The Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Association for Greater London has a history that reaches back to the inception of the Territorial Force in 1908.
Richard Haldane's Reserve Forces Act called for the establishment of a Territorial Association in every county, of which at that time there were 101 in number.
The Territorial Associations were to be funded by the War Office and would be responsible for providing the units in their county with accommodation, uniforms and personal equipment. Even more, the Associations would organise the provision of ranges and training areas when required. The Associations would also be required to deal with soldiers' pay and recruiting.
All the responsibilities of supply and demand were subject to contracts negotiated by the Associations directly with the contractor, or in the case of ranges and training areas, the land owners. Every transaction was subject to strict budgeting controls imposed by the War Office.
The Lord-Lieutenant of the County was the President of the Association and had direct responsibility for all recruiting matters.
The aim of all this activity was to get units to their Annual Camp up to establishment in term of both men and equipment. However, even this could not be achieved without painstaking negotiations between the County Association and the various haulage contractors and local commercial traders in order to secure the hire of horses, wagons and food stuffs for the duration of the Annual Camp period.
It is not really surprising that in spite of the sometimes annoying and unreasonable financial restrictions placed on the Associations, they proved a force to be reckoned with. For as part of Haldane's intended military/community balance, the various Associations were supported by men in high places. However, there were problems that even then required constant attention, such as employer support, community awareness, recruiting and retention, camp attendance and return of kit. All problems eternally associated with the citizen volunteer that will be as familiar to the reserve of 2014 as they were to the enthusiasts of 1914. Hiring out the Drill Halls even then was an important source of revenue to the Associations.
Developing the Estate
In 1908, what was to become the Greater London area 57 years later, was served by no less than six Associations. They were the County Associations of Kent, Surrey, Middlesex, Essex, London and the City. Of all Associations, the County of London Association combined with the City Association had by far the greatest number of units on its books. The Headquarters of the London County Association was the Duke of York's Headquarters in Chelsea and the City of London Association set up Headquarters in Finsbury Barracks, Old Street.
One of the most pressing priorities for the fledgling organisation was to upgrade much of the accommodation handed over by the old volunteer force, which was in a state of disrepair, privately owned or subject to complicated leasing arrangements. In addition, there was now a pressing need for riding schools, gun parks and other specialist accommodation. Much of the original estate still survives today.
When the Territorial Force was mobilised in August 1914, the Associations remained just as active; remembering that in the Great War the Territorial Force remained largely a separate army until July 1916, the Drill Halls were kept open for recruiting to the Territorial Force, and as temporary HQs to the various National Reserve forces.
In 1921, the Territorial Force was regenerated with a new name, The Territorial Army (TA). In 1925, the London County and City Association took on a limited responsibility for the new Auxiliary Air Force and changed its title to Territorial and Auxiliary Volunteer Reserve Association (TAVRA). The number of units within the County and City areas remained very much the same as did the Association's duties. The first real change was the allocating of the defence of London to the TA in 1936. This resulted in the re-roling of a number of units, mainly changing from Infantry to Artillery, both Heavy and Light Anti-Aircraft. Many of the original buildings that were once sited in open spaces were now hemmed in as part of the suburban landscape and unsuitable for the new Anti-Aircraft units, prompting a programme of building new purpose-built Drill Halls, interrupted only by the outbreak of WW2.
The TA were again mobilised in 1939 and, unlike in the previous conflict, were immediately merged with the Regular Army. Once again, as in the WW1, the Associations took responsibility for the accommodating and equipping of Home Defence Units such as the Home Guard. There was also a heavy commitment in providing temporary accommodation to London-based units of all three services.
The TA was reformed in 1947 leading to fresh demands for accommodation. The support company, 11th Battalion The Parachute Regiment (a unit of the new 16 Airborne Division), found itself stationed in a former Prisoner of War Camp at Edmonton and a large purpose built REME workshop facility was built a little further down the A10 at Enfield. The creation of the Greater London Area in 1965 led to a similar reorganisation of the area controlled by London TAVRA, who took over the County of Middlesex TAVRA and The City Association in its entirety and the parts of Surrey, Kent and Essex that were now part of Greater London.
By now the 1958 Defence Cuts known as ‘Sandys Axe', after the War Minister of the time, had dramatically reduced the number of units and therefore properties under the care of the new Greater London Association.
A Period of Adjustment
In 1995, all the Associations within the UK, now down to 13, elected to change their name to Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Association, more reflecting the work done in support of the Cadet organisations.
In 1998 it was announced that the Duke of York's Headquarters was to be sold and so in 2002 the Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Association for Greater London left its home of the past 94 years for a new Headquarters at Fulham House, Fulham, SW6.
In 2014, although no longer dealing with the basic essentials for putting the soldier in the field, this now tri-service organisation still supports the Reserve Forces in the essential matters of accommodation, employer and community engagement and Cadet affairs.