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Fortifications of the Isle of Wight - Overview

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Fortifications of the Isle of Wight

West Wight Fortifications
Freshwater Redoubt | The Needles Old Battery | New Needles Battery | Hatherwood Battery | Warden Point Battery
Fort Albert | Cliff End Battery | Fort Victoria | Golden Hill Fort | Bouldnor Battery
East Wight Fortifications
Puckpool Battery | Nodes Point Battery | Steynewood Battery | Culver Battery | Bembridge Fort
Redcliff Battery | Yaverland Battery | Sandown Granite Fort | Sandown Barrack Battery
Solent Sea Forts
St Helen's Fort | No Man's Land Fort | Horse Sand Fort | Spitbank Fort
Isle of Wight fortifications

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Isle of Wight was one of the most strongly-defended areas in the world. The close proximity to Portsmouth, home of the Royal Navy, as well as the major port of Southampton, meant that whoever controlled the Isle of Wight could control the English Channel and could prevent the Royal Navy from leaving port.

Early Raids and Invasions

The Isle of Wight's key location has been recognised throughout history – foreign fleets frequently invaded the Isle of Wight and the waters of the Solent. Duke William of Normandy had intended to capture the Isle of Wight in 1066 before unfavourable winds ensured he landed in Sussex instead. In 1208 King John ordered that the strongest men of Portsmouth, Southampton and surrounding areas gathered in Portsmouth to man the King's Galleys due to the threat of a French Invasion. In 1242, Henry III had assembled a fleet in Portsmouth Harbour to carry reinforcements for his French campaign, yet a French fleet attempted to blockade them. In 1327, a French fleet disguised as English sailors and flying English colours attacked and sacked Portsmouth and Southampton. During the Hundred Years' War, the Island used a complex network of 31 Invasion Beacons to warn of invasion, a threat which was real as Philip VI planned to capture the Isle of Wight and use it as a base from which to attack the mainland.

In 1336, the French Fleet was poised on the other side of the Channel, ready for a full-scale invasion. Although this did not happen, the French ships preyed on English vessels anchored off the Isle of Wight in the Solent, boarding many, scuttling some, and capturing the others. In 1337 the French raided and all but destroyed Portsmouth, leaving only a church and the hospital standing. Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight were attacked in March 1338, and, in September, Guernsey was captured. In October 1338, French forces attacked Southampton, causing Edward III to order the building of its town walls.

In 1330, the French invaded Yarmouth and St Helens on the Island, but were defeated by Sir Theobald Russell, the King's Warden of the Island, who was mortally wounded in the battle. In 1340, despite Edward III's spectacular victory against a far larger and superior French fleet at the Battle of Sluys, which gave England control over the Channel, Portsmouth was again raided in 1342, and later in 1370 and 1377.

In 1377, the Island suffered its most devastating raid, with Yarmouth, Francheville and Freshwater destroyed, Newport burnt and Carisbrooke Castle besieged. The Castle's constable, Sir Hugh Tyrell, gallantly defended until a force under Sir John Arundel arrived from the mainland. The Island was again attacked in 1381, when Newport was again burnt by the French. An invasion fleet was assembled in France in 1385-6, though it never sailed. In 1402 a French army of 1,700 men landed and raided several Island villages. The French, under the Compte de St Pol, attacked again in 1403, capturing much of the Island before being counter-attacked by forces from Portsmouth and Southampton. A combined French and Spanish fleet threatened to attack Portsmouth and Southampton in 1419, yet an English victory in Rouen ensured that this fleet never sailed.

Henrician Castles

The first attempt to seriously defend the Isle of Wight from invasion was during the reign of King Henry VIII, when four castles were constructed on the Island. These were Yarmouth Castle, Cowes Castle, East Cowes Castle and Sandown Castle, constructed in the 1530s-40s. These were constructed at the principle landing points on the Island as Henry feared an invasion attempt by France at the time. This fear was well justified as a full French invasion of the Island took place in 1545 – the same battle in which the Mary Rose sank. This invasion is covered in the East Wight Fortifications entry.

