1902 Encyclopedia > Militia

Militia




MILITIA. The militia of the United Kingdom consists of a number of officers and men maintained for the purpose of augmenting the military strength of the country in case of imminent national danger or great emergency. In such a contingency the whole or any part of the militia is liable, by proclamation of the sovereign, to be embodied,—that is to say, placed on active military service within the confines of the United Kingdom. The occasion for issuing the proclamation must be first com-municated by message to parliament if it be then in session; if it be not sitting, parliament must be called together within ten days. For the purpose of keeping the force in a condition of military efficiency, the officers and men are subjected to one preliminary training for a period not exceeding six (usually about two) months, and further to an annual training not exceeding fifty-six (usually twenty-eight) days. The force is composed of corps of artillery, engineers, and infantry. Infantry militiamen are formed into battalions constituting part of the territorial regiment of the locality of which the regular forces are the senior battalions. The officers and men when called out are liable to duty with the regulars and in all respects as regular soldiers within the United Kingdom. Of late years the men have been raised exclusively by voluntary enlistment, but where a sufficient number for any county or place is not thus raised a ballot may be resorted to in order to complete the quota fixed by the queen in council for that county or place. Each man is enlisted as a militiaman for the county, to serve in the territorial regiment or corps of the district. The period of engagement is not to exceed six years, but during the last of these years a militiaman may be re-engaged for a further period also not exceeding six years. Men who illegally absent themselves are liable, in addition to punishment for the offence, to make up for the time of their absence by a corresponding extension of their service. The officers are appointed and promoted by the crown, but first appointments are given to persons recommended by the lord lieutenant of the county who may be approved as fulfilling the prescribed conditions in respect of age, physical fitness, and educational qualifications. Since 1877 the officers have been permanently subject to military law. The general body of the non-commissioned officers and men are so subject only when called out for training or embodi-ment. At other periods they have simply the legal status of civilians, except as regards a liability to trial and punishment for offences in connexion with enlistment or for military offences committed while called out. Each militia regiment has a permanent staff, consisting of an adjutant and a small body of non-commissioned officers and drummers, to conduct the recruiting drills and ordinary business of the corps; and the members of this permanent staff are always subject to military law. They mostly consist of non-commissioned officers who belong to or have served in the regular portion of the territorial regiment. Many of the militia corps have their head-quarters at the brigade depot or local establishment of the territorial regiment, and all are under the general supervision of the (regular) colonel commanding the brigade depot. The area of service does not extend beyond the United Kingdom; but those who voluntarily offer to serve in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Malta, or Gibraltar may be employed therein. The uniform of the officers and men of the militia is precisely the same as that of the regular corps with which they are associated, or rather of which they form part, except that in addition to the regimental distinguishing mark they bear the letter "M" upon their appointments, to denote that they belong to the militia portion of the corps.

As above stated, the ranks of the militia are usually filled by voluntary enlistment; but by a statute which, though temporarily suspended, can be put in force provi-sions are made for filling up any deficiency in the allotted quota in any county, city, or riding by ballot of the male inhabitants if within certain limits of age. The enactment provides as follows:—

The secretary of state is to declare the number of militiamen re-quired, whereupon the lord lieutenant is to cause meetings to be held of the lieutenancy for each subdivision. To these meetings the householders of each parish are to send in lists of all male persons between the ages of eighteen and thirty dwelling in their respective houses. Before the ballot, however, the parish may supply volun-teers to fill up the quota, every volunteer so provided and approved counting as if he were a balloted person. If a deficiency still exists, the persons on the lists shall be balloted for, and double the number of those required to supply the deficiency shall be drawn out. Any person whose name is so drawn may claim exemption or object; and the deputy lieutenants settle the question of his liability to serve. From the corrected list those who are of the requisite physique (the height is 5 feet 2) are enrolled in the order in which their names are numbered until the quota is completed. If the list is not sufficient to fill the quota, another ballot in the same manner is to be taken. Any balloted man becoming liable to serve may, however, provide a substitute who has the requisite physical qualifi-cations, and is not himself liable to serve.





Within the general body of the militia is contained another having an additional and important obligation in the matter of seivice. It is called the "militia reserve," and is formed of men who voluntarily undertake a liability to join the regular forces and serve in any place to which they may be ordered in case of the proclamation of a state of imminent national danger or great emergency. In this respect they are in fact upon the same footing as the army reserve, and on the occasion of the mobilization of 1878 more than 20,000 of these men became part of the regular army. The present strength of the militia reserve is a little under 29,000 men, and judging by past experience it may be computed that about 25,000 could be at once added to the ranks of an army in the field in the event of national danger or emergency. It is to be observed, how-ever, that every man thus added to the regulars would be taken away from the effective strength of the militia.

