Y is for yeomanry

The regular forces were supplemented by volunteers who trained for a certain number of hours a year and were called upon when necessary. For the infantry this was met locally by the 4th Rossendale Volunteer Rifles meeting in Stacksteads and for the cavalry by the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry which dates from 1827 and is still extant.

Charles Patrick (‘F is for...”), a notable horseman and huntsman, was an active member of the Rochdale troop of the DOLY between c 1857 and 1878 when he was 64. At this time drill was once or twice per week, with annual camp in Lancaster and escorting the High Sheriff of Lancashire. Duties were largely ceremonial and they were not involved in active service during Patrick’s time.

The camp provided opportunities for training in and demonstration of horsemanship and musketry skills with competition between the troops being intense. Techniques were said to be ‘archaic’ with focus on swordsmanship and set-piece manoeuvres. Strangely, most of these meetings seemed to include a first class meal for officers in a hostelry of some description - any wonder that the yeomanry was popular in Lancaster as the requirement for the soldier to provide his own horse meant that the members were generally men of some means. You have to feel sorry for the poor horse, who was presumably ridden the 40+ miles from Rossendale to Lancaster, took part in the drills and exhibitions then ridden home again... come to think of it the eight miles to Rochdale for drill twice a week can’t have been much fun either, especially in winter.

These annual camps were described in detail in the local press and the manner of their reporting is illustrative of the time. The cheering crowds, the details of the drill, the supervising officer’s address, the details of the dinner are all enthusiastically and uncritically detailed with the reporter waxing lyrical on the appearance and abilities of the men and the effect they would have on a potential enemy. Perhaps. but I can’t help feeling, maybe unfairly, that it was more Dad’s Army on horseback.

Incidentally, Patrick’s obituary claimed that he had a distinguished army career and saw considerable active service abroad. I have been unable to confirm this, and wonder if he was above embellishing his army record to impress his new neighbours in a part of the country which didn’t know any different. Surely not.

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