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Discover Your Ancestors

Discover Your Ancestors

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Saturday night soldiers

A new release of 51,000+ records by TheGenealogist reveals the Territorial Army soldiers who served with distinction in Britain's army of reservists.

The Army Reserve underwent a major restructuring in 1908 in the reforms introduced by Richard Haldane, the Secretary of State for War. The previously civilian-administered Volunteer Force was combined with the mounted Yeomanry, while the militia was renamed the Special Reserve.

The changes were not universally popular and caused controversy at the time as volunteer infantry units lost their unique identities, becoming Territorial battalions of regular Army infantry regiments. Men were not obliged to serve overseas, although they could agree to do so.

This part-time form of soldiering nonetheless attracted a number of volunteers whose primary role that of home defence. They were given the nickname 'Saturday night soldiers'.

However, in August 1914, after the outbreak of World War One, territorial units were given the option of serving in France. More than 70 territorial battalions volunteered. Most regiments had a territorial unit (including The Royal Engineers as seen below), and some regiments, such as the London Regiment, were exclusively territorial with no regular army units at all.

The first Territorial unit to see action on the Western Front was the Glasgow Territorial Signallers Group of the Royal Engineers at the 1st battle of Ypres in October 1914. The first full Territorial Division to take part in the fighting was the 46th (North Midland) Division in March 1915.

The Territorial Efficiency Medal

When the Territorial Force was introduced in 1908, the Territorial Force Efficiency service medal was introduced. It was for long service and good conduct and the 51,000 records now available at leading family history and military records website cover those awarded the medal between 1908 and 1930. Between 1920 and 1930 a further restructure in Britain's reserve army meant that the medal was reclassed as the Territorial Efficiency Medal.

The Territorial Force Efficiency medal records are now available to view for all Diamond Subscribers at the site.

Using the Records

The records of Territorial Force Efficiency Medals are easily found at TheGenealogist. Here we find the record of Private William Thomas Smith of the 6th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment. He joined the Territorial Force in 1908 and with his service in the First World War, he was awarded the Territorial Efficiency Medal in 1923. One mouse click takes us to a copy of details of his rank, regiment, service number and the date they were awarded the medal. The new Territorial Force Efficiency Medal records also include images of the original medal cards.

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