12 January 2011

The Militia Reserve

I've just picked up a copy of Scarlet into Khaki which is really a most excellent book, detailing as it does, the British Army at the turn of the 19th Century. I was particularly interested to read the short paragraph on the Militia Reserve and quote from it below. I had always thought that this body of men was a reserve for the Militia. Not so:

"The militia reserve is not, what it's name seems to imply, a reserve for the militia, but for the regular army. It consists of militia-men, whose number must not exceed a quarter of the establishment of a battalion of infantry, or a third of a battalion of garrison artillery; and who bind themselves, in return for a bounty of £1 a year, to remain with the militia either 6 years or the whole time of their service. In case of war they enter the regular army on the same terms as the army-reserve men and can be employed in every quarter of the world. On entering the militia-reserve the men must be between 29 and 34 years of age, and must have passed through two drill periods of the militia; they are liable to be called out to a yearly practice of 56 days. Service in the militia-reserve cannot be extended beyond the age of 34. If called out to continuous service they are to be regarded as regular soldiers, and are discharged earlier or later on the same terms as the men of the army-reserve. In times of peace the men of the militia reserve stand on the same footing as the other militia men, and join in the yearly practice of their militia district."

All very interesting but it's the italicised sentence (my italics) that I'm particularly interested in. A man recalled from the Army Reserve retained his army number but what about the Militia Reserve man? What number did he use? Did he use his original militia number when fighting with a regular battalion, for argument's sake, of his county regiment?

The Militia Reserve for each regiment appears to have maintained its own separate series of numbers and whilst records for these men can be difficult to find in WO 363 and WO 364, they do exist. Later this year however, Find My Past will be publishing the complete WO 96 series of Militia records on-line; an event which looks certain to keep me pre-occupied for some time.

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