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Havenstreet

At War

June 1940 saw the arrival of the 6th Black Watch to the Island. A new garrison was stationed at Coppidhall Farm, Havenstreet. The men were part of the 12th Infantry Brigade from the chaos of Dunkirk.

As Frank Botham of Binstead recalls:
"My company was stationed at Havenstreet, where we were encamped in a copse. Later on, during October, the whole battalion moved into winter billets in Ryde. During the summer, before we moved to Ryde, we had an infestation of lice; we all had to be disinfected, and they took everything from us. We were left standing there, alongside the road at Havenstreet Station, without any of our clothes, but with just our rifles and 50 rounds of ammunition! Of course, we were in ful view of all passing traffic, including the buses. There we were, 900 stark naked 'Scottish' soldiers defending the Isle of Wight."

Throughout their stay, the men were on ten minutes' standby, in case of enemy action, and had always to carry their rifles with them - even when off duty.

Because the 6th was so short of transport - it was abandoned in France at the time of Dunkirk - a bus, hired from Southern Vectis, had to follow us everywhere we went on the Island, in case of emergency. Later on, we were given these Hercules bicycles. Several photographs were taken at the time, and Raleigh, who made the bikes, used them for about ten years after the war as publicity and advertising pictures.

Apart from the battalion's work on coast defences, the official war diaries reveal a number of special 'one-offs,' such as a demonstration of street fighting and house searching at Havenstreet, an exercise involving the 'recapture' of an aerodrome (the civil airfield at Ryde was used) from enemy parachute troops, and another in which the battalion had to hold an imaginary bridgehead at Wootton. A poignant red-letter day must have been 21 September, when the 6th Black Watch Pipe Band played the retreat at Havenstreet for the first time since the battalion's return from Belgium. They left the Island in December 1940, eventually returning to the batterfields of Europe.

Sources:
Extracted from Isle of Wight at War 1939-1945 by Adrian Searle, The Dovecote Press, 1989., chapter 10 'The Military Presence'

This page was last edited on: 4th March, 2015 06:16:07

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