The Spanish Armada in 1588 were narrowly prevented from invading the Island on 24-25 July 1588 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. In the Napoleonic Wars it was again feared that France would invade the Isle of Wight, especially after a combined French and Spanish fleet of 66 ships reached the Solent in 1779 intending to either capture the Isle of Wight or land near Gosport, a town next to Portsmouth. Although the attack failed, it resulted in the construction of Fort Monckton at Gosport's Gilkicker Point.

The Henrician castles marked the beginning of the end of the castle era in Britain. Despite the construction of earth forts and a newer Sandown Castle during the Napoleonic Wars, the defence of the Isle of Wight was all but ignored for three hundred years.

The First Victorian Invasion Panic

From the start of his political career Lord Palmerston (Prime Minister 1855-1858 and 1859-1865) was determined to ensure that Britain would be better defended. In 1845 stated 'Steam navigation has rendered [the English Channel] which was before impassable by a military force nothing more than a river passable by a steam bridge.' New technology, such as shell artillery, more accurate weapons and ironclad warships led to the fear of invasion.

In 1804 work began prematurely on a column outside Boulogne celebrating the success of Napoleon's intended invasion of England – an invasion which never actually took place. Work ground to a halt after the invasion was called off, but the column was completed with a statue of Napoleon on top in August 1841. Although it was claimed that this column now celebrated the French Grande Armée and Napoleon Bonaparte himself, it was seen by some in Britain as Louis-Philippe stating his intention to invade.

The first panic was caused by General Sir John Fox Burgoyne, Inspector General of Fortifications, who in November 1846 published Observations on the possible results of a war with France under our present system of military preparation'. This stated that if France was able to control the English Channel long enough to land a large invasion force, Britain's defences were so out of date that the French would likely succeed. Palmerston and the Duke of Wellington both agreed with these findings. This came at a time when King Louis Philippe's son, the Prince de Joinville, had published anti-British articles, was in charge of the French navy and had won significant increases in funding. However in 1848 Louis Philippe and his son fled from France to England to escape the French Revolution, and the panic abated.

The Second Victorian Invasion Panic

Three years later in 1851, Louis Napoléon was re-elected President of the French Republic and, in 1852, declared Emperor1. This sparked another invasion panic, at which time Palmerston insisted the French were prepared to land 60,000 troops in Britain overnight, despite any evidence to this effect. This panic resulted in three forts being constructed on the Island – Fort Albert, Fort Victoria and Freshwater Redoubt. Shortly after this panic Britain and France allied themselves in the Crimean War (1853-56) against the common enemy of Russia, who had invaded the Ottoman Empire.

The 1859 Invasion Scare

The third, and most prolonged invasion panic, came to a head in 1859 after a Naval arms race between Britain and France. In 1852 France launched the wooden, two-decker, 90-gun, Le Napoleon, the first steam-powered battleship. Britain's first steam-powered warship, the 91-gun HMS Agamemnon, was launched soon after. Over 100 wooden steam battleships were built, or converted, in Britain and France, in the next ten years (66 by Britain alone), although the introduction of iron soon rendered them obsolete.

While France built more and more Napoleon class vessels, Britain kept re-designing and improving her ships. This resulted in the building of the 101-gun ships HMS Duncan and HMS Gibraltar in 1858, and later the 120-gun HMS Victoria, Britain's last, and the largest wooden warship ever in 1864. In 1857 France constructed a new warship, La Gloire. She had a wooden hull armoured with iron clad plating above the waterline. Britain's wooden navy, her first line of defence, seemed challenged, and outdated. This caused the invasion scare of 1858 - 1859. People were afraid that the Napoleon III was seriously planning to invade Britain. Despite being Britain's ally during the Crimean War, France had become allied with Russia and so it was feared they might jointly attack Britain. Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston wrote to the Duke of Somerset in September 1859:

'Now we must remember that we might have to encounter not only the French navy, but the combined navies of France and Russia.'

The British Royal Navy soon built a response to La Gloire  –  HMS Warrior  – the world's first true iron warship. However it was feared that HMS Warrior and her sister ship would not be enough, especially as by 1861 France had fifteen ironclad to Britain's seven. A sailing ship fleet had been able to blockade an invasion fleet inside enemy ports indefinitely, but since the introduction of steam power, the Royal Navy's ships could only stay at sea for as long as the supply of coal lasted.

