Militia (United Kingdom)

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The Militia of the United Kingdom were the military reserve forces of the United Kingdom after the Union in 1801 of the former Kingdom of Great Britain and Kingdom of Ireland. The militia was transformed into the Special Reserve by the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907. For the period before the creation of the United Kingdom, in the home nations and their colonies, see Militia (Great Britain).

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Kingdom of Great Britain constitutional monarchy in Western Europe between 1707–1801

The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called simply Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 31 December 1800. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". After the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.

Kingdom of Ireland Historical kingdom on the island of Ireland between 1542 and 1801

The Kingdom of Ireland was a client state of England and then of Great Britain that existed from 1542 until 1800. It was ruled by the monarchs of England and then of Great Britain in personal union with their other realms. The kingdom was administered from Dublin Castle nominally by the King or Queen, who appointed a viceroy to rule in their stead. It had its own legislature, peerage, legal system, and state church.


Nineteenth century

A separate voluntary Local Militia was created in 1808 before being disbanded in 1816 [1]

By 1813 the British Army was experiencing a shortage of manpower to maintain their battalions at full strength. Some consideration was given to recruiting foreign nationals, however on 4 November 1813 a bill was introduced to parliament to allow Militia volunteers to serve in Europe. In the event only three battalions were raised and these were sent to serve under Henry Bayly arriving in Bordeaux on 12 April 1814. [2]

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

Lieutenant General Sir Henry Bayly was a British Army officer who became Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey. He was colonel of the 8th Regiment of Foot.

Bordeaux Prefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne in the Gironde department in Southwestern France.

After the Napoleonic Wars, the Militia fell in to disuse, although regimental colonels and adjutants continued to appear in the Army List. Whilst muster rolls were still prepared during the 1820s, the element of compulsion was abandoned. For example, the City Of York Militia & Muster Rolls run to 1829. They used a pre-printed form with a printers date of Sept 1828. [3]

The Militia was revived by the Militia Act of 1852, enacted during a period of international tension. As before, units were raised and administered on a county basis, and filled by voluntary enlistment (although conscription by means of the Militia Ballot might be used if the counties failed to meet their quotas). It was intended to be seen as an alternative to the army. Training was for 56 days on enlistment, then the recruits would return to civilian life but report for 21–28 days training per year. The full army pay during training and a financial retainer thereafter made a useful addition to the men's civilian wage. Of course, many saw the annual camp as the equivalent of a paid holiday. The militia thus appealed to agricultural labourers, colliers and the like, men in casual occupations, who could leave their civilian job and pick it up again. The militia was also a significant source of recruits for the Regular Army, where men had received a taste of army life. An officer's commission in the militia was often a 'back door' route to a Regular Army commission for young men who could not obtain one through purchase or gain entry to Sandhurst. [4] [5] [6]

Under the Act, Militia units could be embodied by Royal Proclamation for full-time service in three circumstances:

Until 1852 the militia were an entirely infantry force, but the 1852 Act introduced Artillery Militia units whose role was to man coastal defences and fortifications, relieving the Royal Artillery for active service. Some of these units were converted from existing infantry militia regiments, others were newly raised. [4] [7] In 1877 the militia of Anglesey and Monmouthshire were converted to Royal Engineers.

Infantry military service branch that specializes in combat by individuals on foot

Infantry is the branch of an army that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.

Royal Artillery artillery arm of the British Army

The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA) and colloquially known as "The Gunners", is the artillery arm of the British Army. The Royal Regiment of Artillery comprises thirteen Regular Army regiments, King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery and five Army Reserve regiments.

Anglesey Island

Anglesey is an island off the north coast of Wales with an area of 276 square miles (715 km2). Anglesey is by far the largest island in Wales and the seventh largest in the British Isles. Anglesey is also the largest island in the Irish Sea by area, and the second most populous island. The ferry port of Holyhead handles more than 2 million passengers each year. The Menai Suspension Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford in 1826, and the Britannia Bridge span the Menai Strait to connect Anglesey with the mainland.

Under the reforms introduced by Secretary of State for War Hugh Childers in 1881, the remaining militia infantry regiments were redesignated as numbered battalions of regiments of the line, ranking after the two regular battalions. Typically, an English, Welsh or Scottish regiment would have two militia battalions (the 3rd and 4th) and Irish regiments three (numbered 3rd - 5th).

