Accessibility Statement
Chat icon Chat with us live

Museum of the Manchester Regiment


The Militia

Militia, from the Latin 'Miles', a soldier, was the organisation of a local defence force, with a semblance of military training. It originated in England with the Anglo Saxon Fyrd, a tribal arrangement that demanded military service from every able and freeborn male. This was expanded by King Alfred who, after the Danes overran the country, sought to prevent a repetition of this tragedy by determining that all males between 16 and 60 should serve for their own Shire.

This form of Militia continued throughout the middle Ages and the English Civil War. The first half of the eighteenth century saw the decline and virtual disappearance of the Militia, but the Seven Years War opened a new chapter in its history. With most of the regular army abroad, civil defence became of prime importance and Parliament, in an Act of 1757, established the Militia on an entirely new footing. Basically they carried out a period of annual training away from their homes and were only called out in times of civil unrest or national emergency, and to serve only within the United Kingdom. They were however frequently encouraged to enlist in the regular army.

The Lancashire Militia originated in 1689 when King William III directed the Lord Lieutenants of counties throughout England to call out and train the Militia forces of the Kingdom under powers of certain Acts of Parliament which had been passed during the reign of Charles II.

Through the efforts of William, 9th Earl of Derby, one Regiment of Horse, consisting of three troops, and three Regiments of Foot were raised and trained in Lancashire. The Earl of Derby was appointed Colonel of the Lancashire Regiment of Militia and many of the gentlemen of the county offered themselves for commissions in the various regiments.

On 11th June 1690 they embarked from the south shore of the River Mersey opposite Liverpool and landed at Carrickfergus on 14th June. This brigade of Lancashire Militia was present at the siege of Carrickfergus Castle, at the battle of the Boyne, at the siege and capture of Athlone and in other engagements in Ireland.

In 1691 they returned to Lancashire in the autumn and were disembodied. Twenty-four years later the Lancashire Militia was again called upon to help suppress the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. They were engaged in several hard days fighting at Preston where they suffered heavy losses. Following escort duties with Jacobite prisoners the regiment was disbanded in January 1716. The regiment was again called out in 1745 on the outbreak of the rebellion headed by Prince Charles Edward Stuart but does not appear to have been very active. They were disembodied on 12th January 1746.

There was no training or active service again until 19th December 1760 when the country was under threat of invasion by the French under King Louis XV. Six companies were assembled at Preston on 28th December under Colonel Lord Strange and four companies at Manchester with Lieutenant Colonel Townley in command. On 9th July 1761 the whole regiment concentrated at Manchester and on 13th July proceeded to march to Warley Camp in Essex, where they arrived on 13th August.

In November the regiment moved to Nottingham and in June 1762 to Winchester. However by October the regiment had commenced the journey home, arriving at Manchester on 6th November where they were disembodied on 15th December. During the following year a months training was carried out on Fulwood Moor, near Preston.

Warlike preparations by France in 1778 once again caused the Militia to be called out and training commenced at Manchester on 1st April 1778. They then began a succession of marches. First to Winchester, then back north to Liverpool. In June 1779 to Newcastle upon Tyne and in June 1780 to Chester where they remained until November 1781 when they marched to Warrington. In April 1782 the regiment marched to Cumberland and remained there, broken into detachments, until February 1783 when they returned to Manchester and were disembodied in the March.

In January 1793 the regiment was embodied at Preston and was sent to Leeds and other mill towns in West Yorkshire. They remained there until May 1794 when they moved to Brighton. In November they marched to Canterbury and in March 1795 relieved the Somerset Regiment of Militia on duty at Dover Castle. October found the regiment back in Canterbury until moving the following month to Greenwich.

The regiment spent the spring and summer of 1796 quartered in detachments around London. In June it assembled at Warley Camp, Essex and stayed there until October when a move was made to Chelmsford. In March 1797 a detachment was sent to Lancaster to train supplementary Regiments of Militia for the County of Lancaster.

