During the 18th century, public opinion obliged Parliament to keep the cost of Britain’s peacetime forces as small as possible. However for much of the war with France in the late 18th and early 19th century, Britain faced the threat of imminent invasion from across the Channel. The government drew up wide-ranging plans in 1798 for putting the nation on an effective defence footing and created a nationwide force of local armed volunteers.
The militia was essentially a collection of part-time county defence forces, trained annually in basic military skills, and put to active service when military need arose. In 1798, there were 118,000 volunteers but these numbers had to be increased in response to the massing of Napoleon’s Army across the Channel. In 1804, at the height of the invasion scare, 176,000 men were already serving in Britain, either in the regular army, the militia, or in the volunteers. A further 480,000 men had indicated their willingness to take up arms if invasion came, and many were in active training.
With the return to peace at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 military expenditure was heavily reduced. As a result the regular army was gradually slimmed down from 230,000 men to 91,000 by 1838.
By the 1850s, however, Britain’s involvement in the Crimean War against Russia had revealed serious weaknesses in the size of the army. Terms of service required men to serve for long periods of 21 years during which many became unsuited and unfit for actual military combat. The alternative was to resign early without a pension.
In 1859 the regular army was made more attractive to recruits with short term enlistments for 12 years of which 6 could be in a reserve force and the War Office once again decided that the army should be supplemented by a part-time volunteer force. Each county was to raise its own men, and by 1862 a new volunteer force of over 160,000 had been recruited.
By the early 20th century the part-time forces had established their worth especially in the Boer War in South Africa and were regarded as an essential part of the British Army. An Act passed in 1907 reorganised the volunteers and gave them their modern name – the Territorial Army.
It appears that Radcliffe men were involved in most of the conflicts of the Nineteenth Century:-
Spain and France, Napoleonic wars
India and Afghanistan
Egypt, Sudan, Abyssinia
USA and Canada
South Africa, Boer Wars