The Territorial Force (TF)

The origins of the TF are deeply rooted in the concepts of the Militia and Volunteer Force units that had been a part of the British Army for hundreds of years. The idea was to have a pool of fit, trained men ready to serve and protect the nation at times of threat but at the same time not have the expenses associated with a massive full time army.

By the start of the 20th Century warfare was evolving at a staggering speed and equipment and tactics were constantly changing. The outdated Victorian volunteer units needed to be dramatically overhauled. Their equipment and uniforms needed to be standardised and training needed to be brought up to speed. In order to instigate this and many other wide ranging changes the "Haldane Reforms" of the Army came about in 1908. They were named after the then Secretary of State for War Richard Burdon Haldane. He was instrumental in the creation of the reforms and in bringing it all to fruition despite opposition from others in the Government.

The newly formed TF encapsulated the old Volunteer Force and Yeomanry units, many being renamed such as the 3rd (Cambridgeshire) Volunteer Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment who became the Cambridgeshire Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment TF. In March 1909 the King granted approval for the Cambs Battalion to become a separate regiment, they now became the 1st Battalion, The Cambridgeshire Regiment TF.

Most counties already had Regular Army regiments associated with them. The Regular Army elements of these regiments made up their 1st and 2nd Battalions, and the old Militia Battalions now became Reserve and Special Reserve Battalions, normally the 3rd and 4th Battalions. This meant that for most county regiments the newly formed TF made up the 4th, 5th, 6th etc. Battalions. As Cambridgeshire and several other counties including Hertfordshire did not have regular battalions the newly formed TF units had the honour of becoming the 1st Battalions of their newly formed regiments.

The change from VB to TF was more than just a change of name. The men signed up again and were all given new army numbers. They were entitled to pay while training at annual camp and they also became subject to military law while in uniform. Signing up with the TF also made you immune to overseas service as the intended role of the force being for home defence. This right could later be waived by volunteering for Imperial Service overseas at times of war. New recruits enlisted in the TF for a period of four years. Men transferring over from the VBs could initially enlist for a period of one year, after that if they re-enlisted it was for a period of four years.

Men who enlisted were expected to be committed to the unit and attending the weekly drill nights was a key part of this. The minimum requirements that were expected of a new recruit in his first year were the attendance at 40 drills of one hour, passing his musketry course, and attending the annual camp. If any recruit failed to accomplish these he was liable to a heavy fine. If a volunteer wished to terminate his service before finishing his four years he could do so but only after paying £5.

Another important change was the introduction of County Territorial Force Associations. These were formed locally to each regiment and were made up of both civilian and military people and provided an important link between the community and the TF. It was also responsible for the equipment, uniforms and buildings associated with its regiment unless at times of war. It also had a very important role in encouraging and liaising with local businesses and employers to support the TF and permit their staff to volunteer.

From its creation through to the start of the First World War the very existence of the TF was fiercely argued over in parliament. Many believed that the defence of the nation should rest with a large conscript army similar to the Germany Army. However Haldane and many of his colleagues in the Liberal Government saw the benefits and quality of a volunteer based army as a better alternative. At times the TF came under vicious attack in the London press and there were several attempt to discredit it. Despite these opposing views, support for the TF amongst men and employers continued to grow and by the summer of 1914 numbers were at an all time high.

Haldane's faith in the Territorials was proved well founded. A high percentage of TF men signed up for service overseas at the outbreak of war and the first of many TF units arrived in France on the 16th September 1914. Initially there was uncertainty and scepticism in the army on how to deploy them and these TF battalions were mixed in with brigades made up of regular battalions. However after many of these units were tested in the early battles of 1915 the army began to change its stance and quickly complete TF divisions and brigades began to arrive in France.

Even as the men of the TF were fighting bravely in France alongside the regulars and reservists the recruiting effort back in the UK were being hampered by those who still opposed the force. Strict limits were put on the creation of new TF battalions and the numbers of men that TF units could accept as recruits. Lord Kitchener (a long time and very outspoken opponent of the TF) favoured the creation of a new army and these new Service Battalions of the "Kitchener's Army" took many of the recruits looking to join their friends and brothers in the TF. The training of the TF was also hampered when nearly all the attached permanent instructors were transferred out to assist with the creation of these new units.

The recruiting and enlistment terms changed for the TF with the introduction of the first "Military Service Act" in January 1916. This act did not only bring in conscription it actually changed the terms of enlistment for those already serving in the TF. All men who had not volunteered for overseas service were now liable to be conscripted and transferred out to a Regular Army unit. It also meant that men could no longer directly enlist in the TF, recruits were now posted to the units the same way as any other Regiment or Corps.

After the war the subject of the TF once again became a big issue in the Army and Government. However its service and performance in the war had brought about a new wave of supporters. These men, such as Winston Churchill, could see the benefits of such a force and recognised that due to the bias of men like Kitchener the structure or the TF had not been used to its full potential. The result of this was that in 1920 after a restructuring the Territorial Force became the Territorial Army. Many lessons had been learnt since 1908 and strengths were built on. The TA remained a crucial part of the nations armed forces until 2014 when its name was changed to the Army Reserve.

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Cambs men at the rifle ranges.

A Pte is awarded his TF Efficiency Medal.

Cambs Regt battalion cook.

A Cambs "Terrier" in his walking out dress.

This site went live on the 14th February 2015 to mark  100 years since the 1/1st Cambs went off to war.


Copyright 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 by Felix Jackson. The information and images on this site should not be reproduced without prior permission.