14 March 2010

Volunteer Service Companies

I came across an excellent internet resource today: Records of the Scottish Volunteer Force 1859-1908. Click on the link in that last sentence and you can download it for free.

The following information regarding the birth of the Volunteer Service Companies and their composition, is taken from page 92 of this work.

"The reverses suffered by our arms in South Africa in December 1899 led to a call for more troops, and to a great outburst of national warlike enthusiasm, and accordingly, on January 2, 1900, a special Army Order was issued calling upon the volunteers to furnish their contingent of trained men to reinforce the army in the field.

"For each battalion serving in South Africa a selected company was directed to be raised from its affiliated volunteer battalions and sent out so serve with it, and to be placed under the orders of its commanding officer. Each company was to be composed of 1 captain, 2 subalterns, 1 serjeant-instructor as pay serjeant, 4 serjeants, 2 buglers, 5 corporals, 99 privates and 2 stretcher-bearers, or 116 of all ranks and an equal number of "waiting companies" was to raised and maintained at home. Each volunteer battalion was to form a complete section at least.

"To surmount the difficulties of the Volunteer Act, the men were to be enlisted for the regular army for a period of one year or the duration of the war, those taken for the "waiting companies" being transferred to the reserve until required for service. The conditions of enlistment were that men should be not under 20 or more than 35 years of age, 1st class (volunteer) shots, efficient in the years 1898 and 1899, of good character, medically fit, and, by preference, unmarried. They were to be paid, rationed, clothed and equipped as soldiers of the regular battalions (though continuing to wear the designation of their volunteer battalions on their shoulder straps), and were to be granted wound pensions as for the regular army. On completion of their term of service they were to be granted £5 as a gratuity, besides any special gratuity issued for the war. The corps to which the men belonged was to be given a sum of £9 to cover the cost of equipment of each volunteer, and the men were to be borne as supernumerary to their corps and to be considered as "efficients", the corps continuing to draw the full capitation grant for them.

"Needless to say, this call was met with alacrity in Scotland, end eleven special service companies were quickly formed, one for each regiment with one battalion in the field and two for the Gordon Highlanders, both regular battalions of which were at the seat of war, the London Scottish being affiliated with the local volunteer battalions of that regiment in the formation of the service companies. The companies sailed for South Africa in February or early March 1900.

"On January 25 1901, before the year's service of the first companies had expired, a call for companies to replace those was made and responded to and on March 3 1901, the formation of 8 volunteer cyclist companies was called for, one of them to be furnished by the Scottish volunteers..."

The image on this post was originally published in The Graphic of 1902 and shows men from an unknown VSC of the Hampshire Regiment. The image also appears HERE on the South African Military History Society website.

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