The History of The Needles

The Old Battery

The Needles Battery was a military Battery built on the cliff top above the Needles stacks in 1861–63 to guard the West end of the Solent. Its field of fire was from approximately West South West clockwise to Northeast and it was designed to defend against enemy ships.

A deep ditch with a retractable bridge was dug into the chalk to protect the facility from ground attack from the island side. In 1885 a tunnel was dug towards the cliff face from the parade grounds and an elevator down to the beach was completed in 1887. Early searchlight experiments were conducted at the site between 1889 and 1892, with the present observation post housing a searchlight from 1899.

The site has been managed by the National Trust since 1982 and is open daily from mid-March to the end of October. It gives visitors an insight into how a Victorian Battery would work and gives a glimpse into the life of a soldier based at the Battery during the Second World War.

The New Battery

There were subsidence problems and concerns that firing guns from The Old Battery was causing the cliffs to crumble. So, this was solved by building the New Battery higher up the cliff, at a height of 120 metres above sea level, in 1895.

The Old and New Batteries were manned during the World Wars, with German U boats sinking two ships off The Needles during World War I.

In World War II, anti-aircraft guns defended the Isle of Wight against air attacks but repeated German air attacks necessitated improvements in the fortifications at the site. The guns at the Batteries also fired on German torpedo boats attempting night landings and troops trained for the D-Day landing on the neighbouring cliffs. After the war, the Ministry of Defence deactivated the batteries.

Like the Old Battery, the New Battery has been listed at Grade II.

For more information on The Needles Batteries please click here:


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