Tuesday 20 July 2010

Olivers Part-Time Army

The Territorial Army, known as the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve or 'TAVR' pre 1979, was a significant contribution in manpower to the defence of the United Kingdom in wartime. Composed of civilian volunteer reservists the TA provided the British Army with complete units up to battalion size.

Of the 58,000 men and women in the TA, 40% served as infantry 20 per cent. signals, medics and engineers, the rest in logistics and other service arms.

The TA also included 3 battalions of paratroops (4 Para, 10 Para, 15 Para), 2 SAS regiments (21st and 23rd), and a number of Yeomanry armoured car and reconnaissance units. 

In 1979-80 the TA was 12,000 below establishment. Infantry units were generally 80% or more full, but there was a severe shortage of drivers especially in logistics units and other specialist functions.

Territorial Army Centres (or Drill Halls) were a common feature across the country. Even my own village has one. Each Centre had it's own uniform/equipment QM store, armoury and the vehicles required by it's role.

Every TA unit had small professional British Army cadre. The part-time soldiers, 'Terriers' or more unkindly known as 'Weekend Warriors', were mostly committed to what they were doing and had an excellent esprit d'corps.  A good number were ex-soldiers who often made up the bulk of the Ncos but by far the majority were ordinary men and women off the street, who became soldiers one night a week and a couple of weekends each month.

On joining, a recruit would spend a period in the recruit platoon learning military basics before taking a 2 week 'basic' training course at a Regular Army establishment. Further specialist weapons or equipment training was then provided as necessary, again often at Regular Army training facilities. TA Soldiers could volunteer to serve with regular army units as short-term regular soldiers (1 year).

Unlike the National Guard, until 1996, the Territorial Army could only be called up by Queen's Order. This was an all or nothing approach. General mobilisation of the Territorial Army occurred in this manner for the Korean War and again for Suez.

The TA wore regular British Army uniforms, often adorned with their own unique regimental distinctions and were armed in a similar fashion to the regular army - L1A1 SLRs, Sterling SMGs, GPMGs or L4A1 (Bren) Light Machine-guns. The distribution of support weapons was generally lighter than similar regular army formations - eg one Carl Gustav 84mm MAW per platoon - whilst heavy weapons were older models, eg 120mm L4 MOBATS. Though there was a significant re-arming of the TA from 1982-1985 with modern weapons such as MILAN.

Vehicles were a mix of new and old - modern Bedford MKs served alongside Bedford RLs from the 1960's and Bedfords, Austins and AECs of Korea vintage. The Saladin armoured Car and Saracen APC soldiered on in the TA after their withdrawal from regular army formations. The Saladin was replaced by the Fox in the late seventies but the Saracen continued for some time due to the cancellation of 25% of the MOD orders for Spartan family CVR(T) APCs.

to be continued.............


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