The Shropshire Militia : outline history
What was the Militia ?
The Militia was a form of home defence force whose ancestry can be traced back to the fyrd of Anglo-Saxon times. It was initially controlled and commanded by the Sheriff but from c.1541 came under the command of the county Lord Lieutenant.
This "county levy" was first styled as "militia" in the 17th century.
Each county had an established Militia quota - the number of men it had to raise if the Militia were called out. In the 17th and 18th century, every parish kept nominal lists of men of military age who were required to do military service in time of invasion, warfare or civil strife. These men were not volunteers - they had to do military service if called upon.
In every parish, a certain number of men were selected by BALLOT. The only way to avoid service was by providing a replacement - which wealthier individuals could do by paying someone else (usually a poorer person) to serve in their place.
The Militia was under the overall command of the Lord Lieutenant of the county (who also granted commissions to the officers) and the men would have to do an initial period of military training (up to three months) and then a set number of days drill and training each year.
Apart from that, they were free to follow their usual professions and occupations. Men trained in the Militia were liable for service for up to three years and could be "embodied" (called up) for war service at any time.
The system may be likened to a form of "national service" but of a more local character since the Militia were not required to serve outside the UK and their prime functions were:
1. To provide a local defence force in case of invasion
2. To povide garrison forces in important location (e.g. ports) to free regular battalions to serve abroad in time of war
3. To supply regular units serving abroad with trained replacements.
The Shropshire Militia : early days.
The earliest records of the Militia in Shropshire date to the reign of Henry VIII (1509-47) and Muster Rolls of the General Levy survive from the 1530s.
Similar rolls survive from the reign of Elizabeth I, including those relating to the "Train Bands" formed by Shrewsbury School, 1581-86, and those prepared by the town of Shrewsbury to face the Armada crisis in 1588.
Although the Militia were not volunteers, men could actually volunteer to serve in it. An early example of this is the company formed in Shrewsbury in 1623 by Capt. Thomas Evans.
There were successive reorganisations of the Militia (and war-raised volunteer units) during the Civil Wars (1642-51).
The Shropshire Militia : to 1815.
In 1762, the national Militia system was reorganised and a Salop Regiment of Regular Militia was raised under the Earl of Bath.
The national Militia was greatly expanded during the French Wars (1793-1815) and in Shropshire as elsewhere additional or "Supplementary" regiments were raised.
These served, for example, on the south coast of England (to strengthen local defences at possible invasion sites or threatened areas) and in southern Ireland 1812-14.
It may be imagined that service in the Militia - a disruption to one's usual pattern of lifestyle - was not very popular. But this local expansion did bring home to many people in areas which would not otherwise have experienced them the fact of war and the real threat of invasion.
By the end of the wars in 1814-15, the extra county regiments had been disbanded, leaving only the one Shropshire Regiment of Militia.
The Shropshire Militia : to 1914.
A Private of the Shropshire Militia, c. 1850.
Uniform and equipment essentially the same as that of the Regular army.
By the early 19th century, the old system of maintaining the Militia - by local ballot - was failing. It was not being properly administered, numbers being recruited were falling and interest in it was in decline.
It looked very much as if the Militia would simply cease to exist.
However, in 1852, service in the Militia ceased to be compulsory and became voluntary - men could simply enlist into the Shropshire Militia if they wanted a taste of army life, the glamour of uniform, the extra money from Militia pay, the excitement of an annual camp away from home and even the possibility of war service (but only in the UK) if war actually threatened. In some respects, it was like an early form of Terriorial Army at this time.
In 1881, as a result of extensive army reforms, the Shropshire Militia was linked to the new King's Shropshire Light Infantry and was designated the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, K.S.L.I. At the same time, control of the Militia was taken from the Lord Lieutenant and appointments and training came under the War Office.
In 1908, with the Haldane reforms which created the Territorial Force, the Militia was re-designated as the Special Reserve and became the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of the K.S.L.I.
The County Militia, 1914-21.
The 3rd (Special Reserve) battalion saw no overseas war service during 1914-18. Like other such battalions around the country, it served largely as a training battalion, sending men to other regiments, including the K.S.L.I.
It is estimated that the 3rd K.S.L.I. trained 546 officers and no less than 16,107 men for overseas' service during the war. The 3rd K.S.L.I. served in Wales (Pembroke Dock) and Scotland until December 1917 when it moved to the Cork area in Ireland.
At the end of the war, it was based at Fermoy and was later absorbed into the 2nd K.S.L.I. during its post-war tour of duty in Ireland prior to Partition and the independence of the irish Free State.
The Special Reserve or old Militia effectively ceased to exist after 1921.
Embodiments of the Shropshire Militia.
The Shropshire Militia was "embodied" or called-up for war service at various times of national emergency.
The information we have on many of these periods of service is very slight.
The Seven Years' War 1756-63 : embodied from October 1763 to 1766.
The American Revolutionary War, 1776-83 : embodied from April 14th 1778 to March 15th 1783.
The French Wars to 1802 (Peace of Amiens) : embodied 1793 to April 14th 1802.
The Napoleonic Wars, 1803-15 : embodied March 1803 to Feb. 15th 1815.
Served on the south coast of England and Isle of Wight; volunteered to serve in S. Ireland 1812-14.
The Crimean War, 1854-56 : embodied Dec. 12th 1854 to May 1856.
The Indian Mutiny, 1875-59 : embodied 1857 to May 1858.
South African (Boer) War, 1899-1902 :embodied May 3rd 1900 to July 11th 1901.
1914-18 : embodied August 4th 1914 to 1919.
Shropshire Militia: muster rolls.
Muster and pay rolls for England are held in The National Archives at Kew under series WO.13.