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Empire & Industry

Defending the Empire

3rd Ayrshire Local Militia King's Colour

Period:
19th Century
Description:

During the Napoleonic War period hundreds of Volunteer units were formed by citizens to assist with home defence. These were generally raised by local gentry or titled individuals and served under officers who were people of some significance in their locality. The men came together periodically for training in military matters. The size of the units varied significantly from a few dozen men to battalion strength. A company comprised upwards of 60 to 100 men and a battalion was about 10 times that size. The military efficiency of the Volunteers was extremely variable and the discipline exerted by the officers also varied considerably. One of the advantages of being a volunteer was that exemption was gained from the system of balloting for service in the Militia, a potentially far more onerous service.

 

In  1802 following the signing of the Peace of Amiens the Volunteer units were disbanded. Hostilities resumed in the subsequent year and many of the earlier bodies were re-raised, sometimes under their former officers, sometimes not. With the passage of time the military efficiency of the Volunteers declined. Some units hardly ever paraded for training. This gave rise to concern in Parliament which was in part financing them and led in 1808 to the formation of regiments of Local Militia into which the Volunteers were invited to transfer their service for payment of a bounty (later discontinued!). By early 1809 two hundred and fifty regiments had been raised with a total of nearly 200,000 militiamen. Of these 125,000 were former Volunteers. This measure eventually led to the demise of the Volunteers who were progressively starved of Government funds. The Local Militia was distinct from the county Militia which had existed for many years and which continued its separate existence. Their role was to defend the locality in which they were raised and it was not intended that they would move far from it. Often a Local Militia unit was based on the largest of the Volunteer units in a given area and its commanding officer became that of the new regiment. Local militiamen were required to drill for 28 days per year but this was reduced by 1811 to 14 days. All the Local Militia regiments were formally disbanded in 1816, after the Battle of Waterloo and the ending of the war with France. Altogether 278 regiments of Local Militia were raised throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

In accordance with military tradition Colours were issued to the regiments, each receiving two - a King's Colour and a Regimental Colour. The former consisted of a Union flag, which was generally without embellishments, and the latter a Colour of the same hue as that of the facings on the tunics of the regiment concerned. This Colour carried a small Union in the upper corner near the head of the pike or staff on which the Colour was mounted. Its centre which was painted bore the title of the Regiment typically surrounded by a Union wreath of roses, thistles and shamrocks. In 1816, after disbandment, it was ordered that all Colours were to be returned to HM Tower of London, for placing in store, since they had been issued by the Ordnance Department. This instruction appears to have been carried out by most, if not all, regiments.

 

In 1860 the Master of the Tower Armouries authorised the return of some Local Militia Colours found still stored in the Tower to the Lords Lieutenant of the Counties in which the regiments had been raised. It was decreed that they were to be laid up in a church (many Colours having been consecrated) or other public place. This process was repeated in 1914 when further English and Welsh colours were discovered and returned to their home areas. In the case of Scottish Local Militia units it appears that the surviving Colours were sent to Edinburgh Castle in 1860. They remained there until 1920 when, at a ceremony held in the Castle, they were handed over to the Lords Lieutenant of the relevant Counties, or their representative, who arranged for their despatch to specified locations in their county area.

 

                                                                                                                                                                This information was provided by James D Geddes

Source:
Dean Castle
Digital Number:
EAFB25n
Copyright:
East Ayrshire Council