The militia must not be confused with the volunteer units created in a wave of enthusiasm in the second half of the nineteenth century. In contrast with the Volunteer Force, and the similar Yeomanry Cavalry, they were considered rather plebeian.[ citation needed ]

The Special Reserve

Recruitment poster for the Regular Army and the Special Reserve. Army Pay.jpg
Recruitment poster for the Regular Army and the Special Reserve.

The militia was transformed into the Special Reserve by the military reforms of Haldane in the reforming post 1906 Liberal government. In 1908 the militia infantry battalions were redesignated as "reserve" and a number were amalgamated or disbanded. Numbered Territorial Force battalions, ranking after the Special Reserve, were formed from the volunteer units at the same time. Altogether, 101 infantry battalions, 33 artillery regiments and two engineer regiments of special reservists were formed. [8]

Upon mobilisation, the special reserve units would be formed at the depot and continue training while guarding vulnerable points in Britain. The special reserve units remained in Britain throughout the First World War, but their rank and file did not, since the object of the special reserve was to supply drafts of replacements for the overseas units of the regiment. The original militiamen soon disappeared, and the battalions became training units pure and simple.

The Special Reserve reverted to its militia designation in 1921, then to Supplementary Reserve in 1924, though the units were effectively placed in "suspended animation" until disbanded in 1953.

The Militiamen

John Lucas Matthews (1918-1992) in Militia Walking Out Uniform 1939. Militia Walking Out Uniform 1939.jpg
John Lucas Matthews (1918-1992) in Militia Walking Out Uniform 1939.

The term militiaman was briefly revived in 1939. In the aftermath of the Munich Crisis Leslie Hore-Belisha, Secretary of State for War, wished to introduce a limited form of conscription, an unheard of concept in peacetime. It was thought that calling the conscripts 'militiamen' would make this more acceptable, as it would render them distinct from the rest of the army. Only single men aged 20–22 were to be conscripted (given a free suit of civilian clothes as well as a uniform), and after six months full-time training would be discharged into the reserve. The first intake was called up, but the Second World War was declared soon afterwards, and the militiamen lost their identity in the rapidly expanding army.

Modern survivals

Two units still maintain their militia designation in the British Army, in the Army Reserve. These are the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (formed in 1539) and the Jersey Field Squadron (The Royal Militia Island of Jersey) (formed in 1337).

See also

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A militia is generally an army or some other fighting organization of non-professional soldiers, citizens of a nation, or subjects of a state, who can be called upon for military service during a time of need, as opposed to a professional force of regular, full-time military personnel, or historically, members of a warrior nobility class. Generally unable to hold ground against regular forces, it is common for militias to be used for aiding regular troops by skirmishing, holding fortifications, or irregular warfare, instead of being used in offensive campaigns by themselves. Militia are often limited by local civilian laws to serve only in their home region, and to serve only for a limited time; this further reduces their use in long military campaigns.

Army Reserve (United Kingdom) element of the British Army

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Rifleman infantry soldier armed with a service rifle

A rifleman is an infantry soldier armed with a rifled long gun. Although the rifleman role had its origin with 16th century hand cannoneers and 17th century musketeers, the term originated in the 18th century with the introduction of the rifled musket. By the mid-19th century, entire regiments of riflemen were formed and became the mainstay of all standard infantry, and rifleman became a generic term for any common infantryman.

The regular army of the British Army is listed according to an order of precedence for the purposes of parading. This is the order in which the various corps of the army parade, from right to left, with the unit at the extreme right being highest. Under ordinary circumstances, the Household Cavalry parades at the extreme right of the line. Militia and Army Reserve units take precedence after Regular units with the exception of The Honourable Artillery Company and The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers.

Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907

The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that reformed the auxiliary forces of the British Army by transferring existing Volunteer and Yeomanry units into a new Territorial Force (TF); and disbanding the Militia to form a new Special Reserve of the Regular Army. This reorganisation formed a major part of the Haldane Reforms, named after the creator of the Act, Richard Haldane.

