The Rushden Echo, 15th January, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Important Town’s Meeting - An Enthusiastic Response
Rushden Men Eager for Training
What the New Movement Means - Its Relation to the Special Constables
A huge crowd of men flocked into the Co-operative Hall, Rushden, on Tuesday night to attend the meeting “called to consider the arrangements for forming a local Volunteer Training Corps.” Numbers were unable to gain seats, and the standing room at the back of the hall and out into the passage was taken full advantage of.
It was evident at the outset that there was absolute unanimity for the idea of voluntary training. Councillor J. S. Clipson, J.P., presided, supported by Commander Dulley (Wellingborough), Messrs. A. H. Sartoris, J.P., F. Knight, J.P., G. R. Turner, R. F. Knight, and C. Clark.
The Chairman said that the residents in a boot and shoe centre had not the same chance of doing actual fighting as had people in other parts of the country. No doubt there were many young men who would really like to enlist for the Army, but were practically debarred from doing so. Lord Kitchener had said that those who were making goods for the soldiers were doing their duty as much as the men who volunteered to fight. However a good many would be pleased to have training to be ready for emergencies. He would not predict that such emergencies would come, but they felt that their favoured little island was not quite so impregnable as they had always hoped it was.
Commander Dulley prefaced his explanation of the proposed scheme by saying that if the war were going to be over by next May there would be very little use for a Volunteer Training Corps or making further additions to the Army. In his opinion the war would not be over for some time to come, and he believed it was the duty of every man to do all in his power to prepare himself for any emergency. (Applause).
Volunteer Training Corps Commander Dulley proceeded started throughout the country, have met with a good deal of criticism and a certain amount of discouragement also in some places. They are now a living force in the country. In London they are able to get large numbers. We here are only just out of the danger zone, where the movement is very strong. There are many prominent people who have given a large number of rifles. The very fact that the premium for insuring against shell fire from German cruisers is 10/- per cent. speaks for itself as regards the possibility of danger. We feel that we ought to make some preparation in order that we may be able to give some effective resistance in case the country is denuded of troops. That is really the main object of the Volunteer Training Corps. The movement itself, as far as London is concerned, was established for the defence of London, but has now resolved itself into a much larger movement. The idea is
(1) To encourage recruiting in the regular Territorial Army, as it does not take the place of the regular Territorial forces, and
(2) To encourage men who are not of military age or are otherwise disqualified to learn musketry in their spare time.
A great number are debarred, even if they wished, from entering the Regular Forces. We know perfectly well that this country must supply goods to the Allies, and those people who are engaged in the trades supplying the Allies with boots or clothing, or are doing ship-building or the making of arms are doing their part. The soldiers must be kept going, and material is as important as men. At the same time, if at any time those disabilities are removed, there are a certain number of men who will be anxious to fight against the common enemy. Those men would be all the better and would find it a great deal to their advantage to have had some preliminary training. (Applause).
The organisation is for enabling men to be trained in the elements of musketry and drill while following their occupations. When those men are uniformed and armed they will be, if not first-rate fighters, at least very useful for the lines of communication.
As far as the Training Corps is concerned, we do not wish in any way to clash with the Special Constables. Each organisation will have its own duties. If you have a body of men who are willing to give their services, they can come to the Volunteer Training Corps from the Special Constables Corps or vice versa. I think the organisation and objects of the Corps are much the same as the old Volunteer movement. We should form here an unpaid force for the defence of the country, and if at any time they are required, I feel sure the people of Northamptonshire are only too willing and anxious to undertake any duties for the country, either as soldiers or special constables. The main thing is, in my opinion, that this country should be able to show that older men are as willing to take up work and relieve younger men who would otherwise be responsible for defending their homes, as they are in Germany. (Applause). You only have to look at the papers in Germany or France to see that they do not despise their older men. We are not going to say we are too old at 40. Give us your support in this portion of the county. We have the material and shall be glad to get together an extremely efficient Volunteer Battalion. We have now established headquarters for the organisation, and if you form a Corps here we can give you a great deal of assistance in matters of detail and advice generally which would be necessary for you to acquire. A certain pattern of uniform has been decided upon in case any Corps wishes to purchase. When we have passed the stage of miniature rifles we shall obtain a large quantity of rifles and continue our practice in the immediate neighbourhood. (Loud and continued applause.)
