Isle of Wight Rifles - History - Uniforms and Equipment

History

Uniforms and Equipment

From the original founding of the Isle of Wight Volunteers the dress uniform had always been Light Infantry green and black, with black badges, buttons and facings. When the detachments were sent out to South Africa during the Boer War they wore the standard service dress of the period, consisting of a white pith helmet covered with a khaki cover, khaki tunic with five general service buttons, two breast pockets, each covered by a flap. The trousers were worn with puttees. The equipment worn at this time consisted of a web waistbelt, two ammunition pouches, a valise, a rolled blanket and a mess tin in an oilskin cover, a waterbottle and a haversack. They were originally issued with Lee Metford rifles but by the time they returned to the Island in 1901 most of these had been exchanged for Lee Enfields.

For details of uniform during the first war see the following chapter on the Battalion Standing Orders. After the first war the uniform did not change until the advent of the now familiar battledress which was adopted in the late thirties, this was retained up until the final disbandment in 1967.

Battalion Standing Orders by Lt. Col.J.E.Rhodes, Commanding Isle of Wight Rifles. Introduction : These standing orders have been prepared with a view to not only giving as much information as possible regarding the Regiment, but also with a view to assisting all ranks in the proper performance of their duties. The Commanding Officer desired that all ranks shall make themselves thoroughly acquainted with these orders and strictly observe them, thereby ensuring the reputation of the Regiment for efficiency, smartness, and good discipline is maintained.
Signed V.Stone, Captain and Adjutant, Newport, I.W., April, 1914.

CONDITIONS OF EFFICIENCY

1 Every member, on being enlisted and sworn in, is required to complete the following course of training:-

  • a) First Year; 40 drills (at least 20 before camp) fire course of musketry, qualify, and attend camp for fifteen days.
  • b) Second and each succeeding year; 10 drills (which must be completed before camp), attend camp for fifteen days, fire the trained soldiers course of musketry, and qualify.
  • c) Attendance in camp is obligatory, except leave is granted in writing for special cause by the commanding officer. Notice for this must be given to the orderly room at least a month before the date fixed for camp.

RULES FOR RECRUITING

2 Recruits must be 17 years of age and under 35, minimum height 5 ft. 2 ins., and 32½ ins. in chest measurement. Must be medically fit and approved by the commanding officer. The conditions of service are four years. Two Uniforms are provided free.

3 Recruiting takes place throughout the year. All ranks should endeavour to keep their companies, sections, etc. up to full strength by introducing smart and eligible men of good character. All ranks can at any time bring their friends to the drill halls when parades are in progress.

TERRITORIAL INFANTRY PAY

4 Pay is issued according to rank whilst in camp or embodied training as follows:

  • Quarter Master Sergeant 4/- per day
  • Colour Sergeant 3/6d "
  • Sergeant 2/4d "
  • Sergeant Bugler 2/4d "
  • Bugler 1/1d "
  • Corporal 1/8d "
  • Rifleman 1/1d"

Separation Allowances for Married NCO's and Riflemen.

  • Wife of Clr. Sgt. 1/4d per day while in camp
  • Wife of Sgt. or Cpl. 1/1d

All other ranks who attend

  • Camp for 15 days ... 1/1d "
  • Each girl under 16 ... 2d "
  • Each boy under 14 ... 2d "
  • Each child under 16 if motherless 4d "

RATIONS

6 Army rations are provided free in camp to all NCOs and men and these will be supplemented by regimental arrangement.

BOUNTY

7 A bounty of £1 will be paid for all NCOs and men attending camp for 15 days, subject to the following conditions:

DRILLS

Recruits — 40 drills must have been completed before camp. Trained men — 10 drills must have been completed before camp. No relaxation of this condition will be made on the grounds of inability (whether from sickness or any other cause) to perform the full number of drills required.

Bandsmen will perform half the number of drills as stated above, in addition six stretcher drills as laid down in Territorial Force Regulations.

