The Militia and Volunteers of County Durham are those military units raised in the County independent of the regular Army. The "modern" militia dates from legislation enacted during the Seven Years' War. The volunteers had several forms and separate periods of existence until made a permanent body in 1859.
Shako plate of the Durham Militia, 1850's from the Durham Light Infantry museum
One Battalion to 1859|
Two Battalions to 1908
|Engagements||Second Boer War|
After the invasion scare of 1745, and the later strain on the regular army during the Seven Years' War, bills for the reform of the militia were brought to parliament, but it was not until 1759 that the act would be passed (30 Geo II c.25). The act continued with the ballot to select men from each county, in numbers based on a return made by the county authorities of men of eligible age, initially between 18 and 50 years of age. As a substitute could be made on a payment of £10, the burden fell on the working classes. Subsequent explanatory legislation was required to curb rioting in 13 counties over fears of pay and overseas service, the militia would only be used in England and Wales. When not embodied (mobilised) for service the men had an annual training requirement of 28 days by 1762. The Legislation was continually amended, for example, by the end of the Napoleonic wars, to permit wider service in the country, fixed terms of service and paying a bounty for volunteering for the regular army.
The militia was under the control of the Lord Lieutenant of the county and was to be officered by the local gentry, their rank determined by a property qualification which was gradually reduced or ignored.
- for Local Militia see Volunteer Corps
The regiment of the Durham Militia did not form until 1759, it was led by Henry Vane, 2nd Earl of Darlington, and had an initial strength of 369 men, with the headquarters at Barnard Castle (the Vanes lived nearby in Raby Castle). The first bandmaster of the regiment was William Herschel. The militia regiment in its early form was embodied on the following occasions:
- During the Seven Years' War from 22 February 1760 to early 1763, it served briefly at Pontefract, where, in November 1761, it had a strength of 23 Officers, 16 Serjeants, 16 Drummers and 396 Other ranks formed in eight companies. The uniforms had green facings.
- During the American Revolutionary War from 26 March 1778 to 1783, when France had joined the Americans, it served locally in Scarborough and Whitby, and was composed of six companies. It was ranked 44th in order of militia precedence by drawing of lots annually in June 1778, then 30th, 35th, 32nd and 44th. The uniforms had purple facings.
- During the French Revolutionary Wars from end 1792 until May 1802 the regiment was tasked with maintaining order as well as anti-invasion duties and for this purpose they were employed outside of their area of recruitment and kept on the move so as to avoid fraternization with the local population. On the death of Henry Vane in 1792, the regiment was led by his son William Vane, 1st Duke of Cleveland. The regiment was moved at regular intervals, Whitby, 1793, where it had a strength of 289 all ranks, Scarborough, 1794, Morpeth and Alnwick, 1795, Yarmouth, 1796, where it had 14 officers, 20 serjeants, 20 corporals, 12 drummers, 375 privates. Then to Hull, 1797, where the establishment raised to 1300+, and the strength rose to 800 men, Burstwick camp, 1798, now 1200 men strong, where large numbers volunteer for the regular army, and by the end of 1799, the strength had fallen to 439 all ranks. Lastly, back to Yarmouth, 1800, Sunderland, 1801 and Barnard Castle in 1802 to disband. For this whole embodiment it was ranked 10th in order of precedence, in lots drawn in 1793,[lower-alpha 1] the uniform for which had buff or pale yellow facings.
