‘A Sham or a Real Thing’? The Volunteer Force in 1917
In a blatantly propagandist and less than balanced assessment of the Volunteer movement in late 1917, a contemporary writer described how the Government had ‘unostentatiously’ and ‘without any fuss or furore … created for themselves by the work and devotion of others’ a new reserve force with an established role in the defence of the country. This new home ‘army’ had become an ‘integral part of the armed forces’, and was said to be regarded in ‘official quarters as the worthy successors of the old Territorials’.2 It had, however, been in existence for only three and a half years; the Rifle Volunteers had existed for 49 years and the Territorials for six. Both had been widely derided. Unsurprisingly, therefore, and despite public statements expressing his confidence in the Force, two years after he had been appointed GOC-in-CHF and 12 months since the passage of the Volunteer Bill, French remained unconvinced of the force’s utility.
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