A history of the fascinating early home defence volunteer unit during World War I. After war had been declared in August 1914, the volunteer movement gained publicity from discourse in the press advocating civilian participation in home defence, with notable proponents being Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells. The first elements of central organisation were established by the formation of the London Volunteer Defence Force.
When it was discovered that the Volunteer Act 1863 had never been repealed, it was used in April 1916 to legitimise the movement. VTC Battalions legally became Volunteer Regiments of the new ‘Volunteer Force’. Eventually, they were allowed to wear khaki uniforms and equipment began to be officially supplied. With the introduction of conscription in 1916, came the power of the Military Service Tribunals to order men to join the VTC; however, the clause in the 1863 act which allowed resignation after fourteen days’ notice initially made this unenforceable, so a Volunteer Act 1916 was passed which obliged members to remain in the Corps until the end of the war. By February 1918, there were 285,000 Volunteers, 101,000 of whom had been directed to the Corps by the Tribunal.
The VTC comprised those who were too old, too young, too unfit or too indispensable to serve in the regular forces. They fought for the right to be armed, uniformed and trained; to be employed on meaningful duties; and at first, to exist at all. This book explores the origins, development and structure of the VTC, along with those who belonged to the many supporting medical, transport, police and youth organisations who kept the home fires burning or, in some cases, tried to put them out. The VTC arose from the need of those men who were forced to stay at home to be seen to be doing their bit. They saw the removal of the bulk of both the regular army and the Territorial Force to the Western Front as their opportunity to prepare to resist the expected German invasion of Britain, and as a way of countering accusations of shirking, or even cowardice.