The French arsenal, dockyard and naval base at Cherbourg was considered a direct threat to Britain. The Times wrote on 13 July, 1858, 'Any blow that may be launched from Cherbourg will be short, it will be straight, deadly and decisive, aimed at England's very heart.' Even Prince Albert was affected by this era of paranoia, and had written in 1858:

'When [the fortified port of] Cherbourg is completed England's position will be greatly altered and we must strengthen our forces if we are not to be entirely at [France's] mercy. By the railway an army can be brought there, and transported from that gigantic haven to our coast in four hours!'

Britain responded with a Royal Commission on the Defences of the United Kingdom. In August 1859 the Royal Commission was instructed to 'examine the plans of the works now in progress at Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and Spithead, Plymouth, Portland, Pembroke, Dover, Chatham and the Medway' and to recommend 'the best means of rendering these... defensible within as short a time as possible, in order to be prepared to any sudden emergency, and how they can be put in the most complete state of defence by permanent fortifications.'

It was this Royal Commission that recommended the construction of most of the forts on the Isle of Wight. Its findings were to state 'we are led to the opinion that neither our fleet, our standing army, nor our volunteer forces, nor even the three combined can be relied on as sufficient in themselves for the security of the Kingdom against foreign invasion'. Fortification of key strategic points, such as the Isle of Wight, was the cheapest way of securing the safety of Britain. Twelve land forts and the four sea forts were constructed as a result of the Royal Commission, in the late 1850s and early 1860s.

The forts would be built with the benefit of experience learnt in the recent Crimean War to ensure that they would be effective against any weapons of the day. The expense of the fortifications, especially those around Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, was phenomenal. The original Royal Commission proposals would have needed 5,000 men to garrison the Isle of Wight forts and batteries. Chancellor Lord Gladstone2 threatening to resign due to the costs. Lord Palmerston replied to Queen Victoria that 'it would be better to lose Mr Gladstone than to lose Portsmouth.'

Because of the increased importance of Portsmouth, it and the Isle of Wight were to become the most heavily fortified place in Europe. Portsmouth would be defended by a ring of forts, both on land and sea, from the mainland to the Isle of Wight, to prevent an invading force from capturing the Isle of Wight and besieging the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Harbour. Of the 70 forts and batteries built in England wholly or in part to the Royal Commission, 19 forts were built on the Isle of Wight and four sea forts built in the Solent, the water between the Isle of Wight and Portsea Island3 and the mainland.

Later Invasion Scares

By the late 1880s a new type of naval vessel comprised France's navy – the fast torpedo boat. These were fast vessels capable of speeding quickly past the Island's fort defences. In response, new coast batteries were constructed in the late 1880s and early 1890s with new quick firing weapons to combat the threat. More invasion inquiries took place in 1903 and 1907. As a result of these, two more batteries were constructed and many others modernised. Another invasion scare in 1914, before the outbreak of war, checked the preparedness of Britain's defences before they were needed. The last fort constructed on the Isle of Wight, Bouldnor Battery, was built shortly before the outbreak of World War II. Its main purpose was to examine suspect shipping rather than to prevent invasion. The age of the fort had ended, with ground level defence superseded by air attacks.

Although the invasion for which the forts had been built had never come, many had served in important roles in Britain's greatest hour of need. Despite this, the forts have acquired the unkind nickname of 'Palmerston's Follies'4, after the Prime Minister who ordered their construction. France, the enemy the forts were built to defend against, was utterly defeated soon after the 1859 invasion scare. France lost the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 and then underwent a Civil War in 1871, leaving the country incapable of invading Britain in any case. One need only look at the forts as a deterrent to invasion and, given the fact that no invasion of Britain took place between 1850-1910, it would be fair to argue that they achieved their purpose.

The End Of Fortification

In 1956 a review of Britain's defence policy recommended that, in the era of the atomic bomb, Coastal Defence should simply be abolished. The usefulness of the coastal forts had come to an end and the batteries still owned by the War Department were abandoned or sold off. Many were converted into flats or houses, some were owned by the local borough councils to become parks and gardens, while many inadvertently became the property of the National Trust, an organisation dedicated to the preservation of the countryside. As part of their Project Neptune, a plan to purchase and preserve Britain's coast, the National Trust bought much of the Island's coastline, including some of the Island's coastal forts and batteries.

