Militia Battalions of The Queen’s

(Royal West Surrey) and The East Surrey Regiments

The Militia was the oldest constitutional English military force, originating in the reign of King Alfred, c AD 871. From the 16th century the Lords-Lieutenant of the Counties had the charge of raising Militia in their respective shires on a quota basis proportional to the population.

After the Civil War the Commonwealth allowed the Militia to lapse as a proper organised military force but it was revived and remodelled in-1661 and was called out during the troubles between James II and William III and again in 1715.

In 1756, for fear of a French invasion, an Act was passed for the full embodiment of the Militia and for it to be raised by lot or ballot, the men (between 18 and 50 years old) serving for three years with the Colours and training four times every year. During the remainder of the 18th Century it was at intervals, either embodied, disbanded, augmented or supplemented under a miscellany of Statutes. Up to 1798, Surrey had only one Militia Regiment, variously referred to in contemporary documents as “The Royal Surrey”, The Surrey Regiment of Militia” or the “Old Surrey Militia”. The Surrey contingent was then expanded, the 1st Royal Surrey Regiment established at Richmond, the 2nd (or 1st Supplementary Battalion) at Kingston. The 3rd was, however, soon reduced to a nominal title.

In 1802, the Militia Acts were again revised but powers to until by ballot were further retained. In 1808 a “Local Militia” was instituted and in many cases whole regiments of Volunteer Infantry were drafted into the Militia. At that time there were 17 regiments of Regular Militia containing a total of some 151,000 men.

Acts of 1816 and 1817 permitted Annual Training to be suspended by an order in Council and until 1852, the Militia, as a recognisable force, ceased to exist leaving the old regiments represented only by cadres of Officers and small staffs of NCOs and Drummers.

In 1852, there was a revival and the Militia was re-organised on a voluntary enlistment footing although powers to raise by ballot were still retained if necessary.

From 1854, the Militia was raised solely by voluntary enlistment and the old ballot system was finally abandoned.

The 3rd Royal Surrey Militia was then reinstated. The 1st Royal Surrey Militia retained its precedence in the List of 20th and the 2nd Regiment, the 11th (both numbers established by lot). Regular training was resumed and in 1854 the force was embodied on the outbreak of war with Russia. During the Crimean conflict at least ten battalions of Militia, all volunteers, relieved regular battalions on garrison duties overseas. Training then remained fairly regular until the end of the century. The Militia was further in embodiment during 1857 and 1858 (for the Indian Mutiny) and during 1899 and 1903 for the South African Wars. In 1871, The Regulations of the Forces Act transferred the overall command of the Militia from the Lords-Lieutenant to the Crown and the Officers thereafter received their Commissions directly from the Queen. At that time drill for recruits could be extended, by order of Commanding Officers, to six months at a time.

In May 1872, a War Office Circular directed that, in future, the Militia and Volunteers were to be generally styled “The Auxiliary Forces”. In November 1873, the period of service in the Militia and Reserve was extended by War Office Circulars from 5 to 6 years and thereafter annually for one month. The strength of the 2nd Royal Surrey Regiment was then 26 Officers, 35 Sergeants, 29 Corporals and 565 men. In 1908, the Militia finally disappeared as a consequence of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907. Strangely, the Channel Islands, Bermuda and Malta retained the ancient title "Militia" for their defence forces.

During the 1914-1918 War practically all the reinforcements for the 1st and 2nd Battalions of regular infantry were drawn from the 3rd (former Militia) Battalions although by then they were styled The Special Reserve In 1921, during a major re-organization of the reserve it was decided that one Militia Battalion should be maintained for each regiment of regular infantry.

The Militia are said to differ from the regular soldiers in that they do not serve continuously for terms of years, and from Volunteers, in that they serve only in War or undergo their military training in peacetime, by legal compulsion. 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. The 3rd Royal Surrey Militia became the 4th Battalion of The East Surrey Regiment.


Until 1836, there was no definite distinction between the uniform of the regular Line Infantry and the Militia Regiments. The prime distinction then established was for gold lace or embroidery to be worn by the Line and silver for the Militia but of course this applied only to the Officers. The Line rank and file continued to wear their pewter buttons and their Staff Sergeants had silver lace until 1855, and the Militia the same, From 1855, although the Line received brass buttons, the Militia continued to wear their pewter ones. The distinction of the metal then became the complete distinction between regiments dressed in red and remained so until 1881, applying also to the chevron badges of rank of Sergeants and Staff Sergeants and their other appointments. Rifle Corps were not affected. When the 1852 revival took place certain Militia Regiments began adopting tunics instead of coatees and even took helmets of various designs in lieu of shakos. However, when the new uniform for the Line Infantry was established the Militia properly conformed to it.

