18 February 2009

The creation of the Special Reserve in 1908

Further to comments yesterday regarding the transition in 1908 from Militia to Special Reserve, I've been doing some digging through old Hansard transcriptions for 1907 and 1908. There's a wealth of information (not all of it easily found through Google searches) courtesy of the Hansard Digitisation Project which makes fascinating reading.

This from the Duke of Bedford (who was vehemently opposed to the abolition of the Militia) speaking in a House of Lords Debate that began on 18th February 1908 and continued two days later.

"My Lords, the Army Order of the 23rd December last is one of the most important Orders ever issued by the Army Council. It abolishes the Militia, and attempts to create a new Force which is to be known as the Special Contingent. That force is divided into combatants and non-combatants. The combatants comprise Engineers, Artillery, and Infantry. I propose to deal with the Infantry only, and to begin by reading Paragraph 2 of this Order. Under Section 30 of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, a man who has not served in the Regular Forces may, under the provisions of the Reserve Forces Act of 1882, enlist into the Army Reserve. These men will in future be known as Special Reservists. A Special Reservist of the Infantry, then, is a man who has never served with the colours of any regiment of the Line, and who under this Order will not even know to which regiment of the Line he may be drafted when the Reserves are called out. It is proposed to form this Special Infantry Reserve partly by direct enlistment, which began on the 15th January last, and partly by asking Militia officers and men now serving to transfer to the Special Reserve on the abolition of the Militia. One hundred and one Militia battalions are to train this year as Militia, and at the end of their training will be asked to transfer to the Special Reserve. Twenty-three battalions of Militia have been disbanded."

But the Duke of Bedford was too late. As he had stated, the Army Order dealing with the "Scheme for the provision, organization, and training of the Special Reserve required to supplement the Regular Army, and the application of the Scheme to the existing Militia" had already been issued the previous December.

I reproduce below, the copy of that Order (15 pages in total) and I do so with grateful thanks to Graham Stewart who kindly sent me this, along with a lot of other useful reference material which I shall post on this blog in due course. Click on each of the images in order to read the text more clearly.

Various appendices are referenced in the Army Order. I have included these on a separate post: 1907 Army Order - Special Reserve - Appendices I - XI.

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