This bounty will not be payable to men who are permitted to leave camp on private affairs before completing 15 days training.

A recruit who enlisted before the 1st of November last and after camp must have completed fifty drills before camp to qualify for the bounty.

MUSKETRY

The standard of qualification laid down in the regulations must have been attained in the training year preceeding that in which the bounty is claimed, except in the case of men in their first year of training, who will not be required to qualify in musketry as a condition of earning their first bounty, but such qualification will govern the issue of bounty in the second year of service. He must, in the previous training year, have fired Part 1 ( Instructional Practices) and qualified in Part 2 (Standard Test) of Table A or Table B of the Musketry Regulations Part 1. The bounty will be payable to a man who has signified his intention of remaining in camp for 15 days but who is admitted into hospital or sent home in consequence of a disability not brought about by his own action. In the event of his death the bounty will be payable to his widow or dependant relatives.

OFFICERS

8 Field Officers will be allotted their duties by the Commanding Officer.

9 Officers commanding companies are responsible for everything in connection with their Companies and are, in all respects the instructors and leaders of their men.

10 They are responsible that their Subaltern Officers and Non Commisioned Officers are thoroughly trained and competent instructors and leaders of the smaller units. 11 They are answerable that the regimental system is rigidly maintained in their companies.

12 They will make themselves thoroughly efficient in their work, and must at all times be acquainted with the Orders.

13 They are responsible for the good order and discipline of their companies.

14 They must make themselves thoroughly acquainted with their men and know their names.

15 They are responsible that the N.C.O.s and men of their companies are made thoroughly acquainted with all orders and regulations affecting them.

16 They will, when a vacancy occurs, select N.C.O.s and men for promotion and forward their names to the Adjutant.All information required can be had from the Orderly Room, and all correspondence must be sent officially.

17 They will be responsible to the Commanding Officer in respect of all arms, government stores, clothing, etc. issued to their companies. They will carry out inspection of arms as laid down in Equipment Regulation, paragraph 44, as follows ; First inspection during annual training camp, second inspection during October. They will see that any arms not available for inspection at camp are inspected within a fortnight of the return from camp. They will see that their Sergeant Instructors thoroughly examine every area in their charge once every three months, and that they keep a record of the condition of the arms and execute such minor repairs as are laid down in the code of instructions.

Full particulars of the inspections will be entered in A.B.316. Reports that inspections have been held will be forwarded to headquarters within three weeks of the breaking up of camp and on November the 1st.

In camp Officers commanding Companies are responsible for the cleanliness of their companies lines, the tidiness of the tents, and general appearance of their men. They must impress upon their men the necessity of sanitation.

18 They are responsible for the rendering of all documents and returns at the appointed time and for their accuracy.

19 They will initial the Company Postage Book at least once a week and all alterations in the Association Property Book.

20 Officers will always salute the Commanding Officer on his first appearance in the morning and on parade before and after addressing him, the same applies to any senior officer on the parade. A senior officer will always be addressed as ` Sir' on parade. Officers must be particular when returning salutes. When two or more officers are walking together only the senior returns a salute.

The Battalion Standing Orders continue with details for NCO's, Duty Officers, Orderly Corporals etc. We continue with the regulations concerning leave.

128; Extract from the Territorial Force Regulations Para 397. "A Commanding Officer may grant leave with pay to an officer or soldier of the Territorial Force during annual training in camp for a period not exceeding one night, in the case of an officer or a soldier attending for a shorter period than fifteen days and for not more than 48 hours if attending the full period of training. In very special cases leave may be granted for a longer period without pay, subject to the approval of the General Officer Commanding the Division.

129; Subject to the above, Officers Commanding companies will only sign passes for their companies up to 12 midnight; all passes for longer periods will only be recommended on the pass counterfoil by officers commanding companies and left in the Orderly Tent for the Commanding Officers signature, where they must be registered and impressed with the Orderly Room stamp, without which they are invalid.

