1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

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1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Highlander313 » 28 Feb 2017 00:42

Hello,
Wondering if anybody is able to assist in confirming the rank of my my G,G,Grandfather in this picture (im assuming some form of Sgt)
He is Alexander Will born roughly 1850 in Aberdeenshire and later moved to Sutherlandshire.

He was at some point near Aberdour and also in the Fraserburgh areas before arriving in Sutherlandshire.
There is talk of a Boer war medal in the family, unsure if this is the one in the picture or before an award of that I wouldn't know.

There are also some items attached to a pocket watch chain, could this be some form of shooting medals?, it is also possible they are related to some templers movement (IOGT) or Masonic Lodge, it would be interesting to establish if these are related to his military service or civilian life.
He was also a Constable of the county police force in Sutherland from 30th September 1880, I am a subscriber to some geneology sites but would appreciate if anybody has any hints or tips on what RV, medal rolls and other records to search in order to find out more about the 1st SHRV, the Highlander museum in Fort George is planned in already as Caithness archives holds some records but not much regarding the Sutherlandshire companies.
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Highlander313 » 28 Feb 2017 01:04

Thanks in advance for any help.
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Frogsmile » 28 Feb 2017 01:20

Yes, he is a sergeant of Sutherland Rifle Volunteers, as evidenced by the 'proficiency star' (4-pointed) above his three stripes to mark that he had been tested and found proficient in prescribed military skills and three 'efficiency stars' (5-pointed) on his cuff, each marking 5 years reported as efficient (having attended annual summer training camps) to higher formation (authority). Overall this shows that he has at least 15-years service (although the qualification period for efficiency stars was latterly reduced from 5 to 4 years). This indicates that the medal is probably the 'volunteer long service' medal to mark his length of service.
In 1881 and well before the period of the photo the Sutherland Rifle Volunteers, by then wearing Sutherland tartan (a slightly paler version of government or Black Watch tartan, but with rosettes on the exposed edge) and belted plaid, became a Volunteer Battalion of the newly formed regular regiment, the Seaforth Highlanders. Some composite, so-called 'service companies', deployed on service with the 2nd Battalion Seaforths in the 2nd Anglo/Boer war, although it is unclear if the sergeant was one of them.
The medals on the key fob shown in civilian dress do have the typical appearance of temperance medals (especially the Maltese cross shape), but they are too indistinguishable to make a positive ID, and might also be connected with Masonic lodge (the diamond shaped) or other, similar organisation (such as the IOGT you mentioned), of which there were many.

1. http://www.scottishmilitaryarticles.org ... _RV_8b.htm

2. http://www.historylinks.org.uk/sutherland-volunteers

3. http://www.ambaile.org.uk/detail/en/312 ... teers-1895
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Frogsmile » 28 Feb 2017 15:46

Afternote: enlarging the photo I can see 4 stars on the cuff indicating between 16 and 20 years ( I forget when the qualification changed from 5 to 4 years). I would date the photo to the 1890s.
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Highlander313 » 28 Feb 2017 22:26

Thanks very much Frogsmile, I had no idea what the proficiency and efficiency stars were.

I have had a look on the geneology site and the national archives page but im struggling to work out what to look up, there is so much, pay rolls, muster books etc they don't seem to have the same order of records as are held for ww1 for example.
Theres also the possability he may have served some of that Volunteer service in the Aberdeenshire area which means I may have to look under another regiment.
Am I on the right track for which archives to search for victorian records?

I have had a few searches for the medals on the chain I agree I think they look like society medals although the cross looks similar to the Bolnisi style army temperance cross due to the curve at the ends, that said the limbs of the cross appear a little closer together.

