Needles, Isle of Wight


Part of the Needles collapsed in a storm last year, so they are not quite the familiar shape I’ve seen on a million postcards. The wind is battering. The view of the lighthouse is down a claustrophobic skinny wrought iron spiral staircase, down a narrow tunnel in the cliff, and out to what was a defence searchlight (made in Croydon).

If I critiqued this photograph, I’d probably say the Herring gull should either be in focus, be elsewhere in the shot, or is just a distraction. I’m amused by its photobombing incidental nature. The thing was valiantly soaring on the constant and forceful gale and is here immortalised.

Searchlight by London Electric Firm, Croydon

It’s an odd corner of the world. It really is a corner, being one point (the most desolate, facing West across the Atlantic) of the kite shaped Isle of Wight. There’s a 19th century lookout and defence post with 9 inch guns and a powder store, there’s WWII gun positions adjunct to these, then there’s a rocket lab. This is where they made Black Knight rockets. The labs are literally a couple of dug out spaces with some equipment containing numerous dials and big switches. Some of the team here were involved in the notorious rocket testing at Woomera in Australia. We met a rocketeer and I asked about a rocket abort rack panel that had come from Woomera. One of the other engineers had literally ripped it out of the rack when the site was abandoned and smuggled it back to the UK. This was a site involved in top secret atomic research and he’d managed to bring a huge instrument panel back from Australia unnoticed.

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