The Cardwell Army Reforms of 1868-74 had established the principle of localisation whereby men were allowed to enlist for local regiments. Previously, men had enlisted for General Service and were liable to drafted into any regiment regardless of their own preferences. This made service unpopular and inhibited the numbers of men willing to enlist.
Under Cardwell’s reorganisation, the country was divided into 66 Brigade Districts (later called Regimental Districts) based on county boundaries and population density. All line regiments would now consist of two battalions, one serving overseas while the other was stationed at home for training. The battalions shared a depot and associated recruiting area. The militia of the area usually became the third battalion.
The senior 25 regiments already consisted of two battalions, but almost all the higher numbered regiments – including the 37th and 67th – had only one. Many regiments were linked to produce two-battalion regiments, but this proved complicated and resulted in much wrangling and debate over regimental traditions and seniority. The process was not finally completed until the Childers Reforms of 1881.
The Hampshire Regiment – an amalgamation of the 37th and 67th – was created under the Childers scheme. Significant alterations in establishment accompanied the 1881 reorganisation. Battalions now had two Lieutenant Colonels, three or four Majors, four or five Captains, 16 subalterns, an Adjutant and a Quartermaster. The Sergeant Major and Bandmaster now ranked as Warrant Officers. There were eight Staff Sergeants with eight Colour Sergeants, 32 sergeants, 16 drummers, 40 Corporals and 780 privates.
The depot establishment included a Lieutenant Colonel, a Major, a Captain, two subalterns, a Sergeant Major, Quartermaster, Paymaster and Orderly Room Sergeants, four Colour Sergeants, four Sergeants, two drummers, ten Corporals and 190 privates.
These figures were soon altered, different establishments being adopted for battalions at home and abroad. Those serving overseas contained more men, though these varied according to where the battalion was posted. Indian establishments were higher than any colonial.
Under the reorganisation, Lieutenant Colonel William Kingsley of the 67th became commanding officer of the new Hampshire Regiment, while Major Charles King, the 37th’s senior Major, became a Lieutenant Colonel.
Both battalions now added to the Regimental Colour the honours won by the other, ‘Peninsula’ being their only common honour. The total came to nine. This was increased by a further four in 1882 with the addition of Marlborough’s victories, in which Meredith’s had shared. However, the principle adopted when awarding colours that the battles commemorated should be ‘familiar … to every educated gentleman’ meant many of the achievements of the 37th and 67th were overlooked – for example, all of Marlborough’s sieges, Belle Isle and the Westphalian campaigns of the Seven Years War, apart from Minden.
The uniting of the two regiments meant that new helmet and breast plates, new collar and cap badges and new buttons had to be devised. This involved combining the Hampshire Rose and the Royal Tiger within a laurel wreath. The main change in the uniform was the substitution of the white facings, common to all non-Royal English regiments, for the yellow facings of both regiments.
One other major change was that the Militia now became an integral part of the regiment with its own permanent staff of Regulars. These included the Adjutant, a Quartermaster, a sergeant Major, Orderly Room and Paymaster Sergeants, eight Colour Sergeants and eight Sergeants. A normal Militia battalion now had eight companies like a regular battalion. The 3rd Hampshire’s establishment of rank and file was initially fixed at 1,044.
The 1881 reforms saw a number of changes to the Militia’s uniform, including the adoption of a cloth helmet with a spike on top. There was also an important change in nomenclature, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Administrative battalions becoming respectively the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Hampshire Rifle Volunteer Corps with their old headquarters. These battalions varied in size, having respectively 10, 12 and 12 companies, with 32, 36 and 36 officers and 1,134, 1,163 and 1,169 other ranks.
Meanwhile, on the Isle of Wight the six quite independent corps originally raised at Ryde (1st and 3rd), Newport (2nd), Nunwell (4th), Ventnor (5th) and Sandown (6th) had been combined in July 1860 as an Isle of Wight Administrative Battalion. In April 1880 this became the 1st Isle of Wight Rifle Volunteer Corps.