There is no statutory provision for the number of men to be maintained, that number being what from time to time may be voted by parliament. The latest information available respecting the actual condition of the militia of Great Britain relates to the year 1881, and that of Ireland to 1880, the militia of the latter country for obvious political reasons not having been called out for training in 1881 or 1882. Taking the militia of the United Kingdom in 1881, we find that the establishment provided for was 139,501, of whom 18,618 were artillery, 1317 engineers, and 119,566 infantry. Divided into ranks, this establish-ment was made up of 3534 sergeants and 1260 drummers of the permanent staff, and of the general body 3909 officers, 2520 sergeants, 5040 corporals, and 123,238 privates. The number actually enrolled was 127,868 of all ranks, leaving 11,633 wanting to complete. Of the number enrolled 84,864 belonged to English, 14,138 to Scotch, and 28,866 to Irish regiments, the numbers wanting to complete being for England 7420, for Scotland 162, and for Ireland 4051. As the Irish regiments were not called out, our information regarding the actual effective condition of the force as shown at the annual training does not include Ireland. With regard to the English regiments, 74,945 were present out of an enrolled strength of 84,864. Of the absentees 3144 were with and 6775 without leave. In the Scotch regiments, 12,401 appeared at the training, and of the absentees 616 were with leave and 1121 with-out. Of the total establishment (106,584) for Great Britain, 99,002 were enrolled, and of those enrolled 87,346 presented themselves and 3760 were absent with leave and 7896 actual defaulters. Of the English regiments five-sixths and of the Scotch regiments two-thirds were born in the county to which their regiments respectively belonged. Of 92,677 men (for Great Britain) whose occupations are disclosed, 17,665 were artisans, 22,221 mechanical labourers, 26,227 agricultural labourers, and 26,564 other trades. Speaking approximately, more than one-half of the men were between twenty and thirty years of age, about 4 per cent, between seventeen and eighteen, about 9 per cent, between eighteen and nineteen, and about 12 per cent, between nineteen and twenty, while some 20 per cent, were over thirty years of age. More than one-half those inspected in 1881 were between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 7 inches in height, about 20 per cent, were under 5 feet 5 inches, while only 585 out of a total of 92,677 were 6 feet and upwards. At the date of inspection there were 296 men in military confinement and 465 in the custody of the civil power. On the last occasion (1880) on which the Irish militia were called out, upon an establishment of 32,813 and an enrolled strength of 30,515 the number present at the training was 26,399, leaving 706 absent with and 2264 without leave. Regiments numbering in the aggregate 1146 men were not trained.

