In 1923 a special committee comprising of senior officers from both the 60th and the Rifle Brigade was formed regarding the establishment of a Green Jacket Museum at Winchester. The War Office was then approached, through General Sir Walter Congreve V.C., Commander-in-Chief, Southern Command, regarding accommodation. The appropriation of two rooms for the purposes of the Museum at the Rifle Depot was sanctioned.
In that year gifts of articles of regimental interest were received from donors. From then this has been the trend and continues to be the case.
Over the years the museum was located in various places in the depot starting in 1927 with the Officers’ Mess Block and within two years had moved to where many who served there will recall as the NAAFI block. There had been many museum moves and it was with a sense of relief that with the renovation of the Rifle Depot 1962-64 the store above the old dining hall was earmarked and planned as a Green Jackets Brigade (Formed in 1958) Museum. So in May of 1964 the new museum was opened, with the new Regimental Headquarters beneath.
In a Foreword to the Museum Guide, Field Marshal The Lord Bramall of Bushfield, K.G., G.C.B., O.B.E., M.C. wrote:
“Her Majesty the Queen, our Colonel-in-Chief, gave us great encouragement, at the beginning of 1987, when we embarked on the exciting enterprise of expanding and completely redesigning this Museum, and of launching an Appeal for funds to make it all possible. Under three years later, and thanks to the generosity of many friends inside and outside the Regiment, the Colonel-in-Chief was able to open the new Museum on 1 December 1989 and we hope we have now achieved something which will both properly honour those who have gone before and give continuing inspiration to future generations.
The Museum graphically and, I hope, entertainingly tells the story of the four proud Regiments—the 43rd, the 52nd, the 60th and the 95th, The Rifle Brigade—who, having each had such a distinguished record in the past, progressively, successfully and voluntarily came together, bringing their deeds and traditions with them, to form the Royal Green Jackets we know today. The story is, of course, as with so much of the British Army, one of courage, but it is also one of originality, innovation and even unorthodoxy, leading to invariably being in the forefront of military thinking, whether in North America, the Peninsula, the Western Desert or in the airborne operations in Normandy and across the Rhine; and also to a particularly good and easy relationship between officers and men.
All this the Museum will aim to bring out chronologically and the visitor will be able to note how the basic traditions and characteristics have flowed consistently from the old to the new. We are specially fortunate that our predecessors have collected and preserved so much of historical interest and I am pleased that it is now possible to present the fruits of their foresight to a wider audience in the setting they deserve.”
Many visitors write of the excellence of the museum which owes such a great deal to the Friends of the Museum for their generosity with financial assistance, to the Trustees of the museum for maintaining a Regimental Museum at such a high standard and to the very helpful staff.
To become a Friend of the Museum get in touch with Major Ken Gray on 01962 877165 or via the Curator’s email firstname.lastname@example.org
Peninsula Barracks in Romsey Road, Winchester, has much to offer not least the historical site it is part of, read below:
A brief history of the Winchester Depot, and how it became the home of The Royal Green Jackets.
The site of what was to become the Peninsula Barracks has a colourful history, beginning with the second Roman invasion of Britain in AD43. The area now occupied by Lower Barracks was within the Roman city boundaries, the line of the Roman wall being on the line of the embankment which divides the upper and lower sites. When Alfred the Great restored Winchester to its original state in the late 9th century, the future Depot site became a royal residence. It was from this residence that in 1034 the great Viking king Canute set off to the beach at Southampton to show his courtiers the limits of kingly power – even a king could not turn back the tide.
In 1069 William the Conqueror began to build a castle, the foundations of which still survive beneath the Square of the barracks. Most castles in the South of England stand in the centre of town: William, however, erected his castle on the highest point, which was immediately outside the city boundary. William’s castle was 850 feet in length from north to south and 250 feet wide, and occupied the whole of the area on which the Peninsula Barracks complex stands. The castle green was where the railway cutting now is, and this was the training ground for archers and men-at-arms, and also the scene of many bloody state executions which took place after trials in the Great Hall – now all that remains of the castle, and a major tourist attraction.
The castle was much developed during the 12th century and saw the coronation of Richard Coeur de Lion in 1124. Henry II was born in the castle, while Henry V – who was educated at Winchester College – was to gather his Hampshire bowmen and men-at-arms at the castle before embarking at Southampton for victories at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt. After the death of Richard II, the last of the House of York, the triumphant Henry Tudor brought his wife Elizabeth of York to the castle so that his first child should be born in the ancient capital of England. This child was christened Arthur, claiming descent from that great king, and perhaps the event was responsible for the revival of the legends of the Round Table: a fanciful version of the Table hangs in the Great Hall today.
