The Witham Volunteer Corps, formed 1798
Not comprehensive, just bits
Essex Record Office L/U 3/2. Printed sheet kept in Lieutenancy papers, 1798. Transcript.
At a Meeting of the Inhabitants of WITHAM, held at the BLUE POSTS, on Thursday the 10th of May 1798, for the purpose of adopting proper measures for the Defence of the Country.
THOMAS KYNASTON, Esq. in the Chair.
FIRST. That an Armed Association be formed with as much expedition as possible, consisting of a Company of Infantry, to be under the command of ROGER KYNASTON, Esq. and not to exceed Eighty Persons, nor be less that Sixty.
SECOND. That such company be not called out, except in case of actual invasion, not be required to serve beyond the distance of five miles from Witham.
THIRD. That each individual of such company shall provide his uniform, and bear his expences of every other kind, except arms, accoutrements, and ammunition, for which application will be made to government.
FOURTH. That every man shall attend at the time and place appointed by his commanding officer for exercise, at least three days in the week; and that application be made to government, for a sufficient number of non-commissioned officers to teach such exercise.
FIFTH. That every man at the time of his discharge from this association, shall deliver up his arms, accoutrements, and ammunition, to his commanding officer, or to some neighbouring magistrate.
SIXTH. That thirteen persons be immediately elected members of this association, and as such, do subscribe their names to these resolutions; and that they, or any five of them, be a committee, authorized to admit other members in such manner, and on such terms and conditions, as to the majority of them shall seem most proper; and to make such further orders and regulations, as they shall think best calculated to promote the good intent of this association; and that they do immediately proceed to receive the names of such persons as are willing to become members of this association, and ballot for them the first opportunity; and that they do adjourn from time to time, as they shall find necessary.
SEVENTH. That every member, at the time of his admission by the above committee, be called upon to pledge himself in the strongest terms, to yield a strict and willing obedience to his commanding officer, and to every rule and order of this association, and to declare himself determined to stand or fall with the Religion, Laws, and Liberty of the British Constitution.
The above resolutions being unanimously agreed to, the meeting proceeded to the choice of a committee, when the following persons being unanimously elected, subscribed their names, and pledged themselves in the words of the 7th resolution, viz.
THOMAS KYNASTON, Esq. for his Son;
JAMES BEADEL, jun.
The thanks of the meeting were unanimously voted to the chairman, for bringing forward the above measure, and for his particular attention to the business of the day.
N.B. The above committee will meet at the BLUE POSTS INN, in Witham, on WEDNESDAY next, the 16th instant, precisely at six in the evening; when all persons willing to join the above association, are requested to attend, or send their names, in order that they may be ballotted for, agreeable to the above resolutions.
WO 13/4321 1803-1813
Annual Pay list and return of Witham Company of Rifle volunteers
Printed forms. for each year. ‘To be sent to Sec at War, War Office London’. Last one is 1813
Headings calls them Witham Company of Rifle Volunteers.
25 Dec 1802 to 25 Dec 1803
[All exercised 20 total days so due 1s per day = £1]
[spaces for officers above Serjeant are blank]
Thomas Dios Santos
Buglers [Drummers is crossed out and B written in]
1 James Dace
2 Geo Todd
William Aer[? may have mistyped this]
[There is also a clothing certificate saying they have all been issued with clothing]
Signed Chas Miller Capt Commandant of the Witham Rifle Corps
December 1812 – March 1813 [last list]
Witham Rifle Corps commanded by Captain Chas Miller. Total pay £21 15s.
Similar to last
Capt Chas Miller
Buglemen [drummers crossed out and this put instead]
1 Jas Dace
2 Wm Smith
3 Jas Turner
[Rate per day 1s. Due 5s total]
[No clothing list this time I think]
The Times, 29 August 1859, page 7 col e
‘Volunteer Rifle Corps. A meeting convened by Lord Rayleigh, is to be held at Witham, Essex, today (Monday) for the purpose of promoting the formation of a corps for that town and neighbourhood’.