As distinguished from the regular forces or standing army, the militia has been described as the constitutional military force of the country ; and its history justifies the description, at least up to a recent period when it lost its distinctive character and became to a great extent merged in the regular army. It is the oldest force Britain possesses, and in fact represents the train bands of early English history. Its origin is to be found in the obligation of all freemen between certain ages to arm themselves for the preservation of the peace within their respective counties, and generally for the protection of the kingdom from invasion. This obligation, imposed in the first instance upon the individuals themselves, became shifted to the owners of land, who were compelled to keep up their propor-tion of horses and armour for the national defence. The forces were placed u..der the lieutenant of the county, empowered in this respect Sy a commission from the crown. This prerogative of the sovereign, which had been in some instances a matter of controversy, was declared by statute shortly after the Restoration. By the same statute the militia of each count}' was placed under the lieutenant, who was vested with the appointment of officers, but with a reserva-tion to the crown in the way of commissioning and dismissal. The cost of the annual training—for fourteen days—fell upon the local authority. Offences against discipline were dealt with by the civil magistrates, but with a power to the officers of fining and of imprisoning in default. Upon this footing the militia of England remained for nearly a century, with the general approval of the community. It was recognized as an instrument for defence and for the preservation of internal order, wdiile if was especially popular from the circumstance that from its constitution and organization the crown could not use it as a means of violating the constitution or abridging the liberty of the subject. It was con-trolled and regulated in the county ; it was officered by the land-owners and their relatives, its ranks were filled by men not depend-ing for their subsistence or advancement upon the favour of the crown; its numbers and maintenance were beyond the royal control; its government was by statute. While the supreme command was distinctly vested in the crown, every practical security was thus taken against its use by the crown for any object not constitutional or legitimate. It was regarded as, and was, in fact, the army of the state as distinguished from the standing army, which was very much the army of the king personally. The latter consisted of hired soldiers, and was more than once recruited by a conscription, con-fined, however, to persons of the vagrant class not having a lawful employment, while the former was mainly composed of those having a fixed abode and status. The militia thus enjoyed for many years as compared with the regular forces a social as well as a consti-tutional superiority. About the middle of the last century the militia was reconstituted, with certain modifications, not involving a sacrifice of the principle of its local government, but strengthening somewhat the supervising influence of the crown. Thus the king directly appointed the permanent staff, and was given a veto upon the appointment and promotion of the officers, who were to have a property qualification. A quota was fixed for each county, to be raised by ballot of those between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, each parish having the option of supplying volunteers at its own cost, and each man balloted being permitted in lieu of serving to pay £10 to provide a substitute. When called out for service the pay was to be the same as that of the regulars, and while embodied or assembled for annual training the officers and men were placed under the Mutiny Act and Articles of War, with, however, a proviso that in time of training no punishment was to extend to " life or limb." The crown was given the power to call out the militia in case of apprehended invasion or of rebellion, and associate it with the regular army, but only upon the condition of previously in-forming parliament if then sitting, and if it were not sitting of calling parliament together for the purpose. A further and im-portant security was established to prevent an unconstitutional use of the militia by the crown: the estimate for its training was framed each year, not by an executive minister of the sovereign, but by the House of Commons itself. Upon the initiative of a committee of the House, an Act was passed providing for the pay and clothing of the militia for the year. Upon this footing substantially the militia of England remained for many years, the Irish and Scotch militias being meantime brought under the same conditions by various enactments. The force was embodied on several occasions during the last and in the early years of the present century, and it contributed largelv to the army engaged in the Peninsula. From 1803 to 1813 just 100,000 men, or two-fifths of those raised for the army, came from the militia. In this way, however, it lost its distinctive character as a defensive force. During the peace which followed the final fall of Napoleon the militia was suffered to fall into decay; and up to 1852 it had only a nominal existence in the shape of an effete permanent staff with no duties to perform. In 1853 the militia was revived just in time to enable it to fulfil most valuable functions. In the war with Russia it was embodied and did garrison duty not only in the United Kingdom but in the Mediterranean garrisons, thus enabling the authorities to send most of the available regular troops to the scene of hostilities. It further contributed many officers and some 30,000 men to the line. It still gives annually about 8000 recruits to the regulars. During the Indian mutiny it filled scarcely less useful functions when again called out. It has since then been regularly assembled for annual training; and when it is brigaded with the regular forces at Aldershot and other camps of instruction its military aptitude and proficiency have generally elicited the surprised admiration of pro-fessional soldiers. In 1871 an important constitutional change was made. It was part of the new army system inaugurated in that year that the control of the militia should be removed from the lord lieutenant of the county and vested wholly in the crown. It has now virtually ceased to exist as a distinct body, and is a part of the regular forces with a limitation as to the time and area and other conditions of service. There is no longer a regiment of militia. The body that would formerly be thus described is now a collection of militiamen of a regiment largely composed of regulars. The votes for the maintenance of the militia are now part of the army estimates. The officers of the militia and the line are eligible for duty with either force, and may sit upon courts martial indis-criminately. This practical amalgamation of the old constitutional force with the standing army may appear theoretically open to the objection that it is thereby placed under the direct control of the sovereign. But the day has passed when such an objection could have any value. The fact of the whole army being placed in all respects under the direct control of a minister responsible not only to the crown but to parliament is enough to dissipate any constitutional apprehensions under this head.






The only colonial militia that forms an effective force is that of Canada, which is organized as an efficient local army. The Government of the Dominion includes a minister of militia and defence. The force is placed under the command of a general officer, assisted by an adjutant-general, belonging to the regular army and appointed by the queen. The training of the officers is a matter of special care, there being a military college at Kingston, several of the governing body and professors of which are officers of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers, as well as schools of gunnery and musketry. For military purposes the Dominion is mapped out in twelve districts. The militia is divided into the active and the reserve, and the male inhabitants between the ages of eighteen and sixty, with the usual exceptions, are liable to military service, the extent of which varies with the age of each man, the larger amount of duty falling upon the younger. The active militia comprises 12 regiments of cavalry, 17 field and 31 garrison batteries of artillery besides a mountain battery, 4 com- panies of engineers, 2 mounted rifle corps, 97 battalions of from 5 to 10 companies each and 16 independent companies of infantry. The uniform is for the most part like that of the regular army, and the organization and general efficiency of the wdiole body have been very favourably reported upon. Although the obligations of the Canadian militia are purely local, a large number on a late occasion offered themselves for general service; and, in the event of a war on a large scale, it is believed that the force would con- tribute a valuable addition to the fighting strength of the imperial army. (J. C. O'D.)



The above article was written by: J. C. O'Dowd, C.B., Deputy Judge Advocate General, War Office, London.



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