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In 1787 intelligence was received that the Sultan of Mysore had made contact with French forces to converge on British interests in India, resulting in a hasty commissioning of four battalions to reinforce the Honourable East India Company's brigades in that region. These formations achieved status as the 74th to 77th Regiments of Foot.
The turbulent age of rebellion culminated in the French Revolution of 1789. The security of Britain was threatened and when the revolutionary government of France declared war in 1793 rumour spread that her citizen army was preparing to invade and a state of panic ensued. Parliament made an urgent survey of Britain's defences and found her Regular Army strung out across the world, the militia weak and inefficient, and most able-bodied men of poor birth more likely to collude with a revolutionary invader than repel him. Pitt the Younger took up the challenge and led his party to enlarge the militia and accept the offers of volunteers to serve under arms in the defence of their homeland. Permanent regiments of infantry raised in the period 1793-4 were placed as the 78th to 92nd of Foot.
Re-enactment group in the mid-eighteenth- century dress of a regiment of foot. The officer and 'battalion men' wear the tricorne of the period, whereas the tall grenadiers sport a cloth mitre cap to make them look even more imposing
The French Revolutionary War carried the army to Flanders, where great suffering in the winter of 1794 prompted the Duke of York to create a Corps of Waggoners to take the necessary supplies to the army in the field. The corps served throughout the Napoleonic Wars and was reconstituted in Victorian times as the Army Service Corps. A similar want of mobility in the artillery at the time prompted the birth of the Royal Horse Artillery. When invasion threatened, men not already committed to the militia felt the need to volunteer for the many armed associations that were springing up around the country, and gentlemen of the middle classes and yeomen farmers got together to meet the aggressor with troops of volunteer cavalry.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, lapels and cuffs had narrowed and the tricorne was flattening out to bicorne dimensions
Most of these were put together to form regiments of Yeomanry Cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars, and the majority remained in service after the wars to provide an aid to the civil powers in the industrial, political and agricultural riots of the nineteenth century. In 1899 the new war in South Africa needed cavalry to cover the vast expanses, and brigades of yeomanry were formed to serve abroad for the first time.
A member of the Napoleonic Association in the infantry uniform of 1800-12
The turn of the eighteenth century saw the emergence of a new elite among the infantry: riflemen dressed in green and armed with the short Baker rifle instead of the long, less accurate, musket of the redcoat regiments. These skirmishers proved their worth on the battlefield and inspired many volunteer units to emulate them.
In the long peace which followed the Battle of Waterloo, junior regiments of cavalry and infantry were disbanded and the militia served to exist in name only. Only the demands of the empire forced the formation of new regiments; these appeared in 1824 and ranked as the 94th to 99th Foot.
An act of 1852 called for the resurrection of the militia for the defence of the realm, this time manned by volunteers and not enlisted by lot. They were clothed as ever in the red coats of the regular infantry, though a trend towards green-coated riflemen was growing, and many more militia regiments than before were electing to take Light Infantry or Rifles titles.
Russian aggression in the east led to an Anglo-French coalition and the embarkation of an army to the Crimea in 1854. The rigours of the Crimean War so far from home highlighted deficiencies in transport, stores and supplies, policing and hospital services. Departments were formed in 1855 to meet these needs.
In 1857 Indian regiments serving alongside European regiments under the control of the Honourable East India Company (HEIC) mutinied, and the resulting campaign to restore order and discipline ended with India being taken under direct rule of the crown and the HEIC regiments transferred to the British Army. The cavalry took their post as the 19th, 20th and 21st Hussars and the infantry came in as the 100th to 109th Foot.
During 1859-60 the towns and counties of Britain were authorised by the Secretary of State for War to raise volunteer units to cover the new threat of French aggression, and a multitude of corps, largely infantry, emerged and flourished as rifle clubs in uniforms of grey or green. Unlike previous volunteer regiments, the rifle volunteers continued to train after the threat of war had passed and, in the 1880s, found themselves seconded to the regular county regiments as their volunteer battalions.
The year 1881 saw the first mass amalgamations of the regiments, when the Cardwell Reforms organised 109 regular infantry and 121 militia regiments into 69 district regiments. Around this time more support corps were created to take responsibility for physical training, nursing, veterinary care and pay in the army.
In 1908 all army volunteers were grouped under the heading of the Territorial Force. This covered yeomanry, volunteer battalions of regular infantry regiments and five independent regiments: the London, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Herefordshire and the Monmouthshire. After the First World War, the 'Territorials', who had given so much in the conflict, were reorganised as the Territorial Army, but many units were then re-roled or disbanded.
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