The Times, 2 September 1859, page 7, col f
‘Volunteer Rifle Corps. A meeting has been held at Witham, Lord Rayleigh in the chair, to promote the formation of a volunteer corps in that neighbourhood. The noble lord stated that he was too old himself to enter into the corps, with any degree of activity or zeal, but if one were established he should be happy to subscribe something in aid of it. There was a great diversity of opinion as to the expediency of establishing rifle corps; but although at the present moment Louis Napoleon, as Emperor, might neither have the wish nor the intention to invade this country, yet it was impossible to say how soon England and France might be involved in war. If there were a war between the two countries, France would attempt to invade England, and England’s idea of invasion was very different from that entertained by France. Our idea of invasion was to take a country and keep it, while theirs was to take it and merely give us a box of the ears for beating them at Waterloo, not dreaming of retaining England, but of invading the country and striking some blow by which their vanity might be gratified. Whether this might happen in one year or 20 years it was impossible to say, but it was certain now that it was the inclination of the Emperor Napoleon to be friendly with England. A discussion might, however, arise from the congress which was now taking place, or, as he thought most likely, from affairs in the East. The greatest protection of England would be to show Napoleon that the gentry and middle classes of England would oppose any attempt at invasion en masse – that every one, in fact, would be a soldier. In consequence of the absence of Captain Luard, R.N., one of the promoters of the meeting, further proceedings were adjourned, but a cordial spirit was manifested in regard to the importance and desirability of the object.’
The Times, 4 October 1859, page 5, col e
‘Volunteer Rifle Corps … [includes lots from all over country] …Witham. A spirited speech has been delivered here by Captain Luard, RN, on the rifle corps topic. The gallant captain observed that he thought there would be no doubt as to the value of the companies which were being rapidly organised in every part of the kingdom. In former times, when dependence …[not all on this cutting]’
The Times, 20 October 1859, page 10, col b
‘Volunteer Corps … [includes lots from all over country] … Witham. The committee appointed in this town for raising a company of rifle volunteers in this locality are actively engaged in arranging the necessary preliminaries towards the successful accomplishment of this patriotic measure. The committee included Mr Charles Du Cane, M.P., Mr Sutton Western, M.P., and other resident members of the aristocracy; and there is little doubt, with such influential patronage, the corps will be both numerous and efficient’.
The Times, 31 October 1859, page 10, col e
‘Volunteer Corps … Witham. Mr Du Cane, M.P., presided at a meeting held here last Tuesday evening in reference to the formation of a company, and after an address from Captain Luard, R.N., 26 volunteers enrolled themselves’
The Times, 7 November 1859, page 12, col d
‘Volunteer Corps … Witham. From the report presented to an adjourned meeting, attended by Lord Rayleigh, Mr C S Western, M.P., Mr Du Cane, M.P., Captain Luard, Captain Stevens, Sir J P Wood, etc., it appears 38 gentlemen have volunteered as members of the rifle corps. Captain Luard, R.N., has been requested to undertake the command of the corps, and Mr Charles Wood the post of second in command. A subscription was then and there opened. Lord Rayleigh promised to increase his donation of £50 to £100 when the corps numbers [???] effectives; Mr T B Western £30; Mr Sutton Western, M.P., £10; Mr Charles Du Cane, M.P., £25; Captain Luard, £25; Sir J P Wood, £10 10s; Mr J H Blood, £10 10s, to be increased to 21£ when the corps numbers 60 members’.
The Times, 27 December 1859, page 9, col b
‘The Volunteer Movement … Witham. The services of the company formed have been officially accepted. Drill has been steadily prosecuted, notwithstanding the late severe weather, and in a few days the volunteers will appear in uniform’.
‘10th Essex (Witham) Volunteer Rifle Corps 1859-1862’
(Transcribed from typescript account by Maurice Smith. Given by him to JG and now in ERO as part of T/P 506)
When Captain William Garnham Luard, R.N. returned to his home, Witham Lodge in February 1866 he was given a hero’s welcome by the Townsfolk. Newland Street was decorated with triumphal arches and ‘Welcome Home’ banners. The 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteer Rifle Corps under the command of Captain Blood were drawn up as a. guard of honour near the George Inn. It had been through the efforts of Captain Luard that the Volunteers had been brought back into existence.
