Colour of the 1st (Southern) Battalion, Bucks Volunteer Defence Corps, 1916

Amid fears of possible German invasion in the autumn of 1914 unofficial bodies of ‘town guards’ and ‘civic guards’ began to be formed, such groups being given recognition under the auspices of the Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps in November 1914. The Marquis of Lincolnshire and Lord Desborough took a prominent role nationally and Lord Rothschild locally. Three battalions of volunteers were formed in December 1914, the 1st Battalion being centred upon Gerrards Crosse, High Wycombe, and Slough under the command of Colonel Philip Pope from The Grange, Datchet. A second southern battalion was than raised as the 4th Battalion in April 1915 with the 1st taking in Burnham, Eton, Slough, Taplow and Wooburn Green. In early 1918, however, the 1st and 4th Battalions were amalgamated once more with headquarters at Slough. Pope had died in May 1916 and command of the 1st Battalion passed to Annesley Somerville of Eton College. Confusingly, the 1st Battalion was then restyled as the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in July 1918. The force was out into suspended animation in February 1919 and disbanded in March 1920.

The volunteers were intended to recruit men too old for military service or in reserved occupations once conscription was introduced in 1916, with military service tribunals often then granting conditional exemptions provided men joined the volunteers. The 1st Battalion’s strength was 687 men in November 1915. Men were required to complete 20 monthly drills in return for a capitation grant but this proved difficult for those employed in agriculture and the uninspiring nature of volunteer duties in guarding railways and other static ‘vulnerable points’ played a part in declining interest as the prospect of invasion receded. The War Office tended to believe that the tribunals were allowing men to escape military service and there were also complaints that there was no enforcement of the drills required of ‘tribunal men’.

Before proper uniforms were issued, men wore a ‘GR’ armband, hence the popular epithets of ‘Genuine Relics’, ‘Gorgeous Wrecks’, and ‘Grandpapa’s Regiment’. Nonetheless, the volunteers did useful service in manning anti-aircraft batteries and digging defences around London, and helping out with the harvest. Between June and September 1918 special service companies were also formed to release more regular troops for the Western Front. The Bucks service company was posted to Wickham Market in East Anglia.       

Of green silk with applied embroidery and metallic fringe, the Colour, which was an unofficial one, was made at the Royal School of Needlework. It measures 1130 x 1253 mm. 


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