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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

146 The loyal town of Horncastle was not behindhand


In

consequence of this appeal a public meeting was called together, at which was formed a "Court of Enquiry," consisting of "9 members, 3 elected from the officers of the corps, and 6 from the non-commissioned officers and privates, to whom all proposals of resignation should be submitted." In subsequent pages regulations are added as to keeping their weapons in proper condition, orders as to loading their guns, &c., which are described as "firelocks" with "flints." This we may regard as an interesting item of past local history, evidencing the spirit in which the first Horncastle Volunteers were formed.

The modern volunteer movement originated in the year 1859, under somewhat similar circumstances to the earlier movement. Notwithstanding our ultimate victory in the Crimean war, it was felt that our blunders had been most serious, and our military organization far from complete. War, as a science, was assuming new forms; steam was giving to navigation an independence of wind and tide, which might lead to invasion unawares. The state of our defences was considered most unsatisfactory. France was our ally, but the Emperor Napoleon III. only ruled by popular suffrage, and the memories of Waterloo still affected the sentiments of his people towards England. The facility with which England might be invaded was a subject of discussion in parliament in the course of the session of that year. Lord Palmerston held the view that France could, within

a few hours, bring together an army, which could land on our shores and march upon London, before we were awake to the danger. It was our duty to be ready for defence against any such surprise, and it was said that "our friend" Napoleon would himself welcome such preparedness on our part, as giving him the best arguments with his own subjects against any such enterprise.

Strengthened by such reasoning, the Earl of Ripon, Under Secretary for War, announced that volunteer corps would be enrolled throughout the country. The government plans were published on the first of July, were warmly accepted by all parties, and a circular was issued, dated July 13th, to all the Lieutenants of counties, urging immediate action; and forthwith the "nation of shopkeepers" were, as by magic, transformed into an armed camp. So rapid was the progress that by June of the following year the cry was "Ready, aye! ready;" and on the 23rd of that month the Queen held a review in Hyde Park, at which some 20,000 volunteers passed before her. We are told, as a curious incident, that at that review there was present as a newly enrolled private, a Mr. Tower, of Wealdhall, Essex, who had also been present, as a private, at a review held under the former system in 1803. {146}

The loyal town of Horncastle was not behindhand; a public meeting was held in the Bull Hotel, on Aug. 10th, 1859, for the purpose of organizing a Rifle Corps, for the district, at which the Deputy Lieutenant attended. Among those present were Major Smart, of Tumby, J. Wadham Floyer, of Martin Hall, H. F. Conington, Clarence House, Horncastle, Dr. B. J. Boulton, Dr. W. Ward, Messrs. W. S. Clitherow, R. C. Armstrong, E. Babington, F. Gilliat, F. W. Tweed, J. R. Banks, and most of the chief tradesmen and residents in town and neighbourhood.


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