DRESS

167; N.C.O.s and men must always be correctly dressed, the only exception being when they are going to and from the ablution place or place appointed for washing or bathing in camp.

The following instructions regarding dress should be strictly observed on all ocasions:

  • 1) They may not wear a mixture of plain clothes and uniform.
  • 2) On fatigues men should wear canvas clothing, but this clothing must always be clean and complete with buttons and badges.
  • 3) When the greatcoat is worn the waist belt shall be worn inside.
  • 4) The belt, frog and sword, and a pair of black gloves will always be worn by Sergeants when wearing the green uniform; Church parade or walking out.
  • 5) A black cane of regimental pattern will be carried by all N.C.O.s and Riflemen when on duty or walking out.
  • 6) The waistbelt should always be fitted comfortably tight; additional hole, if necessary, must be made with a proper punch.
  • 7) Permission is given for all N.C.O.s and Riflemen to wear their green uniform for walking out purposes on Sundays arid general holidays. Special permission must be obtained to wear it on other occasions.
  • 8) N.C.O.s and Riflemen must at all times be correctly dressed and behave in a proper and soldier like manner. Should they notice any irregularity it is their duty to report it.
  • 9) The service dress must not be worn for walking out purposes except in camp.
  • 10) Regimental badges and N.C.O.c chevrons must be invariably worn even on the oldest clothing, on all occasions, no badge other than the battalion cap badge is allowed to be worn in the cap.
  • 11) The wearing of brown boots by N.C.O.s and Riflemen with the walking out dress uniform is prohibited.
  • 12) Only the service dress uniform will be taken to camp.
  • 13) Medals will at all times be worn on the green tunic; a piece of ribbon only will be worn on the service dress jacket, inch wide, in line with the second button and 11 inches from it.
  • 14) The wearing of trinkets or watch chains, or flowers in the cap or tunic is strictly prohibited.
  • 15) No article of uniform clothing is allowed to be worn except when parades are ordered or when walking out.
  • 16) The following items should be taken to camp in addition to the marching order kit : A pair of boot brushes, cloth brush, a piece of Pynka or Goddards plate powder, two or three pieces of clean cloth, a tin of black dubbin, hair brush and comb, toothbrush, knife, fork and spoon, needles, thread, spare but- tons etc., razor, shaving brush, soap, towels, two changes of nder clothing, three pairs of woollen socks, a waistcoat or jersey, and a pair of boots in addition to the heavy marching boots, also a black cane of regimental pattern, which may be brought to camp attached to the rifle.
  • 17) N.C.O.s and Riflemen are recommended to soap the inside of their socks, especially the back of the heel. This treatment will prevent many a blister, and in any case will make marching more comfortable; it has the effect of sticking the sock to the boot, the foot moving about freely inside the sock and so reventing friction. Sunlight soap is perhaps the best.
  • 18) N.C.O.'s and Riflemen will not be allowed to fall in on any parade until they are correctly addressed for the parade ordered.
  • Recruits Plain clothes and rifles only (except when otherwise ordered).
  • Drill Order; Service dress uniform, waist belt, frog and four cartridge pockets, (two on each side of the buckle), bandolier, rifle and sword.
  • Marching Order; Service dress uniform, haversack over the right shoulder (sling both front and rear will pass under the waist belt); the haversack, always unfolded, rests outside the scabbard and in line with the top of the frog, waistbelt etc. Two pockets will be placed on the waistbelt and slipped up close to the buckle, then frog with sword then mess tin in cover and remaining pockets; the waistbelt will then be buckled round the waist, having first passed the sword and frog down between the haversack and hip and placed the belt in the loops of the jacket. Bandolier to be placed over the left shoulder, pouches to the front, then fasten keeper strap round waistbelt. Water- bottle to be placed over left shoulder, top of the waterbottie to come in line with the bottom of the waistbelt. Great coat; The great coat, carefully folded (15 inches long with three folds only visible at the end and rather flat, with last fold to rest against the back of the wearer and towards the ground), to be placed in web braces, care to be taken that the braces are so adjusted that the great coat is well up on the back with the top of coat in line with top of collar of service jacket. Hook braces in mess tin cover behind, then pass braces over the shoulders and down between the bandolier, water bottle and body, and hook to 'D's of ammunition pouches furthest from the waistbelt buckle. All straps etc. are under the shoulder straps which will then be done up. The articles will be put on in the order named; the two coat straps will be put in the great coat pockets. Rifle with sling on.
  • Church Parade; Green tunic, cloth trousers, black boots, busby, black waist belt, black frog and sword. Great coat only when ordered. great coat is worn on parade the waist belt will be worn inside as in walking out dress. In camp, service dress with brown belt (without pockets), brown frog, and sword will be worn.
  • Walking out Dress; As for church parade, except swords and frogs will not be worn (Sgts. excepted) . A black cane will always be carried. Review Order; As for church parade, with rifle and sling.
  • Fatigue Dress; Canvas.

