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Volunteer Manuals

Interpreting military manuals is not easy. The problem is that professional soldiers knew what they were doing and their skills, drill, practices and procedures were taught to them by other professional soldiers. The purpose of manuals seem to have been to establish regulation, not to be teaching aids. This leaves the modern historian, with no access to a veteran, in something of a difficulty.

Fortunately those involved in raising and training volunteer units were in the same position as the historian today. True, they frequently hired a professional NCO or drill master, but they also had access to manuals written specifically for them. In these things are spelt out and explained in just the way required by a historian.

In the introduction to The Light Horse Drill, (London, 11798), p. iii, the unknown author writes of the Drill Regulations that ‘the rudiments of the exercise are of course familiar (to Regular Officers), and a detailed explanation of them would have unnecessarily increased the bulk and expence of this book’. He adds that his work is intended as an introduction to the Regulations. For which I am grateful.

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