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     Infantry & Yeomanry Volunteers


For much of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815 Great Britain was threatened with French invasion and had to be protected by regular troops, militia (a long-established reserve force selected latterly, and basically, by ballot) and by volunteer infantry and (mounted) yeomanry, the latter two types of force being raised, locally, throughout Britain during the period. The expressions ‘militia’ and ‘volunteer’ appear to have been interchangeable in common parlance. It often took time to organise infantry volunteers and their cavalry counterpart, yeomanry, but Doncaster was quickly off the mark, by establishing a troop of its own for the Southern Regiment of West Riding Yeomanry Cavalry in 1794. Tickhill also contributed its own troop for this Regiment, which included the Doncaster and Tickhill troops and others from Rotherham, Sheffield, Pontefract and Barnsley. These yeomanry volunteers were expected to provide their own horses, attend parades and exercises and be prepared for active service if an invasion happened. Doncaster also formed an infantry Volunteer Corps (500 men, though it rarely, perhaps never, reached that establishment) in 1797 which was hastily disbanded after the Peace of Amiens (1801) and then as hastily reactivated in September 1803 when war broke out again. 

In August of that same year moves were put in hand to form a Volunteer Infantry regiment in the Petty Sessional Division of Strafforth and Tickhill Lower. Doncaster supplied 200 men and a further 300 were raised in 27 villages surrounding Doncaster. William Wrightson of Cusworth was in overall charge as Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant while Captain Elwin commanded volunteers from Tickhill, Conisbrough, Braithwell, Wadworth, Warmsworth, Edlington and Clifton. The Southern Regiment of West Riding Yeomanry, also raised at this time, was commanded by Francis Ferand Foljambe with Tickhill’s troop led by Captain Lumley. 

The yeomanry and infantry volunteers were called out en masse on 15 August 1805 when it was thought that an invasion was imminent. Altogether 2717 troops from all over South Yorkshire answered the summons, a mere 163 being estimated to have been absent. A month or so later, in September 1805, the Southern Regiment of the West Riding Yeomanry Cavalry was reviewed in toto on Doncaster’s Town Field, a full muster which was repeated in May 1812. More usually, reviews of the yeomanry were just of the three local troops (Doncaster, Tickhill and Hatfield, which had after 1803 formed its own troop). 

Of course neither volunteer infantry nor yeomanry were called upon to fight Napoleon and the infantry was disbanded when the Emperor was exiled to Elba in 1814 (they were to be revived in a war scare in 1859-60 and to survive to fight as the 5th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in both the great wars of the 20th Century as Territorials). In 1814 the yeomanry was kept in being as a public order measure, there being no police force to keep control in an age of industrial unrest. The regiment was restyled the South West Yeomanry Cavalry in 1821, still with separate troops based at Doncaster, Tickhill and Hatfield, then 1st West York Yeomanry Cavalry in 1844, later Yorkshire Dragoons in 1889. Aldred, the 10th Earl of Scarbrough, commanded the Doncaster troop from 1887 before commanding the Regiment from 1891. Tickhill ceased to have a separate troop by that time. 

The yeomanry’s near annual muster in Doncaster, Cavalry Week, a mixture of training camp and social (and musical) activity was one of the major events of the area throughout the 19th Century. At the time of the Cavalry Week during 11-18 May 1850 Tickhill’s troop consisted of 44 privates, 8 NCOs and 3 officers under the command of Captain Thomas Walker of Wilsic Hall. All were armed with a sword and a carbine pistol. The week’s activities began with a parade through the town and included a banquet for Officers at the Mansion House, Church Parades, theatre performances, concerts and, in more military mode, drill sessions and a review. The men were paid for their efforts.  

Cavalry Week was a popular spectacle in part because of the troops’ uniforms on show during the parades and exercises. Manby describes the uniform which was by 1824 ‘a dark blue jacket with three rows of buttons, braided across the front, with narrow lace on the collar, back and cuffs. A silk waist sash was worn with grey trousers which had two red stripes down the sides. The shako was high and broad round the top with a broad silver band and chin scale; the white rose badge had red and white feathers above – these were later replaced by a black horse hair plume’ (as shown, courtesy of Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery). 

Part of this piece is based on an unpublished account of Tickhill’s military history by Philip Scowcroft, who is thanked for its use.See also: E S Sharp, ‘The part played in the social life of Tickhill by the 1st West York Yeomanry Cavalry, with special reference to the Cavalry Week of 1850’ in Collections for the history of Tickhill 2, 1973 ed T W Beastall (available to borrow from the reserve collection at Tickhill Library).

T. G. Manby, The Doncaster Yeomanry, 1972 (available at Doncaster Local Studies Library, reference only).








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