Since from time immemorial it had been regarded as the duty of free men to defend their country, governments could scarcely object if, in moments of crisis, volunteers came forward to offer their services. Yet they were not necessarily very efficient, often tiresome in their personal demands, and, as the case of the Irish Volunteers suggests, a potential political threat. A number of corps were raised in 1690 to deal with a threat of French invasion, again in 1715 and 1745 to cope with the Jacobite risings, and again in 1779 during the American War of Independence. But the biggest response was during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, and again in 1859 when there was yet another threat of war with France. By 1901 there were 230,000 volunteers, augmented by the Royal Navy and Royal Artillery Volunteers, the militia and the yeomanry. Haldane's reforms of 1907 reorganized them into the Territorial Force, later the Territorial Army.
Subjects: British History — Warfare and Defence.