Huddersfield Rifles

A deterioration in Anglo-French relations in the late 1850s, coupled with an expansion of the French Navy, led to concerns that England was at risk of invasion and lacked adequate defences. Throughout the country, Rifle Volunteer Corps (RVCs) were formed under the provisions of the Volunteer Act 1804.

Following several local newspaper editorials in May 1859 promoting the benefits of establishing a local corps, police constable William Moore convened a public meeting:[1]

VOLUNTEER RIFLE CORPS FOR HUDDERSFIELD.

IN compliance with many suggestions from all parties, and in accordance with the loyal and patriotic spirit so generally manifested throughout the United Kingdom, I DO HEREBY CALL A PUBLIC MEETING of the Inhabitants oi the Borough of Huddersfield, for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of establishing a VOLUNTEER RIFLE CORPS.

The Meeting will be held in the Gymnasium Hall, on Thursday Evening, June 9th, at Seven o’clock, when the attendance of those gentlemen who take an interest in this national movement, and especially of those spirited individuals who will probably manifest their ardour by becoming members of the intended corps, is particularly requested.

WM. MOORE, Constable.
Huddersfield, June 1st, 1859.

However, no firm decision was taken at the meeting[2] and subsequently a committee was raised to promote the idea, with local attorney Thomas Hudson Battye appointed as the secretary.[3]

By September 1859, over 50 volunteers has joined and Sergeant France (formerly of her Majesty's 34 Regiment of Foot) was appointed the drill sergeant, with drills taking place inside the Huddersfield Cloth Hall. Following a meeting at the George Hotel on 5 September, land-owner Henry Frederick Beaumont was elected as the corps' captain and decisions on the uniform and arms were made:[4]

After the election of officers the report of the committee for the selection of the cloth for the uniform was read, and after some discussion the details of the uniform which is of a dark grey cloth with black braid facings were settled. The arms adopted are the short Enfield rifle with sword bayonet, the army cartouche pouch and expense bag strapped in front.

Beaumont subsequently made land available at Crosland Moor for use as a 1,000 yard rifle range which became known locally as Rifle Butts.

The number of volunteers had risen to 61 by the end of September 1859. By December, the Huddersfield Rifle Corps had officially become the 10th West Riding of Yorkshire Volunteers with nearly 80 men.[5] By the end of the year, enough funds had been raised by the committee to issue each volunteer with an Enfield rifle.[6]

The unit became the 6th Yorkshire West Riding Rifle Volunteer Corps by July 1860 and later the 6th (The Huddersfield) Yorkshire West Riding Rifle Volunteer Corps. Other local RVCs were formed in the 1860s at Holmfirth (32nd), Saddleworth (34th), Mirfield (41st) and Meltham (44th) with Huddersfield acting as the senior unit of the 5th Administrative Battalion of West Yorkshire RVCs.

Consolidation in June 1880 as the new 6th Yorkshire West Riding RVC led to the following companies:

  • A, B, C & D Companies at Huddersfield
  • E Company at Holmfirth
  • F, G, H & J Companies at Saddleworth
  • K Company at Mirfield

As part of the Childers Reforms[7] of the following year, the corps became a Volunteer Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment.

Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. "Public Notices" in Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Jun/1859).
  2. "The Rifle Corps Movement" in Huddersfield Chronicle (11/Jun/1859).
  3. "Correspondence: Rifle Corps" in Huddersfield Chronicle (09/Jul/1859).
  4. "Huddersfield Volunteer Rifle Corps" in Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Sep/1859).
  5. "The First Annual Meeting of the Huddersfield Corps" in Huddersfield Chronicle (03/Dec/1859).
  6. "The Rifle Corps" in Huddersfield Chronicle (31/Dec/1859).
  7. Wikipedia: Childers Reforms.