Osborne House - Victoria Fort And Albert Barracks

There is one more Victorian fort on the Isle of Wight that is often overlooked, due to its smaller scale and the fact it was never seriously intended to be used to defend the Island. A much ignored part of the grounds of Osborne House is the Victoria Fort and Albert Barracks toy fort. This is a small mock fort, with the Victoria Fort built in 1856, two months after the end of the Crimean War, and the Albert Barracks constructed in 1860 – the time of the main Victorian Invasion Scare. Both of these dates mark events of major importance to Britain's world affairs, and the construction of forts as the playthings of princes is perhaps a profound statement on the generation that would later lead Britain in the Great War.

In the Crimean War Britain and France had defeated Russia, but by 1860 Britain feared invasion from France, the traditional enemy. This was now the era of HMS Warrior, and a national chain of new fortifications had become Britain's second line of defence. The play fort at Royal Osborne, though quaint looking and small, was built when its earth ramparts were cutting edge technology, similar to the forts not only on the rest of the Isle of Wight but also used in the Crimean and American Civil Wars.

The Forts

The Isle of Wight's coastal forts were arranged in two groups – forts guarding the West Wight, concentrating on the Freshwater peninsula on the far west of the Island, and East Wight forts, defending the five miles of Sandown Bay, a beach perfect for an invading army to land troops on. Also on the East Wight lay three batteries to help support the four sea forts that would defend the eastern entrance to the Solent. The following table lists the forts from west to east.

FortDate BuiltOpen To The Public?Protected Status
Freshwater Redoubt1855-56No - Private flatsGrade II Listed
The Needles Old Battery1861-63Yes - National TrustGrade II Listed
New Needles Battery1893-95Yes - National TrustGrade II Listed
Hatherwood Battery1865-69Yes - National TrustNone
Fort Albert1854-56No - Private flatsGrade II* Listed
Cliff End Battery1862-77As part of Brambles Chine Holiday CampNone
Fort Victoria1852-55Yes - Isle of Wight CouncilGrade II Listed
Warden Point Battery1862-63No - Private flatsGrade II Listed
Golden Hill Fort1863-68No - Interior is private flats. Outside visible from the Golden Hill Country ParkScheduled Ancient Monument & Grade I Listed
Bouldnor Battery1937-38No - In Forestry Commission managed woodlandScheduled Ancient Monument
Puckpool Battery1863-65Yes - Isle of Wight Council run Puckpool ParkScheduled Ancient Monument
Nodes Point Battery1901-04As part of the Nodes Point Holiday CampNone
Steynewood Battery1889-94No - Private AccommodationNone
Culver Battery1904-06Yes - National TrustNone
Bembridge Fort1862-67Yes - The National Trust lease it to industry, however tours can be made availableScheduled Ancient Monument
Redcliff Battery1861-63No longer existsNo longer exists
Yaverland Battery1861-63Part of Riviera Park resort. The front is visible from Isle of Wight Coastal Path footpath SS43Scheduled Ancient Monument
Sandown Granite Fort1861-64Yes - now the Isle of Wight ZooNone
Sandown Barrack Battery1861-63Isle of Wight Council - Battery GardensScheduled Ancient Monument
Spitbank Fort1861-78Being developed into a luxury 5* hotelScheduled Ancient Monument
Horse Sand Fort1865-80No - Private AccommodationScheduled Ancient Monument
No Man's Land Fort1867-80Has been luxury hotel, at centre of court proceedingsScheduled Ancient Monument & Grade II Listed
St Helen's Fort1867-80No - Private AccommodationScheduled Ancient Monument & Grade II Listed

The Forts' Aims

The aims of the forts built on the Island were to:

  • Protect Portsmouth and Southampton from bombardment by enemy ships.
  • Close the passage of the Solent to enemy ships.
  • Prevent the use of Spithead and Sandown Bay as anchorages for enemy fleets.
  • Defend the Island's main landing places – Sandown Bay, Freshwater Bay and St Helen's.
  • To sink enemy ships within range by:
    • Attacking both armoured and unarmoured parts of the ship
    • Attacking the decks with plunging fire ie, from mortars
    • Attacking small, fast torpedo boats.

