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The Militia - 1854-1907

In 1848 the Prime Minister intimated in Parliament his intention to reestablish the militia, but it was not until 1852, after an unsuccessful attempt to resuscitate the local militia, that the general militia of England was reorganized under a system of voluntary enlistment with the ballot in reserve, Scotland and Ireland being included in 1854. The property qualification of officers which had hitherto existed (with exception in favor of ex-officers of the army and navy) was reduced, and after a further reduction in 1854, abolished in 1869. Larger powers respecting the militia were conferred upon the Crown, and during the Crimean war the Queen was authorized to embody the militia whenever a state of war existed with any foreign Power. The acceptance of voluntary offers of service in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man was authorized in 1859, and extended to service in Malta and Gibraltar in 1875. Previously service abroad was only temporarily authorized under certain restrictions, e.g., in 1813, 1855, and 1858.

In 1871 the militia was brought more into touch with the regular army, and in 1881 became, with the line, battalions of territorial regiments, tho artillery and engineers being also closely associated with the regular services. Various amendments and new enactments followed, all in the direction of increasing the usefulness of the militia, rendering it more efficient and readier for service, and making it more and more a means for supplying recruits, both officers and men, to the regular army.

By the end of the 19th Century the officers who were commissioned by the Crown were, with the permanent staff, at all times (since 1877) subject to military law. Non-commissioned officers and men were only so subject when embodied or out for training, with extension in the case of men convicted of offences committed during training until the expiration of the punishment Enlistment was voluntary, though compulsory service by ballot was still legal and may be at any time enforced. The minimum age for recruits was 17. Boys from 14 to 16 may be specially enlisted for buglers, drummers, or trumpeters. The period of engagement was for six years. Militiamen up to 45 years of age may re-engage for a further term of four years. Bounties were paid to militiamen at various rates upon enlistment, conclusion of training, re-engagement, enlistment into reserve or special service section, and other special circumstances.

Recruit training might be extended to six months, but as a rule would not exceed three months. Recruits were either drilled immediately upon enlistment at any time of the year, which was the most usual system, or else at preliminary drills (first instituted in 1860), immediately preceding the annual training of the corps. The annual training varied with the different branches of the service and certain special circumstances, but must not exceed 56 days. The usual term for infantry is 27 days, but when on maneuvers this was generally extended to 34 days. Artillery and fortress engineers were trained for 41 days, and submarine mining engineers for 55 days. Trainings took place for the most part in camp or barracks, and large numbers of militia battalions were called upon to take part in field maneuvers.

Each branch of the militia service was now incorporated with the corresponding branch of the regular army, the depots occupied as a rule the same barracks, and officers and men wore (with slight distinctions) the same uniform as the regulars. The militia occupied an important position in the mobilization scheme for national defence. Tho permanent staff consisted of an adjutant, quartermaster, and an establishment of non-commissioned officers, and buglers or drummers, who were all regulars. During the nontraining period of the year they were engaged in recruiting, care of arms, clothing, &c, and in drilling recruits. When the militia was embodied or called out for training they were incorporated with their units for executive as well as administrative duties.

The militia ordinarily was liable only for service in the United Kingdom, but by legislation in 1899 may voluntarily serve in any part of the world, including India. During 1899-1900, 22,000 militiamen were thus accepted for service abroad, the bulk of them proceeding to the seat of war in South Africa. The militia may be embodied in case of imminent national danger or great emergency. The procedure is by proclamation of the sovereign, the occasion being communicated to Parliament if sitting, but if not in session, Parliament must be called together within ten days.

The militia was constantly embodied since the reorganization in 1757 as follows :1756-63, Seven Years' War; 1778-83, American War; 1792-1802, threatened invasions and Irish Rebellion; 1803-16, war with France; 1854-56, Crimean War, when several battalions served in Mediterranean garrisons; 1857-59, Indian Mutiny; 1885, Sudan Campaign; 1899-1902, South African War, when the whole militia force was embodied, and a large number of units of all branches volunteered for foreign service.

