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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Pre Great War drill hall Isle of Man


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I have the pleasure of helping out at a architectural reclaim here in Douglas in the Isle of Man, which was built in 1895 and used during the great War by members of the Isle of Man Volunteers .As a member of the Territorial /Army Reserve, I think often of the men who left this hall and never returned home. this is the information I have found up to now:

Major Robert Swan Stephenson, Commander of the 2nd Douglas Volunteers purchased the Hermitage and gardens from Captain Goldie RN on peel road in 1895. The Hermitage, before it was demolished, had been used as a Scout headquarters known as Cunningham House, which was run by Mr & Mrs Bill Platt.

It was Major Stephen’s intention to build a drill shed and armoury at his own expense in the garden area running up to the Brown Bobby, as a replacement for the drill hall located at Lake Road. Major Stephenson was an advocate and owned many properties, he lived in Spring Valley and also owned a number of acres of land at Ballaughton.

The new hall was to be two stories high, the ground floor to be used as a store room and officers’ quarters, whilst in the upper room, the arms and equipment was to be kept. Attached to the armoury was iron framed drill shed, measuring 85 x 35 feet in length. Under the hall was a Morris tube Shooting Range.

At one end of the hall was to be a movable platform, which could be used for concerts etc. The cost of the hall was to be approx. £1000.00. The construction started and the stone work completed in two weeks. The Architect and builder was Mr Jas. Cowle of Douglas. Isaac Dixon manufactured the main drill hall. It was opened in June 1896 and was used by the IOM Volunteers up till the end of the Great War. The IOM Vols main role was to escort and guard the thousands of Alien Internees at Douglas and Knockaloe camps.

Taken from a newspaper during the Second South Africa War 1900

“The battalion, together with the band. assembled at the Drill Hall shortly after eight o'clock. Captain Mackenzie was in command. and Lieutenants Rigby and Cowle were also present. The men fell, in, and headed by the band, with the active service men in the centre and the rest of the battalion bringing up the rear, marched off by way of Peel-road, Athol-street, and Victoria-street, to the Pier”

Taken from a newspaper article 1914-18

“Up to this time, the Volunteers had been quartered at the Drill Hall, Douglas, from which station they furnished guards for the prisoner of war camp at Douglas, the two war signal stations, and the telegraph cable landing station. The third company was stationed partly at Belmont, a large unoccupied house off Peel Road, Douglas, and partly at houses in Belmont Terrace, in the vicinity.”

In 1938 after the British Army began a massive expansion of the Territorial Army, the Drill hall was used by members of the 15th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, or locally known as “The Manx Regiment”. Once the members of the Regiment had deployed to the UK in defence of German attack in 1940, members of the IOM Home Guard used the building until they were demobilised in December 1944.

After the war it was used as Training establishment for the Sea Cadets during the 1950s, until it was eventually taken over by the IOM Government.



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