In August 1859 handbills were distributed in the town inviting interested people to a meeting at the Literary Institute in Newland Street. Unfortunately at the meeting on 29th August, William Luard, the chief mover in this scheme, was unable to attend. Little progress was made beyond arranging for a book to be kept at the police station in Guithavon Street in which those wishing to ;join could enter their names, and the meeting was adjourned for a month.
At the end of September another meeting was held with Lord Rayleigh in the chair. William Luard’s resolution was agreed. It was ‘that in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable to establish from the town of Witham and surrounding neighbourhood a Volunteer Rifle Corps under the provision of Act 44 George III Chapter 54.’ Disappointment was expressed at this meeting that no names had been entered in the book at the police station.
A meeting was held on 25th October to give information to those wishing to join. It was able to report that progress had been made as there were thirty six enrolments. This encouraged the calling of’ a further meeting to elect a committee and to request William Luard to take command with Charles Wood as the second officer in charge. A subscription list was opened to provide funds to inaugurate the Corps. It was decided to use Broad Mead as a parade ground.
From its formation the Corps showed great keenness. Despite the severe winter weather several members attended up to 30 drills during the first three weeks of December. Since then there were five drills each week and the average attendance was 23 members out of the total of 30.
At the beginning of the year the Corps were keyed up for their first parade in full uniform on 19th January. It was a disappointment when William Luard was forced to postpone it due to the death of a relative. The great day came on 2nd February when the parade was held at midday. There was a full muster with the exception of Charles Wood who was unavoidably absent. After they were dressed off by height the commission was read appointing William Luard and Charles Wood as their officers. J Cook and J W Butler were appointed as sergeants.
Their uniform was admired by all who had gathered to see the parade. It consisted of tunic, trousers and cap of very dark green cloth trimmed with black braid. After addressing a few words to the corps, William Luard commenced his first drill which at first caused some confusion as his words of command were based on navy procedure and differed in some degree with those of the army drill sergeant. However, the drill movements were carried out smartly which together with their neat turnout earnt the praise of the watching crowd. Further parade drills were arranged for Thursdays at mid-day.
For their first church parade which took place on the following Sunday they were supported by the band of the Chelmsford Volunteer Rifle Corps. To their rousing tunes the Witham Volunteers marched from Guithavon Street to St Nicolas church.
William Luard visited Hythe to undergo training as the commanding officer. By the time his first rifle drill with the Corps commenced on 8th March, the strength of the Corps had advanced to 44 members and 9 or 10 further applications had been made. It was unfortunate that the weather was so inclement for the first rifle drill. There was a biting March wind and the ground was sodden after a fall of snow. Handling their rifles was made difficult through numbed fingers and they presented a rather woebegone appearance. They stuck it out for half an hour and were relieved when another snow storm brought the drill to a halt. They no doubt hastened away to seek the shelter of warmer and drier surroundings.
J Cook and J W Butler gave a supper to celebrate their appointment as sergeants. During the evening Superintendent Catchpool of the Witham Police offered to give instruction with a view to the Corps forming a band. Aware of Superintendent Catchpool’s experience in brass band playing this offer was accepted and he soon had some enthusiastic recruits.
During April there was great concentration in the drills to perfect the corps’ mastery of manual and platoon exercises. In view of the drill sergeant’s departure at the end of the month, drills were held in both the mornings and evenings. The next stage of their training was position drill under their commander.
The Corps at the beginning of June heard with great regret that they were to lose their commander and the founder of their corps. Captain William Luard, RN, had been recalled to naval duties to take command of one of her Majesty’s ships.
On Monday, 16th June, the Corps, headed by their band, marched from their headquarters to Witham Lodge, the home of William Luard, for their final drill under his command. For two hours they engaged in field movements and skirmishes, enlivened by the firing of blank cartridges. At 2 p.m. a sumptuous luncheon was provided for the Corps, band and friends. After the loyal toast J Cook, the senior sergeant, proposed that Charles Wood should take over the duties as commander and this was agreed unanimously. The corps and the band marched back to the town at 5 p.m. Considering the shortness of the time since it had been formed, it was agreed that the band had acquitted itself very well.
Before returning to his naval duties, William Luard was anxious to see his corps shooting with live ammunition. He fulfilled his wish by obtaining a special permit from the War Office. Unfortunately one difficulty arose in the range of the targets. As the hay had not been gathered in, they were 300 yards distant from the target instead of 150 yards. This probably explains why only one shot hit the bull. This was fired by W Kershaw in the last round and gave him the highest score of 9 points (bull, centre, and four outers). In fact, out of 143 rounds fired 87 of them missed the target.