The militia reserve consisted of men selected from the ranks of the militia for special enlistment for service in the regular army when called upon in emergencies, in the following proportions to the establishments of tho various corps: Artillery, one-third ; engineers and infantry, one-fourth; medical staff corps, one-half. Special regulations are made as to age, physique, and character. The militia reserve was first formed in 1867, and in 1900 numbered 30,000 men. During an emergency in 1878, 20,000 militia reservists joined the regular army. The term "militia" reserve is therefore a complete misnomer, and the force so called is purely an army reserve.

The Militia Act, 1882 (sec. 12), confined liability to the service of the militia to any part of the United Kingdom, and no part of the militia could be ordered out of the United Kingdom. The Reserve Forces and Militia Act of 1898 enabled them by voluntary offer to extend their services to any place out of the United Kingdom. Under the 1898 Act the volunteers also could be accepted for service out of the United Kingdom for a period not exceeding one year, whether an order embodying the militia was in force or not at the time. Militia officers were at all times subject to military law, and militiamen during their preliminary training, during their annual training when acting with the regular forces, and during their embodiment. The old system of ballot for militia services (which was generally thought to be the sound basis of a regular army, because it would provide not only a system of home defence, but also reinforcements for the regular forces) would require no addition to the Militia Act, as already there was legislative power to revive the militia ballot.

The special service section of the militia was formed by royal warrant in 1898, and consisted of (1) militia units and (2) individual militiamen. A militia unit may be registered as available for special service if not less than 75 per cent, of the officers and men present at training made a voluntary offer to engage for special service in any part of the world, and if in the infantry at least 500 and in the artillery at least 250 men are accepted as qualified. Individual militiamen are those who engage to serve cither with their militia unit if registered for service, or else for special service with the regular forces. Liability for service will not exceed twelve months. They will not be called out except for service out of the United Kingdom; age 20 to 34; physical requirements as for regular army. Men of the special service section may also belong to the militia reserve, and receive a bounty in addition to that given for the reserve. The result of this special section was not up to 1900 so satisfactory as expected. Very few units could qualify for registration, and the response of individual men was comparatively insignificant.

There was no fixed quota for the militia ; the numbers varied from year to year, as voted by Parliament. The following figures (showing the state of affairs previous to the Boer war of 1899) related to the year 1898. The total establishment for the United Kingdom numbered 132,493, divided between England, 87,828; Scotland, 15,695; Ireland, 28,970. Subdivided among the different branches these numbers represented 18,520 artillery, 2060 engineers, 111,300 infantry, and 613 medical staff. The total number actually enrolled was 113,439, thus showing a deficiency of 19,054, made up of 649 officers, 77 permanent staff, and 18,328 non-commissioned officers and men. England was responsible for 14,169 of this deficiency, Scotland for 2011, and Ireland for 2874. Of the total number enrolled (113,439), England provided 73,659; Scotland, 13,684 ; and Ireland, 26,096. Shown by arms, the artillery mustered 16,886 ; the engineers, 2098; infantry, 94,114; and medical staff, 341. The religious denominations of the noncommissioned officers and men were thus returned :Church of England, 53,610 ; Roman Catholic, 40,496 ; Presbyterians, 8668; Wesleyans, 3624; other Protestants, 1309 ; Jews, 46. 40,127 recruits joined the militia during 1898.

"Crime" in the militia was represented by 996 offences of the usual military character, which were dealt with by 846 courts-martial. Of these offences, 489 were for absence without leave. None of the others were of a serious nature. 2726 men were fined for drunkenness. 8718 men deserted, of whom nearly half had less than one year's service. 98,042 militiamen were present at annual training; 7240 were absent with leave, 8157 without leave. England produced 63,048 men for training, Scotland 11,520, and Ireland 23,474. These numbers together represented 14,734 artillery, 1864 engineors, 81,161 infantry, and 283 medical staff corps. The ages of the majority of militiamen range from 17 to 35 years. 782 were under 17, and 14,611 over 35 years of age.

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Page last modified: 03-08-2012 18:34:06 ZULU