- Less than a year later, after the short-lived Peace of Amiens, the regiment was once again embodied from March 1803 to August 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars, with an initial strength of 14 officers, 26 serjeants, 9 drummers, 401 rank and file, and was ranked 25th in order of precedence in lots drawn in 1803, the uniform had white facings. The regiment was station in Hull, 1803, Chelmsford Barracks, 1804, escorting French prisoners to and guarding them at Norman Cross Barracks, 1805, Woodbridge Barracks, 1806, Portsmouth, 1808, where some 168 men joined the 68th Regiment and others the 43rd Regiment and the 53rd Regiment, they also suppressed a rising of prisoners on board a prison ship. They stayed in Sunderland for two years, before moving North to Musselbrugh, 1812, Perth, 1813 and Glasgow in 1814, returning to Barnard Castle to disband later that year.[lower-alpha 2]
- After Napoleon escaped from Elba the regiment was once more embodied from 14 July 1815 to 28 February 1816, it was much weaker with initially only 25 officers, 18 serjeants, 9 drummers, 156 rank and file. It served in Glasgow, where by the end of 1815 its strength had risen to 232 other ranks. The regiment was disbanded at Barnard Castle on 28 February 1816.
The last annual training for balloted men was in 1825, and was held only once or twice in the next few years, as the militia was allowed to fall into disuse, and the Durham militia dwindled to only a small headquarters staff. At the end of 1833 this amounted to a captain, a serjeant-major (the captain's son), 12 serjeants, a drum-major and four drummers, and by 1844 was only the serjeant-major and six serjeants. In 1842 the Colonelcy of the militia had passed on to Henry Vane, 2nd Duke of Cleveland.
In 1852 a new act was passed that revived the militia, and County Durham was ordered to provide 1096 men. However, with the ballot having been suppressed in 1830, the response was weak. The first recruits were trained in two batches at Barnard Castle at the end of the year. In 1853 the militia was split into three parts, the 1st (South) Durham Militia, with its headquarters at Barnard Castle, the 2nd (North) Durham Militia, headquartered in Durham and an Artillery regiment at Hartlepool.
During the Crimean War both infantry regiments were embodied, the 1st regiment from December 1855 to May 1856, which remained at Barnard Castle and the 2nd regiment from March 1855 to May 1856, which spent the last few months at Burnley. Both were understrength, with a total of 630 man of all ranks between them. neither were among those embodied during the manpower shortage caused by the Indian Mutiny. In 1860 the 1st regiment was made a Fusilier regiment, the 1st Durham (Fusilier) Militia. The revival of the Volunteer forces led to competition for the available manpower. The rise of local constabularies meant that the militia would be used less for keeping order than to replace regular soldiers on home service during large mobilizations.
Reforms and Amalgamation
New legislation increased ease with which militia officers and men could transfer to the regular army, and resulted it becoming, as Cardwell wanted, more of an auxiliary to the regular line regiments. In 1881, after being brigaded with, but seldom interacting with, the Volunteer units of the County since 1873, the 1st Durham (Fusilier) Militia became the 3rd (Militia) Battalion and the 2nd (North) Durham Militia became the 4th (Militia) Battalion of the newly created Durham Light Infantry. The 3rd battalion was embodied for six months in 1885, as a consequence of the Mahdist War, and was stationed at Colchester.
For the first and only time, the militia battalions would not only be embodied, but also see action during the Second Boer War. The 3rd battalion was embodied on 5 December 1899, with a strength of 826 officers and men. It served in the Cape Colony and the Orange Free State, guarding lines of communication and escorting convoys, and garrisoning Dewetsdorp for six months. During its time there it lost 29 officers and men. The 4th battalion was embodied twice, first from 23 January to 4 December 1900, when it remained in Aldershot, and from 6 January 1902 to 3 October 1902 when, with a strength of 852 officers and men, it was split into small detachments around the Cape and Free State. The 4th lost 16 men.