When serge "frocks" were established as the undress tunic for the Infantry, in lieu of the old shell jackets, the issue of full dress tunics to the Militia rank and file ceased and the simpler scarlet "frocks" were the standard wear for all occasions. The general issue of dress headdress was similarly discontinued for the Militia and the Glengarry was always worn. Officers, however, did wear shakos in Review Order and when they were in the field brigaded with the Line. In some Militia units shakos (and later helmets) for the NCOs and men were kept, usually out of regimental funds, and were worn for ceremonial and gala occasions. This is confirmed by a plate in the "Historical Records of the 2nd Royal Surrey Militia" compiled by Captain John Davis of the regiment in 1877.

The shoulder straps of the frocks were quite plain throughout the period. The badges worn on the old forage caps were described as "half circle bands with small foliation at each end". They were without any numerals by explicit order of the Horse Guards, Circular 7.10.1858. The Officers had regimental pattern shako plates, most based on an eight pointed fluted silver Star, with Crown and central badge. From February 1872, the mounted Field Officers were ordered to wear pantaloons and knee high boots and to carry sabretaches when on parade.


The direct ancestors of the 7th Surrey Volunteer Rifle Corps, the Newington (surrey) Volunteer Association, were based at Southwark. They were uniformed in red faced dark blue with white waistcoats and breeches and wore fur created Light Dragoon style helmets with dark blue turbans. All the facings were trimmed with yellow pipings.

The Regimental History of the 23rd Bn, The London Regiment, by Capt, Larkin, published in 1912, confirms that the 7th Surrey Rifles adopted, from its raising, the uniform of the 60th Rifles, dark green faced scarlet. The corps wore the shako until the introduction of the home service pattern green spiked helmet in 1878. A portrait of Lt. Col. G.C. Porter confirms that the helmet plate was an eight-pointed white metal or silver star with Crown. The buckled strap was inscribed "SURREY RIFLES" and "TUBBOR" and had "7" in the centre. Until 1900 the 50 strong Band wore helmets with dragoon style horsehair plumes.

A group photograph shows a seated Officer wearing a "pork pie" forage cap with top button and chin strap and a frogged Rifle tunic with drops and loops. An Acting Colour Sergeant has a 7 button tunic and a forage cap with a flat peak and chin strap. A private has a similar cap and tunic and clearly has Austrian knots over the cuffs. Both the Officer and the A/Colour Sgt. have pouchbelts with whistle and chains and large badges those of the officer being silver. The private's cap shows a scarlet cap band and a large crowned buglehorn badge with a "7". The NCO also has a buglehorn badge with the "7" but no strings or Crown. A portrait of Lt. Col Tully shows the straight sided forage cap with a drooping silver trimmed peak. His badge is an eight-pointed star with Crown and the Castle in the centre. In the Army Lists as late as 1883 the corps is still referred to as the 7th Surreys and the new scarlet uniform with white facings of the 4th (Volunteer) Battalion were not adopted until Col. Bowen assumed command in 1889.

Volunteer uniforms were initially at the discretion of the Lord-Lieutenant of the County but were subsequently regulated by Regulations of 1878,1881 and 1883. As a Volunteer Rifle Corps dressed in green the unit was not permitted gold lace and the tunics of the NCOs and men were distinguished from the Rifle Corps of the Line by having light green Austrian cord knots over the puffs. The Infantry sash was not worn by Officers or Sergeants. In lieu crossbelts with pouches were worn. In 1879 the Martini-Henry rifle began to be issued but only on a limited basis. General issues were not made until 1881 and it was not until 1885 that Sniders were finally phased out. In April 1881, new Volunteer Regulations laid down new instructions which brought the Volunteer Battalions into line with the regular infantry. Officers' badges of rank were to be worn on the shoulder straps, collar badges were ordered and NCOs chevrons were to be worn on the right sleeves only. Scarlet was to be worn with the facings of the senior regular battalion - white in The East Surrey Regiment. Volunteers were to be distinguished from the line by having black cord Austrian knots above the "jampot" cuffs. A photograph in the History shows the 4th Volunteer Battalion at . its Annual Inspection on Horse Guards Parade in 1896. They are dressed in scarlet faced white. The Officers have silver lace and white crossbelts. A Sergeant on the left flank of the front rank has a similar crossbelt. All ranks wear the spiked helmet and have short gaiters. The mounted Field Officer has a plain black sabretache. The large Band have white plumes. In another photograph Officers dressed for the Coronation of Edward VII are similarly dressed and the men are on parade in helmets, tunics and gaiters but without equipment, apart from waistbelts. There is no evidence of the Austrian knots over the cuffs. In a group the Surgeon-Captain has the departmental crossbelt and a spiked helmet but his Lieutenant has a helmet with a ball. A further group taken at the Annual Camp at Aldershot in 1902 has Officers in folding side caps and scarlet frocks with white Prussian collars and pointed cuffs and flapped pockets. Two are dressed in dark blue patrols.

