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Written by Captain Everett
(3/17/2003 6:54 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Volunteers?, penned by Louise C
I will have to admit to a paucity of detailed information on the "Volunteers". They seem to be an organization often criticized for drawing recruits away from both the Army and the Milita; specific units get mentioned in passing; surviving examples of uniforms can be found in books. However, there is little written on how they were actually organized or used.
What is clear is that they were *not* liable for service overseas. That is, they would only be required to serve within the United Kingdom.
A great variety of locally based units were raised. It appears (sorry I cannot footnote this) that individuals or groups would approach the Government and receive permission to raise a unit. Most seem to be locally based. In some cases particular trades or professions would form part, or a large proportion, of the unit. There are scattered references to companies (or perhaps squads) of lawyers, shoemakers, brewers, etc.
The main attraction of Volunteers for the Government was that they were far cheaper than either Regular soldiers or Militia. Most units uniformed themselves (some looking like better tailored Regulars, others adding extra ornamentation, varied headgear, various colours, etc.). Members of Cavalry units provided their own horses. An individual with money might sponser part or all of a unit. Landowners might organize themselves and their outdoor workers into a cavalry or Yeomanry unit. [Might a "mini-army" have been outfitted to defend Pemberley in the early years of the 1800s?]
Members did receive allowances, which would offset some of the costs. I would appear (surmising here, but looking to the militia pattern) that they were only paid and fed while actually embodied (doing specific duties under government orders). Being locally based, they could return home in the evening, rather than being quartered or housed in barracks.
After a quick check I found references to the following names:
Bedfordshire Horse Artillery, Bloomsburg Associaton, Castlemartin Yeomanry, Chertsey Association, Cinque Ports Volunteers, Fishguard Volunteers, Inns of Court Volunteers ("The Devil's Own), the Honourable Artillery Company (London), the London Trained Bands, Royal Edinburgh Volunteer Light Dragoons, Royal Midlothian Volunteer Cavalry.
As can be seen, there were a lot of different types of units scattered throughout the UK. They varied from ill-disciplined masses of men, to some who showed at least the basic potential to be of some use.
However, it is hightly dubious that very many of these groups would have fared very well if they ever came to face with any of Napoleon's regular, let alone veteran troops. As mentioned in other posts, being one of these part-time "soldiers" exempted you from a Militia ballot, where you'd have to be "full-time" (even if still not required to serve overseas).
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