Military Wiki
Dorset Militia
Active 1757-1881
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Infantry
Role Militia
Size Multiple battalions (at least three)
Garrison/HQ Dorchester, Dorset
Engagements Reinforcements to Ireland 1798
Edward Digby, 2nd Earl Digby
George Pitt, 1st Baron Rivers

The Dorset Militia (also titled Dorsetshire Militia) was a county Militia regiment of the British Army that was in existence from 1757 to 1881.


The militias that were listed in the army of Queen Victoria were those units created by the Militia Act of 1757.[1] In 1881, the British army was reorganised and militia regiments were then directly associated with county regiments of the regular army (losing their unique status), adopting their county regiment’s name and battalion numbering system.[2] In 1908 they would designated Special Reserve battalions. The purpose of these units was to act as a territorially based force of able-bodied men to serve in Dorset and in time of war would report for duty such as defending against invasion by the French. They were not supposed to serve overseas, although the county militias acted as feeder units for officers and recruits to the regular army in times of need.[3]

In the case although militias had been complete throughout England, it was in 1794 that greater emphasis was put on the defensive value, particularly in the coastal regions of the kingdom.[4] This was the period in our history that the French would be so much our implacable foe, Napoleon Bonaparte's power grew in Europe.

However, in 1798 the Dorset did deploy to assist in a force suppressing a French-supported rebellion in southern Ireland; along with its neighbouring militia from Devon.[5]


Examples of the Dorset Militia cap badge are not common and where they do exist they appear to be of a standard Victorian Shako Plate with a crown an facetted eight-pointed star, with a central motif of an ornate numeral one surrounded by a belted title bearing the title "Dorset Militia", or in the case of the Glengarry badge a centre with the Gibraltar castle with motto Primus In Indis (First in India) and a circlet with "Dorsetshire" inscribed.[6]

Unit history

There are records from the 16th Century that the counties of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall were of special interest in terms defending against invasion; and the Duke of Bedford was charged as Lord Lieutenant to compile lists of what indigenous supplies of men, horses and fighting equipment could be mustered as local militia.[7]

Members of the local Dorset gentry joined the militia and a number were painted in their uniforms, notably:[8]

  • Colonel David Robert Michel painted by Thomas Gainsborough circa 1760
  • Lieutenant Sir Gerard Napier painted by Joshua Reynolds circa 1762[9]
  • Colonel George Pitt, First Lord Rivers painted by Thomas Gainsborough circa 1768;[10] and then by Thomas Beach circa 1780 and Thomas Gooch circa 1782

In 1814 the Dorset Militia were listed as serving in Ireland (along with other county militias) with the following as command group:[11]

  • Colonel Richard Bingham (appointed as colonel in 1799[12])
  • Lieutenant Colonel Richard T Steward
  • Major Nathaniel T Still

The Dorset Militia was wound down and disembodied at the end of the Napoleonic Wars - surviving with barely any staff, as was the case with most of the county militias; although recalled briefly in 1830 to contain the spread of the Swing Riots; which never really affected Dorset. In 1842 & 1843 Hart's Army Lists record the Dorset Militia as disembodied (not active) with its honorary colonel as Edward the 2nd Earl of Rigby; the Adjutant was listed as Captain G Wyatt.[13] It was based at Dorchester. However, with the elevation of Napoleon III as Emperor in 1851 Britain again feared French continental adventurism (particularly in Belgium) and county militias were remobilised. In 1852 Dorset was expected to raise a militia of 506; augmented in 1853 with a further 308 men.[14][15] This mobilisation prompted a change in unit command and Richard Hippisley Bingham became Colonel, relieving the Dorset Militia's former colonel Sir John James Smith, Bart on 26 July 1852.[16]

In 1881 (in common with all militias in Britain) the Dorset Militia ceased to exist as a unique unit. It became the 3rd Battalion the Dorset Regiment.

Battle honours

Unlike many militia units as well as funnelling reinforcements to its associated regiment on overseas operations in the late Georgian and Victorian Eras, the unit did deploy to Ireland in the late 18th Century. The Times of 1 September 1798[17] reported that the Dorset and Devon Militias deployed aboard the frigate HMS Arethusa to join a force that was opposing a French landing in support of the Irish Rebellion of 1798.[18]

Regimental museum

The Dorset Regiment Museum and that of its militia units was located at The Keep Museum in Dorchester.

See also


  1. "England Militia History (National Institute) Genealogy - FamilySearch Wiki" (in en). Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  2. The National, Archives. "The Militia". Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  3. Ann Hudson, Volunteer soldiers in Sussex during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815, Sussex Archaeological Collections 122, pp. 165-81
  4. Clammer, David (2011). "Dorset's Volunteer Infantry 1794-1805". pp. 6–25. 
  5. "Dorchester, Dorset, UK, Militia List, 1758". Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  6. "Victorian Dorsetshire Militia Glengarry Badge of white metal with two loops to the reverse, top l" (in en-gb). Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  7. "The Militia - The Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Dorset" (in en). Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  8. "Military - British Army - Fencibles & Militia | Ireland | British Museum" (in en). Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  9. "Portrait Of Sir Gerard Napier by Joshua Reynolds". Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  10. "Portrait of George Pitt, First Lord Rivers | Cleveland Museum of Art" (in en). Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  11. "The Gentleman and Citizen's Almanack ... for the Year of Our Lord ..." (in en). S. Powell. 1814. Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  12. "The New Monthly Magazine" (in en). E. W. Allen. 1824. Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  13. Hart's Army Lists, New annual army list 1843
  14. "The Militia Barracks - The Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Dorset" (in en). Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  15. Haigh, Lesley. "Elizabeth Kellaway and her Bingham Descendents". Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  16. "The Gazette". Retrieved 27 September 2018. 
  17. Times Newspaper 1 September 1798
  18. "Dorchester, Dorset, UK, Militia List, 1758". Retrieved 27 September 2018. 

External links

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