Mr. G. R. Turner, in moving that a local corps be formed, said the country was in danger and he believed every man in the hall had got the spirit of loyalty and patriotism. On such men depended the welfare of the country. In September, 1900, he issued a pamphlet asking for young men to enrol in the Territorials. There were 98 the first night, and that Company was one of the finest of any in the Northants Territorial Regiment. (Applause) The Volunteer interest had been the mainstay of the country. There was a gentleman present, who, with the speaker, was at the review of fire brigades by the Emperor of Germany. The Kaiser said to the late King Edward : “Are all these men volunteers?” When he was told they were, the Kaiser said nothing but thought all the more! (Laughter) The volunteer system was going to stop men from becoming conscripts from being taken from their homes whether they would or not. Men working in the boot factories were as much deserving of medals as the men at the front. They were doing as well as they could, what they could, for England. He appealed to all to join the corps. He did not want to see any slackers, but for all to put their heart and soul into it, and not chuck it because they did not happen to get a rifle or a uniform. He hoped all would stick to the system through thick and thin. The Rushden Rifle Band had offered their services free for all route marches. (Applause)
Mr. Sartoris seconded, and said he did not mind the men coming to use his sandpits as rifle butts providing they did not shoot the rabbits. (Laughter.)
A Voice : They want thinning out. (Renewed laughter,)
Mr. G. White raised an objection to Rule 7, which gave the recruiting officer the option of requesting members to join the regular Army. He thought the Government ought to compel everyone in the country to join. Why should he join while others, equally able, refused to do so?
Commander Dulley : No man is bound to serve. But if he is of the correct age, and can show no reason for not joining the regular Army when requested by the recruiting sergeant to do so, he will be asked to sign a paper saying he will be willing to join if called, if not, you cannot keep him in the ranks. The War Office do not want young men to join the Volunteer Training Corps, but to go into the regular Army. There are, of course, men of military age who have good reasons for not enlisting.
In reply to a question regarding height, the speaker said that no measurements would be taken, but they hoped to make all men so much more fit that the regular Army would be pleased to accept them. With reference to expenses, every Corps was expected to meet its own expenditure as there were no Government grants. It was usually done by members themselves or by subscribers. Some paid 2/0 entrance fee but others paid 1d. a week and also collected from its presidents and vice-presidents. But each must be independent as far as the finances were concerned. With regard to firing they would like to get Morris tubes and .303 rifles, but at present it was quite impossible, so they would have to be content with the miniature rifle.
Mr. Bernard Tomkins : In case of a trade dispute, would the Corps be called out?
Commander Dulley : No; you may take it as final that there would be no fear of that. This is purely for defending ourselves against the Germans. In reply to Mr. H. H. Hobbs, Commander Dulley said that the number of drills required to certify efficiency were 40 of not less than an hour each, and he had to become a second class shot on the miniature rifle range. But there was a certain amount of latitude in different districts.
Mr. A. F. Weale : If a man had had any previous training, would that be a barrier to him entering the Corps?
Commander Dulley : On the contrary, such men are sought after. The difficulty is to find men who have had such training to train the new Corps.
Mr. S. Field : What are the age limits?
Commander Dulley : There are, practically speaking, no age limits, but we do not take people who are 70 years of age and in receipt of the old age pension! (Laughter)
Mr. Field : Does that act downwards as well as upwards? (Renewed laughter)
Commander Dulley : You might take them in as low as 16.
In reply to Mr. W. J. Barker, Commander Dulley said that there was no compulsion and the men would stay in the country during the war.
It was unanimously decided to start a Volunteer Training Corps in Rushden.
A large number of forms were signed by the company present and there were insufficient for the whole of those who wished to join.
The meeting concluded with the singing of the National Anthem and three hearty cheers for the Army.