Photograph of the Band of the 1st Volunteer Battalion
Photograph of the Band of the 1st Volunteer Battalion the Suffolk Regiment, taken at Benhall Rectory near Saxmundham in the early 20th century.
The Volunteer movement began in 1798 under the threat of a French invasion. 42 Companies of Volunteers were formed in Suffolk with over 7,000 men serving. They were disbanded in 1814 at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1859 there was a renewed fear of a French invasion by the Emperor Napoleon III: as a result 21 Rifle Corps were founded in most of the towns in Suffolk between 1859 and 1861, with over 1,500 members. In 1860 the individual corps were grouped into three administrative Battalions – the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Suffolk Rifle Volunteers, based respectively at Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Lowestoft.
In 1881, as part of a reorganisation of the Army, the Volunteers were grouped into two battalions – the 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment, with headquarters at Woodbridge and Sudbury.
When the second South African War broke out in 1899 there was an urgent need for additional troops to supplement the Regular Army. As a result two companies were formed from among the soldiers of the Volunteer Battalions, which served alongside the Regular soldiers of the 1st Battalion and qualified for the Battle Honour ‘South Africa 1900-1902’.
The Volunteers ceased to exist in 1908 when, under a further reform of the Army, they became part of the newly-formed Territorial Force, as the 4th and 5th Battalions The Suffolk Regiment.