The Club History

In the early days of the Second World War, the Government put in to motion the forming of local defence units recruited from the civilian population, who would defend their local areas, and who would be called the "Local Defence Volunteers", abbreviated to L.D.V.   The main body where in the age group of 40 to 70 years old, with a few 18 to 19 year olds.   The older members mostly had experience of the First World War.   In the early days, their main purpose was that in the event of the Island being invaded, they would be attached to the Regular Forces to act as guides.

In the early 1940s there were 50,000 troops stationed on the Island, and the L.D.V. members were nicknamed "Look, Duck and Vanish"!   Each L.D.V. man was given a .300 Ross or Remington P14 or P17 Rifle, 5 rounds of ammunition and a brown armband with "L.D.V." on it.

In late 1940 they re-organised and at Churchill's behest, they became the "Home Guard", and became part of the Armed Forces.  

By late 1943, the need for the Home Guard diminished.   On the Island, they still made use of Newtown Range from which developed Inter-Company competitions between the units on the Island, and also at Battalion level.   This was happening up and down the country, which eventually led to the formation of the Home Guard Association.   One of these units was "D" Company, 19th Hampshire Regiment H.G.   In 1944, the Home Guard was "Stood Down", (not disbanded).   Those units and members who wished to continue as a Rifle Club were given the following.

  1. The use of the "Territorial" .22 Rifle Ranges, for a payment.
  2. The use of Newtown Range, for a payment.
  3. The issue of one .303 Enfield rifle per 10 members.   As there were at that date 100 members, they received 10 rifles.   Members simply took them home and locked them in their wardrobes!
  4. The Membership Cards had across the top "exempted firearm certificate", so in very loose terms; members were still in the Home Guard.   The fly in the ointment in those early years was that membership of the Newport & District Home Guard Association, was conditional on being a former member of the L.D.V. or H.G.

At about this time, they also started having hassle with the T.A. and the use of their .22 Rifle Range in the Drill Hall in Newport.   Members would be kept hanging about waiting for the caretaker to open up, then being rushed as he wanted to close up, having got in to the drill hall to find a lorry parked immobilised across the range!
So they moved to Crocker Street Range, which was being used at the time by Carisbrooke Rifle Club, formed in 1912.   They had the lease on the tunnel and the "Clubroom" (as it was known), on a 21-year lease, paying a peppercorn rent of £2-10 shillings (£2.50) a year.   None seemed sure of who exactly owned the property at that stage.   Carisbrooke Club eventually folded-up simply because of a lack of membership.   The "Four Old Wise Men" who formed the Carisbrooke Club Trust The Trustees), held on until the 21-year lease expired, then wound up the Club.   During that time, Newport Club paid the rent to the trustees.   It must now be understood that at that time, the Newport H.G. Rifle Club was also a dying Club, so they were not really concerned who owned the property, as the length of the lease would outlive them!

In 1954, the Home Guard was officially disbanded, and all reference to the Home Guard was removed from the Club's Official Title, but The Newport (I.W.) & District Rifle Club can, without doubt, say that its parentage was with the Home Guard, and this is still reflected on the Club's letterhead.   With the Home Guard now defunct, this removed any restrictions on recruitment.   The war had been over nearly 10 years all returning servicemen "swore blind" they would never join anything again, not even a Christmas Club!

Time however, changes attitudes and the Club had a number of ex-servicemen joining.   On paper, the H.G. had been a Military Unit, but some time in the early fifties, out of the blue, we (the Rifle Club), found that we had a new landlord at 64 Crocker Street, who we never met.   What was a shock was that he paid £200 for it, that is, the Club lost the opportunity to purchase.   The top storey of the building was dilapidated, horse stables and outbuildings in such a bad state of repair that only an idiot would think of buying it.   The new owner used it for storing junk.   He did not interfere with us and never introduced himself.   In hindsight, we later wished we had purchased the range.

