Doncaster Volunteers

The following is taken from the Co-operative Congress souvenir 1903.

It was in August 1806 that the first serious steps were taken in the direction of forming a corps of volunteer infantry in Doncaster. More than £1000 was collected and to this sum the corporation contributed £400. The men were allowed by Government, twenty shillings each for clothing and one shilling per day when on permanent duty. The regiment was 500 srong, to which number the town contributed 200. It was under the command of Lieutenant-colonel Commandant William Wrightson, Lt. Col. Sir George Cooke – Bart, and Major Samuel Clowes. The Doncaster company’s were officered by Captains Leonard Wallbank Childers, James Jackson and Thomas Rimmington all of whose names are honoured in Doncasters History. 3000 stand of arms and 31000 cartridges were sent to Doncaster for the infantry of the district.

On the 11th May of the following year, two splendid colours, after having been consecrated by the Rev. W. Childer, the chaplain, were presented to the volunteers by the Mayoress (Mrs Jackson). On the following day the regiment marched to Pontefract for fourteen days training and at various subsequent periods the assembled for training. On the occasion of a false alarm at Woolley Beacon (the beacon was set ablaze by mistake), the Doncaster infantry mustered 341, only 45 being absent. In July of 1806 when Napoleans preparations for invasion were being carried out, the Doncaster Volunteers were assembled, when out of 500 men, 11 officers, 10 sergeant, 5 corporals, 4 drummers and 129 privates volunteered for service with the militia, and many other joined up to October in the same year. At the peace of 1814, the volunteers were disbanded.

With the formation of rifle corps, Doncaster came into line in 1860, a company being formed of the operatives and others employed in the works of the Great Northern Railway, officered by the some of the officials of the company. A second company was raised amongst the burgesses and others of the neighbourhood. The 2nd V.B. York and Lancasters are one of the strongest single battalions in the whole of the volunteer forces and out of about 30,000 troops mustered on Salisbury Plains last year were actually the strongest. From a table of figures prepared by regimental Sergeant-Major Richardson, we find that last year the regiment was 1,144 strong. The regiment comprises 10 companies, of which 5, counting the cyclists one, are at Doncaster. The cyclist company was formed in 1890 by Major Somerville. The regiment forms part of the South Yorkshire Brigade, which includes also the Hallamshire Rifles (1st V.B.York and Lancaster regiment) and the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Wakefield). The battalion had the misfortune to lose the most popular officer in Colonel Johnson (Wath) in January. Colonel Stoddart (Rotherham), who has been with the regiment ever since his youth, is the present commanding officer, and one cannot speak of the Doncaster volunteers without mentioning Colonel Elwis, recently retired, who went through every grade, commencing as a private. Few, if any, volunteers regiments at all, responded more heartily to the call for volunteers in the recent war, than did the 2nd V.B.York and Lancaster. Sixty eight men picked out of far beyond that number of those who offered, went to South Africa in February of 1900; a further picked lot, said by those who are authorities on the point to have been one of the finest bodies of infantry physically, that one could look upon, 59 in number, went to South Africa in 1901, and in 1902, eight more were sent out. The officers who served at the front were Captain Boyle, Captain Moxon, Captain Longden and Captain Barnes, while 2 or 3 others went out apart from the York and Lancasters. Apart from this, the regiment contributed no less than 107 men to the active service Imperial Yeomanry, so that in all, out of about 1150 men, the regiment sent 242 men to the front, while during the war 53 joined the regular army.

Butts, for shooting practice, were erected in October 1860 in the plantation on the east side of the running course of the Raceground. They are built of brick, 75 feet long by 30 high, topped with stone with strong buttresses at the back. The targets are of iron. The cost of the butts and targets was £210. The regiment showed quite the proper spirit during the emergency camp of 1900, when out of 1103 men, 1036 attended for training, 556 staying during the whole of the month. The regiment will go into brigade camp at Scarborough in July of the present year.

As a memorial of the late Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, the officers of the local volunteers set on foot a movement for the provision of a suitable drill hall, the accomodation up to that date being very mean – practically nothing more or less than a few back premises and a yard. The drill hall cost about £2000. It is situate in Frenchgate, and stands back from the road. The hall is well appointed, there being officers’, clerical, and other departments, and a splendid drill room, spacious enough for two or three hundred men to be put through manual and physical exercises.

The 3rd Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Militia) is most closely associated with Doncaster, the regiments colloquial title being the Doncaster Militia. The regiment camped here for annual training for many years, and a revival of old times was witnessed the year before the South African outbreak, when the battalion was encamped on the Racecourse for six weeks. The Doncaster Militia served in the South African War, and its Colonel, a brave christian soldier, beloved by his men, and who was in command during the encampment at Doncaster, laid down his life for his country.