Thanks again for the information and links.
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Frogsmile » 28 Feb 2017 23:47

Volunteer Force records were maintained by County Associations (Under County Lieutenants in England but Sherrifs in Scotland) whereas WW1 records were a National responsibility. The County library is one place you should check, but take care not to get confused with militia/fencibles and yeomanry, which were all different. You might need to use (pay) a researcher, but there are a few avenues you can pursue:

1. Recipients of the Volunteer Long Service medal: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.u ... r/C1897680

2. Records: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/3f ... 0wodIJYNYg

3. Muster Rolls, etc: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help ... ritorials/
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Highlander313 » 01 Mar 2017 00:31

Thanks again, apparently the Inverness highland archive centre may have some, I have also submitted a research request through the Highlanders Museum this evening so hopefully they have some more information which can help me identify him and other family members in the archives and records.
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Frogsmile » 01 Mar 2017 00:48

Highlander313 wrote:Thanks again, apparently the Inverness highland archive centre may have some, I have also submitted a research request through the Highlanders Museum this evening so hopefully they have some more information which can help me identify him and other family members in the archives and records.


The Highlanders museum will I suspect tend to focus on the regular regiments, which is a huge amount to deal with before they even consider the auxiliary forces. The Volunteer Force, of which the Sutherland VRC were a part, were very much a force of part- time citizen soldiers, whose heyday was in the era before the Cardwell Reforms brought them together, kicking and screaming with the regulars. Your search should start at the County library and focus initially on the muster rolls. The VRC were a civil organisation and you must keep that in mind.
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Highlander313 » 01 Mar 2017 06:24

I Hadn't realised they were that detached from the regular army, however the request I made for research from the museum was maybe not such a waste as it was as much for information on other family members from the territorial force and those who served during both world wars.
That may give me some other stuff to keep me going until I get a chance to visit the Highland Archives/libraries.
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Frogsmile » 01 Mar 2017 13:43

Highlander313 wrote:I Hadn't realised they were that detached from the regular army, however the request I made for research from the museum was maybe not such a waste as it was as much for information on other family members from the territorial force and those who served during both world wars.
That may give me some other stuff to keep me going until I get a chance to visit the Highland Archives/libraries.


The yeomanry, militia and rifle volunteers all came under control of the Counties in which they were raised and were not under command of the Army in peacetime. They were all intended for home defence, with the first two often used for policing public order in the long period before standing police forces (constabularies) were created. The association with the regular army was confined to making use of retired regulars as drill and musketry instructors and, if from the gentry, as officers (although the vast majority of officers came from wealthy, aristocratic and/or socially aspirational locals).

Each force had its own, very distinctive style and culture, largely based on income. The yeomanry were predominantly comprised of land owners and gentlemen farmers (in order to afford horses, saddlery and expensively styled uniforms), the militia from rural working class (useful paid employment at annual camps in bad harvests), and the rifle volunteers (the last to be formed circa 1859), from the urban middle classes (where it quickly became a kind of social and networking club for local worthies).

Due to these underlying priorities of vested interest, and a certain degree of preening in fancy uniform, all three forces were viewed with a somewhat jaundiced eye by the professionals of the regular army.
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Highlander313 » 02 Mar 2017 11:12

I did a bit of reading up on the various civilian volunteer groups since and understand the set up a little better.
I just assumed it was similar to current reserve structures.

I reckon I may have the right records for him now though, those being in the records for 2nd Battalion Railway Pioneer Regiment, Service no, 1329 during the 2nd Boer war.
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Frogsmile » 02 Mar 2017 14:01

Highlander313 wrote:I did a bit of reading up on the various civilian volunteer groups since and understand the set up a little better.
I just assumed it was similar to current reserve structures.

I reckon I may have the right records for him now though, those being in the records for 2nd Battalion Railway Pioneer Regiment no 1329 during the 2nd Boer war.


That sounds like an interesting unit. Do let us know more when you find out. I have never heard of it but imagine that it operated lines of communication (logistics train, etc) and employed railwaymen.
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Re: 1st Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteer rank & medals

Postby Frogsmile » 02 Mar 2017 21:09

Highlander313 wrote:http://www.angloboerwar.com/unit-information/south-african-units/459-railway-pioneer-regiment


Thank you. Very interesting and some thought provoking accounts of combat at close quarters with Boers. A hard lesson fortuitously learned in the lead up to 1914.
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