Prior to William Luard’s departure Mr J H Blood entertained the Corps. After the usual parade about 50 sat down to a luncheon at 2 p.m. in a specially erected marquee. The proceedings were enlivened by many toasts. During the afternoon the band performed some lively airs in fine style. 5 p.m. was the time for the guests to leave for home after a pleasant time together.
The following twenty members of the corps had completed their preliminary firing and at the end of July commenced target practice:
W B Blood (Ensign)
G S Gimson
E C Smith
S T Davies
J W Butler (Sergeant)
R S Cheek
J E Mann
J Cook (Sergeant)
W B Blood, included above, had been appointed as second in command following C Wood’s promotion.
The highlight in August was the sham fight at Hylands Park, Chelmsford, when the County of Essex showed how well they had supported the Volunteer Rifle movement. At about 3 30 p.m. the artillery, cavalry and infantry companies were lined up in their various stations. After a salute by the artillery was given to the inspecting officer, Lt Col Wood, he inspected the lines of the companies. The troops marched twice round the park with their bands playing. Next they were deployed to engage in evolutions [sic] and skirmishes which filled with excitement upwards of 20,000 spectators. They rushed about the park trying to view everything at once and miss nothing. At the conclusion of the proceedings the men cheered their officers. They then piled their arms so that they could enjoy some well earned refreshments. Finally they marched smartly to the station and took train to their respective destinations.
Less than a year after their formation they were called upon to show the results of their training. At the end of August they were officially inspected by Col Ibbetson. Unfortunately they had little time to prepare as the members were not notified of the inspection until the previous afternoon and in consequence only thirty-one were able to parade. However the inspecting officer expressed himself as satisfied with the attainment.
It was not all hard work and drills. There was a social side to the activities of the Corps. Some of the local gentry vied with each other in entertaining them. At the beginning of September the Corps with their band were invited to luncheon by Sir J W Wood to his residence at Rivenhall Place.
On 1st October they were invited to Felix Hall. At 10.45 a.m. they mustered and after receiving their ammunition they formed up in fours and the martial music of their band began their six mile march to Kelvedon. The music of the band attracted the inhabitants of Kelvedon who watched them march down the main street. They called a halt at the Star Inn to quench the thirst aroused by their march from Witham. They then retraced their steps through the town watched by many of the inhabitants. When they arrived at the Hall, Birch Western, T S Western, MP, Col Western and other distinguished guests were waiting to greet them. This they acknowledged by presenting arms and a march past.
Their fitness after the route march was demonstrated in the carrying out of a series of manual and platoon exercises, and a variety of field movements and the climax of their programme was the firing of their blank cartridges. Following prolonged cheering they entered the hall and did justice to the luncheon. After the man courses, while the wine and fruit were being enjoyed various healths were honoured, commencing with the Queen and including the 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteer Rifle Corps and Lieut Wood. The health of the host was proposed by Lieut Wood, together with the thanks of the Corps for the entertainment provided. It was growing dark when the bugle sounded to summon them from the beautiful grounds and garden to march back to Witham which they reached at 7 p.m.
A similar entertainment was provided by Lord Rayleigh who had retained his interest in the Corps since chairing the meeting when William Luard proposed the formation of the Corps. He had generously made a subscription of £50 and promised a further £50 when the strength of the Corps reached sixty members.
Monday 15th October was a very wet day and when the Corps left Witham at noon they were a motley company wearing great coats, cloaks, sheets and other materials to protect their uniforms from the driving rain. Within a mile of Terling, conscious of their unmilitary appearance they divested themselves of their odd assortment of coverings and to the strains of their band they marched smartly into Lord Rayleigh’s grounds at Terling Hall. His Lordship suggested on account of the weather they should forego their programme of drills and evolutions. With true fortitiude they carried on and then enjoyed the hospitality set before them.