Forward to 1645, when Cromwell appeared on the scene to reduce the city and its castle to the authority of Parliament. The main attack, which lasted two days, was on the castle itself, Cromwell concentrating his cannon at one spot near the Black Tower until a breach was opened. The foundations of this tower were uncovered in 1962. Cromwell reported that he had lost 12 men in the attack. Although Parliament ordered that the castle be destroyed, it remained intact for some years, and Charles I, who was the last sovereign to stay within its walls, lodged there in December 1648 on his way to trial and eventual execution in London.
In 1682, Charles II decided to make Winchester his ordinary residence, and planned a palace on the spot where the former castle had stood. Interestingly, the City and other parties sold to Charles and his heirs, for the nominal sum of approximately £2622, the ruined castle, the castle green and ditch comprising by estimation 8 acres. Sir Christopher Wren was appointed architect and Charles himself laid the foundation stone in 1683. Unfortunately, only two years after the work had begun, Charles died and the work stopped.
During the reigns of James II and William II and Mary II, no work took place. On her accession in 1702 Queen Anne had an estimate prepared for completion but the expense of the Great Continental War prevented it.
At about this time much of the land was purchased for development: one of the areas developed was Serles House, constructed about 1730 and later the Regimental Headquarters of the Royal Hampshire Regiment. (It is interesting to note here that for a period of time it was the Regimental Headquarters of The Green Jackets.) Serles House is now occupied by The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum.
During the Seven Years War 1756–63, a great number of French prisoners were taken and the Government decided to confine them in the King’s House (later, after this building had been destroyed by fire, its replacements were to become known to so many riflemen as the Long and Short Blocks). Under George III, during the American War of Independence in 1775, it was successively occupied by French, Spanish and Dutch prisoners. Then in 1779, prisoners from a captured French hospital ship brought a pestilence which killed off the jailers and their prisoners in great numbers. They were buried in the ancient castle ditches and apparently contributed greatly to reduce the depth thereof!
It was in 1796 that the building was first used as a purely military establishment (it had formerly been used by the local militia) and converted to accommodate regular British troops. In 1839 the main line of the South Western Railway was opened to Southampton and the cutting alongside the barracks was one of the deepest on the line. During excavation, skeletons and skulls of the 1797 plague victims were found.
From 1798 various regiments were housed within the palace and its grounds and it was in 1855 that the arrival of the Rifle Brigade heralded a long association with the barracks and of course with Winchester itself. Three years later, The Rifle Brigade was joined by The King’s Royal Rifle Corps and the barracks became the Rifle Depot, the training centre for both regiments.
It is also interesting to note that in 1740–1 the 43rd, who were raised as he 54th Regiment of Foot, were located around Leighton Buzzard with headquarters at Winchester and indeed were stationed in the barracks in 1784. Certainly it is true to say that the three former regiments, the 43rd & 52nd, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and The Rifle Brigade had a very, very long historical connection with Winchester and Peninsula Barracks.
In December 1894 fire broke out in the King’s House and the buildings designed and built by Wren in 1685 were destroyed. The Rifle Depot, as it was called, moved to Gosport while the barracks were rebuilt. It took ten years to replace the original King’s House with two new buildings, which came to be known as the Long and Short Blocks, and once more became the Rifle Depot in 1904.
In 1958 following the decision to reorganise the British Army on a brigade basis, the 43rd & 52nd, the KRRC and the RB formed the new Green Jackets Brigade and the barracks became the Brigade Depot. A master plan was drawn up under the personal instruction of General Sir George Erskine, Colonel Commandant of the KRRC, for modernisation of the barracks to equip it for its new role. Work started in January 1962, the Depot having moved to temporary quarters in the hutted camp at Bushfield. On the brigade’s return to Winchester in 1964 from Bushfield, the Upper Barracks (as it was named) was re-christened Peninsula Barracks, chosen because all three antecedent regiments had earned great fame in the Peninsular War in Spain against Napoleon.
The year 1985 saw the Regiment move out of Peninsula Barracks into Sir John Moore Barracks, just less than two miles away on the north side of Winchester. This move into a purpose-built barracks – the most modern in Britain – was brought about because of lack of space and facilities in the Peninsula Barracks: thus The Royal Green Jackets were the last regimental depot in the country to make a Divisional Depot (by combining with the Light Infantry).
After 1985 Short Block housed the Regimental Headquarters of The Royal Green Jackets and the Light Infantry, the museums of The King’s Royal Hussars and Gurkhas and also Home Headquarters (South) King’s Royal Hussars. The former ‘T’ Block became our own museum, which occupies the whole of the top floor and half of the ground floor.
Today, in 2011, we see the culmination of a process of redevelopment by Arundel Estates, whereby the former Parade Square has been replaced by formal gardens and a water feature, and where the Upper and Lower Barracks have now become private housing.
This development has thus firmly integrated a site of historic importance into the City of Winchester, while at the same time providing a museum complex that advertises the story of a 200-year association between historic regiments and the city itself.