In 1908, in large part due to the Militias' resistance to more reform, the militia were reduced to a draft finding and training role by the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907. Now renamed the "Reserve", and if a second battalion existed an "Extra Reserve", it would take over the running of the regimental Depot, being part of the local garrison. War office plans for the 3rd battalion to stay in the depot and any 4th battalion to be mobilized for action, led to the two Durham battalions swapping numbers, as the older battalion wished to remain as a fighting unit. Both battalions remained in Britain during World War One.[lower-alpha 3] They were not reformed after the war, the role of the original militia no longer existing, and were finally disbanded after a long period of suspended animation in 1953.
|Durham Fencibles and Volunteers|
Home Service Helmet badge of the 2nd (Administrative battalion) Durham Rifle Volunteer Corps, pre 1881 from the Durham Light Infantry museum
|Type||Artillery, Cavalry, Infantry|
One Battalion 1758—1761|
Multiple platoon to company size units 1792—1816
Five battalions 1861—1908
Battle of Arklow|
Second Boer War
It was initially intended in an Act of 1778 to permit volunteers to augment the militia, however only 14 companies had been added nationwide by 1780. In 1782 a new act, (22 Geo III c.79), allowed raising of volunteer forces by local subscription, with a wealthy land-owners or businessman providing most of the funding, but with the government paying them for any service and allowing the men to be court-marshalled only under volunteer officers.
Early Volunteers and Fencibles
The first "modern" raising of volunteers in County Durham occurred in 1745 during the Jacobite Rebellion when the neglect of the militia in previous years meat that, in effect, there was none. The Durham Association Regiment was raised in September by George Bowes and consisted of six troops of cavalry of 25 to 30 men each. It was disbanded by the authorities in November due to its over-zealous patrolling and the inhibition of the movements of "Papists and Non-Jurors".
During the Revolutionary Wars the county would raise two Fencible regiments, composed of volunteers under regular officers, they could not be sent overseas. The first raised in 1794 was the Durham Fencible Cavalry, changing its name the next year to the Princess of Wales's Fencible Cavalry as a genuine expression of loyalty. It was led by William Vane, who was also Colonel of the Militia. After spending three years in Scotland, in June 1798 it was sent to Ireland with a strength of around 250 men, where it operated against the Irish rebels on the River Boyne, it was disbanded at Clonmel in September 1800. The second regiment was raised in 1795, the Loyal Durham Regiment of Fencible Infantry, and after spending time in Gurnsey was sent to Ireland in May 1797. Sent to Dublin from Ulster when the rebellion broke out, some 315 of them were sent to Arklow in impressed carriages, arriving there a few hours before the battle. Here, under their fiery commander, Colonel John Skerrett, they formed a line South of the Coolgreany Road and with the two battalion guns they had brought with them, aided the militia and regulars in beating back the rebels. It was disbanded in 1802.
Volunteer recruitment early on in the Revolutionary wars proceeded slowly, mostly in the counties most likely to face an invasion. Even with the right to avoid the militia ballot, it remained slow until boosted by the act of 1798 (38 Geo III c 27, called the 'Defence of the Realm act') which allowed the raising of "Armed Associations". These were again raised by local subscription, with local gentry of a rich businessman providing the bulk of the capital who often commanded the formation. The rank of commandant depended on the number of men in the formation, two or three score for a Captain-commandant, up to 500 for a Lt. Colonel-commandant.
The first to form was the Sunderland Loyal Volunteers in 1794 by Robert Hayton, and consisted of three companies of 100 men, many of whom were Keelmen. Disbanded in 1802 they were re-raised in 1803 and disbanded in 1812.
