Formation of the Territorial Force, 1908

The Territorial Force (TF), which existed from 1908 to 1920, was the volunteer reserve element of the British Army. It was created under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act of 1907, brought in by the Secretary of State for War Richard Haldane. The Act combined and reorganised the old Volunteer Army with the Yeomanry while remaining units of militia were renamed Special Reserve – in the Hampshire Regiment this was the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion.

The TF was a home defence force for wartime. Units were liable to serve anywhere within the United Kingdom, but could not be compelled to serve abroad. However, individual TF members or units could volunteer to be liable for service overseas in the event of war, but less than 10 per cent did so before the First World War. In 1920 the TF was reformed again and renamed the Territorial Army.

When formed on 1st April 1908, the TF comprised 14 infantry divisions and 14 mounted yeomanry brigades. The individual units that made up each division or brigade were administered by County Associations, with the county’s Lord Lieutenant as president.

The building blocks of the TF were its 207 infantry battalions (each of eight Companies) and 55 yeomanry regiments. There were also 23 volunteer batteries of the Royal Garrison Artillery, 151 of the Royal Field Artillery and 14 of the Royal Horse Artillery plus volunteer engineer, medical and supply companies.

Each battalion and regiment had a Regular Army officer attached as full-time adjutant and every infantry battalion was attached to a Regular Army regiment. Thus the Hampshire Regiment had two regular battalions, the 1st and 2nd, a reserve battalion, the 3rd, and five TF battalions, the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th. This rose to six in 1911 with the creation of the 9th (Cyclist) Battalion. These units replaced the old 1st (Winchester) Volunteer Battalion, 2nd (Southampton) Volunteer Battalion, 3rd (Portsmouth) Volunteer Battalion and 4th (Bournemouth) Volunteer Battalion. The new 4th to 7th battalions became the Hampshire Brigade of the Wessex Division. The 8th Battalion, formerly the Isle of Wight Volunteer Battalion, became Army Troops.

In Hampshire, Haldane’s re-organisation involved much readjustment. A number of drill halls were closed and some detachments amalgamated. Other battalions found themselves with surplus Majors or Captains and not all Volunteer officers wanted to continue serving under the new conditions. However, most senior officers did stay on to give the TF a good start.

Though reasonably well provided with permanent staff instructors, the TF came off second best for arms and equipment, with the artillery faring even more badly than the infantry. Meanwhile, its training programme was based on the rather optimistic assumption that it could count on six months training after war was declared before being required for active work. But despite these drawbacks the re-organisation was a big step forward and the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 found the Hampshire Territorials properly prepared both in training and efficiency.

At the start of the war, TF units were given the option of serving overseas. By 25th August more than 70 battalions had volunteered. To replace them, a second line of TF units was raised by the County Associations. As a result, the first line battalions were renamed, so that the 4th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, became the 1/4th Battalion and the second line unit became the 2/4th Battalion. In some cases, a third-line battalion (the short-lived 3/4th in the case of the Hampshires) was formed after the first-line battalion was sent overseas, freeing up the second for foreign service. These third-line battalions were used primarily for home defence or training.

A set of second-line divisions was also formed. These divisions were also prefixed with ‘2’ to distinguish them – thus the second-line Wessex Division was originally called the 2nd Wessex Division. However, most were assigned numbers in April 1915 and the 2nd Wessex became the 45th (2nd Wessex) Division.