OFFICERS UNIFORM REGULATIONS

  • Full Dress Uniform for Guard of Honour, Ceremonial and Church Parade Green cloth tunic, overalls with mohair stripes, busby with plume and lines, cross belt and pouch, Blackweb sword belt with patent leather slings, Rifle patern sword with nickelled scabbard and hilt, and black sword knot of flat patent leather, black Wellington boots, black gloves, and nickelled swan knecked spurs for mounted officers.
  • Undress Uniform; Green serge jacket (with pockets, special regimental pattern), overalls with mohair stripes, cross belt, pouch, sword and slings when on duty, black Wellington booy, black gloves black cane with silver top when sword not worn. This uniform will also be worn for mess under canvas, substituting black serge trousers without stripes for overalls.
  • Great coat; Drab with plain shoulder straps and black buttons.
  • Service Dress; Jacket, knickerbocker breeches, putties, sam brown belt, with one sling, sword in brown leather scabbard (black sword knot), brown lace boots with plain toe caps, haversack (over right shoulder), water bottle (over left shoulder), field glasses, drab water-proof cape in sling over left shoulder, whistle with black cord, watch, compass, note book and pencil, brown dog skin gloves.
  • Mess Uniform (optional) Green cashmere jacket with black rolled collar and black velvet cuffs, green waistcoat, overalls with mohair stripes and patent leather Wellington boots.
  • Mounted Officers; With green uniform. Blackjack boots, straight knecked Jack spurs (Rifle Brigade pattern) with nickelled chains and patent leather straps.
  • With Service Dress; Straight knecked spurs with brown straps and stirrup pieces. With Mess Uniform; Silver plated straight knecked spurs.

N.B. The uniform is the same as that worn by the Rifle Brigade except as follows:

  • 1) The cross belt, cap and collar badges are of special regimental pattern.
  • 2) The buttons have not the letters R.B.
  • 3) Black bronzed 'T's are worn below the badges of rank on tunics, serge jackets and great coats and below collar badges on service dress.
  • 4) The 'T's are worn on shoulder cords of Mess Jackets.

I hope that brief history of our local regiment will give the reader an insight of life in a Territorial Volunteer Unit of the British Army. I apologise for any ommissions I have made; especially during the Second World War, nothing has been written about the regiment and official records are very hard to find. I would like to acknowledge the tremendous help given to me in the preparation of this story by the following:
The late Lt. Col. C. W. Brannon MC; BSM B. Lawn; BQSM A. Herbert; Sgt. L. Channing; Sgt. A. Bannister; Riflemen E. Parsons MM; R. Dallimore; B. Ward; E. H. Rowe; Mrs. R. Jones; Mrs. Fardell and the Isle of Wight County Press for allowing me to research in their archives.

I would like to dedicate this book to the gallant men of the Isle of Wight Rifles who so readily gave their lives for what was considered to be a just cause, may they long be remembered by the residents of our Island, for their self sacrifice on the field of battle.