The large numbers of volunteers encouraged by Pitt's 1798 Act formed many small units in County Durham, as listed below:
- South Shields Volunteer Infantry (1797—1802), commanded by Major-commandant Sir Cuthbert Heron
- re-raised 1803 as the 1st (disbanded 1813) and 2nd (1812) South Shields Volunteer Infantry
- Easington Ward Gentlemen and Yeomanry Cavalry (1798—1802), raised by Rowland Burdon
- North Durham Gentlemen and Yeomanry (1798—1810), raised by Sir Carnaby Haggerston, Bart
- renamed in 1803 as the North Durham Troop of Volunteer Cavalry, disbanded in 1810
- Staindrop Gentlemen and Yeomanry (1798—1815), raised by John Ingram
- renamed as the Staindrop Troop of Volunteer Cavalry, disbanded in 1815
- Usworth Gentlemen and Yeomanry Cavalry (1798—1802), raised by Thomas Wade
- re-raised 1803 as part of the Loyal Unsworth Legion
- Sunderland Artillery Volunteers (1798—1802), commanded by Captain-commandant Thomas Scarth
- re-raised 1803
- Hartlepool Volunteer Artillery (1798—1802), raised by Charles Spearmans as Major-commandant
- re-raised 1803
- City of Durham Loyal Volunteers (Infantry) (1798—1802), commanded by Captain-commandant Howden Philipson Rowe
- Gateshead Volunteer Infantry (1798—1802), commanded Captain-commandant Robert Shafto Hawkes
- re-raised 1803, disbanded in 1813
- Bishopwearmouth Volunteers (Cavalry) (1798—1802)raised by John Goodchild as Captain-commandant
- The Gibside Volunteer Associated Troops of Cavalry (1799—1802) raised by John Bowes.
- re-raised in 1804 as part of the Derwent Legion.
- Durham Light Horse Association (1798—1802), commanded by Henry Methold.
- Loyal Axwell Volunteer Association (Cavalry) (1798—1802), raised by Sir Thomas Clavering.
- re-raised in 1803 as the Axwell Yeomanry Cavalry disbanded in 1814.
- Durham Volunteer Association (Infantry) (1798—1802), raised by John Ralph Fenwick.
- re-raised 1804 as the Durham Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Lt. Colonel-commandant John Ralph Fenwick, disbanded in 1813.
- Stockton Volunteer Association (Infantry) (1798—1799), organised by Rowland Webster, became the Stockton Volunteer Infantry (1799—1802), commanded by Captain-commandant John Allison.
- re-raised 1803 disbanded in 1813.
- Darlington Volunteer Infantry (1799—1802), raised and commanded by Major-commandant John Trotter.
- re-raised 1803 as part of the Darlington Legion.
Under the threat of conscription into the militia by the Levy en mass if sufficient numbers were not raised, and the inducement of exemption from the militia ballot if a man joined a volunteer corps before 22 July, the volunteers reformed with even greater numbers in 1803. Most of the previous units were reformed, with some joining together with other new or enlarged units to form mixed infantry and cavalry "Legions".
- Darlington Legion raised in 1803 by John Trotter with and an enlarged Darlington Volunteer Infantry of six companies and two troops of cavalry.
- split into the Darlington Volunteer Infantry and Darlington Cavalry in 1806.
- Derwent Legion (1803—1813), raised by the 10th Earl of Strathmore, and incorporating the re-raised Gibside Cavalry troop and a new infantry corps of six companies. The infantry were disbanded at the end of 1813.
- Loyal Unsworth Legion (1803—1808) raised by Thomas Wade with a squadron of four troops of the Unsworth Gentlemen and Yeomanry Cavalry and four new companies of infantry
- split into the South Tyne Volunteer Infantry and the South Tyne Volunteer Cavalry.
Other new corps raised in 1803:
- Durham Volunteer Cavalry raised and commanded by Major-commandant Arthur Mowbray.
- Chester-le-Street Volunteer Artillery and Infantry raised by Luke Colling, three companies strong, disbanded in 1811.
- Teesdale Volunteer Infantry absorbed into the Local Militia in 1809.
Due to the large numbers of small units, and the radical politics of a number of them around the country, they were encouraged to merge into larger Local Militia battalions by the gradual withdrawal of financial support.
- 1st Durham Local Militia formed in 1809 around the Darlington and Teesdale volunteers, disbanded in 1816
- 2nd Durham Local Militia formed in 1812 around the Sunderland and South Tyne volunteers, also disbanded in 1816.