Out of the blue, yet again, we found that it had been purchased by Harry Margham & Sons, whose main premises were further up Crocker Street.   Their business was repairing crashed or damaged cars.   They cleared out the top part of 64 Crocker Street for storing crashed expensive cars awaiting insurance assessments where the assessors came over from the mainland about once a month.   This arrangement was an ideal security situation for them, as no cars were visible, and everyone thought the sole use of the building was the Rifle Club.   The property at the time of writing is valued at around £50,000!!!   It will be realised now what a golden opportunity had been missed by the Club, but of course hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Going back now to the disbandment of the H.G. in 1954.   The 10 Club Rifles that had been issued to the Club originally, were now required to be handed back to the Quartermaster of the Island T.A., because we no longer had legal authority to hold them.   They had to be gathered in very quickly!   When they were issued, they had each come with a string "pull through" stowed in the butt.   Surprise, surprise, they were all missing and the Club got a bill for ten "pull throughs" at one shilling and sixpence (7.5p) each!!!

Looking at the Rifle Section revenue account for 1948, the membership fee was one shilling (5p, 20 to the pound).   Just prior to the H.G. disbandment, at a heated AGM, the fee was raised to Half a Crown (two shillings and sixpence 12.5p, 4 to the pound).    At the time of first purchase membership stood at 12.   Subs for the year were £6, which meant operating on a shoestring with no reserve cash.   It would have meant going to the bank holding an empty begging bowl and in those days, banks hung on to their money!   The average wage was about £7 for a 48 hour week, a low priced car about £500, a plot of building land £200, a new bungalow about £2,500 to £3,000, a BSA .22 Rifle £30, with .22 ammunition £4.50 per thousand!   To get out to Newtown, for a 9am we hired a Southern Vectis Bus with a pick up at 4pm for £2.50.   Only one member had a car!   In a nutshell, harking back to the £200 purchase price required for Crocker Street, this was just as hard to find as the £55,000 is at the time of writing.

To fill you in on the famous photograph of "D" Company (Newport) 19th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment H.G. marching through Newport.  The Officer leading is Captain Mac Ely who served as a regular in the Queens Regiment (Kirks Lambs) in India, Khyber Pass 1926.   Returned to civvy street, played professional football for a London Club?? Gave up through an injury.   During the war he was a painter for the Isle of Wight Railway.   He was also the first Secretary and founder member of the Club.   He died in the first week of April 1992, aged 83.

The Lieutenant behind the Captain is Mr Machin.   He was Newport Borough Treasurer but is no longer with us.   Now 50 years on, there can only be a few left alive today.   With all the jokes about the raggle taggle Dad's Army, one could easily call this photo any Regiment in the British Army and receive no argument.   As they are marching off with fixed bayonets, it can only mean they had been given permission by the town of Newport, a great honour.   The gable ended brick building was the air raid shelter for the residents of Drill Hall Road.   The pipe in the gutter fed a static water tank on land that is now the defunct Wray's bake house.   Regarding the two men on the roof, (a symbolic gesture - the Army issued orders to cover all contingencies and were reluctant to cancel them).   During the war years, when the drill hall was being used, the "ack ack" (anti-aircraft) post, consisting of a bren gun mounted on a tripod, had to be manned.   In the event of the Drill Hall being attacked by low flying German aircraft, which was most unlikely, I think we can safely say, by my own experience during the war years, that the ammunition would be under lock and key, in the main store and unobtainable without an order.   An order from the senior Officer there would be required to open fire!   The fear was that the gun crew, in the heat of the moment, could have easily shot up all the roofs in the surrounding area, for what goes up, must come down!    Looking at the photo, I would like to know how that little girl in the left-hand corner, knew the significance of the parade, and without being told, is standing to attention in a way that would not disgrace a Guardsman!   The day ended with a farewell reception in the Drill Hall that evening, with the beer supplied by Mew Langton.   By midnight, that once smart body of men was draped all over the railings.   Not a pretty sight!