Types of Fort

  • Barracks – Building designed for soldiers' accommodation.
  • Battery – A part of a fort where guns or mortars are concentrated, or an offensive fort consisting of guns and/or mortars.
  • Blockhouse – A small artillery fort located at a strategic point, often a river, whose purpose was to block an attacker. In Victorian times a blockhouse meant an infantry strongpoint.
  • Brick Battleship – A land fort in which the guns are arranged in a similar fashion to how guns are arranged in a man o' war battleship.
  • Device – A name for one of the thirty Henrician castles built to royal order, with funds confiscated from the monasteries, after the 1539 'Device By The King' between 1539-43.
  • Folly – Ornamental building, often castle-shaped.
  • Fort – Building designed primarily for defence. On the Isle of Wight, the larger and more important defensive works were called 'forts' to distinguish them from the smaller batteries.
  • Fortress – Major fortified location, often a town, containing a large army.
  • Henrician – Castle built in the reign of King Henry VIII. In the area of the Solent, the Henrician Castles on the Island were Yarmouth Castle, Cowes Castle, East Cowes Castle and Sandown Castle as well as Hurst Castle, Calshot Castle, Netley Castle, St Andrew's Castle and Southsea Castle in Hampshire.
  • Redoubt – A small fort without bastions
  • Redan – Triangular fort, with two armed sides faces forming a salient angle pointing towards the expected enemy location.
  • Roads – A Roads, also known as a Roadstead, is a sheltered offshore anchorage for ships, usually outside a harbour.
  • Sconce – A small detached fort with bastions
  • Sea Fort – Circular fort built at sea.
  • Twydall Profile – Twydall profile forts emphasised hiding forts into the landscape with earthworks and the use of defences such as a glacis, iron palisades and infantry parapets that are difficult to detect and target by an enemy.