Towards the end of the war many of the cavalry corps merged into Yeomanry Regiments used to keep the peace. These were:
- the South Tyne Yeomanry (Usworth and Axwell cavalry)
- the Durham Yeomanry (Gibside, Staindrop and Durham cavalry)
- the Darlington Independent Yeomanry (Darlinton cavalry)
Aside for training and exercising, none were called out, except for those in the North of the County in 1804 for a false alarm, and by 1818 all of the infantry, cavalry and artillery volunteers had disbanded.
In another invasion scare in 1859 circulars were issued by the government based on the provisions of the 1804 Volunteer Consolidation act for the raising of corps of volunteers in the counties. As an inducement 25 Long Enfield rifles were to be issued by the government for every 100 volunteers, with a corps needing 60 men (effectives) to become established, and candidates for membership having to be approved by the corps committee. In addition to finding the cost of the uniform and equipment (weapon included), an average of £10, a subscription was payable:
- Effectives, 10/- (10 shillings) a year (assistance for the uniform and equipment from the general fund if required)
- Honorary members, £1 a year, found their own uniform and drilled as often as possible
- non-effective, subscriber only
The "effectives" were the backbone of the corps. As the volunteer corps were predominantly middle class, this placed them in direct competition with the non balloted militia and enticed many of the landed gentry in search of commissions away and left the militia almost the preserve of the working class. The volunteer corps, known as the Durham Rifle Volunteer Corps, formed in County Durham by February 1861 were:
- 1st (7th, 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th corps) with headquarters in Durham
- 2nd (1st, 4th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th) with headquarters in Bishop Auckland
- 3rd (6th, 8th and 9th) with headquarters in Gateshead
The 3rd corps from Sunderland was large enough not to join with other corps, being five companies strong. In December the 4th Administrative Battalion was formed from the 1st, 15th, 16th and 19th corps taken from the 2nd Administrative Battalion.
In April 1862 the strength of the Durham Volunteer corps was:
- 1st Admin. battalion: 770 men in 11 companies
- 2nd Admin. battalion: 407 men in 7 companies
- 3rd Admin. battalion: 399 men in 6 companies
- 4th Admin. battalion: 419 men in 7 companies
- 3rd Corps: 296 men in 5 companies
In 1863 the Lord Lieutenant of the county standardised the uniform to one of rifle green. In December, the 7th North York corps was joined to the 2nd Administrative Battalion as the 21st, Barnard Castle corps. There was little interaction between these battalions, [lower-alpha 4] and the individual corps did not always prosper, the 10th, 14th, 17th and 18th corps dissolving by the end of the century and new ones, not always in the same location, replacing them. The primary concern of many was solvency.
Reform and Amalgamation
After being brigaded with the militia and the regulars' depot from 1873, but still having little interaction with them, and still with each other, in 1880 the Administrative battalions were renamed:
- The 1st Administrative battalion became the 4th Durham Rifle Volunteers
- The 2nd Administrative battalion became the 2nd Durham Rifle Volunteers
- The 3rd Durham Rifle Volunteer Corps became the 3rd Durham Rifle Volunteers
- The 3rd Administrative battalion became the 6th Durham Rifle Volunteers (renumbered the 5th later in the year)
- The 4th Administrative battalion became the 1st Durham Rifle Volunteers
In 1881 with the amalgamation of the regulars, militia and volunteers into the Durham Light Infantry, the use of regular officers (occasionally from the D.L.I.) as battalion adjutant began, beginning a closer connection to the regulars of the new territorial regiment. In 1887 the Rifle Volunteers were renamed as Volunteer Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry with no change in numbering. About this time annual battalion camps became usual.
During the Boer War volunteers from the five battalions together provided four companies of 116 of all ranks, for one years service to reinforce the army in South Africa. The first three reinforced, in sequence, their regular battalion from April 1900 to July 1902, the fourth reinforced the 2nd Buffs then the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers from March 1901 to May 1902. These attachments greatly increased the connections between the volunteers and the county regiment, and coupled with another invasion scare caused by the small numbers of regular troops left in the country, caused a surge in volunteer numbers.
