Brandon’s Volunteer Training Corps, (V.T.C.) were led by ex-army officers and manned by civilians who were too old or too young, or with able-bodied men waiting to enlist into the Army. By all accounts they were one of the best turned out V.T.C. units in the area. They typically trained on drills, shooting and marching through the town, with Sir John Aird, who owned the Brandon Estate at the time, donating many rifles. For those men eligible to join the Army it gave them the chance to learn basic drill before going into the Army. The V.T.C. was disbanded at the end of the war. The reports below come from the Thetford & Watton Times, now the Thetford & Brandon Times, during WW1.
November – VOLUNTEER TRAINING CORPS, CONDITIONS OF RECOGNITION BY THE WAR OFFICE
“In answer to a number of questions as to the recognition of voluntary associations for national defence, Mr Tennant (Under-Secretary for War), in a printed answer, says that the question whether each association will be recognised as combatant in the event of invasion is still under consideration. He also reports a letter from Sir Reginald Brace to Lord Desborough, president of the General Association Volunteer Training Corps, in which it is stated that the Army Council are prepared to grant recognition to the association as long as a responsible officer, approved by the War Office, is its adviser, and will extend recognition to each Volunteer Forces and rifle clubs, etc., as may become affiliated to the association.
The conditions of recognition are, as stated in the same letter,
- That only the names of those can be registered who are not eligible through age to serve in the Regular or Territorial Army, or are unable to do so for some genuine reason (in the latter case they must agree to enlist if specially called upon);
- That no arms or ammunition, or clothing will be supplied from public sources, nor financial assistance given;
- That there may be uniformity of dress in individual organisations provided that no badges of rank are worn, and that the dress is distinguishable from that of Regular and Territorial units;
- That members will be allowed to wear as a distinctive badge in a red armlet of a breadth of three inches with the letters “G.R.” inscribed thereon;
- That the accepted military ranks and titles will not be used, and no uniform worn except when necessary for training;
- And that it will be open to Army recruiting officers to recruit any members found eligible for the Regular Army whose presence in the corps is not accounted for by some good and sufficient reason.”
May – Members of Brandon’s Volunteer Training Corps, at their drill on Monday and Wednesday evening, were asked whether they were prepared to offer their services for the protection of the railways in case of invasion. Practically every man volunteered.
“On their return to the Market Place after Divine Service the Volunteer Training Corps were briefly addressed by Sir John Aird. He stated that he had spoken of the Brandon Corps while in course of conversation with Lord Desborough two or three weeks ago, and he (Lord Desborough) remarked that he had been informed of the smart appearance of the Brandon Corps. He (Sir John Aird) invited Lord Desborough to visit the Company when he had the opportunity, and was in hopes that his lordship would find time to do so. Sir John urged the Company to get on with their drills during the winter months, and expressed his willingness to offer a prize if they would arrange some shooting matches in the near future.”
February – GOOD SHOOTING – Among the members of the Brandon Volunteer Training Corps none has achieved greater success in shooting than Mr T.A. Green. For tying for second place in the County Miniature Competition he recently received a bronze medal from the Suffolk V.T.C. Association, and he has now qualified to shoot on the full range at Ipswich on Sunday, in connection with the battalion team competitions.
April 1916 – SHOOTING COMPETITION.
“A shooting match was arranged at the Instigation of Sir John Aird, who has been such a generous and enthusiastic supporter of the Corps, and who offered three handsome prizes. In order to make conditions as equal as possible for competitors in all degrees of proficiency, the members were separated into three groups, one prize being allocated to each, and each man was required to enter 15 targets, the 12 best to count. The names of those who completed the whole series, together with their aggregate scores, were as follows:
- GROUP I = Lieut. F.W.Ridsdale (1186), T.A.Green (1185), Capt. A Lee Barber (1183), G Bullock (1168), A Dyer (1142) and A.J. English (1093).
