Royal Volunteer Review, 1905 Postcard

Prior to the creation of the Territorial Army, the United Kingdom relied on volunteer regiments, militia and yeomanry which filled much the same role of locally raised part time troops. These forces were less organised than the Territorial Army would be, but were nonetheless a potent force and a source of pride to a local town or region. It was common for such units to parade together at various times of the year, often in front of local civic and military dignitaries and the colonel of the regiment, who was often a local landowner. These ceremonies helped cement the place of the volunteers in their local community and provided a spectacle for the local populous. They served a further purpose in acting as a very visible projection of the state’s power. Industrial and political unrest was often dealt with directly by the military at this stage and seeing a well drilled local force might have dissuaded some of the local political hotheads.

Today we have a postcard depicting one such annual review, here taken outside Edinburgh in 1905:

The volunteers can be seen marching past the dais. The long distance between photographer and parade makes the details small and obscure, but helps emphasise the number of men on parade:

The reviewing party can be seen to the left of the postcard, together with a grandstand to allow the public to watch the march past:

Events such as this review would have been arranged to take place on public holidays wherever possible to ensure the maximum attendance from both volunteers and the crowd and the review would have been an important fixture in the civic calendar each year. Once the territorial army was created, these parades continued and the colourful home service dress uniforms would continue to be seen on parade right up until the outbreak of war in 1914. After the war, the reviews were an altogether less colourful affair, but no less impressive and even today the march past of troops in a town ensures large crowds eager to lap up the spectacle.

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