The Surrey Militia Regiments

Charles I tried to recruit Militia regiments for the Royalist Cause in 1642 but counter declarations were made by Parliament which forbade the Militia "to attend the King's Commission of Array". Those men who did attend were to be punished as 'disturbers of the peace'. After the Civil War the Militia were allowed to lapse and it wasn't until 1661 that the English Militia was revived and remodelled, and the Militia was placed under the Lords Lieutenant of Counties who had the appointment of all officers.

The force was to consist of Horse and Foot and all persons were to serve, either in person or by substitute, according to their means. The men, were to be enrolled for 3 years.

Notwithstanding the Acts of 1661 the Militia was neglected and, but for one or two incidents during the reigns of James II and William III, were almost non existent until the 1756 alarm as to a possible French invasion.

In 1756 an Act was passed introducing the Ballot for service. Its execution was suspended until 1759 when 17,436 men were raised, being only Infantry. Lords Lieutenant were to form the Militia into regiments, unless there were less than seven Companies in number when they were formed into Battalions. (This odd method of distinguishing between regiments and battalions does not occur anywhere else or, possibly, if there was any idea that "regiments" were anything other than battalions). Captains provided for the custody of arms, clothing and accoutrements. Churchwardens were required to find chests for the arms.

The English Militia was embodied in 1759 and disembodied in December 1762 and January 1763. It was afterwards assembled annually for 28 days of training. It was again embodied in March 1778 because of the American Rebellion and served for five years, being disembodied once again in 1783. In 1786 the Militia Laws were consolidated and three years service was increased to five.

A portion of the force was again embodied in December 1792 and the remainder early in 1793 on the outbreak of war with France. In November 1796 Parliament sanctioned the raising of a Supplementary Militia of 59,000 men for England and 4,400 for Wales. During this period Scotland and Ireland had different arrangements.

At the Peace in 1802 all Militia were disembodied again and a considerable reduction was made in the establishment of the force so that more money could be devoted to the Regular Army. War once again broke out in 1803 and the Militia were once again embodied and remained so until 1816 with a short break in 1814-15.

In 1808 a Local Militia was raised with the purpose of making the male population more effective than under the system of the Volunteer Corps, most of which converted into the Local Militia Force. In 1811 the strength of the Regular Militia was 77,424 privates and the Local Militia 213,609.

After the Peace of 1815 the Militia was assembled for training, by unit, for some years but not regularly until 1831 although its provision remained on the statute book. Until 1852 the Militia was represented only by a cadre of officers and a diminishing staff of NCO's and drummers until 1852. The Militia were once more called out for training and embodied after the outbreak of war in 1854.

Training was fairly regular for the rest of the century and the Militia was embodied for the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny and the war in South Africa until 1902.

Precedence numbers for the Surrey Militia Regiments

Precedence numbers were introduced in 1778 and changed from year to year.

The Surrey Militia had the number 16 in 1778, 5 in 1779, 21 in 1780, 16 in 1882, 35 in 1783 and 18 in 1793. Both the 1st and 2nd Royal Surrey Militia Regiments retained the number 18 until 1803 when the number changed to 41.

In 1833,the precedence numbers were finally decided by drawing lots. The 1st and 2nd Royal Surrey Militia had the number 20: In 1855 more numbers were issued for newly raised regiments the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia having the number 118. At the same time the 2nd Royal Surrey Militia were allocated the number 11. These numbers were retained thereafter.

The Surrey Militia

The Surrey Militia was formed and embodied in 1759 and was, in November of that year, divided into two battalions. These were later amalgamated again until the regiment was disembodied pursuant to the Warrant of 15th December, 1762.

During this short period two stands of Colours had been issued. The first, in 1759, was comprised of two silk Colours "...the one an Union the other white with the Arms of the Lord Lieutenant". The second stand were requested in consequence of the regiment having been divided into two battalions.

A London newspaper report of 9th June, 1759 stated "Yesterday the Militia of Southwark, & c, in Surry (about 400 in number) were exercis'd on Clapham Common and made a very good Appearance; their uniform is red, lappell'd with white, and turned up with the same". There was a second reference in the same newspaper on the 1st February, 1760. "Deserted from the Second Battalion of Surry Militia. commanded by Lt. Colonel Commandant Onslow, Benjamin Hawks a Drummer, in Capt. Spenser's Company... had on when he left the Battalion his Drummer's coat, white, with red and white lace down the Seams, his Cap, on the flap of which is embroidered, "Surry Militia", and his Regimental Sword". (Note in the Journal of the. Society, for Army Historical Research).

In 1797 the Surrey Militia consisted of 12 companies and, on the 14th January that year, the formation of a Regiment of Supplementary Militia for the County was ordered. On 17th August. 1798, in consequence of the inconvenience of the complicated system of naming Militia Regiments then in use it was directed that, in future the Surrey Militia should be thus distinguished; the original Regiment becoming the 1st Surrey Militia; the 1st Supplementary Regiment the 2nd Surrey Militia. The 2nd Supplementary was to be called the 3rd Surrey Militia if it was to be raised.

The formation of the third Regiment was, in fact, authorised by Warrant of 25th April, 1798 but never attained more than half its establishment and was disbanded in December 1799. Up to 1852 only two regiments of Militia were kept up for Surrey. The 1st Surrey Militia established its Headquarters at Richmond and that of the 2nd Surrey Militia at Guildford. There is evidence that both regiments were wearing blue facings before the W.O. letter of 23rd April, 1804 gave the King's authority to bear "the appellation of Royal Regiments". The Military Library List of 1800 gives blue facings, gold lace and epaulettes for the lst Surrey and gold epaulettes for the 2nd.

The 3rd Surrey Militia was raised in 1798, reduced in 1799 and revived in 1853 as the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia. The connection between the 3rd of 1853 and 1798 was merely nominal. The 3rd had blue facings.

Until 1836 there was no definite distinction in uniform between the Line and the Militia Regiments. The distinction then established, of gold lace or embroidery for the Line and silver for the Militia, only applied to officers as the rank and file of the Line continued to wear pewter buttons and their Staff Sergeants silver lace until 1855, and the Militia the same. From 1855 the men of the Militia still wore pewter buttons while the Line received brass ones for the newly introduced tunic. The distinction of metal thus became a complete distinction for regiments wearing red and remained so until 1881.

The order of 3rd September, 1836, for officers of the Militia in future to wear silver lace or embroidery also directed that Royal Regiments should wear silver embroidery. The issue of uniform and accoutrements must have been problematic because of the raising and standing down of the various regiments of Militia over the years. Although in the main they managed to keep up with the Line until 1855. During this time there was a reform in the uniform of the British Army as a whole. As there were no stocks of militia uniform several units indulged in experimental clothing and headdress. others adhered to the old style.

The men of the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia, for instance, wore the old coatee of 1853 although the officers had adopted a blue frock coat for parades and inspections. They were eventually issued with single breasted tunics and felt shakos in 1857.

The 1st and 2nd Royal Surrey Militia seem to have been dressed with little distinction between them except for badges and buttons, from the early 1820's.

In 1881 the 1st Royal Surrey Militia became the 3rd Battalion of The East Surrey Regiment, the 2nd Royal Surrey Militia became the 3rd Battalion of The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment and the 3rd Royal Surrey Militia became the 4th Battalion of The East Surrey Regiment.


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