Volunteer Training Corps During WW1


The WW1 Volunteer Training Corps (VTC) came about when various towns and villages formed their own units for home defence. At the start of WW1 they were not recognised by the War Office and were not permitted to wear army uniforms or insignia so they purchased their own.  

Eventually, the War Office realised these units could be of use and could be used for training potential soldiers and for defending key points such as railways, reservoirs and roads. Once recognised and adopted by the army, they were eventually turned into volunteer battalions of local county regiments and eventually adopted the local regimental insignia. Several of these units were linked to the York and Lancaster Regiment and are therefore worthy of inclusion in this book.

The VTC in South Yorkshire (which relates directly to the York and Lancaster Regiment) went through several changes of names. On its formation on 15th October 1914 the Rotherham Corps were known as the Rotherham Civilian Corps and then on 4th February 1915 they became known as the Rotherham and District Volunteer Defence Corps.

In August 1914 in Sheffield, men who were over the age of 38, those who were not medically fit or too young to enter the armed forces were grouped into the Chief Constable’s Civilian Corps (CCCC). They were drilled and trained in military skills by Police instructors (who were ex army) during their 2 evenings of ‘drills’ each week.

The CCCC along with the ‘Old Boys Corps’ made up of members of the Boys Brigade and the  ‘Athletics’ Club Section’ made up of members of the city’s sports clubs, paraded together at Redmires Camp in Sheffield in October 1914. Incidentally it has been suggested that NCO’s of the Sheffield Pals wore the CCCC badge seen in this section but this is unlikely as at the time, the Pals were forming their own identity and would be unlikely to use another units insignia. This confusion may have come about due to the SCCCC parading at Redmires camp just prior to the Sheffield Pals moving in.

In just a few months, the group had become so large that it required reorganisation and in January 1915 the different groups were amalgamated into the Sheffield Volunteer Defence Corps (SVDC).

On 16th June 1916, the Rotherham Corps and the Sheffield Corps were brought together under the title of the Sheffield Group of the West Riding Volunteers (WRV) and were designated as follows:

16th Battalion West Riding Volunteers (Rotherham) 

17th Battalion West Riding Volunteers (what was the 1st Battalion SVDC, Sheffield) 

18th Battalion West Riding Volunteers (what was the 2nd Battalion SVDC, Sheffield) 

19th Battalion West Riding Volunteers (Doncaster)

A final change took place on the 11th July 1918 when the WRV’s became volunteer battalions of the York and Lancaster (not to be confused with the pre 1908 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalions). The battalions stayed with these designations until they were disbanded in 1919 and were as follows:

  • 2nd Volunteer Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Rotherham) which was the 16th WRV.  
  • 3rd Volunteer Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Sheffield) which was the 17th WRV
  • 4th Volunteer Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Sheffield) which was the 18th WRV.

Until the VTC received official acceptance by the War Office, a variety of unofficial badges were worn. Some of these were based on altered York and Lancaster badges, others were made for specific battalions. The only clues to which badges were worn are a handful of photographs held in various archives and a few scarce badges in collections.