- GROUP II = J Petty (1152), W Edgington (1146), H.L. Sturgeon (1146), A Rolph (1145), H.H. Johnson (1136), J Cooper (1113), J Elmer (1100), R Perl (1092), E Dorling (1087), J Ashley (1051), J Leech (1041), W Olley (991) and G Clarke (922).
- GROUP III = A Gasken (1078), S Carter (969), H Berry (951) and R Grimes (874).
As the officers did not compete for the prizes, the winners were:
- Group I – T.A. Green, Group II – J Petty, Group III – A Gasken.
At the same time a shooting competition for members of the bugle band was carried on, the winners being A Parry and T Boughen.
After upwards of an hour’s drill on Sunday morning, the Corps paraded in front of Brandon Hall, where they were inspected by a Lieutenant of the 13th Hussars, who returned from the Front wounded. There were on Parade Commander A.W. Rought-Rought, Captain A Lee-Barber, Lieutenant Ridsale, Sergeant-Major Shears, Quarter-Master-Sergeant Wilby and about 40 non-commissioned officers and men. The bugle band, under Bandmaster Farrow, were also present.
Sir John Aird thanked Captain Lee-Barber for the great trouble he had taken over the competition. He believed he had been down to the range every time, and had greatly helped the company commander, who had not been able to attend as much as he would wish. He would like to say how sorry they were for the reason which had kept their company commander away, and to express the hope that Mrs Rought-Rought would soon be well and strong again. On examining the lists of men in the various groups he found that in Group I only six shot out of 14, in Group II 14 out of 23, and in group III only 4 out of 32. He rather gathered that was due to the fact that many men, perhaps finding their first card or two were not as good as they wished, became discouraged, and did not persevere. If that were so it was rather a pity, because they might have made very good cards afterwards. He musty say he was rather disappointed that more men of the Corps did not continue in the competition as the larger the number of competitors the greater the interest and the closer the result, although he saw that some of the scores very good and very close.
The prizes, which consisted of a silver cup, a clock, and an attaché case, were then presented by Lady Aird, who said she was very pleased to notice the smart appearance of the corps, and hoped it would keep up its efficiency this year as it did last. That could only be done by frequent drills and hard work. It was their hope that the Corps would be one of the strongest in Suffolk, and if they would buckle to and do their best the efficiency would be well maintained, and things would not go slack. She thought they were all working for one end, and that was victory and peace.
Commandant Rought-Rought thanked Sir John Aird for the great interest he still maintained in the Brandon Volunteer Corps. He was certain that if it had not been for that competition, for which he had so kindly offered prizes, the thing would have fallen very flat this winter. Thanks to Sir John’s efforts, and the efforts of the officers and non-commissioned officers, there had, all things considered, been a fairly good attendance. There were, however, many men who had not been able to attend the competition, but who in the summer perhaps would be able to do so. They would always try to do their best to keep up the interest in the Corps so that it would not fizzle out like a good many others had done.
Cheers having been given for Sir John and Lady Aird, the Corps, headed by their bugle band, marched to the Armoury, where they were dismissed.
May – SHOOTING CONTEST.
