The Militia

The origins of the Militia go back to the Saxon era where the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions the ‘Fyrd’ which was both a civil and military force. It is likely that the Sheriff of a Shire was responsible for calling-out the Fryd in which all holders of land and every able-bodied man were required to serve for 2 months every year. Civil duties included aiding the Sheriffs in the suppression of riots and the apprehension of criminals. Military duties were to repel invasion and defend the realm. Ultimately the Fryd failed in its military role after it was defeated at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and the Saxon era made way for the Normans to rule.

During the feudal times of the Middle Ages, the King’s summons was answered by armed retainers under the command of their respective Lords. This led to the Commissions of Array which replaced the ancient force with a national Militia. The commission was issued to certain persons named in each County who were responsible for mustering and training all men-at-arms, armed men and archers dwelling in their Counties. This approach was used by Henry V and it was this force that won the Battle of Agincourt. During the late Tudor period, the Commissions of Array were in effect superseded by Commissions of Lieutenancy as the Lieutenancy structure began to emerge.

Citizen soldiers have a long history in the City of London. They were present at Tilbury when addressed by Elizabeth I before the Spanish Armada and also playing an important part in the English Civil War. Under the authority of legislation such as the Second Militia Act of 1662 these military forces were raised by the Lieutenants of the City of London who more often than not then provided operational leadership as Commanding Officers. They were organized into 6 regiments, the Red, Green, Yellow, White, Blue, and Orange. Later as the East and West London Regiments of Militia they prepared to meet a French invasion under Napoleon.