Research Press

Historical Firearms, Long Range Target Shooting & Military History

Main Menu

British Military

There are a couple of facebook groups for the discussion of Rifle Volunteers and Yeomanry. See:

Queen Victorias Rifle Volunteers and Yeomanry 1859-1908

Volunteers rifle ranges in and around the UK

Research Press


From want of experience a volunteer sentry will, from time to time, present arms to a showy uniform, and a smart non-commissioned officer of cavalry in full uniform will receive greater honor than a general in a blue coat; but this comes from want of knowledge of details, and not from want of discipline.

A simple and practical form of drill has been introduced, which is far better suited to the volunteers than the slow, antiquated drill of thirty years ago. It is easily and rapidly acquired, and thus time is available for the teaching of outpost duty, advance and rear guards, and many other details of which in their infancy the volunteers were profoundly ignorant. The officers of the new school now at the head of the army, who no longer cling to old traditions because they were good enough in their youth, recognize that modern weapons have altered the conditions of warfare, and have long ago discarded the drill of the time of the Duke of Wellington, who for many years opposed the introduction of the percussion musket because he said "the men would fire away their ammunition too quickly." The volunteers are now recognized as an integral part of the defenses of the country, and in consequence panic from fear of invasion is now unknown. The necessity for conscription, which is hateful to the country, and now only exists in a very mild and modified form in the militia ballot act, which is never carried out, has been averted, and it is therefore fair to claim that the volunteers carry out in an adequate measure the purpose for which they were raised, and England sleeps the sounder for the knowledge that the manhood of the population is armed for her defense.

There is, however, another important advantage which has been gained for the country. In old days the average villager had no idea of the duties of a soldier, whose occupation was described as "being shot at for a shilling a day," and a story is told of a mother parting from her son, who had enlisted, saying to the recruiting sergeant: "How many hours a day will the poor lad have to fight, Mr. Soldier?" The idea existed that the soldier's time was divided between fighting and debauchery, and the enlistment of a son was looked upon as a family disgrace. Many villagers never saw troops under arms in their whole lives, and the soldier and civilian were as much separated as if they were different races. This feeling is growing less and less yearly, and there is every hope that it will die out in the near future. This improvement is partly owing to amelioration in the condition of the soldiers, and the care shown for their welfare by the authorities in modern days; but it is also due to the fact that civilians are now able to give some attention to, and gain practical knowledge of, military affairs by means of volunteering. They wear a uniform, and are proud of it; they come into contact with regular troops in military centres, and make friends with the men and learn from them the details of military life. Tommy Atkins is delighted to make friends with the volunteer, and the volunteer takes a military pride in "chumming" with Tommy Atkins, and thus they gain a mutual respect and regard for each other. The days are long passed when the volunteers were alternately inflated by exaggerated praise or depressed by scorn and ridicule. They have taken their place as auxiliary to the regular army, anxious only to prepare themselves for the duties which would be assigned to them in case of emergency, and desiring to act up to their motto of "Defense, not defiance."