Before Christmas the progress of the band under the instruction of Superintendent Catchpool had reached the stage at which they felt capable of presenting a concert. The schoolroom of the British School in Maldon Road was full and there were several prominent people from the neighbourhood in the audience. There were fourteen performers and Miss Catchpool showed she shared her father’s musicianship by her talent as soloist and accompanist at the piano. The programme was:
|Song, Mr Evans||Volunteer Song|
|Band||Come where thy love lies dreaming|
|Solo, Pianoforte||Carnival of Venice|
|Duet||Ever of thee|
|Song||Their National Defences|
|Cornopean and Pianoforte||Waltz|
|Song, Mr Evans|
|Band||Sleep gentle lady|
|Duet||Castanet and gay guitar|
|GOD SAVE THE QUEEN|
At the conclusion of the concert performers and friends walked up the road to the Angel Inn where they were provided with a substantial supper.
In January the 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteer Rifle Corps held their first annual meeting. They were pleased to report a balance in their funds of £81 12s 7d. It was agreed that drills should take place on Tuesday and Thursdays at 7 a.m. and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 6 p.m.
They were anxious to raise their numbers to company strength and one attempt to accomplish this was by organising a recruiting march to Kelvedon on 11th March. They hoped to persuade gentlemen in Kelvedon to enroll. The plan was unsuccessful. The Kelvedon gentlemen considered Witham was too far away for them to attend drills and they did not think they could muster sufficient volunteers to warrant their own drill sergeant.
In June the Braintree and Bocking Advertiser listing the names of the members who were engaged in target practice as: Thorne
Smith, E C
At the paraded muster on 24th June the Corps were disappointed at the announcement made by Lieut Wood. He advised that he had been carrying on with his Volunteer duties against the advice of his doctor and that ill health had now forced him to resign. He invited them all to be his guests at an amateur theatrical performance to take place in the dining hall at Rivenhall Place.
Amateur theatricals were then in current fashion and the residents of the larger houses in the locality such as Rivenhall Place, Braxted Hall and the Groves combined to put on performances for the amusement of themselves and their friends. The Corps attended the dress rehearsal the night before the main performance for more distinguished guests. After they had watched The Loan of a Lover and Kenilworth, a Burlesque, they sat down to supper in the hall.
The Corps and the Witham inhabitants were delighted that the third and last Battalion Review of the year was to be held at Witham. This took place on 10th October in Mill Field. About seven or eight former Volunteers could recall taking party in a previous Battalion Review at Witham in 1803. Mill Field near the centre of the town with an area of 20 acres was a suitable venue. With its slope and raised carriage way it enabled the spectators, between four and five thousand, to have a good view of the manoevres of the Battalion. The Witham inhabitants were proud to watch the Witham Corps and Band lead the Battalion on to the field at 10.30 a.m. and to take part in the display.
The Corps’ devotion to their training was appreciated and the local gentry and tradesmen raised funds for a subscription dinner. The Corps paraded at 2 p.m. on 28th October for an hour and a half’’s drill. Prizes for a shooting competition were then presented. At 4 p.m. they marched to the White Hart Inn to enjoy the dinner given in recognition of the time and effort they gave to their duties. A very happy time was enjoyed by a company of seventy.
At the second annual general meeting in February the results of the year’s training in rifle shooting were announced. Twenty-nine had commenced at the beginning of the year and three had left during the year. The remainder were placed in the following classes:
1st Class: 10 2nd Class: 14 3rd Class: 2
Messrs Harvey, Barwell and Thomas as well as being in the First Class had achieved the additional status of ‘marksmen’.
The Prize Meeting for Rifle Shooting in 1862 was held on 8th October. It had been put off from the previous day due to heavy rain. The conditions were still not ideal as there was a strong wind blowing from left to right. The first competition was for the third class entrants for Sergeant Cook’s prize. Six contestants had three shots at 150, 250 and 300 yards. The hits and points were added together making a possible score of 36. Mr Cheek won with 17.
The Challenge Cup was at distances of 200, 300 and 600 yards with three shots at the first two distances and five shots at the longest. The only bull was scored by Mr Goodday who was equal with Mr Wilson after two rounds but could not hit the target at 600 yards. Mr Wilson won by scoring 19 out of a possible 44.