In April 1797 the regiment moved to Plymouth. Following a minor invasion of the northwest coast of Ireland at Castlebar by French troops the regiment volunteered for service there. However there were so many delays that they did not sail for Ireland until 11th September, landing there to discover that the French had surrendered some three days earlier.

After marching to New Ross the regiment returned, in October, to winter in Glenmel. There was, at that time, great disorder and patrols of small detachments of the Militia were dispersed throughout the area with strong guards and picquets at the entrances to the town.

In January 1799 the regiment was one of the first to volunteer as an entire regiment to proceed immediately on Foreign Service without limitation on time. Unfortunately the Act of Parliament had not provided for such an offer and it was declined. However the soldiers were encouraged to volunteer into the Line regiments that were serving abroad and a large number of men joined the 20th Foot and fought in the campaign in North Holland, where the 20th greatly distinguished itself.

In September 1799 the regiment were under orders to embark for England and Captain Williamson addressed his company on parade and asked if they felt disposed to volunteer with him into the Regular Army. Every officer, NCO and man of the company stepped forward and the whole company, consisting of 1000 men from Bolton and area, enlisted into the 36th Regiment of Foot.

During October the regiment marched to Waterford and embarked for Bristol, returning to Preston on 6th November. At the end of December, after seven years service in Ireland, the regiment was disembodied. In 1798 the 4th and 5th Supplementary Battalions were disbanded and the three remaining battalions were in future to be known respectively as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments Royal Lancashire Militia.

War with France continued and in August 1801 the three regiments were embodied for active service. The winter was spent in Newcastle upon Tyne, Plymouth and Tynemouth Castle. Following the Peace of Amiens the regiments were disembodied respectively at Lancaster, Preston and Wigan.

In March 1803 war was again declared against France and on 4th April the regiment was once again embodied. The 1st Regiment spent the remainder of that year and 1804 in Danbury Camp, Essex. In May 1805 the 1st Regiment proceeded to Portsmouth and in July marched to Weymouth to attend on the King and the Royal Family. In October it went to Exeter for the winter, returning to Weymouth in the spring of 1806.

Queen Charlotte presented new Colours on 23rd June 1806 and in September the regiment returned to Bristol. The years 1807/08 were spent in Exeter and Plymouth and it was in May 1809 that the regiment returned once again to Bristol. Here it remained until 1811 when it marched north to Hull and in October to Berwick on Tweed. During these years many of the men transferred to the regular army. In March 1812 the 1st Regiment moved to Scotland and was stationed at Dunbar and Haddington in the Borders. In March 1814 they moved to Ireland, stationed at Athlone and later Dublin.

The 2nd Regiment had, from 1803, been stationed in Chelmsford, Sunderland, Liverpool, Hull, Tiverton and Dublin. The 3rd Regiment had been stationed in Exeter, Bristol, Gosport, Alton, Chichester, and Dover. Bristol and Dublin. In May 1813 the 3rd Regiment had the honour of receiving the designation 'The Prince Regent's Own Regiment of Lancashire Militia'.

The three regiments of Royal Lancashire Militia, having volunteered to remain in Ireland after peace was declared in May 1814, now found themselves together in garrison in Dublin. However when news of Napoleon Bonaparte's escape from Elba became known, so great was the enthusiasm shown by the officers and men to volunteer for the Regular Army that the three regiments were soon reduced to less than half their strength. Over 1,000 men volunteered a good many of which lost their lives at the battle of Waterloo.

In January 1816 the three regiments returned to Lancashire and were disembodied in April. Training was carried out for 28 days in 1820, for 21 days in 1821 and for 28 days in 1825. Annual training was dispensed with until 1831 in which year the three regiments were re-designated 'The Duke of Lancaster's Own Regiments of Militia'.

