I am forwarding a query received from a Gordon Angus Mackinlay
regarding the St Helena Rifles (the following is an edited version).
Perhaps someone on the list can help. If so, please
reply to gam47@... and copy to
I am writing to you to see if you may possibly
help me in a query, or point
me in the right direction!
Melbourne, Victoria, I was asked by a lady if I could
help her in relation to
her father, who had died when she was a toddler (her
remarrying and having other siblings).
Her story being that her father
was born in Longsight, Manchester in 1904,
and enlisted into the Manchester
Regiment in 1922. In 1938 (a single man)
he was posted to St Helena,
with a Captain and a Warrant Officer Class II -
they respectively being
machine gun and musketry instructor, Adjutant and
Training Officer, and
Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, of the St Helena
1942 he arrived in Australia (Melbourne) on a ship which had been
there from its intended destination of Singapore, he having been
Warrant Officer Class II was being posted to the 1st Battalion,
Manchester Regiment (which was a machine gun battalion in the
garrison). He remained in Melbourne with various British
until 1947, when he took his discharge onto pension
there. He had married
the ladies mother there the previous year, there
being a 20 year age
difference, and died of lung cancer in 1950.
lady had obtained from the Ministry of Defence records in Glasgow,
her fathers service. This definitely posting him to The St
Rifles in 1938, and leaving the island on posting 1 December 1941.
own records I have very little on the defence of St Helena during the
World War (the 18th and 19th centuries well documented), apart from
supply in 1938 of 140 Rifles SMLE Mk III .303inch, seven Vickers Guns Mk
all complete with 1st and 2nd Line, and Training Scales of Ammunition,
35 boxes of Mills Bombs (No 36 Hand Grenades) to equip the St
Rifles. In 1941 St Helena was supplied with two 6- inch
guns complete with
necessary stores, and Royal Artillery instructional staff,
these to be
manned by St Helenians (Note) for coast defence duties for the
roads off Jamestown.
I had always believed that due to
the scarcity of information on the St
Helena Rifles, that it was a misnomer
for The St Helena Defence Force
infantry element. Since the main part
of the island defences was the coast
defence guns! However in
1982, one of my brothers who had been on
Ascension Island prior to moving to
the Falklands had met one Fred Isaac
and put me in touch with him. In the course
letter writing (which of course takes so long) he informed me that he
served with The Rifles of the St Helena Defence Force. He was very
that they had separate insignia, and command structure, and they
appear to have been one full time infantry company and two part
companies, and he had joined the unit on its formation!
sent me a photograph of his medals (this unfortunately being lost
house flooded in 1995), of which in this interesting group was a
VI Efficiency Medal with a clasp on which could be partially
seen the title
I have found mention of St Helenians serving in the Great War, and in the
Second World War with British Forces. And I have found information
least three who served in the British Army in Northern Ireland
1980's, and there must be more who served with the British Forces
as I met a gentleman last year who used to work for the British
He worked under the chap who arranged the contracts and onward
the twine which used to be a mainstay of St Helena's economy,
with a MBA decided it was more cost effective to use plastic -
definitely was not!!!!!
There is no doubt in my mind with my
knowledge of the populations of other
remote parts of the British
Commonwealth of Nations in WWII (and before),
there would have been a quite
substantial local defence force on the island.
Looking at similar islands,
probably 10% plus of the local population as
either full or part time
members would be very likely.
Having contact with a chap who is a
specialist in the collection of Long
Service awards to the British
Commonwealth, he is quite certain that for
most of the pre-1960 period.
Efficiency Medals and Efficiency Decorations
with the clasp St Helena were
awarded on a regular basis (not in large
numbers of course), these being
awarded for 12 years reserve service. In
wartime, service counted
double, so you got the same for six years if you
served throughout WWII and
the immediate post war emergency period.
So, if at all possible you would
have any information re The St Helena
Rifles I would be most grateful, or if
you could possibly put me in contact
with someone who would be able to give
me accurate information.
Gordon Angus Mackinlay