A Battalion Review took place in Witham on 19th October. The effective strength of the 1st Essex Battalion was 700 but due to the lateness of the season and the unsettled weather not more than one third attended. Those present were:
|Off||Sgt||R and F||Band|
|1st Engineers (Heybridge)||2||5||60||20|
|10th Witham||1||2||28||11 + 1 bugler|
As the Review was being held at Witham it had been planned to give the 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteers the honour of acting as Battalion Band. Unfortunately this notification came too late. The bandsmen were also effective members of their Corps and had taken their place in the ranks. The band of the 1st Engineers (Heybridge) was therefore substituted.
Shortly after 11 a.m. the Battalion headed by the bands marched to Town End Field on the Colchester Road which gave them an extensive area for their manoevres. When these were completed they marched to the west end of the town before going to the White Hart Inn for refreshments.
The afternoon programme in Mill Field commenced at 2 p.m. and at this time the shopkeepers shut their premises. The number of spectators was not so great as it might have been owing to the inclement weather. The strong and cold wind was particularly inconvenient to the ladies in their long flowing gowns. All were thanked for their attendance by Lt Col Sir Claude de Crespigny after the customary drills and evolutions had taken place.
In the evening the 10th Essex met for supper at 8 p.m. at the White Hart Inn. The purpose of the evening was the distribution of prizes won at the rifle butts and the presentation of a testimonial to Ensign Blood who reluctantly was leaving the Corps. A convivial evening was ensured in the singing of songs and the drinking of numerous toasts. It was after midnight before all the guests departed.
The services of the band were in demand. In November contributions from the band were interspersed among the readings at the programme of ‘Penny Readings’ which were held at the Literary Institute in Newland Street. The variety that this brought to the programme added enjoyment to the evening. On Christmas Eve, Christmas morning and during the evening of Boxing Day the band paraded through the town and gave a programme of music that was appropriate to the Christmas Festival.
Essex Weekly News, 10 December 1869, page 3
Long report of ‘Annual Supper of the 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteers’. See photocopy in newspaper files.
Chelmsford Chronicle, 10 December 1869, page 3
Long report of ‘Annual Supper of the 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteers’. See photocopy in newspaper files.
Chelmsford Chronicle, 21 January 1870, page 8
Long report of ‘Amateur Dramatic Performance in aid of the funds of the Tenth Essex Rifle Volunteers’ at Witham.
Chelmsford Chronicle, 11 August 1871, page 6
Long report of Oddfellows gala at Witham. See xerox in newspaper files.
‘The Loyal Guithavon Lodge of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows’. In the grounds of Witham Lodge, the residence of Mrs Luard. Threw the park and gardens open to the public. Marquees. …
Public dinner in evening by Mr Brown of White Hart. But only 40 to 50 gentlemen sat down. Names of some of those present. Chairman Rev B G Luard of Danbury. Speech included … Touching the reserve forces, he said every inhabitant of this county would regret that the command of the volunteers is about to be transferred form the Lord Lieutenant (Sir Thomas Western) who was well beloved by all, but it was in deference to a wish, expressed throughout the country that there should be more solidity in our forces, and that the reserve forces should be all under one head, the military commander-in-chief. He coupled with the toast the name of Major Savill, who had been long connected with the constitutional force, the militia, and whom they were glad to see present, looking better after his recent indisposition. (Hear, hear). The volunteers, who had lately received a slap in the face, would be represented by Captain Blood, who had done much to promote the efficiency of the Witham corps. (Applause).
Major Savill briefly responded, and
Captain Blood, In reference to the observation of the chairman, respecting the criticisms of the inspecting officer upon the 1st Essex Administrative Battalion at the annual inspection last week, said he must confess it was an unfortunate position, but the officers had no fault to find with the remarks of the inspecting officer. The deficiencies of the volunteer force, however, were not attributable to the volunteers themselves so much as to the public outside. They gave their time and attention to their duties, and whenever there were greater facilities extended to them their efficiency would be immeasurably greater’. …
Chelmsford Chronicle, 3 December 1875, page 5
See xerox in newspaper files.