  • Barbette – A battery's wall low enough for the guns to fire over it without the need for embrasures.
  • Banquette – Infantry firing step, usually consisting of earth packed against the base of the wall.
  • Basement – when referring to sea forts, the basement consists of the granite section beneath the iron armoured parts of the fort. The basement may or may not be below water, depending upon the tides.
  • Bastion – A projection from a fort's walls to create flanking fire on any enemy approaching the fort.
  • Battery – A part of a fort where guns or mortars are concentrated, or a fort consisting entirely of guns and/or mortars.
  • Battery Command Post – Place from where guns of a battery were commanded and directed.
  • Bombproof – Room or building covered with earth or concrete to strengthen it against enemy shell attack.
  • Bore – Inside of gun barrel.
  • Breech-Loader – Gun which can be loaded by opening the breech, or rear, of the barrel.
  • Calibre – The measure of a gun barrel's diameter and that of the projectile used in it.
  • Caponier – Casemated projection from which a ditch can be defended. Similar to a bastion, but usually for infantry use whereas a bastion was often protected by artillery. A caponier had a more defensive role than a bastion.
  • Carnot Wall – Wall at the bottom of the rampart and separated from it by a sentry path.
  • Casemate – Bombproof ventilated chamber within the ramparts, often used as a gun emplacement or soldier's living quarters.
  • Cavalier Bastion – A high defensive feature constructed inside a fort or battery to allow guns positioned on top to fire over the main parapet or defensive walls.
  • Chemin des rondes – A path for sentries at the top of the escarp wall. Also called Sentry Path
  • Crater – Circular dip in the ground caused by an exploding shell or bomb.
  • Drawbridge – Bridge across a moat leading to the fort's gate that can be closed in times of siege.
  • Embrasure – Opening in a parapet or wall through which a gun can be fired.
  • Emplacement – A gun position.
  • Enfilade – Enemy fire across the fort's flank.
  • Escarp – Outer slope of a rampart, usually steep and leads into the fort's ditch or moat.
  • Expense Magazine – Magazine close to the battery where small supply of ammunition is kept
  • Expose – Turning on a searchlight
  • Flanker – Battery in the flank of a bastion, from which protective flanking fire across the front of the fort can be fired.
  • Glacis – Defensive sloping earth bank in front of the fort designed to absorb attacking shell fire and expose attacking infantry.
  • Gorge – Rear of a fort.
  • Heritage Coast – Coastline that has either notable natural beauty or scientific significance. There are two Heritage Coasts on the Island. These are the Tennyson and Hamstead Heritage Coasts.
  • Howitzer – Short barrelled gun, longer than a mortar but used for similar purposes. Howitzers were more flexible than mortars and were used to rain projectiles down on an approaching enemy.
  • Keep – The main building in a castle, and the central fort in a ring of outlying batteries. The Keep was the strongest, most defendable fort if the defenders were forced to abandon their positions at the batteries and face a siege by an invading army.
  • Gun – Large artillery pieces, as opposed to small arms fire from rifles and pistols etc.
  • High Angle – Battery or guns close to a cliff edge positioned to be able to fire directly below onto a passing enemy vessel.
  • Ironclad – Term used to describe the new breed of warships built in the 1860s. Term popularly used to not only describe both wooden ships clad with iron but also iron hulled ships.
  • Lamp Passage – Small corridor passage behind powder magazines. As gunpowder was stored in barrels, to prevent accidental detonation, lamps and candles were not allowed in the magazines themselves but kept in light boxes in the lamp passage. The light shone through thick glass windows.
  • Listed Building – A building on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest that should be preserved for the future. There are thee grades. Grade I are for buildings of exceptional interest, Grade II* is for particularly important buildings of more than special interest and Grade II is for buildings that are of special interest.
  • Magazine – Ammunition store.
  • Militia – Part-time volunteer reserve force involved in home defence.
  • Mortar – Short gun designed to fire shells high in the air and then send them vertically down, often used to attack ships.
  • Muzzle-Loader – A gun loaded from its front (muzzle).
  • Palisade – A wall or defensive barrier made of iron or wooden stakes.
  • Palliser – Palliser shot and shells were armour-piercing artillery projectiles invented by Sir William Palliser designed to penetrate warships' armour.
  • Parade – Central courtyard of large forts.
  • Parapet – Wall protecting defending troops on the ramparts
  • Platform – Hard surface that guns can be placed on.
  • Plunge Fire – Firing shells so that they drop vertically down onto an enemy, especially the deck of a ship. Usually done with mortars or high angle guns.
  • Portcullis – A metal gate able to be dropped down or raised from above along vertical groves to bar or allow entry.
  • Racer – Curved metal track set in a gun emplacement to allow guns to be traversed quickly to allow accurate aim.
  • Rampart – Earth embankment with parapet and gun platforms on top.
  • Revetment – Wall in the side of the ditch
  • Rifled – Gun bore containing spiral grooves to create spin and increase accuracy and range
  • Salient – An outward projecting angle, especially in a bastion
  • Scarp – The inner side of a defensive ditch. A Counter-scarp is the outer side of a defensive ditch. If a fort is scarped, it has been landscaped to be hidden by defensive earthworks.
  • Shell – Hollow projectile fired from a gun, usually containing an explosive.
  • Shot – Solid projectile fired from a gun
  • Shrapnel – Projectile fired from gun containing an explosive charge to detonate and scatter smaller projectiles. Similar to case shot, the scattering would occur some distance from the guns. Named after its inventor, Major-General Henry Shrapnel, RA. Shrapnel is also used to describe any fragments of any shell (or in its most lay use any exploded object) capable of causing injury.
  • Smooth-Bore – Gun that has not been rifled.
  • Spur – Arrow-shaped projection from a defensive wall
  • Terreplein – Where guns are mounted on the the top platform of a rampart behind the parapet.
  • Torpedo – Underwater missile fired from a fort, torpedo boat or later by submarine capable of sinking a ship.
  • Traverse – To swivel a gun to point at a target, often using racers. Also an earth bank to protect defenders from enfilade fire and shells.
  • Work – A fort.

