larger than usual for the remembrance parades, there were one hundred and thirty of them on parade, almost every one of them proudly wearing war medals. The parade marched from the drill hall where it had formed up, down through Newport High Street to the church, it was led by the battalion bugle band. The. band on parade had been reinforced by three of the old comrades, who showed that they had not forgotten Bove to sound the calls with a bugle. Included in the parade were six veterans from the South African War. After the service, a wreath was laid on the War Memorial and Lt. Colonel Spencer-Smith presented Long Service and Efficiency Medals to Sergeants C. F. Jenvey and J. J. Nicholson, and Rifleman H. Bull, of Ventnor, received his second long service medal for twenty-four years' service with the battalion, a somewhat rare distinction. On returning to the drill hall, the parade formed up again facing the memorial tablet which bears the names of thirty-six officers and four hundred and eight-nine other ranks who fell on Gallipoli and in Palestine, Col. Spencer-Smith laid wreaths from the battalion and the Old Comrades' Association below the tablet.

The annual reunion dinner in 1934, was held at the Drill Hall in Ventnor, and about two hundred members turned up. The Commanding Officer expressed his pleasure at the large turnout and said that the battalion had had a good year, they had gone to camp at the end of July, unfortunately this had turned out to be the wrong time as only 64% of the battalion were able to attend. This had made training very difficult to carry out in a realistic way, as an infantry battalion now had ten different weapons to handle compared to the three it had at the beginning of the Great War. The use of these ten weapons had all to be demonstrated on manoeuvres. The battalion had been complimented on their work in an intricate inter-battalion exercise on the last day of training. They had also won the Brigade Transport Cup, in the Divisional boxing championships in February, the Rifles' team had come third, he also said that the team were in training for the next competition in Winchester in January, 1935, in the hopes of achieving an even higher placing. By November, 1934, the battalion had recruited enough men to bring their strength up to three hundred and eighty, this made them the third strongest battalion in the brigade but they were still about two hundred short of their full establishment.

On August the 11th, 1935, the Rifles held a drumhead service in Northwood Park at Cowes, to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of their landings in Suvla Bay when, during some of the severest fighting in the Gallipoli campaign, they had lost so many of their number. Among the distinguished company present, were Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice, Princess Alice, the Earl of Athlone and Lord Mottistone. The battalion paraded in the car park and marched through the park to NorthWood House, headed by the bugle band. Before the gathering dispersed, H.R.H. Princess Beatrice presented Long Service and Efficiency Medals to C.S.M. C. Cook, Sgt. P. Woodford, Rifleman A. G. Taylor and Rifleman G. E. Smart for twelve years' service with the Rifles. On behalf of Princess Beatrice, the Earl of Athlone briefly addressed the parade and on the call of Lord Mottistone, cheers were given for the King and Princess Beatrice. After the service, the parade was marched back to the Drill Hall, where it was dismissed.

On Sunday the 19th, of April, 1936, the annual memorial parade took place at Ryde, they formed up at the drill hall and, to the familiar tune of Colonel Bogey, they marched via Park Road, Star Street, High Street and St. John's Street to the Parish Church. Among those present was Lady Seely whose son, Captain Charles Seely, had lost his life in that memorable battle for Gaza exactly ninteen years earlier. The service was conducted by the Vicar assisted by the Reverend H. Ewbank, the Vicar of Carisbrooke and Chaplain to the battalion. Curing the address, the Rev. Ewbank said that they had gathered to honour those hundreds of their comrades who had died to help pave the way for the final victory over the enemy. After the service, the Commanding Officer, Lt. Colonel Spencer-Smith presented Long Service and Efficiency Medals to C.S.M. Herbert and Corporal Mursell.

In 1936, the battalion did well in the Territory Army machine gun competition and during the annual dinner in November, they were congratulated on their fine performance by the Commanding Officer. Lt. Colonel Spencer-Smith was due to retire and during the dinner, he addressed the gathering, he commented that for the first time in peacetime, the battalion was to be commanded by a genuine Isle of Wighter.

The backbone of the British Army, he said, was its N.C.O.'s and the battalion had to thank the N.C.O.'s of 'B' Company as it was they who put a young Lance Corporal through the hoop at Puckpool, now, this young L/Cpl., Wilfred Brannon was to take command of the battalion, having recently been promoted to Lt. Colonel. Colonel Brannon was the only man ever to have risen from the ranks to command the Isle of Wight Rifles.

During 1936, the battalion was to have the honour of providing a detachment of men to march in the funeral procession of their late Honorary Colonel, His Majesty King George V. This detachment was commanded by Lt. G. C. Shea.

In 1937, a detachment of three officers, Major E. G. Baker, Captain A. C. White and Lt. J. L. Souter, and twenty-seven men attended the Coronation of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. One officer and three men actually took part in the procession and the remainder, lined part of the route in Oxford Street near the Marble Arch.