Catalogue description Records of auxiliary forces

Details of Division within WO
Reference: Division within WO
Title: Records of auxiliary forces

Records of auxiliary forces relating to the role of reserve armed forces.


  • Militia marching orders, WO 5
  • Militia regiments, WO 68
  • Records of service in the Militia, WO 96
  • Militia and Yeomanry accounts, WO 9
  • London and Middlesex Volunteer and Territorial regiments, WO 70
  • Imperial Yeomanry during the Boer War, WO 128 and WO 129
  • Registers of the appointment of deputy lieutenants in each county, WO 280

Date: 1679-1976
Related material:

Records relating to the Territorial Army in the 1930s are in: Many records relating to auxiliary forces will be found in records of lords lieutenant and of Territorial Army associations in county record offices, in regimental museums and elsewhere.

WO 379

WO 380

Records of the Cumberland Volunteer Infantry in PRO 30/26/94

Separated material:

Early records of the auxiliary forces and further records of service in the Militia are in:

HO 50

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 8 series
Administrative / biographical background:

The Militia, the old county force for home defence, had its origins in the middle ages, was developed in the sixteenth century and reformed in the eighteenth. From 1761 it was augmented by a local cavalry force known as the Yeomanry. Both militia and yeomanry could be made up to strength by ballot. A third auxiliary force the Volunteers, first raised in 1794, was, as its name implies, entirely voluntary.

These auxiliary forces were not liable to serve outside the kingdom, but in times of crisis units might volunteer to serve abroad and individual members might transfer to the regular Army. Command was vested in lords lieutenant of counties, who were responsible to the secretaries of state until 1782 and thereafter until 1856 to the Home Office. The local militia, based on limited voluntary service, was formed in 1808, as a result of which the volunteer movement dwindled and was dissolved in 1813; the local militia was itself dissolved in 1816. The Volunteer Force was revived in 1859.

In 1855 control of auxiliary forces passed to the Secretary of State for War. Within the War Office they were the concern of the Chief Clerk's Department until 1858, when a separate Militia Department was formed. In 1860 a Volunteer Corps Branch was also formed and the two merged in 1868 in a Reserve Forces Department. In 1870 this became the Reserve Forces Division of the Commander in Chief's Military Department. In 1876 it became the Auxiliary Forces Sub-division of the quartermaster general's division and it remained under him until 1907, from 1895 as a division and from 1904 as a directorate.

In 1907 the militia was replaced by the Special Reserve; at the same time the Yeomanry and Volunteers became the Territorial Force (from 1921 the Territorial Army), administered by county associations. Overall direction of these new auxiliary forces was the responsibility of the director general of the Territorial Force (later the Territorial Army). Except for the period 1937 to 1939, when he was a member of the Army Council the director general was responsible to the civil member until 1940, when he became responsible to the chief of the Imperial General Staff.

The Special Reserve changed back to the Militia in 1921 and was replaced in 1924 by the Supplementary Reserve. In 1940 the Home Guard (originally Local Defence Volunteers) was formed for home defence; it was dissolved in 1945.

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