“The first shooting contest between teams of eight men selected from the Brandon and Mildenhall Volunteers took place on the Barton Mills range. The home team were the winners by 46 points. Each man had seven shots at 200 and 300 yards range, and the scores were as follows:”
- (200 yards, 300 yards, Total)
- Private Dodds 26 22 48
- Com-Commander Sir Hy Bunbury, Bart 21 23 44
- Private Berry 24 19 43
- Private Brett 23 19 42
- Private Sparrow 24 11 35
- Platoon-Com Maclaren 19 15 34
- Private Pearmain 17 15 32
- Private Rivett 16 16 32
- Totals 170 140 310
- Lieut. Murrell 25 22 47
- Private Talbot 24 22 46
- Sergt. F Shears 23 15 38
- Private T.A. Green 22 11 33
- Private Bullock 19 14 33
- Private J.S. Cooper 15 14 29
- Private Petty 20 6 26
- Private Rolph 6 6 12
- Totals 154 110 264
ANOTHER SHOOTING MATCH
“Teams representing the Thetford and Brandon V.T. Corps met in a return shooting match on the Brandon range. The previous contest was won by Brandon by about 26 points and on the present occasion success was again theirs, the majority being nine points. Judging by these results it would appear that these sides are well matched, with the issue in doubt until the final calculation. Brandon have set up a capital range near the railway station and the Thetford men thoroughly enjoyed their visit and appreciated the sportsmanlike manner in which they were entertained. The conditions were ten shots on S.M.R.C. targets (half-inch bull) at 25 yards, open sights and no slings.”
- W. Jones – 92
- H.D. Hewitt – 91
- K.A. Croushey – 88
- W.A. Ellis – 85
- H Neave – 78
- W.J.C. Dodds – 78
- E Pape – 76
- H.W. Saunders – 75
- W Lockwood – 74
- H Jacobs – 68
- total – 805.
- T.A. Green – 91
- F Shears – 90
- G Bullock – 88
- F.W. Risdsale – 86
- W.J. Murrell – 85
- J.C. Cooper – 82
- H.L. Sturgeon – 78
- J.W Petty – 75
- A Dyer – 70
- W Mutum – 69
- total – 814.
June – V.T.C. ATTESTATIONS
“For the purpose of attesting present enrolled members of the Brandon Volunteer Training Corps, and others wishing to join, a public meeting was held at the Paget Hall, Brandon. Lieut-Col. Boyd C.P. Hamilton presided. An address was given by Sir George Agnew, Bart., Commandant 2nd Battalion V.T.C., Suffolk Regiment, who explained that he had invited the Regimental Commandant to attend this meeting, but Earl Cadogan requested him to apologise for his inability to be present owing to Tribunal work.
Proceeding, Sir George explained that in the event of a raid being imminent or actually taking place members of the V.T.C. after being attested, would be called out by the military authority. In that case they would become soldiers in the full sense of this term, and no excuse would be accepted. They would have to go and do exactly as they were told and if they did not do it they would be treated as deserters, and would be punished in the usual military form. They would be called in defence of their own country and their own county. Whatever happened he did not think the men he was addressing would be employed outside their own county. At any rate, it would only be in the case of some extreme emergency. If they were called out in that way they would get soldier’s pay and rations, and their families would receive separation allowances. Compensation would also be paid in case of the man’s death or injury to him. Supposing they were not absolutely ordered out by the military, but by arrangement were asked to do a certain thing, then they did not become actual soldiers in the true sense of the term. They would not get any pay in that case. They would only be asked to do something which they could do in their leisure time. They would, however, receive a separation allowance and compensation in the case of death or accident. That was what the Volunteer movement had been aiming at from the beginning. In conclusion, Sir George Agnew pointed out that members of the V.T.C. who had uniforms need no longer wear the brassard, but those who went out in ordinary clothes must still wear the brassard as a distinguishing mark.
Sergeant-Major Shears asked whether compensation would be paid in the case of a man shot while engaged at or in connection with the range, although in that case they would not have been called on. Sir George Agnew recognised the importance of this question and while not prepared to answer it without inquiry, promised to obtain the information. The attestations were then proceeded with.”
October – An interesting shooting competition took place between the members of the Volunteer Training Corps. Firing was done on C.A.V.T.C., targets with ¾-inch bulls, at 25 yards range. The handicap principle was adopted and the winner was Private A Gasken, who put on a score of 90 and with an allowance of 4 points brought his actual total to 94. The Commandant (Mr A.W. Rought-Rought) handed the winner the prize on Sunday.
January – Some twenty new recruits have been enrolled in the Volunteer Training Corps, and Sir John Aird has offered the use of his park for trench digging purposes.