A final photograph of the Sergeants Mess of the 23rd Bn London Regiment taken in 1911 shows the scarlet tunic with white faced collar and pointed cuffs. Red shoulder straps with white piping and the broad crowned, peaked forage cap with a Star badge. 'The permanent staff Sergeant Major has silver lace trimming to the collar, four chevrons worn points up above the right cuff, surmounted by a Crown. He has a long metal-topped cane. The Colour Sergeant Instructors also have silver lace on the collars. The Sergeant Drummer has laced wings, gauntlet gloves and badges of rank (not visible) on the lower right sleeve. All full Sergeants, Colour Sergeants and the Sergeant Major have sashes as worn by the Line. Lance Sergeants have no sashes. All NCOs appear to have brown waistbelts. The Adjutant, a Captain of the Northumberland Fusiliers, is in review order.

A photographic portrait of Quartermaster Sergeant Jones confirms he also has silver lace trimming to the collar. His successor Quartermaster Sergeant Martin, confirms the badge of rank was four chevrons worn points up above the right cuff, surmounted by a star.

4th Volunteer Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment

In May 1859, as a result of public anxiety of the possibility of French aggression, Lord Derby's Government authorized the formation of Volunteer Rifle Corps, The Staff of these small enthusiastic units, as in the Militia, included an Adjutant, a Sergeant Major and two or three permanent Sgt. Instructors detached from regular Line regiments. They ranked as senior to all Volunteer NCOs. In Surrey there were 26 Volunteer Corps, the 7th, the direct ancestor of the Newington Southwark Volunteer Association of the 18th century, being the Southwark Corps, In 1861, these small corps were generally grouped for administrative purposes into Battalions, the 1st including the 2i1c, 4th, 8th, 20th and 26th; the 2nd the 6th, 9th,llth, 12th, 15th and 16th; the 3rd the 5th, 13th, 14th, 17th, 18th and 22nd, to which the 24th was later added. The 4th Battalion included only the 10th and 23rd.

A table for 1881 showing the Surrey Rifle Volunteer Battalions in their proper seniority at that date also gives the ultimate"" re-numbering under the Cardwell reforms. The 7th Surrey Rifle Volunteers had remained independent under the 1861 groupings and was destined to become the 4th (Volunteer) Battalion of The East Surrey Regiment. In 1881 it was based in Kennington Lane, Southwark. There were estimated to be 254,000 Volunteers under arms in the United Kingdom at that time.

The 7th Surrey Volunteers

Shortly after the Government's approval to the raising of the Volunteer Rifle Corps a local MP decided to sponsor the raising of a Southwark unit which became the 7th (Southwark) Surrey Rifle Volunteer Corps with the motto "TUBBOR" (I Will Defend). The first uniformed parade took place in March 1860. The uniform was that of the 60th Rifles, rifle green faced scarlet. A Band of Music was formed. The HQ was originally at Hall Place, Lower Kennington Lane and the ranges at Wimbledon Common.

In 1880, the 7th was amalgamated with the 26th Shaftesbury Park Rifles, based at Battersea. In 1873 a closer association with the regular forces and the Militia was approved. The UK was divided into infantry sub-districts to each of which were assigned, for recruiting purposes two regular line battalions, "two militia battalions and the local volunteers. One line battalion was nominally to be stationed abroad the other (which fed the overseas battalion) at home. The depot, militia and volunteers plus the reserve men were termed the sub-district brigade, under the orders of the Commanding Officer of the brigade depot. When the sweeping changes in organization came into force under General Order 70 of 1881 the regular 31st and 70th Regiments became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the new East Surrey Regiment, the 3rd Battalion the former 1st Royal Surrey Militia and the 4th Battalion the former 3rd Royal Surrey Militia. There were four Volunteer Battalions, the 1st (Camberwell), the 2nd (Wimbledon), the 3rd (Kensington) and the 4th, the former 7th Surrey Rifle Volunteer Corps. A year later, as the 4th (Volunteer) Battalion it was reviewed at Portsmouth and fielded eight strong companies.

The Volunteers of the battalion furnished 13 officers and 235 men for service with the Volunteer Service Companies of the East Surrey Regiment, the C.I.V, Surrey Sharpshooters and other units of the Imperial Yeomanry, during the South African War. In 1902 a fine new HQ for the left half battalion was opened at Clapham Junction, Battersea. In 1908 the Battalion was re-organized and in April became the 23rd (County of London) Battn, The London Regiment. It was re-numbered 1/23rd in 1915 as part of the corps of the East Surrey Regiment. Thereafter there were the following changes in title:-


1920 - 23rd (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment

1922 - 23rd London Regiment 1927 23rd London Regiment (East Surrey Regiment

1937 - 7th (23rd London) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment

1938 - 42nd 7th (23rd London) Battalion. Royal Tank Corps

1939 - 42nd 7th (23rd London) Battalion. The East Surrey Regiment Royal Tank Regiment, shortly altered to 42nd Royal Tank Regiment

1956 - Re-converted to Infantry as the 23rd London Regiment as part of the Corps of The East Surrey Regiment

1961 - Amalgamated with the 6th Battalion. The East Surrey Regiment



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