‘Annual supper and meeting of the 10th Essex (Witham) Rifle Volunteers’. Annual event. White Hart Hotel. Capital repast. Corps ‘mustered almost to a man’. Others supporting them. Some named. Presided over by the commander Captain Blood. He gave toasts etc. Said ‘tonight they had with them a gentleman who was now a fellow parishioner, who had won honour for himself and credit for the town to which he belonged. He alluded to Admiral Luard. (Applause)’. Admiral Luard said he was ‘very glad to be among them once more after a long absence’. Song by Col Sergt Groves. Lieut Cook proposed the bishop etc. Good feeling between denominations in the town.
Chair gave account of year: ‘In the first place their corps would be 16 years old on the 9th of next month. Their grant for the present year was £98. They did not go to Harwich this year, for they found that it was too expensive, but they had been to Aldershot, and by going to the latter place they had a good balance left in hand. Their uniforms, however, were not looking very respectable, and so they should be looking round their friends for new ones next year. He was not satisfied with their attendance at position drill, and he hoed next year they would attend to this little matter. they might depend upon it it was not the wind that caused all bad shooting – the fault lay behind the rifle. He had hoped to see sixty men of the town belong to the corps, but he did not see his way clear to that number yet. He was glad that Witham men held their own when at camp with the rest, and he was proud that at the test of strength a given number of the 10th Essex could pull any other equal number over a certain mark.’
Admiral Luard distributed prizes. Lots, with names of members. Songs. More toasts. ‘A cordial vote of thanks was passed to Miss Crump and Messrs Hutley and Shoobridge, who kindly gave he use of their fields for the “butts”, and the pleasant evening was brought to a close a few minutes after twelve o’clock’.
Essex County Chronicle, 19 January 1917
page 6, see xerox on newspaper file. ‘The VTC. The first drill took place at Cullen’s seed warehouse, when there were 15 on parade. Lt Christie and Mr W W Boulton addressed the members, who ere drilled by Corpl Willett, RE. Several new members have joined.’
Essex County Chronicle, 14 February 1919
page 5, see xerox on newspaper file. ‘Volunteer dinner at Witham’. Long report. ‘Col P E Laurence JP, entertained the members of the Witham Platoon, 7th Essex Volunteers, to dinner at the Public Hall’ and guests. Pt Collingwood Hope, KC, of Hatfield, couldn’t come – praise for his humility in being a Private because of lack of time. He had sent in an amusing letter about the early days, the drill etc. Lieut W W Boulton, former Major of Volunteers, present and praised, now in Horse Guards. Now owner of Braxted Park, congratulations on acquiring it. Congratulations to Lt Pelly and Lt Taber. Formed in ‘dark and serious days, when the country was in danger of invasion’. Must be grateful to them and the risks they took. Co S M Stiff presented two enlarged photos of the platoon to Lieut. W Taber their commandant. Lieut E R Green Adjutant Capt B Green. Asst Adjutant Lieut A M Bradhurst. Musical programme, including Mr N L Howlett ARCO, and ‘Mr Frank Moore (who recited Conan Doyle’s ode on the Volunteer’, Sg B Deal and Mr Runnacles.
Note from Ian Hook Jan 2004 about WW1 Volunteers
The Volunteers were a form of Home Guard, parading locally for, generally, local defence jobs, e.g. trench digging and road block manning. They grew out of the enthusiasm of citizens, particularly in football and athletic clubs, to play their part in the war at home.
From an ad hoc basis they were brought under Government control as “Volunteer Training Corps” or VTC’s, later as Volunteer Regiments (eg 2nd Essex Volunteer Regiment) and later still as Volunteer Battalions of County Regiments (eg 2nd Volunteer Battalion Essex Regiment) which are not to be confused with the 1881-1908 Volunteer Battalions.
Membership of the VTCs/VRs/VBs was voluntary except after the introduction of conscription, men who had been examined and accepted were supposed to parade with the Volunteers to learn some military arts e.g. drill and weapon training, prior to being called up for full time service.
For Essex volunteers there was much work to do on the trench lines across Essex and around London and, later, some Corps were mobilised for duty on the East Coast after success of the German offensive in March 1918 (and its successors) brought about Haig’s “Backs to the wall” message. This relieved troops to go to France and was combined with the lowering of the age limit for overseas service to 18½.
Typically, the Government blew hot and cold about the cost and political implications of having armed and organised civilians in the UK (particularly in the wake of the Russian Revolution) and support was threatened at different times, even during the period of part mobilisation in 1918!.