March – The series of meetings held in the district for the purpose of obtaining recruits for the E Company, Volunteers, Norfolk Regiment, whose Headquarters are at Brandon, has exceeded the most sanguine expectations. The results up to date are:
- Methwold – 40 recruits
- Feltwell – 40
- Hockwold-cum-Wilton – 36
- Stoke Ferry – 20
There are at Brandon 16 fresh recruits and this brings the strength of the Company up to well over 200.
April – The Brandon members of ‘E’ Company Volunteers Norfolk Regiment has a ‘spade’ drill after they recently agreed to dig the gardens and allotments of soldiers on service. An invitation had been given that all requiring the services of the volunteers should apply. Several requests were sent and these received attention.
May – VOLUNTEER INSPECTION.
“There was a large muster of ‘E’ Company of the Volunteers, when 72 rank and file paraded. Led by the bugle and drum band, they marched to Broomhill Heath, where there were present Commandant A.W. Rought-Rought, Lieutenant A. Lee-Barber, Lieutenant A.W. Ridsdale and Sergeant-Major F Shears. General Jacob carried out the inspection and personally addressed the men.”
VOLUNTEER CHURCH PARADE.
“Members of the ‘E’ Company Volunteers, Norfolk Regiment, assembled for a church parade. Led by the bugle and drum band, under the conductorship of Bandmaster F Farrow they preceded to St Peter’s church. The Rector (Rev J.L. Wyatt) officiated. An able sermon was preached by the Rev D Parkinson. The National Anthem was sung and suitable music played by Mr A.E. Chapman.”
August – CHURCH PARADE.
“‘E’ Company of Volunteers paraded for a Sunday morning service at St Peters Church. This was in celebration of the third anniversary of the war. They were played to and from church by the bugle and drum band, under the direction of Bandmaster F Farrow. There was a good muster. The rev J.L. Wyatt, the rector officiated, and he read the roll of honour and those who have fallen in battle. The organist, Mr E.A. Chapman, played the “Dead March” morning and evening. An address was given at each service by the Rev E.F. Wanstall, and the National Anthem was sung. The day’s offertories, which amounted to £6 11s 8½d were given to St Dunstan’s home for Blind Sailors and Soldiers.”
May – FUTURE OF THE VOLUNTEERS.
“In the House of Commons, in an interview with heads of the Volunteer movement, Mr Macpherson outlined the intentions of the Government regarding the future of the Force. He made it clear that the War Office attached the greatest importance to the maintenance of the Volunteer organisation. It would be necessary to take Grade 1 men of military age into the Regular Army. The position of Grade 2 men was now under consideration. Mr Macpherson laid emphasis on the intention of the Government to make good the losses of the Volunteer Force from calling the drafting into the force of men to whom exemption had been granted. Instructions under this head, he explained, were being issued to the tribunals. He promised sympathetic consideration to the suggestion that non-commissioned officers and men of the Volunteer Force who are certified by the adjutant of their battalion should be especially watched by the Army authorities, the certificate being in effect treated as a letter of recommendation to their commanding officer.”
November – VOLUNTEER ENROLMENT SUSPENDED. MEN RELIEVED OF THEIR OBLIGATIONS.
“The Secretary of the War Office announced that, in view of the altered military situation, to suspend the appointment of candidates to commissions in the Volunteer Force and the enrolment of men in the various corps. This involved the suspension of all action for the enrolment of men exempted by Tribunals with the liability to join the Volunteer Forces. It has further been decided, with a view to relieving all ranks of the force, who time is in many cases fully occupied with their civil duties and responsibilities, of the drill and training obligations to which they are now subject as members of the Volunteer Force, to relax for the present the provisions of the various drill and training agreements into which they had severally entered. For the present, therefore, although training facilities will be continued, attendance at drill will be purely voluntary, and all action of a disciplinary character will be suspended.”