No training took place for the next 21 years and it was in November 1852 that the regiments were called up for 21 days training. With growing international tension the three regiments were ordered to recruit up to their full strength of 1,200 each and in 1853 training took place in May.

War against Russia was declared on 28th March 1854 and the regiment was called up for training in May, prior to embodiment. The 1st Regiment was the first Militia Regiment to offer to serve abroad during the Crimean War, an example which was followed by the other two Lancashire regiments. Of these only the 1st and 3rd were ultimately accepted, with the 1st going to Corfu and the 3rd to Gibraltar.

In the meantime the Lancashire Militia was being expanded. In 1854 the 6th Lancashire Militia was formed in Manchester A 4th Regiment was raised in Manchester, quartered first in Salford and from 2nd July 1855 in Ashton-under-Lyne under command of Colonel E B Wilbraham.

Peace was declared in 1856 and the regiments of Militia were once again disembodied. In July 1860 a letter was received by Lieutenant Colonel Pringles, commanding the 6th Regiment informing him that in future the 6th Lancashire Militia would have the title 'Royal' and be restyled as the 6th Royal Lancashire Militia. In 1881 the 6th RLM became the 3rd (Reserve) and 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalions of the Manchester Regiment with their headquarters at the Depot in Ashton under Lyne. 3rd Battalion Camp, Altcar, June 1888

Following the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War in 1899 two additional Line Battalions were raised and numbered 3rd and 4th Battalions. Accordingly on 1 March 1900 the two Militia Battalions were renumbered 5th and 6th Battalions. Both volunteered for service in South Africa. The 5th Battalion was embodied on 3 May 1900 and sent to Aldershot where it remained until 19 October when it returned to Ashton under Lyne and was disembodied. However from the commencement of the war drafts were sent to both the 1st and 2nd Battalions in South Africa.

4th Battalion Machine Gun, Cork, Ireland (1900’s) (MRP2D2 (4))In May 1901 the 5th Battalion was again mobilised and returned to Aldershot where it was soon under orders to proceed to South Africa. Sir Redvers Buller, who complimented it on its efficiency, inspected the battalion at Aldershot. On 17 June 1901 the battalion embarked from Southampton on the Bavarian. On the voyage the battalion changed from their scarlet uniforms to khaki and all their equipment such as the black valise etc was exchanged for web equipment on arrival at Cape Town on 10 July 1901. During the voyage everyone was inoculated against enteric fever, resulting in most people being ill for at least two days.

After disembarkation they proceeded to Winburg, Orange River Colony where they were employed on the defence of the town and the railway towards Smaldeel. A, B, C, D, G and H Companies were employed in the defence of the town whilst E Company was on the railway. By this time in the war the fighting had developed into mainly guerrilla warfare and the chief object of the defence was to prevent parties of the Boers from breaking through whilst flying columns tried to round them up. Attempts were made to break through the defences but were repulsed with the loss by the battalion of one man killed, one died from wounds and four others wounded.

On 8 April 1902 the battalion moved to relieve the 4th Cheshire Regiment and took over the defences of the railway line towards Kroonstadt with D Company being sent to Brandford. The battalion remained in the Smaldeel area until peace was declared on 31 May 1902 and on 9 July the battalion embarked at Capetown on the SS Briton and sailed for England. They arrived back at the Depot in Ashton under Lyne on 31 July 1902 and disembodied that same day.

The 6th Militia Battalion arrived in South Africa in March 1902 and took over the blockhouse line between Jagersfontein and Achterlong, later extending to Tweedale. The battalion returned to England on 4 September 1902

In 1906 the two recently formed Regular Army battalions were disbanded and the 3rd Battalion leaving South Africa, October 1906Militia Battalions reverted to become once again the 3rd and 4th Battalions, but were now described as Special Reserve Battalions. Both battalions were disembodied in 1919 and disbanded completely in 1921. The title Special Reserve continued until 1921 when the old title of 'Militia' was adopted but the battalion was never reconstituted.