Shocked Totland residents dialled the emergency services on Wednesday lunchtime after hearing loud explosions and seeing smoke coming out of the former Weston Academy building.
Many neighbours were unaware that it was, in fact, a large team of Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officers (CTSFO) from the Metropolitan Police conducting a training exercise.
Around 30-35 officers took part in the session, with both Totland Parish Council and the Fire Brigade, who sent a vehicle to investigate, unaware the exercise was taking place.
Alan Benns, who lives opposite the school, said: “Me and my wife Hilary, a Totland Parish Councillor, were having lunch around 1pm and heard a bang.
“We looked out of our front room window and saw smoke coming out of school entrance.
“Hilary went out to ask what was happening as there were cars everywhere including in our front garden. They had Metropolitan Police SO19 on their outfits. Apparently, it was an exercise simulating an explosive entry to a building.
“After that, loads more appeared with what appeared to be guns but covered up. Then they all bundled back into cars and away they went. It’s not the kind of thing you expect round here.
“Hilary was unaware that the exercise was going to take place and a fire engine also turned up. We certainly received no notification from the IW Council that it was going to take place.”
The exercise did not involve any members of the Hampshire Police Force and a Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “We can confirm that Met firearms officers have been involved in an essential training exercise today on the Isle of Wight.
“This exercise is part of critical training to ensure that firearms officers are able to respond swiftly and effectively to incidents and keep communities safe, not only in London, but across the country. The Met were in close contact with Hampshire Constabulary ahead of this exercise.”
Leader of the IW Council, Dave Stewart, added: “It was an essential exercise; terrorists have not gone away.”
While Simon Bryant, Director of Public Health said: “Training is allowed and it would have been done in Covid secure conditions.”
Mr Benns, a former BBC cameraman had the final word, saying: “I’ve filmed special forces training in this country – and abroad – but never in my front garden!”