As part of the reforms to the volunteers (the same Territorial and Reserve Forces Act of 1907 that affected the militia), and in return for increased financial support on an often heavy burden for the commanding officer, the volunteer would undertake a regular annual camp and a training obligation of six months if mobilised, with the volunteer battalions coming under the control of the newly formed county association. As the reforms were announced and debated in the prelude to the formation of the Territorial Force there was a fall in numbers joining the volunteers.
On 31 March 1908 the Volunteer Force was dissolved and the next day the Territorial Force put in place with the volunteer battalions under the control of the county associations. The volunteer battalions were renumbered, in sequence after the old militia battalions: in County Durham as the 5th to 9th Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry. They were formed into part of the Northumbrian Division, with the 5th battalion in the York and Durham Brigade and the remainder comprising the Durham Light Infantry Brigade.[lower-alpha 5]
- As a cost saving measure as the regiments's number was incorporated into the uniform.
- In November 1808, Private Robert Innard was returning home from Portsmouth on sick leave, when the ship he was on was captured by French privateers. He escaped in January 1814.
- Only 5 out of 23 of the "Extra Reserve" battalions served overseas.
- Occasionally little interaction within corps! The Blaydon corps' two sections, Blaydon "down hillers" and Winlaton "up hillers", had a "falling out" in 1864 after which they secured separate drill grounds.
- The division and brigades would not be numbered until May 1915, receiving higher numbers than the more recently formed New Army formations.
- Beckett p. 63
- Vane p. 288
- Beckett p. 65
- Beckett pp. 63-64
- Beckett p. 67
- Beckett p. 110
- Ward p. 10
- Vane pp. 288–296
- Vane p. 289
- Vane pp. 289–290
- Ward p. 9
- Vane p. 290
- Knight p. 79
- Vane p. 291
- Vane pp. 291-292
- Vane p. 293
- Vane p. 292
- Vane p. 294
- Knight p. 262 footnote
- Vane p. 296
- Vane p. 297
- Vane p. 298
- Beckett p. 155
- Beckett pp. 142-143
- Beckett pp. 168-187
- Ward pp.
- Vane pp. 299-300
- Beckett pp. 216-127
- Beckett p.69
- Beckett pp. 57-58
- Ward pp.15-16
- Ward p.11
- Ward p. 12
- Ward pp.12-15
- Knight p. 80
- Knight p. 81
- Beckett p. 81
- Ward p. 21
- Ward p. 16
- Ward pp. 16—18
- Knight p. 262
- Beckett p. 100
- Ward pp. 18-20
- Ward p. 20
- Durham Light infantry Museum
- Ward pp. 18-21
- Ward p. 22
- Beckett pp. 164-167
- Beckett p. 167
- Ward p. 262
- Beckett p. 170
- Ward p. 258
- Ward pp. 259-261
- Vane p. 304
- Ward pp. 262-263
- Vane p. 305
- Ward p. 263
- Vane p. 306
- Ward p. 260
- Vane pp.306-307
- Ward p. 264
- Vane p. 307
- Beckett p. 202
- Ward pp. 264-265
- Beckett p. 205
- Beckett pp. 214-215
- Beckett p. 217
- Wyrall p. 54
- Beckett, Ian F W (2011). Britain's Part Time Soldiers. The Amateur Military Tradition 1558—1945 (2 ed.). Barnsley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 9781848843950.
- Knight, Roger (2014). Britain Against Napoleon. The Organization of Victory 1793—1815 (1 ed.). London: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780141038940.
- Vane W L 1914 (2010) The Durham Light Infantry. The United Red and White Rose Naval and Military Press ISBN 9781845741464
- Ward, S G P 1962 Faithful. The Story of the Durham Light Infantry Naval and Military Press ISBN 9781845741471
- Wyrall, Everard (1939). The Fiftheth Division 1914—1919 (1 ed.). Uckfield: The Naval and Military Press. ISBN 9781843422068.
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