Territorial Army

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:04 pm on 1st April 2008.

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Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster Shadow Minister (International Development) 10:04 pm, 1st April 2008

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Of course, I pay tribute to the Honourable Artillery Company, although I would debate with him whether it is the senior regiment. I shall deal with that shortly. Indeed, there is much debate in the TA about the oldest regiment.

The militia was always an institution of state and implied a distinct element of compulsion for at least a section of society. Indeed, Professor Richard Holmes describes the militia as

"a draft finding body for the Regular army, its ranks filled by men without serious employment".

With the creation of the new militia after 1757, militia service was, in effect, a tax on manpower, with each county raising a quota of men, found by compulsory ballot on the basis of its total male population. If balloted, a man would serve for three years on average and undertake several days' training each year. Apart from the ballot and lack of "volunteering", the similarities with today's TA are obvious. Indeed, while strictly volunteers, the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia), currently commanded by Lt Colonel Alistair Cooper, remains the senior unit in the modern Territorial Army.

During times of war, the militia was used for permanent service, as happened during the American war of independence, and the Napoleonic and Crimean wars—a practice that continues today and is made somewhat easier following the Reserve Forces Act 1996. Let us consider, for example, 100 Field Squadron from the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia), which mobilised during the second Gulf war, or, indeed, the three formed units currently on active service in Afghanistan and Iraq. That history of "mobilising" formed units of men in times of national crisis has formed much of the reserve force ethos—the concept of training and fighting together that runs deep through any regular or TA soldier's psyche.

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