Special Reserve Wikipedia disambiguation page

The Special Reserve was established on 1 April 1908 with the function of maintaining a reservoir of manpower for the British Army and training replacement drafts in times of war. Its formation was part of the military reforms implemented by Richard Haldane, the Secretary of State for War, which also created the Territorial Force. Haldane originally intended that the Militia would provide the reserve, but opposition from its representatives forced him to abolish it and create the Special Reserve instead. Only 60 per cent of the Militia transferred into the new reserve, and it was consistently under strength, particularly in officers. Reservists enlisted for a six-year term of service, and had to undergo six months of basic training on recruitment and three to four weeks training annually. The Special Reserve was organised into battalions, providing a third for each of the regular army's 74 two-battalion infantry regiments. In addition to providing replacements to the regular army, the Special Reserve was deployed on home defence duties guarding the coast and key installations during the First World War. The routine nature of its duties meant that scant attention was paid to it in regimental histories. After the war, the Special Reserve was abolished and the Militia was resurrected in 1921 to take on its former role. No effort was made to restart recruitment, and in 1924 the new Militia's functions were absorbed into the Supplementary Reserve.

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The Militia and Volunteers of County Durham are those military units raised in the County independent of the regular Army. The "modern" militia dates from legislation enacted during the Seven Years' War. The volunteers had several forms and separate periods of existence until made a permanent body in 1859.

The Militia and Volunteers of Northumberland are those military units raised in the County independent of the regular Army. The "modern" militia dates from legislation enacted during the Seven Years' War. The volunteers had several forms and separate periods of existence until made a permanent body in 1859.

The Durham Artillery Militia was a part-time reserve unit of Britain's Royal Artillery based in County Durham from 1853 to 1909. Volunteers from the unit served in the Second Boer War where they distinguished themselves fighting as infantry in the defence of Fort Prospect.

The Yorkshire Artillery Militia was a part-time reserve unit of Britain's Royal Artillery based in the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire from 1860 to 1909.

The Royal Lancashire Militia Artillery was a part-time reserve unit of Britain's Royal Artillery based in Lancashire from 1853 to 1909.

The Antrim Artillery was a part-time reserve unit of Britain's Royal Artillery based in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, from 1853 to 1919. Volunteers from the unit served in the Second Boer War. During World War I it defended Belfast Lough and trained gunners for service overseas. Subsequent units continued the Antrim Artillery traditions.

The Mid-Ulster Artillery Militia was a part-time reserve unit of Britain's Royal Artillery based in Northern Ireland. Formed from three smaller units in 1875, it served until 1909.

The Royal Glamorgan Artillery Militia was a part-time reserve unit of Britain's Royal Artillery based at Swansea in Glamorgan, South Wales, from 1854 to 1909.

The Northumberland Militia Artillery was a part-time reserve unit of Britain's Royal Artillery based in the County of Northumberland, from 1854 to 1909.

The Argyll & Bute Militia was a part-time military unit in the west of Scotland from 1798 to 1909, serving in Home Defence during the French Revolutionary War, Napoleonic Wars and Second Boer War. Originally an infantry regiment, it was converted into artillery in 1861.


  1. p.23 Spencer, William Records of the Militia & Volunteer Forces 1757-1945 PRO Publications 1997
  2. Bamford, Andrew (2013). Sickness, Suffering, and the Sword: The British Regiment on Campaign, 1808–1815. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN   9780806189321.
  3. Explore York Libraries and Archives
  4. 1 2 Col John K. Dunlop, The Development of the British Army 1899–1914, London: Methuen, 1938, pp. 42–5.
  5. Lt-Col James Moncrieff Grierson (Col Peter S. Walton, ed.), Scarlet into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War, London: Sampson Low, 1899/London: Greenhill, 1988, ISBN   0-947898-81-6, pp. 27–8.
  6. Edward M. Spiers, The Army and Society 1815–1914, London: Longmans, 1980, ISBN   0-582-48565-7, pp. 91–2.
  7. Norman E.H. Litchfield, The Militia Artillery 1852–1909 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges), Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1987, ISBN   0-9508205-1-2, pp. 1–7.
  8. Units of the Militia to be transferred to the Special Reserve, published as schedule to order in council made April 9, 1908, The London Gazette, April 10, 1908