Common Abbreviations

  • AA (Anti-Aircraft Gun) – Gun capable of destroying aircraft
  • AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) – Nationally recognised beauty spot. Most of the Isle of Wight is an AONB
  • ASDIc (Anti-Submarine Division) – Submarine detection system, sometimes referred to as the Allied Submarine Detection Investigation Committee.
  • BL (Breech Loading Gun) – See Above
  • BCP (Battery Command Post) – See Above
  • BOP (Battery Observation Post) – Place from which the observer could observe the range and bearing of a target and how to aim the guns at it.
  • CO (Commanding Officer) – Officer in command of a fort
  • DRF (Depression Range Finder) – Means to allow observers to determine and communicate to the gunners the exact range and bearing of a target, based on height. A similar system of horizontal range finding was also used, but not as effective. Also known as Depression Position Finding Depression Range Finding was invented in 1879 and still used in 1956.
  • ELD (Electric Light Defence) – Searchlight
  • HG (Home Guard) – Volunteer unpaid army dedicated to the defence of Britain during the Second World War. Immortalised by the television series Dad's Army.
  • HMS (Her/His Majesty's Ship) – A Ship of the Royal Navy
  • IOW (Isle of Wight) – Island south of Portsmouth and Southampton, seperated from the mainland by the Solent
  • IWCC (Isle of Wight County Council) – The Isle of Wight's unified municipal authority
  • LDV (Local Defence Volunteers) – Initial name for the Home Guard
  • MG (Machine Gun) – Rifled weapon capable of firing frequent rounds in quick succession
  • MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat) – Small fast vessel capable of firing torpedoes
  • NAAFI (Navy Army & Air Force Institute) – An organisation dedicated to providing servicemen with recreational facilities and shops.
  • NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) – Men in the ranks who outrank privates but are not officers
  • NT (National Trust) – Charitable organisation dedicated to countryside and pretty house preservation
  • PDR (Pounder) – This relates to the weight in pounds of the projectile that the gun fires.
  • QF (Quick Firing) – Large gun capable of rapid fire. Similar to a machine gun, but for a larger calibre
  • RA (Royal Artillery) – The Royal Regiment of Artillery is the British Army's artillery arm, dealing with heavy weapons for both offensive and defensive purposes.
  • RAF (Royal Air Force) – Britain's air force.
  • RASC (Royal Army Service Corps) – Army division esponsible for transport and supplies except ammunition
  • RBL (Rifled Breech Loader) – See Above
  • RE (Corps of Royal Engineers) – The Royal Engineers used to provide technical and engineering support to the British Armed Forces.
  • REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) – The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers is now responsibile for the maintenance of the British Army's equipment
  • RGA (Royal Garrison Artillery) – Army of the Royal Artillery responsible for the guns within forts, especially coastal defences.
  • RML (Rifled Muzzle Loader) – See Above
  • ROC (Royal Observation Corps) – A volunteer air defence organisation administered by the RAF tasked with detecting and identifying enemy aircraft.
  • SAM (Scheduled Ancient Monument) – A nationally important archaeological site or historic building that is not occupied as a dwelling, used as a place of worship nor a shipwreck that is protected against unauthorised change.
  • SB (Smooth Bore) – See Above
  • SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) – A protected conservation area in the United Kingdom, either for geological or biological reasons.
  • TA (Territorial Army) – Part-time volunteer reserve army, usually involved in home defence. The modern equivalent of the militia.
  • WTTU (Water Transport Training Unit) – Unit dedicated to train soldiers in water transport
  • WTU (Water Transport Unit) – Unit dedicated to the transport of goods by water
  • UXB (Unexploded Bomb) – A bomb that has not exploded
1Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the first President of the French Second Republic and Emperor of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte and elected President in 1848 after the revolution that deposed King Louis-Philippe. He broke the French constitution which stated that no-one could be President for more than four years and instead declared himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1851. He ruled as Emperor of the French until September 1870. He holds the unusual distinction of being both the first titular president and the last monarch of France. In battle against Prussia in 1870, he was captured at the Battle of Sedan and deposed by the forces of the Third Republic in Paris two days later. Napoleon spent the last few years of his life in exile in England, with his wife Eugenie and their only son. The family lived at Camden Place Chislehurst, where he died on 9 January 1873. His son, Prince Imperial Napoleon Eugéne Louis Jean Joseph died in 1879 fighting in the British Army against the Zulus in South Africa.2Later Prime Minister 1868-74, 1880-85, 1886 and 1892-4. Gladstone's main political aims were to end income tax and establish Irish home rule.3Portsea Island is the tidal island that Portsmouth is on.4A folly is a type of ornamental outbuilding, often after the style of a castle, though the nickname may also refer to the folly of the forts' construction.

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